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created as we now see them.” It does not help us to an exalted esti mate of the influence of mere knowledge in overcoming prejudices and in conducting to enlarged views of the ways of God, to find this last mode of disposing of the difficulty able to reckon on one or two advocates even in recent years. When, however, geology began to be studied as a science, and when its votaries hastened to chronicle its wonders and to advocate its claims, the whole of intelligent Christendom became alarmed. “The earth,” said the geologists, “cannot as a whole have been made in six days. We find traces in it not of one creation only, but of many, each of which must have existed for great ages, world on world, whose history must have been as millions to the hundreds which have elapsed since Adam appeared on the earth with the present order of nature accompanying him.” The learned were stricken with terror; even theologians lost their temper, and churchmen control over their words! The only class who seemed to have been little moved were those who had accepted Christianity as a life more than as a creed, and Christ as their surety rather than as the author of a system of truth. Science, but especially geology, was denounced from the press and from the pulpit as “science falsely so called.” Its students were generally held to be profane and infidels. The poet spoke of them as those who
“Dig into the bowels of the earth, to prove
That He who made the world, mistook its age.” The light now breaking in was too bright for the prevailing ignorance, and the immediate result was what, in like circumstances, it has ever been. Galileo is put to the torture, and forced to denounce the Copernican system of the earth's motion as a lie. Columbus is declared a heretic by the doctors of Salamanca, when he opens up his views as to the existence of a continent far away to the west of those headlands of Lusitania from which he loved to look out on the ocean. And the geologists who came forth, towards the end of the last century and at the beginning of the present one, to open up correct views of the earth's crust, find themselves in the very heart of abuse. As the Brahmin smashed the microscope which revealed to him living things amidst the vegetables that formed a main portion of his daily food, so the men of that day sought to destroy the young science. But in vain. Its students held on the even tenor of their way, fearlessly declaring what their eyes had seen, and leaving it to the theologians to form their views of facts which the geologists found it impossible to doubt, and, for truth's sake, inexpedient to conceal. All honour to the theologians
who opened their arms and heartily embraced the students of the “Book of Stone.” But for the large and comprehensive views of men like Chalmers, Buckland, Conybeare, Sedgwick, and Fleming, christianity and geology, instead of walking in harmony as they now do, would, to the shaking of the faith of thousands, have been held directly inimical the one to the other. Recent thinkers have at last come to see, how much the cause of the highest forms of truth is indebted to the men who, in the face of great opposition and much obloquy, continued to pursue their investigations, unmoved by the charges of atheism thoughtlessly brought against them. They were indeed laying solid foundations for arguments on the side of Christianity, more effective in demolishing the subtilties of Spinoza, and the flimsy speculations of Hume, than are hundreds of volumes of metaphysics.
It is almost impossible in our day to form a just estimate of the grave character of the circumstances which met thoughtful men, when, for the first time, they were called to consider the seeming antagonism between the “two Records.” On the one hand, they considered the church to be in a great measure pledged to the views of creation to which reference has been made; and, on the other hand, they were met by proofs of the earth’s antiquity, which none but men blinded by prejudice could call in question. They saw enough, however, to anticipate that accumulation of proofs which now presents itself to every man, at all informed even in the literature only of science.
Perhaps the best way to bring out the difficulty, is to look at it from the point of view of present information regarding the constitution of the body of the earth. The prevalent belief, so late as 1820 to 1830, was that every form of animal life, or of vegetation ever on the earth, was made during the days described in Genesis. But geology reveals to us stratified fossiliferous rocks alone, between sixty and seventy thousand feet thick at least. These are laid down in layers, and are found in series which succeed each other in the same order. Their relative age can thus be somewhat correctly determined. It is true that in many cases great blanks occur, but these blanks can be filled up by taking into account the existence of the missing rocks, as they are to be met with in other areas with their associated strata. And their absence can be explained by taking into account the influence of volcanic action, of water and of weather wear, or denudation, and the like. These rocks contain traces, less or more numerous, of animal life and of vegetation. Some of them had been formed in deep seas, and others in quiet inland lakes; some indicate the beds of great rivers, and others mark spots
where, in the course of great ages, mighty morasses had been formed, or where extensive plains had stretched out in fertility, swarming with novel forms of life. There had been many successive creations before that one associated with Eden and the creation of man; and during the great epochs of their existence, many thousands of species of animals and of plants, which have now no representatives, had lived and died. They passed not away, however, before their history was written on the great pages of the “Book of Stone"-on the rocks where they looked their last, and then ceased from among the living.
Here then were questions of the gravest import for every man who acknowledged the Bible as the word of God! “Is there," as infidelity was in a haste to allege, “ conflict between the testimony of the word and the testimony of the rocks?” In answer to this, one theory of creation and another were put forth. A review of these must be interesting. It will bring the different theories together, and will clear the way for the illustration of the opening chapters of Genesis, according to the plan of this work. In order, however, to make the remarks intelligible to readers who have not had time, or opportunity, or inclination, to give themselves to the study of geological science, it will be necessary to look more closely at the various rocks of which the crust of the earth is composed--using the current word crust to denote as much of the earth as man has become acquainted with, which may be estimated at about a four-hundreth part of the whole.
"The animal body," wrote Addison, in one of those delightful papers in the Spectator, which have more than his other works secured for him a name in English literature, “ the body is an object adequate to our senses. It is a particular system of Providence that lies in a narrow compass. The eye is able to command it, and by successive inquiries can search into all its parts. Could the body of the whole earth, or indeed the whole universe, be thus submitted to the examination of our senses, were it not too big and disproportioned for our inquiries, too unwieldy for the management of the eye and hand, we should see the same concentration and subserviency, the same necessity and usefulness, the same beauty and harmony in all and every of its parts, as what we discover in the body of every animal.” The hindrances, which the essayist imagined in the way of our ever attaining a correct knowledge of the body of the earth, are being gradually put aside. We already know very large portions of it, as well as we do the different parts of the body of man or of beast. The results, too, are everywhere what he anticipated they would be, if the knowledge could be got. Everywhere
beauty and harmony are apparent. But in this case, as is too frequently found, increase of information has led to increase of controversy. The basis of knowledge has been widened; but, as the relation of the different departments which rest on that basis have not been finally determined, men find ready occasion for discussion, for analysis of opinions, and for setting forth new theories. Yet all is not uncertainty. There are certain broad grounds, on which even parties otherwise in opposition can stand in harmony. These may now be pointed out. Meanwhile it is to be kept in view, that in indicating the subjects on which all wellinformed geologists are agreed, the platform of harmony has been reached in very different ways, and by processes which are themselves not beyond question.
The first point of general agreement is the great antiquity of the earth, contrasted with the comparatively recent appearance of man. The whole period lying between the creation of Adam and the present day is but as an hour, when compared with the great ages which had finished their course before fruitful Eden was realized, and the bright sun looked down on the symbolic trees—the tree of knowledge and the tree of life—which the Creator had placed in the midst of the blissful garden. We speak of millions of years having, as they passed, cast their shadows athwart the brightness of that eternal now, in which the uncreated and eternal God ever liveth; but such words do no more than beguile us into the pleasant imagination that in using them we have come nearer to a well-defined understanding of these great epochs than we had done before, and in the excitement of imagination reflection sinks into abeyance. In reality, however, sober science will help us in this more than all our imaginings. Try and realize the time required for the deposition of a foot of mud over the whole extent of the bottom of any of our inland lakes, and, having made the calculation and obtained the product, extend it to, say, ten or fourteen thousand feet, which is the roughly estimated thickness of the Old Red Sandstone alone. This process will do more to bring us to the edge, at least, of realizing the immense time required for the formation of all the stratified rocks, than the most eloquent efforts even of the poets could do.
Another point of general agreement among geologists is, that the
k which lies nearest the earth's centre, and which may be regarded as forming the foundations of the earth, is granite. The following diagram will show at a glance the order in which strata are held by competent men of science to follow each other: