Nonfiction > Henry Craik, ed. > English Prose > Vol. III. Seventeenth Century
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Henry Craik, ed.  English Prose.  1916.
Vol. III. Seventeenth Century
 
The Conflagration
By Thomas Burnet (1635?–1715)
 
From The Sacred Theory of the Earth

BUT it is not possible, from my station, to have a full prospect of this last scene of the earth; for it is a mixture of fire and darkness. This new temple is filled with smoke, while it is consecrating, and none can enter into it. But I am apt to think, if we could look down upon this burning world from above the clouds, and have a full view of it, in all its parts, we should think it a lively representation of hell itself. For fire and darkness are the two chief things by which that state or place, uses to be described; and they are both here mingled together, with all other ingredients that make that Tophet that is prepared of old (Isaiah xxx.). Here are lakes of fire and brimstone; rivers of melted glowing matter; ten thousand volcanoes vomiting flames all at once: thick darkness, and pillars of smoke twisted about with wreaths of flame, like fiery snakes: mountains of earth thrown up into the air, and the heavens dropping down in lumps of fire.
  1
  These things will all be literally true, concerning that day, and that state of the earth. And, if we suppose Beelzebub, and his apostate crew, in the midst of this fiery furnace (and I know not where they can be else) it will be hard to find any part of the universe, or any state of things, that answers to so many of the properties and characters of hell, as this which is now before us.  2
  But if we suppose the storm over, and that the fire hath got an entire victory over all other bodies, and subdued everything to itself; the conflagration will end in a deluge of fire, or in a sea of fire, covering the whole globe of the earth; for when the exterior region of the earth is melted into a fluor, like molten glass, or running metal, it will, according to the nature of other fluids, fill all vacuities and depressions, and fall into a regular surface, at an equal distance everywhere from its centre. This sea of fire, like the first abyss, will cover the face of the whole earth, make a kind of second chaos, and leave a capacity for another world to rise from it.  3
  But that is not our present business. Let us only, if you please, to take leave of this subject, reflect upon this occasion, on the vanity and transient glory of all this habitable world; how, by the force of one element breaking loose upon the rest, all the varieties of nature, all the works of art, all the labours of men, are reduced to nothing: all that we admired and adored before, as great and magnificent, is obliterated or vanished: and another form and face of things, plain, simple, and everywhere the same, overspreads the whole earth. Where are now the great empires of the world, and their great imperial cities! Their pillars, trophies, and monuments of glory? Show me where they stood, read the inscription, tell me the victor’s name. What remains, what impressions, what difference or distinction do you see in this mass of fire?  4
  Rome itself, eternal Rome, the great city, the empress of the world, whose domination and superstition, ancient and modern, make a great part of the history of this earth, what is become of her now? She laid her foundations deep, and her palaces were strong and sumptuous: She glorified herself, and lived deliciously; and said in her heart, I sit a queen, and shall see no sorrow. But her hour is come, she is wiped away from the face of the earth, and buried in perpetual oblivion. But it is not cities only, and works of men’s hands, but the everlasting hills, the mountains and rocks of the earth are melted as wax before the sun; and their place is nowhere found.  5
  Here stood the Alps, a prodigious range of stone, the load of the earth, that covered many countries, and reached their arms from the ocean to the Black Sea; this huge mass of stone is softened and dissolved, as a tender cloud, into rain. Here stood the African mountains, and Atlas with his top above the clouds. There was frozen Caucasus, and Taurus, and Imaus, and the mountains of Asia. And yonder towards the north, stood the Riphæan Hills, clothed in ice and snow. All these are vanished, dropped away as the snow upon their heads, and swallowed up in a red sea of fire (Rev. xv. 3). Great and marvellous are thy works, Lord God Almighty, just and true are thy ways, thou King of Saints. Hallelujah.  6
 
 
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