Scientific Aspect (d)

The general idea which we gather from all these considerations is certainly in accordance with the thought of the present order of things, as dating from this glacial period. Traces of man’s existence, it is acknowledged, have not been found before it; and the words of a well­known text-book, however much they may be modified in the writer’s mind, nevertheless are quite suited to convey to us the thought of a new creation dating from this time. "In process of time," says Dr. Page, describing the close of the glacial period, "the land was elevated to its present level ; another distribution of sea and land took place, and the glacial epoch passed away. A new flora and fauna suitable to these new conditions were then established in Europe ; and these, with the exception of a few which have since become extinct, are the species which now adorn our forests and people our fields." He qualifies this, in some measure, directly afterward, but the broad fact he allows and the question is, whether these facts really need to be taken with any abatement.

But we have now to consider a difficult question—as to what is the extent of the earth’s surface to which these glacial phenomena are limited. Here we have to remember how much, unfortunately, geological researches have been limited to Europe and North America. Of South America we know little ; of Africa, less of large tracts of Asia, very little indeed. It is easy, therefore, to take, as geologists so often remind us for another purpose, the limit of our knowledge as the limit of the phenomena in question themselves. Yet, imperfect as research has been outside of the fields already indicated, even these have furnished us with some indications that, according to Agassiz’s own belief, the glacial winter was cosmic. The boulder-drift into Lebanon, the boreal shells noticed by Sir Chas. Lyell as occurring in the Sicilian seas, the drift found on the Himalayas, with Agussiz’s observations (if admitted) of similar phenonema in the valley of the Amazon, all point in one direction. We have also very clear testimony to the fact that even for long after, many parts that are now dry land were submerged. In Asia, Siberia, and the extent of ground covered by that "northern Mediterranean," of which the Caspian Sea and the Sea of Aral are the present remainder ; in North Africa, the Sahara, which is still covered with recent shells. Siberia and northern Asia have been, in fact, rising apparently to the present day, and the large mass of the northern Asiatic continent gradually drying up. Europe, according to the evidence, was to a comparatively late geologi cal period a cluster of islands lather than a continent, and the scriptural designation of the "isles of the Gentiles" would seem to be the record of a historical fact. All these things point to a submergence, the extent of which, indeed, then they do not indicate. But if we follow in the direction to which they lead us, it is natural to ask ourselves, Supposing that the full extent of what Scripture indicates were admitted to have taken place, what proofs should we be likely to have more than just such proofs as in fact we have? As to the occurrence of ice, the Scripture - narrative, in fact, says nothing. The strictly glacial phenonena may have been limited to either side of forty degrees from the equator. The question would still remain, Supposing a complete submergence, what proofs should we expect to find of such a condition?

The existing evidences are of two kinds only:—The first, the occurrence of sea-beaches as the laud rose, more or less intermittently, from the ocean ; the second, the occurrence of marine shells or other evidences of sea-life. In a condition corresponding to the waste and desolate time indicated in the first of Genesis, neither of these evidences could be expected to be found. If life were absent, this of course would be wanting, save only as it might consist of traces of a condition which had then pasted away. Sea-beaches could not exist without the sea was every where. Thus as it would seem, all that we expect to find would be the evidences of its condition prior to or succeeding one of complete submergence. Just such marks we do assuredly find.

There is another question that might be raised here,- whether in fact the land sank, or the water rose. It is a little difficult to imagine the sinking of a large mass of whole continents, nay, of the northern portion of the northern hemisphere altogether, and this with a similar state of things apparently in the southern. Whether strictly contemporaneous or not, we of course have no means of deciding. Hitchcock has remarked on the singularity of the existing sea-beaches ot North America being so perfectly horizontal as they are, and inclined apparently on this account to believe in the rise of the water rather than the subsidence of the land. It must have been, in fact, a singular force, apparently unknown to geology, which could lift a large part of a continent out of the deep in so steady and equable a manner. With the thought of a rise of water, Scripture, as we have seen, is in complete accordance. Whether it necessitates such view or not is another question. If, however, the water rose, it follows of necessity that the whole earth was covered, and thus the condition indicated in Scripture would be fully made out.

Upon these facts, such as they are, we may at least rest the conclusion that the six-days’ work of the first of Genesis was in fact the renewal of the earth after the close of the glacial period, and the repeopling with the forms of life which at present exist. As to the most of these, there can scarcely be a question that they date, so far as the evidence goes, from the glacial period; and upon no other ground than that of evolution could the conclusion be possibly escaped that creative power was here for the last the displayed. Creation may be unknown to Science; in fact, we do not expect her to know any thing about it. The traces of it she can only find in the sudden appearance of the products of creation. Science assuredly knows no more of evolution than it does of creation. the only difference is, that in the matter of the origination of life from combinations of mere matter, and in that of the alleged transmutation of species, all the facts of the existing world are confessedly against it. If former periods were unstable, we have a most remarkable stability as the present result of it, and the efforts to obtain some proof of evolution have only succeeded the more in bringing out this. But between evolution (that is to say, natural causation) and creation there is no middle ground. Science, therefore, so far as it can be expected to testify, testifies in favour of the latter and against the former. With this we may have abundant reason to be content. With men’s hypotheses we have nothing to do. Arguments derived from our ignorance, and from those regions which are beyond the reach of the microscope or the chemist’s tests, we may safely leave, as proving the animus of the reasoners rather than the capability of reasoning.

On the other hand, we must not expect geology to do duty for revelation. We accept the statement of the latter on the ground of the abundant proof we have of revelation itself. All that can be demanded is, that the facts of science should not manifestly contradict the statements of revelation. But here we must remember that theorists, alas I can even manufacture facts, when only the will is sufficiently strong to demand it. Mr. Lewis, a most unexceptionable witness, for instance, will tell us "the psychological law that we only see what interests us, and only assimilate what is fitted to our condition, causes the mind to select its evidence;" and that he only hopes for the reception of his views by those "who by previous culture and native disposition have been prepared for a sympathetic attitude Unless the attitude of mind be sympathetic, there would be stubborn resistance to what otherwise would be clearest evidence." So Prof. Tyndal also remarks, "The desire to establish or avoid a certain result can so warp the mind as to destroy its power of estimating facts. I have known men to work for years under a fascination of this kind." But for such considerations as these we need scarcely appeal to any class of writers. We all of us know how the head is influenced by the heart; how, according to a common proverb, "where there is a will there is a way," in almost any direction. the facts to which people often so undoubingly appeal have therefore to be questioned, not only as to how far they bear out the views for which they are appealed to, but even as to how far the views may be the parents of the facts; and this without any conscious dishonesty, nay, with the greatest desire, apparently, for nothing but truth. I conclude, then, once more, although it is but a conclusion, not at all admitted as upon the same ground as the positive statement of Scripture, that the present state of things dates back to its beginning in that period which, as a scientific writer believes, occurred seven thousand years ago; a the sufficiently near to Scripture chronology, when the glacial period came to its end. I believe that in this, Scripture and science are really harmonious, although it would be idle to affirm that the evidence, as we have it at present, is altogether unconvincing.

I would close with one or two considerations drawn from the study of the geological record itself, and in which it seems to me to harmonize, in the most distinct way, with some teachings of Scripture. First, it is evident from geology alone that the earth is found in a more developed condition the more we approach the historic centre from which man originally came. No naturalist doubts timat the general character of the fauna and flora of Australia is lower in type than that of America; but even in America we find still the marsupials which pertained to a former condition of things in Europe, long since passed away. Thus Australia, America, and the great continent of Europe—Asia are allowed to illustrate three successive stages of geological progress, while the last alone seems to hare furnished man with his domestic animals, and with his principal means of subsistence otherwise. The whole earth does not seem thus to have been got equally ready for his reception, but a special part of it only; and with this announcement of geology Scripture accords in the fullest way.

It teaches that man was placed under probation on earth, and as the head of creation, which depended upon him for blessing or for curse ; and that accordingly not the whole earth, but paradise alone, was as yet prepared for him. Had he stood, the whole earth might have become a paradise ; but, apart from all speculation, it is plain that the whole earth was not Eden, but only the place where man was put; and this is quite in accord with this, that at further and further distances it should be found still less and less developed. Here, certainly, is a remarkable and unexpected coincidence between the teacimings of science and the inspired Word.

But it by no means ends here. As already noted, there was an apparent return of the cold to a considerable extent after man was upon the earth, and along with this, a brief period of submersion also, which so good an anthority as Principal Dawson conceives to correspond with the biblical deluge. After this, the land rose, the climate became milder, and the so-called glacial period passed away.

Here, again, is a witness of geology to Scripture; for it is evident that according to the latter as to the ground after the deluge - in that world which came up from the waters, with which God entered into covenant anew - there was an amelioration of a former condition. "This same shall comfort us," says Lameeh, alluding to the name of his son just born, "concerning our work and the toil of our hands, because of the earth whi ch the Lord has cursed." And after the flood, when God smelled in the sacrifice a "savour of rest," He says, "I will not again curse the ground for man’s sake; while the earth remaineth, seed-time and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night, shall not cease." How remarkably appropriate such language at the close, not of a deluge only, but of a glacial period which had forbidden seed-time and harvest and summer-heat to a large part of what is now man’s pleasantest abode!

Let us close with the adoring remembrance that fruitful seasons are now not alone, or principally, signs of God’s goodness; He has given His Son. In Christ His love has been manifested in such a way that all vail is forever removed. If the glory of Christ be hidden to men, alas "the vail is upon their hearts."