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“ Nothing, either great or small,
Nothing, sinner, no;
Long, long ago.
By a simple faith,
Doing ends in death. You need not repent, you need not obey, you won't be judged by your works. Claim that your Saviour was punished for your sins, and if you are the vilest sinner that ever lived, that plea at the hour of death will be admitted, and you enter among the white-robed as blessed as if all your whole life had been holy. Now every autumn condemns this error, and says to every one, Sow in the spring, work in the summer, and behold in the full harvest how blessed are they that do His commandments! In doing Thy commandments, O Lord Jesus, first from obedience, then from truth, and lastly from love, there is great reward.
Autumn is the season when the evergreens are refreshed and renewed. They continue to cheer and beautify the gloomy days of winter. How bare and bleak is the landscape where there are no evergreen trees of another hemisphere to brighten the aspect of things and prevent the winter being so very drear !
The evergreens are like the truths of hope, consolation, and encouragement, which are with us even in our gloomy states, and yield us comfort and strength. They tell of life and blessings which have been enjoyed, of heavenly states which require our discipline, and which lead to angelic bliss through great tribulation. They rally and support us and prevent our trouble sinking to despair.
The evergreens in the retirement of the sinking year, the calm, sober close of autumn, show each year the consolations that compose and satisfy a quiet, faithful, sweet old age.
“ For on he moves to meet his latter end,
Angels around befriending Virtue's friend ;
His heaven commences ere the world be past." We have mentioned that in autumn the ivy blossoms. The bright yellowish-green flowers, emblems of truth and love combined, tell us how devoted friendship clings and cheers in times of sorrow and of gloom. The good wife clasps more firmly when tribulation comes than ever she did in hours of joy. This is the teaching of the ivy.
“ Thou hast called me thine angel in moments of bliss,
And thine angel I'll be 'mid the horrors of this ;
And shield thee, and save thee, or perish there too." Another tree in autumn is a fine representative of a beautiful old age. We have named it before as having the flowers for a new year and the fruits of the last year at the same time; it is the arbutus, the strawberry-tree.
And is not every real carnest Christian like this lovely tree? They bear fruit in old age, but how charming also are their flowers ! Charming fresh thoughts of things of heaven lend a character to their conversation, and their company delightful to those who know them. They have fresh flowers from heaven every day. They are known to be ready with works of virtue and piety in all their walks of life, and their conversation affords a daily evidence
“That all their serious thoughts are fixed on heaven.” These bear fruits and flowers at the same time.
Their spring follows hard on their autumn. The sower quickly follows the reaper. Their heaven has begun long ere their earth has completion. They go to heaven, but they also take heaven with them. Autumn has whitened their heads, but a new spring and summer are dawning within.
We are unwilling to close without another reference to the mistletoe. We cannot doubt that the high estimation of that parasitic plant in the Ancient Church, whence came Druidism, was from its being the type of regeneration, the implanting a new heavenly nature on an old depraved one. Swedenborg alludes to this when he says, “A bad tree may be as it were born anew, and afterwards bear good fruit and good seed, as is evident from the cases of ingrafting and inoculation, where notwithstanding the ascent of the same juice from the root through the trunk, even to the part ingrafted and inoculated, yet it is there changed into good juice and makes a good tree. The case is similar in the Church with those who are ingrafted in the Lord, as He Himself teaches in these words, 'I am the Vine, ye are the branches : he that abideth in Me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit'” (T. C. R. 584).
The splendid ceremony of the Druids, then, at the beginning of the year was a magnificent representation of this grand lesson, every year honouring in the MISTLETOE before the people the eternal truth, “Ye must be born again.”
Its berries, pure white, figure to men a new beginning from heaven. The two white bulls offered to the Deity indicate the sincere obedience in word and work to be yielded by the new man; while the joy and the caresses that followed the festival, which is the only part of it we have retained, was to represent the happiness of innocence, the bliss in all things with those who are in union with the Lord.
The mistletoe and the ivy were worn by the young bride in ancient marriages to intimate that true unions were formed from heaven, and that true partners would be ever faithful to each other.
Such, then, are some of the lessons of the autumn, and I trust they may not only be conducive to reflection, but to gratitude to Him by whose magnificent laws the seasons work their beneficent outpouring of love and wisdom.
“Since God is ever present, ever felt,
In the void waste as in the city full,
A GREAT philosopher has remarked that the human mind is not satisfied without a knowledge of causes. In our day there is a class of philosophers who do not trouble themselves about the causes of things, but speculate about their beginnings. The evolutionary school does not necessarily include in its faith the creation of the world, nor, consequently, the necessity of a Creator. Matter is indestructible, and may therefore have been eternal. But from pre-existing matter the whole cosmos has been evolved. How life first entered into the planet, perhaps as a germ, struck off from some other passing body, and worked its way upwards, first through the vegetable kingdom, and then through the animal kingdom, till it reached its highest stage of development in man, and how man attained his present state of civilization,-all this is eagerly discussed, and many branches of knowledge are laid under contribution to supply a satisfactory solution of the problem. So far as relates to man's advancement, this can be estimated with some degree of certainty by being traced back through the historic and monumental periods, and through the ages of iron, bronze, and stone, with the drift-men and the cave-men. One of the inquiries which are so eagerly pursued respecting the state of prehistoric man is the origin of the religious idea and the character of the primitive religion. The period to which this inquiry relates is, of course, far antecedent to the date of our Scriptures, which belong to the historic period; and it is now universally allowed that man must have existed on this earth long ages before the period assigned by the Bible to his creation.
This subject is treated of in the October number of the Contemporary Review, in an article in which the writer states the small results that have hitherto accrued from the labours of learned men, and the large hopes that are now entertained of ultimate success. “The problem of the origin of religion and its primitive type, after the attacks of many centuries, may be said to remain very much a virgin fortress still, but much hope seems to be enter ined at the present day that it may be at length successfully reduced by the application afforded by the modern sciences of comparative psychology, comparative philology, and comparative ethnology. Whether that hope will be realized it would be premature to decide, for, so far as investigation has yet gone, it has served to bring out more the extreme difficulty of the subject. . . . Perhaps the only point on which investigators of different schools seem to be agreed is that, in one shape or another, religion is universal among mankind.” The differences of opinion may be regarded as chiefly these : One school considered that the religious idea was innate, another supposed that religion proceeded entirely from without : Caspari held that humanity passed through an animal period, in which man had no dream of a distinction between soul and body; while Max Müller holds that man possessed a religion from the first, and passed through no aboriginal animal period in which he had not yet dreamt of God; while Schelling maintained the existence of a primitive innocence in religious belief in one God because they had not been tempted with the belief of two.
The way in which the religious idea was first suggested to be awakened in the mind is so differently represented that nothing is more certain than the absolute uncertainty of the subject to the highest class of minds. Heaven, the sun, fire, surrounding objects, dead ancestors, living chiefs, are among the first objects of veneration which, according to different schools or individual speculators, laid in the mind the foundation of the religious idea and led to religious worship.
Now these speculations, with all the aid that can be derived from the comparative sciences that are relied on for wresting their secrets from primeval or prehistoric times, can never give more than pro. bability to the most plausible scheme. But suppose we could obtain the testimony of some prehistoric man as to the origin and nature of the religious idea which was possessed by the race in his time, whether that idea had been inherited or acquired. Prehistoric men, though dead, are not extinct. They have, it is true, passed into another world, which to us is invisible. But there they are, as living and conscious as they were when they dwelt upon earth, with every faculty as active as it then was, even the memory as fresh as in the days of their youth.
And there is a Seer in the restored Israel of our day, through whom we may learn much respecting the people of prehistoric times. Swedenborg, the prophet and apostle of a new dispensation of the Church, had, to fit him for his mission, open intercourse with the spiritual world, and this for the last twenty-eight years of his life, and he had his understanding opened to understand the Scriptures in their true doctrinal teaching and in their spiritual sense. And between his relations and explanations we are able to know, what many are anxiously striving by other means to ascertain, the condition of those who lived before written history began. Even those who distrust such testimony may be willing to see how far his account agrees with their own conclusions.
According to the testimony of this witness, there was a period in the world's history during which man lived an animal life, but one of gentleness and innocence, from which he gradually passed into a condition of true humanity. So far this was a process of evolution. It was not, however, by any law of natural development that this change took place. Man possessed by creation a rational and voluntary faculty, but these could only be gradually developed, and their development was effected by the combined action of inward and outward means-by inward perception and outward observation. The writer of the article in the Contemporary speaks of the advocates of an innate religious belief having come to recognise that a main key to the solution of the problem lies in ascertaining the psychological conditions of primitive man, whose religious conceptions must have been subject to the same laws, and incident to the same laws and imperfections, as their conceptions of anything else ; and this recognition, he says, has led to a general abandonment of the old traditional ground of ascribing the origin of religious ideas to a primitive revelation. Swedenborg's teaching nearly accords with this. according to him, had no outward revelation ; nor had he any innate religious ideas. How then did he acquire his religious ideas ? According to our teacher, " there is a universal influx into the minds of men impressing them with the idea that there is a God, and that