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BONES OF THE ANTEDILUVIANS.
All the strata of whicb our continents are composed, were once a part of the ocean's bed; there is no land now in existence that was not formed beneath the surface of the sea. In those strata in which marine shells are found, we surely cannot reasonably look for the remains of mammalia; nor can we expect to find land animals associated with the monsters of the deep, with the plesiosaurus, or the gigantic fish lizard.
Many fossil remains bave been hastily set down as those of ex tinct animals; some races are undoubtedly extinct, but there may be vast tribes of animals, the only visible hints of whose ex. istence may be derived from the fossil remains of their ancestors ; their dwelling places may be far from any possible human observations, in the unexplorable depths of the ocean, or in the interior of the globe, with the constitution of which we are totally unacquainted.
No vestiges of the human race have yet been discovered in any of the stratified rocks, and from this it is presumed that the appearance of mankind on the globe dates from a comparatively recent period. With the usual vice of geological theories, a positive conclusion is based upon negative grounds, and
miserably small observations. Does the human race now occupy
the same portions of the surface of the globe that it has ever occupied? The same causes that compelled man, gradually or suddenly, to abandon his former localities, without doubt rendered those localities unfit for human existence, and consequently incapable of being examined. Scriptural geologists believe that vast numbers of men were destroyed in the Mosaic deluge, and yet they have not yet discovered any of their fossil remains : then how is it surprising to them that no vestiges can be found of races who lived at immepsely anterior periods? No one could expect that traces of human life should be discerned in the former haunts of the mammoth, the iguanodon, or the deinotherium.
Those plains of Egypt, of Syria, Mexico, and South America (now thinly and partially inhabited by modern races), where ruined cities bear witness to the former existence of civilised and powerful nations, were deserted or depopulated at immensely remote periods. In the time of Augustus, the monuments of
Egypt were brought to Rome as curiosities of antiquity. The large fertile plains watered by the Tigris and Euphrates once contained a population which probably equalled that of Europe in the present day, and exhibit now the sculptured remains of a high state of civilisation. These nations have completely dis. appeared. Is the earth around their habitations stored with their fossil remains ? I believe not. Animal substances buried in the soil soon become completely decayed and mingled with the dust. Peculiar causes, at present not accurately known, have caused the preservation of the small quantities of remains of land animals, which geological researches have as yet presented to our view: the same causes may have prepared in some obscure locality the evidence of human life at an incalculable distance before the commencement of our most ancient legends. All that can be said now is, that as yet po human fossil has been discovered; and the probability is, that at present there are none available for discovery, Beneath the polar snows, and in the bed of the ocean, lie the formerly fertile and populous plains, the cities, and the marks of the arts and sciences of bygone generations; and in like manner will European life, science, and industry, be blotted out, and swept from the surface of the globe in due season, and new races occupy new continents, and navigate
Nature is infinite, but nought that is definite is immortal.
The Nebular theory, which at no period advanced beyond the ingenious hypothesis of Herschel, has received many severe shocks within the last few years. The deepest researches in every department of natural science have not as yet produced any evidence that our solar system, or this earth, as a planet revolving round the sun, ever had a commencement, or ever will find an end. And yet we can easily conceive that a regular succession of causes, unmarked by any observed phenomena at present, may in time effect the destruction in its present form of that aggregation of elements which possibly a former succession of causes collected into our globe. The universe is infinite and eternal, not the smallest atom of matter can be lost; but since we everywhere perceive the inexorable action of decomposition and repro•
duction, we may well suspect that no definite shape or form in the universe is immortal. These mysteries perhaps never will be known. The greatest cause of scepticism and superstition is man's unwillingness to decide how much he does know, and how much he does not know. To act this life well it is not necessary to know the secrets of the Invisible, the destinies of worlds and systems, or the life beyond the grave, if a life there be. That is the department of speculation and poetry, and not of knowledge or of action. We owe no service to the Invisible and Unknown. our work is here before us.
CHAPTER THE SIXTEENTH.
OF THE CONSCIENCE AND THE INTELLECT.
INDIVIDUAL instances will prove to every inquiring mind how natural it is for man to form an extravagantly exalted idea of his intellectual endowments, and of the position and importance of his race in the universe. In a rude and uncivilised age man believes that every earthly and celestial object-the sun, the moon, the stars, the beasts of the field, and the fowls of the airwere created by the supreme God solely for the use and delectation of the human race, and he imagines a long list of deities who only exist to preside over and regulate his passions, his virtues, and his crimes, and who interest themselves in the fortunes of nations and the ambitious career of a few mortal favourites. This human pride, and a natural but unthinking horror of extinction after deatb, will sufficiently account for the invention, and the ready and almost universal adoption as a divinely-revealed truth, of the beautiful and captivating doctrine of the immortality of the soul. Pride, dread of death, and admiration of illustrious and unfrequent examples of intellect and virtue, have taught man to boast of the exclusive possession of a living soul distinct from
CONSCIENCE. the body, to place himself at an immeasurable height above all other animated beings, consigning them without compunction to a real mortality which he indignantly repudiates and spurns for himself.
Intelligence in the animal kingdom is always found to be in proportion to the more complex structure, and the size and weight of certain parts of the brain when compared with the size of the body. Every argument which asserts the immateriality of memory or reason tends to nothing, unless the dog, the elephant, and many other animals, are also admitted to immortality-for they undoubtedly possess memory and a certain amount of reasoning powers,with many of the passions and sentiments dependent upon reason and memory,such as affection, gratitude, and revenge.
Conscience, so often adduced as a clear proof of God's hand, of the divine origin of man, is entirely the result of early associations and education. Although every human being has undoubtedly a natural disposition, and a limit to its powers of reason and judgment, yet these can be modified, strengthened, and deformed in every conceivable way by its early instructors, who, during the years of childhood, are employed every day, every moment, in fixing the propensities of the growing mind, supplying motives and desires, and building up the conscience. Their task is indeed an awful one. The mind of the child of four or five years of age is susceptible of the slightest impression; it appears like clay in the hands of the sculptor; it may be moulded into almost any form, and these forms may even be frequently varied if time is not allowed to dry and fix them. Reason is the quality of the mind which is the slowest in its development: the child’s will must be fashioned, controlled, and directed, not by its own imperfect reason, but by the reason of its guardians.
· Conscience is the result of education, and morality bas its origin in human reason, which has agreed on certain deeds being virtues because they are beneficial, and on others being crimes because they are injurious to society. Differences in climates and in the state of civilisation have caused-and even, in some cases, rendered reasonable and necessary-striking variations in social customs and the rules of morality. With the progress of
FORCE OF EDUCATION.
reason and civilisation morality has improved among us; while among other nations in a lower state the most revolting crimes and the most disgusting customs have been, and are, regarded as innocent and praiseworthy, solely from the force of early associations and education, and from the small influence that reason has obtained in fixing their rules of action. As reason is the last quality developed in the minds of children, so it is the slowest in its operations upon the minds of nations.
The Arab Mussulman considers revenge as the most sacred of obligations-pursues the murderer of his friend, the defiler of his wife, and even the perpetrator of a much less important injury, with the greatest energy and perseverance-and doubtless feels his conscience relieved from a great weight when at last he wipes from his spear point the life-blood of his mortal foe; and were this holy duty omitted by him through cowardice, indolence, or pity, the punishment of his offended conscience would quite equal that of a Christian homicide. We have an instance in the Syrian assassins of the era of the Crusades, and one of our own times in the Indian Thugs, of bands of human beings who look upon treacherous assassinations as a lawful and religious employment. Were Bonner, Cranmer, or Calvin conscience-stricken when they assisted in hanging or burning those whom they called heretics ? or John Knox when he “ spoke merrily” with the murderers of Cardinal Beatoun? I believe not.
Does any one suppose that the London thief is at all troubled by his conscience when returning to his employer's house at night with bis booty of handkerchiefs and pocket-books ? Certainly not; he has been taught since he was able to walk to consider thieving as the most independent and honourable of professions, and to look upon the police, the magistrates, and the honest portion of society, as his natural enemies and victims. One of his associates, who has not been regularly brought up to the trade, but who has fallen into bad courses rather later in life, will not be able to shake off the impression made upon his mind by the imperfect instruction which he received in his youth, and will occasionally be severely troubled by that moral sense which his more accomplished comrade does not possess.