In the twelfth century this view was incorporated by Peter Lombard into his great theological work of the Sentences, which became the text-book of theology through the middle ages. He affirmed that "no created things would have been hurtful to man had he not sinned; they became hurtful for the sake of terrifying and punishing vice or of proving and perfecting virtue; they were created harmless, and on account of sin became hurtful."
This theological theory regarding animals was brought out in the eighteenth century with great force by John Wesley. He declared that before Adam's sin "none of these attempted to devour or in any wise hurt one another"; "the spider was as harmless as the fly, and did not lie in wait for blood." Not only Wesley, but the eminent Dr. Adam Clarke and Dr. Richard Watson, whose ideas had the very greatest weight among the English Dissenters, and even among leading thinkers in the Established Church, held firmly to this theory. Not until, in our own time, geology revealed the remains of vast multitudes of carnivorous creatures, many of them with half-digested remains of other creatures in their stomachs, all extinct long ages before the appearance of man upon earth, was a victory won by science over theology in this field.
A curious development of this doctrine was seen in the belief drawn by sundry old commentators from the condemnation of the serpent in Genesis—a belief, indeed, perfectly natural, since it was evidently that of the original writers of the account preserved in the first of our sacred books. This belief was that, until the tempting serpent was cursed by the Almighty, all serpents stood erect, walked, and talked.
This belief was handed down the ages as part of "the sacred deposit of the faith" until Watson, the most prolific writer of the great evangelical reform in the eighteenth century and the standard theologian of the evangelical party, declared: "We have no reason at all to believe that the animal had a serpentine form in any mode or degree until its transformation; that he was then degraded to a reptile to go upon his belly imports, on the contrary, an entire loss and alteration of the original form." Here, again, was a ripe result of the theologic method diligently pursued by the strongest thinkers in the Church during nearly two thousand years; but this "sacred deposit" also faded away when the geologists found abundant remains of fossil serpents dating from periods long before the appearance of man.
Yet more troublesome questions arose among theologians regarding animals classed as "superfluous." St. Augustine was especially exercised thereby. He says: "I confess I am ignorant why mice and frogs were created, or flies and worms. . . . All creatures are either useful, hurtful, or superfluous to us. . . . As