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tion, and will not be completed till the consummation of all things. The volume of inspiration begins with an account of the origin of the universe, and describes its formation by the hands of the Almighty, by which he hath “ manifested his eternal power and godhead.”
The works of nature when contemplated by a discerning mind, inspire the most august sentiments of reverence and adoration for that stupendous Being “ who hath created all things, and for whose pleasure they are and were created.”
They have, accordingly, exercised the thoughts of holy men in every age of the world, for the purpose of exciting that religious homage which is due unto his name; and they will continue to be the theme of admiration to saints made perfect in a future state, “who sing the song of Moses and of the Lamb, saying, great and marvellous are thy works, Lord God Almighty, just and true are thy ways, thou king of saints !”
Since then, the study of the works of nature is one which employs the contemplation of saints on earth, and saints in heaven; it is surely a most suitable subject for the researches of every Christian, who would imitate the conduct of those “ who through faith and patience are now inheriting the promises.”
It is indeed, peculiarly adapted to awaken within us a constant spirit of devotion, since we are every where surrounded by the wonderful contrivances of Almighty skill; and cannot open our eyes, without being reminded of the existence and superintendence of our heavenly Father, “ whose kingdom ruleth over all.” For these reasons, the pious Christian should endeavour to acquire a knowledge of some of the phaenomena of nature, as well as of the more sacred discoveries of providence and grace: and all these should concur to promote his “ edification and instruction in righteousness." He will be assisted in his speculations on the former of these subjects, by perusing the description given by the sacred historian in this chapter, which contains the most concise and accurate account of the works of creation, that is to be found in any author either ancient or modern.
Having made these preliminary observations, I proceed to the description of the topics recorded in the sacred text. It may be necessary, however, in the outset, to premise, that the books of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy, were written by Moses, the illustrious legislator of the Jews, and are denominated by ecclesiastical authors, the pentateuch or five books of that inspired historian. Respecting the authenticity of his
. writings, there has never been any doubt entertained by men capable of judging of the evidence by which they are supported. The Jews, for whose use they were originally composed, received them with undoubting credit, as they were satisfied from traditionary testimony and other collateral sources of proof, that these writings contained a true and faithful narrative of the events which they record. The most respectable heathen authors, also, who wrote the history of the nations of antiquity, concur in their attestations to the genuineness of the Mosaic narrative, and corroborate their opinion by incorporating into their own writings, various particular incidents which are related in the sacred volume. Our Lord and his Apostles have confirmed the truth of the Jewish records, in recognizing the divine authority by which Moses and the Prophets spoke and acted, and assuming the facts which they detail, as undeniable and incontestable.
If any additional test were wanted to complete the evidence by which the credibility of the book of Genesis is confirmed, it may be found in the natural and moral history of our globe: for we find that the discoveries of astronomy respecting the planetary system, the phaenomena observable in the productions of the earth, and the present state of human beings throughout the world, agree with the accounts transmitted to us by Moses on these important subjects.
It has sometimes been questioned, how such an account as is given by the sacred historian, could have been preserved, when men were as yet ignorant of the art of writing, and when the earth had existed more than two thousand years before Moses was born. To this inquiry, a very satisfactory answer may be given. The facts '
which he records, were known to Adam, who would relate them to his posterity, and they to theirs through successive generations. As the patriarchs lived nearly a thousand years, this traditionary history passed through very few hands, and so was in little or no danger of being lost or corrupted. Many of the descendants of Adam, who had received the account of the origin of things from his own mouth, survived till the days of Noah, and would relate to him, what they had heard from their first progenitor. Thus, there were only two generations from the creation to the flood, which happened in the year of the world 1656. Noah had three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japhet, by whose posterity the earth was re-peopled after the deluge. Shem lived to converse with Abraham, and transmitted the sacred record to him, and his contem poraries. Abraham would convey the same accounts to his son Isaac; who, in like manner would report every thing connected with the sacred history, to Jacob; and he to Joseph. Contemporary with Joseph was Amram, the father of Moses, who would be acquainted with the preceding history of his race, and report it accordingly to his son Moses, who being instructed in the art of writing in the Egyptian court, committed the records of the Jewish nation to parchment, which was the only graphic means employed in those ages for transmitting to posterity the knowledge of events that had heretofore happened. If then all the extraordinary facts detailed in the book of Genesis, had no other authority than uninterrupted tradition, from age to age, they would have more undoubted evidence for their credibility, than most of those recorded in profane history. Yet to preclude all possibility of mistake, the unerring Spirit of God directed Moses in the selection of his facts, and enabled him to deliver to mankind a true account of the whole transactions which occurred in the early ages of the world. And, whether we consider the simplicity of the narrative and the consistency of its parts, the correctness of its chronology, or the impartiality of its biography, the accuracy of its philosophy, or the purity of its morality, we shall be constrained to acknowledge, that
Moses, as well as other holy men of old, “ spoke as he was moved by the Holy Ghost.”
This book of Moses is denominated Genesis, from the title which it bears in the septuagint or greek translation of the scriptures, which was executed by seventy learned men employed for this purpose by one of the Egyptian monarchs. The etymology of it signifies the book of the generations;—because it relates the first origin of all things; and from the great variety of its singular details, and most interesting accounts, is as far superior in its value and importance to all others, as it is in its antiquity.
It contains an account of the creation of the world and its first inhabitants; the original innocence and fall of man; the rise of religion; the invention of arts; the general corruption of mankind; the universal deluge; the repeopling and division of the earth; the origin of nations and kingdoms; and a particular history of the patriarchs from Adam down to the death of Joseph, including a space of two thousand three hundred and seventy years.
The inspired author, whose narrative we are about to consider, enters upon his subjeet with a plainness and sublimity which has never yet been equalled by any author, either ancient or modern.
Ver. 1. In the beginning, God created the heavens and the carth.
Before the commencement of the present measures of duration, by which we divide our existence into days and months and years, an eternity of ages had rolled on coeval with “ the years of the Most High.” During that period, God had created several orders of intelligent beings, known to us by the general name of angels, for we find that soon after the formation of man, one of these spirits who had revolted from his Maker, seduced our first parents from their allegiance, and involved them and their posterity in sin and misery. We find also, from the discoveries of revelation, that when God had finished his work of creating the world, “the morning stars sang toge. ther, and all the sons of God shouted for joy.” There was
a time therefore, prior to the existence of the earth and its inhabitants, when other creatures superior to us had proceeded from the Creator's hands.
But as we compute our time from the period, when the present system of things was formed and arranged, hence the begining is a term which signifies the commencement of that æra when the world was created, and man and other animals were called into being by the divine power. At that moment, when God had determined to increase the number of his works, he created the heavens and the earth. Hence we are led to consider the agent by whom such a stupendous effect was produced. The word, by which we designate the great first cause of all things, is of Anglo-Saxon origin, and was employed by our ancestors to signify the sense they entertained of his goodness and beneficence. Accordingly, God in our language, formerly signified emphatically, the Good Being, “ from whom hath proceeded every good and perfect gift.” The nature of this infinite Being, cannot be fully apprehended by us, whose understandings are so limited and incapable of forming an adequate conception of such a mysterious subject. But as far as we can define the incomprehensible Jehovah by his perfections, we may describe him as the independent, and self-existent Being, who subsisted from everlasting by an eternal necessity in his own nature, who has all power in heaven and on earth, who is present every where, whose knowledge is infinite, whose wisdom is unerring, whose goodness is unbounded, whose will is uncontroulable, “who doth according to his pleasure, and none can stay his hand from working, or say unto him, what dost thou ?” He is a Being whose essence is spiritual, pure, and simple, who is endowed with every quality which can impart perfection to his nature, possessed of every excellence which can adorn his character, and free from every defect which cleaves to his creatures. “He is righteous in all his ways, and holy in all his works,” just in his administration, benignant to those who fear him, but angry with those who disobey him; yet “long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity, transgression and sin,” Hle