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Lord’s Day 48, 2005

I reioyced, when they sayd to me, We wil go into the house of the Lord. Psalms 122:1, (Geneva Bible)

HYMN 3, S.M.
The nativity of Christ. Luke i.30, &c.; ii.10, &c.
by Isaac Watts
(1674-1748)

Behold, the grace appears!
The promise is fulfilled;
Mary, the wondrous virgin, bears,
And Jesus is the child.

[The Lord, the highest God,
Calls him his only Son;
He bids him rule the lands abroad,
And gives him David’s throne.

O’er Jacob shall he reign
With a peculiar sway;
The nations shall his grace obtain,
His kingdom ne’er decay.]

To bring the glorious news
A heav’nly form appears;
He tells the shepherds of their joys,
And banishes their fears.

“Go, humble swains,” said he,
“To David’s city fly;
The promised infant born to-day
Doth in a manger lie.”

“With looks and hearts serene,
Go visit Christ your King;
And straight a flaming troop was seen:
The shepherds heard them sing:

“Glory to God on high!
And heav’nly peace on earth;
Goodwill to men, to angels joy,
At the Redeemer’s birth!

[In worship so divine,
Let saints employ their tongues;
With the celestial hosts we join,
And loud repeat their songs:

“Glory to God on high!
And heav’nly peace on earth;
Goodwill to men, to angels joy,
At our Redeemer’s birth!”]

From The Psalms and Hymns of Isaac Watts. Hymns and Spiritual Songs. Book I. Collected from the Holy Scriptures.

Proverbs 24 (Geneva Bible)

1 Bee not thou enuious against euill men, neither desire to be with them.
2 For their heart imagineth destruction, and their lippes speake mischiefe.
3 Through wisdome is an house builded, and with vnderstanding it is established.
4 And by knowledge shall the chambers bee filled with all precious, and pleasant riches.
5 A wise man is strong: for a man of vnderstanding encreaseth his strength.
6 For with counsel thou shalt enterprise thy warre, and in the multitude of them that can giue counsell, is health.
7 Wisdome is hie to a foole: therefore he can not open his mouth in the gate.
8 Hee that imagineth to doe euill, men shall call him an autour of wickednes.
9 The wicked thought of a foole is sinne, and the scorner is an abomination vnto men.
10 If thou bee faint in the day of aduersitie, thy strength is small.
11 Deliuer them that are drawen to death: wilt thou not preserue them that are led to be slaine?
12 If thou say, Beholde, we knew not of it: he that pondereth the heartes, doeth not hee vnderstand it? And hee that keepeth thy soule, knoweth he it not? Will not he also recompense euery man according to his workes?
13 My sonne, eate hony, for it is good, and the hony combe, for it is sweete vnto thy mouth.
14 So shall the knowledge of wisdome be vnto thy soule, if thou finde it, and there shall be an ende, and thine hope shall not be cut off.
15 Laye no waite, O wicked man, against the house of the righteous, and spoyle not his resting place.
16 For a iust man falleth seuen times, and riseth againe: but the wicked fall into mischiefe.
17 Bee thou not glad when thine enemie falleth, and let not thine heart reioyce when hee stumbleth,
18 Least the Lorde see it, and it displease him, and he turne his wrath from him.
19 Fret not thy selfe because of the malicious, neither be enuious at the wicked.
20 For there shall bee none ende of plagues to the euill man: the light of the wicked shall bee put out.
21 My sonne feare the Lord, and the King, and meddle not with them that are sedicious.
22 For their destruction shal rise suddenly, and who knoweth the ruine of them both?
23 Also these things perteine to the wise, It is not good to haue respect of any person in iudgement.
24 He that saith to the wicked, Thou art righteous, him shall the people curse, and the multitude shall abhorre him.
25 But to them that rebuke him, shall be pleasure, and vpon them shall come the blessing of goodnesse.
26 They shall kisse the lippes of him that answereth vpright wordes.
27 Prepare thy worke without, and make readie thy thinges in the fielde, and after, builde thine house.
28 Be not a witnes against thy neighbour without cause: for wilt thou deceiue with thy lippes?
29 Say not, I wil doe to him, as he hath done to mee, I will recompence euery man according to his worke.
30 I passed by the fielde of the slouthfull, and by the vineyarde of the man destitute of vnderstanding.
31 And lo, it was al growen ouer with thornes, and nettles had couered the face thereof, and the stone wall thereof was broken downe.
32 Then I behelde, and I considered it well: I looked vpon it, and receiued instruction.
33 Yet a litle sleepe, a litle slumber, a litle folding of the handes to sleepe.
34 So thy pouertie commeth as one that traueileth by the way, and thy necessitie like an armed man.

Today’s exposition
is brought to us by
John Bunyan (1628-1688)

Last week we began John Bunyan’s Exposition of Genesis. Chapter I began with: I. Of God, and II. Of the Persons or Substances in the Godhead. We continue…

CHAPTER I.
III. Of the Creation of the World (Gen 1).

The Apostle saith, That “to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him, and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him” (1 Cor 8:6). “God that made the world” (Acts 17:24). “All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made” (John 1:3). This world therefore had a beginning, and was created by the God of heaven. Which work, because it is wonderful, and discovereth much of the greatness, of the wisdom and power of the eternal Godhead, it behoveth such poor mortals as we to behold these works of the mighty God, that thereby we may see how great he is, and be made to cry out, What is man! (Psa 8:3,4)

Now in the creation of the world we may consider several things; as, What was the order of God in this work? And, whether there was a secret or mystery in this work containing the truth of some higher thing? For the first of these:

Of the Order of God in Making the World.

[THE HEAVEN.]

Although God be indeed omnipotent, and not only can, but doth do whatsoever he will; and though to do his works he needeth not length of time; yet it pleased him best, in the creation of the world (though it could, had it pleased him, have done all by one only word) to proceed by degrees from one thing to another, to the completing of six days’ work in the making thereof.

And forasmuch as this work went on by degrees, now this thing, and then another, it may not be amiss, if in our discourse on this wonderful work, we begin where God began; and if we can, go wondering after him who hath thus wrought.

1. The first thing that God made was time; I say, it was time: All the plain in which he would build this beautiful world; he made nothing before, but in the beginning: “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth” (Gen 1:1). In the beginning of time. “For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is” (Exo 20:11). Therefore the first day must first have a beginning to be. Whatsoever was before time, was eternal; but nothing but God himself is eternal, therefore no creature was before time. Time, therefore, which was indeed the beginning, was the first of the creatures of God.

2. I think, the second of creatures that the Lord created, were the holy angels of God, they being called the morning stars, as created and shining in the morning of the world; and therefore they are said to be by, when the corner-stone of the universe was laid; that is, when he “laid the foundations” of the world: Then “the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy” (Job 5:4-7).

3. I think the third thing that the Lord created, was these large and copious heavens; for they are mentioned with respect to their being before the earth, or any visible creature. “In the beginning God created the heavens” (Gen 1:1), &c. Neither do I think that the heavens were made of that confused chaos that afterwards we read of. It is said, he stretched out the heavens as a curtain, and with his hand he hath spanned the heavens (Psa 104:2; Isa 40:22; 48:13).; intimating, that they were not taken out of that formless heap, but were immediately formed by his power. Besides, the Holy Ghost, treating of the creating of heaven and earth, he only saith, The earth was void, and without form; but no such thing of the heavens.

[THE EARTH.]

4. The fourth thing that God created, it was (in mine opinion) that chaos, or first matter, with which he in the six days framed this earth, with its appurtenances; for the visible things that are here below, seem to me to be otherwise put into being and order, than time, the angels, and the heavens, they being created in their own simple essence by themselves: But the things that are visibly here below, whatever their essence and nature be, they were formed of that first deformed chaos. “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth, and the earth was without form and void” (Gen 1:1,2). He saith not so of the heavens; they, as I said, were at first stretched forth as a curtain; indeed they were afterwards garnished with the beauty which we now behold; but otherwise they had, at their first instant of being, that form which now they have. This seems clear by the antithesis which the Holy Ghost put between them, God created the heaven and the earth, but “the earth was without form and void” (Gen 1:2). The earth was without form, &c., without order; things were together on a confused heap; the waters were not divided from the earth, neither did those things appear which are now upon the face of the earth; as man, and beast, fish, fowls, trees, and herbs; all these did afterwards shew themselves, as the word of God gave them being, by commanding their appearance, in what form, order, place and time he in himself had before determined; but all, I say, took their matter and substance of that first chaos, which he in the first day of the world had commanded to appear, and had given being to: And therefore ‘tis said, God said, Let the earth bring forth grass, herbs, trees, &c., (v 12) and that the waters brought forth the fish, and fowl, yea, even to the mighty whales (vv 21,22). Also the earth brought forth cattle, and creeping things (v 24). And that God made man of the dust of the ground (3:19). All these things therefore were made of, or caused by his word distinctly to appear, and be after its kind, of that first matter which he had before created by his word. Observe therefore, That the matter of all earthly things was made at the same instant, but their forming, &c., was according to the day in which God gave them their being, in their own order and kind. And hence it is said, that after that first matter was created, and found without form and void, that the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters; that is to work, and cause those things to appear in their own essence and form, which, as to matter and substance, was before created: Wherefore it follows, And God said, Let there be light; and God divided the light from the darkness, &c. Now he set to putting in frame that which before lay in disorder and confusion: And this was a great part of the six days’ work; I say, a great part, but not all; for (as I said) before that time, the angels, and the heavens were made; yea, after the beginning of the morning of the first day. I am of the belief, that other things also, that were formed after, were not made of that first chaos, as the sun, the moon, the stars, the light, the souls of men, and possibly the air, &c. The sun, and moon, and stars, are said to be made the fourth day, yet not of the body of heaven itself, much less, in my opinion, of any earthly matter: God made them, and set them in the firmament of heaven (vv 16,17). So the light that was made before, it seems to be a thing created after the heavens and the earth were created: Created, I say, as a thing that wanted a being before, any otherwise, than in the decree of God: and God said, Let there be light; Let it have a being (v 3). And so, though the body of man was made of the substance of earth, yet as to his soul, it is said, God breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living soul (2:7).

Whether there was a secret or mystery in this work, containing the truth of some higher thing.

Though God in very deed, by his eternal power, created heaven and earth of things that do not appear, we that are Christians believe: yet in this his wonderful work, neither his will or understanding did here terminate, or make a stop; but being infinite in wisdom, he made them, that both as to matter and manner, they might present unto us, as in a mystery, some higher and more excellent thing; in this wisdom he made them all. And hence it is that other things are also called a creation: As, 1. The essential conversion of a sinner (2 Cor 5:17). 2. The recovery of the church from a degenerate state (Rev 21:5).

And therefore, as Moses begins with the creation of the world, so John begins with the gospel of salvation (Gen 1:1; John 1:1). There is also besides many excellent things in the manner and order of the creation of the world, held forth to those that have understanding: Some of which I may touch upon by way of observation. But to begin with the first:

The first appearance of this earthy part of the world, is recorded to be but a formless and void heap or chaos; and such is man before a new creation: formless, I mean, as to the order of the Testament of Christ, and void of the holy order thereof: And hence Jeremiah, when he would set forth the condition of a wicked people, he doth it under this metaphor: “I beheld [saith he] the earth, and, lo, it was without form and void” (Jer 4:23). Indeed, the world would make this a type of Christ; to wit, a man of no form or comeliness (Isa 53:2). But ‘tis only true of themselves; they are without a New Testament impression upon them; they are void of the sovereign grace of God. So then the power of God gave the world a being, but by his word he set it in form and beauty; even as by his power he gives a being to man, but by his word he giveth him New Testament framing and glory (Eph 2:10-13). This is still followed by that which follows:

And darkness was upon the face of the deep (v 2).

The Deep here, might be a type of the heart of man before conversion; and so Solomon seems to intimate. Now as the darkness of this world did cover the face of this first chaos; so spiritual darkness the heart of the sons of men: and hence they are said to be darkened, to be in darkness, yea, to be very darkness itself.

“And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.”

A blessed emblem of the word of God in the matter of regeneration; for as the first chaos remained without form, and void, until the Spirit of God moved to work upon it, and by working, to put this world into frame and order; so man, as he comes into the world, abides a confused lump, an unclean thing; a creature without New Testament order, until by the Spirit of the Lord he is transformed into the image of Jesus Christ (Gal 1:15).

“And the Spirit of God moved upon the face.”

Solomon compares the heart to a man’s face; because as in the face may be discerned whether there is anger or otherwise; so by the inclinations of the heart are discovered the truth of the condition of the man, as to his state either for heaven or hell. And besides, as the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters; so in the work of our conversion, the Spirit of God beginneth with the heart of the sons of men; because the heart is the main fort (Acts 2:37). Now if the main fort be not taken, the adversary is still capable of making continual resistance. Therefore God first conquers the heart; therefore the Spirit of God moveth upon the face of our heart, when he cometh to convert us from Satan to God.

“And God said, Let there be light.”

This is the first thing with which God began the order of the creation; to wit, light, “Let there be light”: From which many profitable notes may be gathered, as to the order of God in the salvation of the soul. As,

1. When the Holy Ghost worketh upon us, and in us, in order to a new creation; he first toucheth our understanding, that great peace of the heart, with his spiritual illumination (Matt 4:16). His first word, in order to our conversion, is, Let there be light: light, to see their state by nature; light, to see the fruits and effects of sin; light, to see the truth and worth of the merits of Jesus Christ; light, to see the truth and faithfulness of God, in keeping promise and covenant with them that embrace salvation upon the blessed terms of the gospel of peace (Heb 10:32). Now that this word, Let there be light, was a semblance of the first work of the Holy Ghost upon the heart, compare it with that of Paul to the Corinthians; “For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness,” that is, at the beginning of the world, “hath shined in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Cor 4:6).

2. “And God said, Let there be light.” As here, the light of this world; so in conversion, the light of the New Testament of Christ, it comes by the word of God. No word, no light: therefore the apostle saith, He “hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel” (2 Tim 1:10). And therefore Paul saith again, That salvation is manifest through preaching, through the expounding or opening of the word of faith.

3. “And God said, Let there be light; and there was light”: He spake the word, and it was done; all that darkness that before did cover the face of the deep, could not now hinder the being of light. So neither can all the blindness and ignorance that is in the heart of man, hinder the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ (Rev 3:7). When it pleaseth God to reveal, it is revealed; when he openeth, none can shut: He said, Let there be light, and there was light.

And God saw that the light was good. Truly the light is good (saith Solomon) and a pleasant thing it is for the eye to behold the sun. It was good, because it was God’s creature; and so in the work of grace that is wrought in our hearts, that light of the new covenant, it is good, because it is God’s work, the work of his good pleasure (2 Thess 1:11); that good work which he hath not only begun, but promised to fulfil until the day of Jesus Christ (Phil 1:6).

God saw that the light was good. The darkness that before did cover the face of the waters, was not a creature of God, but a privation, or that which was caused by reason that light was not as yet in the world: so sin, that darkness that might be felt, is not the workmanship of God in the soul, but that which is the work of the devil; and that taketh occasion to be, by reason that the true light, as yet, doth not shine in the soul.

“And God divided the light from the darkness.” As Paul saith, What communion hath light with darkness? they cannot agree to dwell together (2 Cor 6:14). We see the night still flies before the day, and dareth not come upon us again, but as the light diminisheth and conveyeth itself away. So it is in the new creation; before the light of the glorious gospel of Christ appears, there is night, all night, in the soul (Eph 5:8): but when that indeed doth shine in the soul, then for night there is day in the soul: “Ye were darkness [saith Paul] but now are ye light in the Lord” (v 9): And, “The darkness is past [saith John] and the true light now shineth” (1 John 2:8).

“And God divided the light from the darkness.”

God took part with the light, and preserved it from the darkness. By these words, it seems that darkness and light began the quarrel, before that bloody bout of Cain and Abel (Gal 5:17). The light and the darkness struggled together, and nothing could divide or part them but God. Darkness is at implacable enmity with light in the creation of the world; and so it is in that rare work of regeneration, the flesh lusteth against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh; as Peter saith, Fleshly lusts, they war against the soul. This every Christian feels, and also that which I mentioned before, namely, That before he be capable of opposing antichrist, with Abel, in the world, he findeth a struggling in his own soul between the light and the darkness that is there.

“And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night.”

God doth not only distinguish by separating, but also by certain characters; that things which are distinguished and separate, may to us be the better known; he did so here in the work of creating the world, and he doth so also in the great concern of man’s eternal happiness. The place of felicity is called heaven: The place of torment is called hell: that which leads to hell is called sin, transgression, iniquity, and wickedness; that which leads to heaven, righteousness, holiness, goodness and uprightness: even as in these types God called the light day, of which the godly are the children (1 Thess 5:5); but the darkness he called night, of which all ungodly men are the inhabiters and children also. Thus after the Spirit of God had moved upon the face of the waters; after God had commanded the light to shine, and had divided between the light and the darkness, and had characterized them by their proper names, he concludes the first day’s work, “And the evening and the morning were the first day.” In which conclusion there is wrapped up a blessed gospel-mystery; for God, by concluding the first day here, doth shew us how we ought to determine that one is made indeed a Christian: Even then when the Spirit of God hath moved upon the face of the heart, when he hath commanded that light should be there, when he divideth between, or setteth the light at variance with the darkness; and when the soul doth receive the characters of both, to observe them, and carry it to each according to the mouth of God.

“And God saith, Let there be a firmament” (v 6).

This firmament he calleth heaven (v 8). Now this firmament, or heaven, was to make a separation, or to divide between the waters and the waters (v 7); To separate, I say, the waters from the waters; the waters which were under the firmament, from the waters which were above the firmament. Now by waters is signified in the scriptures many things, as afflictions, worldly people (Psa 69:1,2), and particularly the saints (Rev 19:6); but in this place is figured forth, all the people in the world, but so as consisting of two parts, the children of God, and the children of the wicked one: They under the heaven, figure out the world, or ungodly: they above the firmament, the elect and chosen of God. And hence in scripture the one is called heaven, and the other is called earth, to signify the separation and difference that there is between the one and the other.

“And God made the firmament, and divided the waters - from the waters.”

Indeed the world think that this separation comes, or is made, through the captiousness of the preacher: But in truth it is the handy work of God; And God made the firmament, and God divided, &c. “I,” saith he, “will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed” (Gen 3:15). The good seed are the children of the kingdom of God, but the bad are the children of the wicked one (Matt 13:38).

“And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament, from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so” (v 7).

Whatsoever the Lord doth, it abideth for ever (Eccl 3:14). And again, What he hath made crooked, who can make straight? (Eccl 1:15). He said it in the beginning, and behold how it hath continued! Yea, though there hath been endeavours on Satan’s part, to mingle his children with the seed of men; yet it hath not been possible they should ever cleave one to another, “even as iron is not mixed with clay” (Dan 2:43). Yea, let me add further, What laws have been made, what blood hath been shed, what cruelty hath been used, and what flatteries and lies invented, and all to make these two waters and people one? And yet all hath failed, and fallen short of producing the desired effect; for the Lord hath made a firmament, even heaven itself hath divided between them.

“And God called the firmament heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day” (v 8).

These entries are quite lengthy, I know. I am breaking Bunyan’s commentary into as small segments as I believe I can without losing continuity. I realize that many people lack the attention span to read them. I hope those of you who persevere to the end are blessed by the work of this great Puritan.

Heidelberg Catechism for Lord’s Day 48 from CoffeeSwirls.

Grace and peace to you this Lord’s Day.

2005-11-27 at 12:01 AM MT | |