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All buds, we have said, contain a supply of starch, in order that the coming labour of growth may be borne without hardship. In ordinary trees the amount thus stored up is small, since additional quantities of nutritive material are readily obtained from the general family storehouse—the whole tree. In certain cases, however, a very considerable accumulation may take place. In the bulbs of crocuses and hyacinths, for instance, which are nothing but buds, or collections of buds, large quantities of starch are stored up. On these collections the bud, which becomes, in such cases, not an ordinary branch, but a particular kind of branch, called a flower, will live, even when it is provided with nothing else but water, as may be seen at the present time in many a chamber. All the beauty that now cheers not a few windows far removed from gardens and destitute of mould, is born of starch, and that starch is the gift of former leaves. Hyacinths will not live for ever in narrow-necked blue glasses. They must, at some time, be put back into the mother earth, and then the leaves will, in obedience to the magic touch of the sunbeam, make stuff out of the materials of the soil, of water and of air; which stuff will, in due time, be stored up as starch for future buds, and thus for future flowers.
Nor is it. beauty only which is begotten of the leaf. As the bulb is to the crocus, so is the tuber to the potato. We plant a potato-eye-a bud, that is to say-in the ground, and it grows into a plant. . It puts forth leaves, and its leaves labour and toil under the sun. Beneath the dark soil the scale-like leaves on the underground stems give rise to buds, and the upper air-enjoying leaves enrich those buds with starch, fill them with such plenteousness that they swell out into great knobs, which men call potatoes, and eat. By-the-bye, how. strange it is that man should feed so much on what is prepared for others. We devour eggs, thel abour of the poor fowl's body for the sustenance of her chicken's earliest days. We live daily on corn, the food prepared by the wheat-plant for its young seed to live upon till it has gotten leaves and is strong. We consume vast quantities of potatoes, the stored provisions of the coming plants. Sago, rice, arrowroot, turnips, and milk, may all be placed in the same category. Excepting meat and a few green vegetables, man scarcely eats anything in the consumption of which he is not taking away that which was clearly meant for the support of others. One often hears a vegetarian descant on the cruelty of living on butcher's meat. Which is most cruel ?—to give an animal speedy release from a world which, were it not for the stall, would be to him a world of misery; or to rob the plant, just as it is dying and withering away, of the fruit of all the labour which it has had under the sun ?
AN ADDRESS AT A MARRIAGE.*
I HAVE been asked to give you a few words of counsel this morning, and as this is no time to waste words, and as I could hardly trust myself not to feel at all confused in speaking to you here, I have written what I felt called to say.
There is a worldly idea and a Christian idea of marriage. Very commonly persons marry with thoughts of this kind :“We are all the world to each other, and have now only to live for each other. We will make, as far as possible, a calm sheltered haven for ourselves in the midst of life's rough ocean, and forget the world's strifes and errors, sins and sorrows. What are these things to us now? We have our happiness in each other, and can smooth our own path through life, and need not let the things that lie not in our own path disturb our serenity. If life's troubles come, as in some measure we know they must, we shall still be happy in our mutual love, and living in a world of our own, and refusing to be drawn out of it, caring for our own concerns, and getting involved in no one else's, our days will surely pass smoothly and happily."
This is sometimes thought to be the proper, sentiment for lovers to marry with; but, not to speak of its shallowness and sophistry, let me ask if it has the spirit of Christianity in it? Is it thus that two Christian lovers should be joined in one ?
You two, whose lives are now united, believe that the Son of God has come into the world, and lived here, to teach us what human life ought to be that He lived not to please Himself, but became “the Man of Sorrows,” through entering so deeply into the condition of the world, and taking its burthen so completely upon Himself. According to your Christian profession, you are called to follow His example; to let His spirit animate your life; to hold every act of your life as having some relation to His cross, and as being right or wrong, according to whether it will bear contemplation in its light.
I cannot think that you are at liberty just now to forget this, or that the happiness of the present hour requires you to abandon your convictions as to the nature of the whole Christian life. God gives you to each other now, not that you may be so entirely wrapped up in yourselves, as to lose your sense of relation to, and draw in your sympathy from, all the world beside; but
* By a near relative,
that a larger charity towards God and man may now come into your hearts and abide there; that you may discern more clearly the aim of those who follow Christ, and have deeper sympathy with all that is true and good and holy; that you may shrink less from taking on you burthens that, but for your Christianity, you might put aside, being stronger to bear them through your union; that you may help each other to attain more of the spirit of Him who “redeemed us with His blood.”
Marriage is not Satan's invention for helping us to realize our selfish and self-isolating dispositions; its purpose is not to justify deadness of heart to our race, on the ground that our love is more alive and active towards one chosen individual; it is, rather, one of God's first lessons of self-sacrifice, in which we may see Him acting like the considerate teacher who meets the learner half-way in his difficulty, and in such a manner leads him through it that he is hardly conscious of the process, till he has reached the result. We coax the tottering child to take just one little step alone, that, having quitted his support, he may be obliged to add step to step ; so, love and marriage draw out the heart of man or woman, at least one step away from utter selflove, that it may fall back into that state no more, but put out its sympathy through an ever widening circle.
The woman who has a husband to “ love, honour, and obey," or the man a wife to love and cherish " in sickness and health, for better for worse, for richer or poorer," till death part them, and who is not false to that vow, is held up by a strong hand at least from the lowest depth of selfishness. And this is God's method of drawing us up higher, and giving us a more perfect knowledge of His own unbounded love. If you look upon your married life in this light, and remember that God has given you to each other for this end, you will show us what the poet means by
“Two lives bound fast in one with golden ease.”
This is a proper time, I think, for reminding you of another truth-that the steadiness, truth, and constancy of love must be made a point of conscience. Let your love to one another be a matter of duty. Make it a part of your religion. Put it under the care of your conscience.
There are theories of love that this advice would not accord with. It is not giving due honour to love, some think, to make it subordinate to conscience, or to suppose that it can require regulating or protecting by a sense of duty. "Love," they say, " has no law but itself. If man and woman love one another with this electing, separating love, there is nothing to account for the faet beyond the fact itself. It is so because it is so. They
love because they cannot help it. Love is its own reason and its own law. It rises and takes its way independently of conscience, duty, right and wrong, accountability, or any such considerations.”
Then, of course, it follows that if the love changes, if it grows cold, shallow, unsteady, we are to say, “they cannot help it,” and be satisfied with that solution. If the love dies and ceases altogether, still, “ they cannot help it”-love must take care of itself; if it goes wrong, there is nothing to keep it right; if it comes to the point of death, there is nothing to keep it alive.
I entreat you not to begin your married life with such ideas of love. If the love of husband and wife be not a duty in the sight of God, your vows and promises just spoken are empty and meaningless. What is the worth of your promise to love one another, unless conscience from this hour take charge of the matter and keep it before you as one of the leading duties of life? And how can the Word of God be guilty of such a fiction as would then be implied in the command to husbands to love their wives as having to answer for it before their Maker ?
There is, I believe, no love so genuine, so exalted, so capable of sacrifice, so ready for every emergency, as the love of the man who ever holds it his duty to love the wife God has given him, or of the wife who thus loves her husband. Do not, then, let this matter between you be left to take care of itself, as if you were not morally responsible in it. Ask continually for God's help in this as you would in any other duty. If you should ever fail in it—if love should ever, for the moment, give place to anger, to resentment-do not excuse yourselves on the ground that love has no law, but charge yourselves with guilt, and confess it to God as a sin. A great deal of the misery of life arises from love being left to take care of itself, instead of being brought under this kind of guardianship.
Some people profess to think an occasional breach between husband and wife a matter of little consequence, perhaps doing more good than harm. There is a great deal of shallow thought and flippant talking on this subject. “A quarrel now and then,” we are told, “ does no harm. They love each other all the better afterwards. It is like a storm that clears the atmosphere; when it is over you have a serene sky and a purer air than before.”
No doubt, the law of reaction holds here as it does in almost everything else ; after the strife there is a special stillness; after the quarrel between those who love there is the reaction of tenderness; but, I believe that where this takes place, there is a steady average decline of love and of happiness; the average height of the thermometer is lower.
I do not know whether I am taking too solemn a strain for the occasion, but I have so often seen the married life, both of rich and poor people, wretched by neglect of this one point that I cannot help dwelling on it. They have not put their love into the care of their conscience; they have not regarded it as their duty to God to love another. There are married people who know how to ingratiate themselves with the utmost ease, and are the most deceivable people in the world outside their homes, but the mask falls off, and (judging from appearances) they become as heartless as stone within them. Between them, as husband and wife, there seems to be no respect, no "consideration of feelings,” but harshness, sullenness, irritability, violent or quiet tyranny. The very tone of the voice sinks to an unkinder key when they are inside their own doors. I have met with men whom I should have esteemed and loved as Christian men if I had never heard them speak to their wives.
It is of no use laying this to difference of opinion, of no use saying, “ What an unfortunate match !” “What a pity persons so different should ever have come together!” Place it rather to a different account. These persons never put their love in charge of their consciences, never looked on it as part of their religion, a matter of Christian duty, to love one another.
Harmony, self-sacrificing love between husband and wife, is a grand test of Christian character, better than public professions, better than church or chapel-going, better than activity in conspicuous religious works. Here is a test withdrawn, in a great measure, from general inspection, and its evidence is worth more than that of all our public life. The world has rightly agreed to take it for granted, in every case, that there is love and good feeling between husband and wife, until evidence is given to the contrary. There are many who take advantage of that generous supposition on the part of the world, and, on the strength of it, support a reputation that would soon be scattered if the world could look in a little closer. My theory is—and I believe the Christian doctrine is—that the woman who should have most of a man's generous and self-denying attention, most of his kindness of speech and of manner, most of his true politeness, all the days of his life, is his wife; and the man who should have most of a woman's gentleness and refinement of behaviour is her husband.
A DAY AT NASEBY FIELD.
ON a lovely morning last summer I stood once more upon the memorable field of Naseby. Around me stretched a scene which, It has been truly said," no Englishman can see without emotion,"