In the 1800s, there was a New Church minister named Chauncey Giles, who eventually became one of the New Church leaders in America and who was well-loved by many people. He had discovered the Writings as a young adult, and the whole course of his life was changed for the better. He is probably my favorite New Church author, there is such affection and wisdom in his writing, and he wrote about so many important things. He felt that when he wrote his sermons and papers, he should make them as beautifully written as he possibly could, in honor of the subject matter. Below I am going to share a quote from a sermon he wrote entitled “The Ministry of Flowers.” I have returned to this sermon many times as a source of hope and inspiration. And I like to remember the Lord’s message when I enjoy the beautiful flowers He creates. This sermon is based on a text from Hosea 14 about the Lord descending like dew on Israel and causing growth and blossoming, and on True Christian Religion 392:2 about natural and spiritual flowering.
The changes wrought within us by regeneration are so covered up and concealed by the natural life and the material body that it is difficult to gain a clear and adequate idea of their nature and importance. They are to our spiritual faculties and to our life in the spiritual world as the secret processes that go on in the seed while it is in the ground are to the blossom. In our darkness, doubt, and difficulty of apprehension, the Lord says to us, “I will show you what the effect of my truth upon your spiritual nature will be when you return to me and receive my words into your hearts and lives. Look at this root; see how coarse and rough it is. There is no beauty in it; there is nothing you can discover in it that gives promise or hope of any loveliness of form or purity of color or delicacy of texture. And yet out of earth and rain and heat and light I will create one of the most beautiful forms in nature.”
You watch the progress of this creation; you see the germ bursting the bulb; you see it push its way out of the ground; you admire the growth of the stalk. If you had never seen a flower, you might mistake the leaf for it. But no, the Lord says, this is only the preparation; there is something coming far more beautiful than that. The bud swells, the calyx begins to open its emerald doors, and you catch a glimpse of a purer color and a more delicate texture than stalk or leaf. Gradually the beautiful mystery opens before you. You see a form pure as the unstained snow expanding in delicate curves, filling the air with fragrance, and charming you with its loveliness.
“There,” the Lord says: “as the blossom is to the root, so are even the first developments of a distinctly spiritual life to a merely natural life. So are spiritual truths to natural truths. So are spiritual affections to natural affections, except that the blossoms of heavenly wisdom exceed these earthly blossoms in loveliness of form, in purity and brilliance of color, and in sweetness of fragrance as much as mind excels matter. But here is a hint of the work that I am carrying on in every heart on which the dews of my truth descend, and which opens to their reception.”
In flowers we have a demonstration of what beautiful results the Lord can effect by the simplest and the most apparently unpromising means. Every flower is a miracle wrought before our eyes. And it is wrought for the express purpose of teaching us something of the higher miracle that the Lord is continually in the effort to work within every human soul.
Reflect a moment upon the materials out of which these beautiful forms are organized. Suppose you had never seen an organized vegetable form. Could you find the stalk, the leaf, and the blossom of the lily in the black mould, in running stream or falling shower? Could you discover any of its forms in the evening breeze, in morning light and noonday heat? Put every force and substance in nature into the crucible; decompose and analyze and recompose their elements; scrutinize their primary forms with the microscope; apply to them every possible test, and could you get a hint of the rose or the lily, or even the blade of grass? No, not one. The wisest men with all their wisdom could not conceive of such a form. They would declare its creation to be impossible.
But we see that the Lord does work this miracle. And it should teach us to have faith that out of the unpromising materials of our natural life, He will produce correspondingly grand results. He weaves the delicate texture of the flowers, and distils their delicious aromas out of crumbling stones and the black mould of decayed leaves; out of vernal showers and summer dews. He paints them in all the hues of light, and quickens them into life with the breath of the sun’s heat. And then He says to us, “You shall grow as the lily.”
By these means He teaches us a great law of divine order, and demonstrates to us the methods by which He accomplishes His purposes. He is always in the effort to bring higher things out of lower. Everything that does not resist His purpose steps up and not down; unfolds into higher and lovelier forms; is commissioned to perform more important uses; and receives larger rewards. In the growth of the blossom He shows us how He is forming the spiritual mind. He shows us how it blossoms. He reveals to us the meaning of labor and the rough work of this life, and the use of our natural knowledge and experience. He intends that the labor of the forge, the mill, the office, and the household shall blossom into forms of heavenly wisdom. He intends that the dry details of business and daily duty shall rise into the consummate flower of lovely affections for wife, husband, and child, for neighbor and friend.
Our natural thoughts and affections are the ground, the carbon and oxygen, the chemical constituents that become organized into the glorious beauty of spiritual affections and thoughts. We cannot describe in words or fully illustrate by natural forms how excellent these will be. They cannot be revealed to the natural senses because these senses are not sensitive enough to discern them. “Eye hath not seen and ear hath not heard” (Isaiah 64:4, 1 Cor. 2:9). But the Lord uses the most beautiful of earthly things to give us a hint of the heavenly. He creates the pure, delicate, and lovely forms of flowers out of the coarse and rough substances of the insensate earth, and then tells us that our spiritual life will be as much more excellent than our natural life in delicacy of fragrance, in glory of color, and in loveliness of form, as the blossoms of the rose and lily surpass the coarse bulb and unattractive root.