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THE BOOK AND THE ROCKS.
I.—The Mosaic narrative opens with a statement of three distinct facts, each following the other in a regular series, in the origin of the visible world. First, an absolute creation, as opposed to a mere remodification of the heavens and the earth, which constituted the earliest step in the creative process. Second, the condition of the earth when it was thus primarily brought into being, which was that of an amorphous or shapeless waste. And, third, a commencing act to reduce the unfashioned mass into a condition of order and harmony. “In the beginning," says the sacred historian, "God created the heavens and the earth. And the earth was without form and void ; and darkness was upon the face of the deep (or abyss). And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters” (Gen. i. 1, 2.) We are hence necessarily led to infer, that the first change of the formless chaos, after its existence, was into a state of universal aqueous solution ; for it was upon the surface of the waters that the Divine Spirit commenced His operative power. We are next informed, that this chaotic mass acquired shape, not instantaneously, but in a series of six distinct days or epochs, and apparently through the agency of the established laws of gravitation and crystallization, which regulate it at the present moment. It tells us that during the first of these days was evolved
what, indeed, agreeably to the laws of gravity, must have been evolved first of all-the matter of light and heat ; of all material substances the most subtle and attenuate ; those by which alone the sun operates, and has ever operated, upon the earth and the other planets, and which may be the identical substances that constitute its essence.
And it tells us, also, that the luminous matter thus evolved produced light, without the assistance of the sun or moon, which were not set in the sky or firmament, and had no rule, till the fourth day ; that the light thus produced flowed by tides, and alternately intermitted, thus constituting a single day and a single night, whatever their length might be. It tells us that, during the second day, uprose, progressively, the fine fluids, or waters, as they are poetically and beautifully denominated, of the firmament, and filled the blue ethereal void with a vital atmosphere ; that, during the third day, the waters, more properly so called, or the grosser and more compact fluids of the general mass, were strained off and gathered together into the vast bed of the ocean, and the dry land began to make its appearance, by disclosing the peaks or highest points of the primitive mountains ; in consequence of which a progress instantly commenced, from inorganic matter to vegetable organisation, the surface of the earth, as well above as under the waters, being covered with plants and herbs bearing seeds after their respective kinds ; thus laying a basis for those carbonaceous materials, the remains of vegetable matter, which are occasionally to be traced in some of the layers or formations of the class of primitive rocks (the lowest of the whole), without a single particle of animal relics intermixed with them. It tells us that, during the fourth day, the sun and moon, now completed, were set in the firmament, the solar system was finished, its laws were established, and the celestial orrery was put into play ; in consequence of which the harmonious revolutions of signs and of seasons, of days and of years, struck up for the first time their mighty symphony. That the fifth period was allotted exclusively to the formation of water-fowl, and the countless tribes of aquatic creatures ; and, consequently, to that of those lowest ranks of animal life, testaceous worms, corals, and other zoophytes, whose relics are alone to be traced in the second class of rocks or transition formations, and still more freely in the third or horizontal formations ; these being the only animals as yet created, since the air, and the water, and the utmost peaks of the loftiest mountains, were the only parts as yet inhabitable. It tells us, still continuing the same grand and exquisite climax, that towards the close of this period, the mass of waters having sufficiently retired into the deep bed appointed for them, the sixth and concluding period was devoted to the formation of terrestrial animals ; and, last of all, as the master. piece of the whole, to that of man himself. Thus, in progressive order, uprose the stupendous system of the world ; the bright host of morning stars shouted together on its birthday, and the eternal Creator looked down with complacency on the finished fabric and all its garniture, and “
saw that it was good.”
II. It will have been observed that in thus adverting to the progressive work of the creation, we have used the term day and period, indifferently, taking the “day” of Moses as not necessarily denoting a period of twenty-four hours, or what we
call a natural day, but as a period of time the length of which is left indefinite. The Hebrew word, translated day, is thus frequently used ; as for example, we find—“The day of the Lord,” “the day of vengeance," " the day of small things," " the day of trouble," and similar phrases, signifying only a period of time that has a beginning and an ending, as the several epochs of creation had, according to the Mosaic narrative ; the matter or substance-the material-having been called into existence “in the beginning,” and subsequently undergoing the several changes and receiving the various forms indicated by the sacred penman.
Who”- '-as Mrs. Somerville beautifully writes—“Who shall define the periods of those mornings and evenings when God saw that His work was good ? And who shall declare the time allotted to the human race, when the generations of the most insignificant insect existed for unnumbered ages? These stupendous changes may be but cycles in those great laws of the universe, where all is variable but the laws themselves, and He who has ordained them." And it is important and interesting to observe, that these views are not of yesterday, As Dr. Harris remarks,* the early fathers of the Christian church seem to have entertained precisely similar views ; for St. Gregory Nazianzen, after Justin Martyr, supposes an indefinite period between the creation and the first ordering of all things. St. Basil, St. Cæsarius, and Origen, are much more explicit.” | To these might be added Augustine, Theodoret, Episcopius, and others, whose remarks imply the existence of a considerable
*“The Pre-Adamite Earth,” p. 391.
† Principal Wiseman's “Lectures on the connection between Science and Revealed Religion,” Vol. i., p. 297.
interval between the creation related in the first verse of Genesis, and that of which an account is given in the third and following verses.* In modern times, but long before geology became a science, the independent character of the opening sentence of Genesis was affirmed by such judicious and learned
as Calvin, Bishop Patrick, and Dr. David Jennings. And in some old editions of the English Bible, where there is no division into verses, we actually find a break at the end of what is now the second verse ; and in Luther's Bible (Wittenberg, 1557) we have, in addition, the figure (1) placed against the third verse, as being the beginning of the account of the creation on the first day. Now, these views were formed independently of all geological considerations. In the entire absence of evidence from this quarter-probably even in opposition to it, as some would think-these conclusions were arrived at on biblical grounds alone. Geology only illustrates and confirms them. The works of God prove to be one with this pre-conceived meaning of His word. And there is ground to expect that this early interpretation will gradually come to be universally accepted as the only correct one. We need stand in no fear from the assaults of science on the Sacred Record. The Book and the Rocks are in no wise contradictory, but are in perfect harmony with each other. The creative data that have been dug up from the crust of the earth are in perfect keeping with the creative record in the book of Genesis.
* The Note in “Buckland's Bridgewater Treatise,” by Dr. Pusey, who refers to Petavius, lib. c., cap. 11, sects. i.-viii. + Dr. J. Pye Smith's “Scripture and Geology,” pp. 179, 180.