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THE SCRIPTURE COSMOGONY, ILLUSTRATED AND CON
FIRMED BY THE DISCOVERIES AND CONCLUSIONS OF GEOLOGY.
(Continued from page 502.) The second subject to be considered is the real nature and import of the Mosaic record. It has already been observed, that the end and object of the Bible was to instruct men in the important and necessary concerns of salvation and duty; and, upon examination, there will not be found any part or portion which is not subordinated to this grand object. There are nowhere any appearances of an intention in the Deity to improve mankind's scientific acquaintance with his works of creation, beyond what would be directly subservient to higher and more important consequences. The spirit of prophecy was not given that men might be enabled to trace the mysterious workings of the human mind through future ages, or that they should draw from thence correct inductions as to the most appropriate principles of political government. Its end was, as is well known, to afford by its accomplishment an evidence to the truth of that volume in which it was contained, and which had, in its bearings on man's eternal destinies, infinitely more important concerns to discuss than the revolutions of empires and the fall of dynasties. To this end there was a certain degree of obscurity thrown around it at its first communication, to deter and prevent those persons to whom it was originally revealed from making an improper use of it, and thus losing sight of the great end it was designed to subserve, in curious researches about the nature of the means employed. By applying the same general principles to every part of the inspired volume, and, among the rest, to the earliest portion of it all, we shall be more likely to obtain a knowledge of its real nature, import, and design, than we should by any other method of investigation. It can obviously be of no consequence to our eternal concerns, whether we know the age, revolutions, and composition of the planet on which we dwell, and the successive orders of organized life with which it was peopled after its creation, or whether we remain entirely ignorant of all these things; and, therefore, we may suppose, that as prophecy was not given to gratify curiosity, but to form an evidence to “ us in these last days, on whom the ends of the world are come,” so also the account of the creation and cosmogony of our globe was intended to subserve a similar design. And as such an obscurity hung originally over the meaning of the prophecies, that Peter informs us, “ no prophecy of the scripture is of any self-interpretation,” so probably there will here be found a similar obscurity, perhaps produced in a similar manner. It is not necessary to the completion of the analogy to suppose that the people to whose care and keeping both were committed, had a knowledge of their similar properties and ends; and under what aspect the Mosaic cosmogony would have appeared to a candid and intelligent Israelite, it is now, perhaps, difficult to determine; but it is, at the same time, no small confirmation of the view now taken, to find that the Jewish doctors did class it along with their most mysterious prophecies, and that they forbade to the young and inexperienced the perusal of the Song of Solomon, the last eight chapters of Ezekiel, and the first chapter of Genesis ; classing these portions together, and calling them by a name signifying is hidden or concealed.”—Dr. Henderson on Inspiration, p. 490.
In tracing the methods by which prophecy was clothed in the obscurity it wore at its first promulgation, one of them is found to be the indefinite or vague specification of epochs and times. Thus a day is very commonly made use of to denote a much longer period; it is used for a year in Daniel viii. 14, and xii. 11, 12, and the days are reckoned into weeks in chap. ix. 24-27. But it is more usually used for an undefined length of time, as a reference to the following passages, among several others, will show : Isaiah ii. 20; iii. 7, 18; iv. 1, 2; vii. 18, 20, 21; x. 20; xi. 10; xii. l; xüi. 6-9; xiv. 18, 23, 24; xx. 6; xxv. 9; xxvii. 1, 12, 13; xxviii. 5; xxxiv. 8; xlix. 8; Ixi. 2; Ixiii. 4. Jeremiah xi. 4; xxx. 7. Ezekiel xxx. 3, 9. Hosea i. 11; Obadiah 15. Zechariah xiv. 4-9. Malachi iv. 1, 5. Nor is this manner of using the word exclusively confined to the prophetical writings; it is found in nuniberless instances in other parts of the Old Testament, as, for example, Numbers xxviii. 26. Deuteronomy ix. 1. Job xviii. 20; Psalm xxxvii. 13; cxxxvii. 7. Esther ix. 19, 22; and in the Book of Genesis itself, ii. 17; iii. 5; xxxv. iii; and in chap. xxxix. 11, the same word is in the authorised version, translated is time." In the passage in Genesis ii. 17, the three days which were occupied in the creation of the heavens, the earth, and the vegetables, are expressly called “ one day.” And the probability of this supposition of the import of the word “ day," in this part of the Bible, is still further strengthened, by remembering that there can be no reason for positively fixing it as a natural day, measured by the rising and setting of the sun, since the first three “ days” elapsed before the creation of the sun, or, at any rate, before its appointment in regard to our planet. (Gen. i. 17.)
The whole of the Mosaic account of the creation appears to be written in a style very commonly employed in the Scriptures, when speaking of the actions of the Deity. It is that termed by critics, anthropomorphism, and consists in attributing to God the feelings, actions, and, sometimes, the infirmities of human nature. Thus God is said to work, to be weary, and to rest; to be wrath, and to repent; and the Spirit of God is represented in the second verse of the chapter more particularly under consideration, as “brooding" over the profound abyss in which the elements of vitality weregradually developing themselves. And it is by no means improbable that the designation and division of the work of creation into periods, termed days, was a part of the same method of imparting information; thus comparing the acts of creative power put forth by Jehovah to the days of a man's labour, in his ordinary avocations, in order to bring them
down to the comprehension of the human understanding. The grand distinctive properties of the various works of his hands, as well as their successive production in the order of time, naturally divide the space of time in which they were made into six separate portions, while the seventh formed a period of apparent rest, (for every one will allow that it was really a time of no greater actual rest to Him who “ fainteth not, neither is wearied," than the preceding six, including, in all probability, the periods in which we are at the present moment living. This supposition is countenanced by the wording of the second commandment, and confers on it, in return, additional beauty and interest.
If the views, then, now explained be correct, the six days are, in all probability, to be considered as indefinite, and, therefore, possibly, extremely protracted periods of time. This interpretation is confirmed, so far as any dependance can be placed upon them, by the Hindoo, Etruscan, and other heathen cosmogonies; it has been very generally admitted to be allowable on the principles of philological criticism; and should it be confirmed by geological phenomena and conclusions, the fact of its correctness seems to be unquestionable. Before, however, proceeding to consider this third particular, it will be as well to notice the principal objection hitherto made to this method of interpretation, and the only one, it is believed, which will not find an answer in the foregoing observations.
It has been said that it is inadmissible, inasmuch as the evenings and mornings constituting the days, according to the Jewish mode of reckoning, plainly show them to have been not undetermined periods, but natural days. The reason already given as the probable one for the introduction of the word “ day” at all, might also justify the use of the evening and the morning. For, as is very generally known, the original Hebrew runs, not that “ they were the first, second, or other day,” as in our common version, but “ there was evening, and there was morning, the first day," &c. But those who will not deem this reason valid or sufficient, may be referred to the twenty-sixth verse of the eighth chapter of Daniel, were it will be found that a period of 2300 years is called by the name of “ an evening and a morning,” and the analogy between the purposes and styles of the Mosaic cosmogony and the prophetical writings has been already alluded to. Whether the term had any further reference to some change in the light, or in other circumstances of the globe, cannot, in the present state of our knowledge, be determined; though, from the fact of light being the first thing created, and from what is said in the fifth verse, it seems to be not improbable.
The third point to be noticed is, the striking agreement of the scripture cosmogony, and the conclusions of geology, in every point in which they can be connected.
This connection can be traced, in the present state of the science, principally, perhaps exclusively, in the agreement of the information furnished by each independently, as to the successive creations of organic beings. The consideration of the inspired record must therefore be confined to those portions of it which refer to the operations of the third, fifth, and sixth days.
It will conduce to a better understanding of the following remarks, first, to notice briefly the arbitrary and conventional divisions in which modern geologists have arranged the different strata of the earth, considered in reference to their successive order of time; both because they present a remarkable coincidence with the divisions laid down in the Book of Genesis, and because it will afford a clearer view of the nature of the evidence.
The lowest rocks are very commonly termed “ primary,” because they were formerly regarded as the solid basis on which all the superincumbent strata were built; but the latest and best observations and reasonings show, that though the original materials of which they are composed must have been at first placed in nearly their present position, yet that at some subsequent period they must have undergone a process of igneus fusion or partial calcination from some hitherto unknown causes in the interior of the earth, which are, in all probability, connected with the present phenomena of earthquakes and volcanoes; and that if they had previously contained the remains of animals or vegetables, all traces of organization must then have been obliterated ; and that this change often took place after the deposition of many series of strata above them. The use of the term “ primary" has, therefore, been objected to; but for the sake of convenience, it has been, and probably will be, retained. The next above these are the transition rocks, which appear to have undergone no changes, except those effected by the natural effects of time. Above these are the secondary, and in succession to them the tertiary strata ; and on the surface are such superficial productions as have been evidently the effects of ordinary causes acting within the historical era, and at the present moment before our eyes.
The earliest period at which organic beings were brought into existence is thus described by Moses; “ And God said, Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself upon the earth; and it was so. And the earth brought forth grass, and herb yielding seed, after his kind, and the tree yielding fruit, whose seed was in itself after his kind : and God saw that it was good, and there was evening, and there was morning, the third day." In these words, Professor Jameson thought that the vegetable kingdom is divided, according to the latest and best classification, into Phanerogamian and Cryptogamian plants. Without pressing this conclusion, which appears, however, not to be improbable, it is evident that they assert the creation of vegetables prior to that of the animal kingdom. This is adduced by Dr. Buckland, in his lately published Bridgewater Treatise, as an argument, (and the only argument he brings forward, for he acknowledges he knows of no critical or theological objection to it,) against the preceding manner of interpreting the Mosaic narrative. He says that, “ it appears that the most ancient
marine animals occur in the same division of the lowest transition rocks with the earliest remains of vegetables, so that the evidence of organic remains, as far as it goes, shows the origin of animals and plants to have been contemporaneous; and if any creation of vegetables preceded that of animals, no evidence of such an event has as yet been discovered by the researches of geology.” Vol. i. p. 18. It undoubtedly seems presumptuous to call in question the conclusions of so high an authority, but the following facts and inferences are so well known, that the Doctor himself would not hesitate to admit them, though at the moment of penning the above passage they might have escaped his memory. Anthracite is a mineral substance, consisting of nearly the same constituent principles as coal, but altered by the action of heat; it is, in fact, a cinder, produced by natural instead of artificial causes. There will, probably, be but few readers of these remarks who need to be informed that it is now universally agreed among scientific men, that coal is of vegetable origin. Now anthracite is found among the “ primary rocks," which are, as has been already said, of an earlier date than even the transition. Professor Lyell, speaking of the change he concludes to have taken place by means of heat in the structure of the primary rocks, says, that “ associated with the rocks termed primary, we meet with anthracite, just as we find beds of coal in sedimentary formations, and we know that in the vicinity of some trap dikes coal is converted into anthracite." Principles of Geology, Book IV. Chap. 27. Dr. Buckland has himself also pointed out the same fact in another part of the work already quoted. Thus, as anthracite is derived from coal, and coal from vegetable substances, we perceive decisive traces of vegetation anterior to any that we possess of animal existence. For, although it is quite possible that, had the primary rocks contained the remains of animal structures, they might have been, at a subsequent period, obliterated and destroyed; yet there exists not the slightest evidence to induce us to believe that there were any; and the absence of the principal chemical substance of which animal bodies are composed, from every portion of the primary rocks hitherto investigated, as well as the entire view presented by the whole mass of geological phenomena, afford a strong presumption that such was not the case. Therefore we have a confirmation by scientific research, so far as it has hitherto attained, of the communications imparted by Divine inspiration so many centuries ago to the ancient legislator of the Hebrews.