Изображения страниц

reverence for the Scriptures, or to hint discrepancy between a darling theory and authenticated fact. These gentlemen may have committed errors; but the scorn with which their honour. able names have been loaded, has not on that account been cast on them ; since blunders far more gross, in writers more congenial with the taste of these revilers, are treated gently. But the sin is, that they have thought to corroborate and to confirm the sacred records, by connecting facts of comparatively recent proof, with statements made some thousands of years ago. These gentlemen may have theorized without sufficient data ; but neither is it on this account, that they have incurred such ireful censure ; for their critics have their unsupported theories also. The offence, no doubt a grave one, is, that the theory takes the interdicted course. The wildest extravagances of Indian fables may meet with friendly entertainment, and it may even be hinted that modern science singularly favours them ; but Moses must be held to be without the pale, and ridicule must needs alight on those who dare assert his claims to modern confidence. So sensible of this fact is the Author of the work before us, that, as a member of the Geological Society, he shrinks from encountering the obloquy, and chooses to withhold his name.

It is manifest, however, that the notion which assigns myriads of ages as the past duration of the world, is not less hypothetical than that which limits its duration to a few thousand years ;that he who pleads for a succession of innumerable partial revolutions, to account for that class of phenomena now generally called diluvial, is not less a theorist than he who attributes them to one of unlimited extent. Neither party confines himself to mere facts; each has his inferences ; nor can either claim for his opinion the unyielding force of demonstration. To describe a multitude of disturbing causes now at work, in the manner of Mr. Lyell, and then to imagine myriads of ages for them to revel in, if it may illustrate the possibility, can scarcely be said to establish the probability, that all the changes which the crust of the earth has manifestly undergone, were thus produced in fact. Marble rocks have been worn by the kisses and genuflexions of devotees ; and the supposition would therefore involve no absolute impossibility, that, in a period of incalculable duration, but which would still be as nothing compared with eternity, a valley might have been scooped out of the hardest rock by the mere kisses of successive generations; but there would be sume difficulty in bringing our minds to acquiesce in such an explanation of the phenomenon, even if it could be shewn that such rocks had been the objects of a superstitious veneration. Little is proved, when it is shewn that certain physical agents would be adequate, at a given rate of energy, and in the course of indefinite periods of time, to the performance of certain assignable effects : in order to con

vince us that the work was actually thus accomplished, there needs some direct evidence that they really had the time allowed them to effect the results. It was not by shewing the mere fact of gravitation, but by ascertaining the limitations of its influence, and by proving that the effects exactly correspond to a cause so ruled, defined, and limited in operation, that Newton placed his system on the adamantine base of proof. Let then the geologist define the rate of power in his physical causes, and shew their correspondency, working at that rate according to fixed times and distances, with the results ascribed to them, and it will be confessed that he has built an edifice of sound philosophy. Till then, his theories claim to be regarded only as mere opinions, and, as such, liable to be warped by every previous bias which the unestimated force of circumstances may have impressed upon his mind.

Aware of this truth, the Author of this work distrusts such theories. He assumes, that, except they can be proved to be false, the facts recorded in Scripture are to be regarded as having actually occurred; and that if true, we may rationally expect from their very nature, that traces of them may remain to this present time ; and be discovered in the obscure traditions of nations, in their written histories and monuments, or in the lasting results of them impressed upon the material frame-work of the globe. He assumes besides, that such facts stated in Scripture, as, antecedently to such corroboration, might seem to be highly improbable, almost impossible; when afterwards proved, not only to have been possible, but to be actually supported by unexpected concurring phenomena, for which they satisfactorily account; become not only worthy of credit, but nearly demonstrated to have certainly occurred. Nor can we doubt, that this kind of proof, if not demonstration, is nevertheless, in the view of reason, fully as convincing. We are not less certain of multitudes of truths which are unsusceptible of demonstration, than we are of those which are demonstrated. If the most questionable and astounding announcements of a book, professing to have been given by Divine authority, and otherwise established to be worthy of credit by internal and external media of evidence, are themselves also shewn to be supported by subsequent discoveries; then, the book itself becomes altogether, without any deduction, worthy of full reliance on its veracity. Nothing can have a more powerful effect upon a sound mind, than such solutions of difficulty, such clearing of contradictions, such confirmation of otherwise confounding statements. He that, unless it can be rigorously proved that no other causes can account for them, refuses to admit such causes as the Scriptures assign for amazing effects, which effects he is nevertheless obliged to acknowledge, manifests that he has determined beforehand to reject their verdict. He distrusts it as if

already convicted of fraud, while yet, before he can justify his scepticism, he must be held bound on other grounds to shew its unworthiness of credit. Till he do this, he must be considered as under a determined but unreasonable bias, and not to be regarded by any candid investigator of truth. If, in a court, an event is proved, and witnesses are adduced, who state how that event occurred; is their testimony to be treated as undecisive, till it is further shewn that in no other way could the event have taken place ? Except the credit of the witnesses had been already impeached, would not this be trifling intolerably? And would not the trifler who should plead for that course, meet with deserved contempt from reasonable men? Of similar contempt are the learned triders worthy, who so treat the Scriptures, and those advocates of them who endeavour to shew, that admitted phenomena would be the result of facts which those Scriptures state. For it is to be remembered, that these advocates of Scripture are assailed, not for having failed in their elucidations, but for having made the attempt to elucidate Scripture facts by known and acknowledged phenomena.

But in this case, who are the persons who with propriety may be held to rigorous proof? Are they the advocates, or the repudiators of Scripture ? The case, be it recollected, is literally this. The Scriptures, by other and many independent media of evidence, are proved to be true; but they declare certain facts, which their oppugners have held to be impossible, or at least highly incredible. On further research, it is found in the progress of discovery, however, that events wholly before unsuspected, and denied to be possible, have actually occurred; events, for which, if true, such facts would satisfactorily account. Now, the advocates of religion treat these admitted events as proofs of the facts before asserted in Scripture ; but, says the sceptic, “No, I will not concede that inference, I will not allow that these undoubted events are proofs of those contested facts, until you advance another step; until you shew, not only that those facts will sufficiently explain them, but that no other possible supposition can be devised, to which their causation might be adequately ascribed.'

Irrational men,—thus the Christian advocate might justly retort upon his sceptical opponents,—determined foes of truth and piety, it is you that must shew, and by all reasonable men will be held most strictly bound to shew, the exclusion of those facts. You must prove, not only the possibility, but the certainty of some other cause. You must not amuse the world with fantasies subversive of Scripture, grounded only on possibility, but either demonstrate your positions to be conformable with fact, or submit to be considered as invidious enemies of the faith of the Christian world; as cowardly seeking to destroy by craft, what you feel yourselves incompetent openly to encounter. Men who, under the guise of science, endeavour to subvert the faith of the Christian, and who cast their foul reproaches at its defenders, ought to be openly denounced by the steady friends of truth. Complaisance under such circumstances, is treason against the • best interests of mankind.

Suppose it could be shewn, which it cannot,- that the widely spread and astonishing effects attributed by Professor Buckland to a general, simultaneous deluge, might, in all their circumstances, be accounted for by partial, successive floods ; would this invalidate, or even weaken the Professor's inference ? To have any weight against the combined force of testimony and inference, it must, in addition to this, be established, that a general deluge would be inconsistent with the facts ;-that, at least in parts, the phenomena are inexplicable by the cause assigned. It is puerile trifling to tell us that partial floods can produce, pro tanto, effects exactly similar to those of a general one. Of those partial alleged inundations, one at least must be shewn to have occurred at every place; and the effects ascribed to them, must carry unequivocal indications that they were successive. To suffer the imagination wildly to wander over immense durations of time, and arbitrarily to assume a long succession in the operation of causes, when the effects to be accounted for, exhibit no distinctions of date, but, on the contrary, every indication of contemporaneous production, is in itself unreasonable ; but to do this, in preference to admitting a well attested and simultaneous cause, is not the part of rational deduction, but of unlicensed theory and inveterate prejudice

Geologists are now, in relation to the question of the truth of Scripture facts, of three principal schools. Those who compose, it may be feared, the most numerous class, are vainly endeavouring to lay the Bible on the shelf for ever. They are for leaving it out of sight, till they shall have succeeded in prejudging its claims, by imbuing their readers with counter theories, and persuading them that those theories are really science, the legitimate and necessary results of the inductive philosophy. Having accomplished this, their object will doubtless be achieved ; for what respect can a book secure, which, professing to be a revelation from the Author of Nature, and to found its claim to obedience in matters of religion, solely upon its own authority, shall be proved untrue in some of its main averments ? If, where we are supposed to be competent to judge, we find it to be false, how shall we confide in it as true, when treating of matters beyond the reach of our scrutiny? To maintain that in a physical sense the Bible is false, though in a moral sense sacred verity, is a species of philosopher-craft that is becoming stale, and its effects have been more than sufficiently developed in other countries.

Doubtless the plea is plausible, that, in order to support the Scriptures effectually by the discoveries of science, the investigations of science must be conducted independently. We object not against the maxim, but complain of the malus animus with which it is manifestly propounded, and the bad faith with which it is applied. We complain, that theories are obtruded as deductions of science, which are not even legitimate inferences from the facts, and which have obviously been suggested by the desire to get rid of Scripture statements. Had there been no such statements, no such theories had ever seen the light. Such reasonings are not really independent : they owe their origin to a knowledge of what the Bible teaches, and are contrived to negative its testimony. Of this, the extravagance of the theories themselves, affords sufficient proof.

Admitting that science is independent, still, it must be science, rigorously such, cautiously deduced and necessarily resulting from indubitable premises. Of science truly such, the believer in Scripture can entertain no fear. No discovery of what is still unknown, can ever contradict what we already know. It is ignorartce alone which time and advancing light will dissipate. But to put in this claim of independence in favour of every theory, and to maintain that we are at liberty to enter the wide region of possibilities, and to assume, in contradiction to an accredited basis of religion, agencies and operations to have been actual and real, merely because we cannot prove them to have been impossible,—is an abuse of science, which its enlightened friends must join with the friends of religion in indignantly reprobating. When, therefore, we find elaborate theories built upon mere possibilities, in direct opposition to Scripture on the one hand, while those hypotheses which accord with Scripture are gratuitously rejected on the other, what must we conclude, but that enmity exists, and that the maxim above referred to is advanced merely to mask the attack upon Revelation, and to beguile the unsuspecting reader into infidelity ?

Another class of Geologists maintain the consistency of the phenomena of nature with the Scripture records, not only as they may be interpreted without violence, but as they have been popularly understood. They not only repudiate the theories of those who demand immense durations of time, even myriads of ages, for the slow operation of existing causes, but will admit of a duration no greater, from the first creation of the matter of the earth, than the few thousand years which have ordinarily been assigned for it by the common chronologist. Of this class is our Author, concurring, in this particular, with Mr. Granville Penn, Dr. Ure, and others. Without denying the possibility that all the phenomena of geology may be reconciled with this view, (a supposition which, quite contrary to his inferences, we think Mr. Lyell

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »