Изображения страниц

them as illustrating the progress, or, rather, the retardation of thought from the time, when the science of geology first began to attract the attention of Christian nations, until now. Reviewing the list, we find that it is characterized throughout by an utter disregard of the natural and obvious principles of interpretation. Some are imbecile attempts to wrest the language of the rocks into conformity with that of the Bible: others are equally imbecile attempts to make the language of the Bible conform to that of nature. Some deny the truths of science out and out: others deny the truths of revelation, making the account in Genesis simply a poem, a fiction, or a myth. Not one of them is a systematic argument to show what meaning this primeval document possessed for those who first received it. In fact, this question never seems to have been asked, and writers have preferred to substitute their own arbitrary and fanciful hypotheses for the original and only meaning of the text.

What then is the true solution of the question of the days? As soon as we begin to reason on the subject, we are shut down to the only source of reconciliation between science and the Bible. On the one hand, it is evident that no such reconciliation can be effected by arbitrary and fanciful theories on the part of scientific men. Such theories, let them emanate from whatever source, are by nature unscientific. The business of science is induction from known facts: and these tend simply to confirm the difficulty. To undertake to find analogies and harmonies in nature where none are obvious, is to retard the progress of science, without benefiting the Bible. Nor, on the other hand, can any arbitrary or fanciful theory be accepted from biblical scholars; nor any interpretation which is not natural and obvious. The language of the Bible can no more be wrested out of its logical connection, than the old granite rocks of the azoic age out of their position in the order of nature. What then is to be done? The revelations of science aver that the world was countless ages in creating: the account in Genesis seems to us to teach that the heavens, the earth, the sea, and all that in them is, were created in the space of six days. It is idle to deny these facts. What, then,

is the only possible source of reconciliation? Why, evidently, a sound Philology, showing that the language of the sacred narrative, under the circumstances in which it was employed, was justifiable, if not the best possible. If the use of the word "day," for the purpose of this narrative, is shown to be justifiable, then the objections of the infidel are answered; if this word is shown to be the best possible word that could have been employed at that time for the purposes of the narrative, then the fact of subsequent misunderstanding and perversion of it is no objection to its usage; and, finally, if it be shown that for ages after the narrative was given to the world. its language was interpreted and understood correctly, and that the present misunderstanding and perversion of its meaning have been occasioned by regarding its language from a false and irrelevant stand-point, then the objections of the infidel are seen to be as discreditable to himself as they are impertinent to the Bible. We come now to the argument. We have already seen that the document before us is written in the language of common life, and is, therefore, liable to departure from strict, scientific accuracy, whenever such departure is necessitated by the limitations of language, or does not violate the thought which the language was originally designed to convey. Let us consider these limitations more fully.

"As man acquires ideas and thoughts of the existing world, he asserts, as it were, his dominion over it by clothing such ideas and thoughts in language. As his first and earliest ideas are those acquired by the senses, so those first expressed by language are of the same kind. Language has no immediate expression for intellectual ideas. It can express them only by giving them a physical form. They are made a part of the system of physical ideas.

"Primary ideas in language, therefore, are physical, or such as strike the external senses. Intellectual and moral ideas, so far as they exist in language, are developed from physical, and that by regular organic laws. This is now universally admitted. It naturally arises from the fact that man is a child of sense, and first introduced to the external world, and it shows itself abundantly in the very structure of lan

guage. Every word expressing an intellectual or moral idea, it may be safely assumed, originally expressed a physical one.' Or as the Schoolmen stated it: "Nihil est in intellectu, quod non prius in sensu."

[ocr errors]

Every page of our own language is burdened with illustrations of these remarks. "Thus the spirit in its literal import is breath or wind. The essential powers and properties of this spirit are drawn from the material world; as its intellect or understanding, its susceptibilities and propensities, and its choices or its elections. In short, its states are standings, its emotions are movements, its sensibilities are feelings, its views and ideas are sights, its conception and perception are a taking, its apprehension and comprehension are a holding, its reflec tion is a turning back, its purpose is an exhibition, its inference is a bringing in, and its conclusion is a shutting up.”+

Consider now that the first document of Genesis comes down to us from the very threshold of human thought and language, from a time when the mind could not conceive nor speak of intellectual ideas, save by referring them to physical objects or operations. Thus, the idea of God is expressed by the word ELOHIM, which signifies the strong one. The universe of matter is represented as a deep of waters. The unformed earth is described as a desert and an empty place. The spirit acting upon matter broods or moves upon the deep: the will of God in creating is a spoken word: the act of creating is a cutting out: the wisdom, power, and goodness of God are all expressed by physical acts: his cessation from his work is rest. We do not mean to imply that this account of the creation was originally written in the Hebrew tongue: the Hebrew may be simply a translation from hieroglyphs; and these may not have been employed until long after the account was given: but, if we find these concrete forms of expression in the Hebrew text, much more should we expect them in the more primitive language, in which the narative was first preserved.

Now among all our intellectual conceptions few are more

Gibbs's Philological Studies, Art. V, pp. 17, 18.

pp. 14-16, and Article XXV, 26, pp. 81, 82.
+ Philolological Studies, Art. IV, pp. 15, 16.

Compare also Article IV,

abstruse and difficult of expression than those of duration and time.* Notice the physical ideas with which our words were originally connected: duration is a hardening; time is a cutting: period, the word which infidel objectors claim should have been used for day in the Mosaic narrative of the creation, is itself a going round in a circle, a coming round to the starting point. The metaphors have faded out of our usage of the words. We think only of the abstract ideas, which they express. But, when we look at their etymology, we see at once that they are simply physical forms of their corresponding intellectual ideas, which find in them their best, indeed, their only possible expression.

Suppose, now, that the author of this document wished to present the idea of a succession of indefinite periods of time, not for the purpose of giving a chronology of the creation, but merely to give the succession of the periods in their order, for the sake of establishing a corresponding order in the arrangement of human time; how would he best express the abstract notion of a succession of indefinite durations? Would he not most naturally express it under the concrete form of that actual succession of periods, with which the mind was most familiar, the constant coming round of the sun to its starting point, that is, the sucesssion of days? And would not the separation or distinction of these indefinite periods from one another, be most naturally represented by the well known boundaries of days, that is, evenings and mornings? The only question in the author's mind would have been whether this particular mode of expression would be adequate to his object in presenting a motive to man to keep holy the seventh day. If this use of language was sufficient for the author's grand design, then it was justifiable. But it was every way sufficient: indeed, when we consider the then habit of thought and limitations of language, this use of the word day, as the concrete form of expression for the intellectual idea of an indefinite duration, and the use of the words evening and morning, as marking the limits in a succession of such durations, are seen to be

Compare Locke on the Human Understanding, Book II, chap. xiv, 2.

What becomes,
As long as our

not only justifiable, but the best, if not the only possible expressions that could have been employed.* then, of the objections of modern infidels? own language is full of like expressions, as long as the very words, with which we would emend this ancient narrative, are in themselves but the old forms of physical ideas: let us not impugn the right of its real author to employ the most natural and obvious expressions, which his meager language furnished him to represent the difficult idea of a series of indefinite du


But, further, the actual statements of the Mosaic narrative forbid its being interpreted as a chronology of the creation. We could not, if we would, make out from it that the world was created in six times twenty-four hours.

Take, for example, the statement of the first day's work, in connection with the expression "the evening and the morning were the first day." As yet, the sun is not created; the earth has not a separate existence; the elements of the whole material universe are comprised in one chaotic mass. Of course, then, there could be no revolution of our planet, marking a day of time; nor could there be any such thing as actual evening and morning. The word day is, therefore, seen to be merely a concrete expression, denoting one of the successive periods of time; and the words evening and morning, instead of limiting this period to twenty-four hours, are used simply as being the natural boundaries of days, to define this first and indefinite period from that which succeeded it.

If it be said that the word day might here denote a period

*The objection that, to make the days of creative activity and rest other than natural days of twenty-four hours is to destroy the authority of the sabbath, seems hardly worth considering. To most minds it would seem much more reasonable and natural that our division of time into weeks should commemorate the cycles of creation, than that God's work in creation should be measured by so many turns of this little planet. Even if these cycles were identical with days, the same difficulty would be felt from the fact that the Bible leaves the seventh day unfinished, and that science declares it to be still in pro gress. But it is stupid not to see the force of the analogy between the immeasurable periods of divine activity, and those which we measure for ourselves by the revolution of our world.

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »