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when we cannot know where, by whom, or at what time, it was first recorded ?
The account, contained in the first chapter of Genesis, of the creation of this earth and the remainder of our solar system, if literally interpreted, is opposed to the rational inferences and deductions of scientific geologists, and inconsistent with the unerring demonstrations of Astronomy and Natural Philosophy. The writer conveys the idea, that the globe we inhabit, with its innumerable varieties of animal and vegetable life, its multiform laws and agencies, and man, its delegated lord ; the sun; the moon; and the stars, which are countless, and of which, it is computed, we can see with the naked eye not less than one hundred millions were all created and stationed in their respective orbits, in harmonious order and completeness, in the space of a little less than one week--six days of twelve or twenty-four hours each.
Now all modern geologists, who have attained to any degree of eminence, unite in the opinion that this earth was many thousand years in process of creation. Different strata of rock and soil, fragmentary fossil remains and complete petrifications, found at a great depth below the surface, have irresistibly led them to the conclusion that long ages must have elapsed before our globe reached its present organic condition. They have discovered what they regard as sure indications that whole races of animals, now entirely extinct, were once its inhabitants, a great while before the creation of mannay, before it was rendered a fit place for his residence. They have, therefore, felt themselves impelled either to reject the account in Genesis, altogether, or else to seck for some method of accommodating its phraseology, by figurative interpretation, to the results of their scientific inquiries. Those who have cherished a deep veneration for the teaching of the past, (the result of early education) but who at the same time have found themselves unable to overcome the force of clear demonstration, have adopted the latter mode of terminating the mental conflict. Professor SILLIMAN, of Yale College, (who is a very staunch orthodox believer) in common with other geologists of distinction who believe in the plenary inspiration of the Scriptures, regards the word “day,” employed in Genesis with reference to the original work of creation, as intended to signify an indefinite period of time—including, perhaps, many centuriesrather than the brief interval which we now technically desig. nate by that term. This exegesis was, no doubt, conceived from the impulse of a praise-worthy intention: it was designed to reconcile, if possible, the incongruity between Scientific Geology and the letter of the Bible. And it is true that there is some plausibility in the argument thus presented: for we often use the term day in a sense materially different from its calendar-meaning. We employ it in relation to an age or century, or a narrower compass of time, during which some noted character has flourished. We speak, it may be, of some past hero as a wonderful man for his day, or considering the
day in which he lived. We remark, also, very frequently, concerning the great movements, the inventions, the novel theories, &c., of the present day. And in all this our meaning is not misapprehended, but readily understood. There is, however, one difficulty attending this rule of explanation when we apply it to the first chapter of Genesis. It is stated in that chapter, at the conclusion of the detail of each day's Omnific labor, that “the evening and the morning" formed the boundaries of each and every day mentioned. “The evening and the morning were the first day"_"the evening and the morning were the second day,” &c., &c. This phraseology, I am aware, has been figuratively construed, as implying simply the beginning and ending of the indefinite periods of time supposed to be signified by the word “day.” But taking it in connexion with the general features of the story, especially with the plain stat.ment that “God divided the light from the darkness, and God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night," I am impressed with the conviction (acknowledged ingenuity to the contrary notwithstanding) that the writer made use of the words day, evening and morning, precisely as we employ them, to signify the component divisions of our calendar week. I understand him as teaching that this earth we inhabit was created, with all its concomitant appendages, including man, in six literal days not exceeding twenty-four hours
Besides the geological objections to this account, there
are others, arising from Astronomy. According to the story in Genesis, the innumerable stars, which we behold nightly bespangling the blue vault, were stationed as "lights in the firmament, to give light upon the earth :" whereas it is the rational belief of astronomers, and all who have paid any attention to the wonderful facts which they have evolved, that the uncounted spheres that we see above and around us, are worlds, peopled with intelligences not wholly unlike ourselves; for whose subsistence, accommodation and progressive development the orbs they inhabit were created and adapted. It is true, that the stars "give light upon the earth;” but it seems to me a puerile idea for us to cherish, (with our present amount of astronomic light) that they were created expressly for this purpose: yet such, I think, is the inference we must necessarily draw with regard to the meaning of the language in Genesis, if we consider it as an intended history.
There is also a conflict between two material statements of the narrative, if we consider it in connexion with well-known laws of Natural Philosophy. It is repr resented (or, at least, we may naturally infer such to be the writer's meaning, maugre all the twisting practised by geological commentators) that "the greater light”—by which, no doubt, the sun is intended—was created on the fourth day ;--and yet it is previously alleged, that on the first day “God said, Let there be light: and there was light.” We know that the element of light, which irradiates our planetary system, is
emitted from the sun. Now from what source did light proceed on the first day, if the sun were not created and stationed in his place until three days afterwards? If we say, it may have proceeded from the other suns, beyond computation, which we term fixed stars, we are met by the fact that we have no intimation, not the most distant, that they were created before the fourth day.
With all due deference to the opinions of others who have made this portion of Scripture a subject of much thoughtful investigation, I must be permitted so say, that it appears to me the most rational to believe that the author of the account wrote merely in accordance with the generally prevalent notions of his time, respecting “the heavens and the earth, and all the host of them,”-as he does not give us the slightest intimation that he had any acquaintance with Astronomy as now understood. We have no reason to suppose,
any language he employs, that he was aware of the fact that the regular alternation of day and night is produced by the earth’s rotary motion. His object, we may reasonably presume, was not to teach Geology or Astronomy, or any other physical science; but rather, to impress upon the minds of those for whose benefit and instruction he wrote, the great truth that God made the world, and that he is likewise the supreme author of all things. This important truth, as I humbly conceive, he sought to convey through the medium of a regular, systematic story; in the methodical divisions and details of which he did not aim so much at literal conformity to matter of fact, as at