« PreviousContinue »
guard, left of the poor of the people, which had nothing in the land of Judah, and gave them vineyards and fields at the same time.”* So that they were "returned to the possession of their fathers," while those who had wronged them, entered on a more severe foreign bondage.
We surely greatly err, if we content ourselves with saying, we are not now under the Jewish dispensation; we are not under a discipline of temporal rewards and punishments; and thus neglect the acts of God's providence, which are as certainly a part of his administration now, as in former ages, and as directly affect each individual of the whole race of Adam, as they did the children of Abraham. Those shall know who follow on to know the Lord. It is to those who are subdued under his rebukes that He sendeth his word, to heal them. They who watch the ruling hand of God, shall become wiser in reading his purposes, and their own necessities. If a man abuse his corporeal frame by excesses, he is visited with bodily distempers, at the present day, whether he be Jew or Gentile. If he waste his days in sloth, his substance will become wasted also. If he refuse to cultivate his mental powers, ignorance and stupidity must be the consequence. If he drink to excess, he will be deprived for a time of reason. Need he wonder, then, if he should misapply the wholesome grain which is good for food, by extracting from it a spirit that consumes his senses and his strength, that God should, for a time, prevent the grain from growing, and leave him to feel that the sun and the shower are withheld in wrath. When he is lifted up, as if by his own wisdom and power he had gotten all this great wealth, doth not God regard it, and will He not remind him from whence his prosperity flowed? When, as a nation, we glory in our skill and ingenuity, and feel as if, through our various mechanical contrivances, nothing shall be withholden from us, do we not expose ourselves to a national rebuke, and ought we not, when we meet it, to humble ourselves under it?
It has been a subject of philosophical investigation,
*Jeremiah xxxix. 10.
whether famine and privation, as instruments, are calculated to subdue the will, to awaken the intellectual powers, and to enlarge the mind; and the conclusion generally arrived at is a negative one. When bodily necessities are clamant, the mind is absorbed in them. When the unsubdued will is in a state of suffering, it is only excited to further rebellion. If it cannot be proved, however, that famine has been frequently the instrument of turning the heart to God, very many of his reconciled children can tell how their straits and necessities have sent them to prayer, and how His hand, shown in their deliverances, has enabled them to glorify His name; and, at the same time, there are very many examples of intellectual might contending with poverty, and gathering knowledge in the face of much privation. When to this laudable spirit is added the love of God, and contentment with his dispensation, one of the noblest characters is formed, of which humanity, in this state of things, is capable. To this, the apostle had attained; but we must remark that, if, in whatsoever state he was, he had learned to be content; if he knew both how to be abased, and how to abound, how to be full and how to be hungry, how to abound and to suffer need, it was because he leaned not on himself, but on Christ which strengthened him; it was because his portion was not of this world, but of a better and enduring substance; it was because the object which commanded the strenuous efforts of his energetic mind, was not silver and gold, not corn and wine, but the gathering in of lost sheep to the fold, the guiding of them in the paths of peace, and teaching of them and himself, to glorify their Lord with and by what He bestowed, whether of a temporal or spiritual character, and whether granted in large measure or in small.
M. G. L. D.
I HAVE elsewhere observed, that there is a vegetable cycle corresponding to the annual cycle, and obviously adapted to it with consummate wisdom. This is at no season more conspicuous than in the autumn of temperate climates. The sun is gradually withdrawing his prolific powers, and the general character of the season is about to become less genial. But before the period of cold and storms actually arrives, it is anticipated by the preparations of the vegetable creation. During spring and summer, the various classes of plants and flowers have been running through their respective changes in conformity to the season, and have now reached their last period of annual developement. The vegetative powers of the different races are very diversified; some are formed to rise from the germ, to shoot into flower, to form seed, to ripen, to throw their seed into the bosom of the fostering earth, and then to wither and die,—the individual, after having provided for the preservation of the species, being destined to perish the same year in which it has been produced; others, though destined to run a similar course, retain life in their roots, and the individuals themselves, as well as their seeds, spring up again in a new season, to pass once more, and, in many cases, frequently through the same annual round; others still, while they yearly put forth and shed their leaves, their flowers, their fruit, and their seed, retain their stem and branches under all the vicissitudes of the seasons, which, for years, and, in the case of trees, for ages and even centuries, flourish and grow, shooting their roots deep into the earth, in proportion as they raise their ample heads to the storm. But various as are their qualities and laws of existence, in all of them the annual cycle is rigidly observed, which, in every instance, is beautifully, and with most obvious intention, suited to the
weather and other circumstances in the different localities, and the respective seasons of the year.
In autumn, while the days are still glowing with brightness and warmth, and the thermometer has scarcely begun to indicate any decrease of temperature,-when the only perceptible change is some encroachment of the night on the day, and when the weather, in all its properties, is not less genial than during the most favorable period of summer, a very remarkable alteration takes place in the physiological condition of plants, proving that this condition is regulated by a law which is independent of external circumstances, and yet bears a striking reference to them. The alteration to which I allude, is a diminution, and at length a total suspension, of the flow of sap from the roots, on which the vegetative process depends; and the thing to be remarked is, that this relation is prospective. The period has not yet arrived, for which such a preparation is made, but is only approaching. One important and early consequence of this diminished action, is the ripening of the fruits and seed. It has been found, indeed, that, within certain bounds, whatever diminishes the vigor of vegetation, hastens the maturity of the fruit. Thus gardeners know that by stripping trees of their leaves, the period of ripening the fruit may be hastened; and this effect is not produced so much by exposing the fruit to the influence of the sun, as by interrupting the flow of the sap. Hence it appears that the maturity of the fruit is a proof that the vital power has become less vigorous and is hastening to a state either of extinction, if the plant be annual, or of comparative repose, if it survive the winter. This is particularly obvious in the ripening of grain. The plant loses its verdant color, the straw becomes less succulent, the leaf shrivels, the seed becomes hard, every thing, in short, indicates that the sap has ceased to flow, that its vegetative power is exhausted, and, having fulfilled the object of its creation, that it has run its destined course.
Nothing, indeed, can be more indicative of a Designing Cause than the fact, that all plants, as soon as their annual growth and reproduction have been accomplished,
decay, either in whole or in part; and that, in the great majority of instances, these purposes are only consummated a short time previous to the period when the severity of coming winter would, had their cycle been protracted, have prematurely checked their progress, and rendered the labors of the year abortive.
Besides the ripening of seeds and fruits, another preparation for approaching winter, which takes place at a later period of the season, is the fall of the leaf. This also is a wise provision of the Creator, to fit the vegetable world for encountering the storms which, in the inclement season, they are destined to endure. Some plants and trees, indeed, do not cast their leaves at this season; but even these exceptions afford, as I have elsewhere shown, a new proof of Designing Intelligence, compensating conditions having been assigned to them. To account, on physiological principles, for this fall of the leaf, various theories have been formed. Some have ascribed it to defective transpiration, and consequent accumulation of juices in the vessels; others to an inequality of growth between the stem and petiole of the leaf during the progress of vegetation ;* others, to the drying and hardening of the cellular tissue, supposed to take place at the insertion of the petiole into the stem; others, to a simple sloughing of worn-out parts; and others, still, to the growth of the new bud, and a consequent diversion of the sap. But, whatever may be the immediate causes, the effect itself is, assuredly, dependent on the constitution originally imparted to the plant, and is not the less a proof of Creative Wisdom. This is, in fact, only a single instance of a universal law, by which the parts of vegetables decay in every step of their progress, after having fulfilled their allotted functions. Thus, the tunics of the seed perish in the earth, after having nourished and protected the germ in its earliest developement. A similar fate awaits the cotyledons† which push them
* [The petiole is the stalk which supports the leaf; the stem is the general supporter of leaves, flowers, and fruit.-AM. ED.]
† [Cotyledons are the leaves or lobes of a seed, which open when the germ shoots forth. Most seeds have two lobes, and the plants to which they belong are called dicotyledonous. The palms are monocotyledonous, their seeds or nuts being whole, or having but one lobe.-AM. ED.]