Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

ductions of our globe in consequence of the fall of man from his original state? We learn from the inspired penman, that God, induced by that sad event, pronounced a curse upon the ground, and predicted that it should produce in abundance noxious plants for the annoyance of the offending race of man, and that whereas the primeval earth brought forth spontaneously her fruits and flowers, and afforded man a pleasant and delightful recreation and employment, without subjecting him to toil and weariness ; this state of things should cease, and man, for the future, should earn his bread with difficulty by the labour of his hands and the sweat of his brows. From hence it seems to follow that at this time some great change took place, both with respect to climate, and to that blessing from atmospheric influences which produces plenty and fertility with the lowest amount of labour. Geologists have observed, from the remains of plants and animals embedded in the strata of this and other northern countries, that the climate must formerly have been warmer than it now is. Some change or changes of this kind therefore would sooner or later produce the extinction of such animals and plants, inhabitants of northern countries, as could not bear such a change of temperature, and at the same time could not escape from it; and

[blocks in formation]

admitting this-it would enable us to answer in the affirmative to the query above statednamely, that there were species of animals originally created which have since ceased to exist. Being no longer necessary to bear a part in carrying on the general plan of Divine Providence with regard to our globe, they were permitted or caused to perish.

One circumstance, which I have not seen adverted to, seems to confirm this hypothesis : that so few fossil remains, if any, of tropical birds have hitherto been discovered in cold countries, while such numbers of the quadrupeds of warm climates, both viviparous and oviparous, are met with every day in a fossil state. Now the birds could readily shift their quarters southward, when the temperature grew too cold for them, while the quadrupeds might be stopped by seas, rivers, and other obstacles.

Another question may be asked with respect to the subject I am discussing; might not the animals now become superfluous have been excluded from the ark at the time of the general deluge, and so left to perish? This would furnish a very easy solution of the difficulty, but the text of Scripture seems too precise and express to allow of such a supposition. For the command to Noah is—“ Of every living thing of all flesh, two of every sort shalt thou bring into the ark.But yet the terms here employed must be limited

to those animals that required such shelter to preserve them from destruction by the diluvial waters; so that the expression—" of all fleshnecessarily admits of some exceptions.

But there are doubtless very many animals still existing upon the earth and in its waters, that have not yet been discovered. When we consider the vast tracks of terra incognita still shut out from us in the heart of Africa, that fatal country hitherto as it were hermetically sealed to our researches, and from whose bourn so few travellers return; how little we know of Central Asia, of China, and of some parts of North America; we may well believe that our catalogues of animals are still very short of their real numbers, even with respect to those of the largest dimensions. Burchell and Campbell appear to have met with more than one new species of rhinoceros in their journey from the Cape of Good Hope into the interior;' the same country may conceal others of the same gigantic or other tribes, which, when it is more fully explored, may hereafter be brought to light.

Again, with regard to the productions of the various seas and oceans that occupy so large a portion of our globe, we know comparatively few, especially of its molluscous inhabitants. What are cast up on the shores of the various countries washed by their waves, and what the net or other means may collect in their vicinity, find their way indeed into our cabinets; but what are these compared with such as inhabit the depths and caves and bed of the infinite ocean, which net never dragged, nor plumb-line fathomed. Who shall say what species lurk in those unapproachable recesses never to be revealed to the eye of man, but in a fossil state. The giant Inocerami, the singular tribe of Ammonites, and all their cognate genera, as even Lamarck seems disposed to concede: the Baculites, Hamites, Scaphites, and numerous others there have space enough to live unknown to fame, while they are reckoned by the geologist as expunged from the list of living animals. I do not mean to assert that these creatures are not extinct, but I would only caution the student of nature from assuming this as irrefragably demonstrated ; since we certainly do not yet know enough of the vast field of creation, to say dogmatically with respect to any species of these animals that this is no longer in being.

1 See Appendix, note 8.

But besides the unexplored parts of the surface of the earth, and of the bed of the ocean, are we sure that there is no receptacle for animal life in its womb? I am not going here to revive the visionary speculations of Athanasius Kircher in his Mundus subterraneus, but merely to inquire whether there are any probable grounds for thinking that some creatures may be placed by their Creator at such a depth within the earth’s crust, as to be beyond all human ken. When Laplace says,

1 In N. D. D. H. N. vii. 553.

“ It is certain that the densities of its (the earth's) strata increase from the surface to the centre,” it seems to follow that, in his opinion, there is no central cavity in our globe; but as his object was chiefly to assert the increasing density of the strata as they approach the centre, perhaps his words are not to be taken strictly, especially as in another place he speaks of it merely as probable that the strata are more dense as they are nearer to the centre. Sir I. F. W. Herschel makes a similar, but less exclusive observation, using the terms, towards the centre,” which is not inconsistent with a cavity,

But after all this is matter of conjecture built upon the attraction of the earth, and cannot be ascertained by actual examination; as far as that has been carried, it does not appear that in the present state of our globe the strata always lie exactly in the order of their densities; in the original earth probably they did. But now we tread upon the ruins of a world that has been almost destroyed and reformed. “ The structure of the globe,” observes an eminent geogra

« AnteriorContinuar »