Commonplace Holiness Holiness woven into the fabric of life...

Ingenuity Comes from God

From my daily Bible reading:

IF“And you shall speak to all who have ability, whom I have endowed with skill, that they make Aaron’s vestments to consecrate him for my priesthood.” — Exodus 28:3 NRSV.

Comments by Adam Clarke (17601832) in his Bible commentary:

“So we find that ingenuity in arts and sciences, even those of the ornamental kind, comes from God. It is not intimated here that these persons were filled with the spirit of wisdom for this purpose only; for the direction to Moses is, to select those whom he found to be expert artists, and those who were such, God shows by these words, had derived their knowledge from himself.

“Every man should be permitted as far as possible to follow the bent or direction of his own genius, when it evidently leads him to new inventions, and improvements on old plans. How much has both the labour of men and cattle been lessened by improvements in machinery! And can we say that the wisdom which found out these improvements did not come from God? No man, by course of reading or study, ever acquired a genius of this kind: we call it natural, and say it was born with the man. Moses teaches us to consider it as Divine. Who taught NEWTON to ascertain the laws by which God governs the universe, through which discovery a new source of profit and pleasure has been opened to mankind through every part of the civilized world? No reading, no study, no example, formed his genius. God, who made him, gave him that compass and bent of mind by which he made those discoveries, and for which his name is celebrated in the earth. When I see NAPIER inventing the logarithms; COPERNICUS, DES CARTES, and KEPLER contributing to pull down the false systems of the universe, and NEWTON demonstrating the true one; and when I see the long list of PATENTEES of useful inventions, by whose industry and skill long and tedious processes in the necessary arts of life have been shortened, labor greatly lessened, and much time and expense saved; I then see, with Moses, men who are wise-hearted, whom God has filled with the spirit of wisdom for these very purposes; that he might help man by man, and that, as time rolls on, he might give to his intelligent creatures such proofs of his Being, infinitely varied wisdom, and gracious providence, as should cause them to depend on him, and give him that glory which is due to his name.

How pointedly does the Prophet Isaiah refer to this sort of teaching as coming from God, even in the most common and less difficult arts of life! The whole passage is worthy of the reader’s most serious attention.

“Doth the ploughman plough all day to sow? doth he open and break the clods of his ground? When he hath made plain the face thereof, doth he not cast abroad the fitches, and scatter the cummin, and cast in the principal wheat, and the appointed barley, and the rye, in their place? For HIS GOD DOTH INSTRUCT HIM to discretion, and doth teach him. For the fitches are not threshed with a threshing-instrument, neither is a cart-wheel turned about upon the cummin; but the fitches are beaten out with a staff, and the cummin with a rod. Bread corn is bruised; because he will not ever be threshing it, nor break it with the wheel of his cart, nor bruise it with his horsemen. This also cometh forth from the LORD of hosts, who is wonderful in counsel, and excellent in working,” — Isa. xxviii. 24–29.

“But let us take heed not to run into extremes here; machinery is to help man, not to render him useless. The human hand is the great and most perfect machine, let it not be laid aside. In our zeal for machinery we are rendering all the lower classes useless; filling the land with beggary and vice, and the workhouses with paupers; and ruining the husbandmen with oppressive poor-rates. Keep machinery as a help to the human hand, and to lighten the labor, but never let it supersede either.

“This principle, that God is the author of all arts and sciences, is too little regarded: Every good gift, and every perfect gift, says St. James, comes from above, from the FATHER of LIGHTS. Why has God constructed every part of nature with such a profusion of economy and skill, if he intended this skill should never be discovered by man, or that man should not attempt to examine his works in order to find them out? From the works of CREATION what proofs, astonishing and overwhelming proofs, both to believers and infidels, have been drawn both of the nature, being, attributes, and providence of God! What demonstrations of all these have the Archbishop of Cambray, Dr. Nieuwentyt, Dr. Derham, and Mr. Charles Bonnet, given in their philosophical works! And who gave those men this wisdom? GOD, from whom alone MIND, and all its attributes, proceed. While we see Count de Buffon and Swammerdam examining and tracing out all the curious relations, connections, and laws of the ANIMAL kingdom; —Tournefort, Ray, and Linne, those of the VEGETABLE;—Theophrastus, Werner, Klaproth, Cronstedt, Morveau, Reamur, Kirwan, and a host of philosophical chemists, Boerhaave, Boyle, Stahl, Priestley, Lavoisier, Fourcroy, Black, and Davy, those of the MINERAL; the discoveries they have made, the latent and important properties of vegetables and minerals which they have developed, the powerful machines which, through their discoveries, have been constructed, by the operations of which the human slave is restored to his own place in society, the brute saved from his destructive toil in our manufactories, and inanimate, unfeeling NATURE caused to perform the work of all these better, more expeditiously, and to much more profit; shall we not say that the hand of GOD is in all this? Only I again say, let machinery aid man, and not render him useless. The nations of Europe are pushing mechanical power to a destructive extreme. He alone girded those eminent men, though many of them knew him not; he inspired them with wisdom and understanding; by his all- pervading and all-informing spirit he opened to them the entrance of the paths of the depths of science, guided them in their researches, opened to them successively more and more of his astonishing treasures, crowned their persevering industry with his blessing and made them his ministers for good to mankind. The antiquary and the medalist are also his agents; their discernment and penetration come from him alone. By them, how many dark ages of the world have been brought to light; how many names of men and places, how many customs and arts, that were lost, restored! And by their means a few busts, images, stones, bricks, coins, rings, and culinary utensils, the remaining wrecks of long-past numerous centuries have supplied the place of written documents, and cast a profusion of light on the history of man, and the history of providence. And let me add, that the providence which preserved these materials, and raised up men to decipher and explain them, is itself gloriously illustrated by them.

“Of all those men (and the noble list might be greatly swelled) we may say the same that Moses said of Bezaleel and Aholiab: “GOD hath filled them with the Spirit of God, in wisdom, and in understanding, and in knowledge; and in all manner of workmanship, to devise cunning works; to work in gold and in silver, and in brass, in cutting of stones, carving of timber, and in all manner of workmanship;” chap. xxxi. 3–6. “The works of the Lord are great, sought out of all them that have pleasure therein;” Psa. cxi. 2.”


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