A Vindication of the Divine Cosmogony
by John Dove
That Moses was acquainted with the most abstruse mysteries of nature is a truth denied by none but upstart philosophers, who would revile him without having read or understood him.
The three first chapters of Genesis contain a revelation of what otherwise would never have been known, i.e., the first principles or rudiments of knowledge, natural and divine. But for the information recorded in those chapters, the human race had never known science or anything concerning the facts of creation. For we were created; there is nothing innate in us or derived from prior existences; language itself was given, not acquired. The philosopher who pleads for any other cause than a divine creation, simply writes himself down a fool. It is useless for the genuine truth-seeker to expect to derive information from those who will need write before they have read; or from the commentators who will give every sense of the text but the true one; or from the system-mongers who will cripple the whole Scripture to make it speak their sense; nor from the philosophers who believe they know better than the inspired historians, or argue that there is no certain standard of truth and that we were sent hither to grope in the dark or learn wisdom from our fellow worms. Moses affirms: “In the beginning God made the heavens and the earth”; the philosophers maintain the eternity of matter, make a god of it, and bow down to the idol they have set up, and would, like Nebuchadnezzar, put everyone in a furnace who refuses obedience to their decrees! To listen to their description of gravity, attraction, centrifugal and centripetal forces, it would carry the appearance of a romance. Did any man yet ever understand Sir Isaac Newton’s philosophy; or will any man undertake to prove the truth of it? His warmest advocates have acknowledged “they had not all that evidence of its truth that they could desire”; because they have rejected the revelation of God, and have set up they know not what. They are incorrigible and will not be corrected. Therefore I quit them all and turn to the ecclesiastics, whose proper business it is to study and expound the Scriptures. But I have to tell them as well as the philosophers that in rejecting or doubting the book of Genesis, they stumble at the very threshold of their studies, and seldom or ever after recover themselves. If they understood or believed in Moses, they would possess more real knowledge than all their other learning can teach them.
It is or should be a matter granted, that God and His works must agree; therefore, he that fully understands any part of God’s works of creation, as seen in the visible world, and can find in the account given of them in Moses, the Prophets or the Apostles any disagreement, has a right, as a rational creature to be a Deist; but if no such disagreement can be found, instead of a rational Deist, he must be a fool. And since it is truth, that philosophy and divinity are closely connected, and that an error in the former cannot fail in producing an error in the latter; and since no system of philosophy, in any age, hitherto proposed to mankind, besides that of Moses, was ever pretended to agree with Scripture, — is it not very extraordinary that no philosopher who pretended to have any respect for the Scriptures, has ever attempted to understand and compare the philosophy of Moses with the real and demonstrable facts of nature? Can it be for want of ability, or that they willfully prefer falsehood to truth, in the hope or belief that others would do the same? If what Moses wrote was not the literal truth, why have not his mistakes been honestly pointed out by our gentlemen of science? Moses has given us a rational process of the creation, which is more than any one else has done, and more may be said of him than any other philosopher that ever lived, viz., that he has not made one mistake in the account he has given of nature; all the others have scarce delivered one truth concerning it! Truth and falsehood can never be made to agree; therefore, all the experiments that the modern philosopher can make, will never make their system agree with truth or common sense; but they all demonstrate the truth of the Mosaic account of nature!
The revelation of God is plain, not delivered in mysterious language, as is the modern philosophy, and, when understood, corresponds with right reason. Is it not therefore strange that so many disagreements of it should still subsist? For I cannot find that men in general know any more about it, than about the laws and language of the world in the moon, if such a world there be.
In the two first chapters of Genesis, Moses has given a distinct and positive statement of the mechanical laws or operations by which nature rose into being by the hands of her omnipotent Creator, and by which her stupendous works are still carried on; for nature came not into being by chance or from any pre-existing condition; nor was any fact stated which is not open to the examination of every intelligent person, but which no man yet, has been able to overthrow or improve upon.
But what a condition are we in at present? Not one dignitary in Europe, that has learning or honesty enough to determine the truth of these divine records! Is it possible to conceive that both Protestants and Papists have agreed to let the people be under such delusions? An absolutely correct and literal translation of the Hebrew Scriptures would present to our view one uniform system of divine, moral, and philosophical truth, that the morning dawn scatters the darkness of the night. So, then, as all that truth which the faith of a Christian has anything to do with, is contained in Scriptures of Moses, the prophets, and apostles, whatever agrees not with those Scriptures is to be rejected, whether it relates to divinity or philosophy. For if in them we have false accounts of the works of God, no man in his senses will or ought to believe they contain a revelation of God. What! Shall the God of truth not give us a true account of His own work or shall the God of nature deceive our senses? God forbid! For as we can know nothing of God but by His works, nor of His works, till they are apprehended by the senses He has given us, it is utterly inconceivable to suppose He should have endowed us with such senses as are only calculated to deceive us, or by giving a false account of the works of His own hand.
If, in the language this revelation was originally made, our opponents can find but one philosophical mistake we will unreservedly yield up the whole for a cheat! The translators and the whole group of commentators are herein to blame; for they have all to a man been blinded by a false philosophy, and have resented every attempt to unshackle them; whereby they have been bewildered in uncertainty and error, and have left their readers in darkness and bondage ever since.
Are there any abettors of this heathen philosophy still amongst us? Yes, ten thousand; not only among the unlearned, but amongst our church dignitaries, our classical scholars and teachers! All on account of their ignorance and unbelief.
What will be the end of these things! I am no conjurer; but it is easy to determine what will be, from what has already taken place. It has been the fate of all kingdoms, nations, and people, from the beginning of time, upon their rejecting or perverting the revelation of God, to fall into anarchy, confusion and infidelity. The Bible is, as it deserves to be, the great charter of our liberty. The loss of the Scriptures, or swerving from, or perverting the doctrines or history contained in them, has invariably been attended with discomfiture and ruin, and always will! And if their successors continue their resistance as they have done hitherto, it cannot fail to deluge the kingdom in atheism, destroying all social virtue, and turning it into a field of blood. The system the philosophers would establish is founded on a quicksand, on a spirit of falsehood; its stones unhewn —its mortar untempered — and its joints all open to the weather; when the winds blow, and the floods of opposition beat against it, it must tumble down and disappoint the faith of those dupes who trusted in its strength; because it is not founded nor erected according to, but against, the appointment and design of the Creator. The Scriptures contain the instructions of God, and show us the conditions, the ordinances, the laws which He hath ordained.
I have to repeat, again and again, that the Scriptures and nature are connected, as will appear to any impartial inquirer; those who will not take the pains to study them both, will remain fools, whether I say so or not. The not attending to this connexion has been the cause of that contempt with which the Scripture has been treated. Suppose we view the dial plate of a watch, we see the hand point to the hour, by a mechanism to us invisible; but we find a book wherein the inward structure of the watch or clock is described ; we are at a loss whether to believe it or not; we know not whether it be true or false. How then shall we prove its truth? By taking the machine to pieces, and examining its works; if the book and the machine exactly agree, and the former be an accurate description of the latter, the inference must be, that either the maker of the machine wrote the book, or revealed the mechanism of it to him who did. This is absolutely the case between the Bible and nature. And if this examination were firmly, and candidly, and intelligently carried through, the numbers of our foolish philosophers would soon be diminished, and their specious system utterly confounded. Moses and the prophets never revealed the proper frame of a mouse-trap or the size of a bird cage, because they knew the star gazers would not heed such trifles, nor find any credit in constructing such things. But Moses and the prophets did, by the inspiration and dictation of God, reveal to mankind the framework and mechanism of nature, which must have remained for ever inscrutable, but for such direct revelation; and which mode and plan of creation, when thus made known, appears true upon the highest demonstration the rational mind can demand!
Now for a coat of mail, to defend me from the tongues of scorpions, and the quills of porcupines,—a venomous serpentine brood, who besmear and befoul every divine and scriptural truth that runs counter to their almighty decrees. Let any man read those mystical and philosophical expostulations between God and Job; or let him read over both Testaments, and he shall find, if he reads attentively, that Scripture, all the way, makes use of nature, and hath revealed such mysteries as are not to be found in all the philosophers; so that I fear not to say that nature is so much the business of Scripture, that the spirit of God, in those sacred oracles, seems not only to dwell on the restitution of man in particular, but even the redemption of nature in general, and is as jealous of the right understanding of the one as of the other.
To speak then of God, without nature, is more than we can do, for he is not known in this way; and to speak of nature without God, is more than we may do; for we should be robbing God of His glory, and attribute those effects to nature, which belong only to God and to His spirit which works in nature. No man can venture to complain if we use Scripture to prove philosophy, and philosophy to prove divinity; because there is no divinity without nature, nor any true philosophy without God. It is a union insisted on by God, however objected to by man.
If men would but take Mr. [John] Locke’s advice, and have the modesty to settle the limits of their understandings and determine what objects lay beyond, and what within their reach, they would not venture so often at things too high for them; of if they had the humility to consult Moses, he would prevent much fruitless labour and correct much inexcusable ignorance.
Real Christian philosophy is a pure and ennobling study, exalting the mind, and lifting it above every sordid pursuit, above everything that is low, little, or mean.