The Creation: A Lecture on Genesis 1-2: Days 5-7

Genesis 1‑2  •  6 min. read  •  grade level: 8
You see where those are that speak about the enormous length of time necessary for light to be transmitted – though this again is more than they ought to assume – at any rate for the action of light by means of the heavenly orbs. But there is no difficulty whatever. When God created the heavens, did He make them empty? Did He not create also the host of heaven? What about the sun, and moon, and stars? He created them some time. That they were made we find elsewhere in this chapter; not, I presume, the absolute moment of their creation, but of their being made to serve for the use of man on the earth. What other uses they served we are not there informed. That they were God’s handiwork, and for man’s use, as creatures of God here below – not objects of worship, as in heathenism, He does explain. Surely there was wisdom in saying this and no more. There was considerate goodness in what He said, and in what He withheld.
On the fifth day the waters were to “bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life, and fowl that fly above the earth in the open firmament of heaven.” Here, too, a contradiction, I must tell you, has been discovered by certain critics. Genesis 2, shows that fowl were made out of the earth; but Genesis 1:2020And God said, Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life, and fowl that may fly above the earth in the open firmament of heaven. (Genesis 1:20) they say, intimates that fowl were made out of the waters. Superficial cavilers! Genesis 1, says nothing of the sort, but is perfectly consistent with Genesis 2:1919And out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof. (Genesis 2:19). Look at the margin, not the text, of Genesis 1:2020And God said, Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life, and fowl that may fly above the earth in the open firmament of heaven. (Genesis 1:20) in your common English Bible. The objection is exceedingly illustrative of the danger of reasoning not from scripture, but from a mistake that has crept into a translation of it. The first thing we have always to do is to ascertain the word of God and its meaning as accurately as possible. What this verse teaches is not that the waters were to bring forth fowl, as it appears to do in our English version; but “Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature, and let fowl fly about the earth in the open firmament of heaven.” The flying of the fowl in that sphere is the point, and not the statement that the waters gave birth to them. There is no such intimation in scripture. What men have reasoned on, therefore, is merely their own misconception, and nothing more.
On the next and sixth day we have the land animals produced, and finally, man made in the image of God, after His likeness, with dominion over the lower creation assigned to them, and God blessing them. But mark the difference. It is only when man is thus about to be made that God says, “Let us.” Oh, can you not appreciate the spirit of such a word as this? Can you not admire the way in which God, as it were, sits in counsel on the creation of man? Can you not judge between the physiologist that would make an ape his progenitor, and the Bible that reveals God thus creating man in His own image? Which is the more noble? Which is the more degrading? Of no other creature is it said, “Let us make,” when it was a question of the earth, the sea, nay, of light itself – nothing of the sort. “Light be,” said Elohim, “and light was.” But as to the others, He wrought, but with no such preface as “Let us make.” Here it is for the first and only time, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness; and let them have dominion.” What can be farther from development? Such an idea is altogether foreign; and, indeed, the existence of different races and kinds has been engraved by God most legibly on the world of nature; for although man by his wicked ingenuity may cross the breed, as, for example, of the animals that were put under his dominion, the result is always to induce sterility – the standing witness, on the one hand, against man’s meddling, and, on the other, for the order in which God meant His creation to proceed. Thus is set before us succinctly, but plainly, the general course of creation.
A few remarks I would make on Genesis 2 before I close.
The sabbath day is introduced at the beginning, though in truth the first three verses of Gen. 2 belong properly to Gen. 1. That is, they form a part of the great week of God’s work and its rest. And there is a very beautiful connection with this which meets an objection of modern times on which a word may be well bestowed. You are aware that German authors have insisted loudly (whether the idea was originated by them is more than I would say) that we are indebted to different writers for the first book of Moses (just as it used to be the fashion of the Wolffians to divide Homer among, I know not how many, rhapsodists, though, in point of fact, this created far greater difficulties than it was supposed to remove; for it is far harder to imagine half a dozen Homers than one). One thing is very certain, that Moses, according to these sages, must have been a weak foolish man, who adopted at least two different accounts, without a suspicion of what to them is obvious, that the one writer contradicted the other. Such is the discovery of modern criticism. Let me say what I am sure is the truth on this: I dare not venture to put it forward as an opinion. It seems to me a sin to state anything that rests on the clear testimony of God’s Word as open to a doubt. If it is a mere question of your judgment of this fact or that, or your individual estimate of the person putting it forward, or your comparative view of the circumstances passing around, it is an opinion; and of what value can it be? You are yourself the measure of it, – your ability, with your special opportunities, or general experience, and nothing more. But when we come to the Word of God, we should pass from the region of human opinions. What distinguishes it is that therein God speaks, and His people, yea, every soul, is bound to hear. For my own part, I am convinced, and I trust you are no less than myself, that God has written His word intelligibly. By this I do not mean that any part of it is according to the measure of man; but that it is all written for man to God’s glory, and in His wisdom. Thus, what God has been pleased to put in the plainest possible language may be beyond our fathoming; but at the same time it is not beyond our understanding and enjoying, according to our measure of faith, though we may also find out that it is unfathomable. But ever so deep as it is, and infinitely exceeding man’s plummet to reach the bottom, it is as clear as it is profound, and not the mud or shallows of the creature.
(To be continued.)