Page images

as related to civil power: but^fuch relation cTorn not appear in the prefent cafe. It fhou'd ieem therefore, that they worfhip God as prefent ift the fire, which they worfhip or reverence, not ultimately or for it felf, but relatively to the fapreme being. Which it is not unlikely was elfewhere the cafe at firft; though the practice of men, efpecially of the vulgar, might in length of time degenerate from the original inftitution, and reft in the object of fenfe.

'185. Doctor Hyde, in his hiftory of the religion of the ancient Perfians, would have it thought, that they borrowed the ufe and reverence of perpetual fires, from the Jewifli practice prefcribed in the Levitical law, of keeping a perpetual fire burning on the altar. Whether that was the cafe or not, thus much one may venture to fay, it feems probable that whatever was the original of this cuftom among the Perfians, the like cuftoms among the Greeks and Romans Were derived from the fame fource.

18 6. It muft be owned there are many paffages in holy fcripture (a), that would make one think, the fupreme being was in a peculiar manner prefent and manifeft in the element of fire. Not to infiit that God is more than once faid to be a confuming fire, which might be underftood in a metaphorical fenfe, the divine apparitions were by fire, in the bum, at mount Sinai, on the tabernacle, in the- cloven tongues. God is reprefented in the infpired writings, as defcending in fire, as attended by fire, or with fire going before him. Celeftial thing?, as angels, chariots, and fuch like phenomena are invefkd with firfe, Jight, and fplendor. Ezekiel in his vrfions beheld

(a) 179.

fire and brightnefs, lamps, burning coals of fire, and flafhes of lightening. In a vifion of Daniel the throne of God appeared like a fiery flame, and his wheels like burning fire. Alfo a fiery flame iffued and came forth from before him.

187. At the transfiguration, the apoftles fa\y our Saviour's face mining as the fun, and his raiment white as light, alfo a lucid cloud or body of lighr, out of which the voice came; which vifible light and fplendor was, not many centuries ago, maintained by the Greek church, to have been divine, and uncreated, and the very glory of God: as may be feen in the hiftory wrote by the emperor John Cantacuzene. And of late years bifhop Patrick gives it as his opinion, that in the beginning of the world, the Sheciqah, or divine prefence, which was then frequent and ordinary, appeared by light or fire. In commenting on that pafiage, where Cain is faid to have gone out from the prefence of the Lord, the bifhop obferves, that if Cain after this turned a downright idolater, as many think, it is very likely he introduced the worfhip of the fun, as the beft relemblance he could find of the glory of the Lord, which was wont to appear in a flaming light. It would be endlefs to enumerate all the paflages of holy fcripture, which confirm and illuftrate this notion, or reprefent the Deity as appearing and operating by fire. The mifconftruction of which might poflibly have mifled the Gnoftics, Bafilidians, and other ancient heretics into an opinion, that Jefus Chrilt was the vifible corporeal fun.

iKS. We have feen, that in the mof t remote ages and countries, the vulgar as well as the learned, the inftitutions of lawgivers as well as the reafonings of philofophers, have ever confidered

the the element of fire in a peculiar light, and treattj it with more than common regard, as if it were fomething of a very fingular and extraordinary nature. Nor are there wanting authors of principal account among the moderns, who entertaJri like notions concerning fire, efpecially among thofe Who are mof t coriverfant in that element, and fhould feem heft acquainted with it.

189. Mr. Homberg the famous modern chemift, who brought that aft to fo great perfection, holds the fubftance of light or fire to be the truechemic principal fulphur(a), and to extend it felf throughout the whole univerfe. It is his opinion that this is the only active principle. That mixed with various things it formeth feveral forts of natural productions, with falts making oyl, with earth bitumen, with mercury metal. That this principle of fulphur, fire, or the fubftance of light, is in it felf imperceptible, and only becomes fenfible as it is joined with fome other principle, which ferves as a vehicle for it. That, although it be the moft active of all things, yet it is at the fame time the moft firm bond and cement to combine and hold the principles together, and give form to the mixed bodies. And, that in the analyfis of bodies it is always loft, efcaping the fkill of the artift, and pafling through the clofeft veflels.

190. Boerhaave, Niewenty't, and divers other moderns are in the fame way of thinking. They with the ancients diltinguifh a pure, elementary, invifible fire from the culinary, or that which appears in ignited bodies (£). This laft they will not allow to be pure fire. The pure fire is to be difcerned by it's effects alone; fuch as heat, dila. ration of all folid bodies, and rarefaction of fluids,

(a) 129. (£) 163, 166.


the fegregating heterogeneous bodies, and congregating thofe that are -homogeneous. That therefore which fmoakes and flames is not pure fire, but that which is collected in the focus of a mirrour or burning glafs. This fire feems the fource of all the operations in nature: without it nothing either vegetates, or putrefies, lives or moves or ferments, is diffolved or compounded or altered, throughout this whole natural world in which we fubfift. Were it not for this, the whole wou'd be one great ftupid inanimate mafs. But this active element is fuppofed to be every where, and always prefent, imparting different degrees of life, heat, and motion, to the various animals, vegetables, and other natural productions, as well as to the elements themfelves, wherein they are produced and nourimed.

191. As water acts upon falt, or aqua fortis upon iron, fo fire difiblves all other bodies. Fire, air, and water are all three menftruums: but the two laft feem to derive all their force and activity from the firft (a). And indeed there feems to be, originally or ultimately, but one menflruum in nature, to which all other menftruums, may be reduced. Acid falts are a menftruum, but their force and diftinct powers are from fulphur. Confidered as pure, or in themfelves, they are all of the fame nature. But, as obtained by diftillation, they are conftantly joined with fome fulphur, which characterizeth and cannot be feparated from them. This is the doctrine of mon* fieur Homberg. But what is it that charecterizeth or differenceth the frlphurs themfelves? % fulphur be the fubftance of light, as that author will have it, whence is it that animal, vege(a) 149.


table, and metallic fulphurs impart different qualities to the fame acid fait? Can this be explained upon Homberg's principles? And are we not or> liged to fuppofis that light feparated by the attracting and repelling powers in the flrainers, ducts, and pores of thofe bodies, forms feveral diftinct kinds of fulphur, all which, before fuch feparation, were loft and blended together, in one common mafs of light or fire feemmgly homoge* neous.

192. In the analyfis of inflammable bodies, the fire or fulphur is lofts and the diminution of weight fheweth the lofs (a). Oil is refolved into water, earth, and fait, none of which is inflammable. But the fire or vinculum which connected thofe things, and gave the form of oil, efcapes from the artift. It difappears, but is not deftroyed. Light or fire imprifoned made part of the compound, gave union to the other parts, and form to the whole. But having efcaped, it mingles with the general ocean of aether, till being again parted and attracted, it enters and fpcrcificates fome new fubject, of the animal, vegetable, or mineral kingdom. Fire therefore in the fenfe of philofophers is alfo fire, though not always flame.

194. Solar fire or light, in calcining certain bodies, is obferved to add to their weight. There is therefore no doubt but light can be fixed, and enter the' compofition of a body. And though it ihould lye latent for a long time, yet, being fee free from its prifon, it fhall ftill fhew itfelf to be fire. Lead, tin, or regulus of antimony, being expofed to the fire of a burning glafs, though they lofe much in fmoak and fleam, are neverthelels found to be confiderably increafed in weight, •which proves $he introduction of light or fire in*

(a) 169.

M to

« EelmineJätka »