A Second Dialogue On The Essays And Reviews
W. I am glad to meet you again. Though the subject was a painful one in some respects, I enjoyed the conversation we had when we last met. It embraced a large field of view: and though we could only step from mountain-top to mountain-top, and look down into the rich valleys below, still it shewed me there were such, and I see we possess a goodly country where I saw little but rock before or misty mountain. Scripture has something of another aspect to me as a whole. Could we not continue our researches in examining some of the other Essays? I have been interested in this new science of geology, and you are aware how the cosmogony of scripture has been attacked, the genesis of the world.
H. I shall most gladly accept your proposal: I cannot pretend to be a very scientific geologist, but the very objections of infidels you have referred to have made me examine it in the results professed to be arrived at, if I have not the science of details. These would require one to consecrate, to say the least, a large portion of a life to it and to the kindred sciences of comparative anatomy, and natural history, and of scientific botany; and this I neither can nor would I do. But our main object will be scripture, and, to tell you the honest truth, while these Essayists are very ignorant of scripture, I have not learnt to trust the depth of their science on any point. But our object will be: Is the scripture, viewed as a divine revelation, inconsistent with the facts discovered in the earth’s structure? I do not say, with the conclusions of geologists for it will be found that these are not very solid. The discoveries are full of interest, the results extremely uncertain. But some collateral subjects will meet us, which will diversify our conversation. You must always remember, that it is the habit of rationalist infidels to assume, that what their doctors, or rather doubters, have laid down as hypotheses are admitted truths— things as unfounded as possible. It is one of its common deceits to allude to in passing, as to an admitted truth, what, if they had to prove it, they would find themselves utterly at a loss to do so.
“It is settled,” “universally recognized,” “an admitted truth,” merely means that German rationalists have satisfied themselves or pretend to have done so, even if that be the case.
We first find, in the Essay you refer to, the ignorant and stupid theory of Elohistic and Jehovistic documents. Now I should have no difficulty in supposing two, twenty, or twenty thousand documents, provided I have God’s relation of the matter out of them. Human instrumentality I can admit to any extent, provided I have divine certainty and divine intention. These are necessary to my accepting anything as a revelation, because a revelation must flow from the intention of God to make known, and what He makes known is made known with certainty, and as He meant it to be presented to my mind. It is not that all contained in a revelation is right. I may have the devil’s words, wicked men’s words, imperfect men’s words; but I must have all these things presented to me exactly as God meant it to be presented to me, and His own words besides. The account given must have His authority.
The use of the word “revelation” in this paper on the Mosaic cosmogony is, I cannot say merely as loose, but as nonsensical as anything I ever read. If such a use of terms be allowed, we may use any word about anything, and find we have one of Ossian’s grey skirts of the mist, instead of our lost friend. What do you think a revelation, a divine revelation, is?
W. Well, I suppose something that God has revealed.
H. Ignorant man that you are, why, you are a plain Englishman! You do not know German depths, still less German depths brought to the surface in English vessels.
A revelation does not mean a revelation at all. It means, “God made use of imperfectly informed men [for the plan of Providence for the education of man is a progressive one] to lay the foundations of a higher knowledge, for which the human race is destined.” “Is it wonderful, therefore, that they have committed themselves to assertions not in accordance with facts?” “As imperfect men have been used [in this progressive scheme] as the agents for teaching mankind, is it not to be expected that their teachings should be partial, and to some extent erroneous?”
W. Well, but then men could give no more than they knew themselves, and this is not a revelation; or else God gave it, revealed it, and then it was from Him, and had His authority stamped on it as His truth.
H. You are all out again. “It has been popularly assumed that the Bible, bearing the stamp of divine authority, must be complete, perfect, and unimpeachable in all its parts.”
W. Well, but how could it bear the stamp of divine authority if God did not give it ? You cannot make the notions of a particular time at which men had arrived, and erroneous ones, a revelation. It is simply absurd to talk of the stamp of God’s authority, when they are merely the fancies of men. Why then the Ptolemaic system is a revelation.
H. No, no; you are all wrong again. “The humble scholar is willing to accept such teaching as it hath pleased divine Providence to afford. To do otherwise is presuming to point out how God ought to have instructed man. But, if we regard the Mosaic narrative as the speculation of some Hebrew Descartes or Newton, promulgated in all good faith as the best and most probable account that could be then given of God’s universe, it resumes the dignity and value of which the theological Geologists have done their utmost to deprive it.”
W. But what dignity or value is there in the errors of men ignorant of all true science, or how can that bear the stamp of divine authority?
H. Ah! you are not initiated.
W. Well, but God, according to this theory, made use of men to teach error. Why should He stamp that with His authority? Let them write for themselves, or, at least, God not give His authority to it.
H. Why, you see, the education of man was to be progressive; so He must begin, I suppose, in their infancy, by teaching them error. It is not for you to guess of His methods of providence, and then in that age “the early speculator was harassed by no scruples as to asserting as facts what he knew only as probabilities. He asserts indeed, solemnly and unhesitatingly, that for which he must have known he had no authority. But the difficulty as to this arises only from our modern habits of thought. Modesty of assertion is taught only by the true spirit of science.” But then these things are better done now of course.
W. But then modern science is not a revelation, but founded on discovery, and the Mosaic narrative is merely an obsolete and erroneous supposition, when the truth was not discovered.
H. To be sure, and that, for our Essayist, is a revelation.
W. But is it honest to call that a revelation?
H. Honest! what a strange word. This way of using language so as to save appearances, though it be not what the word means, arises from our modern habits of thought. It is the spirit of true science. “It is the free handling, in a becoming spirit, of subjects peculiarly liable to suffer by the repetition of conventional language and from traditional methods of treatment.”
W. Well, but speaking of revelation is the repetition of conventional language.
H. Yes, no doubt of it; but the use of it is the becoming spirit, and the rest the free handling.
W. But this seems to me profoundly immoral, in the highest and deepest sense—to talk of revelation and deal thus.
H. Oh! “our respect for the narrative, which has played so important a part in the culture of our race, need in no wise be diminished.” “For ages this simple view of creation satisfied the wants of man, and both its consistency and grandeur may be preserved, if we recognize in it, not an authentic utterance of divine knowledge, but a human utterance, which it hath pleased Providence to use, in a special way, for the education of mankind.”
W. But this is a deliberate denial of revelation. Providence uses what man has uttered.
H. Yes; and see what a convenient word Providence is, because there is no sign how it came to be used. As to the education of mankind, it is a bubble we have already seen burst; for none but those who received it as an absolute revelation of God (God providentially leading them, we are to suppose, to believe this lie) ever were educated at all. The heathen have their own cosmogonies, which it may be worth comparing; and we have got geologists to settle ours, or at least unsettle what was supposed true. Rabbin and fathers may have believed, in their superstition, the Mosaic account. The whole thing was a happy mistake, into which Providence led them, nobody knows how—a singular operation of Providence to make man believe a lie, and that a false account was its own utterance!
W. Do you know anything of cosmogonies?
H. Well, popularly; but we may say in general that the immense fact of creation was unknown to the heathen. “By faith we understand,” says the epistle to the Hebrews, “that the things which are seen were not made of the things which do appear.” What we now feel must have been, was repelled by all the proud reasoners. A poor obscure ignorant Hebrew alone knew it. For all others ex nihilo nil fit was the practical maxim. That is a striking fact. What are die cosmogonies of other nations? Never, as I said, a creation. Matter was eternal. In India, it was pantheism. God was the soul of the world; or human passions were perfected into powerful and mysterious beings, moved in chaos, or in darkness; and systems impossible for our cold western reason to grasp were concocted. But a personal God and a creation did not enter into their minds. Brahm was at ease, asleep in the unconscious enjoyment of this state; he woke up, and the mundane egg split, the upper part becoming heaven and the lower earth. Their more serious philosophical views were, “The universe is Brahm; it comes from Brahm, it subsists in Brahm, and returns into Brahm.” All the rest is a kind of maya or illusion. It is only Brahm revealing himself in various ways, first disengaging a female from himself, and then by emanations of gods who have each their goddesses, and thence into all nature,—Brahma, Vishnu, and Siva, and so on, identified with created existence, while Brahm is awake, and which perishes by a great catastrophe, when he is tired. The Kalpa then is over, and he goes to sleep, and the same story (for they had not learned Dr. Temple’s philosophy) exactly is reproduced over again. In this way, what our Essayist calls Providence provided for the education of an immensely greater number of the human race than it did by the Hebrew Descartes. It was pantheism connected with the powers of nature, and the idea of decay and reproduction. So that the destroyer, Siva, was the god of life. The female deities were the productive power of the gods they were connected with, while the history of Adam and Eve, whose very names were used, and Noah and his sons, ran through it all; and even the names of Shem, Ham, and Japhet, in Sama, Cama, and Prajapati (the “a” at the end not being sounded, and “Pra,” meaning Lord).
In the laws or institutes of Menu we have it directly stated that, the sole self-existing power having willed to produce various beings from his own divine substance, he divided his own substance, and the mighty power became male and female. This gives perhaps the most complete original system of idolatry which exists, its most stupid and earthly form being Grecian mythology; but the same was really current everywhere. You can see these things, if you are anxious, in Guigniaut’s Kreuser, or Faber, and the Asiatic Researches, and in many curious facts in Bryant, in Wilkinson for Egypt, and Cory’s Fragments for Orphic and Phoenician.
In more modern less metaphysical theories, matter was eternal. I will give you the Phoenician one by Sanchoniatho preserved by Eusebius. I give the quotations of it from Cory’s volume. He supposes that the beginning of all things was a dark and condensed windy air, or a breeze of thick air, and a chaos turbid and black as Erebus, and that these were unbounded, and for a long series of ages destitute of form; but when this wind became enamoured of its own first principles, and an intimate union took place, that connection was called pathos (Cupid or desire), and this was the beginning or origin of the creation of all things; but it knew not its own creation, but from its connection with the wind (or spirit) was produced Môt. This, some call Ilus (mud), but some the putrefaction of a watery mixture, and from this was produced all the rest of creation, and the generation of all things. He then proceeds to details.
The Egyptian was more strictly mythology, not cosmogony, though in ancient systems these are indeed the same. The unity of deity, or subsistence, does not appear; but their Vedas, the books of Hermes Trismegistus, are lost. But it was essentially the same as the Hindoo, save that the system common to both had adapted itself to the circumstances of the country. It was a more terrestrial and less imaginative system. Human nature took a tinge less kindly, but more righteous. The unity of the deity was less in relief, decay and return to life more prominent, and generation more than emanation, though these were all found in both. The original deity, Nef, or the Spirit, came down more into the ordinary rank of gods than Brahm; and while the eight great gods and goddesses were found in both, yet a triad of another kind was prominent—male, female, and child, as Nef, Sate, and Khonso—Osiris, Isis, and Horus: the former the more active principle, the second the passive or earth (the great mother as everywhere), and the order produced out of these. The latter triad, the Nile, or sun (for Osiris was both in certain respects, i.e., not the sun as sun, but its action on the Nile and Egypt for blessing), Isis, Egypt, and Horus, the return to blessing after Typhon, or the burning sun, had dried all up. There are traces of one divine origin, out of which all proceeded, but having no book like the Institutes of Menu, it is comparatively speaking lost. Ptha, though a great god, and the formative power, was in a certain sense a secondary one. He formed more than was an origin of all things. The Phoenician system was more historical and mythic. In all, the worship of Yoni Lingams attached to Siva, the same with Khem, and the history of Osiris, and Phallic processions of Bacchus, were, from Hindostan to Rome, the origin of a degradation of ideas and manners which need not be recalled. But it is universally recognized, that creation was unknown in these systems. There was pantheistic emanation, or eternal matter.
The Gnostic systems evidently linked themselves up with all this—an effort of Satan to bring the old mythology spiritualized into Christianity. This I shall beg leave to call the devil’s education of the world. The point of departure being an idea of one God, which man can hardly get rid of, he turned it by false human wisdom into idolatry, by deifying attributes, powers of nature, stars, and ancestors. All this was afloat in the world before Moses’ account of things was written. There were traces of primeval history both of Adam, Noah, Babel, the giants, and the judgment of Babel, but all turned into idolatry. When this ripened, God gave a divine account, perfectly suited to the age, not science, which would have been unsuited to divine action, but rescuing the great facts in such a way that the divine actings— necessary for man to know morally, and as far therefore as they concerned man on the earth, with which he had to do—should be distinctly set out, and with the simplicity, dignity, and beneficence towards man, which bore the stamp of God. The whole world is witness that no man, neither the simplest nor the wisest, ever could have known, or ever did discover, such a thought as to creation as is given in Genesis. It stands not pre-eminent, but isolated and alone; short, simple, unscientific: no mental elaboration, no recognition of nature’s powers (such as Jews fell into, not only in the gross way of idolatry, but in the refined Alexandrian system of Philo), no emanation or pantheism, no eternal matter, no deification of mythic ideas; no visible world counted for the Logos, as again Philo; every human thought is denied, but the fiat of God Himself brings the world into existence, and everything into order; and the relationships of God, the world, and man, are perfectly established. Had there been no cosmogonies, the value of this statement would not have been felt. The simplest mind would have known the truth, but the truth meets every error of every mind.
Let us just look, after the poor conceptions and wild imaginations of heathen cosmogonies, at the simple statement of the word of God. We shall see at once, in the former, the laborious efforts of the human mind in what it cannot reach, heaping up powers and conceptions to fill the imagination, and account for effects, because it does not know God, and is oppressed with the effect of His power; and in the other, God speaking with the simplicity of one who had made it all and knew it all. The Word that had made could tell what it had done, and creation takes its place of a mere creature, and Elohim maintains His own.
W. Before you go farther, I should like to hear what you say to the two alleged accounts of creation, Elohistic and Jehovistic.
H. From Genesis to Revelation, there are two ways of speaking of God, either as the one divine Being in contrast with men; God known as God (only that it is applied to the representations of His power as such, whether angels or judges hold that place); or in known revealed relationships with men. Of these relationships (besides that of Most High, in which He takes His great power and reigns—is possessor of heaven and earth) there are three, Almighty, Jehovah, and Father—the last never revealed till Christ the Son came. Elohim was revealed to Abraham as Almighty. He was to trust in Him in that character. It was to be the object of faith. To Israel, He was revealed as Jehovah, and He was to be known and trusted as such; to us, as Father, and especially as Holy Father, in which name He keeps us, and we who have believed in the Son, know and trust Him. Thus, in Exodus 6 Elohim specially tells Moses that He had revealed Himself to the fathers by His name El-Shaddai, God Almighty, but not by that of Jehovah, which He now took with Israel; and Christ particularly notices that He had manifested the Father’s name to the disciples—had declared and would declare it, the Holy Ghost becoming a spirit of adoption in us. Hence the apostle, beautifully connecting all these revelations of God, says (2 Cor. 6:18), I will be a Father to you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty. That is, He who had been the God of Abraham as Almighty, and the God of Israel as Jehovah, now took His name and place of Father. Surely, He was ever Father in respect of the Son, ever Almighty, ever Jehovah; but He had not taken it as a name of known relationship.
Now there is never, in any case, confusion in this respect. In the Psalms, the difference is of the deepest interest, and when understood greatly facilitates reading them with intelligence. It is equally true now. God I may seek as God, thirst after as God, bow to as such. With a Father I am in sweet and blessed relationship according to the terms of that name. It was not in vain that Christ said, “I go to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.” During His life here below, He ever said “Father;” on the cross, “my God, my God”—perfect in faith, yet not enjoying the relationship. After His resurrection He uses both, according to the full perfectness in which He now stands in them according to accomplished redemption, and introduces His disciples in virtue of that into the same. Hence, too, when all was finished, even in the act of dying, He says, “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit.”
Now if you examine Genesis 2 from verse 4, you will see that nothing but the utmost prepossession could speak of it as a second account of the creation. Have you ever looked at it in this point of view?
W. I have not. I have, of course, often read it; but for positive instruction, not to meet any particular doctrine.
H. Far the best way too. But if you do come across rationalistic assertions, never accept them without reading the passage in question; because thus the divine intention of the passage is, with God’s help, present to the mind, and in nine cases out often that suffices to make all their assertions utterly null. It is the case here. In chapter 1 and three verses of chapter 2, we have the simple but magnificent account, and magnificent because simple, of the creation of all things, and the orderings of the earth, the world, as subjected to man and in reference to him. This was God creating.
In the rest of chapter 2 we have the sacred historian entering into all the special circumstances in which man was placed in this world. He alludes to the fact of the rest of the creation subsisting without man, then speaks of the garden being planted in Eden, of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, how man was made and became a living soul, by which his special relationship to God existed, of the forming of Eve out of his rib, of his dominion over all animals (these and other circumstances being taken as symbolical expressions of higher things all through scripture). In a word, we have passed out of creation into the whole scene of moral, mysterious, and symbolical relationships between God and man. It is, first, responsibilities in an historical way, and then the figures of all the blessings and rights to come in and be conferred on man in the second Adam. I am not now arguing whether the application be just or not which subsequent scriptures make of this history; but to say it is a second account of the creation is simple nonsense. Not one subject in chapter 2, except the fact that a man was created and a woman, is spoken of in chapter 1. The fact that there were plants without a man is mentioned in chapter 1, and these are spoken of in chapter 2 in a wholly different aspect, and carrying the subject on to a farther point.
Now, it was of the last importance that he who wrote for Israel should shew that Jehovah, the God revealed to them, was the one supreme and only Elohim, the Creator, though He was their national God; and this the account most fully does. Chapter i shews that it was simple Elohim, God, the only one; chapter 2, that when special conditions of man came out, that one Elohim was Jehovah, the God of Israel. Had He put Jehovah in chapter 1, it might have been only the particular national God known by that name. But it was Elohim, God. There was none but He. Had He omitted it in chapter 2, it might not have been the God of the Jews at all. Had he laboriously affirmed it, it might have been a national assumption: the simple statement left it in its own eternal truth. So, when the great truth was restored under Elijah, the convinced people shout, “Jehovah, he is Elohim! Jehovah, he is Elohim!” The question being, whether Baal was Elohim, or Jehovah”.
It would be well we should read the chapters; it will bring them, in the way I said, before our minds, and the contrast with the deplorable cosmogonies of the heathen, by which in fact the world was educated (and cosmogony and theology were identical), and the bearing and relationship of chapters 1 and 2 will become evident.
In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.
And God said, Let there be light: and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness. And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day.
And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters. And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so. And God called the firmament Heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day.
And God said, Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear: and it was so. And God called the dry land Earth; and the gathering together of the waters called he Seas: and God saw that it was good. And God said, Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the earth: and it was so. And the earth brought forth grass, and herb yieldimg seed after his kind, and the tree yielding fruit, whose seed was in itself, after his kind: and God saw that it was good. And the evening and the morning were the third day.
And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years: and let them be for lights in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth: and it was so. And God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night: he made the stars also. And God set them in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth, and to rule over the day and over the night, and to divide the light from the darkness: and God saw that it was good. And the evening and the morning were the fourth day.
And God said, Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life, and fowl that may fly above the earth in the open firmament of heaven. And God created great whales, and every living creature that moveth, which the waters brought forth abundantly, after their kind, and every winged fowl after his kind: and God saw that it was good. And God blessed them, saying, Be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let fowl multiply in the earth. And the evening and the morning were the fifth day.
And God said, Let the earth bring forth the living creature after his kind, cattle, and creeping thing, and beast of the earth after his kind: and it was so. And God made the beast of the earth after his kind, and cattle after their kind, and every thing that creepeth upon the earth after his kind: and God saw that it was good.
And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.
And God 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 every thing that creepeth upon the earth, wherein there is life, J have given every green herb for meat: and it was so. And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day.
Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made. And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made.
These are the generations of the heavens and of the earth when they were created, in the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens, and every plant of the field before it was in the earth, and every herb of the field before it grew: for the Lord God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was not a man to till the ground. But there went up a mist from the earth, and watered the whole face of the ground. And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.
And the Lord God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there he put the man whom he had formed. And out of the ground made the Lord God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil. And a river went out of Eden to water the garden; and from thence it was parted, and became into four heads. The name of the first is Pison: that is it which compasseth the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold; and the gold of that land is good: there is bdellium and the onyx stone. And the name of the second river is Gihon: the same is it that compasseth the whole land of Ethiopia. And the name of the third river is Hiddekel: that is it which goeth toward the east of Assyria. And the fourth river is Euphrates. And the Lord God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it. And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.
And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him. And out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof. And Adam gave names to all cattle, and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field; but for Adam there was not found an help meet for him. And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof; and the rib, which the Lord God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man. And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man. Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh. And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.
How refreshing is the word after all the cavillings of men!
W. It is most truly so; but I seize your remarks on the different relationships in which God reveals Himself with men. It opens a wide field of interest in the study of scripture, and I see that it rests on the plain testimony of scripture itself. I confess I begin to think these essayists and rationalists excessively superficial; they seem always to rest in the mere outside of scripture, and in no case to get hold of the mind of God in it.
H. Naturally enough. They set out by not believing there is one; and the truth is, as scripture states it, the god of this world has blinded the eyes of them that believe not. They think themselves wiser than apostles, exclude God from the whole matter, and, of course, sink to their own level.
W. The passage from 2 Corinthians has singular beauty in respect of these relationships.
H. It is indeed of exquisite beauty; and these connections of scripture—which unfold a whole scene of moral truths and elements, diverse in themselves, yet revealing the full force each of the other; and thus related in the deepest way one to another, bringing out what God is, and evolving in the revelation of it every exercise of the human heart towards God—shew a divine unity of mind in scripture, which all the petty cavils of essayists cannot shake. That one verse embraces all the divine relations of God, and the dispensational connections of man with Him, and takes them all up to introduce them, though as isolated relationships quite different from one another in their abstract power, into that one new perfect one which has been revealed as the perfection of grace through Christ. But He hides these things from the wise and prudent, and reveals them unto babes. The moral need of the soul, the wants of a new nature, it is by which we get to understand scripture, not our intellectual powers. But let us turn to our geology.
W. Well, how do you reconcile the Mosaic account of the creation with geological discoveries?
H. To tell you the honest truth, I think the Mosaic account of the creation much more certain than any geological system. First, the direct proofs of scripture are to me infinitely more solid and sure than any geological conclusions; and the geological conclusions I have seen arrived at seem to me to rest in fact on very doubtful evidence.
W. But surely there are a number of well-ascertained facts and principles?
H. There are a number of facts which to me at least are of the highest possible interest. But (perhaps my mind is slow and apt to see difficulties, and not to come to a conclusion before they are cleared up) the results put together into a system are to my mind surrounded with difficulty. I have no disposition to controvert extraordinary facts. If it is proved to me that the tomb of Mahomet in the Caaba is suspended in the air, I say, Very well, I may be able to explain it, or I may not, and if so I wait till I can. If a man can cause a table to be suspended in the air, it is to me a mere question of physical fact—is there such a power? Lifting my hand is just as wonderful in itself. I believe that in a certain sense the physical world is subject to man, and, if God allow him, I know no limit to his employing the powers of nature. Miracle is divine power over nature, the will of God in exercise, not ordinarily but extraordinarily, whoever may be the person who brings that will into play. The powers used are, to my mind, immaterial; they may be natural or supernatural; but when natural powers are in exercise according to the prescribed course of things, there is no miracle. The power exercised may be as great or greater, but it is the ordinary course of nature. But when not in that course, even though it be the same power, but by an extraordinary occasional action of the divine will any event is produced, that is a miracle. If I remember right, I am repeating the idea of John Wessel, Luther’s forerunner; but I must not make him responsible for it; but I think I owe it to him. Of course, if the power itself is absolutely supernatural, as raising the dead, that itself proves a miracle.
W. I think, at any rate, the idea of miracle is just; it is one which has been a good deal discussed. It is referred to in these Essays.
H. It is. Take an example. A mighty east wind was a natural power at the Red Sea; yet it was a miracle, because it was an extraordinary exercise of the divine will, just as much as at Jordan, though there the river was arrested in its course super-naturally (i.e., by no known natural cause). However, I am ready to admit any extent of power over natural objects, subjected to him by God, being exercised by man. If he has found a means of making a table rap on the ground, the only question with me is, is it a power given to man? If he pretends to bring souls up, I do not believe it; because I do not believe God has put the souls of the deceased in his power. He may have devils deluding him, pretending to be the souls of the dead; but souls are in God’s keeping, and cannot come unless He bring them.
W. And what do you make of the witch of Endor?
H. God brought up Samuel, I do not doubt a moment; the woman was as frightened as Saul at his coming.
Now the discovery of geological remains and the theories of successive formations are full of interest, and there are strong grounds to believe there have been such; nor can I see that the deluge accounts for all, because if—but it is if—the upheaval theory be correct (to which I have nothing to oppose, but presume to be true), or if, as others think, the breaking in of the crust of the cooling earth be added, then the mountains which existed already at the time of the deluge have broken up strata which had various fossils already buried in them; that is, the flood does not appear to have brought them, while unconformable strata prove deposits after the upheaval. Thus there is a proof of strata of different ages.
But I am not satisfied entirely as to all the data. If the present surface of land were submerged, and there were fossil English and fossil Australian remains, the Marsupia and duck-billed Platypuses of Australia would be treated as proofs of a necessarily anterior formation, because the Marsupia are an inferior class of mammalia, a transition order. The proofs might exist, I admit; but as far as this goes, why do Marsupian fossils prove in themselves an anterior formation? Superposition under certain conditions may, but remains do not.
Again, in the Wealden formation, fresh water remains are found and salt too, and I think alternating, and turtles. Well, this is a great difficulty. It is concluded that it must have been an estuary in a large bay; all very ingenious. It is alleged, however, after disputes between the chalk and Jurassic or oolite formations, to belong to the Jura sea. But then, if it belong to either, according to the ablest geologists, as Vogt, who adopts the idea of the estuary and the Jura sea, there could have been no great river there at that time, nor a bay into which it ran, according to the limits which geological data give of dry land and the Jura sea.
But there are more serious objections. It is alleged that for certain sandstones some twenty thousand years must have passed to have a bed of such thickness deposited; but at Craigleith, near Edinburgh, a tree some sixty feet long, lies slanting at an angle of 40o across the strata in its whole length. Now that a tree remained twenty thousand years slanting thus, while the sea deposited this strata, is not to be believed. Again, they tell us that the formation of certain beds of coal would require twenty thousand years to make a bed of coal a foot thick, and some one hundred and twenty thousand years for the coal measures of England. Now one used to bogs may well doubt this. You may find some ten or twelve feet of bog formed in a comparatively short time, as in Ireland; in cut down forests, in a quarter of the first mentioned period. A particular kind of grass has always turf at the roots, if only a single plant; and I have seen trees retaining their form, but grown through by the roots of grass, forming the whole into a compact mass little different from coal. Where water is found, the progress is very rapid. In Lincolnshire I have understood that the number of the legion which cut down the forest has been found in the bog. Nor is this all; at South Joggins’ cliff in Nova Scotia, and somewhere near Manchester, sigillaria grow through the coal, the roots being in and below ityand the stems rising up in their original position through the superincumbent sandstone and shale. So, in the Isle of Purbeck, dicotyledonous wood in limestone. Even Phillips says, “the nearly vertical position of certain fossil plants, a phenomenon by no means rare among sandstone rocks, affords good ground for caution in assigning very great extension of years to geological periods; the accumulation of transported sediment must have been so rapid as to prevent the decomposition of the vertical portions of the plants. No one doubts that the bed of stone three feet thick, which encloses equisetum columnare at High Whitby, was laid by a single inundation; and again the sigillaria in the coal sandstones of Yorkshire pass through more than one, sometimes four or five beds of stone.” Such facts as these, and they are their own facts, subvert, as far as I can judge, the whole system of geologists as to the time taken to form deposits.
Again, it was a settled point that human remains, according to the known geological progress of orders of fossil Fauna, could not be found in any deposits before our present world. The human petrifaction from Guadaloupe, in the British Museum, was held to be recent, as were some since discovered; but the question after all remains if that is just. Now, infidelity makes strenuous efforts to prove the antiquity of man, and the opposite theory is maintained. It is alleged that in Brazil and in North America (in the last case in so old a deposit as old red sandstone), unequivocal human remains have been discovered in strata too old for them, according to geological systems. In the caves of Gaylenreuth, they are mixed up with fossil remains of species, belonging (it is alleged) to anterior formations; and at Mialet, in a cavern in which the hunted pastors of the églises du désert found constant refuge, and a place of common meeting and resort, human bones and those of the cave bear and others have been found. But here both rude Roman and still ruder Celtic implements have been found; but Dr. Phillips says as to this: “he will not hazard a definite conclusion.” “In the meantime we may remark that the principal arguments for the co-eval existence of man, and extinct pachy-dermata and carnivora in the south of France, are the intimate mixture and equal conservation of the bones. And these arguments should not be slighted, for they would probably not have been resisted in any case of the mixture of quadrupedal remains.” And Tepier, who examined them, finds that the human bones, much rarer where the bears’ bones are, may have been carried back into the cave by subsequent natural or artificial means. Besides all this, however, rude instruments, constructed by human skill, have been discovered in drift of an epoch, according to geologists, very long anterior to that in which man ought to be found—I think in the Eocene formation. The alleged colonies of Mr. Barrande in Bohemia, also inconsistent with the due succession of Fauna, and alleged to be carried there by currents, require evidently more explanation.
W. And what conclusions do you draw from these facts?
H. None; save that geologists, as Lyell has admitted, are but on the threshold of the science; that the conclusions of the earth’s antiquity, and of the formation of strata, cannot be sustained in their details; and that we must wait for further light and additional facts, before any conclusion can be drawn.
W. That is a most lame and impotent conclusion.
H. Better to wait till I have adequate grounds to judge, than bewilder myself by premature assertions. Take an example of precipitancy in a confessedly able man. Sir C. Lyell gave in his second edition at least one hundred thousand years for the formation of the delta of the Mississippi, and human remains had been found deeply buried there. In his third edition he says his data were wrong and it was at least fifty thousand years. How can we trust conclusions liable to such errors as that? Further, he insists that in the cutting through the gravel brought down by a torrent at the head of the lake of Genoa, iron, bronze, and stone remains were found, and a skull connected with the latter which must have been long anterior to the date assigned to man’s creation. But I know members of the Antiquarian Society at Lausanne who examined the locality; and one of them assured me they all thought him wrong, and that one side of the skull was evidently stained with bronze. On the other hand, that which is alleged as the most ancient of human remains, as the cave at Aurignac, has its antiquity only proved by the presence of Elephas primigenius, Rhinoceros tichorinus, and perhaps Ursus spelaems. But the first and second have been found with the flesh on them frozen up in Siberia, and Ursus spelaeus does not appear to be more geologically ancient, and similar species are found in Market Weighton in Yorkshire with existing local species of fresh water shells. So that there is nothing in the extinction of the species to prove any geological antiquity of man. It is as likely the beasts were late, as that man was early. As to Albeville, Elie de Beaumont, President of the French Geological Society, declares the strata to be quite recent ones.
There is another point, whether Lyell’s system of the progressive effect of subsisting causes, acting with the power which they yet do, or that of other geologists of great catastrophes, is the right one. Our Essayists embrace Lyell’s, and of course treat it as a settled point, as they ever do when it suits them. I judge with many (I believe most) English geologists, that, admitting the possibility of catastrophes, in general similar powers have been in operation, but in a far higher degree. It is absurd to compare the elevation of a mountain, such as Jorullo in Mexico, of sixteen hundred feet high, formed in seventeen hundred and fifty nine, with the Alps, Pyrenees, Himalayas, or its own kindred Cordilleras. Sir R. Murchison justly warns his readers more than once against comparing them; he calls them infinitely more intense. And if we are to believe D’Orbigny, the geologist who has most diligently searched into the subject in detail in France (confirmed he says by all his researches in South Armenia and elsewhere), no species survived these catastrophes. These last he enumerates, giving the species belonging to the periods between them. If I have rightly apprehended his statements, there were a few species the same after the last catastrophe as before. He connects these catastrophes, not simply with volcanic action, but with the breaking of the earth’s crust as the earth cooled. It is only in the very latest that we get difference of climates connected with latitude.
W. But why should they find that suit them?
H. Because then miracles, by a faint analogy, are merged in the operation of ordinary causes.
W. Dear, what a poor and unsolid foundation to build on!
H. Yes, but it shuts out a living intervention of God in men’s matters, and that is their great object. God may give an impulsion, but the intervention or intercourse with a living God does not suit the dignity or independence of man.
W. In result, where do you think, supposing there are Hypo-zoic, and Palaeozoic, and Mesozoic, and Kainozoic periods, they come in in the first of Genesis?
H. I have no kind of opinion or moral objection to the system of the days being lengthened periods, but it seems to me somewhat forced; McCausland’s (a barrister of Dublin) is the cleverest book on the subject.6 And I have heard another thought expressed by a christian friend, that the day is an actual day, the state produced by it being of unqualified duration; but I was not persuaded by it. The structure of the chapter itself and the connection of the parts lead me to take it, after the first verse, as a statement of the formation of our present world, or covsmo". Once we have seen the laborious efforts at cosmogony which occupied the heathen world, and that not one ever arrived at the simple fact of a creation, the force of Hebrews 11:3 becomes obvious; one sentence of revelation from God settled what all the profound elaborations of man never could arrive at; and, what is not very much to the honour of man’s intellect, once the fact is stated, there is the consciousness that it could not be otherwise. Yet, instead of the best and most probable account (as the Essay calls it) that could be given, it is in absolute opposition to the uniform and universal view of the matter in every known record. Ex nihilo nil fit was the admitted maxim. Nothing can come of nothing, whereas the divine maxim is, Ex nihilo omnia fiunt. Emanation, or, when the Grecian mind would not bear these oriental systems, the eternity of matter, taken for granted, was the only idea men had of the origin of the world.
Hence we have, In the beginning Elohim created the heavens and the earth—not the expanse simply, but in general and absolutely those objects we have before us: Eth hashamaim ve eth haarets. This great truth once laid down—whose importance redemption only surpasses, as indeed it does infinitely—what concerned man, the earth as we have it, was all man had to be taught by God. It would have been utterly unsuited to give a revelation to teach science, or to allude to it. The phenomena are explained, so far as it is needed to put what man saw before his soul as the work and ordering of God. What came between the first verse and the second does not enter into the object of the revelation; creation, and the forming of the present earth did.
As regards the words used, Maimonides has discussed them. He refers to Bara, Hasa, Chasa, and Yatsar. The last he affirms is never used of creating out of nothing, the three former may. I do not deny that bara may be used of what is not formed out of nothing, but it is not used for forming or moulding out of something. Bara speaks of the thing made as the absolute act of the Maker: the One who has simply caused it to be such. Hasa refers to the form into which it is put: he made it a man; but bara—he created—a man, or a whale. Yatsar refers directly to the material cause: he moulded something into a form (hence, yotser a potter). Bara refers to the efficient cause, hasa to the formal, yatsar to the material. Create and make quite sufficiently represent bara and hasa. I could not say a carpenter created a table: he made it. I could almost say Stephenson created railways, figuratively of course.
As to birds being formed out of the water, the margin would have removed the difficulty. The objection is either clap-trap or ignorance. Zung and De Wette both give gevögel fliege, “let fowl fly:” so the excellent Dutch, and Diodati’s Italian version; the English has followed the Septuagint and Latin; the Hebrew ve yoph yopheph in the second member of the verse seems plain enough. Perhaps remains of ancient prejudices may have led our Essayists to follow the learned Patrick, who says, that it is clear fishes and birds have the same origin, for they both lay eggs, and both guide themselves with their tails!
W. Well, that is naïf enough, at any rate. What strange creatures we are! But you think, then, that the whole geological period, if such there be, comes between verses 1 and 2.
H. Would come; for the object of the chapter is to treat, as I have said, the fact of creation, that everything is made out of nothing; and then, our present earth, and nothing else. Hence, in the second verse, He confines Himself to the earth. The earth was toku vohu. There is no idea of the heavens being in this state; and I confess I should not suppose chaos to have been a first creation of God. It looks like the result of some catastrophe. Here all the Orphic, Grecian, and Phoenician cosmogonies begin, and the Romans, as in the lines well known to boys, “Ante mare et terras et quod tegit omnia coelum, Unus erat toto naturae vultus in orbe, Quern dixere chaos.” Only they personify, in general, chaos, and erebus (or darkness), the mundane egg coming out of the former. We get the historical fact here (primeval creation properly speaking being distinct), chaos. They personify in general chaos, darkness, the waters, and the Vishnu Narayana of the Hindus. (I refer to those only to shew where the traditions fall into the ranks.) The Spirit of God moves upon them.
Now comes the fiat of God upon this scene of darkness. Darkness, mark, was only on the face of the deep. “And God said, Let there be light, and there was fight.” He spake, and it was done. This was the great fact. But God distinguished darkness and light, and there was night and day. The how is not said—we can well believe, by the turning of the earth round, which would suppose a fixed light; but God is not teaching science, nor is it mere observation, for observation would have led to speak of the sun, which, every one knows, lights the earth. Moses’s is not the most probable account. The difficulty is one unnecessarily created by the writer in apparent divergence from what every one sees and knows. The difficulty overthrows the theory of infidels. The writer departs from the evident and apparent phenomena, not to raise mystic fables, but to state a singular fact gratuitously, if it were not a revelation.
Then the expanse is formed, or for a Jew the first heaven, as we see it. God set it over the earth. It is spoken of as we speak of it. Rakiang is an expanse, but there is no definition of it. Firmament is merely a word taken from the Septuagint and Latin. God produced what we see daily, this blue sky over our heads, and call sky, and heaven. It is not mere empty space, as our Essayist says: all but what the sun shone on would be pitch dark if it were, and the bottom viewed in a telescope is black. It is the air which is blue, yet we all say blue sky, and so on. It sufficed to say, that what was thus before us God had so ordered.
I am not aware that the waters above the heavens are more than the supplies of rain in the clouds. It has been alleged, that there was no rain till the Deluge, and that these waters came down then. It may be so. I see no proof of it.
Earth now comes out of the waste to be fruit-bearing. The notion that there were no heavens till the present sky was formed, the atmospheric heavens, is an utter mistake. We left the heavens as distinct from the earth behind us in verse i, to speak only of the earth and what referred to it. This was the heathen idea, as may be seen in Ovid. The Mosaic account is much more just and true, when none else was. It distinguishes the empyrean heavens from the atmospheric heavens. In heathenism, man spoke; in scripture, God. The word used for what was now formed is not what is spoken of in the great act of creation; it is expanse. But this has the name of heaven, and that only is said, and this is true now. The rakiang is called heaven, and it is quite right it should be. Do I not rightly say, I shall go up to heaven? I do not excommunicate a man for believing there are antipodes; but I should think a man who should tell me, “I must not say go up to heaven, because my friend in New Zealand or Australia would then go down,” a very unprofitable and foolish person. Moral ideas are associated With physically unscientific ones; and I am afraid we shall speak and sing of the sun’s rising and setting, and the moon’s waxing and waning, though the advanced science of rationalists in the happy age that is coming may have convinced incipient philosophers at National Schools that it is all a mistake, that suns do not set or rise, nor moons wax or wane. We are set in a system where these phenomena are meant to act on us, a wondrous world of images which are more true than science, because mind is more real than matter. And in moral things (and the scripture is throughout a moral book) God speaks to us according to this, not according to the (after all) petty discoveries of science. I call it petty, because it is only occupied with material things. All knowledge is the proof of ignorance: for what a man has learnt he did not know before; yet, if he has rightly learnt it, it was before, and he did not know it.
W. Is that all you make of man and his powers?
H. That is all. As Pascal has said, “All matter never produced a thought, and all intellect never produced charity.” As to the day that is now before us, it is a mistake of the Essayists that fruit-trees and seed-bearing plants are first noticed. Grass, the green herb, is first noticed, which was not given for man’s use. Of course the divine account does not set about botanizing to study what are the best kinds for man or beast. God created all. All are respectively given, and what is best is used. It is the fact of Elohim’s making the beautiful clothing of this earth, and trees, and herbs to reproduce themselves, which is noticed as the great general fact.
We now arrive at what is the great difficulty presented to us, but which I have partly anticipated—God’s making lights for day and night. I repeat what I said: if this be not a revelation, it is a difficulty gratuitously created for himself by the writer; if it be a revelation, he must give it as he received it; and this explains why it is thus set forth. If it be not a revelation, it is perfectly inexplicable why He should have made light, and fights for day and night distinct things; for every one knows day and night come from the rising and setting of the sun. That it ever was otherwise must be a matter of revelation. But as a phase of truth the difference is great: light in itself is not a light, a governing central power that has light in it; and it is in this way it is brought before us here. Some doubts have arisen as to the sun’s atmosphere in the mind of the distinguished French astronomer, who observed the last total (or, at any rate, annular) eclipse in Spain; but we may take it as an admitted fact, that the sun, as a body, forming a centre of gravity for the planetary system, is not in itself necessarily a light. The reproduction of light, before, was only to dissipate the darkness that brooded on chaos. Now we have a beautiful centre of order identified with light, Just as Christ could speak of truth and say, “I am the truth.” Nor, while taking the historical parts of scripture as plain facts, are their analogies of no import. Imagination may play us false; but that there is a world of images of truth the most stupid can hardly deny. Scripture is full of it. Language is formed on it. The mind of man is bred and fashioned in it. You must make him a materialist and a brute with physical wants (that is, destroy his higher nature), if you set aside this. You cannot utter a sentence without it, unless on mere material subjects. God has taken this up in the highest way. He is light. The right hand of His power makes all equal. His eyes run to and fro through the earth. No one is deceived by it, no more than they are by going up into heaven. They are taught by it. What is, strictly, materially inexact gives more truth than the contrary. Destroy it, and God cannot communicate with man, for he has not the same nature; nor man with man as a moral man. Language, the wonderful though imperfect expression of thought and feeling, ceases to serve man as a moral being.
W. But you take this Mosaic account of creation as literally true.
H. Undoubtedly; but I do not doubt it is so framed, as the world is of which it speaks, as to furnish images for higher relations. If the facts were not there, the images would not. If there were no cleanness, I could not speak of the heart being clean; but the last is a figure. Remember this, that science, however useful, is material. Phenomena, on the contrary, are connected with the higher and divine part of man; and these are for all the world. I do not believe, while no doubt demonstrating the wonderful works of God, that Lord Ross’s telescope has awakened a higher feeling than breathed in the heart of the shepherd of Bethlehem, when, keeping his flock in the fields by night, he viewed the heavens, the work of God’s hands, the moon and the stars which He had ordained, and God gave him to image out that Second and perfect man as the answer to his wants and aspirations, who should be crowned with glory and honour, and have all things put under His feet. Perhaps the first man may exalt himself by the discoveries which prove how litde he is; but what has he gained by it?
I believe fully God set at this time the sun and the moon to be for signs and seasons and years, and to make day and night; but they are viewed here solely in this aspect towards the earth, and only as lights. God made the two great lights, eth shenee hameoroth, and God gave them as such. There is no creation of the bodies. There is the establishment of the phenomena, and their purpose. Hence, when he speaks of the stars, he only takes care to remind us, that God had made them too. Instead of men’s worshipping them, God had distributed them to all men under heaven; but, as not having any other place with this earth, it is simply left in that way.
We have no revelation of the creation of angels. Man, Israel, is to be instructed as to what they were in danger of abusing, and told how it came from God. It is not, as Hugh Miller thought, a vision, or the impression of it related, but phenomena put in their right place in man’s mind, or God as to the phenomena. And that is what we want.
W. It makes it very simple and infinitely more important when we see it in this light. I quite feel it would be utterly out of place to make of a revelation a course of science. Yet the distinction of creation, and the arranging the present order, the covsmo", of which Moses could have had no natural knowledge, leaves all discoveries of science their own place. It supposes a knowledge of them which God only could have, and yet does not take the mind from what was before it in all ages, and important for the development of truth in all ages, and the true condition of the masses in reference to God and the creation at all times. In this I see what is wholly divine in this account. There must be love and purpose in God’s revelations: and in revelations to man, that love and that purpose must refer to man while it reveals God; and this the first of Genesis does admirably. It seems to me, as indeed I do not doubt it is, perfect in this respect.
H. Surely it is. And the question between us and the rationalists is, not whether the scripture gives scientific knowledge— most surely it does not; but whether its contents are God’s thoughts or man’s thoughts of the subject it treats of. It does give us man’s thoughts when man stands responsible (and that of course it must do to have a full moral picture), but God’s view and thoughts of all this scene, with the perfection of man in Christ, but a second man. In the case before us, in this most simple account, we have all the needed phenomena on which man speculated ascribed to the right source, and put in their place, and all man’s thoughts met. Elsewhere we have man’s thoughts, schemes of emanations, personifications, and theories. One little chapter answers them all divinely.
W. I feel thoroughly satisfied as to the divine and perfect character of this account as given by revelation. It seems to me that it bears the stamp of a revelation on itself. The review of human systems shews evidently that it was not the product of man’s mind.
H. I would notice only now a few statements of our Essay to shew its fallacy. Many such have been noticed in our general review of the subject. It is stated, that theologians should have accepted frankly the principle, that those things for the discovery of which man has faculties specially provided are not fit objects for a divine revelation. All quite right; I quite agree with this. But it does not touch the question. I have not even to discover the sun, nor the stars, nor the moon; but what man never did discover, but lost when he had it, was, that God had made the sun, the moon, and stars. Instead of which, man took them for gods and worshipped them. That God in mercy should give a revelation to deliver man from this, even though he was without excuse, is very worthy of God.
But now mark the consequences these reasoners draw: “Had this been unhesitatingly done, either the definition and idea of divine revelation must have been modified, and the possibility of an admixture of error been allowed; or such parts of the Hebrew writings as were found to be repugnant to fact must have been pronounced to form no part of revelation.” Now this conclusion is totally false. If objects of scientific discovery are not proper objects of revelation, the conclusion is not by any means that there is error in scripture, but that what is a revelation does not set about to reveal them, and therefore has no occasion to be in error about them.
The writer’s statement amounts to this: there is a revelation which God has given, and as scientific facts are not a proper subject of revelation, therefore there is error in the revelation God has given. I should have thought, as God was the revealer and there Could be no other, that if they were not objects of revelation, He would not have revealed anything about them, not that He must have been in error. If He revealed anything and there be error, He must have known the truth of it, and have wilfully deceived. If He has not revealed any object of scientific discovery, the position falls to the ground. I have found no revelation of Cephalopodes, or Trilobites, or Megalotheria, Megalosaurias, and Ichthyosaurias or huge Pterodactyls. Man has discovered them. I am not aware of any revelation on an object of science. I find the word of God as to natural things resting on the ground of phenomena, and God correcting the horrible wanderings of men’s minds, by revealing Himself, whom man never discovered as the Creator of all. Let man resolve nebula with his telescopes, and find they are composed of stars. Scripture tells us that He made the stars also. Let him discover, if he can, that the whole world is made up of infusoria, if revelation be not true, he dies and becomes part of it in his turn. We must distinguish between the facts of geology and the conclusions of geologists. I admit the former; the latter are extremely uncertain, in some respects impossible to be true. There is nothing to conciliate, as I have said. The facts of geology are there. Scripture, which does not reveal scientific facts, is totally silent as to them, but leaves a gap which may have been filled by millions of years when we were not: but it does tell us the origin of the world (which no man could find out—so horribly stupid was man without a revelation), namely, that God made it. If He did not, who did?
Our writer would have us learn from the history of man what God’s procedure has been. History! where? India, or Egypt, or from the Edda, or Ahriman and Ormuzd? Where am I to find the history? The vast, vast majority of the world were in the most horrible state possible: is it from that I am to learn God’s procedure towards man? Did God give him Kali, and Juggan-nath, or the Grand Lama, or Khem, and Yoni-Lingams, and Brahms? Where is this procedure? What history is it found in? History! Go to it, and see what man is. I do not say books of philosophy, though they are bad enough (and how truly judged in Romans 2!) but history, ay, rationalists, history! What a God you must have, if that be His procedure with man! And alas! our cosmogonists are only returning to what the first of Genesis brought the believer in it out of; for, “here geology steps in and successfully carries back the history of the world’s crust” (think of that!) “to a very remote period, until it arrives” (where do you think?) “at a region of uncertainty, where philosophy is reduced to mere guesses and probabilities, and pronounces nothing definite.” What a satisfactory result—successfully arriving at a region of uncertainty! How these men tell the truth about themselves! Divine philosophy, occupied with the earth’s crust till it successfully arrives at uncertainty! but, if reduced to guesses, it will guess: and, “to this region belong the speculations which have been ventured upon, as to the original concretion of the earth and planets out of nebular matter” (is there such a thing?) “of which the sun may have been the nucleus.” It must have been a prodigious comet to have been concentrated into the sun, for they have no sensible power of gravity at all; but let that pass. Who made the nebula? The Hindoo could set the world on an elephant, and the elephant on a tortoise (his back was tolerably suited for it); but the tortoise on—a guess perhaps. Mr. Godwin would be greatly benefited by one text of scripture, in which there is no scientific fact:—“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”
As regards carnivorous animals, and one man and one woman, the fact is a question of God’s power. It is distinctly stated, that herbs were given for food to the beasts of the field, not clearly from ignorance, for lions were eating men in Moses’ time, but, with the deliberate intention of alleging a revelation, Moses contradicts the whole existing order of facts as to animals. He had no need to be a comparative anatomist to know that there were wild beasts. He declares that at first they were given the green herb for food. Scripture gives us to understand they ate that in the ark, and speaks of it as representing the reign of peace. Whether God, who foreknew the fall, made them as they are, or whether they were changed in disposition and internal organization, I do not pretend to say (but I believe man fell the first day); but the passage is not ignorance of science, for no science was needed. It is a direct contradiction of universal experience, and professes to be a revelation. To say that it cannot be true is absurd. It is morally appropriate. All men had a tradition of a golden age of blessing. Plato said the beasts used to converse then:
“He did not ask Jean Jacques Rousseau
If beasts confabulate or no.”
As regards the single pair, Christ and His apostles, particularly Paul, speak of the first man and woman as alone; and all Paul’s doctrine is based on it. I am aware that our Essayists, and all their party, think themselves far wiser than the apostles; but, as the same Paul says, “not he that commendeth himself is approved.” I suppose they would have a little modesty as yet as to treating the Lord as a person of inferior wisdom; but the whole account in both chapters speaks, as the Lord says, of one man and one woman. He planted a garden, and there He put the man whom He had formed. He was alone, all the beasts subjected to him, but no companion; and then Eve taken out of his side: when fallen and driven out, he begets a son in his own image. It is not merely the doctrine of Paul, but the historical statement is as clear as possible. The fall and redemption are all set aside in the part of the essay I allude to.
I have already commented on the pretension that it is a second narrative. The whole subsequent history goes on the supposition that there was no other man. The whole moral meaning of the history is a brutum fulmen, if there were others. The history is written to shew an innocent man fallen and driven out, as the head of a race, from God. If this is not so, what does the history mean? Genesis is a book in which all the elements of the divine history are brought out, and anticipatively passed in review. In the first chapter the man is carefully spoken of in the singular, and then plural when the woman is added. It is quite evident that all kinds of traditions were afloat in the world as to creation, or formation rather; and when God called out a people, He informed them as to the origin of the world around them, put them into a right relationship to Himself as to it, and only spoke of it as far as that was needed; but did that, knowing everything and speaking according to that knowledge. We. may rest in peace in that. Discoveries may interest us deeply, like the discovery of antiquities of Celts or Saxons in an old castle we live in. Our own relationship with God flows from the revelation He has made of Himself in Christ.
At the same time, according to the ablest enquirers (as Prit-chard, Cuvier, and others), all races of men are derived from one stock. The American efforts to shew the contrary are excessively poor; contradictory as to Africa, and false as to America. Their object is to make of negroes another race. Livingstone’s facts go to shew their physical peculiarities to be a natural result of heat and damp. But I am content to be ignorant of its cause.
W. I am perfectly satisfied. I see as clearly as possible that the light we have in the first of Genesis is of God, not of man, and is suited to and worthy of God; that man was incapable of it in every way; that its silence and its eloquence are alike of Him; its wisdom, and the absence of all that is not simple or what might be called science; that it is silent as to the contrast, and yet distinguishes creation and formation in a way no man ever in fact was capable of, shewing an account coming from divine knowledge, and yet fitted to human ignorance in its most childhood days, yet giving all morally important and elevating for any of us, testing our faith in some things, and proving itself divine for the faith that is to be tried. I am satisfied that none but God could have given such an account, though I could not have so judged if I had not had it, and the Essayists could not have commented on it as they have done if they had not had it. What conclusions would have been drawn from the discoveries of geology, if Christianity had not come? What a comfort it is to know one has God’s own word, the communication of His thoughts and mind in the interest He takes in us!
H. In truth it is—I am glad you are satisfied.
W. Satisfied, yet ignorant of many things; but the tone and spirit of these Essayists are sufficient, it seems to me, to prove that they have no sense of the divine; and even the historical comparison we have made, brief as it has been, of human thoughts and divine revelation, is sufficient to stamp its true character in the latter.
Well, I suppose we must part for the present. If spared, we may perhaps take up some other point of the Essays, though some, from their occasional nature, hardly merit any notice.
6 Dr. Dawson’s book adopts this system.