In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.
When man looks out from himself upon the wonderful home in which he is placed, upon the various orders of living things around him, upon the solid earth which he treads, upon the heavens into which he gazes, with such ever-varying impressions, by day and by night; when he surveys the mechanism of his own bodily frame; when he turns his thought, as he can turn it, in upon itself, and takes to pieces by subtle analysis the beautiful instrument which places him in conscious relation to the universe around him; his first and last anxiety is to account for the existence of all that thus interests him; he must answer the question, How and why did this vast system of being come to be? Science may unveil in nature regular modes of working, and name their laws. But the great question still awaits her — the problem of the origin of the universe. This question is answered by the first verse in the Bible: "In the beginning God created," etc. And that answer is accepted by every believer in the Christian Creed: "I believe in one God," etc.
I. WHAT IS MEANT BY CREATION? The giving being to that which before was not. Creation is a mystery eminently satisfactory to reason, but strictly beyond it. We men can do much in the way of modifying existing matter, but we cannot create the minutest particle of it. That God summoned it into being is a truth which we believe on God's authority, but which we can never verify.
II. BELIEF IN THE CREATION OF THE UNIVERSE OUT OF NOTHING IS THE ONLY ACCOUNT OF ITS ORIGIN WHICH IS COMPATIBLE WITH BELIEF IN A PERSONAL AND MORAL GOD.
1. Men have conceived of the relation between the universe and a higher power in four different ways. Either God is a creation of the world, that is to say, of the thinking part of it; or God and the world are really identical; or God and the world, although distinct, are co-existent; or God has created the world out of nothing.
(1) If God is a product of human thought, it follows that the universe is self-existent, and that it alone exists. A purely subjective deity is in truth no deity at all.
(2) If God and the world are two names for the same thing, though the name of God be retained, the reality has vanished as truly as in the blankest atheism. For such a deity is neither personal nor moral. Murder and adultery become manifestations of the Infinite One as truly and in the same sense as benevolence or veracity.
(3) If, to avoid this revolting blasphemy, we suppose God and the world to be distinct, yet eternally co-existent, do we thereby secure in human thought a place for a moral and personal God? Surely not. God has ceased to be if we are right in imagining that there never was a time when something else did not exist independently of Him.
(4) It is necessary, then, to believe in the creation out of nothing, if we are to believe also in God's self-existent, personal, moral life.
2. Again, belief in the creation of the universe by God out of nothing naturally leads to belief in God's continuous providence; and providence, in turn, considering the depth of man's moral misery, suggests redemption. If love or goodness was the true motive for creation, it implies God's continuous interest in created life.
3. Belief in creation, indeed, must govern the whole religious thought of a consistent believer. It answers many a priori difficulties as to the existence of miracle, since the one supreme inexplicable miracle, compared with which all others are insignificant, is already admitted.
4. Once more, belief in creation is of high moral value. It keeps a man in his right place. "It is He that hath made us, and not we ourselves." At first sight, man is insignificant when confronted with external nature. Yet we know that this is not so. The heavens and the earth will pass away. But the soul will still remain, face to face with God.
Parallel VersesKJV: In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.