Page images
PDF
EPUB

Everywhere the earth's surface has been broken. We have, no doubt, great plains, but we have deep valleys likewise. There are little hills lying quietly around us in the sunlight, and huge mountains rearing their scarred brows above the clouds, and their desolate peaks into regions of perpetual snow.

Many of these were thrown up by giant forces from the depths of the earth long after the laying down of some of the thickest stratified rocks. Millions of years after the deposition of these rocks had been com

pleted, the volcanic forces were Fig. 61.

brought into play. While in some instances they rose up through dry land, in mostothers they were thrust violently through strata which had been formed in the bed of the ocean (fig. 51). Evidences of the action of these tremendous forces, which imagination could never have grasped, are made

plain to the sober mind of science. Think of Alp piled on Alp until results like the Andes and the Himalayan chain are obtained !

The mode in which the overlying strata have been dealt with, during the times of such upheaval, is everywhere apparent. In some cases they have been carried gently to the mountain summits, easily as a child in the arms of a giant. In others, two masses must have risen contemporaneously in the same area-at one time squeezing between them miles' deep of well-marked strata, rudely bending and twisting Fig. 62.

Fig. 53.

[graphic]

All

them; at another time contorting them, as the leaves of a book would be if subjected to lateral pressure, with a weight above them (fig. 52). “ Movements of this kind may often be well seen among the coal measures; some coal beds having so given way before the general force,

that their component parts have been squeezed, in the manner represented (fig. 53), into the outer portion of the flexures, a, a, while the roofs and bases of the coal beds are brought into contact between them.” Sometimes the upheaved masses have broken sharply off portions of the horizontal strata, and cast them to crumble away, in places in which they have stood much in the way of cut and dry geological theories. At other times they appear to have treated strata with great rudeness, making the horizontal perfectly vertical, or even almost entirely altering their order of deposition. The periods during which these disturbing agencies have continued to act, are indicated in the diagram given above. Volcanic agencies are still at work, both in the Old and in the New World. Was their action in bygone ages in all respects similar to what it has been during the historical period? If it were so, have we in this a force equal to account for such positions of the stratified rocks as those just referred to ? The answer to these questions is deeply interesting, but it relates rather to certain theories in the philosophy of geology than to the subject now under review. It may be stated, however, that while the theory of gradual accumulation is more consistent than that of upheaval with what is known of present and past volcanoes, to account for such masses as Etna and Teneriffe, or even Chimborazo, only the theory of upheaval can let reliable light in upon the present positions of the stratified rocks, and their well known stratigraphical relation to trap and granite for example.

The strata, rightly named modern, have been divided into two parts -the pre-historical and the historical ; the former having assigned to it all the deposits, as peat mosses, lake silts, and river alluvia, which contain in them the remains of extinct animals, and, in some instances, the traces of man-in the ancient canoes and stone implements which have been found; the latter includes all such accumulations of soil, sand, drift, and the like, as are now seen forming, or of whose formation we have distinct historical testimony. The division is not a happy one. Wherever man has left distinct traces of his presence, he has written part of his history; and it will keep our remarks free of difficulty, as well as truer to nature, to account all above the pleistocene as historical. The age of any one of these deposits, and the bearing of its contents on scriptural statements as to the antiquity of man, must, as we shall see, be determined by principles whose application to such questions is yet to be considered.

It has often been asked if we have good proof, after all, for concluding that all the climatal influences at present at work were in

operation at those incalculably remote ages at which we first meet with the traces of organic being? Were there light and darkness, cloud and sunshine, cold and heat, wind and rain, the moon walking in her brightness, the sun looking forth from the blue lift, and stars twinkling in the firmament then as now? These questions have already been in part answered, but a survey of the several great series of rocks, from the Upper Cambrian with its lobe worms and its zoophyte, up to the Tertiaries teeming with varied forms of life, must remove all doubt from this subject. There were clouds and light, ere the first cloud hung over Eden and the sun shone out in his strength on the first of our race there. If this be discredited, the testimony held to be given to the wisdom of God in nature, in the adaptations between means and end—between structure and the functions for which structure is adapted

-would come to be of no value. We find creatures with eyes formed as certainly for seeing objects in the light as those of mollusc and crustacean, beast and bird, now around us are. Light then existed around them. And if plants grew and trees flourished akin to those which we certainly know cannot grow without light, we must come to the same conclusion. Let the reader stand on a gusty day on any of our shores, and when the dark cloud overhead sends its treasures of rain down on the earth, he will notice, on the half-dried sand, that all the drop marks have the same slanting direction as the rain drops seemed to have, as he saw them in the atmosphere when driven by the wind. The rain ceases, but the wind still blows; and he notices an hour after that the marks of the drops have been covered by the looser sand which had been wafted by the wind from the higher beach. Let this mass be solidified, and in breaking it up he will find appearances exactly similar to what meets him among the very oldest fossiliferous stratified rocks. The wind and the rain, and all the other agencies implied in the former case, must have been present and at work in the latter, connected with natural laws. Yet

“Nature is but a name for an effect,

Whose cause is God."

Prominence thus great has been given to the answers to the question as to similarity of climatal influences and the like in past epochs and in the present, in order to bring strongly out the answer to another question of even greater importance in regard to certain theories of creation. Have we any evidences of direct interference on the part of the Creator with the alleged constancy of these operations? Up to a comparatively recent period, most men who had devoted much attention to the relation between geology and revelation, would have answered in the affirmative. But with the reproduction of what is known as the "age theory of creation,” in the late Mr. Miller's “ Testimony of the Rocks,” the weight of his deservedly great authority seemed to bear down every attempt to give prominence to the views which had been held by Buckland and Conybeare, Chalmers and Fleming, and with which the great name of Agassiz is also connected. A reaction is, however, taking place, which is likely to be hastened by recent views which have been brought out as to the origin of species. No candid geologist but will admit, that there are very many phenomena connected with the stratified rocks which bear testimony to periods of great and universal disturbance. “To form,” says M. Agassiz, “ adequate ideas of the great physical changes the surface of the globe has undergone, and the frequency of the modifications of the character of the earth's surface, and of the coincidence with the changes observed among the organized beings, it is necessary attentively to study the works of Elie de Beaumont. He, for the first time, attempted to determine the relative age of the different systems of mountains; and showed first, also, that the physical disturbances occasioned by their upheaval coincided with the successive disappearance of true faunæ, and the reappearance of new ones. In his earlier papers he recognized seven, then twelve, afterwards fifteen such great convulsions of the globe, and now he has traced, more or less fully and conclusively, the evidence that the number of these disturbances has been at least sixty, perhaps one hundred.” But for the prejudice which in several quarters exists against the very mention of a chaos at any point in the past history of the body of the earth, it might be affirmed that the views urged by one of the greatest of physical geologists, leave room, not for one such state only, but for many.

In reality, the true ground of controversy as to this, is connected with the introduction of the various forms of life on the earth. As the ages which all men of science, and all theologians likewise, regard as pre-Adamic, approach the present epoch, it is found that at relative depths an increasing per centage, as has been seen, of forms of life similar to those now on the earth are to be met with. The conclusion drawn from this is, that there could be no universal destruction of life at the period when man was brought on the scene of being. This conclusion is not thrust upon us as the only one possible. There is an alternative. It is forgotten that during these periods plants and animals

er

entirely new to the earth were introduced—were, in a word, created, miraculously realized. All whose authority is of true value admit this. But here man introduces an element which casts shadows over his conclusions. He makes his knowledge of his own habits of action and of thought the standard by which he judges of the ways and thoughts of the Creator. Because he thinks it would have been a waste of power on the part of the Creator to reproduce, by new creation, forms that had previously lived, he concludes that this could not have been the case. But can there be waste of power when the Worker is omnipotent? All we know of his ways from the Scriptures warrant the assertion that it would not have been inconsistent with his character to reproduce old forms of life when he was, by a new creation, peopling the earth with many new ones. Thus physical geology and palæontology—the science which treats of primeval life-bear witness to the same great truths. The crust of the earth has at many different periods undergone great and violent changes, and its inhabitants have been continued by the direct work of Jehovah through successive creations. “The theory,” says M. Pictet, “ of successive creations is, I believe, in the present condition of our knowledge, the only theory admissible (to account for the succession of organic beings on the earth), although I am bound to add that it is by no means completely satisfactory, since it does not seem to me to account sufficiently for all the facts. It well explains the differences which exist between successive faunas, but there are also resemblances between these faunas for which it offers no explanation.” The remarks now made suggest a solution of the difficulty.

While every intelligent reader of the Scriptures ought to have a welldefined acquaintance with all the points now under review, it must ever be borne in mind that the Bible has not been given to man as a handbook of science. It is the revelation of the grace of the just and holy God to sinners. Its great design is to open up to the world the scheme of redemption through the eternal Son of God as the substitute for man. This is the central truth—“God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son." All else made known in it is subordinate to this. The references to creation, to the works of God, to his ways with the forms of life all around men, are designed to open up to man the character of the Creator and Saviour. Thus the deep interest associated with their exposition. But with all this interest the central truth must not be forgotten. The drapery amidst which it is set before us, will truly and profitably attract us only as this is remembered. And in dealing with men's theories of creation, it must also be kept in view at every point

« PreviousContinue »