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This, we say, seems the most natural and obvious construction of the subject in hand. It divests it of all reasonable objection, and at the same time furnishes us with a “simple, intellectual, easily conceivable view of the chaotic basis of the future world;" and with the Scriptures as our guide, “may we not humbly conceive of the Almighty as first speaking the elements into existence together, in one general conglomorated mass, and then afterwards imparting to each its respective appropriate qualities, &c. When
" Confusion heard his voice, and wild uproar
Let us now return to the four theories which
prevail, in reference to the length of the six days mentioned in the first chapter of Genesis.
In regard to the first of these four theories, with the exception that it harmonizes with the latter part of the second, in reference to its allotment of six natural days as the time of organization, there is no agreement between it and the other three; they all admitting the distinction between the works of CREATION and of FORMATION. This point, therefore, first demands consideration.
As already observed, in the very brief but comprehensive cosmogony of Moses, there is an evident priority of action on the part of the Divine Being, to that of entering upon the work of each successive day. Otherwise, is it not difficult to conceive the propriety, on the part of the inspired historian, of marking so minutely the process consecutively of the work of
each day?1 The only consistent construction of the narrative, therefore, as I conceive, is to institute a distinction, in this stupendous work of God, between that of CREATION and of FORMATION. 6 In the beginning, God CREATED the heavens and the earth." But, even after their creation, “the earth was without form and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep;" i. e., they remained in a chaotic state, a mass of indescribable confusion. After their creation, “the spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters," thereby preparing the embryo earth and heavens for the parts which they were respectively to occupy in the material universe, during both the progress and consummation of their organized forms. The first verse of Genesis therefore speaks of the creation of the SUBSTANCE, or prima materia of the heavens and earth. The second, to the vital energies of a SUPERNATURAL agency, in preparing the primordial elements for subsequent organization. And the third and following verses to the end of chapter first, to the arranging those elements in their proper form.
Of the first part of the second theory, which asserts an organization of the chaotic elements previous to the first of the six days, we observe, that it seems entirely at variance with the Cosmogony of Moses. There is, upon the face of the history, a total silence as to any organization prior to the FIRST DAY. The conclusion, therefore, is, that there is a distinction to be
1 Com. Gen, i, 1, 2, with v. 3, 6, 9, 14, 20, 25. ii, 1–3.
instituted between the work of creating the SUBSTANCE, or PRIMA MATERIA of the universe, and that of its subsequent ORGANIZATION. And also, that there could be no organization of said substance prior to the FIRST of the six days.
We now proceed to furnish evidence, that each of the six days of organization as above, was a period of vast length. Of the LENGTH of the six days organization of the previously created elements of nature, (the subject now to be discussed,) we enquire;- were they six natural or solar days, as measured by the revolutions of the earth on its axis once in twentyfour hours? Or, were they six periods of greater length?
Now, of the first of these two theories we remark, the point to be decided is not, what, in the creation and formation of the stupendous system of nature the Almighty could do, but what he actually did do. The supposition of what the Almighty could do, which, by the way, forms the basis of the first of the above theories, involves the interyention of a miracle, in giving existence to the material universe; and if by the intervention of a miracle, then we ask, why extend it continuously through the term of six days; when the Almighty could have accomplished the same work in a moment of time? It should, however, be borne in mind, that when a miracle is wrought as a display of infinite wisdom and power, it always stands_connected with circumstances calling for a diversion, from their natural course, of the ordinary and permanently established laws of physical nature.
Then too, the object of a miracle; which is, to produce a moral effect; to persuade, to conviet, where all ordinary evidence has failed. Thus, the turning of a rod into a serpent, &c., by Moses; the arresting the natural course of the Sun and Moon by Joshua ; ? the causing of the iron axe to swim by Elias;: the turning of water into wine, &c., &c., by Christ; 4 the healing of the cripple by St. Peter, with scores of others of a similar nature, are all so many instances of miraculous interruptions of natures laws, and they were designed, as extraordinary means, to cure men of their idolatry, infidelity, or atheism. But, Noah's ark was not built by miracle — he was one hundred and twenty years engaged in its erection. Nor was the earth deluged by miracle. It was nought but the effect of natural causes, under the direction and control of Almighty power. Hence, until it can be made to appear that, in the creation and formation of the material heavens and earth, the Great Architect of nature wrought a superfluous miracle, no rational argument can be derived from the admission of what he could do, in support of this first theory; nor is it easy for us to conceive how such an admission contributes, as it is contended, to aggrandize our views of the Divine wisdom and power, or of the magnitude and magnificence of his works.
What remains for us now is, to adduce what we
1. Exod. viii., 8-10. 2. Josh. x., 12, 13.
conceive to be evidence, in support of the latter theory, viz. : — that the six days of organization or formation of the primordial chaotic elements of nature were, not six natural or solar days, but six periods of vast length.
Here we shall notice, in the first place, the point of difference between the third and fourth theories above named. The former theory attributes to the six days an indefinite period, and also divides these periods unequally; -- the latter, from the nature of the evidence adduced, assigns to each period, a vast, definite, and uniform length. Let us however,
I. Adduce the evidence, that each day of the six, must have greatly exceeded the length of a natural or solar day; and,
II. That they were all not only of vast but definite, and uniform length.
I. That each day of the six, must have greatly exceeded the length of a natural or solar day of twenty four hours, (relying upon the cosmogony of Moses as our guide,) we think abundantly evident,
1. From the ordinary and obvious process of organization, as therein described. In illustration of this subject, it is only necessary to compare the process of organization or formation of the vegetable family on the third day, with those of fishes, birds, beasts, reptiles, and man, on the fifth and sixth days. For, on the supposition that the three intervening days were three days of twenty-four hours each, one of two consequences follow: either first, vegetation must have been formed in a mature state on the third