Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God…
Our object is to inquire what is implied in our really believing the fact of the creation. There is the widest difference between your believing certain truths as the results of reasoning or discovery, and your believing them on the mere assertion of a credible witness, whom you see and hear, especially if the witness be the very individual to whom the truths relate. The truths themselves may be identically the same. But how essentially different is the state of the mind, and how different the impression made on it!
I. WE MAY ILLUSTRATE THE DIFFERENCE BY A SIMPLE AND FAMILIAR EXAMPLE. Paley makes admirable use of an imaginary case respecting a watch. He supposes you to be previously unacquainted with such a work of art. You hold it in your hand; you begin to examine its structure, to raise questions in your own mind, and to form conjectures. How did it come there, and how were its parts so curiously put together? You at once conclude that it did not grow there, and that it could not be fashioned by chance. You feel assured that the watch had a maker. You gather much of his character from the obvious character of his handiwork. You search in that handiwork for traces of his mind, his heart. You speculate concerning his plans and purposes. But now, suppose that while you are thus engaged, with the watch in your hand, a living person suddenly appears before you, and announces himself, and says, It was I who made this watch — it was I who put it there. Is not your position instantly changed? Your position, in fact, is now precisely reversed. Instead of questioning the watch concerning its maker, you now question the maker concerning his watch. You hear not what the mechanism has to say of the mechanic, but what the mechanic has to say of the mechanism. You receive, perhaps, the same truths as before, but with a freshness and a force unknown before. They come to you, not circuitously and at second hand, they come straight from the very being most deeply concerned in them.
II. NOW, LET US APPLY THESE REMARKS TO THE MATTER IN HAND. YOU are all of you familiar with this idea, that, in contemplating the works of creation, you should ascend from nature to nature's God. It is most pleasing and useful to cultivate such a habit as this. Much of natural religion depends upon it, and holy Scripture fully recognises its propriety. "The heavens declare the glory of God; the firmament showeth his handicraft." "All Thy works praise Thee, Lord God Almighty." "Lift up your eyes on high, and behold, Who hath created these things." "O Lord, how manifold are Thy works! in wisdom hast Thou made them all: the earth is full of Thy riches." It is apparent, however, even in these and similar passages, that created things are mentioned, not as arguments, but rather as illustrations; not as suggesting the idea of God, the Creator, but as unfolding and expanding the idea, otherwise obtained. And this is still more manifest in that passage of the Epistle to the Romans which particularly appeals to the fact of creation, as evidence of the Creator's glory. evidence sufficient to condemn the ungodly (Hebrews 1:20, 21). So that the Scriptural method on this subject is exactly the reverse of what is called the natural. It is not to ascend from nature up to nature's God, but to descend from God to God's nature; not to hear the creation speaking of the Creator, but to hear the Creator speaking of the creation. We have not in the Bible an examination and enumeration of the wonders to be observed among the works of nature, and an argument founded upon these that there must be a God, and that He must be of a certain character and must have had certain views in making what He has made. God Himself appears and tells us authoritatively what He has done, and why He did it. Thus " through faith we understand that the worlds were made by the Word of God; so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear." We understand and believe this, not as a deduction of reasoning, but as a matter of fact, declared and revealed to us. For this is that act of the mind which, in a religious sense, is called faith.
III. But it may be said, ARE WE, THEN, NOT TO USE OUR REASON ON THIS SUBJECT AT ALL? That cannot be, for the apostle himself enjoins you, however in respect of meekness you are to be like children, still in understanding to be men. Certainly you do well to search out all those features in creation which reflect the glory of the Creator. Nay, you may begin in this way to know God. It is true, indeed, that God has never in fact left Himself to be thus discovered. He has always, as He did at first, revealed Himself, not circuitously by His works, but summarily and directly by His Word. We may suppose, however, that you are suffered to grope your way through creation to the Creator. In that case you proceed to reason out from the manifold proofs of design in nature's works the idea of an intelligent Author, and to draw inferences from what you see respecting His character, purposes, and plans. Still, even in this method of discovering God, if your faith is to be of an influential kind at all, you must proceed, when you have made the discovery, just to reverse the process by which you made it; and having arrived at the conception of a Creator, you must now go back again to the creation, taking Him along with you, as one with whom you have personally become acquainted, and hearing what He has to say concerning His own works. He may say no more than what you had previously discovered. Still, what He does say, you now receive not as discovered by you, but as said by Him. You leave the post of discovery, the chair of reasoning, and take the lowly stool of the disciple; and then, and not before, even on the principles of natural religion, do you fully understand what is the real import, and the momentous bearing of the fact, that a Being, infinitely wise and powerful, and having evidently a certain character as just and good, that such a Being made you, and is Himself telling you that He made you, and all the things that are around you; "that the things which are seen were not made of things which do appear."
IV. THUS, IN A RELIGIOUS VIEW, AND FOR RELIGIOUS PURPOSES, THE TRUTH CONCERNING GOD AS THE CREATOR MUST BE RECEIVED, NOT AS A DISCOVERY OF YOUR OWN REASON, FOLLOWING A TRAIN OF THOUGHT, BUT AS A DIRECT COMMUNICATION FROM A REAL PERSON, EVEN FROM THE LIVING AND PRESENT GOD. This is not a merely artificial distinction. It is practically most important. Consider the subject of creation in the light simply of an argument of natural philosophy, and all is vague and dim abstraction. But consider the momentous fact in the light of a direct message from the Creator Himself to you. Are you not differently impressed and affected?
1. More particularly — see, first of all, what weight this single idea, once truly and vividly realised, must add to all the other communications which He makes on other subjects to you. Does He speak to you concerning other matters, intimately touching your present and future weal? Does He tell you of your condition in respect of Him, and of His purposes in respect of you? Does He enforce the majesty of His law? Does He press the overtures of His gospel? Oh! how in every such case is His appeal, in its solemnity, and its power, enhanced with tenfold intensity, if you regard Him as, in the very same breath, expressly telling you, I who now speak to you, so earnestly and so affectionately, I created all things — I created you.
2. Again, on the other hand, observe what weight this idea, if fully realised, must have, if you regard the Lord Himself as saying to you, in special reference to each of the things which He has made: I created it, and I am now testifying to you that I created it. What sacredness will this thought stamp on every object in nature, if only you are personally acquainted with the living God; and especially if you know Him as the Lawgiver, the Saviour, the Judge.
(R. S. Candlish, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.