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LESSON XXIV. Works of the Coral Insect.—UNIVERSAL Review. Though some species of corals are found in all climates, they abound chiefly in the tropical regions. In particular, the larger and more solid kinds seem to have chosen those climates for their habitation; while the more tender and minute, the Flustras for example, occur in the colder seas.
These animals vary from the size of a pin's head, or even less, to somewhat more than the bulk of a pea; and it is by the persevering efforts of creatures so insignificant, working in myriads, and working through ages, that the enormous structures in question are erected.
Enormous we may well call them, when the great Coral Reef of New Holland alone is a thousand miles in length, and when its altitude, though yet scarcely fathomed in twenty places, cannot range to less than between one and two thousand feet. It is a mountain ridge, that would reach almost three times from one extremity of England to the other, with the height of Ingleborough, or that of the ordinary and prevailing class of the Scottish mountains.-And this is the work of insects, whose dimensions are less than those of a house fly. It is perfectly overwhelming.
But what is even this. The whole of the Pacific Ocean is crowded with islands of the same architecture, the produce of the same insignificant architects. An animal barely possessing life, scarcely appearing to possess volition, tied down to its narrow cell, ephemeral in existence, is daily, hourly, creating the habitations of men, of animals, of plants. It is founding a new continent; it is constructing a new world. ..
These are among the wonders of His mighty hand; such are among the means which He uses to forward His ends of benevolence. Yet man, vain man, pretends to look down on the myriads of beings equally insignificant in appearance, because he has not yet discovered the great offices which they hold, the duties which they fulfil, in the great order of nature,
If we have said that the Coral insect is creating a new continent, we have not said more than the truth. Navigators now know that the Great Southern Ocean is not only
crowded with those islands, but that it is crowded with submarine rocks of the same nature, rapidly growing up to the surface, where, at length overtopping the ocean, they are destined to form new habitations for man to extend his dominion.
They grow and unite into circles and ridges, and ultimately, they become extensive tracts. This process cannot cease while those animals exist and propagate. It must increase in an accelerating ratio; and the result will be, that, by the wider union of such islands, an extensive archipelago, and at length a continent must be formed.
This process is equally visible in the Red Sea. It is daily becoming less and less navigable, in consequence of the growth of its Coral rocks; and the day is to come, when, perhaps, one plain will unite the opposed. shores of Egypt and Arabia. .
But let us here also admire the wonderful provision which is made, deep in the earth, for completing the work which those animals have commenced. And we may here note the contrast between the silent and unmarked labors of working inyriads, operating by an universal and long ordained law, and the sudden, the momentary, effort of a power, which, from the rarity of its exertion, seems to be especially among the miraculous interpositions of the Creator.
It is the volcano and the earthquake, that are to complete the structure which the coral insect has laid; to elevate the mountain, and form the valley, to introduce beneath the equator the range of climate which belongs to the temperate regions, and to lay the great hydraulic engine, by which the clouds are collected to fertilize the earth, which causes the springs to burst forth and the rivers to flow.
And this is the work of one short hour.-If the coral insect was not made in vain, neither was it for destruction that God ordained the volcano and the earthquake. Thus also, by means so opposed, so contrasted, is one single end attained. And that' end is the welfare, the happiness of . man.
If man has but recently opened his eyes on the important facts which we have now stated, his chemistry is still unable to explain them. Whence all this rock: this calcareous earth? We need scarcely say that the corals all consist of calcareous earth, of lime united by animal matter. The whole appears to be the creation of the animal. It is a secretion by its organs. Not only is the production of cal
careous earth proceeding daily in this manner, but by the actions of the myriad tribes of shell fishes who are forming their larger habitations, in the same manner, and from the same material.
It is this, which forms the calcareous beds of the ocean, it is this, which has formed those enormous accumulations, in a former state of the world, which are now our mountains, the chalk and limestone of England, and the ridge of the Apennines. These are the productions of the inhabitants of an ancient ocean. Whence did it all come? We may know some day; but assuredly we do not now know.
Thus it is that we prove, that all the limestone of the world has been the produce of animals, though how produced, we, as yet know not. If a polype has constructed the great submarine mountain of New Holland, the thousand tribes and myriads of individuals, which inhabited the submarine Apennine, might as easily, far more easily, have formed that ridge. We prove that this is the case, because we find the shells in the mountains, because we find the mountains made of shells.
But why do ye plant 'neath the billows dark
Ye build—ye build--but ye enter not in,
And I beheld when he opened the Sixth Seal. Rev. vi. 12.
The everlasting stars of heaven did fall,
Bird of the broad and sweeping wing
Thy home is high in heaven,
And the tempest clouds are driven.