Page images
PDF
EPUB

PRIMITIVE HISTORY:

CHAP. III.
(Continued from page 9.]

Of the Deluge.

IN the transactions of the Asiatic society at Calcutta we find several proofs from the sacred books of the Hindoos, that they have a knowledge of this great event, and as with us it stands, as part of their religious code.* However we may derive the European traditions on this subject from the Hebrew books, yet the same account cannot be given of those of the Hindoos ; they are supposed to be coeval with Moses.

Having now collected our proofs, let us make a brief comparison of the facts and opinions, that have been stated, to see if we can make such an arrangement, as will comprehend the present appearance of the world, and reconcile it with the Mosaic history, without recurring to any anterior subir mersion. It will not be expected, that we shall pursue the reasoning through all its ramifications ; it will be enough to state those heads of argument, which persons of inquiry will know how to apply.

The world was probably made at first in the same form, in which we see it. There was the same distinction of land and water, rivers, lakes, and seas ; of mountains, hills, vallies, and green fields; of trees and smaller vegetables, some with ripe fruit, and others in bloom, according to their various progress at the same season. In every division of matter were specimens in every degree of perfection, all produced at once without waiting the slow operation of chemical principles, or the accidental combination of organic particles to produce * Asiat. Res. vol. i, pp. 16 and 216. Vol. II. No. 2.

[ocr errors]

N

the larger and more perfect animals and vegetables. This is evidently the Mosaic account, and accords best with our ideas of an infinite Creator, to whom all operations are equally easy, and who is never delayed by doubts of the fitness of things to produce the intended effect.

Among the theorists Dr. Burnet supposed the body of our planet to have been originally water, and Mr. Whiston admitted large cavities filled with that fluid. Count Buffon supposes the interior substance to be hard stone, and the water is with him merely superficial. There is some truth in each opinion, but neither of them exclusively just. The central abyss was at first water. The solid part of this plana et was not then any more, than it is now, a complete sphere, but open at both poles for some degrees, and possibly in some few other places, by which a communication was kept up between the central water and that of the ocean. In the various attempts of our own time to explore the different regions of the globe no land has been found within eight degrees of the northern, nor within thirty degrees of the southern pole. These latitudes may be considered, as very near the bounds of that segment of a sphere, which is to be regarded, as the solid part of this planet. The interior is of hard rock, as supposed by M. Buffon, but interspersed with large cavities, which render the whole mass specifically lighter, and provide for supporting above the surface of the water those prominences, which we distinguish into continents and mountains, and by means of which all terrestrial animals are upheld in life. The solid part of the planet rests upon the fluid, as a ship does upon the water, and is supported upon the same principle of buoyancy. Heretofore philosophers have supposed a southern continent, and after the globular form of this planet was ascertained by its being circumnavigated, we find a southern continent laid down in the maps, as a counterpoise to the lands in the northern hemisphere. But since the modern explanations of the globe no such principle, as the counterpoise, can be 'admitted; for, if we examine the terrestrial globe, we shall find

every large tract of land to be opposite to water, except that South America is opposed to the eastern part of Asia. Every other continent has its antipode in the ocean. As this is opposite to what we should expect from counterpoise, we must recur to buoyancy for the theoretic principle. The whole mass of our globe is equal in weight to a globe of water of the same surface, as the present ocean.

All, that now remains, is briefly to show, that this construction satisfies the present appearances of the earth merely by means of such a flood, as Moses has described.

The immediate cause of the flood was the rupture of so many of the lower cavities of the earth, as to alter its specific gravity. The cavities being opened, but the fragments of rock not immediately falling off, the water gushed in at the fissures, and, the specific gravity of the solid part of the globe being thus increased, that part began to sink, and exhibited to the terrified inhabitants an enormous tide, overflowing the land, and pursuing them among the inland mountains. Though every part of the world was inundated, it was done in succession, as the earthquakes continued to open different cavities. At one time the waters surmounted the elevated ridge of the Andes, and at another, in the opposite hemisphere, the ark was lodged on the summit of Ararat. Thus by undulations every kind of animal, that properly belongs to the land, was destroyed, excepting the few specimens, preserved with Noah in the ark. During five months, or one hundred and fifty days from the commencement of the flood, the water continued to rise, till the seventeenth day of the seventh month, when the ark grounded on the top of a stupendous mountain between those two collections of water, now known, as the Caspian and Euxine seas. In forty three days more the tops of the mountains began to appear, and, after a year and ten days from the beginning of the flood, the small remains of mankind were released from their long confinement, and the beasts and birds restored to their own modes of life.

It is evident from this statement, that not more than one half the sphere could be submerged at once. As the land in one hemisphere was sinking, the opposite part, where there was an opposite, was rising. On one side the shore was sunk, and part of the land became the bed of the sea ; and on another side the bottom of the sea was by the same operation changed into upland. As the fragments of rock did not immediately drop from the under side of the land, the solid part was still encumbered with the weight of them, and the sea upon the old continent stood at the level of three or four hundred feet above its present surface, which is the height, where proper marine shells are found. Here it remained one or two centuries, till the shell fish were so multiplied, as to leave the beds of shells, now found there. The contrary took place in Peru and Chili, where the shells are the relics of the primitive ocean, which deserted its shores at that time. The country near the mouth of the Indus probably sunk the most. The antipode to that place is a small island in the South Sea, named Easter Island. The horizon of these two places will separate those parts of the world, which sunk from the others, which were rising. Those shells on the south side of the circle are antediluvian, and those on the north are postdiluvian. In the course of two or three cens turies the fragments of rock were disengaged, and, falling down to the centre, formed a nucleus, which must be equal to a solid rock of many miles in diameter, as the weight is equal to a sphere of water four hundred feet thick, and surrounding the whole globe. I do not think of any principle, by which an estimate can be formed of the depth from the surface of the earth to that of the central abyss. The other substances, found at great heights, and in places remote from the sea, it remains to be proved, that they ever were inhabitants of the water.

The sea after the flood, upon the shore of the old continent, according to the estimated height of the shells, stood three or four hundred feet above the present leve el. Of course on the shore of Chili it must have been as much lower. The present elevation of the shells in Chili, deducted from the present soundings of the Mediterrane

an, will show the primitive surface of that sea. The height, estimated for the Chilese shells, is between twenty and thir. ty fathoms ; the most usual soundings in the Mediterranean are of twenty four fathoms. Hence it is to be inferred, that the Mediterranean sea was before the flood a large river, emptying its waters into the ocean, instead of making large and continual draughts upon the ocean for its support. After the first two or three centuries from the flood the shore was but about forty feet above the present level, it having continued so far back, as we can trace by particular and sea marks, to fall at about one foot in a century, Small as this alteration is, it has since the christian æra added a belt of four miles wide to the shore all round the Mediterranean, and has rendered nearly all the ancient harbors in that part of the world useless, while new ones have been formed by the inequalities of the bottom, which the retreat of the sea has uncovered. But the sea did not probably get near its prese ent level, till after the peopling of Egypt ; the tradition being preserved by that nation, that the whole Delta had been former, ly deserted by the sea. The tradition probably refers to the state of the country, when the first postdiluvian colony settled there,

It is well known, that animal bodies will float in water, when putrefaction is begun. As the inundation advanced with in the tropics, the animals of those regions, living near the sea, were drowned. Those nearer the mountains endeavored to escape by getting on high ground. The flood pursue ed and at length overtook them. After some days the bodies began to float, and, when the water subsided, these were carried in every direction, till by the decay of their flesh, or the shallowness of the water, their relics were deposited, where they are now found.

The water in retiring formed many small lakes, where even large fish might live for some time. When these lakes failed, the fish failed with them. Hence we find bones of whales and other fish at distances from the sea, and perhaps from this cause many small fishbones at great elevations.

the bo

subsided in

[ocr errors]

of the

« PreviousContinue »