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be the fact, that "in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth." This may possibly be the title of the chapter, and the verses which follow, the details. Or, it may be the record made with regard to the first production of Almighty and creative power.
Which ever view we take of it, the earth-all the vast mineral mass of our globe, was created at once by His Almighty fiat. One word brought into existence the whole globe, with its rocky and earthy stratifications, and their watery envelope. The whole mineral mass was created perfect, but subjected to a law or mode of divine agency, according to which, by the process of crystallization, similar formations might take place, just as the trees were created in a state of perfection, and then planted by the word of God into the soil, but subjected to a law or mode of His agency, by virtue of which, according to a process of lignification, similar growths might arise. Moses advances not the idea with which we meet in heathen Cosmogony, where
Once was the face of nature; if a face;
of jarring seeds; and justly Chaos named. It is much to be regretted, that this poetic fancy has been adopted by sober philosophers, and christian divines. There is nothing that we can see, either in nature, or the scriptures, to sanction it. The laws of gravitation and crystallization, as put into operation in the substance of the earth which some have conceived was created in confused and aggregate mass, are not sufficient to account for the disposing of the different earthy and mineral stratifications, which over-lay each other. The Mosaic account teaches us that rocks, seas, and earthy particles sprung simultaneously into existence, at the word of God, and having been created perfect at once, were placed under the
1 Gen. i. 1.
operation of certain general laws, or modes of the Creator's agency, by which, in successive ages, assimilated masses might be formed. It was the earth, and not a chaos, that in the beginning was created.
The expressions of Moses, which may very probably have suggested the idea of a chaos to the minds of the philosophic heathen who consulted his writings, and which seem very evidently to have been paraphrased by Ovid according to his view of their meaning, do not give their support to it.
He says, that “the earth was without form and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep
It we suppose that the word "earth” is here used to denote the world, as it was when Moses wrote, then the expressions seem to convey the idea of non-entity by a very felicitous description. No other idea can be attached to them. Every material existence has some form and some substance, and to be without either is to have no material being. The other expression abyss, for that is the meaning of the word translated "deep,"conveys the same vague, and undefinable idea of non-entity. None of his terms favor the idea of a chaos.
But if we suppose that the word "earth” denotes the world at the time referred to in the description, there is no more countenance given to the idea of a chaos. The earth THEN was, for it, by the terms of the supposition, is the thing described. It was then without form and void, as a house without arrangement and furniture. The building was up, but it wanted inhabitants, and the means of their accommodation. Such was “the earth,” strictly so called, that is, the inorganic and inanimate globe, at its first creation. It sprung, at once, with its mineral nucleus, and earthy strata, and watery floods, into being at the command of God, or by the word of His power. The historical account which Moses gives of the successive six days work
1 Gen i. 2.
of creation, if examined, will be found to relate not to the production of the materials of the globe, but to the arranging of certain great portions of it, and subjecting it to the laws by which it should ever afterwards be governed, and to the creating of inhabitants, and endowing them with life. In this work, all that pertains to the order, beauty, and life of the material world, the Spirit of God is distinctly and formally announced by the historian, to have been the great agent. Having given an account în general of the creation of the body or mineral mass of the globe, he proceeds to a detailed account of the creation of the different tribes of animated being that inhabit it, and prefaces it with a distinct view of the agency of that great Being who presides in this especial department. “The SPIRIT OF GOD,” says he, “moved upon the face of the waters.
It was not a great and mighty wind, as some allege the expression, Spirit of God, according to an Hebrew idiom of speech denotes; because, upon the supposition of a chaos, in which "earth and air and water were in one," there could have been no such thing. Nor is the cause at all adequate to account for the crystalline phenomena of the earth. Nor can it be reconciled with the mineral geology that infers from these phenomena a confused mass of elementary principles, suspended in a vast solution-a chaotic ocean, which, after an undefinable series of ages, settled themselves. The agents which the mineral geologist here introduces, are precipitation and crystallization, according to certain laws of matter--the chemical laws of affinity, of composition, and aggregation. Wind is not an apt agent in this vast chemical laboratory, nor can it at all be supposed to have prevailed, during the many thousand years, which the mineral geologist finds necessary for making a world.
Wind possesses no creative power, nor power to dispose, and bring order out of confusion, which the Spirit of God, of which Moses speaks, certainly did. Besides, the motion attributed to the Spirit of God, does not, at all, accord with that of wind. It is selforiginated—a spontaneous motion of the agent itself. And the Hebrew word denotes, as has already been noticed, that peculiar kind of motion--a gentle rising up and again declining, which may be seen in the fowl that receives its young under its wings to cherish and impart heat to them. "The Spirit of God brooded upon the face of the waters"-a very apt and beautiful figure employed by the historian, to denote the agency of the divine Spirit in the production, and communication of life, to the numerous tribes of animated creatures then brought into existence.
1 Gen. i. 2.
What is thus, in the very commencement of the sacred scriptures referred, in general, to the immediate agency of the Spirit, is attributed to the same, specifically, in different kinds of life, distinctly enumerated. Thus Job, speaking of his own animal life, recognizes his dependence for
support, on the Spirit of God. He defines its period to be “while his breath is in him, and the Spirit of God is in his nostrils." Its origination, as well as that of his rational soul of his whole compound being, he attributes to the same great causc: “The Spirit of God hath made me, and the breath (the Spirit) of the Almighty hath given me life.?' The Psalmist, too, refers his origin, and that species of life, which he possessed before he breathed the air of Heaven, to the same Almighty Agent. It is the Spirit of God to whom he makes his appeal, when he says, "Thou hast possessed my reins, thou hast covered me in my mother's womb; thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them.”4 The production of the body 2 Job, xxvii. 3.
3 Job, xxxiii. 4. 4 Psalm cxxxix. 13, 16, compared with v. 7.
1 See page 14.
of our Lord Jesus Christ, is particularly ascribed to the Spirit of God, which, although miraculously effected, ertheless devolved on Him, as the great agent who forms and imparts life to, the animal nature of man. “The Holy Ghost," said the angel to Mary, "shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee; therefore, that holy thing which shall be born of thee, shall be called the Son of God."1
These facts throw some light on the account which Moses has given us of man's creation. After that God had formed him of the dust of the ground, He breathed into his nostrils the breath of life (the spirit of lives) and he became a living soul.” The breath of life, or spirit of lives, here spoken of, is the Spirit of God, the author of those different kinds of life, then commenced in the first
And the distinctive appellation of spirit of lives, is very appropriately given to the Spirit of God, because he is the author of life in all its modifications. It is, certainly a very inapt metaphor to denote the mere inflation of the lungs, by the introduction of atmospheric air. The agency of God, in the production of what we denominate life, is here, undoubtedly, in the most formal and accurate manner, recognized by the historian. That agency is by the person of the Holy Spirit.
This explanation of the passage is corroborated by the conduct and language of our blessed Saviour when introducing the wonders of his new creation, and they mutually illustrate each other. The gift of the Spirit of God-some extraordinary degree of His influence had been long predicted, as the principal characteristic of the evangelical dispensation: and of the communication of this Spirit, shortly before his ascension, the Redeemer gave a symbolical annunciation. It was after His resurrection, on the occasion of one of His visits to His disciples, that "He 1 Like, ;. 95.
2 Gen. Ü. 7