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DIVINITY TUTOR IN THE PROTESTANT DISSENTING COLLEGE AT HOMERTON;
SOCIETIES; AND HONORARY MEMBER OF THE NATURAL HISTORY SOCIETY OF
DEVON AND CORNWALL, AND OF THE WASHINGTON U.S. NATIONAL
INSTITUTE FOR THE PROMOTION OF SCIENCE.
FROM THE FOURTH LONDON EDITION, GREATLY ENLARGED.
Ούθεν ανθρώπω λαβείν μείζον, ου χαρίσασθαι θεώ σεμνότερον, αληθείας.
PLUTARCH, de Is. et Osir.
ROBERT E. PETERSON,
NORTH-WEST CORNER OF FIFTH AND ARCH STREETS,
GEOLOGY, in the magnitude and sublimity of the objects which it treats, undoubtedly ranks, in the scale of the sciences, next to Astronomy,
SIR JOHN F. W. HERSCHEL.
The conclusions of GEOLOGY have lent, in fact, a new evidence to revealed religion. They have broken the arms of the sceptic; and, when we ponder over the great events which they proclaim, the mighty revolutions which they indicate, the wrecks of successive creations which they display, and the immeasurable cycles of their chronology, the era of man shrinks into contracted dimensions; his proudest and most ancient dynasties wear the aspect of upstart and ephemeral groups; the fabrics of human power, the gorgeous temple, the monumental bronze, the regal pyramid, sink into insignificance beside the mighty sarcophagi of the brutes that perish.
QUARTERLY REVIEW, vol. Ixx. p. 57. .
The following Lectures were prepared and delivered, by the appointment of the Committee of the Congregational Lecture, under some peculiarity of circumstances. The appointment was unexpected, and the notice unavoidably short. Several parts, therefore, and those referring to subjects of the greatest importance, were treated in a manner too brief, and, indeed, extemporaneously: but to the kind and attentive audience the promise was given that, if the publication should take place, the author would supply those deficiencies. This he has endeavoured to do partly by filling up the
portions which, in the delivery, were but sketched, and partly by adding Notes, both on the immediate pages, and in a Supplementary Appendix.
The reader will perceive that numerous citations are introduced. For this no apology is requisite : and, indeed, so richly interesting are the most of those
passages, that it would have been a wrong to the subject and to the reader to have withheld them. Another circumstance proves their importance, and even necessity. The facts which are the basis of geological rea
sonings can be known to the majority even of welleducated persons, only by testimony; as, in the greater number of instances, they are to the author himself. To bring forwards, therefore, the statements of the most competent authorities, in their own words, is due to the right position of the subject and to the satisfaction of the reader. Should it be objected, that some of those citations contain reasonings and opinions, besides statements of fact; the reply is, that they are the reasonings and opinions of men who thoroughly understood the grounds upon which they are built; and that, therefore, the inferences which such men have seen to be just, are entitled to stand in the next line of authority to their testimony as eye-witnesses and labourers in the great field. It involves no disrespect to the multitude of pious and intelligent persons, to say that they cannot form an independent opinion upon many subjects in Natural Philosophy. It is no dishonour to accept the conclusions of NEWTON and his followers, though we confess ourselves unable to read the Principia.
As the requirement for the publication of these Lectures arose from their having been delivered to an audience, at the Congregational Library, I have not thought myself at liberty to add or omit or change any part, paragraph, or sentence, except in some two or three instances, not considerable, and of which in the
passages an intimation is given. But in the Appended Notes, I have felt no restraint. They have been increased in each of the subsequent editions, with the view of placing my readers, as much as is for me possible, in the advancing positions of geological knowledge. The amount of this accumulation is now not small : for I have felt it my duty to verify the encomium with which, on the publication of the third edition, I was honoured by the Rev. Dr. WHEWELL, the Master of Trinity College, Cambridge. He then wrote these words: “I perceive you have given it the interest which belonged to the former editions, of making your readers acquainted with the most recent geological discussions. On this account, it cannot fail to be a general favourite."