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God of the Bible demands. “The spirit that moved on the waters” (Narayana), whose attributes had never been understood or acknowledged by the people, was deprived of its originally pure character, and converted into a separate god Vishnu. It was believed that the latter assumed nine successive incarnations; that he offered himself up as a sacrifice, in order to create the world; and that he resigned his divine nature, and came down upon earth in human form, in order to deliver the world from evil. Besides Vishnu, Siva was added to Brahman, as a principal god; first both were equal, and then even superior to his power; these three, together with their wives, form the trinity, or trimurtis, representing the Creation, Preservation, and Destruction of the World. The old cosmogony of the Hindoos is, indeed, so indistinct and ambiguous, that it left ample scope for the most diverging interpretations; very different, and almost opposite, schools have founded their systems on the same texts. The Vedas and the Book of Manu, those ancient sources of Hindoo literature, gave rise and support, on the one hand, to the Purunas, with their gross and material idolatry; and, on the other hand, to the Vedantas, with their sublimizing and spiritualizing speculations. From the four Vedas alone eleven hundred different schools derived their tenets; and much disagreement and confusion exist in the Hindoo theology with regard to the gradation of persons intervening between the Supreme Being and the created world. No distinct system of thcology is derivable from the Vedas; in one place, Indra is the most powerful and the first of all gods; in another the sun: now three deities, the earth, the air, and the heaven, are mentioned, as eqnally potent and primeval, and now it is the great Spirit which is the soul of all beings; and often very different attributes are ascribed to the same deity. This vagueness of conception prevailing in the ancient religious books of the Hindoos, is acknowledged as a fundamental defect, even by the most profound students and
the most zealous admirers of Hindoo literature. No aberration of this kind could happen with regard to the Hebrew cosmogony. The first chapter of Genesis is, in spite of its sublimity and grandeur, so plain and simple, so calm and unequivocal, that a fanciful exposition is utterly impossible, and can only be attempted by those who defy all reasonable rules of a sound interpretation. If Mosaism has even been derived from the same soil as many other Eastern religions, the germs developed themselves freely and independently, and reached a degree of loftiness and vigour which they attained in no other creed.
The vast matter of the earth was covered with water, as with a garment." But over this shapeless chaos works, in mysterious majesty, the spirit of God; He hovers over the waters; He is not identical with matter, but its Lord, whose will stirs the stagnant mass; the chaos is no cause, not even a secondary one, of the world; and the infinitude of His wisdom and His love prepares a creation of order and beauty. The Cosmos is about to be framed.
If we were not accustomed to the most phantastical contortions of the Hebrew text, we should express our utter astonishment at the opinion, that between the first and second verse lie the fall of the angels, and the warfare of Satan, not mentioned for some recondite reason; that the consequence of this rebellion was the transformation of the originally beautiful world into a fathomless abyss, the government of Satan — but that hell and Satan were ultimately conquered by the spirit of God that watched over this desolation, so, however, that many beautiful parts of nature have been disfigured by the diabolical powers, and show no longer the pure work of God; or that “the first creation, which arose and perished thousands and, perhaps, millions of years before the appearance of man, was a failure, an ungodly perversion, in consequence of the interposition of Satan and his powers." The aberrations of profound minds, if they unfortunately indulge in mystic spe
3. And God said, Light be: and light was. 4. And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided
culations, are more dangerous, and often We resign with reluctance, from want of more absurd, than the empty superficia- space, the very interesting task of making lity of shallow reasoners. We suppress, a systematic comparison between the therefore, the almost endless reveries which Mosaic and the other ancient cosmogohave been based on the simple grandeur nies. The analogies are both surprising of our chapter; incredible theories have and instructive. At every step we meet been deduced from it; ingenuity and with familiar features. But the Biblical sophistry have been equally busy; truth account combines and concentrates the and error have been mixed; almost all valuable elements which are scattered in metaphysical theories of heathen and all, whilst it is absolutely free from the Christian philosophers have been dis- perverse and often absurdly phantastical covered in our text by far-sighted thinkers; traits which disfigure the rest. It has a - till, at last, the quiet, impartial critie, unity of principle prevading the whole, astonished and bewildered, sees himself which we elsewhere seek in vain; and launched on an infinite sea of mysticism, that principle, too, is at once simple, and needs all the energy of his mind to sublime, and eternal. The materials for reach again the safe shores of common such comparison are spread in numerous sense. Will our readers blame us, if we ancient works. We have, however, in do not notice this wild, and often unintel- the notes on the first chapters, tried to ligible, jargon ? We, for our own part, point out the similarity or divergence, confess, that nothing but the sense of the wherever this was feasible in a brief importance of our subject has armed us compass. with the necessary patience and courage.
FIRST DAY. LIGHT. VER. 3-5. The dreary, shapeless matter of the through an opening. Anaxagoras mainearth was sufficiently prepared for assum- tained, that the upper or ethereal world is ing order and organisation; God's loving filled with fire. Seneca observed, that, care had begun to spiritualise the in- occasionally, apertures are formed in ert mass by bringing its elements into the heavens through which we perceive motion. But as long as it was enclosed the flame occupying the background. in darkness, it had, practically, no exis- Huygens, in his description of the nebulæ tence; in order to call it positively and of Orion, remarks: “One would say, that virtually into being, it was necessary the celestial vault, being rent in that part, to make it visible and, therefore, allows us to see the more luminous regions the first Divine act was the creation of beyond”; and Halley writes, with regard Light; or rather its separation from the to the nebulæ of Orion and Andromeda: obscurer elements in which it had been “ In reality, these spots are nothing else enveloped (ver. 4). It will not be neces- than the light coming from the regions of sary to enter deeply into the long-disputed the ether filled with a diffuse and inquestion, how light was possible before herently luminous matter"; and the same the formation of the celestial bodies from astronomer, by no means orthodox in his which it emanates (ver. 14–19). It will theological views, remarks, with reference suffice to remind the reader, that ancient, to our question: “ These nebulæ reply and even more recent philosophers sup- fully to the difficulty which has been raised pose, beyond the sphere of the most distant against the Mosaic description of creation, stars, a region entirely luminous, an em- in asserting that light could be generated pyrean heaven; and they believe, that the without the sun. Nebulæ manifestly prove nebulæ are this bright region the contrary; several, in effect, offer no
between the light and between the darkness. 5. And God called the light Day, and the darkness He called Night. And it was evening, and it was morning; one day.
6. And God said, Let there be an expanse in the midst of the waters, and let it be a division between the waters and the waters. 7. And God made the expanse, and divided between the waters which were under the expanse, and between the waters which were above the expanse : and it was so.
trace of a star at their centre.” Whether the Hebrew writer, in supposing that light existed independently of the sun, intended to convey a similar idea, it is difficult to decide; he nowhere makes a distinct allusion to this theory; he seems, more probably, to hold, that on the first day the luminous matter was created, spreading through infinite space in its rarified state; but that, on the fourth day, it was condensed into the light-giving bodies for the benefit and advantage of the earth. Thus, we have another instance of the two chief acts of Divine creation; first, the production of matter, and then its arrangement and organization; it was necessary to point out, that light did not exist before the world; that man does not owe it to the sun or the moon, which it is, therefore, a criminal folly to worship; that it was not the primary matter of the universe, as Heraclitus and Empedocles maintained; but that it sprang into being by God's will and command. That, indeed, according to modern theories, lumi. nous nebulæ are the first materials of the world, if we go back to the origin of all things; that the sun is in itself no bright orb, but that its brilliancy is emitted from a highly luminous atmosphere which surrounds it, and which does not prevent the body itself from being inhabited; that the appearance of the zodiacal light or the aurora borealis seems to prove the existence of luminous matter besides the sun; and that light, like heat, exists in a latent or concealed state in every object of nature:
- these suppositions affect in no manner the Biblical narrative, neither where they are in harmony, nor where they are in antagonism with it; they concern us as little as the ludicrous query, whether God had, before the creation of light, been in darkness; or the still more absurd ques. tion, how God passed His time before the
Creation; and we leave these improprieties to the well-known severe and ironical strictures of St. Augustin and Luther. We might compare the results of our scientific researches with the notions of antiquity; this is a task both important and interesting ; but we must not expect to find the former identical with the latter; we cannot wish, that the human mind should have made no progress in the lapse of three millenniums: we cannot desire, that so much intense mental labour, so much earnest perseverance, should be wholly unrewarded. The human race is not, as heathen poets sang in gloomy despondency, doomed to the fruitless efforts of the Danaids, incessantly toiling, and never advancing; mankind has made progress in the knowledge of God; their intellects have penetrated deeper into the mysteries of His works;-let us hope, that their hearts have equally progressed in love and purity; that the increased light was attended by an increased warmth.
With striking sublimity the first Divine creation is introduced: “ And God said, Light be, and Light was.” “God speaks, and it exists, He commands, and it stands there”; the words of God imply behests; they are not mere sounds; they are things, they are essential objects; even heathen philosophers quoted our verse as an example of sublime diction; and the Hebrew language is peculiarly adapted for brief, pithy, and majestic exclamation; it is as lofty as it is concise; it is the language of religion, and the fit garment of those ideas, which were destined to humanize the world.
Light and darkness were mixed in the chaos; both are now separated, to form the distinction between day and night. But the darkness of night is widely different from the darkness of chaos; the former stands under the
8. And God called the expanse Heaven. And it was evening, and it was morning; a second day. influence of universal light; the latter languages signifies god, denotes the brilprevailed before the separation of the ele- liant or light-spreading Being. The ments, an impenetrable gloom. The gods of light and fire, of the air and the Persians counted, therefore, the night morning-dawn, are in the system of the among the beneficial and celestial things, Vedas among the earliest gods. That though no religion attached such holiness the Israelites, and many other ancient to light as that of Zoroaster, and though nations, counted their days from evenAhriman, the evil principle, was the prince ing to evening is universally known. of darkness, who had even maliciously Some tribes numbered the time ordinarily attempted to corrupt the pure and brilliant after nights; as, for instance, the Salii; light of Ormuzd, but was by this god and the English expressions, sennight hurled back into his abodes of dark- (seven-night), fortnight (fourteen-night),
We need not urge, that the astro- etc., remind us of the same usage. But nomical or sidereal day was impossible the origin of this custom is scarcely to be before the existence of the sun; the ex- traced back to the reminiscence of the first pression, "evening and morning, one day of creation, when a night of chaotic day,” denotes merely the space of time darkness was followed by a day of light; equivalent to our twenty-four hours, but it is to be referred to the lunar months the civil or calendar day, for which the and lunar years which formed the basis of Hebrew language has no proper term. chronology among many nations. In fact, Other cosmogonies, also, introduce light in other countries the days were differently before the san; the Great Spirit of the computed; the Indians and the later BaHindoos dispelled the gloom even before bylonians reckoned them from one sunrise the creation of the water; Ormuzd dwelt to the next; the Umbrians from noon from the beginning on a throne of light; to noon; the Roman priests, and the civil Indra, the god of light, was born before authorities, the Egyptians, and others, all other immortal deities; and the root like ourselves, from midnight to midwhich in many of the Indo-Germanic night.
SECOND DAY. HEAVEN. VER. 6-8.
The original matter called into existence by Divine omnipotence (ver. 1) partly consisted of, and partly was covered by, water (ver. 2); this chaotic mixture, at first involved in darkness, had been surrounded with light (vers. 3--5); but it formed still one undivided mass, withont shape or proportion; was, therefore, the next act of the celestial will to separate it into two well-balanced parts, which might individually be made the basis of further creations. The firmament, or expanse of heaven (ver.8) was framed. The clear blue sky became visible. It
consists of the condensed clouds, and assumes thus the appearance of a firm and solid substance. Thus the waters were partly congregated above this firmament, partly beneath it: the conglomerater matter was divided into heaven and earth, and the firmament marks the separation. The waters above it are reserved as the stores of rain; those beneath it form partly the vapours of the air, and partly the seas, streams, and fountains of the carth.- God calls the firmament heaven (ver. 8); it is, therefore, perfectly appropriate, if the regions above the firmament
9. And God said, Let the waters under the heaven be gathered to one place, and let the dry land appear: and it
10. And God called the dry land Earth; and the gathering of the waters He called Seas: and God saw that it was good.—11. And God said, Let the earth bring forth vegetation, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after its kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the earth: and it was so. 12. And the earth brought forth vegetation, the herb yielding seed after its kind, and the tree yielding fruit, whose seed is in itself, after its kind: and God saw that it was good. 13. And it was evening, and it was morning; a third day.
are designated as “heaven of heavens," or if the birds, which soar up towards
that upper region, are called “the birds of heaven."
THIRD Day. Dey LAND AND SEAS; VEGETATION. VER. 9-13. The earth, illumined by all-pervading form waters, there would have existed a light, was freed from the encumbering lifeless and unprofitable alternation of mass of water; an adequate portion was water and land; the aspect of our globe congregated in immeasurable distance would have undergone a change, but no above it, beyond a solid expanse intended essential improvement. We have, thereto mark this eternal division between fore, no right to ask how vegetation could heaven and earth. But still the terrestial exist and thrive before the creation of the body was, on its entire surface, covered with sun; according to the Biblical statement, the fluid element; still the earth offered the world and its endless contents were mithe appearance of one vast dreary water- raculously formed by the will of God; they desert, without variety, without life, with- are not the result of mere natural laws; out beauty. God had not employed His and that order of the days seems just omnipotence to no purpose; another act designed and intended to teach that the of His wisdom and power was necessary, vegetation was called forth by the omni. to render the creations of the preceding potence of God, and not by the influence days effective and useful. Variety was of the solar rays. The same Power which produced in the monotony of the chaotic had filled the womb of the earth with the waters by collecting them on certain seeds of vegetable life, made them appear places, and by making, on others, the and spread above its surface.—The fordry land visible; and life and beauty mation of the continents, as described in were called forth by clothing the dry land our text, agrees but very remotely with with verdure with the endless forms of that made probable by the geological the vegetable world. This was the work researches. For whilst the latter teach of the third day. It will, therefore, not us, that the same part of the globe was appear an irregularity, but an admirable many times alternately water and dry land, economy in the history of creation, that
and that volcanic eruptions were one those two acts were combined on the of the chief agencies of these changes, same day. By the mere division of the text declares, that at the begindry land from the water, our cosmogony ning of time the will of God made, would practically have made no material once for all, the permanent division beadvance; instead of the lifeless and uni- tween seas and continents; there was no