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Foot-Prints of the Creator.
** The definite period at which man was introduced upon the scene, seems to have been specially determined by the conditions of correspondence which the phenomena of his habitation had at length come to assume with the predestined constitution of his mind. The large reasoning brain would have been wholly out of place in the earlier ages. It is indubitably the nature of man to base the conclusions which regulate all his actions on fixed phenomena ;-he reasons from cause to effect, or from effect to cause ; and when placed in circumstances in which, from some lack of the necessary basis, he cannot so reason, he becomes a wretched, timid, superstitious creature, greatly more helpless and abject than even the inferior animals. This unhappy state is strikingly exemplified by that deep and peculiar impression made on the mind by a severe earthquake, which Humboldt, from his own experience, so powerfully describes. “ This impression,” he says, “is not, in my opinion, the result of a recollection of those fearful pictures of devastation presented to our imagination by the historical narratives of the past, but is rather due to the sudden revelation of the delusive nature of the inherent faith by which we had clung to a belief in the immobility of the soil on which we tread : and this feeling is confirmed by the evidence of our senses. When therefore, we suddenly feel the ground move beneath us, a mysterious force, with which we were previously unacquainted, is revealed to us as an active disturber of stability. A moment destroys the illusion of a whole life : our deceptive faith in the repose of nature vanishes ; and we feel transported into a realm of unknown destructive forces. Every sound,—the faintest motion of the air,--arrests our attention, and we no longer trust the ground on which we 'stand. There is an idea conveyed to the mind, of some universal and unlimited danger. We may
Foot-PRINTS OF THE CREATOR.
flee from the crater of a volcano in active eruption, or from the dwelling whose destruction is threatened by the approach of the lava stream : but in an earthquake direct our flight whithersoever we will, we still feel as though we trod upon
focus of destruction.”
Not less striking is the testimony of Dr. Tschudi, in his “ Travels in Peru," regarding this singular effect of earthquakes on the human mind. “ No familiarity with the phenomenon can,” he remarks, “ blunt the feeling. The inhabitant of Lima, who, from childhood, has frequently witnessed these convulsions of nature, is roused from his sleep by the shock, and rushes from his apartment with the cry of Misericordia!'
The foreigner from the north of Europe, who knows nothing of earthquakes but by description, waits with impatience to feel the movements of the earth, and longs to hear with his own ear, the subterranaean sounds, which he has hitherto considered fabulous. With levity he treats the apprehension of a coming canvulsion, and laughs at the fears of the natives : but as soon as his wish is gratified, he is terror-stricken, and is involuntarily prompted to seek safety in flight.”
Now, a partially consolidated planet, tempested by frequent earthquakes of such terrible potency, that those of the historic ages would be but mere ripples of the earth's surface in comparison, could be no proper home for a creature so constituted. The fish or reptile,-animals of a limited range of instinct, exceedingly tenacious of life in most of their varieties, oviparous, prolific, and whose young, immediately on their escape from the egg, can provide for themselves, might enjoy existence in such circumstances, to the full extent of their narrow capacities : and when sudden death fell upon them,—though their remains, scattered over wide areas, continue to exhibit that distortion of posture incident to violent dissolution, which seems to speak of terror and suffering,—we may safely conclude there was but little real suffering in the case : they were happy up to a certain FOOT-PRINTS OF THE CREATOR.
point, and unconscious forever after. Fishes and reptiles were the proper inhabitants of our planet during the ages of the earth-tempests: and when, under the operation of the chemical laws, these had become less frequent and terrible, the higher mammals were introduced. That prolonged ages of these tempests did exist, and that they gradually settled down, until the state of things became at length comparatively fixed and stable, few geologists will be disposed to deny. The evidence which supports this special theory of the development of our planet in its capabilities as a scene of organised and sentient being, seems palpable at every step. Yes, we find everywhere, marks of at once progression and identity,—of progress made and yet identity maintained: but it is in the habitation that we find them, not in the inhabitants. There is a tract of country in Hindostan that contains nearly as many square miles as all Great Britain, covered to the depth of hundreds of feet by one vast overflow of trap: a tract similarly overflown, which exceeds in area all England, occurs in Southern Africa. The earth's surface is roughened with such,-mottled as thickly by the Plutonic masses, as the skin of the leopard by its spots. The trap district, which surrounds the Scottish metropolis, and imparts so imposing a character to its scenery, is too inconsiderable to be marked on geological maps of the world, that we yet see streaked and speckled with similar memorials, though on an immensely vaster scale, of the eruption and overflow which took place during the earthquake ages. What could man have done on the globe at a time when such outbursts were comparatively common occurrences? What could he have done where Edinburgh now stands during that overflow of trapporphyry of which the Pentland range forms but a fragment, or that outburst of greenstone, of which but a portion remains in the dark ponderous coping of Salisbury Craigs, or when the thick floor of rock on which the city stands was broken up, like the ice of an arctic sea during a tempest in spring, and laid on
Foot-PRINTS OF THE CREATOR.
edge from where it leans against the Castle Hill to beyond the quarries at Joppa ? The reasoning brain would have been wholly at fault in a scene of things in which it could neither foresee the exterminating calamity while yet distant, nor control it when it had come; and so the reasoning brain was not produced until the scene had undergone a slow, but thorough process of change, during which, at each progressive stage, it had furnished a platform for higher and still higher life. When the coneferæ could flourish on the land, and fishes subsist in the seas, fishes and cone-bearing plants were created; when the earth became a fit habitation for reptiles and birds, reptiles and birds were produced : with the dawn of a more stable and mature state of things, the sagacious quadruped was ushered in: and last of all, when man's house was fully prepared for him, when the data on which it is his nature to reason and calculate, had become fixed and certain,-the reasoning, calculating brain was moulded by the creative finger, and man became a living soul. Such seems to be the true reading of the wondrous inscription chiseled deep in the rocks. It furnishes us with no clue by which to unravel the unapproachable mysteries of creation; these mysteries belong to the wondrous Creator, and to Him only. We attempt to theorise upon them, and to reduce them to law, and all nature rises up against us in our presumptuous rebellion. A stray splinter of cone-bearing wood,-a fish's skull or tooth, the vertebræ of a reptile,--the humerus of a bird,--the jaws of a quadruped, -all, any of these things, weak and insignificant as they may seem, become, in such a quarrel, too strong for us and our theory: the puny fragment, in the grasp of truth, forms as irresistible a weapon as the dry bone did in that of Sampson of old: and our slaughtered sophisms lie piled up, "heaps upon heaps,” before it.
He had bowed down to drunkenness,
An abject worshipper :
Too faint and cold to stir :
To the unblessed thrall, And bowing to the poison cup,
He gloried in his fall!
There came a change the cloud rolled off,
And light fell on his brain-
That cometh not again,
He saw the gulf before,
And was a man once more.
He shook the serpent folds away,
That gathered round his heart,
Its poison vine apart;
Grew terrible within,
His most familiar sin.
The light of Intellect again
Along his pathway shone-
Upon his olden throne.