God and Nature.
The most difficult and humiliating lesson that man has to learn, if he is kept by the power of God, is his own inefficiency, and the sure failure of his own efforts to read nature correctly. Sin has obscured his vision, so that, of himself, man can not interpret nature without placing it above God. He is in the same position as were the Athenians who erected their altars for the worship of nature, upon which they might well inscribe, "To the unknown God." Nature is not God, and never was God. The voice of nature testifies of God, declaring his glory; but nature itself is not God. As God's created work, it but bears a testimony of his power.
The ancient philosophers prided themselves upon their superior knowledge, but God has said of them: "Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and four-footed beasts, and creeping things. . . . Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshiped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed forever." In their human wisdom, the wise men of the world, knowing not God, foolishly deify nature and the laws of nature. Those who have not a knowledge of God by their acceptance of the revelation God has made of himself in Christ, will obtain only an imperfect knowledge of God in nature. Those who think they can obtain a perfect knowledge of God, aside from the Representative whom the Word declares is the "express image of his person," will need to become fools in their own estimation before they can be wise. This knowledge, so far from giving elevated conceptions of God, so far from elevating the mind, the soul, the heart, and bringing the whole being into conformity to the will of God, will make men idolaters.
Though it is impossible to gain a perfect knowledge of God from imperfect nature; yet the things of nature, marred though they be, inculcate truths regarding the skillful Master Artist. One omnipotent in power, great in goodness, in mercy, and love, has created the earth; and even in its blighted state, much that is beautiful remains. Nature's voice speaks, saying that there is a God, the Creator of nature. Nature in its imperfections can not fully represent God; it can not reveal the character of God in his moral perfection.
Those who have a true knowledge of God will not become so infatuated with the laws of matter and the operations of nature as to overlook or to refuse to acknowledge the continual working of God in nature. Deity is the author of nature. The natural world has in itself no inherent power but that which God supplies. How strange, then, that so many make a deity of nature! God furnishes the matter and the properties with which to carry out his plans. Nature is but his agency.
The hand of God is continually guiding the globe in its continuous march around the sun. The same hand which holds the mountains, and balances them in position, guides and keeps in order the respective planets. All the wonderful glories in the heavens are but doing their appointed work. Vegetation flourishes because of the agencies employed by the great and mighty God. He sends the dew and the rain and the sunshine that verdure may spring forth, and spread its green carpet over the earth; that the shrubs and the fruit-trees may bud and blossom and bring forth fruit. It is not to be supposed that a law is set in operation for the seed to work of itself,--that the leaf appears because it must do so of itself. It is through the immediate agency of God that every tiny seed breaks through the earth, and springs into life. Every green leaf grows, every flower blooms, through the working power of God.
Idolatry of nature is a farce; it is the invention of men who know not God, and who are trying to keep out of sight a knowledge of the true God. The words of Holy Writ say nothing of the independent laws of nature. They teach us that God is the superintendent as well as the Creator of all things. The divine Being is engaged in upholding the things which he has created. God has laws which he has instituted; but they are only his servants, through which he effects results. It is God who calls everything into order, and keeps all things in motion.
We may look up, through nature, to nature's God. The beautiful things of nature have been given us for our pleasure. Then let us not turn our blessings into a curse by being led away from God in the worship of the creature rather than the Creator. Let nature's beautiful ministers of love answer the purpose of God, drawing our hearts to him to adore his goodness, his compassion, his inexpressible love, and to be filled with the beauties of his character.
E. G. W.