Nature in Scripture
If the work of God in nature, then, is admitted to to be any testimony to God at all, that is nothing else but folly which lies hid under what is supposed to be a self-evident truth, that "the Bible was not intended to teach us science." For if science be nothing else than reasoned knowledge, and if it be of importance that Nature should give true witness to her God, who shall presume to say that Scripture will not give us help in such a matter? Is it not, on the other hand, rather to be expected that it would do so? If its own question be, "Doth not nature itself teach you?" and if, after all, this teaching be not always so clear and explicit as to need no help to understand it, — (if it were, we could hardly put the doubt,) — then we should surely expect that at least the data for true science should be furnished us abundantly. That, after what men have decided, seems a bold thing to say; to many, no doubt, even to be evidently contrary to the fact. If so, we shall refute ourselves, before we have traveled a good half our proposed journey. The answer will be found, then, as we proceed with it.
Scripture being witness however, nature does teach. "The invisible things of Him are clearly seen, being known by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead." (Rom. 1:20.) "The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament showeth His handiwork." (Ps. 19:1.) The work must needs declare the Artificer and the Worker is, we are assured, He who, because He is the Revealer, is called the "Word of God." (John 1:1-3.) Creation must be, then, part of this revelation.
The parables and types of Scripture take up, therefore, and use Scripture to this end. They are not merely an adaptation of what has strictly another meaning. Rather, they develop what is there. It is in this way that they become so significant for the interpretation of nature. Analogies of this kind we argue from constantly without apology, and without suspicion of deception. They are the marks of the One Mind which everywhere delights to show itself to us, and thus would make all things intelligent to creature intelligence. The proof is that it really does this: as light, it illumines.
The men of science have a name for a principle which underlies this. They call it the "principle of continuity." Of this Prof. Drummond has well said: —
"Probably the most satisfactory way to secure for one's self a just appreciation of the principle of continuity is to try to conceive the universe without it. The opposite of a continuous universe would be a discontinuous universe, an incoherent and irrelevant universe — as irrelevant in all its ways of doing things as an irrelevant person. In effect, to withdraw continuity from the universe would be the same as to withdraw reason from an individual. The universe would run deranged; the world would be a mad world. .. . The authors of The Unseen Universe conclude their examination of this principle by saying that 'assuming the existence of a Supreme Governor of the Universe, the principle of continuity may be said to be the definite expression in words of our trust that He will not put us to permanent intellectual confusion, and we can easily conceive similar expressions of trust with regard to the other faculties of man.'"
Now, if this be true, as it surely is, the continuity of Nature and Revelation is assured. It does not imply, as our author would seem to make it, that the book of nature will be the simpler to read, the surer to follow, therefore in fact the more authoritative, but the reverse. For if nature-teaching be essentially that of parable, no parable is primarily authoritative as to doctrine and though still of an importance hard to be exaggerated, it leaves Scripture as that in which alone God speaks to us "face to face."
Yet nature remains unfallen from its place as the eldest of revelations. There is nothing fallen but man, and even his fall has only in a sense confirmed its witness to us as from Him to whom man's ruin is no surprise, and redemption no after-thought. Assuredly, such a world of conflict and destruction, beast preying upon beast, down to the minutest being that comes under the microscope, would be to an unfallen being an inharmonious and incongruous mystery. How striking, then, that we find the yet unfallen parents of our race shut off from it in a specially prepared and sheltered garden of delight, which might be for them a better witness of Creating Love, — a memory of blessing to them when fallen. Then, when at last sent forth into the earth, with the new strife that had been awakened in their souls, they could find from the conflicting elements around, with which they were in so manifest sympathy, the assurance of omniscient foresight undeceived and undethroned.
Has science done aught but deepen this thought, when it bids us note that the very ground they trod upon was already the wreck of former worlds? yet that mountain-upheaval, and glacier-plow, and the long list of catastrophic forces had been used of Him whom Scripture reveals as the God of resurrection, to prepare and fertilize and beautify their yet wondrous dwelling-place?
And this Scripture also confirms, even though we may have been a long time coming to read it right, and for this too are indebted, as they say, to science. Science did not, however, put it in the book of Genesis, that while God in the beginning created the heavens and the earth, before the first day's work the earth was waste and empty, and darkness on the face of the deep. Then the Spirit of God and His Word bring in the light, and the work of renewal begins.
Here the analogy, then, is perfect. The history of the earth is the prophecy of the man who is to be put upon it; and this prophecy proceeds step by step with the history of the six days, creation being the type of new creation, until the Man comes for whom all is destined, the first man here the type of the Second, Christ, who is the Heir of all. This can be shown even minutely, though here is neither time nor place; and the spiritual significance is the seal of the natural, the perfect assurance of whose inspiration has guided Moses. But we must pass on.
Spiritual law then governs the natural world. God, the Creator, is the "Father of spirits," and to spirits He speaks in it. Nature is, to him who has the key of it, one vast object-lesson of spiritual things. Did we know it, what a different world would the world be to us! How full of reason would all things become! How should day to day utter speech, and night to night tell knowledge! How would we realize in our daily toil the presence of God! How would all the natural sciences become Christian sciences, and only what was unnatural be at last unchristian! A dream, you say? Well, then, at any rate, suffer a little while the dream; and if it should after all be found so rational as to fill all else with reason, so light-like as to fill the whole landscape with color, warmth, and beauty, so spiritual as to connect all things with God, then it will be worth while, surely, to inquire how far the realism of such a dream can differ from reality itself.
We take Scripture with us as we go forward — Scripture that cannot be broken, the true Ithuriel's spear by the touch of which all falsehood is discovered; Scripture, not as the poor thing that men have made it, a rush that one cannot lean upon, a sensitive plant that shrinks from contact with the realities around, but as the weapon of the Spirit, sharper than any two-edged sword; as the staff of the pilgrim, more trusted the more used; yea, as the word of Him, from whom nothing is hid, and of that Spirit who "searcheth the deep things of God."
There are wide fields before us, reader. Let us go forth.