I had never heard of Henry Drummond until a few short years ago, and certainly never heard of this poem until a few days ago. One can imagine how my thoughts are keenly focused on “The Booke Of The World.”
“Of this faire volumne, which wee World doe name,
If wee the sheetes and leaves could turne with care,
Of Him who it correctes, and did it frame,
Wee cleare might read the Art and Wisedome rare:
Finde out his Power, which wildest Powʹrs doth tame,
His Providence extending everie‐where,
His justice which proud Rebels doeth not spare,
In everie Page, no, Period of the same:
But sillie wee (like foolish Children) rest
Well pleasʹd with colourʹd Velame, Leaves of Gold,
Faire dangling Ribbones, leaving what is best,
Of the great Writers sense neʹer taking hold;
Or if by chance Mindes doe muse on ought,
It is some Picture on the Margine wrought.”
What is this “booke” of which Drummond writes? Permit me to rephrase in the vernacular of the peasantry:
“Here is a book, and let’s name it ‘The World.’ If read carefully we will discover the art and wisdom of the author editor, discover His power and control. His providence is everywhere and His justice thorough-everyone is accountable to Him. Every page of the Book of the World is a record of all history. Like silly, foolish children, we enjoy the pictures and decorations of the book and leave what is best. We don’t look deeper for what is written there by the greatest of writers. We are easily distracted, thinking about other than what the Book reveals, captivated by what lies in the margins.”
“The Booke of the World” is just that-it is the world, in and of itself. The “booke” is all of Nature, the whole Universe (not “universe” as in that which is limited to our planet, or galaxy; but “Universe” as it pertains to everything conceivable on both the micro and macro level). The mere existence of “The Booke” points me to its author. I enjoy reading and have gotten to know many authors, but I have only met one I have actually read. We know about the authors and through their writings, anyone is able to learn their thoughts; but unless we meet them, we will never KNOW them. The books merely point me to them. When read properly, “The Booke of the World” introduces the reader to its author, first affirming that the author exists.
“The most beautiful system of the sun, planets, and comets could only proceed from the counsel and dominion of an intelligent and powerful Being.” (Sir Isaac Newton)
“The more I study nature, the more I stand amazed at the work of the Creator.” (Louis Pasteur)
As one reads, one becomes familiar with the author himself: his character, how he thinks, of what are his concerns.
Drummond’s poem is reminiscent of Psalm 19. The first half (verses 1-6) describe how the heavens and earth declare God's glory (vv. 1-2, 4-6) and that man is witness the soundless sermon (vv. 3-4). This is called "natural revelation." The second half describes the nature of "special revelation" (vv. 7-14): first, the description of God's Word (vv. 7-9) followed by the desire for God's Word (vv. 10-14) that everyone should have. This is what we call "special revelation."
Rather than trust what the author/creator has given us in the content of the book/world, man would rather doodle in the margins and make himself the author of his own content. Man sees creation and knows the Creator exists, but rather than accept this truth (and with nowhere else to go, no other planet to run to or create for himself) he makes content that is comfortable for his way of thinking, way of life. Man does not want to be the creation of someone else. Man wants to be in control of his destiny (though little thought confirms that man could not bring himself into being in the first place). Man does not like the author, nor does he want to meet Him. Man does not want to be accountable for his actions to a Holy God.
Naturalism says that nature is self-sufficient and explains itself—there is no evidence of God in nature. This is like saying a book exists and not only can it not be opened, but it does not say anything. The difficulty here is that a “booke” cannot always have existed. If it has, then it would be greater than its author. Instead the book has an author, who also serves as editor. God has brought all things into being and through the Lord Jesus Christ, holds everything together by the word of His power.
Pantheism says that nature = God. This is like saying a book is it’s author; furthermore, there is no author nor is there a book—we just “know,” have an “understanding”; that is, “oneness.” Some people “understand” or “realize” better than others—some things are more “one” than others. Words and books are not necessary, but since we use them, they move us along to understand that the author (if there were one, and there is not) is “this” and not “that.” Once you understand that these, then you grasp further and more higher (to you) “this” and not “that.” Goo-goo ga-choob.
Deism says that nature is sufficient evidence for a Creator God and He has given us enough to know how to be good—we just get to discover what this means for ourselves. God is only an architect, a “first cause.” If God were watchmaker, he only sits back to observe it winding down. Nature and all matter is a system and science is the tool man uses to transcend matter, not understand it. Nothing is revealed about God outside of what we experience and all we experience is for man to know himself better. If we do learn anything about God, we only learn what He is like—God cannot be known or contacted in any way. This is like discovering a pile of words without knowing who put them there or how they get there, and walking away with complete knowledge of yourself.
The Bible, God’s special revelation, clearly confirms that since the creation of the world, God’s invisible attributes are clearly seen, so man is without excuse (Romans 1:20). Seeing a building and knowing there is a builder, or seeing a painting and knowing there is a painter, or seeing creation and knowing there is a Creator does not require faith. It requires seeing and a working brain. Now, if we would like the builder or painter or Creator do to something, then we need faith. “And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who seek Him.” (Hebrews 11:6)
For further thought: “And if anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.” (Revelation 10:15).