« Prev Chapter III. Next »

Chapter III.

Of The Separation Of The Waters From The Dry Land, The Work Of The Third Day.

God said, Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear. And God called the dry land, earth.Gen. 1:9, 10. The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord.Ps. 33:5; 104:24.

The earth is a heavy and gross substance, separated from the waters, and fixed by the power of God to be the receptacle of all the heavenly influences. This globe hangs in the air by the power of the Almighty, and is replenished with the vital seeds of all trees, plants, and vegetables.

2. The stupendous structure and foundation of the earth is a most wonderful witness of the power of God. For by what pillars is the earth supported? Or where are its foundations?

3. Some have disputed whether the dry land be founded in the waters; or whether, as being the heavier substance, it sink to the lowest place so as to be the foundation of the waters.

4. The patrons of the first opinion build upon these testimonies: “He hath founded it upon the seas, and established it upon the floods.” Ps. 24:2. And, “He stretched out the earth above the waters.” Ps. 136:6. To which may be added the testimony of St. Chrysostom, that “God laid the foundation of the earth upon the water.”

5. Others assert the contrary, 1. Because the earth is heaviest, and therefore sinks to the lowest place, where it naturally remains fixed and immovable; for if the earth should move out of its place, it must move upwards, which is contrary to nature. And for this they quote, “Who laid the foundations of the earth, that it should not be removed for ever.” Ps. 104:5. 2. They allege the experience of seamen, who sound the bottom of the sea; and explain those passages of the Psalms which mention the separation of the waters of the dry land, as Moses describes it. Gen. 1:9.

6. But on what does this vast terraqueous 432 globe depend? Who bears it up? Where are the pillars of it? “He hangeth the earth upon nothing,” (Job 26:7), saith Job. For it hangs in the midst of heaven, borne up in the air, begirt with the waters, “Thou coveredst it with the deep as with a garment.” Ps. 104:6. The air and water support one another; the clouds, though vast masses of water, are yet supported by the air from falling; for the power of sustaining is a property of the air. “He bindeth up the waters in his thick clouds, and the cloud is not rent under them.” Job 26:8.

7. The stability of the earth in the waters, and in the centre of the vast expanse of air, is a very clear argument of the divine omnipotence; “Where wast thou (saith the Lord to Job), when I laid the foundations of the earth? Who hath laid the measures thereof? Who laid the corner-stone thereof?” Job 38:4-6. Thence, we learn, that the foundation of the earth could not be comprehended by human understanding, but must be counted among the infinite wonders of Omnipotence. “Therefore,” saith the Psalmist, “will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; though the waters thereof roar and be troubled; though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof?” Ps. 46:2, 3. And that this is an argument of the wisdom of God is plain from Prov. 8: 29, 30; where wisdom says of herself, “When he appointed the foundations of the earth, I was with him, etc.”

8. And this is the earth of which the Psalmist says, “God hath given it to the children of men.” Ps. 115:16. But though, as to its external form, it appear to be a hard, dead, dry, and cold mass, yet is it in truth, enriched by God with a wonderful variety of blessings, fruitful energy, and seminal virtues. These never rest; but are always active to produce fruits, adorned with agreeable forms, odors, tastes, and colors, with external signatures of their inward virtues and qualities.

9. So, then, from the earth proceed all the varieties of plants and vegetables, having exchanged their old attire for a new and delicate dress. The tattered garments of the preceding year being decayed and dead, they come forth with exquisite beauty, odor, and color, and, as it were, preach to mankind in words such as these: “Look upon us, ye unbelieving sons of men; we were dead, and are now alive again. We have laid aside our old garments and bodies, and are now renewed. Do ye also imitate us; 'put off the old man, and put on the new' (Eph. 4:22-24); being renewed in your eternal fountain and original, which is God, your Creator, in whose image ye were created. If ye do this, then in the day of the righteous judgment of God, when ye have lost your old bodies, ye shall, like us, come forth out of the earth (1 Cor. 15:42), with new bodies, clothed with immortal glory, of which our new-born beauty is but a faint resemblance. And whilst ye are in this world, take not too much thought for the body. Matt. 6:25, etc. Consider us, whom the God of nature has annually, for so many thousands of years since the first creation to this time, provided with beautiful clothing, as an argument of his bounty and goodness. Consider our virtues and qualities, which are given not for our, but for your benefit; we bloom and blossom, not for our good, but yours; 433 yea, the blessing of God blossoms through us.”

10. Among the vegetables, also, a man may discern many thousands of witnesses of the goodness and omnipotence of God. Here we have a perfect collection of drugs and simples, an admirable and complete herbal; yea, a living one, not furnished with faint draughts and dead pictures; but graved with living characters and impressions, to be read by every curious spectator, but not to be fully understood by any, except by Him that made them. And till we come fully to understand their divine signatures, we cannot so perfectly know the wonders of Providence contained under them.

11. Every herb and plant has its proper signature, which is nothing less than the inscription and handwriting of God, whereby he has most wonderfully and beautifully distinguished them all according to their virtues and qualities; and in many of them, the outward form is a token of their inward virtues. The turf we tread upon is furnished both with food and medicine. Yea, in the smallest grain or seed is manifested the unsearchable wisdom of God. He has created nothing in vain, and the minutest part of the creation is not to be overlooked or despised, since we know not the thousandth part of its virtues.

12. But if from their external forms we descend to their internal, and extract their spirit by chemical processes, separating that pure essence, which being full of high medicinal virtue, is lodged by God in the outward body, as a diamond in a casket, then, indeed, we shall truly taste the goodness of God in the virtues of his creatures, and bless him with a grateful heart, for the many comfortable medicines which he has provided for miserable man.

13. Consider, moreover, how the bountiful Creator has provided not only for man, but also furnished “food for all flesh.” Ps. 136:25; 145: 15. He causeth the grass to grow for the cattle, and herb for the service of men, “that he may bring forth food out of the earth, and wine that maketh glad the heart of man.” Ps. 104:14, 15. So that we may properly call the earth the treasury or storehouse of God, in which are laid up a variety of blessings both for man and beast: upon which account the Psalmist says, “the earth is full of the goodness of the Lord.” Ps. 33:5.

14. A very wonderful effect of this divine goodness is, that bread sustains the whole body, so that in one single morsel is contained the nourishment of all the members of the body. And because of this nutritive quality that is in bread, therefore, the eternal Son of God calls himself the “bread of life” (John 6:35); denoting his power of nourishing and sustaining the whole man, body, soul, and spirit.

15. It is no less wonderful, that the greatest tree, with its root, trunk, boughs, leaves, seed, flowers, and fruit, should be contained in a very small seed; and that every year the same plants and trees, with their respective fruits and seeds, should appear in their proper order and season. All this must be resolved into the principle of the seed, containing in it all those powers, which successively display themselves in so great a variety of size, thickness, height, and breadth.

16. Notice also, how the grass, upon which the cattle feed, becomes food for man; being converted into the milk and flesh of the creatures that 434 eat them. Even our beds and clothes grow out of the earth, since both sheep and birds live upon the fruits of it.

17. I shall not in this place speak particularly of trees and plants: otherwise, perhaps, I should have taken notice of the fig-tree which was accursed by our blessed Saviour (Matt. 21:19); of the olive-tree, whose leaf the dove brought into Noah's ark (Gen. 8:11); of the palm-tree, to which the flourishing state of the righteous is compared (Ps. 92:12); of the cedars, and of the spices, of which Moses made the holy ointment (Exod. 30:23); of the generous spikenard, which is a type of the Holy Spirit, and of the resurrection of the dead, being used in embalming bodies, in order to preserve them from putrefaction; of the vine, and various vegetables; from which the Holy Ghost draws beautiful similitudes, designed to illustrate and explain to us the mysteries of the kingdom of God.

18. Of the fruitfulness of the earth, David speaks thus: “Thou visitest the earth, and waterest it: thou greatly enrichest it with the river of God which is full of water: thou preparest them corn, when thou hast so provided for it. Thou waterest the ridges thereof abundantly; thou settlest the furrows thereof: thou makest it soft with showers: thou blessest the springing thereof: thou crownest the year with thy goodness, and thy paths drop fatness.” Ps. 65:9-11. That is, every month produces its peculiar fruit out of its treasury, the bosom of the earth.

19. This natural fertility of the earth has been very much restrained by the curse of the Almighty; hence the tares which choke the good corn. “Cursed is the ground,” saith God, “thorns and thistles shall it bring forth to thee.” Gen. 3:17, 18. Fruitfulness, therefore, must be regarded and prayed for, as the gift and blessing of God, without which, a man can neither plough, sow, nor plant with success: “for it is God that giveth the increase.” 1 Cor. 3:6. Thus we are to understand the words, “A fruitful land turneth he into barrenness, for the wickedness of them that dwell therein.” Ps. 107:34.

20. Let our meditations on the fruitfulness of the earth, carry our thoughts to that new earth which we expect, “wherein dwelleth righteousness.” 2 Pet. 3:13. There the curse, to which the present earth is in bondage, shall have no place; it shall be the region of perfect blessedness and life eternal. This is the new paradise, full of celestial sweetness, joy, and pleasure: then shall we truly sing this song, “the flowers appear on the earth.” Cant. 2:12.

21. I come next to the mountains, which by their height and beauty are no small ornament to the earth. The mountains are, in a more particular sense, the treasury of God, in which all kinds of metals are prepared. They are, as it were, so many chemical furnaces, in which the matter of all metals and minerals is separated and matured. It has been observed, that the best simples grow upon high mountains; and whensoever they are transplanted into gardens, they degenerate and lose their virtue. Hence it was said of Hippocrates that the herbs which he used in the practice of medicine, were generally gathered from hills and mountainous places.

22. The mountains ought to remind us both of the protection of God (and so the expression is used in Scripture—“I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help;” Ps. 121:1); and also of the Church 435 of God. “The mountains shall bring peace, and the little hills by righteousness.” Ps. 72:3.

23. Under this head, also, we may consider the springs and rivers of waters that run through the valleys, adorning, enriching, and beautifying the earth. For though, in strict propriety, the fountains belong to the work of the fifth day; yet the royal Prophet couples the mountains and springs together, because the rivers arise from the hills. Ps. 104:10.

24. Solomon tells us, “All the rivers run into the sea; yet the sea is not full; unto the place from whence the rivers come, thither they return again.” Eccles. 1:7. Though the waters, passing out of the sea through the earth, are sweetened by percolation; yet they do not everywhere break forth, nor form springs in all places, but according to the order and appointment of God. So saith the Psalmist, “He sendeth the springs into the valleys.” Ps. 104:10. And their continual streams are not only a great blessing, and a miracle of divine power, but are also an apt representation of eternal life.

25. If God take so much care of the beasts of the earth, shall he not much more take care of us? If “the beasts of the field cry unto him, when the rivers of waters are dried up” (Joel 1:20), how much more ought we to call upon him in all our distresses? And, whereas, those places are generally most pleasant, where there is the greatest plenty of springs and rivulets: so thither the birds generally resort, and “sing among the branches.” Ps. 104:12. It is as if God had taken care to fill even the forests with their music, that so every place might resound with his praises, and that man might learn, even from the animals, that not only himself, but all creatures were made to praise and glorify God.

26. Natural fountains, of which some are well known as possessing healing virtues, should remind us of the fountain of grace and salvation, the water of life, even Jesus Christ. “With joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation.” Isa. 12:3. “With thee is the fountain of life; in thy light shall we see light.” Ps. 36:9. “Ho! every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters.” Isa. 55:1. “The Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters, and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.” Rev. 7:17.

27. The 104th Psalm, which gives us a beautiful account of the work of the third day, takes particular notice of seven illustrious creatures of God, all proceeding from the earth, and all capable of a spiritual sense. First, he speaks of the earth in general; that God laid its foundations, divided it from the waters, adorned it with mountains, and watered it with springs. Thence descending to particulars, he takes notice of its remarkable productions. 1. The dew, wherewith He waters the mountains. 2. The grass. 3. Bread. 4. Wine. 5. Oil, or balsam. 6. The fruits of trees. 7. Birds and beasts: all which are plainly expressed in the 104th Psalm.

28. Thus he speaks: “He watereth the hills from his chambers: the earth is satisfied with the fruit of thy works.” Ps. 104:13. Thus we often see with admiration, the clouds hovering upon the mountains, and dropping showers of plenty upon the hills, as “the bottles of heaven” (Job 38:37); and then God doth truly water the hills from above. Sometimes, also, he sends his dew, refreshing them with great plenty. Thus were continually 436 watered little Hermon, in Judea, and the mountains of Gilboa, where Saul and Jonathan, his son, were slain. Therefore David said, “Ye mountains of Gilboa, let there be no dew, neither let there be rain upon you.” 2 Sam. 1:21.

29. It is the property of dew to make the ground rich and fruitful, and to refresh the flowers scorched with excessive heat; whence, at last, the bees by wonderful art draw their honey. Sometimes we see a sort of honey-dew lying upon the leaves, as did the manna heretofore. Just so the Gospel is like a spiritual honey, the dew of the Holy Spirit.

30. It is not without reason that peace is compared to dew. Ps. 133:1, 3. For as the dew is generated by the morning, so peace proceeds from Jesus Christ, who is himself the morning star, and the Prince of peace. Where Christ liveth, reigneth, and worketh, there is perpetual peace. “The kingdom of God is righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.” Rom. 14:17. “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.” Matt. 5:9. Such are begotten of God, as the dew is of the morning; and as the dew makes all things lively, fresh, and flourishing, so also does peace; which, therefore, every good man ought to beg of God, the Father of peace.

31. And whereas, in the last place, it is said that “the earth is satisfied with the fruit of God's works,” it suggests that the Word of God the Creator, is still as powerful and efficacious as formerly it was, when he spake the word, saying, “Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit.” So that all things, from the beginning of the world to this day, spring from the Word of God, as from an eternal root of divine blessing.

32. Secondly, the Psalmist says, “He causeth the grass to grow for the cattle.” Verse 14. Nor is that the least of God's blessings; for how could so many wild as well as tame beasts, that minister to the necessities of man, subsist, were the grass to fail? And it is wonderful that when, in very dry weather, one would not think there could be grass enough to support the beasts that are to eat it, yet they still live upon it. Thus it seems to grow as much by night as it is eaten by day.

33. Hence, we learn how merciful God is to mankind, and how liberally he provides for our necessities; and, though the grass may seem to be the least and meanest of all the blessings of God, yet we cannot be sufficiently thankful for it. So true is it that the least of God's blessings exceeds our highest gratitude.

34. The grass may also furnish us with proofs of the Divine Providence. 1. He that considers that God takes care of the grass of the ground, cannot question, but that he takes much more care of him and his affairs, according to Matt. 6:30. 2. It may put us in mind of our own vanity. For “all flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field.” Isa. 40:6. 3. It may also minister comfort under afflictions and persecutions, according to Psalm 37:1, 2. “Fret not thyself because of evil-doers, neither be thou envious against the workers of iniquity; for they shall soon be cut down like the grass, and wither as the green herb.”

35. Thirdly, “Herb for the service of man: that he may bring forth food out of the earth: and bread, which 437 strengtheneth man's heart.” Ps. 104:14, 15. Now the very notion of bread implies in it a great variety of divine blessings. First, it reminds us of God's paternal affection towards us; for a father naturally cares and provides for his children. So Matt. 7:9, “What man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread will he give him a stone?” Let us remember, then, that God is our Father; and that we are needy and indigent creatures, subject to infirmities and necessities. So that our very hunger and thirst are so many monitors to lead us unto God; and every morsel of bread we eat, should put us in mind of the paternal affection and goodness of God.

36. (2) Let us admire and reverence the wise dispensation of Providence, which assigns to every man his convenient portion of bread, so that no man has reason to complain that he is forgotten before God. Heb. 13:5.

37. (3) From bread we may learn the wisdom of God. In Psalm 104:14, God is said “to bring forth herb for the service of man, that he may bring forth food (or bread) out of the earth.” The bread which we eat is, at first, nothing but grass, which, growing up into ears, and into the perfect grain, supplies us with bread, which at last is converted into our body and blood. This miraculous operation gives us an image of our creation; forasmuch as even to this day he makes the flesh and blood of man out of the earth; so that we may properly call it our mother, and say that “in God we live, and move, and have our being.” Acts 17:28. The nutritive virtue of bread is the Word of God. If God should withdraw it, then all flesh and blood would wither and decay as a flower, or as the grass of the field. Therefore, man doth not live by bread alone. Matt. 4:4; Deut. 8:3.

38. The specific property of bread is indicated in these words; “Bread, which strengtheneth man's heart.” Ps. 104:17. Every other kind of food, by being daily eaten, becomes unwelcome to us; but bread never does. So that bread is a universal food, and seems to contain in it all the nutritive qualities of every other sort of food, all of which borrow their virtues from it; as the planets derive their light from the universal luminary, the sun. And this we may conceive to be the reason of the great virtue there is in bread, that, being the most common and ordinary food, every man might find in it wherewithal to support life, though he should have nothing else. In a word, whatever we eat or drink, ought to be looked upon as a miracle of divine wisdom and goodness.

39. Lastly, the strengthening faculty of bread, puts us in mind of “the bread of life,” which is Christ. So we read in John 6:35. “I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.” For in this bread of life, all the power of God is contained; because “it pleased God that in him all fulness should dwell” (Col. 1:19); “and that of his fulness have all we received, and grace for grace” (John 1:16); and by him, “we might be filled with all the fulness of God.” Eph. 3:19. Blessed is he that eateth this bread! Earthly bread cannot save us from death, but he that eateth of Christ, the bread of life, shall never die.

40. The fourth thing mentioned is “wine, that maketh glad the heart of man.” Ps. 104:15. How wonderful is the love of God towards us, who is so far from desiring to have us oppressed with sorrow, that he has provided even 438 natural means to refresh and comfort us! And as for the dejected and broken spirit, he refreshes that by the generous wine of the Holy Spirit, drawn from the living vine, the Lord Jesus Christ. This is the wine mentioned in the Song of Solomon, “He brought me to the banqueting-house” (Cant. 2:5); (or house of wine, as the margin reads it.) This was the spiritual wine the holy prophets drank of (Isa. 12:2; 61:10; and Ps. 34:1; 63:11), which made them break forth into songs of joy and exultation.

41. Wine again was given by God to strengthen the sick. For wine has a spirit in it adapted to quicken the vital motions of the heart. This is another instance of the wonderful love of God; yet it serves to put us in mind of a greater; namely, of that most generous wine which was pressed from the bloody wounds of the true vine, the Lord Jesus Christ, and which is the only sovereign remedy for the diseased soul. “He washed his garments in wine, and his clothes in the blood of grapes.” Gen. 49:11.

42. Lastly, it was also given that the aged, whose lamp of life is almost spent, might invigorate the languid flame, and make it burn the brighter. This may put us in mind of the spiritual old age of the Church. For as the sight, hearing, and all the other powers of nature, are broken by age; so now faith is extinguished, charity is cold, hope languishes, and the whole spiritual body of Christ decays every day more and more. “When the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?” Luke 18:8. But God promises the faithful, that he will “renew their strength, that they may mount up as eagles” (Isa. 40:31): and he declares, that he will “carry them even to old age.” Isa. 46:4. To which also belongs that promise, “They shall still bring forth fruit in old age; they shall be fat and flourishing.” Ps. 92:14.

43. The fifth thing is, “Oil to make his face to shine.” Verse 15. By this we are to understand, the precious ointment used among the Jews, and other Eastern nations, when they were more than commonly joyful, or intended to treat their guests after the best fashion; and which diffused a wonderful vigor through their whole bodies. In this sense we are to understand Psalm 23:5. “Thou anointest my head with oil.” So our blessed Saviour, when he was entertained by Simon, was anointed with oil. Matt. 26:7. He upbraids another of that name, a Pharisee, that he had not shown him the same respect. “My head with oil (saith he) thou didst not anoint; but this woman hath anointed my feet with ointment.” Luke 7:46.

44. So great was the virtue of these Eastern unguents, that they used them in embalming the dead; and by that means preserved them many hundred years from corruption; as appeared in the body of Alexander the Great, which was found in the time of Augustus, as fresh as if it had been interred but yesterday, though it had lain above three hundred years. And this balsam is a proper representation of that oil, with which the Son of God, according to his human nature, was anointed without measure. Hence the Psalmist says, “Therefore God, thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows” (Ps. 45:7): and “Of his fulness have all we received” (John 1:16); which is nothing else but that unction by which he teacheth us all things (1 John 2:20), and by which our souls shall be presented before God wholly beautiful, and adorned 439 with the gifts of the Holy Spirit: “when this corruptible shall put on incorruption, and this mortal shall put on immortality.” 1 Cor. 15:53.

45. The sixth thing mentioned is this, “The trees of the Lord are full of sap: the cedars of Lebanon which he hath planted.” Ps. 104:16. There are many remarkable things to be considered in trees; of which, two are more particularly noticed in Holy Scripture. The first is, that, whereas, they seem to be dead all the winter, yet upon the return of the spring, they are full of sap, and produce, first, leaves, and afterwards, fruit, in a manner truly wonderful, and such as no art can imitate. For where is the artist, who from the juice of any vine, can form a grape? The birch-trees so overflow with sap in spring-time, that men can tap them like a cask. In Ferro, one of the Canary Islands, as it is said, there is no spring, river, or rain; but there are certain trees, from the leaves of which there drops so great a quantity of water, as is sufficient for the inhabitants.

46. And whereas it is said that “the Lord hath planted them,” we must understand it of his creating word (Gen. 1:12), by the power of which new trees daily arise to supply the place of those that die or are cut down. This blessing will abide in the earth as long as it lasts, because the power of the Lord is the universal source of all things that arise out of the earth. Now the trees, with their fruits, may remind us of that divine charity which ought to be in us. For as these freely bestow their several fruits upon man; so ought we to be affected towards God and towards one another; “that we may be trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified.” Ps. 92:13. Lastly, they remind us of the tree of life, with its fruits, even Jesus Christ crucified; of which, whosoever eateth, shall live forever. Rev. 22:2.

47. Seventhly, the birds are a very great ornament of the earth. They build upon the trees and help to furnish our tables. “There the birds make their nests; as for the stork, the fir-trees are her house.” Psalm 104:17. And “Knowest thou the time when the wild goats of the rock bring forth? Who hath sent out the wild ass free? or who hath loosed the bands of the wild ass? Gavest thou wings and feathers unto the ostrich? what time she lifteth up herself on high, she scorneth the horse and his rider. Doth the hawk fly by thy wisdom? Doth the eagle mount up at thy command, and make her nest on high?” Job 39:1, 5, 13, 18, 26, 27.

48. From all this we may learn that God made not the earth to be desolate, but has allotted its deserts and wildernesses to be inhabited by birds and wild beasts, that his bounty to man, and his magnificence might be made known by the multitude of his creatures; his omnipotence, by his works; and his wisdom, by that infinite variety of distinct properties which he has bestowed upon the creatures. “Every beast of the forest is mine, and the cattle upon a thousand hills. I know all the fowls of the mountains; and the wild beasts of the field are mine. If I were hungry I would not tell thee; for the world is mine, and the fulness thereof. Will I eat the flesh of bulls, or drink the blood of goats?” Ps. 50:10-13. What then is the sacrifice that God expects? “Offer unto God thanksgiving; and pay thy vows unto the Most High; and call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me.” Ver. 14, 15.

« Prev Chapter III. Next »
Please login or register to save highlights and make annotations
Corrections disabled for this book
Proofing disabled for this book
Printer-friendly version





Advertisements



| Define | Popups: Login | Register | Prev Next | Help |