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Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out
ALVEY, 36, BLOOMSBURY STREET;
PITMAN, PATERNOSTER ROW.
ESSAYS AND REVIEWS, ETC.
REV. DR. BAYLEY.
DISCOURSE No. 1.
GENESIS AND GEOLOGY.
THE SUCCESSIVE DAYS OF CREATION IN GENESIS NOT THOSE OF SUCCESSIVE STAGES OF THE EARTH'S OLD CREATION, BUT
SUCCESSIVE STATES OF THE SOUL'S NEW CREATION.
And God said, let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven, to divide the day from the night: and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days and years. And let them be for lights in the firmament of the heaven, to give light upon the earth : and it was so. And God made two great lights in the firmament of the heaven, the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night. He made the stars also."--GEN. i. 14-16.
The subject we have this morning selected is occasioned by the great interest attached to the expositions of some who stand high in the theological world, and who have startled their religious friends by their freedom of inquiry, We allude to the suggestions offered in the work entitled “Essays and Reviews.” In many, this work has excited religious rancour; by many, the cry of infidelity has been raised; but by very few are the reasons met which these clergymen have offered for their convictions. These gentlemen are evidently 'men of thought, men of large attainments. They see difficulties which shallower minds pass unobserved. They are conscientious men, who look at scientific teachings in the face, and reverently mark them. They are devoutly
brave. They have uttered the result of their researches in science and religion, and have placed their positions in life, and their estimation in the Church, in considerable jeopardy, by their free utterance of what they believe to be the truth; and they are worthy, not of reprobation, but of respect for their sincerity. Yet the conclusions to which they come are distressing and dangerous. Their results point to the abrogation of all definite faith in a Divine Book. Their views would practically lessen, rather than increase, our reverence for the Bible. Regarded as these teachers have been induced to regard it, the Word of God would practically be acknowledged only as the words of men; and the immortal children of the Eternal Father would be pursuing their voyage across the ocean of life with no chart by which to steer, no compass upon which they could rely, no lighthouse whose friendly gleam would guide, and no pilot to direct. We shrink from this conclusion. We dare not accept such a termination to our researches. We feel there must be error in the mode of inquiry, and we invite a reconsideration. There must be mistake in any conclusion which weakens our hold on the spiritual riches of Divine Revelation, on heaven, and on the Saviour. We would not condemn honest minds who state they cannot but arrive at dreaded conclusions; but, in the strongest faith that Revelation must be right, if we know how to understand it, we invite to a re-examination of the problem.
Of the Mosaic account of creation, these writers state, we must regard it, not as an authentic utterance of Divine knowledge, but a human utterance which it has pleased Providence to use in a special way for the education of mankind (p. 253). It is stated that—“If we regard it as the speculation of some Hebrew Descartes or Newton, promulgated in all good faith as the best and most probable account that could be then given of God's universe, it resumes the dignity and value of which the writers in question have done their utmost to deprive it” (p. 252). "The early speculator was harassed by no such scruples, and asserted as facts what he knew in reality only as probabilities. But we are not, on that account, to doubt his perfect good faith; nor need we attribute to him wilful misrepresentation, or conscious
ness of asserting that which he knew not to be true. He had seized on one great truth, in which, indeed, he anticipated the highest revelation of modern inquirynamely, the unity of the design of the world, and its subordination to one sole Maker and Lawgiver. With regard to detail, observation failed him. He knew little of the earth's surface, or of its shape or place in the universe, the infinite varieties of organised existences which people it, the distinct floras and faunas of its different continents, were unknown to him.
But he saw that all which lay within his observation had been formed for the benefit and service of man; and the goodness of the Creator to his creatures was the thought predominant in his mind” (p. 253).
While thus virtually surrendering the citadel of the Divine Word to the unbeliever, Mr. Goodwin seems at times at the very entrance of paths worthy of his best attention, and leading to very different conclusions. He remarks—“The circumstances of the second narrative (i.e., Gen. chap. 2) of creation, are indeed such as to give at least some ground for the supposition that a mystical interpretation was intended to be given by it" (p. 223).
If mystical be taken as synonymous with spiritual, which, in this use of it by Mr. Goodwin, is we presume meant-and it is admitted that there is "some ground” for the idea that a spiritual interpretation is intended in the second chapter of Genesis—would it not be at least worthy of those who feel the need of a Divine revelation, before depriving themselves of this inestimable boon, to: ask if it be not possible the Divine Author, which revelation supposes, might not intend a spiritual interpretation also for the first, and in this spiritual element its especial Divine character might consist? Would not this probability of the spiritual interpretation being the one really intended be greatly heightened if the very difficulties and discrepancies which are manifest when the narrative is brought face to face with Nature, should be found each to be in perfect harmony with the development of the stages by which the soul is conducted to realise the blessed unfoldings of a new spiritual creation.
Again, Mr. Goodwin observes : “ It would have been well if theologians had made up