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THE Book of Genesis is, in every view, a most wonderful book. If it be a fable, Christianity itself is fabulous. Not only does it furnish the earliest narrative of the earliest times, but abounds in facts which lie at the foundation of revealed religion, and render it impregnable to all the assaults of infidelity. The first two chapters speak of times and events which existed before the sun was set in his tabernacle, or man dwelt on the earth. It is not of science and the arts that they treat, nor of the rise and fall of empires, nor of battles lost and won; when its narrative begins, there were no empires, no cities, no din of warfare, no rivalships of art, and no researches of science. The subject of it is the beginning of time; it is GoD's FIRST WORK-in its commencement, its progress, its completion; in all the exactness of its design, in all its order and simplicity, beauty and stupendousness. .
Yet the writer of it speaks, throughout, with the familiarity and simplicity of one who was an eye-witness of the magnificent scenes he describes; and he does so because, though not an eye-witness, he was taught of God. Nor does he speak with hesitation; he has no doubts to express and no theories to propose, or defend. It is a statement of facts which he presents us, on the authority of the revealing Spirit, and therefore everything that he says is consistent and harmonious.
IN THE BEGINNING GoD CREATED THE HEAVENS AND THE EARTH. We read this introductory sentence, and feel a strong desire to know what the book, which is thus introduced to us, contains. What an impregnated announcement is this how much truth does it affirm how much error does it refute how much that is fabulous does it put to shame !
The first great fact here disclosed, is that there was a beginning to the heavens and the earth—a period when they did not exist. It is the dream of atheism that they have existed always. We see for ourselves that the present form of the world, and the particles of which it is composed, are subject to incessant changes and revolution. “The fashion of this world passeth away;” mutability is stamped upon everything around us; and we cannot fail to demand, can such a world have existed from eternity ? That which may be one thing today, another thing to-morrow, and the next day nothing at all, cannot be independent and eternal. Variation in the nature, or mode of the world's existence, is an effect which cannot be produced without a cause. And whence that cause 2 Not from itself, for it is dead matter and powerless; not from without itself, for this the hypothesis denies. If the matter of which the world is composed be eternal, how came the world to assume its present form 2 If it existed from eternity with all its parts united and at rest, how was it set in motion ? or if it existed from eternity in an infinite number of detached particles, and in motion, in what lucky moment, and by what fortuitous concourse did they come together, and form this beautiful and splendid world 2 Nor does it owe its existence to an infinite succession of causes. The notion of an infinite progression of dependent causes, without any beginning, or first cause, involves an obvious contradiction. If each distinct cause in the series is dependent, how can the entire series itself be independent 2 Where nothing in the series is without a beginning, whence is it that there is no beginning to the series? How can an infinite and eternal whole be made up of parts that are not eternal and finite o This hypothesis is adopted in order to get rid of the idea that any one cause in the series is without beginning. If this be so, then there was a beginning to each cause in the succession, so that if this hypothesis be true, “we have a succession of causes infinitely earlier than any cause in the succession,” which is an absurdity. Whether this supposed progression commences a thousand years ago, or from eternity, it is equally a contradiction that every link in the chain is supported by one that is antecedent, and that there is no parent link to support the whole. There is too a total want of testimony in favor of the hypothesis, that the existence of the world runs back to a remoter period than that spoken of by Moses. No human records reach farther back than that period. The traces of higher antiquity said to have been found in the history of Egypt, Phoenicia, Hindostan, and China, have long since been abandoned as fabulous; so far from countervailing, they substantiate the Mosaic history. Had the world existed for any great. period beyond the date specified by Moses, it is incredible that numerous evidences of this fact should not exist, and that all veritable history and tradition should terminate within the limits of the scriptural chronology. The scantiness of population, the progress of society, agriculture, and arts and improvements universally, clearly show that this earth began to exist at no very remote period. We are able to ascertain the time when the most useful arts were invented, and the sciences discov
ered; and can go back to the origin of the earliest nations, and the foundation and progress of the earliest works of man. We have, moreover, facts which lie at the basis of chronological computations which cannot deceive us.* Jesus Christ was born while Caesar Augustus was emperor of Rome—a date well known in the history of nations. From the birth of Christ upward to the calling of Abraham, the Scripture chronology, fortified by profane authors almost without number, is exact and determinate. From that period to the exile of the Jews in Babylon were fourteen generations; from the exile in Babylon to David fourteen generations; and from David to Abraham fourteen generations; in all forty-two generations. From Abraham to Noah were four hundred and thirty years; and from Noah to the creation between sixteen and seventeen hundred. Making all due allowance for the different chronology of the Samaritan copy of the Pentateuch, the Hebrew Scriptures, the Septuagint and Josephus, there are nearly six thousand years from the present date to the creation. There was a beginning, therefore, to the heavens and the earth; the time was when they did not * See Lightfoot's Hebrew and Talmudical Exercitations upon Matthew. —Works, vol. xi. p. 27.
+ Comp. Wallace's True Age of the World, Blair's Chronological Tables, Winder's History of Knowledge, and the Encyclopedias.