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Revelations hitherto have always borne a certain relativity to the capacity of the recipient, and have never embraced knowledge within the reach of human research. But the question will be repeated, Is there a discordance? Speaking, I trust, in a most reverential spirit, and with that caution and humility which the case demands, I feel bound to say that no interpretation of the Mosaic Cosmogony, regarded as a description of the actual order and actual duration of the creative steps, has yet been proposed, which is at all satisfactory to those who by study and preparation of mind are most capable of forming a correct opinion1.
I think I may add, that an account which did assign the actual order and the actual duration of the successive creative steps, would not have been within the comprehension of a rude and unscientific age, and, to such an age, would have been rather the obscuration than the revelation of intelligible truths. Moreover experience has shewn that the Creator has endued his intelligent creatures with intellectual powers, certainly adequate to discover the order of the successive creative steps, and, it may be, even to approximate to their dura
1 This was most distinctly stated by Professor W. A. Miller in his recent address before the Congress of the Clergy at Wolverhampton in October, 1867. There are few philosophers whose opinions on this subject are more worthy of attention than Professor Miller's his wellknown attainments, moderation, and devoutness, command and received a respectful hearing.
tion in time. To this latter point I shall again
If I must proceed to further particulars, it shall be with reverence and hesitation: not because I am in the least degree undecided in my own opinion, but because I have neither the right nor the desire to speak dogmatically on so important and difficult a question. What I have written I desire to be regarded simply as a dutiful contribution to the supply of a public need:
Si quid ego adjuero, curamve levasso,
In the first place, I may be permitted to observe, that the Sacred Record of Creation, or, as I do not hesitate to believe it to be, the Divine Revelation, is not couched in the first person: it is not the Divine Creator Himself who speaks: whatever else it may be, it is a narrative in which the narrator is not the agent. In the second place, I observe that we learn from the Sacred Record itself, that on many occasions it was the Divine method to communicate knowledge, not within the reach of man's natural powers, by visions and by dreams. I shall not stop to give instances, they are familiar and they are abundant.
I would ask, then, Is it not highly probable that the account of the creative work would be revealed, if revealed at all, in the same way as other superhuman knowledge was revealed to Abraham, to
Jacob, to Samuel, to Ezekiel, to St John? If it was so revealed, was it not given by means of a vision or a series of visions? If so, then might we not, under the circumstances of the case, expect that the whole vision would be broken up into its several parts, and be presented in such an order as would be most suitable to the capacity of the ancient prophet, and to the capacities of those to whom he was to narrate the heavenly vision? In other words, Is it not conceivable that there was no original intention, on the part of the Revealer, to assign to the order of the visions, the order of the actual fact?
Again, if we conceive a series of visions on one and the same day or night, each exhibiting to the inspired prophet some one of the six creative processes, each vision commencing in gloom, then breaking forth into a visible picture, and then fading away, would not the natural, not to say the inevitable, description be 'evening was, and morning was, one day;' 'evening was, and morning was, a second day;' and so on to the end of the description? In this point of view, would not the term 'day' necessarily apply to the apparent duration of each step in the visional series, and bear no reference whatever to the duration of the actual creative step?
Admitting as I do, the foregoing hypothesis or interpretation, to be, to my own mind, at least an approximation to the truth of the case, then I see
therein nothing which jars or can jar, either against the revelations of Science, or against what I learn from the Sacred Scriptures, to have been the Divine procedure on other occasions when God has been pleased to communicate with man'. I see therein an instance, among ten thousand other instances, of the Great Father taking His child by the hand and, with the wisdom of love, leading him unto as much of the truth as his mind has the strength to bear. He has many things to say to His child, but the child cannot bear them now.
It is here that I stop; for it is by no means the main intention of the Lectures and Sermons in this Volume to enter upon the discussion of such topics. But before I quit the subject, I wish it to be clearly
1 Some of my readers, perhaps many of them, will be all the better satisfied with the orthodoxy of the interpretation which I have proposed, when they learn that some such an hypothesis does not jar on the mind of so devout and sensitive a Theologian as Dr Pusey. In the very able and very interesting Essay which he read to the Church Congress at Norwich in 1865, Dr Pusey writes as follows :—' Apart from details, I see no reason why the idea, familiar to the readers of Hugh Miller, that God spread before the mind of Moses pictures of His creative operation, out of time, should be less accordant with the mind of God the Holy Ghost than any other. A divine of very reverent mind has suggested to me the analogy, that the closing book of Revelations unfolds the future in a series of visions, without defining the time of the events in the future, whether contemporaneous or successive. The solemn rhythm, the picture character of the whole, would preclude one from laying down, that the past facts of creation were not exhibited to Moses in the same way as visions of a real future were opened to the later prophets, independently of time." It may be proper for me to add that the interpretation which I have proposed, in its details, differs very widely from that by Hugh Miller: it approximates more nearly to, though it is not identical with, that proposed by the Rev. E. Huxtable, in his reply to Mr Goodwin's Essay.
understood that I do not propose the foregoing interpretation as being in any great respect new: parts of it will be found scattered in various writers who have preceded me, but I have endeavoured to give, and I think I have given, a cohesion to the whole.
Regarding however the necessity or the advisability of at present offering any fresh contribution to the exegesis of this difficult portion of the Sacred Scriptures, I shall excuse myself by laying before the reader the opinions of two eminent writers, neither of whom is chargeable with deficiency in reverence, or caution, or information.
The late honoured and lamented Dr Whewell, under the heading of a Section, "When should old Interpretations be given up?" writes as follows': "But the question then occurs, What is the proper season for a religious and enlightened commentator to make such a change in the current interpretation of sacred Scripture? At what period ought the established exposition of a passage to be given up, and a new mode of understanding the passage, such as is, or seems to be, required by new discoveries respecting the laws of nature, accepted in its place? It is plain, that to introduce such an alteration lightly and hastily would be a procedure fraught with inconvenience; for if the change were made in such a manner, it might be afterwards discovered
1 Whewell's History of Scientific Ideas, Vol. II. p. 305: the whole section is worth perusal.