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29

When you hide your face, they are dismayed;

when you take away their breath, they die

and return to their dust.


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29 Thou shalt hide thy face, and they shall be afraid In these words, the Psalmist declares, that we stand or fall according to the will of God. We continue to live, so long as he sustains us by his power; but no sooner does he withdraw his life-giving spirit than we die. Even Plato knew this, who so often teaches that, properly speaking, there is but one God, and that all things subsist, or have their being only in him. Nor do I doubt, that it was the will of God, by means of that heathen writer, to awaken all men to the knowledge, that they derive their life from another source than from themselves. In the first place, the Psalmist asserts, that if God hide his face they are afraid; and, secondly, that if he take away their spirit they die, and return to their dust; by which words he points out, that when God vouchsafes to look upon us, that look gives us life, and that as long as his serene countenance shines, it inspires all the creatures with life. Our blindness then is doubly inexcusable, if we do not on our part cast our eyes upon that goodness which gives life to the whole world. The prophet describes step by step the destruction of living creatures, upon God’s withdrawing from them his secret energy, that from the contrast he may the better commend that continued inspiration, by which all things are maintained in life and rigor. He could have gone farther, and have asserted, that all things, unless upheld in being by God, would return to nothing; but he was content with affirming in general and popular language, that whatever is not cherished by Him falls into corruption. He again declares, that the world is daily renewed, because God sends forth his spirit In the propagation of living creatures, we doubtless see continually a new creation of the world. In now calling that God’s spirit, which he before represented as the spirit of living creatures, there is no contradiction. God sendeth forth that spirit which remains with him whither he pleases; and as soon as he has sent it forth, all things are created. In this way, what was his own he makes to be ours. But this gives no countenance to the old dream of the Manicheeans, which that filthy dog Servetus has made still worse in our own day. The Manicheeans said that the soul of man is a particle of the Divine Spirit, and is propagated from it as the shoot of a tree; but this base man has had the audacity to assert, that oxen, asses, and dogs, are parts of the divine essence. The Manichees at least had this pretext for their error, that the soul was created after the image of God; but to maintain this with respect to swine and cattle, is in the highest degree monstrous and detestable. Nothing was farther from the prophet’s intention, than to divide the spirit of God into parts, so that a portion of it should dwell essentially in every living creature. But he termed that the spirit of God which proceeds from him. By the way, he instructs us, that it is ours, because it is given us, that it may quicken us. The amount of what is stated is, that when we see the world daily decaying, and daily renewed, the life-giving power of God is reflected to us herein as in a mirror. All the deaths which take place among living creatures, are just so many examples of our nothingness, so to speak; and when others are produced and grow up in their room, we have in that presented to us a renewal of the world. Since then the world daily dies, and is daily renewed in its various parts, the manifest conclusion is, that it subsists only by a secret virtue derived from God.




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