Billeder på siden
PDF
ePub

his experience he will address to his Heavenly Father. But he will take a more exalted view of the meaning and use of that sacred language than the natural man. He will offer the petition not in the letter, but in the spirit. He will look within himself for the causes and signs of apparent anger and displeasure in the Lord, and in his prayer he will have a view to the removal of the falses which cloud bis understanding and the evils which oppress his heart. But before those evils and falsities can be removed they must be seen, and to be seen they must be excited. Hence arise the signs by which their presence and activity may be discovered.

Let us attend then to some of those signs. We believe that God is Love, and that His Providence is invariably wise and good. If we believed this with the heart as well as with the understanding, we should neither doubt the goodness, nor murmur against the permission, of Divine Providence. Is not every murmur against Providence an act of practical belief that the Lord afflicts in wrath-that His dealings with us are not those of pure mercy? Is not every doubt or feeling of distrust regarding the future a practical declaration that we have less than a full reliance on the immutability of the Lord, to whom all the future belongs ? It is not indeed to be expected that any human being in this preparatory state of existence can be entirely free from doubt and discontent, even regarding that Providence which he believes to be absolutely perfect. But the extent of the disagreement between our understanding and heart, between our intellectual and practical belief, is well calculated to shew us what we are, and what we have to do; and to teach us the necessity of self-distrust and self-examination.

But although it is not possible to be entirely free from those infirmities which make us feel smitten by the severer dispensations of Providence, it is surely possible and dutiful for us to live above that habitual discontent and anxiety which so much prevail in the world, and which it does not seem to be considered, in many cases, a religious duty to overcome. The truth is, religion is not sufficiently seen or understood in its intimate connection with the common business and experience of life. Yet it is here that its operation is principally to be sought, and that its use and benefits are chiefly to be found. Religion enters, or should enter, into all our thoughts and feelings, and thence into all our words and actions; and it is only real in proportion as it does so. It is not necessary that religion should constantly engage our thoughts; it is of much more importance that it should constantly influence themthat it should be present in them as a regulating principle, inspiring them with charity and truth on every subject that engages our attention, and in every work in which we are employed. In this

way

it is that the mind and life become moulded and conformed to the order of heaven, and that the human mind comes into harmony with the Divine, the will and wisdom of God thus gradually entering into and forming the will and wisdom of man, so far as his frailty and finity admit of such reception.

M.

THE DIVINE BENEVOLENCE IN THE LITTLE THINGS

OF NATURE.-No. IV.
By LEO H. GRINDON.

Exceptions. EVERYTHING that occurs in nature is the result of some law instituted to bring it to pass. No phenomena are in opposition to the laws of nature, nor are the laws of nature ever set aside in order to bring about conditions or circumstances that would be more conducive to man's welfare than the operation of the original laws themselves. Even "miracles” are no doubt in strict conformity with the primitive and immutable scheme of Divine Government which has maintained the universe in its integrity and sublime order, ever since the time of that sweet aurora ,when“ the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy;" and we call them “super-natural,” simply because they are effected not by suspending the laws, but by exhibiting the unaccustomed powers, of nature. For there is a spiritual law within, and thus above, every natural law, and which, being necessarily in perfect harmony with it, may dignify and expand its operation, but can never contradict it. If we feel disposed to regard miracles as works requiring the suspension of the laws of nature, it is again simply because we do not understand—and in this our present life probably cannot understand—the immensity and fulness of the laws of nature, nor see how occurrences apparently quite at variance one with another, may yet be in harmony and quite compatible when viewed by the light of some grand and omnipotent principle which originates and includes both. To take a familiar illustration : every one knows that "fire burns," and that if we touch what is red-hot, it will most painfully blister the skin, and that if the contact be prolonged only for a few seconds, the flesh will be destroyed with inexpressible torment. This is the ordinary law of nature, and what we naturally conceive to be the whole of the law of nature regarding the action of fire, and of red-hot substances. But if a quantity of lead be melted, and made so hot that it seems incapable of any further increase of temperature, the hand may be dipped into it without sustaining the slightest injury, without being in the slightest degree burned! This is well known to chemists; and men with nerve enough to make the plunge, have many times proved it to their startled friends and pupils. This is the extra-ordinary law of nature; not in antagonism to the ordinary law, but included in the general idea and constitution of fire, part of which idea is, that fire can be made so hot as not to burn. The miracles, and the usual order and method of nature, hold, in all probability, a similar kind of relationship, the extra-ordinary laws which promote the former being so administered by the Divine Wisdom as to serve grand moral purposes, and this not publicly and professionally, but in quiet and solemnity. Such at least is the character of the miracles recorded in Holy Writ.

When, accordingly, we seem to find the common life of the world full of inconsistencies and exceptions, it is simply that we regard the several occurrences from too low a platform of thought. If such wonderful contradictions can be exhibited before our eyes as that of the melted lead burning when it is only heated enough to run like water, and not burning when the furnace has done its worst, or best, how readily we may believe that all other things which appear to be inconsistent one with another, are in reality in fine concord; and that exceptions are only varied utterances of some grand and simple ordinance that equally governs the common and the strange. Every department of nature presents such exceptions; and it is delightful to a reflective and pious mind to observe that these exceptions, like the sacred miracles, are uniformly charged with some errand of love, or with some new gift from the munificence of the All-good. The comfort and enjoyment, either of mankind or of some little creature, is always the proximate object; and if the end be not realised, the fault is with the intended recipient.

To begin with the inanimate or inorganic department of nature. It is well known that all substances that have been heated, as they cool, decrease in size, and become of greater specific gravity; or, in other words, a little smaller, and a little heavier. Even things that are ordinarily cold, become, under the influence of severe frost, a little smaller. The strips of iron that form the path for the wheels of the railway-train, become shorter when the frost is intense; the pendulum of a clock, in a room where there is no fire, becomes under similar circumstances shorter, and the “ time" is falsified; an iron rod that exactly fits an opening while it is red-hot, is too small for it when it has cooled. The exception to these usual phenomena is, that water, one of the most valuable substances in nature, instead of decreasing in volume as it freezes, occupies more room when it has become ice; and instead of becoming heavier as it freezes, is, when in the shape of ice, perceptibly lighter. See how admirably this operates for the advantage of man! Had water been governed by the rule that applies to other substances, in winter, when the thermometer sank to 32', or "freezingpoint,” the layer of ice formed on the surface would have immediately sunk to the bottom; another layer would have taken its place, and similarly sunk to the bottom; and in a little while the whole reservoir would have been changed into a solid mass, which no subsequent summers could have thawed, and the world would soon have become uninhabitable for want of drink. As it is, the water is preserved in its fluid form, and warm enough for use; while the surface offers a playground for boy and man, agreeable in its novelty and the excitement of the needful exercise. Sea-water does not freeze till it is nearly four degrees colder than fresh-water needs to be before congealing, thus assisting to keep the ocean open at all seasons.

Mark, in the next place, the curious nature of quicksilver, or mercury. A very considerable degree of heat is required to melt every other kind of metal; but mercury becomes fluid with no more heat than is supplied by the atmosphere of England ! In the Arctic regions, and wherever else the temperature sinks to -39, or seventy-one degrees below freezing-point, mercury is solid, resembling a lump of silver, or any other white and shining metal. There it needs fire to bring it into the fluid condition; but in our own happy island,

“Great, glorious, and free, First flower of the earth, and first gem of the sea," and in all countries of similar and even harsher climate, so long as the intense rigour of the frigid zones is never experienced, mercury is permanently molten. Hence, we can use it for the construction of thermometers, measuring every delicate change in the warmth of the air, and in the temperature of substances used in the processes of arts and manufactures, which could scarcely be attempted without the aid of this wonderful instrument. Quicksilver is one of the most extraordinary substances in nature. It supplies one of the deadliest of poisons, and one of the most potent of medicines. It is the delight of children, as its globules roll prettily up and down the tea-tray, chasing one another like themselves in their swift-footed sports, and reflecting every happy little face that peers into their tiny yet brilliant mirrors ; man sees in it an emblem of the heavenly flock that in this present life is broken into particles innumerable, kept asunder by the dust, the

hindrances, the misunderstandings, the infirmities, of the life in the body, but which are yet all of one substance and purpose, spherical and bright, in their souls; and though the sport of the world, and called by many names-Ephesian and Laodicean, Episcopalian and Independent- shall yet resolve, when assembled by Him who sitteth as the Refiner and Purifier, into glorious and everlasting unity-the Christian church seen in its integrity.

One other illustration from the inanimate world, and we conclude: while quicksilver melts with the first kiss of solar warmth, platinum defies the utmost heat of the crucible. Hence, by the art of the welder, it can be manufactured into little cups and other vessels that are required to endure the intensest fire, serving purposes of recondite chemistry that without it could never be achieved.

In the vegetable kingdom this admirable arrangement attracts us at all points. The idea of a plant, when developed with all its parts complete, includes root, stem, leaves, flowers, and seed. But every one of these parts is at times found to be wanting, so far as palpable and visible reality is concerned, some plants being exceptionally destitute of root, others of stem, others of leaves, &c. The absence of the respective parts gives an exquisite variety and gracefulness to the face of nature, such as no poet can describe, and no painter persuade to his canvass. Were plants always anchored to the ground by genuine roots, the mistletoe would hang no golden bough amid the gray and tattered thorns and apple-trees of mid-winter, a crowd of living pearls entangled amid branches that wear the semblance of death ; no lichens would enrich the old tower and dismantled castle with time-stains of purple and orange that make the deep sheen of the faithful ivy yet more lustrous in its contrasted verdure; nor would orchids dwell, like birds, amid the boughs of tropical trees, adorning the vigorous one with rich bues, and scenting it with composite and warm aroma, alike foreign to its personality, and rendering the decrepit far more beautiful in decay than it stood even in the prime of its existence. The class of orchids we refer to are well-known to lovers of choice flowers. After the forget-me-not, the maiden-hair fern, and the pretty uncurling leaves of our own old-fashioned English ferns, comforted with brown plumage till they are strong and tall,—there are none that form such links of pleasure between the giver and the given to. It is not, however, so well known, that in their native woods they are strictly aërial plants ; that is to say, they perch themselves in the clefts of the boughs, deriving their nourishment from the air and from the decaying organic matter that lodges around them, and that, if planted in earth, they will not live.

« ForrigeFortsæt »