Edward Hitchcock.

The religion of geology and its connected sciences online

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folly, but much sin. True wisdom consists in seeing how all the faculties
of the mind and all parts of knowledge bear upon each other, so as to work
together to a common end; ministering at once to the happiness of man and
his Maker's glory." - _Discourse on the Studies of the University_, 5th
edition, p. 105, appendix.

_In the sixth place, the subject shows us what is the most important use
to be derived from science._

It does not consist, as men have been supposing, in its application to the
useful arts, whereby civilization, and human comfort and happiness are so
greatly promoted; although men have thereby been raised from a state of
barbarism and advanced to a high point on the scale of refinement. It is
not the application of science as a means of enlarging and disciplining
the mind; although this would be a noble result of scientific study. But
it is its application for the illustration of religion. This, I say, is
its most important use. For what higher or nobler purpose can any pursuit
subserve than in developing the character, government, and will of that
infinite Being, who is the sum and centre of all perfection and happiness?
Other objects accomplished by science are important, and in the bustle of
life they may seem to be its chief end. But in the calmness of mature
years, when we begin to estimate things according to their real value, we
shall see that the religious bearings of any pursuit far transcend in
importance all its other relations; for all its other tendencies and uses
are limited to this world, and will, therefore, be transient; but every
thing which bears the stamp of religion is immortal, and every thing which
concerns the Deity is infinite. It is true that but few who are engaged in
scientific pursuits make much account of their bearings upon man's highest
interests; but very different will it be in heaven. There, so far as we
know, all the applications of science to the useful arts will be unknown,
and the great object of its cultivation will be to gain new and clearer
views of the perfections and plans of Jehovah, and thus to awaken towards
him a deeper reverence and a warmer love. And such should be the richest
fruit of scientific researches on earth.

_In the seventh place, the subject shows us that those who are the most
eminent in science ought to be the most eminent in piety._

I am far from maintaining that science is a sufficient guide in religion.
On the other hand, if left to itself, as I fully admit, -

"It leads to bewilder, and dazzles to blind."

Nor do I maintain that scientific truth, even when properly appreciated,
will compare at all, in its influence upon the human mind, with those
peculiar and higher truths disclosed by revelation. All I contend for is,
that scientific truth, illustrating as it does the divine character,
plans, and government, ought to fan and feed the flame of true piety in
the hearts of its cultivators. He, therefore, who knows the most of
science ought most powerfully to feel this religious influence. He is not
confined, like the great mass of men, to the outer court of nature's
magnificent temple, but he is admitted to the interior, and allowed to
trace its long halls, aisles, and galleries, and gaze upon its lofty domes
and arches; nay, as a priest he enters the _penetralia_, the holy of
holies, where sacred fire is always burning upon the altars, where hovers
the glorious Schekinah, and where, from a full orchestra, the anthem of
praise is ever ascending. Petrified, indeed, must be his heart, if it
catches none of the inspiration of such a spot. He ought to go forth from
it among his fellow-men with radiant glory on his face, like Moses from
the holy mount. He who sees most of God in his works ought to show the
stamp of divinity upon his character, and lead an eminently holy life.

_Finally, the subject gives great interest and dignity to the study of

It is not strange that the religious man should sometimes find his ardor
damped in the pursuit of some branches of knowledge, by the melancholy
reflection that they can be of no use beyond this world, and will exist
only as objects of memory in eternity. He may have devoted many a toilsome
year to the details and manipulations of the arts; and, so far as this
world is concerned, his labors have been eminently salutary and
interesting. But all his labors and researches can be of no avail on the
other side of the grave; and he cannot but feel sad that so much study and
efforts should leave results no more permanent. Or he may have given his
best days to loading his memory with those tongues which the Scriptures
assure us shall cease; or to those details of material organization which
can have no place or antitype in the future world. Interesting,
therefore, as such pursuits have been on earth, nay, indispensable as they
are to the well being and progress of human society, it is melancholy to
realize that they form a part of that knowledge which will vanish away.

The mind delights in the prospect of again turning its attention to those
branches of knowledge which have engrossed and interested it on earth, and
of doing this under circumstances far more favorable to their
investigation. And such an anticipation he may reasonably indulge, who
devotes himself on earth to any branch of knowledge not dependent on
arrangements and organizations peculiar to this world. He may be confident
that he is investigating those principles which will form a part of the
science of heaven. Should he ever reach that pure world, he knows that the
clogs which now weigh down his mind will drop off, and the clouds that
obscure his vision will clear away, and that a brighter sun will pour its
radiance upon his path. He is filling his mind with principles that are
immortal. He is engaged in pursuits to which glorified and angelic minds
are devoting their lofty powers. Other branches of knowledge, highly
esteemed among men, shall pass away with the destruction of this world.
The baseless hypotheses of science, falsely so called, whether moral,
intellectual, or physical, and the airy phantoms of a light and fictitious
literature, shall all pass into the limbo of forgetfulness. But the
principles of true science, constituting, as they do, the pillars of the
universe, shall bear up that universe forever. How many questions of deep
interest, respecting his favorite science, must the philosopher in this
world leave unanswered, how many points unsettled! But when he stands upon
the vantage-ground of another world, all these points shall be seen in the
bright transparencies of heaven. In this world, the votaries of science
may be compared with the aborigines who dwell around some one of the
principal sources of the River Amazon. They have been able, perhaps, to
trace one or two, or it may be a dozen, of its tributaries, from their
commencement in some mountain spring, and to follow them onwards as they
enlarge by uniting, so as to bear along the frail canoes, in which,
perhaps, they pass a few hundred miles towards the ocean. On the right and
on the left, a multitude of other tributaries swell the stream which
carries them onward, until it seems to them a mighty river. But they are
ignorant of the hundred other tributaries which drain the vast eastern
slope of the Andes, and sweep over the wide plains, till their united
waters have formed the majestic Amazon. Of that river in its full glory,
and especially of the immense ocean that lies beyond, the natives have no
conception; unless, perhaps, some individual, more daring than the rest,
has floated onward till his astonished eye could scarcely discern the
shore on either hand, and before him he saw the illimitable Atlantic,
whitened by the mariner's sail and the crested waves; and he may have gone
back to tell his unbelieving countrymen the marvellous story. Just so is
it with men of science. They are able to trace with clearness a few rills
of truth from the fountain head, and to follow them onward till they unite
in a great principle, which at first men fancy is the chief law of the
universe. But as they venture still farther onward, they find new
tributary truths coming in on either side, to form a principle or law
still more broad and comprehensive. Yet it is only a few gifted and
adventurous minds that are able, from some advanced mountain top, to catch
a glimpse of the entire stream of truth, formed by the harmonious union of
all principles, and flowing on majestically into the boundless ocean of
all knowledge, the Infinite Mind. But when the Christian philosopher
shall be permitted to resume the study of science in a future world, with
powers of investigation enlarged and clarified, and all obstacles removed,
he will be able to trace onward the various ramifications of truth, till
they unite into higher and higher principles, and become one in that
centre of centres, the Divine Mind. That is the Ocean from which all truth
originally sprang, and to which it ultimately returns. To trace out the
shores of that shoreless Sea, to measure its measureless extent, and to
fathom its unfathomable depths, will be the noble and the joyous work of
eternal ages. And yet eternal ages may pass by and see the work only


[1] I ought surely to except the work of Professor Bachman, which I have
not read, but which was certainly written by an able naturalist.

[2] I am not aware that this reply to the objection was ever advanced,
till the publication, by myself, last year, of a sermon on the
Resurrections of Spring, in a small volume of sermons, entitled Religious
Lectures on some peculiar Phenomena in the Four Seasons. I may be
mistaken; but I cannot see why this reply does not completely meet the
difficulty, and free an important doctrine from an incubus under which it
has long lain half smothered.

[3] I hope it is not vanity to say that this subject, also, was first
suggested in the sermon referred to in the preceding note. If correct, it
opens an animating prospect to the afflicted Christian.

[4] The first edition of this work was republished in this country. In
England it has reached the fifth edition, much enlarged.

[5] Two or three years since Professor Bronn described twenty-six thousand
six hundred and seventy-eight species; and, upon an average, one thousand
species are discovered every year. M. Alcide D'Orbigny, in 1850, stated
the number of mollusks and radiated animals alone at seventeen thousand
nine hundred and forty-seven species.

[6] The news has just reached us that this venerable man is no more. I was
present last summer at Homerton, when he resigned the charge of that
beloved institution. From his addresses and his prayers, so redolent of
the spirit of heaven, I might have known that he was pluming his wings for
his upward flight. I am thankful that I was permitted to see the man,
whom, of all others in Europe, I most desired to see. But Dr. Buckland I
did not meet; for he was in an insane hospital, with no prospect of
recovery. Alas! how sad to think of such Christian philosophers, so soon
removed from the world, or from all concern in it! Could I dare to hope
that I shall meet them and kindred spirits before the throne of our common
Redeemer, how should I exclaim with Cicero, "_O preclarum diem, quum in
illud animorum concilium coelumque proficiscar, ut quum ex hac turba et
colluvione discedam!_"

[7] This had always seemed to me a very strong case, as I had seen it
described. But a recent visit to the spot (September, 1850) did not make
so strong an impression upon me as I expected. In the first place, I found
the head of Lake Lehman, where the Rhone enters, to be so narrow, that the
detritus brought down by the river cannot spread itself out very far
laterally. Secondly, I found, on ascending the Rhone, that it is every
where a very rapid stream; and, on account of the origination of its
branches from glaciers, it is always loaded with mud. So that the process
of deposition must be going on continually. This cannot be the case in one
in ten of other rivers, whose waters, for most of the year, are clear.
This case, then, is only a quite unusual exception, and cannot be regarded
as a standard by which to judge of the rate of deposition at present, or
in past times.

[8] For a much more minute and extended account of the different modes
proposed to reconcile geology and revelation, and indeed of their entire
connection, I would refer to several papers in the American Biblical
Repository, especially to the number for October, 1835, p. 261. The
progress of science has, indeed, rendered it desirable to change a few
sentences in those articles; but all their essential principles I still

[9] See Stuart and Hodge on Rom. v. 12; also Chalmers's Lectures on
Romans, Lecture 26; and Harris's Man Primeval, p. 178.

[10] Johnston's Physical Atlas, pp. 66, 76, (Philadelphia edition, 1850.)

[11] Rev. Joseph Tracy, Bibliotheca Sacra, Oct. 1850, p. 614.

[12] See the Frontispiece.

[13] The subject of this inference is treated with great ability and
candor in the _Biblotheca Sacra_ for November, 1849, by my friend and
colleague, Rev. Joseph Haven, Jr., professor of intellectual and moral
philosophy in Amherst College.

[14] In this description I have attempted to give exactly the experience
of myself and John Tappan, Esq., with our wives, who ascended Snowdon in
June, 1850. A few days after, we ascended Cader Idris, another mountain of
Wales, near Dolgelly, where the views were perhaps equally wild and
sublime, with the addition of a vast number of trap columns, and a
pseudo-crater, with its jagged and frowning sides.

[15] When I visited this spot, in September, 1850, I was so fortunate as
to get sight of a party that had just commenced the descent from the
summit of Mont Blanc. To the naked eye they were invisible, but the whole
train could be distinctly seen through a telescope. This was the third
party that had ascended that mountain in the summer of 1850. I doubt not
that the dangers have been exaggerated, and that the excursion will become

There are other points of great interest around Chamouny, which I have not
noticed, some of which I visited, but not all. I have mentioned only the
most common.

[16] In September, 1850, I visited this well, and found the water running
still, at the rate of six hundred and sixty gallons per minute at the
surface, and half that amount at the top of a tube one hundred and twelve
feet high, from whence it could be carried to any part of Paris; and, in
fact, does supply some of the streets. I tasted the water, and found it
pleasant, though warm, (84 deg. Fahrenheit.)

[17] I adopt this division from an able American review of the "Vestiges."

[18] For the details of this remarkable subject, see the "Parthenogenesis"
of Professor Owen, p. 76, (London, 1849;) Steenstrup's "Alternation of
Generations," published by the Ray Society in 1845, and Sedgwick's
"Discourse on the Studies of the University," Supplement, p. 193, (London,

[19] The subject of this lecture has been ably discussed, within a few
years, in most of the leading periodicals in Europe and America, though I
must say not always with the candor calculated to do the most good. The
two most able volumes that have fallen into my hands, on the subject, are
Professor Sedgwick's "Discourse on the Studies of the University," &c.,
(fifth ed., London, 1850,) and Hugh Miller's "Footprints of the Creator,"
now republished in this country.

[20] This subject has been treated more fully, and I hope more
satisfactorily, in a little work of mine, which has just reached its
second edition, entitled Religious Lectures on Peculiar Phenomena in the
Four Seasons, (Amherst, 1851.) See the first Lecture, on the Resurrections
of Spring.



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Transcriber's Notes:

Passages in italics are indicated by _italics_.

The original text includes Greek characters. For this text version these
letters have been replaced with transliterations.

The original text includes Hebrew characters. For this text version these
letters have been replaced with the notation [Hebrew].

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