By Gerard Manley Hopkins
Homo creates est — creation, the making out of nothing, bringing from nothing into being: once there was nothing, then lo, this huge world was there. How great a work of power!
The loaf is made with flour; the house with bricks; the plough, the cannon, the locomotive, the warship / of iron — all of things that were before, of matter; but the world, with the flour, the grain, the wheatear, the seed, the ground, the sun, the rain; with the bricks, the clay, the earth; with the iron and the mine, the fuel and the furnace, was made from nothing. And they are made in time and with labor, the world in no time with a word. Man cannot create a single speck, God creates all that is besides himself.
But men of genius are said to create, a painting, a poem, a tale, a tune, a policy; not indeed the colors and the canvas, not the words or notes, but the design, the character, the air, the plan. How then? — from themselves, from their own minds. And they themselves, their minds and call, are creatures of God: if the tree created much more the flower and the fruit.
To know what creation is look at the size of the world. Speed of light: it would fly six or seven times round the Earth while the clock ticks once. Yet it takes thousands of years to reach us from the Milky Way, which is made up of stars swarming together (though as far from one another as we are from some of them), running into once, and looking like a soft mist, and each of them a million times as big as the Earth perhaps (the sun is about that). And there is not the least reason to think that is anything like the size of the whole world. And all arose at a word! So that the greatest of all works in the world, nay the world itself, was easier made than the least little thing that man or any other creature makes in the world.
Why did God create? — Not for sport, not for nothing. Every sensible man has a purpose in all he does, every workman has a use for every object he makes. Much more has God a purpose, an end, a meaning in his work. He meant the world to give him praise, reverence, and service; to give him glory. It is like a garden, a field he sows: what should it bear him? praise, reverence, and service; it should yield him glory. It is an estate he farms: what should it bring him in? Praise, reverence, and service; it should repay him glory. It is a lease-hold he lets out: what should its rent be? Praise, reverence, and service; its rent is his glory. It is a bird he teaches to sing, a pipe, a harp he plays on: what should it sing to him? etc. It is a glass he looks in: what should it show him? With praise, reverence, and service it should show him his own glory. It is a book he has written, of the riches of his knowledge, teaching endless truths, full lessons of wisdom, a poem of beauty: what is it about? His praise, the reverence due to him, the way to serve him; it tells him of his glory. It is a censer fuming: what is the sweet incense? His praise, his reverence, his service; it rises to his glory. It is an altar and a victim on it lying in his sight: why is it offered? To his praise, honor, and service: it is a sacrifice to his glory.
The creation does praise God, does reflect honor on him, is of service to him, and yet the praises fall short; the honor is like none, less than a buttercup to a king; the service is of no service to him. In other words he does not need it. He has infinite glory without it and what is infinite can be made no bigger. Nevertheless he takes it: he wishes it, asks it, he commands it, he enforces it, he gets it.
The sun and the stars shining glorify God. They stand where he placed them, they move where he bid them. “The heavens declare the glory of God.” They glorify God, but they do not know it. The birds sing to him, the thunder speaks of his terror, the lion is like his strength, the sea is like his greatness, the honey like his sweetness; they are something like him, they make him known, they tell of him, they give him glory, but they do not know they do, they do not know him, they never can, they are brute things that only think of food or think of nothing. This then is poor praise, faint reverence, slight service, dull glory. Nevertheless what they can they always do.
But amidst them all is man, man and the angels: we will speak of man. Man was created. Like the rest then to praise, reverence, and serve God; to give him glory. He does so, even by his being, beyond all visible creatures: “What piece of work is man!” But man can know God, can mean to give him glory. This then was why he was made, to give God glory and to mean to give it; to praise God freely, willingly to reverence him, gladly to serve him. Man was made to give, and meant to give, God glory.
I was made for this, each one of us was made for this.
Does man then do it? Never mind others now nor the race of man: do I do it? — If I sin I do not: how can I dishonor God and honor him? willfully dishonor him and yet be meaning to honor him? choose to disobey him and mean to serve him? No, we have not answered God’s purposes, we have not reached the end of our being. Are we God’s orchard or God’s vineyard? we have yielded rotten fruit, sour grapes, or none. Are we his cornfield sown? we have not come to ear or are mildewed in the ear. Are we his farm? it is a losing one to him. Are we his tenants? we have refused him rent. Are we his singing bird? we will not learn to sing. Are we his pipe or harp? we are out of tune, we grate upon his ear. Are we his glass to look in? we are deep in dust or our silver gone or we are broken or, worst of all, we misshape his face and make God’s image hideous. Are we his book? we are blotted, we are scribbled over with foulness and blasphemy. Are we his censer? we breathe stench and not sweetness. Are we his sacrifice? we are like the sacrifice of Balac, of Core, and of Cain. If we have sinned we are all this.
But what we have not done yet we can do now, what we have done badly hitherto we can do well henceforward, we can repent our sins and begin to give God glory. The moment we do this we reach the end of our being, we do and are what we were made for, we make it worth God’s while to have created us. This is a comforting thought: we need not wait in fear till death; any day, any minute we bless God for our being or for anything, for food, for sunlight, we do and are what we were meant for, made for — things that give and mean to give God glory. This is a thing to live for. Then make haste so to live.
For if you are in sin you are God’s enemy, you cannot love or praise him. You may say you are far from hating God; but if you live in sin you are among God’s enemies, you are under Satan’s standard and enlisted there; you may not like it, no wonder; you may wish to be elsewhere; but there you are, an enemy to God. It is indeed better to praise him than blaspheme, but the praise is not a hearty praise; it cannot be. You cannot mean your praise if while praise is on the lips there is no reverence in the mind; there can be no reverence in the mind if there is no obedience, no submission, no service. And there can be no obeying God while you disobey him, no service while you sin. Turn then, brethren, now and give God glory. You do say grace at meals and thank and praise God for your daily bread, so far so good, but thank and praise him now for everything. When a man is in God’s grace and free from mortal sin, then everything that he does, so long as there is no sin in it, gives God glory and what does not give him glory has some, however little, sin in it. It is not only prayer that gives God glory but work. Smiting on an anvil, sawing a beam, whitewashing a wall, driving horses, sweeping, scouring, everything gives God glory if being in his grace you do it as your duty. To go to communion worthily gives God great glory, but to take food in thankfulness and temperance gives him glory too. To lift up the hands in prayer gives God glory, but a man with a dung-fork in his hand, a woman with a slop-pail, give him glory too. He is so great that all things give him glory if you mean they should. So then, my brethren, live.