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ages before his birth, at once overturns all our notions of right and wrong. And if we cannot judge of right and wrong, we cannot be expected, nor should ever have been commanded, to forsake the error of our ways, and do that which is lawful and right. So that this opinion grossly misrepresents the character of the Judge of the world, and subverts religion, natural and revealed, from the foundation. But that the natural, as well as judicial effects of the first violation of Divine authority, followed by innumerable succeeding transgressions, might be the sinking of the species some degrees lower; the subjecting them, and the world they inhabit, to visible marks of Divine displeasure; and their being, upon the whole, of course, in a situation less promising for universal virtue and happiness, may be reasonable enough to suppose, and may be found to have been intended for valuable moral purposes. For, as the case of our species is, that they have continued disobedient ever since the first offence, it is but reasonable, that they be exposed to sufferings and afflictions. And as the natural tendency of affliction is reforniation, and every instance of our world's being in a ruined state, and under a curse, ought to furnish a memorial of the great evil of vice; on these considerations, the present state of the world is evidently an effect of the Divine goodness, as well as severity. If a man is sunk below the station in which the species were first placed, he has no room for complaint: for be might have been placed there at his creation. If our condition seems less promising for virtue and bappiness than that in which the first of the species were at their creation placed; it is on the other hand to be remembered, that revelation shows, very great things have been done for us, more than sufficient to make up for what seeming disadvantages we may labour under. And thus all ground of complaint is effectually precluded.
The Scripture account of the destruction of mankind by, a general deluge, is a subject which deserves to be briefly
considered. Though it is not to be positively affirmed, that this, or the other, was the true cause of a particular supernatural phenomenon, or the method in which it was brought about, we may yet conclude, in general, that it is more suitable to the ways of God, to bring about all effects, as well natural, as those we call supernatural, or miraculous, by certain adequate means, and, as far as possible, consistently with the stated laws and course of nature. That a mighty wind should, according to the Scripture account, separate the Red Sea for the passage of the people of Israel, was as proper a miracle wrought in their favour as if the immediate word or will of God had done it. And if the general deluge was brought on by some pre-established natural means, it was no less a Divine judgment upon a race of creatures, whose wickedness was foreseen, than if it had been caused by the immediate exertion of Omnipotence. What constitutes a particular wonderful event a proper miracle, in a theological sense, is, its being expressly appealed to by some person, as a confirmation of a new pretended doctrine or mission from heaven. The general deluge was accordingly foretold, and the people of those ancient times forewarned of it by Noah, but in vain. Should a person, pretending to a Divine mission, foretell an earthquake some months or years before, and an earthquake should happen exactly at the threatened time, all reasonable men would yield that measure of assent to his assertions and pretensions, which might be thought justly due to the authority of one single miracle, taken in conjunction with the other circumstances of his own character, and that of his doctrine. Yet earthquakes are the effects of natural causes. And if any person thinks it disparages the miracle of the flood to say, that it was brought about by the instrumentality of an intervening cause, the objection is the same, taking it for an immediate effect of Divine power. For the end being the destruction of a race of degenerate mortals, it may as well be said, Why were not all struck dead in a moment by a word from the mouth of God, without the instrumentality of the suffocating element of water? as, Why was the flood brought on by the means of an intervening cause? No one doubts whether the old world was destroyed by God, as an exemplary punishment for their wickedness. Why should any one think it less a Divine judgment, for its being brought about in a consistency with the regular and uniform procedure of nature, than if it had been
an effect quite detached from, and unconnected with the universal scheme; which is not so beautiful, so masterly, nor so worthy of an universal Governor.
Since the decision of the question of the cause of the tides, which puzzled all antiquity, and has been shown by our incomparable philosopher to be the effect of the mutual gravitation of the earth and moon; it is very easily conceivable that a nearer approach of the moon toward our earth, by a third part of her whole distance, would cause an enormously high tide. If, therefore, we suppose the moon, or any other celestial body, to approach very near to the earth, the effect must be such a tide as would rise higher than the bighest lands, and, rolling round the globe, would wash down all terrestrial creatures into the deep, where they must perish. As we know that comets, from time to time, come from all parts of the heavens, and enter into the planetary regions; it is no unnatural supposition, to imagine that a comet, passing near the earth at the time of the deluge, might have been the appointed instrument of the Divine vengeance, by producing, by means of attraction, a disruption of the outward shell of this earth, under which it is probable a great collection of waters was lodged; which, being by attraction raised into an excessive tide, inust occasion the immersion and destruction of all land animals. And which might in great part be afterwards absorbed into vast empty caverns in the earth, which might by the same means be opened for its reception, and thus the present dry land left. The Scripture account, of the “breaking up of the fountains of the great deep," seems to countenance this notion; which whoever would examine thoroughly, may read Whiston's Theory of the Earth. That it is made very probable in that work, that a comet did pass near the annual path of the earth, about the time of the general deluge, is acknowledged by the most judicious astronomers. That, upon every theory, the account of the flood is attended with difficulties, must likewise be confessed. But I think it a satisfaction, that upon the supposition of its being brought about by a comet, the possibility of it is fairly made out, and even a sort of analogy to the common course of nature, in the tides, which at times rise. to such heights as to produce partial deluges.
However the flood was brought about, there are too many visible and unquestionable marks of a general disruption of the outside of this our planet, in the hideous mountains, misshapen rocks, hollow vales, and other ruinous appearances, with quantities of sea-shells, bones of animals, and large trees, found at a great depth in the earth; there are, I say, too many marks of a general con
I cussion and ruin over the whole face of the earth to leave any room to doubt that it has undergone some very great and universal change; which we have all the reason in the world to conclude was no other than that of the general deluge, which, as it is described in Scripture, seems fit to have produced exactly the effects we observe.
It is true, that telescopes discover, on the face of the moon, and the planet Venus, irregularities and roughnesses, which make an appearance somewhat like to those which we may suppose might be observed from the moon upon the face of our earth. But we cannot be certain that those inequalities have not been part of the original make of those bodies, unless we could examine them, as we can those of our own planet. So that what we observe of this sort, upon those bodies, does in no degree affect what has been said with respect to the probability that a general deluge was the cause of the visibly ruinous state of our earth; for we cannot be sure that the inequalities on the face of the Moon and Venus are of the same ruinous kind with those of our world. The Moon, especially, differs from our planet in two essential particulars. For it is certain, beyond all doubt, that she has neither sea, at least on the face which is always towards us, nor atmes phere of air. So that we cannot reason on any minute circumstances from one to the other; but may judge of what we find in our own world, the state of which seems perfectly to answer to what might have been expected to be produced by such a deluge as Moses describes.
One particular, with regard to the flood, is too remarkable to be omitted. We have in the book of Genesis an exact account of the measure of the ark in cubits. In the time of Moses, it is not to be supposed, that the world was so well known, or natural history carried such a length that the variety of different species of terrestrial anialak
should be guessed at to any nearness. So that it was to be expected, the measures of the ark should be taken either too small or too large, if the calculation of the room necessary for the lodging seven of every clean species, and two of every one of the others, had been taken according to mere human knowledge, or conjecture. Instead of which, it is found by calculations made in our times, when it is, by means of our extensive commerce over the world, known how many different species of terrestrial animals there are in all different climes and countries; that the measures we have of the ark would have afforded just sufficient room for all the creatures to be stowed in it, and one year's provision. No human sagacity could, in those early times, in which there was so little intercourse among the inhabitants of different countries, have guessed at the true number of different species of land animals in all the various climates of the world, every one of which almost has its peculiar set. It is therefore evident, that the size and capacity of the ark was ordered by Divine appointment. For a human architect would undoubtedly have given its measures too large or too small.
There being somewhat seemingly difficult in the Scripture account of those degenerate beings, the fallen angels, it may be proper to throw together a few thoughts on that head.
Whether the angelic species were, at the time of their fall, in a first stage of trial, such as that in which we are at present, or whether they had gone through their first state of discipline, and deviated afterwards, as it seems inconsistent with the nature of finite moral agents to suppose them in any state out of all danger, or possibility of deviation; whatever particular state, I say, they were at that time in, the possibility of their degenerating into disobedience may be accounted for in a way comprehensible by us; though we cannot be sure that we have the true and full account of that whole matter. The most probable account of the transgression and degeneracy of those once illustrious beings, may be, That they disallowed of the just pretensions of the Messiah to be the general Governor of their whole order; as the perverse Jets afterwards rejected him, when he came in the flesh. To suppose that