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Art. I. Geology and Mineralogy considered with reference to
Natural Theology. By the Rev. WILLIAM BUCKLAND, D.D., Canon of Christ's Church, and Reader in Geology and Mineralogy in the University of Oxford. 2 vols. 8vo. London: 1836.
trace the history of remote events, and to investigate the manners of ancient nations, has given occupation to the highest talents of the philosopher and the antiquary; and in this interesting enquiry, mouldering records, decaying monuments, fabulous legends, and the sibylline leaves of tradition, have yielded their respective tributes to the ancient history of man. But though the course of civilisation has suffered no interruption, and no physical convulsions have disturbed the later progress of our species, yet the details, even of probable history, carry us back but a little way into the dark recesses of antiquity, and we soon reach the epoch when truth and fableare inseparably blended. At this limit of our knowledge the records of inspiration fortunately come to our aid. From them we learn the origin of the human family—the early history of our race-the catastrophe which swept them from the face of the earth--the repeopling of the globe, and the dispersion into distant lands of the various tribes which animated its surface.
This brief chronicle, even when extended by the minuter details of profane history, is but the monograph of a single genus of living beings, which, in its undisturbed occupation of the globe, has suffered no change in its physical or intellectual organization. Endowed with superior intelligence, man regarded
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himself as the undisputed sovereign of the world around him. The cattle on a thousand hills were at his disposal—the mighty deep yielded her treasures to his skill—and the savage denizens of the mountain and the forest became tributary to his power. His charter for these vested rights he found in the inspired page; and from the command to subdue the earth, and to exercise dominion over its living tenants, he drew the inference that their final cause was to increase his luxuries, and to extend his dominion.
These views of the ancient history of the world, though universally received, have been singularly modified by the lights of modern science. Within the bowels of the earth the geologist has discovered the hieroglyphics of her primæval annals during thousands of
years before it was occupied by his own race. Inscribed on marble tablets-encased in the pedestals of the everlasting hills—these symbols have been preserved from the destroying power of man and the elements; and time has respected the only records of its own lengthened duration. Gathered in fragments from remote countries, and at distant periods, the elements of this new language were at first rude and mysterious. The leaves to which it had been consigned often perished during their developement, and it required the united services of thousands of labourers to decipher one sentence of the subterranean record.
The disclosures thus made, though by no means ambiguous, were at first received with distrust and fear. The few who were first admitted to its secrets, anticipated the conflict between science and religion; and dreaded that the geologist, like the astronomer, might be summoned to the bar of some modern inquisition. Conscious, however that one truth could never be at variance with another, the patient geologists pursued their labour; and in less than half a century, they have created a new department of knowledge, which, in point of philosophical importance and scientific interest, will not yield to the most exalted of the physical sciences. They have made all antiquity modern, by carrying us back to periods that preceded its commencement -they have outstripped the theologian, by discovering the true interpretation of the first page of sacred writ—and have proved, by infallible evidence, that, previous to the creation of man, the earth was inhabited by races of animals that were successively overwhelmed by great and destructive convulsions; and that new races, different from those which preceded them, and from those which now occupy our globe, were created by the immediate interposition of divine power.
The preoccupancy of the earth by the animal world during cycles of long endurance, and its present joint tenancy by man and the lower creation, are two striking facts which hold out to us unequivocal indications of the future. The present is doubtless the first cycle of the intellectual occupation of the globe; and when we consult the past, we read in its buried monuments, that this also must terminate. May not this, then, be the first of a series of cycles, at whose close the existing races of living beings, and the gorgeous fabrics of national vanity, shall yield their haughty relics to the sport and desolation of the elements ? Even the sacred volume forewarns us of the coming day, when the elements shall melt with servent heat, when the earth, and the works that are therein, shall be burnt up;—and when new beavens and a new earth shall replace the ruins of a world.
These views of the former and the future condition of the earth may appear even to some of our well-informed readers as bordering upon the marvellous; while others will not fail to consider them as incompatible with the sober deductions of reason. The natural history of our early days extended no farther than the class of creations which the earth's surface presented to our view; and the order of things which were offered to our contemplation had no higher origin than the hebdomadal arrangements which preceded the creation of man. No well ascertained facts or striking deductions run counter to the pious conviction that the earth and all that was therein were created in the short period of six days; nor were these convictions shaken, when facts, perplexing and unaccountable, did press themselves upon the notice of geologists. In the prevailing opinions respecting an universal deluge, the geologist found a ready explanation of all his difficulties. This was the catastrophe to which he referred the existence of marine deposits at the tops of the highest mountains ; and to its irruptions he ascribed the inequalities on the earth's surface—the marks of violent action which have dislocated and upheaved even its solid strata—whilst its competency to account for these diversified phenomena was eked out by the encroaching power of the sea-the bursting of lakes-the devastations of the avalanche and the glacier-the sand-floods of tropical climates, and the local desolations of the volcano and the earthquake.
In this dark age of geology her science rested on the two assumptions that the world was made in six days, and was afterwards overwhelmed in the waters of an universal deluge; and hence arose a series of erroneous positions impregnable to human reason, because guarded with all the sanctities of religious belief. The primitive waters of the globe were held to be an universal menstruum, capable of dissolving the most refractory substances, and the primitive mountains themselves, the metallic ores, the hardest gems, and even the adamant itself, were supposed to be chemical precipitates from this chaotic fluid. In this way did the rude architects of our planet surround its nucleus with a succession of universal formations, like the coats of an onion, and hand it over to the apprentice skill of diurnal operations, to fashion it into the picturesque, the beautiful, and the sublime.
We should have experienced some difficulty in believing that such doctrines had recommended themselves to the acceptance of sound minds, and still more that they had been taught in the present age, and in our own universities, had we not seen in the history of the past, and in the events of our own day, that the highest demands of truth, and the best interests of mankind, are invariably sacrificed when religion is intruded into questions of science and civil policy. Prejudice is then arrayed against knowledge; and reason stands the shackled victim of ignorance and fanaticism. The persecution of Galileo for maintaining doctrines which had been previously demonstrated by a pious and exemplary ecclesiastic, is fraught with deep instruction to every friend of religion; but a still more impressive lesson is now read to them in the recent triumphs of geological discovery. That science which was branded as antichristian, and even atheistical, has placed its most obnoxious doctrines beyond the reach of cavil; and has converted these very doctrines into the most powerful auxiliaries both of natural and revealed religion.
The rapidity with which this revolution has been effected is not the least of its remarkable characters. The persecution and the triumph are events within our own recollection; and several of the parties are now enjoying, in the maturity of age, the ascendancy of the opinions for which they so ardently combated. Although Moro, and some of the Italian geologists, obtained in the phenomena of fossil remains a glimpse of the dawning truth, yet it was not upon this field that the great struggle was to be maintained between truth and error. Our countryman, Dr Hutton, had the honour of sustaining the first assault from the enemies of reason. In his · Dissertation on the * Theory of the Earth,' which he read to the Royal Society of Edinburgh in the spring of 1785, and which has never been sufficiently appreciated for the soundness and ingenuity of its argument, he ronounced at once the attempt to reconcile the phenomena of geology with the recent creation of the world; and, from the present state of our globe, he endeavoured to trace the causes which have operated in the past, and which are likely to continue in the future. The Mosaic history,' says he, places • The beginning of man at no great distance; and there has not