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GEOLOGY AND REVELATION.
By the Rev. 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 ; have 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. 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
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 was uttered) a most wonderful proposition,—announcing that, at some time—at some remote period of antiquity-God did create, did bring 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.
That a very long period—how long no being but God can tell-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
. 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 1-57 confused and desolate, and darkness was upon the face of the
was dark at this period, not because because caliginous gases and vapors light of the sun, and shut it out from
andoned the work of his own hands.
to answer by this seemingly ruined ad yet been manifested. It was no
only of saurians and mastodons, and bonsters, but was to be fitted up and bler race of beings. Accordingly the move upon the troubled waters, and gradually restored. , let there be light, and there was ads and vapors which had enveloped tirely the light of heaven, were dissi
to distinguish between night and day. , that it was good ; and God divided ss. And God called the light day, led night; and the evening and the
ere be a firmament in the midst of the he waters from the waters. And God divided the waters which were under waters which were above the firmaind God called the firmament heaven. morning were the second day.” The the elevation of the clouds, and the waters, by the visible firmament—the ven-from those which rested. on the
e waters under the heaven be gatherice, and let the dry land appear; and led the dry land earth; and the gathers called he seas. And God saw that said, let the earth bring forth grass, the ne fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, on the earth ; and it was so. And the
and herb yielding seed after his kind, I after his kind, whose seed is in itself; good. And the evening and the mornIn the course of this day, vast portions e elevated, and other portions were de