- God in Nature
The day is Thine, the night also is Thine;
Thou hast prepared the light and the sun;
Thou hast set all the borders of the earth;
Thou hast made Summer and Winter.
The height of the heavens should remind us of the infinite distance between us and God, the brightness of the firmament of his glory, majesty, and holiness, the vastness of the heavens and their influence upon the earth, of his immensity and universal providence. Hill and valley, seas and constellations are but stereotypes of divine ideas, appealing to and answered by the living soul of man. The works of nature and the works of revelation display religion to mankind in characters so large and visible that those who are not quite blind may in them see and read the first principles and most necessary parts of religion, and from thence penetrate into those infinite depths filled with the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.
God writes the Gospel not in the Bible alone, but on trees and flowers and clouds and stars. All nature, in short, speaks in language plain to be understood of the majesty and power of its Author. Nature is man’s religious book, with lessons for every day. Nature is the chart of God, marking out all his attributes. A man finds in the production of nature an inexhaustible stock of materials upon which he can employ himself without any temptation to envy or malevolence, and has always a certain prospect of discovering new reasons for adoring the sovereign Author of the universe. What profusion is there in his work! When trees blossom, there is not simply one, but a whole collection of gems; and of leaves, they have so many that they can throw them away to the winds all Summer long. What unnumbered cathedrals has he reared in the forest shades, vast and grand, full of curious carvings, and haunted evermore by tremulous music; and in the heavens above, how do stars seem to have flown out of his hand faster than sparks out of a mighty forge!
These insignia of wisdom and power are impressed upon the works of God, which distinguishes them from the feeble imitation of men. Not only the splendor of the sun, but the glimmering light of the glow-worm, proclaim his glory. God has placed nature by the side of man as a friend, who remains always to guide and console him in life; as a protecting genius, who conducts him, as well as all species, to a harmonious unity with himself. The earth is the material bosom which bears all the races. Nature arouses man from the sleep in which he would remain without thought of himself, inspires him with noble designs, and preserves thus in humanity activity and life.
The best of all books is the book of nature. It is full of variety, interest, novelty, and instruction. It is ever open before us. It invites us to read, and all that it requires of us is the will to do it; with eyes to see, with ears to hear, with hearts and souls to feel, and with minds and understandings to comprehend. Infinite intelligence was required to compose this mighty volume, which never fails to impart the highest wisdom to those who peruse it attentively and rightly, with willing hearts and humble minds. Nature has perfection, in order to show that she is the image of God; and defects, in order to show that she is only his image.
The study of nature must ever lead to true religion; hence let there be no fear that the issues of natural science shall be skepticism or anarchy. Through all God’s works there runs a beautiful harmony. The remotest truth in his universe is linked to that which lies nearest the throne. It has been said that “an undevout astronomer is mad.” With still greater force might it be said that he who attentively studies nature and fails to see in her ways the workings of Providence must, indeed, be blind. Who the guide of nature, but only the God of nature? In him we live, move, and have our being. Those things which nature is said to do are by divine art performed, using nature as an, instrument. Nor is there any such divine knowledge working in nature herself, but in the guide of nature’s work.
Examine what department of nature that we will, we are speedily convinced of an intelligent plan running throughout all the works, which eloquently proclaims a divine author. In the rock-ribbed strata of the earth we can read as intelligently as though it were written on parchment the story of the creation. And what so interesting as this rock-written history of the world slowly fitting for mankind? Read of the coal stored away for future use; of whole continents plowed by glaciers, and made fertile for man. Think of the æons of ages that this earth swung in space, all the types of creation prophecying of the coming of man! Who can ponder these o’er without coming to the belief of an author and finisher of all this glory? Thus does a devout study of nature discover to us the God of nature.
Go stand upon the heights at Niagara, and listen in awe-struck silence to that boldest, most earnest, and most eloquent of all nature’s oracles! And what is Niagara, with its plunging waters and its mighty roar, but the oracle of God—the whisper of his voice is revealed in the Bible as sitting above the waterfloods forever! Or view the stupendous scenery of Alpine countries, and there, amid rock and snow, overlooking the valleys below, we feel a sense of the presence of Divinity. Or, wandering on ocean beach, watching the play of the waves, or listening to the roar of the breakers, our hearts are impressed with a sense of the power and majesty of God. In short, wherever we contemplate the vast or wonderful in nature, there we experience a religious exaltation of spirit. It is the soul within us placing itself en rapport with the soul of nature, the great first cause.
Go stand upon the Areopagus of Athens, where Paul stood so long ago. In thoughtful silence look around upon the site of all that ancient greatness; look upward to those still glorious skies of Greece, and what conceptions of wisdom and power will all those memorable scenes of nature and art convey to your mind, now more than they did to an ancient worshiper of Jupiter and Apollo! They will tell of Him who made the worlds, “by whom, through whom, and for whom are all things.” To you that landscape of exceeding beauty, so rich in the monuments of departed genius, with its distant classic mountains, its deep, blue sea, and its bright, bending skies will be telling a tale of glory that the Grecian never learned; for it will speak to you no more of its thousand contending deities, but of the one living and everlasting God.
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