“Where the birds make their nests; The stork has her home in the fir trees. The high hills are for the wild goats; The cliffs are a refuge for the rock badgers.” — Psalm 104:17-18.
Psalm 104 is all through a song of nature, the adoration of God in the great outward temple of the universe. Some in these modern times have thought it to be a mark of high spirituality never to observe nature; and I remember sorrowfully reading the expressions of a godly person, who, in sailing down one of the most famous rivers in the world closed his eyes, lest the picturesque beauties of the scene should divert his mind from scriptural topics. This may be regarded by some as profound spirituality; to me it seems to savor of absurdity. There may be persons who think they have grown in grace when they have attained to this; it seems to me that they are growing out of their senses. To despise the creating work of God—what is it but, in a measure, to despise God Himself? “Whoso mocketh the poor despiseth his Maker.”
To despise the Maker, then, is evidently a sin; to think little of God under the aspect of the Creator is a crime. We should none of us think it a great honour if our friends considered our productions to be unworthy of admiration, and more injurious to their minds than improving. If when they passed our workmanship they turned their eyes away, lest they should suffer injury by looking at it, we should not regard them as very respectful to ourselves: surely the despising of that which is made is akin to the despising of the Maker Himself. David tells us that, “the Lord shall rejoice in His works.” If He rejoices in what He has made, shall not those who have communion with Him rejoice in His works also? “The works of the Lord are great, sought out of them that have pleasure therein.” Despise not the work, lest thou despise the Worker.
The prejudice against the beauties of the universe reminds me of the lingering love to Judaism, which acted like a spell upon Peter of old. When the sheet knit at the four corners descended before him, and the voice said, “Rise, Peter; kill, and eat,” he replied that he had not eaten anything that was common or unclean. He needed that the voice should speak to him from Heaven again and again before he would fully learn the lesson, “What God hath cleansed that call not thou unclean.” The Jew thinks this and that unclean, though Christ has cleansed it; and certain Christians appear to regard nature as unclean. The birds of the air, the fish of the sea, the glorious sunrise and sunset, the snow-clad Alps, the ancient forests, the boundless ocean, God hath cleansed them: call them not common. Here on this earth at Calvary where the Saviour died, and by His sacrifice offered not within walls and roofs, He made this outer world a temple wherein everything doth speak of God’s glory. If thou be unclean, all things will be unclean to thee; but if thou hast washed thy robe and made it white in the blood of the Lamb, and if the Holy Spirit hath overshadowed thee, then this world is but a nether Heaven; it is but the lower chamber of which the upper story glows with the full splendour of God, where angels see Him face to face, and this lower story is not without glory, for in the Person of Christ Jesus we have seen God, and have fellowship with Him even now.
It appears to me that those who would forbear the study of nature, or shun the observation of its beauties, are conscious of the weakness of their own spirituality. When the hermits and monks shut themselves out from the temptations of life, foolish persons said, “These are strong in grace.” Not so, they were so weak in grace that they were afraid to have their graces tried. They ran away from the battle like the cowards they were, and shut themselves up because they knew their swords were not of the true Jerusalem metal, and they were not men who could resist valiantly. Monasticism was the confession of a weakness, which they endeavoured to cover with the vain show of humility, and the pretence of superior sanctity. If my graces are strong, I can look upon the outward world, and draw forth its good without feeling its evil, if evil there be; but if my religion is mainly fictitious, then hypocrisy dictates to me the affectation of unusual spirituality, or at any rate I have not grace enough to rise from a contemplation of the works of God to a nearer communion with God Himself. It cannot be that nature of itself debases me, or diverts me from God, I ought to suspect a deficiency in myself when I find that the Creator’s handiwork has not a good effect upon my soul.
Moreover, rest assured, brethren, that He who wrote the Bible, the second and clearest revelation of His Divine mind, wrote also the first Book, the book of nature; and who are we that we should derogate from the worth of the first because we esteem the second? Milton’s “Paradise Regained” is certainly inferior to his “Paradise Lost,” but the eternal God has no inferior productions, all His works are masterpieces. There is no quarrel between nature and revelation, fools only think so; to wise men the one illustrates and establishes the other. Walking in the fields at eventide, as Isaac did, I see in the ripening harvest the same God of whom I read in the Word that He covenanted that seed-time and harvest should not cease. Surveying the midnight skies, I remember Him who, while He calls the stars by their names, also bindeth up the broken in heart. Who will may neglect the volume of creation, or the volume of revelation: I shall delight in them both as long as I live.