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- "thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made. And he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made. And God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it; because that in it he had rested from all his work, which God created and made.
"These are the generations of the heavens and of the earth when they were created, in the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens, and every plant and every herb of the field before it grew: for the Lord God had not caused it to rain upon the earth; and there was not a man to till the ground. But there went up a mist from the earth, and watered the whole face of the ground."—Chap. ii. 1-6.
The theory of a previous existence through innumerable ages of the heavens and earth, and the vegetables and animals that are buried in its strata, is thus in as marked antagonism with this part of the history as with the other. We are expressly told that these are the generations; that is, the origins, or modes of the first existence of the heavens and the earth when they were created; and that it was thus, that is in the manner related, that " the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them." No language could more specifically declare that they were all called into being during the six days, or more effectually preclude the supposition of their previous existence. It is as unwarrantable a contradiction of the narrative to assert that plants and animals, the earth itself, and heavens, existed through countless ages before, as it were to assert that man lived through those ages. But geologists admit that man had no existence anterior to the date here assigned to his creation. Why then should they deny that the narrative exhibits the plants and animals also, and the earth itself as then first created? They unquestionably cannot, if governed in their views by the language of the history; and the fact, therefore, that they assert their previous existence, shows that the inspired record of the epoch and method of the creation not only is not the guide of their faith, but is not in reality of any authority with them in the determination of their system. It is accordingly admitted by some among them that this revealed history must be modified and forced to a metaphorical, or perhaps a mythical meaning, in order to remove its contradictions to their theory. It is directly claimed, indeed, that it is to be construed by that theory instead of its own language, in order to render its inspiration credible. While it is held to be true, its truth is equally held to depend on its being susceptible of a construction that admits the supposition of a previous existence of the earth and its vegetable and animal races through an incalculable series of ages. Thus Dr. Buckland:
. "If the suggestions I shall venture to propose, require some modification of the most commonly received and popular interpretation of the Mosaic narrative, this admission neither involves any impeachment of the authenticity of the text, nor of the judgment of those who have formerly interpreted it otherwise, in the absence of information as to facts which have but recently been brought to light; and if in this respect geology should seem to require some little concession from the literal interpretation of Scripture, it may fairly be held to afford ample compensation for this demand, by the large additions it has made to the evidences of natural religion, in a department where revelation was not designed to give information."—Bridg. Treat, p. 14.
It is thus unhesitatingly admitted that in order to exempt it from collision with the theory, the interpretation of the inspired record must be modified, and a meaning assigned it which, before the geological facts that have recently been brought to light were known, could not have been deduced by the laws of philology.*
* That Dr. Buckland penned the passage, however, with but a very inadequate consideration of its import, is apparent from the fancy he advances that such a violation of the narrative could be compensated by an addition to the evidences of natural religion. That an admission that that part of revelation, on the truth of which the veracity of all the rest depends, is shown by geology to be so false, as to make it necessary to put on it a forced and unphilological construction, can be counterbalanced by an addition to the evidences of theism, is truly a very extraordinary solecism, alike in hermeneutics and theology.
Dr. Hitchcock also asserts the necessity of construing the narrative by the facts of geology, in contravention of the laws of language.
"Moses represents the work of creation as completed in the space of six days; whereas the geologist asserts that the formation of the crust of the globe, with its numerous groups of extinct animals and plants, after the original production of the matter of the globe, must have occupied immense periods of time, whose duration we cannot estimate.
"We must decide whether geological facts can ever be permitted, as facts derived from civil history and astronomy are, to modify our interpretation of the sacred record. The Scriptures speak of the rising and setting of the sun; but astronomy shows us that they employ such language in accordance with optical, not physical truth. And the cases are too common to need particularizing, where the interpretation is essentially modified by civil history. Why should there be any question, then, whether geological facts ought to have the same influence in exposition? For so far as it bears on revelation, geology is nothing but a history of the globe anterior, for the most part, to the commencement of civil history. The only reason that has ever been alleged for refusing to use geological facts in this way, is that they are too uncertain. But although true half a century ago, the fundamental facts of this science may now be regarded as resting on as firm a foundation, and to be as well understood, as those of any science not strictly demonstrative. The principles of sound criticism, therefore, demand that they should be admitted equally with civil history and astronomy, as aids in the interpretation of the Bible."—Geology and Revelation, pp. 17, 23, 24.
The construction of the text, therefore, is not only to be modified by the facts of geology, but by his own concession completely reversed. No greater opposites can be conceived, than two representations of the creation, one of which assigns it to a date so distant that immense periods followed whose duration cannot be estimated, and the other fixes its epoch at about six thousand years ago, and exhibits it as accomplished in the space of six days. And what a singular tissue of errors and fallacies are employed to verify this assumption! In the first place, astronomy does not create any necessity of altering the interpretation of passages in which the sun is said to rise and set. No translator of the Bible rejects that form of representation, and substitutes the language in which it would be astronomically expressed. Such a change would be wholly unwarrantable. That description is as true to the senses, as the other is to the scientific intellect. It is not inaccurate, therefore, but expresses in that relation a genuine fact. There are many other forms of expression in which events are described in the same way, and with perfect truth. Thus, to say that one man sees another, expresses an