to present itself under a different aspect, and to occupy ground so far peculiar, as to demand a distinct and previous, though necessarily brief recommendation.

[ocr errors]

Having been delivered in the form of lectures addressed, it should seem, to a mixed auditory, this well-written Sketch' has taken a direction varying both from a simply rudimental course, and from a minute or strictly consecutive detail. It is, in fact, a preliminary essay on the history, range, and characteristic phenomena of geological science, a large and luminous preface to an extensive subject; a judicious attempt either to prepare the learner for an intelligent and successful prosecution of his studies, or to furnish the more general student with a clear and discriminating bird's-eye view of a scene too wide-spreading and too intricate for exhibition in mere perspective. The free and self-stimulated researches of ripened intellect are to be conducted on different principles from the enforced studies of early pupilage; and we can imagine nothing more beneficial to a mind exercised in the application of its powers, and entering on a new field of inquiry, than to commence it by laying in a stock of results, clearly defined, fairly compacted, and expressed in a style essentially attractive, and carefully cleared of mere technicalities. The previous mastering a pleasant and easy task-of such a popular digest as that before us, would greatly facilitate, in all its stages, the acquisition of scientific geology. We are sorry that we must confine ourselves to this general description, but our limits are defined, and we must repress, for the present, all inclination to pursue the subject. Of Mr. Lawrance's style and manner, one specimen, taken without the slightest attempt at favourable selection, but referring to important and much agitated questions, must be sufficient.

[ocr errors]

"If there be any fact well established in geology," says the great Cuvier in his admirable Discours Preliminaire", "it is this; that the surface of our globe has suffered a great and sudden revolution, the period of which cannot be dated farther back than five or six thousand years. This revolution has, on the one hand, engulphed and caused to disappear the countries formerly inhabited by men and the animal species at present least known; and on the other hand, has laid bare the bottom of the vast ocean; thus converting its channel into the now habitable earth." Cuvier was not predisposed to arrive at this conclusion; his testimony, therefore, is not to be despised. But the evidence is irresistible. The geologist who had never heard of Noah or the writings of Moses, would inevitably be driven to the same conclu



Those who argue with Mr. Lyall, that all the modifications of the earth's surface have been produced by the slow but gradual operation of causes now in action, can never get over the proofs of this universal cataclysm; in comparison with which all the revolutions and convulsions of modern times dwindle into insignificance. Great and aw


ful, however, as are these effects, when measured by the contracted span of our ideas, they are as nothing when considered with reference to the globe,-the vast mass of matter upon which they occur, and insignificant in fact, compared with the mighty bouleversemens which have prostrated the high hills, and reared ocean's caves' into mountains such as those which produced the shelly summit of Snowdon, and buried in the dark profundity of the earth the beautiful vegetation of its surface.'

The volume is illustrated by well chosen wood engravings.

Art. VI.—The Fossil Flora of Great Britain; or, Figures and Descriptions of the Vegetable Remains found in a Fossil State in this Country. By John Lindley and William Hutton. Vol. I. 8vo, pp. li. 218. Plates 79. London, 1831-3.


HE study of geology, like that of most fashionable sciences, may be pursued at marvellously small expense of time and labour. Nothing can be easier than to acquire the simple elements of mineralogy, and to become familiar with the more obvious phenomena and the less complicated generalizations of geological science; nor are we at all disposed to discourage this rudimental acquisition, considered either as an important auxiliary to general reading, or as enabling the possessor even of this small stock of knowledge, to avail himself advantageously of circumstances and situations, where his means of observation might otherwise be tantalizing to himself, and unprofitable to others. There are seasons and localities when it is desirable to know how to pick up pebbles with discrimination; and an easily obtained acquaintance with the common varieties of rock, may sometimes enable an observer to ascertain facts of the highest scientific nature, where he must otherwise waste his opportunities in vague and unavailable description. But all this, and much more than this, will give but small aid towards a clear and comprehensive view of a science which deals, not accidentally but essentially, with the vast and the minute; which ascends from the analysis of the air we breathe, and of the dust that rises in the breeze, to the laws which regulate the construction of the 'great globe itself,' and to the mighty revolutions which have fitted it, successively, for a primeval solitude of rank and gloomy vegetation --for an abode of all monstrous, all prodigious things,' creatures strange and enormous, baffling every conclusion drawn from the forms and systems that surround us-for the place where mind was to display its dominating power, to fulfil the conditions of its moral being, and to unfold the elements of its immortality.


No one can fairly congratulate himself on having obtained a satisfactory knowledge of the principles of geology, who has not given attention to the characters, distribution, and geological suc

cession of the organic remains which distinguish the different strata of the globe. Yet is this knowledge by no means of easy acquisition to that very large class of general students, which is excluded by circumstances or by situation from the use of an extensive collection. To the residents in some of our more important towns, well supplied museums are freely opened, but this indispensable advantage is unattainable by the far greater number who dwell in less favoured localities. Description is but an imperfect substitute for inspection; and, although drawings or engravings might supply the absence of specimens, there is not, so far as we know, any readily accessible work of this kind on a comprehensive plan. There are distinct publications, illustrative of various departments, highly meritorious indeed, but of prohibitory expense; and few greater services could be rendered to the great and increasing body of enquirers, than by the publication of manuals, well illustrated by xylographic diagrams, of the three departments of fossil remains-plants, shells, and animals. In the mean time, the admirably conducted publication, now in our hands, although of a more costly kind than that which we have just recommended, has been most seasonably undertaken by men, thoroughly fitted for their task, by sound and extensive knowledge of their subject both practically and in theory. And it is, in truth, a subject demanding no small portion of skill and experience for its adequate treatment.

Fossil Botany is beset with difficulties of a peculiar character. The materials that the enquirer has to work upon, are not only disfigured by those accidents to which all fossil remains are exposed in common, but they are also those which would, in recent vegetation, be considered of the smallest degree of importance. There is, in most cases, an almost total want of that evidence by which the Botanist is guided in the examination of recent plants; and not only the total destruction of the parts of fructification, and of the internal organization of the stem, but what contributes still more to the perplexity of the subject, a frequent separation of one part from another, of leaves from branches, of branches from trunks, and, if fructification be present, of even it from the parts of the plant on which it grew, so that no man can tell how to collect the fragments that remain into a perfect whole. For it must be remembered, that it is not in Botany as in Zoology, where a skilful anatomist has no difficulty in combining the scattered bones of a broken skeleton. In Botany, on the contrary, the component parts of both foliage and fructification are often so much alike in outline, which is all that the Fossil Botanist can judge from, as to indicate almost nothing when separated from each other, and from the axis to which they appertain. It is only by the various combinations of these parts that the genera and species of plants are to be recognized, and it is precisely these combinations that in fossils are destroyed.'

Much, however, has been of late effected by skilful and per



severing experimentalists in despite of all these difficulties. Mr. Witham has given a new aspect to some of the most inaccessible of these peculiarities, by subjecting to microscopic observation, very thin plates of various fossils; and the investigations of Sternberg, Buckland, and Brongniart, have extended and systematized the science. But it should always, in these matters, be kept in mind, that, with all deference to great names, the humblest student may be enabled by activity and vigilance to throw light on the most difficult inquiries. Geology, in all its departments, is emphatically a science of observation, calling eye, foot, and hand into constant exertion, and every one who wishes well to its interests, may serve it, perhaps essentially, by keeping what is familiarly called a sharp look out. The fragments of a quarry, the ejecta of a mine or a tunnel, the refuse of a coal-pit, the debris of a precipice, the accumulations of the strand, may furnish unexpected illustrations or suggest new trains of exploration. That singular fossil, Polyporites Bowmanni, was found among the rubbish at the mouth of a Welsh coal-mine.

Art. VII. 1. The Second Address of the Annual Assembly of the Congregational Union of England and Wales, held at the Congregational Library. London, May 12th, 15th and 16th, 1835. To the Ministers and Churches of the same Faith and Order throughout the Empire. 12mo, pp. 16. 8vo, 3d. 12mo, ld. London, 1835.

2. The Scriptural Unity of the Protestant Churches exhibited in their published Confessions. 12mo, pp. xx. 123. Dublin, 1835.




HIS Second Address, or Yearly Epistle of the Congregational Union, has for its main topic, the enforcement of a 'scriptural purity of communion' on the churches, and, as intimately connected with it, a faithful administration of scrip⚫tural discipline.' Much depends, it is remarked, on the qualifications of those who are received to the privileges of the church.

It is our acknowledged conviction, that they only who have embraced the Saviour, and have tasted that he is gracious, are entitled to Christian fellowship, or qualified for its duties and enjoyments. The admission of those who are strangers to the power of the gospel is in every way injurious. It is disastrous most frequently to the individuals themselves; having a tendency to quiet the conscience, and to deceive with unfounded hopes of salvation: and a serious evil to the church which receives them; being the sure means of lowering its spiritual character. We are plainly bound in kindness to them, as well as in faithfulness to the cause of God, to withhold encouragement from such as give no evidence of genuine piety, or are actuated by improper motives. Repentance towards God, and faith towards the


Lord Jesus Christ, are the only indispensable qualifications required. They are the proper foundation of mutual confidence, without which fellowship is but a name. On the scriptural evidence of these, often associated with great diffidence and timidity, we should rejoice to hold out a cordial welcome to our Christian fellowship and love. In seeking such evidences, we plead for the employment of no painful inquisitorial process; the establishment of no harsh and, to some, impossible requirement; nothing that ought to offend the delicacy or repel the approaches of the most timid. Let the existence of true piety be only ascertained, in the judgment of charity, and we are satisfied. We deem it of great importance to abide by these scriptural requirements. Every departure from them is dangerous, whether it proceed from causes in themselves evil, or from a mistaken sense of duty. It will deteriorate the character of the church by the admission of persons who have no sympathy with the grand objects of its institution. will place in jeopardy the spirituality and efficiency of the entire body, by the almost certain infusion and ultimate prevalence of a worldly spirit, which will imperceptibly neutralize the privileges, and disincline to the duties, which communion involves. The elements of discord will be introduced, where agreement should reign; edification will soon be lost sight of, or cease to be practicable; and the very intention of the institution will be perverted and abused. To this cause, we suspect that much of the contention which occasionally prevails in our churches, often eagerly exaggerated by those who do not understand us, is to be attributed. Where a healthy state of spiritual feeling exists, the differences which arise amongst brethren may easily be accommodated. It is only when selfishness, passion, and worldliness take part in the strife, that confusion and every evil work follow. We introduce and foster these elements, when the requirements of Scripture are dispensed with, and a wide and open entrance to church privilege, irrespective of spiritual qualifications, is allowed. It is admitted, that even with the greatest prudence and circumspection, hypocrites and deceivers will unawares creep in; but this is no reason why we should directly and systematically provide for the increase of these evils-why we should invite hypocrisy and encourage deception, by a careless, and still more by an indiscriminate, admission to Christian fellowship. Keeping equally aloof from harsh and unnecessary restrictions, and from a lax and injurious course of proceeding, let us adhere to the directions of the Sure Testimony. Duty, interest, and experience combine to enforce this recommendation upon us. Selecting precious materials, living stones, in the building of the Lord's temple, we shall be recompensed for our labour in the increasing spirituality and peace of our churches now, and in the permanency of our work. It shall abide, for the day shall declare it, when the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is.

Intimately connected with this subject, permit us to urge the necessity of a faithful administration of scriptural discipline. This is indispensable to the continued prosperity of our churches; though we fear that, in some quarters, it is not sufficiently understood. The ability of any church to accomplish the objects for which it exists, very much depends on the earnest desire for spiritual improvement evinced

« VorigeDoorgaan »