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To Moses, was mistaken in its date." And at the present time the subject is exciting renewed interest, both in this country and in America. To those, therefore, who have not previously paid much attention to the subject, and on whose notice it begins to obtrude itself, producing, perhaps, some secret disqnietude, the observations contained in the present and subsequent papers may not be unacceptable. For if, as is presumed, they are correct statements of facts and relations, they will prove that geology, so far from being at variance with the statements of the Bible, forms one of its most interesting and important auxiliary evidences.
The first object to be noticed is the general nature of the conclusions established by geology, and this must necessarily be merely briefly sketched.
Second, The real nature and import of the Mosaic account of the cosmogony of our globe.
Third, The striking agreement of both these in every point in which they are connected.
And Fourth, The modes in which they have already been, or 'attempted to be, reconciled.
1. It has been justly and strikingly observed, that geology unfolds, equally with astronomy, the greatness and power of the Supreme Being; for as the latter glorious science reveals the vastness of his operations with regard to space, so does the former in regard to time. It would of course exceed the limits allowed to these observations to attempt to develope a connected and legitimate argument of the reality and magnitude of the vast periods of past time into which this science directs her chronological telescope. A short explanation of the nature of the evidence, and a few illustrative facts, will, however, show on what foundation it stands.
The successive formation or deposition of the different strata, of which the substance of the earth is found to be composed, is easily ascertainable in those instances in which they are found in immediate juxtaposition. The relative antiquity of a bed of rock, produced either by igneous fusion or aqueous deposition, with respect to the stratum over, under, or against which it immediately lies, is plainly indicated by the circumstances in which they are found, and by the phenomena visible at the point of union. Thus a deposition of mud or chalk, a bed of lava or volcanic ashes, lying upon any other rock, must necessarily be more recent; and where the indications of relative position are more dubious, enclosed fragments, filled up fissures, scorched or waterworn surfaces, and included veins, present equally indubitable marks of relative antiquity. But these indications merely afford an insight into the order of the times of the formation of the two strata ; the approximate ascertainment of the time that may have intervened between the formation of each is made in a manner equally unobjectionable. For it is invariably
found that, in those strata which contain organic remains, the more recent they are the greater is the proportion of existing species of animals found in them, as compared with those that are now extinct. The natural consequences of this general law, followed out and applied to other regions of the world, teach us that there are numerous other beds, whose dates are intermediate in point of time between those of any two others consecutive in juxtaposition. Consequently the time requisite for the production of these formations must have intervened between the dates of the two former. In this manner a succession of several thousands of strata is established; the time requisite for the formation of which must constitute part of the age of our planet, and however much we may err on the side of diminishing this period of time, on account of our ignorance as to what might be discovered, had we means of diving further into the interior of our globe, we shall be in no danger of exaggerating it, provided we do not assign to the composing strata, with which we are already acquainted, a longer period than would be necessary for their production.
The evidence afforded by the internal structure and composition of the beds, as well as by their accidental accompanying circumstances, to the length of the periods requisite for their production, is inferred from several and different kinds of indications, a few of which only can now be noticed. Beds of marl and lime-stone are to be met with, hundreds, perhaps thousands of feet in thickness, containing, throughout their whole mass, shells, whose delicate sculpturings and colour even being preserved, prove that the strata in which they are found must have been so tranquilly and imperceptibly deposited, as to have required an immense period to attain the magnitude they now present to view. A sort of minute and almost microscopic shells, called nummulites, “ are accumulated to a prodigious extent in the later members of the secondary and in many of the tertiary strata. They are often piled on each other, nearly in as close contact as the grains in a heap of corn. In this state they form a considerable portion of the entire bulk of many mountains. Some of the pyramids and the sphinx of Egypt are composed of lime-stone, loaded with nummulites.” Buckland, Bridgew. Treat. I. 383. These shells are supposed to have occupied the interior of the bodies of molluscous animals, and the only method of accounting for their prodigious accumulation is, that the animals to whom they belonged must have successively died, decomposed, and left their shells on each other at the bottom of the water, for a sufficient length of time to compose the masses now found of them. Of a similar nature are the vast beds of marl found on the continent of Europe, several thousand feet in thickness, and which are capable of division into laminæ thinner than writing paper, owing to the layers of shells found in them of an animal denominated Cypris, and which, as may be learned from the habits of existing species, cast and renewed their coverings every year. As no division is perceptible thicker than what has been already mentioned, we are forced to conclude that the deposition of the calcareous mud was so exceedingly slow, as that a year of time produced no appreciable
amount of the vast aggregate. See Lyell's Geology, Book III. Chap. 17.
Besides these inferences from organic remains, there are others from the actual form or state of the strata themselves. Deep valleys are found excavated, by the sure but slow action of running water, out of rock, the hardness and indestructibility of which must have allowed but a small progress to have been made within any moderate space of time. On the other hand, shells, which could only have been deposited at the bottom of the deepest oceans, are now found on the tops of the highest mountains, where they could only have been placed by a successive series of elevatory movements continuing through a great number of ages. When the structure and materials of volcanic cones are examined, they are found to consist of the ashes and lava, which are the products of the volcano itself, and are often found to be disposed in such a manner as to indicate the existence of several eruptions, cones, and craters, anterior to those now existing and enclosed within the substance of the mountain itself. Professor Lyell, after an examination of Etna, reporting the results of his observations on its innumerable buried streams of lava, and sixty lateral cones now interred within the large one, and comparing them with the eruptions of modern times, says, “ On the grounds, therefore, already explained, we must infer that a mass, eight or nine thousand feet in thickness, must have required an immense series of ages anterior to our historical periods for its growth; yet the whole must be regarded as the product of a modern portion of the Newer Pliocene period.” Principles of Geology, Book III. chap. 8. The Newer Pliocene is the most recent of four great divisions in which he arranges Geological chronology. The thick and numerous beds of coal now found beneath the surface of the earth, and which afford a supply of fuel inexhaustible by the consumption made by millions of people through thousands of years, must have required an unknown length of time for the growth of the large trees of which they are composed, their subsequent decay and fall, their transportation by water, and their vast accumulation, and, above all, for their conversion into that peculiar substance which cannot be produced by any known natural or artificial causes acting only through a moderate space of time. “ The great tract of peat near Stirling has demanded two thousand years, for its registry is preserved by the Roman works below it. It is but a single bed of coal; shall we multiply it by one hundred ? we shall not exceed far from it if we allow two hundred thousand years for the productions of the coal series at Newcastle, with all its rocky strata. A Scottish lake does not shoal at the rate of half a foot in a century, and that country presents a vertical depth of more than three thousand feet in the single series of the oldest sand-stones. No sound geologist will accuse a computer of exceeding, if he allows six hundred thousand years for the production of this series alone. And yet what are the coal deposits, and what the older sand-stone, compared to the entire mass of the strata? Let the computer measure the Appenine and the Jura; let him, if he can trust Pallas, measure the successive strata of sixty miles in depth, which he beVOL. I. X. s.
lieves himself to have ascertained ; and then he may renew his computations, while, when he has summed the whole, his labour is not completed.” M'Culloch's System of Geology, I. 506.
Not only does Geology furnish the striking evidence of long periods of time, a brief sketch of the nature of which has been here presented; but it also informs us of the successive existence of different kinds of organic beings, which will be more distinctly noticed under the third particular, merely mentioning here that man is the most recent of any, and consequently the vast series of ages contemplated by this science must have nearly all elapsed before his creation.
To any thinking person, who has paid attention to the science respecting which the preceding remarks have been made, it will be unnecessary to observe, how greatly it enhances our ideas of the past eternal existence of the Deity. For though, strictly speaking, it comes no nearer to a realization of this inscrutable subject than the 6000 years of historical accounts, yet by sending us far, far back into untold and unascertainable ages, it gives a vaster idea of that existence which must have infinitely preceded them all,
(To be continued.)
ON THE ORIGIN AND PROGRESS OF UNITARIANISM AND UNIVERSALISM IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.
I have religion the New
In my previous letters I have noticed eight or nine causes which have retarded the progress of religion in New England. Some of these were coeval with the origin of the New England colonies, especially those of Massachusetts and Connecticut; whilst others were of a more recent date. It remains that I should state at some length another cause which powerfully operated to the injury of religion, especially in Massachusetts. Its baneful influence may be dated from the founding of the colonies of that state, and which has continued to work mischief until within three or four years.
10. This tenth and last cause which I have to mention is, the influence of the lans which were enacted and enforced to maintain public worship in the colony. And as this is a point of more than ordinary importance, I shall devote a whole letter to its consideration. · I have shown, in a former letter, that the pilgrim fathers, in attempting to found a “ Religious Commonwealth,' did not only so incorporate religion with the state as to form a union betwixt them, but in reality to amalgamate the political and ecclesiastical influences. From the very outset laws were made in Massachusetts (including the district of Maine* and Connecticut), establishing the existence of the church and securing its maintenance. As the population advanced, parishes were formed of from five to six or eight miles square. Each parish was required to have a church and maintain a pastor. The established, and, for a considerable period, the exclusive form of religion was that of Congregationalism, or Independency, as it is commonly termed in England. Every man was required to pay the taxes levied upon him by the parish or town (as it was more commonly called in civil affairs) for the support of public worship. This was rigidly enforced, for in nothing were the early settlers of New England more fully agreed than in firm belief of the transcendent importance of religion and a religious influence, in order to secure the existence of good government. In this opinion they were unquestionably right, however much they may have erred in their attempts to promote it.
* Maine was originally a district attached to Massachusetts, and under its government, but in 1820 it was admitted to the union as an independent state.
As the first colonists were almost all pious people, and unanimously in favour of Congregationalism, they were generally contented with this state of the law. Many years had not elapsed, however, when not a few were found in the colonies who deemed these requirements to be oppressive. Emigrants joined these colonies who were members of other churches, or destitute of religion altogether, and some of the children of the old settlers grew up in irreligion. These persons naturally felt that it was hard for them to be compelled to pay an impost annually to maintain the public worship of a church in which they felt no interest, either because they disliked religion altogether, or because they preferred some other denomination which did not exist, and was not allowed to exist, for a long period amongst them. In such circumstances it is easy to see that the law which compelled every one to assist in maintaining the established church, whether he belonged to that church or not, or whether he believed the christian religion to be true or not, would soon become oppressive, and exact a vigorous opposition. This in fact was the case, so that the legislature, or general court, as it was called, in Massachusetts, after fifty or sixty years had passed away, were compelled to modify the law, and to allow each person who did not prefer the established congregational church (which was in every case the parish church) to direct the amount for which he was taxed to support public worship to be paid by the treasurer of the parish or township to the maintenance of any other religious society or church which he did prefer, and which might exist within the limits of the parish, or on which he attended. This law has remained in force, modified in some respects, until within a few years, in Massachusetts. In Connecticut it was abolished nearly twenty years ago, and with its abolition the church and government were completely separated in that state. In New Hampshire, I think, this law was not enacted, or if it were, it ceased at an early period to be enforced. In Vermont, which is a new state, it never gained an entrance, or if so, it was not much enforced. In Rhode Island it never existed. In Maine it ceased when that state was separated from Massachusetts, in 1820. But in Massachusetts it continued until 1833 or 1834, when the very last ligament which united the church and state in that commonwealth was severed.