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GEOLOGY AND RELIGION.*

GEOLOGY has of late years assumed a position among the exact sciences. Long its followers struggled hard with the almost Cimmerian darkness which enveloped their favourite pursuit; and while points only, here and there, became luminous through the haze, many erroneous and untenable theories and opinions were advanced. Such, however, within the last twenty years has been the mass of information collected, and facts made out and compared, that the science now announces several leading principles, which may be regarded as fixed, being established on the securest basis of inductive reasoning.

Some of these principles have been supposed to be at variance with the inspired record. So was once the astronomical system announced by Galileo. That system is now universally accepted, its scientific truth being beyond doubt. The geologic systems really exist, and their place and position are demonstrable. If there is any variance between the reading of the rocks and that of revelation, the error is in our understanding of the one or other, or perhaps of both, not certainly His whose power originated the material world, and whose grace bestowed upon its inhabitants the revelation of his will.

The teachings of geology, so far as they are true, cannot be incompatible with the word of God. In all points we may not be able yet to see the parallelism; but so far as it is capable of being made out, it is well to understand it. For in this science have the advocates of a specious and ensnaring form of infidelity recently taken their stand; and in this, with its cognate physical sciences, must the battle of christianity most likely now be fought. The evidence from geology is all on the side of theism, as has been recently most amply shown; the difficulty, however, is to lead men to believe that it is so. The teachings of the enemies of our faith are put forth in a pleasing and captivating style, garnished with all the elegancies of refined literature, and dressed up in a way well fitted to interest and retain the attention of those who once dip into their volumes. Unfortunately, the replies, as they are masterpieces of generalised observation and philosophic reasoning, require on that account more thought, and a greater effort of mind, to grasp their conclusions; and thus it comes about that they are read by few, and appreciated by fewer still. The importance, however, of the subject cannot fail to bring it into more general repute ere long, and it only needs to be known in its fulness and truth, to banish from the mind the crude dogmas of materialism.

It is gratifying to find that we are not likely to want able and accomplished guides in the prosecution of such studies; and we know not where we shall find a work which we could more earnestly recommend, so far as it goes, than that the title of which we have placed at the head of this article. It may be said of it by some, that it does not enter into the subject so fully as might have been looked for, and it is not characterised by either very extensive or very minute scientific research. But the author's object has been more to point out a few of the attractions of the subject, and to indicate that its study is not incompatible with faith in the inspiration of the Bible, than to produce a work of scientific value. We desiderate, too, more certain guidance on the debated points of coincidence and disagreement, as theories of reconciliation have been rather hinted at than any reasonable scheme detailed. We have no clear statement of the author's own views, which we naturally looked for. Still the volume contains much information, and from the high standing of its estimable and accomplished author, the pleasing and popular style in which he has treated a subject confessedly difficult su to handle, the skill with which he has selected and linked together the facts brought forward, and the high purpose which he placed before him in writing his book, and which he has never permitted himself to lose sight of—it is altogether one of high value. From the preface we learn the design of the book. 'In my

* 'The Principles of Geology Explained, and viewed in their relation to Revealed and Natural Religion. By Rev. David King, LL.D., Glasgow. With Notes and an Appendis by John Scouler, M.D., F.L.S., Professor of Natural History to the Royal Society, Dablin. London and Edinburgh: Johnston & Hunter. 1850.

intercourse,' says the author, 'with young men of good education, I have found more of them disquieted in their minds, if not unsettled in their religious principles, by the results of geological investigation, than by any other difficulties attending revealed truth. In these circumstances, I have been compelled to give some attention to the subject, that I might “ be ready always to give an answer to every one that asked me a reason of the hope that is in me, with meekness and fear.” Such being the reason which led the Doctor to look into the subject at first, he was led more than once to lecture on it, and he has been induced to put the results of his inquiries into a permanent shape, and to send them forth to exercise their influence on sound views and good morals.'

After a short statement—too short for satisfactory explanation of the Principles of Modern Geology, he proceeds to show the accordance of geology with revealed religion, and to state some of the proofs furnished by geology of the being and perfections of God. There is also a valuable appendix and notes by Dr Scouler of Dublin, and an ample glossary and index.

Instead of following our author into his various arguments, or attempting an outline of the science of geology, we shall confine ourselves to an inquiry into how far there is reality in the apparent disagreement between the statement of Genesis and the discoveries of the geologist.

The grand discrepancy which we are called to reconcile has reference to the age of the earth. The commonly-received notion is, that the bible narrative limits the duration of our globe to a period of some five or six thousand years. The geologist, on the other hand, maintains, that he reads in the record of the rocks a register of ages so incalculably vast as to be beyond the powers of notation, and whose impress is yet so indelible as to be beyond a doubt. Into the proofs of this antiquity we cannot go. It is one of the conclusions as to which the higher order of geologists are agreed. In the words of

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Mr Hugh Miller, It seems scarce possible to over-estimate the force and weight of the evidence already expiscated on this point; and almost every new discovery adds to its cogency and amount. That sectional thickness of the earth's crust, in which mile beneath mile the sedimentary strata are divided into many-coloured and variouslycomposed systems and formations, and which abounds from top to bottom in organic remains, forms but the mere pages of the register; and it is rather the nature and order of the entries with which these pages are crowded, than the amazing greatness of their number, or the enormous extent of the space which they occupy, (rather more than five miles, *)—though both have of course their weight—that compel belief in the remoteness of the period to which the record extends.'t

Taking for granted the antiquity of the earth as asserted by geologists, we turn to the first chapter of Genesis to inquire whether such a statement necessarily traverses the narrative recorded there. We read, “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form and void ; and darkness was upon the face of the deep ; and the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, Let there be light, and so on. Now certainly, at first sight, this looks like a continuous narrative, and were it so, it would tie us down to a chronology totally incompatible with the requirements of geology. But as has been pointed out by Mr Hugh Miller, in the work already quoted from, a narrative apparently as continuous occurs in the second chapter of Exodus, where we are informed, within the compass of two verses, of the marriage of Moses' parents and his birth, without any mention of other births intervening, and yet there was a sister who could watch the infant's crib by the river's brink, and we know from other passages of the same book that Aaron was the elder brother. Therefore the apparent continuousness of the narrative in Genesis is no reason why the first verse may not be disjoined from the others, and be understood as announcing the primitive creation of the world's materials out of nothing, while between that point, unfixed and unknown, and the state of chaos described in the second verse, there may have intervened ages enough for all the creations, and many more, of which geology tells us. It is interesting to know, on the authority of Dr Eadie, in his Biblical Cyclopædia, (art. Creation) that this opinion was held by Justin Martyr, Basil, Origen, Theodoret, and Augustine. • Men,' he adds, 'who came to such a conclusion without any bias, and who certainly were not driven to it by any geological difficulties.' Dr Chalmers, in 1804, announced it as his opinion that the writings of Moses do not fix the antiquity of the globe.' Dr Buckland, Mr

. Sedgewick, Dr M'Culloch, eminent practical geologists, all of them, agree with him.

Some writers have supposed that all the appearances manifested by the earth may be owing to the Noachian deluge. The remarks already quoted from Mr Miller in reference to the thickness of the

* Hitchcock says eight or ten miles.

† First Imp., p. 315.

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various strata containing organic remains, and the variety of these remains, with their progressive approach to recent types, form a satisfactory refutation of any such argument. Even the assumption that the land and water then changed their relative positions, and so the strata that were deposited in the interval between creation and the deluge, and might thus contain organic remains, were elevated to form the new dry land, is not sufficient to account for the extent of the fossiliferous strata, for the different races of animal life, nor for the alternations of fresh water and marine beds.

Other objectors affirm that the world was formed by God as it is, the rocks with their enclosed remains coming forth in their present similitude from his creating hand. . For aught that appears in the bowels of the earth,' was a remark in the London Record, the world might have been called into existence yesterday.' To adopt an argument of Mr Miller's, there are grave-yards on the earth, and grave-yards, yea, an extended series of them, in it. Was the skull of the first, created a skull? No more were the skulls and skeletons of the others created so. The grave-yards of men prove the world was not created “yesterday.' The buried organisms of the rocks prove that cycles unenumerated by man, have elapsed since they lived, and moved, and had a being. Do we limit the divine power in such an assertion? He might have made them so. • It would manifest, however, but little reverence for his character to compliment his infinite power at the expense of his infinite wisdom. It would be doing no honour to his name to regard him as a creator of dead skeletons, mummies, and churchyards. Nay, we could not recognise him as such, without giving to the winds all those principles of common reason which, in his goodness, he has imparted to us for our guidance in the ordinary affairs of life. In this, as in that higher sense adduced by our Saviour, “God is not the God of the dead, but of the living."

There is another objection to the geologic history which has weight with some minds, founded on the language of the fourth commandment, which declares that “in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is,' etc. In the second chapter of Genesis, verse 4, one day only is assigned to the creation of the heavens and the earth. The statement in the first chapter, however, attaches a meaning to the term day' in this verse, different from the natural one, and yet there is no discrepancy between the two. . On the same principle,' says Professor Hitchcock, is it not reasonable to explain the fourth commandment by comparing it with the more extended account of the creation in the first chapter of Genesis ? It is not indeed as clear from the statement in Genesis that a long period intervened between the creation and the Mosaic days, as that six days were employed in the demiurgic processes. But still we can hardly conceive how any candid man can deny that the first four verses do naturally admit such a period. We cannot, therefore, allow that the fourth commandment is insuperably opposed to the

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* Miller's First Imp., p. 327.

interpretation under consideration.' * Indeed the common interpretation attached to the words, all that in them is, as describing those occupants of the material universe of whose creation we read, and which come under the ordinary observance of men, seems so clearly the true one, and is so entirely in accordance with the rules of interpretation, that we cannot help thinking that those who claim them as a proof that God did, what we have already shown we cannot without derogation to his character suppose him to have done, regard them as bearing a meaning which they were never intended to convey.

Our author affords us the following testimony from the bible itself for the earth's extreme antiquity:

* Even in regard to scriptural chronology, where the grand difficulty is supposed to lie, I may remark, that while the bible declares of the human race, we are of yesterday, yet in characterising the age of the earth, revelation never speaks of it as if it were modern. God “bath chosen us in Christ before the foundation of the world.” Would the apostle have so expressed himself unless he had considered the world to be exceedingly ancient? “Of old hast thou laid the foundation of the earth.” Would not a modern geologist, who believes in a Creator, adopt as his own this declaration of the psalmist? “Or ever the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the sea, even from everlasting to everlasting, thou art God.” It is plain that in this passage the globe is spoken of as only less ancient than eternity itself.'

If our premises are correct, our understanding of the Mosaic narrative, as supplemented by geology, or rather, we should say, our reading of the geological record, as guided by the hints of the Mosaic narrative—a narrative not intended to teach the geology of the earth, but given for a higher and nobler purpose—will be somewhat thus:

In the beginning, an indefinitely remote period not specified in the far-withdrawn vista of bygone eternity, God created out of nothing the materials of the heaven and the earth.

During the indefinite interval which followed, and of which the scriptures give us no record, took place the revolutions unfolded by geology.

At the period when the narrative of Genesis commences, the materials of the world—the broken up and disrupted ruins of former creations were in a state of chaos: “The earth was without form and void.' Darkness, the natural result of violent revolution, enveloped all. Such darkness is known to be the result of earthquakes and volcanic disturbances at the present day;t and it is not out of place to assign the darkness that existed during chaos to a turbid and polluted state of the atmosphere. Such, then, seems to have been the characteristics of this chaotic state. Earth, and water, and atmosphere were commingled, and a murky gloom lowered over all.

* Quoted by Dr Eadie, Bib. Cyc., Creation. † At the eruption of Tomboro in Sumbawa, in 1815, the ashes were carried three hundred miles in the direction of Java, where the sky was overcast with them as with clouds, so that the sun was enveloped in an atmosphere whose 'palpable density' he was unable to penetrate. They were also borne northwards two hundred miles, in the direction of Celebes, in sufficient quantity to darken the air. Numerous similar instances could be cited as to the darkening consequent on violent or lengthened volcanic disturbance.

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