Or speak to the earth, and it shall teach you: and the fishes of the sea shall declare to you.
In this age of bustle and toil, when the time set apart for quiet meditation and real recreation is so limited, we feel the more indebted to nature for the comforting cheer she brings us. One of the saddest things about our modern civilisation is that so many thousands of our fellow creatures have so little opportunity for obtaining instruction and pleasure from the sights and sounds of nature. The world of nature is in a very real sense our other self. When we stretch out our hands we feel her; we open our eyes and behold her; and her voices fill our ears. Our flesh is made of her dust; our nerves quiver with her energy; our blood is red with the life drawn from her bosom. In us is the principle of life, but in the surrounding world of nature are the conditions of that life. "Speak to the earth and it shall teach thee." With how many voices does she speak to us. The world of nature is like its God, entire wherever we see a touch of His finger, whole in every one of its parts. In our own thoughts we detect irregularity, uncertainty, and imperfection; but in nature all is regular, blameless, and perfect. We can never sufficiently admire the perfection and harmony of nature's works; even the lowest and smallest organisms, or the most delicate parts of these, like the fertilising parts of plants, are carried out with an infinite care and untiring labour, as if this particular part of nature were the only part, and that upon it she had been free to expend all her art and all her power. She never tires, never bungles her work. Not once or twice has she produced her masterpieces of workmanship, but myriads of times. And the same ideal perfection is to be found everywhere — perfection infinitely repeated. The abundance of natural beauty invites our most serious contemplation and presses itself upon our consideration. Disclosing itself to our view it will, almost without fail, deliver us from the care and anxiety of the moment. It will lift us out of present selfishness or foreboding fears and place us in a state of quiet rest. This is why a man who is tormented by passion or deep sorrow is revived and restored and sent on his way stronger in hope and abler for the duties of the day and hour by contact with nature. Nature is meant to minister to us, to contribute to our inward help and healing. There is as much Divine purpose in the coming of the seasons as in the recurrence of our daily duties, burdens, and temptations. God made the earth for the nurture of our spirits as well as for the support of our bodies. Can we with the eye of sense look at the heavens above us, and with the eye of faith pierce the external blue, and believe that the God who lives in the universe is a Being who has ears, but heareth not; who has eyes, but seeth not; who has a heart, but knows nothing of the wants and the needs of that broken heart of ours? This earth has not been framed by a mere utilitarian on the principle of feeding and clothing so many million consumers, but with regard also to soul, to provide the inner eye scenes of beauty and sublimity, to train our spirits to thought above dead matter by the spiritual forms with which matter is clothed, to lift us up from the dull content of animal existence to thoughts of illimitable freedom and range. We do not go to nature as constantly, intelligently, and earnestly as we should do. We do not resort to her as a teacher sent from God, as a great revealer of Divine truth. And yet we may hear the Divine voice in nature if we open our ears to her message. That voice was forever in the ears of the Psalmist; he heard God's voice in the hurricane and in the calm. And the reason why we today do not hear God speaking to us in nature is that we allow the murmur of the world to stifle the whisper of heaven. To hold silent communings with the silent God in nature we must leave the bustle of the world behind us. We have come to regard mere bustle as so essential an element of human life that a love of solitude is taken as a mark of eccentricity. Too much solitude undoubtedly brings too great a self-consciousness. The hurry and worry of modern life causes shallow thought, unstable purpose, and wasted energy. The antidote is that silence and meditation, that communion with nature and our own heart, without which no great purpose is carried out and no great work is conceived or done. Nature's pictures ought to awaken into active life all that is really beautiful in the sense of man. "Speak to the earth, and it shall teach thee." If we cannot paint her glories or print them upon the speaking pages of a book, we can at least feel these glories and they should tend to our moral and spiritual elevation. There seems to be a distinct need in our time for something of the freshness of natural religion to be infused into our life. To shake ourselves free from artificial restrictions and restraints to which we ordinarily may be content to be subjected, to relax all conventional swathings, and to go forth in childlike liberty and ease and eagerness, is to learn the secret of nature. "Live more simply and purely in all things" is the message of nature; have intenser faith, be open-hearted, keep the soul in a quiet, receptive attitude. In no haste herself, she checks the hurry and fury of our habits and ensures a lofty calmness. The eagle is said to escape atmospheric tumult by rising into an upper calm that is always accessible. And, thanks to nature, there are blest arcadian retreats, easy of access, to all who care to seek for them, where pictures of wondrous beauty may be impressed upon the mind which for many a day will form a pleasant and profitable recollection to the beholder. The great thing is to be. sincere and loving, ever thinking of nature as a revelation of God. Science is apt to give us a strained view of the world and to make us see only a chain of antecedents and sequences; it is apt to kill the finer and sweeter aspects of nature; on the other hand, the constant groping in the dust and grime of the market, and the incessant pursuit of pleasure are liable to paralyse all noble impulses and aspirations and make us think that the world is only for ignoble use and comfort. We must learn to look with Christ's eyes at the earth on which we dwell and to see in it the revelation of the life and movement of the living God.
(A. M. Sime.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Or speak to the earth, and it shall teach thee: and the fishes of the sea shall declare unto thee.