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machine, without discovering or suspecting that the wires by which it is moved are entirely concealed from them. Did they confine themselves to what strictly belongs to their subject as a science, all would be well. Physical science is founded wholly on observation, and is nothing more than the comparison of phenomena, and the discovery of their order of succession, and their agreement or disagreement. Within this province there is no danger of a conflict with the facts of
any other subject, or with the announcements of the Sacred volume. But the geologists boldly open all the doors of speculation, hypothesis, and theory; as if the discovery of the peculiar facts of their subject, entitled them, in the name of science, to give the rein to their fancies, and to intrude even into the province of revelation. Let it be considered that in so far as they advance anything beyond what strictly belongs to their subject as a science, we have their opinions, founded more or less on their construction of facts, and modified by their intellectual and moral character, but having no other authority than their names may give; and we are quite at liberty to examine them, and to estimate them at what they shall appear to be worth. They may tell us that speculation is allowable in the imperfect state of their science; but the truth of the case is evinced by an observation of Mr. Dugald Stewart—that a cold-hearted philosophy has made it fashionable to omit the consideration of final causes entirely, and thus to divest the study of Nature of its most attractive charms, and to sacrifice to a false idea the moral impressions and pleasures which physical knowledge is fitted to yield.
The rules of philosophizing restrain the geologist from supposing a preternatural cause, when he can assign any other. Hence so large a part of his attention is taken up in discovering how effects might have been produced by natural causes.
There is nothing in the phenomena of Geology which would not be much better accounted for, if produced rapidly by special Divine interposition, than it can be by any gradual and ordinary operation of natural causes. And all that is wanting, in any case, is the admission of a sufficient reason for special or extraordinary interpositions. For, as such interpositions have undeniably taken place in relation to this world, both in the creation of it, and in various dispensations to man, there is nothing in the nature of the case to hinder them, or to render their recurrence improbable, whenever there was a reason.
But let it be distinctly noted, that if the geological theory is true, then all that belongs to the moral system must be excluded from consideration in examining the physical changes in the earth. And this, in truth, is just what the philosophers hold to. For natural causes, the laws of nature are permanent and uniform, and in their ordinary operation can produce no other than ordinary natural effects. Nothing foreign to those effects could, therefore, enter into the case. Those causes might go on in one steady course, but they could work no miracles to adapt themselves, or their operations, to the exigencies of a moral system, or the demands of moral causes. If those natural causes involve in their operations any thing of design, it must be a design coeval with their origin and inherent in them. To talk of their being controlled and directed to any other or different end, is to talk of a miracle, as much as in the case of results contrary to, or far transcending, the power of those causes. Accordingly, when the geologists speak of design, they mean the original and general design of improving the condition of the earth, and fitting it for the convenience of man. In a word, to ascribe the changes in the earth to these natural causes, is in plain terms to exclude moral causes and special reasons altogether. On the other hand, however, if those changes are due to moral and special causes or reasons; causes wholly foreign in their nature to any thing incident to the laws of nature, there is nothing in those laws to hinder or interfere with the results. Those natural causes may be, as far as they go, in perfect harmony with the changes—all the mechanical and chemical agencies may be employed in producing them, though the changes themselves may be such, in their magnitude and rapidity of occurrence, as those agencies, left to themselves, would never operate.
Now the earth presents to us indubitable evidence of vast and manifold changes. These the geologist refers to the gradual operation of natural causes, and assigns to them the object of improving the earth. The Scriptures bring to our view moral reasons for these changes, which reasons, however, are excluded from all connection with the changes, both by the mode in which, on the geological theory, they were produced, and by their occurrence long and long before the Scripture era. Those moral reasons, therefore, are wholly shut out and at least virtually denied. They have never had any counterpart. That which they were reasons for, and which they required, has never taken place. A curse was denounced upon the earth, but it has never been executed. The earth has been improved by the Laws of Nature, but never visited for any violation of Moral Laws.