Ge 1:3 ¶ And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.

Ps 33:6, 9; 2Co 4:6

 

Verse 3.   And God said, Let there be light].  Nothing can be conceived more dignified than this form of expression. It argues at once uncontrollable authority, and omnific power; and in human language it is scarcely possible to conceive that God can speak more like himself.  This passage, in the Greek translation of the Septuagint, fell in the way of Dionysius Longinus, one of the most judicious Greek critics that ever lived, and who is highly celebrated over the civilized world for a treatise he wrote, entitled peri uqouv, Concerning the SUBLIME, both in prose and poetry; of this passage, though a heathen, he speaks in the following terms:- “So likewise the Jewish lawgiver (who was no ordinary man) having conceived a just idea of the Divine power, he expressed it in a dignified manner; for at the beginning of his laws he thus speaks: GOD SAID-What?  LET THERE BE LIGHT! and there was light.  LET THERE BE EARTH! and there was earth.”-  Longinus, sect. ix. edit. Pearce.

 

Many have asked, “How could light be produced on the first day, and the sun, the fountain of it, not created till the fourth day?” With the various and often unphilosophical answers which have been given to this question I will not meddle, but shall observe that the original word signifies not only light but fire, see Isa 31:9; Eze 5:2.  It is used for the SUN, Job 31:26.  And for the electric fluid or LIGHTNING, Job 37:3.  And it is worthy of remark that It is used in Isa 44:16, for the heat, derived from (the fire. He burneth part thereof in the fire yea, he warmeth himself, and saith, Aha!  I have seen the fire, which a modern philosopher who understood the language would not scruple to translate, I have received caloric, or an additional portion of the matter of heat.  I therefore conclude, that as God has diffused the matter of caloric or latent heat through every part of nature, without which there could be neither vegetation nor animal life, that it is caloric or latent heat which is principally intended by the original word.

 

That there is latent light, which is probably the same with latent heat, may be easily demonstrated: take two pieces of smooth rock crystal, agate, cornelian or flint, and rub them together briskly in the dark, and the latent light or matter of caloric will be immediately produced and become visible.  The light or caloric thus disengaged does not operate in the same powerful manner as the heat or fire which is produced by striking with flint and steel, or that produced by electric friction.  The existence of this caloric-latent or primitive light, may be ascertained in various other bodies; it can be produced by the flint and steel, by rubbing two hard sticks together, by hammering cold iron, which in a short time becomes red hot, and by the strong and sudden compression of atmospheric air in a tube. Friction in general produces both fire and light.  God therefore created this universal agent on the first day, because without It no operation of nature could be carried on or perfected.

 

Light is one of the most astonishing productions of the creative skill and power of God.  It is the grand medium by which all his other works are discovered, examined, and understood, so far as they can be known.  Its immense diffusion and extreme velocity are alone sufficient to demonstrate the being and wisdom of God.  Light has been proved by many experiments to travel at the astonishing rate of 194,188 miles in one second of time! and comes from the sun to the earth in eight minutes 11 43/50 seconds, a distance of 95,513,794 English miles.

 

 4 And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness. {the light from…: Heb. between the light and between the darkness}

 

Verse 4.  God divided the light from the darkness.] This does not imply that light and darkness are two distinct substances, seeing darkness is only the privation of light; but the words simply refer us by anticipation to the rotation of the earth round its own axis once in twenty-three hours, fifty-six minutes, and four seconds, which is the cause of the distinction between day and night, by bringing the different parts of the surface of the earth successively into and from under the solar rays; and it was probably at this moment that God gave this rotation to the earth, to produce this merciful provision of day and night.

 

Ge 1:14 ¶ And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years: {the day…: Heb. between the day and between the night}

De 4:19; Ps 74:16-17; 104:19; 136:5-9

 

Verse 14.  And God said, Let there be lights] One principal office of these was to divide between day and night.  When night is considered a state of comparative darkness, how can lights divide or distinguish it?  The answer is easy: The sun is the monarch of the day, which is the state of light; the moon, of the night, the state of darkness.  The rays of the sun, falling on the atmosphere, are refracted and diffused over the whole of that hemisphere of the earth immediately under his orb; while those rays of that vast luminary which, because of the earth’s smallness in comparison of the sun, are diffused on all sides beyond the earth, falling on the opaque disc of the moon, are reflected back upon what may be called the lower hemisphere, or that part of the earth which is opposite to the part which is illuminated by the sun: and as the earth completes a revolution on its own axis in about twenty-four hours, consequently each hemisphere has alternate day and night.  But as the solar light reflected from the face of the moon is computed to be 50,000 times less in intensity and effect than the light of the sun as it comes directly from himself to our earth, (for light decreases in its intensity as the distance it travels from the sun increases,) therefore a sufficient distinction is made between day and night, or light and darkness, notwithstanding each is ruled and determined by one of these two great lights; the moon ruling the night, i.e., reflecting from her own surface back on the earth the rays of light which she receives from the sun. Thus both hemispheres are to a certain degree illuminated: the one, on which the sun shines, completely so; this is day: the other, on which the sun’s light is reflected by the moon, partially; this is night.  It is true that both the planets and fixed stars afford a considerable portion of light during the night, yet they cannot be said to rule or to predominate by their light, because their rays are quite lost in the superior splendour of the moon’s light.

 

And let them be for signs]. Let them ever be considered as continual tokens of God’s tender care for man, and as standing proofs of his continual miraculous interference; for so the word is often used.  And is it not the almighty energy of God that upholds them in being?  The sun and moon also serve as signs of the different changes which take place in the atmosphere, and which are so essential for all purposes of agriculture, commerce.

 

For seasons] For the determination of the times on which the sacred festivals should be held.  In this sense the word frequently occurs; and it was right that at the very opening of his revelation God should inform man that there were certain festivals which should be annually celebrated to his glory.  Some think we should understand the original word as signifying months, for which purpose we know the moon essentially serves through all the revolutions of time.

 

For days] Both the hours of the day and night, as well as the different lengths of the days and nights, are distinguished by the longer and shorter spaces of time the sun is above or below the horizon.

 

And years.] That is, those grand divisions of time by which all succession in the vast lapse of duration is distinguished.  This refers principally to a complete revolution of the earth round the sun, which is accomplished in 365 days, 5 hours, 48 minutes, and 48 seconds; for though the revolution is that of the earth, yet it cannot be determined but by the heavenly bodies.

 

16 And God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night: he made the stars also. {to rule the day…: Heb. for the rule of the day}

Job 38:7; Ps 8:3; 136:7-9; 148:3,5

 

Verse 16.   And God made two great lights] Moses speaks of the sun and moon here, not according to their bulk or solid contents, but according to the proportion of light they shed on the earth. The expression has been cavilled at by some who are as devoid of mental capacity as of candour.  “The moon,” say they, “is not a great body; on the contrary, it is the very smallest in our system.”  Well, and has Moses said the contrary?  He has said it is a great LIGHT; had he said otherwise he had not spoken the truth.  It is, in reference to the earth, next to the sun himself, the greatest light in the solar system; and so true is it that the moon is a great light, that it affords more light to the earth than all the planets in the solar system, and all the innumerable stars in the vault of heaven, put together.  It is worthy of remark that on the fourth day of the creation the sun was formed, and then “first tried his beams athwart the gloom profound;” and that at the conclusion of the fourth millenary from the creation, according to the Hebrew, the Sun of righteousness shone upon the world, as deeply sunk in that mental darkness produced by sin as the ancient world was, while teeming darkness held the dominion, till the sun was created as the dispenser of light.  What would the natural world be without the sun?  A howling waste, in which neither animal nor vegetable life could possibly be sustained. And what would the moral world be without Jesus Christ, and the light of his word and Spirit? Just what those parts of it now are where his light has not yet shone: “dark places of the earth, filled with the habitations of cruelty,” where error prevails without end, and superstition, engendering false hopes and false fears, degrades and debases the mind of man.

 

Many have supposed that the days of the creation answer to so many thousands of years; and that as God created all in six days, and rested the seventh, so the world shall last six thousand years, and the seventh shall be the eternal rest that remains for the people of God. To this conclusion they have been led by these words of the apostle, 2Pe 3:8: One day is with the Lord as a thousand years; and a thousand years as one day.  Secret things belong to God; those that are revealed to us and our children. I say this is absurd for the two verses speaks not for each other but different circumstances, whereas the former is literal the other is prophetic.

 

He made the stars also.]  Or rather, He made the lesser light, with the stars, to rule the night.

 

OF THE SUN

On the nature of the sun there have been various conjectures. It was long thought that he was a vast globe of fire 1,384,462 times larger than the earth, and that he was continually emitting from his body innumerable millions of fiery particles, which, being extremely divided, answered for the purpose of light and heat without occasioning any ignition or burning, except when collected in the focus of a convex lens or burning glass.  Against this opinion, however, many serious and weighty objections have been made; and it has been so pressed with difficulties that philosophers have been obliged to look for a theory less repugnant to nature and probability.  Dr. Herschel’s discoveries by means of his immensely magnifying telescopes, have, by the general consent of philosophers, added a new habitable world to our system, which is the SUN.  Without stopping to enter into detail, which would be improper here, it is sufficient to say that these discoveries tend to prove that what we call the sun is only the atmosphere of that luminary; “that this atmosphere consists of various elastic fluids that are more or less lucid and transparent; that as the clouds belonging to our earth are probably decompositions of some of the elastic fluids belonging to the atmosphere itself, so we may suppose that in the vast atmosphere of the sun, similar decompositions may take place, but with this difference, that the decompositions of the elastic fluids of the sun are of a phosphoric nature, and are attended by lucid appearances, by giving out light.”  The body of the sun he considers as hidden generally from us by means of this luminous atmosphere, but what are called the maculae or spots on the sun are real openings in this atmosphere, through which the opaque body of the sun becomes visible; that this atmosphere itself is not fiery nor hot, but is the instrument which God designed to act on the caloric or latent heat; and that heat is only produced by the solar light acting upon and combining with the caloric or matter of fire contained in the air, and other substances which are heated by it. This ingenious theory is supported by many plausible reasons and illustrations, which may be seen in the paper he read before the Royal Society.

 

OF THE MOON

There is scarcely any doubt now remaining in the philosophical world that the moon is a habitable globe.  The most accurate observations that have been made with the most powerful telescopes have confirmed the opinion.  The moon seems, in almost every respect, to be a body similar to our earth; to have its surface diversified by hill and dale, mountains and valleys, rivers, lakes, and seas.  And there is the fullest evidence that our earth serves as a moon to the moon herself, differing only in this, that as the earth’s surface is thirteen times larger than the moon’s, so the moon receives from the earth a light thirteen times greater in splendour than that which she imparts to us; and by a very correct analogy we are led to infer that all the planets and their satellites, or attendant moons, are inhabited, for matter seems only to exist for the sake of intelligent beings.

 

OF THE STARS

The STARS in general are considered to be suns, similar to that in our system, each having an appropriate number of planets moving round it; and, as these stars are innumerable, consequently there are innumerable worlds, all dependent on the power, protection, and providence of God.  Where the stars are in great abundance, Dr. Herschel supposes they form primaries and secondaries, i.e., suns revolving about suns, as planets revolve about the sun in our system.  He considers that this must be the case in what is called the milky way, the stars being there in prodigious quantity.  Of this he gives the following proof: On August 22, 1792, he found that in forty-one minutes of time not less than 258,000 stars had passed through the field of view in his telescope.  What must God be, who has made, governs, and supports so many worlds!

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