"A solid body of land could not have answered the purpose of a habitable world," said Hutton, "for a soil is necessary to the growth of plants, and a soil is nothing but the material collected from the destruction of the solid land. Therefore the surface of this land inhabited by man, and covered by plants and animals, is made by nature to decay, in dissolving from that hard and compact state in which it is found; and this soil is necessarily washed away by the continual circulation of the water running from the summits of the mountains towards the general receptacle of that fluid.
"The heights of our land are thus levelled with our shores, our fertile plains are formed from the ruins of the mountains; and those travelling materials are still pursued by the moving water, and propelled along the inclined surface of the earth. These movable materials, delivered into the sea, cannot, for a long continuance, rest upon the shore, for by the agitation of the winds, the tides, and the currents every movable thing is carried farther and farther along the shelving bottom of the sea, towards the unfathomable regions of the ocean.
"If the vegetable soil is thus constantly removed from the surface of the land, and if its place is then to be supplied from the dissolution of the solid earth as here represented, we may perceive an end to this beautiful machine; an end arising from no error in its constitution as a world, but from that destructibility of its land which is so necessary in the system of the globe, in the economy of life and vegetation.
"The immense time necessarily required for the total destruction of the land must not be opposed to that view of future events which is indicated by the surest facts and most approved principles. Time, which measures everything in our idea, and is often deficient to our schemes, is to nature endless and as nothing; it cannot limit that by which alone it has existence; and as the natural course of time, which to us seems infinite, cannot be bounded by any operation that may have an end, the progress of things upon this globe that in the course of nature cannot be limited by time must proceed in a continual succession. We are, therefore, to consider as inevitable the destruction of our land, so far as effected by those operations which are necessary in the purpose of the globe, considered as a habitable world, and so far as we have not examined any other part of the economy of nature, in which other operations and a different intention might appear.
"We have now considered the globe of this earth as a machine, constructed upon chemical as well as mechanical principles, by which its different parts are all adapted, in form, in quality, and quantity, to a certain end--an end attained with certainty of success, and an end from which we may perceive wisdom in contemplating the means employed.
"But is this world to be considered thus merely as a machine, to last no longer than its parts retain their present position, their proper forms and qualities? Or may it not be also considered as an organized body such as has a constitution, in which the necessary decay of the machine is naturally repaired in the exertion of those productive powers by which it has been formed?
"This is the view in which we are now to examine the globe; to see if there be, in the constitution of the world, a reproductive operation by which a ruined constitution may be again repaired and a duration of stability thus procured to the machine considered as a world containing plants and animals.
"If no such reproductive power, or reforming operation, after due inquiry, is to be found in the constitution of this world, we should have reason to conclude that the system of this earth has either been intentionally made imperfect or has not been the work of infinite power and wisdom."