"Thou coverest the earth with the deep sea as with a garment."--PSALM civ. 6.
When we look at a map of the world, one of the first things that strikes us as curious is, how little dry land there is, and how much sea. More than half the world covered with deep, wild, raging, waste salt water! It seems very strange. Of what use to man can all that sea be? And yet the Scripture says that the whole earth has God given to the children of men. And therefore He has given to us the sea which is part of the earth. But of what use is the sea to us?
We are ready to say at first sight, "How much better if the world had been all dry land? There would have been so much more space for men to spread on--so much more land to grow corn on. What is the use of all that sea?" But when we look into the matter, we shall find, that every word of God stands true, in every jot and tittle of it--that we ought to thank God for the sea as much as for the land--that David spoke truly when he said, in this Psalm civ., that the great and wide sea also is full of God's riches.
For in the first place--What should we do without water? Not only to drink, but to feed all trees, and crops which grow. Those who live in a dry parish know well the need of water for the crops. In fact, strange as it may seem, out of water is made wood. You know, perhaps, that plants are made out of the salts in the soil--but not only out of salts--they are made also out of water. Every leaf and flower is made up only of those two things--salts from the soil, and water from the sky. Most wonderful! But so it is. Water is made up of several very different things. The leaves and flowers, when they drink up water, keep certain parts of water, and turn them into wood; and the part of the water which they do not want, is just the part which we do want, namely, fresh air, for water is full of fresh air. And therefore the plants breathe out the fresh air through their leaves, that we may breathe it into our lungs. More and more wonders, you see, as we go on!
But where does all the rain water and spring water come from? From the clouds. And where do the clouds come from? From the Sea. The sea water is drawn up by the sun's heat, evaporated, as we call it, into the air, and makes mist, and that mist grows together into clouds. And these clouds empty their blessed life-giving treasures on the land--to feed man, and beast, and herb.
But what is it which governs these clouds, and makes them do their appointed work? The Psalmist tells us, "At Thy rebuke they flee; at the voice of Thy thunder they are afraid." He gives the same account of it which wise men now-a-days give. It is God, he says, and the Providence of God, which raises the clouds, and makes them water the earth. And the means which He employs is thunder. Now this is strictly true. We all know that thunder gathers the clouds together, and brings rain: but we do not all know that the power which makes the thunder, which we call electricity, is working all around us everywhere. It is only when it bursts out, in flame and noise, which we call lightning and thunder, that we perceive it--but it is still there, this wonderful thing called electricity, for ever at work--giving the clouds their shape, making them fly with vast weights of water through the sky, and then making them pour down that water in rain.
But there is another deep meaning in those words of the Psalmist's about thunder. He tells us that at the voice of God's thunder the waters are afraid--that He has set them their bounds which they shall not pass, nor turn again to cover the earth. And it is true. Also that it is this same thunder power which makes dry land--for there is thunder beneath us, and lightning too, in the bowels of the earth. Those who live near burning mountains know this well. They see not only flames, but real lightning, real thunder playing about the burning mouths of the fiery mountains--they hear the roaring, the thundering of the fire-kingdom miles beneath their feet, under the solid crust of the earth. And they see, too, whole hills, ay, whole counties, sometimes, heaved up many feet in a single night, by this thunder under ground--and islands thrown up in the midst of the sea--so that where there was once deep water is now dry land.
Now, in this very way, strange as it may seem, almost all dry land is made. This whole country of England once lay at the bottom of the sea. You may now see shells and sea fishes bedded in high rocks and hill tops. But it was all heaved up by the thunder which works under ground. There are places in England where I have seen the marks of the fire on the rocks; and the solid stone crushed, and twisted, and melted by the vast force of the fire which thrust up the land from beneath--and thus the land was heaved up from under the waters, and the sea fled away and left its old bed dry--firm land and high cliffs--and as the Psalmist says, "At the voice of God's thunder the waters were afraid. Thou hast set them their bounds which they shall not pass, neither turn again to cover the earth."
Wonderful as all this may seem, all learned men know that it is true. And this one thing at least it ought to teach us, what a wonderful and Almighty God we have to deal with, whose hand made all these things--and what a loving and merciful God, who makes not only the wind and the sea, and the thunder and the fire kingdoms obey Him, but makes their violence bring blessings to mankind. The fire kingdom heaves up dry land for men to dwell on--the thunder brings mellow rains--the winds sweep the air clean, and freshen all our breath--and feed the plants with rich air drawn from far forests in America, and from the wild raging seas--the sea sends up its continual treasures of rain--everywhere are harmony and fitness, beauty and use in all God's works. He has made nothing in vain. All His works praise Him, and surely, also, His saints should give thanks to Him! Oh! my friends--every thunder shower--every fresh south-west breeze, is a miracle of God's mercy, if we could but see thoroughly into it.
Consider, again, another wonderful proof of God's goodness in what we call the Tides of the sea. God has made the waters so, that they can never stand still--the sea is always moving. Twice a day it rises, and twice a day it sinks and ebbs again all along the shore. It would take too long to explain why this is--but it is enough to say, that it must be so, from the way in which God has made the earth and the water. So that it did not come from accident. God planned and intended it all when He made the sea at first. His all-foreseeing love settled it all. Now of what use are these tides? They keep the sea from rotting, by keeping it in a perpetual stir. And the sea, as it ebbs and flows, draws the air after it, and so keeps the air continually moving and blowing, therefore continually fresh, and continually carrying in it rich food for plants from one country to another. There are other reasons why the winds blow, which I have not time to mention now; but they all go to prove the same thing.--How wisely and well the Psalmist said, "Praise the Lord upon earth ye rivers and all deeps. Fire and hail, snow and vapour, wind and storm, fulfilling His word" (Ps. cxlviii.).
Another use of the sea, again, is the vast quantity of food which it gives. Labouring men who live inland have no notion of the wonderful fruitfulness of those seemingly barren wastes of water, or how many millions of human beings live mostly on fish. When we consider those great banks of Newfoundland, where fish enough perhaps to feed all England are caught every season, and sent over the whole world; our own herring fisheries, where thousands of millions of fish are caught yearly--and all the treasures of food and the creeping things innumerable, both small and great beasts, of which the Psalmist speaks; when we consider all this, we shall begin to bless God for the sea, as much as for the land.
"There go the ships," too, says the Psalmist, in this 104th Psalm, "and there goeth that leviathan, whom Thou hast made to take his pastime therein." This leviathan is no doubt the whale--the largest of all living things--often a hundred feet long, and as thick as a house. And yet even of him, the monster of all monsters, does God's Word stand true, that He has put all things under man's feet, that all things are in subjection to man--the fish of the sea, and whatsoever walketh through the paths of the sea. For even the great whale cannot stand before the cunning of man--God has taught man the means of killing even it, and turning it to his own use. The whalebone which we use, the oil which we burn in lamps, comes from the bodies of those enormous creatures which wander in the far seas like floating houses, ten thousand miles away.
But again, it is promised in the Bible, that in the new heavens and new earth there shall be no more sea. When the sea has done its work, God will have done with it--and then there will be no more division between nation and nation--no more long dangerous voyages from one country to another.
And strange to say--the sea is even now at work bringing about this very thing--destroying itself--filling itself up. Day by day the sea eats away its own shore, and banks, and carries down their remains to make its own bed shallower and shallower, till shoals and new lands arise where there was deep sea before. So that if the world lasts long enough, the sea by its own laws will be filled up, and dry land appear everywhere.
The bottom of the sea is full, too, of countless millions of strange insects--and yet even in these strange insects there is use; for not only do they give food to countless millions of fishes, but after a time they turn into stone, and form fruitful soil. There are now in many parts of the world great beds of rock and earth, many feet thick, and miles long, made up entirely out of the skeletons and shells of little insects which lived at the bottom of the sea thousands of years ago.
Are not these things wonderful? Well, then, remember who made these wonders? who keeps them working? Your Father--and the Son of God, and the Spirit of God. The Son of God--ay, think of Him--He by whom all things were made--He by whom all things consist--He to whom all power is given in heaven and earth. He came down and died on the cross for you. He calls to you to come and serve Him loyally and gratefully--dare you refuse Him--The Maker and King of this glorious world? He died for you. He loves you. He condescends to beseech you to come to Him that you may have life. Alas! what can you expect if you will not come to Him? How will you escape if you turn your back on your Maker, and despise your own Creator when He stoops to entreat you? Oh folly--Oh madness--Oh utter shame and ruin!
There are some people who do not like science and philosophy, because they say, If you try to explain to people, and make them understand the wonderful things around them, they will stop thinking them wonderful, and so you will spoil their reverence, and "familiarity will breed contempt." Now, no doubt a little learning is a dangerous thing, when it makes some shallow conceited fellow fancy he knows all about everything. But I can truly say, that the more you really do know about this earth, the more your astonishment at it will grow--for the more you understand about trees and animals, clouds and seas, the less you will find you understand about them. The more you read about them and watch them, the more infinitely and inexpressibly wonderful you find them, and the more you get humbled and awestruck at the boundless wisdom and love of Our Father in Heaven, and Christ the Word of God who planned and made this wondrous world, and the Holy Spirit of God who is working this wondrous world. I tell you, my friends, that as St. Paul says, "If a man will be wise, let him become a fool that he may be wise." Let him go about feeling how short-sighted, and stupid, and ignorant he is--and how infinitely wise Christ the Word of God is, by whom all things were made, to whom all belong. Let him go about wondering day and night, always astonished more and more, as everything he sees gives him some fresh proof of the glory of God; till he falls down on his knees and cries out with the Psalmist, "Lord, what is man that Thou art mindful of him, or the son of man, that Thou so regardest him?" When I consider Thy Heavens, even the work of Thine hands, I say, What is man? and yet Thou madest man to have dominion over the works of Thine hands, and hast put all things in subjection under his feet--the fowl of the air and the fishes of the sea, and whatsoever walketh through the paths of the seas. O Lord, our Governor, how excellent is Thy name in all the world. In comparison of Thee what is man's wisdom? What is man's power? Thou alone art glorious, for by Thee are all things, and for Thee they were made, and are created, that Thou mightest rejoice in the works of Thy own hands, and bless the creatures which Thy love has made!