Genesis 1:6
Genesis 1:1-5. A true and firm foundation of revelation and faith must be laid in a Divine doctrine of "Genesis," the beginnings out of which have come both the world of nature and the world of grace. In this book we are taught what is the order by which all things must be tried. Coming forth from Elohim, from the Infinite Personality; flowing in his appointed course. The genesis of heaven and earth becomes the genesis of the human family. Out of the natural chaos is brought forth the Eden of rest and beauty. Out of the moral waste of a fallen humanity is formed, by the gracious work of a Divine Spirit, through a covenant of infinite wisdom and loves a seed of redeemed and sanctified human beings, a family of God. The genesis of the material creation leads on to the genesis of the invisible creation. The lower is the type and symbol of the higher. The first day is the true beginning of days. See what is placed by the sacred writer between that evening and morning.

I. THE COMING FORTH OF THE EVERLASTING, UNSEARCHABLE SECRET OF THE DIVINE NATURE INTO MANIFESTATION. "God created." The word employed denotes more than the bare summoning of existence out of nothingness. The analogy of human workmanship ("cutting," "carving," "framing") suggests the relation between creation and the God of creation. The heaven and the earth reflect their Maker. Works embody the mind, the spirit, the will, the nature of the workman. Although the name Elohim, in the plural form, cannot be taken as an equivalent of the Trinity, it points to the great fundamental fact of all revelation, the Divine Unity coming forth out of the infinite solitude of eternity, and declaring, in the manifold revelations of the visible and invisible worlds, all that the creature can know of his fathomless mystery.

II. HERE IS A GLIMPSE INTO GOD'S ORDER AND METHOD. "In the beginning," the immeasurable fullness of creative power and goodness. Formless void, darkness on the face of the deeps apparent confusion and emptiness, within a limited sphere, the earth; at a certain epoch, in preparation for an appointed future. Chaos is not the first beginning of things; it is a stage in their history. The evening of the first day preceded the morning in the recorded annals of the earth. That evening was itself a veiling of the light. Science itself leads back the thoughts from all chaotic periods to previous developments of power. Order precedes disorder. Disorder is itself permitted only as a temporary state. It is itself part of the genesis of that which shall be ultimately "very good."

III. THE GREAT VITAL FACT OF THE WORLD'S ORDER IS THE INTIMATE UNION BETWEEN THE SPIRIT OF GOD AND THAT WHICH IS COVERED WITH DARKNESS UNTIL HE MAKES IT LIGHT. The moving of the Spirit upon the face of the waters represents the brooding, cherishing, vitalizing presence of God in his creatures, over them, around them, at once the source and protection of their life. "Breath;" "wind," the word literally means, perhaps as a symbol at once of life, or living energy, and freedom, and with an immediate reference to the creative word, which is henceforth the breath of God in the world. Surely no candid mind can fail to feel the force of such a witness in the opening sentences of revelation to the triune God.

IV. TO US THE BEGINNING OF ALL THINGS IS LIGHT. The word of God "commands the light to shine out of darkness." "God said, Let there be light," or, Let light be. The going forth of God's word upon the universe very well represents the twofold fact,

(1) that it is the outcome of his will and nature; and

(2) that it is his language - the expression of himself.

Hence all through this Mosaic cosmogony God is represented as speaking to creation, that we may understand that he speaks in creation, as he is also said to look at that which comes forth from himself to behold it, to approve it, to name it, to appoint its order and use. Such intimate blending of the personal with the impersonal is the teaching of Scripture as distinguished from all mere human wisdom. God is in creation and yet above it. Man is thus invited to seek the personal presence as that which is higher than nature, which his own personal life requires, that it may not be oppressed with nature's greatness, that it may be light, and not darkness. There is darkness in creation, darkness in the deep waters of the world's history, darkness in the human soul itself, until God speaks and man hears. Light is not, physically, the first thing created; but it is the first fact of the Divine days - that is, the beginning of the new order. For what we have to do with, is not the. infinite, secret of creation, but the "manifestation of the visible world God manifest. The first day m the history of the earth, as man can read it, must be the day when God removes the covering of darkness and says, Let there be light." The veil uplifted is itself a commencement. God said that it was good. His own appointment confirmed the abiding distinction between light and darkness, between day and night; in other words, the unfolding, progressive interchange of work and rest, of revelation and concealment, the true beginning of the world's week of labor, which leads on to the everlasting sabbath. How appropriately this first day of the week of creation stands at the threshold of God's word of grace! The light which he makes to shine in our hearts, which divides our existence into the true order, the good and the evil separated from one another, which commences our life; and the Spirit is the light of, his own word, the light which shines from the face of him who was "the Word,' "in the beginning with God," "without whom nothing was made that was made." - R.







Let there be a firmament.
I. THE ATMOSPHERE IS NECESSARY TO THE POSSIBILITY OF HUMAN LIFE.

1. Gathers up the vapours.

2. Throws them down again in rain, snow, or dew, when needed.

3. Modifies and renders more beautiful the light of the sun.

4. Sustains life.

II. IT IS NECESSARY FOR THE PRACTICAL PURPOSES OF LIFE.

1. The atmosphere is necessary for the transmission of sound. If there were no atmosphere, the bell might be tolled, the cannon might be fired, a thousand voices might render the music of the sweetest hymn, but not the faintest sound would be audible. Thus all commercial, educational, and social intercourse would be at an end, as men would not be able to hear each other speak. We seldom think of the worth of the atmosphere around us, never seen, seldom felt, but without which the world would be one vast grave.

2. The atmosphere is necessary for many purposes related to the inferior objects of the world. Without it the plants could not live, our gardens would be divested of useful vegetables, and beautiful flowers. Artificial light would be impossible. The lamp of the mines could not be kindled. The candle of the midnight student could never have been lighted. The bird could not have wended its way to heaven's gate to utter its morning song, as there would have been no air to sustain its flight.

III. LET US MAKE A PRACTICAL IMPROVEMENT OF THE SUBJECT.

1. To be thankful for the air we breathe. How often do we recognize the air by which we are surrounded as amongst the chief of our daily blessings, and as the immediate and continued gift of God? How seldom do we utter praise for it.

2. To make the best use of the life it preserves. To cultivate a pure life. To speak golden words. To make a true use of all the subordinate ministries of nature.

(J. S. Exell, M. A.)

1. The atmosphere is the great fund and storehouse of life to plants and animals; its carbonic acid is the food of the one, and its oxygen the nourishment of the other; without its carbonic acid the whole vegetable kingdom would wither, and without its oxygen the blood of animals, "which is the life thereof," would be only serum and water.

2. It is a refractor of light. Without it the sun's rays would fall perpendicularly and directly on isolated portions of the world, and with a velocity which would probably render them invisible; but by means of the atmosphere they are diffused in a softened effulgence through the entire globe.

3. It is a reflector of light. Hence its mysterious, beautiful, and poetical blue, contrasting and yet harmonizing with the green mantle of the world.

4. It is the conservator and disperser and modifier of heat. By its hot currents constantly flung from the equatorial regions of the world, even the cold of the frigid zones is deprived of its otherwise unbearable rigour; while the mass of cold air always rushing from about the poles towards the equator quenches half the heat of tropical suns, and condenses the vapour so needful to the luxuriant vegetation.

5. It is the great vibratory of sound, the true sounding board of the world, and without it the million voices and melodies of this earth would all be dumb; it would be a soundless desert, where an earthquake would not make a whisper. By its pressure the elastic fluids of animal bodies are prevented from bursting their slender vessels and causing instantaneous destruction. Its winds propel our ships, its electricity conveys our messages. By the aid of its warm gales and gentle dews the desert can be made to blossom as the rose.

(John Cobley.)

But the atmosphere with which the Creator has surrounded the earth is wonderful also in its composition. The two elements of which it chiefly consists — oxygen and nitrogen — are mixed in definite proportions, as 20 to 80 in 100 parts. If this proportion were but slightly altered, as nitrogen destroys life and extinguishes flame, the result of any perceptible increase of it would be that fires would lose their strength and lamps their brightness, plants would wither, and man, with the whole animal kingdom, would perform their functions with difficulty and pain. Or if the quantity of nitrogen were much diminished, and the oxygen increased, the opposite effect would be produced. The least spark would set anything combustible in a flame; candles and lamps would burn with the most brilliant blaze for a moment, but would be quickly consumed. If a house caught fire, the whole city would be burnt down. The animal fluids would circulate with the greatest rapidity, brain fever would soon set in, and the lunatic asylums would be filled. A day is coming when "the elements shall melt with fervent heat." God has but to subtract the nitrogen from the air, and the whole world would instantly take fire; such is the activity and energy of the oxygen when left uncontrolled.

(Brewer.)

Vast quantities of oxygen are daily consumed by animals, and by combustion. Carbonic acid gas is evolved instead. But this gas is so injurious that when the air is charged with only one-tenth part of it, it is wholly unfit for animals to breathe, and is unsuitable to the support of fires. The vegetable kingdom meets the whole difficulty. It gives out oxygen and takes in carbonic acid in amply sufficient measure to balance the disturbance created by the animals. Thus every breath we draw instructs us to admire the wisdom of Him who doeth all things well.

(Brewer.)Again, oxygen is a little heavier and nitrogen a little lighter than common air. Had it been otherwise, had nitrogen been a little heavier, and carbonic acid gas been a little lighter, we must have breathed them again, so that, instead of breathing wholesome air, we should have been constantly inhaling the very gases which the lungs had rejected as offal. The consequences would have been most fatal. Life would have been painful; diseases ten times more prevalent than they now are; and death would have cut us off at the very threshold of our existence.

(Brewer.)Further, if the air had possessed an odour, such as that of phosphuretted hydrogen, it would have interfered not only with the perfume of flowers, but also with our faculty of discriminating wholesome foods by their smell. If it had been coloured like chlorine gas, or a London fog, we should have seen only the thick air, and not the objects around us. Had it been less transparent than it now is, it would have obstructed the rays of the sun, diminished their light and warmth, and abridged our power of distant vision.

(Brewer.)The air is the great means of life, not only to man, but to all living things. It is also essential to combustion. Without it no fire would burn, and all our industries which depend on the use of fire would necessarily be at a standstill. By the heat of the sun an immense quantity of water in the form of vapour is daily carried up from the earth, rivers, and seas — amounting, indeed, to many millions of gallons! In the course of a year it is not less than forty thousand cubic miles! But if there were no atmosphere this circulation could not exist. There would be no rain, rivers, or seas, but one vast desert. Neither could the clouds be buoyed up from the surface of the earth, nor could the winds blow to disperse noxious vapours, and produce a system of ventilation among the abodes of men.

(Brewer.)

There is something in the earth's atmosphere that blights and injures. It is not the same healthful, genial, joyous firmament that it was when God created it.

(H. Bonar.)

I. EXPLANATION OF THE PASSAGE.

1. Ancient conception of the sky. To the ancient Hebrew the sky seemed a vast, outstretched, concave surface or expansion, in which the stars were fastened, and over which the ethereal waters were stored. (See Proverbs 8:27; Hebrews 1:12; Isaiah 34:4; Isaiah 40:22; Job 22:14; Job 37:18; Psalm 148:4.) "Ah, all this," you tell me, "is scientifically false; the sky is not a material arch, or tent, or barrier, with outlets for rain; it is only the matterless limit of vision." Neither, let me again remind you, is there any such thing as "sunrise" or "sunset." To use such words is to utter what science declares is a falsehood. And yet your astronomer, living in the blaze of science, fresh from the discovery of spectrum analysis and satellites of Mars, and knowing too that his words are false, still persists in talking of sunrise and sunset. Will you, then, deny to the untutored Moses, speaking in the child-like language of that ancient infarct civilization, the privilege which you so freely accord to the nineteenth-century astronomer?

2. Panorama of the emerging sky. Everywhere is still a shapeless, desolate chaos. And now a sudden break is seen. A broad, glorious band or expanse glides through the angry, chaotic waste, separating it into two distinct masses — the lower, the heavy fluids; the upper, the ethereal vapours. The band, still bearing upward the vapour, swells and mounts and arches and vaults, till it becomes a concave hemisphere or dome. That separating, majestic dimension we cannot to this day call by a better name than the expanse. And that expanse God called heavens. And there was evening and there was morning, a second day.

II. MORAL MEANING OF THE STORY.

1. The heavens suggest the soul's true direction — it is upward. To express moral excellence by terms of altitude is an instinct. How naturally we use such phrases as these: "Exalted worth, high resolve, lofty purpose, elevated views, sublime character, eminent purity!" How naturally, too, we use opposite phrases: "Low instincts, base passions, degraded character, grovelling habits, stooping to do it!" Doubtless here, too, is the secret of the arch, and especially the spire, as the symbol of Christian architecture: the Church is an aspiration. Even the very word "heaven" itself, like the Greek Ouranos, means height, and, according to the etymologists, is an Anglo-Saxon word, heo-fan; meaning what is heaved up, lifted, heav-en — heaven. Well, then, may the vaulting sky stand as a symbol of human aspiration. The true life is a perpetual soaring and doming; or rather, like the mystic temple of Ezekiel's vision, it is an inverted spiral, forever winding upward, and broadening as it winds (Ezekiel 41:7). The soul's true life is a perpetual exhalation; her affections evermore evaporating from her own great deep, and mounting heavenward in clouds of incense.

2. As the heavens suggest human aspirations, so do the heavens suggest their complement, Divine perfections. It is true, e.g., in respect to God's immensity. Nothing seems so remote from us, or gives such an idea of vastness, as the dome of heaven. Climb we ever so high on mountain top, the stars are still above us. Again: It is true in respect to God's sovereignty. Nothing seems to be so absolutely beyond human control or modification as the sun and stars of heaven. Again: It is true in respect to God's spirituality. Nothing seems so like that rarity of texture which we instinctively ascribe to pure, incorporeal spirit, as that subtile, tenuous ether which, it is believed, pervades the clear, impalpable sky, and, indeed, all immensity. And in this subtile ether, so invisible to sight, so impalpable to touch, so diffused throughout earth and the spaces of the heavenly expanse, we may behold a symbol of that invisible, intangible, ever-omnipresent One who Himself is Spirit; and who, accordingly, can be worshipped only in spirit and truth (John 4:24). Again: it is true in respect to God's purity. Nothing is so exquisite an emblem of absolute spotlessness and eternal chastity, as the unsullied expanse of heaven, untrodden by mortal foot, unswept by aught but angel wings. Again: It is true in respect to God's beatitude. We cannot conceive a more perfect emblem of felicity and moral splendour than light. Everywhere and evermore, among rudest nations as well as among most refined, light is instinctively taken as the first and best possible emblem of whatever is most intense and perfect in blessedness and glory. And whence comes light — the light which arms us with health, and fills us with joy, and tints flower and cloud with beauty, and floods mountain and mead with splendour — but from the sky? Well, then, may the shining heaven be taken as the elect emblem of Him who decketh Himself with light as with a robe (Psalm 104:2), who dwelleth in light which no man can approach unto (1 Timothy 6:16), who Himself is the Father of lights (James 1:17).

(G. D. Boardman.)

The word "atmosphere" indicates, in general, its character and its relation to the earth. It is compounded of two Greek words, one signifying vapour and the other sphere, and, taken together, they denote a sphere of vapour enveloping or enwrapping the whole earth. The ancients regarded the air, as children do now, as nothing at all. A vessel filled only with air, had nothing in it. "As light as air" is a proverbial expression, but a very false one, to denote nothingness. We may not be aware of it, but yet it is true that the breathing of the air yields us three-quarters of our nourishment, while the other quarter only is supplied by the food, solid and liquid, of which we partake. The principal parts of this food are oxygen, hydrogen, nitrogen, and carbonic acid, and these, too, are the constituent elements of the atmosphere. There is a sense, therefore, in which we may truly say of the air, what the apostle and the old Greek poet before him said of God, "In it we live and move and have our being." The weight of the atmosphere is so great that its pressure upon a man of ordinary size has been computed to be about fourteen or fifteen tons. A man of large frame would have to carry one or two tons additional. But as the air's pressure is lateral as well as vertical, and equal upon all sides and parts of every body, it not only does not crush or injure the frailest flower, but actually feeds and nourishes it. There are other than atmospheric burdens, and those which consciously press more heavily, which yet a man may find a great blessing ill carrying with a cheerful face and courage. The atmosphere is tenanted by myriad forms of life, vegetable and animal. A French naturalist of great eminence, M. Miquel, writing upon "Living Organisms of the Atmosphere," has found numberless organisms dancing in the light of a single sunbeam. The atmosphere, moreover, is the great agent by which nature receives the wonderful colours which are her most beautiful adorning. It is owing to the reflection of the sun's rays that the sky and the distant horizon assume that beautiful azure hue which is subject to endless variations. It is owing to the refraction of these rays as they pass obliquely through the aerial strata, that we have the splendours of the morning and evening twilight, and that we seem to see the sun three or four minutes before he actually rises above the eastern horizon, and three or four minutes after he actually disappears below the western horizon. If it were not for the atmosphere, the light would instantaneously disappear as the sun sank below the horizon, and leave the world in utter darkness, while at his rising in the morning the world would pass in an instant from complete darkness into a flood of dazzling and blinding light. Such daily and sudden shocks to vision would be painful, and probably destructive to sight. Without the atmosphere there would have been no place in the universe for the dwelling place of man, because without it the waters would have prevailed. But as by the atmosphere the waters below were, on the second day of the creative week, divided from those above, a place was provided suitable for the abode of man. Without the air, which gathers the moisture in the clouds and sends it down again upon the earth, there could be no precipitation of rain or snow. Without the atmosphere there could be no purifying winds, which are but air in motion, no medium to transmit and diffuse the light and heat of the sun, no agent to modify and make surpassingly beautiful the light of the sun, and no possibility of respiration for plants or animals, without which it would be impossible to maintain any form of organic life. The atmosphere, too, is indispensable for all the practical purposes of life. If by some miraculous intervention it should be made possible for human life to exist without the air, it would be useless and vain. The air is necessary for the transmission of sound. Without it, the bell might be tolled, the cannon might be fired, a great multitude of voices might unite to render the music of the sweetest hymn, but not the faintest sound would be audible either to the performers or to the listeners. In the worship of God we should need no tune books, no organ, no choir, no preacher, "for there is no speech nor language where their voice is not heard," and the voices of none of these could be heard. You might breathe or even loudly speak your words of love into the very ear of some dear one, and yet not one of your words would be heard without the presence of air in the ear to empower its wondrous mechanism for hearing. As light is indispensable for seeing, so in exactly the same way is the air necessary for hearing, and without it the ear would be a perfectly useless organ, instead of being, as now, a wonderful organ to minister to our joy and delight. And since without the atmosphere we could not hear each other speak, it follows that all commercial, educational, and social intercourse would be at an end, and the earth would become one vast grave.

1. Let us learn from the air a lesson — and it is a most impressive one — as to the inestimable value of our "common mercies," which we enjoy every moment, without a thought and without an emotion of gratitude to the great Giver of them.

2. Let us learn from the atmosphere a lesson as to how to overcome our difficulties. The dove in the fable was irritated because the wind ruffled its feathers and opposed its flight. It foolishly desired to have a firmament free from air, through the empty spaces of which it vainly thought it could fly with the speed of lightning. Silly bird! It did not know that without the air it could not fly at all, nor even live. And just so it is with the difficulties we encounter. Without them and without conquering them, a high Christian manhood or character is unattainable.

3. Let us learn from the atmosphere a lesson of thankfulness. It is amongst the chief of our daily blessings, and is the immediate and continuous gift of God, to whom our praises are continually due.

4. Let us learn from the atmosphere to make the best use possible of the life it nourishes and preserves. As in itself the air is sweet, wholesome, and life-giving, let us be taught by it to live pure and noble lives which shall yield for others wholesome and helpful and not poisonous and corrupt influences. Our example makes a moral atmosphere for others to breathe, which is wholesome or noxious, according as the example is good or bad.

(G. C. Noyes, D. D.)

The atmosphere, like an ocean, overlies the whole surface of the earth; in fact, it is an ocean; and it is literally true, that, like crabs and lobsters, we live and move and spend our days at the bottom of a sea — an aerial sea. This atmospheric ocean rises far above us, and, like that of waters, has its waves, its currents, and its tides. It is found to grow more rarified, as well as colder, as we ascend towards its upper limit, which is supposed to be about forty-five miles above the level of the sea. Barometrical observations, however, show that on ascending to the height of three and a half miles (nearly that of Cotopaxi), we leave behind us, by weight, more than one-half the whole mass of the atmosphere. And from the experience of aeronauts, it is believed that there is no such air as man can breathe at an elevation of eight miles; probably death would be the certain consequence of exceeding seven, though some, of late, at great risk and suffering, have ascended to nearly that height. On the summit of Mont Blanc, which is a trifle under three miles, the sensations of those who make the ascent are very painful, owing to the levity of the air; the flesh puffs out, the head is oppressed, the respiration is difficult, and the face becomes livid; whilst the temperature is cold almost past endurance. This ocean of air, like that of water, has also its weight and pressure. People, in general, are not aware, because they are not conscious, of any weight resting upon them from the atmosphere; yet reliable experiments prove that at the sea level it presses with a force equal to fourteen and three-fifths pounds on every square inch, or 2,100 pounds on every square foot, or 58,611,548,160 pounds on every square mile; or on the whole surface of the earth with a weight equal to that of a solid globe of lead sixty miles in diameter! How few reflect that they live under an ocean of such stupendous weight! But to bring this fact more sensibly before the mind, we may state that the atmospheric pressure on the whole surface of a medium sized man is no less than fourteen tons — a weight that would instantly crash him, as hollow vessels collapse when sunk deep in the ocean, but for the elasticity and equal pressure of the air on every part without, and the counterbalancing pressure and elasticity of the air within. The air encompassing the earth is a compound substance, made up of two gases, mixed in the proportion of twenty-one parts of oxygen to seventy-nine parts of nitrogen, by measure; mixed with these is a small proportion of carbonic acid gas, which does not exceed one two-thousandth part of the whole volume of the atmosphere. Whether the air is taken from the greatest depths, or the most exalted heights which man has ever reached, this proportion of the oxygen and nitrogen gases is maintained invariably. Considering the vast and varied exhalations that constantly ascend from sea and land, together with the incessant agitation of winds and tempests, this stands before us a most astonishing fact, indeed! But it is not more wonderful than it is important. No possible change could be made in the composition of the air, without rendering it injurious both to animal and vegetable life. If the quantity of nitrogen were but a little increased, all the vital functions of man would be performed with difficulty, pain, and slowness, and the pendulum of life would soon come to a stand. If, on the other hand, the proportion of oxygen were increased, all the processes of life would be quickened into those of a fever, and the animal fabric would soon be destroyed, as it were, by its own fires.

(H. W. Morris, D. D.)

1. On the mass of the atmosphere. Vast an appendage as this is to our globe, its dimensions and density have been adapted with the utmost exactness to the constitution of all organized existences. Any material change in its mass would require a corresponding change in the structure of both plants and animals, and, indeed, in the whole economy of the world. If its mass were considerably reduced, all the difficulties experienced by travellers on the summits of lofty mountains, and by aeronauts at great elevations above the earth, would ensue; on the other hand, if much increased, opposite and equally disastrous results would follow. If the atmosphere had been twice or three times its present mass, currents of air would move with double or triple their present force. With such a change nothing on sea or land could stand against a storm. But how happily do we find all things balanced as now constituted. And how obvious, that, ere ever God had breathed forth the fluid air, in His all-comprehending Mind, its mass was measured and weighed, and the strength and wants of all living creatures duly estimated before one of them had been called into being. All the works of God have been done according to a determinate counsel and infallible foreknowledge.

2. On the pressure of the atmosphere. Contemplating the enormous weight of the air, resting upon all things and all persons, who but must devoutly admire both the wisdom and the goodness of the Creator, in so adjusting all the properties of the firmament, that under it we can breathe and walk and act with ease, unconscious of weight or oppression, while in fact we are every moment under a load, which, when reduced to figures, surpasses both our comprehension and belief.

3. On the composition of the atmosphere. How very wonderful is this! When we reflect upon the proportions and combinations of its constituent elements, we cannot but look up with adoring reverence to its Divine Author. What wisdom, what power, what benevolence, have been exercised in arranging the chemical constitution and agencies of this world, to adapt them unfailingly to the strength and wants of animals and of plants, even the most delicate and minute! How very slightly the atmosphere of life differs from one that would produce instant and universal death How trifling the change the Almighty had need make in the air we hourly breathe, to lay all the wicked and rebellious sons of men lifeless and silent in the dust!

(H. W. Morris, D. D.)

In the natural world, the sun pours down its light and heat, and diffuses his genial influences over all; yet warming and animating, in a special degree, those fields and hillsides turned more directly towards him, and drawing upward from them a proportionally greater amount of vapour; this vapour, as we have seen, in due time, returns in showers, refreshing and beautifying all nature. So in the world of Christian devotion. Under the benignant beams of the Sun of Righteousness, the exhalations of prayer and praise are drawn upwards to the heavenly throne, more abundantly, as in nature, from those more completely under His gracious influences; and these exhalations of the heart, through a Saviour's mediation, are made to return in richer showers, even showers of grace, to refresh and strengthen those souls to bring forth fruit unto everlasting life. Again: As the earth, without showers, would soon become parched and barren and dead; so, without the rain and dew of Divine grace, the moral earth would become as iron, and its heavens as brass; every plant of holiness, every flower of piety, and every blade of virtue, would soon droop and die. Nor does the parallel end here: as in the physical world, the greater the quantity of vapours drawn up from sea and land, the greater will be the amount of rain that sooner or later will come down on plain and mountain; so in the spiritual, the more abundant the exhalations of prayer and supplication from the children of men, the more copious the showers of grace that will be poured out in return. Let prayer, therefore, daily ascend as the vapours from the ends of the earth, and rise as clouds of incense before the throne, and this wilderness shall yet blossom as the rose, flourish as the garden of the Lord, and bloom with all the beauties of an unblighted paradise.

(H. W. Morris, D. D.)

The atmosphere constitutes a machinery which, in all its complicated and admirable adjustments, offers the most striking displays and convincing proofs of this. This vast and wonderful appendage of our globe has been made expressly to meet the nature and wants of the living creatures and growing vegetation that occupy its surface; and all these plants and animals have been created with distinct reference to the properties of the atmosphere. Throughout design and mutual adaptation are most manifest. The atmosphere has been composed of those elements, and composed of them in just the proportions that are essential to the health and nurture of all living creatures. The atmosphere has been made for lungs; and lungs have been made for the atmosphere, being elaborately constructed for its alternate admission and expulsion. And how beautiful that adjustment by which animals breathe of the oxygen of the air, and set carbonic acid free for the use of plants, while plants absorb carbonic acid, and set oxygen free for the benefit of animals! The atmosphere and the ear have also been formed one for the other. This organ is so constructed that its use depends entirely upon the elastic properties of the air. In like manner the atmosphere and the organs of speech have been formed in mutual adaptation. The whole mouth, the larynx, the tongue, the lips, have been made with inimitable skill to form air into words. Equally evident is the mutual adaptation of the atmosphere and the organs of smell, as the latter can effect their function only in connection with the former. In one word, all the parts of all animal organizations, even to the very pores of the skin, have been contrived with minute nicety in adaptation to the constituent elements and elastic properties of the atmosphere. Add to all the foregoing, its admirable qualities for disseminating h, at. evaporating moisture, equalizing climate, producing winds, forming clouds, and diffusing light — and we behold in the Firmament of heaven a concourse of vast contrivances, that constitute a sublime anthem to the Creator's praise! The various elements composing the atmosphere, its gases, and vapours, and electricity, are, indeed, as if instinct with life and reason. Animated by the solar beams, they are everywhere in busy and unerring activity, — sometimes acting singly, sometimes in combination, but always playing into each other's hands with a certainty and perfection which might almost be called intelligence, and which nothing short of Infinite Wisdom could have devised. Thus, by their manifold and beneficial operations, "the heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament showeth His handiwork."

(H. W. Morris, D. D.)

The use of it was to "divide the waters from the waters": that is, the waters on the earth from the waters in the clouds, which are well known to be supported by the buoyant atmosphere. The "division" here spoken of is that of distribution. God having made the substance of all things, goes on to distribute them. By means of this the earth is watered by the rain of heaven, without which it would be unfruitful, and all its inhabitants perish. God makes nothing in vain. There is a grandeur in the firmament to the eye; but this is not all: usefulness is combined with beauty. Nor is it useful only with respect to animal subsistence: it is a mirror, conspicuous to all, displaying the glory of its Creator, and showing His handiworks. The clouds also, by emptying themselves upon the earth, set us an example of generosity; and reprove those who, full of this world's good, yet keep it principally to themselves.

(A. Fuller.)

The second day's work is the forming of an expanse or heaven in the creature, by which the hitherto unbounded waters are divided from the waters. God then names the expanse. At this stage the state of the creature, that it is drowned in waters, begins to be perceived. Such is the second state or stage in the new creation. In the midst of the waters a heaven is formed in the once benighted creature. That unstable element, so quickly moved by storms, is the well-known type of the restless desires of the heart of fallen man; for "the wicked are like the troubled sea, which cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt." Before regeneration, unquiet lusts everywhere prevail: the whole man or creature is drowned and buried in them. In the progress of the new creation, these waters are not at once removed: indeed, they are never wholly removed till that other creation comes, when there is "no more sea." They are first divided by a heaven; then bounded on the third day, when the dry land rises up out of them. This heaven represents the understanding opened, as the rising earth upon the third day shows us the will liberated. For till now, "the understanding has been darkened"; nay, it is written of the natural man that he has "no understanding." But now the heaven is stretched. Christ "opens the understanding" of those who before this had been His disciples. And thus another precious gift, once hid with Christ in God, now by Christ is wrought in us also. A heaven is formed within the creature; a heaven into which darkness may return, and through which clouds shall pour as well as bright sunshine; a heaven which for sin may be shut up and become like brass, but which was made to be the home and treasure house of sweet and dewy showers; a heaven like Israel's path through the sea of old, sorely threatened by dark and thick waters, but, like that same path, a step to resurrection power, and worthy to be called "heaven," even by God Himself; influencing the earth in untold ways, here attracting, there repelling; the great means after light of arranging and disposing all things.

(A. Jukes.)

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