there sundry theologians of larger mind attempted to give a more spiritual view regarding some parts of the creative work, and of these St. Augustine was chief. Ready as he was to bend his powerful mind to meet the literal text of Scripture, he revolted against the material conception of a creation of the visible universe by the hands and fingers of a Supreme Being, and in this he was followed by Bede and a few others; but the more material conceptions prevailed, and we find them taking shape not only in the sculptures and stained glass of cathedrals, and in the illuminations of missals and psalters, but later, at the close of the middle ages, in the pictured Bibles and in general literature.
Into the Anglo-Saxon mind this ancient material conception of the creation was riveted by two poets whose works appealed especially to the deeper religious feelings. In the seventh century Cædmon paraphrased the account given in Genesis, bringing out this material conception in the most literal form; and a thousand years later Milton developed out of the various statements in the Old Testament, mingled with a theology regarding "the creative word" which had been drawn from the New, his description of the creation by the second person in the Trinity, than which nothing could be more literal and material.
"He took the golden compasses, prepared
In God's eternal store, to circumscribe
This universe and all created things.
One foot he centered, and the other turned
Round through the vast profundity obscure,
And said, 'Thus far extend, thus far thy bounds:
This be thy just circumference, world!'
But as the evolution of theology proceeded, two new points in this materialistic view were especially developed. The first of these was that no material substance existed before the creation of the material universe that—"God created everything out of nothing." Some venturesome thinkers, basing their reasoning upon the first verses of Genesis, hinted at a different view—namely, that the mass, "without form and void," existed before the universe; but this doctrine was soon swept out of sight. The vast majority of the fathers were explicit on this point. Tertullian especially was very severe against those who took any other view than that generally accepted as orthodox; he declared that, if there had been any pre-existing matter out of which the world was formed. Scripture would have mentioned it; that by not mentioning it God has given us a clear proof that there was no such thing; and he threatens Hermogenes, who takes the opposite view,
- For Cædmon, see Bouterwek's edition, Gütersloh, 1854, vol. i; for Milton, see Paradise Lost, book vii, pp. 225-230.