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AMONG THE MOUNTAINS.
“Of all the sights that nature offers to the eye and mind of man, Mountains have always stirred my strongest feelings.
With me, the Mountain-in tempest, or in calm—the throne of the thunder, or with the evening sun painting its dells and declivities in colours dipt in heaven-has been the source of the most absorbing sensations. There stands magnitude, giving the instant impression of a power above man-grandeur, that defies decay-antiquity, that tells of ages unnumbered—beauty, that the touch of Time makes only more beautiful—use, exhaustless for the service of manstrength, imperishable as the globe ; the monument of Eternitythe truest earthly emblem of that everliving, unchangeable, irresistible Majesty, by whom and for whom all things were made.”
CROLY'S “ Salathiel.”
OME again, amidst mine own hills ! Plea
santly passed the fortnight placed at the
disposal of some clerical friends, and by them allotted to the duties of Diocesan Home Mission preaching. High was my privilege—whether in cathedral, or parish church, or village school-daily, and often twice a day, for that time, "to testify the gospel of the grace of God.” Happy, too, was my meed in the fellowship accorded to me for refreshment, alike in the dignitary's residence; in the less pretentious rectory or vicarage; in the incumbent's hired house, or in the curate's humble lodging. And now the work is done; while, for its issue, the day shall
declare it. An episode in a thoughtful life is concluded; and once more I find myself, by God's providence, in the stillness of home-retirement, amid the sunshine and shadows of the everlasting hills.
I need not say—at least to such as know me—that I love the mountains. No child of dust, whose place of sojourn is near them, fails to take them into his heart, and there to find ere long their image stereotyped. Of our boyhood's hills, the outlined forms seem ever present to the memory; and, in mental vision, throughout our life's wanderings they stand between us and the sky. Then are there heights, hallowed by the meetings or partings of riper years ; and who would consent to erase these from the “ redleafed tablets” of the Affection? If, at length, our dwelling-place, holding the hearts that love us best, be found near the mountain's side, was not the “homelooking hill”* the object eagerly looked out for on our return from absence, and the last thing, fixedly, silently gazed upon, when we waved our adieu? The lowlander cannot feel for his fertile, but monotonous, levels the mountaineer's enthusiasm for the craggy peaks that pierce the heavens.
* B. Simmons' “Song of a Returned Exile,” in Blackwood's Magazine, vol. xlvii., page 170. I was permitted to number this young poet (now some years deceased) among my literary friends ; and Cairn-thierna, the mountain thus denominated, continually meets my sight, and serves to keep his memory green. Lord Byron's description of a Nottinghamshire hill accurately delineates it :
“A gentle hill
Arising from such rustic roofs." I cannot determine whether by “home-looking hill,” Mr. Simmons intended the hill, looking like home, or looking upon home. But the distinction is slight ; and, in either sense, the epithet has for me and mine sweet meaning.
Perpetuity, in a certain sense, belongs to the mountains; and compared with them the children of men are like shadows. Clearly and sharply, as at present with myself, the spiry heights, upon which I delight to gaze, were millions of times mirrored in
that have been long ago closed in death. Wanderers in varied guise, and multitudinous as they were varied, from the aboriginal hunter of the wolf and red-deer to yesterday's pursuer of the timid hare, have continually crossed those ridges; and where are those wanderers now? “One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh : but the earth abideth for ever." (Eccles. i. 4.) The men are gone. The mountains endure.
The sacred writers continually employ imagery, borrowed from these majestic landmarks. No language can surpass Isaiah's (xl. 12) sublime enquiry respecting Jehovah's power :
“Who hath measured the waters in the hollow of His hand,
And meted out heaven with the span,
David (Psalm, lxv. 6) tells us, that the Lord" by His strength setteth fast the mountains ;” and there they stand evermore to perpetuate His power. They
likewise proclaim His hallowed characteristic of righteousness (Psalm, xxxvi. 6 :)
“Thy righteousness is like the great mountains,” -massive, immoveable and conspicuous. The Lord's unchangeable regard for His people is also hence exquisitely illustrated. A time there was, when the earth was removed, and the mountains were carried into the midst of the sea. The time draweth nigh,
, when the heaven shall depart as a scroll that is rolled together, and every mountain and island shall be moved out of their places. But what, through Isaiah, (liv. 10, saith the Lord to His Church
“The mountains shall depart,
And the hills be removed ;
Neither shall the covenant of My peace be removed.” Precious, too, is the knowledge that no “height” (Romans, viii. 39,) whether of persecution, or of pain, or of sickness, or of temptation, or of any other suffering, “shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
In all ages, remarkable eminences have been invested with the prestige of sanctity. The temples, altars, and groves of Paganism crowned the mountain summits; and, doubtless, they looked fair and beautiful in the clear shining of oriental skies. If the heavenly bodies were worshipped, the heights afforded increased facilities for their attentive observation. If the graven or carved image occupied the shrine, the inhabitants of the land were guided in their journeying towards the conspicuous landmark. Isolation also was coveted by the idolatrous priesthood, partly for its impressive solemnity on worshippers' minds, and partly for the facility it afforded them to accomplish their deceptions. Iniquities, alas! that cannot be described, held here their undisturbed reign; and every
abomination to the Lord, which He hateth, they did unto their gods; for even their sons and their daughters they burnt in the fire to their gods. Hence arose Jehovah's solemn charge to His ancient people (Deut. xii. 2, 3) ere they passed the Jordan. The “high places” of the land, that was promised to their fathers and was now to pass into their possession, would be seen every where crested with heathen temples. Such, because of their beguiling character, should be unsparingly demolished. “Ye shall utterly destroy," wrote Moses, “all the places wherein the nations that ye shall possess served their gods, upon the high mountains, and upon the hills, and under every green tree: and ye shall overthrow their altars, and break their pillars, and burn their groves with fire; and ye shall hew down the graven images of their gods, and destroy the names of them out of that place.” Imperfect compliance with the divine command was the prolific cause of Hebrew woes. Idolatry was overlooked by them; and it brought dread visitations. During the administration of the Judges, we read constantly of the forays and successful fights of the heathen; and in the reigns of the kings (saving those of David and Solomon) we find the conquests of the Tribes more or less accomplished.