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First Impressions of England and its People
Chapter XVII


Cowper and the Geologists. — Geology in the Poet’s Days in a State of great Immaturity. — Case different now. — Folly of committing the Bible to a False Science. — Galileo. — Geologists at one in all their more important Deductions ; vast Antiquity of the Earth one of these. — State of the Question.—Illustration. — Presumed Thickness of the Fossiliferous Strata.—Peculiar Order of their Organic Contents; of their Fossil Fish in particular, as ascertained by Agassiz. — The Geologic Races of Animals entirely different from those which sheltered with Noah in the Ark.—Alleged Discrepancy between Geologic Fact and the Mosaic Record not real. — Inference based on the opening Verses of the Book of Genesis.—Parallel Passage adduced to prove the Inference unsound. — The Supposition that Fossils may have been created such examined: unworthy of the Divine Wisdom ; contrary to the Principles which regulate Human Belief; subversive of the grand Argument founded on Design. — The profounder Theologians of the Day not Anti-Geologists. —Geologic Fact in reality of a kind fitted to perform important Work in the two Theologies, Natural and Revealed ; subversive of the “ Infinite-Series ” Argument of the Atheist; subversive, too, of the Objection drawn by Infidelity from an Astronomical Analogy. — Counter-objection. — Illustration.

It may have been merely the effect of an engrossing study long prosecuted, but so it was, that of all I had witnessed amid the scenes rendered classic by the muse of Cowper, nothing more permanently impressed me than a few broken fossils of the Oolite which I had picked up immediately opposite the poet’s windows. There had they lain, as carelessly indifferent to the strictures in “The Task,” as the sun in the central heavens, two centuries before, to the denunciations of the Inquisition. Geology, however, in the days of Cowper, had not attained to the dignity of a science. It lacked solid footing as it journeyed amid the wastes of Chaos; and now tipped, as with its toe-points, a “crude consistence” of ill-understood facts, and now rose aloft into an atmosphere of obscure conjecture, on a “tumultuous cloud” of ill-digested theory. In a science in this unformed, rudimental stage, whether it deal with the stars of heaven or the strata of the earth, the old anarch of Infidelity is sure always to effect a transitory lodgment ; and beside him stand his auxiliaries,

“Rumor, and Chance,
And Tumult, and Confusion, all embroiled,
And Discord with a thousand various mouths.”

And so it is in no degree derogatory to the excellent sense of Cowper, that he should have striven to bring Revelation in direct antithetical collision with the inferences of the geologists.

There exists, however, no such apology for the Dean Cock-burns and London “Records” of the present day. Geology, though still a youthful science, is no longer an immature one : it has got firm footing on a continent of fact; and the man who labors to set the doctrines of Revelation in array against its legitimate deductions, is employed, whatever may be his own estimate of his vocation, not on the side of religious truth, but of scepticism and infidelity. His actual work, however excellent his proposed object, is identically that of all the shrewder infidels, — the Humes, Volneys, Yoltaires, and Bolingbrokes, — who have compassed sea and land, and pressed every element into their service, in attempting to show that the facts and doctrines of the Bible traverse those great fixed laws which regulate human belief. No scientific question was ever yet settled dogmatically, or ever will. If the question be one in the science of numbers, it must be settled arithmetically; if in the science of geometry, it must be settled mathematically; if in the science of chemistry, it must be settled experimentally. The Church of Rome strove hard, in the days of Galileo, to settle an astronomical question theologically; and did its utmost to commit the Bible to the belief that the earth occupies a central position in the system, and that the sun performs a daily revolution around it: but the astronomical question, maugre the Inquisition, refused to be settled other than astronomically. And all now believe that the central position is occupied, not by the earth, but by the sun; and that it is the lesser body that moves round the larger, — not the larger that moves round the lesser. What would have been the result, had Rome, backed by the Franciscan, succeeded in pledging the verity of Scripture to a false astronomy? The astronomical facts of the case would have, of course, remained unchanged. The severe truth of geometry would have lent its demonstrative aid to establish their real character. All the higher minds would have become convinced for themselves, and the great bulk of the lower, at second hand, that the Scripture pledge had been given, not to scientific truth, but to scientific error; and the Bible, the extent to which it stood committed, would be justly regarded as occupying no higher a level than the Shaster or Koran. Infidelity never yet succeeded in placing Revelation in a position so essentially false as that in which it was placed by Rome, to the extent of Rome’s ability, in the case of Galileo.

Now, ultimately at least, as men have yielded to astronomy the right of decision in all astronomical questions, must they resign to geology the settlement of all geological ones. I do not merely speak of what ought, but of what assuredly must and will be. The successive geologic systems and formations, with all their organic contents, are as real existences as the sun itself; and it is quite as possible to demonstrate their true place and position, relative and absolute. And so long as certain fixed laws control and regulate human belief, certain inevitable 29 deductions must and will continue to be based on the fact* which these systems and formations furnish. Geologists of the higher order differ among themselves, on certain minutiae of their science, to nearly as great an extent as the Episcopalian differs in matters ecclesiastical from the Presbyterian, or the Baptist or Independent from both. But their differences militate no more against the great conclusions in which they all agree, than the theological differences of the Protestant churches against the credibility of those leading truths of Christianity on which all true churches are united. And one of these great conclusions respects the incalculably vast antiquity of the earth on which we dwell. It seems scarce possible to over-estimate the force and weight of the evidence already expiscated on this point; and almost every new discovery adds to its cogency and amount. That sectional thickness of the earth’s crust in which, mile beneath mile, the sedimentary strata are divided into many-colored and variously-composed systems and formations, and which abounds from top to bottom in organic remains, forms but the mere pages of the register. And it is rather the nature and order of the entries with which these pages are crowded, than the amazing greatness of their number, or the enormous extent of the space which they occupy (rather more than five miles), — though both have, of course, their weight, — that compel belief in the remoteness of the period to which the record extends. Let me attempt elucidating the point by a simple illustration.

In a well-kept English register, continuous from a distant antiquity to the present time, there are many marks demonstrative of the remoteness of the era to which it reaches, besides the bulk and number of the volumes which compose it, and the multitude of the entries which they contain. In an earlier volume we find the ancient Saxon character united to that somewhat meagre yet not inexpressive language in which Alfred wrote and conversed. In a succeeding volume, the Saxon, both in word and letter, gives place to Norman French. The Norman French yields, in turn, in a yet succeeding one, to a massive black-letter character, and an antique combination of both tongues, which we term the genuine old English. And then, in after volumes, the old English gradually modernizes and improves, till we recognize it as no longer old : we see, too, the heavy black-letter succeeded by the lighter Italian hand, at first doggedly stiff and upright, but anon bent elegantly forward along the line. And in these various successions of character and language we recognize the marks of a genuine antiquity. Nor, in passing from these, — the mere externals of the register, — to the register itself, are the evidences less conclusive. In reading upwards, we find the existing families of the district preceded by families now extinct, and these, in turn, by families which had become extinct at earlier and still earlier periods. Names disappear, — titles alter, — the boundaries of lands vary as the proprietors change, — smaller estates are now absorbed by larger, and now larger divide into smaller. There are traces not a few of customs long abrogated and manners become obsolete; and we see paroxysms of local revolution indicated by a marked grouping of events of corresponding character, that assume peculiar force and significancy when we collate the record with the general history of the kingdom. Could it be possible, I ask, to believe, regarding such a many-volumed register, — with all its various styles, characters, and languages, — its histories of the rise and fall of families, and its records of conquests, settlements, and revolutions, — that it had been all hastily written at a heat on a Saturday night, some three or four weeks ago, without any intention to deceive on the part of the writer, — nay, without any intention even of making a register at all ? The mere bulk and number of the volumes would militate sadly against any such supposition; but the peculiar character and order of their contents would militate against it more powerfully still.

Now, the geologic register far excels any human record, in the number and significancy of the marks of a strictly analogous cast which demonstrate its vast antiquity. As we ascend higher, and yet higher, the characters of the document strangely alter. In the Tertiary ages we find an evident approximation to the existing style. An entire change takes place as we enter the Secondary period. A change equally marked characterizes the Palaeozoic eras. Up till the commencement of the Cretaceous system, two great orders of fish, — the Ctenoid and Cycloid, — fish furnished with horny scales and bony skeletons, — comprise, as they now do, the great bulk of the finny inhabitants of the waters. But immediately beyond the Cretaceous group these two orders wholly disappear, and the Ganoid and Placoid orders — fish that wear an armature of bone outside, and whose skeletons are chiefly cartilaginous — take their places. Up till the period of the Magnesian Limestone, the homocercal or two-lobed type of fish-tail greatly preponderates, as at the present time; but in all the older formations, — those of the immensely extended Palaeozoic period, — not a single tail of this comparatively modern type is to be found, and the heterocercal or one-sided tail obtains exclusively. Down till the deposition of the Chalk has taken place, all the true woods are coniferae of the Pine or Araucarian families. After the Chalk has been deposited, hard-wood trees, of the dicotyledonous order, are largely introduced. Down till the times of the Magnesian Limestone, plants of an inferior order — ferns, stigmaria, club-mosses, and calamites — attain to a size so gigantic that they rival the true denizens of the forest; whereas with the dawn of the Secondary period we find the immaturities of the vegetable kingdom reduced to a bulk and. size that consort better with the palpable inferiority of their rank in creation. And not only are the styles and characters of the several periods of the geologic register thus various, but, as in the English register of my illustration, the record of the rise and fall of septs and families is singularly distinct. The dynasties of the crustacean, the fish, the reptile, and the mam-miferous quadruped, succeed each other in an order as definite as the four great empires in the “ Ancient History ” of Rollin. Nor are the periods when single families arose and sank less carefully noted. The trilobite family came into existence with the first beginnings of the Palaeozoic division, and ceased at its close. The belemnite family began and became extinct with the Secondary formations. The ammonite and gryphite, in all their many species, did not outlive the deposition of the Chalk. There is one definite period, — the close of the Palaeozoic era, — at which the Brachiopoda, singularly numerous throughout many previous formations, and consisting of many great families, suddenly, with the exception of a single genus, drop off and disappear. There is another definite period, — the close of the Secondary era, — at which the Cephalopoda, with nearly as few exceptions, disappear as suddenly. At this latter period, too, the Enaliosaurians, so long the monster tyrants of the ocean, cease forever, and the Cetacea take their places: the be-paddled reptiles go off the stage, and the be-paddled mammalia come on. But perhaps the most striking series of facts of this nature in the whole range of geological literature, is that embodied in the table affixed by Agassiz to his great work on fossil fish.

This singularly interesting document — which, like the annual balance-sheet of a great mercantile house or banking company, that comprises in its comparatively few lines of figures the result of every arithmetical calculation made by the firm during the twelvemonth — condenses, in a single page, the results of the naturalist’s observations in his own peculiar department for many years. It marks at what periods the great families of the extinct fishes began, and when they ceased, and at what periods those great families arose which continue to exist in the present state of things. The facts are exceedingly curious. Some of the families are, we find, of comparatively brief standing, and occupy but small space in the record, — others sweep across well-nigh the whole geological scale. Some come into existence with the beginning of a system, and cease at its close, — others continue to exist throughout almost all the systems together. The salmon and herring families, though the species were different, lived in the ages of the Chalk, and ever since, throughout the periods of the Tertiary; while the cod and haddock family pertains, on the contrary, to but the existing scene of things. The laspides — that family to which the Pterichthys and Coccosteus belong — were restricted to a single system, the Old Red Sandstone; nor had its contemporaries the J    —    that family to which the Osteolepis and Diplopterus belong — a longer term ; whereas the Cosla, — the family of the Holoptychius, Glyptolepis, and Asterolepis, — while it began as early, passed down to the times of the Chalk, — and the Ces-tracions—even a more ancient family still—continue to have their living representatives. It is held by the Dean of York that the fact of the Noachian Deluge may be made satisfactorily to account for all the geologic phenomena. Alas! No cataclysm, however great or general, could have produced diversities of style, each restricted to a determinate period, and which become more broadly apparent the more carefully we collate the geologic register as it exists in one country with the same register as it exists in another. No cataclysm could have arranged an infinitude of entries in exact chronological order, or assigned to the tribes and families which it destroyed and interred distinct consecutive periods and formations. It is but common sense to hold that the Deluge could not have produced an ancient church-yard, — such as the Grayfriars of Edinburgh, — with its series of tombstones in all their successive styles, — Gothic, Elizabethan, Roman, and Grecian, — complete for many centuries. It could not have been the author of the old English register of my illustration. Geologists affirm regarding the Flood, merely to the effect that it could not have written Hume’s History of England, nor even composed and set into type Mr. Burke’s British Peerage.

Such are a few of the difficulties with which the anti-geologist has to contend. That leading fact of the Deluge, — the ark, — taken in connection with the leading geologic fact that the organic remains of the various systems, from the Lower Silurian to the Chalk inclusive, are the remains of extinct races and tribes, forms a difficulty of another kind. The fact of the ark satisfactorily shows that man in his present state has been contemporary with but one creation. The preservation by sevens and by pairs of the identical races amid which he first started into existence superseded the necessity of a creation after the Flood; and so it is the same tribes of animals, wild and domestic, which share with him in his place of habitation now, that surrounded him in Paradise. But the Palaeozoic, Secondary, and older Tertiary animals, are of races and tribes altogether diverse. We find among them not even a single species which sheltered in the ark. The races contemporary with man were preserved to bear him company in his pilgrimage, and to minister to his necessities; but those strange races, buried, in many instances, whole miles beneath the surface, and never seen save imbedded in rock and transformed into stone, could not have been his contemporaries. They belong, as their place and appearance demonstrate, to periods long anterior. Nor can it be rationally held, that of those anterior periods revelation should have given us any history. They lie palpably beyond the scope of the sacred record. On what principle, seeing it is silent on the contemporary creations of Mars, Venus, and Jupiter, ought it to have spoken on the consecutive creations of the Silurian, Carboniferous, and Oolitic periods? Why should it promulgate the truths of Geology, seeing that those of Astronomy it has withheld? Man everywhere has entertained the expectation of a book, Heaven-inspired, that should teach him what God is, and what God demands of him. The sacred books of all the false religions, from those of Zoroaster and the Brahmins to those of Mahomet and the Mormons, are just so many evidences that the expectation exists. And the Bible is its fulfilment. But man has entertained no such expectation of a revelation from God of the truths of science; nor is it according to the economy of Providence,— the economy manifested in the slow and gradual development of the species,—that any such expectation should be realized. The “Principia” of Newton is an uninspired volume; and only the natural faculties were engaged in the discovery of James Watt.

But it is not urged, it may be said, that the Scriptures reveal geologic truth as such; it is merely urged that geologists must not traverse Scripture statements respecting the age of the earth, as revealed for purely religious purposes by God to Moses. But did God reveal the earth’s age to Moses ? Not directly, surely, or else men equally sound in the faith would not be found lengthening or shortening the brief period which intervenes between Adam and Abraham, just as they adopt the Hebrew or Septuagint chronology, by nearly a thousand years. Here, however, it may be said that we are in doubt regarding the real chronology, not because God has not indirectlyrevealed it, but because man, in either the Hebrew or Samaritan record, has vitiated the revelation. Most true : still, however, the doubt is doubt. But did God reveal the earth’s age,either directly or otherwise? Let us examine the narrative. “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, Let there be light, and there was light.” Now, let it be admitted, for the argument’s sake, that the earth existed in the dark and void state described here only six days, of twenty four hours each, before the creation of man ; and that the going forth of the Spirit and the breaking out of the light, on this occasion, were events immediately introductory to the creation to which we ourselves belong. And what then? It is evident, from the continuity of the narrative in the passage, say the anti-geologists, that there could have been no creations on this earth prior to the present one. Nay, not so : for aught that appears in the narrative, there might have been many. Between the creation of the matter of which the earth is composed, as enunciated in the first verse, and the earth’s void and chaotic state, as described in the second, a thousand creations might have intervened. As may be demonstrated from even the writings of Moses himself, the continuity of a narrative furnishes no evidence whatever that the facts which it records were continuous.

Take, for instance, the following passage. “There went out a man of the house of Levi, and took to wife a daughter of Levi. And the woman conceived and bare a son; and when she saw him that he was a goodly child, she hid him three months. And when she could not longer hide him, she took for him an ark of bulrushes, and daubed it with slime and with pitch, and put the child therein; and she laid it in the flags by the river’s brink.” [I owe this passage, in its hearing on the opening narrative in Genesis, to the Rev. Alexander Stewart, of Cromarty, — for fifteen years my parish minister, and one of decidedly the most original-minded men and most accomplished theologians his country has ever produced. And he, I may add, like all careful students of Scripture of the higher calibre, can see no irreconcilable difference between Bible truth and the great facts of the geologist.] The narrative here is quite as continuous as in the first three verses of Genesis. In the order of the relation, the marriage of the parents is as directly followed in the one case by the birth of a son, as the creation of matter is followed in the other by the first beginnings of the existing state of things. The reader has as slight grounds to infer, in the one case, that between the marriage of the parents and the birth of the child the births of several other children of the family had taken place, as to infer, in the other, that between the creation of matter and the subsisting creation there had taken place several other creations. And if the continuity of the narrative would not justify the inference in the one case, just as little can it justify it in the other. We know, however, from succeeding portions of Scripture, that the father and mother of this child had several other children born to them in the period that intervened between their marriage and his birth. They had a son named Aaron, who had been born at least two years previous ; and a daughter, Miriam, who was old enough at the time to keep sedulous watch over the little ark of bulrushes, and to suggest to Pharaoh’s daughter that it might be well for her to go and call one of the Hebrew women to be nurse to the child. It was essential, in the course of Scripture narrative, that we should be introduced to personages so famous as Aaron and Miriam, and who were destined to enact parts so important in the history of the Church ; and so we have been introduced to them. And had it been as necessary for the pu ’poses of revelation that reference should have been made to tne intervening creations in the one case, as to the intervening births in the other, we would doubtless have heard of them too. But, as has been already said, it was not so necessary; it was not necessary at all. The ferns and lepidodendra of the Coal Measures are as little connected with the truths which influence our spiritual state, as the vegetable productions of Mercury or of Pallas; the birds and^reptiles of the Oolite, as the unknown animals that inhabit the plains or disport in the rivers of Saturn or Uranus. And so revelation is as silent on the geological phenomena as on the contemporary creations, — on the periods and order of systems and formations, as on the relative positions of the earth and sun, or the places and magnitudes of the planets.

But organic remains may, it is urged, have been created such; and the special miracle through which the gourd of Jonah, though it must have seemed months old, sprung up in a single night, and the general miracle through which the trees of Paradise must have appeared, even on the first evening of their creation, half a century old, have been adduced to show that the globe, notwithstanding its marks of extreme antiquity, may have been produced with all these marks stamped upon it, as if in the mint. “ The very day when the ocean dashed its first waves on the shore,” says Chateaubriand, “it bathed, let us not doubt, rocks already worn by the breakers, and beaches strewn with the wrecks of shells.” — “For aught that appears in the bowels of the earth,” said the “Record” newspaper, some two years ago, in adopting this peculiar view, as expressed by a worthy Presbyterian minister, “the world might have been called into existence yesterday.” Let us just try whether, as creatures to whom God has given reason, and who cannot acquire facts without drawing inferences, we can believe the assertion; and ascertain how much this curious principle of explaining geologic fact actually involves.

“The earth, for anything that appears to the contrary, may have been made yesterday!” We stand in the middle of an ancient burying-ground in a northern district. The monuments of the dead, lichened and gray, rise thick around us; and there are fragments of mouldering bones lying scattered amid the loose dust that rests under them, in dark recesses impervious to the rain and the sunshine. We dig into the soil below: here is a human skull, and there numerous other well-known bones of the human skeleton, — vertebrae, ribs, arm and leg bones, with the bones of the breast and pelvis. Still, as we dig, the bony mass accumulates; —we disinter portions, not of one, but of many skeletons, some comparatively fresh, some in a state of great decay; and with the bones there mingle fragments of coffins, with the wasted tinsel-mounting in some instances still attached, and the rusted nails still sticking in the joints. We continue to dig, and, at a depth to which the sexton almost never penetrates, find a stratum of pure sea-sand, and then a stratum of the sea-shells common on the neighboring coast, — in especial, oyster, muscle, and cockle shells. It may be mentioned, in the passing, that the churchyard to which I refer, though at some little distance from the sea, is situated on one of the raised beaches of the north of Scotland; and hence the shells. We dig a little further, and reach a thick bed of sandstone, which we penetrate, and beneath which we find a bed of impure lime, richly charged with the remains of fish of strangely antique forms. “The earth, for anything that appears to the contrary, might have been made yesterday!” Do appearances such as these warrant the inference? Do these human skeletons, in all their various stages of decay, appear as if they had been made yesterday? Was that bit of coffin, with the soiled tinsel on the one side, and the corroded nail sticking out of the other, made yesterday? Was yonder skull, instead of having ever formed part of a human head, created yesterday, exactly the repulsive-looking sort of thing we see it? Indisputably not. Such is the nature of the human mind, — such the laws that regulate and control human belief, — that in the very existence of that churchyard we do and must recognize positive proof that the world was not made yesterday.

But can we stop in our process of inference at the mouldering remains of the churchyard? Can we hold that the skull was not created a mere skull, and yet hold that the oyster, muscle, and cockle shells beneath are not the remains of molluscous animals, but things originally created in exactly their present state, as empty shells? The supposition is altogether absurd. Such is the constitution of our minds, that we must as certainly hold yonder oyster-shell to have once formed part of a mollusc, as we hold yonder skull to have once formed part of a man. And if we cannot stop at the skeleton, how stop at the shells? Why not pass on to the fish? The evidence of design is quite as irresistible in them as in the human or the molluscous remains above. We can still see the scales which covered them occupying their proper places, with all their nicely-designed bars, hooks, and nails of attachment: the fins which propelled them through the water, with the multitudinous pseudo-joints, formed to impart to the rays the proper elasticity, lie widely spread on the stone; the sharp-pointed teeth, constructed like those of fish generally, rather for the purpose of holding fast slippery substances than of mastication, still bristle in their jaws; nay, the very plates, spines, and scales of the fish on which they had fed, still lie undigested in their abdomens. We cannot stop short at the shells : if the human skull was not created a mere skull, nor the shell a mere dead shell, then the fossil fish could not have been created a mere fossil. There is no broken link in the chain at which to take our stand; and yet, having once recognized the fishes as such. — having recognized them as the remains of animals, and not as stones that exist in their original state, — we stand committed to all the organisms of the geological scale.

But we limit the Divine power, it may be said: could not the Omnipotent First Cause have created all the fossils of the earth, vegetable and animal, in their fossil state ? Yes, certainly; the act of their creation, regarded simply as an act of power, does not and cannot transcend his infinite ability. He could have created all the burying-grounds of the earth, with all their broken and wasted contents, brute and human. He could have created all the mummies of Mexico and of Egypt as such, and all the skeletons of the catacombs of Paris. It would manifest, however, but1 little reverence for his character to compliment his infinite power at the expense of his infinite wisdom. It would be doing no honor to his name to regard him as a creator of dead skeletons, mummies, and churchyards. Nay, we could not recognize him as such, without giving to the winds all those principles of common reason which in his goodness he has imparted to us for our guidance in the ordinary affairs of life. In this, as in that higher sense adduced by our Saviour, “ God is not the God of the dead, but of the living.” In the celebrated case of Eugene Aram, the skeleton of his victim, the murdered Clark, was found in a cave; but how, asked the criminal, in his singularly ingenious and eloquent defence, could that skeleton be known to be Clark’s ? The cave, he argued, had once been a hermitage; and in times past hermitages had been places not only of religious retirement, but of burial also. “ And it has scarce or ever been heard of,” he continued, “but that every cell now known contains or contained those relics of humanity, — some mutilated, some entire. Give me leave to remind the Court that here sat solitary sanctity, and here the hermit and the anchorite hoped that repose for their bones when dead, they here enjoyed when living. Every place conceals such remains. In fields, on hills, on highway sides, on wastes, on commons, lie frequent and unsuspected bones. But must some of the living be made answerable for all the bones that earth has concealed and chance exposed?” Such were the reasonings, on this count, of Eugene Aram; and it behooved the jury that sat upon him in judgment to bestow upon them their careful consideration. But how very different might not his line of argument have been, had the conclusions of the anti-geologist squared with the principles of human belief! If the fossil exuviae of a fish, or the fossil skeleton of a reptile, may have never belonged to either a reptile or a fish, then the skeleton of a man may have never belonged to a man. No more could be argued, Aram might have said, from the finding of a human skeleton in the floor of a cave, than from the finding of a pebble or a piece of rock in the floor of a cave. So far from being justified in inferring from it that a murder had been perpetrated, a jury could not have so much as inferred from it that a human creature had existed.

Is the anti-geologist, I would fain ask, prepared to give up the great argument founded on design, as asserted and illustrated by all the master-minds who have written on the Evidences. Is he resolved, in the vain hope of bearing down the geologist, to make a full surrender to the infidel ? Let us mark how Paley’s well-known illustration of the watch found on the moor would apply in this controversy. Fronrthe design exhibited in the construction of the watch, the existence of a designer is inferred; whereas, from a stone found on the same moor, in which no such marks of design are apparent, the Archdeacon urges that no such inference regarding the existence of a designer could be drawn. But what would be thought of the man who could assert that the watch, with all its seeming design, was not a watch, but a stone; and that, notwithstanding its spring, its wheels, and its index, it had never been intended to measure time? What could be said of a sturdily avowed belief in a design not designed, and not the work of a designer, — in a watch furnished with all the parts of a watch, that is, notwithstanding, a mere stone, and occupies just its proper place when lying among the other stones of a moor ? What could be said of such a belief, paraded not simply as a belief, but actually as of the nature of reasoning, and fitted to bear weight in controversy ? And yet, such is the position of the anti-geologist, who sees in the earth, with all its fossils, no evidence that it might not have been created yesterday. For obvious it is, that in whatever has been designed, fitness of parts bears reference to the purposed object which the design subserves; and that if there be no purposed object, there can exist no fitness of parts in relation to it, and, in reality, no design. The analogy drawn in the case from the miracle of creation is no analogy at all. It is not contrary to the laws which control human belief, that the first races of every succeeding creation should have been called into existence in a state of full development; nay, it is in palpable and harmonious accordance with these laws. It is necessary that the animal which had no parents to care or provide for it should come into existence in a state of maturity sufficient to enable it to care and provide for itself; it is equally necessary that the contemporary vegetable, its food, should be created in a condition that fitted it for being food. Had the first man and first woman been created mere infants, they would, humanly speaking, have shared the fate of the “babes in the wood.” Had the productions of the vegetable kingdom been created in an analogous state of immaturity, “the horse,” to borrow from an old proverb, “would have died when the grass was growing.” But it is contrary to the laws which control human belief, that the allwise Creator should be a maker of churchyards full of the broken debris of carcasses,—of skeletons never purposed to compose the framework of animals, — of watches never intended to do aught than perform the part of stones.*

In the pages of no writer is the argument drawn from the miracle of creation — if argument it may be termed — at once so ingeniously asserted and so exquisitely adorned, as in the pages of Chateaubriand. The passage is comparatively little known in this country, and so I quote it entire from the translation of a friend.

“We approach the last objection concerning the modern origin of the globe. *The earth,’ it is said, *is an old nurse, whose decrepitude everything announces. Examine its fossils, its marbles, its granites, and you will decipher its innumerable years, marked by circle, by stratum, or by branch, like those of the serpent by his rattles, the horse by his teeth, or the stag by his horns. ’

“This difficulty has been a hundred times solved by this answer,— * God should have created, and without question has created, the world, with all the marks of antiquity and completeness which we now see.’

“Indeed, it is probable that the Author of nature at first planted old forests and young shoots, — that animals were produced, some full of days, others adorned with all the graces of infancy. Oaks, as they pierced the fruitful soil, would bear at once the forsaken nest of the crow and the young posterity of the dove; the caterpillar was chrysalis and butterfly; the insect, fed on the herb, suspended its golden egg amid the forests, or trembled in the wavy air; the bee which had lived but a single morning I confess it grieves me more than if Puseyism were the offender, to see a paper such as the London “Record,” — reckoned its ambrosia by generations of flowers. We must believe that the sheep was not without its young, the fawn without its little ones,— that the thickets hid nightingales, astonished with their own first music, in warming the fleeting hopes of their first loves. If the world had not been at once young and old, the grand, the serious, the moral, would disappear from nature ; for these sentiments belong essentially to the antique. Every scene would have lost its wonders. The ruined rock could not have hung over the abyss ; the woods, despoiled of every chance appearance, would not have displayed that touching disorder of trees bending over their roots, and of trunks leaning over the courses of the rivers. Inspired thoughts, venerable sounds, magic voices, the sacred gloom of forests, would vanish with the vaults which served them for retreats ; and the solitudes of heaven and earth would remain naked and disenchanted, in losing those columns of oak which unite them. The very day when the ocean dashed its first waves on the shores, it bathed — let us not doubt — rocks already worn by the breakers, beaches strewn with the wrecks of shells, and headlands which sustained against the assaults of the waters the crumbling shores of earth. Without this inherent old age, there would have been neither pomp nor majesty in the work of the Eternal; and, what could not possibly be, nature in its innocence would have been less beautiful than it is to-day amid its corruption. An insipid infancy of plants, animals, and elements, would have crowned a world without poetry. But God was not so tasteless a designer of the bowers of Eden as infidels pretend. The man king was himself born thirty years old, in order to accord in his majesty with the ancient grandeur of his new kingdom ; and his companion reckoned sixteen springs which she had not lived, that she might harmonize with flowers, birds, innocence, love, and all the youthful part of the creation.”

This is unquestionably fine writing, and it contains a considerable amount of general truth. But not a particle of the true does it contain in connection with the one point which the writer sets himself to establish. There exists, as has been shown, a reason, palpable in the nature of things, why creation, in even its earliest dawn, should not have exhibited an insipid infancy of plants and animals ; the animals, otherwise, could not have survived, and thus the great end of creation would have been defeated. But though there exists an obvious reason for the creation of pacy of England, — committing itself to the anti-geologists on this question. At the meeting of the British Association which the full-grown and the mature, there exists no reason whatever for the creation of the ruined and the broken. It is a very indifferent argument to allege that the poetic sentiment demanded the production of fractured shells on the shores, or of deserted crows’ nests in the trees. If sentiment demanded the creation of broken shells that had never belonged to molluscous animals, how much more imperatively must it have demanded the creation of broken human skeletons that had never belonged to men ! or, if it rendered necessary the creation of deserted crows’ nests, how much more urgent the necessity for the creation of deserted palaces and temples, sublime in their solitude, or of desolate cities partially buried in the sands of the desert! There is a vast deal more of poetry in the ancient sepulchres of Thebes and of Luxor, with their silent millions of the embalmed dead, than in the comminuted shells of sea-beaches ; and in Palmyra and the pyramids, than in deserted crows’ nests. Nor would the creation of the one class of productions be in any degree less probable, or less according to the principles of human belief, than the other. And mark the inevitable effects on human conduct! The man who honestly held with Chateaubriand in this passage, and was consistent in following out to their legitimate consequences the tenets which it embodies, could not sit as a juryman in either a coroner’s inquest or a trial for murder, conducted on circumstantial evidence. If he held that an old crow’s nest might have been called into existence as such, how could he avoid holding that an ancient human dwelling might not have been called into existence as such ? If he held that a broken patella or whelk-shell might have been created a broken shell, how could he avoid holding that a human skull, fractured like that of the murdered Clark, might not have been created a broken skull ? To him Paley’s watch, picked up on a moor, could not appear as other than merely a curious stone, charged with no evidence, in the peculiarity of its construction, that it had been intended to measure time. The entire passage is eminently characteristic of that magnificent work of imagination, “The Genius of Christianity,” in which Chateaubriand sets himself to reconvert to Romanism the infidelity of France. He ever attempts dealing by the reasoning faculty in his countrymen, as the Philistines of old dealt by the Jewish champion: instead of meeting it in the open field, and with the legitimate weapons, he sends forth the exquisitely beautiful Delilah of his fancy to cajole and set it asleep, and then bind it as with green withes held at York in 1844, the puerilities of Dean Cockburn were happily met with and exposed by the Rev. Mr. Sedgwick; and it was on that occasion that the “ Record,” after pronouncing it no slight satire on this accomplished man of science, that one of the members present should have eulogized his “ boldness as a clergyman,” adopted the assertion, — can it be called belief? — that for aught which appears to the contrary, “the world might have been made yesterday.” Attempts to support the true in religion by the untrue in science, manifest, I am afraid, exceedingly little wisdom. False witnesses, when engaged in just causes, serve but to injure them; and certainly neither by anti-geologists nor at the Old Bailey should “ kissing the book” be made a preliminary to supporting the untrue. I do not find that the truly great theologians of the day manifest any uneasy jealousy of geological discovery. Geologists, expatiating in their proper province, have found nothing antagonistic in the massive intellect and iron logic of Dr. Cunningham, of Edinburgh, nor in the quick comprehensiveness and elastic vigor of Dr. Candlish. Chalmers has already given his deliverance on this science, — need it be said after what manner? — and in a recent number of the “ North British Review ” may be found the decision regarding it of a kindred spirit, the author of the “Natural History of Enthusiasm.” “The reader,” says this distinguished man, in adverting to certain influential causes that in the present day widely affect theologic opinion and the devotional feeling, “will know that we here refer to that indirect modification of religious notions and sentiments, that results insensibly from the spread and consolidation of the modern sister sciences, Astronomy and Geology, which, immeasurably enlarging, as they do, our conceptions of the universe in its two elements of space and time, expel a congeries of narrow errors, heretofore regarded as unquestionable truths, and open before us at once a Chart and a History of the Dominions of Infinite Power and Wisdom. We shall hasten to exclude the supposition,” he continues, “that, in thus mentioning- the relation of the modern sciences to Christianity we are thinking of anything so small and incidental as are the alleged discrepancies between the terms of Biblical history, in certain instances, and the positive evidence of science. All such discordances, whether real or apparent, will find the proper means of adjustment readily and finally in due time. We have no anxieties on the subject. Men ‘easily shaken in mind’ will rid themselves of the atoms of faith which perhaps they once possessed, by the means of ‘difficulties’ such as these. But it is not from causes so superficial that serious danger to the faith of a people is to be apprehended.” The passages which follow this very significant one are eminently beautiful and instructive; but enough is here given to indicate the judgment of the writer on the point at issue.

There is, I doubt not, a day coming, when writers on the evidences of the two Theologies, Natural and Revealed, will be content to borrow largely from the facts of the geologist. Who among living men may anticipate the thinking of future generations, or indicate in what direction new avenues into the regions of thought shape yet be opened up by the key of unborn genius? The births of the human intellect, like those which take place in the human family, await their predestined time. There are, however, two distinct theologic vistas on the geologic field, that seem to open up of themselves. Infidelity has toiled hard to obviate the necessity of a First Gjeat Cause, by the fiction of an Infinite Series; and Metaphysic Theology has labored hard, in turn, to prove the fiction untenable and absurd. But metaphysicians, though specially assisted in the work by such men as Bentley and Robert Hall, have not been successful. They have, indeed, shown that an infinite series is, from many points of view, wholly inc, but they have not shown that it is impossible ;and its inconceivability merely attaches to it in its character as an infinity contemplated entire. Exactly the same degree of inconceivability attaches to “the years of the Eternal,” if we attempt comprehending the eternity of Deity otherwise than in the progressive mode which Locke so surely demonstrates to be the only possible one: we can but take our stand at some definite period, and realize the possibility of measuring backwards, along the course of His existence for ever and ever, and have at every succeeding stage an undiminished infinitude of work before us. Metaphysic Theology furnishes no real argument against the “Infinite Series” of the atheist. But Geology supplies the wanting link, and laughs at the idle fiction of a race of men without beginning. Infinite series of human creatures! Why, man is but of yesterday. The fish enjoyed life during many creations, — the bird and reptile during not a few, — the marsupial quadruped ever since the times of the Oolite, — the sagacious elephant in at least the latter ages of the Tertiary. But man belongs to the present creation, and to it exclusively. He came into being late on the Saturday evening. He has come, as the great moral instincts of his nature so surely demonstrate, to prepare for the sacred to-morrow. In the chariot of God’s providence, as seen by the prophet in vision, there are wheels within wheels, — a complex duality of type and symbol: and there may possibly exist a similar complexity of arrangement, — a similar duality of typical plan, — in the Divine institution of the Sabbath. Its place, as the seventh day, may bear reference, not only to that special subordinate week in which the existing scene of things was called into being, but also to that great geologic week, within which is comprised the entire scheme of creation.

The second theological vista into the geologic field opens up a still more striking prospect. There is a sad oppressiveness in that sense of human littleness which the great truths of astronomy have so direct a tendency to inspire. Man feels himself lost amid the sublime magnitudes of creation, — a mere atom in the midst of infinity; and trembles lest the scheme of revelation should be found too large a manifestation of the Divine care for so tiny an ephemera. Now, I am much mistaken if the truths of Geology have not a direct tendency to restore him to his true place. When engaged some time since in perusing one of the sublimest philosophic poems of modern times, — the “Astronomical Discourses” of Dr. Chalmers, — there occurred to me a new argument that might be employed against the infidel objection which the work was expressly written to remove. The infidel points to the planets ; and, reasoning from an analogy which, on other than geologic data, the Christian cannot challenge, asks whether it be not more than probable that each of these is, like our own earth, not only a scene of creation, but also a home of rational, accountable creatures. And then follows the objection, as fully stated by Dr. Chalmers: — “Does not the largeness of that field which astronomy lays open to the view of modern science throw a suspicion over the truth of the Gospel history? and how shall we reconcile the greatness of that wonderful movement which was made in heaven for the redemption of fallen man, with the comparative meanness and obscurity of our species? Geology, when the doctor wrote, was in a state of comparative infancy. It has since been largely developed, and we have been introduced, in consequence, to the knowledge of some five or six different creations, of which this globe was the successive scene ere the present creation was called into being. At the time the “Astronomical Discourses ” were published, the infidel could base his analogy on his knowledge of but one creation, — that to which we ourselves belong; whereas we can now base our analogy on the knowledge of at least six creations, the various productions of which we can handle, examine, and compare. And how, it may be asked, does this immense extent of basis affect the objection with which Dr. Chalmers has grappled so vigorously? It annihilates it completely. You argue — may not the geologist say to the infidel — that yonder planet, because apparently a scene of creation like our own, is also a home of accountable creatures like ourselves ? But the extended analogy furnished by geologic science is full against you. Exactly so might it have been argued regarding our own earth during the early creation represented by the Lower Silurian system, and yet the master-existence of that extended period was a crustacean. Exactly so might it have been argued regarding the earth during the term of the creation represented by the Old Red Sandstone, and yet the master-existence of that not less extended period" was a fish. During the creation represented by the Carboniferous period, with all its rank vegetation and green reflected light, the master-existence was a fish still. During the creation of the Oolite, the master-existence was a reptile, a bird, or a marsupial animal. During the creation of the Cretaceous period, there was no further advance. During the creation of the Tertiary formations, the master-existence was a mammiferous quadruped. It was not until the creation to which we ourselves belong was called into existence, that a rational being, born to anticipate a hereafter, was ushered upon the scene. Suppositions such as yours would have been false in at least five out of six instances; and if in five out of six comecutive creations there existed no accountable agent, what shadow of reason can there be for holding that a different arrangement obtains in five out of six porary creations? Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, and Uranus, may have all their plants and animals; and yet they may be as devoid of rational, accountable creatures, as were the creations of the Silurian, Old Red Sandstone, Carboniferous, Oolitic, Cretaceous, and Tertiary periods. They may be merely some of the “many mansions” prepared in the “Father’s house ” for the immortal creature of kingly destiny, made in the Father’s own image, to whom this little world forms but the cradle and the nursery.

But the effect of this extended geologic basis may be neutralized, — the infidel may urge, — by extending it yet a little further. Why, he may ask, since we draw our analogies regarding what obtains in the other planets from what obtains in our own, — why not conclude that each one of them has also had its geologic eras and revolutions, — its Silurian, Old Red Sandstone, Carboniferous, Oolitic, Cretaceous, and Tertiary periods; and that now, contemporary with the creation of which man constitutes the master-existence, they have all their fully matured creations headed by rationality? Why not carry the analogy thus far? Simply, it may be unhesitatingly urged in reply, because to carry it so far would be to carry it beyond the legitimate bounds of analogy; and because analogy pursued but a single step beyond the limits of its proper province, is sure always to land the pursuer in error. Analogy is not identity. It is safe when it deals with generals; very unsafe when it grapples with particulars.

Analogy, I repeat, is not identity. Let me attempt illustrating the fact in its bearing on this question. We find reason to conclude, as Isaac Taylor well expresses it, that “the planetary stuff is all one and the same.” And we know to a certainty, that human nature, wherever it exists in the present state of things, “ is all one and the same ” also. But when reasoning analogically regarding either, we can but calculate on generals, not particulars. Man being all over the world a constructive, house-making animal, and, withal, fond of ornament, one would be quite safe in arguing analogically, from an acquaintance with Europe alone, that wherever there is a civilized nation, architecture must exist as an art. But analogy is not identity; and he would be egregiously in error who would conclude that nations, civilized or semi-civilized, such as the Chinese, Hindoos, or ancient Mexicans, possess not only an ornate architecture, but an architecture divided into two great schools; and that the one school has its Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian orders, and the other school its Saxon, Norman, and Florid styles. In like manner, man’s nature being everywhere the same, it may be safely inferred that man will everywhere be an admirer of female beauty. But analogy is not identity; and it would be a sad mistake to argue, just as one chanced to be resident in Africa or England, that man everywhere admired black skins and fla|*noses, or a fair complexion and features approximating to the Grecian type. And instances of a resembling character may be multiplied without end. Analogy, so sagacious a guide in its own legitimate field, is utterly blind and senseless in the precincts that lie beyond it: it is nicely correct in its generals, — perversely erroneous in its particulars; and no sooner does it quit its proper province, the general, for the particular, than there start up around it a multitude of solid objections, sternly to challenge it as a trespasser on grounds not its own. How infer, we may well ask the infidel, —admitting, for the argument’s sake, that all the planets come under the law of geologic revolution, — how infer that they have all, or any of them save our own earth, arrived at the stage of stability and ripeness essential to a fully-developed creation, with a reasoning creature as its master-existence? Look at the immense mass of Jupiter, and at that mysterious mantle of cloud, barred and streaked in the direction of his trade winds, that forever conceals his face. May not that dense robe of cloud be the ever-ascending steam of a globe that, in consequence of its vast bulk, has not sufficiently cooled down to be a scene of life at all ? Even the analogue of our Silurian creation may not yet have begun in Jupiter. Look, again, at Mercury, where it bathes in a flood of light, — enveloped within the sun’s halo, like some forlorn smelter sweltering beside his furnace-mouth. A similar state of things may obtain on the surface of that planet, from a different, though not less adequate cause. But it is unnecessary to deal further with an analogy so palpably overstrained, and whose aggressive place and position in a province not its own so many unanswerable objections start up to elucidate and fix.

The subject, however, is one which it would be difficult to exhaust. The Christian has nothing to fear, the infidel nothing to hope, from the great truths of geology. It is assuredly not through any enlargement of man’s little apprehension of the Infinite and the Eternal that man’s faith in the scheme of salvation by a Redeemer need be shaken. We are incalculably more in danger from one unsubdued passion of our lower nature, even the weakest and the least, than from all that the astronomer has yet discovered in the depths of heaven, or the geologist in the bowels of the earth. If one’s heart be right, it is surely a good, not an evil, that one’s view should be expanded ; and geology is simply an expansion of view in the direction of the eternity that hath gone by.

It is not less, but more sublime, to take one’s stand on the summit of a lofty mountain, and thence survey the great ocean over many broad regions, — over plains, and forests, and undulating tracts of hills, and blue remote promontories, and far-seen islands, — than to look forth on the same vast expanse from the level champaign, a single field’s breadth from the shore. It can indeed be in part conceived from either point how truly sublime an object that ocean is, — how the voyager may sail over it day after day, and yet see no land rise on the dim horizon, — how its numberless waves roll, and its great currents ceaselessly flow, and its restless tides ever rise and fall, — how the lights of heaven are mirrored on its solitary surface, solitary, though the navies of a world be there, — and how, where plummet-line never sounded, and where life and light alike cease, it reposes with marble-like density, and more than Egyptian blackness, on the regions of a night on which there dawns no morning. But the larger view inspires the profounder feeling. The emotion is less overpowering, the conception less vivid, when from the humble flat we see but a band of water rising to where the sky rests, over a narrow selvage of land, than when, far beyond an ample breadth of foreground, and along an extended line of coast, and streaked with promontories and mottled with islands, and then spreading on and away in an ample plain of diluted blue, to the far horizon, we see the great ocean in its true character, wide and vast as human ken can descry. And such is the sublime prospect presented to the geologist, as he turns him towards the shoreless ocean of the upper eternity. The mere theologian views that boundless expanse from a flat, and there lies in front of him but the narrow strip of the existing creation, — a green selvage of a field’s breadth, fretted thick by the tombs of dead men; while to the eye purged and strengthened by the euphrasy of science, the many vast regions of other creations, — promontory beyond promontory, — island beyond island, — stretch out in sublime succession into that boundless ocean of eternity, whose sumless, irreducible area their vast extent fails to lessen by a single handbreadth, — that awful, inconceivable eternity, — God's past lifetime in its relation to God’s finite creatures, — with relation to the infinite I AM himself, the indivisible element of the eternal now. And there are thoughts which arise in connection with the ampler prospect, and analogies, its legitimate produce, that have assuredly no tendency to confine man’s aspirations, or cramp his cogitative energies, within the narrow precincts of mediocre unbelief.- What mean the peculiar place and standing of our species in the great geologic week ? There are tombs everywhere : each succeeding region, as the eye glances upwards towards the infinite abyss, is roughened with graves; the pages on which the history of the past is written are all tombstones; the inscriptions, epitaphs : we read the characters of the departed inhabitants in their sepulchral remains. And all these unreasoning creatures of the bygone periods —- these humbler pieces of workmanship produced early in the week — died, as became their natures, without intelligence or hope. They perished ignorant of the past, and unanticipative of the future, — knowing not of the days that had gone before, nor recking of the days that were to come after. But not such the character of the last born of God’s creatures, — the babe that came into being late on the Saturday evening, and that now whines and murmurs away its time of extreme infancy during the sober hours of preparation for the morrow. Already have the quick eyes of the child looked abroad upon all the past, and already has it noted why the passing time should be a time of sedulous diligence and expectancy. The work-day week draws fast to its close, and to-morrow is the Sabbath!


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