By ANDREW DICKSON WHITE, LL. D., L. H. D.,
EX-PRESIDENT OF CORNELL UNIVERSITY.
THE next great series of battles was fought regarding the relations of the earth to the heavenly bodies. In the early Church, astronomy^ like other branches of science, was very generally looked upon as futile, in view of the doctrine, so prominent in the New Testament, that the earth was in its last days. At best, the heavenly bodies were only objects of pious speculation. Some theologians, remembering the beautiful poetic vision of the morning stars singing together, revived an old theory that the heavenly lights have immortal souls. Tertullian's view of the solar system is seen in his theory that an eclipse of the sun was simply a sign of the wrath of God against unbelief. St. Augustine gave forth as final truth in sacred science a statement, based upon the Psalms, that "the heavens are like a curtain"; but his view of any scientific study is shown by his ejaculation, "What concern is it to me whether the heavens as a sphere inclose the earth in the middle of the world, or overhang it on either side?"
The prevailing view in the Church was based upon the declarations in Genesis that a solid vault — a "firmament" — was extended above the earth, and that the heavenly bodies were simply lights hung within it. This view plays a great part in the sacred theory established so firmly by the monk Cosmas in the sixth century. Having based his plan of the universe upon various texts in the Old and New Testaments, and having made it a vast oblong box, covered by the solid "firmament," he brings in an additional