Page:A Treatise on Geology, volume 1.djvu/21

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been validated.
CHAP. I.
5
OBJECTS OF THE SCIENCE.

earth showed "no traces of a beginning no prospect of an end"; because, on that matter, other evidence might have been brought to bear.

But yet a candid reasoner need not greatly reprehend either the wandering of geology into cosmogony, or the too forcible acknowledgment of the incompleteness of all human research into the origin of the visible system of nature, which is contained in the much-censured language of Hutton. Neither of these errors is likely to be very injurious in science; nor can either be justly charged with the slightest tendency to make men forget that all the arrangements of nature are but the expression of the will of the Supreme Creator and Lawgiver of the universe. Let us not, therefore, be checked in our inquiries into the history of the globe, by anything but the good rules of philosophising, which are essential to the right use of the intellectual strength which God has conferred upon man, to be exercised on the mighty works of nature; and least of all let us be deterred from the pursuit of truth, by the vain and impious dread that we may go too far, and penetrate too deeply into those mysteries which, among their other uses, have this one,—that they continually excite to activity the soul of man; and, the more they are studied, lead to deeper delight and more awful contemplation of their glorious and beneficent Author.

Geology, or the natural history of the earth, as a planet revolving in space round a central orb of light and heat, surrounded by an atmosphere, and partially or wholly begirt by water, includes all the phenomena produced on the land, in the sea, and within the mass of the globe, by the operation of those mechanical, chemical, electrical, and vital forces, which are termed natural agencies, from the earliest epoch of which monuments remain, down to the present hour. All variations in the proportions of land and water; all variations of level; all changes in the combination and distribution of masses or molecules of matter, whether above, upon, or below the surface; all changes in the