|« Prev||Chapter VI.||Next »|
Of The Living Creatures, The Work Of The Sixth Day.
And out of the ground the Lord formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam, to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof. And Adam gave names to all cattle, and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field.—Gen. 1:24; 2:19, 20.
Here Adam gave an illustrious proof of the divine wisdom implanted in him by God, to the honor and praise of Him that gave it. He beheld His wisdom and goodness in the variety of his creatures; he considered the distinct forms, figures, proportions, and colors of them all; he distinctly viewed, and understood the nature of the living animals by the 451 light of divine wisdom; and, upon a full survey of the properties of every creature, he gave them proper and significant names, expressing their several natures. From this natural knowledge of all creatures, he called her that was made out of his rib, Woman, because she was taken out of man; afterward, Eve, as being “the mother of all living.” Gen. 2:23; 3:20.
2. So, even at this day, God shows to us the natures and properties of all creatures in his holy Word, that we may thereby be led to praise and magnify the wisdom and goodness of Him that made them. Thus Job says (12:7, 8), “Ask now the beasts, and they shall teach thee; and the fowls of the air, and they shall tell thee; or speak to the earth, and it shall teach thee; and the fishes of the sea shall declare unto thee.” See also Chap. 39. He leads us, as it were, into every part of the brute creation, putting us in mind of the many wonders of divine power and mercy manifested in every one of them. So Jeremiah sends us “to the stork and the crane, the turtle, and the swallow, who know the appointed time of their coming.” Jer. 8:7. Isaiah sends us “to the ox and the ass, who know their master's crib” (Isa. 1:3); David and Job, “to the young ravens that call upon God” (Ps. 147:9; Job 38:41); David again, “to the deaf adder that stoppeth her ear” (Ps. 58:4); Isaiah, “to the cockatrice' eggs and vipers” (Isa. 59:5); Jeremiah, “to the sea monsters, that draw out the breast, and give suck to their young ones;” adding, “the daughter of my people is become cruel like the ostriches in the wilderness.” Lam. 4:3. So the Song of Solomon speaks of the “young hart, the dove, and the foxes” (Song of Solomon 2:9, 14, 15); David, “of the hart panting after the water-brooks” (Ps. 42:1); Solomon, “of the ant” (Prov. 6:6); David and Isaiah, “of the eagles.” Ps. 103:5. “They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength,” like the eagles. Isa. 40:31. Lastly, Habakkuk and Jeremiah speak of the wolves, leopards, and lions, sent to be executioners of divine vengeance. Hab. 1:8; Jer. 5:6.
3. So also in the New Testament, the blessed Jesus speaks of the sparrows, not one of which falleth to the ground without the knowledge of our heavenly Father. Matt. 10:29. Thus he speaks “of the wisdom of serpents, and the harmlessness of doves” (Matt. 10:16); of “the hen gathering her chickens under her wings” (Matt. 23:37); of “the eagles' following the carcass” (Matt. 24:28); of “the dogs that eat the crumbs that fall from their masters' table.” Matt. 15:27. So he describes his own sheep, with their several properties. John 10:27, 28. Lastly, he talks of the scorpion and serpent, which no father would give to his children when they ask for an egg or a fish. Luke 11:11, 12.
4. Here it may be considered why the blessed Jesus himself is compared to a lamb (Isa. 53:7), to express his exemplary meekness and patience. Why did the blessed Spirit light upon the Son of God in the form of a dove (Matt. 3:16), but because the mourning of a dove (Isa. 38:14) resembles the mourning of the spirit in the hearts of the faithful. Hence Hezekiah says of himself: “I did mourn as a dove.” Isa. 38:14. Why had “the four living creatures the faces of a man, an ox, a lion, and an eagle”? Ezek. 1:10; Rev. 4:7. They express to us the four mediatorial offices of Christ: his incarnation, sacrifice, resurrection, and ascension.452
5. Here also we may consider the wonderful providence of God, whereby he protects, sustains, and nourishes all his creatures. Thus in Psalm 65 David celebrates the paternal mercies of God towards all creatures. Again, “O Lord, thou preservest man and beast.” Ps. 36:6. This consideration should strengthen our faith and secure our perseverance in prayer, under all the wants and necessities of soul and body. And whereas David mentions the word flesh, “to thee shall all flesh come” (Ps. 65:2); this seems to have a particular regard to our bodily wants and sufferings (as we are flesh and blood), such as hunger, cold, nakedness, etc.; and should, at the same time, put us in mind of our own vileness and corruption, which is frequently in Scripture expressed by the word flesh. Isa. 40:6. The prophet gives us further comfort, by adding, that there is no man so vile and contemptible as to be despised or forgotten before God. This is expressed to us in these words: “Thou who art the confidence of all the ends of the earth, and of them that are afar off upon the sea.” Ps. 65:5. As if he had said: So great is the love of God to mankind, that wheresoever they are, whether by land or sea, he still takes care to protect and defend them. And whereas he adds, “Thou makest the outgoings of the morning and evening to rejoice” (ver. 8); his meaning is, that, as God feeds and nourishes all creatures, so he comforts and refreshes them, too, according to the words of St. Paul, “filling our hearts with food and gladness.” Acts 14:17. For it is no small blessing to feed upon his creatures with a cheerful mind, to begin the labors of the day with devout prayers and praises, and to conclude them with thanksgiving. Lastly, he assigns the cause, in these words: “The river of God is full of water” (ver. 9); that is, the fountain of divine bounty, mercy, and goodness, overflows to all his creatures, upon which our being and comforts entirely depend.
6. To this also may be referred that passage of the Psalmist, “All wait upon thee, that thou mayest give them their meat in due season.” Ps. 104:27. And not only so, but he represents also the brute creatures as sensible of this dependence upon God, “The young lions roar after their prey, and seek their meat from God” (Ps. 104:21); intimating thereby, that God, the Preserver of nature, is moved to pity and to assist the distresses and sufferings of every creature; and that the wants of every part of his creation, whether animate or inanimate, are a sort of silent prayer to the great author and preserver of their being. And this is called by St. Paul, “the earnest expectation of the creature.” Rom. 8:19. Here let us consider likewise what an infinite variety of creatures there are contained in the air, earth, and sea, and that God has mercifully provided for the comfortable subsistence of every one, in a way suitable to their proper natures. And if God takes such care of the meanest of his creatures, it would be wrong to imagine, that man, created in his own image, should be neglected or forgotten by him.
7. And since there are more creatures in the earth, air, and sea, than there are men in the whole world; and the providence of God is extended to the meanest and smallest of his creatures, how is it possible that man should be forgotten,—man, that lives, moves, and has his being in him; “for in him we live, and move, and have our being,” saith St. Paul (Acts 453 17:28),—man, that is sustained by his power: for “he upholdeth all things by the word of his power” (Heb. 1:3)—man, whom he has made with his own hand; according to Isaiah 64:8. “O Lord, thou art our Father; we are the clay, and thou art the potter, and we all are the work of thy hand;”—man, whom he has redeemed by the blood of his only begotten Son, and sealed with his Holy Spirit? In a word, God can no more forget man, than he can forget Himself. So that we have all the reason in the world to depend upon him, that he will give us meat in due season.
8. The Psalmist goes on: “That thou givest them, they gather: thou openest thy hand, they are filled with good.” Ps. 104:28. In these words is expressed that power, whereby the creatures are preserved. And this consists in a certain natural sagacity or instinct implanted in them by God, by which every one of them is prompted to look out, and procure such things as are proper for the support of life and being. And the pleasure which they receive in this exercise, is a sort of gratitude and acknowledgment to God whom they seem to look upon and rejoice in, as their Maker, Preserver, and Benefactor.
9. Now if God takes so much care for the comfortable subsistence of all his creatures, we cannot think that he made man for perpetual anguish and sorrow, but must conclude that he is pleased to see us innocently cheerful in the fear of God. So, in Psalm 90:15, we are directed to pray, that God would make us glad according to the days wherein he afflicted us; and the years in which we saw evil. He promises his servants that they shall eat, drink, and rejoice (Isai. 65:13); and from the words of David, it plainly appears that he intends to feed his servants, not sparingly, but plentifully and bountifully; to which end, he maketh his paths drop fatness. Ps. 65:11. Experience itself also teaches us, that all creatures are so plentifully fed by God, that, at proper seasons, the birds of the air, the wild beasts of the forest, the cattle in the fields, and the fish of the sea, offer themselves, fattened and prepared, for the use and nourishment of man; and in that sense also “his paths drop fatness.” So wonderful is the providence, so transcendent is the wisdom, so great is the concern of God, to provide for all the necessities of his children.
10. And then the Psalmist adds, “Thou hidest thy face, they are troubled; thou takest away their breath, they die, and return to their dust. Thou sendest forth thy spirit, they are created; and thou renewest the face of the earth.” Ps. 104:29, 30. His meaning is, that the life of all creatures is nothing else but the breath of God. This quickening virtue and power of God, is that word by which all things were made. “By the word of the Lord were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth.” Ps. 33:6. And this word was not an empty sound, but became the life of all creatures, resting upon them as a principle of life and power; as St. Paul tells us, “the Lord upholdeth all things by the word of his power.” Heb. 1:3. So that the life and being of all things as much depend on God, as the shadow of a tree does upon the substance.
11. Thus when God withdraws this word of life, or vital power, from the creatures, they immediately sink into their primitive nothingness. The whole world is full of God, “of whom, and through whom, and to whom are all 454 things.” Rom. 11:36. He is said to be “above all, and through all, and in us all” (Eph. 4:6): so that “the Lord is the strength of our life.” Ps. 27:1; Deut. 30:20. For as men of sorrowful and distressed spirits perceive a true and vital power in the word of God; so there is in all creatures a sort of natural and vital power, which is nothing else but the Word of Creation. By virtue of this Word also, all the creatures are blessed and do multiply. By this, the face of the earth is every year renewed by a succession of plants, fruits, and living creatures, as if there were a new world every year. “While the earth remaineth,” saith God to Noah, “seed-time and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night, shall not cease.” Gen. 8:22. By the same blessing, the world is preserved to this day.
12. This wonderful and universal Providence of God, consists chiefly in three things. First, in his knowledge. “Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world.” Acts 15:18. By this infinite and incomprehensible wisdom, he knows, sees, and hears all things; therefore he is called in Scripture, “the God that liveth and seeth.” Gen. 16:14 (margin). No creature is hidden from him, but all things are naked and open in his sight. Heb. 4:13. And he is called “the Living,” not only because he himself liveth forever, but also because he is the life of all things.
13. The second head of divine Providence, is the fatherly goodness of God (Matt. 6:26), by which He taketh care of all things: “He maketh his sun to rise on the evil, and on the good.” Matt. 5:45. So, then, if his mercy be not only extended to the least, but even to the undeserving parts of his creation; how ungrateful are we, if we entertain any suspicions of so indulgent a Father. And if nothing be done upon earth but by his appointment and direction, we may hence learn to submit with patience to everything that befalls us, without repining or murmuring against God; firmly believing that he careth for us, and by his unsearchable wisdom ordereth all things for our good and his own glory. On the other hand, if he take from us our riches, honors, health, and other worldly blessings, we must resign them with cheerfulness, and say with Job, “The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away.” Job 1:21. That good man gave thanks to God for his adversity, as well as for his prosperity; and the former very often proves the greater blessing of the two.
14. The third head of God's universal providence over all his creatures is, his omnipotence. By this he is always present to his creatures, governing and preserving them; by this he governs the hearts of all men, and turneth them which way he pleases. Ps. 33:15. Whence it follows, that in all our thoughts, words, and actions, we ought to have a lively and devout sense of the divine omnipresence, and dread to do anything that is hateful in his sight. For as is the clay in the hand of the potter, so are men in the hand of God, even as we read in Jeremiah, “Arise and go down to the potter's house: and I went down, and behold, he wrought a work on the wheels. And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter; so he made it again another vessel, etc.” Jer. 18:2. The prophet intimates thereby that God, who afflicteth and breaketh us to pieces, can also heal and restore us again.455
15. Moreover, as we are assured that God is everywhere present, and preserves and governs everything, it follows that he is so careful of his own servants, that not a hair of their heads can fall to the ground (Matt. 10:30; Luke 21:18; Acts 27:34) without his permission; and that he preserveth and keepeth us in the midst of our enemies, as we have it frequently expressed in the Psalms. Ps. 23:4; 27:1; 121:5. So when we are in distress, and there are no apparent hopes of relief, we should support ourselves with this consideration: that the Lord himself, “great in counsel, and mighty in work” (Jer. 32:19), who laid our cross upon us, can easily lighten it, or strengthen us to bear it. Let us “commit our way unto the Lord” (Ps. 37:5), like Abraham, who was ready to offer up his only son, without questioning how God could perform his promise to him, but cast all his care upon God. Gen. 22:8; Rom. 4:18; Heb. 11:19.
16. And then, the consideration of God's providence raises in us faith, hope, and patience, of which we have examples in Job, David, and Christ himself. The blessed Jesus, knowing that he was appointed by God to die, preserved his meekness and patience all the days of his life, yea, even in the very agonies of death. Phil. 2:8. Thus David patiently endured banishment for years, attended with injuries, reproaches, poverty, and contempt; knowing assuredly that it was God that laid it upon him. This makes him cry out, “Thou, O Lord, art a shield for me; my glory, and the lifter up of mine head.” Ps. 3:3. To which may be referred that passage, “The Lord killeth, and maketh alive; he bringeth down to the grave, and bringeth up. The Lord maketh poor, and maketh rich; he bringeth low, and lifteth up.” 1 Sam. 2:6, 7.
17. But before we conclude this subject, we must say something particularly of man, the crown and masterpiece of the creation, of his excellence and prerogatives, which must be very great, forasmuch as God himself has declared, that “his delights are with the sons of men.” Prov. 8:31. For if all things were created for the use of man, and he is the end of this visible creation, it follows that he is the perfection of it. Reason itself convinces us, that whatsoever is the end and perfection of all things, must be more excellent than all others. So, then, all the beauty of fountains, fields, flowers, trees, fruits, and woods, yea, and all the glittering brightness of heaven, the sun, moon, and stars, are not to be compared with, the native and original excellence of man, for whose sake and benefit they were all created. For as Solomon in all his glory was not to be compared with the flowers of the field (Matt. 6:29); so the excellence of man, especially as to his soul, far transcends not only the external glory of Solomon, but all the beauties of this lower world, yea, and of the sun itself.
18. And as for the soul, we may judge of its excellency and beauty by the form and comeliness of the body which God has prepared for its reception and residence. He provided a comely mansion for so excellent a guest. So, if we should see the spotless beauty of the original human body, we should easily judge of the beauty of its divine inhabitant. Even now, in this corrupt and depraved state of nature, we see what attractive charms there are in beauty. Moreover, we may judge yet farther of the beauty of human nature, by the glories 456 of the place in which God at first placed man; which was Paradise itself, a garden full of joy and celestial pleasures, infinitely exceeding all the glory and beauty of the present world. For if the place were so glorious, what must the owner of it be, for whose sake it was created?
19. Another great argument of the dignity of human nature is, that the angels themselves are appointed to minister unto us (Heb. 1:14); and that we were created, as it were, by a particular decree of the ever-blessed Trinity. “Let us make man,” saith God, “in our image, after our likeness.” Gen. 1:26. So that how great soever our dignity may be, by that singular decree and counsel by which we were made, yet that which arises from the image of God, in which we were created, is much greater. Therefore, when he created the sun, moon, and all the host of heaven, he but spake the word, and they were made. But when he was about to make man, the greatest and noblest of all his works, he ushers it in with a kind of solemnity, saying, “Let us make man.” How wonderful is that counsel! How solemn is that decree! How transcendent is the dignity of human nature!
20. For though the sun, moon, and stars, and all the lower world, were made with wonderful wisdom and power; yet that deliberation does not seem to have been used there as in the creation of man; forasmuch as in him, the glory and majesty of God were more particularly and gloriously to be manifested. All the other creatures bear upon them certain marks and signatures of divine goodness and power, but man is the very image and likeness of God. For it is not said, Let us make man in the image of the sun, or of the moon, or of the angels; but “in our likeness,” that our own image may be clearly represented in him.
21. Consider, therefore, the beauty and dignity of thy soul, which is created in the image and likeness of God, so that the glories of the divine majesty are, in a certain proportion, transferred to thee. How much reason have we then to avoid all impurity and uncleanness, that we defile not the beauty of the divine image. For if we are thereby exalted to the highest glory and honor that our nature is capable of, how unworthy and ungrateful would it be, to pollute it by any uncleanness, and so forfeit that glory which God has bestowed on us.
22. How highly is a picture or statue prized, that is well executed by an eminent hand! Could such a picture or statue be endued with understanding, how would it esteem its maker, and take all opportunities of showing its own gratitude, and its maker's glory! How senseless then, how ungrateful is man, to forget the hand that formed him! to despise that excellent beauty with which his Maker endued him! to pollute it with all kinds of impurity! Plato, himself, a pagan, has told us, that “the beauty of the soul consists in virtue and piety.” But did we only consider the union of our souls with God and Christ, the righteousness of Christ wherewith our souls are clothed, as with a garment of glory and immortality (Isa. 61:10), we should more easily understand what the true and inward beauty of our souls is, which depends entirely upon that of Jesus Christ. And if it be so, who can question but that the soul is most exquisitely beautiful, since it derives its beauty from Him who is beauty itself?
23. To this belongs that passage of 457 the prophet Ezekiel, “Thy renown went forth among the heathen for thy beauty; for it was perfect through my comeliness which I had put upon thee, saith the Lord God.” Ezek. 16: 14. If children partake of the beauty of their parents according to the flesh; it is reasonable to believe, that our souls, by spiritual regeneration, receive a spiritual beauty from God. Moreover, it cannot be doubted that they are the most beautiful of all creatures, since the Son of God himself does not disdain to betroth himself unto them, and to adorn them with his own light and beauty. Upon this account, the faithful soul is called, “a king's daughter, all glorious within, whose clothing is of wrought gold.” Ps. 45:15. If a plebeian woman be ennobled by marriage with a husband of quality, can we doubt but that the faithful soul, by being married to the most noble and beautiful spouse, shall also partake, in a high degree, of His beauty and glory. Upon this Irenæus has a fine thought. He says, that “the glory of man is God, but the receptacle of all the operations of divine wisdom and goodness, is man.”
24. Lastly, as it is beyond all controversy, that the most high God particularly delights to dwell in the soul of man; that he has sanctified it to be the temple of the Holy Ghost, the habitation of the Father, and the bride-chamber of the most beautiful spouse, the Lord Jesus Christ, we may therefore conclude that the soul is the most beautiful of all creatures. And as Ezekiel tells us that “our soul is perfected by the comeliness of God” (Ezek. 16:14); how great must that beauty, how rich must that attire, how transcendent must those ornaments be, which so great and noble a spouse can bestow upon the bride which he has prepared for himself? O how wonderful is this grace! How incredible is the beauty which God bestows upon human souls! Could it but be seen by mortal eyes, it must charm the most stupid beholder. And this beauty increases every day by our prayers, and devout approaches to God. So that “we are changed from glory to glory, as by the Spirit of the Lord.” 2 Cor. 3:18. For if the face of Moses, after conversing a few days with God, shone with the brightness of divine glory (Exod. 34:35); how much more shall our souls, by the same conversation, be enlightened and beautified with higher degrees of light and glory?—Of this subject we shall speak more fully in Part II, of this Fourth Book, which refers to man in particular.
|« Prev||Chapter VI.||Next »|