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The Creator Explained By the Creation
Given the Creation, to find the Creator, at least to conjecture about Him.
Given the house, to discover something about the builder of it, or the owner or the occupant. It is a large house; very well, then the man behind it, who made it, or is responsible for it, must be a man of some substance and property. It is an artistically furnished house; every piece of furniture has been set down by the hands of love just in the right place and in the right light and in the right relation to every other piece: then the man who made all this arrangement must, of necessity, have the mind, the instinct, or the training of an artist. No house ever made itself, therefore I think the heavens and the earth cannot have made themselves; no candle ever lighted its own wick, therefore I should be surprised if the stars were their own lamplighters.
I. I begin to feel that if any man suggested to me that all this creation-house was built by an Infinite Power and an Infinite Intelligence, I should believe him. In very deed it seems like it; all the pieces are so vast; arithmetic endeavoured to calculate their distances, and having written an endless line of ciphers, it threw down the chalk and ran away, because it could not express in words its own discoveries. God is as great in detail as He is in the totality and massiveness of things. I read in the first chapter of the book of Genesis a most astounding thing: that God said 'Let there be light,' and He made the grass, and there is no sense of anticlimax or retrocession in the action of Divine power. God is furnishing a house for some one, and He will not leave that some one to find the grass; if God undertakes to furnish a place it will be well furnished and completely furnished, and not only will there be great lights and great spaces, but man will not be asked to create one blade of grass, it shall all be done for him.
II. God came nearer still to us in the work which He made and which He ended. He incarnated Himself, He infleshed Himself, He embodied Himself. There stands the incarnation! What is his name? Adam 'God created man in His own image, in the image and likeness of God created He him'. That is the daring solution of the great problem of human existence as given by the Bible.
III. In all the work which He wrought did He ever speak? He spake all the time. Sometimes I think there is a sound as of subdued singing, a suppressed psalm running through all the action of the Creation. 'God said' then He spake? Yes; all things start in the word. Did not man make words? No; all the words were made before man came upon the scene at all. They were such great words that the first Speaker used in the making of His heaven-and-earth house.
God not only said, God blessed; so to say, He laid His gracious right hand upon the things and said to each, Very good; take thy place, work out the purpose which I have written in the psalm of thine heart. God not only said, and blessed, God called: gave names to things, gave names to great spaces and left some little small pieces of things which we might name, but all the great broad names, names of comprehension, names that grasp the totality and the destiny of things, He Himself made.
IV. We are invited, by a meditation like this not to go into eternity, the metaphysical and unthinkable eternity, to find God; we are invited to stand before the first molehill, before the first time-written rock that tells its tale in facial moss; we are invited to go out into the twilight and to ask, Who did this, who built this, who keeps this in order, who guarantees that these planets will not fall on this head? Surely the argument upon which the Christian faith is built is eminently reasonable, it is an argument which we apply along the whole line of our experience; then when we come into the deeper mysteries, the great spiritual verities, we are prepared to enter the holy of holies just in the degree in which we have carefully, intelligently, and lovingly walked along the line of what may be called natural creation and natural phenomena. If we have been reverent along that line we shall hear greater mysteries still.
We are asked in the New Testament to believe that God redeemed man. In very deed redemption is implied in creation. Never forget that words have not only a superficial meaning but an implied meaning, an enfolded and concealed meaning, which must be taken out and allowed to develop in all the fulness of their beauty and poetry. So read, created means redeemed, as the beginning means the end.
Joseph Parker, City Temple Pulpit, vol. vii. p. 8.
References. II. 3. F. Corbett, Preachers' Year, p. 41. R. S. Candlish, The Book of Genesis, p. 18. II. 4. F. W. Robertson, Notes on Genesis, p. 16.
When? If you look in the margin of your Bible you will see '4004 years before Christ'. Is that right? It is no part of the original book. It is only a marginal note which was made there by those who calculated according to the genealogies of those men who, generation by generation, succeeded Adam. But it will not do.
I. Age by Age. We read this morning of the Creation of the world. We read to-night a continuation of the story and of that time when the Lord God formed man out of the dust of the ground. Have we here in this book of Genesis an account of seven actual days of twenty-four hours? 'And the evening and the morning were the first day,' 'and the evening and the morning were the second day,' and so on. Surely not. What is it that science has revealed to us about all this? It has revealed to us that the Creation as we now hold it must have taken something like 4000 million years at least. God works very slowly, and when we read of God working day by day we know that he who wrote these words meant 'age by age'. 'And the evening and the morning were the first day.' Why, the very expression suggests to us the length of time the long night of God's creation. From the little to the greater; from the twilight to the dawn. Thus God worked. It is very important that we should remember this: otherwise we should be so staggered in the matter of our religion; otherwise we should find ourselves face to face with such tremendous difficulties. Science has revealed so much to us that we did not know when man wrote in the margin '4004 years'.
II. The Identity of Science and the Bible How has God been working then? Science teaches us so much, and if we do not believe science we shall become very unsettled in our minds, and we shall say to ourselves, What about this book? is it true? can it be trusted? And then we recall to mind that our Lord Jesus Christ took this book for true and quoted from it, and we shall say to ourselves, Was He too mistaken? But we must not do that. Whatever science teaches us accurately and fairly we must face, and we need never be afraid if we do so that the truth of science will clash with God's holy word. What is it we really find in this book of Genesis? We find most accurate scientific language. We find the one who writes this book to say that through long ages God created a world, and we find that He first created that which is inorganic to speak popularly the earth next vegetable life, then animal life, then man's life. And that is just what science says was done. If you can read and understand the Hebrew you will find four words used to express this creation by God. The first is to form, and the next is to breathe into, and the next is to make, and the last is to create. And this is actually scientific language. But between the first and the second and the third and the fourth science finds gaps. Science has no means of explaining how the step was made from one to the other how it was from earth to vegetable life, from vegetable to animal life with its consciousness, how from animal life with its consciousness came man with his intellectual powers and, as most scientists admit, with his spiritual being. To us as believers in the one true God, to us as Christians, the followers of the Holy One the Son of God, it comes quite simply. God worked through the long ages, beginning at inorganic matter, then by His creating power gave life which made the vegetable, then by His creating power breathed into that life that which made the animal life with its consciousness, and then created the spiritual being of man. Through the long, long ages man, if you will, was evolved by the power of God. Why, it is scriptural language! 'The Lord God formed man out of the dust of the ground.' Then what does it matter to us if scientific men find fossil remains of man which must have been in existence long ages before the 4004 years ago mentioned in the margin? We expect them to find that. So God has been working, so God has been evolving, if you will from the dust of the ground by His almighty power the creature who now is man.
III. Man's Relation to God. You are not a bit of earth, you are not a vegetable, you are not merely an animal conscious of your being you are a man created by God, you are the outcome of God's almighty working, God has breathed into you the breath of life and you have become a living soul. You are eternal, a son of God created in God's image and having spiritual powers. Oh, it is a wonderful ancestry! Oh, it is a wonderful dignity to have arrived at by the power of God! Are we living as if only earth? Are we living only as vegetables in this world? Are we living only as animals, conscious of animal pleasure or animal pain? Or are we living as we may live as sons of God, conscious, living, real the children of God in whom is eternity?
I. Little Souls. We hear people spoken of as good souls, poor souls, and the like, let us think now of those who may be called little souls.
It was the custom in old-fashioned gardens to cut back the shrubs and trees, which were intended by Nature to grow large and luxuriant, till they became stunted and dwarfed, even grotesque. People treat their souls in the same way. They do not let them grow as God plans, but keep cutting them back, as it were. There is no development, no growth, and therefore no beauty in their lives; they have merely stunted souls. God intends our souls to grow and develop as our body does. A Christian is meant to grow, to advance. His watchwords are, go up higher, excelsior, amplius, higher, wider, till we come to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of Christ.
II. Marks of a Little Soul.
1. People with little souls take narrow views of religion.
2. Small souled people take narrow views of duty.
3. People with little souls are wanting in sympathy.
III. The Duty of Taking a Wider View. Let us try to take a wider view of things, of life, of religion, of duty, of our responsibilities. Let us cultivate a wider sympathy with others' needs, instead of sitting down upon our own little bundle of thorns.
H. J. Wilmot-Buxton, Notes of Sermons for the Year, pp. 114-20.
The nature of man was that in which God was at last to give His crowning revelation, and for that no preparation could seem extravagant. Fascinating and full of marvel as is the history of the past which science discloses to us; full as these slow-moving millions of years are in evidences of the exhaustless wealth of nature, and mysterious as the delay appears, all that expenditure of resources is eclipsed, and all the delay justified when the whole work is crowned by the Incarnation, for in it we see that all that slow process was the preparation of a nature in which God could manifest Himself as a Person to persons.
References. II. 7. J. Keble, Sermons for Septuagesima, p. 108. J. Budgen, Parochial Sermons, vol. ii. p. 40; Sermons for the Christian Tear, vol. iii. p. 108. J. Aspinall, Parish Sermons, p. 250. J. Laidlaw, The Bible Doctrine of Man, p. 48. R. W. Evans, Parochial Sermons, p. 293. II. 8. H. J. Wilmot-Buxton, Bible Object Lessons, p. 203. C. Perren, Revival Sermons, p. 301. W. L. Watkinson, The Blind Spot, p. 183. R. Fetherston, A Garden Eastward, p. 1. II. 9 J. Keble, Sermons for the Holy Week, p. 446. A. Ainger, Sermons Preached in the Temple Church, p. 283. II. 12. W. L. Watkinson, The Ashes of Roses, p. 165. II. 15. R. E. Hutton, The Crown of Christ, p. 265.
Gold and Onyx Not Enough
Gold and bdellium and onyx what more did it need? Is not this a sufficing inventory of the land? It needed a river. Land without river is sand, nothingness, a great ghastly image of fruitlessness and despair. But if it have gold and bdellium and onyx, is it not fruitful? No; no more is your life. You have gold and gum and grey onyx and precious stones, but no river; write yourself poor, make out yourself a bankrupt in the court of heaven.
You may use this metaphor of the river in many senses. The emblems of God are capable of being broken up into various aspects and driven along various lines of practical application. The metaphor is not confined to water only; there are other things that may stand for water in the elaboration of this great argument.
I. Here is a man who has great capacity. He is a man of insight and foresight, he balances things well, his judgments are sound, his talents are somewhat even brilliant. Then why does he not succeed in life? For want of the river. What is that river? Capital. He is abler than many, full of resource, very quick in sight and very sure in calculation, but you might as well attempt to sail a great American liner in a basinful of water as to carry forward all the possibilities of his talent when he is in want of capital, gold, and bdellium and onyx. The Divine grace utilizes all our powers, gives them scope, causes them to grow, satisfies their aspirations, ennobles their uses, and we may have everything but the wealth of God, the wealth of grace, the wealth of character, ability enough, even splendour of intellect enough, but no river of grace, no river of the true gold, no river of spiritual capital. What, then, does it all mean? Ruin. There is no way for splendour to find its road into heaven.
II. Here is a man who has capital, gold, and bdellium and onyx, and his balances pecuniary are so great that he hardly cares to count them; and yet he is to be pitied. Why so? Want of the river. What river? Health! Health turns stones into gold, deserts into gardens; health creates stars for the midnight, and revels in the splendour of the planets; health is a continual miracle, health clears a way for itself; and the man who is being pictured by my fancy at this moment has everything but health. If God would send that Pison, that stream, that member of the great fourfold Eden river into his life, the man would stand up a king.
III. Here is a very remarkable life: the man has learning and great intellectual capacity and many attributes that other men might covet or envy; and yet, oh how dismal is that life! What does it want? The river. What river? Sunshine, the light-river.
IV. And another figure which comes to my fancy is that of a man in sore loneliness. He could do much under given circumstances, but under the circumstances which now crush him he can do nothing. What does he want? The river. What river? The river of a strong friend. Some of us were nothing till the strong friend got hold of us, and then we expanded into something, and were accounted of repute and influence. There is a Friend that sticketh closer than a brother, there is a Friend accessible to all, the name, unchangeable, is Jesus of Nazareth, whom the Jews murdered, but whom God offered up in sacrifice: He is the Friend of all.
Joseph Parker, City Temple Pulpit, vol. i. p. 69.
The Standard of Righteousness
'Sin is the transgression of the law.' Before we can understand the consequences of sin we must try to understand the nature of the law. If religious fatalism is dead, scientific fatalism does not lack its prophets. We are told that environment is everything. You cannot choose what you will think, or say, or do. There is no will in man to master the sovereign impulses of Nature.
I. The first point that strikes us is that if this is true the whole government of the world is a monstrous injustice. If there is no vice to be punished it is nothing short of a scandal that punishment should be inflicted. The fact of the matter is that the theory breaks down before the actual consciousness of men. The moral nature of man is a special communication of God.
II. We have reached the point where the problem of revelation begins to face us. If it is true, as we feel, that we can obey or disobey the will of God, what is that will? How has it been revealed to man? The education of the conscience is a great historical process. In this second chapter of Genesis, and indeed throughout the whole Bible, revelation is represented as being of two kinds inward and outward. In the very spirit and nature of a man made in the likeness of God there is a certain elementary revelation of the will of God. There are in every conscience certain broad lines of right and wrong. To walk as we are sometimes encouraged to do by the light of nature, as if that were enough, is simply to court degeneration and decay. The spirit life needs, like every other life, to be kept alive by a friendly spiritual environment. To live in God, to absorb His quickening, vitalizing power, to hearken to His commandment, and be refreshed and strengthened by His grace these are no fables of Scripture but living experiences of men. Revelation is from without as well as from within.
III. Commandment without example, without illustration, is morally of very little effect. 'How can you define in words where legitimate indulgence ends and where positive vice begins? What is lawful for me may not be expedient because of my brother.' Ages ago in response to human need the Ten Commandments were given. The Ten Commandments grew into a whole system and government of life. The Rabbis said 'thus and thus you should live.' But yet they could not teach the world in words the will of God.
IV. God has explained and defined. But the mind of man could not comprehend. There remained one way and only one. It was that God Himself should take in hand the task of life, and live it out before the world. He is the end and crown of revelation.
C. Silvester Horne, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxxix. p. 78.
Reference, II. 16-17. A. W. Momerie, The Origin of Evil, p. 1.
Satan in History
Genesis 2:18 ; Genesis 3:4
And between these two voices the education and discipline of man have been conducted from the first day until now. Never let us shut our eyes to facts. There is a temptation to avoid unpleasant subjects; such temptation is one of the devil's tricks.
I. 'And the Lord God said...' 'And the serpent said...,' and they both spoke practically on the first page of the first book in the Bible; the devil was nearly as instantaneously present as was God. 'And God said...' 'And the serpent said...,' and sometimes they are blended and interblended, and you can hardly discriminate between one tone and the other.
If I look abroad upon the earth so far as it is accessible to my observation, I cannot but find proofs enough that there is an enemy, call him by what name you please, account for him as you like, deny him if you will; I can not account for certain broad facts, events, collisions, tragedies, woes, losses, apart from the suggestion that there is an unslumbering enemy; I cannot trace everything to a good parent. I am not able yet to say that all things are pure, sweet, beneficent, healing, and full of blessedness. On the contrary, I can say, There is an enemy here, or there, or yonder; God never dug a grave, God never inflicted pain; there must be behind all the pain which He inflicts a reason or a suggestion which refers to some other and alien and antagonistic and most cruel force.
II. It is wonderful how the Bible from beginning to end, from almost the first page to the last, broadly, definitely, recognizes the personality and ministry of an evil one. The slime of the serpent is upon every page, his fang thrusts itself through all the rose leaves and summer beauty of life and time.
Until we get back to fundamental facts we cannot preach the Gospel; in fact, we shall have no Gospel to preach. It was not until 'the serpent said' that another voice replied, 'The seed of the woman shall bruise the head of the serpent'. The serpent speech is the first page, the first sentence, in the Christian theology.
III. Now as visibly in the one case as in the other there is certainly a good spirit abroad, a holy redeeming spirit, a gentle, tender, sympathizing spirit, a benign power that will not leave us until the red wound has been skinned over and until that skin has grown into a sufficient and permanent security. The Bible does not create God; I see God in providence, I see Him in my own life, I see Him in the family life of all my friends; He wants time for the development of His personality and the full revelation of His design and the complete outlining and outspher-ing of His beneficent purpose.
(1) Remember that the power of the serpent is limited. He is chained, he cannot add one link to his chain; he cannot stretch it, it is not an elastic chain, it is inflexible.
(2) And the ministry of the evil one is educational if properly received. It teaches us what we are, what we may become, it teaches us our need of redeeming love, it teaches us the vanity of love, the transitoriness of the things upon which we lavish our affection.
(3) And the power of the devil is revelatory. It will help us to understand the larger and fuller side of things; it will help us to account for some things which otherwise would distress our faith. Satan can only do a certain amount of mischief; the amount of mischief shall return upon his own head; and one day, far off, we shall see how it was that without knowing it the enemy was one of our friends.
Joseph Parker, City Temple Pulpit, vol. vii. p. 21.
References. II. 18. G. Bainton, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxxviii. p. 163. J. Aspinall, Parish Sermons (1st series), p. 250. C. J. Ridgeway, The King and His Kingdom, p. 20. II. 21, 24. Archbishop Bourne, Sermons in Westminster Alley, p. 96. II. 22 J. C. M. Bellew, Sermons, vol. iii. p. 344. S. Leathes, Studies in Genesis, p. 31.
Eve the Unfolded
The second chapter of Genesis is an attempt to paint not the making but the marriage of woman. It is an effort to delineate the day not of her birth but of her emergence. There are three periods indicated in the development of this primitive woman a period of innocence or unconsciousness, a period of conscious expansion, and a period of conscious or voluntary self-repression. The picture of Eve is an unfolding of these stages. She begins, so to speak, underground. She is at first invisible in the garden. It is her period of unconsciousness, of spontaneity, of existence that has never seen itself in the mirror nor stood before the bar of its own judgment-seat.
The second period of female development. Eve has become the mistress of Adam's ground. Spontaneity is dead, artlessness is dead, simplicity is dead. It is she and not Adam that wakens first to the glories of the garden. The first conviction of being beautiful may impart to her a thrill of awe. Her gifts have ordained her to a ministry that must render her less and not more free. But there is another way in which the woman may be affected by her looking-glass pride. It is this latter experience and not the former which is the case of Eve. The charm of her new-found possession dazzled her. Her satisfaction has its root in unblushing egotism. She is tempted by the offer of wisdom to be a God. The temptation of the woman in Eden is not a temptation to disobey, but a temptation to get possession of something which can only be got through disobedience. What is this sin of the woman extravagance.
The third stage conscious contraction. The typical woman of the world generally settles down. The scene of her empire narrows. It is not a stooping of her pride. It is the taking pride in something new, something nobler. There has come to Eve motherhood.
G. Matheson, Representative Women of the Bible, p. 29.
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Nicoll, William Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Genesis 2". Expositor's Dictionary of Text. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany