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ON THE FIRST QUESTION.
In speaking of the Earth, does the Sacred
History allude only to our Earth?
THEOPHILA, I request of you to bear always in mind that I am an ignorant man, one from whom, on account of his inferiority and liability to be deceived, you cannot expect truth in its highest degree,-truth itself; and whose opinions, respecting the Bible, you ought to consider as very doubtful, differing so much as they do from those that have been generally received about it. I wish even that you will look upon them as being dangerous; because I hope it will make you the more cautious against adopting them. It would grieve me to find that you embrace any of my notions, before having diligently compared it with the Holy Scriptures, and discussed it with all the prudence and anxiety of a severe critic, who is afraid of admitting ideas that cannot be depended upon: allow me to add that I think you ought to pray earnestly to be preserved from being misled by mine.
When I was at school, I was brought up in the
common belief that this visible earth is the only one that is spoken of all through the Holy Writings; and it did not occur to me to inquire whether it was so or not. Since that time I have been otherwise informed; and I have now many reasons to doubt the accuracy of that opinion. But, as it has been entertained by a vast number of pious and eminent persons, I must confess that it would be the height of imprudence to reject it hastily. However, as it cannot be denied that mortal men, ever so religious, may be mistaken on some point or other, it seems to me that any one who values truth, and longs to acquire the knowledge of it, ought not to give way blindly to the sentiment of even the most esteemed characters, but that he ought to try it by the Scriptures, and to examine, without prevention, whether it exactly coincides with them or not. If, after mature investigation, it should be admitted that the Bible speaks in great many places of another earth than this, I apprehend it will follow that neither the Jewish system, nor any of the religious systems that are attended to by the denominated Christians, is correct in every part; since they are all founded on the belief that this visible earth is the only one the Holy Writ refers to from the beginning to the end (except that to come, the creation of which is foretold in few places); and the necessity of searching for and building a new system more consonant with the Word of God, will appear evident to those who would like to walk but in the way of truth. Would you agree with me on the necessity to investigate whether the old notions are right or wrong, and would you se. riously and cautiously inquire into it, I have no doubt that you will be amply rewarded for your trouble.
I know not, Theophila, whether you make any difference between the earth and the world that are mentioned in the Sacred History. In our common language we understand them sometimes in the same way, and at times differently. For instance, when we talk of the creation, beginning and end of the world, the map, and four parts of the world, it is clear that we mean this material earth ; but we do not, when we speak of a man of the world, of the pleasures, vanities, and dangers of the world, &c. I suppose that there is likewise a difference between the earth and the world in the Bible, and I shall try to explain it in another place; but, for the present, I beg you will allow me to consider them as meaning the same thing ; I am inclined to do it from the similarity that appears between them in the verses I am going to quote. Before I draw your attention to them, I think proper to state that, though it seems to me that the world, and the earth taken in her whole, or as a body composed of land and water, are nearly the same thing in the Scripture, it is likely to me, from the land being called earth, in Gen. i. 10, that there are passages where the word earth does not signify the world, but merely the dry land ; that is to say, only a part of the scriptural earth or world. It may be that the words dry land, earth, and world, in the Sacred History, mean different degrees of the same thing ; on which I shall say a few words elsewhere.
Genesis, 6. 11. The earth also was corrupt before God,
and the earth was filled with violence.
2 Pet. 1. 4. Having escaped the corruption that is
in the world through lust. 1 John, 5. 19. And the whole world lieth in wicked
9. 11. Neither shall there be any more flood
to destroy the earth. 2. 5. And spared not the old world, bringing
in the flood upon the world of the
ungodly. 3. 5. And the earth standing out of the
water and in the water. 6. Whereby the world that then was, be
ing overflowed with water, perished. 7. But the beavens and the earth, which
41. 56. And the famine was over all the face
of the earth. 4. 25. When great famine was throughout all
the land. 12. 28. Agabus signified by the Spirit, that
there should be great dearth throughout all the world.
1 Sam. 2. 10. The Lord shall judge the ends of the
earth. Psalm 22. 27. All the ends of the world shall remem
ber and turn unto the Lord. 65. 5. O God, who art the confidence of all
the ends of the earth.
Psalm 67. 7. All the ends of the earth shall fear
him. Isaiah, 45. 22. Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the
ends of the earth.
Psalm 19. 4. And their words to the end of the world. 61. 2. From the end of the earth will I cry
unto thee. Isaiah, 43. 6. Bring my sons from far, and my daugh
ters from the end of the earth. 62. 11. The Lord hath proclaimed unto the end
of the world. Dan. 4. 22. Thy dominion reaches to the end of the
Jere. 25. 31. A noise shall come even to the ends of
the earth. Acts, 13. 47. I have set thee to be a light of the
Gentiles, that thou shouldest be for
salvation unto the ends of the earth. Rom. 10. 18. Their sound went into all the earth,
and their words unto the ends of the world.
Job, 38. 4. Where wast thou, when I laid the foun
dations of the earth? Psalm 18. 15. The foundations of the world were
discovered. 82. 5. All the foundations of the earth are out
24. 1. The earth is the Lord's, and the fulness