A Sermon on Genesis 1:1
By T. James Blair,
Preacher for the R.P. Church, North Union.
TrueCovenanter.com Editor’s Introduction.
The following is the manuscript of a sermon prepared in 1920 for the Reformed Presbyterian Church in North Union, Butler County, PA, and delivered by T. James Blair, their sole preacher at that time. Laboring with only the assistance of ruling elders, and no faithful Presbytery available to oversee his efforts, this preacher delivered sermons and lectures in turns, laboring every other week as he grew in abilities and efforts to keep alive a church and witness for the Reformed faith when the various other bodies of Presbyterian congregations in America had adopted schismatic practices and constitutions. At this day, as the Church of Jesus Christ looks forward to the time when she is reclaimed from the influences of secularism, worldliness, false doctrine, and false worship, she may also look back to the noble examples of those who, weakly yet resolutely, endeavored to stand firm in Biblical doctrines and practices, not regarding the loneliness of that effort, but having an eye to the honor it would give our Lord Jesus.
The creation is wonderful to behold and is a pleasing and fruitful study if we consider it in conjunction with his word who is its architect: And he also informs us for what end he made it. To demonstrate his own glory: Psalm 19:1, “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork.” Also, Prov. 16.4, “The Lord hath made all things for himself.”
The creation is a great book in which God’s works are bound up. It is to show forth his power and goodness. The universe is like a curious piece of workmanship which shows forth the skill and wisdom of him that made it; and like a looking-glass in which we may behold the glory of the divine framer.
We may enquire
What we are to understand here by creation.
That world was made or had a beginning.
Who made it
What God made
Whereof all things were made.
How they were made
In what space of time they were made.
For what end God made all things.
In what condition they were made.
I. What [we are] to understand by creation.
Not taken here in a large sense, for the renew of nature, Psalm 104:30, Thou sendest forth thy spirit, they are created and thou renewest the face of the earth. The same divine will and power by which all things were brought into being still preserves nature and the several sorts of creatures in their being and usefulness and brings forth new generations as the old ones pass away. This is a continual creation or renewing, not the original [creation] of our text.
We are to understand it strictly for the making of all things at first out of nothing, or giving being to things which had none before.
Here we have a creation: 1. Immediate; 2. Mediate.
1. Immediate. As when things were brought forth out of nothing, where there was no pre-existing matter to work upon. Thus the heavens and the earth and all their hosts were made of nothing. Thus the souls of men are still produced from the womb of nothing by God’s almighty power, and put into the bodies created to receive them.
2. A mediate creation, which is the making of things out of pre-existing matter, but such as are naturally unfit for such production; such as could never by the power of second causes be brought into effect. Thus all beasts, cattle, creeping things, and man, trees, and all vegetation were made out of the dust of the earth; and the fish and fowls of the waters. God first made that mighty mass of matter out of nothing, and then by that same omnipotent power he reduced it into beautiful and lovely form. This is what we mean by creation.
II. That world was made or had a beginning.
This is very plain in our text. Some have asserted that matter was eternal Reason itself teaches that whatever is eternal is necessary and subject to no alteration; but the earth is continually changing, therefore could not be eternal. Another argument to prove that the world had a beginning is the nature of time. We can conceive time to have a beginning and to run on to infinity, but can never conceive it to be infinite, however many moments of time we might conceive to have past yet. We cannot conceive it as possible that an infinite succession of moments has [already] past:—so the world had a beginning. A 3rd argument against the world’s eternity is the recent date of authentic history. No credible history reaches farther back than the period Moses has assigned to the creation of the world, and that is in the Bible. Profane history has nothing but rumors and fables to the time of Herodotus, which was about 300 [or 400] years before the Christian era. Homer lived about 1000 before the Christian era. [Evidence suggests 850 BC.]
If the world existed from eternity or even for millions of years as many assert, how is it that we have no history of the innumerable generations before Moses? The want of more ancient history, the recent origin of nations, and the invention of arts all concur to prove that Earth is but a few [six] thousand years old. Some maintained matter to be eternal in atoms, and that the world was formed by the fortuitous concourse of these atoms. Others talk glibly of protoplasm and the gradual development of matter into its present form. “Vain man would be wise though man be born like a wild ass’s colt.” Job 11:12.
III. Who made it.
God, and God alone, as saith our text.
The world could not make itself. This would imply a horrid contradiction: i.e. That the world was before it was; for the cause must always be before its effect. Nothing can act before it exists; so it is manifest the world could not make itself.
It could not be by chance. This was the wild fancy of Epicurus and some other of the old philosophers: it was formed by a fortuitous concourse of atoms. These were in motion in space until a sufficient number of them met together to form the world. How could they come together in the beautiful form and order of the world? What caused them to come together at all? Only the fancy of a disordered brain.
God created all things, the world and all that it contains. “I am the Lord that maketh all things; that stretcheth forth the heavens alone; that spreadeth abroad the earth by myself.” Isa. 44.24. “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. 45.12. Chapter 40:12,13: “Who hath measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, and meted out the heaven with the span, and comprehended the dust of the earth in a measure and weighed the mountains in scales, and the hills in a balance? Who hath directed the spirit of the Lord or being his counsellor hath taught him.” “Which alone spreadeth out the heavens and treadeth on the waves of the sea.” Job 9:8. What magnificent descriptions of the creating power of God!
By creation God is distinguished from all false gods. “The gods that have not made the heavens and the earth, even they shall perish from the earth, and from under these heavens. He hath made the earth by his power, and hath established the world by his wisdom, and stretched out the heavens by his discretion.” Jer. 10:11,12. None could make the world but God alone, for creation is a work of infinite power.
Creation is a work of all three persons of the Godhead. The Father, of whom are all things, 1 Cor. 8:6. The same is ascribed to the Son: All things were made by him, and without him was not anything made that was made. John 1:3. And the Spirit: “The Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.” [Gen. 1.2.] “By his Spirit he hath garnished the heavens.” Job 26:13. Elihu says, “The Spirit of God hath made me, and the breath of the almighty hath given me life.” [Job 33.4.] Hence the work of creation was the work of all three persons.
The word for God in Hebrew, Elohim, is plural, having the significance, The Swearers. All three being one God: One Essence or being, but subsisting in three distinct personalities. And among the Divine persons there must be existing relations, personal relationships: 1st. Necessary, 2nd. Voluntary, 3rd. Economical.
God did not create the world in Essential character; for whatever is necessary or essential to a person or thing it cannot exist without. He (God) is before all things, in the person of the Son; so [also] is the Spirit eternal. So God existed prior to, and independent of all things. Therefore, he did not create in essential character.
Creation and Providence [are executed by the persons of the Trinity] in voluntary relation. God worketh all things according to the counsel of his will. [Eph. 1.11.]
IV. What God made.
By him were all things created. Col. 1:16. Thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created. [Rev. 4.11] He is the first cause and last end of all things. The efficient and final cause. God made everything that hath being. All things made at the beginning were most properly created by God, but whatever is still produced or will be produced is created by God, not only in respect that the matter of which they are made was at first created by him but because without him second causes are utterly impotent to produce anything. Whatever power one creature has of producing another is from God. Nature can produce nothing without God’s power [being] in the operation: “I will hear, saith the Lord, I will hear the heavens, and they shall hear the earth, and the earth shall hear the corn and the wine, and they shall hear Jezreel. [Hos. 2:21-22.]
What has God made? Everything that was made; the beautiful and stately structure of the universe, and all the vast variety and structure of the creatures: everything that has being; but not sin, it is want of being — he permitted the entrance of sin.
V. Of what all things were made.
Of nothing. Without anything to work upon God brought forth all things. As far as second causes are concerned; from nothing, nothing comes. From nothing God made all things.
[End of Sermon in Manuscript Notebook. Followed by a Lecture on Isa. 29:11-17.]