THE CREATION OF THE WORLD AND MAN VIEWED ON ITS HEAVENLY SIDE
|1 (verse 4)
2 (verse 10)
3. (verse 12)
4. (verse 18)
5. (verse 21)
6. (verse 25)
7. (verse 31)
| I. . LIGHT
II. Order, in the arrangement of
III. Life, in the existence of
2. The firmament dividing the waters above and below.
3.The dry land, or fertile soil, seperated from the sea.
4. The heavenly bodies adjusted in relation to earth
5. Fishes and fowls.
.6. Terrestrial beasts.
I. The first step in this glorious process, is the breaking in of LIGHT
on the gloom in which the earth was shrouded (ver. 3-5). In this step the
ETERNAL WORD comes forth from the bosom of Deity. He "whose goings forth have
been from of old, from everlasting" (Micah v. 2), - " the Word who was in the
beginning with God and was God" (John i. 1-3), - he is that word which went out
from God, when "GoD SAID, Let there be light." For this is not the utterance of
a dead sentence, but the coming forth of the living WORD. In the Word was life,
and this life in the Word, - this LIVING WORD, - was the "light." Immediately,
without the intervention of those luminaries in which afterwards light was
stored and centered, the LIVING WORD himself going forth was light, - the
natural light of the earth then: as afterwards, again coming forth, he became
to men the light of their salvation.
In this light God delighted as good; for the light is none other than that very Eternal Wisdom who says ; - " The LORD possessed me in the beginning of his way, before his works of old, and I was daily," - from day to day, as the marvellous work of these six days went on, - " I was daily his delight, rejoicing always before him" (Prov. viii. 22, 30). Such was the mutual ineffable complacency of the Godhead, when the Word went forth in the creation, as the light, and when all things began to be made by him (John i. 3, 4). And in this first going forth of the Eternal Word, the distinction of light and darkness, of day and night, for the new earth, began (Ps. civ. 2). This was the first day - the first alternation of evening and morning ; - not perhaps the first revolution of this globe on its axis, but its first revolution, after its chaotic darkness, under the beams of that divine light, which, shining on earth's surface as it passed beneath the glorious brightness, chased, from point to point, the ancient gloom away.
II. To light succeeds ORDER. Form, or shape, or due arrangement, is given to the natural economy of this lower world, and that by three successive processes.
1. In the first place, the waters are arranged (ver. 6-1 0). The earth is girt round with a firmament, or gaseous atmosphere; at once pressing down, by its weight, the waters on the surface, and supporting, by its elasticity, the floating clouds and vapours above; and so forming the visible heaven, or the azure sky (Ps civ 3) This is the work of the second day. Then, a bed is made for the waters, which before covered the earth, but which now, subsiding into the place prepared for them, lay bare a surface of dry land (Ps. civ. 6-13). This is done on the third day. And thus, by a twofold process, the waters are reduced to order. In the language of Job, "He girdeth up the waters in his thick clouds; and the cloud is not rent under them: he holdeth back the face of his throne, and spreadeth his cloud upon it." This surely must allude to the separating of the waters above the firmament from the waters under the firmament. And as to these last, the description proceeds, "He hath compassed the waters with bounds, until the day and night come to an end" (Job xxvi. 8-1 0). So, also, in another place, the Lord, challenging vain man to answer him, asks, "Who shut up the sea with doors, when it brake forth as if it had issued out of the womb; when I made the cloud the garment thereof, and thick darkness a swaddling band for it?" Here we have plainly the firmament dividing the waters. And I "brake up for it," for the sea that once covered the earth, "my decreed place, and set bars and doors, and said, Hitherto shalt thou come, but no farther; and here shall thy proud waves be stayed." Here we have with equal plainness the gathering together of the waters and the appearing of the dry land (Job xxxviii. 8-1 1). The same twofold process in disposing of the waters is indicated by the psalmist; - " 0 give thanks therefore to him, that by his wisdom made the heavens, for his mercy endureth for ever; to him that stretched out the earth above the waters, for his mercy endureth for ever" (Ps. cxxxvi. 5, 6) ; - and by the Apostle Peter ; - " By the word of the Lord, the heavens were of old, and the earth, standing out of the water and in the water" (2 Pet. iii. 5).
2. Secondly, the dry land is next itself prepared (ver. 11-13). The green and fertile earth, rising out of the waters, is stored with all the seeds and elements of prodigal vegetation (Ps. civ. 14-18). This also is on the third day.
3. In the third place, on the fourth day, the heavenly bodies, in their relation to this earth, are formed or adjusted. The light, hitherto supplied by the immediate presence of the WORD, which had gone forth on the first day - the very Glory of the Lord, which long afterwards shone in the wilderness, in the temple, and on the Mount of Transfiguration, and which may yet again illumine the world - the light, thus originally provided without created instrumentality, by the LIVING WORD himself, now that the chaotic mists are cleared away from the earth's surface, is to be henceforward dispensed through the natural agency of second causes. A subordinate fountain and storehouse of light is found for the earth. The light is now concentrated in the sun, as its source, and in the moon and stars, which reflect the sun's beams; and these luminaries, by their fixed order, are made to rule and regulate all movements here below (Ps. civ. 19-2 3). They are appointed "for signs," - not for tokens of divination (Isa. xliv. 25 ; Jer. x. 2), - but for marks and indications of the changes that go on in the natural world ; - and "for seasons," - for the distinction of day and night, of summer and winter, seed-time and harvest (Jer. xxxi. 35). Again, therefore, let us "give thanks to him that made great lights, for his mercy endureth for ever; the sun to rule by day, for his mercy endureth for ever; the moon a.nd stars to rule by night, for his mercy endureth for ever" (Ps. cxxxvi. 7-9).
Thus, all things are ready for living beings to be formed - those living beings which belong to the social economy of which Man is head.
111. Accordingly, LIFE - life in abundance - is now produced. For the Eternal Word, or Wisdom (Prov. viii. 22-31), in the whole of this work of creation, in which he was intimately present with the Father, rejoiced especially in the earth as habitable; and above all, "his delights were with the Sons of men." In the first place, in the waters, and from the waters, he causes fishes and fowls to Spring : - fishes to move in the bosom of the sea, and fowls to float in the liquid air and fly abroad in the open firmament of heaven. This he does on the fifth day (ver. 20-23). Secondly, on the sixth, he causeth all beasts to be produced from the earth (ver. 24, 25). And, in the third place, on the sixth day also, He creates MAN (ver. 26, 27).
These three orders or classes of living beings are severally pronounced good. But man is specially blessed (ver. 26, 27). There is deliberation in heaven respecting his creation: "Let us make man." He is created after a high model - " after our likeness." He is invested with dominion over the creatures: "Let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth." He is formed for holy matrimony, for dwelling in families: "male and female " - one male and one female - " created he them."
Thus, in four particulars, is man exalted above the other animals. In the first place, the counsels of the Godhead have respect to man. To his creation, as well as to his redemption, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost consent. Then, secondly, the image of God is reflected in him, - in his capacity of intelligence, his uprightness of condition, and his immaculate purity of character, - in his knowledge, righteousness, and holiness (Eph. iv. 24 Col. iii. 10). A third distinction is, that the other animals are subjected to him, - not to his tyranny as now, but to his mild and holy rule ; - as they shall be when sinners are consumed out of the earth, and the wicked are no more (Ps. civ. 35; viii. 6-8; Rom. viii. 20- 22). While his fourth and final privilege is, that marriage, and all its attendant blessings of society, are ordained for him. This the prophet Malachi testifies, when, sternly rebuking his countrymen for the prevailing sin of adultery and the light use of divorce, he appeals against the man who shall "deal treacherously with the wife of his youth," - " his companion and the wife of his covenant," - to the original design and purpose of God in creation. "Did not he make one?" - a single pair, - " yet had he the residue of the spirit," - the excellency or abundance of the breath of life. "Wherefore, then, did he make one I " - limiting himself to the creation of a single pair? " That he might seek a goodly seed," - or in other words, that holy matrimony, - based upon the creation of the one male and the one female, and the destination of them to be "one flesh," - might purify and bless the social state of man (Mal. ii. 14-16).
Such was the primitive constitution of life in this world. Man stood forth, godlike and social, having under him, as in God's stead, all the creatures; and for his life, and for theirs, that food was appointed which the earth was to bring forth (ver. 29, 30). The two previous stages in the creation are subservient to this last. Light and order are means, in order to life, which is the end. Life - animal, intellectual, moral, spiritual, social, divine - life is the crown and consummation of all. The Creator beholds it, and is satisfied, and rests.
"Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had. made. And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it; because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made" (Gen. ii. 1-3).
The rest of God is not physical repose after weariness or fatigue, nor is it absolute inactivity. During all the period of his rest, from that first day of rest downwards until now, he worketh still (John v. 17); and he must continually work for the continual preservation of his creatures (Ps. civ. 28, 29). But he pauses from his work of creation, - from the creation of new kinds and orders of beings; though he still carries on his work of providence. He rests from all his work which he has made. He rests and is "refreshed" (Exod. xxxi. 17). And his original day of rest is blessed and sanctified.
Into the rest of God, with all its blessedness and sanctity, man at first might enter; and hence the seventh day, as the day which was the beginning of the rest of God, became the "Sabbath made for man" (Exod. xx. 11; Mark ii. 27). To the people of God still, in every age, there is a promise left, that they shall again enter into his rest. And the promise is still subsisting. For the rest of Canaan was not that rest, but only its type and shadow. So the Apostle Paul argues, building his argument on that solemn denunciation in the ninety-fifth Psalm ; - " I sware in my wrath, They shall not enter into my rest." "For if Joshua had given them rest, then would he not afterward have spoken of another day. There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God" (Heb. iv. 8, 9). And as the rest still remaineth for the people of God, so also the day of rest, which is its type and earnest ; - the blessed and holy Sabbath.
Such is the unanswerable reasoning, as it would seem, of the inspired apostle, founded upon the Lord's appeal to the Israelites, when he exhorts them to hear his voice. "Harden not your heart," is the voice of God, their Maker, "as your fathers did, who provoked me in the wilderness, and to whom I sware in my wrath that they should not enter into my rest." Harden not your hearts, lest you also come short of that rest. But were not they who were thus addressed already in possession of that rest into which God sware that their fathers should not enter? Certainly they were, if that rest was the rest of Canaan which Joshua gave them; in which case God "would not have spoken of another day" (Heb. iv. 8). But he does speak of "another day," when he says, even to those who were dwelling in time rest which Joshua gave them, "To- day, if ye will hear my voice, harden not your hearts, lest to you, as to your fathers, I swear in my wrath that ye shall not enter into my rest." This God would not have said, if Joshua had really given them that rest with reference to which he "sware in his wrath." It was a rest, therefore, different from that which Joshua gave that the Lord had in view, when he sware to the fathers in the wilderness that they should not enter into his rest; and their exclusion from the rest which Joshua gave, was but a presage of their exclusion from a rest infinitely more precious. This was a rest from which even they who did actually enter into the rest that Joshua gave, might yet be for ever debarred. In a word, it was his own rest. "My rest," says the Lord.
Now this rest has been long prepared. For "the works were finished from the foundation of the world; and he spake in a certain place of the seventh day on this wise, and God did rest on the seventh day from all his works" (Heb. iv. 3, 4). Of this original rest it is, and not of any image of it afterwards appointed, that God speaks when he says, "If they shall enter into my rest." No rest hitherto given on earth, - either by Joshua to the Old Testament Church, or by Jesus to the New, - is or can be the rest of God, into which his people, if they come not short through unbelief are to enter. That rest remaineth for them, after they have ceased from their works, as God did from his (Heb. iv. 10). And the type or pledge of it remaineth also ; - perpetual and unchangeable, as the promise of the rest itself ; the type and pledge of it, instituted from the beginning, in the hallowed rest of the weekly Sabbath.
Through the help of this Sabbatic Institution, if only we obtain a spiritual and sympathising insight into its significancy, we may enter into the rest of God by faith, and in the spirit, even now, as we realise the blessed complacency of the Creator, rejoicing in his works.
Pause, therefore, 0 my soul! at every stage of time wondrous process here described, and especially at its close; and behold how good it is! See how all was fitted for thee; and what a being art thou, so fearfully and wonderfully made (Ps. cxxxix. 14); thyself a little world; and for thy sake this great world made! How marvellous are God s works! How precious also are thy thoughts unto me, 0 God! Let me see, as God saw, everything which he has made. Behold, it is very good. And blessed and joyful is the rest which succeeds.
Man, however, who was the crown, has become the curse of this earth. The work of God has been destroyed; and he must create anew. And it is, first of all, man himself that he must remodel and reform. The chaos now is not in matter but in rnind, - not in the substance of this earth, but in the soul of man. In that world now there is darkness, disorder, death. But "in the WORD is life."
And, in the first place, "the life is the light of men." He shines into the darkened understanding, and all is light - "For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ" (2 Cor. iv. 6). The glory of God, the true and living God, is seen in the Living Incarnate Word, the man Christ Jesus, the light of life, the author of salvation. "I have heard of thee with the hearing of the ear, but now mine eyes seeth thee" (Job xlii. 5, - seeth thee in Christ, the Hoiy One, the Just, the Saviour.
Again, secondly, by the same Living Word, the disorder of the soul is remedied. Christ, the Sun of Righteousness, - God in Christ, - becomes the centre of attraction. Away from that centre, all the powers of the soul move and mingle irregularly. Restore the balance, by making God supreme, and all again is adjusted rightly ; things above and timings below are separated; the inconstant waves of passion retire, and leave the solid ground of principle; and the glory of heaven rules and blesses time whole man.
Finally, in the third place, the end of all this is life, - the life of the soul, - its life with Christ in God (Eph. ii. 1; Col. iii. 3). Now the life of the soul is love, - for the soul lives in being loved, and in loving; and God is revealed to the darkened soul, and restored to his supremacy in the disordered soul, in order that the dead soul may be quickened, so as to feel and return his love.
Such is the new creation of the soul, after the image of God, in respect of knowledge or light, righteousness or order, and holiness or life, which is love. And this new creation being finished, a new rest follows; a rest of God; a rest in God; a rest with God ; - as now a reconciled Father and all-satisfying portion. Into this rest let my weary spirit enter. It is mine in Christ, in whom, believing, I am created anew. "Return unto thy rest, 0 my soul, for the Lord hath dealt bountifully with thee" (Ps. cxvi. 7).
But after all this, and beyond it all, there still "remaineth a rest for the people of God." For we cherish the sure hope, that when this work of new creation in the souls of the redeemed shall be ended, the face of the earth itself shall be again renewed for their habitation; and the Lord shall again rest, and rejoice in all that he has made, blessing and hallowing a new and better Sabbath in our regenerated world (Ps. civ. 30).
Meanwhile, the primitive institution of the Sabbath, - as the sign of that rest into which spiritually and by faith we enter now, as well as the foretaste of the rest which remaineth for us in the world to come, - is surely a delightful truth; and its observance cannot but be a precious privilege. This world, with all that it contains, was made for man. Man himself was made for God, for entering into God's rest. And that he might all the better do so, the Sabbath was made for him. "God blessed the Sabbath- day and hallowed it." The blessing is not recalled, the consecration is not repealed. There remaineth a rest unto the people of God, - and a day of rest. Let us not fail short of the rest hereafter. Let us not despise the day of rest now.
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