صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

but they were of a greatly less luxuriant and conspicuous character than their predecessors, and no longer formed the prominent trait or feature of the creation to which they belonged. The period had also its corals, its crustaceans, its mollusks, its fishes, and in some one or two exceptional instances, its dwarf mammals; but the grand existences of the age- the existences in which it excelled every other creation, earlier or later were its huge creeping things, - its enormous monsters of the deep, and, as shown by the impressions of their footprints stamped upon the rocks, its gigantic birds. It was peculiarly the age of egg-bearing animals, winged and wingless. Its wonderful whales, not, however, as now, of the mammalian, but of the reptilian class, – ichthyosaurs, plesiosaurs, and cetosaurs, — must have tempested the deep; its creeping lizards and crocodiles, such as the teliosaurus, megalosaurus, and iguanodon, creatures, some of which more than rivalled the existing elephant in height, and greatly more than rivalled him in bulk,must have crowded the plains, or haunted by myriads the rivers of the period; and we know that the footprints of at least one of its many birds are of fully twice the size of those made by the horse or camel. We are thus prepared to demonstrate, that the second period of the geologist was peculiarly and characteristically a period of whale-like reptiles of the sea, of enormous creeping reptiles of the land, and of numerous birds, some of them of gigantic size; and, in meet accordance with the fact, we find that the second Mosaic period with which the geologist is called on to deal was a period in which God created the fowl that flieth above the earth, with moving (or creeping) creatures both in the waters and on land, and what our translation renders "great whales,' but that I find rendered in the margin, 'great sea-monsters. The tertiary period had also its prominent class of existences. Its flora seems to have been no more conspicuous than that of the present time : its reptiles occupy a very subordinate place; but its beasts of the field were by far the most wonderfully developed, both in size and numbers, that ever appeared on earth. Its mammoths and its mastodons, its rhinoceri and its hippopotami, its enormous dinotherium and colossal megatherium, greatly more than equalled in bulk the hugest mammals of the present time, and vastly exceeded them in number.

Grand, indeed,' says an English naturalist, was the fauna of the British Islands in these early days. Tigers, as large again as the biggest Asiatic species, lurked in the ancient thickets; elephants, of nearly twice the bulk of the largest individuals that now exist in Africa or Ceylon, roamed in herds; at least two species of rhinoceros forced their way through the primeval forest; and the lakes and rivers were tenanted by hippopotami as bulky, and with as great tusks, as those of Africa. The massive cave-bear and large cavehyena belonged to the same formidable group, with at least two species of great oxen (Bos longifrons and Bos primigenius), with a horse of smaller size, and an elk (Megaceros Hibernicus) that stood ten feet four inches in height. Truly this Tertiary age - this third and last of the great geologic periods — was peculiarly the age of great beasts of the earth after their kind, and cattle after their kind.'

[ocr errors]

Thus by dropping the invertebrata and the early fishes and reptiles of the Palæozoic period as inconspicuous and of little account, and bringing prominently forward the carboniferous era which succeeded them as the most characteristic feature of the first great division ; by classing the great land reptiles of the secondary period with the moving creatures of the waters (for in the Mosaic account it does not appear that any inhabitants of the land were created on the fifth day); and evading the fact, that terrestrial reptiles seem to have preceded birds in their order of appearance upon earth, — the geologic divisions are tolerably well assimilated to the third, fifth, and sixth Mosaic days. These things were represented, we are told, to Moses in visionary pictures, and resulted in the short and summary account which he has given.

There is something in this hypothesis very near to the obvious truth ; while, at the same time, something very remote from that truth is meant to be inferred. If it be said, the Mosaic account is simply the speculation of some early Copernicus or Newton, who devised a scheme of the earth's formation as nearly as he might in accordance with his own observations of nature, and with such views of things as it was possible for an unassisted thinker in those days to take, we may admire the approximate correctness of the picture drawn, while we see that the writer, as might be expected, took everything from a different point of view from ourselves, and, consequently, represented much quite differently from the fact. But nothing of this sort is really intended. We are asked

1

to believe that a vision of creation was presented to him by divine power, for the purpose of enabling him to inform the world of what he had seen ; which vision inevitably led him to give a description which has misled the world for centuries, and in which the truth can now only with difficulty be recognized. The Hebrew writer informs us, that, on the third day, “the earth brought forth grass, the herb yielding seed after his kind, and the tree yielding fruit, whose seed was in itself, after his kind ;” and, in the twenty-ninth verse, that God on the sixth day said, “Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth; and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed: to you it shall be for meat. And to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to everything that creepeth upon the earth, wherein there is life, I have given every green herb for meat." Can it be disputed, that the writer here conceives that grass, corn, and fruit were created on the third day, and with a view to the future nourishment of man and beast ? Yet, according to the vision hypothesis, he must have been greatly deceived; for that luxuriant vegetation which he saw on the third day consisted, not of plants destined for the food of man, but for his fuel. It was the flora of the carboniferous period which he beheld ; concerning which Hugh Miller makes the following remark, p. 24:

The existing plants whence we derive our analogies in dealing with the vegetation of this early period contribute but little, if at all, to the support of animal life. The ferns and their allies remain untouched by the grazing animals. Our native club-mosses, though. once used in medicine, are positively deleterious; the horsetails, though harmless, so abound in silex, which wraps them round with a cuticle of stone, that they are rarely cropped by cattle ; while the thickets of fern which cover our hillsides, and seem so tempt

ingly rich and green in their season, scarce support the existence of a single creature, and remain untouched in stem and leaf from their first appearance in spring, until they droop and wither under the frosts of early winter. Even the insects that infest the herbaria of the botanist almost never injure his ferns. Nor are our resin-producing conifers, though they nourish a few beetles, favorites with the herbivorous tribes in a much greater degree. Judging from all we yet know, the earliest terrestrial flora may have covered the dry land with its mantle of cheerful green, and served its general purposes, chemical and others, in the well-balanced economy of nature: but the herb-eating animals would have fared but ill, even where it throve most luxuriantly; and it seems to harmonize with the fact of its unedible character, that, up to the present time, we know not that a single herbivorous animal lived amongst its shades.”

The Mosaic writer is, however, according to the theory, misled by the mere appearance of luxurious vegetation to describe fruit-trees and edible seed-bearing vegetables as products of the third day.

Hugh Miller's treatment of the description of the first dawn of light is not more satisfactory than that of Dr. Buckland. He supposes the prophet in his dream to have heard the command, “Let there be light,” enunciated; whereupon, “ straightway a gray diffused light springs up in the east, and, casting its sickly gleam over a cloud-limited expanse of steaming vaporous sea, journeys through the heavens towards the west. One heavy, sunless day is made the representative of myriads : the faint light waxes fainter; it sinks beneath the dim, undefined horizon.”

We are then asked to imagine that a second and a third day, each representing the characteristic features of a great distinctly marked epoch, and the latter of them marked by the appearance of a rich and luxuriant vegetation, are presented to the seer's eye; but without sun, moon, or stars as yet entering into his dream. These appear first in his fourth vision; and then, for the first time, we have a "brilliant day;"

and the seer, struck with the novelty, describes the heavenly bodies as being the most conspicuous objects in the picture. In reality, we know that he represents them (ver. 16) as having been made, and set in the heavens, on that day; though Hugh Miller avoids reminding us of this.

In one respect, the theory of Hugh Miller agrees with that advocated by Dr. Buckland and Archdeacon Pratt. Both these theories divest the Mosaic narrative of real accordance with fact; both assume that appearances only, not facts, are described, and that in riddles; which would never have been suspected to be such, had we not arrived at the truth from other sources. It would be difficult for controversialists to cede more completely the point in dispute, or to admit more explicitly that the Mosaic narrative does not represent correctly the history of the universe up to the time of man. At the same time, the upholders of each theory see insuperable objections in details to that of their allies, and do not pretend to any firm faith in their own. How can it be otherwise, when the task proposed is to evade the plain meaning of language, and to introduce obscurity into one of the simplest stories ever told, for the sake of making it accord with the complex system of the universe which modern science has unfolded? The spectacle of able, and, we doubt not, conscientious writers, engaged in attempting the impossible, is painful and humiliating. They evidently do not breathe freely over their work, but shuffle and stumble over their difficulties in a piteous manner; nor are they themselves again until they return to the pure and open fields of science.

It is refreshing to return to the often-echoed remark, that it could not have been the object of a divine

« السابقةمتابعة »