Imatges de pàgina
PDF
EPUB

were made.* The Hindoos look upon the world as an emanation from the Deity Himself, and therefore as part of the Deity. When Brahm, the Supreme Being, designed, they say, to produce the world, he threw off his abstraction, and became Brahma the Creator. From his mouth, arm, thigh, and foot came the four castes—the priest, the warrior, the trader, and the labourer. As the fruit, they say, is in the seed, awaiting development and expansion, so all material forms exist in Brahma: a notion which degrades the Creator to the level of the creature.

These are the opinions of men feeling in their darkness after the truth, but lost in the dimness of unaided reason. But all these reason. ings and guesses are set at rest by the revelation of God Himself in the opening of the sacred volume; and the empty speculations of philosophers may cease. “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth” (Gen. i. 1). There was therefore a BEGINNING when nothing existed, and God created out of nothing all things that exist.

How sublime the idea ! “He commanded, and they were created" (Ps. cxlviii. 5). • By the word of the Lord were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of His mouth ” (Ps. xxxiii. 6). It is thus by faith in God's declaration that we learn these things.

By faith,” through the teaching of these chapters of Genesis, we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear” (Heb. xi. 2), i.e., they were created, not out of previously existing matter, but out of nothing.t

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

According to the “ Venided," the sacred book of the Parsees, Hormazd (the good deity) was opposed by Ahriman (the evil deity) in all his works. When Hormazd created Eriném Vejo, similar to fehisht, or paradise, Ahriman produced in the river the great adder, or winter. When he created Soghdo, abundant in flocks and men, Ahriman created flies, which spread mortality among the flocks; when he created Bakhdi, pure and brilliant in its colours, Ahriman created a multitude of ants, which destroyed its pavilions; when he created anything good, Ahriman was sure to create something evil. The power thus ascribed to Ahriman, —that of creation,-is greater than can be possessed by any created being; and the doctrine which teaches its exercise substantially promulgates the monstrous dogma of two eternal principles, which, though not unknown to the ancient Persians, is altogether unreasonable, as incon. sistent with the predominance of order, regularity, and goodness in the system of the universe, and altogether impious, as it leaves no being of infinite perfection, whom the mind of man may reverence, love, adore, and serve. The character ascribed to the works referred to, moreover, is totally inconsistent with their essential nature.-" The Doctrine of Jehovah, addressed to the Parsees,” by Rev. Dr. Wilson.

+ I have seen the latter clause of the text quoted by itself by an excel. lent scientific writer in illustration of the idea “ that invisible forces are behind and above all visible phenomena," which is perfeotly true, but

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

This is an idea which no philosophy has ever conceived, and which divine revelation alone could teach us.

III. Take another question, on which man's reason has puzzled itself in vain. How came EVIL INTO THE WORLD? What Greek, or Hindoo, or other human system ever gave an intelligible 'account of this ? But what say these chapters? Here we have the narrative and the cause of this fatal event. How valuable, then, the record in which all is explained ! God created Adam and Eve perfect; they were innocent and happy. But He made them not mere machines, to be His tools or instruments; while He created them with a holy bias on their minds, He gave them free wills. They were free to choose what was good and to reject what was evil, or to do the opposite. As a test, there was one restraint laid upon them. They were not to eat of a particular tree; and God told them, that in the day they ate of it, they should die. It was " the tree of knowledge of good and evil” (Gen. ii. 9). By eating of it they would disobey God, and would to their cost then know the good of obedience, and the evil of disobedience. This one act of disobedience tainted their whole moral being. They fell, and evil entered the world.

We can understand this. If we are tempted to do some wrong action, and we resist the temptation and triumph over it, how we feel strengthened and encouraged ! But suppose we yield and commit the sin, is there not a sting within which afterwards goads us ? Does not conscious guilt torment us? Has it not weakened our moral power ? Conceive, then, the first sin—the sin of disobedience to an easy command of a good and gracious God! How, when once perpetrated, must it have stung the conscience of our first parents and poisoned their moral nature ! How forcibly and truly is this all set forth in the simple narrative of these earlier chapters of Genesis ! How valuable, then, is this record, in showing us, as no other can, how it came to pass that evil entered into the world!

IV. There is another question. Although evil is come into the world, and has infected the whole human race, yet WHAT A WONDERFUL CREATURE IS MAN! In his moral nature, how marvellous is the power of conscience, that inward monitor, accuser, and judge! Then in his intellect, how great his genius, how varied his gifts, how wonderful his powers of expression! Observe the creations of his genius in music, in poetry, in painting, in sculpture, and the triumphs of the reasoning faculty, by which, though tied to the earth, he can scale the heavens and penetrate into the hidden laws which govern the universe; the marvellous gift of Heaven, that miracle of human nature, at once its chief distinction and its highest glory, and seen so remarkably in those renowned orators of

hardly the meaning of this text. Is not its antithesis rather as follows, derived from the first clause ?" So that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear,” but of nothing, by the spoken word of God : " He commanded, and they were created."

[ocr errors]

:

M

ancient and modern times, who have moved the wills and passions of thousands by the power of eloquence; the instances of heroic selfdevotedness which the history of the world furnishes; the many noble and lofty sentiments which philosophers have in all ages given utterance to—and yet, with all this, the MORAĻ DEGRADATION which marks man in every age so that the mind shudders at the moral deformities which stain even the most polished times of antiquity, and at the opposition of principles which strive even in the Christian's breast, of whom it is justly said, that when he would do good, evil is present with him (Rom. vii. 21). Man is indeed a mystery of inconsistencies, a riddle of greatness and littleness, of good and evil. What account of this strange confusion of things has any philosophic system ever given ? None. Pliny, in his perplexity, pronounced man to be an enigma not to be solved. Pascal notices those opposite principles thus : The greatness and misery of man being alike conspicuous, religion, in order to be true, must necessarily teach us that he has in himself some noble princi. ples of greatness, and at the same time some profound source of misery."

Turn then to the Holy Scriptures, and what do they tell us? Here we have the inspired history of facts which unlock the mystery and show that man is not in the state in which he was made, that he is a ruin—8 monument of a once noble creature, bearing at once the marks of his origin and of the vast change which has come over him. What do we read ? First, that “ God created man in His own image, in the image of God created He him” (Gen. i. 27). He created him in knowledge, righteousness, and true holiness after the Divine resemblance : not infi. nite, but pure, perfect, with high endowments, the glory of all His creatures. But secondly, that man by disobedience fell from this image and became a ruin. The history of man's origin, combined with the history of his fall, is essential to explain the condition and character of man as we find him now; and these are to be found only in this sacred record.

V. But let us cast back our thoughts once more upon man as he came from his Maker's hands, “the image and glory of God,” the crown of God's works, for whom creation through former ages has been preparing, placed infinitely above the world by being thus made in the Divine like

;

ness.

No philosophy has ever so well explained the proper basis of physical science as the Scriptures here do : which is, that, as God has made the world by His word or wisdom, so man, being made in the image of God, is created with faculties which put it in his power to explore and to systematize those works. Here we have an answer at once to all sceptical questions about the reality of sensation and science.

See too the vastness of man's moral capacities as thus created, and the love bestowed upon him at his creation, which is the basis of the whole doctrine of Redemption. This does away with the supposed incredibility of an Incarnation ; for the end was none other than that which had been

[ocr errors]

66

gods ? "

.

the ultimate design of all previous dispensations restoration to the image of God in human nature.

VI. Next see in this simple narrative of Scripture how, with a master touch, the very ESSENCE OF SUCCESSFUL TEMPTATION sin is exposed to view, and the source of all that disobedience to God which so mars the moral aspect of the world. What was the snare which Satan so successfully laid to entrap our first parents ? What is the goal which so easily draws us from our allegiance to God who made us, and who preserves and blesses us? Is it not summed up in the words—“Ye shall be as “ When the woman saw that the tree was

to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat;" although God's express command was,“ Ye shall not eat of it” (Gen. iii. 3–6). Here was the assailable point, the fancied glory of INDEPENDENCE, the heart's revolt against restraint, an uncreature-like rebellion of the will against dependence even upon God, whose service is perfect freedom.

How much is this at the root of all our rebellion now! It was the deification of man's reason, the atheistic pride of vice and intellect combined, the blasphemous assumption of an independence of all that was holy, divine, and true, that distinguished the infidels of the French Revolution of 1798, as well as of Voltaire and his accomplices, who came to such a wretched end. It was the pride of independence which hurled the devil and his angels down to hell. And how wonderfully does this record of Holy Scripture put it prominently forward as the master-stroke with which the arch deceiver plied his art with such awful success against our first parents-innocent, but not invulnerable !

VII. These chapters contain some REMARKABLE POINTS IN HISTORY. Here we find the first institution of marriage and of the sabbath. They give the only rational account of that great event, the deluge, the reflex of which is seen in the innumerable traditions among nations the widest apart and the most dissimilar in habits and character. They explain by a simple history of the Divine interposition in the dispersion of mankind, because of their pride and wickedness, the singular results at which philologists have of late arrived regarding the 6,000 languages and dialects at present spoken-that such is the internal relationship of their radical words and inflections and constructions, that there is every reason for supposing that they must have proceeded from one primitive tongue, and that the separation into branches must have arisen from some violent and sudden cause—a theory which is a remarkable comment upon the history of the Tower of Babel.

This sacred record gives the only history of the apportioning the earth to the several nations as we now find them. After an enumeration,

These,” says the inspired writer, are the families of the sons of Noah, after their generations, in their nations: and by these were the nations divided in the earth after the food (Gen. X. 32). To which St. Paul 2000 years afterwards alludes, God“ hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the

[ocr errors]

66

times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation" (Acts xvii. 26).

Here, too, we have a certain clue to the first institution of sacrificesthat remarkable method for attempting to appease the Divine wrath, which we find prevailing all the world over, wherever Christianity bas not shed its light and superseded the type by substituting the sacrifice of the Redeemer Himself.

VIII. Lastly, in these wonderful chapters we have the germ, the RICH AND FRUITFUL GERM OF ALL PROPHECY in two of the most remarkable and comprehensive predictions which the whole Scripture contains.

One, the promise of the seed of the woman who should bruise the serpent's head, while he should bruise his heel—a prophecy which has been so largely fulfilled in the miraculous birth of Christ of a pure virgin, who by His death upon the cross, His triumphant resurrection and ascension to the Father's throne, has overcome sin and death, and opened the kingdom of heaven to all believers—& prophecy which is fraught with blessings to all nations and which will be completed in its fulfilment when He comes the second time to judge the world and to reign for ever and ever King of kings and Lord of lords.

The other Prophecy,—the curse upon Canaan and the blessing upon Shem and Japhet,-spoken in few words but carrying with them, as years after years still roll on, their own evidence of divine inspiration by the wonderful accomplishment they are perpetually receiving.

Who can deny then that this portion of Holy Scripture is a treasury of unspeakable value and worthy of its high origin? The simplicity of the narratives, combined with the surpassing importance of the truths conveyed in them, is a confirmation of their authority. Who but one writing under the guidance of inspiration could, not merely have avoided all the inanities of human cosmogonies, but have delivered at that early period, and in the most unassuming way, accounts of the most momentous transactions which are found to harmonize with the most recent investigations of science, and which supply the most profound information on theological and moral subjects?

JOHN H. PRATT, M./..,
Late Archdeacon of Calcutta.

mer.

FAITH.-As faith is the evidence of things not seen, so things that are seen are the perfecting of faith. I believe a tree will be green when I see it leafless in winter. I know it is green when I see it flourishingi 1 sum

It was a fault in Thomas, not to believe till he did see; it were a madness in him, not to believe when he did see. Belief may some times exceed reason, not oppose it; and faith be often above sense, not against it. Thus, while faith doth assure me that I eat Christ effectually, sense must assure me that I taste bread really. For though I oftentimes see not those things that I believe, yet I must still believe those things that I see,Warwick.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
« AnteriorContinua »