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October—the buds of spring, the bees of May, the blossoms of summer, and the tints of autumn—the first rose of summer, carrying our thoughts far back to Sharon, and the lily that still retains the memory of a divine look—the splendour of the star, and the sublime grandeur of the lightning; these fragments of shattered magnificence are still beautiful, very beautiful. Sweet also are green nooks and rocks, and rivers and corn-fields. Very touching too is the laugh of little children, the light and happy firesides, and old friendships trusty and true.
But in these so lovely, and in the wide world itself, none have yet discovered, during a search of nearly 6000 years, aught that can fill the capacity or suppress, much less satisfy, the yearnings of man's great soul. “ The depth saith, It is not in me, and the sea saith, It is not in me.”
Imperfection and inadequacy are felt in every created thing on which man tries to set his heart. Decay overtakes the swiftest, and wastes the loveliest and the most lasting. Those things that strive after, and seem about to reach perfection, fail and fall back into imperfection ; this all-pervading imperfection in the world, and this dissatisfaction and unrest felt by man on every level, and in all latitudes, and under all conditions and phases of life, seem to imply that both are in ruin; while this universal aspiration after a perfection unattainable on earth appears to be evidence that perfection is somewhere, an inspiration from God, a prophecy also and pledge of its accomplishment. There is no doubt, indeed there is abundant proof, that every created thing evermore strives after perfection, as if conscious of its loss and sure of its restoration. Water in winter freezes into the likeness of ferns. The rock appears in its crystallization ambitious to rise to a higher level. The contractile river-plant, and the sensitive plant, almost reach the confines of the animal world.
Very beautifully does Coleridge write—“Let us carry ourselves back in spirit to the mysterious week
-the teeming work-days of the Creator, or as they rose in vision before the eye of the inspired historian of the generation of the heavens and earth, in the day that the Lord made the earth and the heavens. And who that had watched their ways with an understanding heart, could, as the vision evolving still advanced toward him, contemplate the filial and loyal bee, the home-building, wedded, and divorceless swallow; and, above all, the manifoldly intelligent ant tribes with their commonwealth and confederacies, their warriors and miners; the husband folk, and the virgin sisters with the holy instincts of maternal love, detached and in selfless purity,—and not say to himself: “Behold, the shadow of approaching humanity, the sun of the future, dim types of everlasting victories, yet pledges of that they will be.'”
The diminishing of time and sensibly increasing weight of eternity; the darkening of earth and dawning brightness of heaven; our growing dissatisfaction with all we see, and feel, and have; and our appreciation by means of prophecy of what we hope for, educates us for our future, quickens our steps homeward, while, as we gaze along the brightening vista of apocalyptic glories, we are drawn with irresistible attraction toward that blessedness and joy which are ours in reversion.
But variegated and beautiful as much in nature undeniably is, it grows pale and ceases to enchant our souls, in proportion as we fix our minds and hearts on the grandeur, and fulness, and riches, which the page of prophecy reveals—that future on which the Christian sets his affections. As the sun puts out the fire and dims the brightest lights, the clear apprehension of things to come dims the light and deadens the attraction of things that are, or rather gives them a new relation to the glory that is to be revealed ; the relation of twilight to noon-day-of spring to summer. To study and unfold the dawning scenes reflected from the writings of the prophets, is to make a contribution to the sum of human happiness in a Christian's heart; to light up time with the splendours of eternity, and to make sickness insensible to its pains in prospect of everlasting health, and old age forget its wrinkles, and its dimness of sight, and feebleness, in the near certainty of immortal youth ; to make the grave look less dreary because of the light that lies on the other side, till weary with the vain things of earth, and attracted by the great things of heaven, we cry with the son of Jesse, “Oh that we too had wings like a dove that we might flee away and be at rest.” If these pages, in which the writer tries to import into this world the scenes and joys and creations of the other and the better, help to lift up some heavy heart, and to lighten the pressure of this world's cold shadows and crowding cares, he will have more than a compensation for the labour which has been to him a pleasure, and for the misinterpretations and misconstructions and caricatures which have been to others so great enjoyment. The only thing he can offer in return, is his earnest prayer that they too may be made partakers of true joy here, and of his hope of hereafter.
It is a most suggestive fact that never were statesmen so disposed to prophesy as in 1867. They seem to feel as if we were plunging into abnormal and untried conditions, and that, in spite of their own desires, they were made to prophesy. This new feature has been so distinctly developed in recent discussions, that one eminent nobleman observed in a debate in the House of Lords : “Now, my lords, a great deal has been said in this House in the way of prophecy. In fact, we have so taken to the habit of prophesying that I am almost afraid we shall soon be consulted by the public as to future events, and be regarded more in the light of an oracular than a deliberative assembly.”
“Coming events cast their shadows before.” Noble lords therefore put on the prophet's mantle, and seem to prophesy when really they are merely impelled to
state what are the proofs of the fulfilment of prophecy. Those who have read what has been written by students of divine prophecy must now see, and I trust they will admit, that their interpretations of inspired predictions are no longer doubtful opinions, but true and just exegesis. It is under this conviction that I invite the Church and the nation to read these pages.