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E have had two different theories of the earth, the productions of two countrymen of our own; both ingenious; both admired for the time; and both, I think, fallen into difrepute, and now generally exploded; because they were founded on hypotheses, neither of which had any B


very probable foundation in nature of reafon, nor much countenance from fcripture; to fay no more of them.

Thefe two celebrated writers led the way to feveral others, both at home and abroad; who fet themselves likewife to excogitate hypothefes concerning the fyftem of the earth; which have all equally proved the thortness of our line to fathom the great abyfs of the Creator's works; which, to mere human abilities, are unfearchable, and whofe ways are paft finding out.

The prefent attempt hath this to plead in its behalf, that it is not built upon hypothefis, but ftands on much furer grounds, the unerring word of God: Whether the superstructure doth in any measure correfpond with the foundation, or whether it be only mere hay and fubble, the reader will judge.

The most certain knowledge of nature is most affuredly to be learned from the Author of nature, if he hath made any disco veries of this kind.

This he hath not profeffedly done: He hath not thought fit any where to deliver a regular fyftem of the philofophy of nature. But he hath done what we may presume is better; what is more adequate to our understandings; and what they may better, and with better fuccefs, be employed upon : He hath given us a general hiftory of the principal phenomena and revolutions of nature. The divine wisdom hath, in this refpect, acquainted us, in his holy word, with many important facts, which we could never otherwise have attained to the knowledge of; and he hath incidentally interspersed many intimations in it, concerning the paft, and even future ftate of the earth, which convey much real knowledge; and hath left us to make proper im provements upon the whole.

It is an excellent obfervation of Dr. Bur. net's, "That it wasnever the design of providence to give fuch particular explications of natural things as fhould make us idle, or the use of reafon unneceffary; but on the contrary, by delivering great conclu

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fious to us, to excite our curiofity and inquifitiveness after the methods by which fuch things were brought to pass: But it may be, as he adds, there is no greater trial or inftance of natural wisdom, than to find out the channel in which thefe great revolutions of nature which we treat on, flow ..and fucceed each other *.

The very first thing that occurs to us in the divine oracles is an account of the creation of the world; a very concise one indeed, but very methodical and comprehenfive: Nor have we any other genuine hiftory of the production and formation of all things how this earth came into being-how long it hath continued in it-nor of what changes and revolutions it hath undergone; but that which the fcripture furnisheth, particularly in the Mofaic hiftory of the crea tion and deluge; much lefs can we pretend to any knowledge of the future ftate, duration, diffolution, and renovation of the world, but from the fame divine writings;

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* Dr. Burnet's theory of the earth, book 1. chap. vi.

which make fome revelations concerning these things. We cannot therefore have any fo fure a foundation to proceed upon in this enquiry as what the Scripture affords us: And this is ftill the fafer bottom to rest upon, as it will not, if due regard be paid to it, eafily admit the mixing of our own wild reveries, and vague imaginations with it; and will not fo much employ our reasoning, as our diligence.

Scripture facts, as recorded or foretold, being the bafis which we have to work upon; these must be taken as they are, and cannot be represented otherwise than they appear to be, without endangering the foundation, and falfifying the truth, of facred history. The historical events which we have to do with, are of all others the most facred and inviolable: There is here, therefore, no room left for the exercife of the inventive faculty; for the indulgence of the imagination; or for the display of eloquence; in whatever degree these powers might be poffeffed, any farther than in illuftrating the fubject.

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