Page images
PDF
EPUB

" that those two antagonist forces, acting at “ the same time in the earth, (SUPPOSING it

to have been formed of an uniformly yielding

substance,) would have worked themselves “ into harmony and equilibrium, by assuming “ that figure, which they would thenceforth “ maintain. Whereas, if we suppose the case “ of a true sphere, which should consist of a solid and resisting substance, the two op

posing forces would act in perpetual and 66 violent discord, with a constant tendency to " disunite and rend the texture of the fabric. Now Newton having maintained, that God, “ in the beginning, formed all material things, “ of such figures and properties as most con6 duced to the end for which he formed them; “ and having demonstrated that the property “ of an obtuse spheroid was that which most “ conduced to the end for which God formed the earth, viz. to revolve with regularity, and with

perfect harmony in all its parts; he left it to “ the capacity of every one to draw the obvious

inference, in conformity with his known prin

ciples, viz. that it is highly probable that God “ has formed the earth with the same figure, “ which it is manifest he has given to the other

planets, and for which an adequate reason is “ thus rendered plain to the intelligence: and “ he confirmed this argument of probability by adding the positive fact, that unless the “ earth actually was flatter at the poles than

at the equator, the waters of the ocean con“stantly rising towards the latter, must long “ since have deluged and overwhelmed the

equatorial regions, and have deserted the

polar; whereas the waters are now retained “ in equilibrio over the whole surface of the " Globe.”*

Maclaurin, in his account of Sir Isaac Newton's philosophy,f thus draws his inference from the above clear and beautiful demonstration:

" What we have said of a FLUID earth must “ hold good of the earth as it is ; for if it had “ not this figure in its solid parts, but a spherical figure, the ocean would overflow all the

equatorial regions, and leave the polar re

gions elevated many miles above the level of " the sea; whereas we find that one is not

more elevated above that level than the or other.”

The supposed figure of a Globe of an yielding substance, made use of by Newton, merely to explain the effects of the two great forces which are constantly in action upon the earth, has been construed, by the continental philosophy, into an argument in favour of the actual primi

† Page 364.

• Comp. Estim. vol. i. p. 37.

tive fluidity of the Globe in a chaotic state ;* and thence it has argued, that that particular form which was given to all the revolving heavenly bodies, by the great wisdom of the Creator, to obviate the effects of two contending powers, was assumed by the Globe itself while in a fluid state, by the mere laws of nature.t

Nothing, however, could be further from the ideas of Newton, who had previously stated his belief, that “as God had formed matter with such figure and proportions, as most conduss ced to the end for which he formed it; and

as the end, in this instance, was regularity " and harmony, it was unphilosophical to seek "s for any other origin, either for the substance, From the announcement, then, of the Sacred Record, that " in the beginning, God created the earth;” and from the preceding considerations, from the great mind of Newton, on the subject of this announcement, we are to conclude, that, " in the beginning" our Globe was of the same solid, spheroidal figure, we now find it to be ; and, consequently, that granite, and all other rocks, which do not bear the stamp of subsequent formation from the effects of those laws, commonly called of nature, but in reality those of God, and to which the earth, and all things upon its surface, have been subjected since the first creation, are to be considered as primitive creations; and, also, that the elastic fluid, forming the firmament or atmosphere, and the waters, which were at first spread over the whole surface, but were afterwards collected “ into one place,” at the command of the Almighty, are to be included in our minds as primitive creations.

or the shape of the Globe; or to pretend, " that it could have risen out of a chaos by " the mere laws of nature."

* De Luc. Lett. Geol. p. 81.

+ The spheroidal figure of the earth, its crystalline and “ stratified structure, and its numerous petrefactions, are

proofs of its original fluidity. The fluidity, according to “ Werner, was aqueous ; and he conjectures that the various “ rocks were originally suspended or dissolved in water, “ and gradually deposited from it.”

Edin. Encyclop. Mineralogy, p. 408. It has been already shewn, that this Wernerian theory of primitive formations is entirely at variance with these very laws of nature, to the agency of which alone these formations were attributed. (See page 17.)

It appears strange, that the consideration of air and water, (we may, perhaps, also, include fire,) has been hitherto omitted by those philosophers who have formed theories on the chaotic formation of the earth. In those theories we hear of nothing but the formation of rocks by natural or secondary causes; and though, by some, fire was considered the chief

agent in these formations, and by others, water, we have no account given, or attempted, of how these two important elements first came into existence. Thus, in the systems of the chaotic philosophy, out of the four elements of which the system of our Globe is composed, three remain utterly unaccounted for; and we may justly add, that the origin of the primitive elements, from which the fourth is supposed, in those theories, to have arisen, is equally concealed from the reason and understanding.

Some philosophers, undeterred by the apparent impossibility of any satisfactory result, have attempted to ascertain the mean density of the earth. This problem only admits of an approximated solution, derived from the principles of universal gravitation. actual view of the interior of the earth does not extend, as has been

has been before said, to more than one-sixteen thousandth part of the whole. The calculations of Dr. Maskelyne, from observations on the attraction of the mountain, called Schehalien, in Perthshire, followed up by Hutton, Playfair, and Cavendish, lead us to the same conclusions, which, a priori, we should have expected; viz. that the central parts of the earth abound with some species of heavy and solid matter; and as our enquiries, with regard to the surface of the

For our

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »