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meaning of the first chapter of Genesis is, than divines have to pronounce on the true theory of geology? How, indeed, is it that they have an exclusive title to treat of the subject, while divines are guilty of transcending their province, when they venture to interpret and maintain what God has revealed respecting the creation? This important question seems not to have occurred to these objectors; but while in effect denying to divines the right not only to treat of geology, but even to interpret and teach the word of God, which is the peculiar business of their office, they themselves not only claim it as their special function to treat authoritatively of geology, but usurp the right also of determining the philological meaning of the inspired history of the creation, which lies out of their peculiar sphere.
This objection, then, to the interference of divines and philologists with the subject, so far as the interpretation of the first chapter of Genesis, and a protest against the theories of geology which contradict the testimony God has there given, are concerned, should be withdrawn. It is not only unauthorized and unjust, but it is more obnoxious to the charge of illiberality and intolerance, than the most intemperate denunciations in which "the divine and man of letters" have indulged, whom they spurn with so much contemptuousness and resentment.
In the next place, the objection indicates an unfortunate misapprehension of the premise from which geologists deduce the vast age they ascribe to the world. They proceed in it as though there were a class of direct and specific evidences of the existence of the earth through vast periods, graven, as it were, on the strata themselves, that can be learned only by inspection, in the same manner as the number, position, depth, and contents of the strata themselves are. But that is altogether mistaken. The age of the strata is not to be ascertained by the hammer or pickaxe, by chemical analysis, by touch, or by inspection. The chronology which they represent as inscribed on the rocks, instead of being wrought by the finger of the Almighty, is the work in a great measure of metaphor and fancy. The strata themselves are not, in fact, the premise from which they deduce the age they ascribe to the earth. They furnish no direct data for such a conclusion, as may be seen from the form the argument from them assumes, as in the following premise and conclusion.
The strata which have been deposited since the creation of the earth are numerous, and in many places of great depth, and are interspersed with vegetable and animal fossils, which indicate that much time was occupied in their formation. Therefore the creation itself must have taken place innumerable ages ago.
But this inference is plainly irrelevant to tho premise. There is nothing in the facts stated in the proposition that can generate such a conclusion. Inasmuch as the period occupied in the deposition of the strata is not determinable from their number, depth, and contents, but depends on the species and energy of the agents by which they were formed; to treat the inference from such an irrelative premise as a truth established by scientific deduction, is an extraordinary inaccuracy. Instead of being graven in legible characters on the strata themselves, or directly deduced from the facts of geology, their alleged chronology of the world is in reality drawn from a mere hypothesis respecting the forces or processes by which the strata were constituted, as is seen from their argument when expressed in a syllogistic form.
Each of the several strata deposited since the creation of vegetables and animals, having been formed by essentially the same forces as are now in activity, and thence by a very slow process, must have occupied a long period.
But in many localities the series of separate beds amounts to several hundreds and even thousands.
Therefore the period which the deposition of the whole series has occupied, must be immense beyond computation—a round of innumerable years—myriads and millions of ages.*
* Thus Mr. Macculloch: "We have every reason to know, from
This, or an equivalent proposition is the only one from which that conclusion can be logically deduced. It is not possible to frame a major excluding the element of time, that shall be a logical ground for the induction of such an age of the earth. But here the inference is drawn plainly, not from the number, dimensions, and contents of the strata, but from an hypothesis respecting the nature of the forces and processes by which they were formed. Take away that hypothesis, and the inference becomes, like the other, a non sequitur. But that hypothesis is not found graven on the rocks, nor is it legitimately deduced from them; as there is nothing, as we shall hereafter show, in the strata themselves that compels or authorizes the assumption that they were formed by a slow process, but instead, their structure indicates that they were deposited very rapidly, and under the agency of forces immensely more energetic than those of the fire, water, and chemistry that are now in activity.
what is now taking place on our own earth, that the accumulation of materials at the bottom of the ocean is a work infinitely slow: we are sure that such an accumulation as should produce the primary strata as we now see them, must have occupied a space, from the contemplation of which the mind shrinks. Whatever that may be, the geological depth of the consecutive series of any one stage of the surface is The Measure Of The Time through which it was deposited: it is the measure of the duration of that world which immediately preceded the one of which it forms the latest stratified portion."—Geol. vol. i. p. 473.
As the inference of the age of the world which geologists dignify with the name of a scientific induction, is thus drawn from a premise that lies out of the facts of geology, and is a fallacy, it is plain, that philologists, and "the divine, and man of letters," if logicians, are as competent to detect its deceptive character and criticise and confute it, as though they were practical geologists. It is entirely within their sphere as reasoners. A minute inspection of the strata of the earth is not requisite to it. Though an intimate acquaintance from observation with all the great facts of the science must naturally give a more vivid apprehension and realization of them, yet it is not necessary in order to avoid the error into which geologists themselves have fallen, of confounding them with an hypothesis respecting the processes of their formation. It is not the great facts themselves of geology, let it be considered, that are in question. It is not a direct and logical deduction from those facts even. It is only a deduction from an assumption respecting the causes to which they owe their origin, which men "of letters" and theologians capable of distinguishing a fallacy from a legitimate induction, are as adequate to confute as those of any other profession. That this consideration, which, of itself, overturns their theory respecting the age of the world, should have been overlooked by geologists, and an objection thus