Sunday, May 28th, 2023
Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary Preacher's Homiletical
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These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Genesis 1". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://studylight.org/
commentaries/ eng/ phc/ genesis-1.html. Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892.
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Genesis 1". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://studylight.org/
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Genesis 1:1. In the beginning] Or, “at first,” “originally,” “to start with:” Sept. en archê (εν αρχῃ) as in John 1:1. God] Heb. ’Elohim (אֱלֹהִים): w. ref. to this frequent and interesting Divine Name, note
(1.) its radical conception—that of POWER;
(2.) its form—PLURAL, either “of excellence” (Ges. and others), or “of abstraction,” as in “lordship” for “lord” in English (B. Davies);
(3.) its construction—gen. w. SING. VERS, AND PRONOUN, as here w. bârâʾ (בָרָא), he created,—serving as an ever recurring protest against the wild vulgarity wh. wd. here understand “angels,” and as a plea for the unity of the Divine Nature. Elohim ═ “the Putter-forth of manifold powers, or the Living Personification of power in its most radical conception,” occurs about 2,500 times in O. T.
Genesis 1:2. And the earth] Here “the e.” is emp. by position (Ewald); and, as emphasis implies contrast, shd. be introduced by “but:” “But THE EARTH!”—a strangely overlooked hint for the expositor—“But THE EARTH had become,” &c.,—whether by first creation or subseq. catastrophe, it does not say. Without form and void] Heb. thóhu and bhóhu: words inimitably expressive ═ “wasteness and emptiness.” B occurs only thrice, each time with T: here, and Isaiah 34:11; Isaiah 34:11; Jeremiah 4:23. Deep] Heb. thehôm ═ “roaring deep:” Sept. and Vulg. abyss. Moved] Heb. participle expresses the continued process of life-giving love.
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH—Genesis 1:1-2
THE CREATOR AND HIS WORK
I. Then Atheism is a folly. “In the beginning God.” There have always been men who have denied the existence of God. All down through the ages their voices have been heard—their books have been read, and their arguments have been promulgated. Atheism is the supreme folly of which man is capable. It divests life of all spiritual enjoyment—of real nobility of character, and degrades almost to the level of the brute. The atheist must be blind to all the appearances of Creation, for one sincere outlook upon them would demonstrate the mockery of his creed. The fool hath said in his heart that there is no God. He dare not loudly articulate a conclusion, which his inner consciousness tells him to be so utterly devoid of truth, so criminal, and so likely to attract the retribution of heaven. Atheism is proved absurd:—
1. By the history of the creation of the world. It would be impossible for a narrative to be clearer, more simple, or more divinely authenticated than this of the creation. The very existence of things around us is indisputable evidence of its reality. If this history be a myth, then the world and man must be myths also. But if the universe is a fact, then it follows that this ancient narrative must be so. Then this chapter is perfectly natural in its subject matter. We should have antecedently expected that the first word of a Divine revelation would be of the Being of God, and that it would also acquaint us with the history of creation. Here, then, we have a cause adequate to the effect, for admitting an Omnipotent Being, there is no difficulty in the creation of the universe. A man who would reject the plain statement of this Book, to be consistent, would have to reject all history. True, we may imagine the pen of man as incompetent and unequal to record the creative fiat and energy of God. It would be difficult for him to spell the words, to mark the punctuation, to catch the accents of the Divine language. And who has not felt that the first verse of this chapter, trembles and is almost broken by the majesty and weight of the thought and revelation that resides within it. But this is no argument against the historical veracity of the writer, but rather the contrary, in that thoughts so sublime were ever conceived by the human mind, and crowded into the broken syllables of men.
2. By the existence of the beautiful world around us. The world standing up around us in all its grandeur—adaptation—evidence of design—harmony—is a most emphatic assertion of the Being of God. Every flower is a denial of Atheism. Every star is vocal with Deity. And when we get away from the merely visible creation into the inner recess and quietude of Nature, where are seen the great sights, and are heard the mysterious voices, when permitted entrance to the spiritual meaning of the things we see, we acknowledge ourselves to be brought into undeniable communion with the supernatural, and are ready there and then to worship at its altar.
3. By the moral convictions of humanity. There is probably not an intelligent man in the wide universe, who does not believe in, and pay homage to, some deity or other. The temples of the heathen filled with idols, are a permanent demonstration of this. Man’s conscience will have a god of some kind. That there is a deity is the solemn conviction of the world. Hence the folly of Atheism.
II. Then Pantheism is an absurdity. We are informed by these verses that the world was a creation, and not a spontaneous, or natural emanation from a mysterious something only known in the vocabulary of a sceptical philosophy. Thus the world must have had a personal Creator, distinct and separate from itself. True, the Divine Being is present throughout the universe, but He is nevertheless independent of, and distinct from, it. He is the Deity of the Temple. He is the King of the realm. He is the Occupant of the house.
III. Then matter is not eternal. “In the beginning.” Thus it is evident that matter had a commencement. It was created by Divine power. It had a birthday. We wonder that any number of intelligent men should have credited the eternity of matter. The statement involves a contradiction in terms. How could matter be eternal? It could not have produced or developed itself from some generic form, for who created the generic form? The world must have had a commencement. The Mosaic record says it had. This is the only reasonable supposition.
IV. Then the world was not the result of a fortuitous combination of atoms. “In the beginning God created.” Thus the world was a creation. There was the exercise of supreme intelligence. There was the exercise of an independent will. There was the expression in symbol of great thoughts, and also of Divine sympathies. There is nothing like chance throughout the whole work recorded in this chapter. If atoms were originally gifted with such intelligence and foresight as to combine themselves instinctively into such beautiful forms, and wonderful uses, as seen in the world, how are we to account for their degeneracy, as at present they appear utterly devoid of any such power. How is it that we are not the spectators of a little spontaneous creation now, similar to that of the olden days?
V. Then creation is the outcome of supernatural power. “In the beginning God created.” There must of necessity ever be much of mystery connected with this subject. Man was not present to witness the creation, and God has only given us a brief and dogmatic account of it. God is mystery. The world is a mystery. How very limited then must be the knowledge of man in reference thereto? Science may vaunt its discoveries, but the mystery of creation is open more to the prayerful reader of this record, than to the philosopher who only studies it for the purpose of curious inquiry. But there is far less mystery in the Mosaic account of the creation than in any other, as it is the most natural, the most likely, and truly the most scientific, as it gives us an adequate cause for the effect. The re-creation of the soul is the best explanation of the creation of the universe, and in fact of all the other mysteries of God.
THE THEOLOGY OF CREATION
Man naturally asks for some account of the world in which he lives. Was the world always in existence? If not, how did it begin to be? Did the sun make itself? These are not presumptuous questions. We have a right to ask them—the right which arises from our intelligence. The steam engine did not make itself, did the sun? In the text we find an answer to all our questions.
I. The answer is simple. There is no attempt at learned analysis or elaborate exposition. A child may understand the answer. It is direct, positive, complete. Could it have been more simple? Try any other form of words, and see if a purer simplicity be possible. Observe the value of simplicity when regarded as bearing upon the grandest events. The question is not who made a house, but who made a world, and not who made one world, but who made all worlds; and to this question the answer is, God made them. There is great risk in returning a simple answer to a profound inquiry, because when simplicity is not the last result of knowledge, it is mere imbecility.
II. The answer is sublime. God! God created!
1. Sublime because far-reaching in point of time: in the beginning. Science would have attempted a fact, religion has given a truth. If any inquirer can fix a date, be is not forbidden to do so. Dates are for children.
2. Sublime because connecting the material with the spiritual. There is, then, something more than dust in the universe. Every atom bears a superscription. It is something, surely, to have the name of God associated with all things great and small that are around us. Nature thus becomes a materialized thought. The wind is the breath of God. The thunder is a note from the music of his speech.
3. Sublime, because revealing, as nothing else could have done, the power and wisdom of the Most High.
III. The answer is sufficient. It might have been both simple and sublime, and yet not have reached the point of adequacy. Draw a straight line, and you may describe it as simple, yet who would think of calling it sublime? We must have simplicity which reaches the point of sublimity, and sublimity which sufficiently covers every demand of the case. The sufficiency of the answer is manifest: Time is a drop of eternity; nature is the handiwork of God; matter is the creation of mind; God is over all, blessed for evermore. This is enough. In proportion as we exclude God from the operation, we increase difficulty. Atheism never simplifies. Negation works in darkness. The answer of the text to the problem of creation is simple, sublime, and sufficient, in relation.
(1) To the inductions of Geology.
(2) To the theory of evolution. Practical inferences:—
1. If God created all things, then all things are under His goverment.
2. Then the earth may be studied religiously,
3. Then it is reasonable that He should take an interest in creation [City Temple].
SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS ON THE VERSES
I. A revelation of God.
1. His Name: names have meaning.
2. His nature: spirituality, personality.
3. His mode of existence: manifold unity.
II. A revelation of nature.
1. Matter not eternal.
2. The antiquity of the earth.
3. The order of creation [Pulpit Analyst].
1. In what it consisted.
2. When undertaken.
3. By whom accomplished.
1. Its commencement.
2. Its progress.
3. Its completion.
1. As a history.
2. As a doctrine.
3. As a prophecy.
This history of creation:—
1. Contains a rich treasury of speculative thought.
2. Capable of poetical glory.
3. Free from the influence of human invention and philosophy.
Our history of creation differs from all other cosmogonies as truth from fiction. Those of heathen nations are either hylozoistical, deducing the origin of life and living beings from some primeval matter; or pantheistical, regarding the whole world as emanating from a common divine substance; or mythological, tracing both gods and men to a chaos or world-egg. They do not even rise to the notion of a creation, much less to the knowledge of an Almighty God, as the Creator of all things [Keil & Delitzsch].
1. Before all things.
2. The cause of all things.
3. The explanation of all things.
4. The destiny of all things.
In the beginning:—
1. The birth of time.
2. The birth of matter.
3. The birth of revelation.
This verse assumes:—
1. The Being of God.
2. His eternity.
3. His omnipotence.
4. His absolute freedom
5. His infinite Wisdom
6. His essential goodness.
Admonitory lessons to be learned from the Divine-creation of the world:—
1. To admire it carefully.
2. To trust it cautiously.
3. To rely on God entirely.
The first circumstance which here offers itself to our consideration and observation, is the phrase and manner of speech which the Holy Ghost makes choice of, in this narrative, which we see, is as plain as it is brief, without any manner of insinuation, by way of preface, and without any garnishing by art, or eloquence, which men usually make use of, for the setting out, and gracing of their writings: the Spirit of God suddenly, as it were, darting out the truth which he delivers, like the sunbeams breaking in an instant as out of a cloud, as being a light visible, and beautiful in itself, and therefore needing no other ornament, or varnishing, to commend it to the world [J. White]
“The heavens and the earth”:—Heaven is named first, as being first, if not in time, yet at least in dignity.
1. Let us make heaven our chief desire.
2. Learn from the heavens to stoop to these below us.
1. The sign of man’s origin.
2. The direction of his prayer.
3. Inasmuch as the earth is contained in this narration, we must regard it as the work of God, and associate it with our thought of heaven.
We are all of us familiar with this idea, that in contemplating the works of creation, we should ascend from Nature to Nature’s God. Everywhere we discern undoubted proofs of the unbounded wisdom, power, and goodness of the great Author of all things. Everywhere we meet with traces of just and benevolent design which should suggest to us the thought of the Almighty Creator. It is most pleasing and useful to cultivate such a habit as this; much of natural religion depends upon it, and Holy Scripture fully recognises its propriety: “The heavens declare the glory of God,” &c.; “All Thy works praise Thee,” &c. It is apparent, however, that even in these and similar passages, that created things are mentioned, not as arguments, but rather as illustrations; not as suggesting the idea of God the Creator, but as unfolding and expanding that idea, otherwise obtained. (Romans 1:20) [Dr Candlish].
Thus, in a spiritual view, and for spiritual purposes, the truth concerning God, as the Creator, must be received, not as a discovery of our own reason, following a train of thought, but as a direct communication from a real person—even from the living and present God. This is not a merely theoretical and artificial distinction; it is practically most important. Consider the subject of creation simply in the light of an argument of Natural Philosophy, and all is vague and dim abstraction. It may be close and cogent as a demonstration in Mathematics, but it is cold and unreal; or, if there be emotion at all, it is but the emotion of a fine taste and a sensibility for the grand and lovely in nature and thought. But consider the momentous fact in the light of a direct message from the Creator Himself to you—regard Him as standing near to you, and Himself telling you, personally and face to face, all that He did on that wondrous week—are you not differently impressed and affected?—
1. More particularly,—see first of all, what weight this single idea, once truly and vividly realized, must add to all the other communications which He makes on other subjects to us.
2. Again, observe what weight this idea must have if we regard God Himself as personally present, and saying to us, in special reference to each of the things which He has made—“I created it, and I am now reminding you that it was I who made it.” What sacredness will this thought stamp on every object in nature [Dr. Candlish].
In the first two chapters of Genesis we meet with four different verbs to express the creative work of God, viz:—
1. To create.
2. To make.
3. To form.
4. To build.
This narrative bears on the very face of it the indication that it was written by man and for man, for it divides all things into the heavens and the earth. Such a division evidently suits those only who are inhabitants of the earth. Accordingly, this sentence is the foundation-stone of the history, not of the universe at large, of the sun, of any other planet—but of the earth, and of man, its rational inhabitant. The primeval event which it records, in point of time, from the next event in such a history; as the earth may have existed myriads of ages, and undergone many vicissitudes in its condition, before it became the home of the human race. And, for aught we know, the history of other planets—even of the solar system—may yet be unwritten, because there has been as yet no rational inhabitant to compose or peruse the record. We have no intimation of the interval of time that elapsed between the beginning of things narrated in this prefatory sentence, and that state of things which is announced in the following verse [Dr. Murphy].
Taken along with the context, the drift of the whole verse seems to be to give, in a brief and compendious form, a summary of the work of creation, which is more fully detailed in its various particulars in the account of the six days following. Such general statements but unfrequently occur in the sacred writers as a preface to more expanded details that follow. Thus it is said, in general terms (Genesis 1:27) that, “God created man in His own image, male and female created He them;” whereas the particulars of their creation are given at full length—Genesis 2:7; Genesis 2:18; Genesis 2:25 [Bush].
The Eternal God hath given being to time.
The Almighty Creator hath made all things to be out of nothing.
The vast heavens and all therein are God’s creatures.
THE TEACHING OF CHAOS
I. That the most elementary and rude conditions of things are not to be rejected or overlooked. “And the earth was without form and void.”
1. This may be true of the world of matter. The earth was at the time of this verse in a state of utter desolation. It was without order—it was without furniture. There was not a human being to gaze upon its chaos—there was not a voice to break its silence. There were no animals to roam amidst its disorder. There were no trees, or flowers to relieve its barrenness. The earth was desolate.
2. This may be true of the world of mind. There are many minds in the universe whose intellectual condition would be well and fitly described by the language of this verse. They are desolate. They are not peopled with great thoughts. They are not animated by great and noble convictions. They are destitute of knowledge. The intended furniture of the mind is absent. The cry “Let there be light” has not been heard within their souls. Darkness is upon the face of the deep.
3. This may be true of the world of the soul. How many souls are there in the universe—in the town—in the village—whose moral condition is well described by the language of this verse? Their soul-life lacks architecture. God designed that it should be based on elevated principles, animated by lofty motives, and inspired by great hopes; but instead of this it is based on expediency, and is but too frequently animated by the delusion of the world. Their souls ought to be occupied with divine pursuits, whereas they are busy with the transient affairs of time; they ought to be filled with God, whereas they are satisfied with little rounds of pleasure; they ought to be enraptured with the visions of eternity, whereas they are spell bound by the little sights of time. Such a soul is in a state of chaos far more lamentable than that of the world at the Creation, inasmuch as the one is matter, and the other an immortality. But chaos is not irretrievable. It must not be despised.
II. That the most rude and elementary conditions of things, under the culture of the Divine Spirit, are capable of the highest utility and beauty.
1. This is true of the material world. The earth was without form and void; but now it is everywhere resplendent with all that is esteemed useful and beautiful. It opens up realms of knowledge to the scientific investigator. It discloses beauties that kindle the genius of the artist. It manifests a fertility most welcome to the husbandman. Whence this transition? Is it to be accounted for on the principle of development? Is it the result of atmospherical influences? Is it to be accounted for by the law of affinity or attraction? Is it attributable to the achievements of human effort? True, man placed the seed into the soil; he cultured it, but where did the life come from? That must have been a creation, and not an education. It was the gift of God. It was the result of the Spirit’s hovering over the darkness of Nature. So it is the Divine agency, however many human instrumentalities may be employed, that makes the desolation and solitude of nature wave with fields of plenty, and echo to the joyful cry of the reaper. The world is under a Divine ministry.
2. This is true of the world of mind. The chaos of the human mind is turned into order, light, and intellectual completion, by the agency of the Divine Spirit. True, the man is naturally a student; he is diligent in the pursuit of information, and he has a fine opportunity for mental culture. But who has given him the power of intelligent inquiry, the disposition of diligent study, and the means of education? They are the gift of God. The avenues of the human mind are under the guardianship of the Spirit much more than we imagine, and all the noble visitants that enrich our intellectual life are largely sent by Him. The brooding of the Divine Spirit over the darkest human mind, and the voice of God sounding in its empty abyss will produce light, and, ultimately, the highest manifestation of thought. A noble education is the gift of God, and so are great ideas. A man may have much knowledge and yet great chaos: hence, God not only gives the life-principle to the mind, but also its harmonious development and growth to a complete and orderly mental world.
3. This is true of the world of soul. The chaos of the soul of man can only be restored by the creative ministry of the Holy Spirit. He will create light. He will restore order. He will cause all the nobler faculties of the soul to shine out with their intended splendour. He will make the soul-a fit world for the habitation of all that is heavenly. This ministry of the Spirit should be more recognised by us. Despise not the chaos—the darkness. It may yet be turned into a world of glory—a realm of light, by the kindly hovering of the Divine Spirit.
1. Without form.
2. Without light.
3. Without life.
4. Not without God.
The Spirit of God:—
1. Removes darkness.
2. Imparts beauty.
3. Gives life.
The Spirit of God:—
Without form and void:—
1. A type of many souls.
2. A type of many lives.
3. A type of many books.
4. A type of many sermons.
5. A type of many societies.
All things are empty until God furnisheth them.
SUGGESTIVE ILLUSTRATIONS FOR CHAPTER 1
BY THE REV. WILLIAM ADAMSON
Science, Godless. Godless Science reads nature only as Milton’s daughters did Hebrew; rightly syllabling the sentences, but utterly ignorant of the meaning [S. Coley].
Design! Creation is not caprice or chance. It is design. The footprints on the sands of time speak of design, for geology admits that her discoveries all are based upon design. And this verse, as the whole creation narrative, confirms the admission of science as to design. Therefore both the Revelation of God and the Revelation of Nature go hand in hand. The one has on its bosom the finger marks of God, the other wears in its heart the footprints of God. Both of them sketch cartoons more wonderful than Raphael; friezes grander than those of Parthenon; sculptures more awe-inspiring than those of Karnac and Baalbec; which then is the higher? Surely, Revelation. And why?
(1.) Because Revelation alone can tell the design. Nature is a riddle without revelation:—A Dædalian labyrinth with Genesis 1:1 for its gold thread. I may admire the intricate mechanism of machinery; or even part of the design hanging from the loom; but all is apparent confusion until the master takes me to the office, places plans before me, and so discloses the design. Revelation is that plan—that key by which man is able to unlock the arcana of nature’s loom.
(2.) Because that design is the law of Christ. All are parts of one mighty creation, of which Christ is the centre. He is the Alpha and the Omega—the eternal pivot of creation, like Job’s luminous hinge (chimeh, a pivot), known as Alcyone, around which Madler has established that the universe revolves in wondrous circuit, and of which Jehovah asks the patriarch: “Canst thou bind the sweet influences of the Pleiades?” The Pythagorean idea of the “music of the spheres” has its origin after all from the design displayed by Revelation. And it is that design—that Divine law in Nature we accept; not Darwin’s theory of development—not Powell’s universal dominion of law—not Wallace’s “law a necessity of things.” When he asserts that he is merely saying a loud Amen! to the simple, sublime, and sufficient solution that the grand ideal of Revelation and Nature is the glory of the God-man, who is the brightness of the Father’s glory and the express image of His person.
As Layard and Rawlinson have proved the truth of the Scripture narrative from relics left behind in the mounds of Khorsabad and Temples of Memphis and Thebes—as the Palestine Exploration have established the truth of the sacred assertions as to ancient Jebus, and the huge foundation stone and water seas of Solomon’s temple—as Professor Porter has substantiated the Mosaic account of the Giant Cities of Bashan by discovering the ruins of these vast stone fortresses, towns—and, as Mr. George Smith has, by exploring the ruins of Nineveh and Babylon, confirmed the Noachic narrative of the Deluge from the brick and tile slates in broken fragments; so pious-minded geologists have dived among the pages of Nature’s volume, and from the remains of the Pre-Adamite world constructed the successive scenery wrapt up in Genesis 1:1-2. Still, even then they are as far as ever from the Beginning, and are glad to fall back upon the simple, sublime, and sufficient solution: In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth.
The mind of the atheist is like a vessel which has been filled with paint, and into which water is subsequently poured; it retains its prejudices, so that its conclusions are affected by them.
The owlet Atheism,
Sailing on obscene wings across the moon,
Drops his blue-fringed lids and shuts them close,
And, hooting at the glorious sun in Heaven,
Cries out, “Where is it?” [S. T. Coleridge].
If heathenism is like the North Pole in its natural characteristics, by laying too much stress upon the bare letter of creation (see Romans 1:0); then Atheism is like the North Pole, by laying too little stress. It, i.e. positive philosophy—as Mr. Harrison and John Stuart Mill euphoniously style Atheism—strangles all life, and leaves creation like the inaccessible and impenetrable wilds of the Antartic Circle—bleak, dreary, dead.
If the charge has been true in past times that some students of Revelation wished to make Revelation an inverted pyramid resting on a narrower apex; it is certainly far more justifiable to assert that these Atomic philosophers would make Revelation like a broken pillar in the churchyard of death; whereas God has made it a temple—not only radiant with fair colours and radiating with sapphires—but teeming with living worshippers.
Cultivation. The eye can be trained to discover beauty in the landscape, and in works of art—or it may have its many powers of vision impaired and destroyed, by gazing at the sun, or on the snow. So man may train his mind to discern the beauties of Divine wisdom, power, and goodness in the processes of nature. Or still further to pursue this subject: if a person in perversity shuts out the light from his dwelling, and lives for years in darkness, the effect would be that eventually he would grow sickly and wretched—like those plants which are reared in cellars, from which all sunlight is rigidly excluded. The mind that shuts out God from nature, becomes sickly, and loses the power of enjoying the sunlight. It is therefore not only pleasing, but profitable to cultivate the habit of tracing tracks of the Divine foot-prints on Nature’s breast. To him, who can read it aright, that surface is covered with celestial types and prophetic hieroglyphics—marked like the dial-plate of a watch. Not that Nature has on her page hieroglyphics, which spell out a pardon for sin. Those marks only tell of His wisdom, benevolence, and majesty; and so far as Nature is concerned, the proposition, that must be solved before my dying pillow can be peace, remains unexplicated—unreconciled—and unknown.
Reason and Revelation. Sailing over the great oceans of our earth, the voyager sometimes sees on the far-off horizon a thin mist-cloud or streak, which to my telescope leaps up a green island, cut off from the mainland by a broad belt of waters, too broad to look across, and whose indwellers have no means of passage, well represents our world regarded apart from revelation. You stand on the highest hill in the island, and you see nothing but the girdling sea. The people of the island “dwell alone.” There are traditions, it may be, of white-sailed ships, and of visitors from lands across the ocean; but these traditions belong to the far-vanished past. The little sea girt island sits in the sea, alone, and is sundered from all intercourse, other than chance or shipwreck bring from the mainland. Now, as I have said, may I not thus symbolize our earth apart from the Bible? To sense and unaided reason, we too seem to occupy just such an ocean-girt island, divided and sundered from the spirit-realms. But it is not so. This earth of ours is not the lonely place it seems. Far up above its din, and tumult, and dust,—
“Beyond the glittering starry skies,”
is a pure and blessed world—sinless, sorrowless—where “the High and Lofty One” unveils His glory to the blessed dwellers; and with this high and holy, and radiant world we are connected. Do you ask me how? My answer is, by the mediation of Christ, our High-Priest—by the thousand thousand cries of prayer—by the magnanimous abiding of the Holy Spirit—by heaven peopled from earth—by the ministration of angelic visits—by the well-nigh infinite outgoings of grace [Grosart].
Reason and Faith. We would represent Reason and Faith as twin-born; the one in form and features the image of manly beauty—the other, of feminine grace and gentleness; but to each of whom, alas! is allotted a sad privation. While the bright eyes of Reason are full of piercing and restless intelligence, his ear is closed to sound; and while Faith has an ear of exquisite delicacy, on her sightless orbs, as she lifts them towards heaven, the sunbeams play in vain. Hand in hand the brother and sister, in all mutual love, pursue their way through a world on which, like ours, day breaks and night falls alternate; by day the eyes of Reason are the guide of Faith, and by night the ear of faith is the guide of Reason. As is wont with those who labour under these privations respectively, Reason is apt to be eager, impetuous, impatient of that instruction which his infirmity will not permit him readily to apprehend; while Faith, gentle and docile, is ever willing to listen to the voice by which alone truth and wisdom can effectually reach her [Prof. Rogers].
Sciences, Human. Human sciences are like gaslights in the streets. They serve our purpose only while the heavens are dark. The brighter the sky, the more dim and useless they become. When noontide floods the town, they are buried though they burn. No sooner will the sun of absolute truth break on the firmament of our souls, than all the lights of our poor logic shall go out. Knowledge, it shall vanish away [Dr. Thomas].
Science only an Agent. We glory in the conquests of science, but we look upon science as merely an agent. Science may be a botanist, but who started the vital fluid in the veins of the herb and flower? Science may be a geologist, but who wrote the rock-covered page, whose hieroglyphics she would translate? Science may be an astronomer, but who built the worlds, who projected the comets, whose mysterious path she traces? Science may be an agriculturist, she may open the earth’s breast and cast in most precious seed, but if the fountains of dew be stayed, Science herself will die of thirst! Be it observed, then, that science is an agent, not a cause, and that while we rejoice in its agency, we are bound to acknowledge the goodness of the INFINITE INTELLIGENCE [Dr. J. Parker].
Creation. A gentleman, being invited to accompany a distinguished person to see a grand building, erected by Sir Christopher Hatton, desired to be excused and to sit still, looking on a flower he held in his hand, “For,” said he, “I see more of God in this flower than in all the beautiful edifices in the world.”
Not a flower
But shows some touch. in freckled streak or stain
Of His unrivalled pencil. He inspires
Their balmy odours, and imparts their hues,
And bathes their eyes with nectar, and includes,
In grains as countless as the seaside sands,
The forms with which He sprinkles all the earth [Cowper].
Creation was Adam’s library; God bade him read the interesting volumes of His works, which were designed to make known the Divine character [Legh Richmond].
Atheism Modern. The Atheism of this age is chiefly founded upon the absurd fallacy that the idea of law in Nature excludes the idea of God in Nature. As well might they say the code of Napoleon in France excludes the idea of Napoleon from France. To me, no intuition is clearer than this—that intelligent control everywhere manifests the presence of a ruling mind. To me, physical law, in its permanence, expresses the immutable persistence of His will; in its wise adjustments, the infinite science of His intellect, in its kindly adaptations, the benevolence of His heart [Coley].
Reason! Atheism! Whilst expressing sorrow, the thoughtful and pious student of science can hardly refrain from smiling at the extreme deductions of what is called “the Modern School of Philosophy.” This modern school has its numerous and divergent theories on the Origin of Nature; but all these diversities have their common root “in the evil heart of unbelief.” A system of Metaphysics and Psychology based entirely on the perceptions of the senses, like that of Spencer, Bain, and Mill; a system of Morals recognising no test of duty but public utility in the interest of the race; the natural evolution of Darwin—the Lucretian doctrines of Tyndall—the automatous frogs of Mr. Huxley—the religion of humanity of Congreve and Conte—the lamentations of Gregg over the enigmas of life—and Arnold’s last caricature of the Deity, have all a common source. That source is “antagonism to the Cosmogony of the Bible.” Their views are the natural growth of a false and shallow philosophy, which excludes from its sphere of vision the very conception of a power in Nature, yet ABOVE Nature, and which denies the evidence of the spiritual origin and destiny of our being. To borrow an illustration from a German seer, men see the spinning-wheel but not the spindle, and then declaim against the senseless clatter of the world. We regard them with sorrow, as the disciples of a corrupt and degraded school of thought, who are resolved not to see the bright, unfading star of hope—
To quench the only ray that cheered the earth,
And leave mankind in night which has no star.
Darkness and Deep! Nothing could be more erroneous than the impression that by “deep” is meant the “waters” of Genesis 1:6. By “deep” here is meant the fluid surface of the earth—upon which darkness was. But what does the phrase import? Does it mean
(1.) Nothing more than a mere negation? or
(2) Something more than a mere negation, i.e., obstruction. AGAIN, was it (a) Nothing more than a mere natural obstruction? or (b) Something more than a mere natural obstruction, i.e., a Satanic struggle to suspend the Divine Creative procedure? This brings up the subtle speculation as to whether Satan had fallen previously to the “deep,” when—
… What were seas
Unsounded, were of half their waters drained,
And what were wildernesses ocean beds;
And mountain ranges, from beneath upheaved,
Clave with their granite peaks primeval plains,
And rose sublime into the water floods.
Floods overflow’d themselves with seas of mist,
Which swathed in darkness all terrestrial things,
Once more unfurnished—empty—void, and vast.
Some authors maintain that he had, and that the obstruction was not only “natural,” but “angelic”—i.e., that Satan, as the prince of darkness, endeavoured to hinder the great development of Creative Providence. Others have taken up the view that the temptation in Eden was the first overt act of rebellion on Satan’s part. If this be so, it is clear that the obstruction was only “natural”—darkness was upon the face of the deep. Whichever is correct, in whole or in part, it seems clear to us that the “darkness” has a double reflection, backwards and forwards:
(1.) Light must ever precede ere there can be darkness; and
(2.) Darkness must ever be the shadow of coming light, as holding it back. And two things follow upon this:—
1. It sweeps away entirely the whole notion that the “light” in Genesis 1:3 means “primal origination.” Did light exist previous to the Divine fiat in Genesis 1:3? It did; for as the Prince of Light existed before the prince of darkness, so did the natural light before the natural darkness.
2. It confirms the view that between Genesis 1:1-2 there was a long period (or series) of successive eras of light and darkness, ending in that chaotic gloom of Genesis 1:2, which preceded God’s recreative command:—
Such universal chaos reigned without;
Within, the embryo of a world.
That chaotic gloom was night, figurative of the morning struggle between light and darkness now. There is an endless strife between moral light and darkness. The armies of light and darkness are contending in fierce fight. Darkness is upon the face of the deep; but the night—the moral night—of evil is far spent (Romans 13:0). The triumph of the prince of darkness and his phalanxes of sin is near its close. The dawn is near. The Divine fiat will soon be heard: “Let there be light;” for at eventide (i.e., our dark hour before the dawn) it shall be light (Zechariah 14:7). Darkness overtakes not that day, for there shall be no more night (Revelation 21:0); but the Lord shall be the Everlasting Light (Isaiah 60:19). Between the “original creation” of light and the terrestrial era in Genesis 1:2 there may have been cycles of millennial days completed.
Genesis 1:3. And God said] Better (because of the strong waw, and position of verb): “Then said God” = “the state of things being as just described.” From this point the drama is unfolded to the eye. Light] The orig. is indeed inimitable: Yehi’ôr, wá-yehi ʼôr. The nearest approach in Eng. is perh: “Exist, light!—then exists light”
Genesis 1:4. Good] Also: “fair,” “fine,” “beautiful;” Sept. Kalon.
Genesis 1:5. And the e. and the m. were] A dull rendering. The Heb. marks sequence, with some latitude of application, “And so”—or—“And then it became e … became m. one day.”
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Genesis 1:3-5
THE CREATION OF LIGHT
I. Divinely produced. “And God said, Let there be light.”
1. For the protection of life. The Divine Being is gradually preparing the infant world for the habitation of living things. Hence, prior to their creation, He beneficently makes everything ready for their advent. Plants could not live without light; without it, the flowers would soon wither. Even in a brief night they close their petals, and will only open them again at the gentle approach of the morning light. Nor could man survive in continued darkness. A sad depression would rest upon his soul. A weird monotony would come upon his life. He would long for the grave, and soon would his longings be at rest, as life under such conditions would be impossible, and certainly unbearable.
2. For the enjoyment of life. Even if man was permitted to live for a short space of time in a dark world, what practical use could he make of life, and what enjoyment could he have in it? He would not be able to pursue any commercial enterprise. He could not spend his time in study. He would not be able to read. He would not be able to write. For if darkness had remained upon the earth from its creation, an invention for the giving of light would have been impossible, nor would men have been favoured with the artificial advantages now possessed by the blind. It is light that makes the world so beautiful, and that enables the artist to perceive its grandeur, and reproduce it on his canvas. Light is one of God’s best gifts to the world.
(1.) It is inexpensive. The world has to pay for the light produced by man; that created by God, we get for nothing. Man has limitations; God has none. Man is selfish; God is beneficent.
(2.) It is extensive. It floods the universe. It is the heritage of the poor equally with the rich; it enters the hut as well as the palace.
(3.) It is welcome. The light of morning is welcome to the mariner, who has been tossed on the great deep through the dark and stormy night; to the weary sufferer, whose pain has rendered sleep impossible; and how often has the morning dawn over the distant hills awakened the rapture of poetic souls as they have been watching from an eminence the outgoings of the morning.
3. For the instruction of life. Light is not merely a protection. It is not only an enjoyment. It is also an instructor. It is an emblem. It is an emblem of God, it’s Author, who is the Eternal Light. It is an emblem of truth. It is an emblem of goodness. It is an emblem of heaven. It is an emblem of beneficence. It is calculated to teach the world the most important lessons it can possibly learn. All the gifts of God are teachers as well as benefactors. He leads men through enjoyment into instruction.
II. Divinely approved. “And God saw the light, that it was good.”
1. It was good in itself. The light was pure. It was clear. It was not so fierce as to injure. It was not so weak as to be ineffectual. It was not so loud in its advent as to disturb. It was noiseless. It was abundant. There is a great force in light, and yet nothing is more gentle; hence it was as the offspring of Divine power.
2. It was good because adapted to the purpose contemplated by it. Nothing else could more efficiently have accomplished its purpose toward the life of man. Nothing else could have supplied its place in the universe. It is allied to religious ideas. It is allied to scientific investigation. It is allied to every practical subject of life. Hence it is good because adapted to its purpose, deep in its meaning, wide in its realm, happy in its influence, and educational in its tendency.
3. We see here that the Divine Being carefully scrutinises the work of his hands. When He had created light, He saw that it was good. May we not learn a lesson here, to pause after our daily toil, to inspect and review its worth. Every act of life should be followed by contemplation. It is criminal folly to allow years to pass without inquiry into the moral quality of our work. He who makes a daily survey of his toil will be able to make a daily improvement, and secure the daily approval of his conscience.
III. Divinely proportioned. “And God called the light day, and the darkness he called night.”
1. The light was indicative of day. In this light man was to work. The light ever active would rebuke indolence. By this light man was to read. In this light man was to order his moral conduct. Through this light man was to walk to the eternal light.
2. The removal of light was indicative of night. In this night man was to rest from the excitement of pleasure, and the anxiety of toil. Its darkness was to make him feel the need of a Divine protection. Let no man seek to reverse the order of God’s universe, by turning day into night, or night into day, if he does, a sure retribution will follow him. Some preachers say that they can study better at night. If they can, it is the result of habit, and not the natural outcome of their physical constitution. God evidently thinks that men can rest better at night, and work better in the day-time. Hence He puts out the great light, and bids the world repose under the care of Him who neither slumbereth or sleepeth.
SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS ON THE VERSES
Verse 3. Light is the first of all creatures that God makes, as being itself most generally useful, especially to the end which God principally aimed at, which was to make all the rest of his works visible.
God loves to do all His works in the light.
1. He dwells in the light (1 Timothy 6:16).
2. Because His works are perfect, and therefore, able to endure the light (John 3:21).
3. In order that He may be seen in His works.
The study of God’s work is:—
3. Necessary. Light is an emblem of God:—
3. Diffused in an instant.
4. Searching all places.
5. Useful for direction and comfort. How much more is God the author of wisdom, and understanding, the inward light of the soul.
There was nothing but deformity till God brought beauty into the world.
God often brings light out of darkness:—
1. The light of day from the darkness of night.
2. The light of prosperity from the darkness of affliction.
3. The light of knowledge from the darkness of ignorance.
4. The light of peace from the darkness of strife.
Was light created before the creation of the sun, and other luminous bodies? That this is possible has been shown by Dr. McCaul, “Aids to Faith,” p. 210; but very probably the creation of the sun is related in Genesis 1:1, where under the word heaven (or heavens), may be comprehended the whole visible universe of sun, moon, and stars. Now, the history is going on to the adaptation of the earth for man’s abode. In Genesis 1:2, a thick darkness had enveloped it. In this 3rd verse the darkness is dispelled by the word of God, the light is separated from the darkness, and the regular succession of day and night is established. Still, probably, there remains a clouded atmosphere, or other obstacle to the full vision of sun and sky. It is not till the fourth day that their impediments are removed, and the sun appears to the earth as the great luminary of the day, the moon and the stars as ruling the night. Light may, perhaps, have been created before the sun. Yet the statement, that on the first day, not only was there light, but the succession of day and night, seems to prove that the creation of the sun was “in the beginning,” though its visible manifestation in the firmament was not till the fourth day [Speaker’s Commentary].
One or two facts may be mentioned, as confirming the more recent elucidation of this Scripture statement. Humboldt, in describing the beauty of the Zodiacal light, has said—“The Zodiacal light, which rises in a pyramidal form, and constantly contributes by its mild radiance to the external beauty of the tropical nights, is either a vast nebulous ring, rotating between the Earth and Mars, or less probably, the exterior stratum of the solar atmosphere.” “For the last three or four nights, between 10° and 14° of north latitude, the Zodiacal light has appeared with a magnificence which I have never before seen. Long narrow clouds, scattered over the lovely azure of the sky, appeared low down in the horizon, as if in front of a golden curtain, while bright varied tints played from time to time on the higher clouds; it seemed a second sunset. Towards that side of the heavens, the diffused light appeared almost equal to that of the moon in her first quarter.” Not less striking is his description, in another passage, of a cloud well known to astronomers, passing over the heavens luminously and with great rapidity: “The light of the stars being thus utterly shut out, one might suppose that surrounding objects would become, if possible, more indistinct. But no: what was formerly invisible can now be clearly seen; not because of lights from the earth being reflected back by a cloud—for very often there are none,—but in virtue of the light of the cloud itself, which, however faint, is yet a similitude of the dazzling light of the sun. The existence of this illuminating power, though apparently in its debilitude, we discover also—by appearance, at least—among other orbs.” While these facts prove the existence of light without the sun being visible, it may be urged that the light spoken of in Genesis not only made day and night, but it must have been sufficient to sustain life. To suppose that it was adequate to this end involves no violent hypothesis, for neither plant nor animal life is spoken of until there has been a separation of land and water. In the earlier and more recent geological ages the heat was doubtless greater than it is now; and this, taken in connection with a surrounding vapourous atmosphere, and with such light as existed, may have conduced to the development of whatever plant-forms then prevailed. Difficulty in entertaining this view has been greatly lessened by the fact, that not only plant, but animal life may be sustained under conditions of feeble light, great pressure, and intense heat, which were not long ago deemed incredible [Dr. W. Fraser].
In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth. But Genesis 1:16 reads, “God made two great lights.” In the one, we have “bara,” create; in the other, asáh, He made or fashioned, or appointed, of materials or objects already created, or existent, the sun to be a light-bearer; and so also the moon, which is known not to have light either in itself or immediately surrounding it. The Creator adopted and employed for this purpose the sun and moon, and may have introduced, for the first time, such relations as now exist between them and our atmosphere. Adopting the latitude of interpretation, which is warranted by the use of the distinct terms, bara and asáh, we suggest another view. When, after the deluge, God “Set His bow in the cloud to be a token that the waters shall no more become a flood to destroy the earth,” it is not necessarily an inference that the rainbow had never before appeared. As all the physical conditions, on which it depends had existed during man’s history, it may have been visible; and, assuming that it was so, it only received a new historical connection when it was made a token of the covenant. In the same manner the sun and moon and stars may have been visible long before they were appointed to be “for signs and for seasons,” and to fulfil a new historical relation to man, as they ever afterward rule his day and night [Dr. W. Fraser].
Genesis 1:4. God’s view of His works:—
1. To rejoice in them.
2. To support them.
3. To direct them.
Let us review the works of God:—
1. As a good employment for our minds.
2. As a comfort to our souls.
3. As increasing our love for Him.
4. As inspiring us with praise.
The work of God is good:—
1. Because it must answer to the workman.
2. Because no one else can augment its perfection.
3. Because it is the vehicle of truth.
4. If it proves not so to us it is because we are out of harmony with it.
5. Let us try to imitate God in his method of works as far as possible.
Light is good:—
1. Therefore thank God for it.
2. Therefore use it well.
3. Therefore strive to reflect it.
Light and darkness succeed each:—
1. Each useful in its turn.
2. We should prepare for darkness.
3. We may anticipate heaven where there is no night.
Genesis 1:5. All light is not day, nor all darkness night; but light and darkness alternating in a regular order constitute day and night [Augustine].
None but superficial thinkers can take offence at the idea of created things receiving names from God. The name of a thing is the expression of its nature. If the name be given by man, it fixes, in a word, the impression which it makes upon the human mind; but when given by God, it expresses the reality, what the thing is in God’s creation, and the place assigned it there by the side of other things [Keil & Delitzsch].
In what sense is the word “day” to be understood in this narrative? To simplify the subject I make the single issue—is it a period of twenty-four hours, or a period of special character, indefinitely long? The latter theory supposes the word to refer here not so much to duration as to special character—the sort of work done and the changes produced during the period contemplated. Turning our attention to this latter theory, we raise these inquiries:
1. Do the laws of language and especially does the usage of the word “day” permit it? Beyond all question the word “day” is used abundantly (and therefore admits of being used) to denote a period of special character, with no particular reference to its duration. We have a case in this immediate connection (Genesis 2:4) where it is used of the whole creative period; “In the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens.” (See 1 Thessalonians 5:2; 2 Peter 3:12; 2 Corinthians 6:2; Ephesians 4:30, Joel 2:2; Ecclesiastes 7:14.) To set aside this testimony from usage as being inapplicable to the present case, it has been said—i. That here is a succession of days, “first day,” “second day,” and that this requires the usual sense of days of the week. To which the answer is that here are six special periods succeeding each other—a sufficient reason for using the word in the peculiar sense of a period of special character. Each of these periods is distinct from any and all the rest in the character of the work wrought in it. The reason for dividing the creative work into six periods—“days,” rather than into more or fewer, lies in the Divine wisdom as to the best proportion of days of man’s labour to the one day of his rest, the Sabbath. ii. It will also be urged that each of these days is said to be made up of evening and of morning—“The evening and the morning were the first day.” But the strength of this objection comes mainly from mis-translation. The precise thought is not that evening and morning composed or made up one full day; but rather this: There was evening and there was morning—day one, i.e., day number one. There was darkness, and there was light, indicating one of the great creative periods. It is one thing to say, There were alternations of evening and morning—i.e., dark scenes and bright scenes—marking the successive periods of creation, first, second, third; and another to affirm that each of these evenings and mornings made up a day. Let it be considered, moreover, that while in Hebrew, as in English, night and day are often used for the average twelve hours duration of darkness and of light respectively in each twenty-four hours, yet in neither language are the words evening and morning used in this sense, as synonymous both night and day. Indeed, “evening” and “morning” are rather points than periods of time; certainly do not indicate any definite amount of time—any precise number of hours; but are used to denote the two great changes—i.e., from light to darkness, and from darkness to light; in other words, from day to night, and from night to day. Therefore, to make evening and morning, added together, constitute one day is entirely without warrant in either Hebrew or English usage, and cannot be the meaning of these passages in Genesis.
2. Apart from the bearing of geological facts, are there points in the narrative itself which demand or even favour this sense of the word? i. Throughout at least, the first three of these creative epochs, there was no sun-rising and setting to mark off the ordinary day. These, therefore, were not the common human day; but, as Augustine long ago said, these are the days of God—Divine days—measuring off His great creative periods. ii. In some, at least, of these creative epochs, the work done demands more than twenty-four hours. For example, the gathering of the waters from under the heavens into one place, to constitute the seas or oceans, and leave portions of the earth’s surface dry land. Nothing short of absolute miracle could effect this in one human day. But miracle should not be assumed here, the rule of reason and the normal law of God’s operations being never to work a miracle in a case where the ordinary course of nature will accomplish the same results equally well. We must the more surely exclude miracle, and assume the action of natural law only throughout these processes of the creative work, because the very purpose of a protracted, rather than an instantaneous creation, looked manifestly to the enlightenment and joy of those “morning stars,” the “sons of God,” who beheld the scene, then, “sang together and shouted for joy” (Job 38:7.) We may say moreover, in regard to each and all of these six creative periods, that if the holy angels were indeed spectators of these scenes, and if God adjusted His methods of creation to the pupils—these admiring students of His glorious work—then surely we must not think of His compressing them within the period of six human days. Divine days they certainly must have been, sufficiently protracted to afford finite minds scope for intelligent study, admiring contemplation, and as the Bible indicates, most rapturous shouts of joy. In this case, should geology make large demands for time far beyond the ordinary human day, we shall have no occasion to strain the laws of interpretation to bring the record into harmony with such demands [Dr. Cowles].
Arguments for the literal interpretation of the Mosaic day:—“It was evening, and it was morning, the first day,” or, “evening came and morning came, one day,” are terms which can never be made to comport with the theory of indefinite periods; and especially when there follows God’s resting from His works, and hallowing the seventh day, as a day of sabbatical commemorative celebration of the work of the other six. Was that, too, an indefinite period [Dr. Wardlaw].
It is certain that in the fourth commandment, where the days of creation are referred to (Exodus 20:9-11), the six days’ labour and the sabbath spoken of in the ninth and tenth verses, are literal days. By what rule of interpretation can the same word in the next verse be made to mean indefinite periods? Moreover, it seems from Genesis 2:5, compared with Genesis 1:11-12, that it had not rained on the earth until the third day; a fact altogether probable, if the days were of twenty-four hours, but absurd if they were long periods [Hitchcock].
On the supposition that geological discoveries necessitate the admission of a more remote origin and a longer existence to our globe than a few thousands of years, the true explanation lies in the first verse of Genesis, which leaves an undefined interval between the creation of matter and the six days’ work. Why, then, should we not regard the days described by Moses as natural days? Chalmers, Buckland, Sedgwick, Dr. Kurtz, and Archdeacon Pratt and many other writers of eminence, adhere to this view, “that the days of Genesis are literal days; that the ages of geology are passed over silently in the second verse, and that the passage describes a great work of God at the close of the ‘Tertiary Period,’ by which our planet, after long ages, was finally prepared to be the habitation of man.” [Birks].
Again, let it be observed that the whole notion of equality of endurance, or of close succession, of these “days” of Creation, is imaginary, and imported into the narrative. The story of Creation is arranged in these periods, familiar to us; the great personal cause of every step in it is God, and God’s will. But it is as irrevelant and as foolish to inquire minutely into the lower details following on a literal acceptance of the terms used in conveying this great truth to our minds, as it would be to take the same course with the words, “God said,” to inquire in what language He spoke, and to whom. It never can be too much impressed upon the reader that we are, while perusing this account, in a realm separated by a gulf, impassable for human thought, from the matter-of-fact revelations which our senses make to us. We are listening to Him who made the world, as He explains to us in words; the imperfect instruments of our limited thoughts. His, to us, inscrutable procedure [Alford].
And God said. How long did the spirit brood over chaos? When did God say, “Let there be light?” Moses does not tell us. He states results, not processes. He brings the thing produced into close proximity with the producing cause. The instrumentality employed, as well as the time engaged, are not mentioned. Man is not forbidden to enquire concerning these; but Moses did not write to gratify such a spirit. He wrote to teach that it was at the bidding of the Almighty that light dawned—that the waters retired within the limits assigned to them—that the vast continents and mountain chains lifted their heads—that the flowers looked forth in beauty in the valley; and that the great lights of the firmament took each its station on high, and began to run its appointed course in the heavens. It was by this word—in fine—that the world passed through all its various stages of progress from chaos to the wondrous scene of order and beauty which filled the eye of Adam; and the first of these stages of progress was the call to light.
“Let there be light,” said God—and forthwith light,
Ethereal first—of things—quintessence pure—
Sprang from the deep, and from her native east
To journey the airy gloom began,
Sphered in a radiant cloud, for yet the sun
Was not; she in a cloudy tabernacle
Sojourned the while [Milton].
All Nature, (says a thoughtful mind) is one storehouse of parables to the thoughtful mind. Science, even when most careless, can hardly help stumbling on some of them in its way. But the more carefully we weigh its discourses, the richer we shall find them to be in lessons of wisdom. The links which bind the planets to their sun are not so firm as those which bind the outward world of sense and matter to the higher and nobler truths of the spiritual world. Nature is one vast mirror in which we may see the dim reflection of a nobler field of thought than the conflict of jarring atoms, or integrels of atomic force can ever supply. We need first to gaze downward that presently we may look upward; and turning (says Birks) from the shadows to the substance—from things seen and temporal to the unseen and eternal—may veil our faces before the mission of a greatness that is unsearchable and a goodness that is unspeakable, and in the spirit of Christian faith and hope may gaze on the uncreated light, and rejoice with trembling while we adore.
Light! There is more than sublimity in these words; there is prophecy. As it was in the beginning, so shall it be once again before time shall close. The scene here is a predictive type—a germinal budding (to use Bacon’s expression) of the earth’s moral regeneration in a future age, both
(1.) as to the order in which it was done, and
(2.) as to the time it occupied. At present the waters of superstition lie deep on the face of the earth while the spirit has been moving on the space of those waters—the great moral chaos for 6,000 years. The Divine voice shall again be heard saying, “Let there be light;” and the light, which has struggled ineffectually with the darkness for 6,000 years, shall break forth on all sides, and with boundless brilliancy and prevailing power dart its rays to the very ends of the earth, so that the magnificent appeal of the seraphic Isaiah will receive its full consummation: Arise, shine! for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee.
Messiah—riding on the heavens serene—
Sent forth His omnipresent Spirit to brood
Over the troubled deep: then spake aloud,
“Let there be light!”
So shall it as certainly be when the reign of grace has closed—when the brooding of the spirit—for regenerative purposes has ceased. The Divine Word shall send forth His eternal fiat over the moral and spiritual chaos; and straightway shall at His command,
Light pierce the canopy of surging clouds,
And shoot its penetrative influence through
Their masses. Then shall the broken clouds
Melt into colours as a dream.
Creation! Here we have:—
1. The Author;
2. The Order;
3. The Purpose; and
4. The Period of Creation! In all times, and in every heathen land, people have had their thoughts and dreams about the way in which this fair world and yonder bright heavens came to be. One asserts the eternity of matter, another argues that they originated in chance; and both of these rank in wisdom with the quaint explanation of Topsy—that they grew. The Bible clears up all obscurity by declaring that whatever wonders Science may reveal in heaven and earth, the simple truth remains that God created all—not at once, but gradually and progressively: i.e.,
(1.) from the lowest to the most perfect forms of being, and
(2.) during unknown and indefinite periods of time:—
God is a God of Order, though to scan
His works may pose the feeble powers of man.
Nowhere do we meet with conflicting plans. All is created in the order of progression. Throughout all Nature, from the earliest zoophyte and seaweed of the Silurian rocks, to the young animals and plants that came into existence to-day—and from the choice gems that were produced when the earth was without form and void, to the crystals which are now forming—one golden chain of harmony links all together, and identifies all as the work of the same Infinite Mind. As Paley says: “We never find traces of a different creator, or the direction of a different will. All appears to have been the work of ONE, more so than appearances in the most finished machine of human construction; for—
In human works—though laboured on with pain,
A thousand movements scarce one object gain:
In God’s, one single can its end produce,
Yet serves to second, too, some other use.
Darkness and Light! How great is this mystery! And, as the light cast upon a diamond only brings out its beauties, so the light of Science only reveals more and more the mysteries of darkness and light. The prism of late has been unusually rich in new discoveries. The pathway in which Newton took the first main step has been explored anew, and secret marvels have been disclosed in every step of the progress, opening up a wondrous field of beauty in the Divine enquiry: “Knowest thou the pathway of light?” The waves of light, from 4,000 to 6,000 in one inch—these swift undulations, hundreds of millions of millions in one second, baffle and confound the mind. The beautiful gradation of tint and shade deduced from the pure white of the sunbeam—the strange fusion with heat at one end of the scale, the passage into magnetic force at the other—the dark lines that take their stations, like sentinels, in the midst of LIGHT itself, and turn in other cases into lines of double brightness—all stimulate the curiosity of Science, while they disclose depths of mystery in the Scripture flat: “Let there be light!”
“Let there be light!” O’er heaven and earth,
The God, Who first the day-beams poured,
Uttered again His fiat forth,
And shed the Gospel’s light abroad—
And like the dawn, its cheering rays
On rich and poor were meant to fall,
Inspiring their Redeemer’s praise,
In lowly cot and lordly hall.
Light! Biblical criticism and scientific research are more in harmony than ever on the great questions and problems of Genesis. It is McCosh who says that Science and Religion are not opposing citadels, frowning defiance on each other, and their troops brandishing armour in hostile attitude. There was a time when that fratricidal strife was indulged in; but, happily, a change has taken place. Men of science now agree with Herschel that the creation of the world is a subject beyond the range of science; while some are prepared to follow Hugh Miller, when he says that even its present formation is beyond that range. The greater number readily accept the definition of Chalmers—that Nature is the handmaid of Revelation, and that it is for Nature’s students to aid her in washing the hands and feet of Revelation as she struggles against principles of atheism and sin. As the students of Nature, men of science, while maintaining that the truths of Revelation do not inform them of the deductions of Physical Science, as strongly assert
(1.) that the study of Nature teaches not the truths of Revelation; though
(2.) that it does confirm and illustrate those truths. This is especially the case with reference to Genesis 1:0, and notably of the statements as to “LIGHT.” These statements have been held up to ridicule—have been treated with contempt—have been pounded with the scientific mortar mercilessly—have been flung into the crucible of human intellect, set over a fire of scientific knowledge, heated sevenfold; with what result? The account as to “light” has been found to harmonize in every point with the ascertained deductions of Natural Science. The great difficulty was: “How could light be before the sun?” All perplexity has disappeared, as autumn mists before the glorious orb of day. Science has discovered that light is not conditioned by perfected luminous bodies, but that light bodies are conditions of a preceding luminous element: i.e., that light could exist before the sun. Did it so exist in Genesis 1:0?—Revelation alone can tell. Some assert
(1.) that the sun did not exist till the fourth day, and that the light sufficed for all plants previously formed; others declare
(2.) that the sun did exist, but that his light was retarded by the mists and exhalations. It matters not, therefore, whether that light
(1.) emanated from a luminous element—a sea of subtle and elastic ether—
“Immense, imponderable, luminous,
Which—while revealing other things—remains
Itself invisible, impalpable,
(2.) undulated from a luminous body; whether that light
(1.) was independent of the sun, or
(2.) came through mists from the sun. It is, however, worthy of notice that the Hebrew makes a definite distinction between the light of the first and that of the fourth day, from which distinction it is not unreasonable to infer that there is no necessary connection between light and luminousness! i.e., that luminaries are after all only a concentration of particles of light previously existing as light.
Genesis 1:6. Firmament] Or: “expanse;” prop. “something beaten out.” “expanded.”
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Genesis 1:6-8
The word here translated “firmament” more properly means expanse; it comes from a Hebrew verb meaning “to spread out.” It is literally “Let there be something spread out between the waters” Let us review the uses of the atmosphere.
I. It is necessary to the possibility of human life. Had not the waters been divided by the atmosphere, human life could not have existed. There would have been no chamber in the great universe for the occupation of man. The waters would have prevailed. Whereas by the atmosphere the waters below were divided from those above, and space was left for the residence of man. “The Lord stretcheth out the heavens as a curtain, and spreadeth them out as a tent to dwell in,” Isaiah 40:22. Thus in the work of the second day we have abundant evidence that God was preparing the world for the habitation of man. The atmosphere.—
1. Gathers up the vapours.
2. Throws them down again in rain, snow, or dew, when needed.
3. Modifies and renders more beautiful the light of the sun.
4. Sustains life.
II. It is necessary for the practical purposes of life. Suppose that by some miraculous intervention human life was rendered possible without the existence of the atmosphere, yet it would be useless and vain, totally incapable of occupation.
1. The atmosphere is necessary for the transmission of sound. If there were no atmosphere, the bell might be tolled, the cannon might be fired, a thousand voices might render the music of the sweetest hymn, but not the faintest sound would be audible. Thus all commercial, educational and social intercourse would be at an end, as men would not be able to hear each other speak. We seldom think of the worth of the atmosphere around us, never seen, seldom felt, but without which the world would be one vast grave.
2. The atmosphere is necessary for many purposes related to the inferior objects of the world. Without it the plants could not live, our gardens would be divested of useful vegetables, and beautiful flowers. Artificial light would be impossible. The lamp of the mines could not be kindled. The candle of the midnight student could never have been lighted. The smoke of the winter fire would not have ascended into the sky. The bird could not have wended its way to heaven’s gate to utter its morning song, as there would have been no air to sustain its flight.
III. Let us make a practical improvement of the subject.
1. To be thankful for the air we breathe. How often do we recognise the air by which we are surrounded as amongst the chief of our daily blessings, and as the immediate and continued gift of God? How seldom do we utter praise for it. It is unseen; often unheard; hence, almost forgotten. Were it visible or audible it might the more readily and frequently inspire us with gratitude. The gift is daily. It is universal. It should evoke the devotion of the world.
2. To make the best use of the life it preserves. To cultivate a pure life. To speak golden words. To make a true use of all the subordinate ministries of nature.
SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS ON THE VERSES
Genesis 1:6. That the heaven above is understood by the firmament is evident, because God set the sun, moon and stars therein (Genesis 1:14). And that it includes the air also, is evident from the fact that birds are to fly in it (Genesis 1:20).
God gathered the water below into one channel that the earth might be dry and habitable: however in His wisdom and providence he hath so ordered it, that waters issuing out from the seas by secret passages, and breaking out into fountains, and rivers, may thereby make fruitful the valleys and lower parts of the earth; yet we know that they reach not to the higher grounds, much less to the tops of the hills. It was, therefore, needful that some water should be carried on high above the hills; that from thence they might distil in showers upon the higher places of the earth to moisten them, that no part thereof might remain unfruitful [J. White].
The sky according to optical appearance:—
1. Carpet (Psalms 104:2).
2. A Curtain (Isaiah 40:22).
3. A transparent work of sapphire (Exodus 24:10).
4. A molten looking glass (Job 37:18).
1. Once boundless.
2. Once useless.
3. Now fruitful.
4. Now traversed.
The gathering together of the waters—
1. Some think that the earth was a plain without hills, that the waters might the more speedily run together; and that the present inequality in the land began after the flood.
2. That the waters were dried up by the fervent heat of the sun.
3. That the earth was dried up by a mighty wind, as after the deluge.
4. That it was done by the direct command of God.
God’s speaking is His making. Word and power go together with Him.
Genesis 1:7. We must acknowledge both the rain and the fruitfulness of the earth as from God.
1. By seeking them at His hand (James 5:17).
2. By returning thanks to Him for them, as blessings of inestimable value, the want of which would ruin the world in one year.
The firmament is a partition between waters and waters.
The firmament doth its duty at God’s command, admirably to preserve creatures, and abides.
Genesis 1:8. God who gives being best gives the name to things. Their natures are well known to Him … The second day is God’s creature as the first … Work and day should lead us more to know God their Maker.
Day and night continue—
1. Because the same power that created continues them.
2. Because God is neither capable of error or inconstancy.
3. Learn to regard the Divine Being as immutable.
I. The speaking.
II. The dividing.
III. The naming.
Heaven! Genesis 1:8. Look above you, and in the over-arching firmament read the truth of an all-pervading Providence. “Yon sky,” says Gill, “is God’s outspread hand, and the glittering stars are the jewels on the fingers of the Almighty.” Do you not see that His hand closes round you on all sides? you cannot go where universal love shines not? As Luther remarked: “I was at my window, and saw the stars, and the sky, and that vast and glorious firmament in which the Lord has placed them. I could nowhere discover the columns on which the Master has supported His immense vault, and yet the heavens did not fall. I beheld thick clouds hanging above us like a vast sea, and I could perceive neither ground on which they reposed, nor cords by which they were suspended, and yet they did not fall upon us. Why? Because
“There is a power,
Unseen, that rules the illimitable world,
That guides its motion from the brightest star
To the least dust of this sin-tainted mould.”—Thomson.
Mountains! Genesis 1:9. Fancy the mountains brought down to the level of a uniform plane. Conceive no peaks soaring aloft into the regions of perpetual snow—no declivities, leading the wanderer in a few hours from Arctic colds to the genial mildness of an Italian sky. Picture no precipitous streams, whose foaming waters as they bound along first reflect the dark pine in their crystal mirror, then the sturdy oak, then the noble chestnut, or the graceful laurel. How monotonous would be the landscape! how uniform the character of organic life over vast tracts of country, where new vegetation—thanks to the perpetual changes of elevation and aspect of the soil—is seen revelling in endless multiplicity of forms. But what if earth
“Be but the shadow of heaven, and things therein,
Each to other like, more than on earth is thought.”
Genesis 1:11. Kind] Prop. “form” or “shape,” hence “species,” “kind.” Comp. 1 Corinthians 15:38, where note the aorist tense = “as it (originally) pleased him:”—a hint on “the perpetuity of species.”
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Genesis 1:9-13
THE SEA AND THE DRY LAND
I. The Sea. “And God said, Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place.”
1. The method of their location. The great waters which covered the earth were swept into one place, and were environed by the decree and power of God, so that their wild waves would not advance further than the Divine permission. This allocation of the waters may have been instrumentally accomplished by volcanic agency. The land may have been broken up, and, amidst the general crash, the waters may have rushed to their destined home. When it is said that they were gathered into one place, it simply intimates the interdependence of seas and rivers, and also their unity as contrasted with the dry land.
2. The degree of their proportion. We must not imagine that the limit and proportion of the sea to dry land is arbitrary—that it is fixed by chance, but by the utmost exactitude. If the sea were more or less in extent it would be of great injury to the world. If it were smaller, the earth would cease to be verdant and fruitful, as there would not be sufficient water to supply our rivers and streams, or to distil upon the fields. If the sea was larger, the earth would become a vast uninhabitable marsh, from the over abundance of rain. Hence, we see how needful it is that there should be a due proportion between the sea and dry land, and the wisdom and goodness of the Creator, in that it is established so exactly and beneficently.
3. The extent of their utility. They not only give fertility to the earth, but they answer a thousand social and commercial purposes. The sea is the highway of the nations. It unites the world in the sympathy of common wants; in the hope of common friendships; and through travel on its waters, men gather a breadth of thought and life, that otherwise, would be impossible to them. The men who go down to the sea in ships, carry on the great business of the world. If they were to cease their occupation, society would receive a serious check. Many of the necessities of life—many of our home comforts are imported from foreign shores, and these we could ill afford to dispense with. Not only are our trade relationships sustained by the passage of vessels from shore to shore, but also our political. In this way, other people see our enterprise, and gather an idea of our national prowess. Especially have we, as a nation, cause to be thankful for the billows which surround our Island home, as our protection from the invasion of a foreign foe, and as our discipline in the event of war. True, the seas of the world are often strewn with wrecks, caused either by fire or storm; they are the resting place of a vast army of once living creatures; they separate loving hearts; but notwithstanding, in the present condition of society, they are far more the occasion of joy and help, than of sorrow or impediment. They make the nations brotherly. But the time is coming when there will be no more sea; its commerce will be ended, and men, living in one great home, will never hear the mutter of the storm, or the music of wave.
II. The dry land.
1. The dry land was made to appear. The land had been created before, but it was covered with a vast expanse of water. Now the waters are removed, the earth is unveiled, and dry land appears at the call of God. Even when things are created, when they merely exist, the Divine call must educate them into the full exercise of their utility, and into the complete manifestation of their beauty. The call of God gives harmony, adaptation, utility, perfection to all human being. It can command the sea into one place of repose. So it can remove the tide of passion from the soul, and make all that is good in human nature to appear.
2. It was made to be verdant. “And let the earth bring forth grass.” The plants now created are divided into three classes: grass, herb, and tree. In the first, the seed is not noticed, as not obvious to the eye. In the second, the seed is the striking characteristic. In the third, the fruit. This division is simple and natural. It proceeds upon two concurrent marks, the structure and the seed. This division corresponds with certain classes in our present systems of botany. But it is much less simple and complex. Thus was laid the beautiful carpet of green, that is now spread throughout the world, and that is so welcome to the eye of man. God ordered its colour, that it might be the most restful to human vision. When the eye is weak, we often place a green shade over it to obtain ease. Nature might have been clad in a garment gay and unwelcome to the vision of man, but not so, she is either white in the purity of snow, or green in the verdure of spring.—
“He makes the grass the hills adorn,
And clothes the smiling fields with corn.”
3. It was made to be fruitful. “And the fruit tree yielding fruit.” The earth is not merely verdant and beautiful to look at, but it is also fruitful and good for the supply of human want. It presents attractions to the eye. But even these are designed to win man, that they may satisfy his temporal need. Nature appears friendly to man, that she may gain his confidence, invite his study, and minister to the removal of his poverty.
III. And it was good.
1. For the life and health of man.
2. For the beauty of the universe.
3. For the commerce and produce of the nations.
I. That it is the result of a combined instrumentality.
1. There was the Divine agency. It was the Power of God that gave seed and life to the earth. For it is very certain that the earth could not have produced grass, and herb, and tree of itself. But when empowered by the Divine mandate there would be no limit to its verdure and fertility.
2. There was the instrumentality of the earth. “And God said, let the earth bring forth grass, &c. So when called by God the most barren instrumentalities become life-giving and verdant. When the Divine Being is about to enrich men, he gives them the power to help themselves. The soil that is to be fruitful must aid the growth of its own seed.
II. It is germinal in the condition of its growth. “Seed.” Fertility never comes all at once. God does not give man blade of grass or tree in full growth, but the seeds from which they are to spring. Germs are a Divine gift. This is not only true in the physical universe, but the mental and the moral. God does not give man a great enterprise, but the first hint of it. He does not make men splendid preachers all at once, but gives only the germinal conditions of the same. Hence, He finds employment for the world. The cultivation of germs is the grandest employment in which men can be engaged.
III. It is fruitful in the purpose of its life. “Yielding fruit.”
1. Life must not always remain germinal. The seed must not alway remain seed. It must expand, develope. This must be the case mentally and morally. Life, when healthy and vigorous, is always progressive and fruitful. The world is full of men who have great thoughts and enterprises in the germ, but they never come to perfection. The fruit must be:—
IV. It is distinctive in its species and development. “Fruit after his kind.” What will Mr. Darwin say to this? Is it not a refutation of his elaborate theory on the origin of species. The growth will always be of the same kind as the seed. There may be variation in the direction and expression of the germinal life, but its original species is unchanged. This is true in the garden of the soul. Every seed produces fruit after its kind.
SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS ON THE VERSES
Genesis 1:9. We must learn to leave our private sphere of life to enhance the common good:—
1. Because all creatures are ordained, not for themselves, but for God’s honour, for their mutual support, and for the preservation of the community.
2. Because we enjoy nothing in our own exclusive right, but have all of God’s free gift.
3. Because the applying of ourselves to the furthering of a common good, is our greatest honour, profit and safety.
All creatures in the world obey the Voice of God:—
1. Why should that voice not command them, which made them.
2. Otherwise, it were impossible for God to do all things in righteousness.
3. Let us tremble at the Power of Him whom the winds and seas obey.
Let all men lay it to heart, and bless the Author of this great mercy, when they look upon the firm foundation of their houses, the fruits of the grounds, the increase of their cattle; when they enjoy the air to breathe in, the dry ground to walk on, and the seas to wade in. And let men walk in fear before that God who might as easily let loose the sea, as keep it within the bounds that He hath set [J. White].
The use of the sea:—
1. To fill the hearts of men with fear of that Great God, by beholding so vast a creature ordered by His power.
2. By observing that by it way is made to the discovering of the large circuit of the earth.
3. Beneficial to the life of man by enlarging his sphere of work and intercourse.
Genesis 1:10. To God belongs the naming as the making of His creatures; the seas are the waters gathered into their due place. Good is this globe:—
1. Suitable unto God’s mind.
2. Suitable to His own idea of it.
3. Suitable for the residence of man. The beauty of the earth; the sublimity of the sea. The creatures of God’s making are good.
Genesis 1:11. It is God’s word that makes the earth fruitful. Propagation of fruit, as well as the first being of it, is by God’s word; He makes the seed and enables it to multiply.
Genesis 1:12. God will have nothing barren or unprofitable:—
1. Not the earth.
2. Not the herbs nor plants.
3. Not the beasts, fishes, fowls.
4. Not the sun, moon, nor stars, which cherish all things by their light.
5. Certainly not man. Why?
1. Because all things were made to be fruitful.
2. That they may testify to the overflowing bounty of God.
Even the grass, herbs, trees, are God’s creatures:—
1. Let us take notice of them as such.—
(1.) Their infinite variety.
(2.) Their beautiful shape.
(3.) Their marvellous growth.
(4.) Their life, which kings cannot give nor art imitate. God draws life out of death.
1. God can do it—He is the Life.
2. It is fit He should do it to His glory.
3. Let not the Church despair.
God provides for all his creatures, that though they decay daily, yet they shall not wholly perish:—
1. To shew His own unchangeable continuance by the mutability of His creatures.
2. To quicken us into a desire for heaven, where all things are constant and durable.
3. To shew, in the variety of His works, His eternal wisdom.
The teaching of the plants—
1. To have a life full of good seed.
2. To let the goodness of our moral nature come to maturity.
3. To care for our posterity.
4. To aid the life and enjoyment of others.
Fruit resembles the nature of the stock from which it comes—
1. Therefore let good men shew forth the renewing of their nature by the works of the spirit.
2. Abhor all hypocrisy.
Genesis 1:13. The evening—
1. A time for thought.
2. A time for prayer.
3. A time for fear.
4. An emblem of life.
1. A time for praise.
2. A time for hope.
3. A time for resolution.
4. A time for work.
Land and Water! Genesis 1:10. The actual distribution of sea and land over the surface of the globe is of the highest importance to the present condition of organic life. As Hartwig asserts, if the ocean were considerably smaller, or if Asia and America were concentrated within the tropics, the tides—the oceanic currents—and the meteorological phenomena, on which the existence of the vegetable and animal kingdoms depend, would be so profoundly modified, that it is extremely doubtful whether man could have existed. It is absolutely certain that he could never have risen to a high degree of civilization. But now nations, by means of commerce and missionary enterprise, are holding communion with nations and mutually enriching each other by the stores of knowledge, experience, and religious education which they have each accumulated apart. Christianity is rapidly melting the separate nationalities into one; but the fusion of these discordant elements into one glorious harmony—pure as sunlight—inspiring as a strain of music—will never be accomplished until the Son of God shall come in the clouds of heaven to set His throne upon the borders of the sea of glass mingled with fire—
“And on that joyous shore
Our lightened hearts shall know
The life of long ago;
The sorrow-burdened past shall fade for evermore.”
Flowers! Genesis 1:11. A pleasant writer tells of a Texas gentleman who had the misfortune to be an unbeliever. One day he was walking in the woods reading the writings of Plato. He came to where the great writer uses the great phrase, “Geometrizing.” He thought to himself, “If I could only see plan and order in God’s works, I could be a believer.” Just then he saw a little “Texas star” at his feet. He picked it up, and thoughtlessly began to count its petals. He found there were five. He counted the stamens, and there were five of them, He counted the divisions at the base of the flower, and there were five of them. He then set about multiplying these three fives to see how many chances there were of a flower being brought into existence without the aid of mind, and having in it these three fives. The chances against it were one hundred and twenty-five to one. He thought that was very strange. He examined another flower, and found it the same. He multiplied one hundred and twenty-five by itself to see how many chances there were against there being two flowers, each having these exact relations of numbers. He found the chances against it were thirteen thousand six hundred and twenty-five to one. But all around him there were multitudes of these little flowers; they had been growing and blooming there for years. Now, he thought, this shows the order of intelligence; the mind that has ordained it is GOD. And so he shut up his book, and picked up the little flower, and kissed it, and exclaimed, “Bloom on, little flowers; sing on, little birds; you have a God, and I have a God; the God that made these little flowers made me.”
Your voiceless lips, O flowers, are living preachers;
Each cup a pulpit—every leaf a book.”—Longfellow.
Flowers! Genesis 1:12. Nothing can equal the immense variety of flowers—their charming colours—or their delicious fragrance. Without the flowers, the variety of perfumes which regale our sense of smell would be but small; without them its faculties of enjoyment would not have harmonized with the outer world. Those who have studied most about flowers reckon that there are about 80,000 different kinds already known. An English gentleman, who was travelling in Persia lately, says that on one occasion he was invited into the garden to breakfast, where the flowers were so numerous that a great pile of rose-leaves was heaped up for a table before each guest. A carpet was laid over each pile. Cleopatra, the beautiful but profligate queen of Egypt, made a very poor use of the flowers which God in His goodness has caused to grow for our pleasure, when she wanted to give a splendid feast to Antony, the great Roman general, she procured roses enough to cover the floor of the large dining hall three feet thick all over; mats were then spread over the floor, and the guests sat down to feast. This was a pitiful return to Him who has
“Mantled the green earth with flowers,
Linking our hearts to nature!”—Hemans.
Nature! Genesis 1:12. When we see a cottage with honeysuckle and roses twined round its porch, and bright flowers trained in its windows and growing in its little garden plot in front, it is a sign to us, says one, that the evils of poverty are unknown in that home—that the inmates are raised above the fear of want—and that, having the necessary food and raiment provided for them, the head of the home is at leisure and liberty to devote his care to the simple pleasures of natural life. And so, when we see in this great house—this earth of ours—bright flowers growing in every window and doorway, and associated with all the uses of domestic economy, we cannot but regard the circumstance as a proof that the great Householder attends both to the lower and to the higher wants of His family. In other words, if God has provided the superfluities of nature—i.e., flowers—it is a pledge and guarantee that He will provide the things which are necessary—that, in fact, food and raiment shall not be wanting.
“Heart, that cannot, for cares that press,
Sing with the bird, or thy Maker bless”
As the flowers may, blooming sweet,
With never an eye but God’s to greet
Their beauty and freshness, learn to trust!
Lift thy thought from the earthy dust!
Flower-lessons! Genesis 1:13. An old woman lived in a cottage, and had long been confined to her bed with sickness. Near her lived a little girl, whose mother was very poor, and had little to give to her stricken neighbour. The maiden had a geranium which some one had given to her. It grew in a flower-pot in the window; and when it bore flowers, both mother and daughter found sweet pleasure in watching their bloom developing. The little girl plucked the nicest of these blossoms, and carried it to the sick woman, who was lying in her bed, suffering great pain. In the afternoon a lady called, and observed the beautiful geranium flower in an old broken tumbler on a little stand by the old woman’s bed. “That flower makes me think what a wonderful God we have; and if a flower like this is not too little for Him to make and take care of, I am sure He will not forget a poor creature like me.” During the great Manchester cotton-famine some years ago there was much distress, and many were in a state of starvation. Among them was an aged couple, who sold everything that could be turned into bread. They could not, however, sell a beautiful flower which they had in a flower-pot; so that they lived in an empty room, with only this gem of nature. “That flower has been such a comfort to us in all our trouble; for when we look at it morning after morning, it seems to preach to us all the time, and to tell us of trust in God.” Yes, God sent them
“To comfort man—to whisper hope,
Where’er his faith is dim;
For He who careth for the flowers,
Will care much more for him”—Howitt.
Genesis 1:14. Lights] “Luminaries:” Heb. me’ôrôth, sing, mâʼôr, not ’ôr as in Genesis 1:3 : Sept. phôstêr here, phôs there. There was “light” before the fourth day
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Genesis 1:14-19
THE HEAVENLY BODIES
As we have seen, light had been created before; and now the heavenly bodies are introduced into the complete exercise of their light-giving purpose.
I. The heavenly bodies were called into existence by God. “And God said, Let there be lights in the firmanent of the heaven,” &c. On this supposition only, that the heavenly bodies were called into space by the word of God, can we account for their magnitude, variety, and splendour?
1. Their magnitude. Only a Divine voice could have called the great worlds into being which people the realms of space. They would not have yielded obedience to the command of man had He spoken never so loud and long. True, magnitude is not always associated with power, but sometimes with weakness; yet the vastness of the great heavens above us is such as we can only connect with the voice and power of God.
2. Their variety. There is the sun, moon, stars. The sun to rule the day. The moon to rule the night. The stars to be the bright attendants of the midnight Queen. The star-light sky is the very emblem of variety, as to magnitude, number, and beauty.
3. Their splendour. What artist could put the splendour of the evening sky upon his canvass? What speaker could describe the glory of the midnight heaven? The stars, shining out from the violet deeps of night, are as brilliant lights in the dome of our earth-house, and are as the bright carpet of heaven. Before this unrivalled scene all human effort to attain grandeur is feeble, all the achievements of art or science are powerless to imitate it; yet one tone of the Divine voice was sufficient to bid the heavenly bodies move into their spheres and work, in which they will continue until the same voice bids them halt in their celestial course.
1. The call was Omnipotent. Man could not have kindled the great lights of the universe. They are above his reach. They are deaf to his voice. They ofttimes strike him with fear. The sun-light has to be modified before he can use it. The moon is beyond the control of man, or he would never permit her waning. The brighest seraph, whose whole being is aglow with the light of God, could not have flung these celestial orbs into the heavens. Cherubim shed their lustre in other spheres, and for other purposes. They cannot create an atom. How the power of God is lifted above that of the most dignified creature He has made. His voice is omnipotent, and is therefore sufficient to call the sun, moon, and stars to their work. Only Infinite Wisdom could have uttered this behest to the heavenly bodies.
2. The call was wise. The idea of the midnight sky, as now beheld by us, could never have originated in a finite mind. The thought was above the mental life of seraphs. It was the outcome of an Infinite intelligence. And nowhere throughout the external universe do we see the wisdom of God as in the complicated arrangement, continual motions, and yet easily working and harmony of the heavenly bodies. There is no confusion. There is no disorder. They need no re-adjustment. They are alike the admiration of art and science. In their study the greatest genius has exhausted its energy. The great clock of the world never needs repairs, nor even the little process of winding up. The midnight sky is the open page of wisdom’s grandest achievements.
3. The call was benevolent. The sun is one of the most kindly gifts of God to the world; it makes the home of man a thing of beauty. Also the light of the moon is welcome to multitudes who have to wend their way by land or sea, amid the stillness of night, to some far-off destination.
4. The call was typal. The same Being who has placed so many lights in the heavens, can also suspend within the firmament of the soul the lights of truth, hope, and immortality. The sun of the soul need never set; our thought and feeling may be ever touched by its beauty, until the light of earth’s transient day shall break into the eternal light of the heavenly Temple.
II. The purposes for which the heavenly bodies are designed.
1. They were to be for lights. There had been light before. But now it is to be realised; it is to become brighter, clearer, and fuller, more fit for all the requirements of human life. Hence, at the command of God, all the lamps of the universe were lighted for the convenience and utility of man. They are unrivalled, should be highly prized, faithfully used, carefully studied, and devotionally received. These lights were regnant:—
(1.) Their rule is authoritative.
(2.) It is extensive.
(3.) They were alternate.
(4.) It is munificent.
(5.) It is benevolent.
(6.) It is welcome. A pattern for all monarchs.
2. They were made to divide the day from the night. Thus the heavenly bodies were not only intended to give light, but also to indicate and regulate the time of man, that he might be reminded of the mighty change, and rapid flight of life. But the recurrence of day and night also proclaim the need of exertion and repose, hence they call to work, as well as remind of the grave.
3. To be for signs, and for seasons, and for days and years. The moon by her four quarters, which last each a little more than seven days, measures for us the weeks and the months. The sun, by his apparent path in the sky, measures our seasons and our years, whilst by his daily rotation through the heavens he measures the days and the hours; and this he does so correctly that the best watch makers in Geneva regulate all their watches by his place at noon; and from the most ancient times men have measured from sun dials the regular movement of the shadow. It has been well said that the progress of a people in civilization may be estimated by their regard for time,—their care in measuring and valuing it. Our time is a loan. It is God’s gift to us. We ought to use it as faithful stewards. We shall have to give an account of its use. “O Lord, so teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom” (Psalms 90:12). “Evening, and morning, and at noon, will I cry aloud; and He shall hear my voice.” Thus the solar system is man’s great teacher, monitor, and benefactor.
III. A few deductions from this subject.
1. The greatness and Majesty of God. How terrible must be the Creator of the sun. How tranquil must be that Being who has given light to the moon. How unutterably great must be the Author of that vast solar system. One glance into the heavens is enough to overawe man with a sense of the Divine majesty.
2. The humility that should characterise the soul of man. “When I consider the heavens the work of Thine hand,” &c. What great thing is there in man that Thou art mindful of him? Man, a little lower than the angels, should rival them in the devotion and humility of his soul. Under the broad heaven man must feel his littleness, though he cannot but be conscious of his greatness, in that so grand a curtain was spread out for him by the Infinite Creator.
SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS ON THE VERSES
Genesis 1:14. God has placed the lights above us:—
1. As ornaments of His throne.
2. To shew forth His majesty.
3. That they may the more conveniently give their light to all parts of the world.
4. To manifest that light comes from heaven, from the Father of Lights.
5. The heavens are most agreeable to the nature of these lights.
6. By their moving above the world at so great a distance, they help to discover the vast circuit of the heavens.
The heavenly bodies:—
1. Not to honour them as gods.
2. To honour God in and by them. (Psalms 8:1; 1 Timothy 6:16; Isaiah 6:2.)
The place and use of creatures are assigned unto them by God:—
1. That He may manifest His sovereignty.
2. That He may establish a settled order amongst the creatures.
3. Let all men abide in their sphere and calling.
(1.) To testify their obedience to the will of God.
(2.) As God knows what is best for us.
(3.) As assured that God will prosper all who fulfil His purpose concerning them.
The highest creatures are ordained by God for use and service:—
1. Men of the highest rank should apply themselves to some employment for the good of others.
2. They are ordained for it.
3. They are honoured thereby.
4. They are bound thereunto by the law of love.
5. They will be rewarded hereafter.
6. Christ has set them an example.
The night is a Divine ordination:—
1. To set bounds to man’s labour.
2. To temperate the air.
3. To allow the refreshing dews to fall upon the earth.
4. To manifest the comfort of light by its removal.
The stars a sign:—
1. Of the providence of God.
2. Of the olden folly of men.
3. Of the changing moods of life.
These luminaries are sometimes made by God amazing signs of grace and justice.
These luminaries have natural significations at all times.
Power and influence, as two causes, God hath given to the luminaries.
Genesis 1:15. Light:—
1. Its speed.
2. Its profusion.
3. Its beauty.
4. Its joy.
The excellencies of creatures are not of themselves, but are the gift of God:
1. Because all perfections are originally in God, and therefore must come by way of dispensation from Him.
2. That the honour of all might return to Him alone.
3. Let men acknowledge all their abilities as from God.
4. Seeking all at His hand.
5. Enjoying them without pride.
6. Giving thanks to Him for them.
7. Using them to His glory.
What it was that carried the light about the world before the sun was made is uncertain; only this is evident, that when God had created the body of the sun, and made it fit for that use, He planted the light therein; and then that other means ceased, whatsoever it was. So that where God provides ordinary means, there He usually takes away those which are extraordinary:—
1. Because God makes nothing in vain, and consequently removes that for which there is no further use.
2. Lest other ordinary means should be dispised.
3. Let no man depend upon extraordinary means.
Though the planets are so far distant from us, yet this does not interrupt their light and influence. So distance cannot hinder us from receiving the benefit of God’s care.
1. Though God’s influence be in heaven, yet His eye beholds the children of men.
2. Let no man’s heart fail him because God seems so far off.
3. Let not distance, either in place or condition hinder our desires for the good of others.
Genesis 1:16-19. God proportions the abilities of His creatures according to the uses in which He employs them:—
1. Thus is the natural outcome of the Divine wisdom and sufficiency.
2. Necessary to make the workman equal to his task.
Men must make use of light to guide and direct them in all their employments.
Though all the creatures are not furnished alike, yet none of them lack that which is necessary for their use and employment:—
1. Let no man repine at his condition.
2. Let no man envy another.
3. All degrees of men are useful.
4. We cannot enjoy true happiness without attention to the meanest duties around us.
5. We know not to what the meanest may be advanced hereafter.
God provides for the government of the day as well as of the night:—
1. He can do it, as light and darkness are alike to him.
2. He must do it to keep the world in order.
3. The night cannot hide our sins from God.
These lights were good works of God. These glorious works must lead to Creator.
God in Nature! Genesis 1:14. The heavens declare the glory of God. But not the heavens ONLY. There are many sources whence we may derive some faint glimpse of the divine glory. Yet we must be inside to see clearly. Standing within a cathedral, and looking through its stained and figured windows towards the light, we behold the forms and colours by the light. Standing outside and gazing at the same windows, we see nothing but blurred and indistinct enamelling. And so we must stand within the temple-pile of nature if we would see the glaring hues of divine glory, especially in the outburstings of noontide splendour, in the silent pomp of the noiseless night, in the moon walking in her brightness like some fair spirit wading through the opposing clouds of adversity in the starry garden of the firmament, those flowers of the sky budding with hopes of immortality. Thus worshipping reverently within nature’s cathedral, we see that
“The heavens are a point from the pen of His perfection;
The world is a rosebud from the bower of His beauty;
The sun is a spark from the light of His wisdom.”—Sir Wm. Jones.
Sun! Genesis 1:15. Dr. Hayes, the arctic explorer, graphically describes the return of the sun after an absence of long cold months. For several days the golden flush deepens until the burning forehead of the “King of Day” rises above the horizon to circle round it half the year. The inexpressible delight with which the morning glory is hailed almost makes one cease to wonder that the sun has had devout worshippers.—
“Most glorious orb! thou wert a worship, ere
The mystery of thy making was revealed!
Thou earliest minister of the Almighty,
Which gladdened, on their mountain tops, the hearts
Of the Chaldean shepherds, till they poured
Themselves in orisons.”—Byron.
Sun and Moon! Genesis 1:15. We consider the sun the type of Christ, and the moon as the type of the Church. It is remarkable that at the crucifixion the sun was obscured, and the moon was at the full. But though she has suffered many an eclipse, yet like the moon the Church of Christ emerges from them all by keeping on her path of obedience:—
“And still that light upon the world
Its guiding splendour throws;
Bright in the opening hours of life,
But brighter at its close.”—Peabody.
Tides! Genesis 1:16. The influences of the Holy Spirit upon the life of the Christian Church has been likened to that of the moon upon our earth. The return of the tide twice every day is owing to the attractive influence which the moon exerts upon our world, and especially upon its great movable fluid the ocean. What a mysterious page of nature does this fact open, when we thus behold ourselves linked as it were with a distant world by an invisible chain figure that wonderful power by which the life of the Church and her true members is kept motion, purity and holiness! Well may that moon be called the “Queen of Heaven”—
“Who, from her maiden face
Shedding her cloudy locks, looks meekly forth,
And with her virgin stars walks in the heavens,
Walks nightly there, conversing as she walks
Of purity, and holiness, and God.”—Pollok.
Starlight. Genesis 1:16. Those bright and beautiful stars are witnesses for God. They tell us that He is—that He is very great and good. This was the impression upon the mind of a man of God in the olden time, when he sang how the heavens proclaim the glory of God. Not many years ago, during the terrible French Revolution, when godless men murdered their king and princes in France, an attempt was made to obliterate all trace of God. Bibles were burnt, churches were shut up, sabbaths were abolished, and Christians were cruelly slain. One of these revolutionists accosted a pious countryman with the jaunty assurance that he was going to pull down the “village church” in order that there “might be nothing left to remind you of God or religion.” To this the pious peasant responded, “Then you will have to blot out the stars, which are older than our church tower, much higher up in the sky—beyond your reach.” Yes, it is not the unwearied sun only which displays the Creator’s power, it is not the man only which publishes to every land the work of an Almighty hand; but—
“All the stars that round her burn,
And all the planets in their turn,
Confirm the tidings as they roll,
And spread the truth from pole to pole”—Addison.
Sunlight! Genesis 1:17. There is a good story told about a certain missionary and the sun. He was talking one day with a heathen man, who said:—“I go to the place where you worship, but I never see your God.” The missionary, stepping out of the house into the open air, bathed in the brilliant beauty of the noontide sun, pointed up to it, and said to the enquirer, “Look at yonder sun.” The man tried to look but instantly turned away his face, and covered his eyes with his hands, exclaiming, “It blinds me.” And the man of God quickly responded by telling him that yon sun was but one of the numerous retinue of his God, and stationed merely on the outside of God’s palace. “If you cannot bear to look at one of His servants, how can you expect to see the master of that servant—the great God who made him.”
“God spake, and on the new-dressed earth
Soft smiled the glowing sun,
Then full of joy he sprung aloft,
His heavenly course to run.”—Krumacher.
Sun-Rule! Genesis 1:18. The sun is like the father of a family with his children gathered round him. A good father always governs his children well; and the better they are governed, the happier and more useful they will be. The sun is such a father—governing well those different worlds which are like children about him. He keeps them all in the places which God wants them to be in, and at the same time he sees that they are all going round—each in his own path, just as God wants them to do. This power he enjoys from God. Through Him
“His beams the sea-girt earth array,
King of the sky, and father of the day.”—Logan.
Sun-Good! Genesis 1:18. The sun is the fountain of light to this lower world. Day by day it rises on us with its gladdening beams. All nature seems to own its influence, both for light, heat, faithfulness, and beauty. Christ is, says Trower, to the moral world, what the sun is to the natural world—the source of life and loveliness, health and happiness. He rises with healing in His wings—scatters the mists of ignorance and sin—calls forth the fruits of righteousness—and arrays them in splendour, outrivalling the brilliant beams of the rainbow. And as the natural sun retains his strength undimmed though ages have rolled past, so the Divine Sun remains at His sacred, high, eternal noon. And
“As the sun
Doth spread his radiance through the fields of air,
And kindle in revolving stars his blaze,
He pours upon their hearts the splendour of
Moonlight! Genesis 1:18. All the beauty of the moon is but the reflection of the glory of the sun. She has no light of her own, and shines only by reflecting or giving away the light which she receives from the dazzling orb of day. When a piece of looking-glass is held in the sunshine, it causes a bright light to dance about on the opposite wall. This is exactly what the moon does; she catches the beams of light which it receives from the sun, and throws them down. The moon hangs in the sky, and becomes as much like the sun as it can by reflecting the light which that orb gives it; just so when we become Christians, we not only learn to love Jesus, but try to be like Him. And when we do this we are reflecting the light that Jesus gives us; just as the moon, the queen of the midnight hour, and for ever beautiful, softly and silently pours
“Her chasten’d radiance on the scene below;
And hill, and dale, and tower
Drink the pure flood of light.”—Neele.
Two Suns! Genesis 1:19. There is this difference between the Sun of Righteousness and that in the sky—that, whereas the latter by his presence eclipses all his satellite-attendants, the Former, though radiant with a much brighter splendour, will by His presence impart glory to His saints. When Christ, who is our Life, shall appear, then shall we also appear with Him in glory. So that the saints are not like stars which the sunshine obscures and makes to disappear; but they are, as Boyle defines it, like polished silver, or those vaster balls of burnished brass upon the cathedral dome which shine the more they are shone upon, and which derive their glittering brightness from the sun’s refulgent beams
“Made hereby apter to receive
Perfection from the Sun’s most potent ray.”
Genesis 1:20. Creature] Here, and in Genesis 1:21; Genesis 1:24, “creature” stands for Heb. nephesh (Sept. psychê), and in Genesis 1:30 “wherein is life” is, more exactly, “wherein is a nephesh of life.” If our Eng. “soul” cannot be expanded so as to cover the biblical usage of nephesh and psyche, the next best thing might be to adopt “psyche,” “psychical,” at least in private and expository discourse. According to 1 Corinthians 15:0, Adam was a “psychical” man, and this death-doomed body is a “psychical” body. Cf. C. N. on ch. Genesis 2:7.
Genesis 1:21. Whales] Heb. tannin: prop. a long creature (Ges. Dav.) wh. winds or twists itself, or stretches itself along (Fürst). The use of this word in O.T. is remarkable: only in Job 7:12 is it elsewhere in C. V. rendered “whale:” in Exodus 7:9-10; Exodus 7:12, it is “serpent;” in Deuteronomy 32:33; Nehemiah 2:13; Psalms 74:13; Psalms 91:13; Psalms 148:7; Isaiah 27:1; Isaiah 27:1; Isaiah 51:9; Jeremiah 51:34, “dragon;” and in Lamentations 4:3, “sea-monster.” These are all its occurrences.
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Genesis 1:20-23
FISH AND FOWL
I. That life is the immediate creation of God. “And God said, Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creatures that hath life.” &c. Here we get sublime teaching in reference to the origin of life.
1. It was not an education. It was not evoked from anything that had previously existed. It was not an emanation from some elementary principle or form of matter. It was not an unconscious development. Life bounded into existence at the call of God, and kindled its lights in the lower realms of nature, that ultimately it might shine resplendent, and find its highest perfection and beauty in the being and soul of man. Life as an education is the foolish conceit of a sceptical philosophy.
2. It was not the result of combination. Prior to the existence of fish and fowl; there had been created the land, the light, the water, and the heavenly bodies had received their commission to illumine the universe. But life was not awakened by the combined agency of any of these. They were without life. The light might fall upon the great world uninhabited, but its ray could not evoke one note of life, or give impulse to the smallest object on which it fell. Matter is capable of many pleasing and useful combinations, but has inherently no life-producing property.
3. It was a miraculous gift. “And God said, Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life.” There are two words in this sentence that should be remembered, and joined together most closely, they are “God” and “life.” This should be so in the external universe, for if God were to withdraw from it, its whole frame would crumble into dust. This should be so in the soul of man, as God is the source of its true and higher life. If the church were to remember the connexion of these two great words, she would be much more powerful in her toil. Life was at first the miraculous gift of God. Its continuance is His gift. It is the product of His voice. This is true of all in whom the spark of life is kindled, whether seraph or brute.
II. That life is varied in its manifestation and capability.
1. Life is varied in its manifestations. There were created on this day both fish and fowl. “God created great whales, and every living creature that moveth, which the waters brought forth abundantly, after their kind, and every winged fowl after his kind.” Thus life is not a monotony. It assumes different forms. It gives varied impulses. It grows in different directions. It has several kingdoms. It has numerous conditions of growth.
2. Life is varied in its capability. As life is varied in its kind and growth, so is it in its capability. The fish swim in the water. The fowls fly in the air; the abilities and endowments of each are distinct and varied. They answer different purposes. Each takes a part in the great ministry of the universe. The whole in harmony is the joy of man. Envy is unknown in the lower region of life.
3. Life is abundant and rich in its source. The waters brought forth abundantly. There was no lack of life-giving energy on the part of God. Its source was smitten, and life streamed forth in rich abundance. The world is crowded with life. It will not soon become extinct. Its supplies will not soon be exhausted. The universe will not soon become a grave, for even in death there is life, hidden but effective to a new harvest.
4. Life is good in its design. God saw that it was good. All life is good in its original intention. It was good as the gift of God, and as the glory of its possessor.
III. That the lower spheres of life are richly endowed with the Divine Blessing. The blessing is from God. The truest source of benediction. The highest hope of man. The richest heritage of nature. It had its earnest in the life then commenced. The fish and fowl then created were prophetic of future blessing.
1. It was the blessing of increasing Numbers
2. It was the blessing of an extended occupation of the land and sea.
3. Let us always remember that the blessing of God rests upon the lower spheres of life.
SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS ON THE VERSES
Genesis 1:20. The decree.
2. The order.
3. The manner.
4. The kinds.
5. The places.
6. The blessing.
God leaves nothing empty that he hath made, but furnisheth all with His store and riches. Thus when He had created the heavens, He furnished them with stars, the air with birds, the water with fishes, and the earth with herbs, and plants, and afterwards with beasts and men; so that the earth is full of His riches, and so is the wide sea.
1. Then will God leave His children empty, the vessels which He hath formed for Himself?
2. Let men be ashamed that delight in empty houses, or lands unpeopled, that they may dwell alone.
3. We cannot but admire the affluent power of God.
God disposeth all creatures, in such places, as are most convenient unto them. He fixes the stars in the heavens, carries the clouds in the air, appoints the waters for the fishes.
1. Let us seek places suited to our disposition and temper.
2. Let us comfort ourselves in reference to our heavenly home, in that it will be suited to our condition.
Life is the gift of God alone.
1. Because God only hath life.
2. That it may be at His disposal.
3. That He may be praised for it.
1. Let every man be careful to preserve in any creature so precious a gift
2. Let every man glorify God in whose hand his breath is.
3. Let it teach us to abase all man’s work in comparison with God’s. Men can make pictures and statutes, but cannot give them breath.
The variety and diversity of God’s works is infinite.
The motion as well as the being of every creature is ordered and limited by the will and decree of God.
All these creatures were at first produced in full strength for motion.
The water for fish, and the expanse over the earth for fowl, are places of sustentation.
Genesis 1:21. The eminency of any creature ought especially to be observed for magnifying the work of the Creator.
1. The great lights.
2. The great whales.
3. After God’s image.
God furnisheth every creature with parts and abilities, needful for the nature of it, and use, to which He hath assigned it.
God respects and takes special notice of all, even the meanest of the works that He hath made.
1. Let the poorest and most neglected of men trust the providence of God.
2. Let the richest stoop to the poor.
Even the meanest of the creatures that God hath made are good.
(1.) As the effects of His power.
(2.) As they serve His glory.
(3.) As they are useful to man.
(4.) Let us do nothing but that which we can approve.
Genesis 1:22-23. Fruitfulness is a blessing bestowed only by God Himself.
1. Seek it by prayer.
2. Expect it by faith.
3. Wait for it in obedience.
4. Receive it with praise.
There is nothing so vast or wide but God can easily furnish and fill it at His pleasure.
God’s blessing in creation makes these creatures abundant now.
Every fish and bird is a demonstration of God’s wisdom, and power and goodness.
Animal Life! Genesis 1:20. There is a meaning in these words which is seldom noticed: for innumerable millions of animalculæ are found in water. Eminent naturalists have discovered no less than 30,000 in a single drop. How inconceivably small, remarks Professor Green, must each be; and yet each a perfect animal—furnished with the whole apparatus of bones, muscles, nerves, lungs, etc. What a proof is this of the manifold wisdom of God! If we pluck a flower from the garden on which rests the glistening dewdrop; if we sink our finger in a pond, and then examine with a microscope, we shall find worlds living and moving in its drops; if we sail on the ocean at midnight, our vessel may be enveloped in a flame of bright phosphorescent light, and gleaming with a greenish lustre—attributable to the presence of innumerable multitudes of animals floating on the waves:—
“Flash’d the dipt oars, and, sparkling with the stroke,
Around the waves phosphoric brightness broke.”—Byron.
Mr. Charles Darwin paints in vivid colours the magnificent spectacle presented by the sea, while sailing in the latitudes of Cape Horn on a dark night. It is now no longer a matter of doubt that many of the inferior marine animals possess the faculty of secreting a luminous matter. And when we consider their countless numbers, we need not wonder at the magnificent effects produced by such tiny creatures, whose
To the dark billows of the night,
A blooming splendour give.”—Scott.
Birds! Genesis 1:21. A little bird alighted at sunset on the bough of a pear tree that grew in Luther’s garden. Luther looked upon it, and said, “That little bird covers its head with its wings, and will sleep there, so still and fearless, though over it are the infinite starry spaces, and the great blue depths of immensity; yet it fears not; it is at home; the God that made it, too, is there.”
“There sitteth a dove so white and fair,
All on the lily spray,
And she listeneth when to our Saviour dear
The little children pray.”—Bremer.
Genesis 1:26. Man] Heb. ’âdhâm (Adam). The reader of the Heb. can scarcely resist the impression that a close connection was meant to be seen between ’âdhâm “man,” and, adhâmâh “earth,” “ground.” Guided by this, and by 1 Corinthians 15:47, we cannot doubt that “earth-born” (Kalisch) rather than “red,” “ruddy” (Ges. “perh”) gives the rad. conception of the word. Dominion] The orig., radhah, signifies to lay low, overthrow, tread down; hence subdue, rule.
Genesis 1:28. Replenish] Simply “fill,” therefore, supporting no inference that the earth had previously been filled, and was afterwards emptied, wh. may or may not have been the case.
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Genesis 1:21-28
THE CREATION OF MAN
I. That the Creation of Man was preceded by a Divine consultation. “And God said, Let us make man,” &c.
1. This consultation was Divine. It was a consultation held by the three Persons of the ever Blessed Trinity, who were one in the creative work. We are not now listening to the voice of angels; they cannot create an atom, much less a man. They were themselves created. But now the Uncreated Ones are contemplating the existence of man, to give completion and meaning to their previous work. Man is the explanation of the universe.
2. This consultation was solemn. The light, the waters and dry land, the heavenly bodies, and the brute world, had all heard the voice of God, and obeyed it. But no consultation had been held prior to their entrance into the world. Why? because they were matter; dumb, and impotent. But now is to be created a Being endowed with mind and volition, capable even of rebellion against his Creator. There must be a pause before such a being is made. The project must be considered. The probable issue must be calculated. His relation to heaven and earth must be contemplated. It is a solemn event. The world is to have an intelligent occupant, the first of a race, endowed with superior power and influence over the future of humanity. In him terrestrial life will reach its perfection; in him Deity will find the child of its solicitude; in him the universe will centre its mystery. Truly this is the most solemn moment of time, the occasion is worthy the council chambers of eternity.
3. This consultation was happy. The Divine Being had not yet given out, in the creative work, the highest thought of His mind; He had not yet found outlet for the larger sympathies of His heart in the universe He had just made and welcomed into being. The light could not utter all His beneficence. The waters could not articulate all His power. The stars did but whisper His name But the being of man is vocal with God, as is no other created object. He is a revelation of his Maker in a very high degree. In him the Divine thought and sympathy found welcome outlet. The creation of man was also happy in its bearing toward the external universe. The world is finished. It is almost silent. There is only the voice of the animal creation to break its stillness. But man steps forth into the desolate home. He can sing a hymn—he can offer a prayer—he can commune with God—he can occupy the tenantless house. Hence the council that contemplated his creation would be happy.
II. That man was created in the image of God. “And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.” Man was originally God-like, with certain limitations. In what respect was man created after the image of God?—
1. In respect to his intelligence. God is the Supreme Mind. He is the Infinite Intelligence. Man is like Him in that he also is gifted with mind and intelligence; he is capable of thought. But the human intelligence, in comparison with the Divine, is but as a spark in comparison with the fontal source of light. The great Thinkers of the age are a proof of the glory of the human intellect.
2. In respect to his moral nature. Man is made after the image of God, in righteousness and true holiness. He was made with a benevolent disposition, with happy and prayerful spirit, and with a longing desire to promote the general good of the universe; in these respects he was like God, who is infinitely pure, Divinely happy in His life, and in deep sympathy with all who are within the circle of His Being.
3. In respect to his dominion. God is the Supreme Ruler of all things in heaven and in earth. Both angels and men are His subjects. Material Nature is part of His realm, and is under His authority. In this respect, man is made in the image of God. He is the king of this world. The brute creation is subject to his sway. Material forces are largely under his command. Man is the deity of the inferior creation. He holds a sceptre that has been Divinely placed in his hand.
4. In respect to his immortality. God is eternal. He is immortal. Man partakes of the Divine immortality. Man, having commenced the race of being, will run toward a goal he can never reach. God, angels and men are the only immortalities of which we are cognizant. What an awful thing is life.
5. In respect to the power of creatorship. Man has, within certain limits, the power of creatorship. He can design new patterns of work. He can induce new combinations, and from them can evoke results hitherto unknown. By the good use of certain materials, he can make many wonderful and useful things calculated to enhance the welfare of mankind. Think of the inventive and productive genius of George Stevenson, and others who have enriched society by their scientific or mechanical labours. There is in all this—though it falls far short of Creation—a something that marks man as in the image of God.
III. That the creation of man in the Divine image is a fact well attested. “So God created man in his own image” (Genesis 1:27). This perfection of primeval manhood is not the fanciful creation of artistic genius—it is not the dream of poetic imagination—it is not the figment of a speculative philosophy; but it is the calm statement of Scripture.
1. It is attested by the intention and statement of the Creator. It was the intention of God to make man after His own image, and the workman generally follows out the motive with which he commences his toil. And we have the statement of Scripture that He did so in this instance. True, the image was soon marred and broken, which could not have been the case had it not previously existed. How glorious must man have been in his original condition.
2. It is attested by the very fall of man. How wonderful are the capabilities of even our fallen manhood. The splendid ruins are proof that once they were a magnificent edifice. What achievements are made by the intellect of man—what loving sympathies are given out from his heart—what prayers arise from his soul—of what noble activities is he capable; these are tokens of fallen greatness, for the being of the most splendid manhood is but the rubbish of an Adam. Man must have been made in the image of God, or the grandeur of his moral ruin is inexplicable. Learn:—
1. The dignity of man’s nature.
2. The greatness of man’s fall.
3. The glory of man’s recovery by Christ.
WHAT IS THE IMAGE OF GOD IN WHICH MAN WAS CREATED?
I. Negatively. Let us see wherein the image of God in man does NOT consist. Some, for instance, the Socinians, maintain that it consists in that power and dominion that God gave Adam over the creatures. True, man was vouched God’s immediate deputy upon earth, the viceroy of the Creation. But that this power and dominion is not adequately and completely the image of God is clear from two considerations:—
1. Then he that had most power and dominion would have most of God’s image, and consequently Nimrod had more of it than Noah, Saul than Samuel, Cæsar than Christ—which is a blasphemous paradox.
2. Self-denial and humility will make us unlike.
II. Positively. Let us see wherein the image of God in man DOES consist. It is that universal rectitude of all the faculties of the soul—by which they stand, act, and dispose their respective offices and operations, which will be more fully set forth by taking a distinct survey of it in the several faculties belonging to the soul; in the understanding, in the will, in the passions or affections.
1. In the understanding. At its first creation it was sublime, clear, and inspiring. It was the leading faculty. There is as much difference between the clear representations of the understanding then, and the obscure discoveries that it makes now, as there is between the prospect of landscape from a casement, and from a keyhole. This image was apparent:—(i.) In the understanding speculative. (ii.) In the practical understanding.
2. In the will. The will of man in the state of innocence had an entire freedom to accept or not the temptation. The will then was ductile and pliant to all the motions of right reason. It is in the nature of the will to follow a superior guide—to be drawn by the intellect. But then it was subordinate, not enslaved; not as a servant to a master, but as a queen to her king, who both acknowledges her subjection and yet retains her majesty.
3. In the passion. Love. Now, this affection in the state of innocence, was happily pitched upon its right object; it flamad up in direct fervours of devotion to God, and in collateral emissions of charity to its neighbour. Hatred. It was then like aloes, bitter, but wholesome. Anger. Joy. Sorrow. Hope. Fear. The use of this point—that man was created in the image of God—might be various; but it shall be twofold:—(i.) To remind us of the irreparable loss we have sustained by sin. (ii) To teach us the excellency of the Christian religion [Robert South, D.D.]
SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS ON THE VERSES
Genesis 1:26. Man God’s last work:—
1. Then man is God’s greatest care.
2. Then let man give him the best service.
God has provided all things needful for man’s supply.
Works that are important ought to be undertaken with counsel:—
1. We see not all things.
2. Others are willling to help us.
3. The welfare of others may be concerned in our actions.
Man hath no maker but God alone:—
1. Then let us praise Him alone.
2. Let us serve Him entirely.
3. Let us seek to know Him fully.
God’s image in man is his greatest glory:—
1. Not his ancestry.
2. Not his wealth.
3. Not his fame.
God hath advanced man to have dominion over all the works of His hands:—
1. To enjoy the benefit of them.
2. To take care of them.
3. To make a good use of them.
4. To live superior to them.
Man’s dominion is God’s free gift:—
1. Therefore we are to recognise God’s authority in its use.
2. Remember that we are only stewards.
3. Be thankful for our kingship.
God hath made Himself known in trinity of relation, as well as unity of being from the beginning.
God the Father, Son, and Spirit, put forth wisdom, power, and goodness, eminently in making man.
Man in his first estate was a creature bearing the most exact image of God’s rectitude.
The image of God in man was made and created, not begotten, as in the Eternal Son.
Made, in this image, was the best of terrestial creatures, for whom all the rest were made.
The image of God resting upon man did fit him to rule over all the creatures subjected.
Genesis 1:27-28. Male and female are the ordination of God.
It is by God’s blessing that man must be sustained, as well as by His power that he was created.
God will have men to understand the blessings He gives them.
God can easily bring multitudes out of one.
All men and nations in the world are of one blood, and have one Father.
1. He has to replenish the earth.
2. To subdue it.
3. To rule it.
Those who have possessions in the earth must use and husband them, that they may be useful and fruitful.
All the creatures of the earth are the servants of man by the appointment of God.
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Genesis 1:24-26
THE ANIMAL WORLD
I. That the Animal World was created by God. All the creeping things of the earth are created by God. The cattle upon a thousand hills were made by Him. There is not an insect in the universe, but is the outcome of Divine power. Life, in its very lowest form, is the gift of God. Science cannot obtain it; Art cannot evoke it; dexterity cannot conjure it: God is its only source. If the animal world is created by God:—
1. We should regard the animal world with due appreciation. Man has too low an estimate of the animal world. We are apt to think that there is very little difference between it, and the vegetable world. We imagine that a tree has as much claim to our attention and regard as a horse. This should not be the case. The latter has a spirit; is possessed of life; it is a nobler embodiment of Divine power; it is a nearer approach to the fulfilment of Creation. We ought therefore to place a higher estimate upon animal life than we do, as we are largely ignorant of its capabilities, and of the development and progress of which it is capable. A worm may teach the soul of man a lesson. We are not cognizant of its hidden power.
2. We should treat the animal world with humane cousideration. If all the animals of the universe, which are so useful to man, are the creation of God, then surely they ought to have the most kindly treatment of the human race. Surely, we ought not to abuse anything on which God has bestowed a high degree of creative care, especially when it is intended for our welfare. Also, these animals are dumb; this ought to make us attentive to their wants, as well as considerate in all our treatment of them. Men should never manifest an angry spirit toward them. The merciful man is merciful to his beast. True, the brute world was designed by God for the use of man, and it renders its highest service in the gift of its life for the sustentation of the human family.
II. That the Animal World was designed by God for the service of man.
1. Useful for business. How much of the business of man is carried on by the aid of animals. They afford nearly the only method of transit by road and street. Many men get their livelihood by trading in animals. The commercial enterprise of our villages and towns would receive a serious check if the services of the animal creation were removed.
2. Needful for food. Each answers a distinct purpose toward the life of man; from them we get our varied articles of food, and also of clothing. These animals were intended to be the food of man, to impart strength to his body, and energy to his life. To kill them is no sacrilege. Their death is their highest ministry, and we ought to receive it as such; not for the purpose of gluttony, but of health. Thus is our food the gift of God.
III. That the Animal World was an advance in the purpose of Creation. The chaos had been removed, and from it order and light had been evoked. The seas and the dry land had been made to appear. The sun, moon, and stars had been sent on their light-giving mission. The first touch of life had become visible in the occupants of the waters and the atmosphere, and now it breaks into larger expanse in the existence of the animal creation, awaiting only its final completion in the being of man.
IV. That the Animal World was endowed with the power of growth and continuance, and was good in the sight of God.
1. The growth and continuance of the animal world was insured. Each animal was to produce its own kind, so that it should not become extinct; neither could one species pass into another by the operation of any physical law.
2. The animal world was good in the sight of God. It was free from pain. The stronger did not oppress, and kill the weaker. The instinct of each animal was in harmony with the general good of the rest. But animals have shared the fate of man, the shadow of sin rests upon them; hence their confusion and disorder, their pain, and the many problems they present to the moral philosopher.
SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS ON THE VERSES
Genesis 1:24-25. The beasts inferior to man:—
1. In nature.
2. In advancement.
3. In spiritual estate.
The difference between the creation of beasts and man cannot be passed over without special observation. Man’s body was indeed taken out of the earth, as well as the bodies of the beasts; but his soul was not from the earth, but from heaven. But in the creation of beasts, the body, and soul, or life, is wholly out of the earth; for the earth is commanded to bring forth the living creature—that is, the creature, with the life thereof. So that we find no original of the soul, or life of the beast, but from the earth only.
The beasts were created by God, and therefore are His:—
1. Let us ascribe all the store that we have unto God.
2. Let us regard them as the gift of God.
3. Let us serve and honour Him with all we possess.
By an almighty word God doth create all the brutes upon the earth.
The earth is the appointed place for beasts.
Not only individuals of creatures, but kinds, are made of God.
Creatures of God! Genesis 1:24. One day a boy was tormenting a kitten, whereupon his little sister—with her eyes suffused in tears—exclaimed, “Oh! do not hurt what is God’s kitten.” That word of the little girl was not lost; for a word fitly spoken—i.e., a word set on wheels—how good it is. The boy ceased to torment God’s creature, but he could not leave off thinking about what his sister had said. The next day, on his way to school, he met one of his companions most mischievously beating a poor, half-starved dog: “Don’t do that to God’s creature.” The boy looked ashamed, and tried to excuse himself by saying that the dog had stolen his dinner. But a poor drunkard passing heard the expression, and said within himself, “I, too, am God’s creature; I will arise, and go to my Father.” All are then God’s creatures!
“Here on the hills He feeds
His herds, His flocks on yonder plains;
His praise is warbled by the birds;
Oh! could we catch their strains.”—Montgomery.
All Things! Genesis 1:25. Some men have the power of attending to several things at once. Napoleon the Great had the power of keeping six men engaged in writing letters for him at the same time, and this was thought a wonderful feat. It was remarkable, and very few men could do it; but it was nothing to what God does every day. Great and marvellous are Thy works, Lord God Almighty. He keeps all things in life:
“Lord, thou art great! In Nature’s every form;
Greater in none, simply most great in all;
In fears and terrors, sunshine, smile and storm,
And all that stirs the heart, is felt Thy call.—Seidel.
Man! Genesis 1:25. There is a beautiful propriety in the Bible commencing with the creation of the heavens and the earth. The account of this magnificent scene serves as a portico to the august Temple of Truth. It is a kind of outer court, and the wonders which we here behold prepare us for the glories which beautify the inner temple. But in the hands of Moses this theme, mighty as it is, is only the introduction to others still mightier. He does not detain us in the outer court, but leads us straight to the gates of the Temple. By the Divine Word the world passed through all its various stages in its progress from chaos to the wondrous scene of order and beauty, when, in Genesis 1:25, God saw that it was good. “How in the household,” writes Beecher, “are garments quilted and wrought, and curiously embroidered, and the softest things laid aside, and the cradle prepared to greet the little pilgrim of love when it comes from distant regions, we know not whence! Creation was God’s cradle for Adam—curiously carved and decorated, flower-strewn and star-curtained.” As Milton says: “There wanted yet the master-work, the end of all yet done: so God took
“Some handfuls of the dust, and moulded it
Within His plastic hands until it grew
Into an image like His own, like ours,
Of perfect symmetry, divinely fair,
But lifeless, till He stoop’d and breathed therein
The breath of life.”
Temple-Man! Genesis 1:26. It has been carefully noted that our Lord was the first who applied to the human body a term previously employed to denote a building consecrated to God. His example was followed by St. Paul, with whom the expression was a familiar and favourite one. And yet, strange to say, this symbolism fell into abeyance during all the Christian centuries. The body was treated with neglect or contempt. It was regarded as the drag and prison house of the soul; so that even Trench writes:—
“Plumage which man shatters in his rage,
And with his prison doth vain war engage.
We represent it as the cause of all the moral failures and intellectual weaknesses of mankind. By the ascetic it has been mortified and tortured in every way. By the philosopher it has been ignored, so that Sir William Hamilton inscribed in golden letters upon the wall of his class-room the singular sentiment: “In man there’s nothing great but mind.” It is true that man’s body was formed out of the dust, and that thus it is the same as the forms of the mineral, vegetable, and animal creations. As Oken says, the whole animal world is repeated and represented in man, the animal kingdom is man broken up into fragments. But human nature is not, therefore, to be despised; for though the human body takes all nature into it, it does so to make it a temple for the worship and service of God. And that God designed such a view of the human frame is evident from the fact of the incarnation. Jesus entered the human body and purified it of his indwelling, making it a palace for the divine glory and a shrine for the divine worship.
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Genesis 1:29-31
THE UNIVERSE GOD’S GIFT TO MAN
I. The Gift.
1. Extensive. The Universe is a Divine gift to man. It was designed for the occupation of man. The home, with all its furniture, was presented to him. Nature, from its highest manifestations to its lowest, was to minister to his happiness and need.
2. Valuable. The smallest things in nature are valuable. Who can tell the value of the tree, of the herb, of the grass of the field? Diamonds are not more valuable than these; yet they are the constant and everyday gift of God to man.
3. Increasing. Every day the gift is increasing in value. It becomes more expansive. It is better known, and more thoroughly appreciated. Scientific research is giving man to see the richness of the Creator’s gift. All the gifts of God are productive; time unfolds their measure, discloses their meaning, and demonstrates their value.
II. The purpose.
1. To evince love. One of the great objects of creation was to manifest the love of God to the human race, which was shortly to be brought into existence. The light, the sun, the stars, and the creation of man; all these were the love-tokens of God. These were designed, not to display His creative power—His wisdom, but His desire for the happiness of man.
2. To teach truth. The world is a great school. It is well supplied with teachers. It will teach an attentive student great lessons. All the Divine gifts are instructive.
3. To sustain life. God created man without means, but it was not His will to preserve him without; hence He tells him where he is to seek his food. We must make use of such creatures as God has designed for the preservation of our life. God has provided for the preservation of all life. Let us learn to trust God for the necessities of life in times of adversity. Men who have the greatest possessions in the world must receive their daily food from the hand of God.
SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS ON THE VERSES
I. Let every one depend upon God for the necessaries of life.
1. Asking them by prayer.
2. Acknowledging our own beggary.
3. Trusting Him by faith.
4. Remembering His promise.
5. Obedient to His will.
II. Let us serve Him faithfully at whose table we are fed.
1. Else we are ungrateful.
2. Else we deserve famine.
All the provisions that God allows man for food are drawn out of the earth.
The homeliness of the provision on which God intended man to feed.
Let no man be discontented with mean fare:—
1. It is as good as the body it nourishes.
2. It is better than we deserve.
3. It is more than we are able to procure of ourselves.
4. It is more profitable for health.
5. It is free from the temptation to excess.
God gives us not all our provisions at once, but a daily supply of them:—
1. To manifest His fatherly care.
2. To make us dependent on Him.
3. To exercise our faith.
4. To teach economy.
God makes provision for all the creatures He hath made.
Man was not only a good creature, but a blessed one.
Man’s Spirit! Genesis 1:27. As a missionary in India was catechizing the children of his school, a Brahmin interrupted him by saying that the spirit of man and the spirit of God were one. In order to show him the absurdity of such a declaration, the missionary called upon the boys to refute it by stating the difference between the spirit of man and God. They readily, so Arvine says, gave the following answers:—The spirit of man is created; God is its creator. The spirit of man is full of sin; God is a pure spirit. The spirit of man is subject to grief; God is incapable of suffering. Therefore, they can never be one. And yet the spirit of the one dwells in the spirit of the other. This is a great mystery:—
“And when the dread enigma presseth sore,
Thy patient voice saith: ‘Watch with me one hour;’
As sinks the moaning river in the sea,
In silver peace, so sinks my soul in Thee.”—Howe.
Man! Genesis 1:27. As the ancients kept their temples pure and undefiled, so we should preserve our “bodies” free from all unholy words and actions. In some of the heathen temples, the Vestals cherished a flame on their altar perpetually. So should we maintain the flame of truth on the altars of our hearts. Within their temple walls were their helpless deities, and there thronged the myriads of votaries to pay homage and worship. We should worship the Father, and cultivate the companionship of the Holy Ghost in our bodies.
Apex! Genesis 1:29. As Agassiz points out, it is evident that there is a manifest progress in the succession of beings on the surface of the earth. This progress consists in an increasing similarity to the living fauna, and among the vertebrates, especially in their increasing resemblance to man. But this connection is not the consequence of a direct lineage between the fauna of different ages. The link by which creation is connected is of a high and immaterial nature; and their connection is to be sought in the view of the Creator Himself, whose aim in forming the earth was to introduce man upon the surface of our globe. Man is the end towards which all the animal creation has tended from the first appearance of the first Palæozoic fishes. When all was complete—
“A creature of a more exalted kind
Was wanting yet, and then was man designed;
Conscious of thought, of more capacious breast,
For empire formed, and fit to rule the rest.”—Ovid.
Divine Gifts! Genesis 1:29. As the artist delights in exercising his talent in depicting the landscape—as the poet finds pleasure in creating, out of human experiences and the bright scenes of nature, a new world of beauty and passion, so God—the Great Artist and Poet—delights in the scenes and objects of nature, in the formation of which He has exercised His Divine skill and power; and to this Divine feeling the Son of God gave frequent expression. He revealed to us His own most perfect understanding and enjoyment of the beauty of nature—how God regarded the creation which He had pronounced to be very good. But they were formed for man’s special enjoyment. The great whole world—to use the figure of an eminent writer—is decked with beauty for man’s pleasure. Beautiful is the lily-work that forms the capitals of its stony and massive pillars; rich is the flowerage that adorns its barge-laden streams, which bear up and along the works of life. Everything that is useful to man has some bright and beautiful thing connected with it, which, like the settling of a brilliant butterfly upon the open page of a dreary tome, or the falling of a rosy gleam upon some homely task, seems to speak of the fact that this verse is true—
“Our cup runneth over, our life is so bright,
So brimming with mercy and love,
It seems just a springtime of sunshine and light,
Blest foretastes of better above.”
God! Genesis 1:31. His works proclaim His being, power, wisdom, goodness. Some years ago there was a German prince, a good christian man, who lived in a fine old castle on the banks of the Rhine. He had a son, who was beloved by all around for his princely virtues; and on one occasion, while he was absent from home, a French gentleman became the nobleman’s guest. This visitor did not believe in God, and never thought of trusting to Him for anything. One day, when the baron and his friend were conversing, he said something which grieved the baron very much, and led him to exclaim: “Are you not afraid to offend God by speaking in such a way?” But the Frenchman replied that he had never seen God, knew nothing of Him, cared nothing for Him. His host remained silent, and resolved to seize the first opportunity afforded him of shewing to his guest the fallacy of his reasoning. So the next morning he conducted the doubter around his castle and grounds to see many beauties. Amongst other things he showed him some very beautiful pictures, which the visitor admired, and of which the prince said: “These are my son’s.” The garden had been chastely and magnificently laid out by his son. The cottages in the village, all neatly and substantially built, had been designed by his son. When the gentleman had seen all, he exclaimed: “What a happy man you must be to have such a son;” but the prince abruptly enquired how he knew that he had so good a son? “By his works,” was the response. “But you have not seen him.” “No; but I know him very well, because I judge of him by his works.” God’s works teach us:
“And every wild and hidden dell,
Where human footsteps never trod,
Is wafting songs of joy which tell
The praises of their Maker—God!
Creation Good! Genesis 1:31. Did that goodness which Jehovah saw evidence itself in the joy of universal adoration? For after all, is there not joy in every aspect of Nature? Could Adam not see it; could Jehovah himself not see this joy of goodness in the purity of virgin morning, in the sombre grey of a day of clouds, in the solemn pomp and majesty of night? Was it not visible in the chaste lines of the crystal, the waving outlines of distant hills, the minute petals of the fringed daisy, or the overhanging form of Eden’s mysterious glades? Could Jehovah not say in even deeper grandeur, sense, and force, than Adam,
“What throbbings of deep joy
Pulsate through all I see; from the full bud
Whose unctuous sheath is glittering in the moon,
Up through the system of created things,
Even to the flaming ranks of seraphim.”—Alford.