When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have ordained;…
Some persons object to the inaccurate language of Scripture in regard to the sun's rising and setting, and other truths established by modern astronomy. But the Scriptures were given to man to lead his soul back to God, and to do this in a way suited to every stage of man's progress. Therefore it was the common language of men, and not of the science of the schools. But there is another objection deeper than this. It is, that the Gospel revelation is out of proportion to the magnitude of creation. This difficulty arises from the view of the universe given to us by astronomical science. Our earth is very small compared with other planets revolving round the sun, and with the sun itself And the sun is but one centre amongst myriads more. But coming more directly to the objection that is urged, we note that it takes one of two forms.
I. THAT MAN, LOOKED AT IN THE LIGHT OF SUCH A MATERIAL UNIVERSE, IS TOO INSIGNIFICANT FOR SUCH INTERPOSITION AS THAT OF WHICH THE GOSPEL TELLS. But
1. The aim of the Gospel is spiritual, to save men from sin, and hence moves in a sphere entirely distinct from that of astronomy. Moreover,
2. It is the presence of intelligent life which gives significance to creation. What were the Alps and Andes; what Niagara, what the ocean, but for the thoughts they suggest? The real grandeur of the world is the soul which looks on it. Mind breathes into matter the breath of life, and so it becomes a living soul. "Man," says Pascal, "is a feeble reed trembling in the midst of creation; but then, he is endowed with thought." The very discoveries of astronomy attest the greatness of man's mind, for the discoverer is ever above the discovery.
3. Then think of man's moral capacity. He can think the material universe out of being, and we believe that once it did not exist; but moral ideas — truth, right, goodness — these are eternal both in faith and thought.
4. And mind is immortal. The material universe changes, but mind lives on in conscious identity. If in matter there is infinite space, in mind there is infinite time.
5. And if it was befitting of God to create the world and man, then it is befitting of Him to care for what He has made. Is it a worthy idea of God to think that He abandons things to chance hazard here? that the highest part of man's nature will be left to neglect? And if the supernatural interposed to create, might it not interpose to save?
6. And the argument from astronomy helps rather than hinders faith. For if God has lavished so much pains upon the material universe, will He not do as much for the moral and spiritual for whom He has made the material? And if it be asked, why should God do so much for mind here and not elsewhere? Why here alone? How do we know He has not? It is to be expected that in other worlds He reveals Himself in infinitely varied modes, according to the need of each.
II. GOD IS TOO EXALTED FOR US TO EXPECT SUCH AN INTERPOSITION. This is the second form of the objection — it brings God too low.
1. But if we allow Him a free hand in His works of power and wisdom, — which we all confess are infinite, — are we to deny Him like freedom in His display of goodness and mercy?
2. Can we say that because He is so great in the heavens, therefore He cannot be great in stooping down to our sin and misery? Such is not our standard even for men; how much less for God! No, "As high as the heaven is above the earth, so great is His mercy to them that fear Him." His greatness is the measure, not of His distance from us, but of His nearness to us.
3. Further, the balance of qualities which we require in a perfect character, supports the teaching of the Gospel. Pascal has finely said, "I do not admire in a man the extreme of one virtue, as of valour, if I do not see at the same time the extreme of the opposite virtue." Therefore in God, may we not expect that if we see, as we do, the extreme of power, there shall be also corresponding love? Is God's character ill-balanced? And power and genius are never so great as when they stoop to lift the fallen and the lost. And if God gave us this instinct, must not His own character be in harmony therewith? Could we reverence in God that which we cannot respect in man? He, therefore, is far more than mere power — infinite in goodness and in truth. It is to the glory of the Gospel that it has given us this view of God, and reveals Him crowned with loving kindness and tender mercy.
(John Ker, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained;