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camel's back; so in their communications, they used, (or the Lord used by them) the language, the grammar, the rhetoric, the symbols, the idioms, the ideas and the philosophy of the times. In referring to the earth, or to the heavens, for an illustration of divine truth, they spake of these as their hearers conceived of them; of the one as a great plain, and the other as a firm arch, in which the sun, moon and stars were set, and with which it made a revolution daily, round the habitation of man.
Strictly speaking, the Bible does not teach, nor intend to teach that the earth is a plain, or the heavens an arch supported on pillars, any more than our Almanacs intend to teach as scientific truth, that the sun rises and sets; stands still at the solstice, or turns about at the tropics ; they speak of things, not as they are in reality, but in appearance, and as they would be described in popular language, and to the unscientific mind. If the prophets had occasion to allude to the earth, the heavens, the sun, moon, or stars, to plants, or animals, they used these as they did the other words of the vernacular tongue, in the sense affixed to these parts of nature, by the people.
While the Bible never teaches falsehood, it does not profess to teach all the truth, on all subjects. Even on the subject of religion, it did not profess to teach all truth in the Old Testament; nor to reveal the whole plan before Messiah came. It was enough, if in that infant state of the Church, the elements of truth were taught. If the earth was spoken of as a plain, and the heavens as a high arch, so God himself was spoken of as having eyes, and hands, and mouth, and all the parts of a human body. Has He these parts ? Not at all. Does the Bible then teach falsehood? Never. For it does not intend to teach that he has them; but uses these terms as the best vehicles to convey ideas of His attributes.
While, therefore, we look to the Bible for moral truth, and for it alone, we can never be deceived; we rest upon the Rock of Ages. But the moment we go to this blessed book, expecting to find an inspired system of botany, meteorology, chemistry, astronomy or geology, we go without being sent; and expose ourselves to needless trouble, and to be driven again and again from what we falsely regard as a divine entrenchment; and when we fall, we imagine the Bible is falling with us!
The Bible has never yet suffered from the discoveries of science, and it is of the essence of absurdity, the most gratuitous of all cowardice, to suppose it ever will. When geology,
ing to find an inspir geology, we en and to be d
istry, astronelves to needely regard Bible is fa
and its principles, come to be generally understood and believed, it will be found, that geology interferes no more with the genuine teachings of the word of God, than astronomy has done; and that our views of God, and his government, of time and eternity, will be as much enlarged by this science, as our views of the universe and of immensity, have been by astronomy. It will give us conceptions of time, correspondent with our present
concepthis subject, as one rent before theny Christians the least
On this subject, as on all others, facts are stubborn things. The finest theories are rent before them as cobwebs before cannon balls. The prejudices of many Christians against geology, must be surrendered. Without yielding, in the least degree, the proper inspiration of the Scriptures, the old and popular interpretation of the opening chapter of the book of Genesis, must be relinquished. The idea that the earth is but six thousand years old; that the heavenly luminaries and the material universe, are less than one literal week older than man; that after some seven thousand years, the earth and the starry firmament “shall dissolve, and like the baseless fabric of a vision, leave not a rack behind ;” (all which were a regular part of the orthodox creed, one hundred years ago,) must, of necessity, be renounced, and share the fate of the astronomical notions held as a part of the Bible, three hundred years ago.
The Papists, generally have the whole credit of opposition to the discoveries of the telescope. But Protestantism partook not less than Popery, in the deep rooted prejudice, as may be seen in Luther, Turretin, Voetius, Heidegger, and in most of the commentaries and systems of theology, of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.
But science triumphed over tradition; and the belief of the inspiration of the Scriptures, so far from being weakened, is now more firmly intrenched in the public mind than ever.
The sooner the Church gives a candid hearing to geology, the better for the cause of truth, and the more honorable for the ministry and for religion. So exceedingly strong is the prejudice in the minds of some of our theologians, that they will not even listen to an argument, against the ancient creed. Not many months ago, a venerable divine of our acquaintance, a doctor of divinity withal, declared in a somewhat public discussion, that he had “no more respect for geologists than he had for his old shoes.” And another doctor, of equal prominence in the church, in an equally public manner, put the “revelations of geology,” on a par with the mesmeric “revelations of A. J. Davis !!” And such superficial views, though now in a great measure banished, are still too common for the honor of the Church. Now nothing is gained by such obstinate blindness to unequivocal facts, but the contempt of men of science, extended too often beyond the teacher to Christianity itself; while it causes grief and shame in those of their Christian hearers, who, like Kepler's doubter, have “looked through the telescope" and seen the facts.
If in the whole field of Natural science, there be any truths capable of unequivocal demonstration, the great truths of geology must come in this category.
If Mr. Eleazer Lord lives twenty years, or even ten, and does not shut both eyes and ears, he will alter his “Epoch of Creation," and regret the words he has written, doubtless from the purest motives, but with the most blind and misguided zeal; and Dr. Dickinson will take back all his sneers and scorn, and feel that his bow was bent and his precious shafts shot in vain.
The doctor of divinity who, twenty years hence, shall oppose geology, will be marked as sui generis, i. e. as a specimen of an "extinct genus," and be treasured as a fossil memorial of a
mer establisheng others alonger any these truths, most cer between
Doctrines of Geology. There should be no longer any hesitation in admitting the following among other truths, as beyond all peradventure, forever established by the discoveries in geology. And unless we would kindle a war between Science and the Bible, in which Science will most certainly triumph, every wise man will allow these truths, which every age will more and more demonstrate, to have their proper influence in future interpretations of the word of God.
1. That the Earth, instead of originating six thousand years ago, has existed through an indefinite period, safely expressed by millions of ages.
2. That Creation, taken in the largest sense, instead of being accomplished in one of our weeks, was a gradual work through countless ages. That the creation of the first vegetables and animals, preceded by an immeasurable period, the creation of the existing races of animals and man. That the earliest races of animals and vegetables, after subsisting for ages, perished. That new races were from time to time created, and after subsisting for long periods, in their turn perished; and that this creation, destruction, and succession, were repeated many times before the earth became the habitation of man.
3. That Death was in the world, (as implied in the foregoing statement,) and made awful ravages in the vegetable and animal kingdoms, ages before man was placed in Paradise. (Of course, the “death" threatened, Gen. ii. 17, must have referred exclusively to man; and why not?)
4. That the Deluge of Noah, affected only superficially the crust of the earth; and though the greatest catastrophe since the creation of man, had been preceded by other and still greater convulsions, of both sea and land. Countries have sunk beneath the waves, and emerged again, in some cases, many times. Continents and oceans have changed places more than once or twice; and our highest mountains have been for ages, under the briny wave.
Without crowding our pages with further instances, these may serve as a specimen of the sublime and momentous truths revealed by Geology: truths derived not, as many suppose, from hasty speculation, but from the evidence of the senses, the severest logic of science, and the most abundant and laborious inductions and observations, of some of the best minds with which our world was ever honored and blessed.
Though new discoveries are annually made in the geological, as in the astronomical or chemical field, its great leading principles are as settled as those of any other of the inductive sciences. Indeed the other sciences have been applied to it, and give it the fullest confirmation.
Whoever wishes particular details of the facts of Geology, can find them in scores of works published within the last twenty years. The list at the head of this article, is only of a few of those published, or republished, in 1850, or 1851.
The work of Pye Smith, has been for some ten years before the public, and has had immense influence in England, and in this country, in removing prejudices from Christian minds. The fourth edition is much enlarged, and the appendix contains rich stores of all that a common inquirer would wish to know. A summary of the proofs of the Antiquity of the Earth, may be seen in the notes A. & E., in former editions, and F. in this.
The name of President Hitchcock, stands as high in Europe, as in the United States, for both scientific and practical knowledge of this great subject. His “ Religion of Geology,” is only the last of a series of publications, all showing that his love for the Bible, is as strong as his love for geological discovery; and indeed, the grand object of these fourteen Lectures, is to show how Geology aids Revelation (as Astronomy
had done before,) in enlarging our ideas of the Works and Providence, and everlasting Plan, of Infinite Benevolence. His lectures being free from technicalities, are the better adapted to universal circulation.
Murphy's Geology is rather a superficial work, and yet good as far as it goes.
The best treatise for one who wants a bird's eye view of the results of geological inquiry, scientifically stated, and of the bearing of the whole on the interpretation of the Bible, is that of Dr. King, of Glasgow. The work is brief, but full enough, if he who reads will understand.
“The Course of Creation,” by Dr. Anderson, of Scotland, is the latest of these books, and was written to make Geology a matter of amusement, rather than of labor. It is a professed "walk," from the Grampian Hills, through England, and across France, to the Alps, in which, with little use of his spade in digging into the bowels of the earth, he sees the outcroppings of almost all the various strata yet known.
With a little excess in prettiness of style, and a spice of affectation here and there, it presents, on the whole, the elements of the science in a shape admirably adapted to interest and instruct the inquiring mind.
Miller's “Foot Prints of the Creator,” “Old Red Sandstone,” and “First Impressions of England,” have already received the highest plaudits of the press. His works are on the “ex pede Herculem” system. From a single “Star Scale” found in the Old Red Sandstone, as his text, ho builds up a system of truth, to overshadow and eclipse forever the scheme of the “ Vestiges of Creation.”
The style of his first works, is not to be compared in beauty and power, with the last efforts of his pen. The “Foot Prints," and First Impressions of England,” are in the best manner of the author of “Saturday Evening,” and the “Natural History of Enthusiasm.”
Harris, in his “ Preadamite Earth," taking the facts of Geology as proved, uses them to unfold, in a sublime manner, the eternal plan of the Creator; first to glorify his power in the origination of inorganic matter; then to glorfy his wisdom in the vegetable and organic world ; then his goodness in the creation of the animal and sensitive races, in their order, from the lowest up to man. Full of food for thought, it is too profoundly metaphysical, to be read with carelessness, or in any way, after dinner.
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