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History of the Conflict Between Religion and Science by John William Draper

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In his "Evening Conversations" he had insisted that the
Scriptures were never intended to teach science, but morals only;
and that they cannot be received as of any authority on
astronomical and physical subjects. Especially must we reject the
view they reveal to us of the constitution of the world, that the
earth is a flat surface, supported on pillars; that the sky is a
firmament--the floor of heaven. On the contrary, we must believe
that the universe is infinite, and that it is filled with
self-luminous and opaque worlds, many of them inhabited; that
there is nothing above and around us but space and stars. His
meditations on these subjects had brought him to the conclusion
that the views of Averroes are not far from the truth--that there
is an Intellect which animates the universe, and of this
Intellect the visible world is only an emanation or
manifestation, originated and sustained by force derived from it,
and, were that force withdrawn, all things would disappear. This
ever-present, all-pervading Intellect is God, who lives in all
things, even such as seem not to live; that every thing is ready
to become organized, to burst into life. God is, therefore, "the
One Sole Cause of Things," "the All in All."

Bruno may hence be considered among philosophical writers as
intermediate between Averroes and Spinoza. The latter held that
God and the Universe are the same, that all events happen by an
immutable law of Nature, by an unconquerable necessity; that God
is the Universe, producing a series of necessary movements or
acts, in consequence of intrinsic, unchangeable, and irresistible

On the demand of the spiritual authorities, Bruno was removed
from Venice to Rome, and confined in the prison of the
Inquisition, accused not only of being a heretic, but also a
heresiarch, who had written things unseemly concerning religion;
the special charge against him being that he had taught the
plurality of worlds, a doctrine repugnant to the whole tenor of
Scripture and inimical to revealed religion, especially as
regards the plan of salvation. After an imprisonment of two years
he was brought before his judges, declared guilty of the acts
alleged, excommunicated, and, on his nobly refusing to recant,
was delivered over to the secular authorities to be punished "as
mercifully as possible, and without the shedding of his blood,"
the horrible formula for burning a prisoner at the stake. Knowing
well that though his tormentors might destroy his body, his
thoughts would still live among men, he said to his judges,
"Perhaps it is with greater fear that you pass the sentence upon
me than I receive it." The sentence was carried into effect, and
he was burnt at Rome, February 16th, A.D. 1600.

No one can recall without sentiments of pity the sufferings of
those countless martyrs, who first by one party, and then by
another, have been brought for their religious opinions to the
stake. But each of these had in his supreme moment a powerful and
unfailing support. The passage from this life to the next, though
through a hard trial, was the passage from a transient trouble to
eternal happiness, an escape from the cruelty of earth to the
charity of heaven. On his way through the dark valley the martyr
believed that there was an invisible hand that would lead him, a
friend that would guide him all the more gently and firmly
because of the terrors of the flames. For Bruno there was no such
support. The philosophical opinions, for the sake of which he
surrendered his life, could give him no consolation. He must
fight the last fight alone. Is there not something very grand in
the attitude of this solitary man, something which human nature
cannot help admiring, as he stands in the gloomy hall before his
inexorable judges? No accuser, no witness, no advocate is
present, but the familiars of the Holy Office, clad in black, are
stealthily moving about. The tormentors and the rack are in the
vaults below. He is simply told that he has brought upon himself
strong suspicions of heresy, since he has said that there are
other worlds than ours. He is asked if he will recant and abjure
his error. He cannot and will not deny what he knows to be true,
and perhaps--for he had often done so before--he tells his judges
that they, too, in their hearts are of the same belief. What a
contrast between this scene of manly honor, of unshaken firmness,
of inflexible adherence to the truth, and that other scene which
took place more than fifteen centuries previously by the fireside
in the hall of Caiaphas the high-priest, when the cock crew, and
"the Lord turned and looked upon Peter" (Luke xxii. 61)! And yet
it is upon Peter that the Church has grounded her right to act as
she did to Bruno. But perhaps the day approaches when posterity
will offer an expiation for this great ecclesiastical crime, and
a statue of Bruno be unveiled under the dome of St. Peter's at



Scriptural view that the Earth is only six thousand years old,
and that it was made in a week.--Patristic chronology founded on
the ages of the patriarchs.--Difficulties arising from different
estimates in different versions of the Bible.

Legend of the Deluge.--The repeopling.--The Tower of Babel; the
confusion of tongues.--The primitive language.

Discovery by Cassini of the oblateness of the planet
Jupiter.--Discovery by Newton of the oblateness of the
Earth.--Deduction that she has been modeled by mechanical
causes.--Confirmation of this by geological discoveries
respecting aqueous rocks; corroboration by organic remains.-- The
necessity of admitting enormously long periods of time.
--Displacement of the doctrine of Creation by that of Evolution--
Discoveries respecting the Antiquity of Man.

The time-scale and space-scale of the world are
infinite.--Moderation with which the discussion of the Age of the
World has been conducted.

THE true position of the earth in the universe was established
only after a long and severe conflict. The Church used whatever
power she had, even to the infliction of death, for sustaining
her ideas. But it was in vain. The evidence in behalf of the
Copernican theory became irresistible. It was at length
universally admitted that the sun is the central, the ruling body
of our system; the earth only one, and by no means the largest,
of a family of encircling planets. Taught by the issue of that
dispute, when the question of the age of the world presented
itself for consideration, the Church did not exhibit the active
resistance she had displayed on the former occasion. For, though
her traditions were again put in jeopardy, they were not, in her
judgment, so vitally assailed. To dethrone the Earth from her
dominating position was, so the spiritual authorities declared,
to undermine the very foundation of revealed truth; but
discussions respecting the date of creation might within certain
limits be permitted. Those limits were, however, very quickly
overpassed, and thus the controversy became as dangerous as the
former one had been.

It was not possible to adopt the advice given by Plato in his
"Timaeus," when treating of this subject-- the origin of the
universe: "It is proper that both I who speak and you who judge
should remember that we are but men, and therefore, receiving the
probable mythological tradition, it is meet that we inquire no
further into it." Since the time of St. Augustine the Scriptures
had been made the great and final authority in all matters of
science, and theologians had deduced from them schemes of
chronology and cosmogony which had proved to be stumbling-blocks
to the advance of real knowledge.

It is not necessary for us to do more than to allude to some of
the leading features of these schemes; their peculiarities will
be easily discerned with sufficient clearness. Thus, from the six
days of creation and the Sabbath-day of rest, since we are told
that a day is with the Lord as a thousand years, it was inferred
that the duration of the world will be through six thousand years
of suffering, and an additional thousand, a millennium of rest.
It was generally admitted that the earth was about four thousand
years old at the birth of Christ, but, so careless had Europe
been in the study of its annals, that not Until A.D. 627 had it a
proper chronology of its own. A Roman abbot, Dionysius Exiguus,
or Dennis the Less, then fixed the vulgar era, and gave Europe
its present Christian chronology.

The method followed in obtaining the earliest chronological dates
was by computations, mainly founded on the lives of the
patriarchs. Much difficulty was encountered in reconciling
numerical discrepancies. Even if, as was taken for granted in
those uncritical ages, Moses was the author of the books imputed
to him, due weight was not given to the fact that he related
events, many of which took place more than two thousand years
before he was born. It scarcely seemed necessary to regard the
Pentateuch as of plenary inspiration, since no means had been
provided to perpetuate its correctness. The different copies
which had escaped the chances of time varied very much; thus the
Samaritan made thirteen hundred and seven years from the Creation
to the Deluge, the Hebrew sixteen hundred and fifty-six, the
Septuagint twenty-two hundred and sixty-three. The Septuagint
counted fifteen hundred years more from the Creation to Abraham
than the Hebrew. In general, however, there was an inclination to
the supposition that the Deluge took place about two thousand
years after the Creation, and, after another interval of two
thousand years, Christ was born. Persons who had given much
attention to the subject affirmed that there were not less than
one hundred and thirty-two different opinions as to the year in
which the Messiah appeared, and hence they declared that it was
inexpedient to press for acceptance the Scriptural numbers too
closely, since it was plain, from the great differences in
different copies, that there had been no providential
intervention to perpetuate a correct reading, nor was there any
mark by which men could be guided to the only authentic version.
Even those held in the highest esteem contained undeniable
errors. Thus the Septuagint made Methuselah live until after the

It was thought that, in the antediluvian world, the year
consisted of three hundred and sixty days. Some even affirmed
that this was the origin of the division of the circle into three
hundred and sixty degrees. At the time of the Deluge, so many
theologians declared, the motion of the sun was altered, and the
year became five days and six hours longer. There was a prevalent
opinion that that stupendous event occurred on November 2d, in
the year of the world 1656. Dr. Whiston, however, disposed to
greater precision, inclined to postpone it to November 28th. Some
thought that the rainbow was not seen until after the flood;
others, apparently with better reason, inferred that it was then
first established as a sign. On coming forth from the ark, men
received permission to use flesh as food, the antediluvians
having been herbivorous! It would seem that the Deluge had not
occasioned any great geographical changes, for Noah, relying on
his antediluvian knowledge, proceeded to divide the earth among
his three sons, giving to Japhet Europe, to Shem Asia, to Ham
Africa. No provision was made for America, as he did not know of
its existence. These patriarchs, undeterred by the terrible
solitudes to which they were going, by the undrained swamps and
untracked forests, journeyed to their allotted possessions, and
commenced the settlement of the continents.

In seventy years the Asiatic family had increased to several
hundred. They had found their way to the plains of Mesopotamia,
and there, for some motive that we cannot divine, began building
a tower "whose top might reach to heaven." Eusebius informs us
that the work continued for forty years. They did not abandon it
until a miraculous confusion of their language took place and
dispersed them all over the earth. St. Ambrose shows that this
confusion could not have been brought about by men. Origen
believes that not even the angels accomplished it.

The confusion of tongues has given rise to many curious
speculations among divines as to the primitive speech of man.
Some have thought that the language of Adam consisted altogether
of nouns, that they were monosyllables, and that the confusion
was occasioned by the introduction of polysyllables. But these
learned men must surely have overlooked the numerous
conversations reported in Genesis, such as those between the
Almighty and Adam, the serpent and Eve, etc. In these all the
various parts of speech occur. There was, however, a coincidence
of opinion that the primitive language was Hebrew. On the general
principles of patristicism, it was fitting that this should be
the case.

The Greek Fathers computed that, at the time of the dispersion,
seventy-two nations were formed, and in this conclusion St.
Augustine coincides. But difficulties seem to have been
recognized in these computations; thus the learned Dr. Shuckford,
who has treated very elaborately on all the foregoing points in
his excellent work "On the Sacred and Profane History of the
World connected," demonstrates that there could not have been
more than twenty-one or twenty-two men, women, and children, in
each of those kingdoms.

A very vital point in this system of chronological computation,
based upon the ages of the patriarchs, was the great length of
life to which those worthies attained. It was generally supposed
that before the Flood "there was a perpetual equinox," and no
vicissitudes in Nature. After that event the standard of life
diminished one- half, and in the time of the Psalmist it had sunk
to seventy years, at which it still remains. Austerities of
climate were affirmed to have arisen through the shifting of the
earth's axis at the Flood, and to this ill effect were added the
noxious influences of that universal catastrophe, which,
"converting the surface of the earth into a vast swamp, gave rise
to fermentations of the blood and a weakening of the fibres."

With a view of avoiding difficulties arising from the
extraordinary length of the patriarchal lives, certain divines
suggested that the years spoken of by the sacred penman were not
ordinary but lunar years. This, though it might bring the age of
those venerable men within the recent term of life, introduced,
however, another insuperable difficulty, since it made them have
children when only five or six years old.

Sacred science, as interpreted by the Fathers of the Church,
demonstrated these facts: 1. That the date of Creation was
comparatively recent, not more than four or five thousand years
before Christ; 2. That the act of Creation occupied the space of
six ordinary days; 3. That the Deluge was universal, and that the
animals which survived it were preserved in an ark; 4. That Adam
was created perfect in morality and intelligence, that he fell,
and that his descendants have shared in his sin and his fall.

Of these points and others that might be mentioned there were two
on which ecclesiastical authority felt that it must insist. These
were: 1. The recent date of Creation; for, the remoter that
event, the more urgent the necessity of vindicating the justice
of God, who apparently had left the majority of our race to its
fate, and had reserved salvation for the few who were living in
the closing ages of the world; 2. The perfect condition of Adam
at his creation, since this was necessary to the theory of the
fall, and the plan of salvation.

Theological authorities were therefore constrained to look with
disfavor on any attempt to carry back the origin of the earth, to
an epoch indefinitely remote, and on the Mohammedan theory of the
evolution of man from lower forms, or his gradual development to
his present condition in the long lapse of time.

From the puerilities, absurdities, and contradictions of the
foregoing statement, we may gather how very unsatisfactory this
so-called sacred science was. And perhaps we may be brought to
the conclusion to which Dr. Shuckford, above quoted, was
constrained to come, after his wearisome and unavailing attempt
to coordinate its various parts: "As to the Fathers of the first
ages of the Church, they were good men, but not men of universal

Sacred cosmogony regards the formation and modeling of the earth
as the direct act of God; it rejects the intervention of
secondary causes in those events.

Scientific cosmogony dates from the telescopic discovery made by
Cassini--an Italian astronomer, under whose care Louis XIV.
placed the Observatory of Paris--that the planet Jupiter is not a
sphere, but an oblate spheroid, flattened at the poles.
Mechanical philosophy demonstrated that such a figure is the
necessary result of the rotation of a yielding mass, and that the
more rapid the rotation the greater the flattening, or, what
comes to the same thing, the greater the equatorial bulging must

From considerations--purely of a mechanical kind-- Newton had
foreseen that such likewise, though to a less striking extent,
must be the figure of the earth. To the protuberant mass is due
the precession of the equinoxes, which requires twenty-five
thousand eight hundred and sixty-eight years for its completion,
and also the nutation of the earth's axis, discovered by Bradley.
We have already had occasion to remark that the earth's
equatorial diameter exceeds the polar by about twenty-six miles.

Two facts are revealed by the oblateness of the earth: 1. That
she has formerly been in a yielding or plastic condition; 2. That
she has been modeled by a mechanical and therefore a secondary

But this influence of mechanical causes is manifested not only in
the exterior configuration of the globe of the earth as a
spheroid of revolution, it also plainly appears on an examination
of the arrangement of her substance.

If we consider the aqueous rocks, their aggregate is many miles
in thickness; yet they undeniably have been of slow deposit. The
material of which they consist has been obtained by the
disintegration of ancient lands; it has found its way into the
water-courses, and by them been distributed anew. Effects of this
kind, taking place before our eyes, require a very considerable
lapse of time to produce a well-marked result-- a water deposit
may in this manner measure in thickness a few inches in a
century--what, then, shall we say as to the time consumed in the
formation of deposits of many thousand yards?

The position of the coast-line of Egypt has been known for much
more than two thousand years. In that time it has made, by reason
of the detritus brought down by the Nile, a distinctly-marked
encroachment on the Mediterranean. But all Lower Egypt has had a
similar origin. The coast-line near the mouth of the Mississippi
has been well known for three hundred years, and during that time
has scarcely made a perceptible advance on the Gulf of Mexico;
but there was a time when the delta of that river was at St.
Louis, more than seven hundred miles from its present position.
In Egypt and in America--in fact, in all countries--the rivers
have been inch by inch prolonging the land into the sea; the
slowness of their work and the vastness of its extent satisfy us
that we must concede for the operation enormous periods of time.

To the same conclusion we are brought if we consider the filling
of lakes, the deposit of travertines, the denudation of hills,
the cutting action of the sea on its shores, the undermining of
cliffs, the weathering of rocks by atmospheric water and carbonic

Sedimentary strata must have been originally deposited in planes
nearly horizontal. Vast numbers of them have been forced, either
by paroxysms at intervals or by gradual movement, into all manner
of angular inclinations. Whatever explanations we may offer of
these innumerable and immense tilts and fractures, they would
seem to demand for their completion an inconceivable length of

The coal-bearing strata in Wales, by their gradual submergence,
have attained a thickness of 12,000 feet; in Nova Scotia of
14,570 feet. So slow and so steady was this submergence, that
erect trees stand one above another on successive levels;
seventeen such repetitions may be counted in a thickness of 4,515
feet. The age of the trees is proved by their size, some being
four feet in diameter. Round them, as they gradually went down
with the subsiding soil, calamites grew, at one level after
another. In the Sydney coal-field fifty-nine fossil forests occur
in superposition.

Marine shells, found on mountain-tops far in the interior of
continents, were regarded by theological writers as an
indisputable illustration of the Deluge. But when, as geological
studies became more exact, it was proved that in the crust of the
earth vast fresh-water formations are repeatedly intercalated
with vast marine ones, like the leaves of a book, it became
evident that no single cataclysm was sufficient to account for
such results; that the same region, through gradual variations of
its level and changes in its topographical surroundings, had
sometimes been dry land, sometimes covered with fresh and
sometimes with sea water. It became evident also that, for the
completion of these changes, tens of thousands of years were

To this evidence of a remote origin of the earth, derived from
the vast superficial extent, the enormous thickness, and the
varied characters of its strata, was added an imposing body of
proof depending on its fossil remains. The relative ages of
formations having been ascertained, it was shown that there has
been an advancing physiological progression of organic forms,
both vegetable and animal, from the oldest to the most recent;
that those which inhabit the surface in our times are but an
insignificant fraction of the prodigious multitude that have
inhabited it heretofore; that for each species now living there
are thousands that have become extinct. Though special formations
are so strikingly characterized by some predominating type of
life as to justify such expressions as the age of mollusks, the
age of reptiles, the age of mammals, the introduction of the
new-comers did not take place abruptly. as by sudden creation.
They gradually emerged in an antecedent age, reached their
culmination in the one which they characterize, and then
gradually died out in a succeeding. There is no such thing as a
sudden creation, a sudden strange appearance--but there is a slow
metamorphosis, a slow development from a preexisting form. Here
again we encounter the necessity of admitting for such results
long periods of time. Within the range of history no well-marked
instance of such development has been witnessed, and we speak
with hesitation of doubtful instances of extinction. Yet in
geological times myriads of evolutions and extinctions have

Since thus, within the experience of man, no case of
metamorphosis or development has been observed, some have been
disposed to deny its possibility altogether, affirming that all
the different species have come into existence by separate
creative acts. But surely it is less unphilosophical to suppose
that each species has been evolved from a predecessor by a
modification of its parts, than that it has suddenly started into
existence out of nothing. Nor is there much weight in the remark
that no man has ever witnessed such a transformation taking
place. Let it be remembered that no man has ever witnessed an act
of creation, the sudden appearance of an organic form, without
any progenitor.

Abrupt, arbitrary, disconnected creative acts may serve to
illustrate the Divine power; but that continuous unbroken chain
of organisms which extends from palaeozoic formations to the
formations of recent times, a chain in which each link hangs on a
preceding and sustains a succeeding one, demonstrates to us not
only that the production of animated beings is governed by law,
but that it is by law that has undergone no change. In its
operation, through myriads of ages, there has been no variation,
no suspension.

The foregoing paragraphs may serve to indicate the character of a
portion of the evidence with which we must deal in considering
the problem of the age of the earth. Through the unintermitting
labors of geologists, so immense a mass has been accumulated,
that many volumes would be required to contain the details. It is
drawn from the phenomena presented by all kinds of rocks,
aqueous, igneous, metamorphic. Of aqueous rocks it investigates
the thickness, the inclined positions, and how they rest
unconformably on one another; how those that are of fresh-water
origin are intercalated with those that are marine; how vast
masses of material have been removed by slow-acting causes of
denudation, and extensive geographical surfaces have been
remodeled; how continents have undergone movements of elevation
and depression, their shores sunk under the ocean, or sea-beaches
and sea-cliffs carried far into the interior. It considers the
zoological and botanical facts, the fauna and flora of the
successive ages, and how in an orderly manner the chain of
organic forms, plants, and animals, has been extended, from its
dim and doubtful beginnings to our own times. From facts
presented by the deposits of coal-coal which, in all its
varieties, has originated from the decay of plants--it not only
demon strates the changes that have taken place in the earth's
atmosphere, but also universal changes of climate. From other
facts it proves that there have been oscillations of
temperature,. periods in which the mean heat has risen, and
periods in which the polar ices and snows have covered large
portions of the existing continents --glacial periods, as they
are termed.

One school of geologists, resting its argument on very imposing
evidence, teaches that the whole mass of the earth, from being in
a molten, or perhaps a vaporous condition, has cooled by
radiation in the lapse of millions of ages, until it has reached
its present equilibrium of temperature. Astronomical observations
give great weight to this interpretation, especially so far as
the planetary bodies of the solar system are concerned. It is
also supported by such facts as the small mean density of the
earth, the increasing temperature at increasing depths, the
phenomena of volcanoes and injected veins, and those of igneous
and metamorphic rocks. To satisfy the physical changes which this
school of geologists contemplates, myriads of centuries are

But, with the views that the adoption of the Copernican system
has given us, it is plain that we cannot consider the origin and
biography of the earth in an isolated way; we must include with
her all the other members of the system or family to which she
belongs. Nay, more, we cannot restrict ourselves to the solar
system; we must embrace in our discussions the starry worlds.
And, since we have become familiarized with their almost
immeasurable distances from one another, we are prepared to
accept for their origin an immeasurably remote time. There are
stars so far off that their light, fast as it travels, has taken
thousands of years to reach us, and hence they must have been in
existence many thousands of years ago.

Geologists having unanimously agreed--for perhaps there is not a
single dissenting voice--that the chronology of the earth must be
greatly extended, attempts have been made to give precision to
it. Some of these have been based on astronomical, some on
physical principles. Thus calculations founded on the known
changes of the eccentricity of the earth's orbit, with a view of
determining the lapse of time since the beginning of the last
glacial period, have given two hundred and forty thousand years.
Though the general postulate of the immensity of geological times
may be conceded, such calculations are on too uncertain a
theoretical basis to furnish incontestable results.

But, considering the whole subject from the present scientific
stand-point, it is very clear that the views presented by
theological writers, as derived from the Mosaic record, cannot be
admitted. Attempts have been repeatedly made to reconcile the
revealed with the discovered facts, but they have proved to be
unsatisfactory. The Mosaic time is too short, the order of
creation incorrect, the divine interventions too anthropomorphic;
and, though the presentment of the subject is in harmony with the
ideas that men have entertained, when first their minds were
turned to the acquisition of natural knowledge, it is not in
accordance with their present conceptions of the insignificance
of the earth and the grandeur of the universe.

Among late geological discoveries is one of special interest; it
is the detection of human remains and human works in formations
which, though geologically recent, are historically very remote.

The fossil remains of men, with rude implements of rough or
chipped flint, of polished stone, of bone, of bronze, are found
in Europe in caves, in drifts, in peat- beds. They indicate a
savage life, spent in hunting and fishing. Recent researches give
reason to believe that, under low and base grades, the existence
of man can be traced back into the tertiary times. He was
contemporary with the southern elephant, the rhinoceros
leptorhinus, the great hippopotamus, perhaps even in the miocene
contemporary with the mastodon.

At the close of the Tertiary period, from causes not yet
determined, the Northern Hemisphere underwent a great depression
of temperature. From a torrid it passed to a glacial condition.
After a period of prodigious length, the temperature again rose,
and the glaciers that had so extensively covered the surface
receded. Once more there was a decline in the heat, and the
glaciers again advanced, but this time not so far as formerly.
This ushered in the Quaternary period, during which very slowly
the temperature came to its present degree. The water deposits
that were being made required thousands of centuries for their
completion. At the beginning of the Quaternary period there were
alive the cave-bear, the cave-lion, the amphibious hippopotamus,
the rhinoceros with chambered nostrils, the mammoth. In fact, the
mammoth swarmed. He delighted in a boreal climate. By degrees the
reindeer, the horse, the ox, the bison, multiplied, and disputed
with him his food. Partly for this reason, and partly because of
the increasing heat, he became extinct. From middle Europe, also,
the reindeer retired. His departure marks the end of the
Quaternary period.

Since the advent of man on the earth, we have, therefore, to deal
with periods of incalculable length. Vast changes in the climate
and fauna were produced by the slow operation of causes such as
are in action at the present day. Figures cannot enable us to
appreciate these enormous lapses of time.

It seems to be satisfactorily established, that a race allied to
the Basques may be traced back to the Neolithic age. At that time
the British Islands were undergoing a change of level, like that
at present occurring in the Scandinavian Peninsula. Scotland was
rising, England was sinking. In the Pleistocene age there existed
in Central Europe a rude race of hunters and fishers closely
allied to the Esquimaux.

In the old glacial drift of Scotland the relics of man are found
along with those of the fossil elephant. This carries us back to
that time above referred to, when a large portion of Europe was
covered with ice, which had edged down from the polar regions to
southerly latitudes, and, as glaciers, descended from the summits
of the mountain-chains into the plains. Countless species of
animals perished in this cataclysm of ice and snow, but man

In his primitive savage condition, living for the most part on
fruits, roots, shell-fish, man was in possession of a fact which
was certain eventually to insure his civilization. He knew how to
make a fire. In peat- beds, under the remains of trees that in
those localities have long ago become extinct, his relics are
still found, the implements that accompany him indicating a
distinct chronological order. Near the surface are those of
bronze, lower down those of bone or horn, still lower those of
polished stone, and beneath all those of chipped or rough stone.
The date of the origin of some of these beds cannot be estimated
at less than forty or fifty thousand years.

The caves that have been examined in France and elsewhere have
furnished for the Stone age axes, knives, lance and arrow points,
scrapers, hammers. The change from what may be termed the chipped
to the polished stone period is very gradual. It coincides with
the domestication of the dog, an epoch in hunting-life. It
embraces thousands of centuries. The appearance of arrow-heads
indicates the invention of the bow, and the rise of man from a
defensive to an offensive mode of life. The introduction of
barbed arrows shows how inventive talent was displaying itself;
bone and horn tips, that the huntsman was including smaller
animals, and perhaps birds, in his chase; bone whistles, his
companionship with other huntsmen or with his dog. The
scraping-knives of flint indicate the use of skin for clothing,
and rude bodkins and needles its manufacture. Shells perforated
for bracelets and necklaces prove how soon a taste for personal
adornment was acquired; the implements necessary for the
preparation of pigments suggest the painting of the body, and
perhaps tattooing; and batons of rank bear witness to the
beginning of a social organization.

With the utmost interest we look upon the first germs of art
among these primitive men. They have left its rude sketches on
pieces of ivory and flakes of bone, and carvings, of the animals
contemporary with them. In these prehistoric delineations,
sometimes not without spirit, we have mammoths, combats of
reindeer. One presents us with a man harpooning a fish, another a
hunting-scene of naked men armed with the dart. Man is the only
animal who has the propensity of depicting external forms, and of
availing himself of the use of fire.

Shell-mounds, consisting of bones and shells, some of which may
be justly described as of vast extent, and of a date anterior to
the Bronze age, and full of stone implements, bear in all their
parts indications of the use of fire. These are often adjacent to
the existing coasts sometimes, however, they are far inland, in
certain instances as far as fifty miles. Their contents and
position indicate for them a date posterior to that of the great
extinct mammals, but prior to the domesticated. Some of these, it
is said, cannot be less than one hundred thousand years old.

The lake-dwellings in Switzerland--huts built on piles or logs,
wattled with boughs--were, as may be inferred from the
accompanying implements, begun in the Stone age, and continued
into that of Bronze. In the latter period the evidences become
numerous of the adoption of an agricultural life.

It must not be supposed that the periods into which geologists
have found it convenient to divide the progress of man in
civilization are abrupt epochs, which hold good simultaneously
for the whole human race. Thus the wandering Indians of America
are only at the present moment emerging from the Stone age. They
are still to be seen in many places armed with arrows, tipped
with flakes of flint. It is but as yesterday that some have
obtained, from the white man, iron, fire-arms, and the horse.

So far as investigations have gone, they indisputably refer the
existence of man to a date remote from us by many hundreds of
thousands of years. It must be borne in mind that these
investigations are quite recent, and confined to a very limited
geographical space. No researches have yet been made in those
regions which might reasonably be regarded as the primitive
habitat of man.

We are thus carried back immeasurably beyond the six thousand
years of Patristic chronology. It is difficult to assign a
shorter date for the last glaciation of Europe than a quarter of
a million of years, and human existence antedates that. But not
only is it this grand fact that confronts us, we have to admit
also a primitive animalized state, and a slow, a gradual
development. But this forlorn, this savage condition of humanity
is in strong contrast to the paradisiacal happiness of the garden
of Eden, and, what is far in ore serious, it is inconsistent with
the theory of the Fall.

I have been induced to place the subject of this chapter out of
its proper chronological order, for the sake of presenting what I
had to say respecting the nature of the world more completely by
itself. The discussions that arose as to the age of the earth
were long after the conflict as to the criterion of truth--that
is, after the Reformation; indeed, they were substantially
included in the present century. They have been conducted with so
much moderation as to justify the term I have used in the title
of this chapter, "Controversy," rather than "Conflict." Geology
has not had to encounter the vindictive opposition with which
astronomy was assailed, and, though, on her part, she has
insisted on a concession of great antiquity for the earth, she
has herself pointed out the unreliability of all numerical
estimates thus far offered. The attentive reader of this chapter
cannot have failed to observe inconsistencies in the numbers
quoted. Though wanting the merit of exactness, those numbers,
however, justify the claim of vast antiquity, and draw us to the
conclusion that the time-scale of the world answers to the
space-scale in magnitude.



Ancient philosophy declares that man has no means of ascertaining
the truth.

Differences of belief arise among the early Christians--An
ineffectual attempt is made to remedy them by Councils.--Miracle
and ordeal proof introduced.

The papacy resorts to auricular confession and the
Inquisition.--It perpetrates frightful atrocities for the
suppression of differences of opinion.

Effect of the discovery of the Pandects of Justinian and
development of the canon law on the nature of evidence.--It
becomes more scientific.

The Reformation establishes the rights of individual
reason.--Catholicism asserts that the criterion of truth is in
the Church. It restrains the reading of books by the Index
Expurgatorius, and combats dissent by such means as the massacre
of St. Bartholomew's Eve.

Examination of the authenticity of the Pentateuch as the
Protestant criterion.--Spurious character of those books.

For Science the criterion of truth is to be found in the
revelations of Nature: for the Protestant, it is in the
Scriptures; for the Catholic, in an infallible Pope.

"WHAT is truth?" was the passionate demand of a Roman procurator
on one of the most momentous occasions in history. And the Divine
Person who stood before him, to whom the interrogation was
addressed, made no reply--unless, indeed, silence contained the

Often and vainly had that demand been made before--often and
vainly has it been made since. No one has yet given a
satisfactory answer.

When, at the dawn of science in Greece, the ancient religion was
disappearing like a mist at sunrise, the pious and thoughtful men
of that country were thrown into a condition of intellectual
despair. Anaxagoras plaintively exclaims, "Nothing can be known,
nothing can be learned, nothing can be certain, sense is limited,
intellect is weak, life is short." Xenophanes tells us that it is
impossible for us to be certain even when we utter the truth.
Parmenides declares that the very constitution of man prevents
him from ascertaining absolute truth. Empedocles affirms that all
philosophical and religious systems must be unreliable, because
we have no criterion by which to test them. Democritus asserts
that even things that are true cannot impart certainty to us;
that the final result of human inquiry is the discovery that man
is incapable of absolute knowledge; that, even if the truth be in
his possession, he cannot be certain of it. Pyrrho bids us
reflect on the necessity of suspending our judgment of things,
since we have no criterion of truth; so deep a distrust did he
impart to his followers, that they were in the habit of saying,
"We assert nothing; no, not even that we assert nothing."
Epicurus taught his disciples that truth can never be determined
by reason. Arcesilaus, denying both intellectual and sensuous
knowledge, publicly avowed that he knew nothing, not even his own
ignorance! The general conclusion to which Greek philosophy came
was this--that, in view of the contradiction of the evidence of
the senses, we cannot distinguish the true from the false; and
such is the imperfection of reason, that we cannot affirm the
correctness of any philosophical deduction.

It might be supposed that a revelation from God to man would come
with such force and clearness as to settle all uncertainties and
overwhelm all opposition. A Greek philosopher, less despairing
than others, had ventured to affirm that the coexistence of two
forms of faith, both claiming to be revealed by the omnipotent
God, proves that neither of them is true. But let us remember
that it is difficult for men to come to the, same conclusion as
regards even material and visible things, unless they stand at
the same point of view. If discord and distrust were the
condition of philosophy three hundred years before the birth of
Christ, discord and distrust were the condition of religion three
hundred years after his death. This is what Hilary, the Bishop of
Poictiers, in his well-known passage written about the time of
the Nicene Council, says:

"It is a thing equally deplorable and dangerous that there are,
as many creeds as opinions among men, as many doctrines as
inclinations, and as many sources of blasphemy as there are
faults among us, because we make creeds arbitrarily and explain
them as arbitrarily. Every year, nay, every moon, we make new
creeds to describe invisible mysteries; we repent of what we have
done; we defend those who repent; we anathematize those whom we
defend; we condemn either the doctrines of others in ourselves,
or our own in that of others; and, reciprocally tearing each
other to pieces, we have been the cause of each other's ruin."

These are not mere words; but the import of this self-accusation
can be realized fully only by such as are familiar with the
ecclesiastical history of those times. As soon as the first
fervor of Christianity as a system of benevolence had declined,
dissensions appeared. Ecclesiastical historians assert that "as
early as the second century began the contest between faith and
reason, religion and philosophy, piety and genius." To compose
these dissensions, to obtain some authoritative expression, some
criterion of truth, assemblies for consultation were resorted to,
which eventually took the form of councils. For a long time they
had nothing more than an advisory authority; but, when, in the
fourth century, Christianity had attained to imperial rule, their
dictates became compulsory, being enforced by the civil power. By
this the whole face of the Church was changed. Oecumenical
councils--parliaments of Christianity--consisting of delegates
from all the churches in the world, were summoned by the
authority of the emperor; he presided either personally or
nominally in them--composed all differences, and was, in fact,
the Pope of Christendom. Mosheim, the historian, to whom I have
more particularly referred above, speaking of these times,
remarks that "there was nothing to exclude the ignorant from
ecclesiastical preferment; the savage and illiterate party, who
looked on all kinds of learning, particularly philosophy, as
pernicious to piety, was increasing; " and, accordingly, "the
disputes carried on in the Council of Nicea offered a remarkable
example of the greatest ignorance and utter confusion of ideas,
particularly in the language and explanations of those who
approved of the decisions of that council." Vast as its influence
has been, "the ancient critics are neither agreed concerning the
time nor place in which it was assembled, the number of those who
sat in it, nor the bishop who presided. No authentic acts of its
famous sentence have been committed to writing, or, at least,
none have been transmitted to our times." The Church had now
become what, in the language of modern politicians, would be
called "a confederated republic." The will of the council was
determined by a majority vote, and, to secure that, all manner of
intrigues and impositions were resorted to; the influence of
court females, bribery, and violence, were not spared. The
Council of Nicea had scarcely adjourned,--when it was plain to
all impartial men that, as a method of establishing a criterion
of truth in religious matters, such councils were a total
failure. The minority had no rights which the majority need
respect. The protest of many good men, that a mere majority vote
given by delegates, whose right to vote had never been examined
and authorized, could not be received as ascertaining absolute
truth, was passed over with contempt, and the consequence was,
that council was assembled against council, and their jarring and
contradictory decrees spread perplexity and confusion throughout
the Christian world. In the fourth century alone there were
thirteen councils adverse to Arius, fifteen in his favor, and
seventeen for the semi-Arians--in all, forty-five. Minorities
were perpetually attempting to use the weapon which majorities
had abused.

The impartial ecclesiastical historian above quoted, moreover,
says that "two monstrous and calamitous errors were adopted in
this fourth century: 1. That it was an act of virtue to deceive
and lie when, by that means, the interests of the Church might be
promoted. 2. That errors in religion, when maintained and adhered
to after proper admonition, were punishable with civil penalties
and corporal tortures."

Not without astonishment can we look back at what, in those
times, were popularly regarded as criteria of truth. Doctrines
were considered as established by the number of martyrs who had
professed them, by miracles, by the confession of demons, of
lunatics, or of persons possessed of evil spirits: thus, St.
Ambrose, in his disputes with the Arians, produced men possessed
by devils, who, on the approach of the relics of certain martyrs,
acknowledged, with loud cries, that the Nicean doctrine of the
three persons of the Godhead was true. But the Arians charged him
with suborning these infernal witnesses with a weighty bribe.
Already, ordeal tribunals were making their appearance. During
the following six centuries they were held as a final resort for
establishing guilt or innocence, under the forms of trial by cold
water, by duel, by the fire, by the cross.

What an utter ignorance of the nature of evidence and its laws
have we here! An accused man sinks or swims when thrown into a
pond of water; he is burnt or escapes unharmed when he holds a
piece of red-hot iron in his hand; a champion whom he has hired
is vanquished or vanquishes in single fight; he can keep his arms
outstretched like a cross, or fails to do so longer than his
accuser, and his innocence or guilt of some imputed crime is
established! Are these criteria of truth?

Is it surprising that all Europe was filled with imposture
miracles during those ages?--miracles that are a disgrace to the
common-sense of man!

But the inevitable day came at length. Assertions and doctrines
based upon such preposterous evidence were involved in the
discredit that fell upon the evidence itself. As the thirteenth
century is approached, we find unbelief in all directions setting
in. First, it is plainly seen among the monastic orders, then it
spreads rapidly among the common people. Books, such as "The
Everlasting Gospel," appear among the former; sects, such as the
Catharists, Waldenses, Petrobrussians, arise among the latter.
They agreed in this, "that the public and established religion
was a motley system of errors and superstitions, and that the
dominion which the pope had usurped over Christians was unlawful
and tyrannical; that the claim put forth by Rome, that the Bishop
of Rome is the supreme lord of the universe, and that neither
princes nor bishops, civil governors nor ecclesiastical rulers,
have any lawful power in church or state but what they receive
from him, is utterly without foundation, and a usurpation of the
rights of man."

To withstand this flood of impiety, the papal government
established two institutions: 1. The Inquisition; 2. Auricular
confession--the latter as a means of detection, the former as a
tribunal for punishment.

In general terms, the commission of the Inquisition was, to
extirpate religious dissent by terrorism, and surround heresy
with the most horrible associations; this necessarily implied the
power of determining what constitutes heresy. The criterion of
truth was thus in possession of this tribunal, which was charged
"to discover and bring to judgment heretics lurking in towns,
houses, cellars, woods, caves, and fields." With such savage
alacrity did it carry out its object of protecting the interests
of religion, that between 1481 and 1808 it had punished three
hundred and forty thousand persons, and of these nearly
thirty-two thousand had been burnt! In its earlier days, when
public opinion could find no means of protesting against its
atrocities, "it often put to death, without appeal, on the very
day that they were accused, nobles, clerks, monks, hermits, and
lay persons of every rank." In whatever direction thoughtful men
looked, the air was full of fearful shadows. No one could indulge
in freedom of thought without expecting punishment. So dreadful
were the proceedings of the Inquisition, that the exclamation of
Pagliarici was the exclamation of thousands: "It is hardly
possible for a man to be a Christian, and die in his bed."

The Inquisition destroyed the sectaries of Southern France in the
thirteenth century. Its unscrupulous atrocities extirpated
Protestantism in Italy and Spain. Nor did it confine itself to
religious affairs; it engaged in the suppression of political
discontent. Nicolas Eymeric, who was inquisitor-general of the
kingdom of Aragon for nearly fifty years, and who died in 1399,
has left a frightful statement of its conduct and appalling
cruelties in his "Directorium Inquisitorum."

This disgrace of Christianity, and indeed of the human race, had
different constitutions in different countries. The papal
Inquisition continued the tyranny, and eventually superseded the
old episcopal inquisitions. The authority of the bishops was
unceremoniously put aside by the officers of the pope.

By the action of the fourth Lateran Council, A.D. 1215, the power
of the Inquisition was frightfully increased, the necessity of
private confession to a priest--auricular confession--being at
that time formally established. This, so far as domestic life was
concerned, gave omnipresence and omniscience to the Inquisition.
Not a man was safe. In the hands of the priest, who, at the
confessional, could extract or extort from them their most secret
thoughts, his wife and his servants were turned into spies.
Summoned before the dread tribunal, he was simply informed that
he lay under strong suspicions of heresy. No accuser was named;
but the thumb-screw, the stretching-rope, the boot and wedge, or
other enginery of torture, soon supplied that defect, and,
innocent or guilty, he accused himself!

Notwithstanding all this power, the Inquisition failed of its
purpose. When the heretic could no longer confront it, he evaded
it. A dismal disbelief stealthily pervaded all Europe,--a denial
of Providence, of the immortality of the soul, of human
free-will, and that man can possibly resist the absolute
necessity, the destiny which envelops him. Ideas such as these
were cherished in silence by multitudes of persons driven to them
by the tyrannical acts of ecclesiasticism. In spite of
persecution, the Waldenses still survived to propagate their
declaration that the Roman Church, since Constantine, had
degenerated from its purity and sanctity; to protest against the
sale of indulgences, which they said had nearly abolished prayer,
fasting, alms; to affirm that it was utterly useless to pray for
the souls of the dead, since they must already have gone either
to heaven or hell. Though it was generally believed that
philosophy or science was pernicious to the interests of
Christianity or true piety, the Mohammedan literature then
prevailing in Spain was making converts among all classes of
society. We see very plainly its influence in many of the sects
that then arose; thus, "the Brethren and Sisters of the Free.
Spirit" held that "the universe came by emanation from God, and
would finally return to him by absorption; that rational souls
are so many portions of the Supreme Deity; and that the universe,
considered as one great whole, is God." These are ideas that can
only be entertained in an advanced intellectual condition. Of
this sect it is said that many suffered burning with unclouded
serenity, with triumphant feelings of cheerfulness and joy. Their
orthodox enemies accused them of gratifying their passions at
midnight assemblages in darkened rooms, to which both sexes in a
condition of nudity repaired. A similar accusation, as is well
known, was brought against the primitive Christians by the
fashionable society of Rome.

The influences of the Averroistic philosophy were apparent in
many of these sects. That Mohammedan system, considered from a
Christian point of view, led to the heretical belief that the end
of the precepts of Christianity is the union of the soul with the
Supreme Being; that God and Nature have the same relations to
each other as the soul and the body; that there is but one
individual intelligence; and that one soul performs all the
spiritual and rational functions in all the human race. When,
subsequently, toward the time of the Reformation, the Italian
Averroists were required by the Inquisition to give an account of
themselves, they attempted to show that there is a wide
distinction between philosophical and religious truth; that
things may be philosophically true, and yet theologically false--
an exculpatory device condemned at length by the Lateran Council
in the time of Leo X.

But, in spite of auricular confession, and the Inquisition, these
heretical tendencies survived. It has been truly said that, at
the epoch of the Reformation, there lay concealed, in many parts
of Europe, persons who entertained the most virulent enmity
against Christianity. In this pernicious class were many
Aristotelians, such as Pomponatius; many philosophers and wits,
such as Bodin, Rabelais, Montaigne; many Italians, as Leo X.,
Bembo, Bruno.

Miracle-evidence began to fall into discredit during the eleventh
and twelfth centuries. The sarcasms of the Hispano-Moorish
philosophers had forcibly drawn the attention of many of the more
enlightened ecclesiastics to its illusory nature. The discovery
of the Pandects of Justinian, at Amalfi, in 1130, doubtless
exerted a very powerful influence in promoting the study of Roman
jurisprudence, and disseminating better notions as to the
character of legal or philosophical evidence. Hallam has cast
some doubt on the well-known story of this discovery, but he
admits that the celebrated copy in the Laurentian library, at
Florence, is the only one containing the entire fifty books.
Twenty years subsequently, the monk Gratian collected together
the various papal edicts, the canons of councils, the
declarations of the Fathers and Doctors of the Church, in a
volume called "The Decretum," considered as the earliest
authority in canon law. In the next century Gregory IX. published
five books of Decretals, and Boniface VIII. subsequently added a
sixth. To these followed the Clementine Constitutions, a seventh
book of Decretals, and "A Book of Institutes," published
together, by Gregory XIII., in 1580, under the title of "Corpus
Juris Canonici." The canon law had gradually gained enormous
power through the control it had obtained over wills, the
guardianship of orphans, marriages, and divorces.

The rejection of miracle-evidence, and the substitution of legal
evidence in its stead, accelerated the approach of the
Reformation. No longer was it possible to admit the requirement
which, in former days, Anselm, the Archbishop of Canterbury, in
his treatise, "Cur Deus Homo," had enforced, that we must first
believe without examination, and may afterward endeavor to
understand what we have thus believed. When Cajetan said to
Luther, "Thou must believe that one single drop of Christ's blood
is sufficient to redeem the whole human race, and the remaining
quantity that was shed in the garden and on the cross was left as
a legacy to the pope, to be a treasure from which indulgences
were to be drawn," the soul of the sturdy German monk revolted
against such a monstrous assertion, nor would he have believed it
though a thousand miracles had been worked in its support. This
shameful practice of selling indulgences for the commission of
sin originated among the bishops, who, when they had need of
money for their private pleasures, obtained it in that way.
Abbots and monks, to whom this gainful commerce was denied,
raised funds by carrying about relics in solemn procession, and
charging a fee for touching them. The popes, in their pecuniary
straits, perceiving how lucrative the practice might become,
deprived the bishops of the right of making such sales, and
appropriated it to themselves, establishing agencies, chiefly
among the mendicant orders, for the traffic. Among these orders
there was a sharp competition, each boasting of the superior
value of its indulgences through its greater influence at the
court of heaven, its familiar connection with the Virgin Mary and
the saints in glory. Even against Luther himself, who had been an
Augustinian monk, a calumny was circulated that he was first
alienated from the Church by a traffic of this kind having been
conferred on the Dominicans, instead of on his own order, at the
time when Leo X. was raising funds by this means for building St.
Peter's, at Rome, A.D. 1517. and there is reason to think that
Leo himself, in the earlier stages of the Reformation, attached
weight to that allegation.

Indulgences were thus the immediate inciting cause of the
Reformation, but very soon there came into light the real
principle that was animating the controversy. It lay in the
question, Does the Bible owe its authenticity to the Church? or
does the Church owe her authenticity to the Bible? Where is the
criterion of truth?

It is not necessary for me here to relate the well known
particulars of that controversy, the desolating wars and scenes
of blood to which it gave rise: how Luther posted on the door of
the cathedral of Wittemberg ninety-five theses, and was summoned
to Rome to answer for his offense; how he appealed from the pope,
ill-informed at the time, to the pope when he should have been
better instructed; how he was condemned as a heretic, and
thereupon appealed to a general council; how, through the
disputes about purgatory, transubstantiation, auricular
confession, absolution, the fundamental idea which lay at the
bottom of the whole movement came into relief, the right of
individual judgment; how Luther was now excommunicated, A.D.
1520, and in defiance burnt the bull of excommunication and the
volumes of the canon law, which he denounced as aiming at the
subversion of all civil government, and the exaltation of the
papacy; how by this skillful manoeuvre he brought over many of
the German princes to his views; how, summoned before the
Imperial Diet at Worms, he refused to retract, and, while he was
bidden in the castle of Wartburg, his doctrines were spreading,
and a reformation under Zwingli broke out in Switzerland; how the
principle of sectarian decomposition embedded in the movement
gave rise to rivalries and dissensions between the Germans and
the Swiss, and even divided the latter among themselves under the
leadership of Zwingli and of Calvin; how the Conference of
Marburg, the Diet of Spires, and that at Augsburg, failed to
compose the troubles, and eventually the German Reformation
assumed a political organization at Smalcalde. The quarrels
between the Lutherans and the Calvinists gave hopes to Rome that
she might recover her losses.

Leo was not slow to discern that the Lutheran Reformation was
something more serious than a squabble among some monks about the
profits of indulgence-sales, and the papacy set itself seriously
at work to overcome the revolters. It instigated the frightful
wars that for so many years desolated Europe, and left
animosities which neither the Treaty of Westphalia, nor the
Council of Trent after eighteen years of debate, could compose.
No one can read without a shudder the attempts that were made to
extend the Inquisition in foreign countries. All Europe, Catholic
and Protestant, was horror- stricken at the Huguenot massacre of
St. Bartholomew's Eve (A.D. 1572). For perfidy and atrocity it
has no equal in the annals of the world.

The desperate attempt in which the papacy had been engaged to put
down its opponents by instigating civil wars, massacres, and
assassinations, proved to be altogether abortive. Nor had the
Council of Trent any better result. Ostensibly summoned to
correct, illustrate, and fix with perspicacity the doctrine of
the Church, to restore the vigor of its discipline, and to reform
the lives of its ministers, it was so manipulated that a large
majority of its members were Italians, and under the influence of
the pope. Hence the Protestants could not possibly accept its

The issue of the Reformation was the acceptance by all the
Protestant Churches of the dogma that the Bible is a sufficient
guide for every Christian man. Tradition was rejected, and the
right of private interpretation assured. It was thought that the
criterion of truth had at length been obtained.

The authority thus imputed to the Scriptures was not restricted
to matters of a purely religious or moral kind; it extended over
philosophical facts and to the interpretation of Nature. Many
went as far as in the old times Epiphanius had done: he believed
that the Bible contained a complete system of mineralogy! The
Reformers would tolerate no science that was not in accordance
with Genesis. Among them there were many who maintained that
religion and piety could never flourish unless separated from
learning and science. The fatal maxim that the Bible contained
the sum and substance of all knowledge, useful or possible to
man--a maxim employed with such pernicious effect of old by
Tertullian and by St. Augustine, and which had so often been
enforced by papal authority--was still strictly insisted upon.
The leaders of the Reformation, Luther and Melanchthon, were
determined to banish philosophy from the Church. Luther declared
that the study of Aristotle is wholly useless; his vilification
of that Greek philosopher knew no bounds. He is, says Luther,
"truly a devil, a horrid calumniator, a wicked sycophant, a
prince of darkness, a real Apollyon, a beast, a most horrid
impostor on mankind, one in whom there is scarcely any
philosophy, a public and professed liar, a goat, a complete
epicure, this twice execrable Aristotle." The schoolmen were, so
Luther said, "locusts, caterpillars, frogs, lice." He entertained
an abhorrence for them. These opinions, though not so
emphatically expressed, were entertained by Calvin. So far as
science is concerned, nothing is owed to the Reformation. The
Procrustean bed of the Pentateuch was still before her.

In the annals of Christianity the most ill-omened day is that in
which she separated herself from science. She compelled Origen,
at that time (A.D. 231) its chief representative and supporter in
the Church, to abandon his charge in Alexandria, and retire to
Caesarea. In vain through many subsequent centuries did her
leading men spend themselves in--as the phrase then
went--"drawing forth the internal juice and marrow of the
Scriptures for the explaining of things." Universal history from
the third to the sixteenth century shows with what result. The
dark ages owe their darkness to this fatal policy. Here and
there, it is true, there were great men, such as Frederick II.
and Alphonso X., who, standing at a very elevated and general
point of view, had detected the value of learning to
civilization, and, in the midst of the dreary prospect that
ecclesiasticism had created around them, had recognized that
science alone can improve the social condition of man.

The infliction of the death-punishment for difference of opinion
was still resorted to. When Calvin caused Servetus to be burnt at
Geneva, it was obvious to every one that the spirit of
persecution was unimpaired. The offense of that philosopher lay
in his belief. This was, that the genuine doctrines of
Christianity had been lost even before the time of the Council of
Nicea; that the Holy Ghost animates the whole system of Nature,
like a soul of the world, and that, with the Christ, it will be
absorbed, at the end of all things, into the substance of the
Deity, from which they had emanated. For this he was roasted to
death over a slow fire. Was there any distinction between this
Protestant auto-da-fe and the Catholic one of Vanini, who was
burnt at Toulouse, by the Inquisition, in 1629, for his
"Dialogues concerning Nature?"

The invention of printing, the dissemination of books, had
introduced a class of dangers which the persecution of the
Inquisition could not reach. In 1559, Pope Paul IV. instituted
the Congregation of the Index Expurgatorius. "Its duty is to
examine books and manuscripts intended for publication, and to
decide whether the people may be permitted to read them; to
correct those books of which the errors are not numerous, and
which contain certain useful and salutary truths, so as to bring
them into harmony with the doctrines of the Church; to condemn
those of which the principles are heretical and pernicious; and
to grant the peculiar privilege of perusing heretical books to
certain persons. This congregation, which is sometimes held in
presence of the pope, but generally in the palace of the
Cardinal-president, has a more extensive jurisdiction than that
of the Inquisition, as it not only takes cognizance of those
books that contain doctrines contrary to the Roman Catholic
faith, but of those that concern the duties of morality, the
discipline of the Church, the interests of society. Its name is
derived from the alphabetical tables or indexes of heretical
books and authors composed by its appointment."

The Index Expurgatorius of prohibited books at first indicated
those works which it was unlawful to read; but, on this being
found insufficient, whatever was not permitted was prohibited--an
audacious attempt to prevent all knowledge, except such as suited
the purposes of the Church, from reaching the people.

The two rival divisions of the Christian Church-- Protestant and
Catholic--were thus in accord on one point: to tolerate no
science except such as they considered to be agreeable to the
Scriptures. The Catholic, being in possession of centralized
power, could make its decisions respected wherever its sway was
acknowledged, and enforce the monitions of the Index
Expurgatorius; the Protestant, whose influence was diffused among
many foci in different nations, could not act in such a direct
and resolute manner. Its mode of procedure was, by raising a
theological odium against an offender, to put him under a social
ban--a course perhaps not less effectual than the other.

As we have seen in former chapters, an antagonism between
religion and science had existed from the earliest days of
Christianity. On every occasion permitting its display it may be
detected through successive centuries. We witness it in the
downfall of the Alexandrian Museum, in the cases of Erigena and
Wiclif, in the contemptuous rejection by the heretics of the
thirteenth century of the Scriptural account of the Creation; but
it was not until the epoch of Copernicus, Kepler, and Galileo,
that the efforts of Science to burst from the thraldom in which
she was fettered became uncontrollable. In all countries the
political power of the Church had greatly declined; her leading
men perceived that the cloudy foundation on which she had stood
was dissolving away. Repressive measures against her antagonists,
in old times resorted to with effect, could be no longer
advantageously employed. To her interests the burning of a
philosopher here and there did more harm than good. In her great
conflict with astronomy, a conflict in which Galileo stands as
the central figure, she received an utter overthrow; and, as we
have seen, when the immortal work of Newton was printed, she
could offer no resistance, though Leibnitz affirmed, in the face
of Europe, that "Newton had robbed the Deity of some of his most
excellent attributes, and had sapped the foundation of natural

From the time of Newton to our own time, the divergence of
science from the dogmas of the Church has continually increased.
The Church declared that the earth is the central and most
important body in the universe; that the sun and moon and stars
are tributary to it. On these points she was worsted by
astronomy. She affirmed that a universal deluge had covered the
earth; that the only surviving animals were such as had been
saved in an ark. In this her error was established by geology.
She taught that there was a first man, who, some six or eight
thousand years ago, was suddenly created or called into existence
in a condition of physical and moral perfection, and from that
condition he fell. But anthropology has shown that human beings
existed far back in geological time, and in a savage state but
little better than that of the brute.

Many good and well-meaning men have attempted to reconcile the
statements of Genesis with the discoveries of science, but it is
in vain. The divergence has increased so much, that it has become
an absolute opposition. One of the antagonists must give way.

May we not, then, be permitted to examine the authenticity of
this book, which, since the second century, has been put forth as
the criterion of scientific truth? To maintain itself in a
position so exalted, it must challenge human criticism.

In the early Christian ages, many of the most eminent Fathers of
the Church had serious doubts respecting the authorship of the
entire Pentateuch. I have not space, in the limited compass of
these pages, to present in detail the facts and arguments that
were then and have since been adduced. The literature of the
subject is now very extensive. I may, however, refer the reader
to the work of the pious and learned Dean Prideaux, on "The Old
and New Testament connected," a work which is one of the literary
ornaments of the last century. He will also find the subject more
recently and exhaustively discussed by Bishop Colenso. The
following paragraphs will convey a sufficiently distinct
impression of the present state of the controversy:

The Pentateuch is affirmed to have been written by Moses, under
the influence of divine inspiration. Considered thus, as a record
vouchsafed and dictated by the Almighty, it commands not only
scientific but universal consent.

But here, in the first place, it may be demanded, Who or what is
it that has put forth this great claim in its behalf?

Not the work itself. It nowhere claims the authorship of one man,
or makes the impious declaration that it is the writing of
Almighty God.

Not until after the second century was there any such extravagant
demand on human credulity. It originated, not among the higher
ranks of Christian philosophers, but among the more fervid
Fathers of the Church, whose own writings prove them to have been
unlearned and uncritical persons.

Every age, from the second century to our times, has offered men
of great ability, both Christian and Jewish, who have altogether
repudiated these claims. Their decision has been founded upon the
intrinsic evidence of the books themselves. These furnish plain
indications of at least two distinct authors, who have been
respectively termed Elohistic and Jehovistic. Hupfeld maintains
that the Jehovistic narrative bears marks of having been a second
original record, wholly independent of the Elohistic. The two
sources from which the narratives have been derived are, in many
respects, contradictory of each other. Moreover, it is asserted
that the books of the Pentateuch are never ascribed to Moses in
the inscriptions of Hebrew manuscripts, or in printed copies of
the Hebrew Bible, nor are they styled "Books of Moses" in the
Septuagint or Vulgate, but only in modern translations.

It is clear that they cannot be imputed to the sole authorship of
Moses, since they record his death. It is clear that they were
not written until many hundred years after that event, since they
contain references to facts which did not occur until after the
establishment of the government of kings among the Jews.

No man may dare to impute them to the inspiration of Almighty
God--their inconsistencies, incongruities, contradictions, and
impossibilities, as exposed by many learned and pious moderns,
both German and English, are so great. It is the decision of
these critics that Genesis is a narrative based upon legends;
that Exodus is not historically true; that the whole Pentateuch
is unhistoric and non-Mosaic; it contains the most extraordinary
contradictions and impossibilities, sufficient to involve the
credibility of the whole--imperfections so many and so
conspicuous that they would destroy the authenticity of any
modern historical work.

Hengstenberg, in his "Dissertations on the Genuineness of the
Pentateuch," says: "It is the unavoidable fate of a spurious
historical work of any length to be involved in contradictions.
This must be the case to a very great extent with the Pentateuch,
if it be not genuine. If the Pentateuch is spurious, its
histories and laws have been fabricated in successive portions,
and were committed to writing in the course of many centuries by
different individuals. From such a mode of origination, a mass of
contradictions is inseparable, and the improving hand of a later
editor could never be capable of entirely obliterating them."

To the above conclusions I may add that we are expressly told by
Ezra (Esdras ii. 14) that he himself, aided by five other
persons, wrote these books in the space of forty days. He says
that at the time of the Babylonian captivity the ancient sacred
writings of the Jews were burnt, and gives a particular detail of
the circumstances under which these were composed. He sets forth
that he undertook to write all that had been done in the world
since the beginning. It may be said that the books of Esdras are
apocryphal, but in return it may be demanded, Has that conclusion
been reached on evidence that will withstand modern criticism? In
the early ages of Christianity, when the story of the fall of man
was not considered as essential to the Christian system, and the
doctrine of the atonement had not attained that precision which
Anselm eventually gave it, it was very generally admitted by the
Fathers of the Church that Ezra probably did so compose the
Pentateuch. Thus St. Jerome says, "Sive Mosem dicere volueris
auctorem Pentateuchi, sive Esdram ejusdem instauratorem operis,
non recuso." Clemens Alexandrinus says that when these books had
been destroyed in the captivity of Nebuchadnezzar, Esdras, having
become inspired prophetically, reproduced them. Irenaeus says the

The incidents contained in Genesis, from the first to the tenth
chapters inclusive (chapters which, in their bearing upon
science, are of more importance than other portions of the
Pentateuch), have been obviously compiled from short, fragmentary
legends of various authorship. To the critical eye they all,
however, present peculiarities which demonstrate that they were
written on the banks of the Euphrates, and not in the Desert of
Arabia. They contain many Chaldaisms. An Egyptian would not speak
of the Mediterranean Sea as being west of him, an Assyrian would.
Their scenery and machinery, if such expressions may with
propriety be used, are altogether Assyrian, not Egyptian. They
were such records as one might expect to meet with in the
cuneiform impressions of the tile libraries of the Mesopotamian
kings. It is affirmed that one such legend, that of the Deluge,
has already been exhumed, and it is not beyond the bounds of
probability that the remainder may in like manner be obtained.

From such Assyrian sources, the legends of the creation of the
earth and heaven, the garden of Eden, the making of man from
clay, and of woman from one of his ribs, the temptation by the
serpent, the naming of animals, the cherubim and flaming sword,
the Deluge and the ark, the drying up of the waters by the wind,
the building of the Tower of Babel, and the confusion of tongues,
were obtained by Ezra. He commences abruptly the proper history
of the Jews in the eleventh chapter. At that point his universal
history ceases; he occupies himself with the story of one family,
the descendants of Shem.

It is of this restriction that the Duke of Argyll, in his book on
"Primeval Man," very graphically says:

In the genealogy of the family of Shem we have a list of names
which are names, and nothing more to us. It is a genealogy which
neither does, nor pretends to do, more than to trace the order of
succession among a few families only, out of the millions then
already existing in the world. Nothing but this order of
succession is given, nor is it at all certain that this order is
consecutive or complete. Nothing is told us of all that lay
behind that curtain of thick darkness, in front of which these
names are made to pass; and yet there are, as it were, momentary
liftings, through which we have glimpses of great movements which
were going on, and had been long going on beyond. No shapes are
distinctly seen. Even the direction of those movements can only
be guessed. But voices are heard which are as the voices of many
waters." I agree in the opinion of Hupfeld, that "the discovery
that the Pentateuch is put together out of various sources, or
original documents, is beyond all doubt not only one of the most
important and most pregnant with consequences for the
interpretation of the historical books of the Old Testament, or
rather for the whole of theology and history, but it is also one
of the most certain discoveries which have been made in the
domain of criticism and the history of literature. Whatever the
anticritical party may bring forward to the contrary, it will
maintain itself, and not retrograde again through any thing, so
long as there exists such a thing as criticism; and it will not
be easy for a reader upon the stage of culture on which we stand
in the present day, if he goes to the examination unprejudiced,
and with an uncorrupted power of appreciating the truth, to be
able to ward off its influence."

What then? shall we give up these books? Does not the admission
that the narrative of the fall in Eden is legendary carry with it
the surrender of that most solemn and sacred of Christian
doctrines, the atonement?

Let us reflect on this! Christianity, in its earliest days, when
it was converting and conquering the world, knew little or
nothing about that doctrine. We have seen that, in his "Apology,"
Tertullian did not think it worth his while to mention it. It
originated among the Gnostic heretics. It was not admitted by the
Alexandrian theological school. It was never prominently advanced
by the Fathers. It was not brought into its present commanding
position until the time of Anselm Philo Judaeus speaks of the
story of the fall as symbolical; Origen regarded it as an
allegory. Perhaps some of the Protestant churches may, with
reason, be accused of inconsistency, since in part they consider
it as mythical, in part real. But, if, with them, we admit that
the serpent is symbolical of Satan, does not that cast an air of
allegory over the whole narrative?

It is to be regretted that the Christian Church has burdened
itself with the defense of these books, and voluntarily made
itself answerable for their manifest contradictions and errors.
Their vindication, if it were possible, should have been resigned
to the Jews, among whom they originated, and by whom they have
been transmitted to us. Still more, it is to be deeply regretted
that the Pentateuch, a production so imperfect as to be unable to
stand the touch of modern criticism, should be put forth as the
arbiter of science. Let it be remembered that the exposure of the
true character of these books has been made, not by captious
enemies, but by pious and learned churchmen, some of them of the
highest dignity.

While thus the Protestant churches have insisted on the
acknowledgment of the Scriptures as the criterion of truth, the
Catholic has, in our own times, declared the infallibility of the
pope. It may be said that this infallibility applies only to
moral or religious things; but where shall the line of separation
be drawn? Onmiscience cannot be limited to a restricted group of
questions; in its very nature it implies the knowledge of all,
and infallibility means omniscience.

Doubtless, if the fundamental principles of Italian Christianity
be admitted, their logical issue is an infallible pope. There is
no need to dwell on the unphilosophical nature of this
conception; it is destroyed by an examination of the political
history of the papacy, and the biography of the popes. The former
exhibits all the errors and mistakes to which institutions of a
confessedly human character have been found liable; the latter is
only ton frequently a story of sin and shame.

It was not possible that the authoritative promulgation of the
dogma of papal infallibility should meet among enlightened
Catholics universal acceptance. Serious and wide-spread dissent
has been produced. A doctrine so revolting to common-sense could
not find any other result. There are many who affirm that, if
infallibility exists anywhere, it is in oecumenical councils, and
yet such councils have not always agreed with each other. There
are also many who remember that councils have deposed popes, and
have passed judgment on their clamors and contentions. Not
without reason do Protestants demand, What proof can be given
that infallibility exists in the Church at all? what proof is
there that the Church has ever been fairly or justly represented
in any council? and why should the truth be ascertained by the
vote of a majority rather than by that of a minority? How often
it has happened that one man, standing at the right point of
view, has descried the truth, and, after having been denounced
and persecuted by all others, they have eventually been
constrained to adopt his declarations! Of many great discoveries,
has not this been the history?

It is not for Science to compose these contesting claims; it is
not for her to determine whether the criterion of truth for the
religious man shall be found in the Bible, or in the oecumenical
council, or in the pope. She only asks the right, which she so
willingly accords to others, of adopting a criterion of her own.
If she regards unhistorical legends with disdain; if she
considers the vote of a majority in the ascertainment of truth
with supreme indifference; if she leaves the claim of
infallibility in any human being to be vindicated by the stern
logic of coming events--the cold impassiveness which in these
matters she maintains is what she displays toward her own
doctrines. Without hesitation she would give up the theories of
gravitation or undulations, if she found that they were
irreconcilable with facts. For her the volume of inspiration is
the book of Nature, of which the open scroll is ever spread forth
before the eyes of every man. Confronting all, it needs no
societies for its dissemination. Infinite in extent, eternal in
duration, human ambition and human fanaticism have never been
able to tamper with it. On the earth it is illustrated by all
that is magnificent and beautiful, on the heavens its letters are
suns and worlds.



There are two conceptions of the government of the world: 1. By
Providence; 2. By Law.--The former maintained by the
priesthood.--Sketch of the introduction of the latter.

Kepler discovers the laws that preside over the solar
system.--His works are denounced by papal authority.--The
foundations of mechanical philosophy are laid by Da
Vinci.--Galileo discovers the fundamental laws of
Dynamics.--Newton applies them to the movements of the celestial
bodies, and shows that the solar system is governed by
mathematical necessity.--Herschel extends that conclusion to the
universe.--The nebular hypothesis.--Theological exceptions to it.

Evidences of the control of law in the construction of the earth,
and in the development of the animal and plant series.--They
arose by Evolution, not by Creation.

The reign of law is exhibited by the historic career of human
societies, and in the case of individual man.

Partial adoption of this view by some of the Reformed Churches.

Two interpretations may be given of the mode of government of the
world. It may be by incessant divine interventions, or by the
operation of unvarying law.

To the adoption of the former a priesthood will always incline,
since it must desire to be considered as standing between the
prayer of the votary and the providential act. Its importance is
magnified by the power it claims of determining what that act
shall be. In the pre Christian (Roman) religion, the grand office
of the priesthood was the discovery of future events by oracles,
omens, or an inspection of the entrails of animals, and by the
offering of sacrifices to propitiate the gods. In the later, the
Christian times, a higher power was claimed; the clergy asserting
that, by their intercessions, they could regulate the course of
affairs, avert dangers, secure benefits, work miracles, and even
change the order of Nature.

Not without reason, therefore, did they look upon the doctrine of
government by unvarying law with disfavor. It seemed to
depreciate their dignity, to lessen their importance. To them
there was something shocking in a God who cannot be swayed by
human entreaty, a cold, passionless divinity--something frightful
in fatalism, destiny.

But the orderly movement of the heavens could not fail in all
ages to make a deep impression on thoughtful observers--the
rising and setting of the sun; the increasing or diminishing
light of the day; the waxing and waning of the moon; the return
of the seasons in their proper courses; the measured march of the
wandering planets in the sky--what are all these, and a thousand
such, but manifestations of an orderly and unchanging procession
of events? The faith of early observers in this interpretation
may perhaps have been shaken by the occurrence of such a
phenomenon as an eclipse, a sudden and mysterious breach of the
ordinary course of natural events; but it would be resumed in
tenfold strength as soon as the discovery was made that eclipses
themselves recur, and may be predicted.

Astronomical predictions of all kinds depend upon the admission
of this fact--that there never has been and never will be any
intervention in the operation of natural laws. The scientific
philosopher affirms that the condition of the world at any given
moment is the direct result of its condition in the preceding
moment, and the direct cause of its condition in the subsequent
moment. Law and chance are only different names for mechanical

About fifty years after the death of Copernicus, John Kepler, a
native of Wurtemberg, who had adopted the heliocentric theory,
and who was deeply impressed with the belief that relationships
exist in the revolutions of the planetary bodies round the sun,
and that these if correctly examined would reveal the laws under
which those movements take place, devoted himself to the study of
the distances, times, and velocities of the planets, and the form
of their orbits. His method was, to submit the observations to
which he had access, such as those of Tycho Brahe, to
computations based first on one and then on another hypothesis,
rejecting the hypothesis if he found that the calculations did
not accord with the observations. The incredible labor he had
undergone (he says, "I considered, and I computed, until I almost
went mad") was at length rewarded, and in 1609 he published his
book, "On the Motions of the Planet Mars." In this he had
attempted to reconcile the movements of that planet to the
hypothesis of eccentrics and epicycles, but eventually discovered
that the orbit of a planet is not a circle but an ellipse, the
sun being in one of the foci, and that the areas swept over by a
line drawn from the planet to the sun are proportional to the
times. These constitute what are now known as the first and
second laws of Kepler. Eight years subsequently, he was rewarded
by the discovery of a third law, defining the relation between
the mean distances of the planets from the sun and the times of
their revolutions; "the squares of the periodic times are
proportional to the cubes of the distances." In "An Epitome of
the Copernican System," published in 1618, he announced this law,
and showed that it holds good for the satellites of Jupiter as
regards their primary. Hence it was inferred that the laws which
preside over the grand movements of the solar system preside also
over the less movements of its constituent parts.

The conception of law which is unmistakably conveyed by Kepler's
discoveries, and the evidence they gave in support of the
heliocentric as against the geocentric theory, could not fail to
incur the reprehension of the Roman authorities. The congregation
of the Index, therefore, when they denounced the Copernican
system as utterly contrary to the Holy Scriptures, prohibited
Kepler's "Epitome" of that system. It was on this occasion that
Kepler submitted his celebrated remonstrance: "Eighty years have
elapsed during which the doctrines of Copernicus regarding the
movement of the earth and the immobility of the sun have been
promulgated without hinderance, because it was deemed allowable
to dispute concerning natural things, and to elucidate the works
of God, and now that new testimony is discovered in proof of the
truth of those doctrines--testimony which was not known to the
spiritual judges--ye would prohibit the promulgation of the true
system of the structure of the universe."

None of Kepler's contemporaries believed the law of the areas,
nor was it accepted until the publication of the "Principia" of
Newton. In fact, no one in those times understood the
philosophical meaning of Kepler's laws. He himself did not
foresee what they must inevitably lead to. His mistakes showed
how far he was from perceiving their result. Thus he thought that
each planet is the seat of an intelligent principle, and that
there is a relation between the magnitudes of the orbits of the
five principal planets and the five regular solids of geometry.
At first he inclined to believe that the orbit of Mars is oval,
nor was it until after a wearisome study that he detected the
grand truth, its elliptical form. An idea of the incorruptibility
of the celestial objects had led to the adoption of the
Aristotelian doctrine of the perfection of circular motions, and
to the belief that there were none but circular motions in the
heavens. He bitterly complains of this as having been a fatal
"thief of his time." His philosophical daring is illustrated in
his breaking through this time-honored tradition.

In some most important particulars Kepler anticipated Newton. He
was the first to give clear ideas respecting gravity. He says
every particle of matter will rest until it is disturbed by some
other particle--that the earth attracts a stone more than the
stone attracts the earth, and that bodies move to each other in
proportion to their masses; that the earth would ascend to the
moon one-fifty-fourth of the distance, and the moon would move
toward the earth the other fifty-three. He affirms that the
moon's attraction causes the tides, and that the planets must
impress irregularities on the moon's motions.

The progress of astronomy is obviously divisible into three

1. The period of observation of the apparent motions of the
heavenly bodies.

2. The period of discovery of their real motions, and
particularly of the laws of the planetary revolutions; this was
signally illustrated by Copernicus and Kepler.

3. The period of the ascertainment of the causes of those laws.
It was the epoch of Newton.

The passage of the second into the third period depended on the
development of the Dynamical branch of mechanics, which had been
in a stagnant condition from the time of Archimedes or the
Alexandrian School.

In Christian Europe there had not been a cultivator of mechanical
philosophy until Leonardo da Vinci, who was born A.D. 1452. To
him, and not to Lord Bacon, must be attributed the renaissance of
science. Bacon was not only ignorant of mathematics, but
depreciated its application to physical inquiries. He
contemptuously rejected the Copernican system, alleging absurd
objections to it. While Galileo was on the brink of his great
telescopic discoveries, Bacon was publishing doubts as to the
utility of instruments in scientific investigations. To ascribe
the inductive method to him is to ignore history. His fanciful
philosophical suggestions have never been of the slightest
practical use. No one has ever thought of employing them. Except
among English readers, his name is almost unknown.

To Da Vinci I shall have occasion to allude more particularly on
a subsequent page. Of his works still remaining in manuscript,
two volumes are at Milan, and one in Paris, carried there by
Napoleon. After an interval of about seventy years, Da Vinci was
followed by the Dutch engineer, Stevinus, whose work on the
principles of equilibrium was published in 1586. Six years
afterward appeared Galileo's treatise on mechanics.

To this great Italian is due the establishment of the three
fundamental laws of dynamics, known as the Laws of Motion.

The consequences of the establishment of these laws were very

It had been supposed that continuous movements, such, for
instance, as those of the celestial bodies, could only be
maintained by a perpetual consumption and perpetual application
of force, but the first of Galileo's laws declared that every
body will persevere in its state of rest, or of uniform motion in
a right line, until it is compelled to change that state by
disturbing forces. A clear perception of this fundamental
principle is essential to a comprehension of the elementary facts
of physical astronomy. Since all the motions that we witness
taking place on the surface of the earth soon come to an end, we
are led to infer that rest is the natural condition of things. We
have made, then, a very great advance when we have become
satisfied that a body is equally indifferent to rest as to
motion, and that it equally perseveres in either state until
disturbing forces are applied. Such disturbing forces in the case
of common movements are friction and the resistance of the air.
When no such resistances exist, movement must be perpetual, as is
the case with the heavenly bodies, which are moving in a void.

Forces, no matter what their difference of magnitude may be, will
exert their full influence conjointly, each as though the other
did not exist. Thus, when a ball is suffered to drop from the
mouth of a cannon, it falls to the ground in a certain interval
of time through the influence of gravity upon it. If, then, it be
fired from the cannon, though now it may be projected some
thousands of feet in a second, the effect of gravity upon it will
be precisely the same as before. In the intermingling of forces
there is no deterioration; each produces its own specific effect.

In the latter half of the seventeenth century, through the works
of Borelli, Hooke, and Huyghens, it had become plain that
circular motions could be accounted for by the laws of Galileo.
Borelli, treating of the motions of Jupiter's satellites, shows
how a circular movement may arise under the influence of a
central force. Hooke exhibited the inflection of a direct motion
into a circular by a supervening central attraction.

The year 1687 presents, not only an epoch in European science,
but also in the intellectual development of man. It is marked by
the publication of the "Principia" of Newton, an incomparable, an
immortal work.

On the principle that all bodies attract each other with forces
directly as their masses, and inversely as the squares of their
distances, Newton showed that all the movements of the celestial
bodies may be accounted for, and that Kepler's laws might all
have been predicted-- the elliptic motions--the described areas
the relation of the times and distances. As we have seen,
Newton's contemporaries had perceived how circular motions could
be explained; that was a special case, but Newton furnished the
solution of the general problem, containing all special cases of
motion in circles, ellipses, parabolas, hyperbolas--that is, in
all the conic sections.

The Alexandrian mathematicians had shown that the direction of
movement of falling bodies is toward the centre of the earth.
Newton proved that this must necessarily be the case, the general
effect of the attraction of all the particles of a sphere being
the same as if they were all concentrated in its centre. To this
central force, thus determining the fall of bodies, the
designation of gravity was given. Up to this time, no one, except
Kepler, had considered how far its influence reached. It seemed
to Newton possible that it might extend as far as the moon, and
be the force that deflects her from a rectilinear path, and makes
her revolve in her orbit round the earth. It was easy to compute,
on the principle of the law of inverse squares, whether the
earth's attraction was sufficient to produce the observed effect.
Employing the measures of the size of the earth accessible at the
time, Newton found that the moon's deflection was only thirteen
feet in a minute; whereas, if his hypothesis of gravitation were
true, it should be fifteen feet. But in 1669 Picard, as we have
seen, executed the measurement of a degree more carefully than
had previously been done; this changed the estimate of the
magnitude of the earth, and, therefore, of the distance of the
moon; and, Newton's attention having been directed to it by some
discussions that took place at the Royal Society in 1679, he
obtained Picard's results, went home, took out his old papers,
and resumed his calculations. As they drew to a close, he became
so much agitated that he was obliged to desire a friend to finish
them. The expected coincidence was established. It was proved
that the moon is retained in her orbit and made to revolve round
the earth by the force of terrestrial gravity. The genii of
Kepler had given place to the vortices of Descartes, and these in
their turn to the central force of Newton.

In like manner the earth, and each of the planets, are made to
move in an elliptic orbit round the sun by his attractive force,
and perturbations arise by reason of the disturbing action of the
planetary masses on one another. Knowing the masses and the
distances, these disturbances may be computed. Later astronomers
have even succeeded with the inverse problem, that is, knowing
the perturbations or disturbances, to find the place and the mass
of the disturbing body. Thus, from the deviations of Uranus from
his theoretical position, the discovery of Neptune was

Newton's merit consisted in this, that he applied the laws of
dynamics to the movements of the celestial bodies, and insisted
that scientific theories must be substantiated by the agreement
of observations with calculations.

When Kepler announced his three laws, they were received with
condemnation by the spiritual authorities, not because of any
error they were supposed to present or to contain, but partly
because they gave support to the Copernican system, and partly
because it was judged inexpedient to admit the prevalence of law
of any kind as opposed to providential intervention. The world
was regarded as the theatre in which the divine will was daily
displayed; it was considered derogatory to the majesty of God
that that will should be fettered in any way. The power of the
clergy was chiefly manifested in the influence the were alleged
to possess in changing his arbitrary determinations. It was thus
that they could abate the baleful action of comets, secure fine
weather or rain, prevent eclipses, and, arresting the course of
Nature, work all manner of miracles; it was thus that the shadow
had been made to go back on the dial, and the sun and the moon
stopped in mid-career.

In the century preceding the epoch of Newton, a great religious
and political revolution had taken place --the Reformation.
Though its effect had not been the securing of complete liberty
for thought, it bad weakened many of the old ecclesiastical
bonds. In the reformed countries there was no power to express a
condemnation of Newton's works, and among the clergy there was no
disposition to give themselves any concern about the matter. At
first the attention of the Protestant was engrossed by the
movements of his great enemy the Catholic, and when that source
of disquietude ceased, and the inevitable partitions of the
Reformation arose, that attention was fastened upon the rival and
antagonistic Churches. The Lutheran, the Calvinist, the
Episcopalian, the Presbyterian, had something more urgent on hand
than Newton's mathematical demonstrations.

So, uncondemned, and indeed unobserved, in this clamor of
fighting sects, Newton's grand theory solidly established itself.
Its philosophical significance was infinitely more momentous than
the dogmas that these persons were quarreling about. It not only
accepted the heliocentric theory and the laws discovered by
Kepler, but it proved that, no matter what might be the weight of
opposing ecclesiastical authority, the sun MUST be the centre of
our system, and that Kepler's laws are the result of a
mathematical necessity. It is impossible that they should be
other than they are.

But what is the meaning of all this? Plainly that the solar
system is not interrupted by providential interventions, but is
under the government of irreversible law--law that is itself the
issue of mathematical necessity.

The telescopic observations of Herschel I. satisfied him that
there are very many double stars--double not merely because they
are accidentally in the same line of view, but because they are
connected physically, revolving round each other. These
observations were continued and greatly extended by Herschel II.
The elements of the elliptic orbit of the double star zeta of the
Great Bear were determined by Savary, its period being
fifty-eight and one-quarter years; those of another, sigma
Coronae, were determined by Hind, its period being more than
seven hundred and thirty-six years. The orbital movement of these
double suns in ellipses compels us to admit that the law of
gravitation holds good far beyond the boundaries of the solar
system; indeed, as far as the telescope can reach, it
demonstrates the reign of law. D'Alembert, in the Introduction to
the Encyclopaedia, says: "The universe is but a single fact; it
is only one great truth."

Shall we, then, conclude that the solar and the starry systems
have been called into existence by God, and that he has then
imposed upon them by his arbitrary will laws under the control of
which it was his pleasure that their movements should be made?

Or are there reasons for believing that these several systems
came into existence not by such an arbitrary fiat, but through
the operation of law?

The following are some peculiarities displayed by the solar
system as enumerated by Laplace. All the planets and their
satellites move in ellipses of such small eccentricity that they
are nearly circles. All the planets move in the same direction
and nearly in the same plane. The movements of the satellites are
in the same direction as those of the planets. The movements of
rotation of the sun, of the planets, and the satellites, are in
the same direction as their orbital motions, and in planes little

It is impossible that so many coincidences could be the result of
chance! Is it not plain that there must have been a common tie
among all these bodies, that they are only parts of what must
once have been a single mass?

But if we admit that the substance of which the solar system
consists once existed in a nebulous condition, and was in
rotation, all the above peculiarities follow as necessary
mechanical consequences. Nay, more, the formation of planets, the
formation of satellites and of asteroids, is accounted for. We
see why the outer planets and satellites are larger than the
interior ones; why the larger planets rotate rapidly, and the
small ones slowly; why of the satellites the outer planets have
more, the inner fewer. We are furnished with indications of the
time of revolution of the planets in their orbits, and of the
satellites in theirs; we perceive the mode of formation of
Saturn's rings. We find an explanation of the physical condition
of the sun, and the transitions of condition through which the
earth and moon have passed, as indicated by their geology.

But two exceptions to the above peculiarities have been noted;
they are in the cases of Uranus and Neptune.

The existence of such a nebulous mass once admitted, all the rest
follows as a matter of necessity. Is there not, however, a most
serious objection in the way? Is not this to exclude Almighty God
from the worlds he has made?

First, we must be satisfied whether there is any solid evidence
for admitting the existence of such a nebulous mass.

The nebular hypothesis rests primarily on the telescopic
discovery made by Herschel I., that there are scattered here and
there in the heavens pale, gleaming patches of light, a few of
which are large enough to be visible to the naked eye. Of these,
many may be resolved by a sufficient telescopic power into a
congeries of stars, but some, such as the great nebula in Orion,
have resisted the best instruments hitherto made.

It was asserted by those who were indisposed to accept the
nebular hypothesis, that the non-resolution was due to
imperfection in the telescopes used. In these instruments two
distinct functions may be observed: their light-gathering power
depends on the diameter of their object mirror or lens, their
defining power depends on the exquisite correctness of their
optical surfaces. Grand instruments may possess the former
quality in perfection by reason of their size, but the latter
very imperfectly, either through want of original configuration,
or distortion arising from flexure through their own weight. But,
unless an instrument be perfect in this respect, as well as
adequate in the other, it may fail to decompose a nebula into
discrete points.

Fortunately, however, other means for the settlement of this
question are available. In 1846, it was discovered by the author
of this book that the spectrum of an ignited solid is
continuous--that is, has neither dark nor bright lines.
Fraunhofer had previously made known that the spectrum of ignited
gases is discontinuous. Here, then, is the means of determining
whether the light emitted by a given nebula comes from an
incandescent gas, or from a congeries of ignited solids, stars,
or suns. If its spectrum be discontinuous, it is a true nebula or
gas; if continuous, a congeries of stars.

In 1864, Mr. Huggins made this examination in the case of a
nebula in the constellation Draco. It proved to be gaseous.

Subsequent observations have shown that, of sixty nebulae
examined, nineteen give discontinuous or gaseous spectra--the
remainder continuous ones.

It may, therefore, be admitted that physical evidence has at
length been obtained, demonstrating the existence of vast masses
of matter in a gaseous condition, and at a temperature of
incandescence. The hypothesis of Laplace has thus a firm basis.
In such a nebular mass, cooling by radiation is a necessary

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