J. N. Darby.
(Notes and Comments Vol. 4.)
I do not think we have any knowledge of time as time in itself. I measure from one event to another and so enclose periods, but cannot without facts with intervals. Distance is not exactly the same, because I discern it by a sense which sees an interval at one time. All I know of time is 'I am now.' When I compare this with events, I am conscious it is not 'now,' and there is time. As events only proceed from God, 'I am,' to Him, never changes. He is in Himself always. Events come from His will, and are relative not absolute. When I speak of an event before what happened to-day, I look at it as having happened in a 'now' which is not present. This I extend by invented measures. - 'Infinite' I admit of course we cannot know, though we know it is not 'finite infinite.' But without existence I do not understand time or eternity - but God is. When I begin to count time, I count necessarily from 'now,' for I am now. I then speak of times not finishing in thought. Ante and post make no difference whatever, save by events, and if I look post I must imagine events or I cannot take a step beyond now. The starting point in both is 'now,' and I go on, both ways, from that and cannot finish. Hence when Christ's eternal nature is spoken of it is said "In the beginning," all events and genomena by which time had an existence being supposed - "was the Word." That is existence per se - eternal, i.e., divine. When historical creation is spoken of it is supposed God created, i.e., all genomena egeneto (things made came into being) by One who "was," but it is not stated and this was fitting. Creation being, there must be a Creator. What we wanted to know was Creation. The highest, holiest way of speaking of God was thus saying nothing about Him but that He acted. As to Christ, it was of the utmost importance to know that He was before and eternal.
But all this talk about 'bounded' or 'unbounded space' is a mistake. I know what 'bounded space' is very well indeed - a field is a bounded space because I know what a bound is, being bounded. That I can negative, but I never conceive any negative proposition. I cannot conceive 'not,' for there is nothing to conceive. I can deny a bound when a bound is supposed, but it is no idea of the opposite at all. I cannot conceive all space as a known whole. My only conception of it is that it is not within the limits of my finite conception. But that is what 'infinite' means. But it is no positive idea, for then it is finite - has bounds. If it be said that 'we cannot conceive God,' I answer 'certainly not by an idea.' If I did it must be adequate, and He would not be God. But I do know He is not within the range and capacity of my idea. And that is something very material in our knowledge. When it is said 'He that loveth not knoweth not God, for God is love,' that is another thing. It is not an idea, but a moral nature morally apprehended, and space, and time, and measures have no place in it at all. It is another order of things. Affections, even human, are not ideas. Past time without a commencement is not possible thought, because when I say 'past,' I have already commenced with the 'now.' I do not see why infinite division cannot be thought of, because the parts are bounded. I remember a teacher of mathematics sought to show by a tangent, an indivisible angle, but he had only to make a circle with a longer radius and division was made. The only idea I have of time is bounded by events which are not 'now.' But as far as without, then I seek to know it. I have no idea of time but the principle of eternity, only contradicted by experience. 'I am' - that is not time as having duration, but in a point, but with a notion excluding bounded time, and so leading up to God who is necessarily 'I AM,' which is the nearest approach to conceiving eternity, which in itself I cannot at all. But I conceive God existing, and never doing anything but existing.
270 I repeat, my only idea of space, save bounded or enclosed space, is practically infinitude, not conceived as so much for then it is finite, but as simply endless, i.e., negatively. I do not say 'existing time' - nothing properly exists in time which exists consciously, i.e., consciousness is not cognisant of time. But I exist in space. Hence I do not begin it here as I do time by 'now.' And I cannot conceive when a body cannot be unless when one is, i.e., I only conceive space as space without measurement, but room where.
'Nothing' cannot become, because there is nothing to become, but that does not say God could not speak and it be made, i.e., create.