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" It may
we will refer only to a few among the most recent. also be observed,” says the Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge," that in the regions far remote from the Euphrates and Tigris, viz. Italy, France, Switzerland, Germany, England, the United States, etc. there are frequently found in places many scores of leagues from the sea, and even in the tops of high mountains, whole trees sunk deep under ground, as also teeth and bones of animals, fishes entire, sea-shells, ears of corn, etc. petrified; which the best naturalists are agreed could never have come there but by the deluge.”* Equally certain," says the Evangelical Church Journal of Prussia," must the fact of a former flood, overflowing the mountains, appear to the naturalist, (even independent of the Bible, and of the traditions of many ancient nations agreeing with it,) when he finds millions of sea-shells upon the highest mountain tops," etc. Even Rees' Cyclopedia states and without correction, that “the present external surface of the earth, its internal constitution, the arrangements of its various strata, the remains of marine animals and petrified shells found at great distances from their original habitation, incorporated with the earth, or on eminences far elevated above the level of the sea, etc. have been alleged as existing monuments of a deluge, and evidences of its universality.”I This, however, was written nearly thirty years ago. But no such apology can be made for Mr. Kirby, who in his late Bridgewater Treatise, among other absurdities respecting the deluge, says, that “the heavens and earth which are now, are different from the heavens and earth which were destroyed at the deluge; and the latter has evidently been reconstructed, and vegetable and animal remains have been mixed with the dislocated materials and as it were detritus of the original world.”'S That such opinions should be advanced at this day by so scientific a man, can be explained only by a statement which he has himself candidly made in the same work: “My own knowledge of geology and its principles as now laid down, says he, “is too slight to qualify me to compare them with what has been delivered in Scripture on the subjects here allud
* Article Deluge, Brattleboro, 1835. | See Literary and Theological Review, Vol. I. p. 124. New York 1834. | Article Deluge.
Kirby's Bridgewater Treatise, p. 493. Philadelphia, 1836.
ed to:” – that is the general subject of the deluge. What a pity after such confession, that he should have undertaken to theorize upon some of the most difficult parts of that science, and to defend the wild hypothesis of the physico-theologists of by-gone centuries!
After all, however, the argument under consideration respecting marine organic relics, when put into a popular form, is very striking, even to logical minds that are not acquainted with the whole history of organic remains. Immense quantities of marine animals are found petrified on high mountains all over the globe ; " ergo,” says the physico-theologist, “ they must have been deposited there by the deluge:" " ergo,” says the geologist, “ those mountains must once have constituted the bottom of the ocean: but other facts prove that it could not have been at the deluge." “ Yet the Scriptures mention no other period since the creation of animals," replies the physico-theologist, « when the mountains have been covered with the ocean, except at the time of the general deluge.” “Here is another mistake,” answers the geologist ; " and it is one that was urged for three centuries as an infallible dogma, whose truth was to be received on authority and not to be inquired into. In the first place it was taken for granted that all the animals that ever inhabited this globe were produced during the six days of creation described in Genesis ; and then, as the deluge is the only other important geological event on the sacred records, all phenomena that cannot be referred to the six demiurgic days must be referred to that event. But it now appears that the fossil animals and plants are so different from existing races that they could not have been contemporaries ; so that we must seek in that undescribed interval between “the beginning” and the six days' work, for the time when they had their existence, and regard the Scriptures as entirely silent concerning them, because their history could have no bearing upon the objects of revelation. In that interval our present continents might have formed the bottom of the ocean, and have been receiving in their bosoms the numerous oceanic relics which now appear upon the tops of the mountains, because volcanic force has lifted them above the waters.”
But it is not our intention in this place to enter into this argument formally : though it is obvious that the authority by which this popular evidence of the deluge from organic remains is defended, is quite too respectable to allow us to pass it over without a thorough discussion under a more appropriate branch of the subject. Among practical geologists, however, the question has long been settled, and if such happen to be skeptical concerning the Scriptures, the only effect of seeing this popular argument presented as an evidence of the truth of the Mosaic account, is, to produce the impression that all other evidences in its favor are alike baseless. We have long been satisfied, however, that although this point has been argued from the days of Fracastoro to the present, geologists have yet, especially in our own country, a severe contest to wage, before the truth will gain a permanent triumph : that is, before theologists shall cease to bring forward marine petrifactions in solid rocks as evidence of Noah's deluge. It is one of those cases where the popular view appears very clear, while the scientific view makes little impression because it is only imperfectly understood. Hence we do not expect the latter will be admitted until much more acquaintance with geology, than at present prevails, shall be diffused through the community. It is consoling, however, to reflect, that not a little advance towards the truth on this subject has been made within the last fifty years. For during the eighteenth century, to deny that organic remains were the result of Noah's deluge, was thought to be equivalent to a denial of the truth of the Bible; and with the physico-theological school of writers, this position was regarded as the articulus stantis vel cadentis Ecclesiae.
The writers to whom we have just referred, having assumed that all the geological changes that appear to have taken place in the earth's crust were produced by the deluge, and perceiving that the solid strata to a great depth must have been once in a fluid state, in order to envelop so many relics of organic nature, very naturally adopted the hypothesis that the earth's crust was actually broken up and entirely dissolved by that catastrophe, and subsequently reconsolidated. This idea entered as an important element into several of the most famous theories of the earth, contained in works on the deluge that were published during the eighteenth century, such as those of Woodward, Burnet, Scheuchzer and Catcott. The first named writer imagined the whole terrestrial globe to have been taken to pieces and dissolved at the flood, and the strata to have settled down from this promiscuous mass as any earthy sediment from a fluid."* • Essay towards a Natural History of the Earth. - Preface. 1695. Vol. IX. No. 25.
About the same time, or rather a little earlier, between 1680 and 1690, Bishop Burnet published his famous “Sacred Theory of the Earth,''* in which he improved upon the theory of Des Cartes that the earth was originally perfectly round and equal, without mountains or vallies. Burnet imagined it to be a smooth orbicular crust resting upon the face of the abyss. This crust, being heated by the sun, became chinky, and in consequence of the rarefaction of the enclosed vapors it was burst asunder and fell down into the waters, and so it became dissolved, while the inhabitants perished. Burnet's work is beautifully written, and although extremely visionary, it has had more popularity perhaps than any similar work. The following paragraph will give our readers an idea of his manner. In this smooth earth were the first scenes of the world, and the first generations of mankind; it had the beauty of youth and blooming nature, fresh and fruitful, and not a wrinkle, scar, or fracture in all its body: no rocks nor mountains, no hollow caves, nor gaping channels, but even and uniform all over. And the smoothness of the earth made the heavens so too; the air was calm and serene; none of those tumultuary motions and conAlicts of vapors, which the mountains and the winds cause in ours : it was suited to a golden age, and to the first innocency of nature.”+
This notion of a dissolution and reconsolidation of the earth at the deluye continued to be a favorite with philosophers for nearly a century. In 1761 Catcott's “ Treatise on the Deluge” appeared. It was a work of no small merit ; but “the dissolution of the earth" held a prominent place in it. And it is amusing as well as instructive to see how easily he leads himself into the belief that the Scriptures teach this doctrine. Take a few examples of his mode of interpretation. After having persuaded himself by the help of an extract from Hutchinson's He (at
* This work was originally published in Latin, with a title that provokes a smile : “ The Sacred Theory of the Earth, containing an Account of the Original of the Earth, and of all the general Changes which it hath already undergone, or is to undergo, till the Consummation of all Things." In the English copy before us, however, printed as late as 1816 in London, this title is altered so as to be comparatively modest, and notes more extensive than the text are added from various writers on Natural Religion.
† Sacred Theory of the Earth, p. 76. London 1816.
famous work entitled “ Moses's Principia,” that the windows of heaven mentioned in the account of the deluge mean “ passages of the airs' through the cracks in the earth's crust, he says: “ As there are other texts which mention the dissolution of the earth, it may be proper to cite them. Ps. 46: 2, God is our refuge ; therefore will we not fear though the earth be removed [pina be changed, be quite altered, as it was at the deluge) - God uttered his voice, the earth melted [flowed, dissolved to atoms). Again Job #: 9, He sent his hand (the 28: expansion, his instrument, or the agent by which he worked] against the rock; he overturned the mountains by the roots; he caused the rivers to burst forth from between the rocks (or broke open the fountains of the abyss]. His eye (symbolically placed for the light] saw (passed through or between] every minute thing [every atom and so dissolved the whole). last) bound up the waters from weeping [i. e. from pressing through the shell of the earth, as tears make their way through the orb of the eye; or as it is related Gen. 8: 2, He stopped the fountains of the abyss and the windows of heaven). And brought out the light from its hiding place [i. e. from the inward parts of the earth from between every atom, where it lay hid, and kept each atom separate from the other, and so the whole in a state of dissolution; his bringing out those parts of the light which caused the dissolution would of course permit the agents to act in their usual way and so reform the earth.] 2 Esdras 8: O Lord, whose service is conversant in wind and fire ; whose word is true; whose look drieth up the depths, and indignation maketh the mountains to melt away which the truth witnesseth, [which the word of God and the present natural state of the earth bear witness to.]”*
It seems truly surprising to us at this day, who view the subject no longer with the chromatic optics of physico-theology, how such an exposition as this could satisfy able and logical minds that the Scriptures teach the dissolution of the earth at the deluge. Still more surprising is it, how such a man as bishop Burnet could have thought it consistent with Scripture, to maintain that the primitive earth was only “an orbicular crust, smooth, regular, and uniform, without mountains, and without a sea;"+ when it is so definitely stated that the waters
* Treatise on the Deluge, p, 43. London 1761. + Rees' Cyclopedin, Article Deluge.