Imágenes de página
PDF
ePub

fact, he did not profess to receive the doctrines of Methodism, till about the seventeenth year of his life. On the other hand, Charles Wesley was born in 1708; and consequently, in 1743, was thirtyfive. This comparison of dates is, of course, entirely in Charles Wesley's favour. I argue nothing positively from this appearance of the hymn in the collection of 1743; as the contents of that work are, in various instances, from other writers. That the composition in question was written by Charles Wesley is, I think, plain from interternal evidence; both as respects its phraseology, and from the strong devotional likeness it bears to his portrait by Mr. Montgomery, illuminated as that picture is, by many of his other hymns; some of them repeating sentiments, and involutions of words, similar to what are found in the performance occasioning this communication. Your correspondents will now judge, how far I have succeeded in restoring to the revered name of Charles Wesley an effort which (to adopt the language of the epitaph, at Eltham, on Bishop Horne,) "will continue to be a companion to the closet, till the devotions of earth shall end in the hallelujahs of heaven." I will only add, in the words of Mr. Montgomery, "If he who pens these sentiments, knows his own heart-though it has deceived him too often to be trusted without jealousy-he would rather be the anonymous author of a few hymns which, like the one now under discussion, should be an imperishable inheritance to the people of God, than bequeath another epic poem to the world, which should rank his name with Homer, Virgil, and our greater Milton.”

DEFENSOR.

Another correspondent, N. L., after giving the same information as Defensor, relative to the early editions of the Wesley Hymns, adds;

The same volume, (I quote from the fifth edition,) contains the wellknownChristmas and Easter Hymns, which have, with reason, found a place in almos all our collections of hymns, and at the close of several editions of the New Version of the Psalms: I refer to those which begin, "Hark! the herald angels sing," and "Christ the Lord is risen to-day." The former of these in its original form commences thus, "Hark! how all the welkin rings, Glory to the King of kings." That beautiful hymn, "Jesu, thy blood and righteousness," stands in the same volume as a translation from the German, and consists of no fewer than twentyfour verses. It may easily be conjectured that the suppressed verses fall far short, both in sentiment and expression, of that portion which is usually retained.

SCRIPTURAL GEOLOGY.

N. L.

Tothe Editorofthe Christian Observer.

In my former papers, I have briefly stated the leading physical facts to which geologists appeal, and considered, with particular reference to Mr. Bugg's strictures, some of the usual inferences from them. I conceive myself to have established, to a high degree of probability, the two following conclusions :-

1. That the surface of our globe has been visited with an extensive, and probably universal deluge; and,

2. That the secondary strata were formed previously to that event, by a gradual and orderly deposition, continued, with more or less of occasional interruption, during a period co-extensive with many generations of the animals whose remains are imbedded in them.

The former of these opinions will not be controverted: I have therefore not fully drawn out the geological evidences for its truth. Those of your readers who seek

them in Dr. Buckland's Reliquiæ Diluvianæ, will regret that so sincere and zealous a believer in revelation as Mr. Bugg should have endeavoured to invalidate the arguments there adduced. It is surely of some importance to be able to prove that what we know from Scripture to have been a fact, bears upon it, even from mere physical considerations, the highest character of probability.

My second conclusion does not receive the same decided support from Scripture: it must however be tried by that standard, so far as such a trial is possible. If Moses and St. Paul really contradict me, I am unquestionably wrong. I hold no opinions respecting the limits of Revelation, inconsistent with the fullest acknowledgment of this principle. But, on the other hand, I must again remind your readers, that every question determined on merely probable grounds, is reopened by the discovery of new evidence; whether the point at issue be the interpretation of a text, or the circumstances of an historical fact. In themselves, all things are either true or false: Probability is intelligible only in reference to the imperfection of our knowledge, and the weakness of our reason: to suppose therefore that the most probable meaning of a text must necessarily be the true one, would be to maintain, not the certainty of God's word, but the infallibility of man's judgment.

But is it, in fact, necessary to reconsider the currently received interpretation of Scripture? May not the secondary strata have been deposited between the Mosaic creation, and the Mosaic deluge? It may be thought that no modern geologist" would ask such a question; yet I find the following amongst other suggestions, in the work I have before quoted:

66

"If we adhere to the common interpretation of the periods of creation, as having been literally days of twenty-four hours, and re

fuse to admit the existence of another order of things previous to that recorded by the inspired writer, we might still perhaps find a sufficient space of time for the purposes required in the interval between the creation as thus limited, and the deluge.-Upon this hypothesis we must suppose the present continents, in the greater part of their extent, to have been included in the channel of the primitive ocean, and to have gradually emerged thence during this period; becoming occupied, as they appeared, by the land animals whose remains we find among the diluvial gravel. The primitive continents may, upon this supposition, either have been limited portions of the present, (such as present no secondary rocks,) for at first it seems evident that a limited space only would be requisite; or, if more extensive, they may have been submerged in whole or in part, (more probably the latter, from the description of the rivers of Eden,) during those great convulsions which accompanied the deluge."-(Conybeare and Phillips, Introd. p. lix.)

For myself, I advocate no theory; that is to say, no general and determinate theory: I see no present prospect of establishing any; though conjectural explanations of detached phenomena, almost necessarily occur to the mind of an observer : and are useful both for the recollection of ascertained facts, and the direction of future inquiries. But without espousing the hypothesis stated above, I may be allowed to compare it with Mr. Bugg's. Like his, it accords with the ordinary interpretation of Scripture; whilst it is surely far more consistent with the general tenor of geological observations. It would be so, even if Mr. Bugg's examples were allowed as real exceptions to the ordinary rule. Undoubtedly it leaves many things unexplained-the mere outline of a theory must do so-but it does not preclude all possibility of explaining them. But Mr. Bugg's

hypothesis is so palpably inconsistent with geological facts, that he seems inclined to explain them by a miraculous action of the diluvial waters. A more improbable supposition could scarcely be devised; for, whatever might be the cause of the deluge, its recorded effects were clearly natural.-The waters were poured from the fountains of the great deep and the opened windows of heaven, that they might "destroy all flesh," by their natural operation. Is it conceivable they should be employed in miraculously sorting shells and disposing pebbles? Mr. Bugg hints, that "the variations in the animal creation, between the fossil remains and the existing species," may have been effected by natural causes, since the deluge. This supposition has little support from observation, and used to be thought of bad tendency; (see Paley's Nat. Theol. chap. 23;) but it will suit my present purpose very well. According to this hypothesis, the fossils of the chalk differ from recent shells, because the specific characters have gradually altered in successive generations: but then, by parity of reasoning, the dissimilarity which exists between the fossils of the transition limestone and those of the chalk, must be attributed to the same cause; and this idea, followed out, will convert Mr. Bugg's theory into that which I am contrasting with it.

I think it possible, that the secondary strata may really have been deposited subsequently to the creation of man. At the same time it must be confessed, that all known phenomena may be accounted for as well, or better, on other suppositions; nor is it at all improbable, that future discoveries may modify or subvert all our present theories. Should this be the fate of any theory which professes to be built on a Scriptural basis, (I say professes, for the word and the works of God cannot really contradict each other; the contradiction

must arise from our misunderstanding one or both,) more or less of temporary discredit must attach to the foundation on which we profess to ground our inferences it is therefore, well worth while to consider whether Revelation does indeed guide and limit our conclusions, in the manner and to the degree commonly supposed. With this view, I shall make some remarks on Mr. Bugg's biblical discussions, in your Number for last April.

I. It has been usually supposed that the inferior animals became subject to death, in consequence of the fall of Adam. In support of this opinion, Mr. Bugg adduces the following passages: "The wages of sin is death." "Sin hath reigned unto death." "In the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die." "By one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin." The third of these passages must have been inserted by accident; the rest occur in one context, (Rom. v. and vi.) But for the authority of those who have thought differently from myself, I should not for a moment suppose that this passage alluded to the inferior animals in any manner whatever. I would request your readers to peruse the chapters referred to, with a temporary assumption that they relate solely to the human species. I cannot perceive that the Apostle's argument loses any thing in weight, or that a single expression becomes less appropriate, on this supposition. If there be any seeming exception to this remark, it is the text, "by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin," but the remainder of the verse explains the Apostle's meaning: "and so death passed upon all men, for that all (all men, Tavτɛs) have sinned." The word "world" is clearly used to denote the race of mankind, as in the following texts, where all allusion to the brute creation is excluded by the manifest sense," The world by wisdom

knew not God:" "If the world hate you" "Who taketh away the sin of the world."

The general meaning of the Apostle is often summed up in the assertion that Adam is represented as our federal head; in whose fall "all die," as by the obedience of the "second Adam," all are, in some sense or other, "made alive." This opinion-I should rather say this language-will lead us to the same conclusion: for it is surely no article of faith that Adam was the federal head of the brute creation, or that they are concerned in the dispensation of redemption.

If we now turn to the introductory chapters of Genesis, we shall find several indications, more or less clear, that the lower animals, even before the fall of Adam, were liable to death. It seems improbable that no mention of this infliction should be found in the curse denounced upon the serpent, if the animal, to which that curse in its literal sense refers, then first became subject to mortality. Nor is it easy to conceive how the waters and " green herb" of Eden could have been used as food, consistently with the preservation of the minute insect tribes. To these suggestions it may be added, that many peculiarities of organic structure in animals bear an obvious relation to the ferocious habits of the species in which they occur. As an instance, I select the case of venomous animals: the fang of the serpent and the sting of the wasp appear to be designed for the end which they now accomplish, and to be incapable of any other application.

These difficulties may not be insurmountable; and they certainly ought not to outweigh a clear and decisive declaration of Scripture: but it would be utterly unreasonable to lay them aside, in determining the probable meaning of an ambiguous text.

I believe this subject is sometimes regarded in a different point of view; as if the fall of man explained the suffering condition of

the brute creation. But this is cer. tainly a mistake: with our short sighted and infinitely imperfect knowledge, we are not required to vindicate the Divine government in this matter; but it is obvious, that any attempt to do so must proceed on grounds unconnected with the moral condition of man. On the whole, therefore, I think we are warranted in saying, that the Scriptures contain nothing whatever bearing on our present subject, which needs interfere with the freest exercise of our judgment on geolo. gical phenomena.

The other objections urged by Mr. Bugg turn on the interpretation of the first chapter of Genesis, and one or two texts nearly coincident in meaning. This part of the inquiry is not without its difficulties; but I do not think either of the systems which he condemns really inconsistent with the authority of the Mosaic account. I will first examine that which confines the six days of creation exclusively to the preparation of the earth for the reception of man.

Mr. Bugg supposes that this interpretation would leave us without a scriptural proof that matter is not self-existent. But this is a mistake: at least it is not a necessary part of the system we are considering. It may be, as I think it ought to be, admitted, that the first verse of Genesis records a creation in the most absolute sense of the word. The point in controversy will then be, whether the inspired history, after announcing this great fact, does not pass over an interval, the events of which it has not pleased Providence miraculously to disclose; resuming the subject at the period when, the earth being without form and void, the Spirit of God moved on the face of the waters, and the first day of preparation for the present state of things began. Considering the sublime and abrupt brevity of the Scriptural narrative, (I might add, I believe, the paucity and consequent ambiguity of Hebrew

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

particles and inflections,) it does not appear to me that this interpretation is inadmissible; but it certainly may be thought, on a first view, scarcely consistent with the language of the Fourth Commandment, and some parallel texts. The following consideration appears to me, in a great measure, to remove this difficulty. Among the transactions of the se cond day, we find the "making of a firmament, which received the name of heaven. This "making seems to have been merely a separation of the atmosphere from the chaotic mass: but the language used fully bears out the assertion, that the heaven was made on the second day. Again in the course of the third day, the dry land on its emergence received the name of earth; and the gathering together of the waters was called sea. This latter name then, is, on some account or other, inapplicable to the previous state of the waters; and the sea, properly speaking, did not exist before the third day. It seems as if the same remark would apply to the dry land, which received the name of earth. It may be argued, therefore, with much appearance of reason, that the recorded occurrences of the second and third day, though confined to the remodelling of previously existing matter, do of themselves warrant the declaration, that "the heaven, the earth, and the sea, were made" in the "six days" of the Mosaic history. I do not propose the preceding interpretation as free from all doubt and difficulty; but I could adopt it, if sufficiently supported by geological facts, without losing my reverence for the Pentateuch, or my conviction of its inspiration. I do not see much in the objection drawn from the language of the Second Commandment. Its literal meaning, on the above supposition, will forbid the worship of the heavenly bodies, (which were "made*," however we

It seems most probable that the sacred record merely informs us at what period, subsequently to the commence

may understand that term, on the fourth day); as also that of all plants and animals in existence at the promulgation of the law its spirit surely condemns, with sufficient clearness, the worship of the mammoth and the ichthyosaurus.

It will be said, that the interpretation I am discussing, though it leaves untouched the evidence for an original creation, reduces to insignificance the transactions of the "six days." I reply, that on these so-called insignificant transactions depends all the importance, to mankind, of the original creation of matter. If this answer be not sufficient, I would refer for an instance of similar phraseology to 2 Peter iii. 5-7; where the effects of the deluge are considered as amounting to a destruction of the old "heavens and earth," and a substitution of those which "now are." It must be remembered, too, that "the heavens and earth," including the waters of the great deep, were unquestionably created either on or before the "first day" of Moses. Whatever, therefore, becomes of a particular hypothesis, the transactions of the second and third day, including the "making " of the heavens, must be explained as a remodelling of pre-existing matter.

It remains to examine the hypothesis which supposes the days of creation to be periods of considerable length; but as I am unwilling to extend this paper much beyond its present limits, I shall content ment of the "first day," the heavenly bodies began to warm and illuminate the surface of our globe. Anyexplanation of the usual language of Scripture on astronomical subjects, may be easily extended so as to include this case. I prefer the following. The uneducated man says, that the sun moves daily from east to west. Is he wrong? Undoubtedly he is, if he means the huge globe described by astronomers; but he means no such thing: he means a flat circular disk visible in the sky; in that

"firmament" in which the clouds move. Of this sun, perhaps a joint result of the central globe of our system, and the properties of our own atmosphere, it is said, and no doubt with the strictest truth, that it stood still upon or over Gibeon.

« AnteriorContinuar »