The Praise of the Spider
“Let every living creature praise the lord!” – Psalm 150:6
The great Puritan divine Jonathan Edwards was a close observer of the natural world, in which he everywhere saw glimpses of the goodness and glory of God. He was especially fascinated by spiders and wrote a learned essay about them when he was only 11 years old. He wrote, “Of all insects, no one is more wonderful than the spider.”
Edwards is often only remembered for his infamous sermon, Sinners in the Hands of An Angry God, in which he likened the sinner to a spider dangling over a fire. But in a kinder, gentler, reflection on spiders, Edwards saw in their various capacities something wonderful. He marveled at their industry, their ability to fly, and their skill in fabricating beautiful webs.
In their “admirable way of working” he wrote, we “see the exuberant goodness of the Creator.”
Edwards was the second pastor of the church in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, where I am a member. Yesterday I was hiking in the woods not far from our church, and I came across an elaborate spider’s web strung between two trees. Dappled sunshine was streaming through it.
I thought of Edwards and how, even though he lived three hundred years ago, his spider must have been much like this one, working and spinning and quietly praising God.
You have made us to praise you, O God. May the thoughts of our hearts and the works of our hands daily praise you for your exuberant goodness.
Richard L. Floyd is Pastor Emeritus of First Church of Christ (UCC) in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, and author of A Course In Basic Christianity and When I Survey the Wondrous Cross: Reflections on the Atonement. He blogs at richardlfloyd.com.