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which is his providence; both which are to be particularly considered. And,
I. We are to speak concerning the work of creation, and so to enquire what we are to understand by creation, and to consider it as a work peculiar to God.
II. That this work was not performed from eternity, but in the beginning of time.
III. How he is said to create all things by the word of his power.
IV. The end for which he made them, namely, for himself, or for his own glory.
V. The time in which he made them. And,
VI. The quality or condition thereof, as all things are said to have been made very good.
I. As to the meaning of the word creation; it is the application thereof to the things made, or some circumstances attending this action, that determine the sense of it. The Hebrew and Greek words *, by which it is expressed, are sometimes used to signify the natural production of things: Thus it is said, in Psal. cii. 18. The people that shall be created, speaking of the generation to come, shall praise the Lord; and elsewhere, in Ezek. xxi. 30. says God, I will judge thee in the place where thou wast created, that is, where thou wast born, in the land of thy nativity. And sometimes it is applied to signify the dispensations of providence, which, though they are the wonderful effects of divine power, yet are taken in a sense different from the first production of all things: thus it is said, in Isa. xlv. 7. I form the light, and create darkness; which metaphorical expressions are explained in the following words, I make peace, and create evil.
And, on the other hand, sometimes God's creating is expressed by his making all things; which word, in its common acceptation, is taken for the natural production of things; though, in this instance, it is used for the production of things which are supernatural: thus it is said, in John i. 3. All things were made by him; and elsewhere, in Psal. xxxiii. 6. By the word of the Lord were the heavens made, and all by the host of them by the breath of his mouth. Therefore it is by the application of these words, to the things produced, that we are more especially to judge of the sense of them. Accordingly, when God is said to create, or make the heavens and earth, or to bring things into being, which before did not exist, this is the most proper sense of the word creation; and in this sense we take it, in the head we are entering upon. It is the production of all things out of nothing, by his almighty word; and this is generally called im8, nvy xligar, wour, givedas.
mediate creation, which was the first display of divine power, a work with which time began; so we are to understand those words, In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth, Gen. i. 1. that is, that first matter out of which all things were formed, which has been neither increased nor diminished ever since, nor can be, whatever alterations there may be made in things, without supposing an act of the divine will to annihilate any part thereof, which we have no ground to do.
Again, it is sometimes taken for God's bringing things into that form, in which they are, which is generally called a mediate creation, as in the account we have of it in the first chapter of Genesis; in which God is said, out of that matter which he created at first, to create the heavens, the earth, the sea, and all living creatures that move therein, after their respective kinds, which no finite wisdom, or power, could have done. The work was supernatural, and so differs from the natural production of things by creatures, inasmuch as they can produce nothing, but out of other things, that have in themselves a tendency, according to the fixed laws of nature, to be made, that which is designed to be produced out of them; as when a plant, or a tree, is produced out of a seed, or when the form, or shape of things is altered by the skill of men, where there is a tendency in the things themselves, in a natural way, to answer the end designed by them that made them, in which respect they are said to make, but not create those things; so that creation is a work peculiar to God, from which all creatures are excluded. Accordingly, it is a glory which God often appropriates to himself in scripture: thus he is called, by way of eminence, The Creator of the ends of the earth, Isa. xl. 28. and he speaks, concerning himself, with an unparalleled magnificence of expression, I have made the earth, and created man upon it; I, even my hands, have stretched out the heavens, and all their host have I commanded, Isa. xlv. 12. and he is said to have done this, exclusively of all others: thus he says, I am the Lord, that maketh all things, that stretcheth forth the heavens alone, that spreadeth abroad the earth by myself, Isa. xliv. 24. And, indeed, it cannot be otherwise, since it is a work of infinite power, and therefore too great for any finite being, who can act no otherwise, but in proportion to the circumscribed limits of its own power; and being, at best, but a natural agent, it cannot produce any thing supernatural. From whence it may be inferred, that no creature was an instrument made use of, by God, in the production of all things; or that infinite power could not be exerted by a finite medium: but this has been already considered, under a foregoing answer.
II. We are now to consider that this work of creation was not performed from eternity, but in the beginning of time. Thi
we assert against some of the heathen philosophers, who have, in their writings, defended the eternity of the world *, being induced hereunto by those low conceptions, which they had of the power of God, as supposing, that because all creatures, or natural agents, must have some materials to work upon, so that as this proposition is true, with respect to them, that nothing can be made out of nothing, they conclude, that it is also applicable to God. And this absurd opinion has been imbibed by some, who have pretended to the Christian name; it was maintained by Hermogenes, about the middle of the second century, and, with a great deal of spirit and argument, opposed by Tertullian; and, among other things, that father observes, that philosophy, in some respects, had paved the way to heresy t; and probably the apostle Paul was apprehensive that it would do so; or that they, who were bred up in the schools of the philosophers, would, as it is plain they often did, adapt their notions in divinity, to those which they had before learned therein, of which this is a flagrant instance; and therefore he says, Beware, lest any man spoil you through philosophy, and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ, Col. ii. 8. and they, who have defended this notion, have been divided in their sentiments about it. Some suppose, in general, that matter was eternal, but not brought into that form, in which it now is, till God, by his almighty power, produced that change in it, and so altered the form of things. Others suppose, that the world was in a form, not much unlike to what it now is, from eternity, and that there were eternal successive ages, and generations of men, and a constant alteration of things. Some parts of the world, at one time, destroyed by deluges, or fire, or earthquakes, and other. parts at another time; and so there was a kind of succession of generation and corruption; former worlds lost and buried in ruins, and all the monuments of their antiquity perished with them, and new ones arising in their stead. This they assert, as a blind to their ungrounded opinion, and as an answer to that, reasonable demand which might be made; If the world was eternal, how comes it to pass that we know nothing of what was done in it, in those ages, which went before that which we reckon the first beginning of time?
As for the school-men, though they have not any of them given directly into this notion, which is so notoriously contrary
* Of this opinion was Aristotle, and his followers; though he acknowledges, that it was contrary to the sentiments of all the philosophers that were before him, Vid. Arist. de Calo, Lib. I. cap. 2. who, speaking concerning the creation of the world, says, γενομένον μεν εν απαντες είναι φασιν.
† Tertull. adv. Hermog. cap. 8. Hæreticorum Patriarchæ Philosophi; which was so memorable a passage, that it was quoted, upon the same occasion, by Jerom, and thers of the fathers.
to scripture, yet some of them have very much confounded and puzzled the minds of men with their metaphysical subtilties about this matter; as some of them have pretended to maintain, that, though God did not actually create any thing before that beginning of time, which is mentioned in scripture, yet he might, had he pleased, have produced things from eternity *, because he had, from eternity, infinite power, and a sovereign will; therefore this power might have been deduced into act, and so there might have been an eternal production of things; for to suppose, that infinite power cannot exert itself, is contrary to the idea of its being infinite. And to suppose that God was infinitely good, from eternity, implies, that he might have communicated being to creatures from eternity, in which his goodness would have exerted itself. And they farther argue, that it is certain, that God might have created the world sooner than he did; so that, instead of its having continued in being, that number of years, which it has done, it might have existed any other unlimited number of years; or since, by an act of his will, it has existed so many thousand years, as it appears to have done, from scripture, it might, had he pleased, have existed any other number of years, though we suppose it never so large, and consequently that it might have existed from eternity. But what is this, but to darken truth, by words without knowledge? or to measure the perfections of God, by the line or standard of finite things? it is to conceive of the eternity of God, as though it were successive. Therefore, though we do not deny but that God could have created the world any number of years that a finite mind can describe, sooner than he did; yet this would not be to create it from eternity, since that exceeds all bounds. We do not deny but that the divine power might have been deduced into an act, or created the world before he did; yet to say that he could create it from eternity, is contrary to the nature of things; for it is to suppose, that an infinite duration might be communicated to a finite being, or that God might make a creature equal, in duration, with himself; which, as it contains the greatest absurdity, so the impossibility of the thing does not, in the least, argue any defect of power in him.
From whence we may infer, the vanity, and bold presumption, of measuring the power of God by the line of the creature; and the great advantage which we receive from divine revelation, which sets this matter in a clear light, by which it appears, that nothing existed before time but God; this is agreeable to the highest reason, and the divine perfections. To suppose, that a creature existed from eternity, implies a contradiction; for to be a creature, is to be produced by the power of a creator, who is God, and this is inconsistent with its ex
* This was maintained by Aquinas, Durandus, Cajetan, and others; though opposed by Albertus Magnus, Bonaventure, &c.
isting from eternity; for that is to suppose that it had a being before it was brought into being.
Moreover, since to exist from eternity, is to have an infinite, or unlimited duration, it will follow from thence, that if the first matter, out of which all things were formed, was infinite in its duration, it must have all other perfections; particularly, it must be self-existent, and have in it nothing that is finite, for infinite and finite perfections are inconsistent with each other; and, if so, then it must not consist of any parts, or be devisible, as all material things are: besides, if the world was eternal, it could not be measured by successive duration, inasmuch as there is no term, or point, from whence this succession may be computed, for that is inconsistent with eternity; and if its duration was once unmeasured, or not computed by succession, how came it afterwards to be successive, as the duration of all material beings is?
Again, to suppose matter to be co-eternal with God, is to suppose it to be equal with him, for whatever has one divine perfection, must have all; so that this is contrary to those natural ideas, which we have of the divine perfections, and contains such absurdities, as have not the least colour of reason to support them.
But it more evidently appears, from scripture, that the world was made in the beginning of time, and therefore did not exist from eternity; since therein we read, that in the beginning God created the heaven and the earth, Gen. i. 1. and elsewhere, Thou, Lord, in the beginning, hast laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the works of thine hands, Heb. i. 10. Now since we are not to confound time and eternity together, or to say, that that which was created in the beginning, was without beginning, that is, from eternity, it is evident that no creature was eternal.
Thus having considered the impossibility of the existence of finite things, from eternity, we may here take occasion to vindicate the account we have in scripture, concerning the world's having been created between five and six thousand years since, from the objections of those who suppose, that the antiquity thereof exceeds the scripture-account by many ages. Those that follow the LXX translation of the Old Testament, in their chronological account of time, suppose the world to be between fourteen and fifteen hundred years older than we have ground to conclude it is, according to the account we have thereof in the Hebrew text. This we cannot but think to be a mistake, and has led many of the fathers into the same error *, who,
* Thus Augustin, speaking concerning the years from the time of the creation to his time, reckons them to be not full, that is, almost six thousand years; whereas in reality, it was but about four thousand four hundred, herein being imposed on by this translation. Vid. Aug. de Civ. Dei. Lib. XII. Cap. 10.