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ASSOCIATES ; 1st Class :—Rev. George Ranking, B.C.L., Cantab., Beulah
Road, Tunbridge Wells ; 2nd CLASS :—Mrs. Curteis, Aldenham, St.
The above Members and Associates were elected upon the Foundation List.
The following Associates have also been elected for the current year :
ASSOCIATES, 1st Class :-Joseph Delpratt, Esq., 54, Queen's Gardens,
Hyde Park; 2ND CLASS - Mrs. Flint, 34, Arundel Gardens, Kensington Park, W.
The following books were announced as having been presented to the Society :
Adam and the Adamite. By Dominick M'Causland, Esq., Q.C., M.V.I.
From the Author.
Sermons in Stones. By the same.
From the Author.
The HONORARY SECRETARY then stated that he had much pleasure in announcing, that the Foundation List, as now printed, corrected to 31st December, 1866, contained 276 names, viz. :
3 Life Associates, 2nd Class,
He also observed that the total assets for the year, in Donations and Subscriptions, including the donations of sixty guineas each from two VicePatrons, amount to £868,—of which the sum of £500. 10s. is from Annual Subscriptions.
PROFESSOR Kirk then read the following Paper :
ON THE PAST AND PRESENT RELATIONS OF GEOLO
GICAL SCIENCE TO THE SACRED SCRIPTURES. By the Rev. John KIRK, Professor of Practical Theology in the Evangelical Union Academy, Glasgow; Author of “The Age of Man Geologically considered in its bearing on the Truths of the Bible,” foc., &c.; Memb. Vict. Inst,
seems too like presumption for an " outsider" in
Geology to undertake such a subject as this. reminded of a young man who had been trained in the country as a cartwright, and came to town seeking employment as a joiner. He was asked if he had ever made a window, and replied that he had not, but that he had made a harrow, which he said "was very like it.” We fear that the present paper will be only too like the writer's former “harrow,” to pass well for the window which is required. It will lack symmetry, and its joints will admit, all too freely, the “cold winds of criticism.” And yet the glorious sun, whose radiance is truth, may condescend to shine through it.
Geology is literally the “ word of the earth.” Not a word which the earth speaks, but the word which is spoken or written concerning the earth.
A word is a symbol of thought. It is only in so far as geology expresses thought regarding the earth, that it is anything. It is not the structure of the globe itself—nor is it the absolute truth regarding that structure-neither is it the expression of that truth. It is only the expression of that imperfect thought by which the structure of the earth is represented in the minds of men. He who is aware of this, will guard against the idea that Geology is any part of that supreme knowledge to which all other thought must ultimately bow
When we take up Geological Science in this view, it lays itself out to us in three great divisions. There is that thought in which what are called the facts of the science are represented, then that representing the true inferences drawn from the comparison of these facts, and, last, the conjectural ideas that are allowed to represent themselves, but do not represent any other reality. If we wish to illustrate the first of these divisions of thought by an example, we may take up
a piece of rock, composed, we shall say, of sandstone, which has just been broken from the solid bed in the side of a hill. In that piece of rock, and as it lay in the mass of the mountain, you see the form of a shell. The words which express the thought of that fact form a part of that which is fundamental in geology. Apart from this kind of thought there is nothing real in the science.
In that which is called a fact of this character, you have three things; first, the material rock with its shell-form then the thought representative of that object in the mind; and third, the words which express that thought. The piece of rock is the same to all who see it; the thought representing it in one mind is probably, so far, unlike the thought of it in every other; and the words expressive of such thought are both varied and changeable. Yet, from the nature of the rocky fact itself, there is at least a possibility of such repeated observation as issues in the all but perfect agreement of informed minds, as to the thing itself. It is the expression of thought regarding such facts, about which the truly scientific mind is ever most careful.
But to proceed to another example. You are on the seashore; and observing a portion of the sand which the tide has left exposed, you see that true shells, as they have been left by the molluscs that dwelt in them, are imbedded in that sand exactly as the form you have seen is imbedded in the rock. As yet we assume that you do not reason on the relations of those objects --you only observe them as they lie. Your thoughts represent little more than that which has reached you through your senses, sufficiently cogitated to present the objects to your mind.
mind. We shall suppose that you go on observing objects of this character, you are treasuring that kind of thought, out of which all geological science must be formed.
But there is, as we have said, a second and very different description of geological thought. You bring together the form of a shell which you have observed in the rock, and a real shell which you observed in the sand; comparing them, you perceive that, in many respects, they are not alike. They are indeed similar, but also strikingly dissimilar, and you begin to reason or to infer, that is, to form certain thoughts which represent relations of objects rather than the objects themselves. You then leave the thoughts representative of the mere facts for totally different thoughts, and enter a region in which difficulties and dangers greatly increase. It is then that you begin to realize what Steno, one of the ablest of geologists, wrote about two centuries ago. He says, addressing
the Grand Duke of Tuscany,—"Most Serene Duke, it often befalls travellers in unknown countries, that, hastening through a mountainous tract unto a town standing on the top of a hill, they think it hard by, as soon as they come in sight of it; the manifold turnings and windings of the ways thereto retard their hopes unto a trouble. For [at first] they have only a view of the nearest tops, but they cannot guess what is hidden by the interposition of those high places; whether they be lower hills or deep valleys, or plain fields, because with their flattering hopes they measure the distances of places by the eagerness of their desires.” It is not the sight of the hilltops, nor even that of the town beyond them, that gives the traveller difficulty and the danger of error, but the effort to infer, or to form the thought which will truly represent the unseen distances between. “So,” says this learned Dane,
Having once or twice seen those grounds out of which are digged up shells and other such-like things cast up by the sea, and found that those earths were the sediments of a turbid sea, and that everywhere we might estimate the number of times how often the sea had been troubled here and there, I hastily not only imagined by myself, but confidently affirmed to others, that the whole business [of accounting for them] would be an inquiry and work but of a very short time.))*
There was no difficulty to Steno as to the facts; but when he undertook to produce the true thoughts which would represent the relations of those facts, he found himself encountering the real labour of science.
And yet it is not in the field of patient inference from facts that either great difficulty or danger may be said to lie. If we are satisfied to accept the certain thought which fairly compared facts gradually give us, and to wait patiently for the increase of such true light, we may learn an incalculable amount of relative truth. Much that cannot be seen will be as real to us, and even far more powerful and precious in its influence over us, than anything that is seen.
For example, we may observe how a shellfish lives and dies in the bed of the sea at the present time, leaving its shell in the sand, and observe also the form of a similar shell imbedded in a rock, which is now high above the level of the sea. note that this shell-form is so imbedded as to indicate that the creature to which the shell belonged lived and died in the very sand of which that rock is composed, just as the modern one lived and died under the present waters of the ocean. We
* I quote from an interesting old volume entitled “The Prodromus to a Dissertation concerning Solids contained within Solids, &c. By Nicolaus Steno. Englished by H. (. 1671 ;" pp. 1 to 4.
have now got a great amount of relative thought, and we may go on till we believe, without difficulty and without danger of error, that the sea at one time flowed over the rock in which this shell-form lies imbedded. So long as the facts are duly observed, and the inferential thoughts derived from their comparison are manifestly related to the facts, and beyond reasonable doubt, so long we are gathering real science in its two great branches of trustworthy instruction.
But, as we have indicated, there is a third kind of geological thought, which is of a value very different from that of the other two. This consists of speculation, which, so far as discovery has gone, has no realities to represent. The universe of waking dreams, to which this introduces us, consists of all the possibilities of falsehood as well as of all those of truth. It is the region from which, we humbly think, true science warns us away. That which is, and so may be known, as distinguished from that which is not, but may be conceived, is the proper object of science. It is very important, when we would trace the relations of geological science to the Sacred Scriptures, to consider whether we mean the relations of our first two divisions of thought, or the relations of that so-called Geology, which is chiefly composed of conjecture. Because of the extremely speculative tendencies of scientific men, it has become painfully necessary that we should sift most carefully that which is presented, even by the highest authorities, as geological science; so that we may be able to distinguish between truth which is the logical result of real discovery, and doctrine held as above all price, but which may be abandoned to-morrow by those who are to-day its most earnest advocates. Because of the fond partiality, too, with which favourite hypotheses are almost worshipped, and on account of which every opposing idea is disliked, it is needful that we take up, and examine with great care, views that have been scouted by scientific leaders and their followers as worthless.
Almost all truth has been thus treated for a time by the rulers of public opinion during whose reign it has been discovered. To those who have not yet attended to the evidence from which it really springs, and who are more in love with speculation than with real science, every new truth will appear conjectural, it may be even preposterous; while conjecture, which has no evidence whatever to support it, may seem highly reasonable, only because it happens to accord with some preconceived notion.
It is in connection with this part of our subject that we come upon the phrase "negative evidence.” At first sight one would naturally imagine that this means really "evidence.”