“A Name For An Effect”

_CES5141William Cowper was an 18th c. poet who is known today primarily for the hymns he wrote.  It was Cowper who penned the well-known line “God moves in a mysterious way His wonders to perform.  He plants His footsteps in the sea and rides upon the storm.”  In 1785 Cowper published The Task: A Poem in Six Books.  This work, as the title suggests, is a long poem in which the author tackles a number of different subjects.  Among the subjects covered is the blessings of nature.

_CES5082In one section of The Task Cowper wrote: “The Lord of all, himself through all diffused, sustains, and is the life of all that lives.  Nature is but a name for an effect, whose cause is God.  He feeds the secret fire, by which the mighty process is maintain’d, who sleeps not, is not weary; in whose sight slow circling ages are as transient days.”  Later, in this same section, he switches his focus to Christ and writes: “But all are One.  One spirit–His who wore the platted thorns with bleeding brows–rules universal nature.  Not a flower but shows some touch, in freckle, streak, or stain, of his unrivall’d pencil.  He inspires their balmy odors, and imparts their hues, and bathes their eyes with nectar, and includes, in grains as countless as the seaside sands, the forms with which he sprinkles all the earth.”

_CES5104Needless to say, Cowper had no trouble seeing God in His Creation.  In fact, he speaks of God being “diffused” through all of Creation.  In ways we cannot begin to comprehend God is behind, inside, beneath and above everything that He has made.  Cowper sees God as being intimately involved in all facets of nature.  I love his phrase, “Nature is but a name for an effect, whose cause is God.”   In his eyes he sees God not just creating the world but sustaining and maintaining it as well.  Others in his time believed that when God created the world He set things in motion but no longer played any role in His Creation.  Cowper’s view was quite the opposite.  God was at work everywhere!

_CES5129In the New Testament things come to a climax when Jesus is affirmed as “King of kings and Lord of lords.” (Revelation 19:16)  Cowper certainly sees Jesus as Lord over everything–including nature.  Christ’s lordship over nature is not an emphasis you see very often but it is a needed one.  His picture of Christ’s lordship over nature is a beautiful one.  Jesus is not seen as a tyrant seeking to hold back or tame nature but as one who loves it and continues to bring forth beauty from the earth.  It’s kind of hard to look at a flower again in the same way after reading Cowper’s words.  He sees in every flower the work of the Master’s hand.  Even their “balmy odors” come from him.

In practically every area of life we need teachers or mentors.  Seeing Creation is no exception.  I am thankful that we have mentors like William Cowper.  Our understanding of both God and Creation is richer because such people have come along.  Yes, indeed, “God moves in a mysterious way His wonders to perform!”


(I took all of the pictures shown above in a friend’s garden here in Henderson, KY.)