Page images

Order and beauty stand forth, as one adaptation and another is made. The blue expanse stretches out as firmament, where the waters are controlled by him who “numbereth the clouds of heaven.” Ocean, and sea, and lake break their giant waves or gentle ripple on new formed shores. Hill and valley, mountain and plain, stand forth under the eye of the Creator, and “God saw that it was good.” And when spiritual men meditate on these results, which everywhere still stand out before them, they have fellowship with the Creator's own feelings when he “saw that it was good.” Thus these works of creation become steps to that altar, on which the humble worshipper loves to lay his sacrifice of praise :

" Bless the Lord, O my soul.

O Lord my God, thou art very great;
Thou art clothed with honour and majesty.
Who coverest with light as a garment;
Who stretchest out the heavens like a curtain;
Who layeth the beams of his chambers in the waters;
Who maketh the cloud his chariot ;
Who walketh upon the wings of the wind;
Who maketh his angels spirits;
His ministers a flaming firc;
Who laid the foundations of the earth,
It should not be removed for ever.
Thou coveredst it with the deep as a garment:
The waters stood above the mountains.
At thy rebuke they fled;
At the voice of thy thunder they hasted away.
They go up by the mountains, they go down by the valley,
Unto the place which thou hast founded for them.
Thou hast set a bound that they may not pass over;
That they turn not again to cover the earth."-(Psalm civ.)

The dry land, thus prepared and named, must be clothed. Accordingly one leading division of organic being is realized. At the command of God the earth is clad with luxuriant vegetation. Two views may be taken of the references to the world of plants in these verses. We may either hold that the term grass (deshe) is a general word used to express the herbs and trees afterwards mentioned, in which case it would include all vegetables, and the words "herb" and "tree" would apply to specific forms; or we may take the command as pointing to a threefold division of vegetation, namely, flowerless plants, herbaceous plants, and trees. It can be stated in favour of the former view, that it agrees well with the style of the Mosaic narrative. It would accord

ingly be regarded as a summary of what follows, and would thus be analogous to the use of the term, "in the beginning,” of verse first. But I prefer the latter view as being truer to nature, and as fitting better into that orderly sequence of phenomena, of which this chapter furnishes several striking illustrations. Taking, then, the leading divisions of modern botanical classification, and applying them to these verses, the arrangement would stand thus, if we bear in mind what is undoubtedly the true import of the Hebrew word rendered grass :


A. CRYPTOGAMS, or flowerless plants, =

(The Acotyledones, or plants whose embryo is

destitute of a true seed-lobe, as Ferns, ( Mosses, Sea-weeds, &c. (1. The Monocotyledones, or plants whose

embryo has a single seed-lobe, as Palms, Grapes, &c.

B. PHANEROGAMS, or flowering plants, =

2. The Dicotyledones, or plants whose embryo

has two seed-lobes, as the Oak, the Ash, the Elm, the so-called flowers of the field, &c.

The “grass” thus contained all the vegetation like the ferns, lichens, and mosses; the “herb ” all herbaceous plants; and the "tree" all arborescent forms of vegetation, “the trees so straight and high,” so graphically characterized by Spenser :

“ The sapling Pine, the Cedar proud and tall,

The vine-prop Elme, the Poplar never dry,

The builder Oak, sole king of forests all,
The Aspine good for staves, the Cypresse funerall,

The Laurell, meed of mightie conquerors,
And poets sage; the Firre that weepeth still,
The Willow worne of forlorne paramours,
The Eugh, obedient to the bender's will,
The Birch for shafts, thc Sallow for the mill,
The Mirrhe sweete-bleeding in the bitter wound,
The war-like Beech, the Ash for nothing ill,

The fruitful Olive, and the Plantane round,
The carver Holme, the Maple seldom inward sound.

The question has often been put, Was the first vegetation created as seed, and each seed after its kind permitted to develop into the matured plant when the sun was brought out in his strength ? The question is noticed here as one of many idle ones, which have been raised in connection with the first chapter of Genesis. But as well might it be

[ocr errors]

asked, if the first of our race was ushered into the world a helpless
infant? There are matters of greater importance in the verses now
under notice. The expressions—"God said;" “ tree yielding fruit after
his kind, whose seed is in itself;" and "herb yielding seed after his
kind”—are suggestive of much that is interesting, when we remember
the crude theories which have come to be associated with the progress
of modern science, like the mud with the chariot wheels. One of these
is well stated by Cowper :-

“Some say that in the origin of things,
When all creation started into birth,
The infant elements received a law
From which they swerve not since: that under force
Of that controlling ordinance they move,
And need not his immediate hand, who first
Prescribed their course."


But the words “God said,” forming, as it were, a preface to the work of each day—and “God saw that it was good,” standing as the conclusion—suggests to us his presence and the forthputting of his power, during the work of the whole day; and, as it was with the day, so it is with the epoch. He continues specially present sustaining all things. The preservation of the world is a constant miracle.

The existence of well determined, fixed, and independent species is distinctly enunciated in the words "herb and tree after their kind.” The scriptural view of the origin of species leads us back to creation. One species differs from another, and one genus from another, because they were created with this fixed difference. The oak is specifically distinct from the elm, because of the creative act. The one will never change into the other. The yellow pansy (Viola lutea) on the hill side will never become the yellow buttercup (Caltha palustris) in the meadow. They owe their difference to the direct act of the Creator. This will come to be considered more fully, when we have the whole six days' work before us. Meanwhile, let us notice the beautiful sequence of adaptations in the works of the days already reviewed. The darkness is broken in on, and light begins its ministry of blessing. “But still the earth offered the appearance of one vast dreary water-desert, without variety, without life, without beauty.” The creative word reaches the obedient elements; the firmament is formed, that the waters above it might be fitted to do their work in the maintenance of life, and the waters below it theirs. The sea finds its place, where it is treasured up as in a storehouse waiting for the living forms of the fifth day, and

[ocr errors][merged small]

the dry land is ready for the vegetation. The atmosphere is prepared for the nourishment of the grass, the herb and tree after their kind; and, that the interchange of influence between the atmosphere and the world of vegetation now on the earth might be kept in action, and ever on the balance, there was not only day but night also. The wisdom of the faithful Creator is peculiarly evident in all this. The main constituents of the atmosphere are Oxygen and Nitrogen. The former is the chief sustainer of life, hence its name vital air. The latter, as destitute of this property, is termed azote, or that which does not supply a vital element. In addition to these, the atmosphere contains a little carbonic acid gas, a trace of ammonia, and a proportion of aqueous vapour. These elements are mixed, but not combined. One is not lost in another. The first two, and strictly speaking the true constituents of the air, always occur in a fixed proportion. This is, if reckoned by weight, in 100 parts, 77 of Nitrogen to 23 of Oxygen. The carbonic acid and the watery vapour, being much under the influence of different causes, are variable in their proportion, and the quantity of ammonia, which the ablest of modern chemists have been able to discover, is so small as to forbid a definite estimate of it. It used to be affirmed that the component elements of the atmosphere were in chemical combination — that is, so combined with each other that properties which could be affirmed of them separately were altered in virtue of their union; but this is not found to be the case. The union is simply one of mixture, and not of combination. By this arrangement, influences which would otherwise interfere with the uniform ratio of Oxygen and Nitrogen in the atmosphere are neutralized. Very much depends on this :--(1.) If Oxygen stood alone, its action would be too powerful, but it is mixed with this unvarying proportion of Nitrogen to make it ever suitable for all forms of life. (2.) If the proportion were variable, there would be a constant tendency to excess on the one side or the other, which would be as hurtful to vegetation as it would be to animal life. (3.) The succession of day and night is itself fruitful of good when associated with the maintenance of life by the atmosphere; in the day-time the vegetable drinks in, or "fixes,” carbonic acid; but at night, it absorbs oxygen, and gives off carbonic acid. Thus the life balance is kept in its place. (4.) The other main constituent of the air is, as has been noticed, aqueous vapour. The varied influences for good connected with this cannot be estimated. The whole phenomena of clouds, their influence on the soil and on every kind of life, are all related to the mode in which this is held in suspense by the atmos

phere, or sent down as “ drops from heaven” to gladden the earth when it is weary. And the supply is ever renewed :

“ All the rivers run into the sea,

Yet the sea is not full:
Unto the place from whence the rivers come,

Thither they return again."—(Eccles. i. 7.) In the review of “ Theories of Creation,” it was seen that the work of this day is held to harmonize with the Carboniferous period. The time between morning and morning, it is alleged, was not a day of twenty-four hours' duration, but a cycle of, mayhap, millions of years. A slight acquaintance with the vegetation laid bare to us in the coal measures, is enough to convince the unprejudiced of the distinct difference between it and the vegetation described in verses 11 and 12. This has been most graphically pointed out by Mr. H. Miller. “I have,” he says, " already referred to the sombre, unproductive character of the earliest terrestrial flora with which we are acquainted. It was a flora unfitted, apparently, for the support of either graminivorous bird or herbivorous quadruped. The singularly profuse vegetation of the coal measures, was, with all its wild luxuriance, of a resembling cast. So far as appears neither flock nor herd could have lived on its greenest and richest plains; nor does even the flora of the colite seem to have been in the least suited for the purposes of the shepherd or herdsman. Not until we enter on the Tertiary periods, do we find floras amid which man might have profitably laboured as a dresser of gardens, a tiller of fields, or a keeper of flocks and herds. Nay, there are whole orders and families of plants of the very first importance to man, which do not appear until late in even the Tertiary ages. Some degree of doubt must always attach to merely negative evidence; but Agassiz, a geologist whose statements must be received with respect by every student of the science, finds reason to conclude that the order of the Rosaceæman order more important to the gardener than almost any other, and to which the apple, the pear, the plum, the cherry, the quince, the peach, the apricot, the nectorine, the almond, the raspberry, the strawberry, and the various bramble-berries belong, together with all the roses and the potentillas, was introduced only a short time previous to the appearance of man. And the true grasses-a still more important order, which, as the corn-bearing plants of the agriculturist, feed at the present time at least two-thirds of the human species, and in their humbler varieties form the staple food of the grazing animals, scarce appear in the fossil state at all.” But this description is fatal to

« PreviousContinue »