Gerald Molloy.

Geology and revelation; or, The ancient history of the earth, considered in the light of geological facts and revealed religion online

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which God rested is a period of many thousand years, are
we not fully justified in supposing that the Six Days on
which He formed and furnished the Heavens and the Earth
were likewise periods of many ages }

* Appendix (42) (43).



Summary of the argument — Striking coincidence between the
order of creation as set forth in the narrative of Moses
and in the records of Geology — Comparison illustrated and
developed — Scheme of adjustment between the periods of
Geology and' the days of Genesis — Tabtilar view of this
scheme — Objections considered — It is not to be regarded as
an established theory, but as an admissible hypothesis —
Either the frst hypothesis or the second is sufficient to meet
the demands of Geology as regards the antiquity of the earth
— Not necessary to suppose that the sacred writer was made
acquainted with the long ages of geological time — He simply
records faithfully that which was committed to his charge — -
The Mosaic history of creation stands alone, without rivals
or competitors.

I HE results at which we have arrived by the long,
and we fear tedious, Hne of argument pursued in
the last Chapter, may be briefly summed up. First,
many illustrious Fathers of the Church — Saint Augustine,
Origen, Clement of Alexandria, Saint Athanasius, and
others — plainly declared against the opinion that the Days
of Creation were days in the ordinary sense of the word ;
and, therefore, it is a mistake to suppose that this opinion
is supported by the unanimous voice of Christian tradition.
Secondly, the word Day is frequently used in Scripture for a
long period of time, and sometimes for a period of indefinite

3 44 The Mosa ic Days compa red

duration. Thirdly, there is nothing in the language of
Moses that forbids us to explain the word according to this
sense, in the first chapter of Genesis. And fourthly, there
is, at least, one grave consideration, derived from Holy
Scripture itself, which distinctly points to such an interpre-
tation. The Six Days of Creation are contrasted with the
Seventh Day of God's rest ; and this Seventh Day of God's
rest is unquestionably a long period of undefined duration.
From all this it is obvious to conclude, that we may fairlv
adopt this mode of interpreting the Mosaic Days, if it will
assist us in reconciling the received conclusions of science
with the truths of Revelation.

Now, there is a striking resemblance, in some important
respects, between the order of Creation as exhibited in the suc-
cessive days of the Sacred Record, and the order of Creation
as manifested in the successive periods of Geological time.
Three days are specially marked out by the Inspired His-
torian as distinguished by the creation of vegetable and
animal life — the Third, the Fifth, and the Sixth. On the
Third Day were created plants and trees ; on the Fifth, rep-
tiles, fish, and birds ; on the Sixth, cattle, and the beasts of
the earth, and, toward the end, man himself Geologists,
on the other hand, not influenced in the least degree by the
Sciipture narrative, but guided chiefly by the remains of
animal and vegetable life which are preserved in the Crust
of the Earth, have established three leading divisions of
Geological time ; the Palaeozoic, or first age of organic life,
the Mesozoic, or second great age of organic life, and the
Kainozoic, or third great age of organic life. Here, no
- doubt, is a remarkable coincidence.

But it would be still more remarkable if we could recog-
nize, in the three epochs of Geology, the same general
characteristics of organic life as we find ascribed by Moses
to the three successive days of the Bible narrative. And so
we may, it is said, if we will only take the pains to examine

with the Periods of Geology. 345

for ourselves the organic remains of these geological epochs
as they lie dispersed through the Crust of the Earth, or even
as they are to be found collected and arranged for exhibition
in our museums. The first great age of Geology is emi-
nently distinguished for its plants and trees ; the second, for
its huge reptiles and great sea-monsters ; the third, for its
vast herds of noble quadrupeds. Nay, to complete the har-
mony between the two Records, as man is represented by
the Inspired Writer to have been created toward the close
of the last day, so, toward the close of the last Geological
age, the remains of man and of his works are found, for the
first time, laid by in the archives of the Earth.

Such is the coincidence which some ingenious writers
fancy they can trace between the history that is set forth in
the written Word of God, and the history that is so curiously
inscribed upon His works. Our readers, perhaps, will not
be unwilling to consider it a little more in detail. We read
in the first chapter of Genesis, that on the Third Day God
said : " Let the earth bring forth the green herb, and such
as may seed, and the fruit-tree yielding fruit after its kind,
which may have seed in itself upon the earth. And it was
so done. And the earth brought forth the green herb, and
such as yieldeth seed according to its kind, and the tree that
beareth fruit, having seed each one according to its kind.
And God saw that it was good. "* Let us now turn to the
Carboniferous Period of Geology, which occupies a large
space in the great Palaeozoic age. All writers agree that it
was specially marked by a gorgeous and luxuriant vege-
tation : and as w^e contemplate the multitudinous remains
of plants and trees which have been gathered so abundantly
in our coal measures, and ranged with such striking effect
along the walls of our museums, we can scarcely help think-
ing that we have before us a practical commentary on the
text of Moses. The gifted Hugh Miller, who is universally

* Gen. i. ii, 12.


346 TJic JMosatc Days compared

allowed to have been one of the most practical and ex-
perienced Geologists of the modern school, gives a very pic-
turesque and graphic sketch of the Carboniferous flora. "In
no other age," he says, "did the world ever witness such a
flora : the youth of the earth was peculiarly a green and
umbrageous youth, — a youth of dusk and tangled forests,—
of huge pines and stately araucarians, — of the reed-like
calamite, the tall tree-fern, the sculptured sigillaria, and the
hirsute lepidodendron. Wherever dry land, or shallow lake
or running stream appeared, from wliere Melville Island
now spreads out its ice-wastes under the star of the pole, to
where the arid plains of Australia lie solitary beneath the
bright cross of the south, a rank and luxuriant herbage cum-
bered every footbreadth of the dank and steaming soil ; and
even to distant planets our eaith must have shown, through the
enveloping cloud, with a green and delicate ray."* Such an
age as this might well be described in history as the age in
which the earth brought forth the green herb, and the fruit-
tree yielding seed according to its kind.

Again, the work of the Fifth Day is thus described in the
Sacred Narrative : — " God also said : Let the waters bring
forth the creeping creature having life, and the fowl that may
fly over the earth under the firmament of Heaven. And
God created the great whales, and every living and moving
creature which the waters brought forth, according to their
kinds, and every winged fowl according to its kind. And
God saw that it was good/'f And in this case, as in the
former, we may find the counterpart of the Bible story in
the records of Geology. "The secondary age of the geolo-
gist," says the eminent writer from whom we have already
quoted, "possessed, like the earlier one, its herbs and plants,
but they were of a greatly less luxuriant and conspicuous
character than their predecessors, and no longer formed the
prominent trait or feature of the creation to which they be-

* The Testimony of the Rocks, p. 125. -j- Genesis, i. 20, 21.

witJi the Periods of Geology. 347

long. The period had also its corals, its crustaceans, its
molluscs, iis fishes, and, in some one or two exceptional
instances, its dwarf mammals. But the grand existences of
the age, — the existences in which it excelled every other
creation, earlier or later, — were its huge creeping things, —
its enormous monsters of the deep, — -and, as shown by the
impressions of their footprints stamped upon the rocks, its
gigantic birds. It was peculiarly the age of egg-bearing
animals, winged and wingless. Its wonderful whales, not
however as now, of the mammalian, but of the reptilian class
— ichthyosaurs, plesiosaurs, and cetiosaurs — must have tem-
pested the deep ; its creeping lizards and crocodiles, such
as the teliosaurus, megalosaurus, and iguanodon, — crea-
tures some of which more than rival the existing elephant
in height, and. greatly more than rivalled him in bulk, —
must have crowded the plains, or haunted by myriads the
rivers of the period ; and we know that the foot-prints of,
at least, one of its many birds, are fully twice the size of
those made by the horse or camel. We are thus prepared
to demonstrate that the second period of the geologist was
peculiarly and characteristically a period of whale-like
reptiles of the sea, of enormous creeping reptiles of the
land, and of numerous birds, some of them of gigantic

Once more, it is written that, on the Sixth Day, "God
said : Let the earth bring forth the living creature in its kind,
cattle and creeping things, and beasts of the earth, according
to their kinds. And it was so done. And God made the
beasts of the earth according to their kinds, and cattle and
every thing that creepeth on the earth after its kind. And
God saw that it was good."| And again Geology seems to
confirm the truth of the Inspired narrative, and to fill up the
details of the picture. "The Tertiary period," continues
Hugh Miller, "had also its prominent class of existences.

* Testimony rf the Rocks, p. 126. t Genesis, i. 24, 25.

348 The Mosaic Days compared

Its flora seems to have been no more conspicuous than that
of the present time ; its reptiles occupy a very subordinate
place ; but its beasts of the field were by far the most won-
derfully developed, both in size and numbers, that ever
appeared upon the earth. Its mammoths and its mastodons,
its rhinoceri and its hippopotami, its enormous dimotherium
and colossal megatherium, greatly more than equalled in
bulk the greatest mammals of the present time, and vastly
exceeded them in number. The remains of one of its
elephants (Elephas primigenius) are still so abundant amid
the frozen wastes of Siberia, that what have been not inap-
propriately termed 'ivory quarries' have been wrought
among their bones for more than a hundred years. Even
in our own country, of which, as I have already shown, this
elephant was for long ages a native, so abundant are the
skeletons and tusks, that there is scarcely a local museum
in the kingdom that has not its specimens, dug out of the
Pleistocene deposits of the neighborhood. And with this
ancient elephant there were meetly associated in Britain, as
on the northern continents generally all around the globe,
many other mammals of corresponding magnitude. ' Grand
indeed,' says an English naturalist, 'was the fauna of the
British islands m those early days. Tigers as large again as
the biggest Asiatic species lurked in the ancient thickets ;
elephants nearly twice the size of the largest individuals that
now exist in Africa or Ceylon roamed in herds : at least two
species of the rhinoceros forced their w^ay through the pri-
meval forests ; and the lakes and rivers were tenanted by
hippopotami as bulky, and with as great tusks, as those of
Africa.' The massive cave-bear and large cave-hya^na be-
long to the same formidable group, with at least two species
of great oxen, with a horse of smaller size, and an elk
that stood ten feet four inches in height. Truly this Tertiary
age— this third and last of the geologic periods — was pecu-

with the periods of Geology. 2)A9

liarly the age of great 'beasts of the earth after their kind,
and of cattle after their kind.'"*

We shall be told, perhaps, that there are Six Days assigned
to the work of creation in the Mosaic narrative, and that we
have accounted but for three. Let it be remembered, how-
ever, that Geology does not profess to give a complete his-
tory of our Globe. It can set before us those events only
which have left their impress indelibly stamped upon the
rocks that compose the Crust of the Earth. These events
Geologists have attempted to reduce to the order of a chrono-
logical system ; and in prosecuting this task they have been
guided almost exclusively by the evidence of Organic Re-
mains. Hence it was not to be expected that, in Geologi-
cal Chronology, we should find a Period specially set apart
as the Period in which Light was made ; or another as the
Period in which the Firmament was spread out over the Earth;
or a Third as the Period in which the sun and moon and
stars shone forth in the expanse of Heaven. Such phenom-
ena had, indeed, a very important influence on the physical
condition of our globe. But they must occupy a very
secondar}- place, if indeed they are distinctly chronicled at
all in the records of Geology. It is the formation of rocks
and the embedding therein of Fossil Remains that constitute
the main study of the Geologist, and that guide him in the
distribution of Geological time.

Furthermore, we would observe that the scheme of Chro-
nology which Geologists put before us, affords abundant
room for each and all of the Mosaic Days. Let it be
assumed for a moment that the Carboniferous Period cor-
responds with the Third Day of the Sacred narrative. - The
earlier Periods of the Palaeozoic Age will then fit in with
the First and Second Days of Scripture ; and the Permian,
which intervenes between the Carboniferous Period and the

_ * Testimony of the Rocks, pp. 127, 128.


5o Scheme of AdJ2istinent.

Secondary Age, may be supposed to correspond with the
Fourth Day of Scripture. This adjustment between the-
IMosaic Days and the Periods of Geology will probably be
made more intelligible to the general reader by the Table
that appears on the following page.

The reader must not think it amiss, in this distribution
of the IMosaic Days, that four out of six are crowded
together into one Geological Age, while each of the other
two has an entire Age assigned to itself If the Days of
Creation were indefinite periods, there is no incongruity in
supposing that one may have corresponded to a longer,
another to a shorter interval in the history of our planet.
But, in truth, our scheme of distribution does not of neces-
sity imply that the Mosaic Days were periods of unequal
length. Geologists do not pretend that there is even a
remote approximation to equality between the several divis-
ions of Geological time. The three great Epochs are dis-
tinguished from each other by reason of the very marked
difierence in the character of their Fossil Remains. And
the multiplication of Periods in each Epoch seems to de-
pend rather upon the degree of completeness with which
the strata of that Age have been examined, than upon any
conjecture as to the probable length of its duration. Thus,
for example. Sir Charles Lyell thinks that, as far as the
present condition of Science affords the means of forming
an opinion, almost any one of the Periods in the Palaeozoic
Age was as long as all the Periods of the Tertiary Age
taken together.*

But there is another and a more serious objection against
our hypothesis. It has been observed more than once that
the periods of Geology are out of harmony with the Days
of Genesis, even as regards the history of Organic life.
According to the Scripture narrative no Organic life ap-
peared upon the Earth previous to the Third Day. Now

* Elements af Geology, p. loo.

ScJicme of Adjustment.


the Third Day of Scripture corresponds, in our scheme,
with the Carboniferous Period of Geology. And yet there
is abundant evidence in the Fossil Remains of the Devo-
nian, the Silurian, and the Cambrian Formations, that

DAY OF god's KEST.






















Organic life — both plants and animals — prevailed upon
the Earth for many ages before the Carboniferous Period
began. Nay, it is now commonly held, since the discovery
of the famous Eozoon Canadense, the oldest known Fossil,
that life already existed during the deposition of the Lauren-
tian Rocks, the earliest of all the Stratified Formations.
Furthermore, in the Mosaic account, Fish are represented
as having been created only on the Fifth Day, which we have
fitted in with the Secondary Age of Geology : whereas in the
Geological Record we find Fish as early as the Silurian
Period, which is far back in the Primary Age. These con-
siderations, and divers others of a like nature, have been
regarded by some eminent writers as altogether fatal to
the hypothesis for which we are contending.

352 What is left iLiirecorded

To us, however, it appears that such points of discrep-
ancy involve no contradiction between the two Records.
The Sacred Writer tells us, no doubt, that on the Third
Day God created plants and trees : but he does not say,
either expressly or otherwise, that previous to the Third
Day the Earth was devoid of vegetation. Again, we read
that reptiles, fish, and birds were created on the Fifth Day.
But there is nothing in the language of the Inspired narra-
tive from which it can be inferred that these several classes
of animal life may not have been represented before that
time, by many and various species : though probably, it
was only on the Fifth Day that they were developed in such
vast numbers, and assumed such gigantic proportions, as
to become the most conspicuous objects of creation.

The first chapter of Genesis is but a brief summary of
an inconceivably vast series of events. It is nothing more
than a rapid sketch, exhibiting, as it were, to the eye the
prominent features in the history of Creation. Moreover,
we should remember that it was written with a specific end
in view. The purpose of the Sacred Writer was plainly to
impress upon the Hebrew people, naturally prone to idola-
try, the existence of One Supreme Being, who has made all
things. Hence we should naturally expect that, amid the
boundless variety of God's works, he would make choice
of those that were most calculated to strike the mind with
wonder and awe, and to bring home to a rude and uncul-
tivated race of men the Almighty Power and Supreme Do-
minion of the Great Creator. Now the Zoophytes, and
Graptolites, and Tribolites, of the Devonian and Silurian
Periods, however curious and interesting they may be to
men of science, would have had but little significance for the
Jewish people. Let us suppose that these more humble
forms of animal life had, in fact, existed during the First
and Second Days of the Mosaic narrative, and where is the
wonder that the Inspired Historian, under the guidance of

not, oil that account, uiitrue. 353

the Holy Spirit, should pass them by in silence, and choose
rather to commemorate the more strikinf^ and impressive
facts, that, at the bidding of God, Light shone forth from
the midst of darkness, and the blue firmament of Heaven
was expanded above the waste of waters ?

We say, then, that events which are simply left unre-
corded by the Sacred Writer are not, on that account,
untrue:* that he describes to us, not all the works of
Creation, which would have been an endless task, but only
the more conspicuous objects in each successive stage ; and
that he sketches them, most probably, as they would have
appeared to the eye of a human observer, if a human
observer at the time had existed on the Earth. If this view
be admitted, then it is not inconsistent with the Scripture
narrative to suppose that plants may have existed before
the Third Day, and fish before the Fifth. Each Day in its
turn would have been rendered conspicuous to an observing
spectator by those events which are recorded by Moses.
But each Day, too, would have witnessed many other events,
unnoticed by Moses, of which the memorials have been
preserved, even to our time, in the Crust of the Earth.

We should observe, however, that though this scheme of
adapting the Periods of Geology to the Days of Moses, may
be defended as a legitimate hypothesis, it cannot be upheld
as an established truth. The geological records that have
hitherto been brought to light represent but the merest
fragment of the Earth's past history. Each year that passes
over our heads is adding largely to the store of facts already
accumulated. And it needs but little reflection to perceive
that an hypothesis may be quite consistent with the knowl-
edge we possess to-day, and yet may be found altogether
inconsistent with the knowledge we shall possess to-morrow.
We must be content, therefore, to suspend our judgment,

* "Aliquid esse a Deo conditum, de quo sileat liber Genesis, nihil re-
pugnat." Saint Augustine, Confess. Lib. xii., cap. xxii.

354 A legitimate Hypothesis.

and to await the progress of events. It may be that future
discoveries shall bring to light new points of harmony
between the Days of Genesis and the Periods of Geology ;
it may be they shall demonstrate that no such harmony
exists. For us it is enough to have shown that this hy-
pothesis is consistent, on the one hand, with the story of
Genesis — on the other, with the actual discoveries of Geol-
ogy ; and, therefore, that it may be adopted, in the present
condition of our knowledge, as a legitimate means of
reconciling the established conclusions of that science with
the truths of Revelation.

Conclusion. — We have, then, two distinct systems of in-
terpretation, according to which the vast Antiquity of the
Earth, asserted by Geology, may be fairly brought into har-
mony with the history of creation, recorded in Scripture.
The one allows an interval of incalculable duration between
the creation of the Heavens and the Earth, and the work of
the Six Days : the other supposes each one of these Six
Days to have been itself an indefinite period of time. We
cannot, indeed, prove that either of these two systems is true
in point of fact ; but we have attempted to show that neither is
at variance with the language of the Sacred Text. On the other
hand, when we look to the evidence of geological facts, we
see no decisive reason for preferring one to the other. Either
mode of interpretation seems in itself quite sufficient to
meet all the present requirements of Geology ; for, accord-
ing to either interpretation, the Bible narrative would allow
time without limit for the past history of our Globe; and
time without limit is just what Geology demands. We may
say, then, on this point, what Saint Augustine said long ago,
in speaking of the diverse interpretations which the text of
Genesis admits : "Let each one choose according to the best
of his power : only let him not rashly put forward as known
that which is unknown ; and let him not fail to remember

Geological TriUhs not revealed to Moses. 355

that he is but a man searching, as far as may be, into the
works of God. "*

It must not be supposed that, according to our view, the
Sacred Writer, in composing his account of the Creation,
had before his mind those vast Geological Periods about
which we have said so much in the course of this volume.
Such an opinion is no part of our system. We see no good
reason for believing that the author of Genesis was specially
enlightened from Heaven on the subject of Stratified Rocks
and Fossil Remains, of Upheaval and Denudation, of Vol-
canic Action and Subterranean Heat. These are matters of
Physical, not of Religious Science. And it seems to be the
order of Providence to leave the discovery of such things to
the industry and ingenuity of man : "Cuncta fecit bona in
tempore suo, et mundum tradidit disputationi eorum."f

What we maintain, then, is simply this : that the Sacred
Writer recorded faithfully, in language fitted to the ideas of

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Online LibraryGerald MolloyGeology and revelation; or, The ancient history of the earth, considered in the light of geological facts and revealed religion → online text (page 26 of 28)