Imágenes de página

The interpretation here proposed seems moreover to solve the difficulty, which would otherwise attend the statement of the appearance of light upon the first day, whilst the sun and moon and stars are not made to appear until the fourth. If we suppose all the heavenly bodies, and the earth to have been created at the indefinitely distant time, designated by the word beginning, and that the darkness described on the evening of the first day, was a temporary darkness, produced by an accumulation of dense vapours "upon the face of the deep;" an incipient dispersion of these vapours may have readmitted light to the earth, upon the first day, whilst the exciting cause of light was still obscured; and the farther purfication of the atmosphere, upon the fourth day may have caused the sun and moon and stars to reappear in the firmament of heaven, to assume their new relations to the newly modified earth, and to the human race.*

possibly be conceived by the mind of man. No assignable quantity of successive duration bears any proportion to eternity, and though we should suppose the corporeal universe to have been created six millions or six hundred millions of years ago, a caviller might still say, and with equal reason, that the glory of Almighty God manifested in his works cannot be so limited. It is not to silence such objections as this, that I have admitted the existence of a former earth and visible heavens to be not inconsistent with the cosmogony of Moses, or indeed with any other part of scripture, but only to prevent the faith of the pious reader from being unsettled by the discoveries, whether real or pretended, of our modern geologists. If these philosophers have really discovered fossil bones that must have belonged to species and genera of animals, which now no where exist, either on the earth or in the ocean, and if the destruction of these genera or species cannot be accounted for by the general deluge, or any other catastrophe to which we know, from authentic history, that our globe has been actually subjected, or if it be a fact, that towards the surface of the earth are found strata, which could not have been so disposed as they are, but by the sea, or at least some watery mass remaining over them in a state of tranquillity, for a much longer period than the duration of Noah's flood; if these things be indeed well ascertained, of which I am however by no means convinced, there is nothing in the sacred writings forbidding us to suppose that they are the ruins of a former earth, deposited in the chaotic mass of which Moses informed us that God formed the present system. His history, as far as it comes down, is the history of the present earth, and of the primeval ancestors of its present inhabitants; and one of the most scientific and ingenious of geologists has clearly proved,* that the human race cannot be much more ancient than it appears to be in the writings of the Hebrew lawgiver."—Stachhouse's Bible, by Bishop Gleig, p, 6, 7, 1816.

* Bee Cuvier's Essay on the Theory of the Earth.

We have evidence of the presence of light during long and distant periods of time, in which the many extinct fossil forms of animal life succeeded one another upon the early surface of the globe: this evidence consists in the petrified remains of eyes of animals, found in geological formations of various ages. In a future chapter I shall show, that the eyes of Trilobites, which are preserved in strata of the transition formation, (PL 45, Figs. 9, 10, 11,) were constructed in a manner so closely resembling those of existing Crustacea; and that the eyes of Ichthyosauri, in the lias, (PL 10, Figs. 1,2,) contained an apparatus, so like one in the eyes of many living reptiles and birds, as to leave no doubt that these fossil eyes were optical instruments, calculated to receive, in the same manner, impressions of the same light, which conveys the perception of sight to living animals. This conclusion is farther confirmed -by the general fact, that the heads of all fossil fishes and fossil reptiles, in every geological formation, are furnished with cavities for the reception of eyes, and with perforations for the passage of optic nerves, although the cases are rare, in which any part of the eye itself has been preserved. The influence of light is also so necessary to the growth of existing vegetables, that we cannot but infer, that it was equally essential to the development of the numerous fossil species of the vegetable kingdom, which are coextensive and coeval with the remains of fossil animals.

* See Note, p, 30.

It appears highly probable from recent discoveries,* that light is not a material substance, but only an effect of undulations of ether; that this infinitely subtle and elastic ether pervades all space, and even the interior of all bodies; so long as it remains at rest, there is total darkness; when it is put into a peculiar state of vibration, the sensation of light is produced : this vibration may be excited by various causes; e. g. by the sun, by the stars, by electricity, combustion, &c. If then light be not a substance, but only a series of vibrations of ether, i. e. an effect produced on a subtile fluid, by the excitement of one or many extraneous causes, it can hardly be said, nor is it said, in Gen. i. 3, to have been created,^ though it may be literally said to be called into action.

Lastly, in the reference made in the Fourth Commandment, Exod. xx. 11, to the six days of the Mosaic creation, the word asah, "made," is the same which is used in Gen. i. 7, and Gen. i. 16, and which has been shown to be less strong and less comprehensive than bara, "created;" and as it by no means necessarily implies creation out of nothing, it may be here employed to express a new arrangement of materials that existed before. J

After all, it should be recollected that the question is not respecting the correctness of the Mosaic narrative, but of our interpretation of it; and still farther, it should be borne in mind that the object of this account was not to state in what manner but by whom, the world was made. As the prevailing tendency of men in those early days was to worship the most glorious objects of nature, namely, the sun and moon and stars; it should seem to have been one 'important point in the Mosaic account of creation, to guard the Israelites against the Polytheism and idolatry of the nations around them; by announcing that all these magnificient celestial bodies were no Gods, but the works of One Almighty Creator, to whom alone the worship of mankind is due.*

* For a general statement of the undulatory theory of light, see Sir John Herschell, art. Light, part iii. sec. 2. Encyc. Metropol. See also Professor Airy's Mathematical Tracts, 2d edit. 1831, p. 249; and Mrs. Somervillc's Connexion of the Physical Sciences, 1834, p. 185.

f See Note, p. 30.

J See Note, p. 27.

* Having thus far ventured to enter into a series of explanations, which I think will reconcile even the letter of the text of Genesis with the phenomena of Geology, I forbear to say more on this important subject, and have much satisfaction in being able to refer my readers to some admirable articles in the Christian Observer (May, June, July, August, 1834) for a very able and comprehensive summary of the present state of this question ; explaining the difficulties with which it is surrounded, and offering many temperate and judicious suggestions, as to the spirit in which investigations of this kind ought to be conducted. I would also refer to Bishop Horsley's Sermons, 8vo. 1816, vol. iii. ser. 39; to Bishop Bird Sumner's Records of Creation, vol. ii. p. 356; Douglas's Errors regarding Religion, 1830, p. 261-264, Higgins on the Mosaical and Mineral Geologies, 1832; and more especially to Professor Sedwick's eloquent and admirable discourse on the Studies of the University of Cambridge, 1833, in which he has most ably pointed out the relations which Geology bears to natural religion, and thus sums up his valuable opinion as to the kind of information we ought to look for in the Bible: "The Bible instructs us that man and other living things, have been placed but a few years upon the earth; and the physical monuments of the world bear witness to the same truth: if the astronomer tells us of myriads of worlds not spoken of in the sacred records; the geologist, in like manner, proves (not by arguments from analogy, but by the incontrovertible evidence of physical phenomena) that there were former conditions of our planet separated from each other by vast intervals of time, during which man and the other creatures of his own date, had not been called into being. Periods such as these belong not, therefore, to the moral history of our race, and come neither within the letter nor the spirit of revelation. Between the first creation of the earth and that day in which it pleased God to place man upon it, who shall dare to define the interval? On this question scripture is silent, but that silence destroys not the meaning of those physical monuments of his power that God has put before our eyes, giving us at the same time faculties whereby we may interpret them and comprehend their meaning."


Proper Subjects of Geological Inquiry.

The history of the earth forms a large and complex subject of inquiry, divisible at its outset, into two distinct branches; the first, comprehending the history of unorganized mineral matter, and of the various changes through which it has advanced, from the creation' of its component elements to its actual condition; the second, embracing the past history of the animal and vegetable kingdoms, and the successive modifications which these two great departments of nature have undergone, during the chemical and mechanical operations that have affected the surface of our planet. As the study of both these branches forms the subject of the science of Geology, it is no less important to examine the nature and action of the physical forces, that have affected unorganized mineral bodies, than to investigate the laws of life, and varied conditions of organization, that prevailed while the crust of our globe was in process of formation.

Before we enter on the history of fossil animals and vegetables, we must therefore first briefly review the progressive stages of mineral formations; and see how far we can discover in the chemical constitution, and mechanical arrangement of the materials of the earth, proofs of general prospective adaptation to the economy of animal and vegetable life.

As far as our planet is concerned, the first act of creation

seems to have consisted in giving origin to the elements of

the material world. These inorganic elements appear to

have received no subsequent addition to their number, and

Vol. i.—4

« AnteriorContinuar »