« PreviousContinue »
ON CERTAIN OTHER CIRCUMSTANCES CONNECTED WITH
WHEN, in the discussion of any large topic of enquiry, some leading truths have been established by adequate and direct arguments; it frequently happens, that collateral facts and observations which present themselves so harmonize with those truths, that to disregard the indirect and analogical support thus offered would not only be unwise, but would be grossly to fail in doing justice to the subject. On this principle, I proceed to the consideration of some additional phenomena in the material world, which correspond with the conclusions already shown to be attainable by Natural Theology, and strengthen them by that correspondence. '
I believe that, on the largest computation, the collective area of the dry land on the globe does not greatly exceed one-third part of the whole superficies. The habitable space is much less
than this quantity. Immeasurable deductions are requisite for regions buried in polar snow, and for burning deserts consigned to desolation by naked rock, by moving sands, by irremediable drought, or by saline impregnations. Let it not be imagined, that I would imply that the interminable tracts, thus condemned to lonely barrenness, have not their appropriate office of usefulness in the Divine economy of nature. On a globe designed for the dwelling-place of man, such in character and condition as he now is, they are assuredly wise, benignant, and immediately or ultimately beneficial appointments. But I think that they are not appointments which we should anticipate, in representing to ourselves the probable state of a world, the inhabitants of which were continuing in the complete enjoyment of the favour of a gracious God. Had we been at liberty to suppose a Garden of Eden expanded into an abode for the united millions and hundreds of millions of such race; had we
been desired to picture to ourselves an earth prepared for their residence, according to the model of a golden age; an age of which Virgil, allud
ing to its hypothetical revival, thus expresses the prevalent idea
"Omnis feret omnia tellus :"
our imagination would not have interspersed immense and insupportable vacuities of torrid wastes and perpetual frost.
The preceding reasoning may be extended to volcanoes. Were the world in a state of innocence, we should not expect it to be exposed to their ravages. As the force of the argument in this case will be in some measure proportioned to the degree in which the destructive effects of volcanoes have been experienced; and as the situation of our own country, far removed from contact with eruptions, contributes to prevent many persons from being aware how large is the number of known and active volcanoes on the earth; some information on that point seems necessary to be stated*.
* The instances for which specific authorities are not mentioned are collected principally from Townsend, p. 339-358: who also cites the authorities for his own facts.
In Europe are found Etna, Vesuvius, Hecla, Strombolo, Vulcano, Lipari; and Calamo, in the Egean Sea, with many other volcanic islands. Etna has been noticed from remote antiquity; and by authentic records it appears, that in twenty severe eruptions, it shook the whole of Europe. The first of these was five hundred years before the Christian era. What havock of human life and happiness must have ensued from such a succession of these fiery visitations! The ravages of Vesuvius have been memorable, ever since the overwhelming of Herculaneum and Pompeii. From A. D. 1000 to 1766, twentythree eruptions of Hecla are specified; of which the last continued without intermission during five months. Iceland appears to consist almost entirely of volcanic matter. Sir George Mackenzie, in his recent publication respecting Iceland, relates, that, in the year 1783, an eruption of flame, accompanied with vast quantities of pumice-stone, arose from the sea thirty miles. from Cape Reikianes, and continued four months. Dr. Clark notes, in his map of the Crimea, a volcano on the European side of the Cimmerian Bosphorus; and others, particularly that of Prekla, on the opposite coast.
In Asia, Pallas notices a burning mountain, called Kargonsh Kongisch, in the Uralic chain, between the Volga and the Oby. In the chain that stretches down the length of Kamtschatka are twenty volcanoes, of which seven are particularly remarkable. Among these is Klutshefskoi, one of the most elevated peaks on the globe. Twenty miles from Cape Lopatka, Captain Billing, in 1793, passed a solitary moun tain in the sea, whose summit was burning violently. Some of the loftiest summits of Japan emit continual flames. One of the Ladrone Isl ands, when M. De la Peyrouse sailed by it, was pouring down torrents of lava. The Philippine Islands, and also the Moluccas, abound in volcanoes. In 1693, half of the Island of Sorca, one of the Moluccas, was swallowed up; and a burning mountain sunk into a lake. Marsden states, that Sumatra has many volcanic mountains. One of them, now burning, is nearly twelve thousand five hundred feet in altitude. In Java, a range of volcanic mountains, from five thousand to twelve thousand feet in altitude, many of them still subject to eruptions, stretch through the whole length of the island. Of these, Papandayang