on Genesis 1 :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, 2 Peter 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.
He made the stars also - Or rather, He made the lesser light, with the stars, to rule the night. See Claudlan de Raptu Proser., lib. ii., v. 44.
Hic Hyperionis solem de semine nasci Fecerat,
et pariter lunam, sed dispare forma, Aurorae noctisque duces.
From famed Hyperion did he cause to rise
The sun, and placed the moon amid the skies,
With splendor robed, but far unequal light,
The radiant leaders of the day and 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. On this subject see the note on Genesis 1:3.
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 splendor 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.
on Genesis 1 :16
This result is fully particularized in the next three verses. This word, "made," corresponds to the word "be" in the command, and indicates the disposition and adjustment to a special purpose of things previously existing.
The two great lights. - The well-known ones, great in relation to the stars, as seen from the earth.
The great light, - in comparison with the little light. The stars, from man's point of view, are insignificant, except in regard to number Genesis 15:5.
on Genesis 1 :16