The Testimony of the Rocks - or, Geology in Its Bearings on the Two Theologies, Natural and Revealed
by Hugh Miller
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Let me remark in the passing, that while Turrettine, one of the greatest of theologians, failed, as we have seen, to find in Scripture the fact of astronomic construction, La Place, one of the greatest of the astronomers, failed in a manner equally signal to find in his science the fact of astronomic authorship. The profound Frenchman (whom Sir David Brewster well characterizes as "the philosopher to whom posterity will probably assign the place next to Newton "), by demonstrating that certain irregularities in the motion of the heavenly bodies, which had been supposed to indicate a future termination to the whole, were but mere oscillations, subject to periodic correction, and indicative of no such termination in consequence, demonstrated also that, from all that appears, the present astronomical movements might go on forever. And as he could find in the solar system no indications of an end, so was he unable, he said, to find in it any trace of a beginning. He failed in discovering in all astronomy the fact of authorship, just as Turrettine had failed in finding in all Scripture the fact of astronomic construction. And here lies, I am inclined to think, the true line between revelation and science,—a line drawn of old with a God-derived precision, which can be rightly appreciated neither by mere theologians like Turrettine, nor by mere men of science like La Place, but which is notwithstanding fraught with an evidence direct in its bearing on the truth of Scripture. That great fact, moral in its influence, of the authorship of the heavens and earth, which the science of La Place failed of itself to discover, and which was equally unknown to the ancient philosophers, God has revealed. It is "through faith we understand that the worlds were formed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear." And, on the other hand, the great truths, physical in their bearing, to the discovery of which science is fully competent, God did not reveal, but left them to be developed piecemeal by the unassisted human faculties. And that ability of nicely drawing the line between the two classes of truths in a very remote age of the world, which we find manifested in the oldest of the Scriptural books, I must regard as an ability which could have been derived only through inspiration, and from God alone.

Let us, however, pursue our argument. Questions of geography, such as those entertained by the theologians of Salamanca, must be tested, we conclude, not by a revelation never intended by its Divine Author to teach geography, but by the findings of geographic science. Questions in astronomy, such as those which Turrettine and the opponents of Galileo entertained, must be tried, we hold, not by a revelation never intended to teach astronomy, but by the findings of astronomic science. But how deal, I next ask, with the theologian who holds that geologic fact has been revealed to him? Geology is as thoroughly a physical science as either geography or astronomy. Its facts are equally capable of being educed and established by the unassisted human intellect. It seems quite as unlikely that it should have been made a special subject of revelation, in its character as a science, as either of these sciences; or that the line so nicely maintained with respect to them should have been transgressed with regard to it. In short, in order satisfactorily to answer our query, it seems but necessary satisfactorily to answer another, namely, What, in this special department, are truth and fact scientifically ascertained?

There are, however, certain texts that appear to have a more direct bearing on the successive periods of the geologist than any of those that were once held to refer to the form of the earth, or to the nature of the heavenly bodies, are now believed to have on geography or astronomy. No one now holds that there is a geography revealed in Scripture, or regards the cavils of the Salamanca doctors as other than mere aberrations of the human mind. Nor, save mayhap in the darker corners of the Greek and Romish Churches, are there men in the present day who hold that there is a revealed astronomy. The texts so confidently quoted by Turrettine, such as "The sun also ariseth and the sun goeth down," are regarded in every Protestant Church as simply tantamount, in their bearing on the question at issue, to the "Sun rises" and "Sun sets" of the almanac. But while the Scriptures do not reveal the form of the earth or the motions of the planets, they do reveal the fact that the miracle of creation was effected, not by a single act, but in several successive acts. And it is with the organisms produced by successive acts of creation, and the formations deposited during the periods in which these acts took place, that the geologist is called on by his science to deal. And hence, while there are now no attempts made to reconcile geographic or astronomic fact with the Scripture passages which refer, in the language of the time, to the glory of the heavens or the stability of the earth, just because it is held that there is really nothing geographic or astronomic in the passages to conflict with the geographic or astronomic facts, we still seek to reconcile the facts of geologic science with what is termed the Mosaic geology. We inquire whether, in its leading features, the Mosaic does not correspond with the geologic record; and whether the days of the retrospective prophecy of creation are to be regarded as coextensive with the vast periods of the geologist, or as merely representative portions of them, or as literal days of twenty-four hours each? But though we thus seek to harmonize the two records, we continue to regard their grounds and objects as entirely different. The object of geology is simply the elucidation of the history of the earth, and of the story of its various creations; and its grounds are, like those of astronomy or geography, or of any other physical science, facts and inferences scientifically determined or deduced; while, on the other hand, the grounds of the Mosaic record are those on which the other Scriptures rest, and which have been so well laid down in what we may term the higher literature of the "Evidences," while at least some of its objects,—for who shall declare them all?—seem to be, first, to establish the all-important fact of the Divine authorship of the universe, and to show that all its various forces are not self-existent, but owe their origin to a Great First Cause; next, to exhibit the progressive character of God's workings,—a character which equally applies to his works of creation and providence; and, in the third place, to furnish a basis and precedent, in the Divine example, for that institution of the Sabbath which bears not only a prophetic reference to the great dynasty to come,—last of all the dynasties, and of which re-created men are to be the happy subjects, and the Divine Man the adorable Monarch,—but which has also been specially established in order that right preparation may be made for the terminal state which it symbolizes and foreshadows. Here, as certainly as in the other physical sciences, the line has been drawn with perfect precision between what man could and what he could not have known of himself. What he could have known, and in part already knows, is geologic science; what in all probability he never could have known is the fact of the Divine authorship of the universe, and the true nature of the institution of the Sabbath, as a time of preparation for the final state, and as alike representative of God's workings in the past, and of his eternally predetermined scheme for the future. "Is it not certain," Socrates is represented as inquiring, in "the first Alcibiades," of his gay and confident pupil, "that you know nothing but what has been told you by others, or what you have found out for yourself?" There is at once exquisite simplicity and great terseness in this natural division of the only modes in which men can acquire knowledge; and we find it wonderfully exemplified in all revelation. Scripture draws practically a broad line between the two modes; and while it tells man all that is necessary to his wants and welfare as a religious creature, it does not communicate to him a single scientific fact which he is competent to find out for himself.

About an age previous to the times of Turrettine, the danger of "corrupting philosophy through an intermixed divinity" was admirably shown by Bacon in his "Novum Organum;" and the line indicated was exactly what we now find was laid down of old with such precision in Scripture. "To deify error and to adore vain things," said the great philosopher, "may be well accounted the plague of the understanding. Some modern men, guilty of much levity, have so indulged this vanity, that they have essayed to find natural philosophy in the first chapter of Genesis, the Book of Job, and other places of holy writ, seeking the living among the dead. Now this vanity is so much the more to be checked and restrained, because, by unadvised mixture of Divine and human things, not only a phantastical philosophy is produced, but also an heretical religion. Therefore it is safe to give unto Faith, with a sober mind, the things that are Faith's." The passage, partially quoted, has been not unfrequently misapplied, as if it bore, not against theologians such as Turrettine and the Franciscans, but against theologians such as Chalmers, Dr. Bird Sumner, and Dr. Pye Smith,—not against the men who derive a false science from Scripture, into which God never introduced natural science of any kind, but against the men who, having sought and acquired their science where it is alone to be found, have striven to bring Scripture, in the misinterpreted passages, into harmony with its findings. Taken, however, as a whole, its true meaning is obvious. It is the men who have "essayed to find natural philosophy" positively revealed in Genesis and the other sacred books,—not the men who have merely shown that there is nothing in Scripture which conflicts with the natural philosophy legitimately found elsewhere,—that are obnoxious to the censure conveyed in the remark. It is they only, and not the others, that are "phantastical" in their philosophy and "heretical" in their religion. I say heretical in their religion. The Ptolemaic doctrine which ascribed to the earth a central place in the universe was only scientifically false, whereas the same doctrine in Turrettine and the Franciscans, from the circumstance that they pledged the Scripture to its falsity, and professed to derive it direct from revelation, was not only scientifically false, but a heresy to boot. And, in like manner, it is the class who term themselves the "Mosaic geologists,"—men such as the Granville Penns, Moses Stewarts, Eleazar Lords, Dean Cockburns, and Peter Macfarlanes,—who essay to "find natural philosophy in the first chapter of Genesis," and that too a demonstrably false natural philosophy, who are obnoxious to the Baconian censure now. No true geologist ever professes to deduce his geology from Scripture. It is from the earth's crust, with its numerous systems, always invariable in their order, and its successive groups of fossil remains, always (in accordance with their place and age) of a certain determinable character,—not in a revelation never intended by its Divine Author to teach any natural science as such,—that he derives the materials with which he builds. Had there been no Divine Revelation, geology would be as certainly what it now is as either geography or astronomy. That it comes in the present time more in contact with revealed truth than either of these sciences, is, as I have shown, merely a consequence of the fact that there is a history given in the opening passages of Scripture, for far other than geological purposes, of the authorship of the heavens and earth, and of the successive stages of creation; and further, from the circumstance that, from various motives, men are ever and anon inquiring how the geologic agrees with the Scriptural record. It may be well here to remind the anti-geologists, in connection with this part of my subject, of what at the utmost they may hope to accomplish. Judging from all I have yet seen of their writings, they seem to be as certainly impressed by the belief that they are settling textually the geologic question of the world's antiquity, as the doctors of Salamanca held that they were settling textually the question of the world's form; or Turrettine and the Franciscans, that they were settling textually the question of the world's motion, or rather want of motion. But the mistake is quite as gross in their case as in that of Turrettine and the doctors. Geology rests on a broad, ever extending basis of evidence, wholly independent of the revelation on which they profess, very unintelligently, in all the instances I have yet known, to found their objections. What they need at most promise themselves is, to defeat those attempts to reconcile the two records which are made by geologists who respect and believe the Scripture testimony,—not a very laudable feat, even could it be accomplished, and certainly worthy of being made rather a subject of condolence than of congratulation. And though, of course, men should pursue the truth simply for its own sake, and independently either of the consequences which it may be found to involve, or of the company with which it may bring them acquainted, the anti-geologists might be worse employed than in scanning the character and aims of the associates with whom they virtually league themselves when they declare war against the Christian geologist.

There are three different parties in the field, either directly opposed, or at least little friendly, to the men who honestly attempt reconciling the Mosaic with the geologic record. First, there are the anti-geologists,—men who hold that geological questions are to be settled now as the Franciscans contemporary with Galileo held that astronomical questions were to be settled in the seventeenth century, or as the doctors of Salamanca contemporary with Columbus held that geographic questions were to be settled in the fifteenth. And they believe that geology, as interpreted by the geologists, is entirely false, because, as they think, irreconcilable with Scripture; further, that our planet had no existence some seven or eight thousand years ago,—that the apparent antiquity of the various sedimentary systems and organic groups of the earth's crust is wholly illusive,—and that the very oldest of them cannot be more than a few days older than the human period. In fine, just as it was held two centuries ago by Turrettine and the Franciscans, that the Bible as interpreted by them was the only legitimate authority in astronomic questions, so this class now hold that the Bible as interpreted by them is the only legitimate authority in geologic questions; and further, that the Bible being, as they contend, wholly opposed to the deductions of the geologist, these deductions must of necessity be erroneous. Next, there is a class, more largely represented in society than in literature, who, looking at the general bearings of the question, the character and standing of the geologists, and the sublime nature of their discoveries, believe that geology ranks as certainly among the sciences as astronomy itself; but who, little in earnest in their religion, are quite ready enough, when they find theologians asserting the irreconcilability of the geologic doctrines with those of Scripture, to believe them; nay, not only so, but to repeat the assertion. It is not fashionable in the present age openly to avow infidelity, save mayhap in some modified rationalistic or pantheistic form; but in no age did the thing itself exist more extensively; and the number of individuals is very great who, while they profess an outward respect for revelation, have no serious quarrel with the class who, in their blind zeal in its behalf, are in reality undermining its foundations. Nor are there avowed infidels awanting who also make common cause with the party so far as to assert that the results of geologic discovery conflict irreconcilably with the Mosaic account of creation. But there is yet another class, composed of respectable and able men, who, from the natural influence of their acquirements and talents, are perhaps more dangerous allies still, and whom we find represented by writers such as Mr. Babbage and the Rev. Baden Powell. It is held by both these accomplished men, that it is in vain to attempt reconciling the Mosaic writings with the geologic discoveries: both are intimately acquainted with the evidence adduced by the geologist, and entertain no doubt whatever regarding what it establishes; but though in the main friendly to at least the moral sanctions of the New Testament, both virtually set aside the Mosaic cosmogony; the one (Mr. Babbage) on the professed grounds that we really cannot arrive with any certainty at the meaning of that old Hebrew introduction to the Scriptures in which the genesis of things is described; and the other (Mr. Powell) on the assumption that that introduction is but a mere picturesque myth or parable, as little scientifically true as the parables of our Saviour or of Nathan the seer are historically so. Now, I cannot think that the anti-geologists are quite in the place in which they either ought or intend to be when engaged virtually in making common cause with either of these latter classes.[35]

Be this as it may, however, it may be not uninstructive, and perhaps not wholly unamusing, to examine what the claims really are of some of our later anti-geologists to be recognized as the legitimate and qualified censors of geologic fact or inference. It will be seen, that in the passage which I have quoted from Turrettine, the theologian, in three of his five divisions, restricts himself to the theologic province, and that when in his own proper sphere even his errors are respectable; but that in the two concluding divisions he passes into the province of the natural philosopher, and that there his respectability ceases for the time, and he becomes eminently ridiculous. The anti-geologists,—men of considerably smaller calibre than the massive Dutch divine of the seventeenth century,—also enter into a field not their own. Passing from the theologic province, they obtrude into that of the geologist, and settle against him, apparently after a few minutes' consideration, or as mere special pleaders, questions on which he has been concentrating the patient study and directing the laborious explorations of years. And an exhibition by specimen of the nonsense to which they have in this way committed themselves in their haste, may not be wholly uninstructive. But I must defer the display till another evening. I shall do them no injustice; but I trust it will be forgiven me should I exhibit, as they have exhibited themselves, a class of writers to whose assaults I have submitted for the last fourteen years without provocation and without reply.



It has been well remarked, that that writer would be equally in danger of error who would assign very abstruse motives for the conduct of great bodies of men, or very obvious causes for the great phenomena of nature. The motives of the masses,—on a level always with the average comprehension,—are never abstruse; the causes of the phenomena, on the other hand, are never obvious. And when these last are hastily sought after, not from any devotion to scientific truth, or any genuine love of it, but for some purpose of controversy, we may receive it as a sure and certain fact that they will not be found. Some mere plausibility will be produced instead, bearing on its front an obviousness favorable mayhap to its reception for the time by the vulgar, but in reality fatal to its claims in the estimate of all deep thinkers; while truth will meanwhile lie concealed far below, in the bottom of her well, until patiently solicited forth by some previously unthought of process, in the character of some wholly unanticipated result. Such, in the history of science, has been the course and character of error on the one hand, and of actual discovery on the other: the error has been always comparatively obvious,—the discovery unexpected and abstruse. And as men descend in the scale of accomplishment or intellect, a nearer and yet nearer approximation takes place between their conceptions of the causes of the occult processes of nature, and the common and obvious motives which influence large masses of their fellows; until at length the sublime contrivances of the universe sink, in their interpretation of them, into the clumsy expedients of a bungling mechanism.

Tested by their reading of the phenomena on this principle, we find curious gradations between the higher and the humbler orders of minds. The vortices of Descartes, for instance, involve but a simple idea, that might have been struck out by almost any individual of a tolerably lively fancy, who had walked by the side of a winding river, and seen sticks and straws revolving in its eddies. But no fancy, however active, or no reach of mere common sense, however respectable, could have originated, or conducted to a successful conclusion, that profound contemplation into which Newton fell in the garden of Woolsthorpe, when he saw the loosened apple drop from the tree, and succeeded in demonstrating that the planets are retained in their orbits by the same law which impels a falling pebble towards the ground. So little obvious, indeed, was the Newtonian scheme, that most of the contemporary generation of philosophers,—some of them, such as Fontenelle and his brother academicians of France, men of no mean standing,—died rejecting it. And the objections of Turrettine to the motion of the earth on its axis are, we find, still more obvious than even the idea of the vortices. It does at first seem natural enough to suppose, that if the earth's surface be speeding eastwards at the rate of several hundred miles in the hour (a thousand miles at the equator), the birds which flutter over it should be somewhat in danger of being left behind; and that atoms and down flakes floating in the atmosphere in a time of calm, instead of appearing, as they often do, either in a state of rest, or moving with equal freedom in every direction, ought to be seen hurrying westwards, as if puffed by the breath of a tornado. Such an objection must for a time have appeared as just as it seems obvious, especially in one's study on a Saturday night, with much of one's lecture still to write, and the Sabbath too near to permit of verification or experiment. Fontenelle, however, though he could not get over the difficulty of conceiving how the same gravitation which made a stone fall also kept the moon in its place, fairly surmounted that which puzzled Turrettine; and in his "Plurality of Worlds,"—a publication of the same age as the "Compendium Theologica,"—he makes his Marchioness surmount it too. "'But I have a difficulty to solve,' he represents the lady as saying, 'and you must be serious. As the earth moves, the air changes every moment; so we breathe the air of another country.' 'Not at all,' replied I; 'for the air which encompasses the earth follows with us, and turns with us. Have you not seen the labors of the silkworm? The shell or cocoon which it weaves around itself with so much art is of a down very loose and soft; and so the earth, which is solid, is covered, from the surface twenty leagues upwards, with a kind of down, which is the air, and, like the shell of the silkworm, turns along with it.'" Even Turrettine, however, was as far in advance of some of our contemners of science in the present day, as Fontenelle was in advance of Turrettine, or Newton in advance of Fontenelle. The old theologian could scarce have held, with a living ecclesiastic of the Romish Church in Ireland, Father Cullen, that the sun is possibly only a fathom in diameter; or have asserted with a most Protestant lecturer who addressed an audience in Edinburgh little more than three years ago, that, though God created all the wild animals, it was the devil who made the flesh-eaters among them fierce and carnivorous; and, of course, shortened their bowels, lengthened their teeth, and stuck formidable claws into the points of their digits.[36] Further, the error of Turrettine was but that of his age, whereas our modern decriers of scientific fact and inference are always men greatly in the rear of theirs, and as far inferior to the ancient assertors of the same errors as the few untutored peasants and fishermen of our own time, located in remote parts of the country, who still retain the old faith in witchcraft, are inferior to the great lawyers, poets, and divines,—the Fairfaxes, Henry Mores, Judge Haleses, and Sir George Mackenzies,—who in the seventeenth century entertained a similar belief. And so it may seem somewhat idle work to take any pains in "scattering" such a "rear of darkness thin" as this forlorn phalanx composes. "Let them alone," said a lunatic in the lucid fit, to a soldier who had told him, when asked why he carried a sword, that it was to kill his enemies,—"let them alone, and they will all die of themselves." But though very inconsiderable, there is a comparatively large proportion of the class perilously posted, on both sides of the Atlantic, in what used to be termed of old in Scotland "the chair of verity;" and there they sometimes succeed in doing harm, all unwittingly, not to the science which they oppose, but to the religion which they profess to defend. I was not a little struck lately by finding in a religious periodical of the United States, a worthy Episcopalian clergyman bitterly complaining, that whenever his sense of duty led him to denounce from his pulpit the gross infidelity of modern geology, he could see an unbelieving grin rising on the faces of not a few of his congregation. Alas! who can doubt that such ecclesiastics as this good clergyman must virtually be powerful preachers on the skeptical side, to all among their people who, with intelligence enough to appreciate the geologic evidence, are still unsettled in their minds respecting that of the Christian faith. And so on this consideration alone it may be found not uninstructive to devote the address of the present evening to an exposure of the errors and nonsense of our modern anti-geologists,—the true successors and representatives, in the passing age, of the Franciscan and Salamanca doctors of the fifteenth and seventeenth centuries.

Let me first remark, that no one need expect to be original simply by being absurd. There is a cycle in nonsense, as certainly as in opinion of a more solid kind, which ever and anon brings back the delusions and errors of an earlier time: the follies of the present day are transcripts, unwittingly produced, and with of course a few variations, of follies which existed centuries ago; and it seems to be on this principle,—a consequence, mayhap, of the limited range of the human mind, not only in its elucidations of truth, but also in its forms of error,—that scarce an explanation of geologic phenomena has been given by the anti-geologists of our own times, that was not anticipated by writers of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. It was held, for instance,—in opposition to the great painter, Leonardo da Vinci, who flourished early in the sixteenth century, and was one of the first who, after the revival of learning, asserted the true character of organic remains,—that fossils were formed in the rocks through the planetary influences, or a certain plastic force in nature, and had never entered into the composition of living creatures or plants. And this view obtained very generally till about the middle of the seventeenth century, when, save for a brief space long after, in the times of Voltaire, it ceased to be regarded as any longer tenable. Curiously enough, however, it was virtually reproduced by one of the extant anti-geologists,—a clergyman of the English Church,—only three years ago, in a publication written, he says, to counteract "the immense mischief occasioned by the infidel works of geologists, especially among the lower classes," and which he has termed "a brief and complete refutation" of their "anti-scriptural theory."[37] "Fossils," says this courageous writer, "were not necessarily animated structures:" some of them were in all probability "formed of stone from the very first;" others, of inanimate flesh and bone. "The mammoth found under the ice in arctic regions had not necessarily been a living creature: it was created under the ice, and then preserved in that peculiar form of preservation, instead of being transmuted into stone, like the rest of its class." Such was the state of keeping of this famous mammoth, when discovered a little ere the beginning of the present century, that, as I had occasion formerly to remark, dogs and bears fed upon its flesh; and its bones, and part of its skin, covered with long red hair, are now in the museum of Petersburg. But there is no evidence whatever, according to this writer, that it had ever been a living creature: it was simply a created carcass. All organisms are, he holds, models or archetypes, fashioned during the first day in the depths of chaos, to typify or foreshadow the living plants and animals that were to be called into existence a few days later. "What," he asks, "do the cocoa-nuts, melons, and gourds, which have been found in the strata, show, but that the vegetable had its perfect archetype in chaos as well as the animal?" Nay, further, the geologist has but got into the apartment in which the original architect stored up his plans and models,—many of them, however, rejected ones. For "though every animal is formed after his archetype," we find him saying, "the converse is not true, that every chaotic structure is represented by its living facsimile." But they typify, if not living organisms, much more important things,—"they represent," says our writer, "the land of the shadow of death;" and the strata containing them, which geologists have opened, are symbolical of the "gates of death." "The state of preservation in which most fossils are, instead of having mouldered away, foreshadows immortality. The gradation, too, from the organisms whose types are said to be lost or destroyed, and confused in innumerable heaps, up to the perfect and complete specimen, is no fanciful representation of the resurrection; while the isolated bones and parts of skeletons which, though found far apart, as they were created, have been fitted together by the skill of the accomplished anatomist, give assurance of the fact that our scattered dust—our membra disjecta—shall come together at the sound of the last trump." And this is "geology on Scripture principles," soberly expounded by a man who respects facts, while he gives no place to fancy.

The "English clergyman" then goes on to show in his pamphlet, that the Coal Measures furnish no evidence of the earth's antiquity. They were formed, he says, by the finger of the Creator, "immediately and at once. A carboniferous tree of gigantic size has been discovered," he adds, "in the interior of the earth, of such a shape as entirely to prove the absurdity of a theory [that of the earth's antiquity] which has not a single valid argument to support it. It is described as having its trunk rising from the earth perpendicularly ten feet, and then bending over and extending horizontally sixty feet. Now, what living tree thus lopsided could support such a weight in such a direction? It seems to have been created on purpose to silence the HORRID BLASPHEMIES of geologists; for it proves to a demonstration, that the upper, nether, and surrounding matter came into existence with it at the same instant; for how else could it have been preserved in such a position?" The triumph secured by the carboniferous tree, however,—though it does not seem wholly impossible that a tree might in any age of the world have been broken over some ten feet from its root, and bent in a horizontal position,—seems in some danger of being neutralized, as we read on, by the circumstance that geologists find not unfrequently, among their fossils, the dung of the carnivorous vertebrates, charged in many instances with the teeth, bones, and scales of the creatures on which they had preyed, and strongly impressed, in at least the coprolites of the larger Palaeozoic ganoids, and of the enaliosaurs of the Secondary period, by the screw-like markings of a spiral intestine, similar in form to that now exemplified by the sharks and rays. And in maintaining his hypothesis that most fossils are mere archetypes—mere plans or models—of existences to be, the archetypal dung proves rather a stumbling-block, and the English clergyman waxes exceedingly wroth against the geologists. "We cannot," he says, "believe in such things as coprolites. They are only a curious form of matter commanded by Him who has made the flower to assume all shapes as well as all hues. He who would not allow so much as a tool to be lifted up on the stones that composed his altar, would certainly not allow the work of animals to compose his creation, much less, then, their dung. The geological assertion that the Creator of this world formed it in some parts of coprolites savors very much of Satan or Beelzebub, the god of dung. Geologists could scarcely have made a more unfortunate self-refuting assertion than this." I question, however, whether the clergyman does well to be angry with the geologists here. That fossils are mere models and archetypes, is his hypothesis, not theirs; and so it is he himself who is answerable, not they, for what he deems the impiety of the archetypal dung. His next statement is of a kind suited somewhat to astonish the practical geologist. "It is the constant language of geologists," he says, in giving the result of their discoveries, "that no young have been found!!! while the larger fossils have been detected isolated, or in the company of others, all differing in kind." "Archetypal resemblances of ova have been found, and such things as moths; but these are distinct and perfect in their kind. The occurrence of the young, which are imperfect, is a fact which has not been, and never can be, established; therefore it never can be proved that this world has had a longer existence than six thousand years." It is "the constant language of geologists" that "no young have been found" in the fossil state. Amazing assertion! "Therefore it never can be proved that this world has had a longer existence than six thousand years." Astonishing inference! There is not a tyro in geology who ever looked over a set of fossils, or ever spent an hour in exploring a fossiliferous deposit, who does not know that the remains of organisms in every stage of growth may be found lying side by side in the same bed,—that almost every museum contains its series of molluscs, crustaceans, fishes, and corals, formed to illustrate species in their various stages of growth,—that, in especial, among the ammonites of the Secondary ages, and the trilobites of the Palaeozoic ones, these series have been made with great care, in order to prevent the erroneous multiplication of species,—and that, in short, every richly fossiliferous stratum in the earth's crust repeats the lesson so often deduced from our churchyards, where graves of all sizes, from that of the infant of a day to that of the aged adult, may be found lying side by side. What the English clergyman represents as "the constant language of geologists," is a language which no geologist ever yet used, or ever will. And his inference is in every way worthy of his premises. The flourish with which he concludes his pamphlet would be infinitely amusing had his language been just a little less solemn. "The writer of the above remarks has felt it his duty," we find him saying, "to publish them, not only to refute the arguments of the vain and puffed-lip geologist, who fancies himself wiser than God, but also to prevent, by God's blessing, the evil that must ensue from tampering with the sacred text. And now, what has Satan to say? Why, THE TABLES ARE TURNED. Let men beware. Why did not the British Association, at their twenty-third meeting, in September, 1853, acknowledge their error as a body, in applauding so loudly the assertion of one of their geological members at a previous meeting, that this earth existed ages before man? They may now have the satisfaction of thinking that, in spite of themselves, those impious plaudits have been turned by the wrath of God into hisses." Strange as the fact may seem, this passage was written, not in grave joke, but in serious earnest.

The belief that fossil remains had never entered into the composition of living organisms, but had been formed in the rocks just as we find them, gradually gave place, during the seventeenth century, to the belief that they were the debris of the Noachian Deluge, and evidences, as they occurred in almost every known country, and were found on the top of lofty hills, of at once its universality and the height to which its waters had prevailed. And this hypothesis, like the others, has been reproduced by some of the anti-geologists of the present day. The known fact,—a result of modern science,—that the several formations (always invariable in their order of succession) have their groups of organisms peculiar to themselves, has, however, interposed a difficulty from which the earlier cosmogonists were exempt. It has become necessary to show that the Noachian cataclysm was strangely selective, in burying in the beds which it is held by the class to have formed, now one group of plants and animals, now quite another group, and anon yet another and different group still; and all this many times repeated with such nice care and discrimination, that not a single organism of the lower beds is to be detected in the middle ones, nor yet a single organism of either the middle or lower in the beds that lie above. Even this task, however, just a little lightened by here and there a suppression of the facts, has been attempted by the redoubtable Dean of York.[38] Fire and water were, he conceives, equally agents in the great catastrophe that destroyed the old world,—a circumstance which, if true, would have furnished with an admirable apology the class of persons who, according to the wit, would have cried out "Fire, fire," at the deluge. The dean conceives that at the commencement of the Flood, when torrents of rain were falling upon the land, numerous submarine volcanoes began to disgorge their molten contents into the sea, destroying the fish, and all other marine productions, by the intensity of the heat, and at the same time locking them up in strata formed of the erupted matter. This process took place ere the land floods, laden with the spoils of island and continent, and the accompanying mud and sand, could arrive at the remoter depths; which, however, they ultimately reached, and formed a second formation, overlying the first. There were thus two formations originated,—a marine formation below, and a terrestrial or fresh water formation above; but as these two deposits could not be made to include all the geological phenomena with which even the dean was acquainted, he had nicely to parcel out the work of his volcanoes on the one hand, and that of his land floods on the other, into separate fits or paroxysms, each of which served to entomb a distinct class of creatures, and originate a definite set of rocks. Thus, the first work of his volcanoes was to form the Transition series of strata. As a commencement of the whole, the internal fire blew up from the bed of the ocean, in tremendous explosions, vast quantities of pulverized rock mixed with clay, which, slowly subsiding, and covering up, as it sank, shells, stone-lilies, and trilobites, formed the Silurian rocks. A second explosion brought up the vents of the volcanoes to the level of the ocean; and while the Old Red Sandstone, thus produced, and charged with fish killed by the heat, was settling on their flanks, they themselves, as if seized by black vomit, began to disgorge in vast quantities, coal in the liquid state. Very opportunely, just ere it cooled, enormous quantities of vegetables, washed out to sea by the extraordinary land floods, were precipitated immediately over it; and, sticking in its viscid surface, or sinking into its substance through cracks formed in it during the cooling, they became attached to it in such considerable masses, as to lead long after to the very mistaken notion that coal itself was of vegetable origin. Then there ensued another deposit of red sand, with salt boiled into it; and then a deposition of lime and clay. The land floods still continuing, the great Sauroid reptiles which had haunted the rivers and lower plains began to yield to their force, and their carcasses, floating out to sea, sank amid the slowly subsiding lime and clay, now known as the Lias. The volcanoes too were still very active; and the lighter shells, ammonites, and the like, which had been previously bobbing up and down on the boiling surface, now sank by myriads; for the viscid argillaceous mud thrown up by the fiery ebullitions from beneath stuck fast to them, and dragged them down. Then came the formation of the Oolite, rolled into little egg-like pellets by the waves; and last of all, the Green sand and Chalk; after which the waters ran off, and sank into the deep hollow which now forms the bed of the ocean, but which previous to the cataclysm had been the place of the land. The dean, as he went on, fell into some little confusion regarding the true place of some of his animals, such as the megatherium, which arrived in his arrangement a little too soon. He spoke, too—if a newspaper report is to be credited—of a heavy creature soon overtaken and drowned by the rising waters, which he termed the pterogactylus, and which does not seem to have turned up, either in the body or out of it, since it was lost on that memorable occasion. Nor did he make any provision in his arrangement for the formation of the various Tertiary deposits. But then all these are slight matters, that could be very easily woven into his hypothesis. As the flood rose along the hill sides, first such of the weightier animals would perish as could not readily climb steep acclivities; and then the oxen, the horses, the deer, and the goats, with the lighter carnivora, who, as they would die last,—some of them not until the final disappearance of the hill-tops,—would of course be entombed in the upper deposits. Such is the hypothesis of the Dean of York,—a hypothesis of which it may be justly affirmed, that it is well nigh as ingenious as the circumstances of the case permit, and against which little else can be urged than that it must seem rather cumbrous and fanciful to the class who do not know geology, and, on the whole, somewhat inadequate to the class who do.

The Flood, however, is not left to do the whole geologic work, by even such of the anti-geologists as assign to it the largest share. A great unrecorded convulsion which accompanied the Fall is held by some of their number to have greatly assisted, by laying down the older formations of the fossiliferous rocks; and very much is said to have been done during the extended antediluvian period that succeeded it. One of perhaps the most amusing though least known of the writers that take this special view is a Scotchman, resident in a secluded provincial town, who for the last twelve or fifteen years has been printing ingenious little books against the infidel geologists, and getting letters of similar character inserted in such of our country newspapers as are ambitious of rendering their science equal to their literature. And from the great trouble which he has taken with the writings of the individual who now addresses you, he seems to regard them as peculiarly unsolid and dangerous. According to this profound cosmogonist, the world before the Fall was rather more than twice its present size, and very artificially constructed.[39] It was a hollow ball, supported inside by a framework of metal wrought into hexagonal reticulations, somewhat like the framework of the great iron bridge over the river Wear at Sunderland; and which had an open space in its centre, occupied by a vast tubular furnace lying direct south and north, which threw out huge volumes of flame towards the poles. Over the reticulated framework there rose a great, thick firmament of metal, which formed the inner shell of the globe; over the metal there lay a considerably thicker shell of granite; and over the granite, a thinner shell of a substance not specified, perhaps not known, but which, from its being completely water-tight, served the purpose of the layer of asphalt or terra cotta which the architect spreads over his flat roofs, or on the tops of his sloping terraces, afterwards to be covered with soil and laid out into gardens. Such, it seems, was that portion of the framework of our great globe which corresponded to the hollow lath and plaster framework of the little globes used in schools; while its uppermost layer,—correspondent with the slips of the map which the geographer pastes on the model and then varnishes,—was formed of earth and water, economically laid out into "most useful and tasteful configurations,"—the earth into pretty little rising grounds and valleys, and the water into seas and lakes of no great extent, but which formed, from their very handsome combinations, "a terraqueous surface all over PERFECTLY PARADISAICAL." Over this exquisitely neat earth there lay an enveloping atmosphere, greatly thinner and less dense than the air at present is, and incapable, in consequence, of being agitated by storms; while directly over the northern and southern extremities of the world the polar auroras, now so fitful and broken, extended in a permanent arch, and gave light, during the long dark winters, to the regions lying below. And as warmth was as necessary to the paradisaical perfection of these districts as light, they received the necessary heat from the great double-acting furnace in the interior, which, belching out flames at both ends, acted powerfully against the polar portions of the metallic crust or shell, and thus maintained the necessary glow in the absence of the sun, on the principle on which a frying-pan or Scotch girdle is heated when placed by the cookmaid over the fire. And such, according to this excellent world-fashioner and very zealous man, was the construction of that unblighted and unbroken earth which was of old pronounced to be "very good." The Fall, however, produced a most remarkable and singularly disastrous change. The earth was somehow partially crushed and broken, contemporaneously with the event,—like a strong fishing basket when it accidentally falls from a coach-top under the wheel; and, from a most interesting colored copperplate that illustrates one of the author's treatises (for he draws as well as he writes), the exact damage which it received can be minutely estimated. The interior network was compressed into all sorts of irregular polygons; the iron firmament was broken into great fragments,—some of which may be seen in the print hanging down into the hollow interior, like patches of broken plaster dangling from a ceiling, suspended by the hairs originally employed to give the necessary tenacity to the lime. The great granitic shell was also broken, but broken so nicely, on the principle of the arch, that the pieces remained in nearly their original places. Finally, vast rents are seen to occur in the cement and soil of the outer crust; and these great rents, which must have formed enormous gulfs and deep interminable ravines, were destined, it would seem, to perform a most important part in the future geology of the globe. Forming impassable lines of demarcation between the several portions into which they broke up the earth's surface, they imprisoned the recently created animals in separate groups, kept as completely from mixing together as the fallow-deer of one loftily-walled park are kept from mixing with the white oxen of another loftily-walled park, or as the kangaroos or duck-billed quadrupeds of Australia are kept by the surrounding ocean from mixing with the tigers of Sumatra or the tortoises of Madagascar. I employ the writer's own happy illustration:—"In some places these fragments" of the earth's crust "would be piled more or less above each other, and in others quite detached and isolated, like fragments of ice on the bank of a river after a thaw." They would of course be on very different levels, each having, as I have said, a distinct group of animals of its own; and when, after the lapse of nearly two thousand years, the great catastrophe of the Flood came on, it would necessarily find, as it rose along the levels, and submerged platform after platform in succession, a different and yet different set of creatures to kill. To borrow from the description of this ingenious cosmogonist, "those on the lower fragments would be first engulphed, and their races completely extinguished from off the surface, and deposited in the earth; then those on higher and higher upwards, till the whole became submerged. And we have only to suppose that man, with the present survivors, were those that occupied one of the higher table-lands when the Flood commenced (and of course in that case Noah could collect into the ark only out of those of his own country); then the result would be, that man and his present contemporaries would be among the last overwhelmed. This will sufficiently account for the fact of his and their remains not being found deep in the earth....

"The two most interesting geological facts therefore, namely, that distinct organisms are to be found in distinct formations respectively; and secondly, that no remains of man, and few or none of the other races at present surviving, are to be found in any but comparatively recent formations,—these two grand facts of geology, we say, instead of pointing back to vast cycles of ages before the creation, seem to point merely to the peculiar physical circumstances of the fallen planet in the interval between those two eventful stages in its history, the Fall and Flood, and the natural consequences of these circumstances in causing distinct divisions, and some of these of different elevations, among the organic living creatures, during the interval." One other circumstance completes this really original and beautiful hypothesis. The cosmogonist holds that the Flood,—no mere tranquil rising of the waters, as some suppose,—was accompanied by terrible convulsions, which reduced to utter ruin the already shattered earth. The granitic dome fell inwards upon the central furnace; and the fires, bursting outwards under the enormous pressure, found vent at the surface, and made the volcanoes. And this collapsed and diminished world,—scarce half the bulk of the old one,—with no heating furnace under its polar regions, nor aught save the merest tatters of an aurora flitting occasionally over them,—greatly too dense in itself, and surrounded by a greatly too dense atmosphere,—with its huge mountains, vast oceans, wide steppes, and arid deserts, with its snows, its frosts, its drenching rains, its horrible tempests, its terrible thunder storms, and devastating earthquakes,—all alike frightful defects, not in the original plan,—is not only unlike the primeval world, not very good, or, unlike the antediluvian world, tolerably good, but not good at all. "On taking a bird's-eye view of the geographical and hydrographical features or superficies of the globe," says this bold writer, "any unprejudiced person must at once admit, that in either of these departments there is scarce a trace of that beautiful, tasteful, and economical design which we have a right to expect from the admitted qualities of the great Author, and his avowed object in the structure and report of it when newly finished." It is added, however, that "its present object, as the Siberia—the penal settlement—of expatriated rebels, it is in its present state well calculated to fulfil."

It may be worth mentioning, that the writer who sets himself after a fashion so peculiar to assert and justify the ways of Providence against the geologists resides in one of the loveliest districts in Scotland,—a district, however, shaggy with rock, and overshadowed by great mountains, and occasionally visited by earthquake tremors, and both snow and thunder storms, and so, with all its wild beauty to other eyes, merely, I must suppose, one of the rougher districts of the penal Siberia in his. He is, indeed, particularly severe upon mountains; though not, as he tells us, wholly devoid of a lurking prejudice in their favor. But what weak prejudice might palliate or plead for, his better judgment condemns. "See," says this judicious writer, "vast districts of the globe disfigured by tremendous masses of rugged and almost barren mountains.... What, cry some, would you bury as deformities the lofty peak and rugged mountain brow, nature's palaces,—generally the grandest and most sublime objects in natural scenery! We cordially assure the reader we are by no means prejudiced against these grand objects; for if prejudice we have on the subject, it is rather on the other side. It is therefore the force of evidence alone makes us,—reluctantly we admit,—give up these to rank among the derangements and deformities of nature. She, according to her usual taste and economy, would never be at the expense of rearing, and that upon ground that might have otherwise been much better occupied, such unwieldy, useless masses of matter, merely for the sake of gratifying the taste for grandeur and sublimity in a few of her sons, nor, indeed, for any other use we ever heard ascribed to them.... According to our test, a rich and gently undulatory surface, intersected with rivulets and sheets of water, in the places taken up by these elevations, would be far better, as combining in the highest degree the utile cum dulce."[40] To such of my audience as are familiar with Dr. Thomas Burnet's "Sacred Theory of the Earth" (1684), that revolution in the cycle of hypothesis to which I have referred, and through which the visionaries of the later ages return to the dreams which had occupied the visionaries of an earlier time, must be sufficiently apparent in this passage. For not only does Burnet speak after the same manner of hills and mountains, but also of an idle, ill-founded prejudice entertained in their favor. We find him thus summing up a general survey of the mountains of the globe:—"Look upon these great ranges: in what confusion do they lie! They have neither form nor beauty, nor shape, nor order, no more than the clouds in the air. Then, how barren, how desolate, how naked are they! How they stand neglected by nature! Neither the rains can soften them, nor the dews from heaven make them fruitful. I give this short survey of the mountains of the earth to help to remove that prejudice we are apt to have, or that conceit that the present earth is regularly formed.... There is nothing in nature," adds this writer, "more shapeless and ill-figured than an old rock or a mountain."

I leave it to my audience to determine how far this depreciatory view,—whether regarded as that of Dr. Burnet or of the modern anti-geologist,—agrees with the estimate of the higher minds, or whether it manifests the proper respect for the adorable Being who, in his infinite wisdom, made our world what it is. Let me next show that some of even the abler and more respectable anti-geologists exhibit no very profound veneration for the letter of Scripture, when, instead of bearing, as they think, against the deductions of their opponents, they find it directly opposed to fancies of their own. It is held by not a few among them, that at the Deluge the sea and land changed places. When the waters receded, it was found, they allege, that the old land had become ocean, and the old ocean had become land; and as there are certain rivers which are described in Scripture as flowing beside Eden, and which, judging by the names given them, still exist, it has become imperative on the assertors of the hypothesis to show that the rivers which now drain tracts of what they hold was then sea, and that fall into seas which they hold were then land, could not by any possibility have formed the boundaries of the old Adamic garden. Let us mark how Mr. Granville Penn,—certainly one of the most extensively informed of his class,—deals with this difficulty.[41] There are, he argues, certain great corruptions of Scripture. What had been at first written as marginal notes by uninspired men, and were in some cases very erroneous and absurd, came in the course of transcription to be transferred, wholly by mistake, from the side of the page into the body of the text; and thus, in at least a few places, the Scriptures were vitiated, and now declare, instead of Divine truth, what is neither sense nor fact. And on this very general, and certainly most perilous ground, he goes on to argue, unsupported by a single ancient manuscript, and solely on what he terms internal evidence, that the verses in Genesis which conflict with his hypothesis must be regarded as mere idle glosses, ignorantly or surreptitiously introduced into the text by the ancient copyists. "In the second chapter of Genesis," we find him saying, "there appears an internal critical evidence of an insertion of the 11th, 12th, 13th, and 14th verses, similar to that of the 4th verse of the 5th chapter of St. John, and constituting, in a similar manner, a parenthesis intersecting the thread of the narrative, and introduced solely for a similar purpose of illustration. It does not wear the character of the simple narrative in which it appears, but of the surcharge of the gloss or note of a later age, founded upon the fanciful traditions then prevailing with respect to the situation of the ancient Paradise." This certainly is cutting the knot; and, if erected into a precedent by the geologist, would no doubt greatly facilitate the labor of reconciliation. It would, however, be perilous work for him. "A wolf," says Plutarch, "peeping into a hut where a company of shepherds were assembled, saw them regaling themselves with a joint of mutton. 'Ye gods!' he exclaimed, 'what a clamor these men would have raised if they had caught me at such a banquet.'" I need scarcely add, that the hypothesis in whose behalf Scripture is thus divested of its authority, and recklessly cast aside, is entirely a worthless one; and that the various continents of the globe, instead of all dating from one period little more than four thousand years back, are of very various ages,—some of them comparatively modern, though absolutely old in relation to human history; and some of so hoar an antiquity, that the term since man appeared upon earth might be employed as a mere unit to measure it by.

It need not surprise us that a writer who takes such strange liberties with a book which he professes to respect, and which he must have had many opportunities of knowing, should take still greater liberties with a science for which he entertains no respect whatever, and of whose first principles he is palpably ignorant. And yet the wild recklessness of some of his explanations of geological phenomena must somewhat astonish all sufficiently acquainted with the science to know that the place and relations of its various formations have been long since determined, and now as certainly form the regulating data of the practical miner, as the places and relations long since determined by the geographer form the regulating data of the practical navigator or engineer. It is as certain, for instance, that the Oolitic system underlies the Green Sand and the Chalk, with all the various formations of the Tertiary division,—Eocene Miocene, Pliocene, and Pleistocene,—as that York is situated to the south of Edinburgh, or that both these cities lie very considerably to the north of London and Paris. And the anti-geologist who would argue, in the heat of controversy, that the Oolite and the Pleistocene were contemporaneous deposits, would be no more worthy of reply than the anti-geographer who would assert, in order to serve some argumentative purpose, that the North Cape lies in the same latitudinal parallel as South California, or that Terra del Fuego is but a day's sailing from Iceland. And yet such, as I intimated on a former evening, is the line taken up by Mr. Granville Penn, in dealing with the difficulties of the Kirkdale Cave, so remarkable for its accumulations of gnawed bones of the Pleistocene ages,—especially for its bones of hyaenas, tigers, bears, wolves, rhinoceroses, and elephants. The cave occurs in the moorlands of Yorkshire, in a limestone rock of that Oolitic division to which the Oxford Clay and the Coral Rag belong, and contains corals and shells that had passed into extinction long even ere the Tertiary period began; while in the cave itself, mixed with bones of the extinct mammals of the geologic age in immediate advance of the present one, there have been found the contemporary remains of animals that still live in our fields and woods, such as the hare, the rabbit, the weasel, and the water rat. And we find Mr. Penn assigning both the Oolitic rock in which the cave is hollowed, and the mammalian remains of the cave itself, equally to the period of the deluge. The limestone existed at that time, it would seem, as a soft calcareous paste, into which the animal remains, floated northwards from intertropical regions on the waters of the Flood, were precipitated in vast quantities, and sank, and then, fermenting under the putrefactive influences, the gas which they formed blow up the yielding lime and mud around them into a long narrow cave, just as a glass-blower blows up a bottle, or as a little yeast blows up into similar but greatly smaller cavities a bit of leaven. And the stalactites and stalagmites which encrust the Kirkdale Cave are, Mr. Penn holds, simply the last runnings of the lime that exuded after the general mass had begun to set. Certainly any one disposed to take such liberties with the Bible on the one hand, and with geologic science on the other, as those taken in the given instances by this most formidable of the anti-geologists, could have but little difficulty in making either Scripture as geological or geology as Scriptural as he had a mind. His chief danger would be that of making the sounder theologians just a little angry, and of escaping, unless quoted for the joke's sake, the notice of the geologists altogether. In truth, the extreme absurdity of our later anti-geologists in virtually contending, in the controversy, that their ignorance of an interesting science, founded on millions of determined facts, ought to be permitted to weigh against the knowledge of the men who have studied it most thoroughly, forms their best defence. It secures them against all save neglect. As, however, some of their number are well meaning men, who would not be ridiculous if they could help it, and only oppose themselves to the geologists because they deem them mischievous and in error, it may be worth while showing them, by an example or two, the ludicrous nature of the positions which in their honest ignorance they permit themselves to occupy, and the real scope and bearing of the arguments which they unwittingly permit themselves to use. I shall adduce two several instances of reasoning, directed by the anti-geologists against their antagonists (as they themselves believed), but which, from their ignorance of the true state of the argument, and of the bearing of the facts with which they dealt, in reality made out for these antagonists as strong a case as they could possibly have made out for themselves. And I am sure that, rather than be found siding with their opponents, the anti-geologists would be content even to acquire a little geology.

I shall select my first instance from the records of the annual controversy which used to rage some ten or fifteen years ago, in sermons, newspapers, and magazines, immediately after every meeting of the British Association. A religious Dublin newspaper,—the "Statesman and Record,"—since extinct, took always an active part in these discussions on the anti-geological side, and boldly affirmed, as in a number now before me, that geology had the devil for its author. A learned correspondent of the paper, who was, however, somewhat more charitable, thought that at least the facts of the science might be exempted from a condemnation so sweeping; nay, that, well interpreted, they might be found decidedly opposed to at least the more mischievous deductions of the geologists; and in illustrating the point, we find him thus arguing, from certain appearances in the valley of the Nile, that the globe which we inhabit cannot possibly be more than six thousand years old.[42] "The valley of the Nile," says this writer, "is known to be covered with a bed of slime which the river has deposited in its periodical inundations, and which rests on a foundation of sand, like that of the adjacent desert. The French savans who accompanied Bonaparte in his Egyptian expedition made several experiments to ascertain the thickness and depth of this superincumbent bed. They dug about two hundred pits, and carefully measured the thickness in the transversal section of the valley, where the deposit had been free from obstacles, and had not been materially increased or lessened by local causes. They found the mean of all these measurements to be six and a half metres, or rather more than twenty feet. M. Gironde endeavored to determine the quantity of slime deposited in a century; and he found that the elevation of soil in that period was rather less than four inches and a half! Dividing the total thickness of the bed by the centenary elevation, he found the quotient 56.50; whence it followed that the inundations had commenced 5650 years before the year 1800, when the experiments were made,—a number which only differed 159 years from the Mosaic date. The difference is not very important, when it is considered that the most trifling error, whether in the measure of the entire superincumbent bed, or in the valuation of the quantity of slime deposited in a century, affects the final results. Notwithstanding this, the coincidence between the sacred historian and the computations of science is remarkable, and furnishes one proof more of the harmony existing between nature and revelation. An honest experimentalist was constrained to arrive at this conclusion at a period when the infidel school of our continental neighbors was in high feather. I am sorry to add, that the result of his own calculation had not that effect on the philosopher himself, or his free-thinking associates, which, for their own sakes, was desirable; but it is no less valuable to us on that account; for we know that an unwilling witness to the truth is worth a score of evidences already prejudiced in its favor."

Now, this is clear, distinct statement; and nothing can be more evident than that the theologian who makes it holds he is reasoning with conclusive effect in behalf of what may be termed the short chronology,—not in its legitimate connection with the recent introduction of the human species, but in its supposed bearing on the age of the earth. And in doing so he commits himself to the apparent positive fact, determined on what may be regarded as geologic data, that the river Nile has been flowing over its bed for about as many years as have elapsed, according to the Hebrew chronology adopted by Usher, since the creation of man, and no more. To the integrity of this inference he pledges himself, as an inference to which the infidel ought to have yielded, as conclusive in its bearing on the question of the earth's age, and as of singular value to the believer who sets himself to deal with the evidences of his faith. Now, without referring to the circumstance that the data on which the French savans under Napoleon founded have since been challenged by geologists, such as Lieutenant Newbold and Sir G. Wilkinson, who have carefully surveyed the rocks and soils of Egypt with the assistance of clearer light than existed at the commencement of the century, let us, for the argument's sake, hold the inference to be quite as good as this theologian regards it. And see, we urge upon him, that you yourself do not suffer it to drop should you find that it commits you to the other side of the argument. Be at least as fair and honest as you say the infidels ought to have been. The six and a half metres of silt and slime,—representative, let us hold, of from five to six thousand years,—rest, you say, on "a foundation of sand like that of the adjacent desert." But have you ascertained on what the sand rests? I know nothing of that, replies the theologian; I had not even thought of that. But the geologist has thought of it, we reply; and has spent much time under the hot sun in ascertaining the point. For nearly three hundred miles,—from the inner boundaries of the delta to within a few hours' journey of the cataracts,—the silt and sand rest on what is known as the "marine" or nummulitic limestone,—a formation of great extent, for it runs into the Nubian desert on the one hand, and into the Libyan desert on the other; and which, though it abounds in the animalcules of the European chalk, is held to belong, in at least its upper beds, which are charged with nummulites, to the earlier Eocene. Over this marine limestone there rests a newer formation, of later Tertiary age, which contains the casts of sea shells, and whole forests of dicotyledonous trees, converted into a flint-like chert; and over all repose the sands and gravels of the desert. Underneath the silt of the river, then, and the sand of the desert, lie these two formations of the Tertiary division. The lower, which is of great thickness, must have been of slow formation. It is composed almost exclusively, in many parts, of microscopic animals, and abounds in others in fossil shells,—nautili, ostreadae, turritella, and nummulites, with corals, sponges, the remains of crustacea, and the teeth of fishes. And between the period of its deposition and that of the formation which rests upon it the surface of what is now Egypt must have been elevated over the surface of the sea, to be covered, in the course of ages, by great forests, which, ere the land assumed its present form and level, were submerged by another oscillation of the surface, and petrified amid beds of a siliceous sand at the bottom of the ocean. Nor is the underlying marine limestone by any means the oldest of the sedimentary rocks of Egypt. It rests on a sandstone of Permian or Triassic age; the sandstone rests, in turn, on the famous Breccia de Verde of Egypt; and the Breccia on a group of Azoic rocks, gneisses, quartzes, mica schists, and clay slates, that wrap round the granitic nucleus of Syene. The formations of Egypt constitute a well-determined part of that great series of systems which compose the upper portion of the earth's crust: its silt is by far the most inconsiderable of its deposits; and if five thousand six hundred and fifty years were exhausted in laying down layer after layer of the twenty feet which form its average thickness, what enormous periods must we not demand in addition for the laying down of the forest formation, of the marine limestone formation, of the New Red Sandstone formation, of the Breccia de Verde formation, and, in short, for the some ten miles of fossiliferous rock of which those deposits form such definite, well-determined portions; besides the time necessary for the production of the enormously developed Azoic rocks which lie under all! The theologian, in this instance, instead of reasoning, as he himself supposed, in behalf of the short chronology, has been making out a very formidable case for the long one; and all that the geologist can have to urge upon him in the circumstances is simply that he should act as he holds the infidel ought to have done, and yield to the force of evidence. I may mention in the passing, that some of the most ancient buildings of Egypt are formed of the Tertiary marine limestones of the country; the stones of the pyramids are charged with nummulites, known to the Arabs as "Pharaoh's beans;" and these organisms stand out in high relief on the weathered portions of the Great Sphinx. Some of the oldest things in the world in their relation to human history,—erections, many of which had survived the memory of their founders even in the days of Herodotus,—are formed of materials so modern in their relation to the geologic epochs, that they had no existence as rock until after the Palaeozoic and Secondary ages had gone by. Not only the Carboniferous sandstone of the High Church and Parliament House of Edinburgh, but even the Oolitic (that is, Portland stone) of Somerset House and St. Paul's, are of an antiquity incalculably vast compared with the stone out of which the oldest of the pyramids were fashioned.

The second example which I shall adduce is one with which many of my auditors must be already familiar. The Falls of Niagara are gradually eating their way through an elevated tract of table-land, upwards towards Lake Erie, at the rate of about fifty yards in forty years; and it has been argued by Sir Charles Lyell, that as they are now seven miles distant from Queenston, where the elevation of the plateaux begins, they must have taken about ten thousand years to scoop out their present deep channel through that space.[43] Ten thousand years ago the Falls were, he infers, at Queenston; and the grounds on which he reasons are exactly those on which one would infer that a laborer who had cut a ditch two hundred yards long at the rate of ten yards per day, and was still at work without pause or intermission, had begun to cut it just twenty days previous. A reverend anti-geologist takes up Sir Charles;[44] and, after denouncing the calculation as "a stab at the Christian religion," seeing it involves the assertion that the "Falls were actually at Queenston four thousand years before the creation of the world according to Moses," he brings certain facts, adduced both by other writers and Sir Charles himself, to bear on the calculation, such as the fact that the deep trench through which the Niagara runs is much narrower in its lower than in its upper reaches, and that the river must have performed its work of excavation, when the breadth was less, at a greatly quicker rate than now. And thus the work of excavating the trench is brought fairly within six thousand years. Nor is the principle of the reasoning bad. In our illustration of the ditch excavated by the laborer we of course take it for granted that it is a ditch of the same depth and breadth throughout, and excavated in the same sort of soil; for if greatly narrower and shallower at one place than at another, or dug in a greatly softer mould, the rate of its excavation at different times might be very different indeed, and the general calculation widely erroneous, if based on the ratio of progress when it went on most slowly, taken as an average ratio for the whole. But the anti-geologist provokes only a smile when, in his triumph, he exultingly exclaims, "It is on grounds such as these that the most learned and voluminous among English geologists disputes the Mosaic history of the Creation and Deluge,—a strong proof that even men of argument on other subjects often reason in the most childish and ridiculous manner, and on grounds totally false, when they undertake to deny the truth of the Holy Scriptures." Now, it must be wholly unnecessary to remark here, that it is surely one thing to "undertake to deny the truth of the Holy Scriptures," and quite another and different thing to hold that the Niagara Falls may have been at Queenston ten thousand years ago; or further, that it seems not in the least wise to stake the truth of Revelation on any such issue. Let me request you, however, to observe, that in one important respect this writer resembles the former one. The former, ignorant of the various phenomena exhibited by the great deposits of Egypt, exhausted all his five thousand six hundred years of available time in accounting for the formation of one of the least of them,—the silt of the Nile; and the latter, though he bids down Sir Charles some four thousand four hundred years or so in the one item of scooping out the bed of the St. Lawrence, at least expends the remainder of the ten thousand,—his five thousand six hundred years,—in that work of excavation alone, and leaves himself no further sums to set off against the various geologic processes that may have preceded it.

In this case, as in the other, let us grant, for the argument's sake, all the facts. Let us admit that the trench through which the St. Lawrence now flows has been cut by the river in somewhat less than six thousand years. But through what, let us ask, has it been cut? There can exist no doubt on the subject: it has been cut through an ancient graveyard of the Upper Silurian system, charged with the peculiar fossils characteristic of what are known as the Clinton and Niagara groups, and common, many of them, to the Upper Silurian of our own country and of the European continent. Leptaena depressa and Pentamerus oblongus, two of the most frequent shells of the deposit, occur also in equal abundance in the Dudley and Caradoc formations of England; its prevailing encrinite, Ichthyocrinus laevis, is scarce distinguishable from an encrinite which I have often picked up in the quarries of the "Wren's Nest" (Ichthyocrinus pyriformis); while its prevailing trilobite, Phacops limulurus, seems to be but a transatlantic variety of our well known Asaphus (Phacops) caudatus. Further, the sequence of the various formations both above and below the Niagara group, is shown with remarkable distinctness in that part of the world along the shores of the great lakes. They may be traced downward, on the one hand, along the Lower Silurian deposits, to the non-fossiliferous base on which the system rests, and upwards, on the other, through the Old Red Sandstone and the Carboniferous Limestone, to the workable Coal Measures. Both stratigraphically and palaeontologically the place in the scale of the Niagara graveyard can be definitely determined; and a superficial deposit on the heights in its immediate neighborhood shows that the river did not begin its work of excavation among its long extinct shells, trilobites, and corals, until after not only the great Palaeozoic, but also the Secondary and Tertiary divisions had been laid down, and the recent period ushered in. The superficial shells of the adjacent heights belong to the Pleistocene age, and show that in even that comparatively modern time the lower lands of Upper Canada were submerged beneath the level of the ocean, and that a series of deep seas, connected by broad sounds, occupied the place of the great lakes. Not until the last upheaval of the land was the river now known as the St. Lawrence called into existence, to begin its work of excavation; and ere that event took place, fully ten miles of fossiliferous rock had been deposited on the earth's surface, charged with the remains of many succeeding creations. The deposit through which the St. Lawrence is slowly mining its way is older than the river itself by the vast breadth of the four Tertiary periods, by that of all the Secondary ages,—Cretaceous, Oolitic, and Triassic,—by the periods, too, of the Permian system, of the Carboniferous system, of the Old Red system, and of the uppermost beds of the Upper Silurian system. But a simple illustration may better serve to show the true character of the conclusion urged here by the opponent of Sir Charles, than any such line of statement as that which I employ, however clear to the geologist. In the year 1817, Prince's Street, in Edinburgh, was opened up to the Calton Hill, and the Calton burying-ground cut through to the depth of many feet by the roadway. Let us suppose that when the excavation has been carried a hundred yards into the cemetery, a geologist, finding the laborers cutting on the average about a yard per day, simply intimates as his opinion that the laborers have been a hundred days at work. "No," replies a controversialist on the anti-geological side; "for the first fifty yards, so soft was the subsoil, and so shallow the covering of mould, that the laborers must have cut at the rate of two yards a day; it has been merely for the last fifty yards that they have been excavating at the present slow rate: they cannot have been more than seventy-five days at work. I marvel exceedingly at the absurdity of geological reasoners: palpably the burying-ground of the Calton is only seventy-five days old." Now, such, in no exaggerated, but, on the contrary, greatly modified form, is the argument that would limit the age of the earth to the period during which the St. Lawrence has been scooping out a channel for itself, from Queenston to Niagara, through an ancient Silurian burying-ground. Both arguments alike confound the age of the ancient burying-grounds with the date of the modern excavations opened up through them; but in order to render the argument of my illustration equally absurd with the other, it would be not only necessary to infer that the Calton cemetery was only seventy-five days old, but also that the rock on which it rested was no older.

But enough of follies such as these! I had marked a good many other passages of similar character in the writings of the recent anti-geologists, and would have little difficulty in filling a volume with such; but it would be a useless, though mayhap curious work, and is much better exhibited by specimen than as a whole. A little folly is amusing, but much of it fatigues. There is a time coming, and now not very distant, when the vagaries of the anti-geologists will be as obsolete as those of the geographers of Salamanca, or as those of the astronomers who upheld the orthodoxy of Ptolemy against Galileo and Newton; and when they will be regarded as a sort of curious fossils, very monstrous and bizarre, and altogether of an extinct type, but which had once not only life, but were formidable. It will then be seen by all what a noble vestibule the old geologic ages form to that human period in which moral responsibility first began upon earth, and a creature destined to immortality anticipated an eternal hereafter. There is always much of the mean and the little in the worlds which man creates for himself, and in the history which he gives them. Of all the abortions of the middle ages which have come down to us, I know not a more miserable one,—at once ludicrous and sad,—than that heavens and earth of Cosmas Indicopleustes, the monk, which I illustrated by diagrams in my last lecture (Figs. 114, 115). They are just such heavens and earth as a monk might have made, and made too at a sitting. The heavens, represented as a solid arch raised on tall walls, resemble, as a whole, the arch which figures in the middle of a freemason's apron, or, more homely still, the section of a wine cellar; while the earth lies beneath as a great plain or floor, with a huge hill in the distance, behind which the sun passes when it is night. And yet this scheme gave law to the world for more than six centuries, and lay like a nightmare on physical discovery, astronomic and geographical. The anti-geologists have been less mischievous, for they live in a more enlightened age; and we already see but the straggling remains of the body, and know that the time cannot be far distant when it will be as completely extinct as any of the old faunas. The great globe, ever revolving on itself, and journeying in space round the sun, in obedience to laws which it immortalized a Newton to discover and demonstrate, is an infinitely more sublime and noble object than the earth of Cosmas the monk, with its conical mountain and its crypt-like firmament; nor can I doubt that its history throughout the long geologic ages,—its strange story of successive creations, each placed in advance of that which had gone before, and its succeeding organisms, vegetable and animal, ranged according to their appearance in time, on principles which our profounder students of natural science have but of late determined,—will be found in an equal degree more worthy of its Divine Author than that which would huddle the whole into a few literal days, and convert the incalculably ancient universe which we inhabit into a hastily run-up erection of yesterday.




Scotland has its four fossil floras,—its flora of the Old Red Sandstone, its Carboniferous flora, its Oolitic flora, and that flora of apparently Tertiary age of which his Grace the Duke of Argyll found so interesting a fragment overflown by the thick basalt beds and trap tuffs of Mull. Of these, the only one adequately known to the geologist is the gorgeous flora of the Coal Measures,—probably the richest, in at least individual plants, which the world has yet seen. The others are all but wholly unknown; and the Association may be the more disposed to tolerate the comparative meagreness of the few brief remarks which I purpose making on two of their number,—the floras of the Old Red Sandstone and the Oolite,—from the consideration that that meagreness is only too truly representative of the present state of our knowledge regarding them; and that if my descriptions be scanty and inadequate, it is only because the facts are still few. How much of the lost may yet be recovered I know not; but the circumstance that two great floras,—remote predecessors of the existing one,—which once covered with their continuous mantle of green the dry land of what is now Scotland, should be represented by but a few coniferous fossils, a few cycadaceous fronds, a few ferns and club mosses, must serve to show what mere fragments of the past history of our country we have yet been able to recover from the rocks, and how very much in the work of exploration and discovery still remains for us to do. We stand on the further edge of the great floras of by-past creations, and have gathered but a few handfuls of faded leaves, a few broken branches, a few decayed cones.

The Silurian deposits of our country have not yet furnished us with any unequivocal traces of a terrestrial vegetation. Professor Nicol of Aberdeen, on subjecting to the microscope the ashes of a Silurian anthracite which occurs in Peeblesshire, detected in it minute tubular fibres, which seem, he says, to indicate a higher class of vegetation than the algae; but these may have belonged to a marine vegetation notwithstanding. I detected some years ago, in the Trilobite-bearing schists of Girvan, associated with graptolites of the Lower Silurian type, a vegetable organism somewhat resembling the leaf of one of the pond weeds,—an order of plants, some of whose species, such as Zostera, find their proper habitats in salt water. I have placed beside this specimen a fragment of the same graptolite-bearing rock, across which I have pasted part of a leaf of Zostera marina, the only plant of our Scottish seas which is furnished with true roots, bears real flowers inclosed in herbaceous spathes, and produces a well formed farinaceous seed. It will be seen, that in the few points of comparison which can be instituted between forms so exceedingly simple, the ancient very closely resembles the recent organism. It is not impossible, therefore, that the Silurian vegetable may have belonged to some tribe of plants allied to Zostera; and if so, we can easily conceive how the Silurian anthracite of our country may be altogether of marine origin, and may yet exhibit in its microscopic tubular fibres vestiges of a vegetation higher than the algae.

[It were well, in dealing with the very ancient floras, in which equivocal forms occur that might have belonged to either the land or the sea, to keep in view those curious plants of the present time, the habitats of which are decidedly marine, but which are marked by many of the peculiarities of the seed-bearing plants of the land. The superiority of Zostera to the common sea weeds of our coasts appears to have struck in the north of Scotland eyes very little practised in such matters, and seems to have given rise, in consequence, to a popular myth. Zostera marina abounds on a series of sand banks, partially uncovered by the larger stream tides, which lie directly opposite the town of Cromarty, near the spot pointed out by tradition as the site of an earlier town, which was swept away some two or three hundred years ago by the encroachments of the sea. And these banks, with their thick covering of green Zostera, used to be pointed out by the fishermen of the place, in my younger days, as the meadows of the old town, still bearing their original coverings of vegetation,—a vegetation altered no doubt by the "sea change" that had come over it, but still essentially the same, it was said, as that which had smiled around the old burgh, and not at all akin to the brown kelp or tangle that every storm from the boisterous north-east heaps along the shore. It was virtually affirmed that the luxuriant terrestrial grasses of ancient Cromarty had made a virtue of necessity in their altered circumstances; and that, settling down into grasses of the sea, they remained to testify that an ancient Cromarty there had once been. Zostera marina, like most plants of the land, ripens its seeds towards the close of autumn; and I have seen a smart night's frost at this season, when coincident with a stream tide that laid bare the beds, nip its seed-bearing stems by thousands; and have found them strewed along the beach a few days after, with all their grass-like spikes fully developed, and their grain-like seeds charged with a farinaceous substance, which one would scarce expect to find developed in the sea. In the higher reaches of the Cromarty Firth, the Zostera beds, which are of great extent, are much frequented, during the more protracted frosts of a severe winter, by wild geese and swans, that dig up and feed upon the saccharine roots of the plant. The Zostera of the warmer latitudes attain to a larger size than those of our Scottish seas. "A southern species," says Loudon, "Zostera oceanica, has leaves a foot long and an inch broad. It is used as a thatch, which is said to last a century; bleaches white with exposure; and furnishes the rush-like material from which the envelops of Italian liquor flasks are prepared." The simple rectilinear venation of ribbon-like fronds, usually much broken, that occurs in the Lower Old Red Sandstone, has often reminded me of that exhibited by this exotic species of Zostera.]

Associated with the earliest ichthyic remains of the Old Red Sandstone, we find vegetable organisms in such abundance, that they communicate often a fissile character to the stone in which they occur. But, existing as mere carbonaceous markings, their state of keeping is usually so bad, that they tell us little else than that the antiquely-formed fishes of this remote period swam over sea bottoms darkened by forests of algae. The prevailing plant was one furnished with a long, smooth stem, which, though it threw off, in the alternate order, numerous branches at least half as stout as itself, preserved its thickness for considerable distances without diminution,—a common fucoidal characteristic. We find its remains mixed in the rock, though sparingly, with those of a rough-edged plant, knobbed somewhat like the thong-like receptacles of Himanthalia lorea, which also threw off branches like the other, but diminished more rapidly. A greatly more minute vegetable organism of the same beds, characterized by its bifid partings, which strike off at angles of about sixty, somewhat resembles the small-fronded variety of Dictyota dichotoma, save that the slim terminations of the frond are usually bent into little hooks, like the tendrils of the pea just as their points begin to turn. Another rather rare plant of the period, existing as a broad, irregularly cleft frond, somewhat resembling that of a modern Cutleria or Nitophyllum, betrays at once, in its outline and general appearance, its marine origin; as does also an equally rare contemporary, which, judging from its appearance, seems to have been a true fucus. It exists in the rock as if simply drawn in Indian ink; for it exhibits no structure, though, as in some of the ferns of the Coal Measures, what were once the curls of its leaflets continue to exist as sensible hollows on the surface. It broadens and divides atop into three or four lobes, and these, in turn, broaden and divide into minor lobes, double or ternate, and usually rounded at their terminations. In general appearance the plant not a little resembles those specimens of Fucus vesiculosus which we find existing in a diminutive form, and divested of both the receptacles and the air vessels, at the mouth of rivers. Of two other kinds of plants I have seen only confused masses, in which the individuals were so crowded together, and withal so fragmentary and broken, that their separate forms could not be traced. In the one the general appearance was such as might be produced by compressed and tangled masses of Chorda filium, in which the linear and even tubular character of the plant could be determined, but not its continuous, cord-like aspect; in the other, the fragments seemed well nigh as slim as hairs, and the appearance was such as might be produced by branches of that common ectocarpus, E. littoralis, which may be seen on our rocky coasts roughening at low water the stems of laminaria. When highly magnified, a mesial groove might be detected running along each of the hair-like lines. With these marine plants we occasionally find large rectilinear stems, resolved into a true coal, but retaining no organic character by which to distinguish them. As I have seen some of these more than three inches in diameter, and, though existing as mere fragments, several feet in length, they must, if they were also plants of the sea, have exceeded in size our largest laminaria.[46] And such are the few vegetable organisms, of apparently aquatic origin, which I have hitherto succeeded in detecting in the Lower Old Red Sandstone of Scotland.[47] Their individual numbers, however, must have been very great, though, from the destructible character of their tissues, their forms have perished in the stone. The immensely developed flagstones of Caithness seem to owe their dark color to organic matter mainly of vegetable origin. So strongly bituminous, indeed, are some of the beds of dingier tint, that they flame in the fire like slates steeped in oil.

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