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Paul intended to convey the meaning supposed, he would have said, who was before every creature,' (which is what these Fathers contend the words sigrify, though not without violence to the language) not, who was the first born of every creature,' an expression which clearly has a superlative, and at the same time to a certain extent partitive sense, in so far as production may be considered as a kind of
generation and creation ; but by no means in so far as the title of first born among men may be here applied to Christ, seeing that he is termed first born, not only in respect of dignity, but also of time. v. 16. “for by him were all things created that are in heaven.'
Nor is the passage in Prov. viii. 22, 23. of more weight, even if it be admitted that the chapter in general is to be understood with reference to Christ: • Jehovah possessed me in the beginning of his way before his works of old : I was set up from everlasting. '* For that which was possessed' and set up,' could not be the primary cause.
Even a creature, however, is called the beginning of the ways of God, Job xl. 19. he (behemoth) is the chief (principium) of the ways of God.' As to the eighth chapter of Proverbs, it appears to me that it is not the son of God who is there introduced as the speaker, but a poetical personification of wisdom, as in Job xxviii. 20-27. whence then cometh wisdom ?-then did he see it.'
Another argument is brought from Isai. xlv. 12, 23. · I have made the earth....unto me every knee shall bow.' It is contended that this is spoken of Christ, on the authority of St. Paul, Rom. xiv. 10, 11. we shall all stand before the judgement seat of Christ: for it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me. But it is evident from the parallel passage Philipp. ii. 9—11. that this is said of God the Father, by whose gift the Son has received that judgement seat and all judgement, 'that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow....to the glory of God the Father;' or, which means the same thing, every tongue shall confess to God.'
* See Waterland's Seventh Sermon on Christ's Divinity, &c. Works, Vol. II. 144.
And Spirit. Gen. i. 2. the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters ;* that is, his divine power, rather than any person, as has been already shown in the sixth chapter, on the Holy Spirit. For if it were a person, why is the Spirit named, to the exclusion of the Son, by whom we so often read that the world was created ? unless indeed that Spirit were Christ, to whom, as has been before proved, the name of Spirit is sometimes given in the Old Testament. However this may be, and even if it should be admitted to have been a person, it seems at all events to have been only a subordinate minister: God is first described as creating the heaven and the earth ; the
* Spiritus Dei incubabat. The word incubabat properly signifies brooded, as a bird over her eggs; and the beauty of the original image, which is not retained in our authorized translation, has been twice preserved with great effect in the Paradise Lost.
Thou from the first
On the wat’ry calm
Throughout the fluid mass. VII. 234.
Spirit is only represented as moving upon the face of the waters already created. So Job xxvi. 13. óby his Spirit he hath garnished the heavens,' Psal. xxxiii. 6. by the word of Jehovah were the heavens made, and all the host of them by the breath (spiritu) of his mouth.' Now the person of the Spirit does not seem to have proceeded more from the mouth of God than from that of Christ, who shall consume that wicked one with the spirit of his mouth,' 2 Thess. ii. 8. compared with Isai. xi. 4. “the rod of his mouth.'
By his will. Psal. cxxxv. 6. whatsoever Jehovah pleased, that did he in heaven and earth.' Rev. iv. 11. “for thy pleasure they are and were created.'
For the manifestation of the glory of his power and goodness. Gen. i. 31. God saw every thing that he had made, and behold, it was very good.' See also 1 Tim. iv. 4. Psal. xix. 1. the heavens declare the glory of God.' Prov. xvi. 4. Jehovah hath made all things for himself.' Acts xiv. 15. that ye should turn from these vanities unto the living God which made heaven and earth and the sea, and all things that are therein.' xvii. 24. God that made the world and all things therein.' Rom. i. 20. ‘for his eternal power and Godhead are clearly seen.'
Thus far it has appeared that God the Father is the primary and efficient cause of all things. With regard to the original matter of the universe, however, there has been much difference of opinion. * Most
* The object of the next pages is to prove that the world was not created out of nothing. An intimation of this opinion occurs incidentally in Paradise Lost.
Fool, not to think how vain
of the moderns contend that it was formed from nothing, a basis as unsubstantial as that of their own theory.* In the first place, it is certain that neither the Hebrew verb X72, nor the Greek xtífelv, nor the Latin creare, can signify to create out of nothing.t On the contrary, these words uniformly signify to create out of matter. Gen. 1. 21, 27. God created ....every living creature which the waters brought forth abundantly.... male and female created he them.' Isai. liv. 16. . behold, I have created the smith....I have created the waster to destroy.' To allege, therefore, that creation signifies production out of nothing, is, as logicians say, to lay down premises without a proof; for the passages of Scripture commonly quoted for this purpose, are so far from confirming the received opinion, that they rather imply the contrary, namely, that all things were not made out of nothing. 2 Cor. iv. 6. God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness.' That this darkness was far from being a mere negation, is clear from Isai. xlv. 7. “I am Jehovah ; I form the light, and create darkness. If the darkness be nothing, God in creating darkness created nothing, or in other words, he created and did not create,which is a contradiction. Again, what we are required “to understand through faith' respecting the worlds,’ is merely this, that
Who out of smallest things could without end
Thy folly. VI. 135. where Newton rightly observes, that Milton did not favour the opinion that the creation was out of nothing.
* So Drusius, Paulus Fagius, Estius, &c, and nearly all the English commentators. Tillotson takes occasion to reply to the objections raised against the doctrine, in his sermon On the Power of God, from Psal. lxii. 11. With regard to the opinion of the Fathers, Lactantius says, (De Orig. Error. lib. ii.) Nemo quærat ex quibus ista materiis tam magna, tam mirifica opera Deus fecerit; omnia enim fecit ex nihilo.' Tertullian, (Advers. Hermog. cap. xlv.) •Igitur in quantum constitit materiam nullam fuisse, ex hoc etiam quod nec talem competat fuisse qualis inducitur, in tantum probatur omnia a Deo ex nihilo facta.' Justin. (Aristotel. Dogm. evers.) si oštws lorin nüan kylvyntos, és ó Osos, xai δύναται ο Θεός εκ του αγεννήτου ποιήσαι τι, δηλον ως δύναται ο Θιός, και εκ του απλώς μη όντος ποιήσαι τι.
† See this argument answered by Beveridge, Exposition of the First Article, Works, Vol. IX. p. 50.
the things which were seen were not made of things which do appear,'Heb. xi. 3. Now the things which do not appear' are not to be considered as synonymous with nothing, (for nothing does not admit of a plural, nor can a thing be made and compacted together out of nothing, as out of a number of things)* but the meaning is, that they do not appear as they now are. The apocryphal writers, whose authority may be considered as next to that of the Scriptures, speak to the same effect.
Wisd. xi. 17. “thy almighty hand that made the world of matter without form.' 2 Macc. vii. 28. God made the earth and all that is therein of things that were not.' The expression in Matt. ii. 18. may be quoted, 'the children of Rachel are not.' This, however, does not mean properly that they are nothing, but that (according to a common Hebraism) they are no longer amongst the living.
It is clear then that the world was framed out of matter of some kind or other. For since action and passion are relative terms, and since, consequently,
* There seems to be an error in the Latin MS. in this passage. It stands thus-neque compingi ex multis tanquam ex nihilo quicquam potest. It is probable that a confusion has arisen in the arrangement of the words, and that they ought to have been written as follows neque compingi ex nihilo tanquam ex multis quicquam potest.