Page images
PDF
EPUB

TH

he work in the consciousness that Christianity smiles on him, and is ready to welcome every new discovery, as shedding additional light on the ways of the Creator, the results, both to science and to the church, will be truly valuable.

The recent rapid progress of geology, and the discussions regarding its bearing on theology, have led Christians to take the side of one or other of two parties—of those, on the one hand, who are persuaded that there must be some reference in the first chapter of Genesis to the past history of the globe; or of those, on the other hand, who are equally sure that, for various reasons, no such reference is to be expected. The one party base their supposition on the likelihood that the Creator would not leave man without some allusions to successive creations, as rich as the present one in testimonies to his eternal power and Godhead. The other allege that, as the Bible is the revelation of a scheme of grace to sinners, no reference was to be expected to ages in which man had no place. It might as well have cumbered its pages, they think, with the description of the physical features of the moon, or of Saturn's rings, as with those great series of rocks which preceded the time when man was ushered into being. It seems to me that those who look for allusions to the past history of the globe, in the opening page of revelation, must not hope for it in the way proposed in the “age theory.” They must be satisfied with the simple reference to it as taken into account in the scheme of Chalmers, Buckland, and others. And, as regards the value of that scheme, there does not appear any valid objection against it, either in science or in fair biblical interpretation. Its strength, however, is negative. It does not, and in the nature of the case it could not supply positive proof that the epochs represented by the fossiliferous and non-fossiliferous rocks occupy an undefined place between the words, “in the beginning," and the words which, according to this scheme, introduced the six days' work. Any advocate of this hypothesis may still hold his ground against an opponent by alleging—“ You cannot show that this could not have been so." The hypothesis is thus still of apologetic value.

But would not the path of science be less obstructed, and the cause of a sound theology much promoted, if an hypothesis can be produced which will set the two on entirely different foundations ? While we plead for references to the past history of the earth, it is too often forgotten that the history of those great ages which lie between the earliest unstratified rocks and the glacial drift has been preserved.

VOL. I.

It is “written and engraven in stone” on the rocks themselves, and it is the task of the geologist to read that writing with an unbiassed mind. There are two records. But why should it be thought necessary that the one must overlap or interlace with the other—that the past history of the globe, without the human inhabitant, must be mixed up with the history of an independent order of things, with man at its head? What, perhaps, has chiefly led to this, has been the desire to find in the opening words of the Bible a distinct denial of the eternity of matter. The heathen generally believed in this. “Creation out of nothing” distinguishes the scripture account of it from all others. The non-eternity of matter is, however, distinctly affirmed in many other passages of scripture. Take two examples:-“All things were made by him, and without him was not any thing made that was made" (John i. 3); “Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear” (Heb. xi. 3). The same almighty one who in the sovereignty of his gracious purposes "calleth those things which be not as though they were” (Rom. iv. 17), called matter into being when it was not. The protest of scripture against the hypothesis of the eternity of matter is thus clear and decided, apart altogether from the expression, “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” Now, in excluding the geologic periods from the first chapter of Genesis, and limiting it to the present order of things, we are not called on to discuss the controversies touching the mode in which the true account of creation was revealed to Moses. It is enough to believe that the account is a true history, written by one who was unerringly guided by the Holy Ghost in every sentence of his narrative. Documents on the same subject may have been in existence in his day. He may have been acquainted with the traditions of his fathers regarding creation. The speculations of the thinkers, Jewish and Egyptian, of his own or of bygone times, in reference to the same subject, may have been well known by him. The Spirit of God may have used his information, gathered from one or all of these sources, in making him the historian of creation, even as he did use the information of the prophets and apostles of later ages, when revealing through them the higher matters of providence and of grace. Be this as it may, we have in the first chapter of Genesis a true history of creation as it now is, and in writing it Moses was under the direct guidance of the Holy Spirit.

In glancing over the whole chapter from this point of view, a satis

eu

S

factory explanation of the controverted words can be reached only by comparing scripture with scripture. It is then affirmed, that the expression “in the beginning” does not necessarily shut us up to the belief that a reference is here made to the first act of creation, when matter and time first became. Does Moses ever use this word as a preface or as an expression introductory to a fuller account of something of which, however, it forms a part? “This month,” he says (Exod. xii. 2), “shall be to you the beginning of months.” The Jewish sacred year was, from the time of the Exodus, reckoned from the spring equinox. It began with the new moon of Abib, which answers to our April. Abib was thus regarded as the beginning month, and as forming part of the year. This use of the word still continues. “I will visit you in the beginning of the week” is a common expression; that is, on one of the days which stands as a beginning to the other days of the week, and is itself a part of the week. “In the beginnings of your months ye shall blow with your trumpets” (Num. X. 10). In the former passage the word prefaces the reference to the year; in the latter, it indicates twelve separate months. In both it is prospective, and this use of it is sufficient to neutralize any objection to a claim for a like use of it in Genesis i. But this view is strengthened by the fact that after the account of the work of the six days had been particularly noticed, the sacred writer gives a summary of the whole in Genesis ii. 1. “ Thus," he says, “the heavens and the earth were finished.” In a word, we have the introductory expression pointing us forward, the expression used at the end directing us back, to those wonders of creation, the history of which lies between them. In the main, the view now indicated is well stated in a little work entitled “The Creative Week”-a volume not so well known as it deserves to be. “We are forced," says the author, “to adopt the conclusion, that 'in the beginning,' is a summary expression for the six creative days, and

created the heaven and the earth,' another summary expression for the miraculous works done during these days. This is the natural and obvious interpretation of the inspired historian's plain, simple, and brief announcement, and the only one which restores unity and harmony to the record of creation. Nay more, it is almost the only one which would occur to an intelligent and unprejudiced reader of the Bible.”

But again, it is evident that no explanation can be satisfactory which does not show a harmony between the account of creation in Genesis and the reference to it by the same inspired writer in Exodus xx.

That this view of the case exhibits the harmony will be seen by
arranging the passages thus :-
“In the beginning the heaven and the earth | God created.” Gen. i. 1.

the heavens and the earth were finished.” Gen. ii. 1. “In six days

heaven and earth | the Lord made.” Ex. xx. 11.

6. Thus

The Sabbath rest followed the six days' work, and the leading motive urged upon us, both in the Old and the New Testaments (Exod. xx.; Heb. iv.), to keep holy one day in seven, is drawn from God's rest on that day: “God did rest the seventh day from all his works.”

Is the view now taken of the word “beginning" countenanced by other portions of scripture? It is often limited to the period when man appeared on earth, thus—"From the beginning of the world men have not heard, nor perceived by the ear, neither hath the eye seen, O God, beside thee, what he hath prepared for him that waiteth for him” (Isa. lxiv. 4). "Moses, because of the hardness of your hearts, suffered you to put away your wives, but from the beginning it was not so" (Matt. xix. 8). “Since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation.” There is yet another class of passages in which it is even more definitely associated with the six days' work. "Have ye not known? have ye not heard ? hath it not been told you from the beginning ? have ye not understood from the foundation of the world ?” (Isa. xl. 21.) “Have ye not read,” said Jesus himself, “ that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female ?” (Luke xi. 50.) The last quoted verse sheds light on another expression which has much perplexed critics, as it stands connected with the Rest of the Sabbath—“ Although the works were finished from the foundation of the world” (Heb. iv. 3). On the finishing of the works—the laying, in the six days' creation, of the foundation of the Adamic epoch—God rested, and blessed the seventh day for the rest of men.

The next subject that claims attention is the scripture meaning of the words “created” and “made.” The former word is used (1) to express a work peculiar to God alone. Thus—“Lift up your eyes on high, and behold who hath created these things, that bringeth out their host by number” (Isa. xl. 26). (2) The word is also used as interchangeable with “make,” “form,” and “fashion.” “I have created him for my glory, I have formed him; yea, I have made him” (Isa. xliii. 7). The latter word is employed to indicate the work of fashioning out of existing materials, of making ready, of preparing.

he

1 ran

“And Abraham ran unto the herd, and fetched a calf tender and good, and gave it to a young man ; and he hasted to make it (dress it). And he took butter, and milk, and the calf which he had made (dressed), and set it before them ” (Gen. xviii. 7, 8). Many other verses might be quoted in illustration of this use of the words, but let us apply this latter meaning to the various clauses in Genesis i. where the same word is used, and we will at once see, that when a thing is said to be made there is no denial of its former existence. Thus of the sun and moon we are told that “God made two great lights.” They had been in the sky, as we have seen, during the geological ages, but their light had become obscured :

“Deep was the air, and dark, substantial, black,

An ebon mass."

On the fourth day they were made—prepared, brought out—to give light to the earth. There is then good ground for concluding that the verb “ to create " is restricted to the direct acts of God, whether these imply origination out of nothing, or simply moulding existing materials, in order to results and in a way within the power of a Divine One alone; and that the verb “to make,” when used to describe the doings of God, may have both the primary and secondary meanings attached to "create," as, for example, it manifestly has in Exodus xx. 11.—“For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is.” Here then is both the origination of life and the moulding of existing materials.

Following this line of remark, the words “heaven and earth” fall to be considered. It will have been seen that special reference has been made to the “heaven," the “ earth," and the “deep.” The first is employed in scripture to denote the atmosphere, the starry worlds, and the place of Jehovah's special dwelling and glory. Illustrative passages will occur to all. How is the word used in this chapter ? That the atmosphere or firmament is pointed to seems beyond doubt. Thus, “God called the firmament heaven” (ver. 8)—“the fowl of the heaven" (air) (ver. 26, 27, 28). So as to the signification of the word "earth,” “God called the dry land Earth" (ver. 10). The question here is not what we include in the word "earth,” but what the Spirit of God defines it to be. It is no doubt afterwards used as including the seas, but this does not interfere with the restricted meaning bere assigned to it. The earth, whose preparation is thus generally referred to, is described as being at the commencement of the present order of things when it lay

« PreviousContinue »