« ZurückWeiter »
tanical provinces at twenty-seven. This estimate was the result of an examination of seventy or eighty thousand species.
In the early days of natural history, travellers expected to find the same animals and plants in distant countries as in their own; and often they fancied resemblances where later observations have shown only a sort of family likeness, but not a specific identity. Even Linnaeus maintained that all the species of animals and plants were originally placed on one fertile spot, from whence they subsequently migrated, so as to fill the earth. But the facts of the case were then too imperfectly known to enable even the strongest and most impartial mind to arrive at a correct conclusion. Naturalists now almost universally suppose that each species was indigenous to one particular spot, and that different species were placed in different spots, from whence they have spread to a greater or less distance. So that when they find a species on almost every part of the globe, they immediately begin to seek out its birth place and the means of its dispersion.
From these facts we trust our readers will be able to estimate the force of the objection under consideration. If all animals on the face of the globe were destroyed by the deluge, except those preserved in the ark, then the existing races must have migrated from the region of Ararat to their present stations in the remotest parts of the globe. But facts show that with few exceptions they are confined to particular regions; and where we find the same animal in distant spots, we also find it in intermediate places. If all proceeded from one point after the deluge, we should have expected to find traces of their existence along the path of their migration. Again, if this dispersion took place naturally, how could species adapted, as we now see the greater part are, to a particular climate, have been sustained while they were gradually moving through regions unpropitious to them, to that spot for which Providence intended them ? By what instinct could they have been guided to countries often several thousand miles distant? And especially, how could the tropical animals of America have reached their present abode, without passing through the Arctic regions around Behring's Strait, where such animals could not now survive a week ? And there are many other cases where the difficulty of transportation must have been equally great.
To reconcile this objection with the history of Noah's deluge, as it is usually understood, is, indeed, no easy task ; that is, if
we suppose pairs of all animals on the globe were actually preserved in the ark and the deluge was strictly universal. Some, we know, will cut the knot at once, by imputing the whole to the miraculous power of God — and we readily admit that this was sufficient if exerted - but we do not think it necessary to resort to such an agency in order to vindicate the Scriptures : and as a resort to miracles rarely satisfies, although it may silence skeptical minds, we shall suggest two hypotheses which we regard sufficient to meet the difficulty.
In the first place, the deluge may not have been universal. We have already endeavored to show that the T287- (Gen. 8: 9) over which the waters are said to have flowed, may have been equivalent to the oixouuévn of the New Testament ; that is, the whole world so far as men inhabited it. And if this be admitted, the animals that existed in remote countries may not have perished; while those saved in the ark furnished the stock for repeopling the regions which the flood had destroyed. Such an interpretation has had its advocates, ever since the days of Quirini, in 1676; and we are confident that it may be maintained without straining or perverting the sacred record at all; though we feel some difficulty with it on geological grounds : that is, we can hardly see why a deluge extensive enough to overwhelm the oixovuévn, should not sweep over other parts of the world.
In the second place, a new creation of animals and plants may have taken place subsequent to the deluge. We admit that the Scriptures are silent on the subject, and therefore they leave us free to reason concerning it from philosophical considerations. If it be admitted that the language of Scripture respecting the deluge is to be limited to the region, probably not extensive, which was occupied by man, and to the animals with which he was most familiar in those regions, we should not expect, that in giving an account of what took place after the deluge, they would describe the animals and plants of other parts of the world, even if they were then first created : For in this case, it would have been necessary to communicate a knowledge of the geography of the globe; or in other words, to anticipate future discoveries in that science. And this would have been foreign to the object of revelation, as indeed would any account be of the animals and plants of remote regions, or of organic remains in the rocks. It ought also to be recollected, that the sacred writers use almost the same language to describe
the original creation of the matter of the universe, as the successive production of animals and plants by ordinary generation; since they looked upon both as equally the work of God. A passage in the 104th Psalm will illustrate this idea, (vs. 29, 30):
Thou hidest thy face, they (animals of every kind) are troubled : thou takest away their breath, they die and return to their dust. Thou sendest forth thy Spirit, they are created : and thou renewest the face of the earth. Now we cannot but see the resemblance between this description and that of the original creation in Genesis. The same Spirit is concerned and the same word used, viz. 7. It very well describes, also, those successive destructions and renewals of animal races, which geologists maintain are shown by the history of organic remains, to have taken place on the globe. Yet commentators generally suppose that this passage describes only the ordinary destruction and renewal of the animal races, which is daily taking place by what are called natural laws.
The inference we wish to make from such facts as these, is, that even though new species of organized beings were from time to time created, it would not be strange that it should not be noticed in the Scriptures, if the mention of it did not fall in directly with the great moral object of the Bible ; since the inspired writers would not regard such an exercise of Divine power as scarcely more illustrative of the perfections of Jehovah, than the ordinary and continual reproduction of animals and plants.
Suppose now, that naturalists should find reason to conclude that new species of animals and plants do occasionally appear on the globe; would there be any inconsistency between such a fact and the Scriptures ? Must we believe that the creation of all animals and plants, that ever have existed, is described in the Bible ? We think it almost certain, as we have shown in another place, (Bibl. Repos. Vol. VI. p. 309,) that the animals and plants found fossil are not described in Genesis. And naturalists think that there are some cases in which a new species of animal is introduced in modern times ; as in those instances where animals or animalculae are found only in some substance that has been discovered by a chemical process in modern times. *
We do not regard the examples which they cite as entirely satisfactory : But the enormous multiplication of the
* Blumenbach's Manual of Natural History, p. 276. London, 1825.
frogs of Egypt, sometimes mentioned by commentators as an example of a new creation, seems explicable by natural laws but with great difficulty. And such examples, in connection with our previous reasoning, go to take away all improbability from the conclusion, that there was a new creation immediately subsequent to the deluge.
Evidence is derived from geology that several catastrophes, which have in early times taken place on the globe, by which entire races of organized beings have been destroyed, have been followed by the creation of new races. Sometimes a few species seem to have survived the catastrophe, or have been reproduced; but in general, those created after the catastrophe have been different from those destroyed by it. Here then, it seems to us, we obtain a still stronger presumption that the diluvial catastrophe described by Moses was followed by an analogous new creation, so far as it was necessary to repeople the world, or to adapt organized beings to changes in climate and other circumstances. The numerous examples of new creations which Palaeontology furnishes, show us that such is the law of the Divine administration.
Another consideration renders still more probable the idea of a new creation subsequent to the deluge. It does not appear from the sacred records, that any provision was made in the ark for the preservation of plants or seeds. Now there are very many species that would have been entirely destroyed by being covered with water for a year ; as will be evident to any one who has noticed how a flood of a few weeks will ruin many plants on which the water rests. They cannot survive so long without the access of air. The diluvial waters, therefore, must have destroyed the germinating principle in numerous instances ; and unless the postdiluvian flora be more scanty than the antediluvian, as we have no reason to suppose, — these last species must have been recreated after the waters had retired.
These several circumstances do not prove certainly that such a creation did take place. But when we connect them with the facts that have been detailed, respecting the present distribution of organized beings, which are totally at variance with their having spread except miraculously from one point, and when we consider further, that the Scriptures leave us at entire liberty to suppose such a creation, the hypothesis certainly appears probable enough to form a satisfactory reply to the objection under consideration against the scriptural account derived from the present distribution of organized beings. Some, however, have thought that it would be still more satisfactory to combine both the hypotheses which we have pamed. They would admit a new creation, and also suppose that the deluge was not universal. We do not feel anxious which of these three modes of relieving the difficulty is adopted. But one of them at least seems to us indispensable.
4. It only remains, as the fourth general branch of our subject, to inquire whether any natural causes could have produced the deluge.
It is well known, that from the earliest times, writers have indulged in speculations on the natural causes of this event ; while to many, such an inquiry seems almost sacrilegious ; since they suppose the deluge to have been strictly miraculous. Had the sacred writers distinctly informed us that such was the fact, all philosophical reasoning concerning that event would have been presumptuous and useless. But since the Bible is silent on this point, and since we know it to be a general principle in God's government, not to superadd to natural agencies a miraculous energy where the former is sufficient to accomplish his purposes, we are surely at liberty to inquire whether any forces exist in nature sufficient, by their unaided operation, to produce such a catastrophe. In giving a history of opinions respecting the deluge, we have exhibited a variety of hypotheses on this subject ; but most of them are too evidently baseless to need a formal examination. We shall therefore mention only those that are still advanced by respectable writers of the present day.
1. Some impute the deluge to the approximation of a comet to the earth, or to an actual appulse of the two bodies. On this hypothesis it is not necessary to add any thing to what we have stated in giving the history of opinions concerning the deluge, (Bibl. Repos. Jan. 1837. p. 107.) The fact, now well ascertained, that the comets are not solid bodies, and for the most part are only very attenuated vapor, certainly renders this hypothesis entirely untenable. And we can explain the circumstance that some writers still cling to it, only by supposing them ignorant of the facts, or strangely perverted in their judgments by the influence of hypothesis.
2. Some suppose that the deluge was caused by the sinking down of the antediluvian continents beneath the ocean, and the elevation of our present continents above the waters. Such an event would, indeed, produce a complete and universal deluge;