« AnteriorContinuar »
with confident familiarity of the 'teeth of water-rats,' 'the left ulna of a lark/ or the ' coracoid process of the right scapula of a duck,' that was eaten before the deluge. To Cuvier the world is indebted more than to all other naturalists put together, for our advancement in this branch of knowledge: and it is pleasing to observe, that he has made, in his last publications, the most flattering acknowledgments of Mr. Buckland's merits, even in many points where he had himself formerly held opposite opinions.*
But it is in the collection of this vast body of evidence, attesting the greatest physical epoch in the history of mankind, in its masterly arrangement, in the unravelling of intricate questions, in the candid examination of objections, in the solution of difficulties and anomalies, in the perspicuous and exact descriptions, and, above all, in discerning the relation which subsists between scattered phenomena, and in the close inductive logic which is brought to bear upon the facts as they arise, that we trace the action of a mind destined, we hope, to make still larger additions to the stock of human knowledge. Certainly we may pronounce the author to be the first who has placed this fact beyond the reach of controversy or cavil, and to have put the finishing hand to an argument so long laboured at by our divines, that the earth, after having been inhabited for ages, was, at the period recorded in the sacred history, covered, even to its highest summits, by a sudden, simultaneous, universal, transient flood of waters.
We have already observed that when once a fact is thus established, although it may be difficult, or even impossible, to assign its physical causes, yet our inability to account for it throws no difficulty whatever in the way of our believing it. However philosophical it may be to make this attempt, it is a most unphilosophical confusion of thought to suffer the difficulty of discovering a cause to affect our belief in a fact demonstratively proved. We have no objection indeed to the endeavours which ingenious men have made to discover in the system of nature some means by which this extraordinary effect might have been produced; nor do we regard them as necessarily indicative of a disbelief in the divine interference, because even miraculous agency is often, nay generally, combined with natural means; and even if some physical agent should hereafter be suggested, adequate to such a phenomenon, we should be far from thinking that our own belief in the positive agency of the Divine Being was thereby disproved. But if the whole case be carefully and impartially exa
* See the extracts from Cuvier's fourth volume of his Ossemens Fossiles, edit. 2d. given in the Postscript to Professor Buckland's book, p. 229.
mined, we are confident that an unprejudiced mind will acquiesce in the conclusion that both the universal destruction thus caused, and the preservation of the few survivors, was the immediate work of God.
Mr. Greenough has stated with accuracy, and with the most philosophical absence of all prepossessions, the several natural solutions that may be offered, and the insuperable difficulties involved in them all. We cannot do better than present the passage from his work entire.
'If the submersion of the highest mountains on the face of 'the globe was occasioned simply by an increase of water, from 'what source can so enormous an addition of water have pro'ceeded? If it existed previously, what became of it during the 'growth of those land-plants, which we so often find embedded 'in the secondary rocks ? during the lifetime of those land-animals 'whose fossil remains are so extensively distributed? If it existed 'at the time of the Deluge, what is become of it now? If derived 'from the interior of the earth, how shall we explain the existence 'of those enormous caverns, within which this mass of water was 'contained? how explain its own existence in such a situation? 'what attraction from without, what repulsion from within could 'have dislodged it from its hiding-place, and forced it far beyond e those barriers which the laws of gravity prescribed? How hap'pened it that the roof and the sides of the caverns, in which the 'water resided, did not fall in during its absence, so as to prevent 'the possibility of its return? Was increase of temperature the 'means of dislodging it? whence did that increase of temperature 'proceed? from within? we know not any cause acting from 'within capable of producing it; of producing it once only, within 'a space of five thousand years: from without? how could heat 'be at the same time so intense as to penetrate a solid crust some 'thousand miles in thickness, and yet so gentle, that no traces of 'its action are discerned upon the surface, where it must have 'acted most intensely?
'If it be supposed that this accession of water was derived 'from some body extrinsic to the earth, we know of no cause in 'nature by which such transfer of water from one body to another 'could be produced. But let a cause be assumed: let us grant 'that the water was so obtained: how was it afterwards re'moved? what is become of it now?
'Shall we then, fearless of paradox, attribute to the waves con'stancy, mobility to the land? Shall we say that continents have 'been submerged, not from the rising of waters, but from their
'falls short, very short of that which the Huttonians have long ad
'own descent? E:
such an hypothesis may appear, it
'mitted * mitted and maintained. There can be no doubt, says Mr. Play
* fair, that the land has been raised by expansiveforces acting from
* below; and there is reason to think that continents have aller
* nately ascended and descended within a period comparatively of
* no great extent.'
Mr. Greenough goes on to consider De Luc's hypothesis, and exclaims,' Alas! this expedient, so far from obviating our diffi'culties, tends only to enhance them. If there were no caverns
* beneath our continents, how could they sink? If there were ca
* verns, how were they produced ? why were they commensurate 'with the extent of the land? the continents having sunk, how 'have they risen again to their present level? after all this subsi'dence and elevation, how happens it, that of the strata which 'were deposited horizontally so many remained horizontal? how 'happens it that subsidence and elevation were unattended by 'fracture ?'*
He then proceeds to observe, that to the solution of the problem, impetuosity of motion in the water is indispensable; ' but
* an increased quantity of water, he adds, is perhaps superfluous;
* for there seems no good reason for supposing, that the quantity
* which actually subsists upon the earth, if thrown into a state of 'excessive agitation, would not be of itself sufficient to produce 'all the phenomena of the deluge and after discussing the possible causes of such an agitation, although he carefully avoids giving any opinion of his own, yet he seems to think the near approach of" a comet the most plausible of all the solutions hitherto proposed.
Upon this latter question we shall venture to offer a few remarks, first, however, observing, that the obvious and almost necessary inference which a candid mind would draw from a consideration of all the foregoing difficulties is, that some preternatural influence was then exerted for a temporary and a special purpose. When the evidence of facts fails to inform us, and leaves the case inexplicable, is it consonant with reason to neglect that historical testimony which has always been in our possession? There we find it explicitly recorded, and recorded too in terms which seem emphatically to exclude the operation of ordinary nature, and are so far therefore in strict unison with the philosophical investigation just detailed,' Behold I, Even I, do 'bring a flood of waters, to destroy all flesh, wherein is the breath 'of life, from under heaven; and every thing that is in the earth « shall die.'
Against the hypothesis of a comet, which seems to be the only
• Principles of Geology, p. 190, &c.
possible possible solution from natural causes which stands the test of Mr. Greenough's examination, conjectural and gratuitous as it is, we are not without objections drawn from the actual appearance of the globe. A deluge so caused, consisting of a tumultuous rush of waters surmounting the highest mountains on the one side and again descending to the vallies on the other, must have left evidence of its action somewhere in the Wreck of lower strata (lower, we mean, as to actual position upon the surface of the 6arth) carried upwards and lodged in the hollows and clefts of higher ranges. The contrary, however, of this, as far as the world has yet been explored, is known to be the fact. Every where we find traces of descending torrents, bearing fragments of the higher masses, and strewing them along the sides and lower levels, in such order and gradation of size as decisively indicate that the currents originated from above. Blocks of granite, it is true, are found upon the Jura mountains, but they are traced from the still loftier summits of Mont Blanc: and in numberless instances are found beds of pebbles forming a cap as it were on the tops of hills; but in all these cases there is convincing proof that the vallies around them are scooped out by the same currents which brought the pebbles from a higher level, and which left them in beds on those parts of their course that presented a firmer resistance to the retiring waters. In no single instance, we believe, Has the opposite phenomenon been discovered, and we point out the subject as the more Worthy of the attention of geologists, because the hypothesis which it refutes, is the only one left open' to our reception by Mr. Greenough; and this hypothesis, if adihitted, would not only remove farther from the mind that preternatural agency which we are convinced was then employed, but it would defeat also one essential character of the deluge, that of being simultaneous, and would allow of the possible escape of men and animals from several points of the globe thus irregularly and successively overwhelmed.
From these conjectures let us turn to the plain and sober narrative of Moses, which manifestly indicates an equable, progressive and gradual rise, and which, whatever may be thought of its authority, was certainly not written to confute the hypothesis of a comet raising by its attraction the waters of the globe, as the' rboon raises the tide.
'And the flood was forty days upon the earth; and the waters 'increased, and bare up the ark, and it teas lift up above upon 'the earth. And the waters prevailed, and were increased greatly 'upon the earth; and the ark went upon the face of the waters. 'And'the waters prevailed exceedingly upon the earth; and all 'the' high-hills, that were under the whole heaven, were covered.
Vol. xxix. No. Lvh. L 'Fifteen 'Fifteen cubits upward did the waters prevail; and the moun'tains were covered.'—Gen. vii. 17.
But the deluge is not the only point in geology which is closely connected with the Holy Scriptures. It is, in fact, as was before observed, but a small part of that field to which the researches of the geologist are directed. The more the strata which compose the crust of the earth are examined, the stronger evidence do they present of revolutions and catastrophes occuring at wide intervals of time, of slow progressive advancement to its present state, and of the existence of various orders of created beings which successively occupied its surface before it was finally fitted for the abode of man. These phenomena, or rather, the principles on which they are explained in the modern schools of geology, have been thought to militate against the history of the creation contained in the first chapters of Genesis. The difficulty has been fairly stated by Professor Buckland in his Inaugural Lecture some years ago published: and we think he has acted judiciously in not coming to any peremptory conclusion upon this disputed question.
The usual mode of solving the difficulty has been to interpret the six days of the creation, not as natural days determined by the, revolution of the earth on its axis, but as indefinite periods of time: and to this explanation Mr. Buckland seems disposed in that lecture to incline. Others object to it with great vehemence, as wholly incompatible with the institution of the Sabbath, which is manifestly set forth as the seventh day; and therefore they contend that the other six must necessarily be regarded as days in the same sense, and of the same kind.
Instead of presuming to decide peremptorily in this matter, our object will rather be to caution the friends of religion against a rash and possibly mischievous mode of vindicating their opinions. We beseech them to bear in mind that similar alarm has been taken, and similar zeal manifested for the cause of religion, in several instances which have all terminated in establishing, the points so much dreaded; and yet Christianity, so far from receiving a shock, has only emerged from the controversy with increased vigour and lustre. It is hardly necessary to remind them of the persecutions raised against the first teachers of the Copernican system of the universe. The doctrine was pronounced to be contradictory to the language of holy writ, and was accordingly, condemned as false and impious. Nay, so late as the early part of the 18th century, when the Jesuits' edition of Newton appeared, it was thought necessary by the editors to prefix an advertisement, disclaiming all belief in the system thus demonstrated, because it