by Joseph Parker (1830-1902)
from the beginning of the creation God"
THAT IS WHAT WE WANT TO GET AT. We are perplexed, divided, and confused by things intermediate and transient. We have had enough of them. We want to get back to the beginning, back to the divine intent - back behind the beginning, back into the council chamber of the Eternal. The context is graphic and beautiful. The Pharisees came to Jesus and asked him, "Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife?" They tempted the Teacher; they were inwardly mocking him, and secretly endeavouring to entrap him. "And he answered and said unto them, What did Moses command you?" You profess to be devoted to the law of Moses, how does that law read upon the question which you have put to me? "And they said, Moses suffered to write a bin of divorcement, and to put her away." Jesus answered: So far, so good; you are scholars of the letter, very poor scholars, or you would have known that "For the hardness of your heart he wrote you this precept" - something to be going on with, a piece of paper you can handle and use under limited circumstances. "But from the beginning of the creation God." He did not stop at Moses or the prophets. This Teacher, as prophesied by Isaiah, drew his breath in the fear of God. He was not the disciple of any man: he brought messages directly from the mind and heart of God. We feel, therefore, that we are in company with the right Teacher now. Moses accommodated himself to the hardness of your heart; "but from the beginning of the creation God" made two, man and wife, one: whom, therefore, God hath joined together, let not man put asunder!
Thus all the little card-box legislation of all the great teachers that ever invented new schemes of society - all these inventions, suggestions, legislations - are rolled over by this Man whose breath was drawn in the fear of God, and who spake from the steps of the palace of the Eternal. That is what we want to get at. Not what Moses said, not what the Greeks philosophised, not what the Spartans turned into discipline; all this is more or less dignified gossip and conjecture - foolish, or useful for the moment. What we want to get at is God meant it when he said, "Let us make." If I could convey this thought to you as it is in my own mind, you would be inspired souls, you would take a new view of society and all its arrangements and divers trumperies.
the context we are face to face with Moses and Christ. Moses, for the hardness
of the hearts of the people, made a certain temporary arrangement, but it was
aside from the eternal thought; permissible, but not perpetual. So we need
minor providences-little bye-laws, small schedules, parliamentary enactments,
things to be going on with - to restrain the wanton and the willful; but all these
are playthings comparatively. If we could get back to "the beginning of the creation,"
and, like Christ, draw our breath in the fear of God, legislation itself would
be natural breathing, Socialism would be deepest and truest life: "Behold, I make
all things new." It is in the nature of a fallen curiosity and debased ingenuity
to be making more wordy laws. Jesus Christ brought laws to a minimum. He said,
All that the prophets and the law have been trying to say may be summed up in
two words: "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God, and thy neighbour as thyself." Any
society that is rich in schedules and by-laws and subtle arrangements and difficult
interpretations of the law is in a bad way. This is the condition of society today:
the lawmakers divided, the bench cleft in two. We want to hear the sweet
woman-voice of the Man who calls us away from all these things into fellowship
with God, union with the Spirit, oneness with the eternal right. Every bolt on
your door is a witness against society; every time you turn the key and lock a
drawer, you indict human nature.
What we want to get at, then, is the divine thought, the divine intention "from the beginning of the creation." From the beginning of the creation what was man's personal relation to God? He was the under-god, the companion-god, the visible god, a partaker of the divine nature. What is man now according to our Catechism? A fallen and depraved being. True. "But from the beginning of the creation God" made man in his own image and his own likeness. We are not to be stopped by the law of Moses or by the catechism of theology; we must get back to God's own purpose in setting up man, to whom he could speak, and with whom he could hold communion of heart. How do you describe man? Small, few in days, his breath is in his nostrils, there is none abiding; one dieth in his full strength, another dieth in his youth and never eateth with pleasure; the earth is a graveyard; man is a sinner; man is of small account, he is as a wind that cometh for a little time and then vanisheth away.
Quite right up to a given point; but remember, "in the beginning of the creation God" made man in his own image and in his own likeness - made man immortal, gave him what is called an immortal soul; the soul being the true self. We must get back to that divine standard if we would set a right value upon any human creature that has debased humanity and brought discredit upon the very earth he treads. At present we are looking into reports, into the reports of royal commissions, forsooth! into reports of committees and councils, into examinations and cross-examinations; and we are basing our judgment of mankind or of society upon such reports. We have had enough. The reports are perfectly correct; the reports are useful within given limits; we cannot conduct society as it is at present, debased and degraded, without the assistance of such reports; "but at the beginning of the creation God" made man upright. When you hear of man, you ought to hear of uprightness; but "they have sought out many inventions," and the proudest of their "inventions" is a falsehood. There is great difficulty in some quarters as to the immortality of the soul. If you start the discussion of the immortality of man from a period after his historical apostasy, you will be wrong; starting from the wrong point, you will come to a false conclusion. What you must do is to get back to "the beginning of the creation." What did God make man when he made him in his own image? - a thing of clay, a thing that could be rusted by time, a thing that would be the sport of the centuries? Never! He made him immortal: the breath that warmed his nostrils came from the mouth of God.
What was man's relation to man "from the beginning of the creation"? Man was man's "keeper." A sweet thought-a divine socialism! - the socialism that is utterly forgotten today amid a thousand pamphlets that are snowed into the gutter. This man hath a dream, and that man a prophecy, concerning altruism, and another man hath a proposition to make. These may be good, they may suit a certain period of time and a certain definition of territory, they may be exceedingly useful within a limited period; "but from the beginning of the creation God"! That is what we want to know. God said, "Where is thy brother?"
This is not a doctrine that can be taught by pamphlets; this is not the issue of some very learned dissertation read before some very somnolent audience: this belongs to the "beginning" of things, this is the a priori condition. We thus get back and back to God's thought: no reformation can ever take the place of regeneration; no socialism can ever overtake the divine idea of man filled with solicitude about man, not happy until the other man is found, not at rest whilst there is one poor little drenched creature wandering about in the wilderness of the midnight. Not a mechanical law. God has no poor-law. We, being made in his image and likeness, should love one another, not by commandment of the letter, but by commandment of the Spirit, by the pressure of an infinite and ineffable necessity - the rush of God upon all the springs and motions of the soul. Man hath sought out many inventions: he tinkers and patches; he legislates and amends and enlarges and undoes; he is, before God, a fool! He doth not hold large commerce with God. When the spirit is right, all literal schedules may be discarded. We shall not be right until we cannot help doing good - until we breathe it, until we are transformed by it. That is the divine idea. God is love. He does not legislate himself into a momentary and evanescent affection; in his soul he is love: that is how he made man at "the beginning of the creation."
At the beginning of the creation
what was man's relation to the lower animals? Providential, divine, priestly,
educative. There were no wild beasts until there were wild men. We do not heed
this. You might have had the wolf on your hearthstone as a gentle, trusting creature.
You might have had the nightingale perched on your shoulder, singing you songs
of heaven in the dark night. The dog meant and wanted to love you more:
you are the dog's god; when his god
When the Lord made all the animals to pass before man that he might name
In the beginning of the creation what was man's relation to productive nature?
Was there ever such a living haystack found on all the meadows of time? The
This is the reason the Church exists; this is the reason that a religious ministry
It will be very old-fashioned doctrine, and very unacceptable to the young and
The great lesson is to get back to God, get back to "the beginning of the
That is, suggestively, without any attempt at exhaustive elaboration, how the
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