The Teaching of the Earth
Job 12:8
Or speak to the earth, and it shall teach you: and the fishes of the sea shall declare to you.

To the attentive ear all the earth is eloquent; to the reflecting mind all nature is symbolical. Each object has a voice which reaches the inner ear, and speaks lessons of wise and solemn import. The stream murmurs unceasingly its secrets; Sibylline breeze in mountain glens and in lonely forests sighs forth its oracles. The face of nature is everywhere written over with Divine characters which he who runs may read. But beside the more obvious lessons which lie as it were on the surface of the earth, and which suggest themselves to us often when least disposed for inquiry or reflection, there are more recondite lessons which she teaches to those who make her structure and arrangements their special study, and who penetrate to her secret arcana. She has loud tones for the careless and superficial, and low suggestive whispers to those who hear with an instructed and attentive mind. And those who read her great volume, admiring with the poet and lover of nature the richly-coloured and elaborate frontispieces and illustrations, but not arrested by these — passing on, leaf after leaf, to the quiet and sober chapters of the interior — will find in these internal details revelations of the deepest interest. As we step over the threshold, and penetrate into the inner chambers of nature's temple, we may leave behind us the beauty of the gardens and ornamented parterres; but we shall find new objects to compensate us: cartoons more wonderful than those of Raphael adorning the walls; friezes grander than those of the Parthenon; sculptures more awe-inspiring than those which have been disinterred from the temples of Karnak and Assyria. In descending into the crust of the earth, we lose sight of the rich robe of vegetation which adorns the surface, the beauties of tree and flower, forest, hill, and river, and the ever-changing splendours of the sky; but we shall observe enough to make up for it all in the extraordinary relics of ancient worlds, strewn around us and beneath our feet. This lesson which the earth teaches, it may be said, is a very sombre and depressing one. True in one sense; but it is also very salutary. Besides, there is consolation mingled with it. The teaching of the earth does not leave man humbled and prostrated. While it casts down his haughty and unwarrantable pretensions, it also enkindles aspirations of the noblest kind. While it shows to him the shortness of his pedigree, it also reveals to him the greatness of his destiny. It declares most distinctly, that the present creation exceeds all the prior creations of which the different strata of the earth bear testimony, and that the human race occupies the foremost place among terrestrial creatures. It teaches unmistakably that there has been a gradual course of preparation for the present epoch — that "all the time worlds of the past are satellites of the human period." There are a thousand evidences of this in the nature and arrangement of the earth's materials, so clear and obvious that it is impossible to misunderstand them. The nature of the soil on the surface; the value, abundance, and accessibility of the metals and minerals beneath; the arrangement of the various strata of rock into mountain and valley, river and ocean bed: all these circumstances, which have had a powerful influence in determining the settlement, the history, and the character of the human race, were not fortuitous — left to the wild, passionate caprices of nature — but have been subjected to law and compelled to subserve the interests of humanity. The carboniferous strata themselves, their geographical range, and the mode in which they have been made accessible and workable by volcanic eruptions, clearly evince a controlling power — a designing purpose wisely and benevolently preparing for man's comfortable and useful occupancy of the earth. Some object that the teaching of the earth is delusive and uncertain. This opinion is fostered by the varied, and, in many cases, conflicting readings and interpretations of the geological record. Theories have been formed which more advanced knowledge has demonstrated to be false and untenable; and these hasty conclusions have tended in some measure to throw discredit upon the whole study, by giving it a vague appearance. It was to have been expected beforehand that a science, offering such great temptations to speculation, so flesh and young and buoyant, with such boundless fields for roaming before her, would have been excited to some extent by the vagaries of fancy, and that individuals on the slenderest data would build up the most elaborate structures. But geology, upon the whole, has been less encumbered with these than perhaps any other science; and the researches of its students have been conducted in a singularly calm and philosophical spirit. Every step has been deliberately taken; every acquisition made to its domains has been carefully surveyed; and hence, we are at this moment in possession of a mass of observations which, considering the very recent origin of the science, is truly astonishing, and which is entitled to the utmost confidence. Furthermore, the teaching of the earth is not irreligious — is not calculated to undermine our faith in the inspiration of the Bible, and to nurture infidel propensities. This objection has been frequently brought against it, and urged with vehemence and rancour; and a feeling of repulsion, a strong and unreasonable prejudice, has in consequence been raised against it in the minds of many pious and estimable individuals. They look upon the science with dread, and place the study of it in the same category with that of the blasphemous dogmas of the Rational School. I believe that a careful study of the leading works, and accumulated facts of geology, by any candid, unbiassed mind, will result in the conviction that nothing connected with the progress of science has ever yet truly infringed the integrity of revelation.

(Hugh Macmillan, D. D.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: Or speak to the earth, and it shall teach thee: and the fishes of the sea shall declare unto thee.

WEB: Or speak to the earth, and it shall teach you. The fish of the sea shall declare to you.

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