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The geologists treat the whole subject of the earth, its origin, its object, its condition and history, during the alleged incalculable periods, and down to the close of those physical changes which constitute the field of their research, just as they would if there were extant no records of inspiration; just as they would, on supposition that its creation involved no moral purposes, that it was not intended as the scene of a stupendous system of moral exhibitions, agency, and government; a scene for the trial and discipline of accountable agents, and for the most varied and wondrous manifestations on the part of their Creator ; just as they would, if there had been no sin, no penal announcements or visitations, no mediatorial interposition, no redemption achieved, or resurrection and retribution foretold.
They begin by supposing the matter of the globe to have been somehow detached from some nebular mass, and thrust into its orbit in a state of igneous fluidity; where, becoming subject to those laws of Nature which, in accounting for physical phenomena are an unfailing resource, it necessarily assumed an oblate form. By a course of natural processes its surface at length became partially cooled and solid, and acquired a soil. At this stage of its progress, the only uses and purposes to be subserved by it, which are indicated in the whole course of the geological period, began to be disclosed by the appearance of certain vegetables and reptiles. Successive creations, growths, and inhumations, occupied myriads of ages. If there was any intelligible design, object, or purpose in this, any discoverable or probable use or intention, it was only that of giving an existence to irrational creatures, with such enjoyment as they were capable of. There were no intelligent creatures present to witness their happiness, or to observe anything of wisdom, or of goodness, in their formation or condition. In all excepting their brute enjoyments, they existed for no higher purpose, and answered no higher end, than the unorganized matter around them, unless the preservation of their relics, to be invoked in these last times, and made to testify against the volume of revelation, be claimed for them as a merit. They occupied, during countless ages, a mute and solitary world, which performed its ceaseless revolutions, lighted by the same sun by day, and by the same moon and stars by night, that were afterwards, when all their generations had become extinct, appointed to perform those services for man.
This scene of brute enjoyment, protracted through inconceivable rounds of duration, was not, indeedy a quiet one. Perhaps a quiet state would not have furnished sufficient of variety and excitement. Some of the geologists, accordingly, in view of the physical changes which took place, intimate, that it was a scene of terrific storms, upheavals, outbreaks, inundations, and convulsions. The surges, agitations, and explosions of the incandecent elements below; were, at times, all but sufficient to throw off into the regions of space, the restraining and suffocating crust
that had been formed upon the surface, and must occasionally have spread consternation even among those amphibious monsters which had the advantage of wings. A sudden irruption of water from the fathomless deep into the igneous gulf, was enough to set all the fiery and turbulent elements in motion, and strike terror through the regions of the sea.
There is one supposition, which, were it properly set forth by a geological writer of established reputation, would perhaps be received, and hailed, as fully confirming this history and course of things : namely, the supposition that this globe, either before or after its surface began to grow cool and solid, became the abode of the fallen angels, and that they had, under certain limitations, control over its elements and products. Of course they could not, nor would they have occasion to, create any thing out of nothing ; but who can tell how far they might, in conjunction with the laws of Nature, have had something to do touching the variety, character, and destiny, of the animals which were produced. That they have a propensity to take possession of the lower animals, at least when about to pass from one element into another, is rendered sufficiently evident by what is recorded of the herd of swine. A further probable argument might be derived from the forms and armature of some of those ancient creatures, especially the reptiles, and from such names as dragons, serpents, &c., which doubtless were bestowed on them on account of their natures and propensities, and particularly their proneness to assail and devour one another. This view of the case might, by-the-way, go far to account for the fact, that man, on coming into possession of the earth, and engaging in the business of destroying his fellow-creatures, should follow the example of his predecessors, in many other respects, as well as in giving to his warships such names as porcupine, shark, scorpion, crocodile, wolf, grampus, tiger, vulture, &c., and by analogy, such as Vulcan, Ætna, Spitfire, &c.