The Chaos - Geological Discoveries

Genesis 1:2

In the first verse of Genesis we are assured of this grand truth, unknown to ages and to generations, that the visible heavens and the earth did not exist from all eternity, nor arose from accidental combinations of pre-existing matter; but had their beginning from God. Wherever that beginning was in time, or whatever it was in form, that beginning was God’s creative act. This is the great truth concerning the creation which the Scriptures design to teach; and no other information is afforded, no details are given, but such as tend to establish and bear upon this doctrine. Yet these details form the information which God has given us concerning the origin of ourselves, and of the world which we inhabit. These are questions of great interest to us. There are indeed questions of higher interest—those which concern our future destinies; yet these questions belong to subjects respecting which the mind craves for knowledge; and all the information here afforded has, therefore, in every word been explored, examined, and discussed with the most sedulous anxiety, and the most minute and critical attention.

In the past days, men, receiving the record as from God, knowing that only He who made the world could have supplied the information of its origin, and having no idea  that any other sources of knowledge could exist on matters belonging to the time before men lived, were content simply to explore the meaning of the sacred record, and when they found a conclusion in which they could rest, they were satisfied. The conclusion in which men did rest was generally this—that the creation of the world, in its crude state, immediately preceded the work of the six days, and was in the first instance brought into that state of watery unorganized chaos, which was immediately after reduced into order.
But, in these latter days, men have found in the bowels of the earth, and in the sides of its mountains and its riven cliffs, new facts, new circumstances, which, as they conceived, went to show that the world had, under various modifications, existed thousands of ages before the creation of man, or at least before the comparatively recent date to which the record ascribes man’s existence.

The pious man was alarmed at this, as adverse to those impressions respecting the creation in which he had grown up; and in his earnest but short-sighted zeal, he repelled the new science with abhorrence, as an unholy thing, and shut his eyes to the solid facts which it produced. And on the ether side, the scoffer laughed, and exulted in a new weapon against the truth and authority of the Divine Word. These things have passed away. A new generation has grown up. And now certain facts in the science of the earth are seen to be indisputable, whatever doubt lies upon the various theories, successively pushing out each other, which have been founded on them. And yet God reigns; and yet the Bible is true; and yet the sacred record is not only unshaken in the war of theories, but stands firm—firmer than ever, strengthened by the very facts which once seemed to threaten its overthrow—a pillar of central truth, to which all these facts gravitate, and by the measure of their adhesion to which, their worth is tested.

Men began to separate the theories from the facts. The facts poured in from all parts of the world. The disclosures were not reasonings, nor conjectures, nor hypotheses—they  were facts of the least mistakable kind—disentrenched remains of ancient generations of the earth—remains tangible, visible, certain, and reconcilable with no hypothesis which allows no more ancient date to the earth than the commencement of the week which closed in the creation of man.

Then the wise—the men well-instructed in the things of God, began to consider. They began to see in these things a new law of God, a new disclosure of God’s work and will, written in the stony tablets of the earth. They saw that truth is one; and that if these things were truths respecting God’s work, they could not be at variance with the truths disclosed to Moses in times of old. The record was then more carefully examined, and enough was found to dispose the most careful men to hail the new science as, in its facts, not an opponent, but an auxiliary, of inspired truth; as a new commentary, left entombed for ages, but now at last brought to light, to show forth the hitherto hidden meaning of one portion of the sacred Word.

At first there was an inclination to suppose that the days of creation were not natural days, but long intervals of time, answering to the successive developments which had been found in the strata of the earth. But this was not quite satisfactory to any. On the one side, the theologian felt that some force was put upon the plain construction of the Mosaical narrative; while, on the other, the geologist was not content with the most liberal concession which could under this interpretation be afforded to him, nor could he make the order of the Divine operations, during the six days, coincide with the succession of phenomena which the. bowels of the earth disclosed.

The inspired record was then again examined with still closer attention; and it then appeared to many that that sacred source of authentic information does afford an interval, which may have been of any duration that the researches of the earth—explorers may exact. It is said that, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth,” that is, that the material of the world was not eternal, as some had  dreamed, but was, in its beginning, however remote, the work of God. The object of this revelation, then, being, simply to record, for man’s instruction, how the earth assumed its present goodly frame, and acquired its present inhabitants, nothing is said of its intermediate condition, in which it may have lain during long ages; but the inspired writer goes on to state that, previous to its existing organization, it lay, and had probably for a long time lain, “without form and void,” a dark and empty confusion; and that this was of a watery nature, is shown by the immediately following text, which states that “the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.”

That such an interval, which the discoveries of our own generation so nobly fill up, was provided in the sacred text, is not, however, an absolutely new discovery; nor has it altogether been extorted from the volume of inspiration by the demands of the new science. Ages before such discoveries were thought of, or such demands were made, it, was conceived by several of the ancient fathers that a long period of time existed between “the beginning” of the creation and the beginning of the six days. No startling novelty is therefore offered in an interpretation which finds in the Mosaic narrative an interval of time, defined by no limit, and allowing full scope for all the succession of operations which modern science has brought to light. Whatever facts are recorded in the book of God, the volume of the earth confirms; and for the other facts, unrecorded in Scripture, which are written in His starry volume, a sufficient interval of silence and of time is afforded.

Do there remain difficulties? Let us have patience. Let us wait. The Mosaical narrative is still not without difficulties, which it doubtless remains for future time and advancing discoveries to clear up. We do not know that we as yet thoroughly understand the sacred record, that we have as yet fathomed all its depth. But we do know that geological science is not yet perfected, we know that it is continually advancing by new facts, by which previous views are often  considerably modified. And we do know that the more this science—the science of creation—has advanced, the more that it has become a truth, the more the apparent discrepancies between its facts and the teachings of the Mosaical record have diminished. Let us be taught by this experience. Let us rest assured that it will be thus even to the end.

Thus the wonderful book of God is never a thing of the past. It is ever in advance of us and of our science, and of the labors of our most ardent students and our highest intellects. The facts which are drawn forth, as time rolls on, from the firmament of heaven, from the bowels of the earth, and from the depths of the sea, are always found to be, in their ultimate results, in accordance with the sacred book, and serve to evolve the inner meanings, which were not suited to earlier times, and which antecedent ages and generations were therefore unable to discover.