« PrécédentContinuer »
A WEEK-NIGHT ADDRESS DELIVERED TO AN ASSEMBLY
"The earth bringeth forth fruit of herself, first the blade, then the ear, then he full corn in the ear.”
MARK iv. 28.
ONE of the most bountiful harvests known for many years has just een reaped, not only over the breadth of England, but over the hole continent of Europe ; and its in-gathering has been celerated by a series of joyful barvest-homes throughout all the rural istricts of the empire. Churches beautifully adorned with flowers ad wheatsheaves, and ringing with the high praises of the merciful ord of Heaven, have everywhere testified to the thankfulness of le agricultural people to Him who giveth us rain and sunshine ad fruitful seasons, “ filling our hearts with food and gladness. ” be great cities, which are the principal consumers of all this inease of the earth, surely ought not to withhold their tribute of iankfulness to the God of Providence. Our temples too ought to -echo the joyful praises which we have heard ascending around us om all the plains and vales and hills of England. Yet, generally speaking, the dwellers in great cities have no very vid feelings of either gladness or thankfulness at harvest times. hey are cut off in these vast abodes of life, “cities of three days' urney,” from the changing aspects of nature, and the scenes of ral fertility and abundance. There, in the country, men look Bon the ever-varying aspects of the earth ; now—upon the russet ods gleaming in the autumnal sun, and rising in furrows to the ight plough-share—now smoothed down over the precious seed that us been strown, and covered in winter with a warm garment of the irest snow-now dressed in living green with the tender shoots of vring over valley and rolling hill—now covered with a waving tide
of strengthening ears that rattle in the hot summer gale—and then at length yellow to the far horizon with golden breadths full corn in the ear, broken only by the splendour of the crimson flowers that adorn the sunbrowned expanse that stretches on every hand around. There the sky is visible from the horizon to the zenith, and from one end of the heavens to the other, visible with its sunrises and sunsets, with its tints of night and morning, wita its full lustre of noon and tender gleams of evening. There men can see the hedges covered with their showers of thorn-blossoin, lightly resting on a background of delicate green leaves that peep forth, fresh with spring dew and rain, from the wonderful leaf-buds ;—there they can see for miles together orchards in May gleaming in one prolonged vision of vernal delight, with every tint of purest white and purest carnation on the bloom that foretells fruitful autumn; and there they can commune with God while He “talketh with them by the way," and "makes their hearts to bura within them " as He opens His revelations of beauty in the forest dell, strewn with blue-bells like another sky upon the floor, or in the golden mullen, or the daisy, or the forget-me-not, which light up the hedgerows, or the banks of glittering streams.
But here there are no changes. These three millions of city mea look down upon roads and pathways of stone, beaten into one enote mous pavement as hard as iron, into which no flower can send rootlets between the fragments of granite. Living Nature is here crushed down in her grave to death beneath one enormous tomb stone, on which not even her name is engraven, and on which livine men walk and labour, forgetful of the beauteous mother that lie buried below. The soil is never turned up except to excavate to drainage, or gas, or water, or telegraphic wires, or to lay the founda] tion of new houses. Here, there are multitudes who seldom see the sky, who pass years without setting eyes upon a sunrise or a su set, and to whom a breadth of cloudless blue is almost unknow Here, therefore, men may easily forget that there is a God, wl gives bread, unless they are reminded of it by other means than the spectacle of nature. Man made the town.” Men may come a great city to think of food exclusively as a manufactured articleof the loaf-and never of the wheat-sheaf; and wholly to forget that all pervading Spirit of Life and Power, who has “crowned the year with his goodness."
Let us not fall into this “ error of the wicked.” Let us not add another to the numerous examples in history of the fact, that great cities, men most easily lose their view of the living God, and sink into base idolatries. Rather from London let the loftiest song arise to God—to God who "giveth food to all flesh," for His mere endureth for ever. An abundant harvest all over Europe signifies cheap bread, and a whole world of concomitant blessings for the space of another twelvemonth.
We must learn to include the works of God in nature among our habitual meditations in religion. If we fail to think of nature, our religion will become a doctrinal fanaticism. The Bible was written in the broad sunlight, and amidst the effulgent beauty, of Western Asia. It must te read, in order to be understood in, at least, all the light which our more northerly climate affords--in the light of the sun as well as in the light of the Spirit, rather let us say in both the outward and the inward lights of that Spirit, “which worketh all in all.” There are many who, if they thought a little Lass upon doctrinal propositions, and a little more on those "lilies” ind "fowls " which Christ invites us to consider, would possess a great leal more of real and practical religion. They would be taken out f the artificial sphere of a human theology, and be translated into the region of a living divine revelation ; and they would return to their Bibles with a zest, to which at present many of them are strangers. They would find its pages illuminated with a manycloured tracery of beauty and delight, to which their eyes were closed before ; for a man sees in the Bible as in the world,
very much according to the knowledge and insight which is behind his yes
. I heard lately of a Sunday-school boy in London, of thirteen r fourteen
age, who had never yet seen a corn-field. And hose who would allow that to have seen one, would materially have acreased his understanding of the Scripture, must perforce allow a reat deal more besides. Nature and Scripture are two broad Books God, in both of which He daily reveals himself
, and each of hich throws light upon the other. Much of the unthankfulness, le gloom, the dulness, and the stupor of city religion would be moved, if we were to take some lessons from the more festal relilion of the country: Now, for once, since we must take a week-night text out of the orious Bible, let it be a text on the growth of one ear of cornlat process which, repeated thousands of millions of times, has roduced the great harvest which makes Europe glad. He who flects most wisely on one stalk of wheat will reflect most wisely
the harvest. The growth of an ear of wheat, nothing is more common and miliar, yet, nothing more wonderful! Some might say, (speaking rth the atheism of their drowsy thought), “Why wonderful ? ' hy shouldn't it grow? Isn't it the nature of a corn of wheat to row up into an ear, bearing thirty, sixty and one hundred-fold ? Thy must we wonder at this common sighť ?” Nay, rather let us now rn aside and see this great sight-how and why the one grain comes thirty, packed so beautifully in the ear. The fields are tended to feed our minds as well as our bodies. All life has something mysterious in it-even the life of that rain which you bury in its grave in the furrow, until the spring
resurrection. Much of it dies ; but there is a germ which does not die. “ Unless it die it abideth alone : but if it die, it briogeth forth much fruit.” A man casts a seed into the ground; it “ spring and grows he knoweth not how." Ah ! the science of eighteen hut dred years has not altered essentiaily the degree of this ignoranc We can trace the process from without; but who can explain the mystery of that inner life which governs the development of the
This grain, when buried, throws out two fibres, one toward the earth, one towards heaven, one for the root, one for the stall It turns itself round, so that the root shall
downward and the stalk shall rise upwards to the sun. And then it gath substance from the earth and air-and, as we say, “grows with increasing size and strength, according to a fixed pattern; future ear enfolded delicately in a sheath, until the time for ill expansion is come, when it is unfolded and ripened in the summe sun ; this ear containing twenty, thirty, forty little packages of flour each most beautifully and securely encased in a waterproof ente lope, and the whole number arranged in a structure, which, far beauty or for purposes of shelter or of carriage, could not be surpassed.
It has “grown,” we say. Yes, it has grown. But what is growth We shall see this better if we look at it through a microscope microscope of steady thought; for as God, that is mighty, hath magnified us, by looking at us through the vast transforming lens his mercy, so that the irsects of time are made to appear greata and better than they are, so must we look at his works through the magnifying glass of attentive reflection-though here the effect ca never be to make them seem more wonderful than they are, but on to reveal their glory. “Magnificat anima mea Dominum Deum -My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in Go my Saviour.” Take, then, a small plant, a grain of wheat, and com sider what occurs when it grows into a ripe and golden ear. Wh is growth? It is the increase of a living body according to a fixe pattern, and by materials derived from without, materials chang into its own substance or substances. Here, then, are two miracle or wonders—the power of taking fresh materials from the earth air, and changing them into living substance, and the power arranging these new materials according to a fixed pattern. Sup pose we could watch the grain of corn beneath the soil when i begins to strike, watch it with an enormous microscope, so that the grain should appear 10,000 times larger than it is, so that we could perceive the movement of the small particles which compose it. We should see the swelling of the germ that lies hid in the damp earth and the commencement of the shooting out of those filaments e threads which are to form the root and the blade. It grows larger every day, and requires therefore new substance. But whence do this substance come? From the air, from the water. Air particles, water-particles, have been drawn from around, under the stimulus of the sunbeams and the warmth of the earth's bed, and they have een changed into corn-root and corn-leaf particles, and have become live, full of a power of drawing and changing other particles from ke earth and air in the same manner. It is as wonderful as if an on seed had begun to strike out, and had gathered from around mps of clay, or pieces of wood, and changed them into iron, and teel
, and copper, and built them up into the form of a steam-engine, lith its various metallic fixtures and appurtenances. This
, then, is most wonderful—the gathering of the new mateials
, and changing the air, and water, gas, and the earth's flint and ilt into the substance of a wheat stalk, and straw, and chaff, and bur. But more wonderful still is that other miracle, the arranging (the new particles in a pattern according to a plan, and that plan be plan of an organised structure, loaded at the top with food for mankind. Let us try to think again. When a little cubic crystal grows in the water, that is wonderful when each atom attracts mother atom, and fastens it to itself by a particular side or end, and o builds up a larger cube, as in common salt
. But we say, this is ystalization, and so get rid of more troublesome reflection. That most wonderful. But here is something much more surprisingat the new particles of matter gathered from the air and soil ound the grain, should go into their proper places, so as to form e right shape of root, or leaf, or stalk, or ear, or husk, of the flourIlder
, or the flour itself. Suppose we could see this process magnid, so that the particles should seem as large as marbles. What ould we say if we could see them first gathered from the air, then anged into something quite different, and then running about and ing themselves in one spot, just where it was necessary, in order to mplete the pattern, and make increase of the growth-here some arching to the root, others to the stalk, others to the ear, with its chaff dflour. If 10,000 variously-coloured marbles could be thrown upon e ground, and we should see them arranging themselves into the ttern of a plant-its stalk, its leaves, its flowers, its fruit, we vuld say, as we watched the process, Why, they are alive! and ay seem each to have sense, to know where to go, and where to ", as if each one could look at the whole pattern, and see where
place ought to be! But no ; they cannot have this sense. When diers form in line, in square, in wedge, in circle, in echelon, or we quick or slow according to command, this is because each man intelligent, each unit bas à mind. But each of these marbles has ta mind, yet it acts as if it had ; takes up its place, or moves, cording to the necessity of the general plan of the flower. How this? If each particle has not a mind, and an idea of the pattern the whole plant, who or what has such an idea, or pattern ?-for