If October And November Are Full Of Snow And Frost

If October and November be Snow and Frost, then January and

February are like to be open and mild.

AS this Observation stands on the same Foundation with the last, we

need not dwell upon it particularly, and therefore I shall proceed with

my former Reflections. The only Way to be acquainted with Nature, is to

study Nature. All Systems of human Invention that are not built upon

Experiments, are sooner or l
ter found to be false, because, to say the

Truth, they are nothing better than ingenious Contrivances invented by

the Wit of Man, to conceal his Ignorance. In order to account for what

we behold, we must first of all take Pains to be well acquainted with

the Fact, and not suffer ourselves to be led away by Opinion. In order

to explain what I mean, I shall give an Instance. All the World knows

that not only the vulgar, but the learned, were for many Ages in a

constant Error about Corruption, and really believed that the Heat of

the Sun, and even animal Heat produced Worms, Maggots, and other living

Creatures. Many grave Writers carried the Thing farther, and told us of

Rats, Mice, and other Creatures produced out of the Slime of the River

Nile, by the Heat of the Sun in Egypt, which might very well pass

for Truth among those who fancied they saw every Day something of the

like Nature: I mean in the Corruption of Flesh and other Things, in

which we behold Thousands of living Creatures.

AN Italian Philosopher destroyed this whole Doctrine at once, by a

simple and easy Experiment. He exposed a Piece of raw Flesh in a glass

Vessel well covered with Gauze to the Air and Sun, and found that it

putrefied without producing any living Creatures. This shews how

careful we ought to be with Respect to Facts; for till this Experiment

was made, no Body doubted that Vermin were bred by, as well as in

putrefied Bodies; whereas we are now satisfied that the Heat of the Sun

can no more produce a Worm or a Maggot, than a Horse or an Elephant. By

the same Examination we might open the Way to Knowledge, by driving out

a Multitude of other Errors. But the Humour of taking Things for

granted without inquiring into them, and then endeavouring to account

for them by dint of Reasoning, amuses us with a false shew of Wisdom,

and encourages us to persist obstinately in the Maintenance of weak and

foolish Notions.

TO apply this to the Subject of which we are treating. It is certainly

a curious and a useful Thing to understand the Nature of the Weather,

and to know how the Changes that happen in it come to pass. The

Business is to find out the true Way of coming at this kind of

Knowledge, and upon the Principles that I have advanced, it is very

evident that the, only certain Way of coming at it is by Observation.

This is a slow but a sure Method of arriving at Truth, and the Specimen

here given us, of one Man's Observations, is enough to convince us

that a little Diligence and Application would soon go a great Way

towards forming a Body of such Observations as might enable us to

understand the Weather thoroughly, and to predict its Changes and

Alterations with a great Degree of Certainty. If we will not take this

Pains, we must content ourselves with what hath been already

discovered, or if our Conditions of Life exclude us from the

Opportunities of making such Observations, it is certainly a right

Thing to help ourselves by inquiring into, and reasoning upon such

Observations as other People have made and to facilitate this as far as

possible, I have taken the Pains to write this Commentary upon our

Shepherd's Rules; which I hope will render them more useful, or at

least secure them that Regard which they deserve.

THERE remains therefore nothing more for me to do in order to recommend

these Observations, but to say somewhat with Respect to the Utility of

the Alterations of the Weather in general, and in particular; in order

to satisfy the Reader that there is nothing of Chance or Accident in

such Alterations, but that they are governed in every Respect by the

same unerring Wisdom, that at first framed and constantly preserves the

Universe. All Weathers are at sometimes reasonable, which shews that

they are good in themselves, and only accidentally evil. We ought not

to measure Things of a general Nature, by particular Rules. If by the

Direction of Providence the Succession of Seasons be such, as that they

turn to the good of Mankind in the whole; it is no Objection to, or

Diminution of Providence that this Succession of Seasons should at

different Times be injurious to certain Countries, because this may

likewise be accounted for.

AS to Particulars we will begin with the Air, which is composed of

Exhalations of all earthly Bodies, as well solid as fluid, as also of

Fire, whether of the Sun or the Stars, or of earthly Bodies burnt, or

of Fire breaking out from the Entrails of the Earth, and ascending, and

though it be thus compounded, and hath swimming in it Multitudes of

other Things, yet we find that it is perfectly wholesome, is the Spring

of Motion, and of Life to Men, and all other Animals; so that though we

cannot account for, and perhaps have not a Power of comprehending how

such a mixed Body can be rendered salutary: yet since it is certain,

that so it is, we have no Right to complain either of the evil

Consequences that sometimes attend the Exhalations with which it is

filled, or the Accidents that flow from the frequent Alterations that

happen therein, because these have a visible Tendency to the general

good, and are apparently necessary to the Preservation of the Universe,

so that before we can have any Title to find fault, we must first shew

that we are capable of understanding them in their full Extent, and as

this is impossible, it follows that must be unreasonable.

BUT this appears still the more clearly, when it is considered, that

all such Alterations may be shewn even from the Light of Reason to be

generally useful, notwithstanding they sometimes appear troublesome and

noxious. For Instance, such quick Streams of Air in Motion as we call

Winds, though they sometimes swell into Storms and Tempests, yet are

they of great Benefit to Mankind, by purging the Air, and many other

Conveniences. It is a Proverb at Vienna, that if Austria be not

windy it is sickly; and this Saying is no less true in other

Countries, for by consulting the History of the last great Plague that

raged here in 1666, it will be found that there was in a Manner a dead

Calm during the Time of the Sickness, and it is known in Egypt, where

they have Plagues annually, that the Change of the Wind delivers them

from that Evil. Add to this the great Use of Winds in Navigation, and

reflect on the Benefits that accrue there from, and we shall see no

Cause whatever to doubt that this Motion of the Air is a very wise


THE Condensation of Vapours, which is the Cause of Rain, is another

great Benefit to the World, in as much as this is very probably

supposed to be the Source of Fountains, Rivers, Lakes, and other

Magazines of fresh Water, without which the Earth would be uninhabitable,

and to which in a very great Measure its Fertility is owing. We ought

likewise to remember that though this be in itself so clear, and at the

same Time so certain, yet there are Countries in the World where it

very seldom rains, as in Egypt, and others where it hardly ever

rains, as in Peru; so that we see there is no raising general

Doctrines upon this Subject, which ought to make us the more tender in

disputing the Will of Providence, or repining when it happens to cross

our own.

THE Uses of Snow are as great though less apparent, of which I shall

mention but three. The first is its preserving Herbs and Grass in the

Winter against the Severity of Frost; secondly, its supplying Water to

Brooks and Rivers; and lastly, its furnishing the Earth with vast

Quantities of Nitre, and thereby conducing greatly to its Fertility,

and perhaps the same thing may be said of Frost, hard Winters being

often succeeded by luxuriant Summers, and thus we find that what in

Appearance causes Scarcity, may in Reality produce Plenty.

LASTLY, even Thunder, however terrible in its Appearance, and sometimes

fatal in its Effects, is nevertheless very useful and beneficial upon

the whole, for this likewise purifies the Air from sulphureous and oily

Exhalations, and the Rains that fall with it fertilize the Earth

exceedingly. It also moderates the Heat as Experience teaches us, for

as it is always gloomy and sultry before Thunder, so it is afterwards

generally cool and pleasant. These Remarks, though very short, may give

the Reader an Opportunity of extending his Observations throughout all

the Variations of Weather, and enable him to discern how useful and

instructive a thing the Study of its Alterations may be, and how

probable it is, that by proper Care and Attention, we may arrive at a

much more useful, as well as a much more certain Knowledge in regard to

the Weather, than hitherto has been attained.