THE BIBLE AND SCIENCE.
Observatory, Washington, Jan. 22, 1855.
(Editors note: The field of Apologetics has used Matthew Maury in a way which has not been verified. The story is that this sailor was sick near death and his son was reading from Psalms 8 where it mentions the "paths of the sea". Maury is reported to have said, "If God says there are paths in the sea, then I will find them". He then spent the rest of his life mapping and charting the ocean currents.---While the above may be an urban legend that has not been proven true, one fact does remain true. Matthew Maury did chart the ocean currents and did believe Psalms 8:8.)
From the Southern Churchman : - 1etter, by M. F. MAURY.
Your letter revived pleasant remembrances. Your questions are themes. It would require volumes to contain the answers to them. You ask about the "harmony of science and revelation," and wish to know if I find distinct traces in the Old Testament of scientific knowledge, and in the Bible any knowledge of the winds and ocean currents. Yes, knowledge the most correct and reliable. Canst thou bind the sweet influences of the Pleiades ? It is a curious fact, that the revelations of science have led astronomers of our own day to the discovery, that the sun is not the dead centre of motion around which comets sweep and planets whirl, but that it, with its splendid retinue of worlds and satellites, is revolving through space at the rate of millions of miles in a year, and in obedience to some influence situated precisely in the, direction of the star Alcyon, one of the Pleiades. We do not know how far off in the immensities of space that centre of revolving cycles and epicycles may be, nor have our oldest observers or nicest instruments been able to tell us how far off in the, skies that beautiful cluster of stars is hung "whose influences man can never bind." In this question alone, and the answer to it, are involved both the recognition and the exposition of the whole theory of gravitation.
Science taught that the world was round; but potentates pronounced the belief heretical, notwithstanding the Psalmist, while apostrophizing the works of creation in one of his sublime moods of inspiration, " when prophets spake as they were moved," had called the world " the round world," and bade it rejoice." You remember when Galileo was in prison a pump-maker came to him with his difficulties, because his pump would not lift water higher than thirty-two feet. The old philosopher thought it was because the atmosphere would not press the water up any higher; but the hand of persecution was upon him, and he was afraid to say the air had lie weight. Now had he looked to the science of the Bible would have discovered that the " perfect man of Uz," moved by inspiration, had proclaimed the fact thousands of years before-" He maketh weight for the wind." Job is very learned, and his speeches abound in scientific lore.
The persecutors of the old astronomers would also have been wiser and far more just had they paid more attention to this wonderful book, for there they would have learned that He "stretcheth out the north over the empty place, and hangeth the earth upon nothing." Here is another proof that Job was familiar with the laws of gravitation, for he knew how the world was held in its place ; and as for " the empty place " in the sky, Sir John Herschel has been sounding, the heavens with his powerful telescope, and gauging the stars ; and where do you think he found the most barren part--" the empty places " of the sky ? In the north, precisely where Job told Bildad, the Shuhite, empty place was stretched out. It is there where comets most delight to roam and hide themselves in emptiness. I pass by the history of creation as it is written on the tablets of the rocks and in the Book of Revelation, because the question has been discussed so much and so often, that you, no doubt, are familiar with the whole subject. In both the order of creation is the same. First, the plants to afford subsistence, and then the animals, the chief point of apparent difference being as to the duration of the period between "the evening and the morning." "A thousand years are in His sight as one day," and the Mosaic account affords evidence itself that the term "day," as there used, is not that which comprehends our twenty-four hours. It was a day that had its " evening and morning " before the sun was made. I will, however, before proceeding further, ask pardon for mentioning a rule of conduct which I have adopted in order to make progress with these physical researches, which have occupied so much of my time and so many of my thoughts. The rule is, never to forget who is the Author of the great volume which Nature spreads out before us, and always to remember that the same Being is the Author of the book which revelation holds up to us, and though the two works are entirely different, their records are equally true, and when they bear upon the same point, as now and then they do, it is as impossible that they should contradict each other as it is that either should contradict itself. If the two cannot be reconciled, the fault is ours, and is because, in our blindness and weakness, we have not been able to interpret aright either the one or the other, or both. Solomon, in a single verse, describes the circulation of the atmosphere as actual observation is now showing it to be. That it has its laws, and is obedient to order as the heavenly host in their movements, we infer from the facts announced by him, and which contain the essence of volumes by other men. " All the rivers run into the sea, yet the sea is not full; " " Into the place from whence, the rivers come, thither they return again." To investigate the laws which govern the winds and rule the sea is one of the most profitable and beautiful occupations that a man -an improving, progressive man- can have. Pecked with stars as the sky is, the field of astronomy affords no subjects of contemplation more ennobling, more sublime, or more profitable than those which we may find in the air and the sea. When we regard these from certain points of view, they present the appearance of wayward things obedient to no law, but fickle in their movements and subject only to chance. Yet, when we go as truth-loving, knowledge -seeking explorers, and knock at their secret chambers and devoutly ask what are the laws which govern them, we are taught, in terms the most impressive, that " when the morning stars sang together the waves also lifted up their voice," and the winds too, joined in the mighty anthem." And as the discovery advances, we find the mark of order in the sea and in the air that is in tune with the "music of the spheres," and the conviction is forced upon us that the laws of all are nothing else but perfect harmony.
Yours respectfully, M. F. MAURY, Lieut. U.S. Navy
Taken from an autobiography of Maury, written by his Daughter. "A Life of Matthew Fontain Maury" by Diana Fontaine Maury Corbin. 1888 AD
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