In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.
We must judge the book by the times.
I. The first principle to be inferred is that of THE UNITY OF GOD. One Divine Being is represented as the sole Cause of the universe. Now this is the only foundation of a true religion for humanity.
II. The next principle in this chapter is that ALL NOBLE WORK IS GRADUAL. God spent six days at His work, and then said it was very good. In proportion to the nobility of anything, is it long in reaching its perfection. The greatest ancient nation took the longest time to develope its iron power; the securest political freedom in a nation did not advance by bounds, or by violent revolutions, but in England "broadened slowly down from precedent to precedent." The greatest modern society — the Church of Christ — grew as Christ prophesied, from a beginning as small as a grain of mustard seed into a noble tree, and grows now more slowly than other society has ever grown — so slowly, that persons who are not far-seeing say that it has failed. The same law is true of every individual Christian life. Faith, to be strong, must be of gradual growth. Love, to be unconquerable, must be the produce not of quick-leaping excitement, but of patience having her perfect work. Spiritual character must be moulded into the likeness of Christ by long years of battle and of trial, and we are assured that eternity is not too long to perfect it.
III. Connected with this universal principle is another — that THIS GRADUAL GROWTH OF NOBLE THINGS, CONSIDERED IN ITS GENERAL APPLICATION TO THE UNIVERSE, IS FROM THE LOWER TO THE HIGHER — is, in fact, a progress, not a retrogression. We are told in this chapter that first arose the inorganic elements, and then life — first the life of the plant, then of the animal, and then of man, "the top and crown of things." It is so also in national life — first family life, then pastoral, then agricultural, then the ordered life of a polity, the highest. It is the same with religion. First, natural religion, then the dispensation of the law, then the more spiritual dispensation of the prophets, then the culmination of the external revelation through man in Christ, afterwards the higher inward dispensation of the universal Spirit, to be succeeded by a higher still — the immediate presence of God in all. So also with our own spiritual life. First, conviction of need, then the rapture of felt forgiveness, then God's testing of the soul, through which moral strength and faith grow firm; and as these grow deeper, love, the higher grace, increasing; and as love increases, noble work and nobler patience making life great and pure, till holiness emerges, and we are at one with God; and then, finally, the Christian calm — serene old age, with its clear heaven and sunset light, to prophesy a new and swift approaching dawn for the emancipated spirit.
IV. The next truth to be inferred from this chapter is that THE UNIVERSE WAS PREPARED FOR THE GOOD AND ENJOYMENT OF MAN. I cannot say that this is universal, for the stars exist for themselves, and the sun for other planets than ours; and it is a poor thing to say that the life of animals and plants is not for their own enjoyment as well as ours! but so far as they regard us, it is an universal truth, and the Bible was written for our learning. Therefore, in this chapter, the sun and stars are spoken of only in their relation to us, and man is set as master over all creation. It is on the basis of this truth that man has always unconsciously acted, and made progress in civilization.
V. The next principle is THE INTERDEPENDENCE OF REST AND WORK. The Sabbath is the outward expression of God's recognition of this as a truth for man. It was commanded because it was necessary. "The Sabbath was made for man," said Christ. And the same principle ought to be extended over our whole existence.
VI. Lastly, there is one specially spiritual principle which glorifies this chapter, and the import of which is universal, "GOD MADE MAN IN HIS OWN IMAGE." It is the divinest revelation in the Old Testament. In it is contained the reason of all that has ever been great in human nature or in human history. In it are contained all the sorrows of the race as it looks back to its innocence, and all the hope of the race as it aspires from the depths of its fall to the height of the imperial palace whence it came. In it is contained all the joy of the race as it sees in Christ this great first principle revealed again. In it are contained all the history of the human heart, all the history of the human mind, all the history of the human conscience, all the history of the human spirit. It is the foundation stone of all written and unwritten poetry, of all metaphysics, of all ethics, of all religion.
(Stopford A. Brooke, M. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.