« AnteriorContinuar »
grounds its pretensions, and the sentence of the church, to which it makes its appeal, yet does not invest it with a Divine authority; while, with strange inconsistency or short-sightedness, it still professes to ascribe a Divine character to Scripture. In another publication,* I have exposed these inconsistencies, and shown that the whole system is a mere petitio principii. To this school I apprehend, Mr. Irons belongs. Hence we may trace the motive which urges him so zealously to cry down natural theology, the use of physical science, and human reason.
NOTE N. p. 230.
I WILL cite one instance illustrative of the confusion of scientific and religious grounds of belief above referred to:Professor Gaede, of Liege, observes, that "in order rightly to understand the voice of God in nature, we ought to enter her temple with the Bible in our hands." This sentiment is quoted with much approbation, and indeed adopted as the foundation of his argument, by Mr. Kirby, in the Introduction to his Bridgewater Treatise. To my apprehension I must confess it is quite unintelligible. The testimony of nature to the Divine existence and perfections must be first received independently of the Bible, if we would have any rational ground for believing the Bible. To invite us to the study of natural theology with the Bible in our hands, is exactly like recommending the student to enter upon Euclid with Newton's Principia in his hand, or
Remarks on a Letter to Lord Melbourne relative to Dr. Hampden, &c. Oxford, 1836.
to commence the study of the Greek alphabet with Homer as a guide.
This strange confusion of ideas pervades the whole of the author's argument in his elaborate Introduction; notwithstanding some few excellent remarks on the right use of Scripture as not designed to teach philosophy, (p. xix. and xlv.) he falls into the most extraordinary inconsistency with his own principles conveyed in those very remarks, in his theories of the deluge, the central abyss, &c. &c.
THE following incident, involving the opinions of two eminent scholars is given by the learned author of the Parriana :—“ I had once the pleasure of driving the doctor (Parr,) a few miles into the country to visit a former pupil. When we returned together it was a bright starlight night, and the beauty of the scene over our heads led me to ask him, with reference to the Mosaic record, how long, in his opinion, those orbs had rolled and glittered. He made some remarks on the term (created,) employed by the sacred penman, distinguishing between creation, strictly understood, and formation, or putting the then chaos into its present order. I did not then admire the distinction which throws back the creation to an indefinite period, and thrusts the Creator from what seems his proper place; and if Moses should fail us here, and the same mode of criticism be adopted in other parts of Scripture, I fear we shall have no proof of the creation of a material world at least."
I am not quite aware to what date this anecdote belongs, it may therefore refer to a period before the evidence of geology was so decisive as it has since become. But under
any circumstances the apprehension here entertained of "thrusting the Creator from his proper place," by such conclusions as His visible works afford, and the expression of a dread of losing proofs of the creation from the adoption of certain modes of interpreting Scripture, betray the want of clear views of the evidence whether of natural or revealed religion.
NOTE P. p. 251.
As by far the clearest, shortest, and most explicit statement of the most recent Biblico-geological views referred to, which I have seen, I will mention an article in the Magazine of Popular Science, No. 12, January, 1837, bearing the signature of J. P. S., which I believe are the initials of an eminent and learned dissenting divine. I refer particularly to this paper, as conceiving it may possess considerable weight with many persons; while the tone and spirit in which it is written is such as will secure it an impartial perusal from all parties.
The question respecting the description of the creation is brought into the shortest compass by looking at the precise statement which the author gives of his own views; he conceives,
1st. That "the beginning" means an indefinitely long period during which the successive formations recognised by geology may have taken place.
2dly. "That at a recent epoch our planet was brought into a state of disorganization, detritus, or ruin, (perhaps we have no perfectly appropriate term,) from a former condition."
3dly. That out of this condition the existing creation took place, literally, as described, in six natural days.
The author has also expressed his positive conviction that any real contradiction of the Scripture account by geological phenomena must at once involve the rejection of the truth of the whole Bible. But he contends that the above interpretation removes all discrepancy, and thus secures us from the consequences otherwise fatal to religion.
He does not appear to be aware that the second of the positions above assumed is precisely that which is absolutely contradicted by all geological evidence.
Great weight has been attributed to certain critical remarks by Dr. Pusey, Regius Professor of Hebrew, (inserted as a note in Dr. Buckland's Bridgewater Treatise, vol. i. p. 24,) on the interpretation of those expressions in the 1st chapter of Genesis, which bear most upon the Biblico-geological views.
While I most readily acknowledge the critical value of remarks coming from so eminent an authority in Hebrew literature, I cannot perceive that anything substantial is gained by them in support of the geological version of the passage; or, in other words, the hypothesis that Moses was inspired to teach geology either to the Israelites or to us.
It appears, in the first place, from Dr. Pusey's statements, that the original word rendered "created," does not necessarily imply the idea of an actual calling into existence out of nothing. This, indeed, does away with the commonly received Scripture proof of that prevalent opinion, but bears very little upon any geological difficulty.
In the next place, the separation of the two first verses, as a distinct account of a primæval formation, is considered by
Dr. Pusey to be justified on critical grounds, and a new history of the existing creation considered to begin with the third verse.
This (as I have already observed,) appears to me still to leave the main contradiction untouched; however, the learned author considers this question of punctuation to be important, and confirms it by an appeal to the opinions of old writers, and to the mode of division adopted in some early translation of the Bible; he adds,—" This then is just the sort of confirmation which one wished for, because, though one would shrink from the impiety of bending the language of God's Book to any other than its obvious meaning, we cannot help fearing lest we might be unconsciously influenced by the floating opinions of our own day, and therefore turn the more anxiously to those who explained Holy Scripture before those theories existed. You must allow me to add, that I would not define further. We know nothing of creation, nothing of ultimate causes, nothing of space, except what is bounded by actual existing bodies; nothing of time, but what is limited by the revolution of those bodies. I should be sorry to dogmatize upon that of which it requires very little reflection or reverence to confess that we are necessarily ignorant. Hardly do we guess aright of things that are upon earth, and with labour do we find the things that are before us; but the things that are in Heaven who hath searched out ?" "Wisd. ix. 16.
I must observe that, in the expressions here quoted, there is a certain ambiguity which seems to leave them with a meaning somewhat dependent on the reader's own turn of thought. If the "floating opinions" and the " theories the day mean those of the Bible-geology school, I most cordially agree with the learned author in his dislike of them; but I cannot see how a coincidence with the views of ancient commentators can possess any weight in relation to a sub