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floor. The exterior of the palace certainly resembled a farm-yard,
Art. III. – The Testimony of Natural Theology to Christianity.
By Thomas Gisborne, A.M. London. Svo. pp. 306. 1818. THIS little volume is intended as a supplement to Dr. Paley's . celebrated work on the saine subject, particularly with respect to the appearances exhibited in the constitution of the present world, of a penal dispensation against the sins of mankind. The best friends of that admirable writer have acknowledged that such .a supplement was really wanted; and happy would it have been for the world had his own increasing infirmities not prevented him from closing his long career of usefulness with a work to which perhaps no other living band was equal. But perhaps another impediment lay in the way which neither years nor infirmities could removenamely, constitutional cheerfulness. Wherever he turned his eyes, the prospect was illuminated by bright skies and cloudless sunshive. He had persuaded himself-he would have gone about to persuade us—to be happy against our own feelings and experience.
Hume said, and it was one of the last things which he said, that it was better to be born with a disposition to see things on the favourable side, than to an estate of ten thousand a year. Such have been respectively the lots of our author and his predecessor. But if Paley erred from constitution on the one hand, his successor has been carried by religious system far into the other extrenie. According to him the whole landscape of human life is overspread with gloom and sorrow and suffering—and almost all the appearances of nature bear testimony to the wrath of God against the sin of man.
Of Mr. Gisborne it is impossible to speak without reverence as a man, or without respect as a writer : a long life and ample fortune devoted to the best interests of mankind-a series of writings on moral and theological subjects, calm, rational, intelligent and impressive, contribute to place him in the number of the best Christians, if not of the best writers of the age. What, then, was our disappointment when, on opening the present volume, we discovered a phænomenon very rare in the history of the human understanding, that at a period of life, when fancy generally cools as judgment matures, when the reasoning powers have long been exercised, the style of writing chastized, and the fervour of enthusiasm itself, in well educated men at least, usually composed into rational devotion, the whole process was, in this instance, inverted: so that had no name appeared on the title-page of the volume before us, we should have assigned it to a juvenile writer of warm fancy, exuberant style, and very imperfect intelligence on the subject which he had undertaken! We should have given him credit
for a spirit of ardent but not well-informed piety, and should have predicted, that when his reasoning powers were cultivated, his circle of knowledge enlarged, his imagination chastized, and his luxuriances corrected, he might in time become an useful Christian philosopher. To what are we to ascribe so unusual, so unnatural a declension ?
We shall begin, in the order of the work itself, with geology; a subject on which it must be confessed that the author is peculiarly unhappy and uninformed. His fundamental position is this that the dislocated and disordered state of the earth, so inconsistent with the general harmony and order of the Creator's works, can only be accounted for by the operation of some moral cause; and as the writings of Moses assure us that an universal deluge, occasioned in part by a disruption of the strata of the earth, did actually take place for the sin of man, the present appearances of those strata are to be accounted for on that principle, and that only. That such is Mr. Gisborne's position will appear from his own words:
* In the works of God order and harmony are the rule : irregularity and confusion form the rare esception.' . Under the divine government, an exception so portentous as that which we have been contemplating, a transformation from order and harmony to irregularity and confusion, involving the integuments of a world, cannot be attributed to any circumstance which, in common language, we call fortuitous.--It proclaims itself to have been owing to a moral cause, a moral cause demanding so vast and extraordinary an effect, a moral cause which cannot but be deeply interesting to man, canuot but be closely connected with man—the sole being on the face of this globe who is invested with moral agency, the sole being, therefore, on this globe who is subject to moral responsibility, the sole being on this globe whose moral conduct can have had a particle of even indirect influence on the general condition of the globe which he inhabits.'
Such is our author's general statement of the subject, loosely declamatory in its style, and wildly hypothetical in its assumption. He next proceeds through a long string of citations from travellers and inferior geologists, occupying no fewer than forty pages, to prove, what every common observer would have conceded to him, the fact of such a disruption in the crust of the earth. Let this respectable author do us the credit to believe that he is in the hands of men who sincerely believe the Mosaic account of the Creation and the Deluge. And for this end let us distinctly state the points on which we do or do not agree.-181, That the whole race of mankind, with the exception of eight persons, were swept away by a deluge, which is said to have opened the fountains of the great deep, or in other words, broken the crust of the earth. 2dly, That the immediate agent in this dispensation was God. 3dly, That the moving cause of this tremendous visitation was the actual and increasing depravity of the generation of human beings then inhabiting the earth. 4th, That there are innumerable appearances of dislocation and disruption in the exterior surface of the globe. So far we wholly accord. But on the last point—that these phænomena can only have proceeded from a moral cause, and that they afford in consequence a positive proof of the reality of the deluge as recorded by Moses, and the anger of the Almighty against the sin of man,—we are at issue. It is but fair however to hear our author himself in support of his own conclusion.
• The violence of the internal commotions by which the dislocation of the strata constituting the exterior portion of the globe was effected, will receive irresistible proof 'when we advance to other results equally or more astonishing, which those convulsions produced. Agitating with kindred impetuosity the suinmits of the mountains and the abysses of the ocean, they confounded lands and seas in commingled devastation, and dislodging from one quarter of the world its trees, its animals, its fishes, its submarine vegetation, rolled away the spoils, and deposited them in the opposite extremities of the earth.
Now in all this verbose and turgid representation, the facts of which are perfectly correct, our author has failed to perceive that the whole argument is a petitio principië. Instead of those convulsions, convulsions specitically produced by the Noachian deluge, we must be permitted to substitute certain convulsions. The question will then be fairly stated, and the cause tried upon its own merits.
• An objection, however, to this statement may perhaps be raised.* On the authority of certain writers on geology it may be alleged that the present earth was constructed from the materials of a former globe, and that the shells and other organic remains, imbedded in our existing strata, belonged to animals inhabiting that globe. In reply then it may be stated that the hypothesis is gratuitous and unnecessary; and, secondly, that if true it would invalidate the hypothesis against which it is brought forward. The hypothesis is gratuitous and unnecessary. Natural reason cannot prove it, nor shew a necessity for it. The grounds, so far as I am aware, on which it is rested, are two--that many of the shells and organic remains of marine animals, and the relics of some land animals discovered in the earth, cannot be attributed to species known at present to exist, and that the immense extent of beds of shells amalgamated into limestone, or aggregated without being conso
* In the present advanced state of geological kvowledge, there is something in this way of speaking which much resembles Euler's expression relating to the Newtonian philosophy, after it had been established over all Europe, 'missis igitur inepliis quorundam Anglorum'!
lidated, cannot be explained away except on the supposition that they are derived from the ruins of an anterior globe. As to the unknown species of marine animals, what know we of the profundities of the ocean? What know we of the species inhabiting at this moment those unsearchable depths, many miles it may be in perpendicular descent beneath the lowest level which the sounding line has reached ?
Are we to pronounce concerning those depths and their inhabitants as though the flooring (bottom) of the sea were spread before our eyes, like the surface of Salisbury Plain, or like the bottom of a pond, which by drawing a bolt we had laid dry? As to the immensity of the quantity of shells discovered, it is undeniable that on the most contracted computation of chronology, for we ask not for the high antiquity of the present earth which infidelity assigns, sixteen centuries and a half elapsed between the Creation and the Deluge. It is not too much to say, when the proverbially rapid multiplication of fishes is borne in mind, that the period of sixteen centuries was sufficient for the production of masses so enormous of shells and organic remains as should be adequate, whether quietly upheaved in unbroken strata by the expansion of subinarine fires, or ground, through collision, into fragments by the fury of the waters, to account for all the actual phenomena.'
Again. “But it is likewise urged by the objector, that relics of terrestrial animals belonging to a former world have been discovered.— Why belonging to a former world? Because the original species are not at present known. If the skeletons then of the mammoth or the megatherion, or the horns of some unknown tribe of the class of deer have been found on the surface of the earth, or dug up from bogs and cavities, may not those animals still survive in the central solitudes of America, or in the depths of northern Asia? Or may they not have been extinguished at the Deluge,' (what then becomes of the ark?)' or subsequently exterminated by a roving population of hunters ?
Such is our respect for Mr. Gisborne's character, that we will not venture to pronounce this representation of the advanced state of geological knowledge designedly unfair, but we cannot forbear to say that it implies such a defect of information with respect to the latest discoveries on the subject, as must render the author, in the opinion of every well informed geologist, wholly incompetent to the task of writing or debating on the subject. We do not recollect that he mentions the name of Cuvier.* _We see no proof that he has ever looked into a work in which the remains of animal bodies in their fossil state have been analyzed and arranged with a precision scarcely inferior to the regular classifications of recent zoology. The respective situations of almost all these in their mineralized state, prove the order in which they have existed, as well as that in which they have been deposited. But in all these strata there is
* Essay on the Theory of the Earth, by M. Cuvier. Third Edition. Jamieson's Translation, 1817.