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LOCAL PREACHERS' MAGAZINE.
CHRISTIAN FAMILY RECORD.
THEOLOGY; NATURAL AND BIBLICAL.
CHAPTER 1.-GOD: HIS BEING AND ATTRIBUTES. “For every house is builded by some man; but He that built all things is God."
HEBREWS iii. 4. 1. What can a creature say about the great Creator ? “ Canst thou by searching find out God ? canst thou find out the Almighty to perfection ??' (Job xi. 7.) These questions by Zophar are worthy of our attention ; and they intimate, very properly, that “ His ways are past finding out." Yet He ought to be the subject of our profound and reverent contemplation. For, “ this is life eternal, to know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.” (John xvii. 3.)
2. There are two books open for us to study. It will be our own fault if their pages are not carefully read and pondered. Although we may never find out the Almighty to perfection," let us, nevertheless, "find out” all we possibly can while here, and then haste away to the other world, where the study will be resumed with greatly enlarged powers.
3. I shall avoid, as far as possible, using any terms which are not generally understood. There are two methods employed in searching out the nature and character of God; the one by coming down from Himself to His works; the other by going up from His works to Himself. I shall adopt the latter course.
4. I picked up, in the street in which I live, a small pebble, and put it in my pocket. Here it is. I place it before me: it is of an oval, egg-shaped form, about the size of a sparrow's egg. Where had it been before it was laid down in the roadway, to form, with a number of companions, combined with sand and grit, a firm carriage road for general traffic ? I know not. I never thought of inquiring. One thing is quite certain ; it was placed there by some one. It has not the power of self-motion : it is dead, insensible matter. It is entirely passive. I can put it on my writing table, or in my pocket. It offers no resistance. It is an insignificant, lifeless pebble; that is all. But is that all? How did it come into existence ? Who made it ? Can I make a pebble? Did you ever know any one that
could make a pebble? Supposing that the operative chemist should bring together a number of loose materials, and form something like my pebble; he would smile at my ignorance or simplicity, I am thinking, were I to ask him to form a pebble like mine out of nothing. But this insignificant pebble is a part of the great globe on which I live, which, at some time or other, was produced from nothing.
5. I may be met by some who may say, “Sir, you must have but a very contracted view of things, to suppose that this earth was created out of nothing, some six thousand years ago.” I did not say so. I care not whether this earth was formed from matter which did in reality exist six thousand years ago. This I do know, that the matter of which this earth is formed, whether it existed six thousand, six millions, or six billions of years ago, could not create itself: hence its existence proves there must have been a creator; and that Creator is God.
6. The little pebble before me is a representative of the world of inanimate matter, and proves that there is a great Creator. But I go from this inanimate pebble, and on the window-ledge, to the right of where I am sitting, are two flower-pots, containing two beautiful geranium plants. I must humbly confess that I am a very poor botanist and florist. I like to see the beauties and smell the fragrance of the pretty flowers; but have not taste or disposition to attend to their cultivation. I am pleased to see that taste in others; and I have always hope of a man who loves flowers, that he will ultimately meet his Sáviour in the garden of Paradise above
“Where everlasting spring abides,
And never-withering flowers.” These two geranium plants, when first placed there, had not advanced far in their growth. There were, however, buds of promise, which have since developed into flowers of beauty, modesty, and purity. Some buds have bloomed, faded, and fallen. Here is one in its native covering, not yet fully unfolded. Here are others yet to bloom. This modest little plant, with its innocent flowers, may very properly represent the whole vegetable world, from the little blade of grass to the sturdy oak; from the moss on the wall to the cedar of Lebanon.
7. We have in the flower before us, and in the world of vegetable life which it represents, a vast step in advance from the inert pebble and the worlds of insensible matter of which it is the representative. In the pebble we see evidence of Almighty power in its creation; but in the plant we see the present exercise of that power in its life and growth, as well as consummate skill in its formation.*
8. The two steps we have already taken have brought us into the pre
* A sceptic, who was not only a scholar and mathematician, but also a skilful reasoner, states:- "Some years ago, I had the misfortune to meet with the fallacies of Hume on the subject of causation. His specious reasoning shook my faith in the being of a God. But one beautiful evening in May, I was reading by the
sence of an almighty and wise Creator. But we may take another step; and while I am writing, I hear a fly buzzing on the window panes above my head. I have no intention to interfere with its movements. It has, however, a great advantage over the flower plant. The plant has life; but it is destitute of motion. There it is, in the soil in which my friend George placed it. But the fly can move up and down, can walk on glass, on the ceiling of the room, and perform, in fact, many wonderful feats which few of us have ever thought about. Not only does the little fly exist, but my friend Hereman informs us that he performs a very important part in the promotion of our health as a scavenger. We must not, then, despise the little fly that buzzes about our ears, or settles on our hands. He is doing his work during life's short day, and fulfilling the purpose for which he was created and made.
9. There are several grades in animal life, from the lowest type fixed to the rock, to intelligent, glorious man. All, as far as we know, possess instinct. Some (stopping short of man) show a knowledge and memory far above instinct, and truly surprising. “The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master's crib.” The bird in its cage knows the hand that feeds it, and is not willing to receive food from the hand of a stranger. How soon, also, will those animals, which are called vermin, to which the great Creator has given such a wonderful amount of caution, become familiar with man. Just take the common mouse. Some two years ago, one of these made its appearance
my office at the time of my sitting down to take food. It
grew bolder and bolder, and would come out from its shelter to catch up the crumbs which I purposely threw down.
10. The dog and the horse have both become the attached friends and the faithful servants of man, evincing an uncommon degree of sagacity, amounting almost, if not quite, to reason. The more the animal creation is studied, the more do we discover of the wisdom and goodness of God.
11. To rise to the highest point, and contemplate man, the last created,
light of the setting sun, in my favourite Plato. I was seated on the grass, interwoven with golden blooms of flowers. At length I came to that startling sentence, 'God geometrises.' Vain reverie !' I exclaimed, as I cast the volume at my feet. It fell close by a beautiful little flower that looked fresh and bright. I broke it from its silvery stem, and began to examine its structure. Its stamens were five in number; its great calyx had five parts; its delicate coral base five, parting with rays, expanding like the rays of the Texas star. This combination of five in the same blossom appeared to me very singular. The last sentence I had just read in the page of the pupil of Socrates was ringing in my ears — God geometrises.' There was the text, written long centuries ago, and here this little flower, in the remote wilderness of the west, furnished the commentary. There suddenly passed, as it were, before my eyes a faint flash of light. I felt my heart leap in my bosom. The enigma of the universe was open. Swift as thought I calculated the chances against the production of those three equations of five in only one flower, by any principle devoid of reason to perceive number. I found that there was one hundred and twenty-five chances against such a supposition. I will not attempt to describe my feelings. My soul became a tumult of radiant thoughts; for I felt I had found a God."
but the greatest of earth's creatures : of his body it has been said, “ Fearfully and wonderfully made.” Man, glorious man, possesses a body of exquisite workmanship, and a spirit which can never die. We shall say something more about him in a future chapter.
12. We have obtained a view of God from the book of Nature; and it may be truly said, “ For the invisible things of him, from the creation of the world, are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead.” (Rom. i. 20.) But it is a matter of doubt whether man, by the effort of unaided reason, would ever reach clear views of God. Man has lost the knowledge of God, and the world's history certainly teaches that he has not recovered that which he had lost. And now we are brought to turn over the pages of another book which presents itself to us as THE BOOK OF REVELATION.
13. I enter into no proof, just now, that the Bible is a revelation from God; that subject will follow. I take the teaching of the Bible as confirming the views we have already taken of God. Not that I think nature has light enough in itself to give us anything like just views of God without the light of revelation.
14. The Bible teaches us the eternity, and consequently the self-existence of the Deity. “Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, thou art God.” (Psalm xc. 2.)
“Eternity thy fountain was,
Which, like thee, no beginning knew:
Ere glowed with stars the etherial blue.” Although it confounds us to think of an eternal Being, and of eternity past; yet to deny or to disbelieve this confounds us more, and is the greatest absurdity. The more the Bible account of God is studied, the more clearly will it be seen to agree with reason and common sense.
15. As the Bible teaches the eternity of God and His self-existence, so it also clearly teaches His UNITY. “Hear, O Israel; the Lord our God is one Lord.” “ To us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in Him." (1 Cor. viii. 6.) “An idol is nothing in the world," says the apostle ; and,“ there is but one God.” The more this truth is looked into the more fully it must appear that the vast universe, with its moving worlds, the earth, with its varied forms of life, must be all under the same guiding eye and fostering hand.
16. Closely allied with the self-existence and eternity of God, and in fact flowing therefrom, is His IMMENSITY or OMNIPRESENCE. If space be illimitable, it must be filled with God. How beautiful and clear are the scriptures on this point ! so simple that a child can understand theni. “If I ascend into heaven, thou art there : if I make my bed in hell, behold thou art there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me." (Psalm cxxxix. 8, 9, 10.)
17. A Being filling immensity cannot be corporeal, but must be spiritual. This doctrine is clearly and fully taught in the Bible. He who spake as never man spake, said to Samaria's daughter, “ God is A SPIRIT.” As such, he cannot be seen by organs of flesh-"No man hath seen God at any time.” (John i. 18.) So thought Paul when he burst forth in adoring wonder, and sang of “ the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords ; Who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto ; whom no man hath seen nor can see; to whom be honour and power everlasting ! Amen.” (1 Tim. vi. 15, 16.)
18. Thus, by turning over the pages of revelation, we have a confirmation of those views of God which enlightened reason had gathered from His works. Let us proceed a little further, and we learn His OMNIPOTENCE. If there be one attribute of God which strikes us more forcibly than another, it is His almighty power. The more God is contemplated in His works, the more must we discover that He is almighty. What do astronomers tell us of the immensity of God's works? Without wandering into the domain of other suns (or fixed stars as we call them), let us confine ourselves to our own, or what is generally termed the solar system. The planet Neptune is the last of the large planets discovered; and although it is at such an immense distance from the sun that, if we were to take a journey from the sun, and travel at the rate of 200 miles a minute, it would take 30 years to reach it; yet it is under the sun's influence, and revolves like a faithful servant in its orbit around its governing orb. The amazing sweep of the sun's influence is seen by its extending to this far-off planet, and embracing the erratic comets. But these are only “parts of His ways,” whilst the whole of the starry heavens remains still unexplored. Although light travels at the rate of 200,000 miles a second, yet so distant are some of the fixed stars that it would, it is said, take two millions of years to reach our world, though travelling at that rate.
19. On the omnipotence of God, the scriptures are express and full; but, without enumerating the texts which might be cited, I will just give Isaiah's sublime description of it. 66 Who hath measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, and meted out heaven with a span, and comprehended the dust of the earth in a measure, and weighed the mountains in scales, and the hills in a balance ? Behold, the nations are as a drop of a bucket, and are counted as the small dust of the balance : behold, he taketh up the isles as a very little thing.
All nations before him are as nothing; and they are counted to him less than nothing and vanity.” (Isaiah xl. 12-17.)
20. God is OMNISCIENT. That he knoweth all things might be inferred from the attributes He possesses, as enumerated above; but the scriptures speak plainly on this point; and the difficulty is to make a selection of the most important texts without encumbering the subject. • Known