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Things to Be Considered (Second Series)

Scientific Writings by Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758)

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Things to Be Considered (Second Series) – Edwards wants to write about these things as well. See his first series here.

1. To prove the Universe, or Starry World, one vast Spheroid.

2. To demonstrate that all the matter, which is without the Spheroid, is so disposed, as that there should be an equal attraction on all sides, and so probably an equal quantity of matter.

4. To know the shape of the Spheroid of the Universe, by observation of the Milky Way; and to know whereabout our System is in it; 1st. With observations of the ratio respect to the plane of the greatest circles, from of the brightness of the opposite sides compounded with several other ratios. — 2d. With respect to the latitude, or the axis of this Spheroid, by observing how much the Milky Way differs from a great circle.

5. To show that the Starry World cannot be infinite, because it is a Spheroid.

6. To write concerning the Lens about the Sun.

7. To write concerning the distance of the Sun, by observation of the enlightened part of the Moon, when exactly in quadrature.

8. To write concerning the use of Comets, to repair the wastes of the heavenly bodies.

9. To show how Infinite Wisdom must be exercised, in order that Gravity and Motion may be perfectly harmonious; and that, although the jumble of the Epicureans be allowed, although it be, in fact, impossible.

10. To find out a thousand things by due observation of the Spheroid of the Universe.

14. To show how the Motion, Rest, and Direction of the Least Atom has an influence on the motion, rest and direction of every body in the Universe; and to show how, by that means, every thing which happens, with respect to motes, or straws and such little things, may be for some great uses in the whole course of things throughout Eternity; and to show how the least wrong step in a mote, may, in Eternity, subvert the order of the Universe; and to take notice of the great wisdom, that is necessary in order thus to dispose every atom at first, as that they should go for the best, throughout all Eternity, and in the Adjusting, by an exact computation, and a nice allowance to be made for the miracles, which should be needful, and other ways, whereby the course of bodies should be diverted. — And then to show how God, who does this, must be necessarily Omniscient, and know every the least thing, that must happen through Eternity.
36. To show, if I think proper, how Sir Isaac Newton was very sensible, that all Spontaneous Enkindling was from a certain species of attraction.

37. FIXED STARS To show that it is not only highly probable, but absolutely certain, that the Fixed Stars are so many Suns. For it is certain, in the first place, that they do shine by their own light; i. e. not by the Sun’s; for altho’ we do not exactly know how far distant they are, yet we know that they are so far distant, at least, that the annual Revolution of the Earth makes no sensible alteration in their position. And we know certainly, that the light of the Sun, at such a distance, will be no more than about so much, as the light of a Fixed Star is here. (Let any body calculate and see.) And now I ask, Whether or no it be not certain, that no body will reflect the light of another body, which does not shine upon it brighter than a single Fixed Star does upon the Earth, so much as to cause it to shine, with its reflected light, so brightly as the Fixed Stars do, at such a distance. And then, in the second place, it is certain, they must be pretty near about so big. And thirdly, it is certain that they must shine with as bright a light, or else they could never appear so bright at such a distance. This we may also be certain of, by calculation. Which three things are all that are needed to make a Sun.

Coroll. 1. From the foregoing: That our Sun is a Fixed Star, is as certain, as that any one particular Star in the heavens is one.
Coroll. 2. It is as probable that the other Fixed Stars, or Suns, have Systems of planets about them, as it would be that ours had, to one who had seen a Fixed Star, or Sun, every way like it, have them.

38. CREATION To bring in, if there happens a good place for it, that is equally probable, in itself, that all, or the greater part, of the Universe was created at the time of the Mosaic Creation; as that all, or the greatest part, of the Universe was created at once, at any other time.

45. CONTINENTS and CHANNELS To observe, it is somewhat difficult to know, how it comes to pass, that there are, in all Continents, however uneven and confused, hilly and jumbled, though they seem to have mountains and vallies, indifferently, and undesignedly, every where dispersed; yet, that there are such convenient Channels, whereby water may be conveyed from the middle of the Continents, and from all parts, into the Ocean. The reason is, when the world was first created, the water covering all the earth, the surface of the earth must needs be very soft, and loose, and easily worn or altered, by the motions of the water; and afterwards, the water, retiring in such a vast body, into one place, from off the continents, and some places of the (continents) being higher, and others lower, some were easily worn, others more difficult; in some places, the waters moving with more force, in others with less, some places would necessarily be worn deeper than others, from the middle of the continent to the ocean: and as the water decreased, as going off from the earth, all would retire into those channels; and, the water still decreasing, the remainder would run in the deeper places of these channels; and after they (the waters) were gone, they left channels every where; into which, the waters afterwards gushing out, in various parts of the continent, would naturally find their way. Thus, also, after the Deluge, when the surface of the earth was again loosened.

By this means it comes to pass, that, generally, our large rivers have champaign countries, without stones, on each side of them, before we come to the ridges of mountains, that commonly run parallel to them, at some distance, on each side; and yet, nearer the river still, there are meadows on each side, lower than the plain; and last of all, the channel itself, as in Connecticut River, because the water, when it first began to deflow from the land, it moved in vast quantities, enough to fill the whole space between the parallel mountains; so that the reason, why the country is so plain, is, because it was all once the bottom of a river; but afterwards, the water decreasing, was confined to a narrower compass, and wore the meadows out. At last, still narrowing, it was confined to, the space between the banks. But there being still a remainder, in the champaign, and country between the greater channels, this, flowing off by degrees, into them, wore the lesser channels, for our little rivers.

46. REFRANGIBILITY OF RAYS The reason of the different Refrangibility of Rays, must be, either the different Figure, or Magnitude, or Hardness, or Internal Texture, or Density, of the Rays. There can be no other differences, between one ray and another, except the difference be some of these. — Now, first, it cannot be the different Figure, that causes the different Refrangibility. This would not cause some rays to be more attracted towards the edge of bodies; for all bodies, equal in other respects, are equally attracted, let them be of what figure so ever; nor will this serve to explain, how some are more easily reflected, than others. Different Magnitude is alike insufficient for these purposes. Different Hardness can cause no difference in the Attractibility. The Internal Texture can make no manner of difference, either in refraction or reflection. If the Quantity of Matter, and the Surface, be the same, the different Swiftness of Motion cannot be the reason. Wherefore, there remains nothing more, that can be the cause, but the different Density — the different Quantity of Matter in the rays, in the same room. Then we will suppose there to be a great deal of difference, between the rays of the Sun, in this respect — some more dense, and some more rare, as in all other bodies. Now, there will be this other difference, arising from this, viz. that the densest rays will come from the Sun, with the most rapid motion; not because they are less obstructed, by the medium they go through, but because, as every body may see, their mutual repercussions in the Sun, before they leap out into the vast circumambient expanse, will be much more violent, because of their greater gravity, which we have shown to be the reason of these repercussions. — Now, in the first place, we have no reason to think, but that there is a difference in the Density of the Rays of the Sun; and, if so, we are certain, that that will cause a difference in the Rapidity of their Motion; and therefore, certainly would cause a difference in their Refrangibility; for it is certain, that those rays, that move swiftly by a body, will be attracted least by it, and those that move slowest by it, will be attracted most. This will, also, certainly cause a difference in the Reflexibility of Rays; for those rays, that strike on a body with greatest force, will be most difficultly reflected, and those that strike with least force will be reflected most easily: those, that strike it most forcibly, are most likely to make their way forward without reflection; and those bodies, that are most likely to stand a stroke of the weaker rays, so as to reflect them, will give way to the stronger rays. Now, whether this difference in the density of the rays be the reason of the different Refrangibility or no; I think we may be sure of this, that, if the true reason were removed, and there should be a difference in the Density of Rays, this would certainly be a new reason of difference in the Refrangibility.

It may be objected to this, that there is an infinite variety in the density of bodies, and so doubtless of rays, and at that rate there would be an infinite variety of simple Colours. — I answer, And so there is; and multitudes have been distinguished, and more might be, if we had instruments and senses sufficiently accurate. The progression, there is from the highest to the lowest colours, is through an infinite variety. But the reason, why there are no colours below Blue, is, because if there are any rays, rarer than the blue, they are so weak, that they degenerate into shade, and are undistinguishable from darkness, and because they have not gravity enough to beget a motion in them, sufficient to cause them to leap out, at such a distance.

This explication very well agrees with experience. Red is the highest, strongest, harshest colour, because it is caused by the densest and most rapid rays; blue, more gentle and weak. Red gives the most light, because the rays have more of vivacity, and more strongly affect the organ; blue, the nearest approaching to darkness. Red, long beheld, is painful to the eyes; green and blue are pleasing, easy, gentle, inoffensive and healthful to the organ. Blue is so weak a colour, the rays are so weak, that they are reflected from the weakest bodies, such as air, and their exhalations, as in the blueness of the skies; which are so weak, that they let through the stronger rays; though sometimes at sunsetting, when the air is dense, all the rest of the rays are stopped but the Red, which fight their way through all the exhalations the air is full of, and then the Sun looks as red as blood.

Corollary. Because there is such a difference in the Density of the rays of light, it appears that the Atoms, of which the rays of light are composed, are immensely less, than the rays themselves.

47. Since, as has been shown, body is nothing but an infinite resistance, in some parts of space, caused by the immediate exercise of Divine power; it follows, that as great and as wonderful power is every moment exerted in the upholding of the world, as at first was exerted in its creation: the first creation being only the first exertion of this power, to cause such resistance, and the preservation, only the continuation or the repetition of this power, every moment to cause this resistance: so that the Universe is created out of nothing every moment. And, if it were not for our imaginations, which hinder us, we might see that wonderful work performed continually, which was seen by the morning stars, when they sang together.

48. TREES There is that, which is peculiarly wonderful in Trees, beyond any thing that is to be found in the inanimate world, even the manner of their growing from the seed. Their amazing diversification into such curious branches, leaves, flowers, fruits, and seeds; and so successively from one seed after another, in the same manner, from age to age, forever.

The discovery of the little tree in the seed, has opened a door for finding out these wonders; but, without that, we might have known that the tree are in miniature, before they are in perfection; for the bud, which is but another sort of seed, is nothing but the leaves, twigs, flowers and fruits, folded up together, which we see by degrees unfold themselves.

But the trees being in embryo in the seed, does not seem to solve the difficulty, for the tree most certainly does not keep to its rule, does not exactly follow its copy in the seed; for we may make the tree grow almost as we please. If we lop the tree, there will peep out new branches from the body of the tree, where there was no sign of a branch. But if the branches of the tree did really grow exactly in the same form as their pattern in the seed, this might indeed solve for the growing of one tree, but not for that infinite succession, and endless offspring, of trees, that may proceed from it; except we suppose that, in one seed, are actually contained an infinite number of trees and seeds, one within another; for this makes actually an infinite number of trees twice over, in the same seed: first, an infinite number of successions of one tree, less than another, and by that time we come to the least (we must be allowed to speak contradictions here), the offspring will be so numerous, that there will be actually an infinite number of trees of the same size and standing. Wherefore this matter of the Growth of Trees still remains very difficult.

The reason of it would not be altogether so difficult and perplexing, if they always grew in the same regular order. We do not despair of finding out the reason of that, which always happens alike, and in the same order. Thus, when we have reduced the motion of the Planets to a rule, we have got above half way towards giving the reason of their motions. But the Branches of Trees seem not capable of being reduced to any rule at all; but there is an infinite variety — one branch grows out here, and another there, without any order.

But we shall be helped in this matter, if we consider, that all trees and plants, universally, when they first sprout out of the ground, while there is, as yet, but one twig, are exactly regular; that is, having the buds which grow out of them, which are branches in miniature, standing in a regular and uniform manner — a leaf always growing under the bud. In some, two come out together, one right opposite to the other, always standing transverse to the last two, as in the twig, A B, in the maple tree (see Figure 1). In others, but one at a time, standing at regular distances, on different sides, in such order as to stand round the twig, in the form of a screw, so that the branches shall stand out on every side, as in the twig, C D, in the apple, the pear, the cherry, etc.; in others, having two together, growing out of opposite sides, but not standing transverse, like the maples, as in the twig E F; In others, having four or five standing round the twig together, as in G G; In others, having but one at a time, standing always opposite to each other, as in I K; and innumerable other ways, but yet always regular. And as the first sprouts of the tree are always regular, so are all the young sprouts of the tree afterwards, when the tree comes to be divided into many branches; yea, always as long as the tree lives, all the twigs, that are of that year’s growth, are regular. So that it follows, that the body, the main branches, and the little twigs, and every part, of every tree in the world, in their first beginnings, were regular. So that, if all the trees had continued as they were, in the year that they grew; the whole tree, with all the branches, small and great, would be regular. And now we are sure that, if the sap did not flow, more easily, into one bud or branch than another, or, if one were not otherwise advantaged above another, if all the buds and branches had, in all respects, equal advantages for growing; the tree would be most exactly regular. It follows clearly, and certainly; for, if the common trunk, A B (see Figure 1), when it first grew, was regular, and the branches, 1, m, n, o, at first were regular, and the branches of the branches, as r s, were also regular, and so on; it is certain, if all these branches continued as they were at first, and every bud or branch expanded itself alike, that the whole tree, A B, will always continue to grow regularly. Thus far we are clear, that the miniatures of all plants are regular, and that there is no provision made, in the seeds and bud, for any but a regular growth, and that, if it were not for some accidental causes that promoted or hindered the growth of one of the branches or buds, no, more than another, that all the tree, in the end, would be regular.

We need not perplex ourselves to find out, what should give one a greater advantage of growth than another. The least thing in the world may be’ sufficient, when they are so small and tender: ten thousand things might be thought of.
Many plants do actually always continue to grow regular; as most herbs and weeds, that are but of one year’s growth, and come trees; and, of those that err from their seminal pattern, some keep nearer to it than others.

We therefore conclude, that the first trees, that ever were, were regular trees, or at least regular parts of trees, so contrived, with vessels, pipes and valves, that, as it receives more sap, it continually desires to shoot forth towards B (see Figure 1). And infinite wisdom so contrived the curious workmanship of the inlets, receptacles, passages and outlets, from A to B, that that which is, by degrees, added at B, by the gentle motion of the sap, from A to B, through the pipes, shall be cast into the same form, and shall come out in the same fashion, as if it were cast into a mould. It is also so contrived, that, as it continues to proceed towards B, the course of some of the passages shall be directed so, as to cause it to shoot forth on the side at n, and at every such regular distance, just as the engineer contrives his clock to strike at uniform distances, and the sap proceeds forwards in the branch, n o, in the same manner as it did in the trunk A B; and in like manner breaks out at the sides, at regular distances from r to s, and then branches forth, in like manner, at the sides of r s, and so on, in infinitum, to the world’s end. And the trees, that grow now, are nothing but the branches of those first trees; which, although the communication with the original branch has ceased, yet still continue to grow and to be diversified into more branches, in the same regular and uniform method, in infinitum; and the seeds, from whence our trees proceed, are no new plants, but branches of the old, a continuation of the same plant, in its infinite regular progress — branches not yet expanded. The trees, or seeds, or whatever they were, that God first created, were only the beginning of this progress, enough to set it a going. So it is contrived, that, at such due and uniform distances, these little continuations of the branches of the tree, while they are very tender, shall be wrapped in the curious covering and shelter of leaves, flowers and fruits, and some only of leaves and flowers, and shall drop off; so that when the seed drops off, it is only the regular continuation of these branches. And as it drops into the ground, though the continuation is uninterrupted, yet, receiving sap from the ground, it will not cease to grow: which is no more strange, than that the branch of an apple tree, if cut off and cast into the ground, will continue to grow.

The leaves are still nothing but branches of the tree, that grow not so big, and so contrived as to cleave together after such a manner. So likewise is the flower, and the fruit too is a compages of branches, yet otherwise modelled. There is nothing belonging to a tree but branches; an all, that the first trees, which God created, had to do, was to proceed to the end of the world, in such regular branches, having various stated periods, at the same stated distances: at which periods, there happen remarkable changes, and unusual phenomena, among the branches, as there may be various periods in an engine of human contrivance: some returning every second, every minute, every quarter of an hour, hour, day, month and year. — As for the leaves, flowers and fruits, they are not to be looked upon as a continuation of these regular branches, but as part of the substance of the trunk to which they grow.

There is but here and there one of these buds, that grow thus regularly and expand themselves. Perhaps some die, most of them continue in their littleness and imperfect state; the sap not running plentifully enough into them, having more free passage elsewhere, or being by some means diverted; and so, the part growing bigger, they are at last covered in it, and lie latent, until by some means the passage of the sap elsewhere is stopped, as by lopping of the tree, or otherwise; and then the sap, flowing more plentifully into them, causes them to spring forth, and make their way out of the bark. It may lie, like a seed in the tree, for many years, and, upon such an occasion, spring forth. Hence it is, that those little twigs, how small soever, though but of one year’s growth, that grow out of great trees, yet always have their beginning and rise close by the very heart of the tree because all the rest that is above it has grown and been added, since the tree was so small as to bear buds at that place. We had as good think that trees grow out of the ground, without seeds, as that branches grow out of the trunk without buds; for the buds are but another sort of seeds, that cleave to the tree, and the seeds are but another sort of buds, that drop into the ground.

57. EXHALATIONS 1. It is already determined, what Exhalations are, that they are nothing but bubbles of water, including atmospheric air, or some other etherial matter, considerably rarer than the air without. The only thing that wants to be known, is, how these bubbles come to be made. In order to determine this, we must first know, how any bubbles are made, which is, by driving a parcel of air under the surface of the water; so that, the water being so fluid, immediately closes near it, so that there is a parcel of air inclosed by the water. Now, this inclosed air immediately gathers itself into a globular form, by reason of the gravity of the parts of the air, one to another, as, likewise, the gravity of the parts of the water, which will prevent any prominences of water, inwards, amongst the air. The air, also, immediately ascends again, to emerge from the water, whereupon, most of the water that was over it, runs off on every side; but water being a thing, whose particles are so fitted, one to another, that they adhere one to another, by their gravity, the skin, or the walls of the bubble, will not immediately break; though the particles of water run off with infinite ease, before it comes to the last skin, because they run upon other water, that attracts it as much, as these particles that they run from.
2. What makes small bubbles break is, 1. The endeavour of the air quite to emerge; for the lowest part of the air is something lower than the surface of the water, by reason of the weight of the incumbent water in the skin of the bubbles: 2. The weight of the water, whereby it endeavours to run off down to the body of water: 3. The attraction of the water, that is at the basis of the walls of the bubbles; for the water, that is at A and C, attracts the water of the skin, that is next to it, with considerable strength. (see Figure 2)

3. We see that small bubbles live much longer than great ones,

1. because the skin is not so strongly attracted by the subjacent water, inasmuch as the margin of the bubble is not so large; and

2. the endeavour of the air to emerge is not so great, there not being so much below the surface of the water, because the weight that presses it under is not so great.

3. Because the weight of the water of the skin is not so great.

4. A very small bubble, being disjoined from the water, and suspended in the air, provided the air within remains as it was, and the bubble be not broken by something external, would live forever, or at least a very long time; for the weight of the water, whereby it tends to run from the top to the bottom of the bubble, would be very inconsiderable, the bubble being so small; and then a parcel of air, ascending out of the water, would take no more water, than just would suffice for a skin. The weight would be nothing near equal to the tendency of the particles one to another; for we see in great bubbles it is hardly equal, where the weight is so much greater; therefore the weight would not be sufficient to disjoin those particles, therefore the bubble would not be broken by the weight. 2. The attraction of the water, from whence it ascended, would not contribute to it, because it would be carried at a distance from it. 3. Nor the endeavour of the inclosed air to get out or emerge from the water, or in bubbles that lie on the surface, because it is supposed it would be entirely emerged and disjoined.

5. Now then all that is necessary to be done, by the Sun’s rays, in order to cause bubbles to ascend from the water, is, to drive very minute particles of air under water, and to make the air inclosed so much rarer than the rest of the air, that this air, together with the watery skin, shall be lighter than a parcel of other air of the same bigness.

6. The air that is close to the surface of the water, is far more exposed to the force of the Sun’s ray’s, than any at a distance, because the other air has room to yield to the stroke of the rays, but this must bear all the brunt, and stand the stroke, and can go no further. A body, that is smitten upon an anvil, suffers much more by the stroke, than a thing that is floating in the free air. Therefore the air, that is next to the surface of the water, will be much more ratified by the Sun’s rays than the other air.

7. If a very small parcel of air, that is next to the water, happen to be struck so to advantage, by the rays of the Sun (by many rays striking together upon it, or otherwise), as to be smitten just under the surface of the water, that air, being smitten more forcibly than the other air that is smitten under, will be More rarified by the Sun’s rays than other air; and that parcel of the air, so smitten under, emerging, will raise a bubble with it, and if the air within be rarified enough (as in all probability it will, because all the air, that is next to the water, is more rarified than other air, and this is more rarified than other air, that is next to the water), I say, if the air within is rarified enough, it will not only be buoyed up to the surface of the water, causing a bubble there, but will leap clear out of the water, and will ascend in the air, till it is in equipoise with the circumambient air.

Consider the following two works by Edwards that have been updated and republished for easy reading:

Ripe for Damnation: Sermons on the Book of Revelation – by Jonathan Edwards (1703–1758). Are you hungry for more of Edwards’ sermons? On the book of Revelation? These new works are not found anywhere on A Puritan’s Mind, and there are new ones not found in his large 2 volume works. 4 deal with the plight of the wicked, and 2 deal with the bliss of saints in heaven. These sermons are powerful, practical, and biblical, glorifying the Lord Jesus Christ, and contain 2 never before published sermons.

Justification by Faith Alone – by Jonathan Edwards (1703–1758). In this classic work, Edwards covers the intricacies of how believers are made righteous only through Christ’s merits, and that this justifying righteousness is equally imputed to all elect believers. This is accomplished by the condition of faith as an instrument.

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