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It has been the opinion of many, that even this nation has not been without some marks of God's displeasure. Has not war beerz let loose even within our own land, so that London itself felt the alarm ? Has not a pestilential sickness broken in upon our cattle, and in many parts lett not one of them alive? And although the earth does not yet open in England or Ireland, has it not shook, and reeled to and fro like a drunken man? And that not in one or two places only, but almost from one end of the kingdom to the other?
Perhaps one might ask, Was there nothing uncommon, nothing more than is usual at this season of the year, in the rains, the hail, the winds, the thunder and lightning, which we have lately heard and seen? Particularly, in the storm which was the same day and hour, that they were playing off Macbeth's thunder and lightning at the theatre. One would almost think they designed this (inasmuch as the entertainment continued, notwithstanding all the artillery of heaven) as a formal answer to that question, “ Canst thou thunder with an arm like him ?"
What shall we say to the affair of Whiston Cliffs? Of which, were it not for the unparalleled stupidity of the English, all England would have rang long ago, from one sea to the other. seven miles from the place, they knew little more of it in May last, than if it had happened in China or Japan.
The fact (of the truth of which any who will be at the pains of inquiring, may soon be satisfied) is this. On Tuesday, March 25th iast, being the week before Easter, many persons heard a great noise near a ridge of mountains called Black Hamilton, in Yorkshire. It was observed chiefly on the south west side of the mountain, about a mile from the course where the Hamilton races are run, near a ledge of rocks, commonly called Whiston Cliffs, two iniles from Sutton, and about five from Thirsk.
The same noise was heard on Wednesday by all who went that way. On Thursday, about seven in the morning, Edward Abbot, weaver, and Adam Bosomworth, bleacher, both of Sutton, riding under the Whiston Cliffs, heard a roaring (so they termed it) like many cannons, or loud and rolling thunder. It seemed to come from the cliffs : looking up to which, they saw a large body of stone, four or five yards broad, split and fly off from the very top of the rock. They thought it strange, but rode on. Between ten and eleven, a larger piece of the rock, about fifteen yards thick, thirty high, and between sixty and seventy broad, was torn off and thrown into the valley..
About seven in the evening, one who was riding by, observed the ground to shake exceedingly, and soon after, several large stones or rocks of some tons weight each, rose out of the ground. Others were thrown on one side, others turned upside down, and many rolled over and over. Being a little surprised and not very curious, he hastened on his way.
On Friday and Saturday the ground continued to shake, and the rocks to roll over one another. The earth also clave asunder in very many places, and continued so to do till Sunday morning.
Being at Osmotherly, seven miles from the cliffs, on Monday, June 1, and finding Edward Abbot there, I desired him the next morning to show me the way thither. I walked, crept, and climbed round and over great part of the ruins. I could not perceive by any sign, that there was ever any cavity in the rock at all; but one part of the solid stone is cleft from the rest in a perpendicular line, and as smooth as if cut with instruments. Nor is it barely thrown down, but split into many hundred pieces, some of which lie four or five hundred yards from the main rock.
The ground nearest the cliff, is not raised, but sunk considerably beneath the level. But at some distance it is raised in a ridge of eight or ten yards high, twelve or fifteen broad, and near a hundred long. Adjoining to this lies an oval piece of ground thirty or forty yards in diameter, which has been removed whole as it is, from beneath the cliff, without the least fissure, with all its load of rocks, some of which were as large as the hull of a small ship. At a little distance is a second piece of ground, forty or fifty yards across, which has been also transplanted entire, with rocks of various sizes upon it, and a tree growing out of one of them. By the removal of one or both of these, I suppose the hollow near the cliff was made.
All round them lay stones and rocks, great and small, some on the surface of the earth, some half sunk into it, some almost covered, in variety of positions. Between these the ground was cleft asunder in a thousand places. Some of the apertures were nearly closed again, some gaping as at first. Between thirty and forty acres of land, as is commonly supposed, (though some reckon above sixty) are in this condition.
On the skirts of these, I observed in abundance of places, the green turf (for it was pasture land) as it were pared off, two or three inches thick, and wrapt round like sheets of lead. A little farther it was not cleft or broken at all, but raised in ridges, five or six feet long, exactly resembling the graves in a church-yard. Of these there is a vast number.
That part of the cliff from which the rest is torn, lies so high and is now of so bright a colour, that it is plainly visible to all the country round, even at the distance of several miles. We saw it distinctly not only from the street in Thirsk, but for five or six miles after, as we rode towards York. So we did likewise, in the great North road, between Sandhutton and Northallerton.
But how may we account for this phenomenon ? Was it effected by a merely natural cause? If so, that cause must either have been fire, water, or air. It could not be fire; for then some mark of it must have appeared, either at the time, or after it. But no such mark does appear, nor ever did : not so much as the least smoke, either when the first or second rock was removed, or in the whole space between Tuesday and Sunday.
It could not be water; for no water issued out, when the one or the other rock was torn off. Nor had there been any rains for some time before. It was in that part of the country a remarkably dry season. Neither was there any cavity in that part of the rock, wherein a sufficient quantity of water might have lodged.' On the contrary, it was one, single, solid mass, which was evenly and smoothly cleft in sunder.
There remains no other natural cause assignable, but imprisoned air. I say, imprisoned : for as to the fashionable opinion, that the exterior air is the grand agent in earthquakes, it is so senseless, unmechanical, unphilosophical a dream, as deserves not to be named, but to be exploded. But it is hard to conceive, how even imprisoned air could produce such an effect. It might indeed shake, tear, raise, or sink the earth, but how could it cleave a solid rock ? Here was not room for a quantity of it, sufficient to do any thing of this nature; at least, unless it had been suddenly and violently expanded by fire, which was not the case. Could a small quantity of air, without that violent expansion, have torn so large a body of rock from the rest, to which it adhered in one solid mass ? Could it have shivered this into pieces, and scattered several of those pieces some hundred of yards round! Could it have transported those promontories of earth, with their incumbent load, and set them down unbroken, unchanged at a distance? Truly I am not so great a volunteer in faith, as to be able to believe this. He that supposes this, must suppose air to be not only very strong, (which we allow) but a very wise agent; while it bore its charge with so great a caution, as not to hurt or dislocate any part of it.
What then could be the cause? What indeed, but God, who arose to shake terribly the earth: who purposely chose such a place, where there is so great a concourse of nobility and gentry every year; and wrought in such a manner, that many,might see it and fear, that all who travel one of the most frequented roads in England, might see it, almost whether they would or not, for many miles together. It must likewise for many years, maugre all the heart of man, be a visible monument of his power. All that ground being now so encumbered with rocks and stones, that it cannot be either ploughed or grazed. Nor can it well serve any use, but to tell all that see it, Who can stand before this great God?
Who can account for the late motion in the waters ? Not only that of the sea, and rivers communicating therewith, but even that in canals, fishponds, cisterns, and all either large or small bodies of water? It was particularly observed, that while the water itself was so violently agitated, neither did the earth shake at all, nor any of the vessels which contained that water. Was such a thing ever known or heard of before! I know not, but it was spoken of once, ncar eighteen hundred years ago, in those remarkable words, " There shall be cultuoi (not only earthquakes, but various concussions or shakings) in divers places.” And so there have been in Spain, in Portugal, in Italy, in Holland, in England, in Ireland ; and not improbably in many other places too, which we are not yet informed of. Yet it does not seem, that a concussion of this kind, has ever been known before, since either the same, or some other comet
revolved so near the earth. For we know of no other natural cause in the universe, which is adequate to such an effect. And that this is the real cause, we may very possibly be convinced in a short time.
But, alas ! why should we not be convinced sooner, while that conviction may avail, that it is not chance which governs the world! Why should we not now, before London is as Lisbon, Lima, or Catanea, acknowledge the hand of the Almighty, arising to maintain his own cause? Why, we have a general answer always ready, to screen us from any such conviction : “ All these things are purely natural and accidental; the result of natural causes." But there are two objections to this answer: first, it is untrue ; secondly, it is uncomfortable.
First, If by affirming, “ All this is purely natural,” you mean, it. is not providential, or that God has nothing to do with it, this is not true, that is, supposing the bible to be true. For supposing this, you may descant ever so long on the natural causes of murrain, winds, thunder, lightning, and yet you are altogether wide of the mark, you prove nothing at all, unless you can prove, that God never works in or by natural causes. But this you cannot prove, nay none can doubt of his so working, who allows the Scripture to be of God. For this asserts in the clearest and strongest terms that all things (in nature) serve him : that (by or without a train of natural causes) he “ sendeth his rain on the earth,” that he “bringeth the winds out of his treasures,” and “maketh a way for the lightning and the thunder:" in general, that "fire and hail, snow and vapour, wind and storm, fulfil his word.” Therefore, allowing there are natural causes of all these, they are still under the direction of the Lord of nature. Nay, what is nature itself but the art of God? Or God's method of acting in the material world ? True philosophy therefore ascribes all to God, and says, in the beautiful language of the wise and good man,
Here, like a trumpet, loud and strong,
Thy thunder shakes our coast;
The banners of thy host. A second objection to your answer is, it is extremely uncomfortable. For if things really be as you affirm, if all these afflictive incidents, entirely depend on the fortuitous concourse and agency of blind, material causes; what hope, what help, what resource is left, for the poor sufferers by them? Should the murrain among the cattle continue a few years longer, and consequently produce scarcity or famine ; what will there be left for many of the poor to do, but to lie down and die ? If tainted air spread a pestilence over our land, where shall they flee for succour? They cannot resist either the one or other. They cannot escape from them. And can they hope to appease
Nlacrymabilem Plutona ?
“Inexorable Pluto, king of shades ?" Shall they entreat the famine or the pestilence to show mercy? Alas, they are as senseless as you suppose God to be.
However, you who are men of fortune, can shift tolerably well, in spite of the difficulties. Your money will undoubtedly procure you food as long as there is any in the kingdom. And if your physicians cannot secure you from the epidemic disease, your coaches can carry you from the place of intection. Be it so : but you are not out of all danger yet; unless you can drive faster than the wind. Are you sure of this ? And are your horses literally swifter than the lightning? Can they leave the panting storm behind ? If not, what will you do when it overtakes you? Try your eloquence on the whirlwind? Will it hear your voice? Will it regard either your money, or prayers, or tears ? Call upon the lightning. Cry aloud. See whether your voice will divide the flames of fire ? O no ! It hath no ears to hear. It devoureth and showeth no pity.
But this is not all. Here is a nearer enemy. The earth threatens to swallow you up. Where is your protection now? What defence do you find from thousands of gold and silver ? You cannot
for you cannot quit the earth, unless you will leave your dear body behind you. And while you are on the earth, you know not whither to flee to, neither whither to flee from. You may buy intelligence, where the shock was yesterday, but not where it will be tomorrow-to-day. It comes! The roof trembles! The beams crack. The ground rocks to and fro. Hoarse thunder resounds from the bowels of the earth. And all these are but the beginning of sorrows. Now what help? What wisdom can prevent? What strength resist the blow? What money can purchase, I will not say, deliverance, but an hour's reprieve ! Poor honourable fool, where are now thy titles ? Wealthy fool, where is now thy golden god ? If any thing can help, it must be prayer. But what wilt thou pray to? Not to the God of heaven : you suppose him to have nothing to do with earthquakes. · No: they proceed in a merely natural
way, either from the earth itself, or from included air, or from subterraneous fires or waters. If thou prayest then (which perhaps you never did before) it must be to some of these. Begin. earth, earth, earth, hear the voice of thy children. Hear, O air, water, fire !” And will they hear! You know, it cannot be. How deplorable then is his condition, who in such an hour has none else to flee to? How uncomfortable the supposition, which implies this, by direct necessary consequence, namely, that all these things are the pure result of merely natural causes !
But supposing the earthquake which made such havoc at Lisbon, should never travel so far as London, is there nothing else which can reach us? What think you of a comet? Are we absolutely out of the reach of this? You cannot say we are ; seeing these move in all directions, and through every region of the universe. And would the approach of one of these amazing spheres, be of no importance to us ? Especially in its return from the sun! When that immense body is (according to Sir Isaac Newton's calculation) heated two thousand times hotter than a redhot cannon ball. The late ingenious and accurate Dr. Halley (never yet suspected of enthusiasm)