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why should you, friend? Only think of her power. She triumphs over winter, and makes him hasten off to his polar home.
If spring has oft offended you, will you not love it ? and, standing beneath the softly beaming firmament, and looking upward, will you not say in Thompson's fine language
The invocation is answered. The fair one veils herself and descends. Brief is her reign, and then she expands into summer, for summer, we have you understand, is only spring enlarged-an octavo swelled into a quarto volume, with larger engravings and new binding. Lovelier glows the sky now, and more fragrant the flower. There is now, for the first time, death in nature. Things come to perfection and perish. Spring was all life; summer is mingled life and death. Did you ever notice that the seasons treat each other with perfect courtesy ? One does not invade the empire of the other. They are respectful and polite, ruling like sister queens; and therefore, summer resigns, all blushing and ruddy, the sceptre to autumn; and he, with generous liberality, combines spring, summer, and winter, in a measure together. Only walk into the woods
They are his palace. There he lives and dies. There he holds court, and receives his audiences. Magnificent are they, for all colours blend, and all charms unite in them. Every sunset is glorious, and the nights shine with double lustre. And then follows winter. Short days are his, and long nights, as if he would shut out the world from observing him. The representative of purity is he, for he comes ever and anon, and hides the curse that lies heavy on the earth, with an outspread of pure snow. The representative of terror is he, for he frowns darkly and dreadfully, and makes the world tremble beneath him. The representative of power is he, for he sways a mighty sceptre, and the ocean and rivers quail beneath it. How appropriate now are the words of Thomson:
“ These as they change, Almighty Father, these
And is there not a charm, quiet and deep, in the rainbow ? Conquerors have had their triumphal arches, but who has had one like it? Mercy walks beneath it, and restrains the swelling waters, so that there be no more deluge. If seraphs may tread that path, happy are they. Is there not a sweet moral taught us in this? Do the colours blend in it? So may different hearts blend together. Does it announce the retiring storm, and presage the returning calm ? So it is in every storm of life. If friends fall into the grave, the bow of promise opens their lonely tomb; if heavy afflictions come, the bow of promise tells that they are passing away, and joys shall again spring up in our bosoms. Is there not magnificence in the ocean, and grandeur in the swelling mountains? And have you never communed with the stars until your spirit was entranced, and this world could hardly claim you as its inhabitant? If any one thing has subserved the interests of poetry more than another, the stars have, for there is no image in the whole array of figures more varied and expressive
than they. Stars are the emblem of love. If the triumph of ambition be represented, it is by the star of fame; if the light of beauty be pictured, it is by the star's lustre. Can any man
the stars and not feel his immortality ? Oh, it is in the night-seas where we wander alone beneath the glittering firmament, that this sense comes home to us most powerfully, and we feel that every star is a token of the heaven beyond, and a pledge that we shall never die. The
power of local association is one of the most striking exhibitions of the mind, in its relation to nature. If memory be analyzed, it will be found to be somewhat of a physical faculty; it is greatly under the dominion of sense; changes of constitution affect it; and the advance of age is ever betokened by its decay. No wonder then that our memory is so closely associated with material objects. The power of local association is not then altogether dependant on intellect. If the bird build its nest in a rose bush one spring, it will return and rebuild it there the ensuing
If the sportsman would obtain his game, he knows that it has its fixed resorts where it may be met.
Prompted by this sentiment, the stranger will walk reverently through Westminster Abbey, and gaze with delight on the homes and graves of departed genius and worth. If Mrs. Hemans wrote about Kenilworth, and a Leaf from Virgil's tomb—if Southey entered the pulpit where the illustrious Bunyan preached-if Johnson and Leigh Richmond grew eloquent among the ruins of lona—it is because of this witching of local association. The most general and remarkable exhibition of this sentiment was in the case of the Crusades—when nations were moved by a simultaneous passion, to recover the land, where the elect people of Jehovah had lived where the Son of Jehovah himself had died.
The true position, then, for us to occupy with regard to nature, is a position midway between that false philosophy which would deify it, and that careless spirit which would reject its influence altogether. Philosophy has often placed visible nature in the relation of a deity, and rendered it supreme homage. Astronomy has sometimes attempted it; geology has tried it. The end is the same, whether you utterly banish all idea of God, or substitute nature in his stead, for what power has nature to affect the moral feelings, apart from the great Creator? If this unwarranted and unreasonable exaltation of nature be as derogatory to man as it is obnoxious to God, we are also to beware of that other extreme, the utter neglect of its manifold forms and aspects. The objects of religion are hidden from the natural eye. Our Redeemer is invisible; our heavenly home is invisible; our future associates are invisible. Were it given to mortals to gaze steadily, or at blessed intervals on them; were it our privilege to look upon the far world, and mark the kingly splendour of the new city, it may be supposed that faith would acquire unwonted energy, and devotion would burn with unquenchable ardour. What kind of a probation would life then be ? Men would then seek religion on the same principle that they seek wealth and honour. The lower parts of our nature would triumph over the higher. The fact is, the necessity for such a visible exhibition of the objects of religion is, so far as expedient, destroyed by the appeal which natural things make to the mind. If we wish to be reminded of God, we have only to open our eyes and the symbols of his grandeur meet us. If we desire to realize eternity and immensity, we need not ascend to the throne and converse with its ancient and august occupant; we need not travel through the extended territory of the Prince of the Universe: we have but to look up to the solemn midnight skies, and the impression is received. The aid of sense is thus secured, and that too, without sacrificing the interests of faith and devotion. Vain then is that philosophy which would fill our homes and temples with images of the great God. Has Jehovah not finished his own work ? Has he left the universe so imperfect that it cannot represent him? It is ordained that Christianity should have no external representation of its objects; it is no patron of idolatry in any form; it addresses the soul; its humbler associate-nature, addresses the senses; and what more would you have? If men are disposed to idolize nature, Christianity approaches with her stately step and celestial appearance, and checks it; if they are inclined to spiritualize Christianity, nature repels the attempt and interposes its visible works between them and their end.
And now, let us turn to a nobler spectacle than nature, with all her plenitude, can present--the spectacle of redemption. A meek young man appears before us. Others are gay, but he is serious. Others are interested for themselves; he is concerned for the world. Others are proud; he is the personification of humility. No unkind word has ever escaped those hallowed lips. The innocence of angel-purity beams from his countenance, and the majesty of Godhead occasionally ennobles his actions. A friend to all, and he almost friendless; a servant of his country, and yet treated as a foreign invader; a disguised prince, who can be great without an attending retinue-great from innate greatness. Wonderful as a child—for then he astonished the learned doctors—more wonderful as a man, for then he challenged the notice of the universe. It was the first time the world had seen such wisdom, and therefore its folly was reproved; it was the first time it had seen such virtue, and therefore it was mortified; it was the first time it had seen such philanthropy, and therefore it blushed; it was the first time it had seen such sanctity, and therefore it hated the sight, and madly resolved on his destruction. Then came the dreadful tragedy—then came the fearful invocation,“ his blood be on us and on our children"—then came the fast rushing crowd—then came the consummation—a cross, a spear, a taunt! Let the veil of the temple be rent, and through the rent let religion go forth to traverse the world. Let the firmament grow dark, for the prince of darkness has triumphed. Let the earth tremble, for Jehovah shakes the rod of his anger over it. Such a scene far more than fiction--no more than fact. Such a scene heaven, earth, and hell are strangely blended in it. Is there any scene in nature to be compared with this? Where will you find such sublimity, such pathos, such subduing tenderness? The material universe presents you with a living Jehovah superintending its multiplied interests, sustaining its well-ordered harmony, sanctifying its perpetually-occurring incidents—but grander still, redemption opens with a dying Redeemer!
All the scenes of religion are profoundly interesting. Witness the dedication of a child to God in the holy ordinance of baptism-witness the solemn commemoration of the Saviour's death—witness the tears of the penitent, and the joys of the believer; there is more than poetry in them—there is heaven and glory in them. The constant tendency of the human mind is towards ideality. Surround it with as many attractive realities as you please, it cannot be satisfied. If it dwelt in an Eden, it would imagine another and a better Eden. The strong impulse of
native taste and passion is ever
ver hurrying it towards the fond creations of active fancy. The poverty of one world is thus compensated by the wealth of another world—the deformity of our planet-home by the unmarred and unshadowed loveliness of a happier home. To gratify this passion for ideality, man resigns himself to reverie, and suspends reason and
To satisfy its intense longings he cultivates poetry, and in her fair fields treads with a light footstep. It is all in vain. Such things alone camot answer the end. There is in them a mockery of the heart; there is in them only an aurora borealis light skirting the horizon, and spreading up towards the zenith a picturesque adornment of the night, but leaving it the night still, and rendering its murky shadows only the more visible. Christianity meets the necessities of man. She gives him the communion of heaven, and opens an unsullied world to the range his imagination, and the eager wishes of his oft disquieted heart. The blessedness of Jehovah is her high bestowment upon man.
The highest compliment Infidelity could pay this benevolent system, is to oppose it; for if it were not of heaven-heavenly in its morality and object—it would not have such violent opposition. Vain are the hopes of this opponent of the faith.
Whenever this system of opinions can offer us a better hope, a surer faith, a richer treasure, a nobler support, than Christianity, then, and not till then, let it ask our confidence. It has no promise for the dying hour,no consecrating blessing for the tomb. A celebrated officer of the American Revolution had unfortunately been tinctured with Infidel principles. He had often introduced the subject, strange as it may appear, to his daughter, and urged her to embrace its tenets. If Infidelity succeed with man, it cannot often master the heart of woman, for above all others the law of her nature is trust, and she needs peculiarly the holy trust of heaven. The young lady resisted the entreaties of the father. She clung to the principles of her Saviour's religion. Disease afterwards wasted her fair form, and she drew near the closing scéne. Friends loved her for her loveliness, and the father wept that early beauty should thus languish into the tomb. The work of disease was almost consuinmated—the light was passing from her eye, and the pulse from her heart—it was a fearful moment the dividing moment between time and eternity.
She called the Infidel father to her bedside, and as she gently pressed his hand, and looked tenderly up into his sad countenance, she said, Father, would
have me be an Infidel now?” There was a pause there was a sigh—and the heart-stricken man answered, “No, my daughter, no!"
HOW CAME IT TO PASS
it to pass ?
That three thousand were converted on the day of Pentecost-how came
The truth as it is in Jesus was preached, and the power of God accompanied and made the truth effectual. But had not the meeting for prayer, of which mention is made in Acts i. 14, a close and influential connection with the glorious results of that day, and that discoturse? Undoubtedly it had. But what was there in that meeting of the hundred and twenty disciples, to exert an influence to the conversion of three thousand individuals? Whence had it that power? I answer,
it was a prayer-meeting---professedly and mainly a prayer-meeting. If it had been a meeting for preaching, it would not have exerted the influence it did, even though prayer had preceded and followed the sermon. It was a prayer-meeting—a meeting of Christians to express their dependance on God; unitedly to call on him for his blessing; to plead the promise, and to wait for the fulfilment of it. Those are the efficient meetings, in which Christians meet and agree to ask of God. I wonder they do not value them more. To the prayer-meeting Christians come, to exercise the high privilege of intercession for others—to do good and to communicate--to act the "more blessed part; whereas, to meetings of another kind, they go for the less benevolent purpose of receiving good. Yet Christians value no meetings so little as prayer-meetings!
But the influence of that meeting of a hundred and twenty was not owing entirely to its being a prayer-meeting. Many meetings for prayer are held, and no such effects follow. There must have been something peculiar about that prayer-meeting to account for its efficacy. There was much by which it was distinguished from ordinary prayer-meetings. The mention of some of these peculiarities may be of service. It may provoke imitation in some churches. 1. All the church attended that prayer-meeting.
16 These all continued,” &c. There were but a hundred and twenty disciples, and they were all present. Not a member of the church was absent, unless providentially detained. How different is it now! Now, if so many as a hundred and twenty can be collected in a prayer-meeting, yet they represent perhaps a church of five or six hundred communicants, and all the rest are with one accord absent. They who meet may agree among themselves to ask for an outpouring of the Spirit; but it is, after all, but the agreement of a minority of the church; the majority, by their absence, dissent from the request.
2. As all attended, of course the men attended as well as the women. Yes, every male member of the church was present; and I suppose the males were more than one half of the whole number. They did not leave it to the women to sustain the prayer-meetings. That prayermeeting had not the aspect of many a modern prayer-meeting, in which almost all are of the weaker sex.
3. The most distinguished members of the church attended, as well as the most obscure. There were all the apostles, and “Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brethren.” None of them felt above being at a prayer-meeting. How is it now? Let that question answer itself.
4. They were all agreed of one accord," as it is said. Not merely agreed as touching what they should ask-viz. the fulfilment of “the promise of the Father”—but of one mind generally—ay, and of one heart. They thought and felt alike. They all loved one another. They observed the new commandment. Such cordial union
Christians has great power with God. It does not always exist in our prayermeetings. 5. They persevered in prayer.
“ These all continued in prayer." First they stirred themselves up to take hold on God, and then they said, “We will not let thee go, except thou bless us." They met often for
prayer, and all met, and they lingered long at the throne of grace. There were not some who came to the meeting once for a wonder, or only occasionally. No, " these all continued,” &c. It is not so now. But how long did they continue asking ? Until they then obtained; and