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ARTICLE IX. LETTER FROM PROFESSOR LEWIS. Union College, Schenectady, February 25, 1856. Editors Of The Bibliotheca Sacra : — In a late article in your columns, by Prof. Dana, of Yale College, I am charged with teaching, as a "prominent point," " that man's physical nature (to use the Professor's own expression), was brought forth through the parturitive powers of the earth." I am charged with being "pretty well agreed " with the Vestiges of Creation; with teaching "naturalism," in a " huge self-existent nature," in the sense of a nature independent of God; with ignorance of the Scriptures on some of the most obvious points; with teaching, in general, an "infidel philosophy," (p. 91;) and this is accompanied by an expression of pain, on the part of the reviewer, that such infidel philosophy should have emanated from such a source. These charges are odious ones, and are of a nature to bring upon me the theological hatred. On general considerations of justice, I might claim the right of reply; but my relation to the Bibliotheca Sacra, as an instructed reader and subscriber, as a friend who has done what he could to promote its interests, and as a repeated contributor to its pages, makes it, at least, proper that I should ask permission to deny those charges, and in the briefest possible space, show their falsity. To the first charge I reply, that the book reviewed, teaches the direct contrary doctrine. A hypothetical argument is employed, the connection of which with the main discussion it would take too much space here to show. In that argument the position is taken that If the Scriptures had clearly taught it, there is nothing monstrous or incredible in the idea that the human body might have been a growth, through natural laws and processes originated by God and quickened by him to higher developments. The hypothetical view being carried on for a few pages, it is then distinctly stated, page 251, as follows:"Such might be our reasoning if we had no more in the Scriptural account of the human origin than is presented in the words and expressions on which we have been commenting. The declarations, 'He made,' 'Ho created,'' He formed from the earth,' might be interpreted in consistency with a long as well as a short, a mediate as well as an immediate process, an instantaneous production as well as a slow natural growth through the operation of natural law. The chart has no dates, the picture no shading, from which we can make the estimate of intervening distances. But there is another part of the account which it is not easy to reconcile with such an idea. We refer again to the creation of woman. The whole language here seems to necessitate the idea not only of a supernatural spirituality, but of a sudden and preter natural formation of the natural organism. If we are shut up to this view, then was man widely distinguished from the brute creations in the origin of his lower as well as of his higher being." See also p. 247, latter part, where there is a similar reference. The language is that of interpretation, not dogmatic, nor scientific, but just the kind ever held, and that ever ought to be held, by careful commentators. It is cautious, but not deceptive. It is cautious, and this is its chief merit . It shows the author's opinion; the best opinion he could form on a most difficult and mysterious passage of Scripture; an opinion, clearly expressed, that the origin of the human physical organism was indeed peculiar and different from that of the lower animal races; that the human body was, in some way, "a sudden and preternatural formation;" but that, along with this, there was something in the words "from the dust of the earth," that " had a deep significance." There was room to doubt whether this did not mean something more than the outward, mechanical, plastic forming of the Promethean fable. But what it signified beyond this, the author did not venture to affirm; and therefore concluded with the impressive moral lesson to be derived from our connection with the earth. This brought in the sentences directly following the previous quotation:"Still, however formed, there is a deep significance in the phrase 'from the dust of the earth.' High as may be our celestial parentage, we have an earthly mother. The most touching appellations, in all languages, are expressive of the idea. Man ' is of the earth, earthy.' He is Adam, he is homo, humus, humilis. If he has a spiritual life that connects him with the higher worlds, he has also an animal and even a vegetable life, that connects him with all below." The radical injustice of the criticism in the Bibliotheca is, that it so wholly discards the style of interpretation, and treats the author as simply expressing scientific or philosophical opinions. If my interpretations are incorrect, if my difficulties in respect to what appears to be very mysterious language are no difficulties, let it be shown from the record. I deny that I teach the doctrine, as imputed to me, at all, either scientifically or otherwise. But the real question is, Do I teach it as an interpretation from the Bible? Now to settle this, I might refer to page 248, line 6 from the bottom, where, in reference to this very supposition, it is said as follows: "We do not say the Bible teaches this; we do not think that any one would be warranted in putting any such interpretation upon it." Could I use language more explicit, to show that I regard interpretation as against this mere hypothetical view of an a priori credibility or incredibility?There can be no cavil about the language of our first quotation, as this exegetical conclusion is made the final one, to be no farther called in question; and then the argument proceeds to another and still higher distinction, arising from special covenant . The design of the hypothetical argument thus stated was, to meet an objection that might arise from what was said about the growth of the plants, etc.; and also, as every careful, candid reader must see, to get a surer foundation for the special individual formation of man than could be obtained in the general expressions: "he formed from the earth," etc., or the word Adam merely; "from which alone," it is said in the book (p. 248), we could not have determined with certainty that the account was not generic. The generic growth was at war with the idea of one single pair, the female miraculously brought out of the male; and hence, in both places (p. 248 and p. 251) the stress is placed on this view. The general expressions of formation, as also the word Adam, it is well known, have been interpreted (and by authority which Prof. Dana eulogizes) of the creation of man generally, or of races, or of many individuals under one general classification, instead of one single pair made to be one centre of life for all humanity. It is certainly strange, that the very effort to avoid the view of Agassiz, and to make out a single primus homo, should be the subject of such a charge. Whatever be the mode or time of the human formation, there is no truth in the Christian theology which the author regards as more vital than that there was one historical Adam, even as there is but one historical Christ. I cannot help feeling that Prof. Dana's statement is very unjust both to the book and its author. His lamentation over the " infidel philosophy not to be expected from such a source," I shall not attempt to characterize.
The answer to charge second is of a similar kind. In the book, Gen. 1: 11, 12, is interpreted as being capable of no other meaning than that of a natural process or growth from the earth of the first plants, then being maintained in this, as in all the other great periods, the going forth both of the supernatural word and quickening spirit to commence such process. The language seemed to compel the same, or a similar view in respect to the lower animals. Great difficulty is admitted as attending such a view, especially in the latter aspect; much diffidence is expressed; yet still the author had taken upon himself the office of interpreter, and he had nothing to do but to follow the record. If any Biblical scholar will make out any other fair interpretation of this deeply mysterious language, I shall be greatly interested in his argument . Then comes the question, was this first growth in either case, a growth of individuals and afterwards of individuals from individuals, or was it one of species from species growing from the lower up to the higher forms of vegetable and animal life? This question is answered by saying, that as far as interpretation is concerned, it made no difference. This was satisfied by the most general view of growth through a divinely commenced natural process, whatever, or however long or short, the intervening steps might be. The only thing for which the author was concerned was its bearing on that question of times or durations which is never lost sight of in the book. Either view satisfied the argument; because either took it out of the 'twenty-four hour' hypothesis, the one requiring seasons and years at least, if the first growths were in any way models of growths now, the other demanding the great aons of the Bible, or the epochs of tie geologist . It is simply treated as a question of rational, a priori credibility, which is a very different thing from a question of science. What might we rationally believe if Scripture clearly taught it? In answer to this, generation of species from species is treated as involving, in itself, no more a priori mystery than the well known, though utterly inexplicable fact of the generation of individual from individual. A strong desire to economize space may make me do myself injustice here; but I would ask of you, and the reader, to read carefully page 214. The substance of it fairly stated is, that If God had clearly taught us the procession of species from species, as of individuals from individuals, we might believe it; and then it proceeds to say, p. 215 :—"But there is no place here for any such speculations; since, as far as our philological argument is concerned, either view satisfies it. It is enough for us to learn, without doing any violence to the language of the account, that the production of the vegetable and animal races are set forth as having been originally a <pvoic or growth, a growth out of the earth, and by and through the earth, in other words a nature, with its laws, successions," etc. Growth from the earth is taken in the most general way for a nature, a natural process, divinely and supernaturally commenced. The view of the book leans wholly on Scripture. It it brought in not for its own sake, as a question of philosophy, much less of science, but on account of its bearing upon the one ruling question, the length of the day. We might also say that in the part the reviewer has perverted, it is wholly hypothetical. But the great difference between it, in any sense, and the doctrine of the vestiges is that it acknowledges divine interpositions, necessary and oft repeated, even to the quickening in every individual human generation, — a step to which perhaps our man of science would not go with me. On page 104 of his review, Prof. D. has the following contemptuous language: "It is remarkable that in a work on the Six Days of Creation, the author's system should have led him so far from the record, as to place under the fifth day, both his remarks on the creation of vegetation (the work of the third day), and all he has to say on the quadrupeds or mammalia (the work of the sixth)." And then he confesses his wonder at this in a work entitled: "The Six Days of Creation, by an author who expresses great devotion to the Scriptures? A work exegetical, profound, claiming to sift the Hebrew, and offered as a contribution to our Biblical literature." We make no exclamations here, not even at the exclamations of the critic, or his attempt to represent the author as ignorant of things which must be familiar to every Sabbath school teacher. But it shows how utterly he has overlooked, or blindly discarded, the whole design of the book. This was not to talk about Mammalia or to exhibit the author's own wisdom in telling why the divine wisdom did so and so. There has been enough of that rash work in some scientific books and treatises on natural theology. It was not to talk about mammalia, but to ascertain if possible, whether there were good grounds for maintaining that the word day, mentioned in a certain very strange and mysterious manner in an ancient record, was intended for a period longer than twenty-four hours. This was ever in the author's thoughts. Whatever had no bearing upon that was unheeded; whatever had a bearing upon it was put in the strongest light, in whatever order it might be most conveniently brought in. The question of growth was naturally connected with the duration of the days. If there was a real growth or natural process, it was quite a fair argument, to say the least, that the period of growth could not have been one of our present short solar days. This language of Scripture which looks so much like representing a growth, or natural production, is employed in the accounts of both days, the third and the fifth, but is more strong, and presents more strongly the leading view, in that of the fifth. To that period therefore, is the main argument deferred. Economy of reasoning is preferred to any useless affectation of chronological order. This whole matter about which Prof. D. expresses so much wonder in the author's ignorance of science, is clearly explained in two places, at the close of the chapter entitled the third day, and the beginning of the one on the fifth. The author had another object than to expatiate on the wisdom of God in making mammalia when he did, and besides, had he thought much of it as coming within the plan of his works, he had no means of knowing whether or no, this piece of geological wisdom would last for the next five years. The general charge of naturalism is too important to be discussed in the brief space that must here be occupied. We hope to meet him on it elsewhere. Only one general remark is necessary: the terms "forces in nature," " powers in nature," etc., whenever he cites them from the book, he generally presents in such a way as to leave the impression that necessary powers, etc., are meant, or powers belonging to nature absolutely. On the other hand, the language of the book, taken entire, is ever clear that such powers of nature are ever given to it by God when he makes a nature, or when he renews one, and that they are always so made as to do just what he meant they should do. The critic also confounds what is said about particular natures with what belongs to the universal. There are other charges, but of less importance, and they are therefore passed by. These may serve as specimens. There is, however, one question which Prof. D. directly puts to the author, and which he therefore claims the right of answering. "We would ask Prof. Lewis what Hebrew word he would substitute for the one used, that would convey the precise idea of creation out of nothing't" We answer, very briefly, There is no such Hebrew word or root; there is none such in the old Shcmitic languages; and the reason is, there is no such idea (working, at least) in the old Shemitic mind. The root bara is sometimes taken to denote the making of a "new thing in the earth," but it is ever as a new thing, not new matter. And yet it docs not follow but that, if the question had been distinctly put to an ancient Hebrew or Arab, Do you believe the world, or even matter (making him understand the distinction) to be as old as God? he would not have said No, as distinctly as Prof. D. himself. But it was not a speculation of that Hebrew mind, nor a form of that Hebrew mode of conceiving, nor, consequently, a phrase of that Hebrew mode of language which God took as the