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GEOLOGY AND REVELATION.
By the Rov. Enoch Pond, D. D. Prof. of Theology in the Theol. Sem. Bangor, Me.
Thy word,” saith the devout Psalmist, “is true from the beginning, and every one of thy righteous judgments endureth forever.” Other systems of doctrine and philosophy have had their day. They have risen into notice ; have gathered around them abettors and followers; bave flourished for a time, and then passed into silence and forgetfulness. But not so the system of Divine revelation. This has stood the test of time, and will stand when time shall be no more. It has gathered strength from the assaults of enemies, and from all the forms of trial to which it has been subjected, and is as unchangeable and enduring as the throne of heaven. “The grass withereth, and the flower fadeth ; but the word of our God shall stand forever." “ Forever, O Lord, thy word is settled in heaven."
Infidels have long hoped and predicted, that the investigations of science would invalidate the claims of Divine revelation. In this expectation, they have turned from one science to another, and have eagerly caught at any fact or appearance which could be tortured into a seeming accordance with their views. As might be expected, they have had their eye upon the researches of the geologist. They have anxiously followed him from steep to cavern, from mountain height to the deepest Vol. XII. No. 31.
explored recesses of the earth, in confident expectation that something would be discovered which might be regarded as contradictory to revealed truth.
Geological investigations have not, indeed, been brought to a termination; nor is it likely that they will be for a great while yet to come. Still, enough has been discovered to entitle geology to be regarded as a science, and to lead to some very important general conclusions. My present object is to compare these conclusions—those of them which may be considered as established — with the teachings of the Bible; and to show, in the first place, that there is no discrepancy between the two; but secondly, that in many points, the former go to illustrate and support the latter.
The single point, in which there is so much as the appearance of discrepancy between the deductions of geology and the statements of Scripture, respects the age of this world, or the date of its creation. It is assumed by the objector, that the Scriptures make the age of the world to be something less than six thousand years—that immediately previous to the creation of our first parents, the world itself was created out of nothing. On the other hand, it has been demonstrated by geologists, that the world has existed much more than six thousand years ; that its existence dates back to a vastly remote period; that the placing of man upon it is comparatively a recent event in its history. I need not go into the detail of proof on which this geological conclusion is based. To my own mind it is perfectly satisfactory. I would as soon think of disputing the Copernican system of astronomy, or the results of modern chemistry as to the elementary constituents of what used themselves to be considered elements, as to call in question the deductions of geology respecting the great antiquity of the world. There is no accounting for numberless facts which meet us, as we penetrate into the bowels of the earth, or walk upon its surface, but by supposing the earth itself to have existed for a very long period—a period remotely anterior to the origin of our race.
Here then, it is said, is a manifest contradiction between the deductions of geology, and the declarations of Scripture. The teachings of the Bible are contradicted by plain matters of fact, and of course cannot be received as true.
But let us look at this subject again. Let us be sure that we understand some of the first verses in the Bible, before we declare them inconsistent with facts, and abandon the entire volume of inspiration as an imposture.
In attempting to explain the first chapter of Genesis, I shall not take the ground that this is mere human tradition, and no part of the revelation which God has given us. It is an unquestionable part of Divine revelation. We have as much reason to think this portion of Scripture inspired, as that inspiration may be predicated of any other part of the Bible.
Nor shall I take the ground that this chapter, and several which follow it, are a poetical mythus, a fable, designed to convey moral instruction under a seeming narration of facts. For the truth is, these chapters are not poetry, but simple prose. They are not a parable, but a plain narration of important facts ;-facts, the truth of which is assumed in the subsequent parts of Scripture, and on the ground of which the most important doctrines are based.
Nor shall I take the ground that the term day, so frequently recurring in the first chapter of Genesis, signifies an epoch-an indefinitely long period of time. I think it signifies a literal day, including the evening and the morning—a period of twentyfour hours. This is the proper philological interpretation of the word, as here used; and we have no occasion, and as it seems to me no right, to lay it aside, for any less apposite and less usual sense.*
I have said, that those who represent geology as inconsistent with Scripture, assume that the Scriptures make the entire age of the world to be something less than six thousand years. But have they any right to this assumption? Where is it said in Scripture that the world we inhabit was made out of nothing near the time of the creation of our first parents ? Nowhere. “ IN THE BEGINNING, God created the heavens and the earth.” This is an independent, a most important, and I will add (considering the circumstances under which it was uttered) a most wonderful proposition, -announcing that, at some time-at some remote period of antiquity –God did create, did þring into existence, the heavens and the earth. At what time, in the lapse of eternal ages, this great event took place, we are not informed. What was the appearance or consistence of the earth, at its first creation, we are not informed. What changes it underwent—what forms of animal or vegetable life it bore upon its surface--what upheavings and revolutions passed over it, during the remoter periods of its history, we are not informed. The geologist has space enough here, for his deepest, his widest researches. He has scope enough for any conclusions which he may be led to adopt, without the remotest danger of trenching on any of the annunciations of revealed truth.
I know that the original word here employed, like our English word day by which it is translated, is used with considerable latitude in the Scriptures, and elsewhere ; so that the particular sense in which it is used, must be learned from the connection. And in the first chapter of Genesis, the connection, as it seems to me, determines that the word stands for a literal day. Each day consists of an evening and a morning. Besides, on the seventh day the Sabbath was instituted, which has never been understood to include more than a
That a very long period—how long no being but God can téll—intervened between the creation of the world, and the commencement of the six days' work recorded in the following verses of the first chapter of Genesis, there can be, I think, no reasonable doubt. It was during this period, that the earth assumed a solid form. Its heated masses began to cool and conglomerate. The primary rocks were chrystalized. The transition, the secondary, and the deeper portion of the tertiary rocks were deposited and petrified. The lower forms of animal and vegetable life appeared. Vast multitudes of marine and amphibious animals—some of them of huge and terrific forms-lived, and died, and their remains became imbedded in the solid rocks. Vast quantities of vegetable matter also accumulated on the earth, and was treasured up in its deep foundations, in the form of coal, for the future use and benefit of man.
It is evident that the earth, during this period, underwent frequent and terrible revolutions. Its internal fires were raging in their prison-house, and often bursting through the crust which confined them. The mountains were upheaved from their deeper than ocean beds; trap dykes were formed; and the stratified rocks were tilted from their horizontal positions in every direction.
It was subsequent to one of these terrible revolutions, which had torn the earth from its very centre, merged the greater part of it beneath the ocean, and destroyed nearly every trace of animal and vegetable existence, that we have mention made of it, in the second verse of our Bible. It was then 7.707 7.75 confused and desolate, and darkness was upon the face of the vast abyss. The earth was dark at this period, not because there was no sun, but because caliginous gases and vapors had utterly obscured the light of the sun, and shut it out from the desolate world.
But God had not abandoned the work of his own hands. He had nobler purposes to answer by this seemingly ruined world, than any which had yet been manifested. It was no longer to be the abode only of saurians and mastodons, and other huge and terrific monsters, but was to be fitted up and adorned for a new and nobler race of beings. Accordingly the Spirit of God began to move upon the troubled waters, and order and harmony were gradually restored.
At length “God said, let there be light, and there was light.” The dense clouds and vapors which had enveloped the earth, and shut out entirely the light of heaven, were dissipated, so that it was easy to distinguish between night and day. “ And God saw the light, that it was good ; and God divided the light from the darkness. And God called the light day, and the darkness he called night; and the evening and the morning were the first day."
“And God said, let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters. And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament, from the waters which were above the firmament; and it was so. And God called the firmament heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day.” The work here denoted was the elevation of the clouds, and the separation of the aërial waters, by the visible firmament—the seeming expanse of heaven—from those which rested on the surface of the earth.
“ And God said, let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear; and it was so. And God called the dry land earth ; and the gathering together of the waters called he seas. · And God saw that it was good. And God said, let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the earth ; and it was so. And the earth brought forth grass, and herb yielding seed after his kind, and the tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself; and God saw that it was good. And the evening and the morning were the third day.” In the course of this day, vast portions of the earth's surface were elevated, and other portions were de