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GENESIS, i. 1.
In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.
SUCH is the commencement of the history of mankind; an æra, to which we must ever look back with solemn awe and veneration. Before the sun and the moon had begun their course; before the sound of the human voice was heard, or the name of man was known; in the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. To a beginning of the world, we are led back by every thing that now exists; by all history, all records, all monuments of antiquity. In tracing the transactions of past ages, we arrive at a period, which clearly indicates the infancy of the human race. We behold the world peopled by degrees. We ascend to the origin of all those useful and necessary arts, without the knowledge of which mankind could hardly subsist. We discern society and civilization arising from rude beginnings in every corner of the earth; and gradually advancing to the state in which we now find them : All which afford plain evidence, that there was a period, when mankind began to inhabit and cultivate the earth. What is very remarkable, the most authentic chronology and history of most nations, coincides with the account of Scripture; and makes the period during which the world has been inha
bited by the race of men, not to extend beyond six thousand years.
To the ancient philosophers, creation from nothing appeared an unintelligible idea. They maintained the eternal existence of matter, which they supposed to be modelled by the sovereign mind of the universe into the form which the earth now exhibits. But there is nothing in this opinion which gives it any title to be opposed to the authority of Revelation. The doctrine of two self-existent, independent principles, God and matter, the one active, the other passive, is a hypothesis which presents difficulties to human reason at least as great as the creation of matter from nothing. Adhering then to the testimony of Scripture, we believe, that in the beginning God created, or from non-existence brought into being, the heaven and the earth.
But though there was a period when this globe, with all that we see upon it, did not exist, we have no reason to think that the wisdom and power of the Almighty were then without exercise or employBoundless is the extent of his dominion. Other globes and worlds, enlightened by other suns, may then have occupied, they still appear to occupy, the immense regions of space. Numberless orders of beings, to us unknown, people the wide extent of the universe, and afford an endless variety of objects to the ruling care of the great Father of all. length in the course and progress of his government, there arrived a period, when this earth was to be called into existence. When the signal moment, predestined from all eternity, was come, the Deity arose in his might; and with a word created the world. What an illustrious moment was that,
when, from non-existence there sprang at once into being this mighty globe, on which so many millions of creatures now dwell! No preparatory measures were required. No long circuit of means was employed. He spake; and it was done: He commanded; and it stood fast. The earth was, at first, without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. The Almighty surveyed the dark abyss; and fixed bounds to the several divisions of nature. He said, Let there be light; and there was light. Then appeared the sea and the dry land. The mountains rose: and the rivers flowed. The sun and moon began their course in the skies. Herbs and plants clothed the ground. The air, the earth, and the waters, were stored with their respective inhabitants. At last, man was made after the image of God. He appeared, walking with countenance erect; and received his Creator's benediction, as the Lord of this new world. The Almighty beheld his work when it was finished; and pronounced it good. Superiour beings saw with wonder this new accession to existence. The morning stars sang together; and all the sons of God shouted for joy.
But on this great work of Creation, let us not merely gaze with astonishment. Let us consider how it should affect our conduct, by presenting the divine perfections in a light which is at once edifying, and comforting to man. It displays the Creator as supreme in power, in wisdom, and in goodness.
I. As supreme
in power. When we consider with
* Job, xxxviii 7..
how much labour and difficulty human power performs its inconsiderable works; what time it costs to rear them; and how easily, when reared, they are destroyed; the very idea of creating power overwhelms the mind with awe. Let us look around, and survey this stupendous edifice, which we have been admitted to inhabit. Let us think of the extent of the different climates and regions of the earth; of the magnitude of the mountains, and of the expanse of the ocean. Let us conceive that immense globe which contains them, launched at once from the hand of the Almighty; made to revolve incessantly on its axis, that it might produce the vicissitudes of day and night; thrown forth, at the same time, to run its annual course in perpetual circuit through the heavens: after such a meditation, where is the greatness, where is the pride of man? Into what total annihilation do we sink before an omnipotent Being! Who is not disposed to exclaim, Lord, what is man, that thou art mindful of him; or the son of man, that thou shouldest visit him! When compared with thee, all men are vanity: their works are nothing. Reverence, and humble adoration, ought spontaneously to arise. He who feels no propensity to worship and adore, is dead to all sense of grandeur and majesty; has extinguished one of the most natural feelings of the human heart. Know the Lord, that he is God, we are all his people; the workmanship of his hands. Let us worship and bow down. Let us kneel before the Lord our Maker.
Of all titles to legislation and rule, none is so` evident and direct as that of a Creator. The conviction is felt in every breast, that he who gave us being hath an absolute right to regulate our conduct.
This gives a sanction to the precepts of God, which the most hardened dare not controvert. When it is a Creator and a Father that speaks, who would not listen and obey? Are justice and humanity his declared laws; and shall we, whom but yesterday he called from the dust, and whom to-morrow he can reduce into dust again, presume, in contempt of him, to be unjust or inhuman? Are there any little interests of our own, which we dare to erect, in opposition to the pleasure of him who made us? Fear ye not me? saith the Lord; will ye not tremble at my presence, who have placed the sand for the bound of the sea, by a perpetual decree, that it cannot pass it; who stretch forth my hand over the earth, and none hindereth?
At the same time, the power of a Creator is encouraging, as well as awful. While it enforces duty, it inspires confidence under affliction. It brings to view a relation, which imports tenderness and comfort; for it suggests the compassion of a father. In the time of trouble, mankind are led, by a natural impulse, to fly for aid to Him, who knows the weakness of the frame which he has made; who remembers we are dust; and sees the dangers with which we are environed. "I am thine; for thou "hast made me: forsake not the work of thine "own hands," is one of the most natural ejaculations of the distressed mind.-How blessed are the virtuous, who can rest under the protection of that powerful arm, which made the earth and the heaven? The omnipotence which renders God so awful, is to them a source of joy. In the whole compass of nature, nothing is formidable to them, who firmly repose their trust in the Creator.