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of just men made perfect, and to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel.”
This is high and holy companionship, indeed, enjoyed only by those who are sons and daughters of the Lord Almighty. For them, is the heavenly country-approached to now, and soon to be for ever possessed. For them, are heavenly honors; heavenly privileges; heavenly employments; heavenly friendships; heavenly mediation. And daily they lift up their eyes unto “the hill,” whence cometh their help.
Many things press upon me for utterance; but of them I cannot now speak. I would fain tell of the blessedness of retirement hither for heavenly communion; and of the happiness of following His example, who on the mountain's side, alone, continued all night in prayer to God. I would also speak of the elevating influences of upward climbing, and of the Pisgah views that are obtained from the Delectable Mountains. I would paint the delight of passing, in faith, beyond the river, and of enteringalmost now—through the gates into the city. But I must pause. Suffice it, that, for myself, my lot is cast in the midst of these magnificent specimens of God's creative power. Here I live, and labour; and here, when my appointed time is come, I shall lay me down to sleep-like Aaron, upon Mount Hor, like Moses upon Mount Nebo—until He call, and I answer Him, and until He have a desire to the work of His hands. Then the joy will be great—from a grave among the mountains-of waking up in His image, and of being for eternity satisfied with it!
“The Autumn days are very calm and restful to think upon; and there is a deep peace in the Autumn of life, for which we are well content to exchange the flush and glee of Spring, and the glory and glow of Summer.
There is a sadness, no doubt, there must be, in the coming shade of death which deepens on the path. But the bud of life in the very heart of death—of this we are more and more conscious, the closer we draw near to the withered branches; and, like the fabled scent of the Spice Islands, even over the darkening seas are wafted to us sweet odours from the Promised Land.”--ANONYMOUS.
HE harvest is past, the summer is ended; and
amid faded and falling leaves, I pen these
lines. “Now," as an eloquent writer depictures the season,* "upon the mountains is painted the rich colouring of Autumn; miles of heather dying into a deeper purple; miles of bracken burnt into vivid rusted masses.
Now, on the horizon is the vague violet haze into which the sun sinks shorn of his beams, and hangs as a glowing ball fresh from day's furnace. Now, upon the sea lies the pensive grey hue, which is oftentimes stained with shadows of rain-clouds. Now, the hedges are thick with birds’ provisions of crimson haws and scarlet hips; and the
* The Sunday at Home, Oct. 7, 1865. Vol. xii. p. 629.
brambles are abundantly fruited, and the gorse still be-dropped with gold; and our feet sink deep in moss upon rocky paths, and we find nests of rare-scented violets in the garden-beds, and pallid monthly roses smile scantily from the trellis-work by the window.” It is a period of transition, and (seemingly) of decay; and the year, now on its death-bed, speaks to us in solemn accents of admonition and farewell. And what saith it; for I am listening to its teaching ?
“We all do fade as a leaf !” so spake Jehovah's prophet, (Isaiah lxiv. 6,) perhaps at a season like the present, when Nature itself bore witness to his warnings. Men are “as trees," instar arborum. Life, at first freshly green, is soon developed into vigorous maturity; and then, ere long, it declines into the sere and yellow leaf.” This outward resemblance is so obvious that, in all ages and countries, it has been employed to point a moral. Ages ago, “the blind old man of Scio's rocky isle” sang after this
“Like leaves on trees the race of man is found,
Now green in youth, now withering on the ground;
And, in our own day, Chateaubriand writes :
“A moral character is attached to autumnal scenes.
The leaves, falling like our years ; the flowers, fading like our hopes; the clouds, fleeting like our illusions ; the light, diminishing like our intelligence ; the sun, growing colder like our affections; all bear secret relations to our destinies."
Between the gifted heathen of other days and the brilliant sentimentalist of our own, there is here an agreement; for neither makes allusion to life-in-death, nor describes a resurrection from the grave. I but adduce their testimony, as corroborative of the general truth of the observation; and I now return to Isaiah's description of our mortal existence; for I am persuaded that, when I look deeper, I shall find in the Prophet's simile a wondrous force and beauty.
“We all do fade as a leaf!” How does a leaf fade? And why does a leaf fade?
These are botanical investigations, which will well repay the trouble of making them. A volume might be written about the phases of a leaf's existence, from its infantile bud down to its decay and earthward drifting; but I must restrict myself to what would form the concluding chapter of such a book. The point of connection of the follicle with its branch, owing to a contraction of the petiole, is visible throughout the leaf's existence; but, it becomes more notable in the fall of the year, when the petiole is slowly dried up, so that vital fluids can no longer pass either into or out of the leaf. By the obstruction of the tissues, insoluble materials are retained in the leaf, which exhales water, but is unable to free itself from the earthy matter brought to it by the sap; and soon the vessels harden, and their pores are choked. The faculty of decomposing carbonic acid gas becomes impaired, and gradually ceases; the leaf slowly dries up, and dies. Is not all this a parable? Doth it not remind us how with man the silver cord is loosed, and the golden bowl is broken; the pitcher is broken at the fountain, and
the wheel broken at the cistern? As years proceed, life's powers are silently, but surely, diminished. The healthful tide pours no longer through the veins, as in other days. The imperfections of the earthly tabernacle accumulate. The keepers of the house tremble, and the strong men bow themselves; the grinders cease, because they are few, and those that look out of the windows are darkened. There is a decline, and a gradual decay. “We all do fade as a leaf.”
The fading of foliage precedes its detachment from the spray or branch, and induces its falling, and a speedy comminglement with the earth. But, even here, the Creator's care is manifested. Lest the parent-stem should in any wise suffer by the leaf's separation, a wise provision has been made. While the petiole is being dried up, an alteration simultaneously takes place in the branch at its point of junction with the leaflet; and the surface, about to be denuded, is secured by a natural closing, which prevents the penetration of air or moisture into the interior texture of the tree. Moreover, in most trees, at this particular place, a new life is lying dormant; and the intended vacancy is already occupied by germs that shall burst forth ere long in the fulness of their bloom and beauty. “All leaves of exogenous trees," writes Dr. Dickson,* (when explaining the mechanism of a dead leaf's detachment,) "have a leaf-bud, which is to give rise to the shoot of next year, in the axil, or
* “Sacred Philosophy: Contributions to the Natural History of the Vegetable Kingdom." By Robert Dickson, M.D., L.S.F. London : J. Burns and W. Edwards, 1841.