1181. Nature is a power, but the God of nature is unlimited in power. His works interpret his character. Those who judge him from his handiworks, and not from the suppositions of great men, will see his presence in everything. They behold his smile in the glad sunshine, and his love and care for man in the rich fields of autumn. Even the adornments of the earth, as seen in the grass of living green, the lovely flowers of every hue, and the lofty and varied trees of the forest, testify to the tender, fatherly care of our God, and to his desire to make his children happy.
1182. The foundation of all right education is a knowledge of God.... The first and most important lesson to be impressed upon young minds is the duty of regulating the life by the principles of the word of God.... The true object of education is to fit us for this service by developing and bringing into active exercise every faculty that we possess.
1183. The only safety for the people now is to feel the importance of combining religious culture with general education, that we may escape the curse of unsanctified knowledge. Every effort should be made in the education of youth to impress their minds with the loveliness and power of the truth as it is in Jesus. When the veil shall be removed which separates time from eternity, then will come to many minds the clear perception of the fallacy of human wisdom in comparison with the sure word of prophecy. All true science leads to harmony with and obedience to God.
1184. God is the foundation of everything. All true science is in harmony with his works, all true education leads to obedience to his government. Science opens new wonders to our view; she soars high and explores new depths; but she brings nothing from her research that conflicts with divine revelation. Ignorance may seek to support false views of God by appeals to science; but the book of nature and the written word do not disagree; each sheds light on the other. Rightly understood, they make us acquainted with God and his character by teaching us something of the wise and beneficent laws through which he works. We are thus led to adore his holy name, and to have an intelligent trust in his word.
1185. Many, when they find themselves incapable of measuring the Creator and his works by their own imperfect knowledge of science, doubt the existence of God and attribute infinite power to nature. These persons have lost the simplicity of faith, and are removed far from God in mind and spirit. There should be a settled faith in the divinity of God's holy word. The Bible is not to be tested by men's ideas of science, but science is to be brought to the test of this unerring standard. When the Bible makes statements of facts in nature, science may be compared with the written word, and a correct understanding of both will always prove them to be in harmony. One does not contradict the other. All truths, whether in nature or revelation, agree. Scientific research will open to the minds of the really wise, vast fields of thought and information. They will see God in his works, and will praise him. He will be to them first and best, and the mind will be centered upon him.
1186. Nature is not God, nor ever was God. God is in nature, the voice of nature testifies of God, but nature is not God. It only bears testimony to God's power as his created works. There is a personal God, the Father; there is a personal Christ, the Son.
1187. God has permitted a flood of light to be poured upon the world in discoveries in science and art; but when professedly scientific men lecture and write upon these subjects from a merely human standpoint, they will assuredly come to wrong conclusions. The greatest minds, if not guided by the word of God in their research, become bewildered in their attempts to investigate the relations of science and revelation. The Creator and his works are beyond their comprehension; and because they cannot explain these by natural laws, Bible history is considered unreliable. Those who doubt the reliability of the records of the Old and New Testaments will be led to go a step farther, and doubt the existence of God; and then, having let go their anchor, they are left to beat about upon the rocks of infidelity. Moses wrote under the guidance of the Spirit of God, and a correct theory of geology will never claim discoveries that cannot be reconciled with his statements. The idea that many stumble over, that God did not create matter when he brought the world into existence, limits the power of the Holy One of Israel.
1188. Before the fall of Adam, not a cloud rested on the minds of our first parents to obscure their clear perception of the divine character of God. They were perfectly conformed to the will of God. A beautiful light, the light of God, surrounded them. Nature was their lesson book. The Lord instructed them in regard to the natural world, and then left with them this open book, that they might behold beauty in every object upon which their eyes should rest. The Lord visited the holy pair, and instructed them through the works of his hands. The beauties of nature are an expression of the love of God for human intelligences, and in the garden of Eden the existence of God was demonstrated in the objects of nature that surrounded our first parents. Every tree planted in the garden spoke to them, saying that the invisible things of God were clearly seen, being understood by the things which were made, even his eternal power and Godhead. But while thus God could be discerned in nature, this affords no solid argument in favor of a perfect knowledge of God being revealed in nature to Adam and his posterity after the fall. Nature could convey her lessons to man in his innocence; but sin and transgression brought a blight upon nature, and intervened between nature and nature's God. Had man never disobeyed his Creator, had he remained in his state of perfect rectitude, he could have understood and known God. But when man disobeyed God, he gave evidence that he believed the words of an apostate rather than the words of God. He was told by the enemy to eat of the tree of knowledge. God had said, "Ye shall not eat of it,... lest ye die." But Satan declared that by eating of it man would be exalted to an equality with God. Adam and Eve listened to the voice of the tempter, and sinned against God. The light, the garments of heavenly innocence, departed from these tried, deceived souls, and in parting with the garments of innocence, they drew about them the dark robes of ignorance of God. The clear and perfect light of innocence which had hitherto surrounded them, had lightened everything which they had approached, but deprived of that heavenly light, the posterity of Adam could no longer trace the character of God in his created works. Therefore, after the fall, nature was not the only teacher of man. In order that the world might not remain in darkness, in eternal, spiritual night, the God of nature must meet man through Jesus Christ. The Son of God came to the world as a revelation of the Father. He was "that true light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world." The most difficult and humiliating lesson which man has to learn, if he is kept by the power of God, is his own inefficiency in depending upon human wisdom, and the sure failure of his own efforts to read nature correctly. Sin has obscured his vision, and he cannot interpret nature without placing it above God.
1189. Many teach that matter possesses vital power. They hold that certain properties are imparted to matter, and it is then left to act through its own inherent power; and that the operations of nature are carried on in harmony with fixed laws, that God himself cannot interfere with. This is false science, and is sustained by nothing in the word of God. Nature is not self-acting; she is the servant of her Creator. God does not annul his laws nor work contrary to them; but he is continually using them as his instruments. Nature testifies of an intelligence, a presence, an active agency, that works in, and through, and above her laws. There is in nature the continual working of the Father and the Son. Said Christ, "My Father worketh hitherto, and I work." God has finished his creative work, but his energy is still exerted in upholding the objects of his creation. It is not because the mechanism that was once been set in motion continues its work by its own inherent energy that the pulse beats, and breath follows breath; but every breath, every pulsation of the heart, is an evidence of the all-pervading care of Him in whom we live and have our being. It is not because of inherent power that year by year the earth produces her bounties, and continues her motion around the sun. The hand of God guides the planets, and keeps them in position in their orderly march through the heavens. It is through his power that vegetation flourishes, that the leaves appear and the flowers bloom. His word controls the elements, and by him the valleys are made fruitful. He covers the heavens with clouds, and prepares rain for the earth; he "maketh grass to grow upon the mountains." "He giveth snow like wool; he scattereth the hoarfrost like ashes." "When he uttereth his voice, there is a multitude of waters in the heavens, and he causeth the vapors to ascend from the ends of the earth; he maketh lightnings with rain, and bringeth forth the wind out of his treasures."
1190. All the systems of philosophy devised by men have led to confusion and shame when God has not been recognized and honored. To lose faith in God is terrible. Prosperity cannot be a great blessing to nations or individuals, when once faith in his word is lost. Nothing is truly great but that which is eternal in its tendencies. Truth, justice, mercy, purity, and the love of God are imperishable. When men possess these qualities, they are brought into close relationship to God, and are candidates for the highest exaltation to which the race can aspire. They will disregard human praise, and will be superior to disappointment, weariness, the strife of tongues, and contentions for supremacy. He whose soul is imbued with the Spirit of God will learn the lesson of confiding trust. Taking the written word as his counselor and guide, he will find in science an aid to understand God, but he will not become exalted till, in his blind self-conceit, he is a fool in his ideas of God.
1191. God will not dwell with those who reject his truth; for all who disregard truth dishonor its Author. Of every house that has not Jesus for an abiding guest, he says when he withdraws his presence, "Your house is left unto you desolate." How can those who are destitute of divine enlightenment have correct ideas of God's plans and ways? They either deny him altogether, and ignore his existence, or they circumscribe his power by their own finite, worldly-wise views and opinions. Those who are connected with the infinite God are the only ones who can make a proper use of their knowledge or of the talents entrusted to them by the omniscient Creator. No man can ever truly excel in knowledge and influence unless he is connected with the God of wisdom and power.
1192. The real evidence of a living God is not merely a theory; it is the conviction that God has written in our hearts, illuminated and explained by his word. It is the living power in his created works, seen by a sanctified eye. The precious faith inspired of God gives strength and nobility of character. The natural powers are enlarged because of holy obedience. The life which we live by faith on the Son of God is a series of triumphs, not always seen and understood by the interested parties, but with results reaching far into the future, where we shall see and know as we are known.
1193. Many are so intent upon excluding God from the exercise of sovereign will and power in the established order of the universe, that they demean man, the noblest of his creatures. The theories and speculations of philosophy would make us believe that man has come by slow degrees, not merely from a savage state, but from the very lowest form of the brute creation. They destroy man's dignity because they will not admit God's miraculous power. God has illuminated the human intellect, and poured a flood of light on the world in the discoveries of art and science. But those who view these from a merely human standpoint will most assuredly come to wrong conclusions. The thorns of error, skepticism, and infidelity are disguised by being covered with the garments of philosophy and science. Satan has devised this ingenious manner of winning the soul away from the living God, away from the truth and religion. He exalts nature above nature's Creator.
1194. Some may suppose that these grand things in the natural world are God, but they are not God; they but show forth his glory. The ancient philosophers prided themselves upon their superior knowledge. But let us read the inspired apostle's understanding of the matter: "Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted 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 its human wisdom the world knows not God. Its wise men gather an imperfect knowledge of God through his created works, and then in their foolishness exalt nature and the laws of nature above nature's God. Nature is an open book which reveals God. All who are attracted to nature may behold in it the God that created them. But those who have not a knowledge of God, in their acceptance of the revelation God has made of himself in Christ, will obtain only an imperfect knowledge of God in nature. 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. Professing to be wise, they become as fools.
1195. Men of the greatest intellect cannot understand the mysteries of Jehovah as revealed in nature. Divine inspiration asks many questions which the most profound scholar cannot answer. These questions were not asked supposing that we could answer them, but to call our attention to the deep mysteries of God, and to make men know that their wisdom is limited, that in the common things of daily life there are mysteries past the comprehension of finite minds; that the judgment and purposes of God are past finding out, his wisdom unsearchable. If he reveals himself to man, it is by shrouding himself in the thick cloud of mystery. God's purpose is to conceal more of himself than he makes known to men. Could men fully understand the ways and works of God, they would not then believe him to be the infinite one. He is not to be comprehended by man in his wisdom, and reasons, and purposes. "His ways are past finding out." His love can never be explained upon natural principles. If this could be done, we would not feel that we could trust him with the interests of our souls. Skeptics refuse to believe because with their finite minds they cannot comprehend the infinite power by which God reveals himself to men. Even the mechanism of the human body cannot be fully understood; it presents mysteries that baffle the most intelligent. Yet because human science cannot in its research explain the ways and works of the Creator, men will doubt the existence of God, and ascribe infinite power to nature. God's existence, his character, his law, are facts that all the reasoning of men of the highest attainments cannot controvert. They deny the claims of God and neglect the interests of their souls, because they cannot understand his ways and works. Yet God is ever seeking to instruct finite men, that they may exercise faith in him, and trust themselves wholly in his hands. Every drop of rain or flake of snow, every spear of grass, every leaf and flower and shrub, testifies of God. These little things, so common around us, teach the lesson that nothing is beneath the notice of the infinite God, nothing is too small for his attention.
1196. "Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow." The graceful forms and delicate hues of the plants and flowers may be copied by human skill; but what touch can impart life to even one flower or blade of grass? Every wayside blossom owes its being to the same power that set the starry worlds on high. Through all created things thrills one pulse of life from the great heart of God.... He who has given you life, knows your need of food to sustain it. He who created the body is not unmindful of your need of raiment. Will not he who has bestowed the greater gift, bestow also what is needed to make it complete?
1197. God is to be acknowledged more from what he does not reveal of himself than from that which is open to our limited comprehension. If men could comprehend the unsearchable wisdom of God, and could explain that which he has done or can do, they would no longer reverence him or fear his power. In divine revelation God has given to men mysteries that are incomprehensible, to command their faith. This must be so. If the ways and works of God could be explained by finite minds, he would not stand as supreme. Men may be ever searching, ever inquiring, ever learning, and yet there is an infinity beyond. The light is shining, ever shining with increasing brightness upon our pathway, if we but walk in its divine rays. But there is no darkness so dense, so impenetrable, as that which follows the rejection of Heaven's light, through whatever source it may come. Can men comprehend God?--No. They may speculate in regard to his way and works, but only as finite beings can.
1198. Those who think they can obtain a knowledge of God aside from his 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. Christ came as a personal Saviour to the world. He represented a personal God. He ascended on high as a personal Saviour, and will come again as he ascended into heaven, a personal Saviour. It is impossible to gain a perfect knowledge of God from nature, for nature itself is imperfect. A curse, a blight, is upon it. Yet the things of nature, marred as they are by the blight of sin, inculcate truths regarding the skilful Master Artist. One omnipotent Power, great in goodness in mercy, and in 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 back of nature, but it does not, in its imperfections, represent God. Nature cannot reveal the character of God in his moral perfection.
1199. The Bible is the most comprehensive and the most instructive history that men posses. It came fresh from the Fountain of eternal truth; and a divine hand has preserved its purity through all the ages. Its bright rays shine into the far-distant past, where human research seeks vainly to penetrate. In God's word only we find an authentic account of creation. Here we behold the power that laid the foundation of the earth, and that stretched out the heavens. In this word only can we find a history of our race unsullied by human prejudice or human pride.... In the varied scenes of nature also are lessons of divine wisdom for all who have learned to commune with God. The pages that opened in undimmed brightness to the gaze of the first pair in Eden, bear now a shadow. A blight has fallen upon the fair creation. And yet, wherever we turn are traces of primal loveliness. Wherever we may turn, we hear the voice of God, and behold his handiwork. From the solemn roll of the deep-toned thunder and old ocean's ceaseless roll, to the glad songs that make the forests vocal with melody, nature's ten thousand voices speak his praise. In earth and air and sky, with their marvelous tint and color, varying in gorgeous contrast or softly blended in harmony, we behold his glory. The everlasting hills tell us of his power. The trees wave their green banners in the sunlight, and point us upward to their creator. The flowers that gem the earth with their beauty, whisper to us of Eden, and fill us with longings for its unfading loveliness. The living green that carpets the brown earth, tells us of God's care for the humblest of his creatures. The caves of the sea and the depths of the earth reveal his treasures. He who placed the pearls in the ocean, and the amethyst and chrysolite among the rocks, is a lover of the beautiful. The sun rising in the heavens is the representative of him who is the life and light of all that he has made. All the brightness and beauty that adorn the earth and light up the heavens, speak of God. Shall we, in the enjoyment of the gifts, forget the Giver? Let them rather lead us to contemplate his goodness and his love. Let all that is beautiful in our earthly home remind us of the crystal river and green fields, the waving trees and the living fountains, the shining city and the white-robed singers, of our heavenly home, -- that world of beauty which no artist can picture, no mortal tongue describe. "Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him." To dwell forever in this home of the blest, to bear in soul, body, and spirit, not the dark traces of sin and the curse, but the perfect likeness of our Creator, and through ceaseless ages to advance in wisdom, in knowledge and holiness, ever exploring new fields of thought, ever finding new wonders and new glories, ever increasing in capacity to know and to enjoy and to love, and knowing that there is still beyond us joy and love and wisdom infinite,--such is the object to which the Christian hope is pointing, for which Christian education is preparing. To secure this education, and to aid others to secure it, should be the object of the Christian's life.
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