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The Materials of the Strata, derived from the Interior of the Garth.
The great question in theoretical geology on which the conclusion in regard to the age of the world— founded on the structure of its rocky crust—depends, respects the sources from which the materials of the strata were derived. If they are held to have been such that immeasurable periods were required for their removal and deposition in their present form, then an existence of corresponding length is to be ascribed to the earth. If they are held and shown to have been such that but a brief period was necessary to their transference and arrangement in the positions in which they now lie, then there are no geological grounds for assigning it a longer existence than that which is ascribed to it by the Maker himself in the history he has given us in his word of its creation.
Whatever views, however, may be entertained o* that subject, it will be admitted by all who regard the earth as the work of the All-wise and Almighty Creator, that they were specifically designed by him, and the causes and conditions from which they sprang arranged for the purpose of giving them existence They are not the offspring of chance. They are not the accidental work of causes that might not have acted, or that might have generated a wholly different product, without affecting the end for which they were created. The marks of intelligence and benevolence with which they are everywhere stamped, and the important office they fill in determining the condition of the race, forbid such a supposition. It is by them, in an eminent degree, that the world is fitted to be the residence of such an order of beings as men;—beings that are fallen, that are to be divided into different communities, and subsist under separate governments; that are capable of civilization, of arts, of commerce, and of great advances in knowledge; that are to gain the means of subsistence and comfort by toil and ingenuity; and that are to be placed in a great diversity of conditions, that they may in every possible form act out their natures, and show the moral dispositions with which they are animated towards God and one another. This constitution of the earth has, accordingly, exerted a most decisive influence on their physical, social, and moral condition. It is in a very large degree because its crust is what it is, in the proportion of the land and water; in the form and position of the continents and islands; in the direction and height of mountains; and in the nature and situation of rocks, soils, and minerals, that the life and career of the human family have been what they have; and that the condition of the several branches of which it consists is now what it is, in respect to knowledge, arts, government, and religion. A different arrangement of even a few of its features would have made it in important respects a different world, changed the relations to each other of large portions of its population, given a different direction to their pursuits, generated other empires, and issued in a different history. Had the Alps, for example, instead of separating Italy from France, divided France from Germany, it would have given a different caste to the whole history of ancient and modern Europe. Had the Himalaya, with their lofty table lands, in place of dividing Hindostan from Thibet, been interposed between Germany and Russia, the climate, the productions, and the population would have been essentially changed, and the agency of the different tribes on one another, both in Europe and Central Asia, been altogether unlike what they have been. Had Africa, instead of projecting from Europe to the south, stretched to the west, and joined this continent, it would have given a different turn, in a great degree, to the affairs of the whole world. America might then have been known, perhaps, to both Europe and Asia many ages ago; and been invaded by hostile armies from Africa, or Africa been conquered by the tribes of this western world. Europe and the Atlantic side of North America would then have been isolated from the southern part of the globe, and could have had no such commerce, and thence no such arts, and therefore no such eminence in wealth, cultivation, and power, as they now enjoy. Had South America extended to the Pole, and had the islands that lie southward from Malacca joined that peninsula, and rising into a continent stretched down to the region of perpetual ice, the three great southern oceans would have been isolated; there then could have been no circumnavigation of the globe, and consequently there could have been no general commerce.
The existence also of such strata as constitute the surface of continents and islands, and their upheaval and dislocation in their present form, have had an almost equal influence on the pursuits and character of the nations that occupy them. Had it not been for the metals that were imbedded in them, there could have been neither arts nor commerce. Had it not been, for example, for the tin, iron, lime, and coal that were deposited beneath the soil of Great Britain, she could neither have had such an agriculture, such manufactures, nor such navigation. Had not the strata in which they and other important minerals are lodged, been elevated from their original position, broken into fragments, and exposed at the surface, they would have remained unknown, or from their inaccessibleness been without use; and she would have had but a barren soil and a scanty and uncultured population. It is thus by the provision of these means from which all the implements and enginery, and most of the materials of the arts are drawn, that man is armed with his power over the earth and sea, and made capable of appropriating them to his use, and rendering them the instruments of subsistence, comfort, and progress in all the forms of cultivation.
It is apparent, therefore, from the momentous influence it was thus to exert, that the investiture of the earth with such a surface was expressly designed by the Creator, and held an important place in the great system of measures by which it was to be prepared to be the habitation of men. It was an indispensable condition to his placing them in such situations, and exercising over them such a providential administration as he has; and thence a necessary condition to their being subjected to such a discipline, made capable of such pursuits and acquisitions, and exerting such agencies as have constituted the great features of their physical, social, political, and in an important sense, also, their moral history. No part of the constitution of the world has drawn after it a more important train of consequences. No part of it bears more clear and emphatic proofs that it had its origin in the sovereignty, wisdom, and benevolence of its