The foundation of all religion being laid in our relation to God as our Creator, it was fit that that book of divine revelations, which was intended to be the guide, support, and rule, of religion in the world, should begin, as it does, with a plain and full account of the creation of the world—in answer to that first inquiry of a good conscience, Where is God my Maker? Job 35. 10. Concerning this, the pagan philosophers wretchedly blundered, and became vain in their imaginations; some asserting the world's eternity and self-existence, others ascribing it to a fortuitous concourse of atoms: thus the world by wisdom knew not God, but took a great deal of pains to lose him. The holy scripture, therefore, designing by revealed religion to maintain and improve natural religion, to repair the decays of it, and supply the defects of it, since the fall, for the reviving of the precepts of the law of nature; lays down, at first, this principle of the unclouded light of nature, That this world was, in the beginning of time, created by a Being of infinite wisdom and power, who was himself before all time, and all worlds. The entrance into God's word gives this light, Ps. 119. 130. The first verse of the Bible gives us a surer and better, a more satisfying and useful knowledge of the origin of the universe, than all the volumes of the philosophers. The lively faith of humble christians understands this matter better than the elevated fancy of the greatest wits, Heb. 11. 3.
We have three things in this chapter, I. A general idea given us of the work of creation, v. 1, 2. II. A particular account of the several days' work, registered, as in a journal, distinctly and in order. The creation of the light, the first day, v. 3..5; of the firmament, the second day, v. 6..8; of the sea, the earth, and its fruits, the third day, v. 9..13; of the lights of heaven, the fourth day, v. 14..19; of the fish and fowl, the fifth day, v. 20..33; of the beasts, v. 24, 25; of man, v. 26..28; and of food for both, the sixth day, v. 29, 30. III. The review and approbation of the whole work, v. 31.
1. In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. 2. 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.
In this verse we have the work of creation in its epitome, and in its embryo.
I. In its epitome, v. 1. where we find, to our comfort, the first article of our creed, that God the Father Almighty is the Maker of heaven and earth, and as such we believe in him. Observe, in this verse, four things.
1. The effect produced; the heaven and the earth, that is, the world, including the whole frame and furniture of the universe, the world and all things therein, Acts 17. 24. The world is a great house, consisting of upper and lower stories, the structure stately and magnificent, uniform and convenient, and every room well and wisely furnished. It is the visible part of the creation that Moses here designs to account for; therefore, he mentions not the creation of angels: but as the earth has not only its surface adorned with grass and flowers, but also its bowels enriched with metals and precious stones, which partake more of its solid nature and are more valuable, though the creation of them is not mentioned here; so the heavens are not only beautified to our eye with glorious lamps which garnish its outside, of whose creation we here read, but they are within replenished with glorious beings, out of our sight, more celestial, and more surpassing them in worth and excellency, than the gold or sapphires do the lilies of the field. In the visible world it is easy to observe, (1.) ´Great variety; several sorts of beings vastly differing in their nature and constitution from each other. Lord, how manifold are thy works, and all good! (2.) Great beauty; the azure sky and verdant earth are charming to the eye of the curious spectator, much more the ornaments of both. How transcendent then must the beauty of the Creator be! (3.) Great exactness and accuracy; to those that, with the help of microscopes, narrowly lock into the works of nature, they appear far more fine than any of the works of art.(4.) Great power; it is not a lump of dead and inactive matter, but there is virtue more or less, in every creature; the earth itself has a magnetic power. (5.) Great order; a mutual dependence of being, an exact harmony of motions, and an admirable chain and connexion of causes. (6.) Great mystery; there are phenomena in nature, which cannot be solved, secrets which cannot be fathomed or accounted for. But from what we see of heaven and earth, we may easily enough infer the eternal power and Godhead of the great Creator, and may furnish ourselves with abundant matter for his praises. And let our make and place, as men, remind us of our duty as christians, which is, always to keep heaven in our eye, and the earth under our feet.
2. The Author and Cause of this great work, GOD; the Hebrew word is Elohim, which be speaks, (1.) The power of God the Creator. El signifies the strong God; and what less than an almighty strength could bring all things out of nothing? (2.) The plurality of persons in the Godhead, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. This plural name of God, in Hebrew, which speaks of him as many, though he is one, was to the gentiles perhaps a savour of death unto death, hardening them intheir idolatry; but it is to us a savour of life unto life, confirming our faith in the doctrine of the Trinity, which, though but darkly intimated in the Old Testament, is clearly revealed in the New. The Son of God, the eternal Word and Wisdom of the Father, was with him, when he made the world, Prov. 8. 30. nay, we are often told that the world was made by him, and nothing made without him, John 1. 3, 10. Eph. 3. 9. Col. 1. 16. Heb. 1. 2. O what high thoughts should this form, in our minds, of that great God whom we draw nigh to in religious worship, and that great Mediator in whose name we draw nigh!
3. The manner in which this work was effected; God created, that is, made it out of nothing; there was not any pre-existent matter out of which the world was produced. The fish and fowl were indeed produced out of the waters, and the beasts and man out of the earth; but that earth and those waters were made out of nothing. By the ordinary power of nature, it is impossible that something should be made out of nothing; no artificer can work, unless he has something to work on. But by the almighty power of God, it is not only possible that something should be made of nothing, (the God of nature is not subject to the laws of nature,) but in the creation, it is impossible it should be otherwise, for nothing is more injurious to the honour of the Eternal Mind than the supposition of eternal matter. Thus the excellency of the power is of God, and all the glory is to him.
4. When this work was produced; In the beginning, that is, in the beginning of time, when that clock was first set a going: time began with the production of those beings that are measured by time. Before the beginning of time there was none but that Infinite Being that inhabits eternity. Should we ask why God made the world no sooner, we should but darken counsel by words without knowledge; for how could there be sooner or later in eternity? And he did make it in the beginning of time, according to his eternal counsels before all time. The Jewish Rabbins have a saying, that there were seven things which God created before the world, by which they only mean to express the excellency of