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VOL. VI.-APRIL, 1855.-No. IV.
THE TREES OF THE BIBLE.
NO. IV. THE WILLOW TREE.
BY THE EDITOR.
"The pensive poet through the greenwood steals,
THIS is one of the earliest trees of the season. Before this number of The Guardian reaches the hands of our readers they will already have witnessed the swelling buds of the willow-tree. Not long after this is read, the boys will already be rubbing the smooth bark of a young scion with the handle of their jack-knife, in hope that the sap is up, and that the bark, being carefully delivered of its woody contents, may be turned into a whistle.
In this connection, and incidentally, we have a few earnest words of advice to give the boys; let them lay it to heart. First, do not cut your whistle-stick from a part of the tree where it will destroy its beautiful and symmetrical appearance. Secondly, do not rub the tender bark too severely, especially if the handle of your knife is rough; many a good whistle-stick has been spoiled in that way. Thirdly, when you have had good luck in finishing your whistle to your satisfaction, feel thankful for your success; for how often do boys fail in this business. Fourthly, as you go whistling about the house, do not feel any larger with your whistle than you are wont to do without it; and be careful lest you whistle so loud and so earnestly as not to hear the voice of father or mother when they call you to go on an errand; in that case something might occur which would change your cheerful whistling into another and a sadder tune! Be careful now, my dear boys, and treasure this friendly advice.
There is a great variety of willow. Two species of this tree are well known to all of our readers, and have a prominent place in our earliest associations. We refer to the weeping willow, which grows near almost every farm house in the country, holding its beautiful pendant branches over the family pump, or the crystal fountain. Equally familiar is the "yellow willow," which lines the banks of streams, mill-races, and mill-dams. What a beautiful
sight is a row of these trees in the distance, earliest green in spring-time, and in midsummer turning up, at every passing breeze, the soft silvery sheen of their numberless little leaves. Did we not often gaze upon them silently and thoughtfully from the neighboring heights, or as we rode quietly along the hot road towards the mill, thinking of their cool shade
"Along the wild and willowed shore ;"
and did we not often wickedly envy the lad whom we spied through the osiers, reclining at ease, holding out his fishing-rod over the water, eyeing with a kind of half lazy hope the quiverings and bobbings of the cork upon the surface, while we turned half round upon our horse to watch him until the cruel turn in the road compelled us to lose him out of our eye? A singular effect have they upon the meditative mind, these willows; like the cooing of the dove, they waken the soft undertones of the spirit, and wherever we see them, they make us think of the infinite, the joys and sorrows of the past; and, if we look upon them in a distant or foreign land, they always waken within us thoughts of the loved ones at home.
It is not certain that the weeping-willow is referred to in the Bible. It may be, however, that this tree is intended in Ezekiel 17, 5: "He planted it by great waters, and set it as a willow-tree; and it grew, and became a spreading vine of low stature, whose branches turn towards him, and the roots thereof under him." The word is not the same which is generally translated willow. Yet, by the Rabbins, the word is rendered willow; and it is also said that the Arabs have a similar word by which they designate this tree. The description answers best the weeping willow, "whose branches turn towards him, and the roots thereof under him." The only difficulty is that it is called a "vine;" but the learned say that the word which is translated vine may, as well, imply a spreading plant as a creeping one.
The willow is first mentioned in the Bible in connection with the Feast of Tabernacles. Levit. 23, 40. God's people were directed to take branches of the most beautiful trees, and among them "willows of the brook," and bear them with joy before the Lord for seven days. These branches had in some way their significance as memorials of their journey in the wilderness, of which they served gratefully to remind them. Perhaps they had been used in the construction of their tents.
Job alludes to the willow in his beautiful description of the wonderful behemoth:
"He lieth under the shady trees,
In the court of the reeds and fens.
The shady trees cover him with their shadow;
The willows of the brook compass him about.”
There is not in the whole Bible a passage of sacred poetry more
touching than that in the one hundred and thirty-seventh psalm, where the inspired poet sings the sorrows of the Jewish captives by the streams of Babylon. They had been carried away from their country, from their holy places, and their "pleasant things." Now, among strangers, and in a strange land, their hearts are overwhelmed, softened, and subdued by a sense of those sins which wasted them, and the melancholy remembrance of what they loved and lost. They seek lonely places along the river, where they may mingle their tears with the waters, and their sighs with the soft murmurs of the gliding stream. Amid scenes of congenial sadness in nature around, they seek that sympathy which they seek in vain in the hearts of those who carried them away.
By the rivers of Babylon there we sat down;
It is, perhaps, common to think of these willows of Babylon as weeping willows. This however can hardly be correct. We are told that this species of willow is not known in Babylon. It does not flourish in so warm a climate. It is no doubt the sadness of the captives which so naturally suggests to our associations the weeping willow, which is a gloomy tree "that mourns over what it shadows."
When the Lord laid desolate the land of Moab by drought, every green thing perished; and the only spot to which the inhabitants, with their flocks, could fly for sustenance, was "to the brook of the willows." 2s. 15: 7.
As willows are very early green in spring-time, and of remarkably speedy growth, Isaiah is led to make them the symbol of the influences of the spirit upon the offspring of pious families. "I will pour my spirit upon thy seed, and my blessing upon thine offspring; and they shall spring up as among the grass, as willows by the water-courses.' Is. 44: 3. 4. When all other places are parched and dry, so that grass and trees wither and pine, the willows by the water-courses are still green and flourishing. No drought can affect them, because their roots are near the source of refreshment and life. So children in the covenant, and in the bosom of pious families, have fast hold upon the fountains of grace and spiritual life. Their graces are still fresh and blooming, while those who are away upon the bleak uncovenanted commons, wither and perish by the blights and blasts of sin.
In conclusion, we must yet refer to the singular and astonishing fact for such it is said to be-that all the weeping willows in England and America, spring from one small twig, which came incidentally from Persia in a basket of figs to Pope, the celebrated Poet. He planted it; and growing, it became the parent of an innumerable host of willows, spread over so vast an extent of country,
throwing a welcome shadow over many a cottage green. What a fine illustration of the astonishing results which may follow the smallest act! Let us not think that our small acts of well-doing are in vain. With joy let us plant our little willows in the garden of the Lord; and, when we are dead, generations now unborn may be refreshed beneath their friendly shadows. Of this may every willow we see remind us.
COMFORTS OF RELIGION.
BY X. Y. Z.
How sweet 'tis to mingle with saints of the Lord,
How sweet 'tis to linger beside the pure stream,
How sweet to remember that all we possess
How sweet to look forward, nor then be afraid
How sweet to look also beyond the thick gloom,
Aye, sweet from the valley of sorrow and tears
When sunk in affliction, in deepest distress,
Take my soul's and body's powers,
ENTREAT ME NOT TO LEAVE THEE.
BY REV. J. JOHNSON.
No judgment can be formed, from the mere outward circumstances in which God in his providence has placed us, as to whether we have or have not found favor with him. For those whom the Lord loves he often chastens for their profit; while on the other hand, God often leaves his enemies to become hardened by prosperity.
The narrative found in the Book of Ruth is not only interesting but instructive. It shows us at once the condescending and providential care of God in the minutest concerns of his people. The very fact itself of a Moabitess becoming ancestor of Christ seems to have been a pre-intimation of the calling of the Gentiles into his church. In the two women of Moab we see at once the difference there is between nature and grace. For in the case of Orpah we see that she was not prepared to risk all the consequences, and renounce all worldly prospects for the sake of religion. This accounts at once for the reason why she turned back to her country, her relations, and her gods. And yet we see that it was with the greatest reluctance that she parted from Naomi. She evidently appears to have been of a kind and gentle disposition; hence she was, for the space of ten years, a kind and gentle wife to her husband whose body had now returned to its mother dust. She was also a kind daughter-in-law to Naomi, which is evident from her own words: "The Lord deals kindly with you as ye have dealt with the dead and with me."
Ruth was also of a kind and gentle disposition; and Naomi was not only a mother-in-law, but she evidently sustained another very important relation, viz., that of a spiritual instructor, for it is evident that she taught her the way of salvation through the blood of the Lamb. She set thus an example every way worthy the imitation of all those who sustain the parental relation. Now to be separated from such an instructor must have been indeed painful. Hence we cannot wonder at the strong attachment manifested on the part of Ruth. However dear friends may be to us, these tender ties which bind heart to heart must be severed. How true are the beautiful lines of the poet
"Friend after friend departs;
Who hath not lost a friend?
At length the day of parting comes. And now when she must leave her people and her kind spiritual instructor, with tender affection for Naomi, she exclaims in the fullness of her heart, "Entreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee, for whither thou goest I will go, and where thou lodgest I will lodge; thy people shall be my people, thy God my