Subscribe for ad free access & additional features for teachers. Authors: 267, Books: 3,607, Poems & Short Stories: 4,435, Forum Members: 71,154, Forum Posts: 1,238,602, Quizzes: 344

Chapter 9

SERMON X.--GOD'S WORLD

(Preached before the Prince of Wales, at Sandringham, 1866.)

GENESIS i. 1.

In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.



It may seem hardly worth while to preach upon this text. Every one
thinks that he believes it. Of course--they say--we know that God
made the world. Teach us something we do not know, not something
which we do. Why preach to us about a text which we fully
understand, and believe already?

Because, my friends, there are few texts in the Bible more difficult
to believe than this, the very first; few texts which we need to
repeat to ourselves again and again, in all the chances and changes
of this mortal life; lest we should forget it just as we feel we are
most sure of it.

We know that it was very difficult for people in olden times to
believe it. Else why did all the heathens of old, and why do all
heathens now, worship idols?

We know that the old Jews, after it had been revealed to them, found
it very difficult to believe it. Else why were they always deserting
the worship of God, and worshipping idols and devils, sun, moon, and
stars, and all the host of heaven?

We know that the early Christians, in spite of the light of the
Gospel and of God's Spirit, found it very difficult to believe it.
Doubtless they believed it a thousand times more fully than it had
ever been believed before. They would have shrunk with horror from
saying that any one but God had made the heavens and the earth. But
Christians clung, for many hundred years, even almost up to our own
day, to old heathen superstitions, which they would have cast away if
their faith had been full, and if they had held with their whole
hearts and souls and minds, that there was one God, of whom are all
things. They believed that the Devil and evil spirits had power to
raise thunderstorms, and blight crops, and change that course of
nature of which the Psalmist had said, that all things served God,
and continued this day as at the beginning, for God had given them a
law which could not be broken. They believed in magic, and
astrology, and a hundred other dreams, which all began from secret
disbelief that God made the heaven and the earth; till they fancied
that the Devil could and would teach men the secrets of nature, and
the way to be rich and great, if they would but sell their souls to
him. They believed, in a word, the very atheistic lie which Satan
told to our blessed Lord, when he said that all the kingdoms of the
world and the glory of them were his, and to whomsoever he would he
gave them--instead of believing our Lord's answer, 'Get thee behind
me, Satan: it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and
him only shalt thou serve.'

And therefore I tell you here--as the Church has told Christian
people in all ages--that if any of you have any fancy for such
follies, any belief in charms and magic, any belief that you can have
your fortunes told by astrologers, gipsies, or such like, you must go
back to your Bible, and learn better the first text in it. 'In the
beginning God created the heaven and the earth.' God's is the
kingdom, and the power, and the glory, of all things visible and
invisible; all the world round us, with its wonderful secrets, is
governed, from the sun over our heads, to the smallest blade of grass
beneath our feet, by God, and by God alone, and neither evil spirit
nor magician has the smallest power over one atom of it; and our
fortunes, in likewise, do not depend on the influences of stars or
planets, ghosts or spirits, or anything else: but on ourselves, of
whom it is written, that God shall judge every man according to his
works.

Even now, in these very days, many good people are hardly able, it
seems to me, to believe with their whole hearts that God made heaven
and earth. They half believe it: but their faith is weak; and when
it is tried, they grow frightened, and afraid of truth. This it is
which makes so many good people afraid of what is now called Science--of all new discoveries about the making of this earth, and the
powers and virtues of the things about us; afraid of wonders which
are become matters of course among us, but of which our forefathers
knew little or nothing. They are afraid lest these things should
shake people's faith in the Bible, and in Christianity; lest men
should give up the good old faith of their forefathers, and fancy
that the world is grown too wise to believe in the old doctrines.
One cannot blame them, cannot even be surprised at them. So many
wonderful truths (for truths they are), of which our fathers never
dreamed, are discovered every year, that none can foretell where the
movement will stop; what we shall hear next; what we shall have to
believe next.

Only, let us take refuge in the text--'In the beginning God created
the heaven and the earth.' All that we see around us, however
wonderful; all that has been found out of late, however wonderful;
all that will be ever found out, however still more wonderful it may
be, is the work of God; of that God who revealed himself to Moses; of
that God who led the children of Israel out of their slavery in
Egypt; of that God who taught David, in all his trouble and
wanderings, to trust in him as his guide and friend; of that God who
revealed to the old Prophets the fate of nations, and the laws by
which he governs all the kingdoms and people of the earth; of that
God, above all, who so loved the world, that he gave his only
begotten Son, that the world by him might be saved.

This material world which we do see, is as much God's world as the
spiritual world we do not see. And, therefore, the one cannot
contradict the other; and the true understanding of the one will
never hurt our true understanding of the other.

But many good people have another fear, and that, I think, a far more
serious one. They are afraid, in consequence of all these wonderful
discoveries of science, that people will begin to trust in science,
and not in God. And that fear is but too well founded. It is
certain that if sinful man can find anything to trust in, instead of
God, trust therein he surely will.

The old Jews preferred to trust in idols, rather than God; the
Christians of the Middle Age, to their shame, trusted in magic and
astrology, rather than God; and after that, some 200 years ago, when
men had grown too wise to trust in such superstitions, they certainly
did not grow wise enough, most of them, to trust in the living God.
They relied, the rulers of the nations especially, in their own wit
and cunning, and tried to govern the world and keep it straight, by
falsehood and intrigue, envy and jealousy, plotting and party spirit,
and the wisdom which cometh not from above, but is earthly, sensual,
devilish,--that wisdom against which we pray, whenever we sing 'God
save the Queen,' -

'Confound their politics,
Frustrate their knavish tricks,
On Thee our hopes we fix,
GOD save the Queen.'

And since that false wisdom has failed, and the wisdom of this world,
and the rulers of this world, came to nought in the terrible crisis
of the French Revolution, eighty years ago, men have been taking up a
new idolatry. For as science has spread, they have been trusting in
science rather than in the living God, and giving up the old faith
that God's judgments are in all the earth, and that he rewards
righteousness and punishes iniquity; till too many seem to believe
that the world somehow made itself, and that there is no living God
ordering and guiding it; but that a man must help himself as he best
can in this world, for in God no help is to be found.

And how shall we escape that danger?

I do not think we shall escape it, if we stop short at the text. We
must go on from the Old Testament and let the New explain it. We
must believe what Moses tells us: but we must ask St. John to show
us more than Moses saw. Moses tells us that God created the heavens
and the earth; St. John goes further, and tells us what that God is
like; how he saw Christ, the Word of God, by whom all things were
made, and without whom nothing was made that is made. And what was
he like? He was the brightness of his Father's glory, and the
express image of his person. And what was that like? was there any
darkness in him--meanness, grudging, cruelty, changeableness, deceit?
No. He was full of grace and truth. Grace and truth: that is what
Christ is; and therefore that is what God is.

There was another aspect of him, true; and St. John saw that
likewise. And so awful was it that he fell at the Lord's feet as he
had been dead.

But the Lord was still full of grace and truth; still, however awful
he was, he was as full as ever of love, pity, gentleness. He was the
Lamb that was slain for the sins of the world, even though that Lamb
was in the midst of the throne from which came forth thunderings and
lightnings, and judgments against the sins of all the world.
Terrible to wrong, and to the doers of wrong: but most loving and
merciful to all true penitents, who cast themselves and the burden of
their sins before his feet; perfect justice and perfect Love,--that
is God. That is the maker of this world. That is he who in the
beginning made heaven and earth. An utterly good God. A God whose
mercy is over all his creatures. A God who desires the good of his
creatures; who willeth not that one little one should perish; who
will have all men to be saved, and to come to the knowledge of the
truth; who wages everlasting war against sin and folly, and wrong and
misery, and all the ills to which men are heirs; who not only made
the world, but loves the world, and who proved that--what a proof!--
by not sparing his only-begotten Son, but freely giving him for us.

Therefore we can say, not merely,--I know that a God made the world,
but I know what that God is like. I know that he is not merely a
great God, a wise God, but a good God; that goodness is his very
essence. I know that he is gracious and merciful, long suffering,
and of great kindness. I know that he is loving to every man, and
that his mercy is over all his works. I know that he upholds those
who fall, and lifts up those who are down; I know that he careth for
the fatherless and widow, and executes judgment and justice for all
those who are oppressed with wrong. I know that he will fulfil the
desire of those who call upon him; and will also hear their cry and
will help them. I know, in short, that he is a living God, and a
loving God; a God in whom men may trust, to whom they may open their
hearts, as children to their father: and I am sure that those who
come to him he will in no wise cast out; for he himself has said,
with human voice upon this earth of ours,--'Come unto me all ye that
labour and are heavy laden and I will give you rest.'

In him all can trust. The sick man on his bed can trust in him and
say--In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth; and he is
full of grace and truth. This sickness of mine comes by the laws of
heaven and earth; and those laws are God's laws. Then even this
sickness may be full of grace and truth. It comes by no blind
chance, but by the will of him who so loved me, that he stooped to
die for me on the Cross. Christ my Lord and God has some gracious
and bountiful purpose in it, some lesson for me to learn from it. I
will ask him to teach me that lesson; and I trust in him that he will
teach me; and that, even for this sickness and this sorrow, I shall
have cause to thank him in the world to come. Shall I not trust him
who not only made this world, but so loved it that he stooped to die
for it upon the Cross?

The labourer and the farmer can trust in him, in the midst of short
crops and bad seasons, and say, In the beginning God created the
heaven and the earth; and he is full of grace and truth. Frost and
blight obey his commands as well as sunshine and plenty. He knows
best what ought to be. Shall we not trust in him, who not only made
this world, but so loved it, that he stooped to die for it upon the
Cross?

The scholar and the man of science, studying the wonders of this
earth, can trust in him, and say, In the beginning God created the
heaven and the earth; and he is full of grace and truth. Many things
puzzle me; and the more I learn the less I find I really know; but I
shall know as much as is good for me, and for mankind. God is full
of grace, and will not grudge me knowledge; and full of truth, and
will not deceive me. And I shall never go far wrong as long as I
believe, not only in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of all
things visible and invisible, but in one Lord Jesus Christ, his only-
begotten Son, light of light, very God of very God, by whom all
things were made, who for us men and our salvation came down, and
died, and rose again; whose kingdom shall have no end; who rules over
every star and planet, every shower and sunbeam, every plant and
animal and stone, every body and every soul of man; who will teach
men, in his good time and way, all that they need know, in order to
multiply and replenish the earth, and subdue it in this life, and
attain everlasting life in the world to come. And for the rest,
puzzled though I be, shall I not trust him, who not only made this
world, but so loved it, that he stooped to die for it upon the Cross?


Charles Kingsley

Sorry, no summary available yet.