תמונות בעמוד

unintelligible even to the learned, because it would anticipate human discovery. Moreover, were this the principle upon which Scripture was written, we should be in danger of finding our interest in the Sacred Volume DIVIDED between the truths which concern our moral state and eternal happiness, and the scientific mysteries hidden beneath these unintelligible terms. If, too, scientific phraseology were introduced into Scripture, reason would have no scope, or would be crushed at every turn. It was once the universal creed that the sun moved through the heavens. That it is absolutely fixed in space took its place. At the present day there is every reason to believe, from accurate astronomical observations, that the sun, with all its system of planets, is, after all, in motion. These are not conjectures, but the results of inquiry and reason.

Whether the sun is absolutely fixed or not in space is, nevertheless, to this day unknown. We wait for science to give the answer. But if Scripture language is so chosen as to settle these questions at once, all such inquiries are hushed; the mind is cramped; reason justly feels her province invaded ; and confusion follows. What admirable wisdom, then, is displayed by Him who knows the end from the beginning, who knows all laws, and foresees all their operations, since from Him they take their rise; in that He speaks to us of these things in terms always true and always intelligible !

I have dwelt at some length on this illustration from the Motion of the Earth. It is, however, highly instructive to fix our thoughts upon examples which the experience of the past furnishes; that we may

benefit by the mistakes of those who are gone before, This a highly learn wisdom in our own day, and see ample. how we should behave in similar controversies which the march of discovery is perpetually stirring up amongst us. And no controversy is so well adapted for this purpose, as that regarding the motion of the earth. For no truth is at the present day more entirely and universally received ; although no statement appears to be more contradictory to the letter of Scripture, and no physical fact is less palpable to the senses. There is, moreover, a difficulty involved in the belief of the earth's motion which only the mind habituated to scientific thought can thoroughly meet. If the earth revolves upon its axis in twenty-four hours, since its radius is 4000 miles, the equatorial parts of its surface must be moving at the amazing speed of 1000 miles an hour from west to east, and places in English latitudes at about 600 miles. * How is it, then, that the atmosphere rests quietly upon its surface, being subject only to local and occasional movements in winds and tempests, and those having no peculiar relation to the direction of east and west? How is it that our continents and oceans are not the scene of one incessant terrific tempest from the east, compared to which the most tremendous hurricane is but as the sighing of a summer breeze? The answer is, that the whole atmosphere itself in one mass is endowed, as well as the solid earth, with this prodigious velocity ; and

instructive ex.

* The velocity round the sun is still greater; more than sixty times that of the equator round the axis.

such an

the winds and aerial currents, which we perceive, are but minor deviations from this average speed, occasioned by local and temporary causes. To the scientific, there is no difficulty in admitting this as one among many illustrations in nature of the primary laws of motion. To the unscientific, however, it is next to incomprehensible. How readily would the objectors in the days of Galileo have seized

upon argument, as conclusive against the new-fangled errors, had they thought of it. But, notwithstanding this! demand upon our belief that the atmosphere revolves at this prodigious speed, there is not one amongst us in these days who doubts for a moment that the earth revolves, and not the heavens. This is perhaps admitted by most persons under the pressure of the far greater demand which the other alternative would make upon

them. For if the heavens revolve, and not the earth, we must believe that the stars move through millions of millions of miles within the twentyfour hours, even quicker than light itself: and also that their velocities, countless as these bodies are, are so adjusted to their distances, that they may preserve their several relative places, as seen from the earth, invariable from age to age.

This shuts us up to the first alternative, that it must be the earth which revolves, and not the heavens. This is now the universal belief. It is received as the true view without hesitation, notwithstanding the difficulty of the atmosphere's revolving with such amazing velocity. Nor is the question regarded as an open one; as one involving an unexplained difficulty, and therefore waiting for a better solution. The mind has been

[ocr errors]


long habituated to the idea, and receives it. So marvellous is the effect of habit, even in thinking.

Scientific views, when familiar, do not disturb the authority of Scripture, however much they did upon their first announcement. Though the new opinion is resisted as something destructive of the credit of Scripture, and the reverence which is its due, yet, in fact, when the new interpretation has been generally established and incorporated with men's current thoughts, it ceases to disturb their views of the authority of Scripture, or of the truth of its teaching.

And . . . . all cultivated persons look back with surprise at the mistake of those who thought that the essence of the revelation was involved in their own arbitrary version of some collateral circumstance in the revealed narrative.'* The lesson we learn from this example is this : How possible it is that, even while we are contending for truth, our minds may be enslaved to error by long cherished prepossessions. No man should act or believe contrary to his conscientious convictions. But it may sometimes be a great help to him to know, that it is possible he may be entirely in the wrong: and an example like this, regarding the Motion of the Earth, in which such strong views had been pertinaciously held on the side of error, but are now universally abandoned, is not without its use for this end.

* Dr. Whewell's Philosophy of the Inductive Sciences. the • Relation of Tradition to Palætiology.'

Chapter on

[ocr errors]







A COMPARISON of the discoveries of Geology with the statements of the first chapter of Genesis, has furnished within the present century several examples of apparent discrepancy between Scripture and Science, which further investigation has shown not to be real, while new light has been thrown by these discoveries upon the sacred text. Upon this subject I shall enter somewhat more at large than I have done in the early editions of this work, as the discussion has been revived by the publication of Mr. Goodwin's article on 'Mosaic Cosmogony,' in Essays and Reviews. Two questions have been mixed up together in this discussion : viz. Whether the teachings of the first chapter of Genesis are contradictory or not to the teachings of Science; and, What is the undoubted meaning of the account in Genesis, interpreted scientifically ? It is with the former of these questions alone that the present treatise, according to its avowed object, is concerned. Although I do in the following pages

[ocr errors]
« הקודםהמשך »