Page images

from their history as engraved in the imperishable records of geology.

There is but one change that the face of the earth has undergone, whose date is well established; this change is subsequent to any that have hitherto been spoken of in this paper. All writers of reputation on geology concur in declaring that there is most satisfactory evidence, that at a period of about 4000 years from the present date, the continents were completely covered for a very short space of time by the ocean, which has left its traces not in slow and gradual deposits, but in vast beds of rolled rock, gravel, and sand. In this inroad immense numbers of animals perished, but they were identical in species with those we find existing at present.

How did this great convulsion happen? and whence does it arise, that it alone, of all the revolutions whose traces we discover, was not accompanied with the entire extinction of the existing species of animals ? On this subject, the reasonings of philosophers, and the chronicles of the heathen nations, are silent; but in the pages of the sacred historian we may find its faithful record in his account of the flood of Noah; an account that, from the distance of time that had elapsed, and from the circumstances of the birth and education of the historian, we can hardly conceive him to have derived from any other source than immediate inspiration.

It would have been unfair to have subjected Dr. Van Rensselaer's lectures, as they were delivered, to the test of severe criticism. A volunteer in a praiseworthy enterprise, he might have pleaded an ancient, though homely proverb, to show, that what is freely given is not to be severely scrutinized. But, in coming before the public in type, he has in some measure waived his privilege. We shall, therefore, examine the plan and mode of execution of his work, with a view of placing it in the relative rank to which its merits entitle it.

We have no right to look for original views in books of this description; the most useful lecturers are those who humbly content themselves with exhibiting, in their own language, the views and principles of others. Dr. Van Rensselaer has, in the exercise of this legitimate privilege, drawn largely from the most authentic sources, and in his selection has manifested great judgment, and extensive research. His obligations to various recent authors he has fairly acknowledged in his preface. We mention this fact, because we have been informed that some eastern gazetteers have charged him with unacknowledged piracy. We are aware of the privilege long assumed by our brethren, of praising or condemning a work of which they

know nothing but the title page, or such occasional passages as may be caught by glancing hastily through its uncut leaves; we would be far from wishing to circumscribe this prerogative of the corps, but for own part we shall keep the lesson thus given us in our remembrance, and hereafter make it a rule not to limit our researches to the title when we glance at a work for the purpose of making it the subject of an essay.

The work of Dr. Van Rensselaer is divided into six lectures. The first gives a succinct account of the theories of former geologists; the second explains the utility of the study, points out the several modes that have been proposed for the classification of rocks, and explains the utility of zoology in determining the dates of their respective formations; the third treats of the changes that are at present taking place on the surface of the earth, by the formation of peat, and of coral reefs, and by the action of volcanoes; the fourth contains a list of the simple minerals that enter into the composition of rocks, treats of the several forms that rocks assume, their internal structure, and external characters; the fifth lecture is devoted to the description of primary rocks, (the inferior order of Coneybeare and Philips;) and the sixth contains an account of transition rocks, and of secondary and tertiary formations.

In addition to tabular views of the systems of geological classifications of Humboldt, Werner, and M•Culloch, our author has given us a most valuable synopsis of the different classes of rocks, and their several varieties; thus furnishing the student and collector with a method of arrangement independent of any hypothesis. We look upon this as the most valuable part of his work, and that upon which the reputation of the author will in a great degree depend. It is in fact a desideratum in science, there being no elementary work that can be used with confidence, in consequence of their being all drawn up with reference to some particular theory. We, therefore, anticipate, that the time is not far distant when this work will be introduced into our colleges as a text book, and found upon the tables of all geological collectors. The study of mineralogy has made such progress in our country of late years, and we have such a valuable treatise on that subject in the book of Professor Cleveland, that we may consider the way is prepared for studying geology to advantage, at least so far as relates to the natural history of the older rocks. We owe a strong obligation to our author for insisting upon the value of zoological knowledge as a key to the arrangement of secondary and tertiary formations, and we have to thank him for finally exploding the long repeated error, that the coast of the United

States south of New York is alluvial, and ranging it in its proper place as a series of tertiary formations. We ourselves made use of the plastic clays of Amboy as early as 1810, and determined, in the summer of 1822, that the whole county of Monmouth, in New Jersey, belonged to the tertiary class. About the period of the last date many other investigations were made, which, as is fully shown by our author, leave no doubt that the term alluvial is incorrect as applied to this great and interesting district. We believe that this term was first applied by Dr. Mitchill, who, in using it, committed no error so far as the knowledge of the day at which he wrote extended; for that nice mode of discrimination among formations, that we derive from a knowledge of their imbedded fossils, had not then been introduced. Volney, in repeating this error, was also guilty of no fault in science, although he committed the moral one of appropriating, without acknowledgment, the fruit of the labour of another; but we have to regret that M'Clure should have persisted in the same mistake at a more recent period, and that it should have been rendered current by the work of Cleveland, in other respects invaluable.

We have, upon mature deliberation, to express our satisfaction at the manner in which the scientific part of Dr. Van Rensselaer's work has been executed; a satisfaction arising from a conviction of its utility, and of the great labour that we should have been spared, could we have obtained access to a similar work at an early period in our geological studies.

As far as regards the literary part, we are not so entirely satisfied : : we do not conceive that the citations have been worked up into so homogeneous a texture as might have been done, had more labour been bestowed upon them; and we are not sure that it would not have been better taste to have omitted in the publication some of the ornaments that, although of value in diversifying lectures delivered to a popular audience, do not, perhaps, comport with the strict dignity of scientific investigation. The few facts stated by our author from his own observations, particularly his interesting account of the volcanoes of Etna and Vesuvius, leave us to regret that he had not drawn more copiously from the materials that his own labours have accumulated; but we honour the motive, and must, in spite of our regrets, consider his modesty in this respect as no small addition to his merits.

ART. XXVI.-The Precepts of Jesus the Guide to Peace and

Happiness, extracted from the Books of the New Testament, ascribed to the four Evangelists. To which are added, the Ferst and Second Appeal to the Christian Public, in Reply to the Observations of Dr. Marshman of Serampore. By RamMOHUN Roy, of Calcutta. Svo. From the London edition. New-York. B. Bates. 1825.

By C. Bryant Although this is a work of religious controversy, it is not as such that we are at present to consider it. If the Hindoo author has erred in his interpretation of the Jewish and Christian Scriptures, he must answer for it to the divines, their learned and professional expositors. For ourselves, who are but simple laymen, we assure our readers, that whenever we hazard an opinion upon subjects of this nature, we shall do it only upon due consideration and advice; and should we at any time gather courage enough to venture upon a field which has been so hotly contested for more than a thousand years, we shall by no means think of doing it without a pretty certain assurance of being backed by some of these able and reverend champions.

We had thought, indeed, when we first took up the volume, of going a little more deeply into the subject. We were not disposed to agree with the author in all his views, nor quite satisfied with his exposition of certain passages of scripture, and we thought of examining them at large, and of favouring the world with our opinion. In order to prepare ourselves for this duty, we dipped into the Fathers, and passing over all that was written between their time and the Protestant reformation, which the Shakers modestly and charitably call the great division of the kingdom of Antichrist, we read the Genevan and Racovian catechisms, looked into Calvin, and made diligent inquiry for the treatise of Servetus De Christianismi Restitutione, and for the works of Laelius Socinus and his nephew Faustus. We had resolutely determined to enter the labyrinth of commentaries, and began diligently to turn over the leaves of the annotators, from Beza downwards through the voluminous works of Poole, Wolfius, Gill, and their brethren, to Adam Clarke. From these we proceeded to the regular controversialists. We had already mastered Hornbeck's Confutation of Socinianism; we were just going upon Bull's Defensio Fidei Nicenæ, and had made arrangements to procure the work of Calovius. We had looked into William Penn's Sandy Foundation Shaken, and thought of consulting the works of Samuel Clarke, Lardner, Priestly, Price, Lindsay, and Belsham. We interested ourselves

in the dispute respecting the opinions of Newton and Locke on these subjects, and were anxiously waiting for the forthcoming republication in this country of Milton's Treatise on the Christian Doctrine. We had agreed with a learned friend for the loan of his copy of the Polyglott Bible, and were preparing to attack Middleton on the Greek Article. We had made a collection of the modern polemic writers of the United States s; we had put Morse and Worcester, Channing and Stuart, Miller and Sparks, Ware and Wood, side by side on the same shelf, where these doughty champions stood lovingly together, and we fancied, in the complacent dignity of our new office as arbiters of this fierce and long protracted dispute, that the glistening and newly-lettered volumes smiled upon each other in prospect of an approaching reconciliation. As to the controversy between Yates and Wardlaw, we had placed it at our elbow as a corps de reserve, to be called on in case of any special emergency. Our study was lumbered with heavy folios, which might be denominated the great guns of polemics, and our table loaded with an immense heap of pamphlets, sermons, and small tracts, which we had found scattered on the field of controversy like carbines and pistols after a battle, and which were now ready to do service once more in reducing the party against whom we might decide, in case he should prove refractory. It is not worth while to take into this enumeration the multitude of short and smart paragraphs which we had cut out of the religious newspapers that have grown so common of late, the squibs and crackers with which the different denominations vex and annoy without hurting each other. We had made all this preparation, when it was hinted to us by certain of our friends, that it might be well to consider a little before we put our design in execution. It was intimated, that there was a class of men who might be expected, from their professional studies, to understand these subjects quite as well, if not a little better, than ourselves-men who had wielded the weapons of controversy their whole lives long-who were quite a match for us in the Septuagint and the Greek Testament, and a little too strong for us in Hebrew and Aramaean. It was insinuated, that were we to thrust ourselves among these scientific combatants, we might perhaps get more blows than we should give. In short, we were made to understand that we were meddling with what was no business of ours, and that the safer and more creditable way was not to wander from the usual topics of a literary journal. To incline us the more willingly to this course, we were told that the New England polemics had lately imported from Germany a new and most formidable weapon of

« PreviousContinue »