Before the entrance of sin not a cloud rested upon the minds of our first parents to obscure their perception of the character of God. They were perfectly conformed to the will of God. For a covering a beautiful light, the light of God, surrounded them. This clear and perfect light illuminated everything which they approached.
Nature was their lessonbook. In the Garden of Eden the existence of God was demonstrated, His attributes were revealed, in the objects of nature that surrounded them. Everything upon which their eyes rested spoke to them. The invisible things of God, “even His everlasting power and divinity,” were clearly seen, being understood by the things that were made.
Results of Sin
But while it is true that in the beginning God could be discerned in nature, it does not follow that after the Fall a perfect knowledge of God was revealed in the natural world to Adam and his posterity. Nature could convey her lessons to man in his innocence. But transgression brought a blight upon the earth and intervened between nature and nature’s God. Had Adam and Eve never disobeyed their Creator, had they remained in the path of perfect rectitude, they would have continued to learn of God through His works. But when they listened to the tempter and sinned against God, the light of the garments of heavenly innocence departed from them. Deprived of the heavenly light, they could no longer discern the character of God in the works of His hand.
And through man’s disobedience a change was wrought in nature itself. Marred by the curse of sin, nature can bear but an imperfect testimony regarding the Creator. It cannot reveal His character in its perfection.
A Divine Teacher
We need a divine Teacher. In order that the world might not remain in darkness, in eternal spiritual night, God met us in Jesus Christ. Christ is “the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.” John 1:9. “The light of the knowledge of the glory of God” is revealed “in the face of Jesus Christ.” 2 Corinthians 4:6. The light of Christ, illuminating our understanding, and shining upon the face of nature, enables us still to read the lesson of God’s love in His created works.
Nature Testifies Of God
The things of nature upon which we look today give us but a faint conception of Eden’s beauty and glory. Yet much that is beautiful remains. Nature testifies that One infinite in power, great in goodness, mercy, and love, created the earth and filled it with life and gladness. Even in their blighted state all things reveal the handiwork of the great Master Artist. Though sin has marred the form and beauty of the things of nature, though on them may be seen traces of the work of the prince of the power of the air, yet they still speak of God. In the briers, the thistles, the thorns, the tares, we may read the law of condemnation; but from the beauty of natural things, and from their wonderful adaptation to our needs and our happiness, we may learn that God still loves us, that His mercy is yet manifested to the world.
“The heavens declare the glory of God;
And the firmament showeth His handiwork.
Day unto day uttereth speech,
And night unto night showeth knowledge.
There is no speech nor language,
Where their voice is not heard.”
— Psalm 19:1-3.
Man’s Failure to Interpret Nature
Apart from Christ we are still incapable of interpreting rightly the language of nature. The most difficult and humiliating lesson that man has to learn is his own inefficiency in depending upon human wisdom, and the sure failure of his efforts to read nature correctly. Of himself he cannot interpret nature without placing it above God. He is in a condition similar to that of the Athenians, who, amidst their altars dedicated to the worship of nature, had one inscribed: “To the unknown God.” God was indeed unknown to them. He is unknown to all who, without the guidance of the divine Teacher, take up the study of nature. They will assuredly come to wrong conclusions.
In its human wisdom the world knows not God. Its wise men gather an imperfect knowledge of Him from His created works; but this knowledge, so far from giving them exalted conceptions of God, so far from elevating the mind and the soul, and bringing the whole being into conformity with His will, tends to make men idolaters. In their blindness they exalt nature and the laws of nature above nature’s God.
God has permitted a flood of light to be poured upon the world in the discoveries of science and art; but when professedly scientific men reason upon these subjects from a merely human point of view, they are sure to err. The greatest minds, if not guided by the word of God, become bewildered in their attempts to investigate the relations of science and revelation. The Creator and His works are beyond their comprehension; and because these cannot be explained by natural laws, Bible history is pronounced unreliable.
Those who question the reliability of the Scripture records have let go their anchor and are left to beat about upon the rocks of infidelity. When they find themselves incapable of measuring the Creator and His works by their own imperfect knowledge of science, they question the existence of God and attribute infinite power to nature.
In true science there can be nothing contrary to the teaching of the word of God, for both have the same Author. A correct understanding of both will always prove them to be in harmony. Truth, whether in nature or in revelation, is harmonious with itself in all its manifestations. But the mind not enlightened by God’s Spirit will ever be in darkness in regard to His power. This is why human ideas in regard to science so often contradict the teaching of God’s word.
The Work of Creation
The work of creation can never be explained by science. What science can explain the mystery of life?
The theory that God did not create matter when He brought the world into existence is without foundation. In the formation of our world, God was not indebted to pre-existing matter. On the contrary, all things, material or spiritual, stood up before the Lord Jehovah at His voice and were created for His own purpose. The heavens and all the host of them, the earth and all things therein, are not only the work of His hand; they came into existence by the breath of His mouth.
“Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.” Hebrews 11:3.
“By the word of the Lord were the heavens made;
And all the host of them by the breath of His mouth….
He spake, and it was done;
He commanded, and it stood fast.”
— Psalm 33:6-9.
Laws of Nature
In dwelling upon the laws of matter and the laws of nature, many lose sight of, if they do not deny, the continual and direct agency of God. They convey the idea that nature acts independently of God, having in and of itself its own limits and its own powers wherewith to work. In their minds there is a marked distinction between the natural and the supernatural. The natural is ascribed to ordinary causes, unconnected with the power of God. Vital power is attributed to matter, and nature is made a deity. It is supposed that matter is placed in certain relations and left to act from fixed laws with which God Himself cannot interfere; that nature is endowed with certain properties and placed subject to laws, and is then left to itself to obey these laws and perform the work originally commanded.
This is false science; there is nothing in the word of God to sustain it. God does not annul His laws, but He is continually working through them, using them as His instruments. They are not self-working. God is perpetually at work in nature. She is His servant, directed as He pleases. Nature in her work testifies of the intelligent presence and active agency of a being who moves in all His works according to His will. It is not by an original power inherent in nature that year by year the earth yields its bounties and continues its march around the sun. The hand of infinite power is perpetually at work guiding this planet. It is God’s power momentarily exercised that keeps it in position in its rotation.
The God of heaven is constantly at work. It is by His power that vegetation is caused to flourish, that every leaf appears and every flower blooms. Every drop of rain or flake of snow, every spire 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.
The mechanism of the human body cannot be fully understood; it presents mysteries that baffle the most intelligent. It is not as the result of a mechanism, which, once set in motion, continues its work, that the pulse beats and breath follows breath. In God we live and move and have our being. Every breath, every throb of the heart, is a continual evidence of the power of an ever-present God.
It is God that causes the sun to rise in the heavens. He opens the windows of heaven and gives rain. He causes the 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; …He maketh lightnings with rain, and bringeth forth the wind out of His treasures.” Psalm 147:16; Jeremiah 10:13.
The Lord is constantly employed in upholding and using as His servants the things that He has made. Said Christ: “My Father worketh hitherto, and I work.” John 5:17.
Mysteries of Divine Power
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 that we might answer them, but to call our attention to the deep mysteries of God and to teach us that our wisdom is limited; that in the surroundings of our daily life there are many things beyond the comprehension of finite minds; that the judgment and purposes of God are past finding out. His wisdom is unsearchable.
Skeptics refuse to believe in God because with their finite minds they cannot comprehend the infinite power by which He reveals Himself to men. But God is to be acknowledged more from what He does not reveal of Himself than from that which is open to our limited comprehension. Both in divine revelation and in nature, God has given to men mysteries to command their faith. This must be so. We may be ever searching, ever inquiring, ever learning, and yet there is an infinity beyond.
“Who hath measured the waters in the hollow of His hand,
And meted out heaven with the span,
And comprehended the dust of the earth in a measure,
And weighed the mountains in scales,
And the hills in a balance?
Who hath directed the Spirit of Jehovah,
Or being His counselor hath taught Him? . . .
Behold, the nations are as a drop of a bucket,
And are accounted as the small dust of the balance:
Behold, He taketh up the isles as a very little thing.
“And Lebanon is not sufficient to burn,
Nor the beasts thereof sufficient for a burnt offering.
All the nations are as nothing before Him;
They are accounted by Him as less than nothing, and vanity.
“To whom then will ye liken God?
Or what likeness will ye compare unto Him? …
Have ye not known?
Have ye not heard?
Hath it not been told you from the beginning?
Have ye not understood from the foundations of the earth?
It is He that sitteth above the circle of the earth,
And the inhabitants thereof are as grasshoppers;
That stretcheth out the heavens as a curtain,
And spreadeth them out as a tent to dwell in….
To whom then will ye liken Me,
That I should be equal to him?
Saith the Holy One.
Lift up your eyes on high,
And see who hath created these,
That bringeth out their host by number;
He calleth them all by name;
By the greatness of His might, and for that He is strong in power,
Not one is lacking.
“Why sayest thou, O Jacob, and speakest, O Israel,
My way is hid from Jehovah,
And the justice due to me is passed away from my God?
Hast thou not known?
Hast thou not heard?
The everlasting God, Jehovah,
The Creator of the ends of the earth,
Fainteth not, neither is weary,
There is no searching of His understanding.
He giveth power to the faint;
And to him that hath no might He increaseth strength.
Even the youths shall faint and be weary,
And the young men shall utterly fall:
But they that wait for Jehovah shall renew their strength;
They shall mount up with wings as eagles;
They shall run, and not be weary;
They shall walk, and not faint.”
— Isaiah 40:12-31, ASV
— E.G. White, 8 Testimonies, pp. 255-262
Related: The Personality of God