Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 44.djvu/453

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439
NEW CHAPTERS IN THE WARFARE OF SCIENCE.

the eighteenth century, when Buff on attempted to state simple geological truths, the theological faculty of the Sorbonne forced him to make and to publish a most ignominious recantation which ended with these words: "I abandon everything in my book respecting the formation of the earth, and generally all which may be contrary to the narrative of Moses."[1]

But to these discussions was added yet another, which, beginning in the early days of the Church, was handed down the ages until it has died out among the theologians of our own time.

In the first of the biblical accounts light is created and the distinction between day and night thereby made on the first day, while the sun and moon are not created until the fourth day. Masses of profound theological and pseudo-scientific reasoning have been developed to account for this—masses so great that for ages they have obscured the simple fact that the original text is a precious revelation to us of one of the most ancient and universal of recorded beliefs—the belief that light and darkness are conditions or entities independent of the heavenly bodies, and that the sun, moon, and stars exist not merely to maintain or increase light but to "divide the day from the night, to be for signs and for seasons, and for days and for years," and "to rule the day and the night."

Of this belief we find survivals among the early fathers, and especially in St. Ambrose; in his work on creation he tells us: "We must remember that the light of day is one thing and the light of the sun, moon, and stars another—the sun by his rays appearing to add luster to the daylight. For before sunrise the day dawns but is not in full refulgence, for the sun adds still further to its splendor." This view became one of the "treasures of sacred knowledge committed to the Church," and was faithfully received by the middle ages. The mediæval mysteries and miracle plays give curious evidences of this: In a performance of the creation, when God separates light from darkness, the stage direction is, "Now a painted cloth is to be exhibited, one half black and the other half white." This theory, leaving out all quibblings and special pleadings, which in the light of modern


  1. For Luther, see his Commentary on Genesis, 1545, introduction, and his comments on chap, i, verse 12; the quotations from Luther's commentary are taken mainly from the translation by Henry Cole, D. D., Edinburgh, 1858; for Melanchthon, see Loci Theologici, in Melanchthon's opera, ed. Bretschneider, vol. xxi, pp. 269, 270; also pp. 637, 638; for the citations from Calvin, see his Commentary on Genesis (Opera omnia, Amsterdam, le'Zl, tom. i, cap. ii, vol. i, p. 8); also in the Institutes, Allen's translation, London, 1838, vol. i, chap. XV, pp. 126, 127; for Peter Martyr, see his Commentary on Genesis, cited by Zöckler, vol. i, p. 690; for the articles in the Westminster Confession of Faith, see chap, iv; for Buffon's recantation, see Lyell, Principles of Geology, chap, iii, p. 57.