Chap. IV.

That there was no Rain-bow before the Flood.

THAT there shall be no Rain-bow appear forty years before the end of the world, and that the preceding drought unto that great flame shall exhaust the materials of this Meteor, was an assertion grounded upon no solid reason: but that there was not any in sixteen hundred years, that is, before the flood, seems deduceable from holy Scripture, Gen. 9. I do set my bow in the clouds, and it shall be for a token of a Covenant betweene me and the earth. From whence notwithstanding we cannot conclude the nonexistence of the Rain-bow; nor is that Chronology naturally established, which computeth the antiquity of effects arising from physical and settled causes, by additional impositions from voluntary determinators. Now by the decree of reason and Philosophy, the Rain-bow hath its ground in Nature, as caused by the rays of the Sun, falling upon a roride and opposite cloud: whereof some reflected, others refracted, beget that semi-circular variety we generally call the Rain-bow; which must succeed upon concurrence of causes and subjects aptly predisposed. And therefore, to conceive there was no Rain-bow before, because God chose this out as a token of the Covenant, is to conclude the existence of things from their signalities, or of what is objected unto the sense, a coexistence with that which is internally presented unto the understanding. With equall reason we may infer there was no water before the institution of Baptism, nor bread and wine before the holy Eucharist.

Again, while men deny the antiquity of one Rain-bow, they anciently concede another. For, beside the solary Iris which God shewed unto Noah, there is another Lunary, whose efficient is the Moon, visible only in the night, most commonly at full Moon, and some degrees above the Horizon. Now the existence hereof men do not controvert, although effected by a different Luminary in the same way with the other. And probably appeared later, as being of rare appearance and rare observation, and many there are which think there is no such thing in Nature. And therefore by casual spectators they are lookt upon like prodigies, and significations made, not signified by their natures.

Lastly, We shall not need to conceive God made the Rain-bow at this time, if we consider that in its created and predisposed nature, it was more proper for this signification then any other Meteor or celestial appearency whatsoever. Thunder and lightning had too much terrour to have beene tokens of mercy; Comets or blazing Stars appear too seldom to put us in mind of a Covenant to be remembred often: and might rather signifie the world should be once destroyed by fire, then never again by water. The Galaxia or milky Circle had been more probable; for (beside that unto the latitude of thirty, it becomes their Horizon twice in four and twenty hours, and unto such as live under the Æquator, in that space the whole Circle appeareth) part thereof is visible unto any situation; but being only discoverable in the night, and when the ayr is clear, it becomes of unfrequent and comfortless signification. A fixed Star had not been visible unto all the Globe, and so of too narrow a signality in a Covenant concerning all. But Rain-bows are seen unto all the world, and every position of sphere. Unto our own elevation they may appear in the morning, while the Sun hath attained about forty five degrees above the Horizon (which is conceived the largest semidiameter of any Iris) and so in the afternoon when it hath declined unto that altitude again; which height the Sun not attaining in winter, rain-bows may happen with us at noon or any time. Unto a right position of sphere they may appear three hours after the rising of the Sun, and three before its setting; for the Sun ascending fifteen degrees an hour, in three attaineth forty five of altitude. Even unto a parallel sphere, and such as live under the pole, for half a year some segments may appear at any time and under any quarter, the Sun not setting, but walking round about them.

But the propriety of its Election most properly appeareth in the natural signification and prognostick of it self; as containing a mixt signality of rain and fair weather. For being in a roride cloud and ready to drop, it declareth a pluvious disposure in the air; but because when it appears the Sun must also shine, there can be no universal showrs, and consequently no Deluge. Thus when the windows of the great deep were open, in vain men lookt for the Rain-bow: for at that time it could not be seen, which after appeared unto Noah. It might be therefore existent before the flood, and had in Nature some ground of its addition. Unto that of nature God superadded an assurance of his Promise, that is, never to hinder its appearance, or so to replenish the heavens again, as that we should behold it no more. And thus without disparaging the promise, it might rain at the same time when God shewed it unto Noah; thus was there more therein then the heathens understood, when they called it the Nuncia of the gods, and the laugh of weeping heaven;1 and thus may it be elegantly said; I put my bow, not my arrow in the clouds, that is, in the menace of rain the mercy of fair weather.

Cabalistical heads, who from that expression in Esay,2 do make a book of heaven, and read therein the great concernments of earth, do literally play on this, and from its semicircular figure, resembling the Hebrew letter כ Caph, whereby is signified the uncomfortable number of twenty, at which years Joseph was sold, which Jacob lived under Laban, and at which men were to go to war: do note a propriety in its signification; as thereby declaring the dismal Time of the Deluge. And Christian conceits do seem to strain as high, while from the irradiation of the Sun upon a cloud, they apprehend the mystery of the Sun of Righteousness in the obscurity of flesh; by the colours green and red, the two distructions of the world by fire and water; or by the colours of blood and water, the mysteries of Baptism, and the holy Eucharist.

Laudable therefore is the custom of the Jews, who upon the appearance of the Rain-bow, do magnifie the fidelity of God in the memory of his Covenant; according to that of Syracides, look upon the Rain-bow, and praise him that made it. And though some pious and Christian pens have only symbolized the same from the mysterie of its colours, yet are there other affections which might admit of Theological allusions. Nor would he find a more improper subject, that should consider that the colours are made by refraction of Light, and the shadows that limit that light; that the Center of the Sun, the Rain-bow, and the eye of the Beholder must be in one right line, that the spectator must be between the Sun and the Rain-bow; that sometime three appear, sometime one reversed. With many others, considerable in Meteorological Divinity, which would more sensibly make out the Epithite of the Heathens;3 and the expression of the son of Syrach. Very beautiful is the Rain-bow, It compasseth the heaven about with a glorious circle, and the hands of the most High have bended it.


* [My or others' notes are in square brackets]; Browne's marginalia is unmarked; {passages or notes from unpublished material by Browne is in curly braces}.

1 Risus plorantis Olympi.

2 Isa. 34.4.

3 Thaumantias.

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