Germany, belief that the fossils were produced by the Deluge of Noah was insisted upon as part of that faith essential to salvation.
But the steady work of science went on; not all the force of the Church—not even the splendid engravings in Scheuchzer's Bible—could stop it; and the foundations of this theological theory began to crumble away. The process was, indeed, slow; it required a hundred and twenty years for the searchers of God's truth, as revealed in Nature—such men as Hooke, Linnæus, Whitehurst, Daubenton, and Cuvier—to push their works under this fabric of error, and, by statements which could not be resisted, to undermine it. As we arrive at the beginning of the nineteenth century, science is becoming irresistible in this field. Blumenbach, Von Buch, and Schlotheim lead the way, but most important is the work of Cuvier. In the early years of the present century, his researches among fossils began to throw new light into the whole subject of geology: he was, indeed, very wary and diplomatic, and seemed, like Voltaire, to feel that "among the wolves one must howl a little." It was a time of reaction. Napoleon had made peace with the Church, and to disturb that peace was akin to treason. Still, by large but vague concessions, Cuvier kept the theologians satisfied, while he undermined their strongest fortress. The danger was instinctively felt by some of the champions of the Church, and typical among these was Chateaubriand; and in his best-known work, once so great, now so little—the "Genius of Christianity"—he grappled with the questions of creation by insisting upon a sort of general deception "in the beginning," under which everything was created by a sudden fiat, but with appearances of pre-existence. His words are as follows: "It was part of the perfection and harmony of the nature which was displayed before men's eyes that the deserted nests of last year's birds should be seen on the trees, and that the sea-shore should be covered with shells which had been the abode of fish, and yet the world was quite new, and nests and shells had never been inhabited." But the real victory was with Brongniart, who, about 1820, gave forth his work on fossil plants, and thus built a barrier against which the enemies of science raged in vain.
Still the struggle was not ended, and, a few years later, a forlorn hope was led in England by Granville Penn.
His fundamental thesis was that "our globe has undergone only two revolutions, the Creation and the Deluge, and both by the immediate fiat of the Almighty"; he insisted that the Creation took place
- For a candid summary of the proofs from geology, astronomy, and zoölogy, that the Noachian Deluge was not universally or widely extended, see McClintock and Strong, "Cyclopædia of Biblical Theology and Ecclesiastical Literature," article "Deluge." For general history, see Lyell, D'Archiac, and Vezian. For special cases showing the bitterness of the conflict, see the Rev. Mr. Davis's "Life of Rev. Dr. Pye Smith," passim.
- "Génie du Christianisme," chapter v, pp. 1-14, cited by Reusch, vol. i, p. 250.
- For admirable sketches of Brongniart and other paleobotanists, see Ward, as above.