The great Change of the World since the Flood, from what it was in the first Ages. The Earth under its present form could not be Paradisiacal, nor any part of it.
THE Scheme of this World passeth away, saith an holy Author; The mode and form, both of the Natural and Civil World, changeth continually more or less, but most remarkably at certain Periods, when all Nature puts on another face; as it will do at the Conflagration, and hath done already from the time of the Deluge. We may imagine how different a prospect the first World would make from what we see now in the present state of things, if we consider only those generals by which we have describ’d it in the foregoing Chapter, and what their influence would be upon mankind and the rest of Nature. For every new state of Nature doth introduce a new Civil Order, and a new face and Oeconomy of Humane affairs: And I am apt to think that some two Planets, that are under the same state or Period, do not so much differ from one another, as the same Planet doth from it self, in different periods of its duration. We do not seem to inhabit the same World that our first fore-fathers did, nor scarce to be the same race of Men. Our life now is so short and vain, as if we came into the World only to see it and leave it; by that time we begin to understand our selves a little, and to know where we are, and how to act our part, we must leave the stage, and give place to others as meer Novices as we were our selves at our first entrance. And this short life is imploy’d, in a great measure, to preserve our selves from necessity, or diseases, or injuries of the Air, or other inconveniences; to make one man easie, ten must work and do drudgery; The Body takes up so much time, we have little leisure for Contemplation, or to cultivate the mind. The Earth doth not yield us food, but with much labour and industry, and what was her freewill offering before, or an easie liberality can scarce now be extorted from her. Neither are the Heavens more favourable, sometimes in one extream, sometimes in another; The Air often impure or infectious, and, for a great part of the
year, Nature her self seems to be sick or dead. To this vanity the external Creation is made subject as well as Mankind, and so must continue till the restitution of all things.
Can we imagine, in those happy Times and Places we are treating of, that things stood in this same posture? are these the fruits of the Golden Age and of Paradise, or consistent with their happiness? And the remedies of these evils must be so universal, you cannot give them to one place or Region of the Earth, but all must participate: For these are things that flow from the course of the Heavens, or such general causes as extend at once to all Nature. If there was a perpetual Spring and perpetual Æquinox in Paradise, there was at the same time a perpetual Æquinox all the Earth over; unless you place Paradise in the middle of the Torrid Zone. So also the long lives of the Ante-diluvians was an universal Effect, and must have had an universal Cause. ’Tis true, in some single parts or Regions of the present Earth, the Inhabitants live generally longer than in others, but do not approach in any measure the Age of their Ante-diluvian fore-fathers; and that degree of longævity which they have above the rest, they owe to the calmness and tranquility of their Heavens and Air; which is but an imperfect participation of that cause which was once Universal, and had its effect throughout the whole Earth. And as to the fertility of this Earth, though in some spots it be eminently more fruitful than in others, and more delicious, yet that of the first Earth was a fertility of another kind, being spontaneous, and extending to the production of Animals, which cannot be without a favourable concourse from the Heavens also.
Thus much in general; We will now go over those three foremention’d Characters more distinctly, to show by their unsuitableness to the present state of Nature, that neither the whole Earth, as it is now, nor any part of it, could be Paradisiacal. The perpetual Spring, which belong’d to the Golden Age, and to Paradise, is an happiness this present Earth cannot pretend to, nor is capable of, unless we could transfer the Sun from the Ecliptick to the Æquator, or, which is as easie, perswade the Earth to change its posture to the Sun. If Archimedes had found a place to plant his Machines in for removing of the Earth, all that I should have desir’d of him, would have been only to have given it an heave at one end, and set it a little to rights again with the Sun, that we might have enjoy’d the comfort of a perpetual Spring, which we have lost by its dislocation ever since the Deluge. And there being nothing more indispensably necessary to a Paradisiacal state than this unity and equality of Seasons, where that cannot be, ’tis in vain to seek for the rest of Paradise.
That spontaneous fruitfulness of the ground was a thing peculiar to the primigenial soil, which was so temper’d, as made it more luxuriant at that time than it could ever be afterwards; and as that rich temperament was spent, so by degrees it grew less fertile. The Origin or production of Animals out of the Earth, depended not only upon this vital constitution of the soil at first, but also upon such a posture and aspect of the Heavens, as favour’d, or at least permitted, Nature, to make her best works out of this prepar’d matter, and better than could be made in that manner, after the Flood. Noah, we see, had orders given him to
preserve the Races of living Creatures in his Ark, when the Old World was destroy’d, which is an argument to me, that Providence foresaw that the Earth would not be capable to produce them under its new form; and that, not only for want of fitness in the soil, but because of the diversity of Seasons which were then to take place, whereby Nature would be disturb’d in her work, and the subject to be wrought upon would not continue long enough in the same due temper. But this part of the second Character concerning the Original of Animals, deserves to be further examin’d and explain’d.
The first principles of life must be tender and ductile, that they may yield to all the motions and gentle touches of Nature; otherwise it is not possible that they should be wrought with that curiosity, and drawn into all those little fine threds and textures, that we see and admire in some parts of the Bodies of Animals. And as the matter must be so constituted at first, so it must be kept in a due temper till the work be finisht, without any excess of heat or cold; and accordingly we see, that Nature hath made provision in all sorts of Creatures, whether Oviparous or Viviparous, that the first rudiments of life should be preserv’d from all injuries of the Air, and kept in a moderate warmth. Eggs are enclos’d in a Shell, or ffilm, and must be cherisht with an equal and gentle heat, to begin formation and continue it, otherwise the work miscarries: And in Viviparous Creatures, the materials of life are safely lodg’d in the Females womb, and conserv’d in a fit temperature ’twixt heat and cold, while the Causes that Providence hath imploy’d, are busie at work, fashioning and placing and joyning the parts, in that due order which so wonderful a Fabrick requires.
Let us now compare these things with the birth of Animals in the new-made World, when they first rose out of the Earth, to see what provision could be made there for their safety and nourishment, while they were a-making, and when newly made; And though we take all advantages we can, and suppose both the Heavens and the Earth favourable, a fit soil and a warm and constant temper of the Air, all will be little enough to make this way of production feasible or probable: But if we suppose there was then the same inconstancy of the Heavens that is now, the same vicissitude of seasons, and the same inequality of heat and cold, I do not think it at all possible that they could be so form’d, or being new-form’d, preserv’d and nourisht. ’Tis true, some little Creatures that are of short dispatch in their formation, and find nourishment enough wheresoever they are bred, might be produc’d and brought to perfection in this way, notwithstanding and inequality of Seasons; because they are made all at a heat, as I may so say, begun and ended within the compass of one Season; But the great question is concerning the more perfect kinds of Animals, that require a long stay in the womb, to make them capable to sustain and nourish themselves when they first come into the World. Such Animals being big and strong, must have a pretty hardness in their bones, and force and firmness in their Muscles and Joynts, before they can bear their own weight, and exercise the common motions of their body: And accordingly we see Nature hath ordain’d for these a longer time of gestation, that their limbs and members might have time to acquire strength and solidity. Besides the young ones of these Animals have commonly the milk
of the Dam to nourish them after they are brought forth, which is a very proper nourishment, and like to that which they had before in the womb; and by this means their stomachs are prepar’d by degrees for courser food: Whereas our Terrigenous Animals must have been wean’d as soon as they were born, or as soon as they were separated from their Mother the Earth, and therefore must be allow’d a longer time of continuing there.
These things being consider’d, we cannot in reason but suppose that, these Terrigenous Animals were as long, or longer, a-perfecting, than our Viviparous, and were not separated from the body of the Earth for ten, twelve, eighteen, or more months, according as their Nature was; and seeing in this space of time they must have suffer’d, upon the common Hypothesis, all vicissitudes and variety of seasons, and great excesses of heat and cold, which are things incompatible with the tender principles of life and the formation of living Creatures, as we have shown before; we may reasonably and safely conclude, that Nature had not, when the World began, the same course she hath now, or that the Earth was not then in its present posture and constitution: Seeing, I say, these first spontaneous Births, which both the holy Writ, Reason, and Antiquity seem to allow, could not be finisht and brought to maturity, nor afterwards preserv’d and nourisht, upon any other supposition.
Longævity is the last Character to be consider’d, and as inconsistent with the present state of the Earth as any other. There are many things in the story of the first Ages that seem strange, but nothing so prodigy-like as the long lives of those Men; that their houses of Clay should stand eight or nine hundred years and upwards, and those we build of the hardest Stone and Marble will not now last so long. This hath excited the curiosity of ingenious and learned men in all Ages to enquire after the possible Causes of that longævity; and if it had been always in conjunction with innocency of life and manners, and expir’d when that expir’d, we might have thought it some peculiar blessing or reward attending that; but ’twas common to good and bad, and lasted till the Deluge, whereas mankind was degenerate long before. Amongst natural Causes, some have imputed it to the sobriety and simplicity of their diet and manner of living in those days, that they eat no flesh, and had not all those provocations to gluttony which Wit and Vice have since invented. This might have some effect, but not possibly to that degree and measure that we speak of. There are many Monastical persons now that live abstemiously all their lives, and yet they think an hundred years a very great age amongst them. Others have imputed it to the excellency of their Fruits and some unknown vertue in their Herbs and Plants in those days; But they may as well say nothing, as say that which can neither be prov’d nor understood. It could not be either the quantity or quality of their food that was the cause of their long lives, for the Earth was curst long before the Deluge, and probably by that time was more barren and juiceless (for the generality) than ours is now; yet we do not see that their longævity decreast at all, from the beginning of the World to the Flood. Methusalah was Noah's Grandfather, but one intire remove from the Deluge, and he liv’d longer than any of his Fore-fathers. That food that will nourish the parts and keep us in health, is also capable
to keep us in long life, if there be no impediments otherwise; for to continue health is to continue life; as that fewel that is fit to raise and nourish a flame, will preserve it as long as you please, if you add fresh fewel, and no external causes hinder: Neither do we observe that in those parts of the present Earth where people live longer than in others, that there is any thing extraordinary in their food, but that the difference is chiefly from the Air and the temperateness of the Heavens; And if the Ante-diluvians had not enjoy’d that advantage in a peculiar manner, and differently from what any parts of the Earth do now, they would never have seen seven, eight, or nine hundred years go over their heads, though they had been nourisht with Nectar and Ambrosia.
Others have thought that the long lives of those men of the old World proceeded from the strength of their Stamina, or first principles of their bodies; which if they were now as strong in us, they think we should still live as long as they did. This could not be the sole and adæquate cause of their longævity, as will appear both from History and Reason. Shem, who was born before the Flood, and had in his body all the vertue of the Ante-diluvian Stamina and constitution, fell three hundred years short of the age of his fore-fathers, because the greatest part of his life was past after the Flood. That their Stamina were stronger than ours are, I am very ready to believe, and that their bodies were greater; and any race of strong men, living long in health, would have children of a proportionably strong constitution with themselves; but then the question is, How was this interrupted? We that are their posterity, why do not we inherit their long lives? how was this constitution broken at the Deluge, and how did the Stamina fail so fast when that came? why was there so great a Crisis then and turn of life, or why was that the period of their strength?
We see this longævity sunk half in half immediately after the Flood, and after that it sunk by gentler degrees, but was still in motion and declension till it was fixt at length, before David's time, Ps. 90. 10. call’d a Psalm of Moses. in that which path been the common standard of man's age ever since: As when some excellent fruit is transplanted into a worse Climate and Soil, it degenerates continually till it comes to such a degree of meanness as suits that Air and Soil, and then it stands. That the age of Man did not fall all on a sudden from the Ante-diluvian measure to the present, I impute it to the remaining Stamina of those first Ages, and the strength of that pristine constitution which could not wear off but by degrees. We see the Blacks do not quit their complexion immediately by removing into another Climate, but their posterity changeth by little and little, and after some generations they become altogether like the people of the Country where they are. Thus by the change of Nature that happened at the Flood, the unhappy influence of the Air and unequal Seasons weaken’d by degrees the innate strength of their bodies and the vigour of the parts, which would have been capable to have lasted several more hundreds of years, if the Heavens had continued their course as formerly, or the Earth its position. To conclude this particular, If any think that the Antediluvian longævity proceeded only from the Stamina, or the meer strength of their bodies, and would have been so under any constitution of the Heavens, let them resolve themselves these Questions; first, why these Stamina, or this strength
of constitution fail’d? Secondly, why did it fail so much and so remarkably at the Deluge? Thirdly, why in such proportions as it hath done since the Deluge? And lastly, why it hath stood so long immovable, and without any further diminution? Within the compass of five hundred years they sunk from nine hundred to ninety; and in the compass of more than three thousand years since they have not sunk ten years, or scarce any thing at all. Who considers the reasons of these things, and the true resolution of these questions, will be satisfi’d, that to understand the causes of that longevity something more must be consider’d than the make and strength of their bodies; which, though they had been made as strong as the Behemoth or Leviathan, could not have lasted so many Ages, if there had not been a particular concurrence of external causes, such as the present state of Nature doth not admit of.
By this short review of the three general Characters of Paradise and the Golden Age, we may conclude how little consistent they are with the present form and order of the Earth. Who can pretend to assign any place or Region in this Terraqueous Globe, Island or Continent, that is capable of these conditions, or that agrees either with the descriptions given by the ancient Heathens of their Paradises, or by the Christian Fathers of Scripture-Paradise. But where then, will you say, must we look for it, if not upon this Earth? This puts us more into despair of finding it than ever; ’tis not above nor below, in the Air or in the subterraneous Regions: no, doubtless ’twas upon the surface of the Earth, but of the Primitive Earth, whose form and properties as they were different from this, so they were such as made it capable of being truly Paradisiacal, both according to the fore-mentioned Characters, and all other qualities and priviledges reasonably ascrib’d to Paradise.