The Book in General, and the First day’s Creation
It is common for the writers of other histories to go back in their researches as far as possible; but Moses traces his from the beginning. The whole book is upon the origin of things, even of all things that had a beginning. The visible creation, the generations of man, moral evil among men, the spiritual kingdom of the Messiah, the new world, the church in the family of Abraham, the various nations and tribes of man; every thing, in short, now going on in the world, may be traced hither as to its spring-head. Without this history the world would be in total darkness, not knowing whence it came, nor whither it goeth. In the first page of this sacred book a child may learn more in an hour than all the philosophers in the world learned without it in thousands of years.
There is a majestic sublimity in the introduction. No apology, preamble, or account of the writer: you are introduced at once into the very heart of things. No vain conjectures about what was before time, nor why things were done thus and thus; but simply so it was.
In this account of the creation nothing is said on the being of God; this great truth is taken for granted. May not this apparent omission be designed to teach us that those who deny the existence of a Deity are rather to be rebuked than reasoned with? All reasoning and instruction must proceed upon some principle or principles, and what can be more proper than this? Those writers who have gone about to prove it, have, in my opinion, done but little, if any, good; and in many instances have only set men a doubting upon a subject which is so manifest from every thing around them as to render the very heathens without excuse, Rom. 1:20.
The foundation of this vast fabric is laid in an adequate cause—Elohim, The Almighty. Nothing else would bear it. Man, if he attempt to find an adequate cause for what is, to the overlooking of God, shall but weary himself with very vanity.
The writer makes use of the plural term Elohim, which yet is joined to singular verbs. This has been generally thought to intimate the doctrine of a plurality in the unity of the Godhead. It is certain the Scriptures speak of the Son and Holy Spirit as concerned in creation, as well as the Father, John 1:1; Gen. 1:2. Nor can I, on any other supposition, affix a consistent meaning to such language as that which afterwards occurs: “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.”—“Behold, the man is become like one of us.”
The account given by Moses relates not to the whole creation, but merely to what it immediately concerns us to know. God made angels; but nothing is said of them. The moon is called one of the greater lights, not as to what it is in itself, but what it is to us. The Scriptures are written, not to gratify curiosity, but to nourish faith. They do not stop to tell you how, nor to answer a number of questions which might be asked; but tell you so much as is necessary, and no more.
Ver. 1, 2. The first act of creation seems to have been general, and the foundation of all that followed. What the heavens were when first produced, previously to the creation of the sun, moon, and stars, it did not greatly concern us to know, and therefore we are not told. What the earth was we are informed in verse 2. It was a chaos, without form, and void; a confused mass of earth and water, covered with darkness, and void of all those fruits which afterwards covered the face of it. As regeneration is called a creation, this may fitly represent the state of the soul while under the dominion of sin.—“The Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.” The word signifies as much as brooded; and so is expressive of “an active, effectual energy, agitating the vast abyss, and infusing into it a powerful vital principle.” Hence those lines of Milton:—
“And chiefly thou, O Spirit——
——that, with mighty wings outspread,
Dove-like, satt’st brooding on the vast abyss,
And mad’st it pregnant.”
Thus also God hath wrought upon the moral world, which, under sin, was without form, and void; and thus he operates upon every individual mind, causing it to bring forth fruit unto himself.
Ver. 3. From a general account of the creation, the sacred writer proceeds to particulars; and the first thing mentioned is the production of light. The manner in which this is related has been considered as an example of the sublime. It expresses a great event in a few simple words, and exhibits the Almighty God perfectly in character: “He speaks, and it is done; he commands, and it stands fast.” The work of the Holy Spirit upon the dark soul of man is fitly set forth in allusion to this great act of creation: “God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined into our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” As soon might chaos have emerged from its native darkness as our benighted world, or benighted souls, have found the light of life of their own accord. Nor was it sufficient to have furnished us with a revelation from heaven: the same almighty power that was necessary to give material light a being in the world was necessary to give spiritual light a being in the heart.
The light here mentioned was not that of the sun, which was created afterwards. Hence a late infidel writer has raised an objection against the Scriptures, that they speak of light, and even of night and day, which are well known to arise from the situation of the earth towards the sun, before the sun was made. But he might as well have objected that they speak of the earth in ver. 1, 2, and yet afterwards tell us of the dry land, as separated from the waters, constituting the earth, ver. 9, 10. The truth seems to be, that what chaos was to the earth, that the light was to the sun: the former denotes the general principles of which the latter was afterwards composed. A flood of light was produced on the first day of creation, and on the fourth it was collected and formed into distinct bodies. And though these bodies, when made, were to rule day and night, yet, prior to this, day and night were ruled by the Creator’s so disposing of the light and darkness as to divide them, ver. 4. That which was afterwards done ordinarily by the sun was now done extraordinarily by the division of darkness and light.
Ver. 4. “God saw the light that it was good.” Light is a wonderful creature, full of goodness to us. This is sensibly felt by those who have been deprived of it, either by the loss of sight, or by confinement in dungeons or mines. How pathetically does our blind poet lament the loss of it:—
“Seasons return; but not to me returns
Day, or the sweet approach of even or morn,
Or sight of vernal bloom, or summer’s rose,
Or flocks, or herds, or human face divine:
But cloud instead, and ever-during dark
Surrounds me! From the cheerful ways of men
Cut off; and, for the book of knowledge fair,
Presented with a universal blank
Of natures’s works, to me expunged and rased
And wisdom at one entrance quite shut out!”
If such be the value of material light, how much more of that which is mental and spiritual! and how much are we indebted to the Holy Spirit of God for inditing the Scriptures, and opening our benighted minds to understand them!
Excerpt from: Discourse One – “The Book in General and the First Days of Creation,” in Expositiory Discourses on the Book of Genesis.
Fuller, A. G. (1988). The Complete Works of Andrew Fuller: Expositions—Miscellaneous. (J. Belcher, Ed.) (Vol. 3, pp. 2–4). Harrisonburg, VA: Sprinkle Publications.