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been? To reason thus, is to throw away the only means of reasoning; it is to attempt exploring a Cretan labyrinth without the Dædalian wing; to navigate a stormy and unknown ocean "chartless, and starless, and with compass gone.” Weak, and worse than wicked, speculations of an imaginary nature on the “ fiat” of Omnipotence are surely beneath the indulgence of men, who would instruct the ignorant and unfold to the gaze of the foolish the hidden mysteries of Almighty power. There is nothing in the first chapter of Genesis contrary to reason, though much beyond our present knowledge: and to doubt what we cannot explain, according to our pre-conceived notions of philosophy, is to resign the character which the sceptic vainly endeavours to arrogate unto himself. Whether the six days of creation be ordinary days, of which we know and feel the brevity; or days of ages, in which “ a thousand years is as one day"-what are we the wiser-what are we the better—for attempting to discover? God could, if he had pleased, have never set a sun in the “ firmament of heaven," nor have given that sun of reason to enlighten the intellect, which too often suffers a more dark eclipse than its day-dividing type. Such, however, is not to be considered a general error with geologists. There are those who have contented themselves with reading as much of the book of nature as they understand, and no more : and such men are more worthy of attention than the soaring rhapsodist who pretends that he has passed the “flammantia monia mundi,” and gazed on the mind of the Creator at its work of wonder.
There is, however, sufficient which may be understood to convince us of the two facts which Moses has stated. Most men acknowledge that the earth did begin to be “in the beginning :” and geology has proved, by an examination of our gravel beds,* that, whether Moses had told us so or not, whether there was evidence of such a fact or not in the wild traditions of the heathen-at one time or another, “ the waters.” Must Have “prevailed exceedingly upon the earth ;" and that “ all the high hills that were under the whole heaven" must HAVE BEEN “ covered.” There is not a pebble lying in the path of the sceptic, which would not teach him this truth, if he would search out whence that pebble was broken, and how it was rounded. Geology, therefore, besides doing away with the ridiculous absurdity which Linnæus expressed in his famous climax, “ Lapides crescunt," &c., proving that stones, if they alter at all, must be diminished
* If geology had done no other service to the world than this, it had done enough to deserve immortal honour; and to Dr. Buckland, as pioneer in the ranks of that science, we cannot assign sufficient praise for his patience, industry, and zeal. He has shewn, that, though we may have no mountains to ascend, or unknown valleys to explore, we have, in the debris with which we strew our garden walks, or mend our highways, more interesting matter for inquiry and thought to exercise themselves upon, than many of the students in the more magnificent fields of nature.
instead of increased by length of years, has taught us another lesson, that “ Wisdom crieth in the streets," as Solomon says, and that man regardeth her not. If Moses had never told us, that God destroyed the earth with a flood, for the wickedness of men,* geology would convince us, that the earth had been destroyed, and by a flood. But this is not enough for the sceptic; he, forsooth, must be taught, or he believes nothing, how the flood was brought about; whether by “the great deep” which was broken up, we are to understand a reservoir outpouring its contents, or the simple operation of the ocean disgorged from its bed by a supernatural cause.t. However interesting such questions may be, when considered philosophically (and no true philosopher discards the only book likely to assist his inquiries), when fanciful and extravagant thories are built upon them, it is time that the restraining hand of common sense should put a rein on the imagination of their authors.
None of our physical records are better fitted to inculcate humility (says Dr. Ure) than the geological systems of the 18th century. They exhibit the human mind, in gesture proudly eminent, but yet the perpetual dupe of phantasms as extravagant and unreal as the prodigies of oriental fiction. –P. xx.
At different times within the last few years different authors have risen, with a zeal, perhaps, greater than their judgment, to overthrow these fairy fabrics of mental inconsistency, but they have principally failed because they wrote too generally. It must not be imagined that because geology improperly pursued, or hastily taken up, has given occasion to sceptical notions, that, consequently, I every geologist is necessarily a sceptic; but this appears to have been the idea of
• We really believe that in these words lies the root of the difficulty. Had Moses said nothing about the cause of the flood, sceptics might have believed it. It is well known, how Voltaire endeavoured to convince the world, that the petrifactions found in Italy were the fish left there by pilgrims, and which had been hardened into stone in the course of a few years; and it is not long since, that the writer of this note heard an Essay read at a “ Philosophical Society," which ended by asserting, that God did not destroy the world by the flood in wrath, but in MERCY!!!
+ It is, to venture an opinion somewhat speculative, in our turn, more likely that the flood was brought about by volcanic action melting the ices at the poles, &c. We have said nothing of volcanic action in this paper: if we had, we must have entered upon various points of inquiry somewhat foreign to our present undertaking, though not uninteresting to the student who reads of the “smoke of the burning of the great city," and hears of earthquakes and volcanic flames in the vicinity of that spot which inany Roman Catholics and most Protestants believe to bear the foundations of “ Babylon the Great:"— we could speak of Albano and its threatenings of fire, till our readers should think our hint no chimera. Moreover, volcanoes would supply us with thoughts of that great and depicted event which is to consume the world by fire, without feeling a necessity to call in a comet to our aid.
I That this notion is prevalent, may be learned by the fact, that not many weeks since we received a letter containing a request, that we would refute this notion in our pages; since the writer had been asked by a friend, whether Geology was not almost synonymous with scepticism? and had been told so by many others, persons of intelligence and talent. It is not unlikely Mr. Bugg's “Scriptural Geology" may have done harm in this way, alarming without pacifying.
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Mr. Bugg, who, in his “ Scriptural Geology,” has laid about him right and left, as if he were the avenger of Scripture, and cared not what he said about geologists, so that he vindicated the Sacred Writings from what he imagines to be affronts offered to them. Perfectly misunderstanding the value, as well as the errors of geology, he has confounded right with wrong, and wrong with right, and has increased the confusion which he, doubtless, intended to clear up. His labours, therefore, though praise-worthy in purpose, are useless in execution, Had he written less obstinately, he would have written more effectively; for a greater error in criticism cannot exist than the pushing of a point too far. Great reasoners always stop short of their argument. Paley never ventured to the extent of his conclusions- and Euclid loved to prove his demonstrations by the argumentum à fortiori. Next to Bugg, Mr. Granville Penn, in his “Geologies Compared," &c. ranks as a defender of Scripture: scholar and gentleman as he is, he has written like a scholar and a gentleman; but his book is imperfect, because he has argued, like his opponents, frequently by conjecture,
Dr. Ure, in the work immediately under consideration, is the most recent of those who have attempted, on the principles of sound ratiocination, to reconcile “the revolutions of the earth” “ to modern science and sacred history.” We have said before, we consider the author to have fulfilled in great part the promise of his title-page; and we are persuaded that our readers will agree with us in our opinion, if they will peruse the pleasing and instructive Introduction to the body of the work, wherein, in a tone of philosophical independence, he has canvassed the opinions of the great geological theorists, and stated his objects with great clearness and precision. After having spoken, in a quotation from Alison, of the end to which all knowledge should be employed, viz. to illustrate the wisdom or the goodness of the Father of nature; our author thus observes:
Negligent of these truths, it has become the fashion with several systematists to obliterate from their transcript of Nature, those traces of creative design which have been inscribed on every page of the original, for the delight and elevation of the student's mind. This is a deed of singular demerit, derogatory at once from the well-being of man, and the glory of God. Should the harmonious co-operation of the elemental powers, light, heat, and electricity, towards their manifold subjects, solid, liquid, and aeriform, be contemplated as the preconcerted wisdom of Heaven, this idea is scouted as fanatical. Åre Final causes, or the purposes of individual being, no longer to be sought after soberly in physics, because, forsooth, in the infancy of science, phantasms were taken for realities in this delicate research? The same rule should make us renounce every scientific inference; because, in one shape or another, it may have been absurdly drawn before. Final causes, the conditions of existence, or the correlation of parts and functions, constitute the unceasing study of the genuine naturalist, who investigates the principles of organic life. Because Galen, in his treatise de Usu Partium has given unfounded fancies for final causes, is Cuvier to be denounced for inferring the shape and size of an unknown animal, its tribe, genus, and species, whether living or extinct, from a single fossil bone?
In fact, final causes, or the mutual uses and subserviency of parts, are his sole guides in this intricate labyrinth.
We readily admit that the time has not arrived, and may perhaps be still far distant, when the experimental philosopher may safely employ final causes as the leading clue in his inquiries. In the history of ancient, and the early periods of modern physics, final causes were often assigned, before the proximate or operative causes had been explained, or perhaps examined. This inversion of inductive logic, need hardly be apprehended from any experimentalist of reputation in the present day. In such circumstances, therefore, the temperate use of final causes may be encouraged, first as serving to arrange several inductions under a general head, but especially as displaying the concerted harmonies of Providence. The outcry against them is one of the countersigns of the sceptical school.—Pp. xliii. xliv.
To analyze, or to quote from, the various topics discussed in this interesting treatise, is impossible:-our limits prohibit it: but our intention will be fulfilled in producing such arguments as may enable those amongst our readers who, perchance, have imbibed incorrect notions on the subject, that geology contains in it nothing which militates against the faith of the Christian; but, on the contrary, that it tends to establish the credibility of the Sacred Volume. We profess not to have made up our minds upon the point which we alluded to above, respecting the length of the demiurgic days; but we feel assured that no sensible person can gather from the indistinctness of the statement in the Bible any thing to perplex, or to destroy his credence of the facts asserted. We are, therefore, content to see by faith that which we cannot, at present, otherwise understand. Still, to shew what can be said upon the simplest construction of the passages in dispute, we produce the comments of Dr. Ure:
Many speculative writers have considered the record of Moses as referring merely to the origin of the human race, without at all defining the epoch at which either the earth or the system of the world was made. This opinion seems quite incompatible with the direct and obvious meaning of his narrative of Creation. The demiurgic week, as it is called, is manifestly composed of six working days like our own, and a day of rest, each of equal length, and therefore containing an evening and a morning, measured by a rotation of the earth round its axis. That this rotation did, at no former period, differ materially in duration from the present length, has been shown by Laplace in his Systême du Monde. Hence it is to be regretted that any commentators of Scripture, misled by fancied necessity of certain geological schemes of stratiform superposition, should have vexed themselves and their readers, in torturing the Hebrew words for day, and evening and morning, into many mystical renderings. That Moses attached no such vague meaning to the creative days in Genesis, is evident from the language of the fourth commandment in Exodus: “ Six days shalt thou labour and do all thy work, but the seventh is the sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work . . . for in six days the Lord made Heaven and Earth, the sea and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath-day, and hallowed it.” Here, as every where else, the Bible is its best interpreter, and will always enable any man of common sense and unbiassed judgment to arrive at a satisfactory conclusion, while the dupe of critical refinement is stumbling in a labyrinth of Hebrew roots.
We may, moreover, ask why we should claim in behalf of our globe, a more ancient origin than that assigned by the inspired chronologist? Will its rank, dignity, and importance, be enhanced by a remote genealogy? Is this a taint of the pride of ancestry, common to the whole family of man? But how can it be safely gratified? Even lynx-eyed science can pierce the dark veil of creation no further than common vision. Her telescopic glasses, which pierce farthest into space, have no time-penetrating power whatsoever.- Pp. 10-12.
I have no doubt, that by many it will be deemed the conception of a narrow mind, to limit the origin of our earth to so modern an epoch. But if it was formed for the dwelling place of Man, what use is there for imagining a more distant beginning? Why build a mansion in the wilderness of space, long ere tenants are prepared to occupy it? Nor are we warranted in ascribing an earlier date to the celestial orbs; for the heavens and the earth were the offspring of one creative mandate. And what advantage do Philosophers hope to gain, by going back a million of ages? Even then they are at an era equally recent, compared with Him who is from everlasting to everlasting, for with the eternity of us Being, all revolving time is incommensurable. Though the existence of spiritual intelligences prior to the formation of Man, seems to be suggested in Scripture, yet of material pre-existence, no indication is given. It appears, therefore, that neither Reason nor Revelation will justify us in extending the origin of the material system, beyond 6000 years from our own days. The world then received its substance, form, and motions, from the volition of the Omnipotent.
Assuredly, no rational creature can carry its thoughts, without a profound sentiment of dismay and self-annihilation, into that infinity of time and space which was occupied by Deity alone. Can Philosophy tranquillize the sout, in doubt, whether this appalling solitude shall not return? No indeed. But the Faith of Jesus Christ, founded on his Resurrection, gives his followers the assurance, that the future infinity will be of a different character from the past; for in it, the self-existing Jehovah will live in fellowship with the spirits of just men made perfect. Pp. 14, 15.
We cannot extract the many beautiful passages respecting the theory of light, and the atmosphere, from want of space; but shall now state what is said about the primeval land and ocean.
Dr. Ure is inclined to consider that the original land bore to the water about a ratio of equality. Newton has demonstrated that the only form compatible with an universal diffusion of waters round a revolving globe, is an oblate spheroid. If the mass be not homogeneous, but composed of strata, which increase in density towards the the centre (which is, as geology infers, the case with our present earth), then the figure which the revolving globe would assume is a less oblate, though still elliptic spheroid—the actual predicament of the globe which we inhabit. The Scriptures also teach us that the original form of the globe was “the regular spheroid, when it lay enveloped in the shoreless deep.” Vide Gen. i. 9. The alteration is supposed to have been the disruption of the surface by the elevation of the originally horizontal, or rather circular, bands of rocky strata into the mountains which diversify the world. The successive creations of vegetable and animal existence are also stated to have been produced by causes which equally agree with the written word, and the unwritten inductions of philosophy.
In Book First we have seen the dry land upheaved out of the circumfluent waters, clothed with vegetation, and stocked with animal life. The primordial mineral strata which we afterwards considered, are void of organic forms.