He taught that the labourer was worthy of his hire, and that good wages meant better work. Men know this now to be God’s very truth. He taught that labour, if it is to produce its best, must be labour with joy in the doing of it: men believe this to-day. (p. 5)
He shewed that the wealth of the country was not in millions of gold hoarded or wasted, but in millions of good lives and golden hearts and kindly thoughts: the people are now beginning to see that the cash-nexus is wrong, and that only the bonds of sympathy and right feeling and high thought and noble ideal can bind us into a strong nation for the service of God and man. He shewed us that education meant not the cramming of young folks with indigestible facts, but the opening their eyes to perceive the glory of God around them in earth and air and sea, in rock, in wood, in flower, in all tender life on earth, in strengthening their soul’s understanding to see God all around them, and to know His love encompassed them from cradle to grave. Men scoffed and wagged their heads, and called him sentimentally aesthetic. (pp. 5-6)….
Many sided as a prism, and many coloured like the light seen through it, was the mind through which God’s truth was revealed to us by him. He taught the joy in good work and its inherent nobility, the excellency of sympathy of heart, the grandeur of humility, the greatness of self-sacrifice, the beauty of obedience, the crowning glory of reverence for all things good and beautiful and true. As a messenger from God, “Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report, if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise,” he bade us think on these things. (p. 8)
And yet when one considers the very heart of hearts of his message, it seems to have consisted in his bidding us to first believe that we have a Father in heaven, whose love can be seen in all the wonder of the common things on earth, and then to arise from our sins and selfishness and go unto Him. (p. 9)….
His love of Nature, his constant recall to a simple, peaceful work of joyous labour in close touch with the loveliness of the natural world, was really based upon his experience that Nature never did betray the heart that trusts her, but can lead us straight to the All-Father. “With respect to two individuals,” he once wrote, “the one who loves Nature most will be always found to have more capacity for faith in God than the other; Nature-worship will be found to bring with it such a sense of the presence and power of the great Spirit as mere reasoning can neither induce nor controvert. I believe,” he added, “that out of this healthy element of love of Nature, cultivated in earnestness and as a duty, results will spring of an importance at present inconceivable, and lights arise which for the first time in man’s history will reveal to him the true nature of his life, the true field of his energies, and the true relations between him and his Maker.” (pp. 12-13)….
John Ruskin knew that the love of Nature and the love of God and man were complements one of the other. Ever as he taught us to be Christ-like and to go unto the Father, ever as he strove to shew us the way on earth by which He went to Him, he bade us, as Christ bade His disciples, consider the lilies of the field and the birds of the air, because he knew that we should love the Heavenly Father, their Father and our Father, the better for such considering. (p. 15)
He once wrote, “He who loves not God nor his brother cannot love the grass beneath his feet nor the creatures round about him; while, on the other hand, none can love God nor his human brother without loving all things which his Father loves, nor without looking upon them every one as in that respect his brother also.” (pp. 15-16)….
Ruskin came then as a prophet, with an angel-call to our generation to arise and go humbly to the Father; and, as he preached and taught, he realised how the earth around him, with all its changing phenomena, was filled with the same angel message and good-spell for the souls of men. He heard it in the storm, he felt it in the cloud and wind, he found it declared by shower-time and flower-time, seed-time and harvest, he saw it revealed in sunset and sweet dawn. (pp. 16-17)
“All this passing to and fro of fruitful shower and grateful shade,” he once wrote, “and all these visions of silver palaces built above the horizon, and voices of moaning winds and threatening thunders, and glories of coloured robe and cloven ray, are but to deepen in our hearts the acceptance and distinctness and clearness of the simple words, ‘Our Father which art in heaven.’” (p. 17)
(Sermon at St. Kentigern’s Church, Crosthwaite, January 18th 1900)