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shall ever realize its like. The effect is heightened by the contrast which our present situation affords, just as a landscape is
thrown to finer distance” when viewed from the grey atmosphere of some old porch, or rocky recess : a kind of dream-like beauty hangs over it, and we perhaps feel more enjoyment in its contemplation, because it is exempted from all the excitement arising from a participation in the living realities which it recalls to our imagination. How vividly can we remember now that we are seated before our cheerful wood fire,--hissing and cracking, and sending high and wide its quivering tongues of flame, whilst the wind is roaring down the chimney, and the rain dashing against the windows,—the rambles we have enjoyed at this season, and the heart-felt gratitude with which we have repaired homewards when the day was closing in with mist, and cold, and clouds; and loud bursts of wind were heard at intervals in the dark horizon, as if Autumn, no longer welcome, were bending sails for her departure, ready to leap over the riotous deep, and hang her glittering draperies over some far-off forest, that was even then shivering beneath her dewy breath!
We are no worshippers of nature; nor could we ever find in all the glory which she spreads around us, the solace for which the whole human race will groan and travail till our adoption into the household of our heavenly Father, and the absorption of all our feelings and wishes in the holy contemplations of that day when his servants shall indeed “serve Him, and they shall see His face, and His name shall be written upon their foreheads." But we cannot look upon the handiworks of God without a feeling of deep devotion towards their framer, or pass them by without •reading some lessons for our own profit, in the silent testimony which they offer to His majesty who spread them around us, and the exercise which they afford to our own powers and perceptions, limited indeed, but insatiable until brought to those fountains of living waters, of which all who drink shall thirst no more
We would not be supposed to say that nature without an annotator can be read aright; for all history and all experience are directly at variance with this conclusion, “ The world by wisdom knew not God,” nor ever could have known him “ savingly and to profit,” unless he had superadded the testimony of Revelation. But to those who have tasted of the grace disVOL. IX. 3rd SERIES.
closed in the sacred oracles, and have cleansed by tears of godly sorrow their mental vision; to those who can carry out and apply the scripture of creation according to the counsel of that word which giveth light, and can see in every thing around them analogies and principles tending to inspire them with greater love to the treasury of God's word,—the “ things that are seen," are fraught with much instruction, and will yield an exuberance of delight.
It would be well, then, if our young readers would carry with them in their wanderings, the knowledge which they have laid up in the school-room or the study. Books are but comments upon things, and nearly all the pleasure to be derived from them will be lost, if we detach them from their proper connexion with the visible realities about us. The great object of all our attainments is a preparation for that higher state when we shall no longer see through a glass darkly, or know in part only—an earnest, and untiring pursuit of the mark set before us in the gospel. In all singleness and simplicity of heart we should place this one great end before us; and though in investigating it we may allow ourselves a range as extensive as that embraced by the whole word and works of God, every thing should be brought to bear on this mystery of godliness; and the Saviour of our souls, the founder of the “common salvation” proffered in the gospel, be ever set before us.
But a proper regard to this absorbing object is so far from being at variance with the study of nature, that we find the same Divine Spirit who enjoins the one, bearing testimony to the excellency of the other. And we should not have digressed at such length from the proper subject of this paper, were we not anxious to meet the perverse spirit of many who are loud in praise of what is undeservedly called “Natural Theology;” by shewing rather what creation cannot teach, than what it can. To bring back, therefore, our thoughts into the proper channel, may we ask our young readers to accompany us in spirit, in our wanderings during the months that have just left us; and to share our further meditations on “ the decline of the year.” .
Perhaps they will dispense with any account of our excursion down the river, with its green and golden shores, and the long dazzling lines of pearly light stretching across its ample bosom;
and walk with us over this black beach of shingle, whilst the gibbering wind is darkening its shallow pools, and the sun is going down behind the crowd of fishing boats lying high and dry in the distance. The "old dim dusky sea-port town” beyond it has few charms for them; but with the morning light they will be glad to join us in the woods and fields, and participate in our studies there.
How beautifully these fading limes contrast with the deeper colors of the trees beside them, flaming out in all the gorgeousness of autumn, whilst the elm and the oak have as yet lost little of their summer richness; and look at that silver-leaved aspen tossing its graceful branches to and fro, and casting its shadows upon the grey walls of the “ peasant's nest” across this lovely slope, strown with the winged thistle-down, and diversified with groups of cattle! But what fine fatherly trees are here! rustling and glancing and twittering in the happy sunshine as they bend over the deep clear mill-stream, and shade the roadway along which we are now walking.
Our very pastimes are not barren of materials for instruction. The stone cast thoughtlessly upon this heap by the road side has “ sermons” in it; for see! it has broken asunder, and disclosed a beautiful specimen of the echinus or sea hedge-hog, divested of its
spines indeed, but otherwise perfect. To minds that will not think, there may be little in this discovery; though if we consider it, as we should do, in all its relations, we are actually at a loss where to stay our investigation. The road then, no less than the field or wood,
can furnish us with profitable subjects of enquiry; but we must now quit it for this green and shady lane, with the graceful harebell quivering upon its banks, and the fern depending from its mossy ash-trunks, and decorated with those rusty spots of seed whose fabled mystic virtues have not escaped the notice of the Swan of Avon. And now we are on the heath once more,
" the waste of heath
Stretching for miles to lure the bee." Let us wander then amongst its ever-flowering furze, and gather a handful of the fearless heather, that our hearts at home may catch the health-tinge of the hills; and thoughts of the bee and the butterfly attend us through the lowering winter. We have entered the solemn wood, and can see between its mossy trunks the lovely valley at our feet looming through a beauteous mist, as if the very sapphire of the skies were interposed. But now and then a rustling leaf will break the silence, and tell us that we are on the threshold of another season. Even that leaf has a moral in it,
and a fund of instruction, if we read it rightly; for its decay is life to some; and probably these parasites that thrive upon its juices, in following their own natural instincts, are carrying forward to a greater extent than we are aware the majestic purposes of Him who made “the worlds!” The white blotches upon its surface are caused by the extraction of the colouring matter between its upper and lower cuticles, and it does not require much keenness of vision to discover the little miner who is busied in this process, though we cacances shall not without the aid of our microscope be able to form so clear an idea of his economy, or adaptation to the task.
We are not mourning over the coming on of Winter: it has many, very many joys ;—the love-lit circle, the intellectual conclave, the luxury of doing good, the sweet communion with the great of former ages to which our store of books will sometimes introduce us, and above all, our uninterrupted recourse to the sacred oracles in the retirement of our chamber, the heart suffused with the unction of the Holy One, and the sweet calm of those heavenly influences which come to us by prayer, seem to belong more peculiarly to this happy season than to any other. The summer of the heart is perpetual, if the testimony of a good conscience be ours; and those only can enjoy the natural world who look on it in the spirit of that beautiful prayer of Kepler's, “O Thou who by the light of nature dost enkindle in us a desire after the light of grace, that by this thou mayst translate us to the light of glory, we give thee thanks, O Lord and Creator that thou hast gladdened us by thy creation, when we were enraptured by the work of thy hands !” For, after all, our enjoyment is due rather to the feelings under which we look upon these “ glorious works,” than to their intrinsic beauty, if there be truth in this one of the many records of our experience, which we shall accordingly entitle
SCENES AND SENTIMENTS.
Darkening the sward we loved to tread,
An eastern fragrance round us shed
We mov'd above th' unconscious dead,
For all the landscape round us spread,
The laughing skies above our head,
Twined upward from its dewy rest,
The burnished clouds that seemed to crest