Billeder på siden

leave us our freedom; He will not, He cannot take away that, for it would be to destroy our humanity. We shall still be left at liberty to go on in sin if we are determined to do so; we may withstand, if we will, all His gentle drawings, all the mild admonitions of attendant angels, all the good advice of the friends whom the Lord's providence places about us, to help us and to urge us to do better, and turn to the right course. All these inducements to do good we may disregard if we choose, and rush on to our destruction.

This moral liberty, which is given to every one, is expressed in the words-"And if it bear fruit, well: and if not, then after that thou shalt cut it down."

It is a solemn and an awful responsibility to have one's eternal state in his own hands. Yet this responsibility is laid on every one of us; it is at once a vast privilege and a most weighty charge. To think that every individual here has it in his own power to say what shall be his eternal destiny,-what this state and condition shall be ten thousand years from this time, and ten thousand after that, and so on for ever,— this is, to the reflecting mind, the sublimest and the gravest of all considerations. Whether he shall be happy or whether he shall be miserable throughout the long ages of eternity, it lies with each soul to determine for itself. Can there be a more fearful responsibility? Not only that; but it lies with each to-day what degree of happiness or unhappiness it will attain to; for there are innumerable and indefinite degrees of both. Every time you yield to an evil passion which you might have resisted, you put yourself back one step for ever (this is meant by the declaration, "For every idle word you shall give account at the day of judgment"). Whenever you give way to a temptation which you might have overcome, you then and there cast away from you so much of the joys and glories of heaven. And this is true, even supposing you are saved at last,-for to be saved is merely to pass the border line, and to reach the lowest place in heaven; but beyond and above this there are indefinite degrees of felicity, which you might have obtained had you fought the good fight more firmly. Is not this thought a great inducement to strive and struggle continually to do right, continually to refrain from wrong,-constantly to battle with evil, to be perpetually on the watch, that we be not overcome by temptation? Men strive and labour hard for earthly riches and honours, which yet they may lose again to-morrow; and shall we not be willing to toil and use exertion, and exercise self-denial, when the reward is eternal glory and felicity?

A new year is now opening before us. Let each one make solemn

resolves before the Lord to strive for the mastery of his own spirit. Let it be a first desire to see how much progress we can make this year in our regeneration,-how much evil in ourselves we can overcome and remove, how much good we can attain. This should be the true object of ambition; not to see how much outward wealth we can acquire, the very weight of which, when gained, may only sink us deeper into the pit. Let us strive for the riches that take not to themselves wings, the glory that never fades, namely, the treasures of truth and goodness. Ere the year now opening is ended, some of us may be in the eternal world, and possibly by our own fault; for if it is found that we will not do better, the word may go forth against us, "Cut it down, why cumbreth it the ground?" But from whatever cause, it is probable that some will be removed, and on the ears of some that now hear, the sound of the tolling bells on the first Sunday of the next year will fall in vain, and the voice of the preacher who may stand in this place will be heard no more. Oh, may that spirit then be listening to the sweeter voices of angels! may it be mingling in the worship of the spiritual choirs! may it be standing amidst the mansions of paradise! may it have reached the glories of heaven! Amen.


AMONG the most wonderful things in Nature are unquestionably to be reckoned the Eggs of Birds and of other creatures, and the Seeds of Plants. An atom, often not so large as a grain of sand, and apparently endowed with no greater amount of living energy, expands, almost while we watch, into a lively animal, or unfolds a green point, which, nourished by the rain and sunshine, becomes the architect of a charming flower or a noble tree. Did we not behold the miracle repeated incessantly before our eyes, it would be difficult to believe that life could be so concentrated; but like all other grand truths, it comes before us so much as a matter of course, that we are apt to overlook its profound marvellousness, bestowing our highest and foremost admiration upon the brilliant and the sonorous,-the lightning, the awful roll of the cloudborn thunder, or the beautiful upward-streaming glory of the Aurora. No doubt these are things that deserve our deep and most reverent interest, alike on account of their incomparable grandeur as natural phenomena, and of their fine significance as emblems of realities in the inner, invisible world; but we should accustom ourselves, at the same

time, to consider with an equal delight, the common, every-day occurrences by which nature is sustained, and upon which we depend for our personal and daily comfort.

"He prayeth best, who loveth best
Each thing, both great and small,
For HE whose wisdom giveth rest,
Our Father, made them all."

It is a great mistake to suppose, that to find the most striking illustrations of the Divine Love and Wisdom in the arrangements of the visible creation, we are necessitated to look at what is immense and magnificent. Just as the happiness of life does not depend upon the half-dozen memorable enjoyments that make certain years and days stand out in the annals of our past, like the green and palmy islands of the desert to the traveller, but upon the small and unconsidered blessings that come fresh and fresh every hour and every moment; so does a truly intelligent idea of the munificence, the skill, the taste,— if such terms may be used,-also of the far-reaching providence that anticipates every want before it can possibly be felt, and of the ease and the infinite power of Him who holds the heavens in his hands, come less of the consideration of mighty phenomena that happen rarely and rather as exceptions, than of the daily observation of that quiet and pretty ripple of life through the tiny and tender forms of bee and butterfly, flower and fern, and feathered moss, which imparts a kind of immortality to the scenery amid which we tread, and makes us cry out, with old Isaac Walton, as he listened to the song of the nightingale― "O Lord! if these be thy gifts to thy creatures on earth, what hast thou not prepared for thy saints in heaven!"

The preservation of the vital spark in Seeds, and its sudden burst into vegetable fire when kindled under the laws that at once protect and call it forth, is exemplified as well as we could desire, in the most ordinary operations of horticulture. When the parent plant decays, those little germs in which, with a loving farewell, it wraps up its best and strongest energies, along with incredible capacity for bright colour, and sweet smell, and grateful taste, are collected by the gardener, carefully dried, and put away; every seed, he well knows, is a storehouse of sleeping life, which, with the return of Spring, if placed where rain and sunshine can pay alternate visits, will leap into green infancy of fair blossom or wholesome vegetable. Nothing more is wanted to prove the fact; but over and above this ordinary, familiar proof, there is a class of occurrences less known than they deserve to be, which are calculated to excite our wonder to the utmost. Properly-ripened seeds, if placed in

certain conditions, are literally immortal. That is to say, they are capable of retaining their growing power indefinitely; not merely for a few years, not merely for a few centuries, but for thousands of years,how long indeed no man can say. The earthy crust of our planet appears to be stocked in every part with seeds that have been produced in years gone by, scattered upon the surface, and subsequently covered up with soil. Whenever the ground is disturbed, either by the plough, or by the spade of the railway excavator, or for any purpose which causes its depths to be overturned, that portion which was many feet below being thrown to the surface, and exposed to the air, the sunbeams, and the moisture of dew and rain, immediately there springs up a crop of young plants, certainly not originating in seeds only just then brought from neighbouring fields, and as certainly from seeds that have been lying in it for ages. How they came to be covered up is easy to conceive, when we see with our own eyes what is done by wintry floods, and the sweeping down of great masses of earth and soil, which accumulate often to a considerable depth, and are no doubt similarly charged with seeds that, after waiting their turn, will some day grow. For it is a clearly established fact that no seed can germinate or begin to sprout, unless it have the threefold influence in direct operation upon it, of warmth, moisture, and the air. Let it be shut in from the access of these, and it lies passive, giving no sign of life or growth, and incapable of doing so.

How wonderful to think that this crust of the earth upon which we daily walk so thoughtlessly, is at once the cemetery of five or six thousand billions of men and women, so far as regards their terrestrial bodies, they themselves being all vigorously alive in another state, and a storehouse of the germs of as many billions of plants and flowers! What a provision in it for the perpetual renewal of the earth's green carpet! Let blight, or locusts, or the cold grip of an inexorable frost, change it to brown barrenness, and the simple upheaval of a few feet of soil would soon furnish material for clothing it anew. God never leaves himself without a witness. The world is never so drowned but some little ark swims upon the water's top with a treasury of new blessedness; and could we conceive it possible that desolation should afflict the earth's surface, under the laws of natural calamity,-we are assured that from the granaries below there would soon flow forth an abundant restoration.

Some people have tried to refer this wonderful circumstance of the immediate growth of plants upon newly turned-up soil to an origin inconsistently called "spontaneous generation," that is to say, development out

of earth, sand, and water, and any other odds and ends of inanimate matter that might happen to be collected together. No doubt, if it pleased the Almighty to sow life afresh upon our planet, he could do so. It may be in conformity with the laws of his Divine Order so to do. But all that it has been permitted to man to learn and think in reference to this subject, is opposed to the idea of plants and animals ever now arising except from seeds and eggs produced by previous individuals or pairs of the same species. We are never justified in going to supernatural causes for the explanation of occurrences which a calm and religious exploration will show to have their rise in natural causes; and no ground has ever yet been shewn for supposing that the plants which appear on railway embankments and any similar places, cannot have originated in the way described.

True, there is a great deal that is very perplexing in regard to the apparently spontaneous development of some forms of living things, such as grubs in flour and bran. But the perplexity is the sign merely of our ignorance of particulars, that no doubt it will be granted to future generations of men to discover. It is certainly no proof that the hypothesis of spontaneous development is a reasonable one. We are under no circumstances justified in trying to accommodate facts that we do not understand to speculations that are not founded upon other and well-established facts. If they will not fit, our wisdom is to wait. No one can discern the seeds in the earth; yet they are there. So are the germs in the bran, waiting, like the former, for their needful stimuli. Nothing is ever got by arguing from our ignorance, nor is anything ever got by too much eagerness and haste to possess it. "Tarry ye the Lord's leisure," is the soundest principle yet, both in religion and philosophy. If materialists, who look with approval on such hypotheses as that of "spontaneous devolopment," would first seek to learn all that it has pleased God to disclose concerning development according to the laws of order, as exhibited in the regular succession of plants and animals, and in the history of the human heart and mind, they would find that no philosophy is so wise and good, and will help them through so many difficulties, as that which starts from the spiritual and from MAN; and primarily from the Divine Humanity, which,—with all reverence be it spoken,-is the point from which run the avenues to all science and all nature, and in which they all converge, like the branches of a tree in its pillared stem.

Special examples of the growth of long-buried seeds upon newly turned-up soil are easy to cite. Some of the most extraordinary are those where poppies are the subject. No plant in nature is more

« ForrigeFortsæt »