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AND GOD SAID, LET THE WATERS, UNDER. THE HEAVEN BE GATHERED TOGETHER UNTO ONE PLACE, AND LET THE DRY LAND APPEAR: AND IT WAS SO. AND GOD CALLED THE DRY LAND EARTH, AND THE GATHERING TOGETHER OF THE WATERS CALLED HE SEAS: AND GOD SAW THAT IT WAS GOOD. GEN. I. Q, 10.
1 HE earth is generally considered as the place of man's habitation, and the theatre of those various actions which have filled the pages of history. When we take the earth in this sense, we find it a bad and a troublesome world, a scene of error and confusion, in which the exploits of the mischievous bear away the prize from the actions of the virtuous, and the most wicked of men are celebrated as the benefactors of mankind. Here warlike nations have extended their borders, and erected kingdoms, which appeared in great splendor for a time, to serve the purposes of God's providence, and then vanished away like a fiery meteor of the night. Here have busy men, by fraud and violence, obtained large possessions, which soon changed their owners, and raised magnificent buildings, which are fallen into the dust. Thus do all the works of men upon earth pass away, while the earth itself, which is the work of God, and is innocent of all the evil that is done upon it, standeth sure, and his building suffereth no decay.
This is the earth which I would now propose to your consideration; the natural history is very different from its political; and, I trust, we shall find it both an agreeable and an edifying subject.
Writers, who- have given us descriptions of the natural world, have divided it into three grand departments, or kingdoms, of plants, animals, and minerals. Of plants and animals I have trreated in two former discourses: and I shall proceed now to the consideration of the earth and its minerals; in which we shall every where' see the most evident proofs of the wisdom and goodness of God, and by which .the truth of bis revelation will be illustrated and confirmed.
I s-hall enter into no new curious theories: nor will there be any occasion for it. The great outlines of -nature are fittest for all the purposes of Christian edification. The plainest things, and such as are best understood by every capacity, are generally the most wonderful, and the most improving to the mind that meditates upon them. Where there is much curiosity and difficulty, there is frequently less profit.
The words of the text relate the generation or birth of what is called the Earth; that immense body of land and water, which human writers call the terraqueous globe; from which we learn, that, as the dry land did not appear till the zvaters were gathered together, the land was formed under water. The wisdom of this mode of formation is evident; although the progress of it must be above our comprehension. For in water all the materials of the earth were easily moved; and by means of water, solution, separation, association, and subsidence are manifestly promoted; and accordingly, by those who dig into the earth, its solid materials are found to be duly sorted, and have the appearance of a sediment, which had once floated in water, and afterwards settled out of it. And if the strata of the earth in mountains are not now parallel to the horizon, hut often very oblique, and sometimes nearly perpendicular, yet the construction of such masses shews that they had settled in a regular form, and were brought by some force afterwards to their present situation.
As the earth appears to have been formed under the waters, it is as manifest to every attentive observer, that the waters did once retire from the whole surface of the earth. When we compare small things with great, we find, that as the land and the channels of rivers are worn into precipices, pits, and winding furrows, by the departure of occasional inundations, so the surface of the earth, upon a scale proportionably larger, doth every where present to the sight the effect of descending waters. From the tops of the highest mountains, it is furrowed with channels; which, meeting others in their descent, grow wider and deeper, and wind about, as water doth in its progress, till they fall into the bed of some river, or lead us down to the sea, into which they retired when they subsided from the land.
From this retiring of the waters, we derive the inequality of the earth's surface: and to that inequality we owe the generation of springs and rivers, the feeding of metallic ores and minerals in the fissures of the earth, and the regular draining off of waters, with an uninterrupted course, towards the sea. And to the great water-courses of the earth we owe most of those prospects which delight the eye. The waters, which once covered the earth, having forced their way down lo the sea, left a way open for other waters ever after, over the whole face of the earth. Let the stream start from the higher grounds, and it will no where be detained till it falls into the ocean; which is a wonderful provision of divine Providence, though not commonly attended to; and how it could have been brought to pass by any other mode of formation but that related in the Scripture, doth not appear. The elegant serpentine disposition of vallies, occasioned by the descent of water, constitutes the chief beauty of our prospects. Where the soil is soft and moveable, these cavities are easy and gradual, and the bottoms are rich with the vegetable matter which has been washed off from the higher grounds. But in lands of an harder texture, rocks are undermined and overthrown; frightful precipices are formed by their fractures; and the vallies are rough with stones and rubbish. Yet we are no losers: for here the lines of nature are bolder. Where the face of a country is abrupt and irregular, it becomes sublime and magnificent; as a building in rains makes a better picture, and is a fitter subject for a painter than where it has a flat and regular face. A new building, which is the production of human art, hath a littleness about it, from the uniformity of its lines; but when time and the elements have done their work upon it, it approaches nearer to the grandeur of nature.
The sea, considered in itself, with the periodical motion of its tides, and its occasional commotions by winds and storms, gives us a stupendous idea of the power and greatness of God, who hath this raging element so much under his command, that he is represented to us as holding the seas and waters of the world in the hollow of his hand. Nor is his goodness less evident than his power: for the agitation of the sea, by the daily reciprocations of the tides, contributes to the purity and the wholesomeness of the air; the labour of man is assisted by the advance and retreat of the waters through tracts of inland country. The sea, which seems to divide the inhabitants of the world from each other, keeps up an intercourse more effectually between the most distant parts of the globe. Mankind are likewise abundandy fed by the waters of the sea; Wherein the creatures of God multiply in a much greater proportion than by land, and are all maintained without the cost or attendance of man: they are a singular flock, which* have no shepherd but the Creator himself, who conducts them, at different seasons, in unmeasurable shoals, to supply the world with nourishment.
From this hasty survey of the earth, we cannot but be struck with the many ends which are answered by the generation of the earth from the waters of the sea, although we have considered but a part of them.
When we examine the substance or matter of the earth, we find all things useful, all administering in various ways to our support and convenience. Even the very dirt we tread upon is a compost of rich principles, which supply the necessary nourishment to plants: and when particles from an offensive putrid mass of earthy matter are diffused through the frame of a vegetable, they put on an appearance of beauty, which is dazzling to the eyes, and emit a fragrance, which is ravishing to the sense. If such. a thing had not yet been, and we were told that it would be, mortals affecting wisdom would have signified their doubts; as when it was questioned what the rising of the dead should mean.
Below the surface of the earth, we find the various sorts of stones; the ores of metals and minerals; and