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continued existence as a Christian Church depends upon our ability to frame a system of doctrine wherein our special conception of human destiny shall be brought into such close harmony with those other great intuitions which have given life to Christianity through all ages, that it shall no longer seem to stand gloomily apart as a mere denial, but come forth into the light as the crowning hope of Christian faith.
Science and Art in Relation tu Plant-Life.
REVELATION states that on the third day of creation, God said, “Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed after its kind ;' and the earth did bring forth grass and herbs, and the tree yielding fruit, and God saw it was good.”
So the Bible informs us that plants and trees were the firstborn of organized bodies. They were the first to clothe the shoulders of the naked earth with emerald and beauty. The lowlands smiled with grasses, and the mountains waved with forests; the streams were lined with willows and rushes; the ocean was fringed with algæ, and festooned with the russet fucus; cedars and evergreens bordered the white fields of eternal snows; mosses were spread over rocks ; leaves, blossoms, and fruit covered the trees.
Revelation makes no attempt to give the history or philosoplıy of plant-life. It has left this work for science to do. Not till within the last fifty years has the study of plants been made attractive. It is true, certain botanists of earlier date devoted some attention to classifying and naming them. But how and where they grew; whence their colors and perfumes; what were their nature and characteristics; these were passed by as of trifling importance. Really the plants analyzed meant but little more than so much Latin stubble. Botany was rendered almost as unmeaning as the inscription found
upon one of the ancient monuments at Rome. Carefully a French soldier pried off one bronze letter after another, put them into a bag promiscuously, and sent them to Paris to be deciphered. But during the last half-century, the vegetable kingdom has been rendered most attractive. Science has laid open many of its hidden charms, and the microscope has portrayed many of its wonderous beauties. The scientist now finds, as he goes forth, manifestations of vegetable life almost everywhere. Whether he pauses where the rich corn waves, the clover blossoms, or the modest ferns hang from castle walls ; whether he traverses land, or sea, or snow, he meets the greatest profusion of plant-life. The nooks and dells, the slopes of hills and mountain-steeps, the slaty crags and quartzose sand, all give birth to vegetable formation peculiar to themselves. The scientist has discovered the fact that no rock, or soil, can remain long exposed upon the surface of the earth without becoming wedded to some of the fairy forms of vegetation. He has learned that lava thrown fresh from the volcano is soon netted over with a soft, silky substance, sometimes strangely diversified with striking colors. Under the glass this becomes simple moss, consisting of single cells, which mature and Jie in quick successio.). He lias discovered that if a tract of sea-bottom be lifted to the sunlight, it is soon silvered over with mould which the microscope shows to be made up of a great variety of fungi. As ledges are exposed to the open air, science teaches that in a little while minute, ugly, ashen plants become fixed to the rocky surface, which Linnæus wittingly called the bond-slaves of nature, because chained to a rock, and after death are buried in the soil which they prepare for others.
It is now known that these little lichens fill a very important office in the economy of nature. At all seasons they are faithfully at work, pushing up their inferior crowns amidst heat and cold, rain and sunshine. In scarcely perceptible, urn-shaped vessels, they ripen dust-like seeds, shooting them off in concentric circles, thereby enlarging their boundaries line by line. Modestly they labor on till their race is nearly run, when they are required, as their last duty, to dig their own graves. Nature furnishes them in their old age with vials of oxalic acid, which burst, spilling their contents upon the rock beneath. This, with heat, rain, and frost, breaks up the stony surface, until at length the lichens have become buried in a black mold. On these ruiis soon appears a film of green. This proves to be the lowest order of mosses. Industriously they toil on for a period, when they make way for a host of fungi, which fix their stems in the clefts of the ledges, spreading out their umbrella-crowns to shield their wee neighbors. Thus they live, and toil, and die together, till from their ashes a new order of vegetation springs. Grasses now grow over it; soon shrubs thrive above it; and by-and-by giant trees overshadow it. The barren rock has mysteriously become the home and haunts of numerous conditions of plantlife.
From the lowest to the highest orders, science can trace the different developments, but, as yet, it has failed to tell just how vital forces control matter. However, from this silent realm comes an influence which can but humble and subdue the mind. Man may tame wind, water, and lightning, making them obedient servants, still vital force he has not discovered. Yet as the scientist places his glass over the delicate film of green floating upon the pool, he observes it to be made up of myriads of little plants having single cells wonderfully joined and cemented together. As these are studied, they are found to be constantly changing. A small speck is found in the centre of one of these cells, which expands till it crowds out the outer walls so that there is room for building up new ones within. Thus it is seen how the old die, and the new are born. It is also dscovered that a new cell never produces more than two offspring; of these only one is productive, which is so attached to its parent as to be developed unmolested, while the other grows so as to strengthen, or take the place of the parent. Each of these frail organisms appears to be a laboratory in which an invisible chemist is constantly at work, manufacturing gums, gluten, and starch with which to join them together in plant and tree.
It is surprising with what rapidity, in some instances, the cells are multiplicd, being at the rate of twenty thousand a minute; as these are placed one above another, the sap goes rushing through them. Who could number the little pumps at work in every shrub and tree, throwing out juices, and sucking in gases? In this way an extensive commerce is carried on between the earth and sky. The roots descend into the soil to gain firm attachment, and come in contact with water. It is surprising how far the roots often diverge and extend. It is said that the chestnuts high on the sides of Ætna, and the oaks on the slopes of Vesuvius, send their roots to the bases of the mountains. Some of them bore through solid rock, and upheave huge stones by their strangely accumulated force. The trunk and branches rising into the air, balance the ramifying portions under ground. Year after year concentric circles of woody fibre are added to trunk, root, and limb, till the cedars of Lebanon, the oaks of Mainre, and the giant structures of California, wave above the earth in their majesty. As science directs the attention to the leafage of plant-life, it fills us with wonder as it exhibits the strangely diversified shapes, motions, and surface-area of the foliage.
How many, while enjoying the cooling shade of an elm having a trunk twenty inches in diameter, realize that some five acres of leaf-surface are spread out above them on that single tree? How many are aware there are from two hundred to forty thousand pores upon every square inch of leafage through which oxygen is expelled, and carbonic acid is inhaled? The leaves are the furnaces heated by the sunlight for cooking the sap, as it is brought up from the roots, converting it into solids for building fibre. Science informs us that for the most part our vegetation is manufactured by the leaves out of the atmosphere. In an oak wuich would yield more than a cord of wood, there is probably less than a bushel of earthy substance extracted from the soil. So in the light of science, leaves become significant; they do not imply chance-work, but a divine architect; it would seem, they were specially intended to purify the atmosphere, so that men and animals might live; they are evidently pointed, as in the grass, grains, and trees, to serve as electric conductors between earth and sky. Directly or indirectly, all animated beings in the air, or the sea, or on the land, are supported by leaves. Destroy the foliage of a country, and it would soon become arid and desolate. What a strange and unfortunate world this would be without any vegetation. The valleys and hills would be shorn of their verdure and beauty. With emphasis we can say in the language of the Revelator, “Leaves are for the healing of the nations."
Science is bidding the intelligent look in with careful scrutiny upon the vegetable creation, that they may admire, enjoy, and be strengthened. It is rendering the vocation of him who tills the soil, noble and gratifying. It stiinulates the heart of the gardener at the close of winter, as he looks upon the fields, with the consciousness that roots are stirring, and buds are swelling, and that in a little while the whole surface will be clothed with the richest emerald. He knows that some unseen agent is fashioning with precision and elegance every blade and leaf. As summer and autumn come, he fully understands that some unseen hand sows the meadows with flowers, and bangs the fruit on the trees. He learns of the sculptor who carves so perfectly the apple and pear, and of the limner who paints the grape and peach with purple and gold. Thus ennobled the horticulturist cannot feel that he is a bondman, but a nobleman in the midst of Nature's grandest works.
A natural fascination or charm appears to brood about trees and leafage. The ancient Orientals found them peopled with fairies and fates. Taught by the oracles of the forests, the old Egyptian was led to rear his colossal piles. The Greek found their favorite deity embosomed in laurel at Delphi. Plato established his Academy in a grove of olives. Cicero would often flee the Forum to enjoy the invigorating shades of Baiae. Who can rid himself of the influence of the elm, whose branches bent so gracefully over the old homestead ; or the willow, waving over the mossy well, or the pebbly