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Preface To The Fourth Book.
All Creatures Are Messengers Of God, Intended To Lead Us To God.
By him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him; and he is before all things, and by him all things consist.—Col. 1:16, 17.
The eminent prophet Moses exhibits to us two powerful witnesses of God, in the book of Creation. The first is the universe; the second is the inferior world, that is, Man. Both of them, the universe and the heart of man, furnish glorious testimony in the Scriptures, by which the Creator and Preserver of all things is revealed, and also formed in our hearts.
2. We shall, therefore, introduce in this Book the testimony of both, that is, first, of the universe, and secondly, of the inferior world. Thus we shall learn that all creatures are, as it were, the guides and messengers of God, whereby we are to be brought to Christian knowledge, and also to God in Christ.
3. It is therefore unnecessary to attempt to prove that this Book also belongs to True Christianity, although there are some who might entertain a different opinion. If they desire additional evidence, they may find it in the passage quoted above (Col. 1:16, 17), and also in the Introduction of the Gospel according to St. John, and in very many passages of the Old and the New Testaments. Let them consider specially Psalms 19; 104; 139; and the words of St. Paul in Rom. 8: 22, concerning the groaning of the whole creation, and in 1 Cor. 15:42-52, concerning the resurrection of the dead; in that case they will judge me with more gentleness and favor. And they will also assent to the Saviour's own method of teaching, who used to explain and demonstrate to his disciples and followers the mysteries of his kingdom and of true Christianity, by beautiful illustrations taken from the book of nature. But if they oppose the very Sacraments themselves, which are so many witnesses and seals of divine grace taken from the great book of nature, then I refer them to St. Ambrose, Basil, Theodoret, and others, who have written largely and learnedly upon the six days' creation.
4. Thus much may suffice in defence of my method and design; to which I beg leave to subjoin only this admonition, as the great argument of the whole, namely, that it is the duty of a true Christian to use God's creatures to his honor and glory, so that God in all things may be glorified, through Jesus Christ our Lord.
5. Observe the method by which the creatures lead us unto God. An 424 indulgent father invites his children to come to him; and if they are backward, offers them an apple or some other engaging present. This he gives, not that the child should be in love with the present, but be induced by it to be more fond of the giver. Just so God deals with us; he invites us by all the engaging invitations and promises of the Gospel; and not content with that, he offers us many great and noble gifts, “doing us good, and giving us rain from heaven, and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness.” Acts 14:17. All these blessings are so many messengers sent from God to draw us to himself, and to instruct us how to taste the goodness of the Giver and Creator in that of the creature.
6. But so perverse is man, that his heart is set upon his gold and silver, his houses, estates, honors, and pleasures, which, however good in their kind, are yet in the sight of God of no value; they are only given us by God, to draw us to himself. For this reason it was, that God made man so needy and helpless a creature, that by the variety of his blessings and multitude of his benefits, he might draw him to himself, and teach him by these various instances of his love and goodness, that all the comfort and sweetness which he tastes in the creature, really proceeds from the Creator; and that he alone is able to comfort, relieve, and support us, when these perishing worldly comforts forsake and leave us.
7. But the greatest of all God's messengers, the most excellent of all his gifts, is the Lord Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God, in whom are all the fulness and perfection of divine love and goodness. His mercy is over all his works, and “by him all things were made.” John 1:3. “By him all things consist.” Col. 1:17. “He upholdeth all things by the word of his power.” Heb. 1:3.
8. Having said thus much by way of preface, I begin the First Part of this Book, treating in general of the six days of creation, to promote the knowledge, glory, and praise of God.
9. Of man, we shall speak more particularly in the Second Part; and I intreat my readers to read the Conclusion to my Second Book, before they begin to judge me. For I again protest and declare that I desire my writings to be understood in accordance with the Symbolical Books of the Church of the Augsburg Confession, and in no other sense.
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