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'been found, in natural history, any document by which a high 'antiquity might be attributed to the human race. But this is 'not the case with regard to the inferior species of animals, par'ticularly those which inhabit the ocean and its shores. We 'find in natural history monuments which prove that these ani'mals had long existed, and we thus procure a measure for the 'computation of a period of time extremely remote, though far 'from being precisely ascertained. It is thus that, ' in finding the relics of the animals of every kind in the solid 'body of our earth, a natural history of those animals is proved, "which includes a certain portion of time; and for the ascertain'ing this portion of time, we must again have recourse to the 'regular operations of this world. We shall thus arrive at facts 'which indicate a period to which no other species of chronology 'is able to remount. We find the marks of marine 'animals in the most solid parts of the earth; consequently these 'solid parts have been formed after the ocean was inhabited by 'these animals, which are proper to that fluid medium. If, therefore, we knew the natural history of these solid parts, and 'could trace the operations of the globe, by which they had been 'formed, we would have some means for computing the time through which those species of animals have continued to 'live.' And he concludes his essay with the following remarkable passages:-'This, however, alters nothing with ' regard to the nature of those operations of the globe. The system is still the same. It only protracts the indefinite space ' of time in its existence, while it gives us a view of another dis'tinct period of the living world; that is to say, the world which 'we inhabit is composed of the materials, not of the earth which ' was the immediate predecessor of the present, but of the earth, ' which in ascending from the present, we consider as the third, ' and which had preceded the land that was above the surface of 'the sea, while our present land was yet beneath the waters of the ocean. There are three distinct successive periods of ex'istence, and each of these is, in our measurement of time, a thing ' of indefinite duration.
'We have now got to the end of our reasoning; we have no 'data further to conclude immediately from that which actually is: but we have got enough; we have the satisfaction to find, 'that in nature there is wisdom, system, and consistency. For ❝ having, in the natural history of this earth, seen a succession of 'worlds, we may from this conclude that there is a system in 'nature, in like manner as, from seeing revolutions of the planets, 'it is calculated that there is a system by which they are intend
'ed to continue those revolutions. But if the succession of 'worlds is established in the system of nature, it is in vain to 'look for any thing higher in the origin of the earth. The ' result, therefore, of our present enquiry is, that we find no ' vestige of a beginning-no prospect of an end.'
These enlarged and philosophical views, which he subsequently expanded into a more perfect work, attracted the attention of men of kindred genius; and in his native metropolis he found many individuals of celebrity and talent who adopted his theory, and interested themselves in its developement. The most distinguished of these were Dr Black, Professor Playfair, Sir James Hall, Sir John Leslie, Dr Hope, Lord Selkirk, Lord Meadowbank, Mr Clerk of Eldin, and his son the late Lord Eldin; and at a later period Lord Webb Seymour, Sir George Mackenzie, and Mr Allan. Cherishing for their master all the respect which profound science could command, and all the affection which private worth could inspire, many of his disciples accompanied him in his geological tours,-delineated for him the most interesting phenomena,-and assisted him in the extension of his theoretical views, and in the confirmation of them by direct experiment.
In visiting the scenery at St Abb's Head, where some of the party saw, for the first time, the clearest evidence of the theory they had espoused, they were animated with all the enthusiasm with which great truths first break upon the mind. • We felt ⚫ ourselves necessarily carried back to the time when the schistus ' on which we stood was yet at the bottom of the sea, and when the sandstone before us was only beginning to be deposited, in ⚫ the shape of sand or mud, from the waters of a superincumbent 6 ocean. An epocha still more remote presented itself, wherever the most ancient of these rocks, instead of standing upright in ⚫ vertical beds, lay in horizontal planes at the bottom of the sea, and was not yet disturbed by that immeasurable force which has burst asunder the solid pavement of the globe. Revolutions still more remote appeared in the distance of this extraordinary perspective. The mind seemed to grow giddy by looking so far into the abyss of time; and while we listened with ear'nestness and admiration to the philosopher who was now unfolding to us the order and series of these wonderful events, we 'became sensible how much farther reason may sometimes go ⚫ than imagination can venture to follow.'
These were the noble words of Professor Playfair,-a favourite disciple, who afterwards became the illustrator of the Huttonian Theory, and, by the closeness of his argument, and the richness of
his eloquence, invested it with all the splendour of original discovery. Quitting the rich fields of physical science, he found an ample equivalent in the fascination of geological enquiry. Over the wild speculations of cosmology he first threw the reins of mathematical reasoning, and guided them with all the caution of the inductive philosophy.
From this system of geology all assumptions were sedulously excluded. No inquisition was held over the origin of things;' and no attempts made to offend the cherished opinions of the age. In the destructive agency of gravity and the elements, the Huttonians recognised the forces by which the elevated lands were gradually worn down and transferred by the rivers to the bottom of the sea. In the volcano and the earthquake, they witnessed the energy of that subterranean power which indurated and again elevated the submarine deposits; while its actual effects were displayed in the emergence of new islands, in the formation of new mountains, and in the elevation and depression of extensive tracts of land. The great convulsions of the globe, however, the dislocation of its strata, the upheaving of its molten bowels, and the entombment of its living occupants,-were events which man could neither have witnessed nor recorded. The tranquil deluge of the Scriptures could not have shattered the solid framework of the globe, nor burst its adamantine pavement. These were the events of successive revolutions, extending far beyond the period of his occupancy; and in tracing the remains of organic life from the most recent to the most ancient formations, we learn the mortifying lesson, that the whole duration of human society, lengthened as it seems to us, is scarcely an unit in that extended chronology which acknowledges no 'be'ginning,' save that 'in which the Lord created the heavens and 'the earth.'
These grand and exciting views of the alternate decay and renovation of the earth's surface, in place of being opposed to any religious principle, or employed to support any sceptical opinions, were unceasingly urged by their author as the strongest evidences of benevolent design; and were calculated by their very nature to impress on the human heart those sentiments of humility and awe, which are so readily learned, and so quickly effaced. However deeply we may feel that all earthly glory shall perish, and however forcibly it has been impressed upon us that the storied urn shall crumble, and the gorgeous palace fall, it is yet a more awful conviction that the cloud-capt hills shall find a grave in the hollows of the deep, and shall again rise above its retreating waves-majestic obelisks to the power which overwhelmed
These, however, were not the feelings either of rival theorists or of political divines. The one sustained their feeble argument by an appeal to Scripture; whilst the guardians of our faith marshalled themselves against truths eternal and immutable. Dr Hutton was not in a position to feel very keenly the assaults thus made upon his theory; but Professor Playfair, who had in early life held a living in the church, and was now placed in the responsible situation of a teacher of youth in our metropolitan university, had reason to be more sensitive under the groundless charges brought against his opinions. He defended the theory of his friend with his accustomed eloquence, and his opponents must have felt, if they had any feeling, that they were equally incompetent to fathom the depths of science, and to clear up the obscurities of Scripture.
It has been well observed by Mr Lyell, that the party feel'ing excited against the Huttonian doctrines, and the open disre'gard of candour and temper in the controversy, will hardly be 'credited by our readers, unless we recall to their recollection that 'the mind of the English public was at that time in a state of 'feverish excitement. *** The heretical volcanists were now openly assailed in England by imputations of the most illiberal 'kind. We cannot estimate the malevolence of such a persecution by the pain which similar insinuations might now inflict; for though charges of infidelity and atheism must at all times be 'odious, they were injurious in the extreme at that moment of political excitement; and it was better, perhaps, for a man's good reception in society, that his moral character should have 'been traduced, than that he should become a mark for these 'poisoned weapons.'
Among the men who thus endeavoured to stem the tide of knowledge, and to set reason and revelation at variance, the most respectable were Kirwan, Deluc, and Williams; but it was not their open enemies that the Huttonians had to dread, nor was it the rebukes of the truly pious that they were called upon to
*Principles of Geology, vol. i., p. 65, 67.
+ Dr Hope, the learned professor of chemistry in this University, had regularly taught the Huttonian theory in the largest class ever assembled in any seminary. Feeling the inconvenience of the charges so recklessly made against its supporters, he invited the late learned and pious Dr Hunter, then professor of divinity in the University, to attend his lecture on geology; in which he had been accustomed to show that the Huttonian theory was in no respects adverse to religion, or in any way That amiable man incompatible with the Mosaic account of the creation. accepted the invitation, and though strict and uncompromising in every
bear. The reigning faction of the day grasped with eagerness the new weapon that fanaticism had placed in their hands; and but for circumstances too recent to be detailed, Scotland might have had to bewail her scientific as well as her political martyrs. The geology of the Deluge, and of the six days, thus became an article in their political creed; and these watchmen of the temple, who had surrendered all the peculiar doctrines of their own faith, would not abate one jot of its spurious chronology. *
It was in the Royal Society of Edinburgh that the great battle was fought between the worshippers of fire and water,—between the literal interpreters of Scripture, and those gifted men who recognised the handwriting of the Creator in his works as well as in his word. The vicinity of Edinburgh was ransacked for specific facts to support or overturn the rival theories; and at successive meetings of the society the discussion of these controverted topics was carried on with all the ardour and bitterness of party strife. The successors of Kirwan and Deluc at last quitted the field, and found in the cloisters of an institution of their own the proper sphere for their monastic philosophy.†
thing that concerned religion, he did not scruple to express his entire accordance in Dr Hope's views.
*The following is part of a speech delivered by the Rev. Dr Knox in the General Assembly, in the memorable case of Mr Lesile, on the 22d May 1805 If Mr Lesile has, in the 16th note to his book on heat, attacked the grand principle of natural religion, he has also, it appears to me, in his 25th note, directed an attack against the truths of Revelation. Let any unprejudiced man peruse that note, and say, whether it be possible to believe that the author entertains any kind of respect for the Mosaic account of the creation. Appearances in the structure of our planet transport us, as he there affirms, far beyond the origin of animated beings, into the fathomless depths of primæval time. He talks of vast cycles familiar to philosophic minds like his, which must have rolled away before man began to be. The history of Moses, which places man very near to the first creation, must therefore be an unfounded legend! Mr Leslie attempts to prove all this, particularly in his speculations regarding the erosions upon Mount Grimsel, in Switzerland. It is truly curious to mark the various expedients which some men, calling themselves philosophers, have resorted to, in order to subvert the authority of scriptural history. One has founded his attack upon certain appearances exhibited by volcanic lava; another has resorted to the creative agency of a central fire; another, a professor toò (Mr Playfair), has recourse to the obscure epochs and vain calculations of Hindoo astronomy; and Mr Leslie derives his arguments from erosions on the granite mountains of Switzerland."(Report, p. 104.)
As a specimen of the reasoning by which the Huttonian theory was assailed by its enemies, we may mention a circumstance which occurred in our own presence. Dr Richardson of Portrush, who, we believe,