Chapters 10-12 – Nature Teaching: In Harmony with the Universe
Nature testifies of God. The learner, brought in contact with the miracle and mystery of the universe, cannot but recognize the working of infinite power. In no other way can the foundation of a true education be so firmly and surely laid.
Not by its own inherent energy does the earth produce its bounties, and year by year continue its motion around the sun. An unseen hand guides the planets in their circuit of the heavens. The same power that upholds nature, is working also in man. The same great laws that guide alike the star and the atom control human life. The laws that govern the heart’s action, regulating the flow of the current of life to the body, are the laws of the mighty Intelligence that has the jurisdiction of the soul. From Him all life proceeds. The same laws which govern the things of nature and the events of life are to control us; that they are given for our good; and that only in obedience to them can we find true happiness and success.Only in harmony with Him can be found its true sphere of action.
All things both in heaven and in earth declare that the great law of life is a law of service. The infinite Father ministers to the life of every living thing. Christ came to the earth “as He that serveth.” Luke 22:27. The angels are “ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation.” Hebrews 1:14. The same law of service is written upon all things in nature. The birds of the air, the beasts of the field, the trees of the forest, the leaves, the grass, and the flowers, the sun in the heavens and the stars of light—all have their ministry. Lake and ocean, river and water spring—each takes to give.
As each thing in nature ministers thus to the world’s life, it also secures its own. “Give, and it shall be given unto you”
To transgress His law, physical, mental, or moral, is to place one’s self out of harmony with the universe, to introduce discord, anarchy, ruin. To him who learns thus to interpret its teachings, all nature becomes illuminated; the world is a lesson book, life a school.
Jesus, the Great Nature Teacher
The Great Teacher brought His hearers in contact with nature,The parables, by means of which He loved to teach lessons of truth, show how open His spirit was to the influences of nature and how He delighted to gather the spiritual teaching from the surroundings of daily life. The birds of the air, the lilies of the field, the sower and the seed, the shepherd and the sheep—with these Christ illustrated immortal truth.
So we should teach. Let the children learn to see in nature an expression of the love and the wisdom of God; let all things seen become to them the interpreters of the unseen.
To the little child, not yet capable of learning from the printed page or of being introduced to the routine of the schoolroom, nature presents an unfailing source of instruction and delight. So far as possible, let the child from his earliest years be placed where this wonderful lesson book shall be open before him.
And for those of older years, needing continually its silent reminders of the spiritual and eternal, nature’s teaching will be no less a source of pleasure and of instruction. As the dwellers in Eden learned from nature’s pages, as Moses discerned God’s handwriting on the Arabian plains and mountains, and the child Jesus on the hillsides of Nazareth, so the children of today may learn of Him.
As parents and teachers try to teach these lessons, the work should be made practical. Let the children themselves prepare the soil and sow the seed.
Perplexity – Even the child, as he comes in contact with nature, will see cause for perplexity. In brier and thorn, in thistle and tare, is represented the evil that blights and mars.
God’s Goodness – In singing bird and opening blossom, in rain and sunshine, in summer breeze and gentle dew, in ten thousand objects in nature, from the oak of the forest to the violet that blossoms at its root, is seen the love that restores. And nature still speaks to us of God’s goodness.
The working of His power is ascribed to natural causes or to human instrumentality, and too often His gifts are perverted to selfish uses and made a curse instead of a blessing. God is seeking to change all this. He desires that our dull senses shall be quickened to discern His merciful kindness, that His gifts may be to us the blessing that He intended.
God is the Source of Life – Of the almost innumerable lessons taught in the varied processes of growth, some of the most precious are conveyed in the Saviour’s parable of the growing seed. There is life in the seed, there is power in the soil; but unless infinite power is exercised day and night, the seed will yield no return. The life which the Creator has implanted, He alone can call forth. Every seed grows, every plant develops, by the power of God.
God Defines Success – In our lifework we know not which shall prosper, this or that. This question it is not for us to settle. “In the morning sow thy seed, and in the evening withhold not thine hand.” Ecclesiastes 11:6.
Life is Continual Growth – The germination of the seed represents the beginning of spiritual life, and the development of the plant is a figure of the development of character. There can be no life without growth. The plant must either grow or die. As its growth is silent and imperceptible, but continuous, so is the growth of character. At every stage of development our life may be perfect; yet if God’s purpose for us is fulfilled, there will be constant advancement.
Parents and teachers should aim so to cultivate the tendencies of the youth that at each stage of life they may represent the beauty appropriate to that period, unfolding naturally, as do the plants in the garden. The little ones should be educated in childlike simplicity. They should be trained to be content with the small, helpful duties and the pleasures and experiences natural to their years. Childhood answers to the blade in the parable, and the blade has a beauty peculiarly its own. Children should not be forced into a precocious maturity, but as long as possible should retain the freshness and grace of their early years. The more quiet and simple the life of the child—the more free from artificial excitement and the more in harmony with nature—the more favorable it is to physical and mental vigor and to spiritual strength.
Cause & Effect – By the laws of God in nature, effect follows cause with unvarying certainty. The reaping testifies to the sowing. The harvest is a reproduction of the seed sown. Every seed yields fruit after its kind. So it is with the traits of character we cherish. Selfishness, self-love, self-esteem, self-indulgence, reproduce themselves, and the end is wretchedness and ruin. Love, sympathy, and kindness yield fruitage of blessing, a harvest that is imperishable.
In the harvest the seed is multiplied. A single grain of wheat, increased by repeated sowings, would cover a whole land with golden sheaves. So widespread may be the influence of a single life, of even a single act.
The Benefit of Liberality – The lesson of seed sowing teaches liberality. “He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully.” 2 Corinthians 9:6. By casting it away the sower multiplies his seed. So by imparting we increase our blessings. God’s promise assures a sufficiency, that we may continue to give. More than this: as we impart the blessings of this life, gratitude in the recipient prepares the heart to receive spiritual truth, and a harvest is produced unto life everlasting.
Self-Sacrifice = Self-Preservation – The law of self-sacrifice is the law of self-preservation. The husbandman preserves his grain by casting it away. So the life that will be preserved is the life that is freely given in service to God and man. The seed dies, to spring forth into new life.
Only through the sacrifice of Christ, the Seed, could fruit be brought forth for the kingdom of God. In accordance with the law of the vegetable kingdom, life is the result of His death. So with all who bring forth fruit as workers together with Christ: self-love, self-interest, must perish; the life must be cast into the furrow of the world’s need.
In this we are also taught the lesson of the resurrection. Of the human body laid away to molder in the grave, God has said: “It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption: it is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory: it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power.” 1 Corinthians 15:42, 43.
Gardening the Heart – As they work, the parent or teacher can explain the garden of the heart, with the good or bad seed sown there, and that as the garden must be prepared for the natural seed, so the heart must be prepared for the seed of truth. As the seed is cast into the ground, they can teach the lesson of Christ’s death; and as the blade springs up, the truth of the resurrection. As the plant grows, the correspondence between the natural and the spiritual sowing may be continued. The youth should be instructed in a similar way. From the tilling of the soil, lessons may constantly be learned. No one settles upon a raw piece of land with the expectation that it will at once yield a harvest. Diligent, persevering labor must be put forth in the preparation of the soil, the sowing of the seed, and the culture of the crop. So it must be in the spiritual sowing. The garden of the heart must be cultivated. The soil must be broken up by repentance. The evil growths that choke the good grain must be uprooted. As soil once overgrown with thorns can be reclaimed only by diligent labor, so the evil tendencies of the heart can be overcome only by earnest effort in the name and strength of Christ.
How Gardening Develops Life Skills – The care of the young plants, the pruning and watering, the shielding from frost at night and sun by day, keeping out weeds, disease, and insect pests, the training and arranging, not only teach important lessons concerning the development of character, but the work itself is a means of development. In cultivating carefulness, patience, attention to detail, obedience to law, it imparts a most essential training.
About Healing Power – God’s healing power runs all through nature. If a tree is cut, if a human being is wounded or breaks a bone, nature begins at once to repair the injury. Even before the need exists, the healing agencies are in readiness; and as soon as a part is wounded, every energy is bent to the work of restoration. So it is in the spiritual realm. Before sin created the need, God had provided the remedy. Every soul that yields to temptation is wounded, bruised, by the adversary; but whenever there is sin, there is the Saviour. It is Christ’s work “to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, … to set at liberty them that are bruised.” Luke 4:18. In this work we are to co-operate. “If a man be overtaken in a fault, … restore such an one.” Galatians 6:1. The word here translated “restore” means to put in joint, as a dislocated bone. How suggestive the figure! He who falls into error or sin is thrown out of relation to everything about him. He may realize his error, and be filled with remorse; but he cannot recover himself. He is in confusion and perplexity, worsted and helpless. He is to be reclaimed, healed, re-established. “Ye which are spiritual, restore such an one.” Only the love that flows from the heart of Christ can heal.
Love’s agencies have wonderful power, for they are divine. The soft answer that “turneth away wrath,” the love that “suffereth long, and is kind,” the charity that “covereth a multitude of sins” (Proverbs 15:1; 1 Corinthians 13:4, R.V.; 1 Peter 4:8, R.V.)—would we learn the lesson, with what power for healing would our lives be gifted! How life would be transformed, and the earth become a very likeness and foretaste of heaven!
Excellence in Small Things Matters – Perfection exists in the least as well as in the greatest of the works of God. The hand that hung the worlds in space is the hand that fashions the flowers of the field. So in the humblest lot true excellence may be found; the commonest tasks, wrought with loving faithfulness, are beautiful in God’s sight.
The wide, deep river, that offers a highway for the traffic and travel of nations, is valued as a world-wide benefit; but what of the little rills that help to form this noble stream? Were it not for them, the river would disappear. Upon them its very existence depends. So men called to lead in some great work are honored as if its success were due to them alone; but that success required the faithful co-operation of humbler workers almost without number—workers of whom the world knows nothing.
Talent is too much idolized, and station too much coveted. There are too many who will do nothing unless they are recognized as leaders; too many who must receive praise, or they have no interest to labor. What we need to learn is faithfulness in making the utmost use of the powers and opportunities we have, and contentment in the lot to which Heaven assigns us.
We are not merely to tell the child about these creatures of God. The animals themselves are to be his teachers.
Lessons that Creation Teaches – Many illustrations from nature are used by the Bible writers, nature becomes a key to the treasure house of the word. The ants teach lessons of patient industry, of perseverance in surmounting obstacles, of providence for the future. And the birds are teachers of the sweet lesson of trust.The eagle of the Alps is sometimes beaten down by the tempest into the narrow defiles of the mountains. So we may be surrounded with difficulties, discouragement, and darkness. There is one, and but one, way of escape. The mists and fogs cling to the earth; beyond the clouds God’s light is shining. Into the sunlight of His presence we may rise on the wings of faith.
Many are the lessons that may thus be learned. Self-reliance, from the tree that, growing alone on plain or mountainside, strikes down its roots deep into the earth, and in its rugged strength defies the tempest.
The secret of a holy life, from the water lily, that, on the bosom of some slimy pool, surrounded by weeds and rubbish, strikes down its channeled stem to the pure sands beneath, and, drawing thence its life, lifts up its fragrant blossoms to the light in spotless purity.
While the children and youth gain a knowledge of facts from teachers and textbooks, let them learn to draw lessons and discern truth for themselves. In their gardening, question them as to what they learn from the care of their plants. As they look on a beautiful landscape, ask them why God clothed the fields and woods with such lovely and varied hues. Why was not all colored a somber brown?
He alone who recognizes in nature his Father’s handiwork, who in the richness and beauty of the earth reads the Father’s handwriting—he alone learns from the things of nature their deepest lessons, and receives their highest ministry.