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such peculiar acception. For it is often used synonymously with words which signifie any kind of production or formation, and by itselfe it seldome denotes a production out of nothing, or proper creation, but most frequently the making of one substance out of another pre-existing, as the fishes of the water, and man of the dust of the earth; the renovating or restoring any thing to its former perfection, for want of Hebrew words in composition; or lastly, the doing some new or wonderful work, the producing some strange and admirable effect, as the opening the mouth of the earth, and the signal judgments on the people of Israel. We must not, therefore, weakly collect the true nature of creation from the force of any word, which by some may be thought to express so much, but we must collect it from the testimony of God the Creator, in his Word, and of the world created, in our reason."
The four next following verses are descriptive of the primary condition of the earth, and of the method or process, which, as it actually was employed, so our own reason even would tell us was that which ought to have been employed, for the reducing of it to its desired arrangement. “And the earth was without form, and void ; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, Let there be light, and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good : and God divided the light from the darkness. And God called the light day, and the darkness He called night. And the evening and
the morning were the first day.” The simple act of the creation of the original matter having been set forth, we are informed of the instant appearance and condition of the earth. It was “ without form ;" it
void ;” and “ darkness was upon” it. It “ without form :" it had neither shape nor method : it was a confused heap, consisting of mingled soil and water, the one unseparated from the other ; and neither one having power of itself to settle into a substance independent of the other: there was no distinction of parts; there was no product. It was “ void.” There was no present capacity of product; as there was neither living being, nor plant, nor herb, nor tree, so was there no innate power to produce them. “ Darkness was upon” it: an awful and dreadeloquent close of the statement. Whilst the darkness continued, there could not be either shape, or form, or faculty of production. With this statement we are satisfied; we bow to the truth of it; we feel that it could not have been otherwise; our own means of reasoning, and the rules by which we are guided in our ordinary inferences, ascertain us of its exactness ; and we readily acknowledge, that, until the primeval darkness were removed or dissipated, the earth could assume or bear no different state or position. The Almighty now sets Himself to apply this great chaotic mass to its intended use: He had prepared the material, and, like a good workman, He was next to bring it into proper form and bearing; and we are consequently told, that “the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.” This sentence is exceed
ingly important, and, from the attention which has been drawn towards it, naturally calls for somewhat of explanatory comment. We have of it two principal and widely-differing interpretations. It is one,That a wind passed over for consolidation of the mass, the term “Spirit of God” being figuratively used to denote the vehemence of that element, as well as that the element itself is frequently denominated the breath of Heaven, or of God; but this interpretation or construction is, I think, altogether erroneous : both would such a process be out of the necessary order of creation, and the expression itself be unsuitable to a definition of the process. If it had been the action of the wind whereby the mass was consolidated, or the waters were dried up, or borne to their appointed place or use, it would throw an inconsistency or contradiction upon an after-statement, in which the waters are said to be “ gathered into one place,” and “the dry land” is made to “ appear;" and this we might take to be a sufficient refutation, since, if we assented to the proposition, we should be assenting to a manifest absurdity; we should be setting out with a difficulty, with an impediment which would greatly stand in the way of further regular construction; besides which, we should be introducing a natural effect before natural causes were ordained. It is the other interpretation,—That the words “Spirit of God” are words to be used in their plain and obvious sense; that they intend the High God himself, in His own supreme capacity ;
that they intend the Third Person of the ever-blessed Trinity, each of whom is God, Almighty and Eternal, while there is but One God. It is no part of my present design to enter into any explanation or defence of the doctrine of the Trinity, or to institute any inquiry into that branch of our religious faith which relates to the properties of the Godhead. I do but state the fact, as it is recognised by us; and I assume that all to whom I address myself believe on this point as I believe, that is, that they follow herein the doctrine of our Church. God is the acknowledged Creator; He is manifested to us as engaged in this work; and now, after the creation of the material, all being placed in readiness for succeeding operation, and in a state for being modelled into its various purposes,
what could be more proper, or what should seem more natural, than that He should be described as descending unto it, as resting upon it, as
moving upon” it, as borne or carried over it? He rested upon the waters, upon the fluctuating mass which is called “ waters,” by reason of its fluidity, causing it to feel the first influences of existence!
The Spirit of God cannot denote in this place, with the Arabic version, “ the winds of God;" or with Dr. Geddes and others,
a mighty strong wind blowing upon the face of the waters;" for neither air nor wind were yet in existence. It must, therefore, denote the Holy Spirit. The kind of motion, implied in the original, elsewhere denotes the fluttering of an eagle over its nestlings (Deut. xxxii. 11), or a gentle tremulous motion. Hence seems to have arisen that fiction of heathen mythology, that the
“By His Spirit,” says Job, “ He hath garnished the heavens.” The Psalmist—“Thou sendest forth thy spirit, and they are created.” And Isaiah-" Who hath measured the waters in the hollow of His hand, and meted out heaven with the span, and comprehended the dust of the earth in a measure, and weighed the mountains in scales, and the hills in a balance ? Who hath directed the Spirit of the Lord ? or being His counsellor, hath taught Him ?” In the preceding sentence, it is said that “ darkness was upon the face of the deep;" and “the face of the waters” is an expression of similar meaning ; and the presence of the Creator, as we are quickly informed, has for its object, in the first case, the dissipation of this darkness. It is the special office of the Holy Spirit to bestow light and life, the former in order to the latter; and although the earth and the waters had been commanded into being, they as yet had in them no principle of animation; all was dark and lifeless; and, clearly enough, ere light and life could be produced from the mass, the faculty of production must have been given; and it being, as I have said, the office of the Third Person in the Godhead to impart the principle of life, He is in this
world was produced from an egg by incubation. Milton has finely paraphrased the passage, taking also the descent of the Holy Spirit on Jesus at his baptism into consideration (Luke iii. 22).
“ Thou, from the first,