Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 44.djvu/451

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437
NEW CHAPTERS IN THE WARFARE OF SCIENCE.

bodies on the fourth, day by "the harmony of the number four"; of the animals on the fifth day by the five senses; of man on the sixth day by the same virtues in the number six which had caused it to be set as a limit to the creative work; and, greatest of all, the rest on the seventh day by the vast mass of mysterious virtues in the number seven.

St. Jerome held that the reason why God did not pronounce the work of the second day "good" is to be found in the fact that there is something essentially evil in the number two, and this was echoed centuries afterward afar off in Britain by Bede.

St. Augustine brought this view to bear upon the Church in the following statement: "There are three classes of numbers—the more than perfect, the perfect, and the less than perfect, according as the sum of them is greater than, equal to, or less than the original number. Six is the first perfect number; wherefore we must not say that six is a perfect number because God finished all his works in six days, but that God finished all his works in six days because six is a perfect number."

Reasoning of this sort echoed along through the mediœval Church until a year after the discovery of America. It was reechoed in the Nuremberg Chronicle as follows: "The creation of things is explained by the number six, the parts of which, one, two, and three, assume the form of a triangle."

This view of the creation of the universe in six days, each made up of an evening and a morning, as stated in the first of the accounts given in Genesis, became virtually universal. Peter Lombard and Hugo of St. Victor, authorities of vast weight in the Church, gave it their sanction in the twelfth century, and impressed it for ages upon the mind of the Church.

Both these lines of speculation—as to the creation of everything out of nothing, and the reconciling of the instantaneous creation of the universe with its creation in six days—were still further developed by sundry great thinkers of the middle ages.

St. Hilary, of Poictiers, reconciled the two conceptions as follows: "For, although according to Moses there is an appearance of regular order in the fixing of the firmament, the laying bare of the dry land, the gathering together of the waters, the formation of the heavenly bodies, and the arising of living things from land and water, yet the creation of the heavens, earth, and other elements is seen to be the work of a single moment."

St. Thomas Aquinas drew from St. Augustine a subtle distinction which for ages eased the difficulties in the case: he taught in effect that God created the substance of things in a moment, but gave to the work of separating, shaping, and adorning this creation six days.

In the seventeenth century the old view, in exact accordance