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Of The Waters, And Their Productions, The Work Of The Fifth Day.
See Gen. 1:20-22; Ps. 104:25.
That is unquestionably the best philosophy which gives the best account of the works of God. And this knowledge every true lover of God ought to seek, that he may thereby know how many glorious creatures God has created for our use and benefit. Let the pretenders to philosophy look to it, that they spend not their time in inquiries, which, instead of teaching them true knowledge, lead them into ignorance and forgetfulness of God and his creatures.
2. The first thing to be observed and admired, is the mutual relation subsisting between the different parts of created nature. Thus the heavens generate rains, dews, winds, and cooling breezes in the air; and then send them down to us. So the earth produces its fruits in the air; and they bud, blossom, and ripen, and are nourished by the air, without which they would quickly languish and die.
3. Among the productions of the watery element, are the rivers. In one place springs up the Rhine, in another the Danube; here is the Elbe, there the Nile. As from one bough of a great and fruitful tree, spring many little branches, and much fruit; so one great branch of the world of waters, as the Rhine or the Danube, is connected with rivulets, lakes, and fountains, which all flow into it.
4. As for the living creatures that 447 arise from the sea, they are without number, God having blessed it with so great fruitfulness, both for its vast extent, and the use and benefit of mankind, that out of this vast repository there arise, at certain seasons, prodigious quantities of fish, varying in their kinds every month. For such is the nature of sea-fish, that they are not to be caught except at certain seasons.
5. And here it is observable, that the sea and all its productions, have their proper order, time, and motion, appointed to them by God. So in the heavens, the stars have their stated times, regular order, motion, rising, and setting. The earth at certain seasons produces different fruits and vegetables; and, in that sense, is in perpetual motion, and never rests until it has brought forth all its fruits. So likewise the sea has its laws of motion, flux and reflux, and produces all its fruits at such appointed seasons as may best serve the use and benefit of man.
6. Let us now take a survey of the wonderful power and wisdom of God in the sea, and inquire what spiritual inferences may be drawn from it. “Who hath shut up the sea with doors,” saith God to Job, “when it brake forth, as if it had issued out of the womb? When I made the cloud the garment thereof, and thick darkness a swaddling band for it, and brake up for it my decreed place, and set bars and doors, and said, Hitherto shalt thou come, and no further; and here shall thy proud waves be stayed? Hast thou entered into the springs of the sea? or hast thou walked in the search of the depth?” Job 38:8-11, 16. In these words, God points out the great and dreadful ocean as an obscure image and resemblance of his unsearchable and incomprehensible power. For it is a very surprising miracle, that God should by his word alone, as with bars and doors, inclose the sea so strongly, that it should not be able to overflow its bounds. No less wonderful is its ebbing and flowing; so that the sea, being, as it were, conscious and mindful of the divine command, so soon as it touches the earth, seems to fly back and retire in a fright, as at the presence of God himself, like Jordan and the Red Sea. Josh. 3:16; Ps. 114:3. “He gathereth the waters of the sea together, as a heap; he layeth up the deep in storehouses.” Ps. 33:7.
7. God tells Job, that he has “made the clouds to be the garment thereof, and thick darkness a swaddling band for it” (Job 38:9); which plainly appears, when its waves roll and toss themselves up to the clouds, that, as it were, receive them into their embraces, and cover them with darkness and horror, so that they seem to be blended with each other. Then appear the mighty wonders of God, which a man cannot behold without fear and astonishment, as it is described in Psalm 107:25, etc.
8. To this work of the fifth day, belongs also that passage of the Psalmist: “So is this great and wide sea, wherein are things creeping innumerable, both small and great beasts. There go the ships; there is that leviathan whom thou hast made to play therein.” Ps. 104:25, 26.
9. As for the greatness of the sea, who can but admire the power of God, which, notwithstanding that so much water flows into the sea every day, and has, from the beginning, yet suffers not its waters to exceed their appointed quantity? And though its waves sometimes rage and swell, and lift themselves like mountains; yet are 448 they quickly put at rest, and settled within their proper bounds. These are clear demonstrations of the mighty power of God.
10. Here too we may not improperly speak of the islands. Who can behold, without wonder, several large and populous countries, and entire kingdoms, lying in the midst of the sea, as if they had been planted there? Who can tell on what foundations they are built, and what it is that keeps them immovable in the midst of violent storms and tempests? Some of them, encompassed with vast rocks growing out of the sea, seem to be built and founded on them. Upon the whole, their fruitfulness, tillage, and the occasion and manner of their being peopled, are what we may rather admire than understand. So that the sea is as populous as the earth. For as the earth is much less than the sea, it is probable that God would not suffer the greatest part of the globe to be uninhabited, and therefore he planted it with islands: so that none of the miracles and blessings which he works in the sea, might escape the observation of mankind. Therefore, to these islanders also did he send the Gospel of truth, by his holy Apostles, “shaking both the sea and the dry land, after the Desire of all nations was come.” Hag. 2:6, 7.
11. No less wonderful is the vast multitude of creatures that inhabit the sea; for some affirm that there is as great abundance and variety of them in the sea, as on the land. Who can behold without astonishment, prodigious shoals of fish rising from the depths of the sea, like a flock of sheep, and offering themselves to the use and necessities of mankind? So that the sea is a great storehouse of God, out of which he feeds the greatest part of mankind, and out of which, too, he produces many other excellent works, such as pearls, amber, and coral.
12. I might here mention the many bold voyages that have been performed within the memory of us and our fathers, to the most distant parts of the East and West; and all this chiefly by the assistance of the magnet, which seems to have nothing in it either of beauty or use, and yet the greatest things are performed by it. By this the pilot steers his ship, and keeps his way in the pathless waters; and by constantly pointing to the pole, it guides the mariner to his intended port. Of these voyages, and of the islands, countries, people, and other useful discoveries, there are many volumes extant, to which I refer the reader.
13. The huge whales, mentioned by David (Ps. 104:26), give us a great idea of the mighty power of God. Of this God himself takes notice when he talks with Job: “His bones are as strong pieces of brass; his bones are like bars of iron. He is the chief of the ways of God. He drinketh up a river and hasteth not: he trusteth that he can draw up Jordan into his mouth. By his neesings a light doth shine, and his eyes are like the eyelids of the morning. Out of his mouth go burning lamps, and sparks of fire leap out. Out of his nostrils goeth smoke, and a flame goeth out of his mouth. When he raiseth up himself, the mighty are afraid; by reason of breakings they purify themselves. He maketh the deep to boil like a pot: he maketh the sea like a pot of ointment.” Job 40:18, 19, 23; 41:18-21, 25, 31.
14. Thus much for the greatness of the sea; which is a very striking illustration of the power of God. 449 “Who hath measured the waters in the hollow of his hand?” saith Isaiah. Isa. 40:12. To which the Psalmist answers, “Whatsoever the Lord pleased, that did he in heaven and in the earth, in the seas and all deep places.” Ps. 135:6. All that remains is, to praise, honor, and glorify the wisdom of God, which is so wonderfully manifested in the deep; the riches of his goodness in that vast variety of fishes, and other productions of the sea, for the use and benefit of man; and in a word, to adore and magnify him in all his works.
15. Let us consider how this doctrine of the sea may bring to our remembrance that twofold sea mentioned in Scripture: the sea of affliction and misery, and the sea of grace and comfort; the depths of misery, and the abyss of divine mercy. For what is this life and world of ours but a troublesome and tempestuous sea? As the sea is never at rest, but is perpetually ruffled with winds and waves, so is the life of man. Sometimes we fancy ourselves safe and out of danger, when suddenly a stormy wind arises, and the floods swell, to the great danger both of body and soul. As the sea has its ebb and flow, so has the life of man. Hence we read that the Lord dries the sea, the waters of the great deep. Isa. 51:10; Jer. 31:35; Ps. 107:25. Moreover, as the freshest waters when they come into the sea grow salt, so all the pleasures, glories, honors, and riches of this mortal life, however sweet and pleasant at first, soon grow bitter and unsavory. And all that cleave to them, thereby forfeit the sweet consolations of heaven, and are drowned and overwhelmed in bitter fears and perplexing sorrows.
16. As the sea has many rocks and quicksands, on which vessels split and are lost, so in human life, many there are who split upon the rocks of covetousness, and run foul of the quicksands of worldly pleasures, and are lost to all eternity. As the sea, after some days, throws up the carcasses that have been cast into it, so the world vomits us out, after it has entertained us a little while; so that it is our highest wisdom to look out betimes for a haven of salvation in the land of the living. As the mariner sails at random without his compass, and has no certain guide but his needle, which is continually pointing to the pole, so Jesus Christ is our loadstone, continually drawing our hearts towards him and heaven, that we may not float up and down at random, or be lost in the sea of this world. As the depth of the sea is unsearchable, according to Job, “Hast thou entered into the springs of the sea? or hast thou walked in the search of the depth?” (Job 38:16); so is our life an unsearchable abyss of misery and sorrow. Whence the Psalmist says, “Out of the depths have I cried unto thee, O Lord.” Ps. 130:1. And, “Deep calleth unto deep at the noise of thy waterspouts; all thy waves and thy billows are gone over me.” Ps. 42:7. So that our life is nothing but a vast sea of calamity and sorrow.
17. To this abyss of misery and sin we must oppose the abyss of grace and consolation. And the first comfort is the boundless mercy of God, which is higher than the heavens, and deeper than the sea. Of this the prophet Micah speaks, “He will have compassion on us, and cast all our sins into the depths of the sea.” Micah 7:19. As the Egyptians were drowned in the Red Sea (Exod. 14:28), so must all our sins be drowned and 450 washed away in the blood of Christ. And though the abyss of our misery be ever so great, yet the merits of Jesus Christ are greater.
18. A second comfort is, the consideration of the many wonders that God has wrought in the water; and that the blessed Jesus assisted his disciples when they were in danger by sea. Matt. 8:26. He stretched out his hand to Peter when he was afraid of sinking. Matt. 14:31. So, at this day, he is never nearer to us, than when we are sinking in the floods of affliction; and we never so fully experience his presence and assistance, as when we are under the cross. “When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee.” Isa. 43:2.
19. A third consolation is contained in these words of the prophet Zechariah: “It shall be in that day, that living waters shall go out from Jerusalem; half of them toward the former sea, and half of them toward the hinder sea.” Zech. 14:8. So also the prophet Ezekiel (Ezekiel 47:8) saw a stream of water flowing out of the temple near the altar into the sea, healing and quickening everything that was touched by it. This signifies the fountain of grace and consolation opened by the Holy Spirit, by the preaching of the Gospel, whereby the bitter waters of affliction are to be refreshed and sweetened; so that the cross shall be no longer a Dead Sea, but a water of life, and a well of salvation. According as it is said, “In the multitude of my thoughts within me, thy comforts delight my soul.” Ps. 94:19.
20. A fourth consolation against the stormy sea of this world, is contained in Psalm 65:7. “God stilleth the noise of the seas, the noise of their waves, and the tumult of the people.” As if he had said, When all things threaten ruin and destruction, when wars rage, and desolation seems to be at hand; then can God easily still the waves. So did the blessed Jesus, Matt. 8:26. “The lord on high is mightier than the noise of many waters.” Ps. 93:4.
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