Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth.—Rom. 8.33


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MARCH, 1883.

NO. 9.

Man was created with a discursive faculty, and thus distinguished from all inferior creatures. Instinct is the term used to designate that faculty in beasts which bears some resemblance to human reason. The sagacity displayed by the elephant, the dog, the horse, is so like man's process of reasoning that the phrase “blind instinct” might be questioned as to its propriety. It is certain, however, that no animal inferior to man possess a sense of deity, or speculates on its own origin or destiny.

But in all ages, and among all nations, man's origin {259} and destiny have been the objects of his most interesting inquiry. And in a qualified sense the sentiment of an English poet may be accepted as true: “The proper study of mankind is man.” On these grand themes heathen philosophers exercised their cultured intellects to the utmost, and always with barren results unsatisfactory to themselves. The fact and universality of death could not be questioned, but its cause and consequences were puzzles which they could not solve: nor were they able to reconcile death with a conscious inborn desire after immortality. A very general conclusion, therefore, in which the wise men of the world rested was, that death is the end of man's being. This despairing conclusion is implied in their language, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we shall die.”—Isa. 22.13.

The same grand topics which engaged the researches of the heathen world, have ever been the absorbing thought among God's people:—man's origin, mortal condition and future state. Oh! with what solicitude did the best of mere men in his day inquire, "If a man die, shall he live again?" Job 14.14: and from all history we may learn, that none but God can give a rational or satisfactory answer to this momentous and collateral question.

From the foregoing remarks it appears that the investigation of these subjects is not peculiar to our time; yet we think that our age is distinguished for entering upon such awful themes and attempting to discuss and settle them, with a boldness, and especially an irreverence, betraying a latent but wide-spread skepticism of which a Socrates, a Cicero, or a Seneca might have been ashamed.

In mercy to our fallen race God has given us a revelation of surrounding objects, and of ourselves, of which we could not otherwise obtain reliable and satisfactory knowledge. He manifested his incontestable sovereignty and infinite wisdom in suffering all nations to tax their skill to the utmost to solve these mysterious problems. (1 Cor. 1.21.) "God is light," and his first words in the Bible shed a light on the human intellect, a light not to be derived from any other source. Moreover, the Father's {260} eternal Son, as "the light of the world," has "brought life and immortality to light (clearer light) by the gospel." 2 Tim. 1.10. The New reflects a flood of light upon the Old Testament. Creation and redemption are the subjects of both Testaments, only he who formerly "spake on earth," Acts 7.38, at Mt. Sinai, now "speaketh from heaven." "Heb. 12.25.

The works of creation and redemption reveal the persons of the Godhead, and make known to angels and men the cooperation of the eternal three in both departments. But this field is too extensive to be entered here.

On these great topics we are frequently warned of our own and others' pride and folly. Even "old wives' fables" are dangerous; how much more the equally senseless fables of highly cultured men! We are cautioned against "oppositions of science falsely so called."

Our Lord, by the apostle Paul, put Timothy and us on our guard against the misleading and corrupting influence of that delusive science which he who is Wisdom itself characterizes as bebelous kenosophonias, "vain babbling"—bold, reckless, irreverent, and impious "intruding into those things which we have not seen, vainly puffed up by our fleshly mind." 1 Tim. 6.20; Col. 2.18.

The only rational account of creation which we have, or ever shall have, is given,—because we need it, in the first chapter of Genesis, as explained all along the Scriptures afterwards. Astronomy is not so "mad" or proud as geology. Man cannot "drill and bore" the heavens as he does the earth, in the wicked attempt to give the lie to the author of the Bible. What are all the boasted discoveries of scientists from tertial strata or fossil remains but hypotheses which prove nothing? nothing but the transparent pride and impious presumption of deluded men?

What does any person know, or what can he know about what are called "prehistoric times?" Does the person who uses this phrase suspect that he is just uttering "vain babbling," except the solecism, the contradiction which it implies? The language supposes some knowledge reached through a credible medium apart from history. O, yes! "the history of the rocks," &c. But who {261} has authenticated this history? The only rational answer is—hypothesis!

The same conclusion will necessarily result from a view of that part of duration—if it is a part, designated by the verbiage, "countless ages before Adam was formed." All we can ascertain about these hypothetical ages is that they are the same as the aforesaid "prehistoric times," or possibly included in them: all amounting to voces inanes et praeterea nihil, empty words and nothing more.

The "origin of the species" and the unity of the human race are recorded in the Bible, and confirmed by the cumulative testimony of history since the world began. The creation of this world and the origin of the universe are stated with such simplicity, sublimity, clearness, and precision in the first chapter of the sacred Scriptures, that to question the authenticity of the narrative indicates a chaotic condition of the human mind. The heathen maxim, ex nihilo nihil fit, is doubtless true of finite agency; but "is anything too hard for the Lord?" Who may limit omnipotence? Yet God's professing people may fall into this sort of idolatry, as appears, Psalm 78.41. And now when scientists must suppose the pre-existence of a protoplasm, a material shapeless mass, (phurama, Rom. 9.21,) from which all creatures may be spontaneously developed; gospel ministers who would be considered as profound thinkers are tempted to question the Almighty's ability to "make of nothing." Meeting this temptation, as believers often do, the psalmist's example is safest, "Neither do I exercise myself in great matters, or in things too high for me." Psalm 131.2.

Ministers who are ambitious of originality and to be ranked with philosophers and scientists are now troubling the church all over Christendom. Indeed it has been so from of old. Prophets and apostles entered the lists with just such characters, fortifying the Lord's saints against the pernicious dogmas, as well as the "pernicious ways of deceivers." Isa. 40.21; 2 Tim. 4.3,4.

Creation is a miracle—the first of miracles. The incarnation of God's only Son is a miracle: and the regeneration of a sinner is a miracle. It is the effect of the "working of God's mighty power, which he wrought in {262} Christ, when he raised him from the dead." Eph. 1.19,20. The incarnation is expressly called a work of creation, Jer. 31.22, and a believer is "a new creature," 2 Cor. 5.17. Why, then, should it be thought a thing incredible that "God made all things of nothing by the word of his power in the space of six days?" Miracle and mystery surround us, and mystery is within us: we are "strangely and fearfully made." Psalm 139.14. If "we know not how" a spear of grass grows, how particles of matter chemically combine or separate, shall we presume to know how the mysterious miracle of creation was effected by a word? "By the word of the Lord were the heavens made, and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth." Psalm 31.6. "Happy," therefore—yes, therefore, "is he that hath the God of Jacob for his help, whose hope is in the Lord his God, who made heaven and earth, the sea and all that therein is, which keepeth truth forever." Psalm 140.5,6.

The tendency of the fleshly mind is to change objects of faith into objects of sense; but having the Scriptures for our guide, "we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God;" and we have no need to wander and speculate in an imaginary vacuum of "prehistoric times, countless ages before man was formed," or the indefinite lengthening of each day of the six in the work of creation. Such vagaries of the human mind are not worthy of being dignified as speculation, being merely irrational hallucinations. "By faith we understand" many things incomprehensible; and faith reasons—is the climax of reasoning. Heb. 11.19. Faith in the atoning blood of the Lamb brings man nearer to his Creator, Eph. 2.13. It is "the evidence of things not seen:" trusts in him who is invisible: believes in his ability to change the human body "in the twinkling of an eye," 1 Cor. 15.51-52, as he spoke all things (ad extra) into being at the beginning. Psalm 33.9.

The believer, and he only, whether learned or illiterate, can say with the psalmist, "Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee. My flesh and my heart faileth, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever." Psalm 73.25-26.