Page images

part of his dominions, are the same—and that the arrangements and appearances that offer themselves to our notice on the face of this our proper world, may be viewed not merely as exhibitions of the Divine plan, so far as it merely is concerned, but as a sample suited to our peculiar nature, of the entire arrangements of that boundless and mysterious whole of which it also is a part.

And hence we see, in the third place, that there is far less difficulty in conceiving, than is commonly supposed, that "the kingdom of heaven,” according to the beautiful expression of the author of the Christian faith, " may be brought down upon the earth”—it being to the same purpose, whether earth be gradually advanced to a nearer resemblance of the higher specimens of the Divine government, or whether we conceive the more perfect order of the heavens to be realized or brought down among men. Either idea is equally easily admitted, when it is understood that the whole scheme is one, and that we have our present place in but one province of an empire, over which the same plan of government prevails, though varied unquestionably in its municipal regulations, according to the peculiar powers of the creatures to whom, in each of its departments, the office of carrying forward its purposes has been entrusted.

And hence it follows, in the last place, that we are not outcasts from the kingdom of God, but members of that one family by which heaven and earth are peopled-and entitled to consider ourselves, even in this our earthly abode, as in one "mansion of that father's house," whose love is impartial towards all his children, and who in all parts of his dominions, and to all the members of his family, is conducting all things according to laws of infinite wisdom and infinite goodness.



1. Although the fine but abstract researches of astronomy have served to make it evident, that in the present order, so far as we can trace it, or are in a condition to calculate its results, there are no symptoms of any such tendency to disorder or derangement as must ultimately end in the destruction of the system-but that, on the contrary, all deviations from the mean order are compensated and finally redressed by arrangements which periodically recal things to their most stable condition-yet subordinate to these refined inquiries, there are researches more within the reach of the

human mind, and therefore less liable to error, from which it may be deduced with as great certainty as is afforded by any evidence of science-that the present order of things is but one of a vast series by which it has been preceded--and which is to be continued after it in indefinite, and, humanly speaking, it may be, interminable succession.

The present dry land has, it may be as safely concluded as in regard to any proposition which the whole range of science embraces, been at some previous period covered by a race resembling that which we now find occupying the greater part of the entire surface of the world-for the remains of its organized inhabitants are still to be found in vast abundance, disseminated through all the strataor at least through the greater part of the strata of which the present surface is composed-and it seems plain, therefore, that the composition of the element which sustained such forms of life and organization must have been essentially, or nearly the same, with that whose properties are familiar to our daily observation.

It seems also to be ascertained beyond all possibility of question-or with as great certainty as any matter relying on mere observation and deduction from facts can possess-that each of the forms which our globe has born previous to the present,

has been accompanied with productions of animal and organized life suited to the peculiar constitution of the world in which they found their place—and varying at each epoch of change according to the alterations which the entire system with which they were connected had undergone.

And in this series of organic and sentient life, it seems ascertained that there has been a gradual approximation to the peculiar forms which now exist upon the face of our world, and are adapted to its present constitution.

It thus seems to be the plan of nature to proceed from the evolution of lower to higher forms as she advances in her course-and the general result of the inquiries which have been made in this august and inviting track of speculation and research is," that we have obtained indubitable evidence of the former existence of a state of animated nature widely different from what now obtains on the globe—and of a period anterior to that in which it has been the habitation of man--or rather, indeed, of a series of periods of unknown duration, in which both land and sea teemed with forms of animal and vegetable life, which have successively disappeared and given place to others-and these again to new races, approximating gradually more and more nearly to those which now

inhabit them--and at lengh comprehending species which have their counterparts existing."

2. But, in more particularly examining the symptoms of former changes which are now to be discovered in the structure of the surface of our globe, we are instantly struck with appearances which seem to indicate the operation of powerful and violent and disturbing causes in the production of the changes which have occurred; thus the strata are often bent and fractured into most fantastic and striking forms-parts which had at one period during their formation been in connection, are now found to be separated from each other by the violent introduction of materials which bear every evidence of having been forcibly projected into the situations they now occupy—and over the entire face of the earth there are everywhere to be met vast collections of loose and fractured materials, which have been disjoined from rocks either nearer or more remote from their first position -and which cannot be viewed without inducing the conviction, that during the changes to which the earth has been subjected previously to its having assumed its present form, there have been causes at work which seem for a time to have been permitted to make wild havoc of the system-and which have accordingly left those indubitable

« PreviousContinue »