Edward Hitchcock.

The religion of geology and its connected sciences online

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altered, and beautiful abode for man, to be built from the ruins of his
former dwelling-place, as the future habitation of the pious, (Rev. xxi.
1.) This will be very much in the same way as a more perfect and an
immortal body will be reared from the body which we now
possess." - _Theology_, vol. ii. p. 649.

From Dr. Chalmers my extracts will be longer than are necessary to show
his opinion upon this subject, because he felicitously refutes certain
erroneous ideas, widely prevalent, respecting matter, and spirit. "We know
historically," says he, "that earth, that a solid, material earth, may
form the dwelling of sinless creatures, in full converse and friendship
with the Being who made them." "Man, at the first, had for his place this
world, and, at the same time, for his privilege an unclouded fellowship
with God, and for his prospect an immortality, which death was neither to
intercept nor put an end to. He was terrestrial in respect to condition,
and yet celestial, both in respect of character and enjoyments.

"The common imagination that we have of paradise on the other side of
death, is that of a lofty aerial region, where the inmates float in ether,
or are mysteriously suspended upon nothing; where all the warm and
sensible accompaniments, which give such an expression of strength, and
life, and coloring to our present habitation, are attenuated into a sort
of spiritual element, that is meagre and imperceptible, and utterly
uninviting to the eye of mortals here below; where every vestige of
materialism is done away, and nothing left but certain unearthly scenes,
that have no power of allurement, and certain unearthly ecstasies with
which it is felt impossible to sympathize. The holders of this imagination
forget all the while that there is no necessary connection between
materialism and sin; that the world which we now inhabit had all the
solidity and amplitude of its present materialism before sin entered into
it; that God, so far, on that account, from looking slightly upon it,
after it had received the last touch of his creating hand, reviewed the
earth, and the waters, and the firmament, and all the green herbage, with
the living creatures, and the man whom he had raised in dominion over
them, and _he saw every thing that he had made, and behold, it was all
very good_. They forget that, on the birth of materialism, when it stood
out in the freshness of those glories which the great Architect of nature
had impressed upon it, that _the morning stars sang together, and all the
sons of God shouted for joy_. They forget the appeals that are every where
made in the Bible to his material workmanship, and how, from the face of
these visible heavens, and the garniture of this earth which we tread
upon, the greatness and goodness of God are reflected on the view of his
worshippers. No, my brethren, the object of the administration we sit
under is to extirpate sin, but it is not to sweep away materialism. By the
convulsions of the last day it may be shaken and broken down from its
present arrangement, and thrown into such fitful agitations as that the
whole of its existing framework shall fall to pieces; and with a heat so
fervent as to melt the most solid elements, may it be utterly dissolved.
And thus may the earth again become without form and void, but without one
particle of its substance going into annihilation. Out of the ruins of
this second chaos may another heaven and another earth be made to arise,
and a new materialism, with other aspects of magnificence and beauty,
emerge from the wreck of this mighty transformation, and the world be
peopled, as before, with the varieties of material loveliness, and space
be again lighted up into a firmament of material splendor.

"It is, indeed, a homage to that materialism, which many are for expunging
from the future state of the universe altogether, that, ere the immaterial
soul of man has reached the ultimate glory and blessedness designed for
it, it must return and knock at the very grave where lie the mouldered
remains of the body which it wore, and there inquisition must be made for
the flesh, and the sinews, and the bones which the power of corruption
has, perhaps centuries before, assimilated to the earth around them, and
then the minute atoms must be reassembled into a structure that bears upon
it the form, and lineaments, and general aspect of a man, and the soul
passes into this material framework, which is hereafter to be its
lodging-place forever; and that not as its prison, but as its pleasant and
befitting habitation; not to be trammelled, as some would have it, in a
hold of materialism, but to be therein equipped for the services of
eternity; to walk embodied among the bowers of our second paradise; to
stand embodied in the presence of our God."

"The glorification of the visible creation," says Tholuck, the
distinguished German divine, "is more definitely declared in Rev. xxi. 1,
although it must be borne in mind that a prophetic vision is there
described. Still more definitely do we find the belief of a transformation
of the material world declared in 2 Peter, iii. 7-12. The idea that the
perfected kingdom of Christ is to be transferred to heaven, is properly a
modern notion. According to Paul and the Revelation of John, the kingdom
of God is placed upon the earth, in so far as this itself has part in the
universal transformation. This exposition has been adopted and defended
by most of the oldest commentators; _e. g._, Chrysostom, Theodoret,
Hieronymus, Augustine, Luther, Koppe, and others. Luther says, in his
lively way, 'God will make, not the earth only, but the heavens also, much
more beautiful than they are at present. At present, we see the world in
its working clothes; but hereafter it will be arrayed in its Easter and
Whitsuntide robes.'"

"I cannot but feel astonishment," says Dr. John Pye Smith, "that any
serious and intelligent man should have his mind fettered with the common,
I might call it the vulgar, notion of a proper destruction of the earth;
and some seem to extend the notion to the whole solar system, and even the
entire material universe; applying the idea of an extinction of being, a
reducing to nothingness. This notion has, indeed, been often used to aid
impassioned description in sermons and poetry; and thus it has gained so
strong a hold upon the feelings of many pious persons, that they have made
it an article of their faith. But I confess myself unable to find any
evidence for it in nature, reason, or Scripture. We can discover nothing
like destruction in the matter of the universe as subjected to our senses.
Masses are disintegrated, forms are changed, compounds are decomposed; but
not an atom is annihilated. Neither have we the shadow of reason to assert
that mind, the seat of intelligence, ever was, or ever will be, in a
single instance, destroyed. The declaration in Scripture that _the heavens
and the earth shall flee away, and no more place be found for them_, is
undoubtedly figurative, and denotes the most momentous changes in the
scenes of the divine moral government. If it be the purpose of God that
the earth shall be subjected to a total conflagration, we perfectly well
know that the instruments of such an event lie close at hand, and wait
only the divine volition to burst out in a moment. But that would not be a
destruction; it would be a mere change of form, and, no doubt, would be
subservient to the most glorious results. _We, according to his promise,
look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth
righteousness._" - _Lectures on Geology and Revelation_, p. 161, (4th
London edition.)

Says Dr. Griffin, one of the ablest of the American divines, "A question
here arises, whether the new heavens and new earth will be created out of
the ruins of the old; that is, whether the old will be renovated and
restored in a more glorious form, or whether the old will be annihilated,
and the new made out of nothing. The idea of the annihilation of so many
immense and glorious bodies, organized with inimitable skill, and
declarative of infinite wisdom, is gloomy and forbidding. Indeed, it is
scarcely credible that God should annihilate any of his works, much less
so many and so glorious works. It ought not to be believed without the
most decisive proof. On the other hand, it is a most animating thought
that this visible creation, which sin has marred, which the polluted
breath of men and devils has defiled, and which by sin will be reduced to
utter ruin, will be restored by our Jesus, will arise from its ruins in
tenfold splendor, and shine with more illustrious glory than before it was
defaced by sin.

"After a laborious and anxious search on this interesting subject, I must
pronounce the latter to be my decided opinion. And the same, I find, has
been the more common opinion of the Christian fathers, of the divines of
the reformation, and of the critics and annotators who have since
flourished. I could produce on this side a catalogue of names which would
convince you that this has certainly been the common opinion of the
Christian church in every age, as it was also of the Jewish.

"The words which are employed to express the destruction of the world do
not necessarily imply annihilation. Is it said that the world shall
perish? The same word is used to express the ancient destruction of the
world by the flood, when certainly it was not annihilated. Is it said that
the world shall have an end, and be no more? This may be understood only
of the present form and organization of the visible system? Is it said
that the heavens and the earth shall be dissolved by fire? But the natural
power of fire is not to annihilate, but only to dissolve the composition
and change the form of substances." - _Sermons_, vol. ii. p. 450.

We have now examined the most important testimony respecting the future
destruction and renovation of the earth; for inspiration only can
certainly determine its future condition. But science may throw some light
upon the changes through which it is to pass. And I now proceed to inquire
whether geology affords us any glimpses of its future condition.

In the first place, geology shows us that the earth contains within itself
all the agencies necessary for its future destruction in the manner
pointed out in the Bible.

Some author has remarked that, from the earliest times, there has been a
loud cry of fire. We have seen that it began with the ancient Egyptians,
and was continued by the Greeks. But in recent times it has waxed louder
and far more distinct. The ancient notions about the existence of fire
within the earth were almost entirely conjectural, but within the present
century the matter has been put to the test of experiment. Wherever, in
Europe and America, the temperature of the air, the waters, and the rocks
in deep excavations has been ascertained, it has been found higher than
the mean temperature of the climate at the surface; and the experiment has
been made in hundreds of places. It is found, too, that the heat increases
rapidly as we descend below that point in the earth's crust to which the
sun's heat extends. The mean rate of increase has been stated by the
British Association to be one degree of Fahrenheit for every forty-five
feet. At this rate, all known rocks would be melted at the depth of about
sixty miles. Shall we hence conclude that all the matter of the globe
below this thickness (or, rather, for the sake of round numbers, below one
hundred miles) is actually in a melted state? Most geologists have not
seen how such a conclusion is to be avoided. And yet this would leave only
about one eight hundredth part of the earth's diameter, and about one
fourteenth of its contents, or bulk, in a solid state. How easy, then,
should God give permission, for this vast internal fiery ocean to break
through its envelope, and so to bury the solid crust that it should all be
burnt up and melted! It is conceivable that such a result might take place
even by natural operations. And certainly it would be easy for a special
divine agency to accomplish it.

It may be thought, however, that the igneous fluidity of the internal part
of the globe is too mighty and improbable a conclusion to be based upon
the increase of temperature, observed only to the depth of two or three
thousand feet. But this is not the only evidence of such a condition of
the earth's interior. Three hundred active volcanoes, and still more
numerous extinct ones, have opened their mouths and poured forth their
molten contents from a great depth, to bear witness to the existence of
vast masses of melted rock beneath the earth's crust. The globe, too, is
flattened at the poles, just to the amount it would be by rotation on its
axis, had it been a liquid mass; and, therefore, there is every
probability that it was once liquid; and if so once, its interior is
probably still so, because the period for cooling it, when once surrounded
by a solid crust, must be incalculably long. That this solid crust has
once been liquid from heat, is most obvious to all who carefully examine
it. For the unstratified rocks have certainly once been melted, and most
of the stratified series were derived from the unstratified. Again, the
organic remains dug out from the deep-seated strata prove that, when they
were alive, the surface, even in high latitudes, must have been subject to
a tropical, or even an ultra-tropical heat; thus showing us that the
temperature of the globe has gradually diminished, as we should expect
from the theory of original igneous fluidity. And, finally, no other
hypothesis but the gradual cooling of the earth's crust, and the powerful
volcanic agency that must from time to time have torn and ridged up that
crust, will account for the present fractured and overturned condition of
the strata, and the elevation of our continent from the ocean's bed. But
this supposition does most satisfactorily explain all these phenomena, and
also those of earthquakes and volcanoes.

I must acknowledge, however, that all these arguments fail of convincing a
few geologists of the doctrine of internal igneous fluidity, to the extent
above described. But they all admit that the facts do prove the existence
of vast oceans of melted matter beneath the earth's crust. Nor do even
these geologists doubt but the globe contains within itself the agencies
requisite for a universal conflagration. Mr. Lyell says that "there must
exist below enormous masses of matter, intensely heated, and in many
instances in a constant state of fusion." He says, also, "When we consider
the combustible nature of the elements of the earth, so far as they are
known to us, the facility with which their compounds may be decomposed and
made to enter into new combinations, the quantity of heat which they
evolve during those processes; when we recollect the expansive power of
steam, and that water itself is composed of two gases, which, by their
union, produce intense heat; when we call to mind the number of explosive
and detonating compounds which have been already discovered, - we may be
allowed to share the astonishment of Pliny, that a single day should pass
without a general conflagration. '_Excedit profecto omnia miracula, ullum
diem fuisse quo non cuncta conflagrarent._'" - Lyell's _Principles of
Geology_, b. ii. chap. xx. vol. ii.

"As a consequence of the refrigeration of the centre and crust of the
globe," says D'Orbigny, "the withdrawment of matter has produced
elevations and depressions on the consolidated crust; to which movements,
in connection with those of the waters, we must impute the complete
destruction of the existing fauna. These dislocations have brought about
at each epoch changes of level in the consolidated beds and in the seas.
And after a period of agitation, more or less prolonged, after each of
these geological revolutions, different beings have been created to cover
anew and enliven the surface of the earth." - _Cours Elementaire
Paleontologie_, p. 148.

All geologists, then, agree that the elements of the earth's final
conflagration are contained within its bosom or upon its surface. At
present, these elements are so bound down by counteracting agencies, that
all is quiet and security. But let the fiat of the Almighty go forth for
their liberation, and the scenes of the last day, as described in the
Bible, will commence. The ploughshare of ruin will be driven onward, until
this fair world is all ingulfed, and no trace of organic life remains.
Yet to him who realizes that the destruction is only a necessary
preparation for a brighter world, which will emerge from the ruins of the
present; that, when the matter of the globe has been purified, its surface
shall be covered with new and lovelier forms of beauty, surrounded by a
still more bland and balmy atmosphere, and inhabited by sinless and
immortal beings, - to him who realizes all this, the desolation will put on
the aspect of a glorious transformation.

In the second place, still deeper will be this impression, when we
recollect that similar transmutations have already been experienced by the
earth with an improvement of its condition. There is no evidence that the
entire surface of the earth has ever undergone a complete fusion since
organic life first appeared upon it. But we have reason to think that,
frequently, at least, when one race of animals and plants has disappeared
from the earth, it has been the result of violent catastrophes, proceeding
from the elevation or subsidence of continents or chains of mountains.
Says Agassiz, "A very remarkable, and perhaps the most surprising fact is,
that the appearance of the chains of mountains, and the inequalities of
the surface resulting from it, seem to have coincided generally with the
epochs of the renewal of organized beings." - _Ed. Journal of Science_,
Oct. 1842, p. 394. - These vertical movements of such large portions of the
earth's crust could have resulted only from the direct or indirect agency
of volcanic power, though the destruction of organic life, which must have
been the consequence, may have resulted as often from aqueous as igneous
inundations. But usually both agencies were probably concerned, and the
predominance of one or the other of these agencies is of little
consequence to the argument; for if such wide-spread ruin has already
repeatedly passed over the earth, a still wider desolation may be
presumed possible, if only a little wider play shall be given to the
agents of destruction. Already have the changes of this sort which the
earth, or portions of it, have undergone, resulted in an improved
condition of its surface. In other words, at each successive epoch,
animals and plants of a higher and more perfect organization have
appeared, because the temperature, the air, and the earth's general
condition have been better adapted to their happy existence. The amount of
limestone seems to have been constantly increasing, and, as a consequence,
the fertility of the soil; probably, also, the amount of carbonic acid has
diminished in the atmosphere, as animals with lungs have been multiplied.
In short, there is a prodigious increase, among the present inhabitants of
the globe, of animals and plants possessing complicated and delicate
organization and loftier intellectual powers, over all former conditions
of the globe. But we have reason to believe, from the Christian
Scriptures, that the next economy of life which shall be placed upon the
globe will far transcend all those that have gone before. Every vestige of
sin, suffering, decay, and death will disappear. Says the Bible, _There
shall be no more death, neither sorrow nor crying, neither shall there be
any more pain, for the former things are passed away. And there shall in
no wise enter it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh
abomination, or maketh a lie._ In short, the change is no other than the
conversion of this world into heaven. Reasonably, therefore, might we
anticipate a most thorough destruction of the present world, to prepare
the way for the introduction of such a glorious state. The Scriptures
describe that state by the most splendid imagery that can be derived from
existing nature. It is represented, figuratively, no doubt, as a splendid
city, prepared of God, and let down to the earth. Its twelve foundations
are all precious stones, its gates pearls, its wall jasper, and its
streets pure gold, as it were, transparent glass. The Lord God Almighty
and the Lamb are the temple of that city. Instead of the sun and the moon,
the glory of God enlightens it, and the Lamb is the light thereof. From
out of their throne proceeds the water of life, clear as crystal, and
along its banks grows the tree of life, with its twelve manner of fruits,
yielding its fruit every month.

Here, then, we have the most splendid and enchanting objects in nature
brought before us as representatives of the new heavens and the new earth.
Yet we cannot learn from the Bible, or science, what material dress nature
will then put on. We are taught only that it will far exceed, in splendor
and perfection, the drapery which she now wears. We may be assured that it
will be eminently adapted to a spirit that is henceforth to be perfectly
holy, happy, incorruptible, and immortal. Both revelation and geology
agree in assuring us that the new earth, which will emerge from the ruins
of the present, will be improved in its condition; but the particulars of
that condition are not described - probably because we could not, in our
present state, understand them.

Such are the views concerning the earth's future destruction and
renovation, which appear to me to be taught by a fair interpretation of
Scripture, and which harmonize with the teachings of geology. But we are
met here by two formidable difficulties. In the first place, if the
present earth is to be burnt up and melted at the last day, it must
require thousands of years before another solid crust shall be formed upon
its surface, capable of sustaining organic natures which are material. But
the Bible represents the righteous, at the day of judgment, as reunited to
their bodies, which they left in the grave, and entering at once into
their residence upon the new earth. Where, then, can we find the
thousands of years which, by this theory, are essential to prepare this
residence for their reception? Into what intermediate place, what new
Hades, shall they pass, until verdure shall clothe the new earth, and more
than the primeval beauty of Eden take the place of the volcanic desolation
which must reign over a world just beginning to cool from incandescent

I freely acknowledge that this is a serious objection to my theory; and
perhaps it is insuperable, unless we resort to miraculous interference. It
were easy to say, that God can, in a moment, convert a globe of fire into
a paradise of beauty, and make its landscapes smile with charms
transcending the bowers of paradise lost. Indeed, the Scriptures represent
the New Jerusalem as prepared by God's own hands, and let down at once
upon the earth to form the metropolitan abode of the righteous.

But, after all, I am unwilling thus to dispose of the difficulty. For it
is a clumsy way to meet objections, when we undertake to philosophize upon
events, either past, present, or future, to foist in a miracle, in order
to eke out our hypothesis. We thus make an image of as incoherent parts as
that in Nebuchadnezzar's dream, and as easily broken in pieces.

There is a second mode by which the difficulty under consideration can be
completely obviated, could we only admit the theory on which it rests.
Some theological writers have maintained that the day of judgment will
occupy a long period, - thousands and tens of thousands of years
perhaps, - in order that every individual may experience a literal trial
before the universe for all his conduct on earth, so that the conscience
of every one in that vast assembly shall approve the final sentence. They
appeal to various texts of Scripture, where it is strongly stated that
rigid inquisition will be made on that solemn day into the conduct and
motives of every individual. And it may be, indeed, that such descriptions
are to have a literal fulfilment; and if so, we should have a period long
enough for the new earth to be recovered by natural means from its
volcanic desolation, and to be covered over with new forms of beauty. But
I confess the theory of such a long period of judgment does not seem to me
to be sustained by the most approved rules of exegesis, and therefore I am
unwilling to rest upon it to sustain my own hypothesis.

Online LibraryEdward HitchcockThe religion of geology and its connected sciences → online text (page 30 of 39)