Nonfiction > Henry Craik, ed. > English Prose > Vol. III. Seventeenth Century
Henry Craik, ed.  English Prose.  1916.
Vol. III. Seventeenth Century
By Thomas Burnet (1635?–1715)
From The Sacred Theory of the Earth

THE SUBSTANCE of the theory is this; that there was a primitive earth of another form from the present, and inhabited by mankind till the deluge: that it had those properties and conditions that we have ascribed to it, namely a perpetual equinox or spring, by reason of its right situation to the sun; was of an oval figure, and the exterior face of it smooth and uniform, without mountains or a sea. That in this earth stood Paradise; the doctrine whereof cannot be understood but upon supposition of this primitive earth, and its properties. Then that the disruption and fall of this earth unto the abyss which lay under it, was that which made the universal deluge, and the destruction of the old world; and that neither Noah’s flood, nor the present form of the earth can be explained in any other method that is rational, nor by any other causes that are intelligible, at least, that have been hitherto proposed to the world.
  These are the vitals of the theory, and the primary assertions, whereof I do freely profess my full belief; and whosoever by solid reasons will show me an error and undeceive me, I shall be very much obliged to him. There are other lesser conclusions which flow from these, and may be called secondary, as that the longevity of the Antediluvians depended upon their perpetual equinox and the perpetual equality and serenity of the air; that the torrid zone in the primitive earth was uninhabitable, and that all their rivers flowed from the extreme parts of the earth towards the equinoctial, there being neither rain nor rainbow in the temperate and habitable regions of it; and lastly, that the place of Paradise, according to the opinion of antiquity (for I determine no place by the theory) was in the southern hemisphere. These, I think, are all truly deduced and proved in their several ways, though they be not such essential parts of the theory as the former.  2
  There are also besides many particular explications that are to be considered with more liberty and latitude, and may perhaps upon better thoughts, or better observations, be corrected without any prejudice to the general theory. Those places of Scripture which we have cited, are, I think, all truly applied; and I have not mentioned Moses’ cosmopœia, 1 because I thought it delivered by him as a lawgiver, not as a philosopher; which I intend to show at large in another treatise, not thinking that discussion proper for the vulgar tongue. Upon the whole, we are to remember that some allowances are to be made for every hypothesis that is new proposed and untried; and that we ought not, out of levity of wit, or any private design, discountenance free and fair essays, nor from any other motive but only the love and concern of truth.  3
Note 1. cosmopæia = creation of the world. [back]

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