Page images
PDF
EPUB

under the dark waters, “without form and void” — words which, perhaps, more than those already looked at, have formed the subject of endless controversy.

“And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep: and the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters” (ver. 2). It has been unfortunate that the word chaos has been employed to express the state referred to in this expression, because it is intimately associated with the superstitions of heathenism, in connection with the eternity of matter in a state of confusion. In most of the controversies regarding it, the disputants have strangely overlooked the light which the use of the words in other portions of scripture sheds on the terms. In Deuteronomy (xxxii. 10) we have “the waste wilderness," literally the “wilderness without form." In Isaiah (xxxiv. 11) both words occur—"He shall stretch out upon it the line of confusion”literally “without form;" and the stones of emptiness”—“void.” So Jeremiah (iv. 23)—“I beheld the earth, and, lo, it was without form and void; and the heavens, and they had no light. I beheld, and, lo, the fruitful place was a wilderness;" the general idea in these passages being complete desolation where before life, and light, and all beauty had been. And, indeed, this is all that is demanded in order to harmonize this expression with the outline of successive creations given above. As each was introduced there was a break, a period at which the characteristic forms of life ceased, and new forms were ushered on the scene of being. And this period of transition was characterized at the beginning of the six days by prevailing darkness. The reader will mark, too, that the darkness is not represented as in the heavens, but as on the face of the deep-it brooded over the submerged earth. And it was with reference to this that the after fiat, “Let light be,” was to be uttered. Whence the darkness ? Science can supply an hypothesis. It can do no more. The expression is an intelligible one“Darkness was on the face of the deep.” The destruction of the refracting power of the previous atmosphere, or the prevalence of such volcanic action as, even in historic times, takes place over wide areas, would be sufficient to produce the phenomenon. Perhaps astronomy may be on the way to supply a reliable hypothesis, in the great attention which in recent years has been given to the physical constitution of the moon. What is now well known as the “Lunar theory” is becoming more and more suggestive on this point. During one revolution round the earth, the moon turns once on her own axis, and we constantly see the same side turned towards the earth. The period of its rotation on

its centre is equal to the time of its revolution round the earth. Were it not so, “the hemisphere presented to us in any semi-revolution would be opposite to that seen in the previous semi-revolution.” The lunar face which we now look on when the moon is full, is the same as that on which the fire-worshippers in the days of Job gazed with awe, and before which they knelt in adoration as they saw her "walking in her brightness.” At one season, however, a broader area is observed. This is at the time of what is called the moon's libration. Owing to a slight oscillation in her movement there is a narrow marginal zone on either limb of her surface. The Lunar theory accounts for this, by the supposition that the centre of the moon's figure differs from her centre of gravity. One side of the moon, it is alleged, bulges into an immense mountain destitute of life, “ without form and void;" the other side is a great deep, with darkness brooding over it. May this, it is asked, not have been the very condition of our earth when the six days' work began? If the side next us be destitute of a true atmosphere, it would, as far as the surface of the moon is concerned, be dark, even though a thousand suns shone on it-an atmosphere being needed in order to refraction. This hypothesis is stated without criticism. It may, however, come to have closer bearing on the subject now referred to, than we would be warranted to claim for it at present.

"And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.”—The process of preparation for an earth to be inhabited again, in circumstances and with a dweller on it more wonderful than had ever characterized preceding epochs, has begun. The Spirit of God—the Ruach of that Elohim referred to in our translation as God the Father and God the eternal Son—moved over the dark mass, doing, as the Psalmist describes it, “whatever it pleased him in the seas, and all deeps” (Ps. cxxxv. 6). Thus the mystery of the trinity in unity, the "three persons in the Godhead," meets us in the first words of that record, which reveals to us their love in their dealings with man, and which closes its wondrous story with the exhibition of their unsearchable riches of grace to a world sunk in a deeper darkness even than that described in Genesis i.-in order that, ere the time for “the first heaven and the first earth passing away" should come, man might have the spiritual qualification for " the new heavens and the new earth."

“And God said, Let there be light: and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good; and God divided the light from the darkness. And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called

II

Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day" (ver. 3–5). In looking at these verses, the reader will remember the remarks already made regarding the existence of the sun. There is no reference in them to that luminary. Here the expression is so plain as to admit of only one explanation. Light which should break in on the prevailing darkness which was on the face of the deep is needed, and the command is uttered—“Let light be.” Obedience was immediate -“light was.” But whence this light ? Was it now for the first time created? The latter question may be met with a negative, and the former may be put on satisfactory ground by the simple statement, that while we cannot arrive at absolute knowledge as to whence came the light of the first day of creation, we know that there is light which is not dependent on the sun. Growing familiarity with the phenomena of electricity, will continue to set this in new and interesting aspects. Might not a theory sufficient to remove all difficulties from this passage be found in the well-known phenomena of “Auroras?” The late Professor Nichol has remarked—“Whatever their origin, they show the existence of causes in virtue of whose energy the upper strata of our atmosphere become self-luminous sometimes in a high degree; for in northern regions our travellers have read by their brilliance. But the aurora is not the only phenomenon which indicates the existence of a power in the matter of our globe to emit light. One fact that must have been often noticed, forcibly impresses me with the conviction that here, through what seems common, truth of much import will yet be reached. In the dead of night, when the sky is clear, and ope is admiring the brilliancy of the stars, hanging over a perfectly obscured earth, a cloud, well known to observing astronomers, will at times begin to form, and it then spreads with astonishing rapidity over the whole heavens. The light of the stars being thus utterly shut out, one might suppose that surrounding objects would, if possible, become more indistinct: but no! what was formerly invisible can now be clearly seen; not because of lights from the earth being reflected back from the 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 shell of the sun. The existence of this illuminating power, though apparently in its debilitude, we discover also in appearance among the other orbs. Flashes like our auroras are said to have been observed over the dark hemisphere of Venus; and the obscure part of the moon is believed to have been visited by similar phenomena; but the circumstance most remarkably corroborative of the mysterious truth to which

INI

these indications point, is the appearance of our midnight luminary during a total eclipse. By theory she ought to disappear entirely from the heavens. She should vanish, and the sky seem as if no moon were in being; but on the contrary, and even when she passes the very centre of the earth's shadow, she seems a huge disc of bronze, in which the chief spots can easily be descried by the telescope. It has been put forth in explanation that a portion of the rays of the sun must be reflected by our atmosphere and bent toward the eclipsed disc, from which again they are reflected to the earth, thus giving the moon that bronze colour; but the instant the hypothesis is tested by calculation, we discover its utter insufficiency. . Nor is there any tenable conclusion save this — That the matter both of sun and planets is capable, in certain circumstances, whose exact conditions are not known, of evolving the energy which we term light; and that the atmosphere of the sun is at present under influences favourable to the high manifestation of a power which from the other orbs has not yet entirely departed. And thus for ever is broken down that supposed distinction which seemed to place our central luminary apart, in species, to an immeasurable extent from the humbler worlds that roll around him.”

The great Creator rejoiced in the result of the command. “He saw the light that it was good,” and gave it an independent place. “He divided the light from the darkness.” “He commanded the morning, and caused the dawn to know its place” (Job xxxviii. 12). The light, thus divided, is called Day. The first morning on the present earth is realized. The natural day runs its course. The time of the darkness begins, it is evening, the first day has passed. The Lord himself—

" Alternately decreed That night the day, the day should night succeed.” And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters. And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so. And God called the firmament Heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day," ver. 6–8.-It would be wholly unmindful of the great design of God in giving to man the Scriptures of truth, to demand from them the accuracy of advanced science in descriptions of the material world. Intelligent readers, however, must often have notice the remarkable way in which many of their most striking words fit into the requirements of true science. Take the last and most scientific

VOL. 1.

treatise on meteorology, and look at these verses in the light of all it makes known of the action of light and heat on the elements which compose our atmosphere, of evaporation, and of the watery treasures which the air holds suspended in it, and you will be struck with the harmony between these phenomena and the changes described in the words which set before us the second day of creation. The firmament answers to the heaven described in verse first-the atmosphere. Here “the waters are divided from the waters ;” that is, the waters treasured up in the dark clouds, which brooded like night over the deep, are elevated. Lighter clouds float in the firmament, and then too, as now, aqueous matter hung everywhere. The waters, on the other hand, which floated in liquid mass over the “deeps," touch not now the moisture in mist and cloud, and we have

“ The firmament, expanse of liquid, pure,

Transparent, elemental air." “And God said, let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit-tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the earth : and it was so. And the earth brought forth grass, and herb yielding seed after his kind, and the tree yielding fruit, whose seed was in itself, after his kind. And the evening and the morning were the third day," ver. 9-13.—When the third day dawns, the division between “the waters and the waters” is completed. The waters under the heaven are gathered together into one place. But we have not only the fact stated; even the feelings which in the blessed Godhead accompanied it are set before us under strangely interesting lights in the scriptures. The world of men, to prepare for whom this work was progressing, lay on the heart of the eternal Son, who was anticipating the creation of man after his own likeness.

“When he prepared the heavens, I was there:

When he set a compass on the face of the depths :
When he established the clouds above:
When he strengthened the fountains of the deep:
When he gave to the sea its decree,
That the waters should not pass his bounds :
When he appointed the foundations of the earth :
Then I was by him as one brought up:
And I was daily his delight,
Rejoicing always before him:
Rejoicing in the habitable part of his earth :
And my delights were with the sons of men.”—(Prov. viii.)

« PreviousContinue »