Page images
PDF
EPUB

INTRODUCTION,

It would be difficult for us to name a study more interesting than a history of the Earth, past and present; for by a peculiar and distinct chain of causation, it unites the present with the remote past; constantly urges us to look for the beginning of that state of things we have been contemplating; conducts us to the boundaries of physical science, and even gives us a glimpse of the regions beyond.

The Astronomer looks upon the heavens as the type of eternity and immortality. The crystal spheres and orbs which he once imagined to exist, are, so far as stability and uniformity are concerned, now no longer necessary. A few simple motions, results of one law, controled by one Power Divine, sustains the mighty fabric. The Geologist looks upon the heavens and upon the earth as but everlasting; he comprehends that a thousand changes may come over them, while still they move in their grand circles. To him the present configuration of land and sea is but one of the many changes through which the globe has passed, and he is prepared to admit that the whole human race may be swept away, and a new creation succeed; —such catastrophes have occurred. We ask in vain, whether other worlds are inhabited; no voice comes from those distant orbs to tell us of life, no eye can penetrate so far; we turn then with a renewed zeal to study “the science of the changes which have taken place in the organic and inorganic kingdoms of nature,” as developed on the surface of our own planet. The beginning; where shall the beginning be 7 We endeavor in vain to penetrate the almost sepulchral stillness and darkness of the primeval world, and trace with certainty the origin of things. All that we can possibly know is the simple

[ocr errors]

truth — “In the beginning, Jehovah created the heavens and the earth.” Certainly there was a day – Geology demonstrates this - when nothing but barren rock and wido spread waters covered the globe. Who but Jehovah called into being the successive races of animal and vegetable life, which have flourished and died? Whose eye but Jehovah's has seen the myriads of revolutions during which the immense fossil-bearing beds were deposicod? We cannot comprehend these things;

“Our noisy years seem moments in the being

Of the eternal silence." The granite pebble which we roll over, heedless and careless, is older by millions of years than the first created of our race; and when was that being created ? Questions like this, we are forced to say, we can no more answer, than we can tell the form, and number, of the inhabitants of the evening star.

- But though philosophers have never yet demonstrated, and perhaps never will be able to demonstrate, what was that primitive state of things in the social and material worlds from which the progressive state took its first departure ; - they can still, in all the lines of research, go very far back; - determine many of the remote circumstances of the past sequence of events ; — ascend to a point which from our position at least, seems to be near the origin ; - and exclude many suppositions respecting the origin ito self.' And this is the boundary of human knowledge.

« PreviousContinue »