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and turn their facts into fictions and their boasted wisdom into folly."
This expected time, we believe, is come. Providence hath interposed, and the facts of true science are now scattering to the winds the speculations of presumptuous men, and exposing the folly of their theories. When the British Association for the Promotion of Science was held in 1865, “ a manifesto was drawn up and signed by 617 scientific men, many of them of the highest eminence, declaring their belief in the truth and authenticity of Holy Scripture, and its harmony with natural science." A copy of this document now lies before the writer : the original is in the Bodleian Library at Oxford. And since then, the two cognate sciences of astronomy and chronology have afforded the desired demonstration as to the truth of the Mosaic record respecting the period of the origin of man, and the dates of the successive events recorded in the sacred volume,
The honoured agent in this demonstration is Mr. Jabez Bunting Dimbleby, of London, the author of a work entitled “All Past Time;" and his labours have received the respectful acknowledgments of the secretaries of two learned societies, the Royal Society and the Royal Historical Society.
A few preliminary observations seem necessary. If the reader will turn to the first chapter of Genesis, verse 14, he will find this remarkable declaration respecting the use of the heavenly bodies : "And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament (Hebrew, in the expansion) of the heaven to divide between the day and between the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days,
years (Gen. i. 14). Here we find that the bright luminaries of heaven, besides giving light, serve another very important purpose, namely, “ to be for signs and for seasons, and for days and for years ;” that is, to divide and regulate the several periods of time. And, therefore, in fulfilling these purposes we should expect that, as certainly as those heavenly bodies—the sun, moon, and stars -do give their light to us, so certainly would they also divide time for us into distinct periods, and fix the duration of those periods perpetually from age to age. Indeed, we have no other standards of time, no other mode of dividing time, no other mode of regulating the periods of time, but the motions and relative positions of the heavenly bodies. This, however, they do for us with undeviating regularity and absolute perfection. As our own poet hath
“From old Eternity's mysterious orb
Was Time cut off, and cast beneath the skies,
In fact, the heavens are the great clock or chronometer of the universe, which strikes the hours, the days, the months and ages, of all time, with undeviating regularity. To prove and illustrate this, and to make it easy to be understood by all persons, our remarks must be very simple and elementary; and, therefore, the philosopher must bear with our simplicity for the sake of others.
The earth, which seems to be fixed and immovable, is in reality never at rest, no, not for a moment, but is always moving with great speed. It has two motions, one on its own axis, continually turning round like a wheel. And every time it makes one complete turn, it measures for us the length of a day. The earth has another motion, one in her orbit (which is her path around the sun), .and in this journey she measures out for us the period of time we call one year; and in both these motions the earth is perfectly regular from age to age.
The moon, which gives us light by night, has also two motions, one around our earth, which determines the period of a month (that is, a mooneth); and another motion in which she accompanies our earth around the sun, and completes her journey in one year. The planets, also like our earth, have both diurnal and annual motions ; and these are performed in stated periods. And some of the planets—Jupiter and Saturn-have moons going around them in regular period.
There are also eclipses of the sun, caused by the moon in her revolution passing between us and the sun, and casting her shadow upon him, and hiding his splendour, sometimes partly, and sometimes wholly, from our view. There are also eclipses of the moon, caused by our earth coming between the sun and the moon, and casting her dark shadow upon the latter. All these eclipses, whether of the sun or of the moon, and whether partial or total, take place at regular stated periods.
In addition to all these astronomical occurrences, there are what are called the transits of Venus and of Mercury, which are produced by those planets moving so exactly in their orbits between our earth and the sun that they are seen like little dark spots passing over the sun's bright face. In fact, these transits are really little eclipses ; but the planets, being so much smaller than the sun, their passage over his face hides only a small space of his disc, and they appear to us only as little dark spots. Now these transits occur also periodically at fixed times.
I must now further state for the information of our youthful readers that, as all these astronomical occurrences take place periodically, and with unvarying exactness, they can be foretold. Our clever astronomers, knowing, as they do, the distance of these globes from one another, and also from the sun ; and knowing, too, the rate of their motions, and the laws by which their motions are regulated, they can tell beforehand when there will be an eclipse of the sun, or an eclipse of the moon; and also when there will be a transit of Venus or of Mercury; or when there will be the occultation of a star. More than all this, they can foretell the period when there will be what is called a cycle—that is, when these various orbs will be in exactly the same relative position with regard to each other that they are now. Hence you find that scientific almanacks always tell us beforehand the place of the moon on any given day; the places of the planets on any given day; the exact times of their rising, their culminating or coming to the meridian, and their setting, on any day in the year ; giving us the hour, or the minute, as exactly as if all these movements and their periods were indicated by the hands of a clock.
Yet this foreknowledge is not prophesying; it is only telling beforehand by mathematical calculation what they know must take place, just as any person would know that a railway train running at forty miles an hour, without stopping or slackening speed, would run from London to Liverpool in a given period. The only difference is here—the heavenly bodies revolve with so much more exactness that their periods can be calculated with much more certainty and precision, even to a moment of time. There is no clock or watch invented by man to keep time with the same certainty and regularity as the heavenly bodies. Thay never stand still; they never need winding up; and they neither lose nor gain a minute in a thousand years. Such is the great timepiece, the grand chronometer, which God hath made. Verily the heavens do declare the glory of God, and the firmament showeth His handiwork.
Furthermore, astronomers can look back into the past revolutions of the earth and of the heavenly bodies, and ascertain exactly when there were eclipses of the sun and the moon, and whether they were partial or total eclipses ; they can tell the day, the hour, and even the minute when they occurred; and they can tell also when there was a transit of Venus, or of Mercury, or when there was a solar or a lunar cycle; pointing out the year, the day, or the hour when any one of these occurred. Yet this is not done by inspiration or revelation, but merely by mathematical calculation. It is the exactness of the sciences of astronomy and chronology, based on the perfect regularity of the motions of our earth, and of the heavenly bodies.
To what extent the Antediluvians studied astronomy and chronology we cannot determine ; but it is evident that mankind at an early period had a very exact knowledge of chronology, either from study or revelation ; for the early Books of Hebrew Scripture are replete with dates. There is not indeed any ancient historical book in existence so full of exact dates as the Books of Moses. In Genesis you begin with the creation of man, and the age of Adam and of every patriarch is given; the exact year when each had a son, and the year when he died ; and the line of succession is continued with perfect precision, fixing the year 1656, and the second month, and the seventeenth day of the month, when Noah entered the Ark; when the Deluge came; how long the Deluge continued ; the period during which Noah continued in the Ark; the very day as well as the month and the year he left the Ark, and his age
when he died. All these are stated with a minuteness as if written by an astronomer. Surely there was a divine purpose in this exactness! Moreover, you are informed of the period, the very month and the very day, when the Israelites left Egypt, the exactness being expressly indicated by the remarkable words, "the self-same day." There is the same precision observed in fixing the month and the day of the month when the Jewish Passover and other annual feasts were to be observed. For it is a remarkable fact, and one never to be lost sight of, that in appointing the Feast of the Passover God Himself fixed the period by the age of the moon; and this period fixed again the exact time for the celebration of the other festivals, thus making that heavenly body's motions at once the regulator of time, and the guide of the Jewish nation as to the holding of their religious services.
It is the same with other Books of Holy Scripture; they give you the year, the month, and the day when the Israelites crossed the River Jordan and entered the Promised Land. The year, the month, and the day when the foundation of the first Temple was laid by Solomon; and the year, and the month, and the day when that Temple was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar. Again, the year when the Babylonish captivity ended; the year when the people returned to their own land ; the year, the month, and the day when the holy sacrifices were recommenced in their own land ; the year, the month, and the day when the second Temple was completed ; and many times the particular period is noted by the special remark of the writer, in these words : "on the self-same day." Daniel foretold the year when the Redeemer's ministry commenced, and when it ended by His death, and Paul says the same occurred in due iime; and if the Passover must be regarded as prophetic as well as typical, it indicated the month, the week, the day, and the hour of the Redeemer's death!
We might add many similar examples, to show the special regard which the sacred writers had to dates; and this ehows the importance they attached to the notification of time. Doubtless the Holy Spirit, in causing this minute record of the dates of different events, designed they should become one means among many others by which the truth of His holy word should be attested and confirmed ; and this confirmation has now, in the good providence of God, arrived.
As we have already said, God from the beginning appointed the earth, the sun, and moon, and planets to be collectively the register of time, the chronometer of the universe. Thus appointed by God at the beginning to be for signs and for seasons, for days and for years, they fulfil the design of their appointment. Hence they are called by the prophets, and by God Himself, “ the ordinances of Heaven.” And as such they bear witness to His truth. These cannot err; their movements, and the phenomena produced by their movements, are absolutely correct—their results are the true standard of time, and the only true standard of time. Therefore, if God's word is true, it is certain that His word and His works will agree in their testimony; and if both be read correctly, the agreement of both will become manifest.
Is there, then, any human being who can and who has read the chronometer of the universe, so as to show that the record on high agrees with the record on earth ? Yes, we believe there is.
Archbishop Ussher did much in his day, and approached very near the truth, but the sublime discoveries in astronomy had not been made in his day, so that neither could he be perfectly correct throughout, nor could he fully confirm his system by the testimony of the heavens.
Sir Isaac Newton applied his gigantic mind mainly to astronomy, and his work on chronology did not appear until after his death ; moreover, it was incomplete, and applied rather to heathen empires than to the sacred Scriptures.
William Whiston was a great mathematician, and was appointed the successor to Sir Isaac Newton as Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge, and he successfully applied the science of astronomy to prove the chronology of the Bible, so far as to establish the truth of the Mosaic record of the Deluge, showing that the year of the world 1656, and the second month, and seventeenth day of that month, were coincident with celestial phenomena, and he concludes this evidence with the following remarkable corollary or conclusion :
“ Hence the chronology of the Bible is established, and all the pretended immense numbers of years, which the annals of some nations recount, are confuted. For as the year of the Deluge, from the Hebrew chronology giren, the day of the beginning of the Deluge therein assigned is fully attested to and determined on our hypotheses from astronomy.” (See “Theory of the Earth,” by William Whiston, M.A., pp. 152-153.)