<< DISCOURSE I: Genesis and Geology >>
THE SUCCESSIVE DAYS OF CREATION IN GENESIS,
NOT THOSE OF SUCCESSIVE STAGES OF THE EARTH’S OLD CREATION,
BUT SUCCESSIVE STATES OF THE SOUL’S NEW CREATION.
And God said, let there be lights in the firmament of the heavens, to divide the day from the night: and let them be for lights in the seasons, and for days and years. And let them be for lights in the firmament of the heaven, to give light upon the earth: and it was so. And God made two great lights in the firmament of the heaven, the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night. He made the stars also.–GEN. i. 14-16.
THE subject we have this morning selected is occasioned by the great interest attached to the expositions of some who stand high in the theological world, and who have startled their religious friends by their freedom of inquiry. We allude to the suggestions offered in the work entitled Essays and Reviews. In many, this work has excited religions rancor; by many, the cry of infidelity has been raised; but by very few are the reasons met which these clergymen have offered for their convictions. These gentlemen are evidently men of thought, men of large attainments. They see difficulties which shallower minds pass unobserved. They are conscientious men, who look at scientific teachings in the ace, and reverently mark them. They are devoutly brave.
They have uttered the result of their researches in science and religion, and have placed their positions in life, and their estimation in the Church, in considerable jeopardy, by their free utterance of what they believe to be the truth; and they are worthy, not of reprobation, but of respect for their sincerity. Yet the conclusions to which they come are distressing and dangerous. Their results point to the abrogation of all definite faith in a Divine Book. Their views would practically lessen, rather than increase, our reverence for the Bible. Regarded as these teachers have been induced to regard it, the Word of God would practically be acknowledged only as the words of men; and the immortal children of the Eternal Father would be pursuing their voyage across the ocean of life with no chart by which to steer, no compass upon which they could rely, no lighthouse whose friendly gleam would guide, and no pilot to direct. We shrink from this conclusion. We dare not accept such a termination to our researches. We feel there must be error in the mode of inquiry, and we invite a reconsideration. There must be mistake in any conclusion which weakens our hold on the spiritual riches of Divine Revelation on heaven, and on the Savior. We would not condemn honest minds who state they cannot but arrive at dreaded conclusions; but in the strongest faith that Revelation must be right, if we know how to understand it, we invite to a re-examination of the problem.
Of the Mosaic account of creation, these writers state, we must regard it, not as an authentic utterance of Divine knowledge, but a human utterance which it has pleased Providence to use in a special way for the education of mankind (p. 253). It is stated that if we regard it as the speculation of some Hebrew Descartes or Newton, promulgated in all good faith as the best and most probable account that could be then given of God’s universe, it resumes the dignity and value of which the writers in question have done their utmost to deprive it (p. 252). The early speculator was harassed by no such scruples, and asserted as facts what he knew in reality only as probabilities. But we are not, on that account, to doubt his perfect good faith; nor need we attribute to him willful misrepresentation, or consciousness of asserting that which he knew not to be true.
He had seized on one great truth, in which, indeed, he anticipated the highest revelation of modern inquiry namely, the unity of the design of the world, and its regard to detail, observation failed him. He knew little of the earths surface, or of its shape or place in the universe, the infinite varieties of organized existence which people, the infinite varieties of organized existences which people it, the distant floras and faunas of its different continents, were unknown to him. But he saw that all which lay within his observation had been formed for the benefit and service of man; and the goodness of the Creator to his creatures was the thought predominant in his mind (p. 253).
While thus virtually surrendering the citadel of the Divine Word to the unbelievable, Mr. Goodwin seems at times at the very entrance of paths worthy of his best attention, and leading to very different conclusion. He remarks the circumstances of the second narrative (i. e., Gen. chap. ii.) Of creation, are indeed such as to give at least some ground for the supposition that a mystical interpretation was intended to be given by it (p. 323).
If mystical be taken as synonymous with spiritual, which, in this use of it by Mr. Goodwin, is we presume meant and it is admitted that there is some ground for the idea that a spiritual interpretation is intended in the second chapter of Genesis would it not be at least worthy of those who feel the need of a Divine revelation, before depriving themselves of this inestimable boon to ask if it be not possible the Divine Author, which revelation supposes, might not intend a spiritual interpretation also for the first, and in this spiritual element its especial Divine character might consist? Would not this probability of the spiritual interpretation being the one really intended be greatly heightened if the very difficulties and discrepancies which are manifest when the narrative is brought face to face with Nature, should be found each to be in perfect harmony with the development of the stages by which the soul is conducted to realize the blessed unfoldings of a new spiritual creation.
Again, Mr. Goodwin observes:–
It would have been well if theologians had made up their minds to accept frankly the principle, that those things for the discovery of which man has faculties specially provided, are not fit objects of a Divine revelation.
Here is a great truth propounded, but unhappily not at all pursued. Here is a most fertile principle indicated, but almost immediately passed by and forgotten. Mr. Goodwin shows that the Mosaic cosmogony cannot be Divine revelation, because its statements are not in harmony with the disclosures of science; but, according to the valuable principle we have just quoted, and which must commend itself to the Christian thinker, the result would have been just the same if its statements had been all most exactly in harmony with the teachings of geology: for man has faculties specially fitted for discoveries in geological science; and, as Mr. Goodwin says, those things for the discovery of which man has faculties specially provided are not fit subjects of a Divine revelation. Mr. Goodwin, then, has only been looking for the Divine character of the opening of Genesis, in a direction in which, according to his own principle, it could not possibly be found. The investigation, then, cannot be considered as closed. Other and more hopeful modes of inquiry must be pursued, ere we give up the glorious thought that God has spoken to man.
Indeed, there is much in these Essays and Reviews which indicate that their authors recognize the spiritual nature of man in its yearnings, its breathings, its perceptions, and its demands. At times, their sense of the requirements of this immortal part seems so distinct and definite, that one expects they will fully admit that in a Divine revelation this spiritual nature would be addressed everywhere, and fully provided for; but, unhappily, the positive statement constantly evades you, and you are left wondering what the writers can mean at all by Divine revelation, what clear and definite idea they have, or if they have any. Now and then, averments are made, which, if definitely carried out, would lead to glorious results indeed. We allude to such as Mr. Jowetts observation–Scripture has an inner life or soul: it has also an outer body or form (p. 389);
The interpretation of Scripture requires a vision and faculty divine (p. 337); or to such passages as the following, by Dr. Temple–The law may be an internal law–a voice which speaks within the conscience, and carries the understanding along with it; a law which treats us not as slaves but as friends, allowing us to know what our Lord doeth; a law which bids us yield not to blind fear or awe, but to the majesty of truth and justice; a law which is not imposed on us by another power, but by our own enlightened will. Now the first of these is the law which governs and educates the child; the second, the law which governs and educates the man. The second is in reality the spirit of the first (p. 35). Or in Professor Williams review of Bunsen, where we find, among others, the following passages–Lamenting, like Pascal, the wretchedness of our feverish being, when estranged from its eternal stay, he traces as a countryman of Hegel, the Divine Thought bringing order out of confusion. Unlike the despairing school, who forbid us to trust in God or in conscience, unless we kill our souls with literalism, he finds salvation for men and states only in becoming acquainted with the Author of our life, by whose reason the world stands first, whose stamp we bear in our forethought, and whose voice our conscience echoes (p. 60).
Again–But the distinctively Mosaic is with him not the ritual but the spiritual, which generated the other, but was overlaid by it (p. 63).
He (Bunsen) reasonably conceives that the historical portion begins with Abraham, where the lives become natural, and information was nearer (p. 57). Once more–It was truly felt by the early fathers that Hebrew prophecy tended to a system more spiritual than that of Levi; and they argued, unanswerably, that circumcision and the Sabbath were symbols for a time, or means to ends. But when, instead of using the letter as an instrument of the spirit, they began to accept the letter in all its parts as their law, and twisted it into harmony with the details of Gospel History, they fell into inextricable contradictions (p. 65).
Also, notice the observations of Mr. Wilson, the vicar of Great Staughton, and author of the fourth essay, who says:–
Neither should the idealist (spiritual interpreter) condemn the literalist, nor the literalist assume the right of excommunicating the idealist. They are really fed with the same truths–the literalist unconsciously, the idealist with reflection. Neither can justly say of the other that he undervalues the Sacred Writings, or that he holds them as. inspired less properly than himself (p. 200).
Again–We must think it wrong to lay down that whenever the New Testament writers refer to Old Testament histories, they imply of necessity that the historic truth was the first to them. For their purposes it was often wholly in the background, and the history valuable only in its spiritual application. The same may take place with ourselves, and history and tradition be employed emblematically, without, on that account, being regarded as untrue. We do not apply the term untrue to parable, fable, or proverb, although their words correspond with ideas, not with material facts: as little should we do so when narratives have been the spontaneous product of true ideas, and are capable of reproducing them (p. 202).
The spiritual significance is the same of the transfiguration, of opening blind eyes, of causing the tongue of the stammerer to speak plainly, of feeding multitudes with bread in the wilderness, of cleansing leprosy, whatever links may be deficient in the traditional record of particular events (p. 202).
Once more, The idealogian (spiritual interpreter) sometimes be thought skeptical, and be skeptical or doubtful as to the historical value of related facts, but the historical value is not always to him the most important; frequently, it is quite secondary. And, consequently discrepancies in narratives, scientific difficulties, defects in evidence, do not disturb him as they do the literalist (p. 203).
With all these acknowledgments of man’s spiritual nature, the supreme importance of spiritual teaching, the relation of all outward facts to inward changes as emblems, we cannot but be surprised that the talented Essayists should have failed to perceive the bearing of all this upon the character of Divine Revelation, or to have applied it to the interpretation of the first chapter of Genesis.
We must not, however, forget that the Essays and Reviews are by seven different authors, whose views are more or less diverse, and that each author is only responsible for his own production. Some, therefore, will lean more to the spiritual side of Divine teachings than others, some be more content with the letter, which, as it lends to the negation of the Divine authority and worth of the Bible, seems in their case, indeed, the letter that killeth. 2 Cor. iii. 6.
The chief failure, as it appears to us, in the Essays and Reviews, is the want of any defined idea. of the Word of God. There is abundant observation on what is not the object of Divine Revelation, but scarcely anything of what is. On the character of inspiration we have next to nothing; for Professor Jowett’s definition of inspiration as That idea of Scripture which we gather from the knowledge of it; is so vague, that it hardly conveys any meaning at all. And his often repeated axioms, Scripture has only sense, You must interpret Scripture as you would interpret any other book, are dicta not at all self-evident. Indeed, they seem only consistent with a foregone conclusion, that the Bible is not inspired by God at all; that its books are the productions of the authors whose names they bear, if rightly named, and spoke the meanings these authors had in their minds, and not any Divine meaning at all.
But, from this conclusion, our inmost souls shrink. It is the gulf into which infidelity would plunge us, and, into which we will not go. We feel that God, our Father, who has provided food and guidance for the meanest insect, has not left unprovided mans immortal soul. We are not orphans, with no counsels from our Father. God has spoken, let us reverently but intelligently listen. God has given a law, and this law is better to us than thousands of gold and silver.
But, many fail to perceive the Word of God, who have yet sought diligently for it, because they have not set out with any clear idea of what a Divine Revelation would be. They are like a child who has been sent to fetch a certain flower, but not waited to he informed of the marks by which it might be known. The child goes about, looks on all sides, perhaps tramples it under foot, and comes back and says it is not there, simply because he does not know it when he sees it, not having learned the marks by which it may be distinguished.
So, Mr. Goodwin says of the Mosaic Narrative, this is not the Word of God. It is not a true account of the creation of the universe. If it had been a correct little treatise on Geology, would that have met your anticipations? Is a small brief history of any science your ideal of the Word of God?
The first mark of a Divine Revelation, then, we conceive must be its spiritual character, announcing its origin in God, who is a Spirit. The second, its natural form, consequent upon its being addressed to the natural man.
The spiritual character of the Word of God is involved in its very idea. For the Word of God must include the thoughts of God, and the thoughts of God are spiritual, both in their essence and their objects. God is a spirit, and He seeks that they who worship Him should worship Him in spirit and in truth. Show us any book, or part of a book, that does not contain a spiritual lesson, and we may know from that fact, it is not the Word of God. God’s book must contain God’s thoughts, as mens books contain mens thoughts.
And this is the precise claim of the Bible in general, and of this very portion of the Bible in particular. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, with the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. Isa. lv. 8, 9. And in relation to this especial portion, the law of Moses, of which the account of creation is the introduction, we are informed, The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple. Ps. xix. 7.
Whatever comes from the Spirit of God, must have reference to man’s spiritual nature, must be intended to train him for heaven. Earthly objects are cared for by mans earthly faculties. Revelations are daily made to man on such subjects by nature; for this purpose no other revelation is needed. If God speaks, it must be to reveal what man could not otherwise learn, the truths of his regeneration, the things belonging to his eternal home.
But, while we regard the spiritual side of revelation, its issue from a spiritual Being, and its relation to spiritual subjects, we must not forget that it addresses itself to the natural man; it must therefore have a side accommodated to him. The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man.
To accommodate the spiritual things of God to the natural state of man, there must be a letter that will interest and awaken the natural man. On all the glory, there must be a covering. This letter will vary with the varying states and tastes of the generations to which it is addressed. It may be the language of parable, of history, of poetry, of prophecy, of narrative, of symbol, or of vision. God clothes Himself with light as with a garment; but this is His inner garment, woven of a piece throughout. His outer garments may he divided: for they are diverse. The outer, but not the inner, can be separated, like the robes of the Word in Person.
The outer lessons are always for the child, and for the novice in Christ. But there is a line upon a line, a precept upon a precept, an inner word as the soul beneath the outer word, and this is the great object of revelation.
The outer word may be naturally true or not, as seems best to Infinite Wisdom, to ensure its proper reception by the natural man. Gut whether each portion be outward fact or allegory, its grand mission is ever to be the vehicle of heavenly wisdom. The early portions of the Word, up to the history of Abraham, were given in allegory, because given to an age delighting in allegory. The history of the Jews was real history, because they were a nation of intensely matter-of-fact people. Yet their history was allegorical (Gal. iv. 24). Their law was a shadow of good things to come (Heb. x. 1). Everywhere there were the patterns of heavenly things (v. 23); figures of the true (v. 24). The tabernacle was an outward building, but it was made after a heavenly pattern, down to Moses in the mount. The priests served unto the example and shadow of heavenly things (Heb. viii. 5).
If God ever gives a revelation, we see not how it can be otherwise than this.
It must be spiritual in its bosom, it must be natural in its form.
To us, then, it is not astonishing that the first chapter of Genesis is not a perfect treatise on geology. It never was intended to be so. It was a Divine revelation, given to the spiritually-minded generations of the early world. They saw all things of earth as shadows of heaven. The creation they were concerned about was the creation in themselves of purer thoughts and holier affections. They knew that paradise was never attained but by the successive formations in the soul of those exalted principles of which all God-formed outward nature is the expressive symbol.
Raphael, in Paradise Lost, expresses the living conviction of the most ancient people,
What if earth
Be but the shadow of heaven, and things therein
Each to other like, more than on earth is thought.1 1 Book V. p. 571.
The mythology of the early Hindoos, the hieroglyphics of Egypt, the beautiful fables of Greece, the sacrifices of all lands, all originated in this disposition of the early world. The absurdities of degenerate ages originated in the sublime wisdom of the most ancient. Whoever will trace up the idolatries and myths of the hoary nations of the East will find that they are but the degenerate literalism of the exalted knowledge of the early fathers of our race. The fire-worshipers at first adored on intellectual sun, and so of all other systems. The ancient world is strewn with the fragments of a sublime spiritual system in ruins; each nation took a portion and made it an idol.
To this wise, early people, then, the early chapters of Genesis were given, as a Divine revelation, and it was given in the style they loved, which is indeed the Divine style; by outward symbol, to teach of inward virtues.
In relation to outward things being used as symbols of inward principles, and outward creation as a symbol of regeneration, we say this is the Divine style, and it is indeed continued throughout the Sacred Writings. We find a parallel for the description of the earth prior to the operations of the first day, in Jeremiah.
It is written in Genesis i. 2: The earth was without form (empty) and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep Jeremiah says: My people is foolish, they have not known me; they are sottish children, and they have none understanding; they are wise to do evil, but to do good they have no knowledge. I beheld the earth, and, lo it was without form (empty) and void; and the heavens, and they had no light. Jer. iv. 23, 23. It is manifest that an unregenerate state of the people is described by the symbol of a chaotic earth and darkened heavens. While, on the other hand, a regenerated soul and a restored church are presented to us by another prophet, under the image of new creation. And I have put my words in thy mouth, and I have covered thee in the shadow of mine hand, that I may plant the heavens and lay the foundations of the earth, and say unto Zion. Then art my people. Isa. li. 16. The apostle Paul gives a striking illustration of the same mode of speaking, If any man be in Christ Jesus, he is a new creature. Old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. 5 Cor. v. 19.
That this Divine style is founded upon the very order of the universe, every deep-thinking mind has seen from Hermes Trismegistus (the thrice great), who, near the time of Moses, uttered the echo of all ancient wisdom in his time, when he said, All things on earth exist also in heaven, but in a heavenly manner, to Plato, and down to Robertson of Brighton, who commenced one of his beautiful discourses1 with the following words: There is a close analogy between the world of nature and the world of spirit. They bear the impress of the same hand; and hence the principles of nature, and its laws, are the types and shadows of the invisible.
1 Spiritual harvest.
If such an order be true, and the Divine Being reveals His wisdom, can we doubt for a moment, whether its object will be to instruct us concerning spiritual or material things? And if, besides this reasonable expectation, we are assured that the professed revelation, though guarded by the highest authority, is not in harmony with a scientific treatment of the outer world, is it not every way proper that we should alter the direction of our research, and inquire, may it not be that we have been looking in the wrong direction, and applied that revelation to outer nature, that was meant for the soul?
What then, may we regard the Essays and Reviews in this respect, but the last outcry of those who have utterly deceived themselves, by trying to open the door with a wrong key. They cry, we give it up.
This confession is uttered by almost every writer; but of course most elaborately by Mr. Goodwin, the author of the essay on the Mosaic Cosmogony.
Dr. Temple observes:–
Therefore, nothing should be more welcome than the extension of knowledge of any and every kind; for every increase in our accumulations of knowledge throws fresh light upon these, the real problems of our day. If geology proves to us that we must not interpret the first chapter of Genesis literally … the results should still be welcome (p. 47).
The Rev. Mr. Wilson has the words:–
Under the terms of the Sixth Article one may accept literally or allegorically, or as parable or poetry, or legend, the story of the serpent tempter (p. 177).
Thus, some may consider the descent of all mankind, from Adam and Eve, as an undoubted historical fact, others may rather perceive in that relation a form of narrative into which, in early ages, tradition would easily throw itself spontaneously (p. 201).
The Rev. Mr. Goodwin observes:–
The difficulties and disputes which attended the first revival of science have recurred in the present century, in consequence of the growth of Geology…. Geologists of all religious creeds are agreed that the earth has existed for an immense series of years, to be counted by millions rather than by thousands, and indubitably more than six days elapsed from its first creation to the appearance of man upon its surface (D. 210).
When this new cause of controversy first arose, some writers, more hasty than discreet, attacked the conclusions of geologists and declared them scientifically false. This phrase may now be considered past, and although school-books may probably continue to teach much as they did, no well-instructed person now doubts the great antiquity of the earth any more than its motion (p. 210).
The day during which the present generation came into being, and in which God, when he made the beast of the earth after his kind, and the cattle after their kind, at length terminated the work by molding a creature in His own image, to whom he gave dominion over them all, was not a brief period of a few hours duration, but extended over, mayhap, millenniums of centuries.
Professor Jowett does not fail to add his conviction that the literal truth of the early portions of Genesis cannot be maintained He says:–
Almost all intelligent persons are agreed, that the earth has existed for myriads of ages; the best informed are of opinion that the history of nations extends back some thousands of years before the Mosaic chronology; recent discoveries in geology1 may perhaps open a new vista of existence for the human species, while it is possible, and may one day be known, that mankind spread not from one, but from many centers over the globe (p. 349).
1 The discovery of human implements, with fossil remains, near Abbeville, &c. &c.
They will no more think that the first chapters of Genesis relate the same tale which geology and ethnology unfold, than they now think the meaning of Joshua x. 12, 13, to be in accordance with Galileo’s discovery.
These intimations are surely full enough to show that the Essayists are deeply convinced that no mode remains of holding to the literal reading of the early chapters of Genesis. Mr. Goodwin enters into an elaborate examination of the most likely methods which have been suggested, to make it out, that the Eternal has interposed with a revelation, to teach man geology, and that the lesson is one that must be apologized for and explained away, for such are all the schemes for making the literal sense of Genesis harmonize with geology, and sorry expositions are they all, says Mr. Goodwin, and he says so, truly.
The conciliators are not agreed among themselves, and each holds the view of the other as untenable and unsafe. The ground is perpetually being shifted, as the advance of geological science may require. The plain meaning of the Hebrew record is unscrupulously tampered with, and in general the pith of the whole process lies in divesting the best of all meaning whatever (p. 211).
And this is indeed the fact. Whoever will read the attempts of those who have laudably desired to vindicate the Word of God, and have mistakenly supposed that this could only be done by making the letter of the Word teach scientific truth, will see how completely this is a labor in vain. It is Sysiphus rolling once more the stone up hill, which is never to reach the top. It is Tantalus ever straining for the water that evades his lips. The will is deep, and these haven nothing to draw with. Even the English Churchman, that organ of the High Church body, has begun to assume the possibility of Divine allegory being the truer designation of this portion of the Word of God, and writes:–
Whatever may be the explanations of the early chapters of the book of Genesis, and the difficulties connected with the trees of life, and of the knowledge of good and evil, a serpent tempter, and the existence of sin before Adams fall.–March 14th, 1861, p. 264.
Oh that these guardians of the oracles of God would indeed look upward and inward, and remember the words of Him who spake as never man spake. The flesh profiteth nothing, it is the Spirit that quickeneth; the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life. John vi. 63.
The wise ancients knew that man was a little universe, why should we forget it? The macrocosm for the great world, the microcosm for man as a little world, were terms well known to them, why should they not be familiar to us? Though far from disdaining the marvels of science, especially modern science; though admitting its grand and wondrous lessons to the fullest extent; yet these are but the avenues to higher temple–the avenues to the temple of wisdom, where He is found who said, What shall it profit a man if he; gain the world, and lose his own soul, or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? Mark viii. 36, 37.
This representation of the lowest degree of mans mind, by earth, is in accordance with the divine style, and it appears throughout the Word of God. A recognition of its propriety runs through all literature, and bursts continually upon us in poetry.
The soul, in ifs uninstructed condition, is an earth uncultivated; the soul, regenerated, is an earth smiling in order, teeming with plenty, rejoicing in beauty. Isaiah xxxv. 1, lviii. 11; Hos. ii. 21-23; x. 11; Matt. xiii. 33; 2 Cor. v. 17; Rev. xxi. 1. The soul, wrecked, broken-down, and ruined, is an earth in a state of devastation. Psalms lxxv. 3; lxxxii. 5; Isaiah xxiv. 1, 4, 5, 9, 20. It is the same with the Church upon earth, which is but a large number of minds congregated, together with their surrounding institutions. The Church, about to be formed, is an earth, as a wilderness, into which the voice of Heaven and the spirit of the Savior are about to introduce order and renovation Isaiah x1. 3; lxi. 3-4; lxv. 17–18; Jer. xxii. 29. The Church, truly accepted and expanded, is an earth, over which, Jesus the Divine King, Jehovah manifest, reigns. Zech. xiv. 9; Isaiah li. 16; Rev. ii. 15; xxi. 5. The Church in ruins having forsaken its principles, and blotted out its great aims by self-love and mammon, is the earth at an end; its sun darkened, its moon not giving her light, its stars fallen from heaven, its surface a howling wilderness. Isaiah xiii. 9-10; Acts ii. 16-20; 1 Cor. x. 11; Heb.i. 1; ix. 26; 1 John ii. 17-18.1
1 Of the end of the Jewish Dispensation, the noble-minded Robertson, of Brighten, observes:–But this was all on the eve of dissolution. The Jewish earth and heavens, i. e. the Jewish Commonwealth and Church, were doomed, and about to pass away.
By the perception of this relation to each other, of the outer and the inner world, and its use in the Divine style of revelation, we are freed al once from all the difficulties that have clustered round both the beginning and the end of Holy Writ. The objections of geology fall at once. Genesis treats not of it, but of a creation entirely different. The end-of-the-world divines, from Mede to Cumming, are relieved from their monotonous and sorry labor of beating the gong to frighten the timid, and their efforts may be directed to nobler pursuits.
Let us then examine this earliest revelation as an unfolding of spiritual creation, as a disclosure of the Divine dealings with the earliest men, and applicable to men in all ages; and if we should find that its declarations are strictly true in this respect, and its difficulties in science are excellences in relation to the soul, me may not only be victorious over infidelity here, but see the law of the Lord indeed, as perfect, converting the soul.
Viewed thus, the words, In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth, are the announcement that God created, and creates those faculties of the soul which form the heavenly degree, and the earthly degree, of the human soul. There is in embryo the little heaven which is afterwards to form the kingdom of God within us (Luke xvii. 11), and the earth, or natural man, which is in due time to become like a watered garden (Isa. lviii. 11). The earth, or the natural man is always empty1 and void in the beginning, and darkness is on the face of the deep.
1 Erroneously translated without form.
We have two grand mental faculties, the will and the intellect; the one is empty of goodness, intended afterwards to fill it from the love of God, and the other void of truth from the Divine wisdom. The darkness of ignorance is over them both. They have deep and vast capabilities over which the spirit of God, the Divine mercy broods, but as yet all is still.
This was true of the ancient men; it is also true of men now. How wondrous are the possibilities in a child! There slumbers a young immortal! The powers that may would an age are there. The powers that may build cities, form fleets, measure worlds, and suns, and systems, are there. The future director of States, it may be, or the embryo archangel is there, but as yet all is dark. The Divine Love hovers over the wondrous being, and in the secret chambers of its awful, marvelous life, provides for its freedom and its future weal. The Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, let there be light, and there was light.
Light for the mind is knowledge. Day means state, for the, mind has a succession of states, as the earth has of days.
God always begins our progress by saying, Let there be light. Here science has encountered its first difficulty.
There is no light without the sun, and according to the letter of the Word, there was no sun made until the fourth day God divides the day from the night on the first day, yet day comes from the presence of the sun, night from his absence. Some have conjectured that day was first produced from a diffused light, and afterwards this was condensed into a sun. But no scientific mind, we presume, at the present day, doubts that the earth originated in the sun, as a means, in the hands of the Almighty. And very little worthy of Infinite Wisdom is the conjecture that God made days at first on one plan, and three days afterwards altered it. But all these difficulties disappear when we view the description as the delineation by Divine Wisdom of the progress of the soul in regeneration. Light corresponds to knowledge, which man must have before he can make a single step forward; the sun corresponds to the love of God in the heart, which is only given at a later stage of heavenly advancement.
The apostle speaks of light in the same sense and of the same kind. 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.
In the spiritual sense we see the reason for two other peculiarities, which are not very satisfactory in the letter. The first is, the progress from evening to morning, in each case, to make a day. We always start from ignorance, and come to knowledge–from shade to light; and to indicate this, the Hebrews, whose customs, with those of other eastern nations, originated in those ancient days when the world was all a book, which spoke of the wonders of the soul, and of a still higher world, always reckoned from evening to morning for a day.
The evening and the morning were the first day. The second peculiarity is the form of the divine fiat. LET there be light. It is hardly reason enough to say it is a sublime form of speech. A far more human and dearer interest it has for us, when we perceive it accurately describes the Divine operation on the free soul, inducing it to receive the light divine. God never forces. He gently insinuates, induces, and persuades. LET there be light, He says, and when the soul, wooed by the call of its Heavenly Father, unfolds itself for instruction, it can be truly said, and there was light.
God saw the light that it was good, and God divided the light from the darkness.
How truly good is light! Oh, give me more light, said the dying Goethe, and so says every progressive soul. Light is good; it opens the way to every excellence. The true soul yearns for light. It is strange that there are timid spirits who have been cabined in the dim twilight of some miserable superstition and who shrink from the brightness of more real knowledge, not knowing that light is good. Plants seek the light; the world assumes a living beauty in the light. Children love the light. Light for the body is good, but light for the mind is better. Let us never cling to shade and darkness, but ever press on to the light. God sees the light that it is good, and He calls the light day. There is no bright state without it.
The second days operation has presented fresh difficulty to the natural, merely scientific interpreter, but is most interesting and suggestive to the spiritual one. Verses 6, 7, make a firmament in the midst of the waters. God divides the waters which were under the firmament, from the waters which were above the firmament. This day also is remarkable as not obtaining the customary word of approbation that it was good, while it is twice stated on the third day that it was good. There is no such permanent division between two masses of water in nature. This division was not foreign to the ideas of ignorant men, who supposed there were immense reservoirs above, out of which come the snow and the rain. But we know it is not so.
In the spiritual meaning there is no difficulty, and the second state of mans spiritual progression is described.
Water is the symbol of truth1–that which is an ocean in itself, but of which each man takes what is necessary to quench his souls thirst, soften and direct all his other spiritual nourishment, permeate his soul, and keep it free from all pollution.
The first day, the first state of the souls advance, is to distinguish knowledge from ignorance, light from darkness. The second great stage of progress is to distinguish between truth and truth, to see that there are high and holy truths relating to heaven and eternal life, and truths of practical duty relating to earth. There are things for eternity, and things for time, things for God, and things for Caesar. This discrimination is highly important if carried on to further practical results, but of no worth if it remain a mere intellectual effort. The divine benediction is only given to that which is carried out to a full perfection in work. Hence, on this day, it is withheld. It is not said, God saw that it was good.
1 Water is used as truth in all its varied forms and applications throughout the Scriptures, John iv. 11, 16; vii. 38; 2 Peter ii. 17; Rev. xxii. 1, 17.
We come now to the third day, when there is another kind of discrimination made, the separation of dry land from the water, and after the dry land was formed, 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, the herb yielding seed after his kind, and the tree yielding fruit, whose seed is in itself, after his kind, and God saw that it was good. And the evening and the morning were the third day (v. 9-13).
Ground is the symbol of those good dispositions in the heart into which the seeds of instruction should fall; the good ground, said the Savior, is the honest and good heart. Luke viii. 15. The work of the third day indicates that state in the soul’s progression when it has been long delighted with truth, but now finds there is something holier than truth, duty, obedience, goodness. The grass, the herbs, and the fruit-trees are the emblems of these living thoughts and purposes of active righteousness, which bear the fruits of piety, charity and justice.
When the heart responds to the truths that have been opened to the mind, the gentle, living thoughts of trust, repose, and confidence, which we experience, are the green pastures upon which the Divine Shepherd makes his sheep to lie down. Psalm xxiii. 1. In this state of living, spring effort, it is first the blade, then the ear, and then the full corn of the ear. The herb yielding seed represents a living faith, imparting the seed of Divine things to all around.
This, which is like a grain of mustard seed at first, becomes the greatest among herbs. Mark xiii. 38. And, lastly, all these active principles of practical righteousness which go forth in doing good, are the fruit trees, whose seed is in themselves. They are trees of righteousness, branches of the planting of Jehovah. Isaiah lxi. 3.
There is a beautiful truth in the expression, whose seed is in itself. Every good deed is reproductive; its seed is in itself. Do an act of charity, and you will find the disposition flow in to do another. Do an act of virtue, it will be worth a hundred good thoughts. Do acts of justice and of kindness, and your example will inspire others, and spread the blessed influence around. You will be like those trees of clustering fruit, which bear for all; and every fruit has many seeds. The trees of the Lord are full of sap. They are branches of that tree of life which boars twelve manner of fruits, fruits for every season and month of the spiritual year. On this day the Divine Being says twice that it is good. It was soon when the dry land appeared, and good when the fruit tree yielded fruit, whoso seed was in itself. This peculiarity to the spiritually-minded Christian is not without its significance. Have we opened the good ground of a heart, seeking heavenly virtue, and prayed that the trees of heavens own fruit would grow? Have we desired to do good, and to be good? Have we purposed acts of justice, works of use, deeds of active doing and daring in the spirit of benevolence? Then shall we have found that these works are twice blessed. They are blessed in the intention, and blessed in the act. They are done at first from duty, and for a time it may be with some compulsion of self, some constraint to right, but; in that self-compulsion and constraint there is a sense of the Divine approbation; that is no mean reward, while in every act of virtue God originated, there is a blessing that acts and re-acts upon the agent and the receiver. This is the reason of the double approbation on the third day.
The fourth day, which is that which we have selected for our text, refers to the creation of the sun and moon, and on this day God made the stars also.
And God said, let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven, to divide the day from the night, and let them be for signs and for seasons, and for days and for years. And let them be for lights in the firmament of the heaven, to give light upon the earth: and it was so. And God made two great lights, the greater light to rule the day; and the lesser light to rule the night, He made the stars also. and God set them in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth. And to rule over the day, and over the night, and to divide the light from the darkness; and God saw that it was good. And the evening and the morning were the fourth day. Gen. i. 14-19.
In dealing with the creations of this day, we have not only geology teaching that such circumstances could not be literally applicable to the earth six thousand years ago, but astronomy also. Millions of years ago the earth was revolving in its orbit round the earth as now, plants were growing which required the seasons as now, myriads of creatures with eyes lived and died through vast periods, and life flourished in all its countless forms, all impossible without a sun. But astronomy teaches also that it is puerile, to suppose the stars were created only six thousand years ago, and for this earth. Portions of the astral system are grown whose light must have been traversing space for two millions of years. These objections, and many others, seem totally immoveable on any mode of interpretation which regards the letter as a narrative of natural creation.
Let us apply the spiritual system. The sun is the symbol in its highest sense of the Divine Love. This was known to the ancients: this is its representative character in the Word of God. The Divine Love in its grandest manifestation, high above the everlasting heavens, is the light which no man can approach unto. 1 Tim. vi. 16. The Lord is a sun. Ps. lxxxiv. 11. He is the Sun of righteousness, which arises upon those who fear His name with healing in His wings. Mal. iv. 2. This same Divine love now shines through the glorified person of our Lord Jeans Christ. His countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength. Rev. i. 16. This Sun illuminates and blesses the heavens, and His rays addressing themselves to human minds are the true light which enlightens every man that cometh into the world. John i. 9.
Of this eternal Sun the prophet says to the Church triumphant, Thy sun shall no more go down, nor thy moon withdraw itself: for the Lord (Jehovah) shall be thine everlasting light, and the days of thy mourning shall be ended. Isa. lx. 20. But, besides this grandest manifestation of the Divine love in the person of the Savior high above the heavens as the spiritual central sun of the universe, the Divine love as it is enkindled in the heaven of each regenerate heart is a son there. When the soul has practised the laws of religion from duty, and persevered in the doing of that which is lawful and right, in good time a new state opens. Two great lights, love for the heart and faith for the intellect, begin to shine within. The heart warms with love and its attendant joy. What he did formerly, because it was right though scarcely pleasant, he does now with delight. He is willing in the sunshine. It is not cold light, but a warm glow that rules this day. The ruddy glow within irradiates all things. He smiles with inward joy. He carries happiness within him wherever he goes. God has made for him a great light. He feels the luxury of doing good, the blessedness of being good. His light has come, the glory of the Lord (Jehovah) has risen upon him, and he arises and shines. Isa. lx. 1. A little summer is formed within his soul, and a delightful Paradise is there, and bliss untold. He, however, has nights too, though not dark nights. He has a moon. There is a variety within him. The evening comes with its shade, and softness, and illuminated by a silvery light. Faith, like a moon, shines when love has gone down. It is good for man to have variety of life. Too continuous a glow exhausts; a change relieves. Hence, sleep comes to the body, and rest to the wearied mind. He giveth his beloved sleep is an universal law prevailing both with bodies and souls, with nature and spirit. Love for the souls days and faith for the souls nights are both provided by the merciful Father of His creatures, are both felt by the regenerating soul which has attained the fourth day.
It is said they shall be for signs. The sun of love that glows in the regenerate heart, and makes a little heaven there, is a sign of the heaven to come. He gives us, says the apostle, an earnest of His spirit. 2 Cor. v.
Many sigh when they look to the future. They have no cheerful hope, no happy anticipation. They look within and all is gloomy; they look forward, upward, and all is dark. Let them love the things of heaven, and they will see a sign. Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven. Matt. v. 2. He who has heaven here, may rest assured that heaven will he his hereafter. The sun within, is a sign that he is in harmony with the eternal sun. Christ in Him is the hope of glory. If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His. But if he has from Him the love that suffereth long and is kind, the love that envieth not, the love that vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, the love that doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not its own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil, beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things–then has he the essence of heaven, and its preparation and promise too. Behold the sign.
But faith is also a sign. The light of the moon is only the light of the sun reflected. When the moon shines, you have the proof that the sun shines still, though you cannot see him. So is it with the spiritually-minded. In the sorrows of the souls night faith shines and cheers. Like a gentle moon, she illuminates the traveler on his weary way. He feels sometimes disconsolate, and cast down, but faith strengthens and supports him. She tells him of the love he no longer sees, and bids him hope and trust. Weeping, she says, may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning. Sometimes we listen but sadly to these notes of comfort; yet if we reflect, we may be assured that the existence of faith is a sign that love still cares for us, for the light of faith, is love at second-hand.1 Faith is loves sentinel, and loves herald. Faith is the evidence of things unseen, the substance of things hoped for. Just as the eye is an evidence for light; the ear for sound. Whenever there is an organ or faculty there will certainly be found the object that gratifies it; as surely as an appetite implies food, so faith implies that there are invisible realities which in good time will be unveiled, and bless the trusting soul with everlasting joy.
1 There is a nicety in Hebrew which expresses this unity of the two lights in the words Let them be. The verb let be is in the singular, but there is difficulty in presenting the idea, in the English rendering.
These two, Love and Faith, the two great inward lights, are also said to be for seasons also as well as for signs. And the soul has its seasons as well as the year. There are spring, summer, autumn, and winter within, as well as without us. We have periods when new states are budding; cheerful times, when we are fresh and vigorous, when our thoughts are radiant, our perceptions clear, our hopes all new. Flowers spring about us on every side. We are bright, if not warm. It is spring. Then come on maturer feelings. We advance towards fruition. We have states of placid happiness in continued succession. Our serene enjoyment announces that all is well with us. It is summer. Autumn is only the completion of this. In it our deeds acquire a ripe maturity. The acts at first wanting in purity of motives, in child-like dependence on the Most High, in wise humility, become gradually divested of all self-righteousness, and transformed into the rich fruits which announce the circulation of celestial purities. They are gathered in, and the state gradually changes into winter. The period for patience and self-denial comes on. Memories, that were green with us once, wither, die and are buried. We no longer are redolent with hope and vigor, but feel the chill of trial is upon us; yet we live on the experience of the past, and we cherish the roots of righteousness and truth. We faithfully tread on in the path of duty, and rely with quiet confidence that our winter will pass away, and a new year will come.
These seasons of mental life, though not measurable by stated times, are us real as those of nature. They arise from the aspects of love and faith within us, or in the mind of a wicked man–for he, too, has his spiritual years and mental changes;–they arise from the sun of self-love–the opposite of love for the Divine–and the sufficiency of his own wisdom, which is his moon. These seasons and their years are recognized unmistakably in Scripture. They furnish the months for which the fruits of the Tree of Life are adapted.
In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the Tree of Life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. Rev. xxii. 2. Of such seasons it is written again And it shall be in that day, that living waters shall go out from Jerusalem: half of them towards the former sea, and half of them towards the hinder sea in summer and in winter shall it be. Zech. Xiv. 8. There are the years of the right hand of the Most High. Ps. lxxvii. 10. These years all have. God makes them by laws as steadily affecting mans spiritual being as those of nature affect the world; and happy are they in whose spiritual universe God has made the great lights. Love glows, faith shines, and all is happy. He makes the stars also.
When the heart and mind are right with God, there are hosts of lesser lights which afford their radiant gleams. When we read the Holy Scripture, we see the individual verses, shining with new light, like the stars in the firmament. Each then seems to have something to cheer or to teach us. We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto we do well to take heed as unto a light; that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in our hearts. 2 Pet. i. 19. Unto him that overcometh, the Lord said, I will give the morning star. Rev. ii. 28. In the fourth grand state of spiritual creation, on the fourth day, when the soul is conscious of the presence of Divine things, the whole Word becomes a. glorious milky way studded with stars of various splendors, but each affording a holy and a beautiful light. And God made the stars also. And God sees that this is good. And the evening and the morning are the fourth day.
When this state of heavenly attainment has been reached, and the soul has been blessed by the holy warmth and confidence of interior love and trust, an amazing impetus is given to ah its powers of production–the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creatures that have life, and fowls that fly in the firmament of heaven. Water here, as before, is the emblem of truth. The water brings forth abundantly when the soul is happy. A heavenly activity of thought is engendered, a holy ingenuity is exercised, and dispositions to investigate swarm on every side.
These are the fish of the holy water (Ezek. xlvii. 10), and of the fifth day.
The scientific dispositions of the mine are fish that rejoice in the waters of truth. A person who give himself to science, and nothing more, who desires vain-glory for his attainments, and imagines his discoveries are his own, is like Pharaoh of old; a great fish lying in the midst of his rivers, and each saying my river is mine own, and I have made it for myself. Ezek. xxix. 3. On the other hand, the mind of a person lucid and clear, because diligent and orderly, is like a stream or lake of limpid water, full of gold and silver fish, and every form of marine and fluviatile beauty. The waters this day bring forth flying fowl also. Water, as before, is the symbol of truth in its general form. Birds correspond to rational thoughts, which are suggested by truth as we reflect. These soar in the mind like birds in the air. The good man has lofty conceptions, which mount in his spiritual atmosphere, and gather from the glories of eternity prospects; which cheer and animate him for ever. They mount up with wings like eagles; they run and are not weary; they walk, and never faint. Isa. xl. 31.
We may remark, in passing, that though in this first chapter, birds originate in the water (v. 20), in the second chapter they are described as made out of the ground (v. 19). This, and some minor points of difference, and the use of the name God for the Deity in the first chapter and the Lord (or Jehovah) God, in the second, has led to the conjecture that they were two traditional documents of different authors giving their speculations on creation and compiled only by the author of Genesis. Far different conclusions await the spiritually-minded inquirer into the wisdom of the Divine Word.
A far higher and worthier significance is seen when we view the spiritual stages of mans inner creation in the regenerate life as the subject of the Divine teaching. For then, the successive states of the soul are delineated in the first chapter, so long as the Deity is his leader, chiefly by the power of TRUTH, which is expressed by the appellation El Elohim (power, or powers); the Hebrew term for God in the first chapter; this continues through the six days, and while it continues, there is labor and difficulty experienced.
When man is exalted to a higher state still, expressed by the seventh day, then he is in paradise, then all is at rest, not the rest of idleness, but the rest of harmony, of love triumphant, of sweetness and inward peace. Then he is blessed by the Lord God, Jehovah God, because this double name with Jehovah first, indicates the Divine Love and Wisdom combined, and man in a celestial state, seeing and feeling all Wisdom as but the expression of Divine Love, and all Love as the holy essence of Wisdom. When this state is reached it is paradise, and in the center is then the Tree of (two) Lives.1
1 Hebrew, not the Tree of life, but the dual form, Ets ha chayim, the Tree of two lives.
This view, therefore, reveals the reason why the birds are said to be from the water on the fifth day, and from the ground on the seventh. When in the earlier stages of the regeneration, the soul has Divine Truth as its director, its thoughts, however lofty, are all derived from the truths with which it is surrounded, and from which its views and opinions come; but when it has advanced to a. higher state, and love roles, and the soul dwells in love, and it views our Heavenly Father, as Jehovah God; then the birds are formed from the ground, or in other words, the noblest aspirations of love come direct from the heart.
But, we must proceed to the sixth day. The first thing presented to us on that day is the formation of cattle, creeping thing, and beast of the earth, after his kind. Land animals are the symbols of the affections of the heart. The domestic, of the dearest and most sacred. Lambs, sheep and oxen, those of innocence, charity and obedience, which make the human breast a little fold of the Great Shepherd. The appetites are the creeping things; the beasts that roam at large and browse and graze in freedom are those affections which enjoy the outer life of exploring and adorning the world around. All are good. The symbolic character of animals is recognized everywhere in the Scriptures, from Genesis to Revelation.
Is it needful that I should recall the Saviors morels, I send you forth as lambs in the midst of wolves, (Luke x. 3); the sheep on his right hand and two goats on his left (Matt. xxv.); the blessedness of sowing beside all waters, of taking thither the feet of the ox and the ass (Isa. xxxii. 30); or, the living ones seen in the midst of the throne in heaven, having the face of a lion, a calf, a man, and an eagle. (Rev. iv. 7). This symbolical character of the animal world, as figuring forth all the living affections of the human character, has been the source of instructive parable in the times; of ancient wisdom, and of Divine teaching in every age. Let us for a moment dwell upon the scene presented before us, as the type of the soul thus far regenerated. It is an orderly and beautiful world, swarming with forms of life and loveliness. The wilderness has become, like Eden, the desert like the garden of God; joy and gladness are found therein, thanksgiving and the voice of melody. (Isa. ii. 3). All is under the government of man, in the image and likeness of God; indicative of the human being, having attained now the free adoption of all that truth teaches for its own sacred worth, which is the essence of the truly human character, and the image and likeness of God. Man has the dominion over all lower things. When we have entered upon our interior exalted manhood, all our little world obeys and rejoices in that obedience. Every principle of the soul has its delight, imaged by God’s providing food for every animal, and He, the Eternal Father, looks upon this glorious result of all His Divine operations, a soul in order, a new creation, overflowing with life, and pronounces all, not simply good as heretofore, but VERY GOOD. The heavens are shining over the rejoicing in life and beauty, and every thing is happy. And the evening and the morning are the sixth day.
This language of the Divine Wisdom, in which all things outward speak of inner things, by a law as unerring as nature itself, is a style worthy of God; it is infinitely suggestive; it was the most sacred knowledge of the early world. Dupuis, in his Origine de tous les Cultes, proves the prevalence over all the earth, in hoary antiquity, of sun-worship; and he deduces from this the material origin, as he supposes of all worship. But the reverse of this is abundantly evident.
His sun-worship was only the degradation, when men sank into Naturalism, of that true worship of the Eternal Sun, the Creator of all things, of whom, the wiser, earlier ancients knew the Sun of nature was the majestic symbol. So writes Colebrooke, the profound Hindoo scholar, of the ancient mythology of that immense and mysterious nation. Of the Vedas, their ancient sacred books, most likely older than Genesis, with the exception of those parts earlier than Moses, and which were probably, as Bunsen says, from a Bible before the Bible,1 yet equally from the Divine Revealer. Colebrooke says, speaking of the Rik-Veda, the most ancient, In fact, there is only one Deity, the great Soul (Mahun atma) He is called the Sun, for He is the Soul of all things.2
1 Essays and Reviews, p. 62.
2 Essays on the Religion and the Philosophy of the Hindoos, p. 13.
Every line is replete with allusions to mythology, and to the Indian notions of the Divine nature and of celestial spirits. The deities invoked appear, on a cursory inspection of the Veda, to be as various as the authors of the prayers addressed to them, but according to the most ancient annotations on the Indian Scripture these numerous names of persons and things are all resolvable into different titles of three deities, and ultimately of one God.3
3 Ibid., p. 12.
Let us meditate on the adorable light of the Divine Ruler (Servitri); may it guide our intellects. Desirous of food, we solicit the gift of the splendid Sun, who should be studiously worshiped. Venerable men, guided by the understanding, salute the Divine Sun with oblations and praise.
The commentator, whose gloss is here followed, considers this passage to admit of two interpretations: the light, or Brahme, constituting the splendor of the Supreme Ruler or Creator of the universe, or the light or orb of the splendid Sun.4
4 The first book of Vedas which, like the first book of Moses, or Genesis, contains the cosmogony of the Hindoo system of religion, must be 2800 years older than the birth of Christ, which according to the Hebrew computation is 800 years before the time of Abraham. In so remote an age, the Hindoos possessed written books of religion. Theogony of the Hindoos, by Count M. Bjornstjerna, p. 20.
Sir William Jones computes the age of the Vedas to be about the same, but from different grounds.Ibid.
That the Divine Substance is a fire, is asserted by the Zend-Avesta, but in order that it might not be mistaken for a material fire, they declare this fire is intellectual, and cannot be perceived but by pure minds.1 The Persians give to the sun, which they adore, the name of Mithras, which name, in the ancient language of their country, signifies love or mercy. We know that one of the most striking pieces of antiquity is the hymn to the Sun, by the Emperor Julian, in which this Sun is called spiritual. Plotin expresses himself: thus:–All that which appears in the natural world really exists in the world of mind. In this latter there is also a Sun.
1 Acad. Des Inscrip. P. 15.
The Egyptians believed their great God Osiris surrounded by celestial light which shines in the Sun.2
2 Plutarch, Isis and Osiris.
All these statements, and they might be indefinitely multiplied, show that over all mankind in ancient times one great system or Church prevailed, they were wise to discern spiritual things under all the forms of nature. As the Apostle expresses it–The invisible things of him from the creation of the world were clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and godhead. (Rom. iv. 20.) The sun, fire, and light, are the highest symbols of the Deity in nature, and are constantly so used in the Divine Scriptures. Jer. x. 17; Ezek. i. 27; Psalm xxvii. 1; Matt. iii. 11; John i. 9. It is clear the sun was the highest symbol; it was the Divine Love, and all holy affection from Him in human souls formed a miniature sun in the miniature heavens. This was the crowning symbol; all other things were, however, symbolic in their order. Such was the wisdom of the ancient men in the golden age, such is true wisdom now, and such will be the wisdom of those noble souls that earth will see when we have the golden age again, and the will of God is done on earth as it is done in heaven.
To view, then, the early chapters of Genesis,3 which were given to such a race of people as we have described as symbolizing spiritual things and states, under natural allegories, is the simplest conclusion possible, and it relieves from all difficulties with science, and it creates no other difficulty.
3 That the first eleven chapters of Genesis were susceptible of spiritual treatment, the wonderful genius of Bunyan clearly saw. He gave an exposition in which his editor says. The most pious penetration is exhibited in the spiritualizing of the creation and the flood; every step produces some type of that new creation, or regeneration, without which no soul can be fitted for heaven. Bunyan’s Works, by Offor, p. 414.
The solution to which the Essays and Reviews point, is an attempt to escape front the difficulty of having an apparent contradiction between two lessons, equally Divine, those of revelation and of science. It would escape the assaults of infidelity, but only by yielding the ground. It escapes from the defense of Divine revelation only because it confesses that in this respect it has no Divine revelation to defend. This is itself a sorry termination to the struggle, and is it a termination? Whether does it lead? Is it not the high-road to the denial of Divine revelation altogether? This portion of Genesis has always been a part of Genesis since Genesis was given as a sacred deposit to the Jewish people. God promised to be with Moses and teach him what he should say (Ex. iv. 12); to put words into his mouth, and into Aarons mouth, and teach them also what they should do (v. 15).
Moses wrote the words of this law in a book until they were finished (Deut. xxxi. 24), and said, Take this book of the law and put it in the side of the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God, that it may be a witness against thee (v. 26). This giving of the copy of the law by the hand of the man who had signalized his leadership to be from heaven, by the unmistakable presence of the Deity, during the lives of the men who had received their national institutions from his hand, if true at all, must have guaranteed its genuineness and authority. And throughout Israels history all the prophets had appealed to Moses as to Divine authority, and as genuine and true. The whole spiritual life of the people stood on these works, and their whole national life also, with all they had to teach the world. If their books were a compilation of trifling stories, the guesses of ignorant men, their whole national history was built upon mistake, illusion, and imposture; and surely in such case it can have no real value for the world. Instead of Israel having the important part assigned them by Dr. Temple, of teaching the unity and spirituality of God and purity of mind (Essays, &c., p. 11), they were the deluded victims of pretended revelations all through their history, which now, after four thousand years, are discovered to be groundless and puerile stories.
Besides, the Incarnate One, whom the authors of the Essays evidently regard as worthy of adoration, and Wisdom itself, among men, He gave no sign of this portion of Moses not being inspired, or not worthy of all acceptation. He never appealed to Moses and the prophets as of Divine authority. Would His own authority remain if this reference to Moses should be discovered to be a reference only to unfounded traditions? We see no midway. Moses, as a genuine Divine revelation, the Jewish dispensation, Christianity, and the progressive religion of the world, all stand or fall together. Other religions than the Jewish, and the Christian, are no exceptions, for these really live on the truths communicated in an older revelation, and ultimately are to find their crown, their explanation, and their development into one great family, by the glorious truths of which the Savior is the center. The kingdoms of this world shall become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of His Christ, and He shall reign for ever and ever.
But, if all this religious life of the world, this, which is the only redeeming side of humanity, and the only hope of the future, is a delusion, we are hastening to a night, dark and dismal indeed. It cannot be. Every holy and generous aspiration forbids it. We are moving to better things, not to worse. And, one of the pledges of progress is the conservation of the truths of generations gone. We may see, and doubtless shah see more deeply into truths of the past, than could be seen before, a wondrous unfolding of the old is yielding itself up in these days, as well as a manifestation of new discoveries, but we shall not surely discover that the holiest aspirations of our race which have all been unfounded. Every scribe instructed unto the kingdom is like unto a man that is a householder, who bringeth forth out of his treasures things new and old. Matt. xiii. 52. The whole world is obviously advancing to a wondrous future, but is also revealing a no less wondrous treasure of past progress, all tending to confirm faith, to awaken hope, and deepen love.
What mean those amazing disclosures of geology, which unveil the treasures hidden in formations millions of ages ago, yet all essential to civilization, and all promising far greater menders in the days to come? What can they mean, but that Love Divine was providing, and Infinite Wisdom was directing, the provision, for the demands of a glorious future. What mean those openings afresh of the lost knowledge of Egypt, still more, of Assyria, and most of all, of hoary Ind, with its unnumbered generations, reaching back to far, far distant times, but to bring us acquainted with a literature, and mode of thought, fully justifying the Divine style of early Genesis? Why, then, should we now shut ourselves up in a gospel of negation, closing our eyes as firmly as we can to the light streaming upon us from all sides? Why should we exhibit faithfulness only to the unfaithfulness, which persists in its strange efforts, not to see? How much more worthy of our adoption is the prayer of the devout Psalmist, Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law.
It is true, that we cannot give a spiritual interpretation to the early parts of Genesis, and admit Professor Jowett’s system of interpretation of Scripture, which forms so large, and, as we are compelled to say, unsatisfactory a portion of the Essays. The subject of the interpretation of Scripture, we shall resume in another discourse; but, even here we must state our protest against the doctrine, which, practically, though quietly, ignores inspiration, and states, ex cathedra, that we must interpret Scripture, as we would interpret; any other book (p. 377). Though that is a sense which may mean anything or everything, since any other book must be interpreted, certainly, according to the mind of the author, and the subject of which it treats, one differently from another. The dogma which comes next; that it may be laid down, that Scripture has one meaning–the meaning which it had to the mind of the Prophet, or Evangelist who first uttered or wrote, to the hearers, or readers, who first received it (p. 378) is so unfortunately vague, that one call only hope it may indicate so undefined a slate of mind in the Professor, as may lead him to reconsider his views of inspiration altogether. Why we must take it for granted that Scripture has only one meaning, we are nowhere told.
Why we must take Professor Jowett’s dictum rather than the teaching of the apostle, who said –Which things (though the real apostle of Abraham) are an allegory (Gal. iv. 31), we are not; informed. How that one sense. can be the sense of the speaker, and the sense of the hearer, when we are often assured that the hearers quite misunderstood the speaker, as in Matt. x-iii. 1.7, John vi. 41-85. Or what one sense there can be in such declarations as those, which state that we are to eat the Saviors flesh and drink his blood (John vi. 53), hate our father and mother that we may love Him (Luke xiv. 26), pluck out our eyes, cut off our offending hands and feet (Mark ix. 43, 45-47), have salt in ourselves, (v. 50), receive the morning star; (Rev. ii. 28), and others too numerous to mention. How we can assume that we have exhausted by some one meaning, all the wisdom of an Infinite speaker, is really difficult to perceive, or rather, it is evident, that such a rule of criticism is totally inconsistent with the idea of any inspiration whatever. Hence in the extremes to which it leads, all the distressingly dangerous conclusions of these Essays and Reviews, we may hope will be seen the beacon which will warn the student from it. Yet these canons of criticism are not peculiar to Professor Jowett, they are those which have long prevailed in high quarters in the Church, and at the Universities. .Let us hope that this revelation of their destructive tendencies will lead to their reconsideration, and it will be really admitted, as Professor Jowett somewhat inconsistently but very truly states elsewhere, Scripture has an inner life or soul; it has also an outward form or body (p. 389); and so will the ministers of the Lord Jesus Christ in our day, like the early ministers of the Word, confess Our sufficiency is of God, who hath also made us able ministers of the New Testament; not of the letter, but of the Spirit, for the letter killeth, but the Spirit giveth life. 2 Cor. iii. 6.
Nor, must we be supposed, when we speak of the spiritual meaning of the creation in Genesis, to have the slightest community of thought, with that unaccountable declaration of Professor Laden Powell, that more recently the antiquity of the human race, and the development of species, and the rejection of the idea of creation, have caused new advances in the same direction (p. 129, Essays).
Geology speaks as loudly as any other science, of creation, by the power of the Infinite Creator. Geology leads us from the living, blooming surface of the world on which we stand, through miles upon miles of strata, formed time after time, through incalculable ages, but always conducts us to a beginning. Though we pass through the tertiary strata, and we notice through all the beds of pleistocene, pliocene and eocene, the indications of ever-varying life, through the seventeen hundred feet deep of sands, clays, crags, the results of ages of creative energy, yet during the secondary formations, they were not. Though we go down again through the cretaceous Wealden, and oolitic deposits, again, crowded with the fossil remains of life, forming three or four thousand feet thick of strata, all of which were once swarming with living beings, yet there was a time, however remote, when they were not. And, pass we lower still, through the lower oolitcs, and lias and the triassic beds of the Mesozoic formations, or through the eighty thousand feet of the magnesian limestone, the coal measures, and the Devonian and Silurian deposits, notwithstanding we are conducted to periods inconceivably remote, yet the mind sees as cleanly as it discerns it of the daisy of today–all these began to be, and in their beginning, and through all their changes, they are the results of the Almighty energies of that Adorable One by whom all things have been made that are made (John i. 3). From the grain of dust, whose form and qualities are the bases of vegetable and animal existence, to worlds, and suns, and systems, however grand and gorgeous, and impossible to number, they may be, fitness, arrangement, order, law, reign. Order and law imply MIND, and the unutterable benefits order and law subserve, imply benevolence and love in Him who is the upholder and sustainer of all things. Life and motion everywhere declare the power Divine, which fills, sustains, and governs all existence. Preservation is perpetual creation. All the parts of the universe are pregnant with the creative energy now, as from the beginning, and all announce the fullness of that Omnipotent Being who is the Head of all things, and from whom, and for whom, all things exist.
Let us rather speak then of creation being every moment seen, and announcing the unceasing presence everywhere of His power, who is all in all, and who has revealed Himself to the Human heart, in the glorified person of Him who said, He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father;–who is Himself the Everlasting Father, and the Prince of Peace.
Author: Jonathan Bayley—Twelve Discourses (1862)