Page images
[ocr errors]

average readers; we shall, therefore, do little more than point out their object and character.

Mr. Lyell's volume, which contains only the earlier portion of his inquiries, is a bold and able effort to deduce all the changes of the earth's surface from causes now in operation. Volcanic action, atmospheric influences, vegetable deposits, tides and currents, with other agencies both direct and incidental, are held forth as constituting the grand machinery of the destructive and renovative principles. That Mr. Lyell has developed and maintained his hypothesis with much skill, there can be no difficulty in admitting: that he has effected any thing beyond this, is, we apprehend, something more than doubtful. Professor Sedgwick has taken a very decided part in opposition; and as the pamphlet which contains his animadversions is not likely to fall in the way of our readers, we shall trespass on it for an extract. Independently, however, of every thing connected with system, Mr. L.'s work will be found invaluable as a collection and arrangement of facts and geological phenomena. It is, moreover, most interesting reading; and the student who shall have mastered its contents, will have put himself in possession of abundant materials for the effective prosecution of scientific inquiry.

If, observes Mr. Sedgwick, 'the principles vindicated in Mr. Lyell's work be true, then there can be no great violations of continuity either in the structure or position of our successive formations. But we know that there are enormous violations of geological continuity: and though, relatively speaking, many of them may be local, of this at least we are certain, that they have been produced by forces adequate to the effects, and co-extensive with the phænomena. In the speculations I am combating, all great epochs of elevation are systematically, and I think unfortunately, excluded. Volcanic action is essentially paroxysmal ; yet Mr. Lyell will admit no greater paroxysms than we ourselves have witnessed – no periods of feverish spasmodic energy, during which the very framework of nature has been convulsed and torn asunder. The utmost movements that he allows are, a slight quivering of her muscular integuments.'

• Of the origin of volcanic forces we know nothing: but we do know that they are the irregular, secondary results of great masses of matter, obeying the primary laws of atomic action,—that they differ in their intensity—are interrupted in their periods and are aggravated or constrained by an endless number of causes, external and purely mechanical. Of all modes of material combination, those of which I now speak are perhaps the most complicated. To assume, then, that volcanic forces have not only been called into action at all times in the natural history of the earth, but also, that in each period they have acted with equal intensity, seems to me a merely gratuitous hypothesis, unfounded on any of the great analogies of nature, and I believe also unsupported by the direct evidence of fact. This theory


confounds the immutable and primary laws of matter with the mutable results arising from their irregular combination. It assumes, that in the laboratory of nature, no elements have ever been brought together which we ourselves have not seen combined ; that no forces have been developed by their combination, of which we have not witnessed the effects. And what is this but to limit the riches of the kingdoms of nature by the poverty of our own knowledge ; and to surrender ourselves to a mischievous, but not uncommon philosophical scepticism, which makes us deny the reality of what we have not seen, and doubt the truth of what we do not perfectly comprehend ?'

On the design of Dr. Ure's volume, we can bestow unqualified praise: concerning its execution, we cannot speak quite so highly. He has communicated much valuable instruction in a very impressive and gratifying manner; but we cannot say that he has given a picture by any means complete, of geological science in its present advanced state. As an introduction to geology, however, it will be found highly useful, while the number and distinctness of the graphic illustrations, add essentially to the clearness of the description and the general value of the book. That the work is written with spirit and right feeling, the following extract will sufficiently evidence.

• The monuments of changes in the constitution of animal and vegetable beings, and of an universal deluge which was fatal to them both, are so marvellous and multiform, that Baron Cuvier, by their means, has had the talent to create as lively an interest for the ancient empire of the dead, as for the kingdoms of living nature. In accompanying him through the dark cemeteries of the earth, a mysterious gleam from the primeval world penetrates our soul, and solemnly awakens its deepest faculties. We seem to walk among new orders of beings, endowed with extraordinary forms, and exercising paradoxical functions. In one sepulchre we meet with a sloth, not dwarfish as a small dog, like our existing species, but of the gigantic stature of a rhinoceros, provided with enormous arms and claws for suspending itself, according to the instincts of its kind, from trees of colossal growth. In others, we find quadrupeds bearing wings on their toes, crocodiles furnished with fins, but no feet, and lizards of whale-like dimensions. These all speak of a world unlike our own, the fashion of which has long passed away. But that world, the victim of sin, will not have perished in vain ; if its mighty ruins serve to rouse its living observers from their slumberous existence, if they lead them to meditate seriously on the origin and end of terrestrial things, and to improve their brief span by the contemplation of the works and ways of Providence.'- Ure.

Few words will suffice to characterise the publications of Mr. de la Beche. They are purely and ably practical; and while they will afford effectual assistance to the geological student, and supply much useful and intelligible explanation to the general reader, they may assist the more advanced inquirer by their facility of reference. The 'Notes' contain illustrations of various points of geological inquiry, some of which have a decided bearing on Mr. Lyell's views. The paper on the Geo'graphical Distribution of Organic Remains in the Oolitic Se‘ries of England and France,' is excellently done ; combining, in convenient space and form, facts and illustrations derived from authorities not always readily accessible. The 'Sections . and Views' present, on forty plates, a large and valuable selection of diagrams, chiefly coloured, with succinct, but clear explanations. The study of this volume will do much towards preparing the student for the investigation of nature.

We have added to the present series of available works, the second edition of what may be called a grammar of Oryctology. In this well printed volume, Mr. Parkinson has comprised an extensive and well arranged variety of information on the subject of fossil organic remains; supplying to the learner, an easy and complete introductory manual, and to the well informed, a text-book of convenient reference. The graphic illustrations are copious and distinct.

We close these brief criticisms with a recommendation of mineralogy as an early study. The quick eye, the ready mind, the elastic step of youth, are all favourable to the investigation of natural phenomena; and impressions made while the memory is fresh and unlaboured, are vivid and permanent far beyond those of later years. There is a charm in these inquiries, arising from the peculiar qualities of their objects, their boundless variety of form, hue, character, and combinations, their delightful associations, and the mighty train of reasonings and results to which they lead. Nor can, humanly speaking, a better security be taken against the misemployment of time, than by such an early direction of the mind to a profitable and attractive pursuit.

Art. IX.-1. The Constitution of the Bible Society defended, in a

Letter to the Hon. and Rev. Gerard T. Noel. By Joseph Fletcher,

D.D. 8vo. Is. 6d. London. 1831. 2. A Letter addressed to the Hon. and Rev. Baptist W. Noel, occa

sioned by his Statement and Illustration of certain great Principles of Action, in the Speech delivered by him at the Anniversary of the British and Foreign Bible Society, May 4th, 1831. By

Fiat Justitia. 8vo. Price ls. London. 1831. 3. A Letter to T. Pell Platt, Esq. F.S.A., Honorary Librarian to the

British and Foreign Bible Society, in Reply to a Letter from that Gentleman. By the Rev. A. Brandram. 8vo. Price 6d. London. 1831.

4. Naval and Military Bible Society. The Speeches delivered at the

Anniversary General Meeting held at Exeter Hall, on the 10th of

May, 1831. 8vo. London. 5. Observations addressed to the Trinitarian Friends and Members of

the Bible Society, comprehending the principal Arguments in Support of the Proposed Alteration in the Constitution of the Society. By a Clerical Member of the Provisional Committee, some

time Secretary to an Auxiliary Society. 8vo. 1831. 6. Conduct of the Committee of the British and Foreign Bible Society

reviewed. By Robert Haldane, Esq. 8vo. London. 1831. то "O the divisions and disorders which arose in the primitive

churches, how much are we indebted, as having furnished the occasion of some of the most important and eloquent portions of the Apostolic Scriptures! And to modern controversies within the Church, we owe some of the most valuable of uninspired compositions. Much as we regretted, at first, the renewed attack upon the constitution of the Bible Society, as coming from a quarter in which we have not been accustomed to look for adversaries, we begin to think that the exposition and defence of the grand principles of the Society, which it has called forth, will prove of so much lasting service, both to the Institution and to the cause of truth, as will more than compensate for the disturbance of harmony. Dr. Fletcher's Let*ter' alone would go far towards reconciling our minds to the occasion, unhappy in itself, which has elicited so luminous and powerful a vindication of the two Protestant principles upon which the Society is grounded ; and we must indulge ourselves in citing somewhat copiously from his pages,

• The controversy,' says Dr. F., ' which is now unhappily agitating the friends of the Bible Society, and causing the bitter waters of strife to spread in all directions, is of so momentous a character, and involves in its decision such important consequences, that it is incumbent on every supporter of that Society to defend, to the utmost of his power, the purity, simplicity, and integrity of its constitutional principles. Those principles appear, to my own mind, self-evident and incontrovertible. The recent attempt tointroduce a test in the Bible Society, produced something like the effect which results from the startling paradoxes of scepticism, when it assails the settled assurances of the mind on those points of historic belief or moral conviction, which had been heretofore regarded as fixed and incontrovertible. I have always been accustomed to consider the constitution of the Bible Society as impregnable on two grounds: first, that it recognized the supreme and exclusive authority of the Scriptures; and, secondly, that it admitted the right of private judgement in matters of religion. These principles are the vital elements of Protestantism. They are no less essential to Christianity; and they are sustained by an accumulation of proof which gives to each and to both, the weight of moral demonstration.

• In the first establishment of the Society, almost every objection brought against it, might have been resolved into an opposition to one or other of these principles. Its constitution was the object of virulent attack and most unrighteous misrepresentation; but whatever was the pretext of its opponents, all might have been reduced to the allegation, that its terms of admission were not exclusive, and that it presented its expanded portals for the reception of all, without exception, of every name and every clime, who professed to acknowledge the authority of the Holy Scriptures. The objection was itself the strongest argument in the Society's defence. It was its characteristic excellence, and the very crown of its glory, that it prescribed no preliminary inquiries, instituted no tests, and required no subscription to creeds and formularies. It therefore proposed no act of worship, or exercise of fellowship, which might so operate on the minds of the weak, the timorous, or the prejudiced, as to commit them unwittingly into an approbation of principles which they could not sanction, or a communion with persons whom ney would be unwilling to recognize. Its projectors and tirst supporters were all, without exception, I believe, of what are termed evangelical principles, and, therefore, individually believers in the Holy Trinity. But their enlightened and comprehensive views went beyond all personal and sectarian considerations. They knew that the moment they selected any one principle of the great system in which they agreed, as the peculiar and distinguishing feature of their Society, there would be instantly introduced materials for debate. However they might have agreed in the abstract proposition, other principles, they knew, would be so associated, in different degrees and proportions, mixed up with more or less of error, that no single proposition would be a satisfactory guarantee for the prevention of what some would have been disposed to exclude. There was therefore no medium between a constitution altogether exclusive, and which would have confined the Society to a section of the Christian church, and a constitution of an unexclusive character. The one object aimed at, required no limitation ; while the immense magnitude of the work to be achieved, and the prodigious expenditure that would be necessarily involved in its prosecution, demanded and justified universal co-operation. Thus the constitution was settled on a large and unrestricted basis. It disarmed intolerance, conciliated prejudice, and afforded the most scrupulous no ground of reasonable offence' pp. 4—7.

Dr. Fletcher states it as his deliberate conviction, that, such being, unquestionably, the original Constitution of the Society, the Committee, ' as trustees, appointed to execute the provi*sions of a specific deed, agreed upon by the unanimous con.currence of thousands and tens of thousands of the friends of the Bible,'—ought never to have entertained at all the proposition to make so fundamental a change.

• I feel warranted,' he says, ' in asserting, that the moment a member of the Committee introduced a question which directly tended to violate the constitution, it became that Committee to have put it down instanter, and ended at once all discussion. Complainants in these cir

« PreviousContinue »