SO much for Natural Evidence, from the Causes or Effects. We now proceed to Scripture, which will make the greatest part of this Review. The Sacred Basis upon which the whole Theory stands, is the doctrine of St. Peter, deliver’d in his Second Epistle and Third Chapter, concerning the Triple Order and Succession of the Heavens and the Earth. That comprehends the whole extent of our Theory: which indeed is but a large Commentary upon St. Peter's Text. The Apostle sets out a threefold state of the Heavens and Earth: with some
general properties of each: taken from their different Constitution and different Fate. The Theory takes the same threefold state of the Heavens and the Earth: and explains more particularly, wherein their different Constitution consists: and how, under the conduct of Providence, their different fate depends upon it. Let us set down the Apostle's words, with the occasion of them: and their plain sence, according to the most easie and natural explication.
2 Pet. 3.Ver. 3. Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts.
4. And saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation.
5. For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God, the heavens were of old, and the earth consisting of water and by water.
6. Whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished.
7. But the heavens and the earth that are now, by the same word, are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment, and perdition of ungodly men. . . . . .
10. The day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat; the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burnt up.
13. Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.
This is the whole Discourse so far as relates to our Subject. St. Peter, you see, had met with some that scoff’d at the future destruction of the World, and the coming of our Saviour; and they were men, it seems, that pretended to Philosophy and Argument; and they use this argument for their opinion, Seeing there hath been no change in Nature, or in the World, from the beginning to this time, why should we think there will be any change for the future?
The Apostle answers to this, That they willingly forget or are ignorant that there were Heavens of old, and an Earth, so and so constituted; consisting of Water and by Water; by reason whereof that World, or those Heavens and that Earth, perish’d in a Deluge of Water. But, saith he, the Heavens and the Earth that are now, are of another constitution, fitted and reserved to another fate, namely to perish by Fire. And after these are perish’d, there will be New Heavens and a New Earth, according to God's promise.
This is an easie Paraphrase, and the plain and genuine sence of the Apostle's discourse; and no body, I think, would ever look after any other sence, if this did not draw them into paths they do not know, and to conclusions which they do not fancy. This sence, you see, hits the objection directly, or the Cavil which these scoffers made; and tells them, that they vainly pretend that there hath been no change in the World since the beginning, for there was one sort of Heavens and Earth before the Flood, and another sort now; the first having been destroyed at the Deluge. So that the Apostle's argument stands upon this Foundation, That there is a diversity betwixt the present Heavens and Earth, and the Ante-diluvian Heavens and Earth; take away that, and you take away all the force of his Answer.
Then as to his New Heavens and New Earth after the Conflagration, they must be material and natural, in the same sence and signification with the former Heavens and Earth; unless you will offer open violence to the Text. So that this Triplicity of the Heavens and the Earth, is the first, obvious, plain sence of the Apostle's discourse: which every one would readily accept, if it did not draw after it a long train of Consequences, and lead them into other Worlds than they ever thought of before, or are willing to enter upon now.
But we shall have occasion by and by, to examine this Text more fully in all its circumstances. Give me leave in the mean time to observe, that St. Paul also implyes that triple Creation which St. Peter expresses. St. Paul, I say, in the 8th chap. to the Rom. ver. 20, 21. tells us of a Creation that will be redeem’d from Vanity: which are the new Heavens and new Earth to come. A Creation in subjection to Vanity: which is the present state of the World. And a Creation that was subjected to Vanity, in hopes of being restor'd: which was the first Paradisiacal Creation. And these are the three states of the Natural World, which make the subject of our Theory.
To these two places of St. Peter and St. Paul, I might add that third in St. John, concerning the new Heavens and new Earth; with that distinguishing Character, that the Earth was without a Sea. As this distinguisheth it from the present Earth, so, being a Restitution or Restauration, as we noted before, it must be the same with some former Earth: and consequently, it implies that there was another precedent state of the natural World, to which this is a Restitution. These three places I alledge, as comprehending and confirming the Theory in its full extent. But we do not suppose them all of the same force and clearness. St. Peter leads the way, and gives light and strength to the other two. When a Point is prov’d by one clear Text, we allow others, as auxiliaries, that are not of the same clearness; But being open’d, receive light from the primary Text, and reflect it upon the Argument.
So much for the Theory in general. We will now take one or two principal heads of it, which vertually contain all the rest, and examine them more strictly and particularly, in reference to their agreement with Scripture. The two Heads we pitch upon, shall be, our Explication of the Deluge, and our Explication of the new Heavens and new Earth. We told you before, these two were as the Hinges, upon which all the Theory moves, and which holds the parts of it in firm union one with another. As to the Deluge, if I have explain’d that aright, by the Disruption of the Great Abyss, and the Dissolution of the Earth that cover’d it, all the rest follows in such a chain of consequences, as cannot be broken. Wherefore in order to the proof of that explication, and of all that depends upon it, I will make bold to lay down this Proposition, That our Hypothesis concerning the universal Deluge, is not onely more agreeable to Reason and Philosophy than any other yet propos’d to the World, but is also more agreeable to Scripture. Namely, to such places of Scripture, as reflect upon the Deluge, the Abyss, and the form of the first Earth. And particularly, to the History of Noah's Flood, as recorded by Moses. If I can make this good, it will, doubtless, give satisfaction to all intelligent Persons. And I desire their patience, if I proceed slowly.
[paragraph continues] We will divide our task into. parts, and examine them separately: First, by Scripture in general, and then by Moses his history and description of the Flood.
Our Hypothesis of the Deluge consists of three principal Heads, or differs remarkably in three things from the common explication. First, in that we suppose the Antediluvian Earth to have been of another Form and constitution from the present Earth: with the Abyss placed under it.
Secondly, in that we suppose the Deluge to have been made, not by any inundation of the Sea, or overflowing of Fountains and Rivers: nor (principally) by any excess of rains: but by a real dissolution of the exteriour Earth, and disruption of the Abyss which it cover’d. These are the two principal points, to which may be added, as a Corollary.
Thirdly, that the Deluge was not in the nature of a standing Pool: the Waters lying every where level, of an equal depth and with an uniform Surface: but was made by a fluctuation and commotion of the Abyss upon the disruption: which commotion being over, the Waters retired into their Chanels, and let the dry Land appear.
These are the most material and fundamental parts of our Hypothesis: and these being prov’d consonant to Scripture, there can be no doubt of the rest.
We begin with the first: That the Ante-diluvian Earth was of another form and constitution from the present Earth, with the Abyss placed under it. This is confirm’d in Scripture, both by such places as assert a diversity in general: and by other places that intimate to us, wherein that diversity consisted, and what was the form of the first Earth. That discourse of St. Peter's, which we have set before you, concerning the past, present, and future, Heavens and Earth, is so full a proof of this diversity in general, that you must either allow it, or make the Apostle's argumentation of no effect. He speaks plainly of the natural World, The Heavens and the Earth: And he makes a plain distinction, or rather opposition, betwixt those before and after the Flood: so that the least we can conclude from his words, is a diversity betwixt them; In answer to that Identity or immutability of Nature, which the Scoffers pretended to have been ever since the beginning.
But tho’ the Apostle, to me, speaks plainly of the Natural World, and distinguishes that which was before the Flood, from the present: Yet there are some that will allow neither of these to be contain’d in St. Peter's words; and by that means would make this whole Discourse of little or no effect, as to our purpose. And seeing we, on the contrary, have made it the chief Scripture-basis of the whole Theory of the Earth, we are oblig’d to free it from those false glosses or misinterpretations, that lessen the force of its testimony, or make it wholly ineffectual.
These Interpreters say, that St. Peter meant no more than to mind these Scoffers, that the World was once destroy’d by ..a Deluge of Water: meaning the Animate World, Mankind and living Creatures. And that it shall be destroy’d again by another Element, namely by Fire. So as there is no opposition or diversity betwixt the two Natural Worlds, taught or intended by the Apostle; but onely in reference to their different fate or manner of perishing, and not of their different nature or constitution.
Here are two main points, you see, wherein our interpretations of this discourse of the Apostles, differ. First, in that they make the Apostle (in that sixth verse) to understand onely the World Animate, or men and brute Creatures. That these were indeed destroy’d, but not the Natural World, or the form and constitution of the then Earth and Heavens. Secondly, that there is no diversity or opposition made by St. Peter betwixt the ancient Heavens and Earth, and the present, as to their form and constitution. We pretend that these are misapprehensions, or misrepresentations of the sence of the Apostle in both respects, and offer these reasons to prove them to be so.
For the first point; That the Apostle speaks here of the natural World, particularly in the 6th. Verse; and that it perish’d, as well as the animate, these Considerations seem to prove.
First, because the argument or ground these Scoffers went upon, was taken from the natural World, its constancy and permanency in the same state from the beginning; therefore if the Apostle answers ad idem, and takes away their argument, he must understand the same natural World, and show that it hath been chang’d, or hath perish’d.
You will say, it may be, the Apostle doth not deny, nor take away the ground they went upon, but denies the consequence they made from it; that therefore there would be no change, because there had been none. No, neither doth he do this, if by the World in the 6th. Verse, he understands Mankind onely; for their ground was this, there hath been no change in the natural World; Their consequence, this, therefore there will be none, nor any Conflagration. Now the Apostle's answer, according to you, is this, you forget that Mankind hath been destroyed in a Deluge. And what then? what's this to the natural World, whereof they were speaking? this takes away neither antecedent nor consequent, neither ground nor inference; nor any way toucheth their argument, which proceeded from the natural World to the natural World. Therefore you must either suppose that the Apostle takes away their ground, or he takes away nothing.
Secondly, what is it that the Apostle tells these Scoffers they were ignorant of? that there was a Deluge, that destroyed Mankind? They could not be ignorant of that, nor pretend to be so; It was therefore the constitution of those old Heavens and Earth, and the change or destruction of them at the Deluge, that they were ignorant of, or did not attend to; and of this the Apostle minds them. These Scoffers appear to have been Jews by the phrase they use, since the Fathers fell asleep, which in both parts of it is a Judaical expression; And does St. Peter tell the Jews that had Moses read to them every Sabbath, that they were ignorant that Mankind was once destroyed with a Deluge in the Days of Noah? or could they pretend to be ignorant of that without making themselves ridiculous both to Jews and Christians? Besides, these do not seem to have been of the vulgar amongst them, for they bring a Philosophical argument for their opinion; and also in their very argument they refer to the History of the Old Testament, 1
in saying, Since the Fathers fell asleep, amongst which Fathers, Noah was one of the most remarkable.
Thirdly, the design of the Apostle is to prove to them, or to dispose them to the belief of the Conflagration, or future destruction of the World; which I suppose you will not deny to be a destruction of the natural World; therefore to prove or perswade this, he must use an argument taken from a precedent destruction of the natural World; for to give an instance of the perishing of Mankind onely, would not reach home to his purpose. And you are to observe here that the Apostle does not proceed against them barely by authority; for what would that have booted? If these Scoffers would have submitted to authority, they had already the authority of the Prophets and Apostles in this point: but he deals with them at their own weapon, and opposes reasons to reasons; What hath been done may be done, and if the natural World hath been once destroyed, ’tis not hard, nor un-reasonable, to suppose those Prophecies to be true, that say it shall be destroyed again.
Fourthly, unless we understand here the natural World, we make the Apostle both redundant in his discourse, and also very obscure in an easie argument. If his design was onely to tell them that Mankind was once destroy’d in a Deluge, what's that to the Heavens and the Earth? the 5th. Verse would be superfluous; which yet he seems to make the foundation of his discourse. He might have told them how Mankind had perish’d before with a Deluge, and aggravated that destruction as much as he pleas’d, without telling them how the Heavens and the Earth were constituted then; what was that to the purpose, if it had no dependance or connection with the other? In the precedent Chapter, Verse 5th. when he speaks onely of the Floods destroying Mankind, he mentions nothing of the Heavens or the Earth: and if you make him to intend no more here, what he says more is superfluous.
I also add, that you make the Apostle very obscure and operose in a very easie argument. How easie had it been for him, without this Apparatus, to have told them, as he did before, that God brought a Flood upon the World of the ungodly; and not given us so much difficulty to understand his sence, or such a suspicion and appearance, that he intended something more; for that there is at least a great appearance and tendency to a further sence, I think none can deny; And St. Austin, Didymus, Alex. Bede, as we shall see hereafter, understood it plainly of the natural World: Also modern Expositors and Criticks; as Cajetan, Estius, Drusius, Heinsius, have extended it to the natural World, more or less; tho’ they had no Theory to mislead them, nor so much as an hypothesis to support them; but attended onely to the tenor of the Apostle's discourse, which constrain’d them to that sence, in whole or in part.
Fifthly, the opposition carries it upon the natural World. The opposition lies betwixt the of οἱ ἔκπαλαι οὐρανοὶ καὶ γῆ and οἱ νῦν οὐρανοὶ καὶ γῆ the Heavens that were of old, and the Earth, and the present Heavens and Earth, or the two natural Worlds. And if they will not allow them to be oppos’d in their natures (which yet we shall prove by and by) at least they must be oppos’d in their fate; and as This is to perish by fire, so That perish’d by water; And if it perish’d by water, it perish’d; which is all we contend for at present.
Lastly, if we would be as easily govern’d in the exposition of this place, as we are of other places of Scripture, it would be enough to suggest, that in reason and fairness of interpretation, the same World is destroy’d in the 6th verse, that was describ’d in the foregoing verse; but it is the Natural World that is describ’d there, the Heavens and the Earth, so and so constituted; and therefore in fairness of interpretation they ought to be understood here; that World being the subject that went immediately before, and there being nothing in the words that restrains them to the animate World or to Mankind. In the 2d ch. ver. 5. the Apostle does restrain the word κόσμος by adding ἀσεβῶν, the World of the ungodly; but here ’tis not only illimited, but according to the context, both preceding and following, to be extended to the Natural World. I say by the following context too, for so it answers to the World that is to perish by Fire; which will reach the frame of Nature as well as Mankind.
For a conclusion of this first point, I will set down St. Austin's judgment in this case; who in several parts of his works hath interpreted this place of St. Peter, of the natural world. As to the heavens, he hath these words in his Exposition upon Genesis, Hosetiam aerios cœlos quondam periisse Diluvio, in quâdam earum quæ Canonica appellantur, Epistolâ legimus. We read in one of the Epistles called Canonical, meaning this of St. Peter's that the aerial heavens perish’d in the Deluge. And he concerns himself there to let you know that it was not the starry heavens that were destroy’d; the waters could not reach so high; but the regions of our air. Then afterwards he hath these words Faciliùs eos (cœlos) secundum illius Epistolæ authoritatem credimus periisse, & alios, sicut ibi scribitur, repositos. We do more easily believe, according to the authority of that Epistle, those heavens to have perish’d; and others, as it is there written, substituted in their place. In like manner, and to the same sence, he hath these words upon Psal. 101. Aerii utique cœli perierunt ut propinqui Terris, secundum quod dicuntur volucres cœli; sunt autem & cœli cœlorum, superiores in Firmamento, sed utrùm & ipsi perituri sint igni, an hi soli, qui etiam diluvio perierunt, disceptatio est aliquanto scrupulosior inter doctos. And in his Book de Civ. Dei, he hath several passages to the same purpose, Quemadmodum in Apostolicâ illâ Epistolâ â toto pars accipitur, quod diluvio periisse dictus est mundus, quamvis sola ejus cum suis cœlis pars ima perierit. These being to the same effect with the first citation, I need not make them English; and this last place refers to the Earth as well as the Heavens, as several other places in St. Austin do, whereof we shall give you an account, when we come to shew his judgment concerning the second point, the diversity of the ante-diluvian and post-diluvian World. This being but a foretaste of his good will and inclinations towards this doctrine.
These considerations alledg’d, so far as I can judge, are full and unanswerable proofs, that this discourse of the Apostle's comprehends and refers to the Natural World; and consequently they warrant our interpretation in this particular, and destroy the contrary. We have but one step more to make good, That there was a change made in this natural world at the Deluge, according to the Apostle; and this is to confute the second part of their interpretation, which supposeth that St. Peter makes no distinction or opposition betwixt the antediluvian Heavens and Earth, and the present Heavens and Earth, in that respect.
This second difference betwixt us, methinks, is still harsher than the first; and contrary to the very form, as well as to the matter of the Apostle's discourse. For there is a plain antithesis, or opposition made betwixt the Heavens and the Earth of old (ver. the 5th) and the Heavens and the Earth that are now (verse the 7th) of οἱ ἔκπαλαι οὐρανοὶ καὶ ἡ γῆ and of οἱ νῦν οὐρανοὶ καὶ ἡ γῆ, and the adversative particle, but, 1 you see marks the opposition; so that it is full and plain according to Grammar and Logick. And that the parts or members of this opposition differ in nature from one another, is certain from this, because otherwise the Apostle's argument or discourse is of no effect, concludes nothing to the purpose; he makes no answer to the objection, nor proves any thing against the Scoffers, unless you admit that diversity. For they said, All things had been the same from the beginning in the Natural World, and unless he say, as he manifestly does, that there hath been a change in Nature, and that the Heavens and Earth that are now, are different from the ancient Heavens and Earth, which perish’d at the Flood, he says nothing to destroy their argument, nor to confirm the Prophetical doctrine of the future destruction of the Natural World.
This, I think, would be enough to satisfie any clear and free mind concerning the meaning of the Apostle; but because I desire to give as full a light to this place as I can, and to put the sence of it out of controversie, if possible, for the future, I will make some further remarks to confirm this exposition.
And we may observe that several of those reasons which we have given to prove, That the Natural World is understood by St. Peter, are double reasons; and do also prove the other point in question, a diversity betwixt the two Natural Worlds, the Anti-diluvian and the present. As for instance, unless you admit this diversity betwixt the two natural Worlds, you make the 5th verse in this Chapter superfluous and useless: and you must suppose the Apostle to make an inference here without premises. In the 6th verse he makes an inference, 2 Whereby the World, that then was, perish’d in a Deluge; what does this whereby relate to? by reason of what? sure of the particular constitution of the Heavens and the Earth immediately before describ’d. Neither would it have signified any thing to the Scoffers, for the Apostle to have told them how the Ante-diluvian Heavens and Earth were constituted, if they were constituted just in the same manner as the present.
Besides, what is it, as I ask’d before, that the Apostle tells these Scoffers they were ignorant of? does he not say formally and expresly (ver. 5.) that they were ignorant that the Heavens and the Earth were constituted so and so, before the Flood? but if they were constituted as these present Heavens and Earth are, they were not ignorant of their constitution; nor did pretend to be ignorant, for their own (mistaken) argument supposeth it.
But before we proceed any further, give me leave to note the impropriety of our Translation, in the 5th. Verse, or latter part of it; Ἐξ ὕδατος καὶ δἰ ὑδάτων (vel δἰ ὕδατος) συνεϛῶσα, This we translate standing in the water, and out of
the water, which is done manifestly in compliance with the present form of the Earth, and the notions of the Translators: and not according to the natural force and sence of the Greek words. If one met with this sentence 1 in a Greek Author, who would ever render it standing in the water and out of the water? nor do I know any Latin Translator that hath ventur’d to render them in that sence; nor any Latin Father; St. Austin and St. Jerome I’me sure do not, but Consistens ex aquâ, or de aquâ, & per aquam: for that later phrase also συνεϛάναι δἰ ὕδατος does not with so good propriety signifie to stand in the water, as to consist or subsist by water, or by the help of water, Tanquam per causam sustinentem; as St. Austin and Jerome render it. Neither does that instance they give from 1 Pet. 3. 20. prove any thing to the contrary, for the Ark was sustain’d by the waters, and the English does render it accordingly.
The Translation being thus rectified, you see the ante-diluvian Heavens and Earth consisted of Water, and by water; which makes way for a second observation to prove our sence of the Text; for if you admit no diversity betwixt those Heavens and Earth, and the present, shew us ’pray how the present Heavens and Earth consist of water, and by water. What watery constitution have they? The Apostle implies rather, that The now Heavens and Earth have a fiery constitution. We have now Meteors of all sorts in the air, winds, hail, snow, lightning, thunder, and all things engender’d of fiery exhalations, as well as we have rain; but according to our Theory,Book 2. c. 5, p. 233. the ante-diluvian Heavens, of all these Meteors had none but dews and rain, or watery Meteors onely; and therefore might very aptly be said by the Apostle to be constituted of water, or to have a watery σύϛασις. Then the Earth was said to consist by water, because it was built upon it, and at first was sustain’d by it. And when such a Key as this is put into our hands, that does so easily unlock this hard passage, and makes it intelligible, according to the just force of the words, why should we pertinaciously adhere to an interpretation, that neither agrees with the words, 2 nor makes any sence that is considerable?
Thirdly, If the Apostle had made the ante-diluvian Heavens and Earth the same with the present, his apodosis in the 7th. Verse, should not have beenὅι δε νῦν οὐρανοὶ, but καὶ οἱ ἀυτοὶ οὐρανοὶ καὶ ἡ γῆ τεθησαυρισμένοι εἰσί, &c. I say, it should not have been by way of antithesis, but of identity or continuation; And the same Heavens and Earth are kept in store reserv’d unto fire, &c. Accordingly we see the Apostle speaks thus, as to the Logos, or the Word of God, Verse 7. τῷ ἀυτοῷ λόγῳ, by the same Word of God; where the thing is the same, he expresseth it as the same; And if it had been the same Heavens and Earth, as well as the same Word of God, Why should he use a mark of opposition for the one, and of identity for the other? to this I do not see what can be fairly answer’d.
Fourthly, the ante-diluvian Heavens and Earth were different from the present, because, as the Apostle intimates, they were such, and so constituted, as made them obnoxious to a Deluge; whereas ours are of such a form, as makes them incapable of a Deluge, and obnoxious to a Conflagration; the just contrary fate.Theor I Book, c. 2.
If you say there was nothing of natural tendency or disposition in either World to their respective fate, but the first might as well have perish’d by fire, as water, and this by water as by fire, you unhinge all Nature and natural providence in that method, and contradict one main scope of the Apostle in this discourse. His first scope is to assert, and mind them of that diversity there was betwixt the ancient Heavens and Earth, and the present; and from that, to prove against those Scoffers, that there had been a change and revolution in Nature; And his second scope seems to be this, to show that diversity to be such, as, under the Divine conduct, leads to a different fate, and expos’d that World to a Deluge; for when he had describ’d the constitution of the first Heavens and Earth, he subjoyns, δἰ ὧν ὃ τοτε κόσμος ὕδατι κατακλυσθεὶς ἀπόλετο. Quià talis erat, saith Grotius, qualem diximus, constitutio & Terra & Cœli. WHEREBY the then World perish’d in a Flood of Water. This whereby notes some kind of causal dependance, and must relate to some means or conditions precedent. It cannot relate to Logos, or the Word of God, Grammar will not permit that; therefore it must relate to the state of the ante-diluvian Heavens and Earth immediately premis’d. And to what purpose indeed should he premise the description of those Heavens and Earth, if it was not to lay a ground for this inference?
Having given these Reasons for the necessity of this Interpretation; in the last place, let's consider St. Austin's judgment, and his sence upon this place, as to the point in question. As also the reflections that some other of the Ancients have made upon this doctrine of St. Peter's. Didymus Alexandrinus, who was for some time St. Jerome's Master, made such a severe reflection upon it, that he said this Epistle was corrupted, and should not be admitted into the Canon, because it taught the doctrine of a Triple or Triform World in this third Chapter. As you may see in his Enarr. in Epist. Canonicas. Now this threefold World is first that in the 6th Verse, The World that then was. In the 7th. Verse, The Heavens and the Earth, that are now. And in the 13th. Verse, We expect new Heavens and a new Earth, according to his promise. This seems to be a fair account that St. Peter taught the doctrine of a triple World; And I quote this testimony, to show what St. Peter's words do naturally import, even in the judgment of one that was not of his mind. And a Man is not prone to make an exposition against his own Opinion, unless he think the words very pregnant and express.
But St. Austin owns the authority of this Epistle, and of this doctrine, as deriv’d from it, taking notice of this Text of St. Peter's in several Parts of his Works. We have noted three or four places already to this purpose, and we may further take notice of several passages in his Treatise, de Civ. Dei, which confirm our exposition. In his 10th. Book, ch. 24. he disputes against Porphyry, who had the same Principles with these Æternalists in the Text; or, if I may so call them, Incorruptarians; and thought the World never had, nor ever would undergo any change, especially as to the Heavens. St. Austin could not urge Porphyry
with the authority of St. Peter, for he had no veneration for the Christian Oracles; but it seems he had some for the Jewish, and arguing against him, upon that Text in the Psalms, Cœli peribunt, he shows upon occasion how he understands St. Peter's destruction of the Old World. Legitur Cœlum & Terra transibunt, Mundus transit, sed puto quod præterit, transit, transibunt aliquantò mitiùs dicta sunt quàm peribunt. In Epistolâ quoque Petri Apostoli, ubi aquâ inundatus, qui tum erat, periisse dictus est Mundus, satis clarum est quæ pars mundi à toto significata est, & quatenùs periisse dicta sit, & qui cœli repositi igni reservandi. This he explains more fully afterwards by subjoyning a caution (which we cited before) that we must not understand this passage of St. Peter's, concerning the destruction of the ante-diluvian World, to take in the whole Universe, and the highest Heavens, but onely the aerial Heavens, and the sublunary World. In Apostolicâ iliâ Epistolâ à toto pars accipitur, quod Diluvio periisse dictus est mundus, quamvis sola ejus, cum suis cœlis, pars ima perierit. In that Apostolical Epistle, a part is signified by the whole, when the World is said to have perish’d in the Deluge, although the lower part of it onely, with the Heavens belonging to it, perished: that is, the Earth with the regions of the Air that belong to it. And consonant to this, in his exposition of that hundred and first Psalm, upon those words, The Heavens are the work of thy hands, They shall perish, but thou shalt endure. This perishing of the Heavens, he says, St. Peter tells us, hath been once done already, namely, at the Deluge; Apertè dixit hoc Apostolus Petrus, Cœli erant olim & Terra, de aquâ & per aquam constituti, Dei verbo; per quod qui factus est mundus, aquâ inundatus deperiit; Terra autem & cœli qui nunc sunt, igni reservantur. Jam ergo dixit periisse cœlos per Diluvium.
These places shew us that St. Austin understood St. Peter's discourse to aim at the natural World, and his periit or periisse (verse 6.) to be of the same force as peribunt in the Psalms, when ’tis said the Heavens shall perish; and consequently that the Heavens and the Earth, in this Father's opinion, were as really chang’d and transform’d at the time of the Flood, as they will be at the Conflagration. But we must not expect from St. Austin or any of the Ancients a distinct account of this Apostolical doctrine, as if they knew and acknowledg’d the Theory of the first World; that does not at all appear; but what they said was either from broken Tradition, or extorted from them by the force of the Apostle's words and their own sincerity.
There are yet other places in St. Austin worthy our consideration upon this subject; especially his exposition of this 3d. chap. of St. Peter, cap. 18. as we find it in that same Treatise de Civ. Dei. There he compares again, the destruction of the World at the Deluge, with that which shall be at the Conflagration, and supposeth both the Heavens and Earth to have perish’d. Apostolus commemorans factum ante Diluvium, videtur admonuisse quodammodò quatenùs in fine hujus seculi mundum istum periturum esse credamus. Nam & illo tempore periisse dixit, qui tunc erat, mundum; nec solum orbem terra, verùm etiam cœlos, Then giving his usual caution, That the Stars and starry heavens should not be comprehended in that mundane destruction, He goes on, Atque hoc modo (penè totus aer) cum terra perierat; cujus Terræ utique prior facies (nempe ante-diluviana) fuerat deleta Diluvio. Qui
autem nunc sunt cœli & terra eodem verbo repositi sunt igni reservandi; Proinde qui cœli & qua Terra, id est, qui mundus, pro eo mundo qui Diluvio periit, ex eâdem aquâ repositus est, ipse igni novissimo reservatur. Here you see St. Austin's sence upon the whole matter; which is this, That the natural World, the Earth with the Heavens about it, was destroyed and changed at the Deluge into the present Heavens and Earth; which shall again in like manner be destroyed and chang’d by the last fire. cap. 16. Accordingly in another place, to add no more, he saith the figure of the (sublunary) world shall be chang’d at the Conflagration, as it was chang’d at the Deluge. Tunc figura hujus mundi, &c. cap. 16.
Thus you see, we have St. Austin on our side, in both parts of our interpretation; that St. Peter's discourse is to be referr’d to the natural inanimate World, and that the present natural World is distinct and different from that which was before the Deluge. And St. Austin having applyed this expresly to St. Peter's doctrine by way of Commentary, it will free us from any crime or affectation of singularity in the exposition we have given of that place.
Venerable Bede hath followed St. Austin's footsteps in this doctrine; for, interpreting St. Peter's Original World (Αρχαῖος Κόσμος) 2 Pet. 2. 5. he refers both that and this (chap. 3. 6.) to the natural inanimate World, which he supposeth to have undergone a change at the Deluge. His words are these, idem ipse mundus est (nempe quoad materiam) in uqo nunc humanum genus habitat, quem inhabitaverunt hi qui ante diluvium fuerunt, sed tamen rectè Originalis Mundus, quasi alius, dicitur; quia sicut in consequentibus hujus Epistolæ scriptum continetur, Ille tune mundus aquâ inundatus periit. Cœlis videlicet qui erant priùs, id est, cunctis aeris hujus turbulenti spaciis, aquarum accrescentium altitudine consumptis, ac Terrâ in alteram faciem, excedentibus aquis, immutatâ. Nam etsi montes aliqui atque convalles ab initio facti creduntur, non tamen tanti quanti nunc in orbe cernuntur universo. ’Tis the same World (namely, as to the matter and substance of it) which mankind lives in now, and did live in before the Flood, but yet that is truly call’d the ORIGINAL WORLD, being as it were another from the present. For ’tis said in the sequel of this Epistle that the World that was then, perish’d in the Deluge; namely, the regions of the air were consumed by the height and excess of the waters, and by the same waters the Earth was chang’d into another form or face. For although some Mountains and Valleys are thought to have been made from the beginning, yet not such great ones as now we see throughout the whole Earth.
You see this Author does not only own a change made at the Deluge, but offers at a further explication wherein that change consisted, viz. that the Mountains and inequalities of the Earth were made greater than they were before the Flood; and so he makes the change or the difference betwixt the two Worlds gradual, rather than specifical, if I may so term it. But we cannot wonder at that, if he had no principles to carry it further, or to make any other sort of change intelligible to him. BedeDe 6 dier. treat. also pursues the same sence and notion in his interpretation of that fountain, Gen. 2. 5. that watered the face of the Earth before the Flood. And many other transcribers of Antiquity have recorded this Tradition concerning a difference, gradual or specifical, both in the Ante-diluvian heavens (Gloss. Ordin. Gen. 9. de Iride. Lyran. ibid. Hist. Scholast: c. 35. Rab. Maurus &
[paragraph continues] Gloss. Inter. Gen. 2. 5, 6. Alcuin. Quæst. in Gen. inter. 135.) and in the Ante-diluvian Earth, as the same Authors witness in other places. As Hist. Schol. c. 34. Gloss. Ord. in Gen. 7. Alcuin. Inter. 118, &c. Not to instance in those that tell us the properties of the Ante-diluvian World under the name and notion of Paradise.
Thus much concerning this remarkable place in St. Peter, and the true exposition of it; which I have the more largely insisted upon, because I look upon this place as the chief repository of that great natural mystery, which in Scripture is communicated to us, concerning the Triple state or revolution of the World. And of those men that are so scrupulous to admit the Theory we have propos'd, I would willingly know whether they believe the Apostle in what he says concerning the New Heavens and the New Earth to come, ver. 13. and if they do, why they should not believe him as much concerning the Old Heavens and the Old Earth, past; ver. 5, & 6. which he mentions as formally, and describes more distinctly than the other. But if they believe neither past nor to come, in a natural sence, but an unchangeable state of Nature from the Creation to its annihilation, I leave them then to their Fellow Eternalists in the Text, and to the character or censure the Apostle gives them, Κατὰ τὰς ἰδίας αὐτῶν ἐπιθυμίας πορευόμγυοι, men that go by their own private humour and passions, and prefer that to all other evidence.
They deserve this censure, I am sure, if they do not only disbelieve, but also scoff, at this Prophetick and Apostolick doctrine concerning the Vicissitudes of Nature and a triple World; The Apostle in this discourse does formally distinguish three Worlds (for ’tis well known that the Hebrews have no word to signifie the natural World, but use that Periphrasis, The Heavens and the Earth) and upon each of them engraves a name and title, that bears a note of distinction in it; He calls them the Old Heavens and Earth, the Present Heavens and Earth, and the New Heavens and Earth. ’Tis true, these three are one, as to matter and substance; but they must differ as to form and properties; otherwise what is the ground of this distinction and of these three different appelations? Suppose the Jews had expected Ezekiel's Temple for the Third, and last, and most perfect; and that in the time of the second Temple they had spoke of them with this distinction, or under these different names, The Old Temple, the Present Temple, and the New Temple we expect: Would any have understood those three of one and the same Temple; never demolish’d, never chang’d, never rebuilt; always the same both as to materials and form? no, doubtless, but of three several Temples succeeding one another. And have we not the same reason to understand this Temple of the World, whereof St. Peter speaks, to be threefold in succession? seeing he does as plainly distinguish it into the Old heavens and earth, the Present heavens and earth, and the New heavens and earth. And I do the more willingly use this comparison of the Temple, because it hath been thought an Emblem of the outward World.
I know we are naturally averse to entertain any thing that is inconsistent with the general frame and texture of our own thoughts; That's to begin the World again; and we often reject such things without examination. Neither do I wonder
that the generality of Interpreters beat down the Apostle's words and sence to their own notions; They had no other grounds to go upon, and Men are not willing, especially in natural and comprehensible things, to put such a meaning upon Scripture, as is unintelligible to themselves; They rather venture to offer a little violence to the words, that they may pitch the sence at such a convenient height, as their Principles will reach to. And therefore though some of our modern Interpreters, whom I mention’d before, have been sensible of the natural tendency of this discourse of St. Peter's, and have much ado to bear off the force of the words, so as not to acknowledge that they import a real diversity betwixt the two worlds spoken of; yet having no Principles to guide or support them in following that Tract, they are forc’d to stop or divert another way. ’Tis like entering into the mouth of a Cave, we are not willing to venture further than the light goes. Nor are they much to blame for this; the fault is onely in those Persons that continue wilfully in their darkness, and when they cannot otherwise resist the light, shut their eyes against it, or turn their head another way. . . . . . but I am afraid I have staid too long upon this argument: not for my own sake, but to satisfie others.
You may please to remember that all that I have said hitherto, belongs onely to the first Head: To prove a Diversity in general betwixt the Ante-diluvian Heavens and Earth, and the present: not expressing what their particular form was. And this general diversity may be argued also by observations taken from Moses his history of the World, before and after the Flood. From the Longevity of the Ante-diluvians: The Rain-bow appearing after the Deluge: and the breaking open an Abyss capable to overflow the Earth. See Theor. Book 2. ch. 5.The Heavens that had no Rainbow, and under whose benign and steddy influence, Men liv’d seven, eight, nine hundred years and upwards, must have been of a different aspect and constitution from the present Heavens. And that Earth that had such an Abyss, that the disruption of it made an universal Deluge, must have been of another form than the present Earth. And those that will not admit a diversity in the two worlds, are bound to give us an intelligible account of these Phænomena: How they could possibly be in Heavens and Earth, like the present. Or if they were there once, why they do not continue so still, if Nature be the same.
We need say no more, as to the Ante-diluvian Heavens: but as to the Earth, we must now, according to the second Part of the first Head; enquire, If that Particular Form, which we have assign’d it before the Flood, be agreeable to Scripture. You know how we have describ’d the Form and situation of that Earth: namely, that it was built over the Abyss, as a regular Orb, covering and incompassing the waters round about: and founded, as it were, upon them. There are many passages of Scripture that favour this description: Some more expresly, others upon a due explication. To this purpose there are two express Texts in the Psalms: as Psal. 24. 1, 2. The Earth is the Lords, and the fulness thereof: The habitable World, and they that dwell therein. FOR he has founded it upon 1 the Seas, and establish’d it upon the Floods. An Earth founded upon the
[paragraph continues] Seas, and establish’d upon the Waters, is not this the Earth we have describ’d? the first Earth, as it came from the hands of its Maker. Where can we now find in Nature, such an Earth as has the Seas and the Water for its foundation? Neither is this Text without a second, as a fellow-witness to confirm the same truth: For in the 136. Psalm, ver. 4, 5, 6, we read to the same effect, in these words: To him, who alone does great wonders: To him that by wisdom made the Heavens: To him that stretched out the Earth above the Waters. We can hardly express that form of the Ante-diluvian Earth, in words more determinate than these are; Let us then in the same simplicity of heart, follow the words of Scripture; seeing this literal sence is not repugnant to Nature, but, on the contrary, agreeable to it upon the strictest examination. And we cannot, without some violence, turn the words to any other sence. What tolerable interpretation can these admit of, if we do not allow the Earth once to have encompass’d and overspread the face of the Waters? To be founded upon the waters, to be establish’d upon the waters, to be extended upon the waters, what rational or satisfactory account can be given of these phrases and expressions from any thing we find in the present situation of the Earth: or how can they be verified concerning it? Consult Interpreters, ancient or modern, upon these two places: see if they answer your expectation, or answer the natural importance of the words, unless they acknowledge another form of the Earth, than the present. Because a Rock hangs its nose over the Sea, must the body of the Earth be said to be stretched over the waters? Or because there are waters in some subterraneous cavities, is the Earth therefore founded upon the Seas? Yet such lame explications as these you will meet with; and while we have no better light, we must content our selves with them; but when an explication is offer’d, that answers the propriety, force, and extent of the words, to reject it, onely because it is not fitted to our former opinions, or because we did not first think of it, is to take an ill method in expounding Scripture. This Foundation or Establishment of the Earth upon the Seas, this Extension of it above the waters, relates plainly to the body, or whole circuit of the Earth, not to parcels and particles of it; as appears from the occasion, and its being joyn’d with the Heavens, the other part of the World. Besides, David is speaking of the Origin of the World, and of the Divine power and wisdom in the construction and situation of our Earth, and these attributes do not appear from the holes of the Earth, and broken Rocks; which have rather the face of a ruine, than of wisdom; but in that wonderful libration and expansion of the first Earth over the face of the waters, sustained by its own proportions, and the hand of his Providence.
These two places in the Psalms being duly consider’d, we shall more easily understand a third place, to the same effect, in the Proverbs; delivered by WISDOM, concerning the Origin of the World, and the form of the first Earth, in these words, Chap. 8. 27. When he prepared the Heavens I was there, when HE SET an Orb or Sphere upon the face of the Abyss. We render it, when we set a Compass upon the face of the Abyss; but if we have rightly interpreted the Prophet David, ’tis plain enough what compass is here to be understood; not an imaginary circle, (for why should that be thought one of the wonderful works of God) but that exterior Orb of the Earth that was set upon the waters. That was the Master-piece of the Divine art in framing of the first Earth, and therefore very fit to be taken notice of by Wisdom. And upon this occasion, I desire you to reflect upon St. Peter's expression, concerning the first Earth, and to compare it with Solomon's to see if they do not answer one another. St. Peter calls it γῆ καθεϛῶσα δἰ ὑδάτων, An Earth consisting, standing, or sustained by the waters. And Solomon calls it חוּג צַל פְנֵי תְהום. An Orb drawn upon the face of the Abyss. And St. Peter says, that was done τῷ λόγῳ τοῦ Θεοῦ· by the wisdom of God: which is the same Λόγος or wisdom, that here declares her self, to have been present at this work. Add now to these two places, the two foremention’d out of the Psalmist; An Earth founded upon the Seas, (Psal. 24. 2.) and an Earth stretched out above the waters: (Psal. 136. 6.) Can any body doubt or question, but all these four Texts refer to the same thing? And seeing St. Peter's description refers certainly to the Ante-diluvian Earth, they must all refer to it; and do all as certainly and evidently agree with our Theory concerning the form and situation of it.
The pendulous form and posture of that first Earth being prov’d from these four places, ’tis more easie and emphatical to interpret in this sence that passage in Job ch. 26. 7. He stretcheth out the North over the Tohu, (for so it is in the original) and hangeth the Earth upon nothing. And this strange foundation or no foundation of the exteriour Earth seems to be the ground of those noble questions propos’d to Job by God Almighty, ch. 38. Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the Earth? Declare if thou hast understanding. Whereupon are the foundations thereof fastned, and who laid the corner stone? There was neither foundation, nor corner stone, in that piece of Architecture; and that was it which made the art and wonder of it. But I have spoken more largely to these places in the Theory it self.Book 1. p. 88. And if the four Texts before-mentioned be consider’d without prejudice, I think there are few matters of natural Speculation that can be so well prov’d out of Scripture, as the Form which we have given to the Antediluvian Earth.
But yet it may be thought a just, if not a necessary appendix to this discourse, concerning the form of the ante-diluvian Earth, to give an account also of the ante-diluvian Abyss, and the situation of it according to Scripture; for the relation which these two have to one another, will be a further means to discover if we have rightly determin’d the form of that Earth. The Abyss or Tehom-Rabbah is a Scripture notion, and the word is not us’d, that I know of, in that distinct and peculiar sence in Heathen Authors. ’Tis plain that in Scripture it is
not always taken for the Sea (as Gen. 1. 2. & 7. 11. & 49. 25. Deut. 33. 13. Job 28. 14. & 38. 16. Ps. 33. 7. & 71. 20. & 78. 15. & 135. 6. Apoc. 20. 1. 3.) but for some other mass of waters, or subterraneous storehouse. And this being observ’d, we may easily discover the nature, and set down the history of the Scripture-Abyss.
The Mother-Abyss is no doubt that in the beginning of Genesis, ver. 2. which had nothing but darkness upon the face of it, or a thick caliginous air. The next news we hear of this Abyss is at the Deluge, (Gen. 7. 11.) where ’tis said to be broke open, and the waters of it to have drowned the World. It seems then this Abyss was clos’d up some time betwixt the Creation and the Deluge, and had got another cover than that of darkness. And if we will believe Wisdom, (Prov. 8. 27.) who was there present at the formation of the Earth, an Orb was set upon the face of the Abyss at the beginning of the World.
That these three places refer to the same Abyss, I think, cannot be questioned by any that will compare them and consider them. That of the Deluge, Moses calls there Tehom-Rabbah, the Great Abyss; and can there be any greater than the forementioned Mother-Abyss? And WISDOME, in that place in the Proverbs, useth the same phrase and words with Moses, Gen. 1. 2. ;צַל פְּנֵיּ תְחומ֥ upon the face of the Deep or of the Abyss; changing darkness for that Orb of the exteriour Earth which was made afterwards to inclose it. And in this vault it lay, and under this cover, when the Psalmist speaks of it in these words (Ps. 33. 7.) He gathereth the waters of the Sea, as in a 1 bag; he layeth up the Abyss in storehouses. Lastly, we may observe that ’twas this Mother-Abyss whose womb was burst at the Deluge, when the Sea was born, and broke forth as if it had issued out of a womb; as God expresseth it to Job, ch. 38. 8. in which place the Chaldee Paraphrase reads it, when it broke forth, coming out of the Abyss. Which disruption at the Deluge seems also to be alluded to Job 12. 14, 15, and more plainly, Prov. 3. 20. by his knowledge the Abysses are broken up.
Thus you have already a threefold state of the Abyss, which makes a short History of it; first, Open, at the beginning; then covered, till the Deluge. Then broke open again, as it is at present. And we pursue the History of it no further; but we are told, Apoc. 20. 3. That it shall be shut up again, and the great Dragon in it, for a Thousand years. In the mean time we may observe from this form and posture of the Ante-diluvian Abyss, how suitable it is and coherent with that form of the Ante-diluvian Earth which St. Peter and the Psalmist had describ’d, sustain’d by the waters; founded upon the waters; strecht above the waters; for if it was the cover of this Abyss (and it had some cover that was broke at the Deluge) it was spread as a Crust or Ice upon the face of those waters, and so made an orbis Terrarum, an habitable sphere of Earth about the Abyss.
389:1 There was a Sect amongst the Jews that held this perpetuity and immutability of Nature; and Maimonides himself was of this principle, and gives the same reason for it with the Scoffers here in the Text, Quod mundus retinet & sequitur consuetudinem suam. And as to those of the Jews that were Aristoteleans, it was very suitable to their principles to hold the incorruptibility of the World, as their Master did. Vid. Med. in loc.
392:2 δἰ ὧν, per que. Vulgat. Quamobrem, Beza. Quâ de causâ, Grot. Nemo interpretum reddidit δἰ ὧν per quas; subintelligendo aquas. Hoc enim argumentationem Apostolicana tolleret, supponeretque illusores illos ignorâsse quod olim fuerit Diluvium; Quod supponi non posse supra ostendimus.
393:1 This phrase or manner of speech συνιζάναὶ ἐκvel ὄξ is not unusual in Greek Authors, and upon a like subject; Plato saith, τόν δε κόσμον συνιϛάναι ἐκ πυρὲς, ὔδατος, ἄερος, γῖς, but he that should translate Plato, The world stands out of fire, water, &c. would be thought neither Græcian, nor Philosopher. The same phrase is us’d in reciting Heraclitus his opinion, τὰ πάντα ἐκ πυρὸς συνεϛὰναι, καὶ οίς τοῦτο ἀναλὶεως. And also in Thales his, which is still nearer to the subject, ἐκ τοῦ ὔδατός, φηοι, συνιζάναι πάντα, which Cicero renders, ex aquâ, dixit, constare omnia. So that it is easie to know the true importance of this phrase, and how ill it is render’d in the English, standing out of the water.
393:2 Whether you refer the words ὄξ ὔδατ. καὶ δἰ ὔδατ. separately, to the Heavens and the Earth, or both to the Earth, or both to both, it will make no great difference as to our interpretation.
398:1 I know some would make this place of no effect by rendering the Hebrew particle על juxta, by or near to; so they would read it thus, He hath founded the Earth by the Sea-side, and establish’d it by the Floods. What is there wonderful in this, that the shores should lie by the Sea-side; Where could they lie else? What reason or argument is this, why the Earth should be the Lord's? p. 399 The Earth is the Lord's for he hath founded it near the Seas, Where is the consequence of this? But if he founded it upon the Seas, which could not be done by any other hand but his, it shows both the Workman and the Master. And accordingly in that other place, Psal. 136. 6, if you render it, he stretched out the Earth near the Waters, How is that one of God's great wonders? as it is there represented to be. Because in some few places this particle is render’d otherwise, where the sense will bear it, must we therefore render it so when we please, and where the sence will not bear it? This being the most usual signification of it, and there being no other word that signifies above more frequently or determinately than this does, Why must it signifie otherwise in this place? Men will wriggle any way to get from under the force of a Text, that does not suit to their own Notions.
401:1 This reading or translating is generally followed, (Theor. book 1, p. 86.) though the English translation read on a heap, unsuitably to the matter and to the sence.