The Friendliness of the Stones

Job 5:23.---' Thou shalt be in league with the stones of the field.'

Most of us have our favorite texts. This was the favorite of Dr. Joseph Bell, the great Edinburgh surgeon, remembered as the original of "Sherlock Holmes," but better remembered by deeds like this: 'A little child, suffering from that terrible scourge [diphtheria], was brought to the Royal Infirmary, and operated upon by Professor Syme; but the "poisonous stuff" had accumulated so much, and the air passages were so clogged, that there seemed no method of relieving the patient except by suction. Instruments for that purpose had not then been invented, and Joe bell did the service required---sucked the poison from the child's throat, risking his life for that of a poor man's child.

'Thou shalt be in league with the stones of the field.' The significance lies in the kind of man who is implied in THOU. Eliphaz is talking---not of everybody---he is talking of the man who trusts in God. He is describing the man who is at peace with God, and who has entered into a covenant with the Almighty. And what he says is, Are you in league with heaven? then with the very stones you shall be in league. Are you at peace with God in your own heart? then you are on new terms with every bird, and beast, and flower. That is to say that what a man's attitude towards Nature and his fellow-man may convey to him, depends on his spiritual and moral state.

Everything is a friend to the man that loves God, in a far sweeter and deeper sense than it can ever be to any other. Like a sudden burst of sunshine upon a gloomy landscape, the light of union with God and friendship with Him flooding my daily life flashes it all up into brightness. The dark ribbon of the river that went creeping through the black corpses, when the sun glints upon it, gleams up into links of silver, and the trees by its bank blaze out into green and gold. 'Who follows pleasure follows pain'; who follows God finds pleasure following him. There can be no surer way to set the world against me than to try to make it for me, and to make it my all. They tell us that if you want to count those stars that make up the Pleiades, the surest way to see the greatest number of them is to look a little on one side of them. Look away from the joys and friendships of creatural things right up to God, and you will see these sparkling and dancing in the skies, as you never see them when you gaze at them alone. Make them second, and they are good and on your side. Make them first, and they will turn to be your enemies and fight against you.

This vital connection of the outward world with the grandeur or debasement of man's moral nature is one of the great and neglected truths of Scripture. From the story of Eden, with its idyllic environment, through the fall, with its curse of thistles and of thorns, on to the last picture of a new-created earth that shall be in harmony with new-created man, everywhere the Word of God shows us the kinship between everything and the moral life of man. Does Israel forsake God and turn to idols? Carmel languishes and Lebanon mourns. Does Israel repent and turn to its God again? The wilderness shall rejoice and blossom as the rose. That is not the idle metaphor of poetry; to the prophet even Nature was instinct with spiritual meaning. There was not an anemone in all the plains of Sharon but would be more beautiful if only man were good. Then think of the Nature-parables of Jesus, which are based on deep unities, not on chance resemblances. Think of what St. Paul says: 'The whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together,'---that is the Bible outlook on the world. The world is not a mere stage for a brief play. It is lit by our triumphs, shadowed by our guilt, touched by our sorrows, watered by our tears. By every right thing we do it is made richer. It grows meaner and poorer by every sin we sin. It is ourselves that are impressed upon the world. It is the story of our own hearts we read in the world. We talk of the voices of the winds and waves, but the voices are only the echo of our souls. And that is why, when you get a soul like Christ's, infinitely beautiful, and filled like a chalice with God, the meanest flower that blows has got a glory with which even the glory of Solomon cannot be compared.

Love to you all; Tim