DAILY SCRIPTURE READINGS
October 1st. 1841
Craigholm, Burntisland, October I, 1841.
Gen. I. 1-13.In the beginning the world was created, in the beginning Christ, not was created, but Christ was. (John i. 1.) And God possessed wisdom in the beginning of His way. (Prov. viii. 22.) Christ was with the Father "before the world was." (John xvii. 5.) And wisdom was possessed by the Lord "before His works of old." The antecedency of the Logos to all creation, Himself therefore uncreated, is in harmony with these passages.
The beginning spoken of here has been variously estimated. My own opinion, as published in 1814, is that it forms no part of the first day - but refers to a period of infinite antiquity when God created the worlds out of nothing. The commencement of the first day's work I hold to be the moving of God's Spirit on the face of the waters. We can allow Geology the amplest time for its various revolutions without infringing even on the literality of the Mosaic Record - while Nature herself bears witness to the need of a creative interposition, more especially for the later part of the work of the third day even though geologists should be able to assign a competent natural process for the former part of that day's work. If the one could be executed by the old laws of matter, the other requires new dispositions - these incontestable evidences of a directing wisdom in the formation of the actual economy of things.
14-23. - The sixteenth verse is perhaps retrospective, as the first and part of the second are. At all events the language admits of being so rendered as to signify that on this fourth day the lights were not made first to exist, but made to be for signs and the division of time, which they could only be by the dispersion of those dark and heavy vapours which might have altogether obscured the firmament from the view of the earth. This solution is strengthened by the philological arguments of Rosenmuller; and even Granville Penn, the greatest of all our recent alarmists, has a theory by which to dispose of the imagination that the heavenly bodies were formed on the fourth day. If geology can make good periods of solar darkness, it were in further harmony with our views. By the organic creations of the fifth day the evidence for a God grounded on collocation, which forms far the clearest and most effective testimony given by the phenomena of matter to the fact of an intelligent fabrication of the world, is greatly multiplied and extended beyond what it had been by the work of the third day.
24-31. - By the work of the sixth day God hath imprinted still more manifold traces of His hand in the evidence of collocation. Let me make this use of the information that God made man in His own image. Let it cure me of the scepticism which distrusts man's instinctive beliefs or perceptions. Let me recollect that in knowledge or understanding we are like unto God - and that in His light we see light. He would not practise a mockery upon us by giving us constitutional beliefs at variance with the objective reality of things, and so as to distort all our views of Truth and of the Universe. We were formed in His image intellectually as well as morally ; nor would He give us the arbitrary structure that would lead us irresistibly to believe a lie. When men deny the objective reality of space or time, I take refuge in the thought that my view of them must be the same in kind at least, though not so perfect in degree, as that of God - or of Him who sees all things as they are, and cannot possibly be the subject of any illusion. God saw all to be very good. But all has since been transformed. We may learn from the curse upon the ground, that there has been a change even in the materialism of the world - but a change far more deteriorating on the moral and living department of creation - for how lovely still are Nature's landscapes - how coarse and revolting the aspects of human society.
Genesis 2. 1-17. - The institution of the Sabbath to commemorate the seventh day - a reason afterwards introduced into the body of the commandment itself - is with me decisive of the days in the first chapter being literal and not geological days, or days of indefinite and uncertain length. We cannot imagine a mere allegory to have been alleged as a reason for the observation of a precept. The description of the garden of Eden proves that the flood had not so changed the surface of the earth as to obliterate its geographical features. The whole narrative of Adam in the garden should be taken in the plain, obvious, and literal sense of it. The attempts to allegorize it are wholly gratuitous and groundless ; and more, are disproved by the subsequent allusions made to it in Scripture. It is, however, a plausible supposition, and may be entertained without violence to the passage, that the tree of knowledge of good and evil may have been so characterized - not from any peculiar virtue in its fruit to open the eyes of the understanding, but simply from its being the tree which tested the obedience of our first parents, and on their treatment of which hinged the difference between their good and their evil. Before that conscience had smitten them with a sense of their transgression, they might not even have had the conception of what sin was.
18-25. - My only remark on this passage is on the quotation made from one part of it in the New Testament; and on the immense intercommunion of strength and security which the two great departments of Scripture give to each other - the Old Testament by its prophecies mightily confirming the divinity and inspiration of the New ; and the New by its manifold quotations, extending to almost every separate book, conferring on the earlier record the whole benefit of its own appropriate and distinct evidences. The number of independent witnesses, though contemporaneous and living together in the same place, forms a strong security against aught like a deceitful collusion or conspiracy amongst them. How much stronger when the witnesses are separated from each other by whole centuries, and lie scattered along the line of many generations. Could an imposture have thus descended as it were by bequest from one age to another ? And what can we infer from the sustained consistency of a progression so stately and regular as that which runs through Scripture history, but that one great presiding Spirit, even the spirit of Him who knows the end from the beginning, actuated the whole of it ?
Genesis 3. 1-13. - The serpent was actuated by Satan, as is evident from other Scriptures. That is a very lax theology which disowns, and still more which derides the doctrine of this evil Spirit and of his mischievous agency in the hearts of men. I feel as if it gave additional security to my salvation, and inspired additional confidence in Him who is the author of it, when I view His work as a warfare, and the success of it as His victory over him whose works He came to destroy. It seems all the more to identify my safety with His honour; and never never will He give power or reason for the great adversary to say - "There is a poor sinner, who, misled by the assurances of your Gospel, trusted himself to you, and you have disappointed and deceived him." Let me not be afraid, then, but only believe ; and let this view not only confirm my faith but animate my practice. Let me enter into the spirit of the warfare; and, in the name of Christ my captain, let me resist the devil, and he will flee from me. The interposal of the devil at this point in the moral history of the world is of itself a wondrous evolution, and affords a glimpse of the relationship which obtains between our earth and the distant powers or places of our universe.
14-24. - The most interesting passage in these verses is the first evangelical promise couched in terms of obscure generality, and afterwards repeated with greater and greater degrees of distinctness, till evolved into full accomplishment by the Saviour and His sacrifice. The bruising of our heel by the serpent marks the annoyance that for a time he will practise upon us. The bruising of his head marks the destruction that will at length be inflicted upon him. Inflicted by man too - by the seed of the woman, even by Him who was made of a woman to redeem them that were under the law. (Gal. iv. 4, 5.) The effect ascribed to the tree of life in verse twenty-two, might serve to reconcile us to the literal understanding of the effect ascribed to the tree of knowledge. There is a remarkable coincidence between the property here ascribed to the tree of life and the description given of the same tree in xxii. 2. of the Book of Revelation, "whose leaves are for the healing of the nations." It accords with my whole understanding of what is sacred, whether in Christian or general philosophy, to accept of such information as is here given of the influence of a particular food on the soul of man - once I am satisfied with the credentials on which the professed revelation is based.
Genesis iv. 1-17. - The offering of the fat proves that the firstlings brought by Abel unto the Lord were slain, and probably in sacrifice. Add to this what the Apostle tells of what that was in Abel which made him be accepted of God - even faith ; and then shall we have both the objective and the subjective of our own peculiar Christianity combined in the religious services of the first age of the world. There has been much stress laid on this passage in argument for the Atonement; and it is right to prosecute reasoning and inquiry as far as the light of Scripture goes. But it should never be forgotten that the main strength of the argument for this and every other essential truth of Christianity lies in the direct and unequivocal and unambiguous statements of Holy Writ. We must not lose sight of them, for this would be quitting our main hold, in prosecuting to a conclusion those trains of inference which after all but land us in propositions nakedly announced - not left to be gathered up by implication, but laid simply and clearly before us.
Still let all such investigations be carried on to the limit of being wise up to that which Scripture has written, without attempting to be wise beyond it. And above all things let us not commit such a blunder in the intellectual tactics of our warfare with heresy, as to spend all our efforts either on the defence or extension of the mere outworks, when we can at all times betake ourselves to an impregnable citadel.
18-26. It is interesting to peruse this record of first inventions and of the origin of the arts. We do not read of Abel's children. There is no account given of more than two great families, and it is of Cain's family only that we read as signalized by the first appearance of arts or of trades amongst them. The resemblance of Tubal-cain to Vulcan has been remarked by those who attempt to find the traces of sacred in profane history. The meaning of Lamech's speech to his wife is not very obvious at first sight. Of the various conjectures which I have seen, I prefer the supposition of its being a blasphemous mockery on the part of Lamech - that as Cain had earned by his crime the protection of God who promised to avenge his death - much more had he. There seems great reason for understanding the call in verse twenty-six passively. Then men began, not to call, but to be called by the name of the Lord. The family of Seth stood out and were distinguished from the family of Cain by their sanctity and godliness, and were called the sons of God. This might serve to explain Gen. vi. 2. Certain it is, that whereas we read of bigamy, murder, and profane mockery in the family of Cain, we read in Seth's of the close walk of Enoch to God, and his translation into heaven, and of Noah's surviving faithfulness after that a general degeneracy had overspread the species.
Genesis v. 1-11. The juxtaposition of the two likenesses in which Adam was created and Seth was begotten - being only separated by the distance betwixt verses first and third of this chapter - speaks strongly the purpose of their introduction here, which was to contrast the perfection of man before his fall with the universal degeneracy that was propagated downward after it. Adam made in the image of God - Seth begotten in the image of Adam - not the original but the transformed image - for the birth of Seth took place after the death of Abel, and therefore long after the expulsion from paradise - an historical proof then of the transmitted corruption, afterwards affirmed doctrinally by Paul in the fifth chapter of his epistle to the Romans. This being said of Seth and not of Cain marks more impressively the descent of the constitutional virus - in that it passeth onward to one of whom we read no such atrocities as those recorded of Cain and his descendant Lamech. And from Seth through Noah to the whole of our species it has descended.
12-24. - I have met with no remark from the commentators on the similarity of names in the two families of Cain and Seth. Enos, Enoch; Irad, Jared; Mehujael, Mahalaleel; Methusael, Methusalem; and at length both pedigrees concluding with Lamech. The great event of this passage is the translation of Enoch - distinguished in his generation by his piety and extraordinary gifts. The seventh from Adam, as noticed by Jude, he prophesied - and that in the sense of fortelling. He must have been supernaturally endowed from on high; and it is interesting to know that between the Fall and the Flood the earth was thus visited by at least one inspired messenger. And from the subject-matter of his prophecy - denunciation of a coming vengeance on the ungodly, he probably like Noah was a preacher of righteousness. God did not leave himself without a witness in antediluvian times. Men were abundantly warned to flee from the wrath to come.
25-32. - By the chronology of this chapter Adam must have lived to the time of Lamech, and most of the antediluvian patriarchs must have been alive during the youth and great part of the manhood of Noah ; so that, by the intervention of but one step, Noah may be said to have heard through many channels of the things personally known to Adam, the great progenitor of the human family. At all events, Lamech might have had the infliction of the curse upon the ground because of transgression reported to him at first hand. It is uncertain if there be any more in his speech respecting Noah than simply that he would help to lighten their sore labour. The contrast between the fertility and spontaneity of Eden, and the intractableness of the earth at large over which mankind were sent abroad, must have been fresh in the recollection of the first man, and may have come fresh from him on the knowledge and observation of all those descendants whom he lived to hold converse with.
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