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Life, as I have reminded you, in every case begins with an egg. In a colony of ants there are males, females, and workers, besides eggs, pupe, and larvæ ; they choose one for their queen, and she, like the queen bee, becomes both the mother and monarch of the whole colony, leading and guiding them both in their journeys and battles...
The structure of an ants' nest is very curious. What you have seen in the woods would have given you but a small idea of the remarkable depositories below; you look upon a little hill of insects, and are reminded of Hood's lines
“What a hustle,
And a bustle!”
but below the surface of the earth they have tunnelled out, very cleverly, roadways to their dormitories where the eggs are laid, or where the larvæ are passing towards pupæ, or where the pupæ are enjoying that strange sleep the awaking from which is attended with such wonderful result; for who would believe that from that tiny egg would come that simple, wingless thing which in the silkworm we call a caterpillar ?-or who would believe that from it would come that still more mysterious thing which in the silkworm we call “chrysalis,” in the ant we will call “pupa” ?-or who that had not already beheld the phenomena would credit that from that strange pupa of the ant would issue that model of perseverance and activity which King Solomon sent you and me to learn our lessons of wisdom from ?
Have you ever wondered why the great Creator ordained insects to pass through three stages of being ?
I have very often, and I think I see the reason ; there must be a reason, because we know He does nothing in vain. A chicken has not three lives as an ant has; it is first egg, then chicken, then egg, and then again chicken; between the little chick and the big fowl there is nothing but growth both of flesh and feather.
Will you first open your New Testament, and turning to Romans i. 20 you will read, “The invisible things of God from the creation of the world are clearly seen”-how ?- being understood by the things that are made.” This is Paul's favourite comment on the philosophy of Zophar, the unconsoling friend of the patriarch Job, who exclaims (Job xi. 5, 6), “Oh that God would show to thee the secrets of wisdom, that they are double to that which is.”
Larva (a), Pupa (1), and Imago (c) of the Common Gnat. What is the logic of this Divine philosophy? This: that we are to understand the things which we cannot see by the things we can see, because everything in nature is a symbol of what is above and beyond nature. True it is that we are surrounded by the supernatural; it needs spiritual eyes to see spiritual things, I know, because spiritual things can only be discerned by spiritual sight.
Have you spiritual eyes ?—that is, have you“ the secret of wisdom” spoken of in the oldest poem in the world ? If not, why not?
“Ask, and it shall be given you.” “If any of you lack
wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to every man liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him."
You know the Book of promises from which these words are taken. The Bible is the great God's promissory notebook, and when you go to Him in prayer always take one of the Divine promises in your hand, just as you would when taking a Bank of England note to be exchanged for gold; you wait till your turn comes, and you realize the fulfilment, “I promise to pay," when you receive the coin with the royal portrait glittering on its side, reminding you of Him who is kingly Head over all.
Now, after this little intrusion, let us go back to the inquiry why there is first larva, secondly pupa, and thirdly imago; for as the first and second characterize the first two stages in ant life, and are translated from their foreign language into plain English by "mask" and "mummy," so the last describes the ultimate state of the insect's life, the perfect image of the creature, “imago,” which may be rendered " an apparition," and that, you know, means again a visible spirit—that which shall be when that which is earthly is done away.
Now isn't this all full of suggestion ? This is one of the many visible things which illustrate the invisible of the apostle.
You and I now are “larvæ,” soon we shall be “ pupæ,” and by and by “ imago.”
Suppose I were to hold an imaginary argument with our ant in life number one, and it could answer me; what kind of conversation do you think would be the most appropriate for me to employ ?
If I said, “Well, little ant, you are a queer kind of a creature, you are; you haven't eyes, so you can't see; and you haven't feet, so you can't walk; and you haven't wings, so you can't fly ;-what's the use of you ? ” What do you think would be the most appropriate answer I should receive ?
“ All the days of my appointed time will I wait till my change come.” “ It doth not yet appear what we shall be.”
And when the time for the last life came, just as the imago—that is, you know, the last state of its wonderful being—was consummated, as it was passing away, throwing aside its earthly covering, emerging therefrom with its gauze-like wings, don't you think if it could, like the fabled swan, sing while it was dying, as I should wish to do, the most appropriate words it could use would be what our poet Pope has put into the mouth of the dying Christian to his. soul
“Trembling, hoping, lingering, flying,
Oh, the pain, the bliss of dying!”
I have told you of the threefold transformation of the insect: larva (mask), its future life being hidden; pupa (mummy), it is curiously covered up or enfolded as mummies used to be in Egypt, after the process of embalming; then, finally, imago (the ultimate image).
All insects do not pass through this remarkable transformation. I wonder why not?
Perhaps to show us that the exception is to teach the wonder of that which is exceptionally wonderful. But the transformation of our friend the ant is amongst the most wonderful of all, for it is not really after all the same kind of transformation exactly which the moth or butterfly undergoes, nor yet that of the beetle tribe ; but, strange to say, one stage of life is enfolded or mysteriously enveloped in the next, each enwrapping or enclosing the other; the egg swells out into the larva, and the larva encloses and conceals the pupa, and the pupa gradually passes away into its final stage, the imago.
" Why,” you exclaim, " then here is another illustration of the great Bible wonder, the Trinity!" . Yes, this is one of the secrets of wisdom-it is “ double
to that which is ; " this is one of Nature's illustrations of Bible truths. Here is the sensible picturing the spiritual ;
this is one of the apostle's things that are “made” which are “ clearly seen,” symbolizing “ the invisible things of God.”
Here is the supernatural in Nature. There is a trinity