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And Text to Text the full accordance bears,
Thus when she made the Church her hallowed shrine,
Mark, how each Creed stands in that Test reveald,
O holy Truth, whene'er thy voice is heard,
Save the obedient. From both love and hate,
* The Faery Queen, b. i. c. viii. 21.
+ B. i. c. i. 15.
The Editor begs to remind his readers that he is not responsible for the opinions
of his Correspondents.
FIRST CHAPTER OF GENESIS. Sir,- In the correspondence of the last Number of your Magazine, there appears a letter on the “ First Chapter of Genesis," of which, I think, all amateurs of geology have some reason to complain. I mean with regard to the statements contained in it, that those who differ from the writer's opinions on geological questions, “put the case in a most unchristianlike point of view,” and “ that our popular works of geology teach us that Moses tells us what is not true, and that the Bible is not to be believed.” Now these, sir, are grave charges, and should neither be lightly made, nor flippantly maintained.
Both the accusations, I conceive, rest upon the same groundnamely, upon the opinion of geologists, that the Mosaic account of the creation is not intended to be understood in the literal acceptation of the words. But I must utterly deny that such inferences as those above quoted can fairly be deduced from this position.
It is notorious that the facts which have been brought to light by geological investigation have caused a belief, that a vast and immeasurable period of time was employed in the gradual formation of the earth's crust, to be held by almost every one of the many eminent philosophers who have studied the science in this and other countries; and it will require something more than a short and hasty letter to disprove the evidence which has been brought forward to support and warrant their opinion.
From my own very limited and superficial knowledge of the subject, I am unable to do justice to the arguments on which the geological theory of the present day is founded ; nor is this the place for attempting to do so. Your correspondent has, doubtless, before pronouncing an unqualified condemnation on them, attentively studied and considered them.
However, as he brings forward no theory of his own to supersede, nor any tangible objection to destroy, the one now generally received, I will only observe, before noticing two or three passages in the letter, that the cause of true religion can be little benefited by shutting our eyes to the difficulties which may lie in our way, or by refusing to admit the fair interpretations of science, when they appear (for it can be only in appearance that they are so) to be inconsistent with the revealed word of God. I am ready to admit, that any facts which militate against the literal acceptation of any part of the holy Scriptures, even when they merely relate to matters of scientific information, are too likely to afford a stumbling-block to many; and, upon that account, their existence is to be lamented; but we cannot get rid of them by denying that they do exist.
We must take warning by the often-quoted case of Galileo, and remember that the same outcry which is now raised by well-intentioned persons against the inferences of geology, was formerly raised against his discoveries in astronomy; that the same hostile results to religion were then anticipated, and the same inflexible adherence to the letter of the Scripture was inculcated. Indeed, the doctrines now in question cannot be more contradictory to the literal account of creation, in the first chapter of Genesis, than the doctrine of the constant motion of the earth, and of the fixed station of the sun, is to the following passages, in the Book of Psalms, and the Book of Joshua. " He laid the foundations of the earth, that it never should move at any time,” Psalm civ. 5. “So the sun stood still in the midst of heaven, and hasted not to go down about a whole day," Josh. x. 13. And we have surely less excuse than the persecutors of Galileo, if we walk in their footsteps, without deriving any instruction from their example.
It may perhaps be conceded, that the geologists of the present day have been hasty in their generalizations, and that we hardly yet know enough upon the subject to enable us to establish a complete theory. But until some evidence is brought forward to confute the facts which are ascertained, and we are taught, by some other means, to account for the appearances which everywhere surround us, we must, I think, be permitted to believe that the Mosaic account is not intended to be received in its literal acceptation, without being told that we are “ “ unchristianlike," or that we assert that “the Bible is not to be believed.” I would remind your correspondent, that when he assumes “ that the surface of the earth, which man now inhabits, was, before the flood, for the most part, the bottom of the former seas,” he is, as far as Scripture informs us on the subject, not only unsupported by it, but opposed to it. Witness the description of the rivers of Paradise and Mount Ararat. Further, that death had not existed in the animal kingdom before the fall of man, is by no means an uncommon opinion; and though probably an erroneous one, still hardly deserving to be stigmatized as “ too absurd an idea for a child to entertain.” And, in regard to its being contrary to our notions of Divine justice, that ani. mals should ever suffer for the guilt of man, your correspondent may, perhaps, remember, that, in the destruction of Jericho, “ they utterly destroyed all that was in the city, both man and woman, young and old, and ox, and sheep, and ass ; * that the orders given to Saul were to “ go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not, but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass.”+ And that in the last and most fearful of the plagues of Egypt, # “ the Lord smote all the first-born in the land of Egypt, from the first-born of Pharaoh, that sat on his throne, unto the first-born of the captive that was in the dungeon, and all the firstborn of cattle.” Indeed, his position is so far from being borne out by Scripture, that from these, and many similar instances, we may fairly assert the contrary to it, and say, that though we do not see, and may not presume to question the justice of the dispensation, animals are most frequently, if not always, involved in the judicial punishments of a general nature inflicted upon mankind. Another statement is, that the Mosaic account “clearly and determinately limits the work of creation to six natural days.” Can this reasonably be maintained, when three of these days were before the creation of the sun ? Again, that God caused the earth to bring forth briars and thorns,“ in mercy to man,” and “to find him employment,” is not exactly the sense in which one would understand the words, “Cursed is the ground for thy sake. In sorrow shalt thou eat of it. Thorns also, and thistles, shall it bring forth to thee.” Lastly, it is with some surprise that I find your correspondent, after enjoining the most rigid adherence to Scripture in matters of natural philosophy, summing up his statement by telling us, (he is speaking of animated nature,) “that he firmly believes all the links of this beautiful chain to have been perfect from the very first day of creation."
Josh. vi. 21.
* I Sam. xv. 3.
Exodus xii. 29.
These few passages, sir, are picked out almost at random, and are noticed only to shew your correspondent that, even in his letter, there are some passages not strictly in accordance with the letter of the Bible. With regard to the geological views which he entertains, they are scarcely sufficiently defined to afford grounds for criticism or remark. He will, I hope, take these observations in good part, and may feel assured that they are only written as a protest, in reply to the charges which he has brought forward against the advocates of the received geological theory. And he will in future, I trust, believe that people may be opposed to his notions of philosophy, and yet cordially agree with him in belief of the Holy Scriptures, and in anxiety to promote the cause of Christianity.
BIBLE, PRAYER-BOOK, AND HOMILY SOCIETY. SIR,—To aid, to the extent of his ability, in the widest possible dispersion of the Holy Scriptures and the formularies of the church, is, unquestionably, the duty of every member of the church of England. To the existing channels for the accomplishment of this work many persons entertain different objections. Some, questioning the lawfulness, and others the expediency, of co-operating with those who have separated from the church, are unwilling to attach themselves to the British and Foreign Bible Society, or to its offset, the Trinitarian Bible Society; and many who have hitherto supported the former would, it is believed, withdraw their support, if there were any existing institution having a similar object in view, to which they might attach themselves without any scruples of conscience. The Society for promoting Christian Knowledge has, indeed, turned its attention to the translation of the Scriptures into foreign languages; but this is only of very recent occurrence ;—and the character and tendency of many of the tracts which have long been on the list of that society are such as to deter many persons from becoming members of it.
Alterations in this respect are going on; but these, if carried to any great extent, may have the effect, it is intimated, of driving many of the old members from it; so that neither of the parties in the church is likely to be fully satisfied with this society. The Prayer-Book and
Homily Society, of course, confines its operations to but one of the objects mentioned above.
The funds of this society, it appears, are now completely exhausted. Is there not, then, an opening made for the formation of a new society, which shall have for its object the distribution of the bible, prayerbook, homilies, and other formularies of the church, such as the thirty-nine articles, the canons, and ordination services, both at home and abroad, in the various languages of the world; and the management and membership of which shall be restricted to members of the church of England.
To such a society as this there can surely be no objection in the minds of churchmen. The object of it being so clearly defined, the circulation of books to which they (the clergy at least) have frequently declared their unfeigned assent and consent, they may in such a society merge all their differences, and act with a harmony which it is vain to look for in any association for the distribution of tracts. Of course it is not supposed that the establishment of such an institution will have the effect of dissolving any existing institution which has other objects. While the members of it will be at liberty to attach themselves, according to their theological predilections, to societies which distribute tracts, there will be one in which all members of the church may unite, and strengthen her hands by their combined efforts. Here will be one where churchmen may meet without collision, and where personal intercourse, for the prosecution of an object which has their unqualified approbation, may greatly promote Christian unity.
I am, Sir,
IRENÆUS. March 29, 1836.
ON THE ANTIQUITY OF WRITING. Sir,—The oldest authentic notice of writing occurs in the history of the Israelites after their departure from Egypt, and before the giving of the law at Mount Sinai; but the art at that time was already in a high state of perfection. Besides the costly and laborious process of engraving letters on metal, stone, and jewels, they possessed the cheaper and more commodious method of writing in a book. Indeed, the very first incidental allusion shews that the latter practice was already in common use; and the attention is drawn, not to instructions concerning the fundamental principle of alphabetic characters, but solely to the subject of the communication, “And the Lord said unto Moses, Write this for a memorial in a book, and rehearse it in the ears of Joshua; for I will utterly put out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven." (Exod. xvii. 14.) This occurred at Rephidim, in the second month after the Exodus, and before entering the wilderness of Sinai. In the third month, whilst the children of Israel were encamped before Mount Sinai, it is related that “ Moses wrote all the words of the Lord; and he took the book of the covenant, and read in the audience of the people,” (xxiv. 4–7.) It was subsequently to all these transactions that “the Lord said unto Moses, Come up to me in the mount, and I will give thee tables of stone