on Genesis 1 :12
Whose seed was in itself - Which has the power of multiplying itself by seeds, slips, roots, etc., ad infinitum; which contains in itself all the rudiments of the future plant through its endless generations. This doctrine has been abundantly confirmed by the most accurate observations of the best modern philosophers. The astonishing power with which God has endued the vegetable creation to multiply its different species, may be instanced in the seed of the elm. This tree produces one thousand five hundred and eighty-four millions of seeds; and each of these seeds has the power of producing the same number. How astonishing is this produce! At first one seed is deposited in the earth; from this one a tree springs, which in the course of its vegetative life produces one thousand five hundred and eighty-four millions of seeds. This is the first generation. The second generation will amount to two trillions, five hundred and nine thousand and fifty-six billions. The third generation will amount to three thousand nine hundred and seventy-four quadrillions, three hundred and forty-four thousand seven hundred and four trillions! And the fourth generation from these would amount to six sextillions two hundred and ninety-five thousand three hundred and sixty-two quintillions, eleven thousand one hundred and thirty-six quadrillions! Sums too immense for the human mind to conceive; and, when we allow the most confined space in which a tree can grow, it appears that the seeds of the third generation from one elm would be many myriads of times more than sufficient to stock the whole superfices of all the planets in the solar system! But plants multiply themselves by slips as well as by seeds. Sir Kenelm Digby saw in 1660 a plant of barley, in the possession of the fathers of the Christian doctrine at Paris, which contained 249 stalks springing from one root or grain, and in which he counted upwards of 18,000 grains. See my experiments on Tilling in the Methodist Magazine.
on Genesis 1 :12
Here the fulfillment of the divine command is detailed, after being summed up in the words "it was so," at the close of the previous verse. This seems to arise from the nature of growth, which has a commencement, indeed, but goes on without ceasing in a progressive development. It appears from the text that the full plants, and not the seeds, germs, or roots, were created. The land sent forth grass, herb, tree, each in its fully developed form. This was absolutely necessary, if man and the land animals were to be sustained by grasses, seeds, and fruits.
Thus, the land begins to assume the form of beauty and fertility. Its bare and rough soil is set with the germs of an incipient verdure. It has already ceased to be "a waste." And now, at the end of this third day, let us pause to review the natural order in which everything has been thus far done. It was necessary to produce light in the first place, because without this potent element water could not pass into vapor, and rise on the wings of the buoyant air into the region above the expanse. The atmosphere must in the next place be reduced to order, and charged with its treasures of vapor, before the plants could commence the process of growth, even though stimulated by the influence of light and heat. Again, the waters must be withdrawn from a portion of the solid surface before the plants could be placed in the ground, so as to have the full benefit of the light, air, and vapor in enabling them to draw from the soil the sap by which they are to be nourished. When all these conditions are fulfilled, then the plants themselves are called into existence, and the first cycle of the new creation is completed.
Could not the Eternal One have accomplished all this in one day? Doubtless, He might. He might have effected it all in an instant of time. And He might have compressed the growth and development of centuries into a moment. He might even by possibility have constructed the stratifications of the earth's crust with all their slips, elevations, depressions, unconformities, and organic formations in a day. And, lastly, He might have carried on to completion all the evolutions of universal nature that have since taken place or will hereafter take place until the last hour has struck on the clock of time. But what then? What purpose would have been served by all this speed? It is obvious that the above and such like questions are not wisely put. The very nature of the eternal shows the futility of such speculations. Is the commodity of time so scarce with him that he must or should for any good reason sum up the course of a universe of things in an infinitesimal portion of its duration? May we not, rather, must we not, soberly conclude that there is a due proportion between the action and the time of the action, the creation to be developed and the time of development. Both the beginning and the process of this latest creation are to a nicety adjusted to the preexistent and concurrent state of things. And the development of what is created not only displays a mutual harmony and exact coincidence in the progress of all its other parts, but is at the same time finely adapted to the constitution of man, and the natural, safe, and healthy ratio of his physical and metaphysical movements.
on Genesis 1 :12