« ForrigeFortsæt »
all that is retained after death, and that in a dormant state. As these particulars rise in idea distinctly before us, and we contrast the attributes of the spiritual with those of the natural mind—the tree with its root—a sensation of surprise is experienced that so many of us elect to live as roots in the dust of the earth ; stretching the fibres of our being ever further into its festering elements, and clinging to them with an ever-tightening grasp, living in the mere sensuous nature, and drawing all our nourishment from its delights, when we might as noble trees rise into the actual heaven, inhale its fragrant airs, appropriate its sunshine and its dew, and assimilate them to our own substance.
That the correspondence of a root is such as is here ascribed to it, becomes evident when its two great functions are considered. To be, first, a basis and support for the tree itself, or the whole superstructure, as already glanced at; and secondly, the means by which it draws aliment from the earth, one of its organs of nutrition. A root, it will be observed, is of no value in itself, but derives its worth from the circumstance that it is a foundation on which a structure nobler than itself is to be) erected, and the relation subsisting between root and tree images that of the natural to the spiritual mind. That, also, has no inherent worth and dignity, or only a degree of it, which is possessed in common with the beasts of the field. It is by virtue of the living human soul that dwells within it—the immortal spirit—and through it, that man receives the various gifts that distinguish him from them. Without it he would not even have the power to stand erect and scan the heavens with an upward glance; but would cling, as they do, to the earth, from which they are taken, and to which they return.
But while the position and function of the root indicate the subordination and subservieney of the mental region it typifies to the superior one to which it ministers, they reveal also its importance ; and the dependence of the higher on the lower for its formation and conservation. The whole spiritual world rests on the material universe, as the tree on its root; that an angelic heaven may exist, man is created ; and similar is the connection of the lesser heaven and earth of the internal and external mind. And to qualify the latter for the office of enabling the living spirit to communicate with dead matter, it is formed first of spiritual, next of natural, and lastly of material substances. The universe of spirit and matter and individual man are amenable to the same laws. In the formation of that universe which
includes both worlds, the Divine efflux proceeded outward, and still outward, till it rested in the creation of inert substances ; and in this ultimate degree creation becomes fixed and permanent. Human activities, in their humbler sphere, follow the course of the Divine ; and only become fixed and permanent by contact with matter also. What is the value of the thought and affection that fail to descend into speech and action, and thus into the material organs of the body itself—into the eye, the lips, the hands, the feet? They flow off like vapours; and are mere volatile existences in the mind, which do really take wing and fly away, unless they are fixed firm in uses.” But what is brought into its lowest and ultimate form remains, and contributes its part in making us what we actually are. Outward words and deeds
very roots of our being, by which we gradually establish a firm and ever-widening basis of good or of evil ; which begins with the dawn of existence, and continues extending to its close. The first minute germinating leaf ascending heavenward, corresponds to the dawn of conscious will and thought; and the earliest delicate radicle to the first voluntary act. As the root supports the tree, enables it to maintain its erect attitude, and resist antagonistic forces ; so do actions that become habitual give stability, consistency, and permanency to the character. Our habits are our principles, either of goodness and truth, or of evil and falsity, brought into their lowest manifestation ; and, like the fibrils of a root, are interwoven with the very ground of the mind—nay more, with the actual substances of the body itself. What is it that gives expression to the countenance, but moral qualities habitually indulged, till they mould the corporal frame into a corresponding form ? Passing over the glaring instances in which intemperance and profligacy affix an indelible stamp upon the brow; how obviously do pride, vanity, irritability, obstinacy, and other qualities reveal their existence, in lines that all can read though none can explain ? Or, borrowing illustrations of a more pleasing character, how frequently are faces possessing few of the elements of physical beauty, rendered attractive by what the poet calls “ sweet records” impressed by the exercise of tender or benevolent dispositions ? Sweet records are they that become “promises as sweet ;" for good affections, so cultivated as to set their seal on the material flesh and blood, are seldom liable to be eradicated by opposite influences.
The difficulty of correcting evil tendencies derived from the hereditary nature and confirmed by actual practice, and which have thus become habitual, is well known to all who have seriously undertaken
the task, and only to them. Even the preliminary acknowledgment that the feeling, or temper, and habit are evil, and must be amended, is seldom of easy attainment, because the natural will refuses admittance to the light that would reveal its real quality. But, the truth fully recognised, conviction well wrought into the mind brings with an increasing aversion to the evil itself. Its quality is felt as well as seen ; and in unhesitating confidence, and what has been happily described as “the magnanimity of thought,” we resolve that our life and character shall no longer be disfigured by anything so mean, or selfish, or degrading. We fortify the resolution by just considerations, and determine to be watchful. The evil, however, besets us in an unguarded moment of fancied security, or assails us in some new and unexpected form, and before-according to appearance—there is time to collect weapons of spiritual defence, we are overcome by the enemy; and the accustomed deeds are done, or words spoken, that inflict a wound upon the conscience, add a new fibril to the evil root, and interweave it further in the mental earth. Thus we “ resolve and re-resolve ;” and many failures, dissipating self-confidence, usually precede success, even when it is at last achieved. Years are lost in sinning and repenting, and then sinning again ; and life itself perhaps draws to a close before its lesson-how to live wisely—is practically learnt. We stand aghast at the sudden defeat, so confident had been our anticipations of victory. But though defeated, we are not necessarily subdued ; and even failure may facilitate the completeness of ultimate success, if it produces due self-abasement and the recognition of the futility of self-derived effort. Reflection, also, supplies an explanation.
Our failures have a twofold origin; an internal one, and an external. Evils are not in ourselves as part of our being; they flow into us from the infernal world : but they flow into an organism adapted to their reception. Every evil disposition renders us liable to the attacks of spirits characterized by similar evil who find a basis for their operations in our corrupt tendencies, and solicit us to indulge them. By yielding to their urgency and allowing these tendencies to become actual, an alliance is formed with the enemy; and, to a certain extent, we become one with the evil power that assists us. Every repetition of a disorderly indulgence confirms this amity, and enlarges the circle of our internal associates. Each assault is therefore more potent than the last; while the impure inclination is stronger in ourselves, and the power of resistance, in the same degree, impaired. In addition to this,
the exteriors of the natural mind, and, it may be presumed, the interiors of the bodily organs also, have become adapted to the influx, and, as it were, stand waiting for its reception, and prepared to respond. The state may be compared to the arrangement of tubes for the conveyance of a fluid, which require only that it should be “turned on," and the contemplated effect immediately follows. Hence the instant defeat; for the evil influence finds an organism ready to react in its favour, and a channel for its translation into actual words and deeds; while the purpose of resistance has scarcely obtained--so to speak—a footing on the threshold of the conscious mind; all whose activities are disposed in a contrary direction, and have to be constrained to acquiescence. Nor can the disorderly action of the external be repressed, and the affection that originates it removed from the heart, but in proportion as the new heavenly affection which is to supersede it effects, under divine auspices, not a figurative but an actual inversion of state; and thus restores the external powers of the mind to order and adapts them to itself; that they may act in unity.
Attention has hitherto been directed to one only of the functions assigned to the root; but the other, thať of being an instrument of nutrition, is equally important, and indeed they are exercised simultaneously. The largest tree receives that portion of its nourishment, which is taken from the earth, through its extremities exclusively. The outstretching rootlets, that extend laterally as far within the surface of the earth as the branches canopy it above, imbibe nothing in their course, but gather all their sustenance by the terminations of the fibrils, which consist of a loose absorbent tissue, connected with ducts and other vessels by which nutritious matters are absorbed from the earth and conveyed into the tree. Thus every extension of the root, each new fibril, is at once an additional organ of nutrition, as well as of support. So it is with us. Our appetites grow by what they feed on—their gratification adds to their intensity. Hence, any impulse once deliberately brought into its ultimate form by corresponding action, gains such an increase of strength that it is certain to demand renewed gratification, and almost as certainly with success. An inclination indulged is not only another fibril to sustain the affection it sprang from, but a new absorbent seeking its appropriate aliment. If evil, it strengthens the evil influx and habit; if good, it nourishes a good affection, facilitates its descent into life and practice, and contributes to support all other good which may have been received.
The precise correspondence, however, of the absorbents of the root
appears to be to the senses. By them all our knowledge of the external world is acquired. Indeed, all that is properly called knowledge, whether relating to spirit or matter, to things internal or external, reaches us through their instrumentality-through sight, hearing, taste, and smell. They form the human, as the fibrils the vegetable extremities. Close but these avenues into nature, draw a curtain over the visual ray that reveals the variations of colour and form, the beautiful in nature and art, and the written thought of man; paralyse the nerve that conveys the tones of affection and the voice of instruction ; blunt the perceptions of the delicate network spread over the surface of the body, by which the presence and consistency of substances are felt; make food insipid to the tongue, and odours inappreciable by the nostril ; and even the cognizance of existence is lost; thought and feeling have become impossible ; and the spirit is shut out from all exercise, voluntary or intellectual. That lowest, but most indispensable substratum of external knowledge is to the human spirit what the substances drawn from the earth are to the tree.
These are water, and such mineral ingredients as that may hold in solution. But these substances, though necessary to its existence, are inadequate to the sustentation and growth of the tree. In the crude state in which they are raised from the earth, they yield it no nutriment, and add neither to its size, beauty, nor productiveness. To adapt it to these vital uses the application is required of the purer materials inhaled from the atmosphere by the leaves, and the action of the marvellous chemistry of which, as operatives in a laboratory, they are the agents. By them the ascending fluid is decomposed and purified, and its elements recombined and rearranged to form the descending sapon which its growth and fruitfulness, and all its products, whether organic or inorganic, depend. A similar order exists in the human mind and analagous operations. The senses bring in large stores of facts which are accumulated in the memory; but the man 'cannot live and grow by these. How Cæsar fought and conquered, lived and died, the stellar distances, or the precise form and species of the animalcules deposited at the bottom of the ocean, and the entire collection of facts on which history and the various sciences are built, what is there in these to nourish a living soul? Yet are they not important elements of that liberal culture by which natural intelligence is acquired, and the intellect trained, for the accomplishment of noble purposes. But to obtain this useful result, the higher faculties must act upon the acquisitions