“For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.” Romans 1:20-21
WE cannot forget that the God of revelation is the God of nature—that in exploring this vast territory, we trespass upon the domain of no foreign potentate, we invade no hostile kingdom, we tread no forbidden ground. The spiritual mind, fond of soaring through nature in quest of new proofs of God’s existence, and fresh emblems of His wisdom, power, and goodness, exults in the thought that it is his Father’s domain he treads. He feels that God, his God, is there; and the sweet consciousness of His all-pervading presence, and the impress of His great perfections which everywhere meets his eye, overwhelm his renewed soul with wonder, love, and praise.
Oh the delight of looking abroad upon nature, under a sense of pardoning, filial love in the soul, when enabled to exclaim, “This God is my God.” Let it not therefore be supposed that nature and revelation are at war with each other. A spiritual mind may discover a close and beautiful relation and harmony between the two. The study of God in His external operations is by no means discouraged in His word. “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork. Day unto day utters speech, and night unto night shows knowledge.” And in the first verse of our motto, the apostle refers to the rejection of this source of evidence by the heathen.
But if natural theology has its advantages, it also has its limitations. It must never be regarded as taking the place of God’s word. It may just impart light enough to the mind to leave its atheism “without excuse,” but it cannot impart light enough to convince the soul of its sinfulness—its guilt—its exposure to the wrath of a holy God, and its need of such a Savior as Jesus is. All this is the work of the eternal and blessed Spirit; and if my reader is resting his hope of heaven upon what he has learned of God and of himself in the light of nature only—a stranger to the teaching and operations of the Holy Spirit upon his mind—he is awfully deceiving himself. Natural religion can never renew, sanctify, and save the soul. A man may be deeply schooled in it as a science—he may investigate it thoroughly—defend it ably and successfully, and even, from the feeble light it emits, grope his dark way to the great edifice of revelation—but beyond this it cannot conduct him: it cannot open the door, and admit him to the fullness of the gospel therein contained.
It may go far to convince him that the word of God is true, but it cannot “open the book and loose the seals thereof,” to disclose to the mind its rich and exhaustless treasures. Oh no! another and a diviner light must shine upon his soul; another and a more powerful hand must break the seals. That light, that hand, is God the Holy Spirit. He only can make the soul acquainted with this solemn truth, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked.” He only can explore this dark chamber of imagery, and bring to light the hidden evil that is there. He only can lay the soul low in the dust before God at the discovery, and draw out the heart in the humiliating confession—”Behold, I am vile!” He only can take of the blood of a precious Savior, and the glorious righteousness of the God-Man Mediator, and, working faith to receive it, through this infinitely glorious medium seal pardon and acceptance, and peace upon the conscience.
Oh you blessed and loving Spirit! this is Your work, and Yours alone. Yours to empty, Yours to fill; Yours to lay low, Yours to exalt; Yours to wound, Yours to heal; Yours to convince of sin, and Yours to lead the soul, all sinful, guilty, and wretched as it is, to the precious blood of Jesus—”the fountain opened for sin and uncleanness.” You shall have the praise, and wear the CROWN!