Imágenes de páginas

to by Doct. B. who, considering the variety of animals that liate existed in widely different climates, ask, “Who knots, or how can it be shown, that there have not been animals whose proper element and habitation was fire or melted matter?' no answer is vouchsafed. But were the argument deemed sufficient to show that organic beings had a beginning, it. would not follow from it, that the pre-existing earth was not eternal.

Were the sedimentary rocks formed by the gradual process of those second causes, mechanical and chemical, which are still in operation? This is the chief question. For if those rocks and their fossil contents were deposited by any rapid process; if the Creator, in consequence of the apostacy of man inflicted a curse upon the earth and the brute creation, and upon man himself both in respect to his moral and his temporal life and condition,-a curse by which the state of the earth and its atmosphere was so altered as to render toil necessary to his subsistence; so altered as to diminish the variety and stint the growth of vegetables, give rise to noxious growths. of plants and induce ferocity in animals, shorten the period of human life and require the extinction of many races of inferior creatures : if, having created a perfect world for the abode of man in a state of innocence, a world of boundless and spontaneous fertility, placed under his dominion, yielding without labour all that he could desire, and stocked with innoxious and harmless plants and animals, it became necessary for moral reasons to produce the changes referred to, then may the creation have taken place at the era indicated in the Scriptures.

Now the geologist makes his inference as to the causes and manner of these changes, chiefly from their magnitude, the great extent and depth of the sedimentary formations. The condition indeed in which some fossils are found, particularly some descriptions of shells, is alleged to be such as to imply that they were imbedded by a very gradual process. But nothing conclusive can be inferred from their position, their state of preservation, or other circumstances of their condition. For it is quite conceivable that if they were


rapidly inhumed, the materials employed in that process may have been so finely comminuted, and so diffused in the water, as to subside gently and equably without affecting their most fragile parts; whereas, were the process of deposit extremely slow, it would be reasonable to expect, that owing to the natural decay of such shells while in course of being buried, and to the action of water on the exposed parts, the fossils would not be found in a perfect state.

Nor is any thing conclusive to be inferred from the discovery of animal remains of extinct species; for though now extinct, they may, in the primitive condition of the earth, and prior to any material change in its climates or its fertility, have existed contemporaneously.

It is chiefly the magnitude of the results, which stunıbles the geologist. He beholds with amazement a series of deposits, covering areas of great extent, and reaching to the depth of several miles. The aggregate appears to him too vast to be accounted for upon any supposition but that of the gradual operation of natural causes continued through all but infinite periods of duration. No other causes appear to him to have been necessary even to have assisted in the


He decides that, with the aid of unlimited drafts upon time, these formations must be their own interpreter.

Having adopted this theory, which appears to him to assign a philosophical cause, and which invests the subject with an enchanting air of antiquity and grandeur, his imagination takes wing. Difficulties, in construing subordinate details, disappear or are easily surmounted. The theory appears to account for the most important facts in a way easily comprehended, without the intervention of miracles, and in harmony with the principles of physical science and the ordinary course of events. It acquires an exciting and fascinating influence; and comes, at length, to be considered as based upon mure certain evidences and grounds of construction and inference, than are furnished by the laws of human language. The stratifications are finally regarded as the leaves of a book, or a series of volumes, the language and records of which are involved in no ambiguity or uncertainty. He who has learnt that book, deems that he understands its import, beyond all peradventure; nay, such is his confidence that he scarcely deigns to notice any objections founded on events or records which fall within so trifling a period as six thousand years. He has a world, an empire of his own, not of any modern or mushroom growth, not involved in mystery, not entangled with any questions which relate to man either as a moral or physical being; a world, an empire, with which man had no connection, and whose agencies, subjects, and government comprised only animals and matter.


The geological theory of antiquity is considered, by those who maintain it, as liable to objection only from a single quarter, namely, the inspired record. It commands the entire homage of those who disregard that

« AnteriorContinuar »