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Educ T 298. 36,300
ARVARD COLLEGE LIBRARY
GEORGE ARTHUR PLIMPTON
ENTERED according to Act of Congress, January, A. D. 1834, by J. L. COMSTOCK, M. D. in the Clerk's Office of the District Court of Connecticut.
GEOLOGY is peculiarly adapted to impress the mind of the student with ideas of the Wisdom and Power of the Creator, and to lead him to the acknowledgment of a Great First Cause. In addition to this, it is applicable to various, and highly important practical purposes. Millions have been expended in boring for salt, in mining for coal, and in searching for metallic veins, when even a slight knowledge of the nature, and geological positions of rocks, as indicated by external appearances, would have shown that such explorations would be fruitless.
In the sinking of wells, in excavations for canals, roads and buildings, and for a great variety of other purposes connected with both civil, and military engineering, a knowledge of geology is often of the highest importance to the contractor, and not less so, to the contracting party.
Is it not time then, that we should begin the study of the earth on which we live, and from which, in common with all terrene animals, we derive our subsistence? And can it be doubted, that the knowledge to be derived from this source, is fully as important to the youth of this great, and unexplored country, as that pertaining to the names and sources of rivers, the extent and situation of seas, and the boundaries of nations, states, and towns, which our scholars spend so much time in committing to memory?
To supply the deficiency of books on this subject, adapted to general readers and to our higher schools, is the object of this work.
Possibly the clergy of our country, who have no time to read extensive geological works, and thus to collect the scattered facts which shew the coincidence, and connection between the Scriptures and geology, may find this little volume an acceptable assistance. At the present day, when infidelity looks almost exclusively among the higher departments of science for aid, ought not theologians, at least, to understand the ground of such hopes, in order to make good their own defence? An experienced soldier always looks well to the strength of his outposts.
With respect to the matter of the following treatise, it is perhaps sufficient to say, that almost every recent systematic geological writer in the English language, as well as many periodical publications, have been consulted. The plan has been to treat of the most interesting and important parts of the science, as a whole, and hence particular notices on American geology have been admitted, only in conformity to this design.
To those acquainted with the present state of geology, it
hardly need be said, that to have prepared a volume which should embrace, and unite, the opinions of even the most recent and respectable authors on many subjects contained within its outlines, would have been impossible: and to those who are not acquainted with this science, it may be proper to state, that from the very nature of many of its subjects, there must always exist a variety of theories to account for the same facts, until more is known concerning them. This arises from the circumstance, that the causes of many phenomena which the earth exhibits, have long since ceased, and therefore, these causes must remain matters of conjecture. Thus coal is found in the earth, in great abundance, but none is formed at the present day, and therefore the causes which have produced this substance, or at least, the circumstances under which it was formed, remain a subject of theory.
In other instances, the causes still exist, but their effects only are apparent, as in the case of volcanoes and earthquakes.
In these instances, the leading facts are admitted by all, but men have chosen to account for them in different ways, and thus different theories have been proposed, to solve the same phe
Again, in many things connected with the natural history of the earth, the chief circumstance in question, may rest on a variety of collateral facts, of the bearing of which, geologists differ in opinion Thus fossil plants, belonging to orders which at present only grow in tropical climates, and the remains of animals whose species are now found, only in the hottest regions of the earth, occur in many parts of Europe, and even in frozen Siberia. Hence some have supposed that the climate of Europe has changed since the deposition of these remains, and that the plants grew, and the animals lived, where their relics are now found: while others, reasoning from what they consider conflicting facts, maintain that no change of climate has taken place, and that the main circumstance may be accounted for, by supposing that these remains were transported from hot cli
At the present day, geological writers profess to maintain their theories only by facts, and fair deductions from them, and thus investigations are constantly going on, and new facts are perpetually accumulating, so that ultimately, it may be expected that this science will consist of deductions from truths which are generally admitted. But in its progress towards such a state, hypothetical reasonings, under the restrictions which the present advanced state of the sciences impose, are not to be deprecated, since this is often almost the only means by which men are stimulated to that thorough investigation of facts and phenomena, which characterizes the practical geologists of the present day.
It must not, however, be understood, that geology consists chiefly of the conflicting opinions of different authorities. On
the contrary, though of so recent an origin, it already embraces numerous series of highly interesting, curious and instructive facts, many of which seem destined to be of great importance to mankind; while others are calculated to excite profound considerations.
An examination of the earth shows that its crust has under
gone great, and sometimes repeated mutations. The strata which once corresponded, are now completely dislocated, one portion being thrown up, broken, and distorted, while the other is depressed, and equally mutilated; the whole indicating the effects of an enormous force acting from beneath, and at an unknown depth.
Every part of the earth, except the most recent deposites present similar phenomena, more or less striking, and in this manner, the original disposition and direction of all ancient stratified rocks, have become changed. In some instances, the changes have been so great, as to repeat the original number of strata many times. In one locality, this effect has been such, as to produce from 30 to 40,000 strata, where the original number was only four.
We shall find that these dislocations are marks of wisdom and beneficence, as well as of power; and that this earth would have been but poorly fitted for the residence and comfort of man, had these strata remained in a horizontal position.
The organic remains of plants and animals, the relics of a former world, are not only objects of great curiosity, but afford to the mind, subjects of the deepest contemplation. Here we have before us, the remains of vegetables and animals which covered, and inhabited the earth thousands of years ago; and some of them are so unlike any existing species, that no living analogues are any where to be found.
Other remains prove, that monstrous reptiles, sixty or seventy feet in length, once crawled among canes and rushes, which emulated in height, the forests of the present day; while huge quadrupeds of unknown tribes, inhabited the higher grounds, where they reigned lords of the creation.
Probably these are the remains of animals which were known to Noah and his family; and possibly some of them belonged to the identical beasts to which Adam gave names.
Thus has the earth preserved, for our examination and instruction, natural bodies of the earliest growth, and with which, no works of art can compare in antiquity. Even the remains of Babylon and Egypt, are infants in age, when compared with these things.
With respect to what has been advanced, on the subject of the days of creation, we are aware that the opinions of several American, and some foreign geologists of high standing, are against us. But having examined several learned expositions of the original text, both for, and against the admissibility of a different translation from the common one, we are fully satisfied
that the word rendered day, connected as it is, in the history of the creation, admits of no other meaning. This, if so, ought forever to settle the question; for the necessity, which geology, or the Hindoo tables, or the Egyptian Zodiacs, or the strata at Etna, seem to present, ought never for a moment, to be admitted in the mind of a believer, as an excuse for misinterpreting the plainly intended meaning of the Scriptures. Both the Indian tables and the Egyptian Zodiacs presented much stronger apparent proofs against the veracity of Moses, than any which geology now opposes to his literal meaning.
We have only to add on this subject, that when it can be shown, that the roots in philology admit of a different translation, and the substrata in geology require it, we will cheerfully relinquish the opinion here attempted to be maintained.
PREFACE TO THE SECOND EDITION.
In the preface to the former edition of this work, it was stated that the plan being to treat of the most important and interesting parts of the science, articles of American geology had been admitted only so far as might be necessary in conformity to this design. The author has however become convinced by the communications of Professors of Colleges, and the Principals of other institutions where the work has been introduced, that further illustrations from the geology of our own country would make the work more acceptable as a class book; and in conformity to such hints, the present edition will be found much improved in this respect. For these notices the author is indebted to a variety of American publications, but more particularly to Professor Hitchcock's "Report on the Geology of Massachusetts," and Dr. Hildreth's Communication on the Valley of the Ohio, contained in the 59th No. of Silliman's Journal.
The article on the length of the creative days has also been particularly examined, most of it re-written, and several new objections answered. On this part of his work, the author takes pleasure in acknowledging the assistance of the Rev. S. F. Jarvis D. D. Professor of Oriental languages and Literature in Washington College. Dr. Jarvis has not only had the kindness to collate many passages of the Hebrew text with reference to the meaning of the word yom, but also to translate for his use, the theory of Paradisi, an abstract of which he has given in this work.
Besides these additions, the author has made many others, as the subjects seemed to require, the whole amounting to nearly forty pages, with twelve new illustrations by wood cuts.
It is hoped, therefore, that this edition will be found much more worthy of public patronage than the former one.
HARTFORD, CT., Jan. 1836.