Hebrews 11:3
Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed, etc. The text suggests:

1. That God existed before the visible universe. As the architect must have lived before the edifice which he designed was built, so he who designed and "built all things" existed before any of his creations. "Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world," etc.

2. That God's existence is distinct from and independent of the visible universe. God and nature are not identical. Nature is not God. God is not a poetic name for an infinite and impersonal spirit of the universe. He thinks, wills, and works; and the universe is the expression and embodiment of his thoughts. The painter does not lose his personality in the productions of his imagination and his pencil. And the Divine Artist existed before his works, and exists independently of his works. The text teaches:

3. That God is the Creator of the visible universe. "The worlds were framed by the Word of God," etc. Very early in this Epistle this truth is asserted. "Thou, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the works of thy hands," Our text brings before our notice -

I. THE ABSOLUTENESS OF THE CREATION. "Things which are seen were not made of things which do appear." This statement implies:

1. That matter is not eternal. The universe was not made by God out of pre-existent materials.

2. That the visible universe is neither self-originated nor the product of chance. On this point Archbishop Tillotson forcibly observes, "How often might a man, after he had jumbled a set of letters in a bag, fling them out upon the ground before they would fall into an exact poem? How long might one sprinkle colors upon canvas, with a careless hand, before they would make the exact picture of u man? How long might twenty thousand blind men, who should be sent out from the remote parts of England, wander up and down before they would all meet on Salisbury plain, and fall into rank and file, in the exact order of an army? And yet this is much more easy to be imagined, than how the innumerable blind parts of matter should rendezvous themselves into a world."

3. The universe was absolutely created by Go& He not only formed and arranged its materials into order and beauty, but he created the materials themselves. As to the alleged impossibility or difficulty of creation in this absolute sense, Cudworth has well said, "It may well be thought as easy for God, or an omnipotent Being, to make a whole world, matter and all, ἐξ οὐκ ὄντων, as it is for us to create a thought or to move a finger, or for the sun to send out rays, or a candle light, or, lastly, for an opaque body, to produce an image of itself in a glass of water, or to project a shadow; all these imperfect things being but the energies, rays, images, or shadows, of the Deity. For a substance to be made out of nothing by God, or a Being infinitely perfect, is not for it to be made out of nothing in the impossible sense, because it comes from him who is all."

II. THE VAST EXTENT OF THE CREATION. "The worlds were framed by the word of God." Not simply our world, but all worlds. It is stated that in our sky there are one hundred millions of stars visible by the aid of a telescope, each of which is the center of a cluster of tributary stars, making together "a great multitude which no man can number." All these worlds were created by the Almighty. And the probably far more numerous host of worlds as yet undiscovered by man he created. How amazing is the extent to which the creative energy of God has been exercised!

III. THE BEAUTIFUL ORDER OF THE CREATION. "The worlds were framed," or arranged, or adjusted by the word of God. How perfect are the relations of the worlds to each other! Carlyle says, "A star is beautiful .... It has repose; no force disturbs its eternal peace. It has freedom; no obstruction lies between it and infinity." May we not say this of all stars? How beautifully and beneficently are all things framed and ordered in our world! The earth upon which we tread, and from which we derive our subsistence, has been fashioned in infinite wisdom and goodness to the natures and necessities of the creatures which dwell upon it. In its structure it is not only useful but beautiful. It ministers to the needs of both our physical and our spiritual natures. It stimulates thought; it awakens admiration, etc.

IV. THE DIVINE, INSTRUMENT OF CREATION. "The worlds were framed by the word of God." "God said, Let there be light; and there was light." "By the word of the Lord were the heavens made," etc. "He spake, and it was done," etc. This mode of expression is suggestive of the case with which creation was effected. There was no painful effort in the production of the universe; no struggle to overcome difficulties in framing the countless hosts of worlds. God has but to utter his command, and that command at once becomes an embodied and- beautiful reality. The continuous activities and developments of nature illustrate and confirm the fact that the creative acts of God are accomplished with sublime ease. All the forces of nature work without friction, with regularity and order, with highest efficiency and deepest repose. Now, these truths concerning God and his creation are not the discoveries of human reason, but the disclosures of Divine revelation. F.W. Robertson says, "Man may tell us of the development of the world from the theistical or atheistical point of view, but the simplest and most religious way is to look at this world as the expression of the will of God. It is sufficient if we feel that the light reveals to US something of the will of the Eternal; enough if the beauty of nature can speak to us of the mind of God; if the blue heaven above and. the green earth below tell of our Father's home; if day and night, light and darkness, are symbols of the word God has spoken out of himself in the creation of the world." And these aspects of the visible universe we apprehend by faith. We credit the Scripture testimony, "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth." Thus "by faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God," etc. - W.J.







The worlds were framed by the word of God.
The whole order of the natural world and man's physical being may be said to be the expression of chemical combination, and of the various forces resulting therefrom. The whole is presented to us, after scientific examination, as a most elaborate and exquisite piece of mechanism. Some would also explain man's mental and moral life as only a higher development of this same mechanism. To prevent misunderstanding, I may state that, while I am willing to admit that these higher parts of man's life are affected by, and partly dependent upon, this mechanism of things, it seems to me certain that the phenomena of human life require us to believe that there is, over and above that which is mechanical, a "free spirit." What I seek at present is a common ground with scientists, from which to start in an inquiry; and that I find in admitting the mechanism of all physical being. This mechanical and orderly system of being is generally known as the material world. All parts of the universe are in an intimate relation with each other. This relation is commonly conceived of as government by laws. There are, for example, what are termed the laws of gravitation and magnetic attraction, and the laws of combining proportion. Now, it is necessary to keep before us the strictly scientific idea of the laws of nature; that they are in fact nothing more than the observed mode of action of the forces in nature. They have no real existence of themselves, apart, that is, from the things in which they are observed. For example, there is, so far as science teaches, no material bond between the stone and the earth which are attracted to each other; no link like a string reaching from the one to the other. The stone is not drawn by an elastic-like band which connects it with the earth; but something in the inner nature of the matter causes them to approach. The same is true of magnetic attraction, and also of chemical affinity. So far we have kept strictly to the results of science. It is now that we proceed a step further by inference from what science has taught explicitly to something which its teaching implies. We find that the stone and the earth, the magnet and the iron, and also chemical atoms, enter into those relations which result from attraction or affinity only by reason of what is in them. What, then, is in them by which they can do these things? The earth attracts the stone which has been thrown a distance from it, and the stone, instead of continuing to ascend, comes back of itself towards the earth. This attraction is because the stone is affected by the earth, by a body of matter which is in a certain direction. The effect of the earth's presence is sufficient to direct the stone to itself; i.e., the earth so affects the inner state of the stone that it is sensible of an attraction of a certain degree and in a particular direction. It knows it is attracted, and its movement is the result of that consciousness. And it knows in what direction it is attracted, and so takes the right path. The phenomena of gravitation and magnetism evidence therefore a degree of conscious life in matter. But the most comprehensive and fundamental kind of attraction is chemical affinity, since all material organisation is built up from it. And it is also the most wonderful, and even skilful, in operation. The atoms which combine by affinity to form water must have a sense of affinity sufficient to cause them to unite; they must be aware of the effect upon them of the other's presence, or they would remain unmoved. And so with all chemical combinations, both of atoms and molecules; they must have a degree of consciousness to enter into union, to remain in union, and also to allow them to be disunited chemically. The action and reaction of all parts of the physical universe, because it is from the inner states of matter, necessitates the existence of a certain measure and kind of consciousness and intelligence in all matter. We have thus crossed the boundary into a spiritual sphere; but we must advance yet further. That these inner states of atoms, which we find to be conscious states, are not separate and independent of each other, science shows most clearly. All atoms of any given element act exactly alike and are affected exactly alike. There is then one conscious mind in each kind of element. But to go another step" we observe in the chemical combinations of various elements that they have all an inner relation to each other, according to which each element is affected, and affected in one particular way, by its combinations with others. There is, in other words, a necessity in the relations of all chemical elements to each other — a necessity which is the ruling of their inner states. All these inner states and their movements and combinations are in some sort Of unity. And as it is the unity of conscious being in manifoldness, there is a large consciousness which is inclusive of all. But we must examine these atoms a little closer. What they are we have seen to some extent. Can we find out more about them? Can we discover their origin? We are informed that atoms — all atoms — are vortices of ether. Ether is something which pervades all space and permeates all things. It is, and yet is itself non-phenomenal — it has none of the properties of matter. It is therefore the invisible substans, or that which stands under all atomic being as its cause and foundation. It is a living entity, with consciousness and will, and the power to create out of itself an order of life different from itself. Here we come to the fact of spiritual Being as the basis and origin of the vast mechanism of nature; for mechanism never makes mind, but always proceeds from mind. And yet we do not say that ether is God, or that God is ether; but we say that it is essential to those functions which ether is credited with, that it shall be pervaded by that living and moving consciousness which demands the idea of God. We see, then, how science permits us, and indeed requires us, to believe that "things which are seen were not made of things which do appear"; and that the position to which faith leads us is borne out by the facts of science — that "the worlds were framed by the word of God." "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth," is still, and ever will be, true for us; as also that " He upholdeth all things by the word of His power." His works rivet our gaze and excite our wonder; yet not they, but He is the object of our worship and our chief good. Before Him, higher than all creation, yet present in all, so that He is not far from any one of us — before Him we bow in deep adoration.

(R. Vaughan, M. A.)

The word rendered "worlds" means "life," then that through which life extends — "an age," a cycle of ages, and next the stage on which life appears — "the world." Of course the author of this Epistle was not thinking of the worlds which modern astronomy has discovered in the heavenly bodies, but of this world in its successive ages, and possibly of unseen worlds inhabited by spiritual intelligences. To "frame" means to found or create, as a city may be said to be created by its founder. "Things which do appear," is the translation of a word which is naturalised in our own language as "phenomena." We might, then, read the text thus: "Through faith we understand that the worlds were created by the word of God, so that that which is seen — the visible universe — did not originate from existing phenomena." The present order of things — the configuration of rocks and hills, of rivers, seas, and plains — has been brought about by the altered disposition of previous land and water; the vegetation which clothes the earth, and the living creatures which roam upon it or swarm in its waters, are all descended from former generations of vegetable and animal life — the whole of that which is now seen has sprung immediately from similar phenomena; but it has not always been so. The living "world we see around us was originally founded by the Word of God. This is one way of reading the text. Another is, to understand it as denying the eternity of matter, and affirming the creation of the world out of nothing. "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth," when there was nothing to make them with. "He spake and it was done, He commanded and it stood fast." But whether we understand the phrase, "things which do appear," to stand for natural phenomena or for the material elements, the conclusion is the same, that the visible order of creation came into existence by the simple fiat of the Almighty. Our knowledge of such a fact may be a spiritual intuition or it may rest solely on the testimony of revelation. Either way, it is knowledge of a thing not seen and only perceived by faith. The origin of all we behold around and above us must ever be an undiscoverable secret to the researches of the astronomer, the geologist, and the chemist. For though science may some day learn to read the changeful history of our globe with tolerable accuracy, it can never extract from it the story of its birth. All it can do is to take things to pieces. But simply taking a watch to pieces will tell us nothing of the nature and origin of the metals and gems of which it is made; neither will anatomy discover the nature of life, nor chemical analysis explain the origin of the ultimate forms of matter. They are as inscrutable by such analysis as metals and gems are by the tools of the mechanic. Creation out of nothing is at once inexplicable and incomprehensible. No strictly creative act comes under our observation in any of the phenomena of nature. Philosophy, unaided by the higher teaching of faith, has always taken for granted the eternity of matter. It has uniformly declared that things which are seen were made of things which do appear. The first philosopher with whose speculations we are acquainted maintained that water was the origin of all things. The substitution of gases for water is the necessary result of modern chemistry; it does not make the speculation one whit the wiser, nor, again, the resolution of these gases into primordial atoms. The later speculation which ascribed the origin of all things to fire or heat is just as plausible and just as false. The authors of these theories, ancient or modern, were all on the wrong track. They were seeking in the paths of observation and inductive reasoning the answer to a question which is beyond their range. The only certain answer is that which faith may have guessed, and which revelation endorses. The most illiterate peasant who hears and ponders the declaration of God's Word, "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth," is as wise in this matter as the most learned scientist the world contains. Observe, how strictly practical revelation is. That which no science could discover, which only minds finely organised and deeply imbued with spiritual feeling could guess, but which still was necessary for men to know, that they might give to God the glory due to His name, it reveals; but what human intelligence and perseverance would be sure in time to discover, it leaves untouched. The Scripture account of creation is a retrospective prophecy, turning its gaze towards an unknown past instead of towards an unknown future. I regard the Mosaic narrative as a sublime poem on God's creative work, as accurate in the letter of it as was consistent with its being intelligible to minds unacquainted with scientific discovery, and truer to the real moral significance of creation than any account which science has yet been able to render. But I am concerned to give this subject a more practical bearing. To doubt the opening words of Scripture, "In the beginning," &c., is not your temptation; but it is your temptation, for it is every man's, to feel and act as though the things that are seen were made of things which do appear. In one sense, indeed, they are, but in another and more important sense, they are not. In one sense, all you see has come from things like them whence you can trace their origin; and, whatever the forms of animate or inanimate objects around you, they all consist of materials which were in existence before them. Properly speaking, no new materials have been called into existence since God first weighed the mountains in scales and the hills in a balance. The original atoms of our globe still exist. They are neither more nor fewer than in the first moment of creation. Ever entering into fresh combinations, they are either held in solution in the air and form the rainbow arch, or having fallen and mingled with the soil they appear in the lowly herb and spreading tree; thence they are assimilated to nourish or protect animal life, and are cast off again to pursue the same round of endless change. But the power which gives them substance and form, the force which imparts to light, heat, and electricity their characteristic energies, the plastic power which possesses plants and animals, so that they appropriate surrounding materials and mould them after their own form and structure — in short, the vital energy which fills all nature, is a thing unseen, by which all we behold is made and sustained in existence. By the Word of God the worlds were made, and by that Word they stand fast. Things seen are not made of things that appear, in anything more than the order of their appearance. They spring from the unseen creative energy of God, operating through those familiar methods which His wisdom has adopted.

(E. W. Shalders, B. A.)

I. WHAT SCRIPTURE IS TO BE ACTUALLY CONSIDERED AS TEACHING US RESPECTING THIS SUBJECT.

1. Let us set out by remarking that the object of this inspired account of the world's framing or formation is not scientific, but religious. The Bible is meant for the instruction of those of every age, country, and class; it is not meant to teach only a few superior minds, but to afford spiritual food for the whole human race. It is meant to be a book of duty, not a system of natural philosophy.

2. It is also to be borne in mind that the sacred narrative of the creation is chiefly and prominently to be regarded as of a moral, spiritual, and prophetical kind. Man's original relation to his Maker, as a responsible being, is directly taught; his restoration from moral chaos to spiritual beauty is figuratively represented; while, as a prophecy, it has an extent of meaning which will only be fully unfolded at a period yet future; perhaps that spoken of as " the times of the restitution of all things."

II. THE MANNER IN WHICH GOD'S WORK IN CREATION DISPLAYS AND CALLS UPON US TO CONSIDER HIS PERFECTIONS.

1. Creation exhibits to us God as supreme in power. When we reflect how much labour and difficulty generally accompany the forth-putting of human power, the idea of creative power becomes peculiarly impressive. Surely reverence and adoration should be prompted, together with humility and trust.

2. The work of creation also exhibits to us God as supreme in wisdom. Everywhere we trace the working of One who is "perfect in knowledge." In even the smaller parts of the Creator's workmanship we trace the operation of a wisdom, alike in larger and in smaller objects; in the star, and in the insect; in the elephant, and in the fly; in the mightiest of forest trees, and in the smallest tuft, or even blade of grass. There is nothing lost sight of; nothing has been imperfectly done; each thing answers a defined end. This wisdom of God shown in creation is assuredly not meant to be devoid of influence upon His rational, responsible creatures; it should teach submission on the part of man, and beget pious trust in his heart.

3. The work of creation likewise exhibits to us God as supreme in goodness. Most justly is the earth said to be "full of the goodness of the Lord"; inasmuch as throughout the system of things we behold what must, at the least, be pronounced, on the whole, to be fitted to promote the good of both rational and animated beings. There are what may seem to be defects; but the latter arise out of the infirmity, sinfulness, and dereliction of the creature.

(A. R. Bonar.)

I. CONSIDER THE STATEMENT THAT IT IS ONLY THROUGH FAITH WE KNOW THAT THE WORLD WAS CREATED BY GOD.

1. Reason could not discover the Creator.

2. Scripture reveals the Creator.

3. Faith knows God as Creator by her simple dependence on Scripture declaration.

II. CONSIDER THE PRACTICAL USES OF THIS TRUTH.

1. It teaches the nature of faith.

2. It teaches the character of God.

3. It teaches the consolation of the saints.

4. It teaches the condemnation of the impenitent.

(C. New.)

The province of faith is the unseen. The past and the future lie all out of sight, and are therefore its undisputed domain. The present is a mixed and compound thing — shared between faith and sight. The apostle takes his first example of faith from the past. Everything that we ourselves have not seen, though it be the most strongly attested of all facts is apprehended by us through faith alone. That which the senses cannot tell us can only be accepted on testimony. The facts of history come to us in books. In many cases there is a conflict of testimony, occasioning either a perpetual difference of opinion or an occasional reversal of opinion with regard to the events or the characters of a past nearer or more remote. Christian faith also rests upon testimony. In this it is like all belief in things not seen. The difference lies in the source of the testimony. History is written and received on what professes to be human testimony. Christian faith believes itself to have the word of God Himself for its evidence and its authority. To ascertain this Divine testimony is an anxious and responsible task. First of all these disclosures for which faith is demanded, is that one of which the text speaks — the creation of the universe by the fiat of Almighty God. We have here — none can dispute it — a subject lying altogether in the province of faith. Either faith, or nothing, can apprehend this fact. Not only is it a thing out of sight, as all the past is; not only is it a thing belonging to the most remote past, inasmuch as it involves that fact which is the condition of all facts: more than this — it is that one fact of which by the nature of the case there can be no human testimony; the origination of the creature itself is the very subject of the revelation, and if it be true — in other words, if it have any witness — that truth must be one of God's "mysteries," that witness must be God alone. We will look for a moment into the particulars of the statement. "By faith." It is by an exercise of that principle which has been called above the assurance of things unseen. "By faith we understand," we apprehend, or grasp with the mind, that fact which follows. Here mind is set in motion by faith. And that as to a fact — a fact of the pre-Adamite past — a fact which may lie long millenniums before human existence — but a fact, of which the results and consequences still are and are mighty. What is this fact? "That the worlds have been framed," settled, or fitted in order and coherence, "by a word of God." The word here used for "the worlds" is very peculiar. It is that word which, properly meaning "ages" or "periods," is applied to the material universe as an existence not in space only but in time — having a vast succession of ages and periods inside eternity, as well as a vast expansion of parts and substances inside immensity. The same word occurs in the first chapter — "By whom also He made the worlds." Now the point of the statement lies in this — not that faith apprehends the existence of matter, or the order, the beauty, the variety, the adaptation of matter, or even the fact, taken by itself, of the non-eternity of matter: these things are not in the special province of faith; some of them are matters of sight, others are matters of theory; the action of faith is this — she grasps the revealed fact, that the material universe, seen to exist, surveyed by the senses in its manifoldness and its harmony, was originally framed "by a word of God." Once more, the end and result of this "framing by a word." "So that things which are seen" — or, according to the true reading, "the thing which is seen" — speaking of the whole sum of created being, the vast mass and aggregate of the material universe — "the thing which is seen hath not come into being out of things which appear." The original of the universe was itself created. God Himself is the alone eternal, as He is the alone self-existent. The subject before us is deeply important, specially seasonable, and directly practical.

1. First of all, it is essential to the right posture of the creature towards the Creator.

2. Not only the posture of the soul, but the whole management of the life, depends upon this primary principle. A thousand motives of self-interest and of gratitude conspire to teach the duty of obedience. We disparage none of these — we want them all. But there is one groundwork of duty which lies at the root of all — and that is, the living vital apprehension of the relationship which cannot be modified of the creature to the Creator.

3. Finally, it is this faith in creation which furnishes the strongest presumption of the truth of redemption itself. He who thought it worth while, having a clear foresight of everything, to call into existence, out of nothing, a world that should be the theatre, and a creature that should be the agent, of sin, may be believed when He says (though we durst not have said it for Him) that He counts us worth redeeming — that He intends to restore to holiness and happiness lives and souls made originally in His image — nay, by a process most wonderful to beings nearest His throne, to introduce "a dispensation of the fulness of times," in which to gather together all the scattered elements in Jesus Christ, and "in the ages to come to show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us" in the Son of His love. It is thus that faith in an unseen past allies itself with faith in an invisible future, and breathes forth in one petition the whole of its confidence and the whole of its hope — "I am Thine: oh save me!"

(Dean Vaughan.)

This chapter teaches much by what it omits as well as by what it includes. There is no mention of Adam, or of Lot, or of faith during the forty years in the wilderness (see the gap between verses 29 and 30). There are several most suggestive associations. Faith is associated with hope (ver. 1), with righteousness (ver. 4), with holiness (ver. 5), with diligence (ver. 7), with trial (ver. 17), and with conflict (vers. 32-37). The element of assured confidence runs right through the chapter. Abel "obtained witness"; Enoch received a "testimony"; Abraham "looked for a city," and many of the patriarchs were "persuaded" (Gr., πειθω — the same word in Romans 8:38) that there was reality in God's promises, and that they would be fulfilled. "The evidence" (R. V., "the proving") "of things not seen." Those who believe in God's Word are not in doubt as to the existence of the things He has promised. His Word is proof positive of their reality, and if we believe that Word they become realities to us. We are just as sure of their existence as we should be if we could see them.

I. FAITH WELL GROUNDED. The Hebrews knew of but one ground of faith. It was their habit to ask, "What saith the Scriptures?" (John 7:42). The writer of this Epistle would know this, and when he spoke of faith he meant faith in the declarations of the Old Testament. This chapter from beginning to end takes us back to this Divine standard, and, without discussing the question, assumes, what every Jew would readily grant, that its statements are absolutely true. The faith of this chapter is therefore belief in the testimony of God.

II. FAITH ENLIGHTENING THE MIND. "Through faith we understand" (Gr., νόεω). Atheism is folly (Psalm 14:1). To be without faith in God's Word is to be "void of understanding" respecting His works. The history of human philosophy consists largely of a series of records of the vain efforts of men to account for the universe apart from the true cause of its origin. The variety of opinions expressed by sceptics upon the subject of the origin of the world casts discredit upon the whole of these opinions, just as half a dozen discordant testimonies in defence of a prisoner would cast discredit upon the whole case for the defence. By the light of philosophy we guess, we speculate; but "by faith we understand." Well, might the Psalmist say, "The entrance" (or opening)" "of Thy Word giveth light (Psalm 119:130). Faith sees a beginning of the universe (John 1:1). It sees "in the beginning God" (Genesis 1:1). It sees God as a Creator ("God created" Genesis 1:1). It sees Him as the author of order ("the worlds were framed"; Gr., καταρτίζω, to make thoroughly right or fit). It sees His continuous working ("the world"; Gr. αἰὼν — age. The birth of worlds was the birth of time, and therefore the history of worlds is fitly called that of the ages).

III. FAITH CONSONANT WITH REASON. The understanding approves what faith makes clear, just as the eye takes in the minute objects revealed by the microscope. It could not have seen those objects without the aid of the microscope, but, having seen them, it can admire them, and the mind, instructed by the eye, can realise and rejoice in the beauty and fitness of what is so revealed. There is much in what faith reveals that reason demands and requires. Reason tells us, for instance, that there can be no effect without a cause, and that no cause can give to an effect what it has not in itself. If we see personality in an effect, reason says there must have been personality in the cause. We see personality in man, and therefore we infer that the author of his being must have been a person. Faith satisfies this demand of reason by the revelation of a personal God. Reason connects order with the operations of mind. Type set up for the printing of a book must, it cannot but infer, have been set up by a person possessed of an amount of intelligence equal to the task. A thousand infidels could not convince a rational being that the setting up of the type was the result of chance, or that it could have been brought about in any way without the direction of a mind. Reason sees in nature the most absolute order, and it infers that if a mind is required to produce order in the setting up of the type, it is much more required in this vaster display of order which is apparent everywhere in the material universe. Faith endorses the wisdom of this inference as it gazes at nature in the light of revelation, and says with Milton: —

"These are Thy glorious works,

Parent of good, Almighty!

Thine this universal frame."Faith speaks of God ordering things "according to the good pleasure of His will" (Ephesians 1:5), and reason hears and is satisfied.

IV. FAITH ABOVE REASON. Reason has no opportunity of observing the process by which something is made out of nothing, and so it has made the rule, "Ex nihilo, nihilfit" — out of nothing nothing comes, Now in opposition to this axiom faith recognises God as a Creator. Faith sees more than reason does, as a man looking at the stars through a good telescope sees more than another who looks with his unaided sight. One sees farther than the other, but the view spread out before the one is not necessarily in conflict with that seen by the other.

V. FAITH REGARDING THE UNSEEN. He who believes in God as the framer of the universe believes in what he has not seen. He was not present at the time of the creation. (Note the question in Job 38:4.) He has not seen, and yet he believes. This is, however, what men are doing every day. A man takes a ticket on a steamer bound for New Zealand. He has never seen New Zealand, but he so thoroughly believes in its existence that he spends his money and enters upon a long voyage that he may get there. Sight doesn't always secure certainty, and there may be the most absolute certainty without it.

(H. Thorne.)

I. IT IS A NECESSARY EXERCISE FOR THE CHILDREN OF GOD TO TURN THEIR MINDS TO THE CREATION.

1. It discovereth much of God.

(1)His essence.

(2)His attributes, goodness, power, wisdom.

2. It is a wonderful advantage to faith to give us hope and consolation in the greatest distresses.

3. It puts us in mind of our duty.

(1)Reverence.

(2)Humility.

(3)Kindness.

II. WE UNDERSTAND THE TRUTH AND WONDERS OF THE CREATION BY FAITH, AND NOT BY REASON.

1. There are three sorts of lights which God hath bestowed upon men: the light of nature, the light of grace, and the light of glory. There is the daylight of glory, which is the sun when it arises in its strength and brightness; and there is the light of faith, which is like the moon, a light which shines in a dark place; then there is the weak and feeble ray of reason, which is like the light of the lesser stars. By the first light, we see God as He is in Himself; by the second, God as He hath discovered Himself in the Word: by the third, God as He is seen in the creature.

2. In this world reason had been enough, if man had continued in his innocency. His mind then was his only bible, and his heart his only law; but he tasted of the tree of knowledge and hereby he and we got nothing but ignorance. It is true, there are some relics of reason left for human uses, and to leave us without excuse (John 1:9). But now in matters of religion, we had need of external and foreign helps. Man left to himself would only grope after God.

3. The only remedy and cure for this is faith, and external revelation from God. The blindness of reason is cured by the Word; the pride of reason is cured by the grace of faith. Revelation supplies the defect of it; and faith takes down the pride of it, and captivates the thoughts into the obedience of the truths represented in the Word; so that reason now cannot be a judge; at best it is but a handmaid to faith.

4. The doctrine of the creation is a ,nixed principle; much of it is liable to reason, but most of it can only be discovered by faith. If by faith only we can understand the truth and wonders of the creation, then —(1) It informs us, that reason is not the judge of controversies in religion, and the doubts that do arise about the matters of God are not to be determined by the dictates of nature. If then we leave the written Word and follow the guidance of our own reason, we shall but puzzle ourselves with impertinent scruples, and leave ourselves under a dissatisfaction.(2) It informs us that the heathens had never light enough for salvation. Certainly they are blind in the work of redemption, since they are so blind in the work of creation.(3) It shows us the great advantage that we have by faith, and by the written Word.(4) It informs us that religion is not illiterate. Grace doth not make men simple, but rather perfects human learning. None discern truths with more comfort and satisfaction than a believer; it solves all doubts and riddles of reason.(5) We learn hence the properties of faith to have knowledge, assent, and obedience in it; therefore it is not a blind reliance, but a clear, distinct persuasion of such truths, concerning which human discourse can give us no satisfaction.(6) It is the nature of faith to subscribe to a revelation in the Word, though reason give little assistance and aid. It serves to stir you up to act faith. What is the use of faith upon the creation? To answer all the objections of reason, and settle the truth in the soul, and to improve it for spiritual uses and advantages, and to facilitate the belief of other truths upon this ground; did He make the world out of nothing? Many truths are less wonderful than this.

(T. Manton, D. D.)

I. WHAT WE ARE TO UNDERSTAND BY CREATION, or what it is to create.

1. It is not to be taken here in a large sense, as sometimes it is used in Scripture, for any production of things wherein second causes have their instrumentality, as Psalm 104:30.

2. We are to take it strictly for the production of things out of nothing, or the giving a being to things which had none before.(1) There is an immediate creation, as when things are brought forth out of pure nothing, where there was no pre-existent matter to work upon.(2) There is a secondary and mediate creation, which is the making things of pre-existing matter, but of such as is naturally unfit and altogether indisposed for such productions, and which could never by any power of second causes be brought into such a form. Thus all beasts, cattle, and creeping things, and the body of man, were at first made of the earth and the dust of the ground; and the body of the first woman was made of a rib taken out of the man.

II. THAT THE WORLD WAS MADE, THAT IT HAD A BEGINNING AND WAS NOT ETERNAL. This the Scripture plainly testifies (Genesis 1:1). And this reason itself teacheth: for whatsoever is eternal, the being of it is necessary, and it is subject to no alterations. But we see this is not the case with the world; for it is daily undergoing alterations.

III. WHO MADE THE WORD AND GAVE IT A BEGINNING? That was God, and He only.

1. The world could not make itself; for this would imply a contradiction, namely, that the world was before it was: for the cause must always be before its effect.

2. The production of the world could not be by chance.

3. God created all things, the world, and all the creatures that belong to it. He attributes this work to Himself, as one of the peculiar glories of His Deity, exclusive of all the creatures (Isaiah 44:24; Isaiah 45:12; Isaiah 40:12, 13). None could make the word but God, because creation is a work of infinite power, and could not be produced by any finite cause: for the distance between being and not being is truly infinite, which could not be removed by any finite agent, or the activity of all finite agents united.

IV. WHAT GOD MADE. All things whatsoever, besides God, were created (Revelation 4:11). The evil of sin is no positive being, it being but a defect or want, and therefore is not reckoned among the things which God made, but owed its existence to the will of fallen angels and men. Devils being angels, are God's creatures; but God did not make them evil, or devils, but they made themselves so.

V. OF WHAT ALL THINGS WERE MADE. Of nothing; which does not denote any matter of which they were formed, but the term from which God brought them; when they had no being He gave them one (Colossians 1:16; Romans 11:36).

VI. How ALL THINGS WERE MADE OF NOTHING. By the word of God's power. It was the infinite power of God that gave them a being; which power was exerted in His Word, not a word properly spoken, but an act of His will commanding them to be (Genesis 1:3; Psalm 33:6, 9).

VII. IN WHAT SPACE OF TIME THE WORLD WAS CREATED.

VIII. FOR WHAT END GOD MADE ALL THINGS. It was for His own glory (Proverbs 16:4; Romans 11:36). And there are these three attributes of God that especially shine forth in this work of creation, namely, His wisdom, power, and goodness.

IX. IN WHAT STATE WERE ALL THINGS MADE? I answer, They were all "very good" (Genesis 1:31). The goodness of the creature consists in its fitness for the use for which it was made. In this respect everything answered exactly the end of its creation. Again, the goodness of things is their perfection; and so everything was made agreeable to the idea thereof that was formed in the Divine mind. There was not the least defect in the work; but everything was beautiful, as it was the effect of infinite wisdom as well as almighty power. Inferences:

1. God is a most glorious being, infinitely lovely and desirable, possessed of every perfection and excellency. Whatever excellency and beauty is in the creatures is all from Him, and sure it must be most excellent in the fountain.

2. God's glory should be our chief end. And seeing whatever we have is from Him, it should be used and employed for Him: For "all things were created by Him and for Him" (Colossians 1:16).

3. God is our Sovereign Lord Proprietor, and may do in us, on us, anal by us, what He will (Romans 9:20, 21).

4. We should use all the creatures we make use of with an eye to God, and due thankfulness to Him, the Giver; employing them in our service, soberly and wisely, considering they stand related to God as their Creator, and are the workmanship of His own hands.

5. There is no case so desperate, but faith may get sure footing with respect to it in the power and Word of God. Let the people of God be ever so low, they can never be lower than when they were not at all (Isaiah 65:18).

6. Give away yourselves to God through Jesus Christ, making a cheerful and entire dedication of your souls and bodies, and all that ye are and have, to Him as your God and Father, resolving to serve Him all the days of your life: that as He made you for His glory, you may in some measure answer the end of your creation, which is to show forth His praise.

(T. Boston, D. D.)

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.)

: —

I. To ILLUSTRATE THIS BY SOME SIMILITUDES OUT OF SCRIPTURE.

1. The perfection and order of the world is compared to the body of a man (1 Corinthians 12:12).

2. It is compared to an host or army (Genesis 2:1).

3. It is compared to a curious house (Job 38:4-6).

II. WHEREIN THIS ORDER AND BEAUTY OF THE WORLD DOTH CONSIST.

1. In the wonderful multitude and variety of creatures, distributed into so many several excellent natures and forms, they all do proclaim the beauty and order of the whole world.

2. The beauty and artificial composition of all things.

3. The disposition and apt placing of all things.

4. The wonderful consent of all the parts, and the proportion they bear one to another.

5. The mutual ministry and help of the creatures one to another.

6. The wise government and conservation of all things according to the rules and laws of creation.

III. IF GOD MADE THE WORLD IN SUCH HARMONY AND ORDER, WHENCE CAME ALL THOSE DISORDERS THAT ARE IN THE WORLD? We see some creatures are ravenous; other creatures are poisonous; all are frail, and still decaying and hasting to their own ruin. Whence come murrains, sicknesses, and diseases? Whence come such dislocations, and unjointings of nature by tempests and earthquakes? All these confusions and disorders of nature are the effects of sin. Our sins are as a secret fire that hath melted and burnt asunder the secret ties and confederations of nature.

1. It discovers the glory of God. The whole world is but God's shop, where are the masterpieces of His wisdom and majesty; these are seen very much in the order of causes, and admirable contrivance of the world.

(1)The wisdom of God and His counsel is mightily seen. The world is not a work of chance, but of counsel and rare contrivance.

(2)The majesty and greatness of God.

2. It showeth us the excellency of order; how pleasing order and method is to God: God hath always delighted in it. All order is from God; but all discord and confusion is from the devil. Order is pleasing to Him in the state and civil administrations in the Church, and in the course of your private conversations.

3. It discovers the odiousness of sin that disjointed the frame of nature.

(T. Manton, D. D.)

In that beautiful part of Germany which borders on the Rhine there is a noble castle which lifts its old grey towers above the ancient forest, where dwelt a nobleman who had a good and devoted son, his comfort and his pride. Once when the son was away from home, a Frenchman called, and, in course of conversation, spoke in such unbecoming terms of the great Father in heaven as to chill the old man's blood. "Are you not afraid of offending God?" said the baron, "by speaking in this way." The foreigner answered with cool indifference, that he knew nothing about God, for he had never seen Him. No notice was takes of this observation at the time; but the next morning the baron pointed out to the visitor a beautiful picture which hung on the wall, and said, "My son drew that!" "He must be a clever youth," returned the Frenchman, blandly. Later in the day as the two gentlemen were walking in the garden, the baron showed his guests many rare plants and flowers, and, on being asked who had the management of the garden, the father said, with proud satisfaction, "My son; and he knows every plant almost, from the cedar of Lebanon to the hyssop on the wall!" "Indeed!" observed the other. "I shall soon have a very exalted opinion of him." The baron then took his visitor to the village and showed him a neat building which his son had fitted up for a school, where the children of the poor were daily instructed free of expense. "What a happy man you must be," said the Frenchman, "to have such a son!" "How do you know I have a son? "asked the baron, with a grave face. "Why, because I have seen his works; I am sure he must be both clever and good, or he would not have done all you have shown me." "But you have never seen him!" returned the baron. "No, but I already know him very well, because I can form a just estimate of him from his works." "I am not surprised," said the baron, in a quiet tone; "and now oblige me by coming to this window and tell me what you see from thence." "Why, I see the sun travelling through the skies and shedding its glories over one of the greatest countries in the world; and I behold a mighty river at my feet, and a vast range of woods, and pastures, and orchards, and vineyards, and cattle and sheep feeding in rich fields." "Do you see anything to be admired in all this?" asked the baron. "Can you fancy I am blind?" retorted the Frenchman, "Well, then, if you are able to judge of my son's good character by seeing his various works, how does it happen you can form no estimate of God's goodness by witnessing such proofs of His handiwork?"

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