Sermon: In the Beginning God Created Heaven and Earth: 1862

As reported by journalist Sidney Andrews for the Atlantic Magazine, below is a sermon Turner preached while pastor of Israel AME Church in Washington, DC sometime in 1862. In it, drawing from Genesis 1:1, Turner speaks of creation as not a thing of the past, but as an current phenomenon. 

Source: Sidney Andrews. “Israel Bethel Church,” Atlantic Monthly 32, no. 194 (Dec. 1873): 727–37

"In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth." [I heard from some] that this record of the beginning of things is not true ; that there was more than one source of life on the earth; that we did not all descend from Adam and the garden of Eden ; that no well-educated person now accepted what was said in the first chapter of the Bible as an exact statement of fact. All this sort of talk, friends, need not trouble us. The Bible is true : on that I rest my feet. Whether we always understand the Bible right, is another thing. We must all study it as faithfully as we can. The Lord will not hold us responsible for mistakes, if we really do the best we know how. He is a tender father, we are ignorant children." 

"This is what God means,— the wisest, greatest, highest, most majestic, most loving, most tender. All nations have this something above all other things. That is God. He created the heavens and the earth and the sea and all that is therein. He is manifested to us in Christ, the Captain of our Salvation." (Thank God for our Captain) ! "Yes, thank God for the Captain ! God is so high and mighty that we poor creatures would not have dared to call him ' Father,' except for the Captain who redeemed us and will lead us on to glorious victory. The Lord Jesus was in heaven just as God was, but he couldn't bear to have the sons of men so far away, and therefore he came down to earth, took our form, lived our life, and suffered everything to death, that he might know just how to be the Captain of our Salvation. He did not escape anything. He was naked and hungry and thirsty and shut in prison, just as we have been. That was what God created him in the heavens for in the beginning, to know whatever afflicts us, so that he might be our Captain. 

In the beginning God created, the Bible says. God has beginnings every day, and he goes on creating every day. Shall I tell you what? He is making us poor men over every day of all this war time. We weren't worth much two years ago; perhaps we aren't worth a great deal now ; but God will make men and women of us before he rests from his work. He is every day creating righteousness of heart among the white people of this land, and when he finishes that creation the chains will fall from our race, and we shall walk free everywhere and know no master but Christ. And he is every day creating friends for us, not only here in Washington, but all over the North. Whoever else goes back on him, we can't do so ! "