Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 37.djvu/597

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Christian Church, no word of its Blessed Founder indicates that it was committed by Him to this theory, or that He even thought it worthy of his attention: how it was developed it does not lie within the province of this chapter to point out; nor is it worth our while to dwell upon its evolution in the early Church, in the middle ages, at the Reformation, and in various branches of the Protestant Church; suffice it that, though among English-speaking nations, by far the most important influence in its favor has come from Milton's inspiration rather than from that of older sacred books, no doctrine has been more universally accepted, "always, everywhere, and by all," from the earliest fathers of the Church down to the present hour.

On the other hand, appeared at an early period the opposite view—that mankind, instead of having fallen from a high intellectual, moral, and religious condition, has slowly risen from low and brutal beginnings. Among all the statements of this theory one is especially noteworthy; that given by Lucretius in his great poem on The Nature of Things. Despite its errors, it remains among the most remarkable examples of prophetic insight in the history of our race. The inspiration of Lucretius gave him almost miraculous glimpses of truth; his view of the development of civilization from the rudest beginnings to the height of its achievements is a wonderful growth, rooted in observation and thought, branching forth into a multitude of striking facts and fancies; and among these is the statement regarding the sequence of inventions:

"Man's earliest arms were fingers, teeth, and nails,
And stones and fragments from the branching woods:
Then copper next; and last, as latest traced,
The tyrant, iron."

Thus did the poet prophesy one of the most fruitful achievements of modern science, the discovery of that series of epochs which has been so carefully studied in our century.

Very striking, also, is the statement of Horace, though his idea is evidently derived from Lucretius. He dwells upon man's first condition on earth as low and bestial, and pictures him lurking in caves, progressing from the use of his fists and nails, first to clubs, then to arms which he had learned to forge, and, finally, to the invention of the names of things, to literature, and to laws.[1]

During the mediæval ages of faith this view was almost entirely obscured, but at the revival of learning in the fifteenth century it reappeared; and in the first part of the seventeenth

  1. For the passage in Hesiod, as given, see the Works and Days, lines 109–120, in Banks's translation. As to Horace, see the Satires, i, 3, 99. As to the relation of the poetic account of the Fall in Genesis to Chaldean myths, see Smith, Chaldean Account of Genesis, pp. 13, 17. For a very instructive separation of the Jehovistic and Elohistic parts