Jonathan Edwards, one of my favorite theologians, was also a student of nature. Many stereotype Edwards as the hell, fire and brimstone preacher who penned the famous sermon, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.” But several of his sermons reflected on the beauty of God found in creation and the wonderful testimonies he believed God placed there. When only twenty years old, he wrote a paper called the “Spider Letter.” This document clearly illustrates his ability to observe nature and to trace God’s handiwork through the grand design. Edwards spent lots of time outdoors. He would take long walks, and he rode his horse through the countryside.
In theology, Edwards strongly supported a field of study called typology. Typology is the study of how biblical characters or objects represent or foreshadow greater truths and realities. Edwards extended this idea to nature and argued that certain natural entities displayed important truths about God.
Read these words from Edwards (excerpt from Jonathan Edwards on Beauty):
That natural things were ordered for types of spiritual things seems evident by these texts: John 1:9, “This was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh in the world”; and John 15:1, “I am the true vine.” Things are thus said to be true in Scripture, in contradistinction to what is typical. The type is only the representation or shadow of the thing, but the antitype is the very substance, and is the true thing.
Here is an example of how Edwards found types of spiritual truths in nature. Of roses, he said:
Roses grow upon briers, which is to signify that all temporal sweets are mixed with bitter. But what seems more especially to be meant by it is that true happiness, the crown of glory, is to be come at in no other way than by Christ’s cross by a life of mortification, self-denial and labor, and bearing all things for Christ. The rose, the chief of all flowers is the last thing that comes out. The briery prickly bush grows before, but the end and crown of all is the beautiful and fragrant rose.
On the silkworm:
The silkworm is a remarkable type of Christ, which, when it dies, yields us that of which we make such glorious clothing. Christ became a worm for our sakes, and by his death finished that righteousness with which believers are clothed, and thereby procured that we should be clothed with robes of glory. See 2 Samuel 5:23-24 and Psalms 84:6; the valley of mulberry trees.
Want to read more about Jonathon Edwards on nature? Check out the following links, but understand that this is not lite reading: