Abbildungen der Seite

land to appear ; first, the tops of the mountains, then the high grounds, then the plains and the rest of the earth. And this gradual subsidency of the abyss, (which Moses also hath particularly noted) and discovery of the several parts of the earth, would also, take up a considerable time.

Thus a new world appeared, or the earth put on its new form, and became divided into sea and land; and the abyss, which from several ages, even from the beginning of the world, had lain hid in the womb of the earth, was brought to light and discovered ; the greatest part of it constituting our present ocean, and the rest filling the lower cavities of the earth; upon the land appeared the mountains and the hills, and the islands in the sea, and the rocks upon the shore. And so the Divine Providence having prepared nature for so great a change, at one stroke dissolved the frame of the old world, and made us a new one out of its ruins, which we now inhabit since the deluge. All which things being thus explained, deduced, and stated, we now add and pronounce our third and last proposition, " that the disruption of the abyss, or dissolution of the primæval earth, and its fall into the abyss, was the cause of the universal deluge, and of the destruction of the old world."

The two propositions before proved, are, }. That the antidiluvian earth was of a dif. ferent form and construction from the present. 2. That the face of the earth before the deluge was smooth, regular, and uniform, withe out mountains, and without a sea ;-propositions, which are implied in the remarks preceda ing ihe extract.

This theory of the earth is no longer considered in any other light than as a beautiful philosophical romance. It displays indeed powers of imagination, and of description, of the first order; but unfortunately, much of the spirit of the Latin original has evaporated in his own English translation. In comparing this description with the same in his own Latin, we cannot avoid being sensibly struck with its inferiority. The author seems scarcely to have understood himself. It is obvious, that he is far less intimately acquainted with the powers of his own language, than with those of the Roman. He had not the art, in his own tongue, of investing his sublime conceptions with language of suitable loftiness. His Latin style, however, though admirable in itself, as adapted to the expression of elevated thoughts, is not the Latin of the Augustan age, nor of

any other period of the Roman language ; it is peculiarly his own; though perhaps it is such as a Roman of the same cast of sentiment, writing on the same subject, and possessed of equal elevation of genius, would have chosen as the vehicle of his thoughts.

2. The second work of Burnet was his Ar. chæologiæ Philosophicæ, sive Doctrina Antiqua de Rerum Originibus. In the preface to the edition of 1753, the author tells us, that “ his design is to enquire into the opinions of the ancients, concerning the nature of things, in order to vindicate and give antiquity its due praise ; and to shew, that neither were our ancestors dunces, nor was wisdom or true philosophy born with us."

In this book he has called in question the literal history of the fall; and written a Dialogue between Eve and the Serpent, which gave great offence to his orthodoxical breth

In a new edition, therefore, printed in Holland, he ordered it to be suppressed. It had been printed, however, both in the first and second editions.

3. His book De Fide et Officiis Christiano, rum, was published after his death ; of which the second edition, in 8vo. is dated 1733, Lon


don. This book forins a part only of a larger design, under the title of Tractatus de Claris et Obscuris in Doctrina Christiana. Then follours-Pars Prima, in qua agitur de ijs quæ spectant ad Vitam IIodiernam, sive de Fide et Officiis Christianorum. This work contains a compendious system of Christian doctrine and duty. It has been translated into English.

4. De Statu Mortuorum et Resurgentium was likewise a posthumous work. The second edition of it was published in 8vo, 1739, Lond. with an appłndix, De Futurâ Judæorüm Restauratione. In this treatise he has expressly denied the eternity of hell torments a doctrine which, in his days, was commonly considered as essential to the system of Christianity—and has asserted the final salvation of the whole human race. But apprehending bad consequences from the promulgation of these unusual opinions, he strongly protested, in a note, against the translation of his book. It has, however, been since translated by Dennis, together with the note at the bottom of the

page. The opinions of Dr. Thomas Burnet on various subjects of theology, were considered as so heterodoxical in those days, that, notwith

standing he had the countenance of king William, and the patronage of Tillotson, archbishop of Canterbury, a conspiracy of the priesthood against him prevented any high degree of ecclesiastical preferment. As to the works of Burnet, though they are all stamped with marks of genius, they are not perhaps likely in future to be much read; since in his theological writings, he combats opinions, about which we no longer require conviction; and in philosophy we look for truth, rather than force and grandeur of imagination.

« ZurückWeiter »