Gambar halaman
PDF
ePub
[ocr errors]

uttered once; the Creative Word is never for a moment suspended; never ceases to fulfil its own proclamation. That this was the belief of Moses I shall not stop to prove. I should have to quote half the Pentateuch if I did; the idea is worked into the whole tissue of his faith and comes out in every phrase he uses; in subsequent discourses I shall have to remind you of it continually. What seems most strange is, that this truth should have been practically so much forgotten by readers of the first chapter of Genesis; that they should have supposed the heavens and earth were finished and the host of them in the same manner as any ordinary work of human hands in which there is no life, no productive power, is finished; whereas Moses speaks of that life and those productive powers as called forth that they might work on from generation to generation under God's government.

This mistake has, I believe, originated in our reluctance to acknowledge the meaning which the sacred historian gives to the week of seven days. Some persons, I need not tell you, have supposed that they could only reconcile the Mosaic story with modern Geology by supposing each day to mean a thousand years.

But when they brought themselves to think that the Scripture language was pliable enough to endure an outrage which would have been intolerable in any other book, geologists would not be tied down by such a rule; their discoveries and speculations would not be limited within the terms which a purely arbitrary criti

cism had assigned as the possible duration of the materials whereof our globe consists. The honesty of Scripture interpretation, as much as the honesty of Science, owes them thanks that they would not; if they had, humble men must have felt that the words of the Bible might mean anything, everything, or nothing; those who believe that there is in the spirit and life, must have submitted to see them tortured into a materialism against which they bear the most deliberate and consistent protest.

No one will say that a literal construction of the first chapter of Genesis would lead to the notion that the order of the week is an order determined by the Sun or the Moon. The most plausible and popular objection to the Mosaic history is, that it affirms the Sun and Moon to have been created on the fourth day. Then first we hear of signs, and seasons, and years; then we are told that the day and night were to be divided by the lights in the heavens. Hence we are obliged to suppose that the week had an import in the mind of the historian altogether distinct from that which he gave to the ordinary measures of time. The Jew had been told in his commandments that it was to remind him of God's work and his own work, of God's rest and his own rest. It was to bring before him the fact of his relation to God, of his being made in the image of God; it was to teach him to regard the universe not chiefly as under the government of Sun or Moon, or as regulated by their courses ; but as an

[ocr errors]

order which the unseen God had created, which included Sun, Moon, Stars, Earth, and all the living creatures that inhabit them.

The week, then, was especially to raise the Jew above the thought of Time, to make him feel that though he was subject to its laws, he yet stood in direct connexion with an eternal law; with a Being, who is, and was, and is to come.' The more faithfully he acted out the command, to work and rest, and connected it with the whole course and meaning of his own life, and the life of his fellows, the less would the external Universe be an oppression and burden to him; the more would he enter into an apprehension of its order; the more would he be sure that it was not his master. When then the great Lawgiver taught him to associate the different days of this week with different steps or stages in the creation of the world, he certainly never intended him to introduce those very notions into the history from which the commandment was to preserve him. He was not to thrust in narrow and idolatrous fancies, derived from the Egyptian astronomy, into his thoughts of the divine order; he was to acknowledge days and months and years as connected with the heavenly bodies; he was not to feel that the divine Word which had given them their place and their bounds was limited by them, or that the creature of whom it had been said, Let us make him in our likeness,' was limited by them. The more he moditated on the clear simple view of the Order of the Universe, as it unfolded itself in the mind of

[ocr errors]

the divine Artist, and as it was set forth to man in his week of seven days, the more would he be delivered from that worship of visible things to which all people on the earth were prone; the more manly and faithful would be his inquiries respecting that Universe, before which he did not tremble, which he might not worship, but which he confessed to be the work of the God of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob; the more certain would be his assurance that the glory of man consists in looking up directly to Him; in beholding Him in His own proper nature; not through dim reflections or earthly images.

I apprehend, brethren, that the real earnest study of the Mosaic history of the Creation may serve just the same purpose to us which I have said that it might have served to the Jews. We know very

well that it was not effectual in delivering them from material idolatry; what document, however precious, ever was? It was never intended to exercise any charm or power of its own; it was intended to lead them to God, who had declared Himself to be their deliverer, who could break every chain from off their necks. If, instead of seeking Him, they sought only the book which spoke of Him, it might be a new bondage to them; it might itself become one of the barriers between them and Him. But the fault lay in themselves, not in it. And I believe the fault lies in us, not in it, that after so many centuries, during which we have been familiar with the phrases and sentences of it, we are still groping for the sense of it; often putting it forward as if it were in opposition to truths which God has revealed to those who have honestly studied his Universe ; continually making it a plea for idolatries which we bring with us to the study of it.

This is an error against which we have especial need to watch. Scientific men often

say

to us, “You must find out some new interpretation of your book; you must get rid of the mere letter of it, otherwise you will be in continual conflict with our facts.' I am convinced the directly opposite assertion is true. If we had been less busy with our interpretations, if we had studied the letter of the book more faithfully, we should very rarely indeed have come into any conflict with them; we should have felt no suspicion of them; we should have believed that even their doubts and suggestions, when they were far removed from proofs, and might soon be confuted by new evidence, were yet to be heartily welcomed as helpful towards the discovery or elucidation of truth. But our minds being filledas the minds of all people in this world are, whether they call themselves religious, scientific, or by any other name—with a great many crude materialistic idolatrous notions, we have not brought them to be corrected and cured by that teaching which we acknowledge to be the highest, the purest, the most spiritual; but we have insisted that these first, so-called natural, impressions of ours must contain the sense of Scripture. We exclaim, " This is the obvious meaning of the book. There may be some highflown conceit about it, no

« SebelumnyaLanjutkan »