Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

great efforts to show, by rigid calculation, that there was room abundant in that vessel for all the animals that would be liable to be destroyed by a deluge, with provisions for a year. If we regard the cubit as having been 21.8 inches, according to some writers, the length of the ark was 547 English feet, its breadth ninety-one feet, and its height fifty-five feet. But if the cubit was only a foot and a half, according to the most probable estimate, its length was 450 feet, its breadth seventy-five feet, and its height forty-five feet. Now such dimensions would perhaps be suficient to accommodate pairs of all the animals known to naturalists in the days of Buffon ; when they estimated the number of the mammalia at about 250, and made little account of other animals. But since more than a thousand quadrupeds have been described, more than 6000 birds, and more than 100, 000 insects ; and since it is made probable that the actual number of these classes is at least half a million ;* such calculations as these have fallen into neglect, and no judicious Christian likes to rest the authority of Moses upon such uncertain estimates, if there be another mode of meeting this difficulty less objectionable. And another mode is now generally adopted, even by writers who are extremely fearful lest any violence should be done to the language of Scripture, to accommodate it to the ciscoveries of science. They suppose it, as we have already mentioned in considering the question as to the universality of the flood, an example where universal terms are used with a limited signification. For the command to bring into the ark of erery living thing of all flesh, pairs of every sort, must, at any rate, be limited to those animals that live out of water; and there would seem to be no reason why a still further limitation of the language is not allowable if there be sufficient reason for it. Now we cannot but believe that the impossibility, without a constant miracle, of collecting and preserving all animals from every part of the world in the ark, as well as the entire uselessness of doing this, so far as we can see, together with the difficulties resulting from the facts concerning their present distribution over the earth, (a subject which we shall shortly consider,) do form a sufficient reason for limiting the language of Moses to those animals most common and important in the country where the ark was constructed; or rather to a sufficient number of animals to form an impressive memorial to the post

• Foreign Quarterly Review for April, 1835, p. 90.

diluvians of so great a catastrophe, and probably also to furnish them at once, without a miracle, with the necessary domestic animals. The case seems very analogous to the naming of animals by Adam, when it is said that Adam gave names to all cattle and to the fowl of the air. But few commentators we believe will contend that this is to be understood as zoölogically true. We are not prepared to say that the ark might not have been large enough to have contained pairs of all the aniinals that live out of water; but to collect them and take care of them and afterwards to distribute them over the face of the earth must have been altogether miraculous, and as we do not see of what use such a miracle could have been, and we know that God does not put forth a miraculous agency where the object can be accomplished by his ordinary operations, we rather prefer the explanation that supposes universal terms to have been employed with a limited meaning; and that only a part of the species of animals that then existed were preserved in the ark. “As we do not thus violate the principles of interpretation, and as this exegesis perfectly satisfies the objection, it seems to us more satisfactory than any other.

6. Finally, it is said that the present distribution of animals on the globe is incompatible with the idea that they ever spread or migrated from any one point on its surface, as they must have done if all proceeded from those preserved in the ark. This is the most important and plausible objection we have considered ; and in order fully to appreciate its force, we must date the general principles by which the distribution of plants and animals on the globe has been regulated ;-a subject, which, until recently, even the ablest naturalists did not understand; and concerning which, we apprehend that very vague notions now prevail among the great mass of intelligent men who are not naturalists.

In the first place, a considerable number of species, both of animals and plants, are capable of enduring great varieties of climate, and have in fact migrated over a considerable part of the globe. Most of the domestic animals, such as the ox, the horse, the dog, and the cat, are of this description; being found in every climate. But some, such as the camel and the elephant, are confined to the warmer parts of the earth. Some plants also accompany man wherever he goes. The plantain, for instance (Plantago major L.) followed the track of the first settiers of this country so uniformly, as to be denominated by

years since

Indians, “English man's foot.” It is only a few the flea bane (Erigeron Canadense L.) was first carried to Europe, and it is now spread over France, Great Britain, Italy, Sicily, Holland, and Germany. The thorn apple (Datura Stramonium L.) originally brought from the East Indies and Abyssinia, now grows as a common weed over nearly every part of Europe and the United States. The seeds of some plants are fitted to sail on the water, and in this way are driven from continent to continent. Others have hooks attached to them, so that they may cling to the hairy coats of animals and be thus dispersed.

To this migratory class of organized beings, man belongs. It is easy to conceive how he might have originated in a particular spot, and in the course of a few ages have been spread over the globe, as we now find him to be. We are not aware that any of those naturalists who believe the varieties of men to constitute different species, created in the regions they now occupy, deny at all the possibility of distribution from one point ; but they found their opinion upon other considerations.

But in the second place, the greater part of animals and plants are confined to particular districts of the globe; so that the earth is divided into a large number of distinct zoological and botanical provinces, each one of which is distinguished by several peculiar species. The most distinct of these provinces are separated by wide oceans, or are situated in different zones ; but sometimes a range of mountains merely forms the dividing line. The difference between the plants and animals of the several zones on the globe, has long been well known; and it may be supposed that all the peculiarity of any particular zoölogical or botanical province depends upon the latitude. But this is not the fact; for the productions of countries on different continents, between the same isothermal lines, do not correspond; certainly not as to species. Thus, of the 2891 species of plants described by Pursh in the United States, only 385 occur in the temperate parts of Europe. New Holland is remarkable for the peculiarity of its Fauna and Flora; the plants and animals found there being almost without exception different from those in other parts of the world. So the animals of America are strikingly different from those of the eastern continent. The number of zoological provinces on the globe has been estimated at eleven, and the Decandolles, father and son, than whom no better judges can be named, reckon the number of distinct boVOL. XI. No. 29.

3

tanical provinces at twenty-seven. This estimate was the result of an examination of seventy or eighty thousand species.

In the early days of natural history, travellers expected to find the same animals and plants in distant countries as in their own; and often they fancied resemblances where later observations have shown only a sort of family likeness, but not a specific identity. Even Linnaeus maintained that all the species of animals and plants were originally placed on one fertile spot, from whence they subsequently migrated, so as to fill the earth. But the facts of the case were then too imperfectly known to enable even the strongest and most impartial mind to arrive at a correct conclusion. Naturalists now almost universally suppose that each species was indigenous to one particular spot, and that different species were placed in different spots, from whence they have spread to a greater or less distance. So that when they find a species on almost every part of the globe, they immediately begin to seek out its birth place and the means of its dispersion.

From these facts we trust our readers will be able to estimate the force of the objection under consideration. If all animals on the face of the globe were destroyed by the deluge, except those preserved in the ark, then the existing races must have migrated from the region of Ararat to their present stations in the remotest parts of the globe. But facts show that with few exceptions they are confined to particular regions; and where we find the same animal in distant spots, we also find it in intermediate places. If all proceeded from one point after the deluge, we should have expected to find traces of their existence along the path of their migration. Again, if this dispersion took place naturally, how could species adapted, as we now see the greater part are, to a particular climate, have been sustained while they were gradually moving through regions unpropitious to them, to that spot for which Providence intended them ? By what instinct could they have been guided to countries often several thousand miles distant? And especially, how could the tropical animals of America have reached their present abode, without passing through the Arctic regions around Behring's Strait, where such animals could not now survive a week ? And there are many other cases where the difficulty of transportation must have been equally great.

To reconcile this objection with the history of Noah's deluge, as it is usually understood, is, indeed, no easy task ; that is, if we suppose pairs of all animals on the globe were actually preserved in the ark and the deluge was strictly universal. Some, we know, will cut the knot at once, by imputing the whole to the miraculous power of God - and we readily admit that this was sufficient if exerted but we do not think it necessary to resort to such an agency in order to vindicate the Scriptures : and as a resort to miracles rarely satisfies, although it may silence skeptical minds, we shall suggest two hypotheses which we regard sufficient to meet the difficulty.

In the first place, the deluge may not have been universal. We have already endeavored to show that the 777-2 (Gen. 8: 9) over which the waters are said to have flowed, may have been equivalent to the oirovuévn of the New Testament; that is, the whole world so far as men inbabited it. And if this be admitted, the animals that existed in remote countries may not have perished; while those saved in the ark furnished the stock for repeopling the regions which the flood had destroyed. Such an interpretation has had its advocates, ever since the days of Quirini, in 1676 ; and we are confident that it may be maintained without straining or perverting the sacred record at all; though we feel some difficulty with it on geological grounds : that is, we can hardly see why a deluge extensive enough to overwhelm the oixovuévn, should not sweep over other parts of the world.

In the second place, a new creation of animals and plants may have taken place subsequent to the deluge. We admit that the Scriptures are silent on the subject, and therefore they leave us free to reason concerning it from philosophical considerations. If it be admitted that the language of Scripture respecting the deluge is to be limited to the region, probably not extensive, which was occupied by man, and to the animals with which he was most familiar in those regions, we should not expect, that in giving an account of what took place after the deluge, they would describe the animals and plants of other parts of the world, even if they were then first created : For in this case, it would have been necessary to communicate a knowledge of the geography of the globe ; or in other words, to anticipate future discoveries in that science. And this would have been foreign to the object of revelation, as indeed would any account be of the animals and plants of remote regions, or of organic remains in the rocks. It ought also to be recollected, that the sacred writers use almost the same language to describe

« VorigeDoorgaan »