with "the woe which impends on all who add to or take away from the written word."
St. Augustine, who shows signs of a belief in a pre-existence of matter, made his peace with the prevailing belief by the simple reasoning that, "although the world had been made of some material, that very same material must have been made out of nothing."
In the wake of these great men the universal Church steadily followed. The Fourth Lateran Council declared that God created everything out of nothing; and at the present hour the great majority of the faithful—whether Catholic or Protestant—are taught the same doctrine. On this point the syllabus of Pius IX and the Westminster Catechism fully agree.
The other point of which there came a great theological development referred to the time occupied by the Almighty in the creation. The natural tendency of theology was, of course, more and more to glorify the great miracle; and, as a result of this tendency, it began to be held that the so-called Mosaic account of the creation in six days must be subordinated to the text, "He spake, and they were made," and that in some mysterious manner God created the universe in six days, yet brought all things into existence in a moment. Origen and Athanasius especially promoted this view in the East, and St. Augustine in the West.
Serious difficulties were found in reconciling these two views, which to the natural mind seemed absolutely contradictory; but by ingenious use or suppression of facts, by dexterous play upon phrases, and by plentiful metaphysics a reconciliation was effected, and men came at least to believe that they believed in a creation of the universe instantaneous and at the same time in six days.
Some of the efforts to reconcile these two accounts were so fruitful as to deserve especial record. The fathers, Eastern and Western, developed out of the double account in Genesis, with the indications of the Psalms, the Proverbs, and the book of Job, a vast mass of sacred science bearing upon this point. As regards the whole work of creation, stress was laid upon certain occult powers in numerals. Philo Judæus had declared that the world was created in six days because "of all numbers six is the most productive"; he had explained the creation of the heavenly
- For Tertullian, see Tertullian against Hermogenes, chaps, xx and xxii; for St. Augustine regarding "creation from nothing," see the De Geuesi contra Manichæos, lib. i, cap. vi; for St. Ambrose, see the Hexameron, lib. i, cap. iv; for the decree of the Fourth Lateran Council, and the view received in the Church to-day, see the article Creation in Addis and Arnold's Catholic Dictionary.
- For Origen, see his Contra Celsum, cap. xxxvi, xxxvii; also his De Principibus, cap. v; for St. Augustine, see his De Genesi contra Manichæos and De Genesi ad Litteram, passim; for Athanasius, see his Discourses against the Arians, ii, 48, 49.