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History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom by Andrew Dickson White

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251, 252,; also 309, 310. Texts cited by Mather were Rev., viii,
10, and xi, 14.

Two years later, in August, 1682, he followed this with another
sermon on "The Latter Sign," "wherein is showed that the voice of
God in signal providences, especially when repeated and iterated,
ought to be hearkened unto." Here, too, of course, the comet
comes in for a large share of attention. But his tone is less
sure: even in the midst of all his arguments appears an evident
misgiving. The thoughts of Newton in science and Bayle in
philosophy were evidently tending to accomplish the prophecy of
Seneca. Mather's alarm at this is clear. His natural tendency
is to uphold the idea that a comet is simply a fire-ball flung
from the hand of an avenging God at a guilty world, but he
evidently feels obliged to yield something to the scientific
spirit; hence, in the Discourse concerning Comets, published in
1683, he declares: "There are those who think that, inasmuch as
comets may be supposed to proceed from natural causes, there is
no speaking voice of Heaven in them beyond what is to be said of
all other works of God. But certain it is that many things which
may happen according to the course of Nature are portentous signs
of Divine anger and prognostics of great evils hastening upon the
world." He then notices the eclipse of August, 1672, and adds:
"That year the college was eclipsed by the death of the learned
president there, worthy Mr. Chauncey and two colonies--namely,
Massachusetts and Plymouth--by the death of two governors, who
died within a twelvemonth after....Shall, then, such mighty
works of God as comets are be insignificant things?"[113]

[113] Increase Mather's Heaven's Alarm to the World was first
printed at Boston in 1681, but was reprinted in 1682, and was
appended, with the sermon on The Latter Sign, to the Discourse on
Comets (Boston, 1683).


Vigorous as Mather's argument is, we see scepticism regarding
"signs" continuing to invade the public mind; and, in spite of
his threatenings, about twenty years after we find a remarkable
evidence of this progress in the fact that this scepticism has
seized upon no less a personage than that colossus of orthodoxy,
his thrice illustrious son, Cotton Mather himself; and him we
find, in 1726, despite the arguments of his father, declaring in
his Manuductio: "Perhaps there may be some need for me to
caution you against being dismayed at the signs of the heavens,
or having any superstitious fancies upon eclipses and the
like....I am willing that you be apprehensive of nothing
portentous in blazing stars. For my part, I know not whether all
our worlds, and even the sun itself, may not fare the better for

[114] For Cotton Mather, see the Manuductio, pp. 54, 55.

Curiously enough, for this scientific scepticism in Cotton Mather
there was a cause identical with that which had developed
superstition in the mind of his father. The same provincial
tendency to receive implicitly any new European fashion in
thinking or speech wrought upon both, plunging one into
superstition and drawing the other out of it.

European thought, which New England followed, had at last broken
away in great measure from the theological view of comets as
signs and wonders. The germ of this emancipating influence was
mainly in the great utterance of Seneca; and we find in nearly
every century some evidence that this germ was still alive. This
life became more and more evident after the Reformation period,
even though theologians in every Church did their best to destroy
it. The first series of attacks on the old theological doctrine
were mainly founded in philosophic reasoning. As early as the
first half of the sixteenth century we hear Julius Caesar
Scaliger protesting against the cometary superstition as
"ridiculous folly."[115] Of more real importance was the
treatise of Blaise de Vigenere, published at Paris in 1578. In
this little book various statements regarding comets as signs of
wrath or causes of evils are given, and then followed by a very
gentle and quiet discussion, usually tending to develop that
healthful scepticism which is the parent of investigation. A
fair example of his mode of treating the subject is seen in his
dealing with a bit of "sacred science." This was simply that
"comets menace princes and kings with death because they live
more delicately than other people; and, therefore, the air
thickened and corrupted by a comet would be naturally more
injurious to them than to common folk who live on coarser food."
To this De Vigenere answers that there are very many persons who
live on food as delicate as that enjoyed by princes and kings,
and yet receive no harm from comets. He then goes on to show
that many of the greatest monarchs in history have met death
without any comet to herald it.

[115] For Scaliger, see p. 20 of Dudith's book, cited below.

In the same year thoughtful scepticism of a similar sort found an
advocate in another part of Europe. Thomas Erastus, the learned
and devout professor of medicine at Heidelberg, put forth a
letter dealing in the plainest terms with the superstition. He
argued especially that there could be no natural connection
between the comet and pestilence, since the burning of an
exhalation must tend to purify rather than to infect the air. In
the following year the eloquent Hungarian divine Dudith published
a letter in which the theological theory was handled even more
shrewdly. for he argued that, if comets were caused by the sins
of mortals, they would never be absent from the sky. But these
utterances were for the time brushed aside by the theological
leaders of thought as shallow or impious.

In the seventeenth century able arguments against the
superstition, on general grounds, began to be multiplied. In
Holland, Balthasar Bekker opposed this, as he opposed the
witchcraft delusion, on general philosophic grounds; and
Lubienitzky wrote in a compromising spirit to prove that comets
were as often followed by good as by evil events. In France,
Pierre Petit, formerly geographer of Louis XIII, and an intimate
friend of Descartes, addressed to the young Louis XIV a vehement
protest against the superstition, basing his arguments not on
astronomy, but on common sense. A very effective part of the
little treatise was devoted to answering the authority of the
fathers of the early Church. To do this, he simply reminded his
readers that St. Augustine and St. John Damascenus had also
opposed the doctrine of the antipodes. The book did good service
in France, and was translated in Germany a few years later.[116]

[116] For Blaise de Vigenere, see his Traite des Cometes, Paris,
1578. For Dudith, see his De Cometarum Dignificatione, Basle,
1579, to which the letter of Erastus is appended. Bekker's views
may be found in his Onderzoek van de Betekening der Cometen,
Leeuwarden, 1683. For Lubienitsky's, see his Theatrum Cometicum,
Amsterdam, 1667, in part ii: Historia Cometarum, preface "to the
reader." For Petit, see his Dissertation sur la Nature des
Cometes, Paris, 1665 (German translation, Dresden and Zittau,

All these were denounced as infidels and heretics, yet none the
less did they set men at thinking, and prepare the way for a far
greater genius; for toward the end of the same century the
philosophic attack was taken up by Pierre Bayle, and in the whole
series of philosophic champions he is chief. While professor at
the University of Sedan he had observed the alarm caused by the
comet of 1680, and he now brought all his reasoning powers to
bear upon it. Thoughts deep and witty he poured out in volume
after volume. Catholics and Protestants were alike scandalized.
Catholic France spurned him, and Jurieu, the great Reformed
divine, called his cometary views "atheism," and tried hard to
have Protestant Holland condemn him. Though Bayle did not touch
immediately the mass of mankind, he wrought with power upon men
who gave themselves the trouble of thinking. It was indeed
unfortunate for the Church that theologians, instead of taking
the initiative in this matter, left it to Bayle; for, in tearing
down the pretended scriptural doctrine of comets, he tore down
much else: of all men in his time, no one so thoroughly prepared
the way for Voltaire.

Bayle's whole argument is rooted in the prophecy of Seneca. He
declares: "Comets are bodies subject to the ordinary law of
Nature, and not prodigies amenable to no law." He shows
historically that there is no reason to regard comets as portents
of earthly evils. As to the fact that such evils occur after the
passage of comets across the sky, he compares the person
believing that comets cause these evils to a woman looking out of
a window into a Paris street and believing that the carriages
pass because she looks out. As to the accomplishment of some
predictions, he cites the shrewd saying of Henry IV, to the
effect that "the public will remember one prediction that comes
true better than all the rest that have proved false." Finally,
he sums up by saying: "The more we study man, the more does it
appear that pride is his ruling passion, and that he affects
grandeur even in his misery. Mean and perishable creature that
he is, he has been able to persuade men that he can not die
without disturbing the whole course of Nature and obliging the
heavens to put themselves to fresh expense. In order to light
his funeral pomp. Foolish and ridiculous vanity! If we had a
just idea of the universe, we should soon comprehend that the
death or birth of a prince is too insignificant a matter to stir
the heavens."[117]

[117] Regarding Bayle, see Madler, Himmelskunde, vol. i, p. 327.
For special points of interest in Bayle's arguments, see his
Pensees Diverses sur les Cometes, Amsterdam, 1749, pp. 79, 102,
134, 206. For the response to Jurieu, see the continuation des
Pensees, Rotterdam, 1705; also Champion, p. 164, Lecky, ubi
supra, and Guillemin, pp. 29, 30.

This great philosophic champion of right reason was followed by a
literary champion hardly less famous; for Fontenelle now gave to
the French theatre his play of The Comet, and a point of capital
importance in France was made by rendering the army of ignorance

[118] See Fontenelle, cited by Champion, p. 167.

Such was the line of philosophic and literary attack, as
developed from Scaliger to Fontenelle. But beneath and in the
midst of all of it, from first to last, giving firmness,
strength, and new sources of vitality to it, was the steady
development of scientific effort; and to the series of great men
who patiently wrought and thought out the truth by scientific
methods through all these centuries belong the honours of the

For generations men in various parts of the world had been making
careful observations on these strange bodies. As far back as the
time when Luther and Melanchthon and Zwingli were plunged into
alarm by various comets from 1531 to 1539, Peter Apian kept his
head sufficiently cool to make scientific notes of their paths
through the heavens. A little later, when the great comet of
1556 scared popes, emperors, and reformers alike, such men as
Fabricius at Vienna and Heller at Nuremberg quietly observed its
path. In vain did men like Dieterich and Heerbrand and Celich
from various parts of Germany denounce such observations and
investigations as impious; they were steadily continued, and in
1577 came the first which led to the distinct foundation of the
modern doctrine. In that year appeared a comet which again
plunged Europe into alarm. In every European country this alarm
was strong, but in Germany strongest of all. The churches were
filled with terror-stricken multitudes. Celich preaching at
Magdeburg was echoed by Heerbrand preaching at Tubingen, and both
these from thousands of other pulpits, Catholic and Protestant,
throughout Europe. In the midst of all this din and outcry a few
men quietly but steadily observed the monster; and Tycho Brahe
announced, as the result, that its path lay farther from the
earth than the orbit of the moon. Another great astronomical
genius, Kepler, confirmed this. This distinct beginning of the
new doctrine was bitterly opposed by theologians; they denounced
it as one of the evil results of that scientific meddling with
the designs of Providence against which they had so long
declaimed in pulpits and professors' chairs; they even brought
forward some astronomers ambitious or wrong-headed enough to
testify that Tycho and Kepler were in error.[119]

[119] See Madler, Himmelskunde, vol. i, pp. 181, 197; also Wolf,
Gesch. d. Astronomie, and Janssen, Gesch. d. deutschen Volkes,
vol. v, p. 350. Heerbrand's sermon, cited above, is a good
specimen of the theologic attitude. See Pingre, vol. ii, p. 81.

Nothing could be more natural than such opposition; for this
simple announcement by Tycho Brahe began a new era. It shook the
very foundation of cometary superstition. The Aristotelian view,
developed by the theologians, was that what lies within the
moon's orbit appertains to the earth and is essentially
transitory and evil, while what lies beyond it belongs to the
heavens and is permanent, regular, and pure. Tycho Brahe and
Kepler, therefore, having by means of scientific observation and
thought taken comets out of the category of meteors and
appearances in the neighbourhood of the earth, and placed them
among the heavenly bodies, dealt a blow at the very foundations
of the theological argument, and gave a great impulse to the idea
that comets are themselves heavenly bodies moving regularly and
in obedience to law.


Attempts were now made to compromise. It was declared that,
while some comets were doubtless supralunar, some must be
sublunar. But this admission was no less fatal on another
account. During many centuries the theory favoured by the Church
had been, as we have seen, that the earth was surrounded by
hollow spheres, concentric and transparent, forming a number of
glassy strata incasing one another "like the different coatings
of an onion," and that each of these in its movement about the
earth carries one or more of the heavenly bodies. Some
maintained that these spheres were crystal; but Lactantius, and
with him various fathers of the Church, spoke of the heavenly
vault as made of ice. Now, the admission that comets could move
beyond the moon was fatal to this theory, for it sent them
crashing through these spheres of ice or crystal, and therefore
through the whole sacred fabric of the Ptolemaic theory.[120]

[120] For these features in cometary theory, see Pingre, vol. i,
p. 89; also Humboldt, Cosmos (English translation, London, 1868),
vol. iii, p. 169.

Here we may pause for a moment to note one of the chief
differences between scientific and theological reasoning
considered in themselves. Kepler's main reasoning as to the
existence of a law for cometary movement was right; but his
secondary reasoning, that comets move nearly in straight lines,
was wrong. His right reasoning was developed by Gassendi in
France, by Borelli in Italy, by Hevel and Doerfel in Germany, by
Eysat and Bernouilli in Switzerland, by Percy and--most important
of all, as regards mathematical demonstration--by Newton in
England. The general theory, which was true, they accepted and
developed; the secondary theory, which was found untrue, they
rejected; and, as a result, both of what they thus accepted and
of what they rejected, was evolved the basis of the whole modern
cometary theory.

Very different was this from the theological method. As a rule,
when there arises a thinker as great in theology as Kepler in
science, the whole mass of his conclusions ripens into a dogma.
His disciples labour not to test it, but to establish it; and
while, in the Catholic Church, it becomes a dogma to be believed
or disbelieved under the penalty of damnation, it becomes in the
Protestant Church the basis for one more sect.

Various astronomers laboured to develop the truth discovered by
Tycho and strengthened by Kepler. Cassini seemed likely to win
for Italy the glory of completing the great structure; but he
was sadly fettered by Church influences, and was obliged to leave
most of the work to others. Early among these was Hevel. He
gave reasons for believing that comets move in parabolic curves
toward the sun. Then came a man who developed this truth
further--Samuel Doerfel; and it is a pleasure to note that he was
a clergyman. The comet of 1680, which set Erni in Switzerland,
Mather in New England, and so many others in all parts of the
world at declaiming, set Doerfel at thinking. Undismayed by the
authority of Origen and St. John Chrysostom, the arguments of
Luther, Melanchthon, and Zwingli, the outcries of Celich,
Heerbrand, and Dieterich, he pondered over the problem in his
little Saxon parsonage, until in 1681 he set forth his proofs
that comets are heavenly bodies moving in parabolas of which the
sun is the focus. Bernouilli arrived at the same conclusion;
and, finally, this great series of men and works was closed by
the greatest of all, when Newton, in 1686, having taken the data
furnished by the comet of 1680, demonstrated that comets are
guided in their movements by the same principle that controls the
planets in their orbits. Thus was completed the evolution of
this new truth in science.

Yet we are not to suppose that these two great series of
philosophical and scientific victories cleared the field of all
opponents. Declamation and pretended demonstration of the old
theologic view were still heard; but the day of complete victory
dawned when Halley, after most thorough observation and
calculation, recognised the comet of 1682 as one which had
already appeared at stated periods, and foretold its return in
about seventy-five years; and the battle was fully won when
Clairaut, seconded by Lalande and Mme. Lepaute, predicted
distinctly the time when the comet would arrive at its
perihelion, and this prediction was verified.[121] Then it was
that a Roman heathen philosopher was proved more infallible and
more directly under Divine inspiration than a Roman Christian
pontiff; for the very comet which the traveller finds to-day
depicted on the Bayeux tapestry as portending destruction to
Harold and the Saxons at the Norman invasion of England, and
which was regarded by Pope Calixtus as portending evil to
Christendom, was found six centuries later to be, as Seneca had
prophesied, a heavenly body obeying the great laws of the
universe, and coming at regular periods. Thenceforth the whole
ponderous enginery of this superstition, with its proof-texts
regarding "signs in the heavens," its theological reasoning to
show the moral necessity of cometary warnings, and its
ecclesiastical fulminations against the "atheism, godlessness,
and infidelity" of scientific investigation, was seen by all
thinking men to be as weak against the scientific method as
Indian arrows against needle guns. Copernicus, Galileo,
Cassini, Doerfel, Newton, Halley, and Clairaut had gained the

[121] See Pingre, vol. i, p. 53; Grant, History of Physical
Astronomy, p. 305, etc., etc. For a curious partial anticipation
by Hooke, in 1664, of the great truth announced by Halley in
1682, see Pepy's Diary for March 1, 1664. For excellent
summaries of the whole work of Halley and Clairaut and their
forerunners and associates, see Pingre, Madler, Wolf, Arago, et

[122] In accordance with Halley's prophecy, the comet of 1682 has
returned in 1759 and 1835. See Madler, Guillemin, Watson, Grant,
Delambre, Proctor, article Astronomy in Encycl. Brit., and
especially for details, Wolf, pp. 407-412 and 701-722. For clear
statement regarding Doerfel, see Wolf, p. 411.

It is instructive to note, even after the main battle was lost, a
renewal of the attempt, always seen under like circumstances, to
effect a compromise, to establish a "safe science" on grounds
pseudo-scientific and pseudo-theologic. Luther, with his strong
common sense, had foreshadowed this; Kepler had expressed a
willingness to accept it. It was insisted that comets might be
heavenly bodies moving in regular orbits, and even obedient to
law, and yet be sent as "signs in the heavens." Many good men
clung longingly to this phase of the old belief, and in 1770
Semler, professor at Halle, tried to satisfy both sides. He
insisted that, while from a scientific point of view comets could
not exercise any physical influence upon the world, yet from a
religious point of view they could exercise a moral influence as
reminders of the Just Judge of the Universe.

So hard was it for good men to give up the doctrine of "signs in
the heavens," seemingly based upon Scripture and exercising such
a healthful moral tendency! As is always the case after such a
defeat, these votaries of "sacred science" exerted the greatest
ingenuity in devising statements and arguments to avert the new
doctrine. Within our own century the great Catholic champion,
Joseph de Maistre, echoed these in declaring his belief that
comets are special warnings of evil. So, too, in Protestant
England, in 1818, the Gentleman's Magazine stated that under the
malign influence of a recent comet "flies became blind and died
early in the season," and "the wife of a London shoemaker had
four children at a birth." And even as late as 1829 Mr. Forster,
an English physician, published a work to prove that comets
produce hot summers, cold winters, epidemics, earthquakes, clouds
of midges and locusts, and nearly every calamity conceivable. He
bore especially upon the fact that the comet of 1665 was
coincident with the plague in London, apparently forgetting that
the other great cities of England and the Continent were not thus
visited; and, in a climax, announces the fact that the comet of
1663 "made all the cats in Westphalia sick."

There still lingered one little cloud-patch of superstition,
arising mainly from the supposed fact that comets had really been
followed by a marked rise in temperature. Even this poor basis
for the belief that they might, after all, affect earthly affairs
was swept away, and science won here another victory; for Arago,
by thermometric records carefully kept at Paris from 1735 to
1781, proved that comets had produced no effect upon temperature.
Among multitudes of similar examples he showed that, in some
years when several comets appeared, the temperature was lower
than in other years when few or none appeared. In 1737 there
were two comets, and the weather was cool; in 1785 there was no
comet, and the weather was hot; through the whole fifty years it
was shown that comets were sometimes followed by hot weather,
sometimes by cool, and that no rule was deducible. The victory
of science was complete at every point.[123]

[123] For Forster, see his Illustrations of the Atmospherical
Origin of Epidemic Diseases, Chelmsford, 1829, cited by Arago;
also in Quarterly Review for April, 1835. For the writings of
several on both sides, and especially those who sought to save,
as far as possible, the sacred theory of comets, see Madler, vol.
ii, p. 384 et seq., and Wolf, p. 186.

But in this history there was one little exhibition so curious as
to be worthy of notice, though its permanent effect upon thought
was small. Whiston and Burnet, so devoted to what they
considered sacred science, had determined that in some way comets
must be instruments of Divine wrath. One of them maintained that
the deluge was caused by the tail of a comet striking the earth;
the other put forth the theory that comets are places of
punishment for the damned--in fact, "flying hells." The theories
of Whiston and Burnet found wide acceptance also in Germany,
mainly through the all-powerful mediation of Gottsched, so long,
from his professor's chair at Leipsic, the dictator of orthodox
thought, who not only wrote a brief tractate of his own upon the
subject, but furnished a voluminous historical introduction to
the more elaborate treatise of Heyn. In this book, which
appeared at Leipsic in 1742, the agency of comets in the
creation, the flood, and the final destruction of the world is
fully proved. Both these theories were, however, soon

Perhaps the more interesting of them can best be met by another,
which, if not fully established, appears much better
based--namely, that in 1868 the earth passed directly through the
tail of a comet, with no deluge, no sound of any wailings of the
damned, with but slight appearances here and there, only to be
detected by the keen sight of the meteorological or astronomical

In our own country superstitious ideas regarding comets continued
to have some little currency; but their life was short. The
tendency shown by Cotton Mather, at the beginning of the
eighteenth century, toward acknowledging the victory of science,
was completed by the utterances of Winthrop, professor at
Harvard, who in 1759 published two lectures on comets, in which
he simply and clearly revealed the truth, never scoffing, but
reasoning quietly and reverently. In one passage he says: "To
be thrown into a panic whenever a comet appears, on account of
the ill effects which some few of them might possibly produce, if
they were not under proper direction, betrays a weakness
unbecoming a reasonable being."

A happy influence in this respect was exercised on both
continents by John Wesley. Tenaciously as he had held to the
supposed scriptural view in so many other matters of science, in
this he allowed his reason to prevail, accepted the
demonstrations of Halley, and gloried in them.[124]

[124] For Heyn, see his Versuch einer Betrachtung uber die
cometun, die Sundfluth und das Vorspeil des jungsten Gerichts,
Leipsic, 1742. A Latin version, of the same year, bears the
title, Specimen Cometologiae Sacre. For the theory that the
earth encountered the tail of a comet, see Guillemin and Watson.
For survival of the old idea in America, see a Sermon of Israel
Loring, of Sudbury, published in 1722. For Prof. J. Winthrop,
see his Comets. For Wesley, see his Natural Philosophy, London,
1784, vol. iii, p. 303.

The victory was indeed complete. Happily, none of the fears
expressed by Conrad Dieterich and Increase Mather were realized.
No catastrophe has ensued either to religion or to morals. In
the realm of religion the Psalms of David remain no less
beautiful, the great utterances of the Hebrew prophets no less
powerful; the Sermon on the Mount, "the first commandment, and
the second, which is like unto it," the definition of "pure
religion and undefiled" by St. James, appeal no less to the
deepest things in the human heart. In the realm of morals, too,
serviceable as the idea of firebrands thrown by the right hand of
an avenging God to scare a naughty world might seem, any
competent historian must find that the destruction of the old
theological cometary theory was followed by moral improvement
rather than by deterioration. We have but to compare the general
moral tone of society to-day, wretchedly imperfect as it is, with
that existing in the time when this superstition had its
strongest hold. We have only to compare the court of Henry VIII
with the court of Victoria, the reign of the later Valois and
earlier Bourbon princes with the present French Republic, the
period of the Medici and Sforzas and Borgias with the period of
Leo XIII and Humbert, the monstrous wickedness of the Thirty
Years' War with the ennobling patriotism of the Franco-Prussian
struggle, and the despotism of the miserable German princelings
of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries with the reign of the
Emperor William. The gain is not simply that mankind has arrived
at a clearer conception of law in the universe; not merely that
thinking men see more clearly that we are part of a system not
requiring constant patching and arbitrary interference; but
perhaps best of all is the fact that science has cleared away one
more series of those dogmas which tend to debase rather than to
develop man's whole moral and religious nature. In this
emancipation from terror and fanaticism, as in so many other
results of scientific thinking, we have a proof of the
inspiration of those great words, "THE TRUTH SHALL MAKE YOU




Among the philosophers of Greece we find, even at an early
period, germs of geological truth, and, what is of vast
importance, an atmosphere in which such germs could grow. These
germs were transmitted to Roman thought; an atmosphere of
tolerance continued; there was nothing which forbade unfettered
reasoning regarding either the earth's strata or the remains of
former life found in them, and under the Roman Empire a period of
fruitful observation seemed sure to begin.

But, as Christianity took control of the world, there came a
great change. The earliest attitude of the Church toward geology
and its kindred sciences was indifferent, and even contemptuous.
According to the prevailing belief, the earth was a "fallen
world," and was soon to be destroyed. Why, then, should it be
studied? Why, indeed, give a thought to it? The scorn which
Lactantius and St. Augustine had cast upon the study of
astronomy was extended largely to other sciences. [125]

[125] For a compact and admirable statement as to the dawn of
geological conceptions in Greece and Rome, see Mr. Lester Ward's
essay on paleobotany in the Fifth Annual Report of the United
States Geological Survey, for 1883-'84. As to the reasons why
Greek philosophers did comparatively so little for geology, see
D'Archiac, Geologie, p. 18. For the contempt felt by Lactantius
and St. Augustine toward astronomical science, see foregoing
chapters on Astronomy and Geography.

But the germs of scientific knowledge and thought developed in
the ancient world could be entirely smothered neither by
eloquence nor by logic; some little scientific observation must
be allowed, though all close reasoning upon it was fettered by
theology. Thus it was that St. Jerome insisted that the broken
and twisted crust of the earth exhibits the wrath of God against
sin, and Tertullian asserted that fossils resulted from the flood
of Noah.

To keep all such observation and reasoning within orthodox
limits, St. Augustine, about the beginning of the fifth century,
began an effort to develop from these germs a growth in science
which should be sacred and safe. With this intent he prepared
his great commentary on the work of creation, as depicted in
Genesis, besides dwelling upon the subject in other writings.
Once engaged in this work, he gave himself to it more earnestly
than any other of the earlier fathers ever did; but his vast
powers of research and thought were not directed to actual
observation or reasoning upon observation. The keynote of his
whole method is seen in his famous phrase, "Nothing is to be
accepted save on the authority of Scripture, since greater is
that authority than all the powers of the human mind." All his
thought was given to studying the letter of the sacred text, and
to making it explain natural phenomena by methods purely

[126] For citations and authorities on these points, see the
chapter on Meteorology.

Among the many questions he then raised and discussed may be
mentioned such as these: "What caused the creation of the stars
on the fourth day?" "Were beasts of prey and venomous animals
created before, or after, the fall of Adam? If before, how can
their creation be reconciled with God's goodness; if afterward,
how can their creation be reconciled to the letter of God's
Word?" "Why were only beasts and birds brought before Adam to be
named, and not fishes and marine animals?" "Why did the Creator
not say, `Be fruitful and multiply,' to plants as well as to

[127] See Augustine, De Genesi, ii, 13, 15, et seq.; ix, 12 et
seq. For the reference to St. Jerome, see Shields, Final
Philosophy, p. 119; also Leyell, Introduction to Geology, vol. i,
chap. ii.

Sundry answers to these and similar questions formed the main
contributions of the greatest of the Latin fathers to the
scientific knowledge of the world, after a most thorough study of
the biblical text and a most profound application of theological
reasoning. The results of these contributions were most
important. In this, as in so many other fields, Augustine gave
direction to the main current of thought in western Europe,
Catholic and Protestant, for nearly thirteen centuries.

In the ages that succeeded, the vast majority of prominent
scholars followed him implicitly. Even so strong a man as Pope
Gregory the Great yielded to his influence, and such leaders of
thought as St. Isidore, in the seventh century, and the
Venerable Bede, in the eighth, planting themselves upon
Augustine's premises, only ventured timidly to extend their
conclusions upon lines he had laid down.

In his great work on Etymologies, Isidore took up Augustine's
attempt to bring the creation into satisfactory relations with
the book of Genesis, and, as to fossil remains, he, like
Tertullian, thought that they resulted from the Flood of Noah.
In the following century Bede developed the same orthodox

[128] For Isidore, see the Etymologiae, xi, 4, xiii, 22. For
Bede, see the Hexaemeron, i, ii, in Migne, tome xci.

The best guess, in a geological sense, among the followers of St.
Augustine was made by an Irish monkish scholar, who, in order to
diminish the difficulty arising from the distribution of animals,
especially in view of the fact that the same animals are found in
Ireland as in England, held that various lands now separated were
once connected. But, alas! the exigencies of theology forced him
to place their separation later than the Flood. Happily for him,
such facts were not yet known as that the kangaroo is found only
on an island in the South Pacific, and must therefore, according
to his theory, have migrated thither with all his progeny, and
along a causeway so curiously constructed that none of the beasts
of prey, who were his fellow-voyagers in the ark, could follow

These general lines of thought upon geology and its kindred
science of zoology were followed by St. Thomas Aquinas and by
the whole body of medieval theologians, so far as they gave any
attention to such subjects.

The next development of geology, mainly under Church guidance,
was by means of the scholastic theology. Phrase-making was
substituted for investigation. Without the Church and within it
wonderful contributions were thus made. In the eleventh century
Avicenna accounted for the fossils by suggesting a "stone-making
force";[129] in the thirteenth, Albert the Great attributed them
to a "formative quality;"[130] in the following centuries some
philosophers ventured the idea that they grew from seed; and the
Aristotelian doctrine of spontaneous generation was constantly
used to prove that these stony fossils possessed powers of
reproduction like plants and animals.[131]

[129] Vis lapidifica.

[130] Virtus formativa.

[131] See authorities given in Mr. Ward's assay, as above.

Still, at various times and places, germs implanted by Greek and
Roman thought were warmed into life. The Arabian schools seem to
have been less fettered by the letter of the Koran than the
contemporary Christian scholars by the letter of the Bible; and
to Avicenna belongs the credit of first announcing substantially
the modern geological theory of changes in the earth's

[132] For Avicenna, see Lyell and D'Archiac.

The direct influence of the Reformation was at first unfavourable
to scientific progress, for nothing could be more at variance
with any scientific theory of the development of the universe
than the ideas of the Protestant leaders. That strict adherence
to the text of Scripture which made Luther and Melanchthon
denounce the idea that the planets revolve about the sun, was
naturally extended to every other scientific statement at
variance with the sacred text. There is much reason to believe
that the fetters upon scientific thought were closer under the
strict interpretation of Scripture by the early Protestants than
they had been under the older Church. The dominant spirit among
the Reformers is shown by the declaration of Peter Martyr to the
effect that, if a wrong opinion should obtain regarding the
creation as described in Genesis, "all the promises of Christ
fall into nothing, and all the life of our religion would be

[133] See his Commentary on Genesis, cited by Zoeckler,
Geschichte der Beziehungen zwischen Theologie und
Naturwissenschaft, vol. i, p. 690.

In the times immediately succeeding the Reformation matters went
from bad to worse. Under Luther and Melanchthon there was some
little freedom of speculation, but under their successors there
was none; to question any interpretation of Luther came to be
thought almost as wicked as to question the literal
interpretation of the Scriptures themselves. Examples of this
are seen in the struggles between those who held that birds were
created entirely from water and those who held that they were
created out of water and mud. In the city of Lubeck, the ancient
centre of the Hanseatic League, close at the beginning of the
seventeenth century, Pfeiffer, "General Superintendent" or bishop
in those parts, published his Pansophia Mosaica, calculated, as
he believed, to beat back science forever. In a long series of
declamations he insisted that in the strict text of Genesis alone
is safety, that it contains all wisdom and knowledge, human and
divine. This being the case, who could care to waste time on the
study of material things and give thought to the structure of the
world? Above all, who, after such a proclamation by such a ruler
in the Lutheran Israel, would dare to talk of the "days"
mentioned in Genesis as "periods of time"; or of the "firmament"
as not meaning a solid vault over the universe; or of the
"waters above the heavens" as not contained in a vast cistern
supported by the heavenly vault; or of the "windows of heaven" as
a figure of speech?[134]

[134] For Pfeiffer, see Zoeckler, vol. i, pp. 688, 689.

In England the same spirit was shown even as late as the time of
Sir Matthew Hale. We find in his book on the Origination of
Mankind, published in 1685, the strictest devotion to a theory
of creation based upon the mere letter of Scripture, and a
complete inability to draw knowledge regarding the earth's origin
and structure from any other source.

While the Lutheran, Calvinistic, and Anglican Reformers clung to
literal interpretations of the sacred books, and turned their
faces away from scientific investigation, it was among their
contemporaries at the revival of learning that there began to
arise fruitful thought in this field. Then it was, about the
beginning of the sixteenth century, that Leonardo da Vinci, as
great a genius in science as in art, broached the true idea as to
the origin of fossil remains; and his compatriot, Fracastoro,
developed this on the modern lines of thought. Others in other
parts of Europe took up the idea, and, while mixing with it many
crudities, drew from it more and more truth. Toward the end of
the sixteenth century Bernard Palissy, in France, took hold of it
with the same genius which he showed in artistic creation; but,
remarkable as were his assertions of scientific realities, they
could gain little hearing. Theologians, philosophers, and even
some scientific men of value, under the sway of scholastic
phrases, continued to insist upon such explanations as that
fossils were the product of "fatty matter set into a fermentation
by heat"; or of a "lapidific juice";[135] or of a "seminal
air";[136] or of a "tumultuous movement of terrestrial
exhalations"; and there was a prevailing belief that fossil
remains, in general, might be brought under the head of "sports
of Nature," a pious turn being given to this phrase by the
suggestion that these "sports" indicated some inscrutable purpose
of the Almighty.

[135] Succus lapidificus.

[136] Aura seminalis.

This remained a leading orthodox mode of explanation in the
Church, Catholic and Protestant, for centuries.


But the scientific method could not be entirely hidden; and,
near the beginning of the seventeenth century, De Clave, Bitaud,
and De Villon revived it in France. Straightway the theological
faculty of Paris protested against the scientific doctrine as
unscriptural, destroyed the offending treatises, banished their
authors from Paris, and forbade them to live in towns or enter
places of public resort.[137]

[137] See Morley, Life of Palissy the Potter, vol. ii, p. 315 et

The champions of science, though depressed for a time, quietly
laboured on, especially in Italy. Half a century later, Steno, a
Dane, and Scilla, an Italian, went still further in the right
direction; and, though they and their disciples took great pains
to throw a tub to the whale, in the shape of sundry vague
concessions to the Genesis legends, they developed geological
truth more and more.

In France, the old theological spirit remained exceedingly
powerful. About the middle of the eighteenth century Buffon made
another attempt to state simple geological truths; but the
theological faculty of the Sorbonne dragged him at once from his
high position, forced him to recant ignominiously, and to print
his recantation. It runs as follows: "I declare that I had no
intention to contradict the text of Scripture; that I believe
most firmly all therein related about the creation, both as to
order of time and matter of fact. I abandon everything in my
book respecting the formation of the earth, and generally all
which may be contrary to the narrative of Moses." This
humiliating document reminds us painfully of that forced upon
Galileo a hundred years before.

It has been well observed by one of the greatest of modern
authorities that the doctrine which Buffon thus "abandoned" is as
firmly established as that of the earth's rotation upon its
axis.[138] Yet one hundred and fifty years were required to
secure for it even a fair hearing; the prevailing doctrine of
the Church continued to be that "all things were made at the
beginning of the world," and that to say that stones and fossils
were made before or since "the beginning" is contrary to
Scripture. Again we find theological substitutes for scientific
explanation ripening into phrases more and more hollow--making
fossils "sports of Nature," or "mineral concretions," or
"creations of plastic force," or "models" made by the Creator
before he had fully decided upon the best manner of creating
various beings.

[138] See citation and remark in Lyell's Principles of Geology,
chap. iii, p. 57; also Huxley, Essays on Controverted Questions,
p. 62.

Of this period, when theological substitutes for science were
carrying all before them, there still exists a monument
commemorating at the same time a farce and a tragedy. This is
the work of Johann Beringer, professor in the University of
Wurzburg and private physician to the Prince-Bishop--the treatise
bearing the title Lithographiae Wirceburgensis Specimen Primum,
"illustrated with the marvellous likenesses of two hundred
figured or rather insectiform stones." Beringer, for the greater
glory of God, had previously committed himself so completely to
the theory that fossils are simply "stones of a peculiar sort,
hidden by the Author of Nature for his own pleasure,"[139] that
some of his students determined to give his faith in that pious
doctrine a thorough trial. They therefore prepared a collection
of sham fossils in baked clay, imitating not only plants,
reptiles, and fishes of every sort that their knowledge or
imagination could suggest, but even Hebrew and Syriac
inscriptions, one of them the name of the Almighty; and these
they buried in a place where the professor was wont to search for
specimens. The joy of Beringer on unearthing these proofs of the
immediate agency of the finger of God in creating fossils knew no
bounds. At great cost he prepared this book, whose twenty-two
elaborate plates of facsimiles were forever to settle the
question in favour of theology and against science, and prefixed
to the work an allegorical title page, wherein not only the glory
of his own sovereign, but that of heaven itself, was pictured as
based upon a pyramid of these miraculous fossils. So robust was
his faith that not even a premature exposure of the fraud could
dissuade him from the publication of his book. Dismissing in one
contemptuous chapter this exposure as a slander by his rivals, he
appealed to the learned world. But the shout of laughter that
welcomed the work soon convinced even its author. In vain did he
try to suppress it; and, according to tradition, having wasted
his fortune in vain attempts to buy up all the copies of it, and
being taunted by the rivals whom he had thought to overwhelm, he
died of chagrin. Even death did not end his misfortunes. The
copies of the first edition having been sold by a graceless
descendant to a Leipsic bookseller, a second edition was brought
out under a new title, and this, too, is now much sought as a
precious memorial of human credulity.[140]

[139] See Beringer's Lithographiae, etc., p. 91.

[140] See Carus, Geschichte der Zoologie, Munich, 1872, p. 467,
note, and Reusch, Bibel und Natur, p. 197. A list of authorities
upon this episode, with the text of one of the epigrams
circulated at poor Beringer's expense, is given by Dr. Reuss in
the Serapeum for 1852, p. 203. The book itself (the original
impression) is in the White Library at Cornell University. For
Beringer himself, see especially the encyclopedia of Ersch and
Gruber, and the Allgemeine deutsche Biographie.

But even this discomfiture did not end the idea which had caused
it, for, although some latitude was allowed among the various
theologico-scientific explanations, it was still held meritorious
to believe that all fossils were placed in the strata on one of
the creative days by the hand of the Almighty, and that this was
done for some mysterious purpose, probably for the trial of human

Strange as it may at first seem, the theological war against a
scientific method in geology was waged more fiercely in
Protestant countries than in Catholic. The older Church had
learned by her costly mistakes, especially in the cases of
Copernicus and Galileo, what dangers to her claim of
infallibility lay in meddling with a growing science. In Italy,
therefore, comparatively little opposition was made, while
England furnished the most bitter opponents to geology so long as
the controversy could be maintained, and the most active
negotiators in patching up a truce on the basis of a sham science
afterward. The Church of England did, indeed, produce some noble
men, like Bishop Clayton and John Mitchell, who stood firmly by
the scientific method; but these appear generally to have been
overwhelmed by a chorus of churchmen and dissenters, whose
mixtures of theology and science, sometimes tragic in their
results and sometimes comic, are among the most instructive
things in modern history.[141]

[141] For a comparison between the conduct of Italian and English
ecclesiastics as regards geology, see Lyell, Principles of
Geology, tenth English edition, vol. i, p. 33. For a
philosophical statement of reasons why the struggle was more
bitter and the attempt at deceptive compromises more absurd in
England than elsewhere, see Maury, L'Ancienne Academie des
Sciences, second edition, p. 152. For very frank confessions of
the reasons why the Catholic Church has become more careful in
her dealings with science, see Roberts, The Pontifical Decrees
against the Earth's Movement, London, 1885, especially pp. 94 and
132, 133, and St. George Mivart's article in the Nineteenth
Century for July 1885. The first of these gentlemen, it must not
be forgotten, is a Roman Catholic clergyman and the second an
eminent layman of the same Church, and both admit that it was the
Pope, speaking ex cathedra, who erred in the Galileo case; but
their explanation is that God allowed the Pope and Church to fall
into this grievous error, which has cost so dear, in order to
show once and for all that the Church has no right to decide
questions in Science.

We have already noted that there are generally three periods or
phases in a theological attack upon any science. The first of
these is marked by the general use of scriptural texts and
statements against the new scientific doctrine; the third by
attempts at compromise by means of far-fetched reconciliations of
textual statements with ascertained fact; but the second or
intermediate period between these two is frequently marked by the
pitting against science of some great doctrine in theology. We
saw this in astronomy, when Bellarmin and his followers insisted
that the scientific doctrine of the earth revolving about the sun
is contrary to the theological doctrine of the incarnation. So
now against geology it was urged that the scientific doctrine
that fossils represent animals which died before Adam contradicts
the theological doctrine of Adam's fall and the statement that
"death entered the world by sin."

In this second stage of the theological struggle with geology,
England was especially fruitful in champions of orthodoxy, first
among whom may be named Thomas Burnet. In the last quarter of
the seventeenth century, just at the time when Newton's great
discovery was given to the world, Burnet issued his Sacred Theory
of the Earth. His position was commanding; he was a royal
chaplain and a cabinet officer. Planting himself upon the famous
text in the second epistle of Peter,[142] he declares that the
flood had destroyed the old and created a new world. The
Newtonian theory he refuses to accept. In his theory of the
deluge he lays less stress upon the "opening of the windows of
heaven" than upon the "breaking up of the fountains of the great
deep." On this latter point he comes forth with great strength.
His theory is that the earth is hollow, and filled with fluid
like an egg. Mixing together sundry texts from Genesis and from
the second epistle of Peter, the theological doctrine of the
"Fall," an astronomical theory regarding the ecliptic, and
various notions adapted from Descartes, he insisted that, before
sin brought on the Deluge, the earth was of perfect mathematical
form, smooth and beautiful, "like an egg," with neither seas nor
islands nor valleys nor rocks, "with not a wrinkle, scar, or
fracture," and that all creation was equally perfect.

[142] See II Peter iii, 6.

In the second book of his great work Burnet went still further.
As in his first book he had mixed his texts of Genesis and St.
Peter with Descartes, he now mixed the account of the Garden of
Eden in Genesis with heathen legends of the golden age, and
concluded that before the flood there was over the whole earth
perpetual spring, disturbed by no rain more severe than the
falling of the dew.

In addition to his other grounds for denying the earlier
existence of the sea, he assigned the reason that, if there had
been a sea before the Deluge, sinners would have learned to build
ships, and so, when the Deluge set in, could have saved

The work was written with much power, and attracted universal
attention. It was translated into various languages, and called
forth a multitude of supporters and opponents in all parts of
Europe. Strong men rose against it, especially in England, and
among them a few dignitaries of the Church; but the Church
generally hailed the work with joy. Addison praised it in a
Latin ode, and for nearly a century it exercised a strong
influence upon European feeling, and aided to plant more deeply
than ever the theological opinion that the earth as now existing
is merely a ruin; whereas, before sin brought on the Flood, it
was beautiful in its "egg-shaped form," and free from every

A few years later came another writer of the highest
standing--William Whiston, professor at Cambridge, who in 1696
published his New Theory of the Earth. Unlike Burnet, he
endeavoured to avail himself of the Newtonian idea, and brought
in, to aid the geological catastrophe caused by human sin, a
comet, which broke open "the fountains of the great deep."

But, far more important than either of these champions, there
arose in the eighteenth century, to aid in the subjection of
science to theology, three men of extraordinary power--John
Wesley, Adam Clarke, and Richard Watson. All three were men of
striking intellectual gifts, lofty character, and noble purpose,
and the first-named one of the greatest men in English history;
yet we find them in geology hopelessly fettered by the mere
letter of Scripture, and by a temporary phase in theology. As in
regard to witchcraft and the doctrine of comets, so in regard to
geology, this theological view drew Wesley into enormous
error.[143] The great doctrine which Wesley, Watson, Clarke, and
their compeers, following St. Augustine, Bede, Peter Lombard,
and a long line of the greatest minds in the universal Church,
thought it especially necessary to uphold against geologists was,
that death entered the world by sin--by the first transgression
of Adam and Eve. The extent to which the supposed necessity of
upholding this doctrine carried Wesley seems now almost beyond
belief. Basing his theology on the declaration that the Almighty
after creation found the earth and all created things "very
good," he declares, in his sermon on the Cause and Cure of
Earthquakes, that no one who believes the Scriptures can deny
that "sin is the moral cause of earthquakes, whatever their
natural cause may be." Again, he declares that earthquakes are
the "effect of that curse which was brought upon the earth by the
original transgression." Bringing into connection with Genesis
the declaration of St. Paul that "the whole creation groaneth
and travaileth together in pain until now," he finds additional
scriptural proof that the earthquakes were the result of Adam's
fall. He declares, in his sermon on God's Approbation of His
Works, that "before the sin of Adam there were no agitations
within the bowels of the earth, no violent convulsions, no
concussions of the earth, no earthquakes, but all was unmoved as
the pillars of heaven. There were then no such things as
eruptions of fires; no volcanoes or burning mountains." Of
course, a science which showed that earthquakes had been in
operation for ages before the appearance of man on the planet,
and which showed, also, that those very earthquakes which he
considered as curses resultant upon the Fall were really
blessings, producing the fissures in which we find today those
mineral veins so essential to modern civilization, was entirely
beyond his comprehension. He insists that earthquakes are "God's
strange works of judgment, the proper effect and punishment of

[143] For his statement that "the giving up of witchcraft is in
effect the giving up of the Bible," see Welsey's Journal, 1766-

So, too, as to death and pain. In his sermon on the Fall of Man
he took the ground that death and pain entered the world by
Adam's transgression, insisting that the carnage now going on
among animals is the result of Adam's sin. Speaking of the
birds, beasts, and insects, he says that, before sin entered the
world by Adam's fall, "none of these attempted to devour or in
any way hurt one another"; that "the spider was then as harmless
as the fly and did not then lie in wait for blood." Here, again,
Wesley arrayed his early followers against geology, which
reveals, in the fossil remains of carnivorous animals, pain and
death countless ages before the appearance of man. The
half-digested fragments of weaker animals within the fossilized
bodies of the stronger have destroyed all Wesley's arguments in
behalf of his great theory.[144]

[144] See Wesley's sermon on God's Approbation of His Works,
parts xi and xii.

Dr. Adam Clarke held similar views. He insisted that thorns and
thistles were given as a curse to human labour, on account of
Adam's sin, and appeared upon the earth for the first time after
Adam's fall. So, too, Richard Watson, the most prolific writer
of the great evangelical reform period, and the author of the
Institutes, the standard theological treatise on the evangelical
side, says, in a chapter treating of the Fall, and especially of
the serpent which tempted Eve: "We have no reason at all to
believe that the animal had a serpentine form in any mode or
degree until his transformation. That he was then degraded to a
reptile, to go upon his belly, imports, on the contrary, an
entire alteration and loss of the original form." All that
admirable adjustment of the serpent to its environment which
delights naturalists was to the Wesleyan divine simply an evil
result of the sin of Adam and Eve. Yet here again geology was
obliged to confront theology in revealing the PYTHON in the
Eocene, ages before man appeared.[145]

[145] See Westminster Review, October, 1870, article on John
Wesley's Cosmogony, with citations from Wesley's Sermons,
Watson's Institutes of Theology, Adam Clarke's Commentary on the
Holy Scriptures, etc.

The immediate results of such teaching by such men was to throw
many who would otherwise have resorted to observation and
investigation back upon scholastic methods. Again reappears the
old system of solving the riddle by phrases. In 1733, Dr.
Theodore Arnold urged the theory of "models," and insisted that
fossils result from "infinitesimal particles brought together in
the creation to form the outline of all the creatures and objects
upon and within the earth"; and Arnold's work gained wide

[146] See citation in Mr. Ward's article, as above, p. 390.

Such was the influence of this succession of great men that
toward the close of the last century the English opponents of
geology on biblical grounds seemed likely to sweep all before
them. Cramping our whole inheritance of sacred literature within
the rules of a historical compend, they showed the terrible
dangers arising from the revelations of geology, which make the
earth older than the six thousand years required by Archbishop
Usher's interpretation of the Old Testament. Nor was this
feeling confined to ecclesiastics. Williams, a thoughtful
layman, declared that such researches led to infidelity and
atheism, and are "nothing less than to depose the Almighty
Creator of the universe from his office." The poet Cowper, one
of the mildest of men, was also roused by these dangers, and in
his most elaborate poem wrote:

"Some drill and bore
The solid earth, and from the strata there
Extract a register, by which we learn
That He who made it, and revealed its date
To Moses, was mistaken in its age!"

John Howard summoned England to oppose "those scientific systems
which are calculated to tear up in the public mind every
remaining attachment to Christianity."

With this special attack upon geological science by means of the
dogma of Adam's fall, the more general attack by the literal
interpretation of the text was continued. The legendary husks
and rinds of our sacred books were insisted upon as equally
precious and nutritious with the great moral and religious truths
which they envelop. Especially precious were the six days--each
"the evening and the morning"--and the exact statements as to the
time when each part of creation came into being. To save these,
the struggle became more and more desperate.

Difficult as it is to realize it now, within the memory of many
now living the battle was still raging most fiercely in England,
and both kinds of artillery usually brought against a new science
were in full play, and filling the civilized world with their

About half a century since, the Rev. J. Mellor Brown, the Rev.
Henry Cole, and others were hurling at all geologists alike, and
especially at such Christian scholars as Dr. Buckland and Dean
Conybeare and Pye Smith and Prof. Sedgwick, the epithets of
"infidel," "impugner of the sacred record," and "assailant of the
volume of God."[147]

[147] For these citations, see Lyell, Principles of Geology,

The favourite weapon of the orthodox party was the charge that
the geologists were "attacking the truth of God." They declared
geology "not a subject of lawful inquiry," denouncing it as "a
dark art," as "dangerous and disreputable," as "a forbidden
province," as "infernal artillery," and as "an awful evasion of
the testimony of revelation."[148]

[148] See Pye Smith, D. D., Geology and Scripture, pp. 156, 157,
168, 169.

This attempt to scare men from the science having failed, various
other means were taken. To say nothing about England, it is
humiliating to human nature to remember the annoyances, and even
trials, to which the pettiest and narrowest of men subjected such
Christian scholars in our own country as Benjamin Silliman and
Edward Hitchcock and Louis Agassiz.

But it is a duty and a pleasure to state here that one great
Christian scholar did honour to religion and to himself by
quietly accepting the claims of science and making the best of
them, despite all these clamours. This man was Nicholas Wiseman,
better known afterward as Cardinal Wiseman. The conduct of this
pillar of the Roman Catholic Church contrasts admirably with that
of timid Protestants, who were filling England with shrieks and

[149] Wiseman, Twelve Lectures on the Connection between Science
and Revealed Religion, first American edition, New York, 1837.
As to the comparative severity of the struggle regarding
astronomy, geology, etc., in the Catholic and Protestant
countries, see Lecky's England in the Eighteenth Century, chap.
ix, p. 525.

And here let it be noted that one of the most interesting
skirmishes in this war occurred in New England. Prof. Stuart,
of Andover, justly honoured as a Hebrew scholar, declared that to
speak of six periods of time for the creation was flying in the
face of Scripture; that Genesis expressly speaks of six days,
each made up of "the evening and the morning," and not six
periods of time.

To him replied a professor in Yale College, James Kingsley. In
an article admirable for keen wit and kindly temper, he showed
that Genesis speaks just as clearly of a solid firmament as of
six ordinary days, and that, if Prof. Stuart had surmounted one
difficulty and accepted the Copernican theory, he might as well
get over another and accept the revelations of geology. The
encounter was quick and decisive, and the victory was with
science and the broader scholarship of Yale.[150]

[150] See Silliman's Journal, vol. xxx, p. 114.

Perhaps the most singular attempt against geology was made by a
fine survival of the eighteenth century Don--Dean Cockburn, of
York--to SCOLD its champions off the field. Having no adequate
knowledge of the new science, he opened a battery of abuse,
giving it to the world at large from the pulpit and through the
press, and even through private letters. From his pulpit in York
Minster he denounced Mary Somerville by name for those studies in
physical geography which have made her name honoured throughout
the world.

But the special object of his antipathy was the British
Association for the Advancement of Science. He issued a pamphlet
against it which went through five editions in two years, sent
solemn warnings to its president, and in various ways made life a
burden to Sedgwick, Buckland, and other eminent investigators who
ventured to state geological facts as they found them.

These weapons were soon seen to be ineffective; they were like
Chinese gongs and dragon lanterns against rifled cannon; the
work of science went steadily on.[151]

[151] Prof. Goldwin Smith informs me that the papers of Sir
Robert Peel, yet unpublished, contain very curious specimens of
the epistles of Dean Cockburn. See also Personal Recollections
of Mary Somerville, Boston, 1874, pp. 139 and 375. Compare with
any statement of his religious views that Dean Cockburn was able
to make, the following from Mrs. Somerville: "Nothing has
afforded me so convincing a proof of the Deity as these purely
mental conceptions of numerical and methematical science which
have been, by slow degrees, vouchesafed to man--and are still
granted in these latter times by the differential calculus, now
supeseded by the higher algebra--all of which must have existed
in that sublimely omniscient mind from eternity. See also The
Life and Letters of Adam Sedgwick, Cambridge, 1890, vol. ii, pp.
76 and following.


Long before the end of the struggle already described, even at a
very early period, the futility of the usual scholastic weapons
had been seen by the more keen-sighted champions of orthodoxy;
and, as the difficulties of the ordinary attack upon science
became more and more evident, many of these champions endeavoured
to patch up a truce. So began the third stage in the war--the
period of attempts at compromise.

The position which the compromise party took was that the fossils
were produced by the Deluge of Noah.

This position was strong, for it was apparently based upon
Scripture. Moreover, it had high ecclesiastical sanction, some
of the fathers having held that fossil remains, even on the
highest mountains, represented animals destroyed at the Deluge.
Tertullian was especially firm on this point, and St. Augustine
thought that a fossil tooth discovered in North Africa must have
belonged to one of the giants mentioned in Scripture.[152]

[152] For Tertullian, see his De Pallio, c. ii (Migne, Patr.
Lat., vol. ii, p. 1033). For Augustine's view, see Cuvier,
Recherches sur les Ossements fossiles, fourth edition, vol. ii,
p. 143.

In the sixteenth century especially, weight began to be attached
to this idea by those who felt the worthlessness of various
scholastic explanations. Strong men in both the Catholic and the
Protestant camps accepted it; but the man who did most to give
it an impulse into modern theology was Martin Luther. He easily
saw that scholastic phrase-making could not meet the difficulties
raised by fossils, and he naturally urged the doctrine of their
origin at Noah's Flood.[153]

[153] For Luther's opinion, see his Commentary on Genesis.

With such support, it soon became the dominant theory in
Christendom: nothing seemed able to stand against it; but
before the end of the same sixteenth century it met some serious
obstacles. Bernard Palissy, one of the most keen-sighted of
scientific thinkers in France, as well as one of the most devoted
of Christians, showed that it was utterly untenable.
Conscientious investigators in other parts of Europe, and
especially in Italy, showed the same thing; all in vain.[154]
In vain did good men protest against the injury sure to be
brought upon religion by tying it to a scientific theory sure to
be exploded; the doctrine that fossils are the remains of animals
drowned at the Flood continued to be upheld by the great majority
of theological leaders for nearly three centuries as "sound
doctrine," and as a blessed means of reconciling science with
Scripture. To sustain this scriptural view, efforts energetic
and persistent were put forth both by Catholics and Protestants.

[154] For a very full statement of the honourable record of Italy
in this respect, and for the enlightened views of some Italian
churchmen, see Stoppani, Il Dogma a le Scienze Positive, Milan,
1886, pp. 203 et seq.

In France, the learned Benedictine, Calmet, in his great works on
the Bible, accepted it as late as the beginning of the eighteenth
century, believing the mastodon's bones exhibited by Mazurier to
be those of King Teutobocus, and holding them valuable testimony
to the existence of the giants mentioned in Scripture and of the
early inhabitants of the earth overwhelmed by the Flood.[155]

[155] For the steady adherance to this sacred theory, see Audiat,
Vie de Palissy, p. 412, and Cantu, Histoire Universelle, vol. xv,
p. 492. For Calmet, see his Dissertation sur les Geants, cited
in Berger de Xivery, Traditions Teratologiques, p. 191.

But the greatest champion appeared in England. We have already
seen how, near the close of the seventeenth century, Thomas
Burnet prepared the way in his Sacred Theory of the Earth by
rejecting the discoveries of Newton, and showing how sin led to
the breaking up of the "foundations of the great deep," and we
have also seen how Whiston, in his New Theory of the Earth,
while yielding a little and accepting the discoveries of Newton,
brought in a comet to aid in producing the Deluge; but far more
important than these in permanent influence was John Woodward,
professor at Gresham College, a leader in scientific thought at
the University of Cambridge, and, as a patient collector of
fossils and an earnest investigator of their meaning, deserving
of the highest respect. In 1695 he published his Natural History
of the Earth, and rendered one great service to science, for he
yielded another point, and thus destroyed the foundations for the
old theory of fossils. He showed that they were not "sports of
Nature," or "models inserted by the Creator in the strata for
some inscrutable purpose," but that they were really remains of
living beings, as Xenophanes had asserted two thousand years
before him. So far, he rendered a great service both to science
and religion; but, this done, the text of the Old Testament
narrative and the famous passage in St. Peter's Epistle were too
strong for him, and he, too, insisted that the fossils were
produced by the Deluge. Aided by his great authority, the
assault on the true scientific position was vigorous: Mazurier
exhibited certain fossil remains of a mammoth discovered in
France as bones of the giants mentioned in Scripture; Father
Torrubia did the same thing in Spain; Increase Mather sent to
England similar remains discovered in America, with a like

For the edification of the faithful, such "bones of the giants
mentioned in Scripture" were hung up in public places. Jurieu
saw some of them thus suspended in one of the churches of
Valence; and Henrion, apparently under the stimulus thus given,
drew up tables showing the size of our antediluvian ancestors,
giving the height of Adam as 123 feet 9 inches and that of Eve as
118 feet 9 inches and 9 lines.[156]

[156] See Cuvier, Recherches sur les Ossements fossiles, fourth
edition, vol. ii, p. 56; also Geoffrey St.-Hilaire, cited by
Berger de Xivery, Traditions Teratologiques, p. 190.

But the most brilliant service rendered to the theological theory
came from another quarter for, in 1726, Scheuchzer, having
discovered a large fossil lizard, exhibited it to the world as
the "human witness of the Deluge":[157] this great discovery was
hailed everywhere with joy, for it seemed to prove not only that
human beings were drowned at the Deluge, but that "there were
giants in those days." Cheered by the applause thus gained, he
determined to make the theological position impregnable. Mixing
together various texts of Scripture with notions derived from the
philosophy of Descartes and the speculations of Whiston, he
developed the theory that "the fountains of the great deep" were
broken up by the direct physical action of the hand of God,
which, being literally applied to the axis of the earth, suddenly
stopped the earth's rotation, broke up "the fountains of the
great deep," spilled the water therein contained, and produced
the Deluge. But his service to sacred science did not end here,
for he prepared an edition of the Bible, in which magnificent
engravings in great number illustrated his view and enforced it
upon all readers. Of these engravings no less than thirty-four
were devoted to the Deluge alone.[158]

[157] Homo diluvii testis.

[158] See Zoeckler, vol. ii, p. 172; also Scheuchzer, Physica
Sacra, Augustae Vindel et Ulmae, 1732. For the ancient belief
regarding giants, see Leopoldi, Saggio. For accounts of the
views of Mazaurier and Scheuchzer, see Cuvier; also Buchner, Man
in Past, Present, and Future, English translation, pp. 235, 236.
For Increase Mather's views, see Philosophical Transactions, vol.
xxiv, p. 85. As to similar fossils sent from New York to the
Royal Society as remains of giants, see Weld, History of the
Royal Society, vol. i, p. 421. For Father Torrubia and his
Gigantologia Espanola, see D'Archiac, Introduction a l'Etude de
la Paleontologie Stratigraphique, Paris, 1864, p. 201. For
admirable summaries, see Lyell, Principles of Geology, London,
1867; D'Archiac, Geologie et Paleontologie, Paris, 1866; Pictet,
Traite de Paleontologie, Paris, 1853; Vezian, Prodrome de la
Geologie, Paris, 1863; Haeckel, History of Creation, English
translation, New York, 1876, chap. iii; and for recent progress,
Prof. O. S. Marsh's Address on the History and Methods of

In the midst all this came an episode very comical but very
instructive; for it shows that the attempt to shape the
deductions of science to meet the exigencies of dogma may mislead
heterodoxy as absurdly as orthodoxy.

About the year 1760 news of the discovery of marine fossils in
various elevated districts of Europe reached Voltaire. He, too,
had a theologic system to support, though his system was opposed
to that of the sacred books of the Hebrews; and, fearing that
these new discoveries might be used to support the Mosaic
accounts of the Deluge, all his wisdom and wit were compacted
into arguments to prove that the fossil fishes were remains of
fishes intended for food, but spoiled and thrown away by
travellers; that the fossil shells were accidentally dropped by
crusaders and pilgrims returning from the Holy Land; and that
the fossil bones found between Paris and Etampes were parts of a
skeleton belonging to the cabinet of some ancient philosopher.
Through chapter after chapter, Voltaire, obeying the supposed
necessities of his theology, fought desperately the growing
results of the geologic investigations of his time.[159]

[159] See Voltaire, Dissertation sur les Changements arrives dans
notre Globe; also Voltaire, Les Singularities de la Nature, chap.
xii; also Jevons, Principles of Science, vol. ii, p. 328.

But far more prejudicial to Christianity was the continued effort
on the other side to show that the fossils were caused by the
Deluge of Noah.

No supposition was too violent to support this theory, which was
considered vital to the Bible. By taking the mere husks and
rinds of biblical truth for truth itself, by taking sacred poetry
as prose, and by giving a literal interpretation of it, the
followers of Burnet, Whiston, and Woodward built up systems which
bear to real geology much the same relation that the Christian
Topography of Cosmas bears to real geography. In vain were
exhibited the absolute geological, zoological, astronomical
proofs that no universal deluge, or deluge covering any large
part of the earth, had taken place within the last six thousand
or sixty thousand years; in vain did so enlightened a churchman
as Bishop Clayton declare that the Deluge could not have extended
beyond that district where Noah lived before the Flood; in vain
did others, like Bishop Croft and Bishop Stillingfleet, and the
nonconformist Matthew Poole, show that the Deluge might not have
been and probably was not universal; in vain was it shown that,
even if there had been a universal deluge, the fossils were not
produced by it: the only answers were the citation of the text,
"And all the high mountains which were under the whole heaven
were covered," and, to clinch the matter, Worthington and men
like him insisted that any argument to show that fossils were not
remains of animals drowned at the Deluge of Noah was
"infidelity." In England, France, and Germany, belief that the
fossils were produced by the Deluge of Noah was widely insisted
upon as part of that faith essential to salvation.[160]

[160] For a candid summary of the proofs from geology, astronomy,
and zoology, that the Noachian Deluge was not universally or
widely extended, see McClintock and Strong, Cyclopedia of
Biblical Theology and Ecclesiastical Literature, article Deluge.
For general history, see Lyell, D'Archiac, and Vezian. For
special cases showing the bitterness of the conflict, see the
Rev. Mr. Davis's Life of Rev. Dr. Pye Smith, passim. For a late
account, see Prof. Huxley on The Lights of the Church and the
Light of Science, in the Nineteenth Century for July, 1890.

But the steady work of science went on: not all the force of the
Church--not even the splendid engravings in Scheuchzer's
Bible--could stop it, and the foundations of this theological
theory began to crumble away. The process was, indeed, slow; it
required a hundred and twenty years for the searchers of God's
truth, as revealed in Nature--such men as Hooke, Linnaeus,
Whitehurst, Daubenton, Cuvier, and William Smith--to push their
works under this fabric of error, and, by statements which could
not be resisted, to undermine it. As we arrive at the beginning
of the nineteenth century, science is becoming irresistible in
this field. Blumenbach, Von Buch, and Schlotheim led the way,
but most important on the Continent was the work of Cuvier. In
the early years of the present century his researches among
fossils began to throw new light into the whole subject of
geology. He was, indeed, very conservative, and even more wary
and diplomatic; seeming, like Voltaire, to feel that "among
wolves one must howl a little." It was a time of reaction.
Napoleon had made peace with the Church, and to disturb that
peace was akin to treason. By large but vague concessions Cuvier
kept the theologians satisfied, while he undermined their
strongest fortress. The danger was instinctively felt by some of
the champions of the Church, and typical among these was
Chateaubriand, who in his best-known work, once so great, now so
little--the Genius of Christianity--grappled with the questions
of creation by insisting upon a sort of general deception "in the
beginning," under which everything was created by a sudden fiat,
but with appearances of pre-existence. His words are as follows:
"It was part of the perfection and harmony of the nature which
was displayed before men's eyes that the deserted nests of last
year's birds should be seen on the trees, and that the seashore
should be covered with shells which had been the abode of fish,
and yet the world was quite new, and nests and shells had never
been inhabited."[161] But the real victory was with Brongniart,
who, about 1820, gave forth his work on fossil plants, and thus
built a barrier against which the enemies of science raged in

[161] Genie du Christianisme, chap.v, pp. 1-14, cited by Reusch,
vol. i, p. 250.

[162] For admirable sketches of Brongniart and other
paleobotanists, see Ward, as above.

Still the struggle was not ended, and, a few years later, a
forlorn hope was led in England by Granville Penn.

His fundamental thesis was that "our globe has undergone only two
revolutions, the Creation and the Deluge, and both by the
immediate fiat of the Almighty"; he insisted that the Creation
took place in exactly six days of ordinary time, each made up of
"the evening and the morning"; and he ended with a piece of that
peculiar presumption so familiar to the world, by calling on
Cuvier and all other geologists to "ask for the old paths and
walk therein until they shall simplify their system and reduce
their numerous revolutions to the two events or epochs only--the
six days of Creation and the Deluge."[163] The geologists showed
no disposition to yield to this peremptory summons; on the
contrary, the President of the British Geological Society, and
even so eminent a churchman and geologist as Dean Buckland, soon
acknowledged that facts obliged them to give up the theory that
the fossils of the coal measures were deposited at the Deluge of
Noah, and to deny that the Deluge was universal.

[163] See the Works of Granville Penn, vol. ii, p. 273.

The defection of Buckland was especially felt by the orthodox
party. His ability, honesty, and loyalty to his profession, as
well as his position as Canon of Christ Church and Professor of
Geology at Oxford, gave him great authority, which he exerted to
the utmost in soothing his brother ecclesiastics. In his
inaugural lecture he had laboured to show that geology confirmed
the accounts of Creation and the Flood as given in Genesis, and
in 1823, after his cave explorations had revealed overwhelming
evidences of the vast antiquity of the earth, he had still clung
to the Flood theory in his Reliquiae Diluvianae.

This had not, indeed, fully satisfied the anti-scientific party,
but as a rule their attacks upon him took the form not so much of
abuse as of humorous disparagement. An epigram by Shuttleworth,
afterward Bishop of Chichester, in imitation of Pope's famous
lines upon Newton, ran as follows:

"Some doubts were once expressed about the Flood:
Buckland arose, and all was clear as mud."

On his leaving Oxford for a journey to southern Europe, Dean
Gaisford was heard to exclaim: "Well, Buckland is gone to Italy;
so, thank God, we shall have no more of this geology!"

Still there was some comfort as long as Buckland held to the
Deluge theory; but, on his surrender, the combat deepened:
instead of epigrams and caricatures came bitter attacks, and from
the pulpit and press came showers of missiles. The worst of
these were hurled at Lyell. As we have seen, he had published in
1830 his Principles of Geology. Nothing could have been more
cautious. It simply gave an account of the main discoveries up
to that time, drawing the necessary inferences with plain yet
convincing logic, and it remains to this day one of those works
in which the Anglo-Saxon race may most justly take pride,--one of
the land-marks in the advance of human thought.

But its tendency was inevitably at variance with the Chaldean and
other ancient myths and legends regarding the Creation and Deluge
which the Hebrews had received from the older civilizations among
their neighbours, and had incorporated into the sacred books
which they transmitted to the modern world; it was therefore
extensively "refuted."

Theologians and men of science influenced by them insisted that
his minimizing of geological changes, and his laying stress on
the gradual action of natural causes still in force, endangered
the sacred record of Creation and left no place for miraculous
intervention; and when it was found that he had entirely cast
aside their cherished idea that the great geological changes of
the earth's surface and the multitude of fossil remains were due
to the Deluge of Noah, and had shown that a far longer time was
demanded for Creation than any which could possibly be deduced
from the Old Testament genealogies and chronicles, orthodox
indignation burst forth violently; eminent dignitaries of the
Church attacked him without mercy and for a time he was under
social ostracism.

As this availed little, an effort was made on the scientific side
to crush him beneath the weighty authority of Cuvier; but the
futility of this effort was evident when it was found that
thinking men would no longer listen to Cuvier and persisted in
listening to Lyell. The great orthodox text-book, Cuvier's
Theory of the Earth, became at once so discredited in the
estimation of men of science that no new edition of it was called
for, while Lyell's work speedily ran through twelve editions and
remained a firm basis of modern thought.[164]

[164] For Buckland and the various forms of attack upon him, see
Gordon, Life of Buckland, especially pp. 10, 26, 136. For the
attack on Lyell and his book, see Huxley, The Lights of the
Church and the Light of Science.

As typical of his more moderate opponents we may take Fairholme,
who in 1837 published his Mosaic Deluge, and argued that no
early convulsions of the earth, such as those supposed by
geologists, could have taken place, because there could have been
no deluge "before moral guilt could possibly have been
incurred"--that is to say, before the creation of mankind. In
touching terms he bewailed the defection of the President of the
Geological Society and Dean Buckland--protesting against
geologists who "persist in closing their eyes upon the solemn
declarations of the Almighty"

Still the geologists continued to seek truth: the germs planted
especially by William Smith, "the Father of English Geology" were
developed by a noble succession of investigators, and the victory
was sure. Meanwhile those theologians who felt that denunciation
of science as "godless" could accomplish little, laboured upon
schemes for reconciling geology with Genesis. Some of these show
amazing ingenuity, but an eminent religious authority, going over
them with great thoroughness, has well characterized them as
"daring and fanciful." Such attempts have been variously
classified, but the fact regarding them all is that each mixes up
more or less of science with more or less of Scripture, and
produces a result more or less absurd. Though a few men here and
there have continued these exercises, the capitulation of the
party which set the literal account of the Deluge of Noah against
the facts revealed by geology was at last clearly made.[165]

[165] For Fairholme, see his Mosaic Deluge, London, 1837, p. 358.
For a very just characterization of various schemes of
"reconciliation," see Shields, The Final Philosophy, p. 340.

One of the first evidences of the completeness of this surrender
has been so well related by the eminent physiologist, Dr. W. B.
Carpenter, that it may best be given in his own words: "You are
familiar with a book of considerable value, Dr. W. Smith's
Dictionary of the Bible. I happened to know the influences
under which that dictionary was framed. The idea of the
publisher and of the editor was to give as much scholarship and
such results of modern criticism as should be compatible with a
very judicious conservatism. There was to be no objection to
geology, but the universality of the Deluge was to be strictly
maintained. The editor committed the article Deluge to a man of
very considerable ability, but when the article came to him he
found that it was so excessively heretical that he could not
venture to put it in. There was not time for a second article
under that head, and if you look in that dictionary you will find
under the word Deluge a reference to Flood. Before Flood came, a
second article had been commissioned from a source that was
believed safely conservative; but when the article came in it was
found to be worse than the first. A third article was then
commissioned, and care was taken to secure its `safety.' If you
look for the word Flood in the dictionary, you will find a
reference to Noah. Under that name you will find an article
written by a distinguished professor of Cambridge, of which I
remember that Bishop Colenso said to me at the time, `In a very
guarded way the writer concedes the whole thing.' You will see
by this under what trammels scientific thought has laboured in
this department of inquiry."[166]

[166] See Official Report of the National Conference of Unitarian
and other Christian Churches held at Saratoga, 1882, p. 97.

A similar surrender was seen when from a new edition of Horne's
Introduction to the Scriptures, the standard textbook of
orthodoxy, its accustomed use of fossils to prove the
universality of the Deluge was quietly dropped.[167]

[167] This was about 1856; see Tylor, Early History of Mankind,
p. 329.

A like capitulation in the United States was foreshadowed in
1841, when an eminent Professor of Biblical Literature and
interpretation in the most important theological seminary of the
Protestant Episcopal Church, Dr. Samuel Turner, showed his
Christian faith and courage by virtually accepting the new view;
and the old contention was utterly cast away by the thinking men
of another great religious body when, at a later period, two
divines among the most eminent for piety and learning in the
Methodist Episcopal Church inserted in the Biblical Cyclopaedia,
published under their supervision, a candid summary of the proofs
from geology, astronomy, and zoology that the Deluge of Noah was
not universal, or even widely extended, and this without protest
from any man of note in any branch of the American Church.[168]

[168] For Dr. Turner, see his Companion to the Book of Genesis,
London and New York, 1841, pp. 216-219. For McClintock and
Strong, see their Cyclopaedia of Biblical Knowledge, etc.,
article Deluge. For similar surrenders of the Deluge in various
other religious encyclopedias and commentaries, see Huxley,
Essays on controverted questions, chap. xiii.

The time when the struggle was relinquished by enlightened
theologians of the Roman Catholic Church may be fixed at about
1862, when Reusch, Professor of Theology at Bonn, in his work on
The Bible and Nature, cast off the old diluvial theory and all
its supporters, accepting the conclusions of science.[169]

[169] See Reusch, Bibel und Natur, chap. xxi.

But, though the sacred theory with the Deluge of Noah as a
universal solvent for geological difficulties was evidently
dying, there still remained in various quarters a touching
fidelity to it. In Roman Catholic countries the old theory was
widely though quietly cherished, and taught from the religious
press, the pulpit, and the theological professor's chair. Pope
Pius IX was doubtless in sympathy with this feeling when, about
1850, he forbade the scientific congress of Italy to meet at

[170] See Whiteside, Italy in the Nineteenth Century, vol. iii,
chap. xiv.

In 1856 Father Debreyne congratulated the theologians of France
on their admirable attitude: "Instinctively," he says, "they
still insist upon deriving the fossils from Noah's Flood."[171]
In 1875 the Abbe Choyer published at Paris and Angers a text-book
widely approved by Church authorities, in which he took similar
ground; and in 1877 the Jesuit father Bosizio published at
Mayence a treatise on Geology and the Deluge, endeavouring to
hold the world to the old solution of the problem, allowing,
indeed, that the "days" of Creation were long periods, but making
atonement for this concession by sneers at Darwin.[172]

[171] See Zoeckler, vol. ii, p. 472.

[172] See Zoeckler, vol. ii, p. 478, and Bosizio, Geologie und
die Sundfluth, Mayence, 1877, preface, p. xiv.

In the Russo-Greek Church, in 1869, Archbishop Macarius, of
Lithuania, urged the necessity of believing that Creation in six
days of ordinary time and the Deluge of Noah are the only causes
of all that geology seeks to explain; and, as late as 1876,
another eminent theologian of the same Church went even farther,
and refused to allow the faithful to believe that any change had
taken place since "the beginning" mentioned in Genesis, when the
strata of the earth were laid, tilted, and twisted, and the
fossils scattered among them by the hand of the Almighty during
six ordinary days.[173]

[173] See Zoeckler, vol. ii, p. 472, 571, and elsewhere; also
citations in Reusch and Shields.

In the Lutheran branch of the Protestant Church we also find
echoes of the old belief. Keil, eminent in scriptural
interpretation at the University of Dorpat, gave forth in 1860 a
treatise insisting that geology is rendered futile and its
explanations vain by two great facts: the Curse which drove Adam
and Eve out of Eden, and the Flood that destroyed all living
things save Noah, his family, and the animals in the ark. In
1867, Phillippi, and in 1869, Dieterich, both theologians of
eminence, took virtually the same ground in Germany, the latter
attempting to beat back the scientific hosts with a phrase
apparently pithy, but really hollow--the declaration that "modern
geology observes what is, but has no right to judge concerning
the beginning of things." As late as 1876, Zugler took a similar
view, and a multitude of lesser lights, through pulpit and press,
brought these antiscientific doctrines to bear upon the people at
large--the only effect being to arouse grave doubts regarding
Christianity among thoughtful men, and especially among young
men, who naturally distrusted a cause using such weapons.

For just at this time the traditional view of the Deluge received
its death-blow, and in a manner entirely unexpected. By the
investigations of George Smith among the Assyrian tablets of the
British Museum, in 1872, and by his discoveries just afterward in
Assyria, it was put beyond a reasonable doubt that a great mass
of accounts in Genesis are simply adaptations of earlier and
especially of Chaldean myths and legends. While this proved to
be the fact as regards the accounts of Creation and the fall of
man, it was seen to be most strikingly so as regards the Deluge.
The eleventh of the twelve tablets, on which the most important
of these inscriptions was found, was almost wholly preserved, and
it revealed in this legend, dating from a time far earlier than
that of Moses, such features peculiar to the childhood of the
world as the building of the great ship or ark to escape the
flood, the careful caulking of its seams, the saving of a man
beloved of Heaven, his selecting and taking with him into the
vessel animals of all sorts in couples, the impressive final
closing of the door, the sending forth different birds as the
flood abated, the offering of sacrifices when the flood had
subsided, the joy of the Divine Being who had caused the flood as
the odour of the sacrifice reached his nostrils; while throughout
all was shown that partiality for the Chaldean sacred number
seven which appears so constantly in the Genesis legends and
throughout the Hebrew sacred books.

Other devoted scholars followed in the paths thus opened--Sayce
in England, Lenormant in France, Schrader in Germany--with the
result that the Hebrew account of the Deluge, to which for ages
theologians had obliged all geological research to conform, was
quietly relegated, even by most eminent Christian scholars, to
the realm of myth and legend.[174]

[174] For George Smith, see his Chaldean Account of Genesis, New
York, 1876, especially pp. 36, 263, 286; also his special work on
the subject. See also Lenormant, Les Origins de l'Histoire,
Paris, 1880, chap. viii. For Schrader, see his The Cuneiform
Inscriptions and the Old Testament, Whitehouse's translation,
London, 1885, vol. i, pp. 47-49 and 58-60, and elsewhere.

Sundry feeble attempts to break the force of this discovery, and
an evidently widespread fear to have it known, have certainly
impaired not a little the legitimate influence of the Christian

And yet this adoption of Chaldean myths into the Hebrew
Scriptures furnishes one of the strongest arguments for the value
of our Bible as a record of the upward growth of man; for, while
the Chaldean legend primarily ascribes the Deluge to the mere
arbitrary caprice of one among many gods (Bel), the Hebrew
development of the legend ascribes it to the justice, the
righteousness, of the Supreme God; thus showing the evolution of
a higher and nobler sentiment which demanded a moral cause
adequate to justify such a catastrophe.

Unfortunately, thus far, save in a few of the broader and nobler
minds among the clergy, the policy of ignoring such new
revelations has prevailed, and the results of this policy, both
in Roman Catholic and in Protestant countries, are not far to
seek. What the condition of thought is among the middle classes
of France and Italy needs not to be stated here. In Germany, as
a typical fact, it may be mentioned that there was in the year
1881 church accommodation in the city of Berlin for but two per
cent of the population, and that even this accommodation was more
than was needed. This fact is not due to the want of a deep
religious spirit among the North Germans: no one who has lived
among them can doubt the existence of such a spirit; but it is
due mainly to the fact that, while the simple results of
scientific investigation have filtered down among the people at
large, the dominant party in the Lutheran Church has steadily
refused to recognise this fact, and has persisted in imposing on
Scripture the fetters of literal and dogmatic interpretation
which Germany has largely outgrown. A similar danger threatens
every other country in which the clergy pursue a similar policy.
No thinking man, whatever may be his religious views, can fail to
regret this. A thoughtful, reverent, enlightened clergy is a
great blessing to any country, and anything which undermines
their legitimate work of leading men out of the worship of
material things to the consideration of that which is highest is
a vast misfortune.[175]

[175] For the foregoing statements regarding Germany the writer
relies on his personal observation as a student at the University
of Berlin in 1856, as a traveller at various periods afterward,
and as Minister of the United States in 1879, 1880, and 1881.


Before concluding, it may be instructive to note a few especially
desperate attempts at truces or compromises, such as always
appear when the victory of any science has become absolutely
sure. Typical among the earliest of these may be mentioned the
effort of Carl von Raumer in 1819. With much pretension to
scientific knowledge, but with aspirations bounded by the limits
of Prussian orthodoxy, he made a laboured attempt to produce a
statement which, by its vagueness, haziness, and "depth," should
obscure the real questions at issue. This statement appeared in
the shape of an argument, used by Bertrand and others in the
previous century, to prove that fossil remains of plants in the
coal measures had never existed as living plants, but had been
simply a "result of the development of imperfect plant embryos";
and the same misty theory was suggested to explain the existence
of fossil animals without supposing the epochs and changes
required by geological science.

In 1837 Wagner sought to uphold this explanation; but it was so
clearly a mere hollow phrase, unable to bear the weight of the
facts to be accounted for, that it was soon given up.

Similar attempts were made throughout Europe, the most noteworthy
appearing in England. In 1853 was issued an anonymous work
having as its title A Brief and Complete Refutation of the
Anti-Scriptural Theory of Geologists: the author having revived
an old idea, and put a spark of life into it--this idea being
that "all the organisms found in the depths of the earth were
made on the first of the six creative days, as models for the
plants and animals to be created on the third, fifth, and sixth

[176] See Zoeckler, vol. ii, p. 475.

But while these attempts to preserve the old theory as to fossil
remains of lower animals were thus pressed, there appeared upon
the geological field a new scientific column far more terrible to
the old doctrines than any which had been seen previously.

For, just at the close of the first quarter of the nineteenth
century, geologists began to examine the caves and beds of drift
in various parts of the world; and within a few years from that
time a series of discoveries began in France, in Belgium, in
England, in Brazil, in Sicily, in India, in Egypt, and in
America, which established the fact that a period of time much
greater than any which had before been thought of had elapsed
since the first human occupation of the earth. The chronologies
of Archbishop Usher, Petavius, Bossuet, and the other great
authorities on which theology had securely leaned, were found
worthless. It was clearly seen that, no matter how well based
upon the Old Testament genealogies and lives of the patriarchs,
all these systems must go for nothing. The most conservative
geologists were gradually obliged to admit that man had been upon
the earth not merely six thousand, or sixty thousand, or one
hundred and sixty thousand years. And when, in 1863, Sir Charles
Lyell, in his book on The Antiquity of Man, retracted solemnly
his earlier view--yielding with a reluctance almost pathetic, but
with a thoroughness absolutely convincing--the last stronghold of
orthodoxy in this field fell.[177]

[177] See Prof. Marsh's address as President of the Society for
the Advancement of Science, in 1879; and for a development of the
matter, see the chapters on The Antiquity of Man and Egyptology
and the Fall of Man and Anthropology, in this work.

The supporters of a theory based upon the letter of Scripture,
who had so long taken the offensive, were now obliged to fight
upon the defensive and at fearful odds. Various lines of defence
were taken; but perhaps the most pathetic effort was that made
in the year 1857, in England, by Gosse. As a naturalist he had
rendered great services to zoological science, but he now
concentrated his energies upon one last effort to save the
literal interpretation of Genesis and the theological structure
built upon it. In his work entitled Omphalos he developed the
theory previously urged by Granville Penn, and asserted a new
principle called "prochronism." In accordance with this, all
things were created by the Almighty hand literally within the six
days, each made up of "the evening and the morning," and each
great branch of creation was brought into existence in an
instant. Accepting a declaration of Dr. Ure, that "neither
reason nor revelation will justify us in extending the origin of
the material system beyond six thousand years from our own days,"
Gosse held that all the evidences of convulsive changes and long
epochs in strata, rocks, minerals, and fossils are simply
"APPEARANCES"--only that and nothing more. Among these mere
"appearances," all created simultaneously, were the glacial
furrows and scratches on rocks, the marks of retreat on rocky
masses, as at Niagara, the tilted and twisted strata, the piles
of lava from extinct volcanoes, the fossils of every sort in
every part of the earth, the foot-tracks of birds and reptiles,
the half-digested remains of weaker animals found in the
fossilized bodies of the stronger, the marks of hyenas' teeth on
fossilized bones found in various caves, and even the skeleton of
the Siberian mammoth at St. Petersburg with lumps of flesh
bearing the marks of wolves' teeth--all these, with all gaps and

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