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such a revelation might have stopped, without imperfections of omission, less in degree, but similar in kind, to that which they impute to the existing narrative of Moses 1 A revelation of so much only of astronomy, as was known to Copernicus, would have seemed imperfect after the discoveries of Newton; and a revelation of the science of Newton would have appeared defective to La Place: a revelation of all the chemical knowledge of the eighteenth century would have been as deficient in comparison with the information of the present day, as what is now known in this science will probably appear before the termination of another age; in the whole circle of sciences, there is not one to which this argument may not be extended, until we should require from revelation a full development of all the mysterious agencies that uphold the mechanism of the material world. Such a revelation might indeed be suited to beings of a more exalted order than mankind, and the attainment of such knowledge of the works as well as of the ways of God, may perhaps form some part of our happiness in a future state; but unless human nature had been constituted otherwise than it is, the above supposed communication of Omniscience would have been imparted to creatures, utterly incapable of receiving it, under any past or present moral or physical condition of the human race; and would have been also at variance with the design of all God's other disclosures of himself, the end of which has uniformly been, not to impart intellectual but moral knowledge.
Several hypotheses have been proposed, with a view of reconciling the phenomena of Geology, with the brief account of creation which we find in the Mosaic narrative. Some have attempted to ascribe the formation of all the stratified rocks to the effects of the Mosaic Deluge; an opinion which is irreconcileable with the enormous thickness and almost infinite subdivisions of these strata, and with the numerous and regular successions which they contain of the remains of animals and vegetables, differing more and more widely from existing species, as the strata in which we find them are older, or placed at greater depths. The fact that a large proportion of these remains belong to extinct genera, and almost all of them to extinct species, that lived and multiplied and died on or near the spots where they are now found, shows that the strata in which they occur were deposited slowly and gradually, during long periods of time, and at widely distant intervals. These extinct animals and vegetables could therefore have formed no part of the creation with which we are immediately connected.
It has been supposed by others, that these strata were formed at the bottom of the sea, during the interval between the creation of man and the Mosaic Deluge; and that, at the time of that deluge, portions of the globe which had been previously elevated above the level of the sea, and formed the antediluvian continents, were suddenly submerged; while the ancient bed of the ocean rose to supply their place. To this hypothesis also, the facts I shall subsequently advance offer insuperable objections.
A third opinion has been suggested, both by learned theologians and by geologists, and on grounds independent of one another; viz. that the Days of the Mosaic creation need not be understood to imply the same length of time which is now occupied by a single revolution of the globe; but successive periods, each of great extent: and it has been asserted that the order of succession of the organic remains of a former world, accords with the order of creation recorded in Genesis. This assertion, though to a certain degree apparently correct, it is not entirely supported by geological facts; since it appears that the most ancient marine animals occur in the same division of the lowest transition strata with the earliest remains of vegetables; so that the evidence of organic remains, as far as it goes, shows the origin of these extinct species of plants and animals to have been contemporaneous: if any creation of vegetables preceded that of these most ancient animals, no evidence of such an event has yet been discovered by the researches of geology. Still there is, I believe, no sound critical, or theological objection, to the interpretation of the word "day," as meaning a long period; but there will be no necessity for such extension, in order to reconcile the text of Genesis with physical appearances, if it can be shown that the time indicated by the phenomena of Geology* may be found in the undefined interval, following the announcement of the first verse.
In my inaugural lecture, published at Oxford, 1820, pp. 31, 32,1 have stated my opinion in favour of the hypothesis, "which supposes the word ' beginning,' as applied by Moses in the first verse of the book of Genesis, to express an undefined period of time, which was antecedent to the last great change that affected the surface of the earth, and to the creation of its present animal and vegetable inhabitants; during which period a long series of operations and revolutions may have been going on; which, as they are wholly unconnected with the history of the human race, are passed over in silence by the sacred historian, whose only concern with them was barely to state, that the matter of the universe is not eternal and self-existent, but was originally created by the power of the Almighty."
I have great satisfaction in finding that the view of this subject, which I have here expressed, and have long enter
• A very interesting treatise on the Consistency of Geology with Sacred History has recently been published at Newhaven, 1833, by Professor Silliman, as a supplement to an American edition of Bakewell's Geology, 1833. The author contends that the period alluded to in the first verse of Genesis, "In the beginning," is not necessarily connected with the first day, and that it may be regarded as standing by itself, and admitting of any extension backward in time which the facts may seem to require.
He is farther disposed to consider the six days of creation as periods of time of indefinite length, and that the word "day " is not of necessity limited to twenty-four hours. VOL. I.—3
tained, is in perfect accordance with the highly valuable opinion of Dr. Chalmers, recorded in the following passages of his Evidence of the Christian Revelation, chap, vii.:— "Does Moses ever say, that when God created the heavens and the earth, he did more, at the time alluded to, than transform them out of previously existing materials? Or does he ever say that there was not an interval of many ages between the first act of creation described in the first verse of the book of Genesis, and said to have been performed at the beginning, and those more detailed operations, the account of which commences at the second verse, and which are described to us as having been performed in so many days? Or, finally, does he ever make us to understand that the genealogies of man went any farther than to fix the antiquity of the species, and, of consequence, that they left the antiquity of the globe a free subject for the speculation of philosophers V
It has long been matter of discussion among learned theologians, whether the first verse of Genesis should be considered prospectively, as containing a summary announcement of that new creation, the details of which follow in the record of the operations of the six successive days: or as an abstract statement that the heaven and earth were made by God, without limiting the period when that creative agency was exerted. The latter of these opinions is in perfect harmony with the discoveries of Geology.
The Mosaic narrative commences with a declaration that "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth." These first few words of Genesis may be fairly appealed to by the geologist, as containing a brief statement of the creation of the material elements, at a time distinctly preceding the operations of the first day: it is no where affirmed that God created the heaven and the earth in the first day, but in the beginning; this beginning may have been an epoch at an unmeasured distance, followed by periods of undefined duration, during which all the physical operations disclosed by Geology were going on.
The first verse of Genesis, therefore, seems explicitly to assert the creation of the Universe; " the heaven," including the sidereal systems;* "and the earth," more especially specifying our own planet, as the subsequent scene of the operations of the six days about to be described: no information is given as to events which may have occurred upon this earth, unconnected with the history of man, between the creation of its component matter recorded in the first verse, and the era at which its history is resumed in the second verse; nor is any limit fixed to the time during which these intermediate events may have been going on: millions of millions of years may have occupied the indefinite interval, between the beginning in which God created the heaven and the earth, and the evening or commencement of the first day of the Mosaic narrative.f
* The Hebrew plural word, shamaim, Gen. i. 1, translated heaven, means ctymologically, the higher regions, all that seems above the earth: as we say, God above, God on high, God in heaven; meaning thereby to express the presence of the Deity in space distinct from this earth.— E. B. Pusey.
t I have much satisfaction in subjoining the following note by my friend, the Regius Professor of Hebrew in Oxford, as it enables ine to advance the very important sanction of Hebrew criticism, in support of the interpretations, by which we may reconcile the apparent difficulties arising from geological phenomena with the literal interpretation of the first chapter of Genesis.—" Two opposite errors have, I think, been committed by critics, with regard to the meaning of the wrod bara, created; the one, by those who asserted that it must in itself signify "created out of nothing;" the other, by those who endeavoured by aid of etymology, to show that it must in itself signify "formation out of existing matter." In fact, neither is the case; nor am I aware of any language in which there is a word signifying necessarily " created out of nothing;" as of course, on the other hand, no word, when used of the agency of God would, in itself, imply the previous existence of matter. Thus the English word, create, by which tiara is translated, expresses that the thing created received its existence from God, without in itself implying whether God called that thing into existence out of nothing, or no; for our very addition of the words " out of nothing," shows that the word creation has not, in itself, that force: nor indeed, when we speak of ourselves as