Imágenes de páginas

needle on the varnish of one of our common terrestrial globes, is proportionally much deeper, than the deepest perforations with which we have ever penetrated into the interior of the earth.” If now at the time of the flood, there was not only a rain of forty days upon the earth, but all the “ fountains of the great deep were broken up,” is it a mathematical impossibility, that a gush of water from the interior of this monstrous ball, should cover the mountains, which, in comparison with the diameter of the earth, are exceedingly diminutive? The production of water in the dropsy and other diseases, would seem to be far more mathematically impossible ; and yet the fact is plain. Equally certain must the fact of a former flood, overflowing the mountains, appear to the naturalist, (even independently of the Bible, and of the traditions of many ancient nations agreeing with it,) when he finds millions of sea-shells upon the highest mountain tops,when he knows that the avalanches in the Himalaya mountains in Central Asia have brought down skeletons of horses from an elevation of 16,000 feet, from summits which no man, not to say beast, is now able to reach. And how many facts are there of a similar nature to these !

In many cases it would be better, if men would not put on so much the appearance of knowing to a very hair, what is possible, and what is impossible in the universe. Some forty years ago, when a learned man read in Livy that it had rained stones; or heard that in the church at Ensisheim a stone was shown, which, judging from its inscription, had fallen from heaven; he would shrug his shoulders at the honest credulity of our worthy ancestors in believing something mathematically impossible. But aftar it had repeatedly rained stones in our own day, the Academicians were obliged to allow, that what they had so long regarded as mathematically impossible, had actually taken place, and the raining of stones was then put down as a fact in natural history. Many of them now assume the air of understanding the process of the thing from the very bottom, and shrug their shoulders at the honest peasant who cannot understand the thing as well as they do, and who expresses modest doubts at their explanations." Thus it goes in the world.

'Geology now, according to Bretschneider, can no longer assent to the Mosaic account of the Creation, and professes this, unconcerned how theologians may proceed in the matter. The theologian, too, might take his stand upon the book of Genesis, unconcerned how the geologist could reconcile himself with this. Such, however, is not the opinion of Dr. Bretschneider. He says (p. 77), “That the theologian can refute the sciences which depend upon experience, and are independent of theological principles, appears of itself to be impossible, and the attempt, should it be actually made, must be wholly fruitless.” Should there be

a collision, therefore, between the Bible and mark well-not Nature, but natural philosophers, Dr. Bretschneider would not hesitate a moment to declare himself against the Bible, and in favour of the infallible philosophers,-proving himself decidedly unbelieving as to the Bible, and superstitiously confident in natural philosophy, as if it had never erred. But how often has philosophy erred, and how often does it still err every day!

• Let us consider now more particularly the alleged collision between Genesis and Geology. The Geologist has to do especially with the present, with the mountains and what concerns them, as they are spread out before his eyes. From the observation of that which now is, he refers back to the manner in which it has become thus ; and here his fancy, which naturally plays a principal part in this calling up of the past, often seduces him to an unbridled deduction of consequences. A small, a very small part of the solid land, has been explored with any tolerable accuracy. The bottom of the sea, which covers two thirds of the surface of the earth, is wholly unknown. How trifling are the depths below the earth's crust into which we have penetrated, we have already seen by the comparison of the scratch in the varnish of the globe. Since, then, the amount of our knowledge of the present surface of the earth is so small, the merest tyro might hence conclude, how far we are removed from the point, in which we should be able to make out any thing definitely of the past condition of the entire globe. This is rendered doubly difficult by the fact, that the formation of the mountains cannot be explained from the manner in which the elements now act upon each other. “ The necessity,” says the celebrated Cuvier*, in which Geologists saw themselves, to seek for causes different from those which we now see in operation, is the reason why they have adopted so many extraordinary hypotheses, and wandered and lost themselves in so many opposite directions." Cuvier proceeds to mention ironically some ten of the boldest of these hypotheses,

“ But how much difference and contradiction is there even among those geologists who have proceeded with more reserve, and who did not seek for their means (moyens) beyond the department of ordinary physics and chemistry.' He then mentions six other hypotheses, and says, “I could mention twenty more, quite as distinct from each other as those which have been already named. Let me not be misunderstood, It is not my design to criticise their authors, on the contrary, I perceive that these ideas have belonged generally to men of genius and science, who have well understood facts, many of whom have travelled a long time with the design of testing them, and who

and then says:

* Discours sur les revolutions de la surface du Globe, p. 43, 1828.

have themselves furnished many and important facts for science.” So Cuvier. And now these Geologists, so totally disagreed among themselves, and, like Sisyphus, tasking themselves in vain, are, ecording to Bretschneider, to sit in judgement upon Moses.

With these declarations of Cuvier agree the views of all the greater geologists. The celebrated Alexander Brogniart concludes the work already cited, on the formation of mountains, with these words : " if any suppose themselves possessed of sufficient knowledge of geological phenomena, and are endued with so bold and penetrating a spirit as to be able, with the few materials which we possess, to set forth the manner in which our earth was created; we leave to them this splendid undertaking ; as for ourselves, we feel that we are in possession neither of sufficient means nor strength, to erect so bold, and probably so perishable a structure.”

Exactly in the same spirit does the distinguished Humboldt express himself.

“ True geognosis," he says, “ acquaints us with the external surface of the earth, as it now is; and is a science as certain as any science descriptive of natural phenomena can be. On the contrary, every thing relating to the former state of our planet, is as uncertain, as the manner in which the atmosphere of the planets is formed. And yet it is not long since geologists employed themselves chiefly with these problems, the solution of which is almost impossible, and seemed to prefer to resort to these fabulous times in the physical history of the world,”*

• When we read these humble acknowledgments of some of the greatest naturalists respecting their knowledge, or rather ignorance, of the former states of the earth, and especially of the history of the creation, we cannot forbear to wonder, that a theologian,-a layman in natural science,--should rush on so boldly in the attempt to confute Moses by Geology. Dr. Bretschneider knows peither what natural history has done, nor what it can do, if he supposes that in its present state it can give any certain disclosures respecting the history of the creation. Does it understand even the work of preservation,--the daily production of men, animals, and plants? The greatest zoologist of our times, Cuvier, confesses, that the origination of organic being is the greatest mystery in the household of nature, into which mortal spirit has never been able as yet to penetrate. We see only that which is already formed, never the first formation itself ... The deepest investigations have never as yet unveiled the mystery of

* « Essai geognostique sur le gisement des roches,” by Humboldt,

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

the origin of being." If then the greatest naturalist must humbly confess, that what lies before his eyes, indeed his own origin, is the deepest mystery, (“who knows whence he came,") -shall we imagine ourselves capable of understanding how the heavens and the earth were formed in the beginning ?“ Where wast thou, when I formed the earth; tell me, if thou art so wiee ? "

• But some one may ask, (and a Christian divine ought to be the first one to ask such a question,) Have there been no results from these diligent geological inquiries which agree with the Bible? Yes, we respond; exactly those geological facts which are most certainly and indubitably established agree with the Bible. It is by facts of this nature, that the flood is proved. Upon this geological certainty of a flood, Brogniart founds the two principal divisions in his book which has been already cited. The first comprises the present, as he calls it postdiluvian world; the second, the former, or antediluvian period. Buckland's excellent work, "Reliquiæ diluviance," which obtained a prize from the royal society in London, follows, as its title implies, the Mosaic narrative of the flood, and in a most admirable manner places this great catastrophe before our minds by a multitude of observations made with great diligence, and combined together soberly, and without any unnatural force.


e rejoice in these clear results of Geology agreeing with the Bible. And no geological facts can be pointed out, which in themselves, contradict the Bible f. An apparent contradiction can result only from immature hypotheses built precipitantly upon premises wholly unable to support them. It was this precipitancy which gave birth to those innumerable geological systems of which Cuvier speaks, as we have seen. We must thoroughly understand the account of Moses, and also the mountains of the earth, before we shall be able to compare them with each other. But as Buckland well remarks, " thorough geological investigations lead back to the Holy Scriptures, while superficial investigations lead from them.”

* Cuvier's “ Animal Kingdom."

† As, for example, the appearance of Fossils.--As the geologists now connect the Volcanic with the Neptunian theory, there is no possibility of fixing the epochs of formation, with any tolerable degree of probability. One example may suffice to show this. Brogniart, in the work before cited, considers Granite as a body sometimes projected, sometimes precipitated. Suppose a granite summit, to project above a layer of clay, which encircles it. If it is regarded as precipitated, it is older than the layer of clay covering it, and cast upon it. If it is regarded as projected, it is more recent than the layer of clay which covers it, and through which it broke forth from beneath. The ambiguity, and arbitrariness of the geological interpretation is clear. I mention this in reference to Dr. Bretschneider's “ indefinite, but long epochs of formation.”


[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

· The second alledged opponent of the Bible, according to Bretschneider, is Astronomy. He says (p: 70,)

66 It was this exalted science which first made a fatal assault upon the notions of antiquity respecting heaven, earth, hell, resurrection, judgement, and the end of the world, which still remained unaltered at the time of the Reformation. Whereas,” he says (p. 73,)“ the ancients felt a necessity of having an under world for the souls of the deceased, because they could neither leave them upon the surface of the earth, nor transport them to heaven; this necessity ceased now to be felt any longer. Indeed the whole notion of an under world and a hell, was destroyed by Astronomy and Geology, and with it all the traditionary notions about the punishments of the damned. With the loss of the old belief about heaven and hell, the Devil also, with the Evil spirits, lost his place as a fallen angel, banished from heaven. The idea, too, of Christ's descent to hell became very troublesome to theologians, after the under world had been taken from them." It now became a question with our theologians, where the soul of Christ was, while his body lay in the grave.” This seems then to imply the thought, that Christ was only apparently dead.

The reader will perceive that Bretschneider understands the art of drawing consequences. Were the premises only true, the conclusion would certainly be so. The premises are, that the notion of an under world is destroyed by Astronomy and Geology. But what does the Astronomer or the Geologist know of the interior of the earth ? I must refer again to what has been said before, that the depth to which the miner has penetrated, may be compared with the scratch of a needle on the varnish of a common globe. Can the texts, Eph. iv. 9, and 1 Pet. iii. 19, 20, be so easily set aside ?

• But how comes it to pass, every intelligent reader will be ready to inquire, that these inconsistencies between the Copernican system and the Bible, if they really exist, have been unobserved during nearly three centuries ? The three great heroes of Astronomy, Copernicus, Keppler, and Newton, were certainly Christian believers, and any thing but indifferent to such contradictions. Newton's firm and pious adherence to the Bible is too well known, to make it necessary for me to dwell upon it here. His work on Chronology is based upon the Bible. This man, whom his age admired as its greatest genius, wrote a commentary on the Prophet Daniel and the Apocalypse. Hence may infer (a majori ad minus), what was the degree of his orthodoxy.

" What Keppler thought of the apparent contradictions between the Bible and the system of Copernicus, appears from the


« AnteriorContinuar »