Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

ried into the lake, and scattered over its silent depths. Autumn and winter followed, and sent down their floods, swollen with the rain, and carrying along the debris of the mountains around. While the gravel and sand brought down by the streams were deposited at the sides of the lakes, the lighter particles of floating mud were spread over its entire extent, and settled down in the stillness of its deeps. The cypris scales were the deposits of the summer floods; the alternating marl was the product of the winter's rain. Every layer, therefore, may be regarded as the record of a year; and if these layers are as “thin as paper,” in masses several hundred feet thick,” a very extended time must have elapsed before the lake had its peaceful repose disturbed. If we reckon ten of these divisions to an inch—and the description would lead us to suppose that there are many more—stratified masses thus formed, and of the thickness Sir Charles mentions, must indicate a period of at least some fifty thousand years. These marls, moreover, are spoken of as representing only the latter part of the period, during which the Upper Eocene was formed; and the whole of that epoch seems to have been brief when compared to the duration of others.

Who then can calculate the age of the earth, or reckon up the years of its many generations !

UNIFORMITY OF SYSTEM IN THE COURSE OF CREATION.

We now proceed to remark that the history, written in the records of the rocks, very plainly shows that in all the periods of the earth’s existence, the laws that regulate the material world have been the same as those that are now in operation. The ripple-mark left by the tiny billow on the muddy shore, and the impression made by the raindrop on the yielding sand, can still be traced in formations many epochs old. The annual rings that we find in the trunks of fossil trees testify to the regular return of "summer and winter, seed-time and harvest,” in ages long since gone by.

Leaying it to others to speculate on the law of progression, according to which animals of higher development and more delicate organization have, from time to time, been introduced into the terrestrial sphere, we content ourselves with remarking that in all the various stages through which the world has passed, we find creatures formed with an organization that was admirably fitted for the circumstances in which they were placed. When the globe was subject to volcanic convulsions, far more terrible than any we now experience, and the ocean was tossed with tempests of proportionate violence, the aniinals that peopled the dry land belonged to the reptile tribes and other genera which are distinguished for their tenacity of life, while the fishes that swam in the primeval seas had bones of gristle, the better to endure the stunning effects of a blow, and were covered with scales of bone, that, clad in coats of mail like the knights of olden time, they might pass unscathed through the elemental war. Other epochs came, and saw other races rise, conformed to the altered conditions of the time. “Fishes and reptiles," says Mr. Miller, “were the proper inhabitants of our planet during the age of the earth's tempests; and when, under the operation of the chemical laws, these had become less frequent and terrible, the higher mammals were introduced. That prolonged ages of these tempests did exist, and that they gradually settled down until the state of things became at length comparatively fixed and stable, few geologists will be disposed to deny. The evidence which supports this special theory of development of our planet, in its capabilities as a scene of organized and sentient being, seems palpable at every step. When the coniferæ could flourish on the land, and fishes subsist in the seas, fishes and cone-bearing plants were created; when the earth became a fit habitat for reptiles and birds, reptiles and birds were produced; and with the dawn of a more stable and mature state of things, the sagacious quadruped was ushered in."

REGARD TO THE NATURE

THE LESSON TAUGHT BY GEOLOGY IN

OF GOD.

We now direct attention to the lesson that Geology teaches in regard to the Author of All. In all these lengthened eras, amid all the changes which the globe has undergone, we can trace the same unwearying power, the same unerring wisdom, and the same beneficent design, that we discover in the scenes that now surround us. We review the list of epochs past, we stretch our ideas of time along the far receding array, till we are oppressed with a sense of the vastness of a duration which the mind of man attempts in vain to conceive; and still the world testifies of Him that made it, that in all the varied manifestations of His providence, which the terrestrial scene has beheld, the character of the Creator has remained the same. Geology and Scripture alike declare that the Lord hath reigned through all the ages of the past, as He reigns in the time that now is-infinite in wisdom, in power, and in goodness—the unchanged and unchangeable God.

THE LESSON TAUGHT BY GEOLOGY IN REGARD TO THE POSITION

OF Man.

Another important lesson which Geology teaches, is the peculiarity of Man's nature and position. When the records of the different strata are laid open before our eye, and we examine one by one their pages of stone, they tell of a vast variety of species and genera that lived, and multiplied, and passed away ; but from the earliest appearance of life on the globe, up to the day of Adam's creation, during ages so long that we cannot conceive them, and among species and genera so numerous that the thought of their multitude overwhelms us, there is no trace of any creature possessing the faculties and feelings of a rational mind, the hopes and aspirations of an immortal soul. In all the epochs of the past, we find no evidence of any being exhibiting intelligence like that of the human race.

There are no remains of the builder's toil, or of the potter's art; there is nothing to indicate the presence of mechanical skill capable of directing the agencies of Nature; there is no sign of a master-mind capable of subduing the inferior orders to his will. Had such a being existed, he must have left some impress of his operations, some relics of his power.

When Man appeared on the terrestrial scene an altogether new element was introduced into the constitution of earthly things. Mineral, vegetable, and animal existences had been there before ; but it was not till that time that an accountable and intelligent creature became a dweller here below. Geology teaches us that man stands alone, and that he is not to be classed with any other being that has hitherto inhabited the globe. His nature and his position are altogether peculiar. He is as highly, and as essentially, exalted above the most intelligent of the irrational animals as they are exalted above the vegetable, or as the vegetable is above the stone. He has before him a nobler destiny than theirs, and he has been created for a higher end.

It is needless to remark that the lesson taught us by Geology is in perfect harmony with the doctrines of the Bible. We may go farther, and affirm that even the conjectures that are suggested by the study of the past, find a striking confirmation in the statements of Scripture. Science leads us to conclude that, if the primeval introduction of animal life into the globe was followed by brighter manifestations of the Creator's perfections than had been exhibited before, the creation of a rational and intelligent being must be followed by still more striking exhibitions of His sovereign power. It bids us look

а

for scenes as far surpassing those that we have hitherto seen, as the beauty of the present world excels the dreary and desolate aspect of the Azoic ages. Science and Scripture concur in saying that Man does not belong to the past, but to the future. To that future they bid him look, and for that future they tell him to prepare.

The CHAIRMAN.—In asking you to return your thanks to the author of this Paper and also to Mr. Walter Brodie for reading it, I may observe that Dr. Gladstone's Paper, which is to follow, is of such a cognate character, that, unless any one wishes now to make some observations upon the Paper just read, I think it will be more convenient to take the discussions on both papers together. (Hear, hear.)

The following Paper was then read :

ON THE MUTUAL HELPFULNESS OF THEOLOGY

AND NATURAL SCIENCE. By John Hall GLADSTONE,
Esq., Ph. D., F.R.S., Mem. Vict. Inst.

:

MAN
AN, God's child, is put to school in this world, and among

the books which he has to study is the varied volume of Nature. There he finds endless pictures to arouse his infant wonder; and there, if he read thoughtfully, he may learn much, not only of the mysteries of the universe, but also about the wisdom, power, and goodness of its Architect, and his Father. But this child is a rebellious one, and in order to restore him to the position which he has forfeited, and to reveal more fully the Father's will, message after message has been sent him from on high. In the book of Nature he finds a multitude of facts which he combines as he best can, and the result is Natural Science: in the volume of grace

he finds a number of facts and statements, from which he builds up Theology. The lessons in either department, as God gives them, can scarcely be conceived as otherwise than absolutely true; but as apprehended by man, they are necessarily subject to human error; and thus his systems of Theology and Natural Science must always admit of correction and enlargement.

In this essay I propose to confine my attention to these two parts of man's curriculum—the knowledge of Nature and the knowledge of God; and I shall endeavour to show in what way they are mutually helpful.

The great difference between the two books is in the subject treated of; the resemblance is in their indications of the character and mind of their Author.

They tell of different things. The book of Nature appeals to the bodily senses, and the whole of its teaching relates to the physical universe, and to this life. It knows nothing of the spirit, and its destinies. The Bible, on the other hand, never professes to teach Natural Science. Its words, of course, are coined from natural objects and actions, and it makes large use of Nature in the way of illustration ; but its subject matter is the moral law of God, the way of salvation, and eternal life. It is not in this direction, therefore, that we need look for much mutual confirmation, nor need we fear much disagreement.

The two books, however, as was just stated, resemble each other in their indications of the character and mind of their Author. Nature leads us up to the conviction of a Supreme Intelligence; the Bible assumes His existence from the beginning. The unity of design that runs through the universe bespeaks the oneness of its Maker; in the Bible we read, Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord.” Nature shows us the superabundant evidence of power; the Holy Scriptures call God “Almighty.” Our proudest achievements in natural knowledge are but the disclosing of a higher wisdom; the sacred writers stand amazed at “the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God.” The philosopher and the inspired apostle agree that “in Him we live and move and have our being,” and alike recognize His constant sustaining energy In our study of the universe we come to a profound conviction of the uniformity of law; Jehovah declares, “I change not;” and even miracles appear in the Bible as part of the working out of a foredetermined plan. The terribleness of the Most High is seen alike in the world and on the page of inspiration. His justice and His goodness may be gathered, though somewhat uncertainly, from the book of Nature ; but they are clearly revealed in His word. It is only when our accusing conscience forces the question of His mercy, and makes us doubt the possibility of His favour, that Nature is silent, and we turn to those better oracles which unfold to us the scheme of redemption, and assure us that “God is love."

There is also another kind of resemblance between the two books of Nature and Revelation, which springs from their having the same Author, and which I may, perhaps, be al. lowed to term the analogy of style. In both we find facts given abundantly, but no scientific systems; in both there is a wonderful unity of plan in diversity of operation ; in both there is a frequent recurrence of types—that is, of the same Divine idea repeated, perhaps many times, but modified to suit the

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »