Earlier this week I was looking for a hymn which might point to the implications of Good Friday for ourselves and all of creation, and came across this lesser-known but poignant classic penned by English theologian and hymnist Isaac Watts (1674-1748). "Nature with Open Volume Stands" was set to music by Georg Joseph, which you can hear a taste of at NetHymnal:
Nature with open volume stands,
To spread her Maker’s praise abroad;
And every labor of His hands
Shows something worthy of a God.
But in the grace that rescued man
His brightest form of glory shines;
Here, on the cross, ’tis fairest drawn,
In precious blood and crimson lines.
Here His whole Name appears complete;
Nor wit can guess, nor reason prove,
Which of the letters best is writ,
The power, the wisdom, or the love.
Here I behold His inmost heart,
Where grace and vengeance strangely join,
Piercing His Son with sharpest smart,
To make the purchased pleasure mine.
O! the sweet wonders of that cross,
Where God the Savior loved and died
Her noblest life my spirit draws
From His dear wounds and bleeding side.
I would forever speak His Name,
In sounds to mortal ears unknown;
With angels join to praise the Lamb,
And worship at His Father’s throne.
Watts doesn't draw a direct connection between nature as God's marvelous handiwork and the redemption of the cross. Instead, he focuses on the glory and precious gift of that redemption for you and me, as we shouldn't neglect to do ourselves. And yet, it is appropriate to draw a connection between Watts' first verse and those that follow. Paul tells us in Romans 8 that all of creation is groaning as it waits for our redemption as sons and daughters of God, the same redemption which Christ made possible on the cross. And from Colossians 1 we know that God will reconcile all created things to Himself through Christ, "by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross" (vs. 20, NIV).
Our friend Dean Ohlman of The Wonder of Creation also mentioned Watts' hymn in an excellent post this week, "Earth Day Writ Large." In it, Dean offers a uniquely Christian motivation for celebrating Earth Day, which happens to fall on Good Friday this year, by remembering our Savior's intimate relationship to and care for His creation and creatures. Dean reminds of a powerfully worshipful passage in Revelation, which makes me think of the scene described in the last verse of "Nature with Open Volume Stands," but joined by animals as well:
Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!” (5:11-13, ESV)
(artwork by Eugène Delacroix (1845), courtesy Web Gallery of Art/Wikimedia Commons)