Imatges de pÓgina
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is ever engaged in contributing to the wants and comforts of all his creatures, by conducting the vicissitudes of the natural and moral world in such a manner, as “to work together for their good.” Such is the Being, who at first created, and who still sustains all things by the word of his power.—But his nature is very different from any with which we are acquainted, as it subsists in three persons united in one Godhead. Accordingly, the Hebrew word, which is here used to express the name of the Divinity, is plural, and therefore, implies more than one subsistence in the nature which it describes. From this circumstance, as well as many other notices contained in the scriptures, which discover a threefold distribution of persons denominated the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, the doctrine of the trinity has formed a part of the creed of orthodox Christians from the time of the Apostles to the present day.--As all the persons of the Godhead are represented as engaged in the work of creation, hence appears the unity of counsel and design in all the purposes of the divine Being. And scripture elsewhere teaches us the parts that each person respectively executed in this stupendous work, when it intimates, that God made the worlds by the agency of his only-begotten Son, and that his Spirit moved upon the face of the waters.—The manner, in which the heavens and the earth were brought into existence, is here expressed by the word created, which signifies, that by his omnipotent power he produced the substance or elements of which the heavens and the earth consisted, and arranged them by a successive process into that beautiful symmetry of parts which compose the whole. It is generally understood by philosophers, that Moses confines his account to the formation of the solar system, of which our earth is a planet; and that the others belonging to it are denominated by the general word heaveriş. Indeed it cannot extend to those other systems with which the universe is furnished, because the description given is merely confined to the relative șituations and connections which are found to subsist betwixt the heavenly bodies in our own system. It is well known to those, who are in the least acquainted with astronomy, that there is an in

definite number of systems of worlds which occupy the regions of space, all arranged with the most exact regularity and order, and performing their destined revolutions round their respective centres. The magnitude of the universe is immense, and far beyond our calculation or comprehension. We can only form some estimate of the immeasurable distance of the heavenly bodies, by considering the dimensions of our own globe and comparing them together. This earth which we inhabit is found by computation to be nearly eight thousand miles in diameter, twenty-five thousand in circumference, and it occupies in the revolution of its orbit round the sun a space equal to one hundred and seventy-two millions. If then each one of those shining orbs which illumine the firmament, be bodies such as our earth and sun, what an amazing extent of space must they pervade, especially when they are distributed into distinct systems in endless progression. When moreover, it is considered that new stars are constantly discovered by our improved telescopes, and we are uncertain how many myriads are still unobserved, our imaginations are overwhelmed at the magnitude of such a mighty system of creation, and we can only exclaim, Lord! how manifold are thy works, in wisdom hast thou made them all."-But our astronomical researches are pursued in vain, when directed to bodies so remote and. beyond the reach of human investigation. Therefore, it will be more useful to explain, in a concise and intelligible manner, the discoveries respecting the position and relations which subsist betwixt the planets which compose our solar system, according to the accurate detail of the sacred historian.

Ver. 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 weaters.

From this representation we are instructed that there were pre-existent materials out of which our earth and the other planetary bodies of the solar system were originally formed, but that these materials were collected together in such a confused and heterogeneous state, as to

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be a shapeless and rude mass of chaotic particles floating about in the void of space.

That this was the primordial condition of the earth, before its conformation into its present globular shape, appears both from the description of Moses, and from the universal opinion of the ancients on this subject. The sacred historian declares, that the matter of which the chaos was composed, was without form, and void, that is, without any thing growing or living on it, and darkness was upon the face of the deep, that is, every thing was mingled together in the dark abyss, without being visible, from want of some luminous body to enlighten the scene. According to the representation here given it appears that this chaos was a fluid mass, in which were the ingredients of all terrestrial bodies blended in one huge and unformed group. This account which Moses gives of the origin of our globe and the solar system, is corroborated by a tradition which has prevailed among all nations, evidently transmitted from the antediluvian patriarchs, respecting the formation of the universe. Accordingly, we find the heathen writers of antiquity, both philosophers and poets, describing the creation of the world in language similar to that employed by Moses on this subject. The following are the sentiments expressed by one of them, which may convince you of the truth of this allegation :

“ Before the seas and this terrestrial ball,
And heaven's high canopy that covers all
One was the face of nature; if a face :

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Rather a rude and indigested mass;
A lifeless lump, unfashion'd and unfram'd,

Of jarring seeds, and justly chaos nam'd." This being the primitive state of things, it has been long a question, in what manner the Alnighty operated in reducing them to their present form; whether his power was exerted in every successive change which took place, or whether it imparted an impulse to the laws of nature, by which effects were produced by the agency of second causes. It is certain, that a divine energy was required to separate and arrange such heterogeneous bodies as were united in their chaotic state, and that it disposed them in

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such order as that in which they are now found to subsist. For matter being altogether inert, must be first put in motion by the influence of an intelligent being, and its several modifications must depend on the will of Him who upholds all things by the word of his power." Whatever, therefore, partook of the nature of creation, such as the formation of the elementary principles of which the world is composed, the arrangement of its several parts, the production of animals and vegetables with which it was replenished;-all these derived their existence and the mode of their existence from the immediate agency of that Omnipotent Being, who "spake and it was done, who commanded, and all things stood fast." But, as God has established mechanical laws, by which the physical system of things is regulated, it may be justly supposed, that many of the progressive evolutions which ensued in the construction of the globe, were effected by the mutual action of matter and motion, under the direction of Almighty power. It is generally agreed by philosophers, that the Divine Being has imparted certain chemical properties to different bodies, by which they are enabled to assimilate, attract, or repel each other, according to their several affinities and specific gravities; and it is most likely that when the aerial, fluid, and solid particles composing the primitive chaos were endowed by their Creator with such inherent principles, they would separate and unite, till they assumed that consistent and regular form, in which they now appear. Thus, light and elastic bodies would be evolved from the general mass, and occupy the higher regions of the air, the igneous ingredients would be dispersed, and collected, (as we shall afterwards find,) into the body of the sun, fluid particles would subside to form the waters of the earth and ocean, and the solid matter would concrete together into dry land. This is the state in which they at present subsist, and therefore, we may be assured that their original combination was effected in some such manner as has been now described. But it must be always recollected that such changes were produced by the immediate agency of God himself, operating on the mechanical powers of nature. Accordingly, it is

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here said, with philosophical precision, that "the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters."

Many hypotheses have been formed respecting the agent employed on this occasion; some supposing it to be a mighty wind, others an elementary fire, some an occult principle termed the anima mundi, and others a magnetic attraction, by which all things were made to gravitate to a common centre. But, from other passages of scripture it appears, that it was the Holy Spirit, who brought "order out of confusion, and light out of darkness." Thus, we read that "God sent forth his Spirit and all things were created, and by his Spirit he hath garnished the heavens." This Divine Person, by his incubation upon the chaotic mass, communicated to it a motive faculty, impregnated it with a vital and prolific principle, and separated and digested its multifarious parts into that beautiful order which they now exhibit. Thus, the divine power was eminently displayed, in producing such a wonderful system of things from these unsuitable materials, and we have reason to exclaim, "Thou even thou Lord, hast laid the foundation of the earth, and settled it upon the deep; to the sea also hast thou established a decree which it cannot overpass; thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created."

Ver. 3. And God said, let there be light and there was light.

This is one of the most sublime modes of expression, to be met with in the writings of any author, either ancient or modern. It represents the Deity as issuing a command, and the effect immediately produced by his sovereign pleasure. It appears, that he did not use any intermediate means, or employ any lengthened process to complete the purpose which he had conceived, but merely spake, and by an instantaneous act of his will, effected the wonderful event, which is here mentioned.

It has been asked, how light could appear on the first day, when the sun, who is the source of it, was not created till the fourth. To this it may be answered that the fiery particles with which the chaos was impregnated,

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