TWILIGHT AND DAWN
SIMPLE TALKS ON THE SIX DAYS OF CREATION
(Mrs. L. G. Wait)
"KNOWN UNTO GOD ARE ALL HIS WORKS FROM THE BEGINNING OF THE WORLD."
"THE LORD SHALL REJOICE IN HIS WORKS."
"HIS TENDER MERCIES ARE OVER ALL HIS WORKS."
"IN THE BEGINNING": CREATION
RUIN AND DARKNESS
FIRST DAY. LIGHT
SECOND DAY. THE OCEAN OF AIR
THIRD DAY. THE WORLD OF WATER
" " THE EARTH BENEATH
" " THE GREEN EARTH
FOURTH DAY. SUN, MOON, AND STARS
STORY OF A DEAF BOY WHO HEARD THE SUN PROCLAIM THE GLORY OF GOD
THE STONE BOOK
FIFTH DAY. "THE MOVING CREATURE THAT HATH LIFE"
" " "FOWL OF THE AIR, AND FISH OF THE SEA"
" " FLYING FOWL
" " CREEPING THINGS
SIXTH DAY. THE ANIMAL WORLD
" " THE CROWN OF GOD'S CREATION
"Everywhere, everywhere A tale is told to me— It is told in the sunny air, It is told on the sparkling sea.
"It is told in the forest brakes, It is told on the purple hills, By the silent mountain lakes, By the singing and leaping rills.
"In the meadows that stretch away As a sea of golden green, With hedges of sweet white may And the reedy brooks between.
"Where I wander and run and rest, The tale is told to me, The sweetest tale and the best Of all the tales that be.
* * * * *
"The tale is the tale of Jesus; It is told in heaven above, On the sea and the moors and the mountains, In language of all the peoples, The speech of love.
"The morning star and the dayspring, The sun and the cloud and the shower, The grass and the rose and the cedar, His glory and love are telling From hour to hour.
"The birds in the green wood singing, The sea that is wide and deep, The sheep in the folds of the mountains, The corn in the golden valleys, And all beside.
"All round me are glorious pictures Of him who has made them fair; Through the long bright day I can see Him, And I fear not the silent darkness, For He is there,"
Taken, by permission, from Hymns by Ter Steegen and Others Second series.
Ten years have passed since this book was first published, and in issuing a third edition it seems desirable to say a few words as to the object with which it was written, and to explain why some additions and alterations have been made.
The earlier chapters remain pretty much as they were, but the latter have been recast; and the writer's original endeavour to show that the Story of Creation is not the Story of Evolution, as set forth in many attractive but misleading books for the young, has been more constantly kept in view.
It is hoped that by this means the end sought may be better reached, and that the young readers may be furnished with the truth before they meet with false teaching on this important point. The mind which has been carefully grounded in what is true may confidently be expected to detect and refuse what is erroneous, however fair may be its show; and if the need for early training on the lines marked out for us in Scripture was apparent some years ago, how much more imperative is it now, when the authority of God and of His Word is questioned on every hand?
It has been argued, with some reason, that the early chapters of these "Simple Talks" are "too childish" when compared with the latter part of the book; but it may be said in excuse for this seeming inconsistency that the wish of the writer was to furnish assistance to mothers and those who train young children. She therefore began at the beginning, intending the early chapters to be read aloud, with additions and omissions, as the young listeners were "able to bear." These chapters, therefore, are full of repetitions, of which the young mind does not weary, but which are necessary as long as it can only receive "here a little and there a little," without overstrain.
The later chapters will be found more suited to children of larger growth, who will be able to enjoy reading for themselves, without needing the "line upon line and precept upon precept," apart from which it is vain to attempt to teach the little ones.
How imperfectly the work is done will be manifest to those who know anything of the subjects, which are touched upon rather than explained. The difficulty of deciding how much to tell, and how much to leave untold, has sometimes made the writer's task seem an almost impossible one; but she has taken courage to go on by remembering a wise saying—that if we shrink from attempting any little work which comes in our way from the fear of making mistakes, it is easy to make the great mistake of doing nothing at all.
If what has been a labour of love to the writer should be of some interest and profit to readers, young or old, that labour will be amply repaid.
The book is now sent forth again, with prayer that He who said, "Suffer the children to come unto Me," and who "took them up in His arms, put His hands on them, and blessed them," may be pleased to use it in His service and for His glory.
TWILIGHT AND DAWN.
"As the cold of snow in the time of harvest, so is a faithful messenger to them that send him: for he refresheth the soul of his masters."—PROVERBS xxv. 13.
"The words of the Lord are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times."—PSALM xii. 6.
I wonder whether you are as fond of asking questions as I was long ago—so fond that I did not mind asking them when I well knew I could get no answers, because I spoke to things, not to people who could speak to me again?
Still, if any mere thing could be supposed capable of answering for itself, I think a book might; and so perhaps as you take this book of mine into your hand, and run away to some quiet place to have a look at it, you may be taking it into your confidence, and asking it some such questions as these:
(a) What are you all about? Are you a lesson-book?
(b) Have you any stories—real stories, not made-up ones?
(c) Any pictures?
(d) I wonder whether I shall like you? Does the person who made you like children, and know the sort of things they care for?
Now before you put any more questions to my book, I will answer for it; and that we may not miss any, we will call them questions (a), (b), (c), (d), and answer one at a time.
Your first question (a)—the first part of it at least—is what grown people as well as children have a right to ask of a book; and it would be a poor thing for the book to answer, "Oh, I am about nothing in particular! I can't quite tell you why I was written." But most books are about something in particular, and what that is you can best find out by reading them right through; for many people miss their way in a book by beginning at the end and travelling backwards, or beginning about the middle, and not knowing whether to go backwards or forwards. So you see I want you to find out for yourself the answer to question (a), only I will just say that the book is mostly about your own dwelling-place. I do not mean your body, though that is, in one sense, your dwelling-place; neither do I mean your own home, nor even that part of England where you were born. By your own dwelling-place I mean this wonderful world which you see all around you, where God has made so much for you to see and enjoy; and learn about too, that you may use and enjoy it better.
So you will find in this book something about the firm ground upon which you trod as soon as you were old enough to run about the fields and pick the daisies. Something too about the blue sky, where the lark sings and the swallows fly; and the great wide sea, where the fishes live; and a little about what the Bible tells us of how all that you see around you came to be; long, long ago, when everything was quite new and beautiful, and God said that all that He had made was "very good."
"Then it is a lesson-book?" I hear you say.
Yes, in one way, and yet not quite all lessons, for you will find some stories here too.
And now I must answer the (b) question about these same stories, for I want you to know, before you begin to read them, that they are all true, and there is no pretending or making-up about them.
Question (c), about the pictures, you can soon answer for yourself; so now I have only the (d) question to answer, and I can only say for my book, that I do not know whether or not you will care for it; but I do know that the person who made it loves children, and very much likes teaching them and talking to them. And that you may better understand that I know something about children, I will explain that, though I am only talking to you just now, I shall tell you in this book the very same things which I told to some children who came every morning to do their lessons at my house, three or four years ago—at least, I will write down for you all I can remember of the talks these children and I had together, and I will tell you the same true stories which I told them. I used to ask them to give me their ears, and I must ask you to give me your eyes; for writing is different from talking, is it not? You cannot look up in my face and ask me questions as my children did; and when I ask you a question, I cannot hear you answer, but am obliged to fancy what you would be likely to say. Still, I think we shall be friends, and get to know each other a little, even by means of this dumb-show talk, as I speak to you with my hand and you listen to me with your eyes.
And now I want to tell you about my children. It was a beautiful morning in September when I opened the schoolroom door, and found them, all the seven, sitting round the table, waiting to begin school again, for the long summer holidays were over. I was afraid they would think it rather hard to sit still and do lessons, especially when the sun was shining brightly and it was as pleasant a day as could be out of doors; but as I looked at their bright faces, I thought they did not seem as if they minded coming back to school so very much after all.
I wonder what you feel like, when the holidays are over and your little work-a-day world begins again? Does it seem too bad to be true? or are you just a tiny bit glad to have something that you really must do, instead of all play and no work? Do you know—and you remember I told you I knew children pretty well—I have actually met with girls, and boys too, who have sometimes, especially on a very wet day in the holidays, found this delightful having nothing to do all day long harder work than the most difficult of their lessons?
And now for the names of my children. You would like to know them, would you not? for they are real boys and girls, not children in a story book.
My eldest boy was Ernest, and he sat at the bottom of the table, opposite the place where I always sat, and where someone had put a chair for me. Next in age came Charlotte, Ernest's sister; and then Chrissie, the elder brother of Eustace and Dick. I put Sharley and Chrissie together, because they were both ten years old and did most of their lessons out of the same books. Next came another little pair: May, Ernest's younger sister, and Eustace. Last of all, the little ones: Ernest's youngest brother, Leslie, and Chrissie's youngest brother, Dick. These little boys were only six years old.
Now that you know the ages of my children you will be able to tell whether any of them were about your own age; perhaps you may be older than Chrissie and Sharley, or even Ernest, who was nearly twelve, but I am quite sure that if you are younger than any of my elder children, you will be able to understand some of the lessons which we had from the Bible every morning.
Before the holidays we had been reading in the New Testament, and had finished the Acts of the Apostles; and it was settled that when they came back to school we should read some of the Old Testament, and begin at the beginning. The children remembered this, and were just going to open their Bibles and find the first chapter of Genesis, when I said that I should like to ask them one question before a word was read.
I should like you, too, to think about it, and try to give an answer; for my question—
Why is the Bible different from any other book?
concerns you as well as the children of whom I asked it.
They all said at once that the Bible is different from every other book in the world because it is God's Book. Yes, that is the great difference; the Bible is God's own Book, in which He has spoken to us His own words, and it is the only Book in the world which tells us all the truth.
How wonderful it is to think of this, that every child who can read, and has a little Bible of his own, can learn what God has said!
Will you try to remember when you open that beautiful Bible, which was given you on your birthday, that there God is speaking—speaking to you just as much as if you were the only person in the world?
If you think of this it will make you very still and quiet, that you may hear what He says to you.
When we say that God has spoken to us, we mean that long ago He told those holy men whom He allowed to write His Book exactly how He would have them write. When you read in your Bible, you do not read what Moses and David wrote out of their own minds. God gave them His words to write for Him, so that we might know for certain, not what they thought God meant them to say, but what He really did say.
Do you understand this?
Perhaps not quite; so I will tell you a story to make it plainer.
I know a boy who is very fond of running errands, and a very useful boy he is. If I give him a message he is off like a shot, and back again with the answer almost before I know that he has gone. So willing and quick a messenger is Willie, that it is a pleasure to send him anywhere.
But there is just one thing that has sometimes hindered him from being a really good messenger. Can you guess what it is? You will soon find out if you remember that, besides being willing and quick, a messenger must deliver the exact message entrusted to him. He must give it just as it was given to him if he would deliver it faithfully.
Now Willie prefers to give his messages in his own way, and so, although he is willing and quick, he cannot always be relied on as a faithful messenger.
One day, when his mother said "Willie, run to the nursery and give Nurse a message for me," the little boy hardly waited to hear what the message was, but ran upstairs as fast as his feet could carry him. Very quickly back he came and went on with his play—I think he was just then building a fine house with wooden bricks. Now, as the message was an important one, his mother wished to be quite sure that it had been correctly delivered; so presently she said, "What did Willie say to Nurse?"
"The right thing," said he, going on with his building, quite unconscious that this was not enough for his mother, who must know exactly what Willie had told Nurse, or go upstairs to see whether she was doing what she had desired her to do.
You understand now, I am sure, that we could not be quite certain that we had God's message—and the Bible is a message or letter from God to us—we could not be sure that we had it right, if we did not know that He had given it to us in His own way and in His own words.
So, then, our question is answered. The Bible is different from any other book because it is God's Book, in which He speaks to us. Now I am going to ask you one more question.
If it is God who is speaking, and if He speaks to you, what must you do?
You must listen, not only with your eyes, when you read the words, or with your ears, when someone reads to you, but with your heart.
Do you remember what we are told in the Bible about a child to whom God once spoke? It was in the night that this boy heard God's voice calling him by his own name—the name which his mother had given him when he was a baby. Samuel had never heard the voice of God before, and he did not know who was speaking to him in the quiet night.
But he did what he was told to do by one who knew that God was calling him, and the next time the voice came he answered, "Speak, for Thy servant heareth."
Then, when God spoke again, he listened to the message which God gave him to give for Him.
How near God was to this child!
Yes, He was very near to Samuel as he slept; but He is as near to you, as you lie in your own bed at home. He keeps you safely all through the dark night: when you cannot even think about yourself He thinks about you and cares for you; and He speaks to you by His Holy Word just as much as if He called you by your own name.
Do not forget that it is really true that when you take God's Book into your hands, and open it, and listen with your heart, God is near you and speaks to you, your own self. For this reason, when we read the Bible, as the children said, "We must attend, or we shall not know what God has said."
And for another reason, too, we must attend: that is, because it is God who is speaking.
God's Word is the only thing in this world that is quite sure; but it is, because it has come straight from Him, and He is the God of truth.
God's Word can never pass away; for He has said that it endures for ever.
God's Word can speak, even to a child, and can make that child "wise unto salvation, through faith which is in Christ Jesus."
For it is of Jesus, the Son of God, that God has spoken to us in His book.
I think you will like this poem, which speaks of a time when the Bible was not only a rare, but in most countries a forbidden book, bought in secret, and read in fear by those to whom it became all the more precious because it cost them so dear. We are told that at this time the actual cost of a Bible was L30, and that the wages of a labouring man were only 1-1/2d. a day; so that he would have to work fifteen years to pay for one copy of the Word of God!
"THE VAUDOIS TEACHER.
"'Oh, lady fair, these silks of mine Are beautiful and rare; The richest web of the Indian loom, Which beauty's queen might wear. And my pearls are pure as thine own fair neck, With whose radiant light they vie; I have brought them with me a weary way— Will my gentle lady buy?'
"And the lady smiled on the worn old man Through the dark and clustering curls Which veiled her brow, as she bent to view His silks and glittering pearls; And she placed their price in the old man's hand, And lightly turned away; But she paused at the wanderer's earnest call— 'My gentle lady, stay!'
"'Oh, lady fair, I have yet a gem Which a purer lustre flings Than the diamond flash of the jewelled crown On the lofty brow of kings: A wonderful pearl of exceeding price, Whose virtue shall not decay; Whose light shall be as a spell to thee, And a blessing on thy way!'
"The lady glanced at the mirroring steel, Where her form of grace was seen, Where her eye shone clear and her dark locks waved Their clasping pearls between— 'Bring forth thy pearl of exceeding worth, Thou traveller grey and old; Then name the price of thy precious gem, And my page shall count the gold.'
"The cloud went off from the pilgrim's brow, As a small and meagre book, Unchased with gold or gem of cost, Prom his folding robe he took; 'Here, lady fair, is the pearl of price: May it prove as such to thee; Nay, keep thy gold; I ask it not, For the Word of God is free.'
"The hoary traveller went his way, But the gift he left behind Hath had its pure and perfect work On that high-born maiden's mind; And she hath turned from the pride of sin To the lowliness of truth, And given her human heart to God In its beautiful hour of youth."
J. G. WHITTIER
"IN THE BEGINNING": CREATION
"Thou, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth; and the heavens are the works of Thine hands: they shall perish; but Thou remainest."—HEBREWS i. 10.
To-day let us talk a little about the very first words which God has spoken to us in His Book. You would like to find them in your own Bible, I daresay.
"In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth."
And we will find one other verse, because it is the first verse of a chapter which also speaks of "the beginning."
"Doth not wisdom cry? and understanding put forth her voice?" (Prov. viii. 1).
Now that we have read these verses; I must tell you that Ernest and Chris and Charlotte and May used each to learn a verse for me every day, and say them in turn; indeed, they usually said two verses, for I liked them always to repeat along with the new verse the one they had said the day before, in order that they might not forget it. I am glad to tell you that the verses were generally learned so perfectly, and repeated so distinctly, that it was quite a pleasure to hear them; for even little May knew that if we repeat anything from God's Book we must be careful not to put in any words of our own. If we did, we should be like Willie, giving the message in our own way, should we not? Then, every one of God's words must be remembered, and none left out; not even a little word like "and" or "the," which perhaps would not very much matter if we were repeating merely what men had said.
Perhaps you may think this chapter about Wisdom was a difficult chapter for my boys and girls to learn, and not so interesting as some of those which you know. I will tell you the reason why I especially wished them to learn it; but I will first ask you to find in the New Testament three verses which also tell us of "the beginning"—
"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
"The same was in the beginning with God.
"All things were made by Him; and without Him was not anything made that was made" (John i. 1-3).
The "Word" is one of the names of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is a beautiful and wonderful name. Suppose you have been playing with something that has made your hands very dirty, and mother says, "Come to me, dear, and I will make them clean." Through mother's words you know what is in her heart; you know that she loves you, and wants you to be with her, and fit to be with her. So it is through the Word, the One who was with God in the beginning, the One by whom everything was made, that God has spoken to us so that we may know His thoughts about sin, which made us unfit to be with Him, and His feelings towards the men and women in the world, who are His creatures, and yet have tried to find happiness away from Him. But it was because the chapter, which my elder scholars were learning, speaks of the Lord Jesus by another wonderful and beautiful name that I wished them to learn it. He is called "Wisdom" not only in the Old Testament, where we are told in other verses of the same chapter (Prov. viii.) that He was "from the beginning" with God (vv. 22-31), but also in a letter which the apostle Paul wrote to some clever people who lived in Greece long ago he speaks of Him as "the power of God and the wisdom of God" (1 Cor. i. 24).
I can remember that we had a good deal of talk after we had read the verse, "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth"—those few words, so quickly read, in which God has told us what the wisest man of all the wise men who ever lived could not have found out for us; for God alone can speak about what He did so very long ago, before the sun shone, or the grass and the trees grew, or the birds sang in the branches, or lambs played in the fields.
Did you ever think, as you watched the great sun going down behind the crimson clouds, that there was a day, long, long ago, when that sun, in all its glory, set for the first time?
I daresay you never thought of the beginning of the sun, or of the first time that it set, but were just pleased to see the sky so red and glowing, and sorry when the beautiful sunset colours faded and the clouds became cold and grey.
Or perhaps, as you have shaded your eyes from his noonday splendour, you may have remembered that it was God in heaven who made that wonderful sun to light up the sky, and that he has been shining down upon this earth ever since; but did you ever stop to ask such a question as this—
How long has that great sun, which is now above my head, been shining in the sky? Or, again, as he passed in glory out of sight, How many beautiful sunsets have there been since he first began to "rule the day" and to rise in the east and set in the west?
Ah! so long a time that no thought of ours could measure it; so many sunsets that we could never count them. All we can know about it is that there was a time, long, long ago, when the sun first set and a time when he rose upon the earth, which was then so beautiful—fresh from the hand of God.
This world of ours is a very old world, but there was a time when all was new; not only the sun and moon, but all that you see around you had a beginning—a birthday. There was a time when no such things were, and there was a time when they began to be. Now it is about this beginning that I want you to think a little.
As we open our eyes to-morrow morning and see the light come in at the window, let us thank God that He has made His sun to shine upon us, to send away the darkness and bring a new day. And as the light grows and grows, and we lie awake and listen to the morning songs of the thrushes and blackbirds and the chatter of the sparrows, do not let us forget that God gave its own sweet note to every one of those warblers, and that the air has been full of the songs of birds ever since the day, so long ago, when the first little lark flew up, up, up into the blue sky and sang its first song, so full of gladness. Then, as the pleasant sound of the lambs, bleating after their mothers, comes to us from the fields, let us remember there was a day when that sound, which you know so well, was heard for the first time; and as we go for our walk and look around us at the green fields and the trees with their leaves and blossoms, and then far away to where the strong mountains lift their heads against the sky, let us say to ourselves, "All these things, which seem as if they had been there always, had a beginning; there was a time when there were none of them, and then there came a time when they were there, for God had made them to be."
While we were talking about this, the elder children and I, the little boys were very quiet; but I was afraid it was all rather difficult for them, so I asked Leslie and Dick to tell me what we mean when we speak of the beginning of anything.
I forget whether I got the answer from them or from one of the elder ones, but I know I thought it a good answer when somebody said, "The beginning of a thing is the first of it."
Then we spoke about the beginning of the table at which we were sitting—I suppose we chose that to talk about because it was so close to us—how it was made of wood, and the wood was once a tree; and if it was an oak, that giant tree must have been long, long ago only a tiny acorn in its pretty green cup. Each of those children, too, as they sat round the table, had had a beginning. Have you ever thought of this? There was a time, not so very long ago, and yet you cannot remember it, when your life had not begun. And then your birthday came, the first of all the birthdays; that day when your dear father and mother thanked God for giving you to them to love and take care of, and everyone at home was so glad because God had sent a little child to the house; someone who had never been there before.
Just think, you were that little child; only a tiny thing, but as you opened your baby eyes to the light, and stretched out your little clasping fingers, your first cry, and every movement of your little body, showed that you were alive. Then, by-and-by, the nurse said, "Hush, baby is asleep!" and everyone moved about softly, so as not to wake the little creature, who had not been there yesterday, the baby whose life had just begun, the little traveller who had just started on its journey through time to the great eternity beyond.
But you knew nothing about this; only your mother knew, as she watched you in your sleep, that one more tiny vessel had been launched upon that stream which flows on, on, till it meets the ocean which has no shore—the time which never ends.
I remember, a very long time ago, how fond I used to be of making boats. Not far from where I lived a real ship was being built, and I used to watch how it was made, and think that when I grew up I should like above all things to be a shipwright, for I had heard someone say that was the name of the man who was building this beautiful vessel. Of course, the boats which my brother and I used to make were only toy boats—we generally made them of paper—but however small they were, we were very particular to give each of them at least three tall masts. Then, when it came to sailing them, we had to be content with any water we could find, and generally these three-masted vessels made very short voyages, from one side of a big tub to the other; and though, by rocking the tub, we used to manage to make pretty stormy weather for them, they generally reached the end of their voyage in safety. It was quite another thing when we set our vessels afloat upon what we thought a real river, like the Thames or the Severn; but it was only a brown stream, which, ran along the bottom of a meadow, and was crossed, not by a bridge, but by stepping-stones. Sometimes, on a lovely day in June, we were allowed to go down to our river, and we used to sit for hours among the flags which grew beside it, hidden by the tall reeds and the yellow flowers, making little green boats out of the broad leaves of the flags, while the sound of "Cuckoo, cuckoo" came from the orchard close by.
When we had made as many boats as we could carry, each with a curly-whirly bit of a leaf for its sail, we used to balance ourselves carefully on the stones—for we knew that if we got wet we should not be allowed to go to our river again—and launch our little fleet, one by one, on the brown water, and then eagerly watch each green vessel upon its course. We wanted them to sail across to the other side; but I need not tell you that the river water was very far from being so calm as the water in the tub, and I do not think many got safely over.
One little boat would start off very straight, and then suddenly stop because it had run against some hidden rock; the greater number, in spite of all our efforts to steer them, would get into the current, and so be carried down the stream out of our sight; while some at once turned on their sides, got filled with water, and became dismal wrecks.
I can remember well how happy we were in spite of all such disasters and losses!
But we should have been surprised indeed in those days if anyone had told us, as we launched our boats, and watched them sail away from land—to "America" or "India," or any of those far-away places where we used to pretend they were going—that we were like those boats of ours. And yet it would have been true, for we too had been launched; the voyage of life had begun for us; and every birthday that came found us a little farther from the place from whence we had started—a little nearer to the end of the voyage, the place whither we were bound. Yes, in this sense you and I and all the people in the world are voyagers on the stream of time. But this voyage of our life—how long will it be?
That is one of the things which no one can tell. God alone knows.
In one sense the story of your life may be soon told; your little voyage down the stream of time may be very short, and your boat may reach the great ocean of eternity before many birthdays have come and gone. But in another sense it is a story without an end; and this is what makes your beginning such a great thing to think of. It is a beginning which has no end; the part of you which is most really yourself, must live on always. You can never stop living for one moment; for there is on board your little boat a wonderful passenger. God has put into you a living soul, which can never die.
But how soon God may call that soul back to Himself, away from the body, where it lives now, who can tell?
I am just now thinking of some young voyagers whose passage from time to eternity was indeed short, but the story is so sad that I could not tell you about it if I did not remember what the Lord Jesus once said, when He was teaching His disciples. He called a little child to Him, and began to speak to them about such little children, and one of the things which He said was this, "The Son of man is come to save that which was lost" (Matt. xviii. 11). And again He said (you will find this verse in the same chapter), "It is not the will of your Father which is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish."
Since even the very little children have gone astray from God, so that the Lord Jesus spoke of them as "lost" and "perishing," how could I tell you this story, if the Lord from heaven, He who called Himself the "Son of man" when He was here in this world, had not come to save that which was lost?
This is the sad, true story:
It was on a beautiful Monday morning, in the bright June weather, that the scholars belonging to a large Sunday-school in Ireland were travelling with their teachers and friends from the town where they lived to spend the day at a lovely place by the seaside. How proud and happy they were, all these boys and girls, as they marched through the town waving their flags and singing, and how much they had to say about the grand time they were going to have! You may be sure they liked a long holiday out of doors, with games and races, and buns and oranges, as much as you do, and so they got into the train in high glee.
But that train never reached the lovely place at the seaside. Before it had gone very far on its way there was a dreadful accident; some of the carriages were crushed and broken, as if they had been matchboxes, and many of those bright boys and girls were killed all in a moment—the short voyage of their life was over; oh, how soon! By-and-by some doctors came hurrying to the place where the ruined train lay, and began to look about to find those who might not be dead, only hurt. It was a sad sight they saw, and one they can never forget. While they were busy, giving help here and there, someone noticed two little ones, sitting on the green bank, beside the wreck of the train. A doctor went up to see if they were hurt. No, they were picking the daisies which grew among the grass; they were too young to understand what a dreadful thing had happened.
"Were you in the train, my dears?" said the kind doctor.
"Yes," said a little girl of six years old, "we were in the train, and she was too," and she pointed to where another child lay quite still upon the grass; not picking daisies—no, she could not speak or move, she was dead.
Put your finger on your wrist, and keep very still for a moment. Listen. You feel something, do you not? Something alive, and it goes beat, beat; one, two, three, like the ticking of a watch. As long as you live, that tick, tick will go on; but for this little girl it had stopped, because her heart had ceased to beat. When the doctor put his hand upon her wrist, he could feel nothing moving there. "She is quite dead," he said, as he took her body up from the grass that it might be carried back to her home, the home which she had left that morning, so happy and gay.
At the Sunday-school these children had been taught about the "wondrous, glorious Saviour," of whom you sometimes sing, and we may believe that the spirit of this dear child, redeemed to God by the precious blood of Christ, went straight from that wrecked train to spend its long for ever with the One who had loved her and given Himself for her; and that God, who takes care of the poor little body which was laid low in the grave with many a sad tear, will raise it in glory, one day, when "death is swallowed up in victory."
But there were not only very little children in that wrecked train. We are told of a boy who was terribly hurt, but lived an hour after the crash came. As he lay by the wayside, a young girl with a pitiful heart came and knelt beside him.
"I will pray you up to heaven," she whispered.
"I am going there!" said the dying boy; "Lord Jesus take me, I am ready."
Of another his poor mother said—
"I asked him before he started—'Well, dear, have you committed yourself to your heavenly Father?' 'Yes, mother, I have,' he said. So I gave him my blessing and sent him off, and that was the last time I ever saw him alive."
These boys did not think as they left their homes that morning that they would never return, but they had learned to know the Lord Jesus Christ as their own Saviour, and so when danger and death came, they were ready to leave this world and go to Him: their boats were not wrecked; they sailed right into port.
And now that we are coming to the end of our lesson for to-day, let us "think back," and see if we can remember what it is all about, and then we will mark the subjects (a), (b), (c), (d), to help us to keep them in mind.
The subjects were—
(a) That very far away time which God speaks of as "the beginning."
(b) It is God alone who can tell us about this time.
(c) God, who made all that has a beginning, Himself had no beginning. This means that there never was a time, no matter how long ago, when God was not. If you think back, back, even to the time when there was no sky, no earth, no great ocean, you can never come to a time when there was no God.
(d) "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God." The "Word" is one of the names of the Lord Jesus Christ, who came to this world that He might show us how very much God His Father loves us, and who could say, "He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father."
For He who was once born a little child in this world and laid in the manger at Bethlehem, and who grew up in the home of Joseph and Mary at Nazareth, is the Same who was "in the beginning with God," for He "was God."
This is what God has told us about His great Eternity, when Time, with its days and weeks and months and years, had not begun.
"TIME AND ETERNITY.
"How long sometimes a day appears! And weeks, how long are they! Months move as slow as if the years Would never pass away.
"It seems a long, long time ago That I was taught to read; And since I was a babe, I know 'Tis very long indeed.
"Days, months, and years are passing by, And soon will all be gone; And day by day, as minutes fly, Eternity comes on.
"Days, months and years must have an end; Eternity has none. 'Twill always have as long to spend As when it first begun.
"Great God! no finite mind can tell How much a thing can be: I only pray that I may dwell That long, long time with Thee."
RUIN AND DARKNESS.
"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 xi. 3.
"Whatsoever the Lord pleased, that did He in heaven, and in earth, in the seas, and all deep places."—PSALM cxxxv. 6.
There are three words which God has used to tell us about His work which we call "The Creation."
We read, "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth."
"And God made two great lights."
"And the Lord God formed man."
"Created," "made," "formed," these are the words; and it is of the first of them we shall speak a little to-day.
Before my children came, I had been thinking how I could make it plain to the little ones that there is a very great difference between being able to create and being able to make anything. It happened that when they came in they were all talking so fast, of something which had greatly delighted them, that it was some time before I could find out what it was all about. At last Sharley told me that as they were racing along with their hoops a strange dog had followed them, and rubbed his nose against their hands, wanting to make friends with them.
"We are quite sure it is nobody's dog," she said; "or at any rate it is a dog that has lost its master, and has no home now. So after lessons we are going to call it, and get it to follow us home. It is waiting for us outside the door this minute."
"And I am going to make a kennel for it," said Ernest, who was very fond of sawing and hammering away in the shed behind, the house, and wished to be a carpenter, when he grew up; "at least, I am going to try, and I think I can."
I may as well tell you at once that this little stray dog soon got tired of waiting, outside the door. When lessons were over, and the children went to look, no doggie was to be found; and as they did not know his name it was not easy to call him. I have no doubt he found his own master and his own home again, and was much better off there than he would have been in the best kennel Ernest could have made, with seven boys and girls to take him for a walk every day.
However that may be, I tell you of this dog because it was while Ernest was talking about making a house for it that I was saying to myself, "I wonder whether this plan of Ernest's about making a kennel will help them to understand, what I so much want them to learn, about the difference which there is between the words make and create."
First of all I had to tell them not to talk any more just then, but to repeat their verses. Then we read—more than once—for Leslie and Dick would not have liked to miss their turn, and there were not enough verses for each to read one—what God has told us in the first five verses of His book.
"In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.
"And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.
"And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.
"And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness.
"And God called the light Day, and the darkness He called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day."
When we had finished I asked Chrissie what it means when we read that "God created the heaven and the earth." Why is the word "created" used? Would any other word have done instead of that one?
Chrissie said no other word would do, because to create means to make out of nothing. He was right, was he not?
The next question was, "Why is create a word which can never be used except when we are speaking of God?"
I don't know who answered, but someone gave the right reason—"Because only God can make a thing be when there was nothing before it; nothing to make it out of."
This seems quite plain, does it not? But do you know there was once a boy, who did not believe that he could not create things until he had tried to make something out of nothing, and found that only nothing came. He was quite sure he could create anything if he only told it to come; so at last his teacher said, "You had better try."
He was only a very little boy, so he thought he would try, and up he got and stood as straight as he could on his chair, while he said with a loud voice, "Fishes, be!"
Perhaps it was a good thing that this boy should thus prove for himself that it is only God who can create anything; only God of whom it could be said, "He spake, and it was done."
I did not tell this little story to the children, but I said to Leslie, "You heard Ernest say just now that he was going to make a kennel for your stray doggie; do you think he could make one?" Leslie thought perhaps he might if he worked very hard; and then I asked them all whether, if he worked very hard, day and night, for a long, long time, Ernest could create a kennel?
"No, indeed he could not. He never could, no matter how hard he worked." Everybody was sure of this; for even little Dick quite understood that if the cleverest and handiest boy in the world were told that he must make a box, he could not even begin to make the commonest box unless he had something given him to make it out of, and something too to make it with. "He would need wood," they said, "and nails, and a hammer and saw; and if it were to be a nice box, to last long, he would want paint, and a lock and key, and hinges; and if he wished everyone to know that it was his own box, he must mark it with his name when it was finished."
Now I am sure you quite understand that this word "created," which you find in the very first verse of your Bible, is a word which you must not forget to notice whenever it is used, because it is a wonderful word, which can be used only in speaking of God, the Creator, and of the Son of God, by whom and for whom all the things that we can see, and all that we cannot see, were created; and in whose power they stand together.
Now I want you to read again very carefully the verses which we have read, and to notice that we have only one verse to tell us what God did at the beginning; this one verse explains that it was then that He created the heaven and the earth. This is all that God has told us, and it is just what we need to know; for how could we ever have found out by what means this earth of ours came into being, at the very first, if God had not been pleased to tell us that He created it?
But what a happy thing it is just to listen to the account which God Himself gives us, telling how the heaven and the earth came into being!
One who simply receives God's word into his heart will understand more than the cleverest man who ever lived, who tries by his own mind to search into the beginning of things, and to account for all that we now see around us by any other way. We read, "By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God." Faith does not wait till it sees, but believes what God says, because He says it. We may say that we cannot understand what creation is, but we can find rest for our restless thoughts by saying "Yes" to all that God has told us—and the very first line of His Book explains all that we need to know about, how the heaven and the earth came into being, when it tells us that God created them in the beginning.
We read next, "And the earth was without form and void." We are not told in the verse which follows anything more about the "heaven"; that means the vast universe of which our earth is but a tiny part; but of the earth we read two things which are very surprising, when we think of what it is like now:
"Without form and void"—what does that mean?
After I had explained to the elder children that these words, which are used to describe the earth, mean that it was waste and desolate and without order, we looked for a verse in the New Testament which tells us that "God is not the author of confusion" (1 Cor. xiv. 33); and then we spoke about how we can be quite sure that the earth, which is part of God's creation, was not in disorder, not a waste and desolate place in the beginning; and we found in the Old Testament this other verse:
"For thus saith the Lord that created the heavens; God Himself that formed the earth and made it; He hath established it, He created it not in vain, He formed it to be inhabited; I am the Lord; and there is none else" (Isaiah xlv. 18).
The reason why we found this verse was because I wanted to show Sharley and Chris and Ernest that there the same word is used about the earth as in the verse in Genesis of which we had just been speaking. The words "in vain" are the same which were there translated "without form" by the people who turned the Hebrew, in which most of the Old Testament was first written, into English, that we might be able to read it. So you see how very important words are, and learn that when God tells us in one part of His Book that He created the earth not "without form," and in another part that it was (or became) "without form," the state of the earth as it is described in the second verse of the first chapter of Genesis was different from its condition when God created it in the beginning. Between these two verses, so close together in your Bible, ages upon ages may have run their course; a distance of time may have passed so great that we cannot measure it by any thoughts of ours.
What happened between the time, which God calls "the beginning," the time of the earth's creation, and that time when what He created had become "waste and desolate," we do not know. What this earth was like, when God first created it, we do not know. How the plants and animals, which now lie buried deep beneath the ground upon which we tread, and shut up within the rocks, lived and died, we do not know. How confusion and desolation came, we do not know. And why do we not know?
Because God has not told us. People have thought a great deal about it, and they say that upon the earth itself may be read, as in a book, marks of the many changes which it went through during that far, far away time; but what we have to remember is that God does not tell us anything about it in His Book; it is with the days and weeks and years of Time and the "from everlasting to everlasting" of His great Eternity, about which He does speak to us, that we have to do.
God speaks to us, the inhabitants of the earth, of what it concerns us to know—and the first thing we learn about this earth upon which we live is that it was created by Him.
The next thing that we learn is that the earth which He had "formed to be inhabited" was "without form and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep." This was the state of the earth which God had created, when He began the work of His wonderful "Days," and brought what had become a scene of desolation into order and beauty, a place prepared for men to dwell in.
And now there is one more verse to find, because it speaks about those SIX DAYS in which God "made" (not "created") the heaven and the earth. "In six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is." (Exodus xx. 11.)
How wonderful it is, is it not? that God should tell us so much about His work! He might have made everything in a moment, by one word, but He was pleased to take all these "Days," and to tell us about the wonderful things which he made upon each of them, and at the end of them all we read—
"And God saw everything that He had made, and, behold it was [not waste and desolate any more, but] very good."
I wish that I could look over your shoulder as you are reading, and ask you whether there is anything you want to have explained. Ah, well! I cannot, and, perhaps, if I could I should not explain to you nearly so well as father or mother would. Only be sure you ask questions, if there is anything you do not understand, that you may have it made plain to you.
I once told my children about a little girl I knew, who very much wanted to know things, but sometimes she went on ever so long without knowing, just because she was too proud to ask; she could not bear for people to find out that she did not know all that she thought a child of her age ought to know. But children of any age cannot know things without being taught, and so it came to pass that this child grew to be quite a big girl without knowing how to tell the time. Once, when her mother said, "Run and tell me what o'clock it is," Lucy ran off as quickly as if she knew all about it, and then she stood at the foot of the stairs and looked at the clock, and wondered why one hand was still and the other moved, and how grown-up people knew what time it was by just looking at their watches for half a minute. Before she had found out any of these puzzling things, all at once Lucy heard her mother's voice calling, "Lucy, Lucy," and she ran back to her in a great hurry.
When asked why she had been so long, this poor, proud child made some excuse. And then—I am ashamed to tell it, but it only shows what becomes of pretending to know, instead of asking to be taught—she told her mother what she guessed would be about the right time.
Her mother never thought she had been deceiving her; but Lucy went back to her play with a very heavy heart, and a miserable feeling of how naughty she had been, and how God knew all about it; and this was not the last time that the wish to be thought clever—so clever as not to need to be taught like other children, but to be able to find things out for herself—brought her into sad trouble.
After having heard the story of Lucy and the clock, my children knew how much I like them to ask questions, and were sure that I would answer them if I could; and so Sharley asked me about something which she could not understand.
"When God created the heaven and the earth, did He create the angels too?" she said. "Were there angels in the beginning?"
Now the first part of Sharley's question I could not answer. I could only say about it, "We do not know, because God has not told us."
Remember always, that when God does tell you a thing you must believe it, just because it is God who has said it; and it is only by believing what God tells you that you can understand it. But when you are quite sure that God has not told you about something which you would like to know, you must never try to guess at it, or make up something about it out of your own head. Our thoughts and fancies may seem very pretty, and please us very much; but we are quite sure to be wrong when we try to peep at what God has not shown us in the wonderful glass of His word.
But there is an answer to the last part of Sharley's question, and she found it in the Book of Job. When God was taking a great deal of pains to teach Job not to think himself wise or good—really not to think of himself at all—He asked him a great many questions which Job could not answer. This was one of the questions: "Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? declare, if thou hast understanding.... When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?" (Job xxxviii. 4-7).
From this question, which the Lord asked Job, we know that at the world's birthday, when its foundations were laid, angels were there, rejoicing in God's works, though we do not know when these "sons of God" were created.
Angels are happy, blessed creatures; they are God's messengers, who "excel in strength and do His commandments, hearkening unto the voice of His word."
All we are told about angels is very beautiful. When the Lord Jesus was born, you know it was an angel who brought to the shepherds of Bethlehem, as they watched their flocks, the "good tidings of great joy," that to them was born a Saviour, Christ the Lord. How glad he must have been to fly with such a wonderful message! And how the "multitude of the heavenly host" must have rejoiced as they praised God, saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men" (Luke ii. 14).
It is beautiful to see that angels rejoiced at the world's birthday, and also at the birth of Him who is the Saviour of the world. And there is "joy in the presence of the angels of God"—the Lord Jesus Himself has told us of this—whenever anyone is sorry for his sins and turns to Him.
And there is another thing very beautiful to think of about the angels. They are God's ministers, or servants, who do His pleasure in serving His children here in this world; taking care of them, because they are so precious to Him.
I want you to find the verse which tells us about this "ministry of angels," and then I will not ask you to look for any more references to-day. It is at the end of a chapter in the epistle to the Hebrews.
"Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?" (Hebrews i. 14).
Remember that in the Bible the word "minister" means servant, and so to minister means to serve. And we must not forget that in the last book of the Bible we read of a "new song;" which no angel can sing, for it is known only by the great multitude of the redeemed; and though it will be sung in heaven, it is learnt on earth. Angels may join in the mighty chorus of praise to which every creature will add its voice—but it is those who have been redeemed by the precious blood of Christ who will lead that song and say, "Thou are worthy, for Thou wast slain, and hast redeemed to God by Thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation."
How much is told us in the first three verses of God's Book? We have read that this earth, now so full of beauty, was once waste and desolate; there was no life there, and no light—for "darkness was upon the face of the deep." How long this state of ruin continued we do not know; but the next thing we are told is very solemn and wonderful—"the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters." Then, in the next verse we read, "and God said." The Spirit of God and the word of God are spoken of together here, where we read of His mighty working in the past in bringing the earth out of ruin and darkness into light and life and beauty; and it is by His word and His Spirit that the soul is turned from darkness to light, and is born again—born of God—now.
So that God has given us here a picture or type from which we can learn; but I hope to tell you a little more about this another time. Just now I should like you to look for a very beautiful verse (Deut. xxxii. 11) which compares the care of God for His chosen People to that of the eagle for her young; because the word there translated "fluttereth" is the same which in the second verse of the Bible is translated "moved," as we read, "the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters."
It is that Holy Spirit who alone can explain to us the meaning of such words, for it is written, "The things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God."
"Songs of praise the angels sang, Heaven with hallelujahs rang, When Jehovah's work begun, When He spake and it was done.
"Songs of praise awoke the morn When the Prince of Peace was born; Songs of praise arose when He Captive led captivity.
"Heaven and earth must pass away, Songs of praise shall crown that day; God will make new heavens and earth; Songs of praise shall hail their birth."
THE FIRST DAY.
"Where is the way where light dwelleth? and as for darkness, where is the place thereof?"—JOB xxxviii. 19.
"He knoweth what is in the darkness, and the light dwelleth with him."—DANIEL ii, 22.
"God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ."—2 COR. iv, 6.
I want you to notice, in the beautiful verses which speak of "light," that God does not at first tell us anything about Himself. He speaks to us of what He did when in the beginning He created the heaven and the earth, and of what He said at the time when the earth lay in darkness, buried beneath the waters. In the midst of the silence and darkness a voice was heard, the voice of God, "And God said, Let there be light: and there was light." This we read in the first page of God's Book; but it is very near its end that God makes it known that the One who made the light, the One at whose word light came from darkness, is Himself Light. It is His very Nature.
"God is light." Now we learn from God's Word that there are two kinds of light, and two kinds of darkness; let us talk a little about this.
We can well understand one kind of darkness, because we can see it: and we know it is caused by the absence of light. It grows dark when the sun, which makes our day, has set to us, and the night has come to wrap us round, as it were, in a curtain of shade that we may sleep quietly. It is dark too, not only by night, but all the day long in the deep caverns where the miner must carry his lamp to light up those dismal places where the sun never shines. This darkness, like that which rested upon the face of the deep before God spoke that word which brought the light, is caused by there being no light, and as soon as the light comes the darkness goes. The other kind of darkness we cannot see: it has to do, not with places, but with people, and we read about it very often in the Bible. It is that dreadful kind of darkness which has come through sin, and has settled down upon the heart of every one of us. This darkness God sees, and He speaks about it in His Word.
We find it hard to believe that our hearts are all dark when God looks at them; that He finds no love to Himself there; no bright spot anywhere; but God, who is Light, as He looks straight down to the depths of those hearts, and sees us through and through, has told us the truth about ourselves, as He sees us.
You do not like darkness better than light; the night better than the day, do you?
I remember how sorry I used to be when night came, and how fond I was of saying to myself a verse I had learnt, as I lay awake in the early morning and watched the dawning light—
"I saw the glorious sun arise Far o'er yon mountain grey, And as he rode upon the skies The darkness went away; And all around me was so bright I wished it would be always light!"
Yes, we naturally love the light which is so cheerful, and shows us so plainly all the beautiful things around us.
But that other kind of light which shines from God into our hearts, do we like it?
No; one sad thing that sin has done is to make us love the dark, because we feel as though there we could hide away from God. We know quite well that if God is looking at us He sees us right, just as we are, not as we like to think we are, and this is why we try to forget that He is always looking at us. I know a little boy, who had done something naughty, and had been hiding it all day. No one saw Georgie go to the cupboard and take a piece of sugar. He had eaten it, and had gone back to his play as if nothing had happened, before his grandmother came back into the room. All day long Georgie kept in the dark; a darkness which could not be seen ruled in his heart—but it was a darkness that might be felt, and which made him miserable. At last when bedtime came, and he had said good-night to his grandmother, upstairs in his little room his aunt knelt down beside him and began to pray. Presently something happened which showed that Georgie was praying really himself, while Auntie said the words. He looked up for a moment and said softly, "Tell God about that sugar."
And then he went to bed, oh, so much happier than he had been all those long hours before he had come into the light, and told the truth about what only God and Georgie himself knew—nobody else in the world!
But while I say this I think I am forgetting what we so often forget when we do wrong. Satan knew about it, and he had tried all day long to keep this little boy away in the dark, hiding from God, and to make him think it was not worth while to tell the truth about such a little thing as a piece of sugar. If any such thought as that comes into your heart when you have done wrong, do not listen to it for one moment. Remember that the darkness and the light are both alike to God.
And now I want to tell you about another boy, older than Georgie, who was made very unhappy by the thought that he could not get away anywhere to hide from God. But why did Johnny want so much to hide from God? Had he been very naughty? It was not because he had done anything very naughty just then, but because something inside him—that voice that perhaps often seems to speak deep down in your heart—spoke to him and made him afraid. He did not like that God, who is Light, should come close to him. When people saw him crying, and said kindly, "What is the matter, my boy?" poor Johnny could only say, "God is looking at me." He had just this one thought always with him—God was looking at him, and God could see what no one else could, the real Johnny, and all the secret things which he could not bear that anyone should know.
But had God only just begun to look at this boy? No; all his life long—more than twelve years, I think—the eye that never sleeps had been watching him. Johnny had tried to hide himself behind his play and his pleasures, and, as he grew older, behind his carelessness; but now he had learnt that none of the things which may hide us from ourselves and from others, can hide us from God. He could only feel that God was looking at him, and in this way Johnny learned something of the meaning of the words "God is light." That is what God has to teach us all, and it would be a lesson too terrible for anyone to learn, if that were all God has been pleased to tell us about Himself. But there is another part of God's message to us, and it was when Johnny had learned it that he was not afraid or unhappy any more.
It was because God was looking for him that He allowed this boy to have that dreadful feeling that there was someone, from whom he could not hide away, who knew him perfectly. Johnny learnt this lesson, and then God taught him not only that "God is light," but that he need not be afraid to stand, just as he was, in the light which shows everything, because of this other wonderful little verse which tells us that "God is love."
And so at last Johnny learned to say to God what king David said—after he had told God all the truth about what he had done, and God had forgiven him—"Thou art my hiding-place." I have heard a very wonderful thing; but I believe it is true. It is said of light that "it conceals more than it reveals"; that there is no hiding-place like light, if it is only bright enough; and the brighter the light is, the more impossible it is to find what has been hidden there!
I remember when I first saw the electric light; it was in the middle of the night, as the boat on board which I had been crossing the sea which divides Wales from Ireland, came in at the pier. All around, the whole scene was lighted up; the dark water shone, and the people came on shore and looked for their luggage, and took their places in the tram, no one thinking of such a thing as a lamp, for all was clear as daylight.
But this light, bright as it was, lighted only a very little space; as the train moved off we left it behind us, and hurried on into the dark night. How much more wonderful is the light of the sun which shines night and day, always giving light to some part of the world!
But sunlight, moonlight, and electric light, all these shine upon the outside, upon what we can see. God, who is Light, shines upon what is within, upon that heart which is by nature so dark that there is not one bright spot there, so that if God did not shine into it no light could ever come.
Have you ever seen, when the moon has been shining over the sea, making a long, broad pathway of brightness, a ship, as it sails along, suddenly come into that bright track? It is a beautiful sight; just for one moment every mast and sail all stand out with such distinctness that you say, "Oh, I can see her now perfectly!" Then, while you look, she has crossed the shining path, and you can but just trace her dim outline, and know that a ship is sailing there.
When the Lord Jesus Christ was in this world He said, "As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world." He showed people plainly that He knew them in a way that no one else could. Some people were glad; one poor woman, who had been in the dark all her life, went and told everyone about Him, and said, "Come, see a man, which told me all things that ever I did." Others could not bear that that light should show them to themselves, so we read that one day those who had been with Him, "went but one by one," until they were all gone. Which would you rather be like—the people who went away into the darkness, rather than be found out by the Light, or the one who stayed, and heard those words she could never forget—"Neither do I condemn thee; go and sin no more"?
The only way not to be afraid of the light is to come to the Lord Jesus Christ, who has said of every one that follows Him, that he shall not "abide in darkness, but shall have the light of life."
But hiding—hiding from God—only means getting deeper into the dark, farther away from Him who is Light.
Now that we have spoken of these solemn and important things—things which I like to speak to you about, but which God alone, who loves you so much, can really teach you:—I should like to tell you a little about the light as we see it all around us.
Now, what can we learn about it?
First, we learn that it was called into existence by the voice of God. God said, "Let there be light; and there was light" on the FIRST DAY, but it was not until the FOURTH DAY that those great light-bearers—the sun and the moon—were made lights to the earth, and set "for signs, and for seasons, and for days and years." But the question, "What is light?" is not one easily answered.
We can all understand that light is that which makes everything visible, but you will perhaps be surprised to hear that it has taken a very long time even to find out how the light comes to us.
It is now generally believed that light, which is one of the strongest powers in the world, is caused by motion; and that it is because every light-giving body is always moving very fast, that it gives out light. But no one can explain how this rapid movement began, nor what that "ether" is through which the "vibrations" travel until they reach a wonderful little screen which we have at the back of each of our eyes, by means of which we are able to see.
We may think of the air around us as a vast ocean, through which waves conveying light and sound are constantly travelling. When a sound-wave strikes the ear, we hear; when a light-wave, moving like a water-wave, reaches the eye, we see. Light comes chiefly from the sun: it is beautiful to think, is it not?—of waves of light streaming always, day and night, from that wonderful sun so far away, and coming, wave after wave, to paint beautiful pictures on our eyes! For if you and I both look at the same lovely view, we have each a picture of it—the mountains, and sea, and green fields, and houses—all to ourselves; and so it would be if, not two people, but two hundred were looking. One thing about light of which we are quite sure is, that it travels very quickly. It makes its noiseless journey all round this great earth eight times in one second—in less time than it takes for my watch to give one tick; and it comes all the long, long way from the sun to the earth in less than ten minutes.
I spoke just now of the light painting pictures upon our eyes. Did you know that if there were no light there would be no beautiful colours? Where the sun shines very brightly, in those parts of the world called the tropics, it is not only very hot, but travellers tell us that there the green of the leaves is darker than we are accustomed to see it, and the colours of the flowers and of the birds' feathers are more brilliant than in our own country, where the sunlight is never so strong.
Then, though the sunlight gives their lovely colours to the anemones and seaweeds, as it shines into their homes in the shallow places near shore, if you could go far down into the ocean depths, where the light can hardly reach, you would find the colours of any creatures, or plants, or shells that might be there soft and pure, but not brilliant.
But how does the light make the colours? It seems only white, or perhaps gold-coloured, in itself.
This is what I should like to explain to you, for it is a very beautiful lesson, and not difficult to learn.
When I asked the children if they could tell me what we mean when we say that a thing reflects the light, Chrissie said he had often seen the red sunset reflected by the windows opposite, but he could not quite tell how to explain it.
We may read in books this explanation: "The reflection of light is the turning back of its rays by the surface upon which they fall." And while we read this we must remember that the surface or outside of everything has some peculiarity about it, which affects the light as it falls upon it.
The light of the sun is made up of seven colours, though God has so perfectly blended them that we see only white light; but all these colours may be traced in the seven-coloured arch, which is a token to men of His mercy, and a sign that while the earth remains "seed-time and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease."
The smallest portion of light which we can speak of is called a ray of light. You have seen, when what you call a beam of light comes in at a hole, before the shutters have been opened, how the little specks of dust glance up and down in it, as if they were at an endless game of puss-in-the-corner. But have you ever seen beautiful colours, like those of the rainbow, dance about the room—now on the ceiling, now on the floor?
You can best see this lovely little rainbow by darkening the room, and letting just one ray of light stream in through a small hole. Then take a bit of glass, cut so that it has at least three sides—a "drop" of cut glass from the lustre on the mantelpiece will do—and hold it up between you and the light. This little piece of glass, which is called a prism, because it has been sawn or cut, will do a wonderful thing, as you turn it about in the sunbeam. The ray of light, as it passes through the three-cornered bit of glass, will be turned out of its straight path, and this causes it to be split up into many colours, so that you will have a tiny rainbow, which can be seen beautifully if you allow it to fall upon a sheet of white paper; and the colours are always arranged in the same way. Look! in the centre of your rainbow there are green and yellow; then comes red, then blue, then violet. You can easily see these five colours; and two more are counted; indigo, or dark blue, and orange. The only difficulty about saying how many colours you can see is this. If you begin with the violet, and count till you come to the red, you will find that the soft hues are so blended, or run into each other, that it is not easy to see where one ends and the other begins.
I want you to make this little rainbow, not only because the colours which it paints upon the ceiling are so pure and beautiful, and it is so curious to see the bright band of red and blue and green dancing from place to place as you turn your bit of glass, but because you can see in this way how a ray of light spreads itself out when it passes through this glass with three sides. The colours are separated from each other because no two waves of light are of quite the same length; some move slowly and others fast, and the faster a wave travels the more it is turned aside out of the straight road.
This is a difficult subject, but I think you will understand that if all rays were alike, the whole beam would be bent; but as some are more easily bent than others, as they pass through the prism they are spread out.
Long ago, the great philosopher Newton bought a prism, and thus "analysed" or broke up the sunbeam, and discovered what is called the "prismatic band" of colours. He found that what seemed to be white light was made up of tints really infinite in number; for though we count only seven prismatic colours, they are shaded off, one into the other, as you see.
Having thus broken up the beam of light, Newton, by means of two prisms, put together again the rays which he had separated, and the sunbeam was "white" as before. Perhaps you wonder why we do not always see coloured light: the reason is that the waves of light, unless interfered with and turned out of their straight path, all travel together in their rapid, noiseless course, and so remain unbroken.
You will find it very interesting to make the first of Newton's experiments yourself, and some day perhaps you will hear what wonderful things about the sun and the stars are being learnt in our own time by means of the spectroscope, which is an instrument having a fine slit through which the ray is passed before it is allowed to fall upon the prism.
And now what do we mean when we talk of things being of different colours? When we say of snow that it is white we mean that, as the light falls upon the snow, it is all sent back again. The surface of the snow reflects all the light, and keeps none. The other day, when I was buying some flowers to plant in the garden, the woman who was selling them showed me a black pansy. "I am sure you would like to have this root," she said, "black pansies are so rare."
I did not buy the flower, for I did not think it nearly so pretty as the purple and yellow pansies, which seemed to look up at me with such knowing little faces; but I was interested to see it, because (and are you not glad that it is so?) black flowers are very rare. But why was this pansy black? Ah! it was quite different from the snow; it kept all the light which fell upon it, and gave away none. You see that God has given to some things the power of absorbing light and to others that of reflecting it. If it were not so, our world would be very different from the beautiful world which it is—as different as an engraving is from a coloured picture, with fields, gardens, sea and sky all of varied hue. Almost all the flowers are so beautiful because, while they keep some of the colours from the light which falls upon them, they do not keep all.
Now look at the flowers in that glass upon the table. The lovely rose keeps part of its ray of light, but gives us back the red; the larkspur gives back the blue; and those pure white lilies, which show so fair beside the roses, give back all the light in its bright whiteness just as it comes to them, so that a poet, who loved them well, calls them "those flowers made of light."
And the water in the glass, why is it white?
Because water is what is called transparent; it does not drink in the light, but lets the whole ray pass through it, as it passes through the window-pane.
Now my lesson about colours is over, and I will tell you a story. I don't know whether you have as good a memory as some of my children had, and whether you remember my promise to explain to you about types. I daresay you have heard this word used in more than one way, and a word which has two meanings is rather a puzzle, is it not? I know how it used to set me thinking, when I heard someone say of a new book that it was pleasant to read, because of its good type; the word was not new to me, but I had heard it used in quite another way, the way in which it is used when we say of the serpent of brass lifted up by Moses in the wilderness, that the dying people might look at it and live—that it was a type of the Lord Jesus Christ lifted up upon the cross, as He Himself tells us it was. I daresay, if I could ask you, you would tell me that "type" used in this sense means a picture. That was what Chris and Sharley said, but it was because I wanted the little ones as well as the elder ones to understand that meaning of the word that I told them this story which a friend of mine once told me, and which I am sure you will like to hear,
We were saying just now how dark it would be in the deep mines, far underground, where no daylight can come, if it were not for the lamp which the miner carries with him wherever he goes. You may think you would rather like to go down a mine, just for once, if you were quite sure of being drawn up safely in the miners' cage, but I think you would not go down, if you thought you would have to stay even a whole week in such a dismal place.
My story is about a boy who had never been anywhere else, for he was born in a mine, and all his childhood, while other children were running about in the fields, looking up at the sky and breathing the fresh air which makes your cheeks so rosy, this little boy might turn his bright eyes this way and that, but no trees and houses and gay gardens were to be seen, far or near; for though he was five or six years old, no one had ever taken him up to the top of the mine and let him see the sky, and pick the daisies, and feel the warm sunshine. Poor boy, he was an orphan; both his parents had died before he could remember, and he had no one to care for him in the way in which your dear father and mother have always cared for you. At last one of the miners thought what a sad life it was for a child to be always down underground, and he began to take notice of the lonely little boy, who had no father and mother to love him and be good to him, and in the evenings, when his work was done, he coaxed the child to come on his knee, and used to tell him stories about that wonderful world above ground which he had never seen.
Do you not think it must have been very difficult for the kind miner to talk about the blue sky and the birds, and the grass and trees, and all the beautiful sights which most children know so well, to a child who had never seen any of them? It was indeed a difficult task, but you know there is an old saying about difficulties which tells us that "love will find out the way" to overcome them. The miner became very fond of his pet, and he found out a way of making the things of which he spoke seem real to him.
"He could show him pictures," you will say. That was what little May thought, and it would have been a very good way; but remember that there were no beautiful picture-books such as you have, down in the mine. How then could the miner teach his little friend about things above ground?
The only way in which he could do this was by means of things in the mine which the boy knew well, and had been used to all his life. So he would take his lamp, and talk to him about it, and show him how its tiny flame lighted up the darkness, and then he would point upwards, and say that far above ground there was a great lamp burning all day long, and giving light to the people who lived in that upper world.
Now you would say that a miner's lamp was a very poor picture of the glorious sun; still, this child saw that in the under world, where he lived, it made all the difference between light and darkness whether the lamps were shining or not; so the lamp was like the sun, at least in that respect, though it was so poor and dim, and such a tiny likeness of it.
In the same way—when his kind friend made the little boy look at the pails of water which were swung down into the mine, and explained to him that above ground, in that new world which he had never seen, the water ran along quickly in great streams called rivers, and that there was a great, great world of water called the sea—though you might say that a pail of water in a mine, water which would soon be used for the miners to drink or for cooking their food, would give a very poor idea indeed of the mighty ocean with its rolling waves, where the whales spout, and the ships sail on their long voyages; still, poor as it was, that water in the pail was a likeness, a type of the rivers and seas, was it not?
The children were interested in this little boy, and they wanted to know how long he lived in the mine, and what became of him afterwards; but this I could not tell them, for I never heard any more about him.
And now I want you not only to be interested in this story, but to remember why I have told it to you. You understand now, I am sure, that a type is a figure of something not present; of course, inferior to the thing it represents, as the miner's lamp was inferior to the sun, or a man's shadow on the wall is to the man himself, but giving a true idea to a certain degree.
The light given by the miner's lamp was bright when compared with that given by one little candle in a cottage window, and yet that feeble ray, quietly shining night after night, served to guide many a fisherman safely past a dangerous rock, which juts out into the sea, on the coast of one of the Orkney Isles. It was a young girl, the daughter of a fisherman, who lighted that candle and kept it burning. Her father's boat had been wrecked one wild dark night on "Lonely Rock," and his body washed ashore near his cottage. The girl, in her grief, remembered other poor fishermen, and when night came on she set a candle in the window, and watched it as she sat at her spinning wheel. She did not do this once, or twice, but through long years that coast was never without the light of her little candle, by which the men at sea might be warned off the neighbourhood of the terrible rock.
In order to pay for her candles, this lonely girl with a faithful heart spun every night an extra quantity of yarn—for she earned her own living by her spinning wheel—and so the tiny flame was kept alight, and she found comfort in her sorrow by doing what she could, in her unselfish care, for "those in peril on the sea."
The meanest candle is a luminary in its way, for it possesses light, while the most brilliant diamond has none in itself, and can give back only what it receives.
And now that our lesson about the FIRST DAY is finished, we must not forget what we have been learning.
God, the Creator, alone in creation,
(a) "said, Let there be light: and there was light." (b) "saw the light, that it was good." (c) "divided the light from the darkness." (d) "called the light Day, and the darkness He called Night."
"And the evening and the morning were the first day."
The astronomer Proctor, in his beautiful book, Flowers of the Sky, says that "light is the first of all that exists in the universe." And we are, told that the action of light was necessary to prepare the way for all life; but this is far too great a subject for us to speak of in this little book. Let us remember that God saw the light, that it was good, and that He made the division between light and darkness in nature which He uses as a figure in the New Testament, where we read that the children of God are called "children of light," and "not of the night nor of darkness"; and where "goodness, and righteousness, and truth" are spoken of as "fruits of the light," in contrast with "unfruitful works of darkness."
In all that is around us in this world which God made, if we had eyes to see, we should find pictures of the things which are unseen, but yet very real; so in the Book which He has written, He has given us pictures. The description in verse 2 of the waste empty earth, with darkness upon the face of the deep, and the Spirit of God moving over the face of the waters, is a picture of the condition of everyone born into this world.
In verse 3 we have a picture of God as Light shining into the dark and empty heart.
In verse 4 we see that God separates good from evil.
Now I want you to think of these things, and as we have been talking of the words,
God is Light, God is Love,
I am going to copy for you a hymn, which speaks of them very beautifully; my children know it well, and often sing it.
"God in mercy sent His Son To a world by sin undone. Jesus Christ was crucified; 'Twas for sinners Jesus died. Oh! the glory of the grace, Shining in the Saviour's face, Telling sinners from above, 'God is Light,' and 'God is Love.'
"Sin and death no more shall reign, Jesus died and lives again! In the glory's highest height— See Him God's supreme delight. Oh! the glory of the grace, Shining in the Saviour's face, Telling sinners from above, 'God is Light,' and 'God is Love.'
"All who on His name believe, Everlasting life receive; Lord of all is Jesus now, Every knee to him must bow. Oh! the glory of the grace, Shining in the Saviour's face, Telling sinners from above, 'God is Light,' and 'God is Love.'
"Christ the Lord will come again, He who suffered once will reign; Every tongue at last shall own, 'Worthy is the Lamb' alone. Oh! the glory of the grace, Shining in the Saviour's face, Telling sinners from above, 'God is Light,' and 'God is Love.'"
H. K. BURLINGHAM.
THE SECOND DAY.
THE OCEAN OF AIR.
"Dost thou know the balancings of the clouds, the wondrous works of Him which is perfect in knowledge?... Hast thou with Him spread out the sky?"—JOB xxxvii. 16-18.
"When He prepared the heavens, I was there: when He set a compass upon the face of the depth: when He established the clouds above: when He strengthened the fountains of the deep."—PROVERBS viii. 27, 28.
"Who hath measured the waters in the hollow of His hand, and meted out heaven with the span?"—ISAIAH xl. 12.
In reading these beautiful verses, let us remember that in the second of them it is the Lord Jesus Christ who says of that time when God prepared the heavens, "I was there." And now, as we are going to think about what God did on the SECOND DAY of Creation, I want you not only very carefully to read those verses in the first chapter of Genesis which tell us about it (verses 6-9), but to keep your Bible open at the place, so that you may be able to refer to them constantly.
When we had read them together, my children noticed that in these verses we find once more three words which are used to tell us about the work of God upon the FIRST DAY. You see these words, do you not?
"God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters."
"God divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament."
"God called the firmament Heaven."
And there is one word which has not been used before: "And God made the firmament."
It is quite simple to see this, but I daresay you want to know, as all the children—even the elder ones—did, the meaning of one very uncommon word which we find in each of these verses. "What does 'firmament' mean?" they said.
I told them that the word conveys the idea of something firm and strong and steadfast; and then I asked Sharley, who has a reference Bible, to look in the margin, and tell me what word she could find there which might be used instead of this uncommon one. She found, as you will find if there are references in your Bible, that the word is there translated "expansion." And what does that mean?
You can understand something spread out wide, can you not?
Those who turned the Hebrew word into English long ago thought "firmament"—that which stands fast—was a better word than "expansion," which simply means what is stretched or spread out—as the heaven is spread above the earth "like a curtain." The expanse, then, which God made on the SECOND DAY, is what we call, the sky, as we look up and see the
"... tapestried tent Of that marvellous curtain of blue and gold,"
which is high above our heads, and stretches away far, far as our eyes can reach. And this tent, under whose shadow we dwell, is not firm and solid, but is really a globe of vapour, which surrounds us everywhere, and reaches, not all the way up to what we call the blue sky, but very much higher than any bird could fly or balloon float—as high as forty or fifty miles above the earth. God has fixed its height; if it were less, every breath we take would hurt us; if it were much greater, we should be always tired.
But before we speak of this atmosphere, or globe of air, which surrounds the earth, I want you to remember, as you read of the work of God on the Six Days of creation, that each one of these Days led, in a beautiful order, to the next, and that in all of them God was preparing the earth, which He had created in the beginning, for the creatures which He had not yet formed. For each kind of creature a place was found fit for it to live in, whether that dwelling-place was the earth, or the great and wide sea, or the boundless fields of air. And each creature, as it came from God's hand, was fitted to live where God had placed it: for every living thing the means of living was provided. Thus on the First of His Days God called for the light. What would the face of all the world be without it? Then on the SECOND DAY He not only provided the place in which the happy winged creatures fly and utter their sweet songs, but that by which all living things, whether they were plants or animals, should be kept alive. I am sure you know that without air you could not breathe; but perhaps you have never thought that without it no plant could live, not even the smallest blade of grass. Every green thing lives by breathing the air, and if there were no air which it could breathe, it would soon die.
How freely God has given us this great blessing! His air is all around us, as is His presence. When people wish to speak of what belongs to everyone alike they sometimes say, "It's as free as the air you breathe"—this wonderful air, which we cannot see, but which helps to make the sky so blue, without which no fire could burn, no robin sing to its mate, no lamb bleat after its mother, no merry voices of boys and girls at play be heard. God has indeed made it free to us; but let us never forget that we are, as His creatures, dependent upon Him for every breath we draw.
Now while we speak of the way in which this world was created by God, and fitted to become the dwelling-place of His creatures, we may remember how the Lord Jesus spoke to His disciples, after He had told them that He would be only a little while with them, about the place He was going to prepare for them. This reminds me of a little incident which I should like to tell you, because it is so beautiful to know that the Lord of glory, who was allowed no place here, He who
"Wandered as a homeless stranger, In the world His hands had made,"
has indeed gone to prepare a place for those whom He has, by His death and resurrection, made ready to dwell there.