And God said, "Let the earth bring forth living creatures according to their kinds: livestock, land crawlers, and wild animals according to their kinds." And it was so.
We pass from the sea and air to the earth. We are being led to man. Notice -
I. THE PREPARATION IS COMPLETE. Before the earth receives the human being, it brings forth all the other creatures, and God sees that they are good - good in his sight, good for man.
II. THE PURPOSE OF THE WORK IS BENEVOLENT. Cattle, creeping thing, beast of the earth. So man would see them distinguished - the wild from the domestic, the creeping from the roaming, the clean from the unclean. The division itself suggests the immense variety of the Divine provision for man's wants.
III. The incompleteness of the earth when filled with the lower creatures is A TESTIMONY TO THE GREATNESS OF MAN'S SPIRITUAL NATURE; for in comparison with the animal races he is in many respects inferior - in strength, swiftness, and generally in the powers which we call instinct. Yet his appearance is the climax of the earth's creation. "Man is one world, and hath another to attend him." Vegetable, marine, animal life generally, the whole earth filled with what God "saw to be good," waits for the rational and spiritual creature who shall be able to recognize their order and wield dominion over them. Steps and stages in creation lead up to the climax, the "paragon of animals," the god-like creature, made to be king on the earth. - R.
The term beast in the history of this day, as has already been stated, is employed to designate wild animals, in contradistinction from the tame, included under the word cattle. Although these are not designed so immediately or so eminently for the service of man as domestic animals, yet many, if not most of them, contribute in one way or another to his welfare — some as game for his sustenance, some by their hides and fur for his clothing, and all as subjects of interesting and profitable study. It is stated in the Holy Scriptures concerning the various branches of the human family, that "God before appointed the bounds of their respective habitations"; this is equally true of the different tribes of animals, Wise design and kind adaptation stand forth conspicuously in the arrangement which has assigned to them their several localities. The hairless elephant, rhinoceros, and tapir are obviously made for the heat and luxuriance of the Torrid Zone; and it is there they are found. The camel and the dromedary have been fashioned and constituted with specific adaptations for the parched and sandy deserts of the tropics; and here, accordingly, they have been located. Advancing to the more temperate regions, we still find all creatures, both domestic and wild, admirably fitted to occupy the zone given to them for their inheritance. And as we proceed northward, we discover given to the various animals hardihood of constitution, together with warmth of covering, increasing with the increasing rigour of the climate, till we pass within the Arctic circle, and reach the polar bears. Voyagers in those latitudes tell us that these animals disport in the regions of ice, and revel in an intensity of cold, which, to man with every contrivance of art for protection, is almost past endurance, and produces in him diseases which shortly terminate his existence — that they sit for hours like statues upon icebergs, where, if we were to take up our position for one half hour, we should become statues indeed, and be frozen into the lasting rigidity of death — that they slide in frolic down slopes of snows, which if we were to touch with our bare hand, would instantly, like fire, destroy its vitality. Who that contemplates these shaggy creatures of the pole, so constituted as to find a congenial home amid eternal ice and snow, and to take their frolicsome pastime amid the bleak and dismal horrors of an arctic night, but must confess that every creature, by Divine appointment and adaptation, is suited for its place, and that every place is fitted for its given occupants?
God made the beast of the earth. I.
THAT THE ANIMAL WORLD WAS CREATED BY GOD.
1. We should regard the animal world with due appreciation. Man has too low an estimate of the animal world. We imagine that a tree has as much claim to our attention and regard as a horse. The latter has a spirit; is possessed of life; it is a nobler embodiment of Divine power; it is a nearer approach to the fulfilment of creation.
2. We should treat the animal world with humane consideration. Surely, we ought not to abuse anything on which God has bestowed a high degree of creative care, especially when it is intended for our welfare.
II. THAT THE ANIMAL WORLD WAS DESIGNED BY GOD FOR THE SERVICE OF MAN.
1. Useful for business. How much of the business of man is carried on by the aid of animals. They afford nearly the only method of transit by road and street. The commercial enterprise of our villages and towns would receive a serious check if the services of the animal creation were removed.
2. Needful for food. Each answers a distinct purpose toward the life of man; from them we get our varied articles of food, and also of clothing. These animals were intended to be the food of man, to impart strength to his body, and energy to his life. To kill them is no sacrilege. Their death is their highest ministry, and we ought to receive it as such; not for the purpose of gluttony, but of health. Thus is our food the gift of God.
III. THAT THE ANIMAL WORLD WAS AN ADVANCE IN THE PURPOSE OF CREATION. The chaos had been removed, and from it order and light had been evoked. The seas and the dry land had been made to appear. The sun, moon, and stars had been sent on their light-giving mission. The first touch of life had become visible in the occupants of the waters and the atmosphere, and now it breaks into larger expanse in the existence of the animal creation, awaiting only its final completion in the being of man.
IV. THAT THE ANIMAL WORLD WAS ENDOWED WITH THE POWER OF GROWTH AND CONTINUANCE, AND WAS GOOD IN THE SIGHT OF GOD.
1. The growth and continuance of the animal world was insured. Each animal was to produce its own kind, so that it should not become extinct; neither could one species pass into another by the operation of any physical law.
2. The animal world was good in the sight of God. It was free from pain. The stronger did not oppress, and kill the weaker. The instinct of each animal was in harmony with the general good of the rest. But animals have shared the fate of man, the shadow of sin rests upon them; hence their confusion and disorder, their pain, and the many problems they present to the moral philosopher.
The first signs and pictures of human life.
2. Its most intimate assistants.
3. Its first conditions.
In domestic animals we recognize a very marked token of the paternal kindness of the Creator. Their value and importance to man cannot well be estimated. How much do they add to his strength in toil, to his ease and speed in travelling, and to his sustenance and gratification in food. Even the dog proffers to us a serious and profitable lesson. "Man," said the poet Burns, "is the god of the dog. He knows no other, he can understand no other. And see how he worships him. With what reverence he crouches at his feet, with what love he fawns upon him, with what dependence he looks up to him, and with what cheerful alacrity he obeys him! His whole soul is wrapped up in his god; all the powers and faculties of his nature are devoted to his service, and these powers and faculties are ennobled by the intercourse. Divines tell us that it ought to be just so with the Christian; but does not the dog often put the Christian to shame?" The ox, also, is to us a living parable. As he slowly wends his way from the field of toil, at noon, or evening, toward home, how affecting the remonstrance his moving figure is made to utter — "The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master's crib; but Israel doth not know, My people do not consider." And when he bows his submissive neck to receive the yoke and go forth to his labour again, how gracious the invitation symbolized by the willing act — "Take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me; for I am meek and lowly in heart, and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light." The sheep, likewise, is a sacred emblem. Were this animal to repeat all the various truths committed by the Spirit to its symbolism, it would preach to us a new lesson with every change of situation in which we beheld it — following after the shepherd — enclosed in the fold — scattered on the mountain — lying down in green pastures — straying among wolves — borne on the shepherd's shoulder — bound before the shearer — separating from the goats — in these various circumstances, sheep read to us the most solemn and important truths of the gospel of the Son of God. And the lamb — this is the central symbol of the Christian system. This innocent and gentle creature is preeminently the type of Him who was holy, harmless, and undefiled, the Lamb of God that was slain to take away the sins of the world, in whose blood the redeemed of heaven have washed their robes and made them white. The horse also is a chosen figure of inspiration. In the Book of Revelation — that wonderful portion of the sacred volume — the King of kings, and Lord of lords, is represented as riding on a white horse; and the armies of heaven as following Him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, to witness His victory over all the enemies of truth and righteousness, and to participate in the final triumphs of His grace. Such is the deeply interesting event, such the glorious consummation, of which the horse stands forever a symbol and a remembrancer before his rider. How wise the arrangement that has thus embodied Divine truth in living forms, that ever move before our view. How kind and gracious in God our Father thus to constitute" sheep and oxen" to be unto us as priests and prophets, holding forth the Word of life, and, though they see not the vision themselves, symbolizing the glorious things of Christ and of heaven, to inspire us with the comfort of the most blessed hope.
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