« PreviousContinue »
ry, in a very unbecoming manner, when he says; "That God, being infinitely perfect, must be infinitely happy within him"self, and so can design no self-end without himself; there"fore what other end can he be supposed to aim at in these "things, but our good? It is therefore a vain imagination, that "the great design of any of God's actions, his glorious works "and dispensations, should be thus to be admired, or applauded, by his worthless creatures, that he may gain esteem, or a good word, from such vile creatures as we are. We take "too much upon us, if we imagine that the all-wise God can "be concerned, whether such blind creatures, as we are, ap66 prove or disapprove of his proceedings; and we think too "meanly of, and detract from his great Majesty, if. we con"ceive he can be delighted with our applause, or aim at re"putation from us in his glorious design, that therefore such "as we should think well of him, or have due apprehensions "of those attributes, by the acknowledgment of which we are "said to glorify him." This is, at once, to divest him of all that glory, which he designed from his works; but far be it from us to approve of any such modes of speaking. Therefore we must conclude, that though God did not make any thing with a design to render himself more glorious than he was, from all eternity, yet it was, that his creatures should behold and improve the displays of his divine perfections, and so render himself the object of desire and delight, that religious worship might be excited hereby, and that we might ascribe to him the glory that is due to his name.
We might also observe, that God created all things by his power, that he might take occasion to set forth the glory of all his other perfections, in his works of providence and grace, and particularly in the work of our redemption, all which suppose the creature brought into being; and so his first work made way for all others, which are, or shall be performed by him in time, or throughout the ages of eternity.
V. We are now to consider the space of time, in which God created all things, namely, in six days. This could not have been determined by the light of nature, and therefore must be concluded to be a doctrine of pure revelation; as also the account we have, in Gen. i. of the order in which things were brought to perfection, or the work of each day. Here we cannot but take notice of the opinion of some, who suppose, that the world was created in an instant, as thinking, that this is more agreeable to the idea of creation, and more plainly distinguishes it from the natural production of things, which are brought to perfection by degrees, and not in a moment, as they suppose this work was. This opinion has been advanced by some ancient writers; and whereas it seems directly to con
tradict that account which is given thereof by Moses, they suppose that the distribution of the work of creation, into that of six days, is only designed to lead us into the knowledge of the distinct parts thereof, whereby they may be better conceived of, as though they had been made in such an order, one after another; but this is to make the scripture speak what men please to have it, without any regard had to the genuine sense and import, of the words thereof. Had it only been asserted, that the first matter, out of which all things were formed, had been created in an instant; that is not only agreeable to the work of creation, but to the literal sense of the text; for it is said to be created in the beginning, that is, in the first point of time; or if it had only been said, that God could have brought all things to perfection in an instant, we would not have denied it; but to assert that he did so, we cannot but think an ill-grounded sense of a plain part of scripture. That which induces them to give into this opinion is, because they think that this redounds to the glory of God, and seems most agreeable to a supernatural production of things, and to those expressions, by which the work of creation is represented; as in the scripture before-mentioned in which it is said,. God spake, and it was done; that which was produced by a word's speaking, is performed in an instant. And they suppose, that this is agreeable to the account which we have of that change which shall pass on the bodies of those who shall be found alive at the last day, that it shall be in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, 1 Cor. xv. 52. and to some other miracles and supernatural productions, which have been instantaneous. But all this is not sufficient to support an opinion, which cannot be defended any otherwise, than by supposing that the express words of scripture must be understood in an allegorica sense.
There is therefore another account given of this matter, by some divines, of very considerable worth and judgment,* which, as they apprehend, contains a concession of as much as need be demanded in favour of the instantaneous production of things, as most agreeable to the idea of creation, and yet does not militate against the sense of the account given thereof, in Gen. i. and that is, that the distinct parts of the creation were each of them produced in a moment. As for instance, in the work of the first day, there was the first matter of all things produced in one moment; and, after that, in the same day, light was produced, in another moment, agreeable to those words, Let there be light, and there was light; and, in another moment, there was a division of the light from the darkness, and so the work of the first day was finished. And, in the other days, where the works were various, there were distinct
Se Turret. Plenet. Tom. I. Loc. 5. Quest. 5.
acts of the divine will, or words of command given concerning their production, which immediately ensued hereupon; and there was, in several instances, an interval between the production of one thing and another, which belonged to the same day's work; particularly, in the sixth day, there was first a word of command given, by which beasts and creeping things were formed, and then another word given forth, by which man was created, when, indeed, there was an approbation of the former part of this day's work, in ver. 26. God says, That it was good, before the general approbation, expressed in ver. 31. in the end of the day, was given, when God saw every thing that he had made, and behold it was very good.
There is nothing, in this opinion, (the main reason and foundation whereof has been before observed) that can be much disliked, neither is it very material whether it be defended or opposed; and therefore, I think, they speak with the greatest prudence, as well as temper who reckon this among the number of those questions, which are generally called problematical, that is, such as may be either affirmed or denied, without any great danger of departing from the faith ;* and, indeed, I cannot see that the reasons assigned, which induce persons to adhere to either side of the question, with so much warmth, as to be impatient of contradiction, are sufficiently conclusive.
The main objection brought against their opinion, who plead for an instantaneous production of things in each day, is, that for God to bring the work of each day to perfection in a moment, and, after that, not to begin the work of the next day, till the respective day began, infers God's resting each day from his work; whereas, he is not said to rest till the whole creation was brought to perfection. But I cannot see this to be a just consequence, or sufficient to overthrow this opinion; since God's resting from his work, when the whole was finished, principally intends his not producing any new species of creatures, and not barely his ceasing to produce what he had made; for such a rest as this might as well be applied to his finishing the work of each day, though he took up the whole space of a day therein, as if he had finished it in a moment.
And, on the other hand, when it is objected against the common opinion relating to God's bringing the work of each day to perfection by degrees, so as to take up the space of a day in doing it, that it is not agreeable to the idea of creation. This is no just way of reasoning, nor sufficient to overthrow it; since we generally conclude, that God's upholding providence, which some call, as it were, a continued creation, is no less an instance of divine and supernatural power, than his producing them at first: but this is not performed in an instant; never
* Vid. Wital in Symbol. Exercit. 8. 565.
theless, it is said to be done, as the apostle speaks, in Heb. i. 3. By the word of his power. Besides, there are some parts of the creation, which, from the nature of the thing, could hardly be produced in an instant, particularly those works which were performed by motion, which cannot be instantaneous; as the dividing the light from the darkness, the gathering the waters together into one place, so that the dry land should appear; and if this took up more than a moment, why may it not be supposed to take up the space of a day? So that, upon the whole, we may conclude, that though it is certain that spirits, such as angels, or the souls of our first parents, could not be otherwise created, than in an instant, inasmuch as they are immaterial, and so do not consist of parts successively formed; yet none ought to determine, with too great peremptoriness, that other works, performed in the six days, must each of them be performed in an instant, or else the work could not properly be called a creation; and therefore the commonly received opinion seems as probable as any other, that has hitherto been advanced, as it is equally, if not more agreeable, to the express words of scripture.
Here we shall give a brief account of the work of the six. days, as it is contained in the first chapter of Genesis; in the first day, the first matter out of which all things were produced, was created out of nothing, which is described as being without form, that is, not in that form which God designed to bring it into; whereas, in other respects, matter cannot be without all manner of form, or those dimensions that are essential to it, and, as it was created without form, so without motion; so that as God is the Creator of all things, he is the first mover. Nevertheless, I am far from thinking, that all God did, in the creation of things, was by putting every thing in motion, and that this brought all the parts of the creation into their respective form. As an artificer may be said to frame a machine, which, by its motion, will produce other things, which he designed to make by the help thereof, without giving himself any farther trouble; so they suppose, that, by those laws of motion, which God impressed upon matter at first, one part of the creation brought another into the various forms, which they attained afterwards.* And the first thing that was produced, which was a farther part of the six days work, was light; concerning this, many have advanced their own ill-grounded con
This is the main thing that is advanced by Des Cartes, in his philosophy, which formerly obtained more in the world than it does at present; though there are several divines in the Netherlands, who still adhere to, and defend that hypothesis. This was thought a sufficient expedient to fence against the absurdities of Epicurus, and his followers, who suppose that things attained their respective forms by the fortuitous concourse of atoms; nevertheless, it is derogatory to the Creator's glory, inasmuch as it sets aside his immediate efficiency in the production of things.
jectures. There are some writers, among the Papists, who have supposed that it was a quality, without a subject, which is an obscure and indefensible way of speaking. Others have thought, that hereby we are to understand the angels; but this is to strain the sense of words too far, by having recourse to a metaphor, which is inconsistent with what immediately follows, that God divided the light from the darkness. But it seems most probable that nothing else is intended hereby, but those lucid bodies, which, on the fourth day, were collected into the sun and fixed stars.
To this let me add, that it is more than probable that God, on the first day, created the highest heaven, which is sometimes called his throne, together with the angels, the glorious inhabitants thereof. It is true, Moses, in his history of the creation, is silent as to this matter, unless it may be inferred from those words, In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth; though, as has been before observed, something else seems principally to be intended thereby: nevertheless, we have sufficient ground to conclude, that they were created in the beginning of time, and consequently in the first day, from what is said elsewhere, that when God laid the foundations of the earth, the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy, Job xxxviii. 4, 7. where the angels are represented as celebrating and adoring those divine perfections, which were glorified in the beginning of the work of creation; therefore they were, at that time, brought into being.
On the second day, God divided that part of the world, which is above, from that which is below, by an extended space, which is styled the firmament, and otherwise called heaven, though distinguished from the highest heaven, or the heaven of heavens; and it is farther observed, that hereby the waters that are above, are separated from those which are below, that is, the clouds from the sea, and other waters, that are in the bowels of the earth.
As for that conjecture of some, taken from hence, and especially from what the Psalmist says, Praise him ye waters that are above the heavens, Psal. cxlviii. 4. that there is a vast collection of super-celestial waters, which have no communication with those that are contained in the clouds; this seems to be an ungrounded opinion, not well agreeing with those principles of natural philosophy, which are received in this present age; though maintained by some of the ancient fathers, as principally founded on the sense in which they understand this text; neither do they give a tolerable account of the de
* This absurd opinion the Papists are very fond of, inasmuch as it serves their purpose in defending the doctrine of Pransubstantiation,