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Thursday, November 01, 2012

Miserere Mei, Deus

O God of Mercy thou art good,
Thou Care for us did take,
When by thy Hand thou did Command,
the Earth and Sea to shake.
 - Jeremiah Newland, VERSES Occasioned by the EARTHQUAKES in the Month of November, 1755


That was written in the aftermath of the Cape Ann quake, which occurred 17 days after the great Lisbon quake on All Saint's Day.

This, of course, gives me an excuse to revisit how John Winthrop, great-great grandson of the Massachusetts Bay Colony founder, explained these phenomena with science (and a bit of religion):

Though these explosions, and consequent concussions of the earth, have indeed occasioned most terrible desolations, and in this light may justly be regarded as the tokens of an incensed Deity ; yet it can by no means be concluded from hence, that they are not of real and standing advantage to the globe...

The all-wise CREATOR could not but foresee all the effects of all the powers he implanted in matter ; and, as we find in innumerable instances (and the more we know of his works, the more such instances we discover) that he has established such laws for the government of the world, as tend to promote the good of the whole, we may reasonably presume, that he has done it in this case as well as others...

The power of gravity, a power of such indispensable importance, that without it the system of nature could not subsist a moment, has yet proved the destruction of  multitudes. The wind, so necessary for the purposes of navigation, as well as to purge the air...how often has it risen to such a pitch, as to overthrow houses, and wreck vessels by which means thousands have perished...

Other instances of the like sort I leave to your own reflexions ; and would rather observe, that the world is governed by general laws ; and general laws must, from the nature of them, be liable sometimes to do hurt. However, laws of this sort are sufficiently vindicated, not only as wise, but as good if upon the whole they produce a maximum of good...and this, It is in the highest degree probable, all the laws of nature do.

You know, apropos of nothing.


Update: decided to swap Last Judgement for God Creating Adam.

November 1, 2012 | Permalink


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