Page images

were buried. Hence these de- men, who died in defence of mons were said sometimes “ to their country. The solemnity dwell among the tombs.” [Mark was performed at their graves. v.] Therefore the pagans built The Christians imitated this ex. temples over their graves. Plato ample, judging it would prove a says, that “they had their year- means to induce others to suffer ly funeral orations and other death for the gospel. Plato, commemorations of their de- speaking of the demons, says, mons at their sepulchres." The “ for we in sacrifices and assem. primitive fathers often reproach- blies honour good men, (or de ed the heathen, because their mons) so far as their merit shall temples were nothing but the appear, with hymns, and seats, sepulchres, of dead men. The and flesh, and full cups." Then papists very early began the wor- he adds, “ therefore we will conship of saints, in imitation of the sult the oracle of God, in what demon worship among pagans. rank those blessed and divine In a French treatise on the cer- men are to be placed, and with emonies of the year A, D. 160, what ensigns they are to be honit is said, that among the Greeks oured, and for the future, we will they annually celebrated the worship their shrines, as de memory of heroes and illustrious mons."





(From the Religious Monitor.) If we believe that the Scrip- quire us to proceed with the uttures were written under the most caution. It would remind immediate inspiration of that us, that conclusions which seem God, whose creating power is to flow from a limited view of the owned by universal nature, we phænomena of nature, are fre. are led to expect, that nature and quently contradicted by a more revelation will mutually confirm extended observation, and hence and illustrate each other. Were would argue the propriety of not the Scripture supported by no hastily pronouncing revelation other evidence than what it de- to be false, though its doctrines rives from the testimony of na- and our observations might, in a ture, we should certainly be enti- few instances, seem to be at varitled to compare them together ance. But by a still stronger with a critical eye, considering barrier has God himself confined the latter as the standard of the daring spirit of man. In girtruth. Even in this case, how- ing us a revelation of his will, he ever, sound philosophy would re- has also given us evidence of its

truth, so clear, that he who runs Their speculations, in short, far may read ; and so complete, that from resembling the cautious he who reads without prejudice, inductions of an unbiassed judgmust acknowledge the testimony ment in search of truth, exhibit, of God. This evidence is whol- the most indisputable characters, ly independent of the phenomena of the monstrous productions of of nature ; and in consequence

a vitiated mind, wishing to perof its existence, the method suade itself and others, that the which true philosophy points out doctrines of scripture do not rest to fallible and short-sighted crea- upon the authority of God. tures, is, when nature and revela- I have been led to these reflection seem to be at variance, rath- tions, by considering some reaer to exert themselves to discover sonings to which they apply with a principle on which they may the greatest strictness, I mean be reconciled, than on such slen- the attempts which have been der grounds to venture to set made to undermine the authority aside the vast body of evidence of the writings of Moses, by which God himself has annexed shewing the date he assigns to to his word.

the creation of the world to be But a very different course has inconsistent with geological too often been followed. Men, phenomena. The authors of calling themselves philosophers, these speculations have proceedhave compared revelation and na- ed upon different grounds. I ture together, and finding appa- shall confine myself to one of the rent inconsistencies, have consid- most common, and therefore ered them as sufficient grounds most dangerous, hoping that the for denying the scripture to be subject may be prosecuted by the word of God. In conduct- some one better qualified for the ing their speculations on this task. subject, they have fallen into two From various circumstances egregious errors, the one in the- relating to the productions of ory, the other in practice. In burning mountains, it has been theory, they have proceeded up- argued, that the world must be on the grossly erroneous princi- older than the date assigned to it ple, that the truth of revelation in scripture ; that is, than 5800 must stand or fall with its con- years. The facts from which formity to the phenomena of na- this conclusion is drawn, may be ture, the reason of man being reduced to four heads, which we judge ; forgetting the difficulty shall consider separately. of such an inquiry, and the total I. From the prodigious size unfitness of reason to conduct it. of the rocks of lava, observed in Their error in practice is more the neighbourhood of volcanoes, heinous. They have been guilty it is argued, that the Mosaic age of drawing the most important of the world is a period within conclusions from a partial and which we cannot suppose them limited comparison of facts, to have been formed, and that while a little more extended these mountains, and observation would have shewn quently the world, must have them, that all nature bears its existed much longer. testimony to the truth of God. The force of this argument

Vol. I. No. II. Qaq


will be completely destroyed, if a single eruption of Heckla in we attend to the extent of those 1783. It dried up 12 rivers, masses of lava, the date of whose destroyed about 20 villages, and formation we can ascertain with some hills of considerable height tolerable precision. Of a great were completely covered by it. variety of facts that might be The vast extent of these brought forward, a few shall suf- volcanic remains will appear by fice.

no means incredible, if we recol· Virgil mentions a town situat- lect the well authenticated aced at the bottom of Mount Etna, counts of the quantities of lava on the side where it approaches poured out by the mountains to the sea, which was remarkable during their eruptions. In the for a commodious and well- eruption of Ætna in 1669, a sheltered harbour, much resorted stream of liquid lava, 6 miles to by ships, when overtaken by a broad, flowed to the distance of storm. Some traces of the town 14 miles, from the rent in the still remain. From its situation side of the mountain whence it with regard to the mountain, it had issued ; filling up, in its prois known to be the same that gress, a lake 4 miles in compass, Virgil describes ; but it is now and leaving a mountain of lava in between 3 and 4 miles from the its place. In another eruption sea, being separated from it by a of Ætna, the stream of lava is rock of lava of that extent, all of said to have been 10 miles broad. which must have been formed in And on the whole, 'it seems as little more than 1800 years. In plain as words can make it, that the great eruption of Atna, no argument against the Mosaic which destroyed Catania in account of the creation can be 1669, rocks of lava 100 feet high drawn from the remains of lava. were formed at once, where lakes II. On the sloping sides of 50 feet deep had formerly ex- some of the great volcanoes, nuisted. The city of Herculaneum, merous smaller mountains are which was destroyed by an erup- observed, formed entirely of voltion of Vesuvius, during the canic ashes and vitrified stones, reign of Vespasian, about the which have been thrown up year 79, now lies buried under during eruptions of the volcano. from 70 to 100 feet of volcanic On the side of Ætna, next to matter ;-at one place it forms a Catania, Sir William Hamilton solid mass of lava, 100 feet thick, counted 40 of them ; and their and of prodigious extent, on height is from 400 to 1000 which stands the great palace of feet.* the king of Naples, surrounded by the palaces of his principal

* It is to be observed, that in erupnobility. We shall mention but tions of the great volcanoes, the one instance more, which indeed principal discharge of volcanic' mat

ters seldom or never takes place from might have stood instar omnium." the great crater on the summit. The In the Island of Iceland, there is eruption begins with a discharge of a tract of lava 90 miles long, 42 smoke, flame, and ashes, and somemiles broad, and from 60 to 120

times a quantity of lava from the feetin thickness, which is certain- tinued for some time, a rent is made

great crater ; but after this has conly known to have been formed by in the side of the mountain, often ms. From the number and size of up in one night, in 1538. 'If these mountains, it is argued, as such effects are produced by sinbefore, that we cannot suppose gle eruptions, certainly the numthem to have been formed in ber of eruptions that may have 5800 years.

taken place in 5800 years, are • This argument is specious, fully sufficient to account for the but will appear, on examination, formation of all the secondary to be equally inconclusive with mountains on which this argu. the former; and like it, to be ment is founded. The argu: founded on an unfair and partial ment of course falls to the statement of facts. For, if we ground. can prove that several of the III. In several parts of the largest of these mountains were world, small islands have been formed in a very short time, it met with, composed of nearly will follow, that the rest may the same materials as the secon. have been formed in equal times, dary mountains above described. and the whole within the period Hence, some have been disposed assigned in scripture for the to argue, that these islands are existence of the world. Now, probably nothing else than the the date of the formation of tops of volcanic secondary mounseveral of the secondary moun- tains, belonging to continents, or tains has been handed down to us islands, which are now buried on the most undoubted authority, under the ocean; but which and a very few instances will be were dry land, and the seats of sufficient to decide the question active volcanoes, at the time before us. A mountain on the these mountains were formed. side of Ætna, the height of which From these premises, if just, a I do not find recorded, was form- strong presumption would arise, ed in the course of a few months, that the world is older than the in 1663. In the great eruption date assigned to it by Moses ; of 1669, a mountain, 3 miles in because the state of its surface, circumference, and nearly half a as described by him, is the same mile in perpendicular height, as observed in modern times. was formed in a few days; and, But here we can again oppose to mention but one instance facts to hypothesis ; for several more, a mountain on the side of of these islands have been thrown Vesuvius, 3 miles in circum- up from the ocean within the ference, and a quarter of a mile period of authentic history ; and perpendicular height, was thrown before a few facts of this kind,

the whole of the above reasoning

must fall to the ground. Vulny miles below the summit. From

cano, one of the Lipari Islands, this are discharged the streams of lava which prove so destructive ; and

was thrown up from the ocean prodigious quantities of ashes and in the early ages of the Roman pieces of stones, which collecting republic, as related by Eusebius round the opening, are gradually and Pliny ;-and after the great elevated into a mount: with a cra

eruption of Heckla in 1783, two, ter at the top, which thus becomes a

islands made their appearance, kind of distinct volcano. In this way are formed the secondary mountains

which continued for some time. mentioned above.

to throw out fire and ashes like

other volcanoes. One of them, ed at least 14000 years, or more 3 miles in circumference, and than twice the Mosaic age of the more than half a mile in perpen- world. dicular height, appeared in Feb- The whole of this reasoning ruary 1784, near the Gierfugla will stand or fall with the prin. Islands, about 100 miles S. W. ciple, that 2000 years are necesfrom Iceland; the other, the sary for the formation of a stradimensions of which I do not tum of soil on the surface of find recorded, appeared to the lava ; and this principle is de N. W. between Iceland and monstrably false. In theory, it Greenland. These islands, we is absurd; by observation it is have every reason to believe, are expressly contradicted. The the productions of submarine soil in question is formed origivolcanoes ; but whatever difficul- nally by the ashes from the ty we may find in accounting for volcano. A stratum of these their formation, it is evident, that ashes is capable, in certain cir. they afford no argument against cumstances, of supporting vegethe Mosaic account of the crea- tation, and by the decay of succes. tion of the globe.

sive crops of vegetable matter; IV. The fourth and last assumes, in a few years, the argument we shall mention, is appearance of ordinary soil: that which has been reckoned the Now, it is evident, that the time most conclusive. In digging necessary for the formation of through a mass of lava, in the such soil, will depend entirely on neighbourhood of Catania, seven the deposition of the ashes ; and distinct strata of it were observed, as these are carried by the wind, with layers of soil interposed. they are deposited very unequal- . Now as each of these layers of ly. Some places, as that on soil must have been formed be- which the above reasoning is fore the superincumbent stratum founded, may be so situated, as of lava was added, and as a long scarcely to be covered in 2000 time is generally required to years ; but in other cases, we form a layer of soil on the sur- know for certain, and indeed we face of lava, it is argued, that this should have expected it a priori, succession of strata could not that the deposition is much more have been formed in 5800 years. rapid. An extensive tract of la. Some have even pretended to va, near Hybla, in Sicily, was determine the exact period which converted into a fertile plain, by would have been necessary to a single eruption of ashes from form it ; and they reason on the Ætna, about the beginning of the following principles : In the 17th century. It continued so neigl bourhood of Catania, there for many years, till it was again is a tract of lava known to be over-run with lava in the great 2000 years old, which is still eruption of 1669. Here, therecovered with but a very thin stra- fore, we have a case in which a tum of soil. Now, say these stratum of soil was formed, and reasoners, il 2000 years be neces- a stratum of lava deposited over sary to form one stratum of soil, it in less than 100 years; and the above-mentioned succession reasoning from the analogy, we of seven strata, must have require are entitled to iufer, that the

« PreviousContinue »