« AnteriorContinuar »
For that conclusion is the logical consequence of their theory. It is incredible, they themselves admit, that the truths of science should be at war with the teachings of a divine revelation. It is impossible that God should make a communication to us through one medium, which he contradicts and confutes in another. But we know, they assert, that the great volume of nature, the vast monuments of the material world, proceeded from his hand; and on those indestructible tablets he has inscribed a record, which announces in the most unequivocal and emphatic terms that the earth and its organized and living races, with the exception of man, instead of having been summoned into being, as Moses relates, only some six thousand years ago, had at that epoch existed through myriads and millions of ages. And contemplated thus, the inference is inevitable that the contradictory testimony of Moses is false, and cannot be from God. That Hebrew writer, it is said, may have been ignorant of the date of the creation; God cannot. Moses may have deliberately framed a fiction; it is impossible that God should not have spoken the truth.
The question then, whether the conclusion geologists thus draw in respect to the age of the world, is legitimate, or not, is of the greatest moment. If founded on just grounds, it disproves the inspiration not only of the record in Genesis of the creation, but of the whole of the writings of Moses, and thence, as we shall show, of the whole of the Old and New Testament, and divests Christianity itself of its title to be received as a divine institution. The whole Revelation is changed at once from a heaven-descended reality, into a fable; from the most glorious of God's works, into a device of man. This geological doctrine deserves therefore to be carefully and effectively tested, that if mistaken, and unscientific, the false principle on which it proceeds may be pointed out, and the Scriptures vindicated from the objections of which it is the source: and that if, on the other hand, it be found to be just, the friends of Christianity may be apprised of the blow with which it strikes away the object of their faith. And its merits are to be determined manifestly, not by specious appearances merely, plausible conjectures, showy hypotheses, or vague and shadowy speculations: it is to be tried by the laws of nature, the great facts of the strata, and the forces that are now and have been at work in modifying the earth's surface. If supported by these, in a clear and demonstrative manner, it must stand, so far as its truth is to be decided within the sphere of nature; if not supported by them, if irreconcilable both with the facts of the strata and the laws of nature, it must fall, and the objection against Christianity fall with it, of which its doctrine of the great age of the world is the source. That question we propose to try.
The theory on which geologists found their inference of the great age of the earth is, that the materials of which the strata consist, were derived from mountains and continents of granite and other rocks; that those rocks were gradually disintegrated by the action of the air, water, and heat; that they were borne down from those mountains and continents by rains, currents, and rivers to the ocean, and distributed over its bed in successive layers; and that they were at length elevated from the bottom of the ocean to their present position: that the agents by which these vast effects were wrought, were those by which the somewhat similar changes that are now taking place, are produced; and that the number and thickness of the strata, the vast multitudes of vegetable and animal remains that lie buried in them, and the slowness with which similar processes of erosion and deposition now advance, prove that an immense series of ages must have been required for their formation. This inference of the age of the world, is thus founded on a theory of the sources from which the materials of the strata were derived, the agents by which they were transferred to the bottom of the ocean, and the forces by which they were raised to their present position ;—not irrespective of that on the strata themselves.
On the other hand, we reject their hypothesis respecting the derivation of the materials of the strata, and the mode in which they were distributed over the bed of the ocean, as a mere assumption, inconsistent with the laws of nature, and the facts of the strata, and subversive of itself: and thereby confute the inference they found on it of the great age of the world, as unproved and unscientific.
The question then we are to debate is, not whether the strata that have been formed since the earth was created, are such in nature and number as geologists represent; nor whether such vegetable and animal relics lie entombed in them. These facts are indisputable, and are admitted as freely in our reasonings as in theirs. But the question between us is, whether their hypothesis respecting the formation of the strata is legitimate; and thence whether the conclusion which they found on that hypothesis respecting the age of the world, is just and authoritative.
In order that the hypotheses and reasonings on which geologists build their inference of the age of the world, may be legitimate and fill the office which they assign them, they must possess, it will be admitted on all hands, certain characteristics, and be free from certain faults.
1. They must be consistent with—not contravene— the laws of nature. Geologists must not assume, for example, as a preparative for their hypothesis respecting the formation of the strata, that the world originally existed in a state that is incompatible with its present nature. Such as that it was created a gas or an assemblage of gases; as that implies that there was an immensely greater amount of caloric in it originally than now belongs to it; which is wholly unauthorized and unscientific. Geologists have no more right to assume that it was imbued originally with thousands and millions of times its present sum of heat, than they have to assume that it had thousands and millions of times its present bulk of water, air, quartz, lime, or any other ingredient that enters into its composition. It is against the great principle also, on which they proceed in their attempts to account for the changes which the surface of the earth has undergone: namely, that the effects that have been wrought in it, were the work of identically the agents—air, water, and heat,—that are now producing changes on the earth's surface, and acting on their present scale both of extent and of intensity. It is to contradict the laws of matter likewise, to assume that the world was created in the form of gas. Matter with the exception of a few species—such as the elements of air and water—is raised to a gaseous form only by intense heat. But heat is naturally latent. It is developed or made perceptible only by chemical action. To suppose the world to have been created in a gaseous form, is therefore to suppose it