The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 84
Science the Safeguard of Religion. — Part I
Science the Safeguard of Religion.
A Writer in the first number of this magazine quotes the following observation from Professor Huxley : whether it was uttered apropos to the Christian's belief or not I cannot say, but I think it is very unlikely : "Scientific men have an awkward habit of believing nothing unless there is evidence for it, and they have a way of looking upon belief which is not based upon evidence, not only as illogical, but as immoral."
This, as I take it, as applied to religion, is what is termed free-thought. Freethinkers are, to use the words of one of their supporters, "those who think for themselves, undeterred by denunciations of Church or State, priest or legislator, Bible or statute," and those who, having no convictions on the subject of religion, blindly follow first this leader and then that. They have thus no particular creed and no fixed belief. To-day they pin their faith to one hypothesis which pleases them by its plausibility, to-morrow they reject it for what they consider a more reasonable theory. As the passion for travel impels a man to roam from shore to shore without any fixed aim in view, so the enthusiasm of speculation urges the Freethinker to traverse the entire circuit of opinions, and still leaves him insatiate of novelty. Like the men of Athens, he spends his time "in nothing else but to tell or to hear some new thing." Freethought in its best aspect can only be looked upon as the impetus of a too highly-wrought intellectual activity, which carries its victim on from system to system-each further from the truths he has denounced, till he loses himself in the dark void of infidelity. Christianity does not suit him; not only does it enjoin the practice of self-denial, forgiveness of injuries, and other irksome virtues, but being a religion based entirely upon record and its interpretation, it affords no field for intellectual enterprise. The Christian religion, unlike human science, was given to page 78 man in a finished form, to be learned, and not to be improved. Advanced thought is fruitlessly occupied in attempting to amend it, and its votaries, puffed up with high-flown ideas of intellectual progress, are too proud to accept a plain, intelligible statement of facts, much more to study the Scriptures with a view to obtain practical instruction from them. Their ideas are vague and inarticulate, and they reject the Bible, not so much because they are averse to its truths, but because the mistiness of their sentiments abhors whatever is distinct, definite, and fixed. Science being the only God at whose shrine Freethinkers are willing to bow, they are slow to accept any conclusion which is not based upon scientific discovery. As well try to persuade the mole who grubs in darkness beneath the earth that the succulent bulb on which he feeds is but the root of a tree which opens into a glorious world of sunshine and splendour, as to convince the scientist of the truth of any phenomena which he cannot investigate to his own satisfaction,
It is assumed by Freethinkers that the rejection of the Bible is a necessary consequence of modern scientific research—that the records it contains are at variance with facts, and opposed to the natural order of tilings as revealed to us by modern discoveries.
Now, as I believe, on the other hand, that the Bible is the written Word of God, and as such, to be implicitly believed and studied with reverence, and that
"Its bright and steadfast rays
Shall prove no false and treacherous light to lure,
But a safe beacon, leading through the gloom
Unto the haven sure; "
I will endeavour to show, not only that human science, so far as it goes, in no way contradicts, but that it confirms with unerring accuracy, the pages of Scripture, and that the more we investigate the works of the Almighty, the more shall we find them in close harmony with His Word, I should have been glad to see some abler pen employed in this task, but, fante de mieux, I feel compelled to come for-ward and give some reasons for the faith that is in me. I will therefore meet the Bible opponents on their own ground—that of scientific discovery; and as the Mosaic history of the creation is usually the target at which Freethinkers hurl their weapons of ridicule and defiance, I will confine myself in this article to a comparison of that history as given in the first chapter of Genesis with the history of the same work recorded in the bosom of the earth, page by page, since it first came into exist, ence. It is important that we should commence the Scriptures with confidence, for if the first page of the Bible puts forth an uncertain sound- page 79 in what part of it shall we place any reliance ? The retrospect I am about to take will not be without interest to the general reader. It will of course be understood that I am only giving the opinions of the most advanced authorities on the subject.
We read that "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth; and the earth was without form and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep."
Now, it is believed by all antiquarians that in the beginning this planet was a large mass of molten igneous matter. Its form, as we can prove, is an ellipsoid—an ellipsoid of revolution; and it is affrmed by various eminent authorities—Humboldt amongst others—that its present geometrical form reveals its earlier condition. The difference between the equatorial and polar diameters is 26 miles; and this, it is affirmed, is precisely the figure which a large mass like the earth, of similar consistency, and revolving with the same velocity, would assume.
Then, as to the internal heat, this is no longer a question of theory: it has been proved ad demonstrandum. In the first place we have volcanoes and burning mountains belching forth their molten contents through fissures in the earth in various places, besides hot springs in different countries; and we have proved by actual experiment that the deeper we penetrate the earth the hotter it becomes, so that the depth of a shaft may be ascertained by its temperature. In some of the deep 'borings for artesian wells, calculations have been made which go to show that for every 90 feet of sinking we get an additional degree of heat. This would give about 56° in the mile, so that if we could sink to that depth we should find a temperature of 105°. Reasoning by analogy, we conclude that the heat is greatest in the centre of the globe.
The conclusion, then, to which science has arrived from these premises, is that this large mass of igneous matter, becoming cooled by radiation into space, a hard external crust was formed, which we have found to be of granite formation, i.e., granite mixed with various other rocks and metals. Granite, as we know, is the fundamental or bed rock, no other rock having been found to underlie it.
This external crust having been formed by refrigeration, the process of construction then commenced by the washing away of the detritus from its unequal surface into the various hollows and valleys, and the formation in the course of long ages of the sedimentary rocks, which are now estimated by geologists to comprise a depth of 20 miles. These sedimentary rocks have been deposited in regular layers, and it is sufficient to say that a knowledge of the successive order of these formations is one of the first principles of the science. It is estimated that the page 80 time occupied in their deposition cannot have been less than five millions of years. The giant power in the centre of the earth—fire—has, by-means of volcanic disturbances, upheaved in many portions of our globe the original granite crust, together with the various superincumbent strata, so that the edges of the different stratified rocks have been accessible to the scientific explorer. The fossils discovered in these rocks, now distributed among the various museums throughout the civilized world, will be found so many links in the strong chain of testimony which science offers in support of Bible truth.
"And the spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters."
In the various works into which I have dipped in getting up this subject, I have found very few comments upon this passage; but one writer, Dr. Causland, gives a beautiful interpretation of it, which seems to me to be borne out by the use of a similar figure of speech in other parts of the Bible. He describes it as the first act of Almighty God in the creation of life—the pouring of vitality upon the waters. When "the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters," then life first started into existence.
This is also the teaching of science, as I shall proceed to show. During the long ages which were occupied in the deposition of the Lau-rentian and lower system of sedimentary rocks, which are supposed to reach a depth or thickness of about five miles, no organic life existed. But, towards the close of that system and the commencement of the next or Cambrian system of rocks, a careful investigation of the formations of that era showed that a small foraminnifer or coral insect had sprung into existence—the first and lowest order of animal life. "The Spirit of God had moved over the face of the waters," and life had commenced to glimmer feebly in the ocean depths, and for long years the only tenants of the vast watery waste were lowly zoophytes and submarine insects of this order. The interpretation of the above passage receives confirmation from the employment of similar expressions in other parts of the Scriptures. Thus, in the Psalms we read: "Thou sentest forth Thy Spirit, and they were created;" and again, in the Book of Job, "By His Spirit He hath garnished the earth."
Thus, life had commenced, but as yet the Divine command had not gone forth—" Let there be light."
And here again science confirms the Scripture record, by proving that the lowly submarine insects created up to this period were born without organs of vision.
But this was to follow :—
"And God said : ' Let there be light.' And there was light. And page 81 God saw the light, that it was good And God divided the light from the darkness. And God called the light day, and the darkness He called night. And the evening and the morning were the first day."
All this time the earth was under water, and darkness was upon the face of the deep. Thick gaseous vapours, arising from the heated globe, hung over the waters and excluded the light. But now a dim, uncertain ray penetrated them, and while the Cambrian system of rocks was being deposited, the submarine animals, which increased in number and variety, were all born with organs of sight and hearing. The Almighty had said : "Let there be light," and then provision was made for the enjoyment of that blessing. But it was not until the fourth day that the sun was to shed its direct rays upon the earth.
Thus terminated the first day or era of creation. It commenced with the creation of heaven and earth, invisible and undeveloped, shrouded in obscurity, and devoid of animal life, and it ended with the beginning of animal life and the introduction of light into the globe.
This was the first day, or era, for the word "day" is evidently not intended to represent the limited period of twenty-four hours. To say that six of our days only were meant would be to give a strained interpretation of the word, not warranted by the context. For although it would have been quite possible for the Almighty to create in one moment of time a world fit for the habitation of man, the Scripture narrative shows that such a supposition is untenable. Eve was created on the sixth day; yet, before that, Adam was created, a garden was prepared for him, and all the animals were passed in review before him, and received their names, which to a being possessed only of human faculties would have been an impossible task. On the other hand, the history becomes perfectly intelligible if we take the word in its extended sense—in the sense in which it is used in many languages, and throughout the Bible—as an indefinite period of time, representing in this case one-sixth portion of the time occupied in creation.
Thus we read : "The day of the Lord;" "The clay of God's wrath;" "The night is passed, and the day is at hand; " "One day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day; " "And in that day the deaf shall hear the words of this Book, and out of darkness and obscurity the eyes of the blind shall see." The Prophet Amos says: "For the days are coming that I will send forth a famine into the land; not a famine of bread, nor a thirst of water, but of hearing the word of the Lord. * * * In that day the fair virgins and the young men shall faint for thirst." In the 2nd chapter of Genesis, too, Moses himself uses the word in a similar sense, for he says : "These are the page 82 generations of the heavens and the earth, when they were created, in the day that the Lord created the earth and the heavens, &c."
The evening and the morning do not, in fact, constitute a day, but a night, according to the division of time given in the Mosaic record. The Jews computed their days from sunset to sunset.
Again, the words "evening and morning" are used to denote the conclusion of each day except the seventh, where they are not used; the inference being that the seventh day or era is not yet completed. The original Hebrew, literally translated, runs thus :—" Then evening was, then morning was, day one," which seems rather to convey the idea of a succession of seasons than one day. Nor would it have been consistent with the harmony and regularity which had characterized all God's works to destroy whole races of animals admittedly in existence, in order to recreate them in a single day of twenty-four hours. Man was then commanded to divide his time into seven portions, and to commemorate the great work of creation by keeping not only the seventh day as a day of rest, but also the seventh year.
"Six years shalt thou sow thy ground, and gather the corn thereof, but the seventh year thou shalt let it alone, and suffer it to rest, that the poor of thy people may eat whatsoever shall be left, &c."
The word was, then, evidently used in its extended sense; and the history of the creation was probably conveyed to Moses in the usual way in which Divine communications were conveyed, by a vision, or a series of visions, each occupying the intermediate period between the evening and the morning, i.e., the night, just in the same way as occurrences of past years often pass before us in review in the short space of of a few minutes, in a vision or dream.
Thus, in six visions, each vision representing one-sixth portion of the period occupied in the creation of the world, the Almighty gave to Moses a complete and faithful epitome of this great work, to be recorded by him for the benefit of mankind. A fuller explanation of His grand celestial ideas would have been more than the mind of a mere human being could receive or his memory retain.
That this was the case, and that Moses was divinely inspired, is sufficiently shown by the miraculous preservation of the record itself, when every other record contemporaneous with it—whether sacred or profane—has perished. The Mosaic narrative stands alone in the early history of the world's creation.
It is clear, too, that Moses could have obtained this exact though brief history from no human source. Scientists of his day could not have informed him that the earth was originally "without form, and page 83 void :"that the watery age had been succeeded by a vegetable age, then by an age of reptiles, to be followed by the creation of birds and beasts and herbs for the use of man; and that, lastly, man had been placed upon the earth to be the lord of all created beings. In those days, simple, unquestioning belief in God's Word took the place of "advanced thought," and the cloud of witnesses which science has since unfolded were absent when he penned this history.
Chas. H. Barlee.