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full of interest, “The Lamp and the Lantern,” by Dr. James Hamilton; and I will therefore only ask you to consider such expressions as that tender and glorious verse in Isaiah, speaking of the cedars on the mountains as rejoicing over the fall of the king of Assyria: “Yea, the fir-trees rejoice at thee, and the cedars of Lebanon, saying, Since thou art gone down to the grave, no feller is come up against us.” See what sympathy there is here, as if with the very hearts of the trees themselves, So also in the words of Christ, in his personification of the lilies “They toil not, neither do they spin.” Consider such expres. sions as, “The sea saw that, and fled. Jordan was driven back. The mountains skipped like rams; and the little hills like lambs.” Try to find anything in profane writing like this; and note farther that the whole book of Job appears to have been chiefly written and placed in the inspired volume in order to show the value of natural history, and its power on the human heart. I cannot pass by it without pointing out the evidences of the beauty of the country that Job inhabited. Observe, first, it was an arable country. “The oxen were ploughing, and the asses feeding beside them.” It was a pastoral country: his substance, besides camels and asses, was 7000 sheep. It was a mountain country, fed by streams descending from the high snows. “My brethren have dealt deceitfully as a brook, and as the stream of brooks they pass away; which are blackish by reason of the ice, and wherein the snow is hid: What time they wax warm they vanish: when it is hot they are consumed out of their place.” Again: “If I wash myself with snow water, and make my hands never so clean.” Again: “Drought and heat consume the snow waters.” It was a rocky country, with forests and verdure rooted in the rocks. “His branch shooteth forth in his garden; his roots are wrapped about the heap, and seeth the place of stones.” Again: “Thou shalt be in league with the stones of the field.” It was a place visited, like the valleys of Switzerland, by convulsions and falls of mountains. “Surely the mountain falling cometh to nought, and the rock is removed out of his place.” “The waters wear the stones: thou washest away the things which grow out of the dust of the earth.” “He removeth the mountains and they know not: he overturneth them in his anger.” “He putteth forth his hand upon the rock: he overturneth the mountains by the roots: he cutteth out rivers among the rocks.” Ihave not time to go farther into this; but you see Job's country was one like your own, full of pleasant brooks and rivers, rushing among the rocks, and of all other sweet and noble elements of landscape. The magnificent allusions to natural scenery throughout the book are therefore calculated to touch the heart to the end of time.
Then at the central point of Jewish prosperity, you have the first great naturalist the world ever saw, Solomon; not permitted, indeed, to anticipate, in writing, the discoveries of modern times, but so gifted as to show us that heavenly wisdom is manifested as much in the knowledge of the hyssop that springeth out of the wall as in political and philosophical speculation.
The books of the Old Testament, as distinguished from all other early writings, are thus prepared for an everlasting influence over humanity; and, finally, Christ himself, setting the concluding example to the conduct and thoughts of men, spends nearly his whole life in the fields, the mountains, or the small country villages of Judea; and in the very closing scenes of his life, will not so much as sleep within the walls of Jerusalem, but rests at the little village of Bethphage, walking in the morning, and returning in the evening, through the peaceful avenues of the mount of Olives, to and from his work of teaching in the temple.
It would thus naturally follow, both from the general tone and teaching of the Scriptures, and from the example of our Lord himself, that wherever Christianity was preached and accepted, there would be an immediate interest awakened in the works of God, as seen in the natural world.
The whole force of education, until very lately, has been directed in every possible way to the destruction of the love of nature. The only knowledge which has been considered essen. tial among us is that of words, and, next after it, of the abstract sciences; while every liking shown by children for simple natural history has been either violently checked, (if it took an inconvenient form for the housemaids,) or else scrupulously limited to hours of play: so that it has really been impossible for any child earnestly to study the works of God but against its conscience; and the love of nature has become inherently the characteristic of truants and idlers. While also the art of drawing, which is of more real importance to the human race than that of writing (because people can hardly draw anything without being of some use both to themselves and others, and can hardly write anything without wasting their own time and that of others),—this art of drawing, I say, which on plain and stern system should be taught to every child, just as writing is,—has been so neglected and abused, that there is not one man in a thousand, even of its professed teachers, who knows its first principles: and thus it needs much ill-fortune or obsti. nacy—much neglect on the part of his teachers, or rebellion on his own—before a boy can get leave to use his eyes or his fingers; so that those who can use them are for the most part neglected or rebellious lads—runaways and bad scholars—passionate, erratic, self-willed, and restive against all forms of education; while your well-behaved and amiable scholars are disciplined into blindness and palsy of half their faculties. Wherein there is at once a notable ground for what difference we have observed between the lovers of nature and its despis. ers; between the somewhat immoral and unrespectable watchfulness of the one, and the moral and respectable blindness of the other. One more argument remains, and that, I believe, an unanswerable one. As, by the accident of education, the love of nature has been, among us, associated with wilfulness, so, by the accident of time, it has been associated with faithlessness. I traced, above, the peculiar mode in which this faithlessness was indicated; but I never intended to imply, therefore, that it was an invariable concomitant of the love. Because it happens that, by various concurrent operations of evil, we have been led, according to those words of the Greek poet already quoted, “to dethrone the gods, and crown the whirlwind,” it is no reason that we should forget there was once a time when “the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind.” And if we now take final and full view of the matter, we shall find that the love of nature, wherever it has existed, has been a faithful and sacred element of human feeling; that is to say, supposing all circumstances otherwise the same with respect to two indivi. duals, the one who loves nature most will be always found to have more faith in God than the other. It is intensely difficult, owing to the confusing and counter influences which always mingle in the data of the problem, to make this abstraction fairly; but so far as we can do it, so far, Iboldly assert, the result is constantly the same: the nature-worship will be found to bring with it such a sense of the presence and power of a Great Spirit as no mere reasoning can either induce or controvert; and where that nature-worship is innocently pursued,—i.e. with due respect to other claims on time, feeling, and exertion, and associated with the higher principles of religion,—it becomes the channel of certain sacred truths, which by no other means can be conveyed.
This is not a statement which any investigation is needed to prove. It comes to us at once from the highest of all authority. The greater number of the words which are recorded in Scripture, as directly spoken to men by the lips of the Deity, are either simple revelations of His law, or special threatenings, commands, and promises relating to special events. But two passages of God's speaking, one in the Old and one in the New Testament, possess, it seems to me, a different character from any of the rest, having been uttered, the one to effect the last necessary change in the mind of a man whose piety was in. other respects perfect; and the other, as the first statement to all men of the principles of Christianity by Christ Himself— I mean the 38th to 41st chapters of the book of Job, and the Sermon on the Mount. Now, the first of these passages is, from beginning to end, nothing else than a direction of the mind which was to be perfected to humble observance to the works of God in nature. And the other consists only in the inculcation of three things: 1st, right conduct; 2nd, looking for eternal life; 3rd, trusting God, through watchfulness of His dealings with His creation: and the entire contents of the book of Job, and of the Sermon on the Mount, will be found resolvable simply into these three requirements from all men,—that they should act rightly, hope for heaven, and watch God's wonders and work in the earth; the right conduct being always summed up under the three heads of justice, mercy, and truth, and no mention of any doctrical point whatsoever occurring in either piece of divine teaching.
As far as I can judge of the ways of men, it seems to me that the simplest and most necessary truths are always the last believed; and I suppose that well-meaning people in general would rather regulate their conduct and creed by almost any other portion of Scripture whatsoever, than by that Sermon on the Mount which contains the things that Christ thought it first