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Three important subjects, of inquiry in Natural Theology come under consideration in the present Treatise.
The first regards the inorganic Elements of the Mineral Kingdom, and the actual dispositions of the Materials of the Earth: many of these, although produced or modified by the agency of violent and disturbing forces,, afford abundant proofs of wise and provident Intention, in their adaptations to the uses of the Vegetable and Animal Kingdoms, and especially to the condition of Man.
The second relates to the Theories which have been entertained respecting the Origin of the World; and the derivation of existing systems of organic Life, by an eternal succession, from preceding individuals of the same species; or by gradual transmutation of one species into another. I have endeavoured to show, that to all these Theories the phenomena of Geology are decidedly opposed.
The third extends into the Organic Remains of a former World the same kind of investigation, which Paley has pursued with so much success in his examination of the evidences of Design in the mechanical structure of the corporeal frame, of Man, and of the inferior Animals which are placed with him on the present surface of the Earth.
The myriads of petrified Remains which are disclosed by the researches of Geology all tend to prove, that our Planet has been occupied in times preceding the Creation of the Human Race, by extinct species of Animals and Vegetables, made up, like living Organic Bodies, of "Clusters of Contrivances," which demonstrate the exercise of stupendous Intelligence and Power. They farther show that these extinct forms of Organic Life were so closely allied, by Unity in the principles of their construction, to Classes, Orders, and Families, which make up the existing Animal and Vegetable Kingdoms, that they not only afford an argument of surpassing force, against the doctrines of the Atheist and Polytheist; but supply a chain of connected evidence, amounting to demonstration, of the continuous Being, and of many of the highest Attributes of the One Living and True God.
A friend has this day suggested tome, that expressions are used in certain parts of this Treatise, which some persons consider as speaking too confidently respecting Physical Phenomena, as if they could not have been otherwise disposed, had such been the will of the Creator; or which seem to imply that His method of proceeding under former systems, must of necessity have been the same as those which we witness in the growth of living species of Animals and Vegetables, and in the laws that now regulate the material World. I am not conscious of having used any such expressions, but lest I should have inadvertently done so, I gladly take this opportunity of stating, that I accord to the fullest extent with such persons respecting the Omnipotence of the Creator, and admit with them, that had it been his pleasure, all things that exist might have been the immediate results of an Almighty, fiat. My only endeavour has been to show, that as far as we may venture to argue on such a subject, from the analogies afforded by the organic and inorganic parts of the world around us, the proofs of design which we discover in the fossil relics of former systems of Creation, differ in no respect from those drawn by Paley and all writers on Physico Theology, from the structure of living organic bodies, and the other actual phenomena of the natural World, in evidence of the Wisdom and Power, and Goodness of the Deity.
Oxford, April 4, 1837.
The scientific Header will feel that much value has been added to the present work, from the whole of the Palaeontology, during its progress through the Press, having had the great advantage of passing under the revision of Mr. Broderip, and from the botanical part having been submitted to Mr. Robert Brown. I have also to acknowledge my obligations to Mr. Clift for his important assistance in the anatomy of the Megatherium; to Professor Agassiz of Neuchatel for his unreserved communications of his discoveries relating to Fossil Fishes; to Mr. Owen for his revision of some parts of my Chapter on Mollusks; and to Mr. James Sowerby for his assistance in engraving most of my figures of radiated animals, and some of those of Mollusks.
To all these Gentlemen I feel it my duty thus to offer my public acknowledgements.
Many obligations to other scientific friends arc also acknowledged in the course of the work.
The Wood-cuts have been executed by Mr. Fisher and Mr. Byfield. and most of the Steel plates of Mollusks by Mr. Zeitter.
The series of Treatises, of which the present is one, is published under the following circumstances:
The Right Honourable and Reverend Francis Henry, Earl of BridgeWater, died in the month of February, 1829; and by his last Will and Testament, bearing date the 25th of February, 1825, he directed certain Trustees therein named to invest in the public funds the sum of Eight thousand pounds sterling ; this sum, with the accruing dividends thereon, to be held at the disposal of the President, for the time being, of the Royal Society of London, to be paid to the person or persons nominated by him. The Testator farther directed, that the person or persons selected by the said President'should be appointed to write, print, and publish one thousand copies of a work On the Power, Wisdom and Goodness of God, as manifested in the Creation; illustrating such work by all reasonable arguments, as for instance, the variety and formation of God's creatures in the animal, vegetable, and mineral kingdoms; the effectof digestion and thereby of conversion ; the construction of the hand of man, and an infinite variety of other arguments; as also by discoveries ancient and modern, in arts, sciences, and the whole extent of literature. He desired, moreover, that the profits arising from the sale of the works so published should be paid to the authors of the works.
The late President of the Royal Society, Davies Gilbert, Esq., requested the assistance of his Grace the Archbishop of Canterbury and of the Bishop of London, in determining upon the best mode of carrying into effect the intentions of the Testator. Acting with their advice, and with the concurrence of a nobleman immediately connected with the deceased, Mr. Davies Gilbert appointed the following eight gentlemen to write separate Treatises on the different branches of the subject here stated:
THE REV. THOMAS CHALMERS, D. D.
Professor or Divinity In The University Op Edinburgh, On The Power, Wisdom And Goodness Of God As Manifested In The AdaptaTion Of External Nature To The Moral And Intellectual ConstituTion OF MAN.