Full text: Wilkins, John: A discovery of a new world

That the Earth may be a Planet. form them, as well as others, 'tis requiſite
that it ſhould uſe the moſt plain and eaſy
expreſſions. To this purpoſe likewiſe is that
of Merſennus, Mille ſunt Scripturæ loca, & c. ‘ There are very many places of Scripture,
‘ which are not to be interpreted according
‘ to the Letter; and that for this reaſon,
‘ becauſe God would apply himſelf unto our
‘ capacity and ſenſe: Preſertim in iis, quæ
ad res naturales, oculiſque ſubjectas pertinent; more eſpecially in thoſe things which con-
cern Nature, and are ſubject to our Eyes. And therefore in the very ſame place, tho
he be eager enough againſt Copernicus, yet
he concludes that Opinion not to be an He-
reſy; becauſe (ſaith he) thoſe Scriptures
which ſeem to oppoſeit, are not ſo evident,
but that they may be capable of another In-
terpretation : Intimating, that it was not
unlikely they ſhould be underſtood in refe-
rence to outward appearance, and common
opinion. And that this manner of ſpeech is
frequently uſed in many other places of
Scripture, may be eaſily manifeſt from theſe
following Examples. Thus tho the Moon
may be proved, by infallible obſervation, to
be leſs than any of the viſible Stars; yet
becauſe of its appearance, and vulgar opi-
nion, therefore doth the Scripture, in Com-
pariſon to them, call it one of the Great
Lights. Of which place, ſaith Calvin, Mo-
ſes populariter ſcripſit, nos potius reſpexit quam
ſydera. Moſes did not ſo much regard the
Nature of the thing, as our Capacity; and That the Earth may be a Planet. therefore uſes a popular phraſe: ſo as ordi-
nary People, without the help of Arts and
Learning, might eaſily underſtand him. And in another place, Non fuit Spiritus
Sancti concilium Aſtrologiam docere : 'It was
‘ not the purpoſe of the Holy Ghoſt to teach
‘ us Aſtronomy : but being to propound a
‘ Doctrine, that concerns the moſt rude and
‘ ſimple People, he does (both by Moſes
‘ and the Prophets) conform himſelf unto
‘ their phraſes and conceits : leſt any ſhould
‘ think to excuſe his own ignorance with the
‘ pretence of difficulty; as Men commonly
‘ do in thoſe things which are delivered af-
‘ ter a learned and ſublime manner. Thus
Zanchy likewiſe, Moſes majorem rationem habuit noſtri humanique judicii, & c. 'When
‘ Moſes calls the Moon a Great Light; he
‘ had a more eſpecial reference to Mens Opi-
‘ nions of it, than to the truth of the thing
‘ it ſelf, becauſe he was to deal with ſuch,
‘ who do judg uſually, rather by their Senſe,
‘ than by their Reaſon. Nor will that di-
ſtinction of Fromondus, and others, avoid
this interpretation, when he tells us of Mag-
nus Materialis; which refers to the bulk and
quantity of the Body: and Magnum Formale,
which imports the greatneſs of its Light. For we grant, that it is really unto us a
greater Light than any of the Stars, or than
all of them together; yet there is not any
one of them, but is in it ſelf a bigger Light
than this: And therefore, when we ſay this
ſpeech is to be underſtood according to its That the Earth may be a Planet. appearance. we do not oppoſe this to rea-
lity; but 'tis implied, that this reality is not
abſolute, and in the nature of the thing it
ſelf, but only relative, and in reference to
us. I may ſay, a Candle is a bigger Light
than a Star, or the Moon, becauſe it is re-
ally ſo to me. However any one will think
this to be ſpoken, only in relation to its ap-
pearance, and not to be underſtood as if
the thing were ſo in it ſelf. But (by the
way) it does concern Fromondus to maintain
the Scripture's Authority, in revealing of
natural Secrets; becauſe, from thence it is
that he fetches the chief Argument for that
ſtrange Aſſertion of his, concerning the hea-
vineſs of the Wind; where Job ſays, that
God makes the weight for the Wind. Thus
likewiſe, becauſe the common People uſual-
ly think the Rain to proceed from ſome
Waters in the Expanſum: therefore doth
Moſes, in reference to this erroneous Con-
ceit, tell us of Waters above the Firmament,
and the Windows of Heaven : Of which,
ſaith Calvin, Nimis ſerviliter literæ ſe aſtrin-
gunt, & c. 'Such Men too ſervilely tie them-
‘ ſelves unto the Letter of the Text, who
‘ hence conclude, that there is a Sea in the
‘ Heavens : when as we know, that Moſes
‘ and the Prophets, to accommodate them-
‘ ſelves unto the capacity of ruder People,
‘ do uſe a vulgar expreſſion; and therefore
‘ it would be a prepoſterous courſe, to re-
‘ duce their phraſes unto the exact Rules of
‘ Philoſophy. Let me add, that from this That the Earth may be a Planet. miſtake, 'tis likely did ariſe that groundleſs
obſervation of the ancient Jews; who would
not admit any to read the beginning of Ge-
neſis, till he was arrived to thirty Years of
Age. The true reaſen of which, wa this; not becanſe that Book was harder than any
other; but becauſe Moſes conforming his
expreſlion to vulgar Conceits, and they exa-
mining of them by more exact rules of Phi-
loſophy, were fain to force upon them ma-
ny ſtrange Allegories, and unnatural Myſte-


ad Phil.
Trac. 3.
cap. 2.
sniſa. 13.5
Item in
in Gen.1.
In Gen.
c. 1. v. 10.
art. 6.
V. Hiero.
in Fer. 28.
in Job 25.
Gen.1. 16.
Pſ. 136. 7.
in P1. 136.
De ope-
ribus Dei,
par. 2. li.6.
cap. 1.
lib. 4 c 2.
art. 5.
Job 28.25.
in Pſalm.
148. 4.

Thus alſo, becauſe for the moſt part we
conceive the Stars to be innumerable, there-
fore doth the Holy Ghoſt often ſpeak of
them in reſerence to this opinion. So Jere-
my: As the Hoſt of Heaven cannot be num-
bred, neither the Sand of the Sea meaſured ſo
will I multiply the Seed of David. So likewiſe
when God would comfort Abraham with the
promiſe of a numberleſs Poſterity, he bids
him look up to Heayen, and tells him, that
his Seed ſhould be like thoſe Stars for num-
ber: Which, ſaith Clavius, Intelligendum eſt ſecundum communem ſententiam vulgi, ex-
iſtimantis infinitam eſſe multitudinem ſtellarum,
dum eas nocte ſerena confusè intuetur; is to be
underſtood according to the common opi-
nion of the Vulgar, who think the Stars to
be of an inſinite multitude, whilſt they be-
hold them all (as they ſeem confuſed) in
a clear Night. And though many of our
Divines do commonly interpret this Speech
to be an Hyperbole; yet being well conſidered,


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