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ture, or Country Lessons for the city: a Pastor's Vacation Sheaf. And if any conventional hearer object to this style of preaching as sentimental and unevangelical, perhaps his objection will vanish when he remembers that it was the Christ himself who set the example of this very mode and substance of instruction, in exhorting his auditors to consider the moral lessons afforded by the fowls of the air, the lilies of the field, the trees, the grass, the wind, the hen and her chickens. The disciple may well afford to be sentimental and unevangelical in the steps of the Master, and, like him, fall back on the authority of God in nature, who rules the rain and the sunshine, and feeds the young ravens.
The striking question asked of the Corinthians by the Apostle Paul, "Doth not even Nature itself teach you?" may be applied in a wider sense than he intended. In this wider sense let us now understand it, and take it as a key-note for our meditations. Nature being the handiwork of infinite wisdom, the veil of the ever-living God, the medium in which he works and silently registers his attributes, is capable of teaching endless lessons to all who are fitted to learn them. But never is Nature so forcible a teacher as when seen in contrast with the artificiality of society. And never is man so docile a learner as when taken directly from the fever and complexity of society, and confronted with the staidness and simplicity of the ways of Nature. The city is full of contrivance, pretence, haste, and change: every thing there speaks of man, ambition, care, disappointment, or luxury and triumph. The country is aboriginal, sincere, stable: every thing there speaks of the eternal God, of serenity, imperturbable order and fulfilment. He who lives constantly in the country is apt to become blunted by familiar habit, and the want of any sharp foil, become blunted-to the peculiar lessons of Nature. But when the denizen of the city, harassed by social emulation, pierced by envious arrows, bruised by the cast-iron hearts amidst which his own is tossed, emerges from the crowd where he has been stung and stifled until unconscious of every thing except the thronged thoroughfare, the tramping multitude, and the smoke and roar, when he emerges into the sacred
privacy of the country, the untrodden grass, the green trees, the sailing clouds, - nature breaks upon him with a charmed surprise. It seems an undestroyed paradise, still saturated with the Divine Presence. And in the cool of the day he almost hearkens for the voice of the Lord to break the spell, and audibly speak his will in the oracles of leaf and lake, bird and breeze and blossom.
The first country lesson for the city which I shall specify, is the lesson of repose taught by the quiet of the landscape. As soon as we leave the town-limits behind us and get fairly into the country, how still every thing seems! In contrast with that incessant trample of feet, rumble of wheels, clash of hammers, multitudinous buzz of business, to which we have grown accustomed, how primeval, sober, and serene, is all around us here! One might imagine that the world had fallen into slumber, or that there was a general pause in life, the great pulse of creation standing still awhile. But on closer inspection we find that the apparent hush comes from no lack of varied industry and energy, only from the harmony of the whole, and the patient regularity with which it goes on. Is it not a fine admonition to us so to adjust our aims and passions as to avoid frictions and jars, and carry our plans forward with a melodious execution that appears resting while it advances, as the top, when really moving with the most effective force of evenness and speed, seems to sleep motionless..
It is profoundly impressive to pause in mid-forest or meadow, where the horrid discord of the steam-engine never reaches, when not so much as the wing of an insect or the rustle of a leaf dispels the enchanted repose, and reflect how much vaster and deeper quiet is than noise. The deafening turmoil of the city rages; but, a little way out, eternal stillness broods. The roar and dash of waves vex the surface of the sea; but, a little way down, everlasting calm prevails. Whirlwinds, volcanoes, battles, convulse for a moment their petty centres on our globe as it rolls along in its orbit; but, all around it, and far abroad through boundless space, not a breath is up, and the stars smile in perfect silence for ever.
So should our fret and care, our grief and fear, ever be lost in an all-containing perception of beneficent law which brings beneath and over our whole experience of sorrow and of doubt an unbroken quietude of trust and cheer. As the ceaseless heave and fret of the city are set in the embosoming quiet of the country, so, let us feel, our ignorance is overswept by the knowledge, our weakness underlaid by the strength, our little restlessness surrounded by the infinite repose of God.
Nature herself, then, by the universal serenity which invests the broad aspects of the general landscape, teaches us not to worry. When duly impressed with this teaching, we stroll off into the woods, and there learn our second lesson, which is the duty of trustful resignation. In the woods, Nature takes us to the innermost recesses of her confidence, as it were into her very bosom and heart. Here we are at the farthest possible remove from the city, in the utterest contrast with all its mechanical structures, affected pictures, and forced habits. There is no falsehood here, no hypocrisy, no rebellion; nothing overstrained or artful here. All is true and simple. Every thing is in keeping. Nothing here was made or is compelled: every thing grew, and is spontaneously what it is. Among these mosses and brambles there is no jostling or heart-burning. That elder-berry on the edge of the swamp is not anxious to be yonder barberry beside the stone-wall. This lichen clings with fond tenacity to its own place on the rock. These chestnuts and those walnuts show no dissatisfaction with their respective quality and situation. An expression of content reigns supreme in the forest. There is no complaining nor resistance. Every thing accepts the nature given it and the corresponding destiny assigned it, with a graceful acquiescence, and never is one sour murmur heard. This is the fine lesson the woods have for man, - unrepining submission to his allotted fate. The trees stand in the places where God plants them, send their roots down to drink in the water-courses of the earth, lift their leaves up to drink in the upper veins of the air, sway and yield to every wind that beats them, drop their yellowed foliage, and, at last, fall and mix
in their ancestral mould without a cry. Thus they mutely address the man who, lying in their shadow in the summer days, listens to their leafy tongues. And they say, O man! resist not the ordinances of your Maker, but with entire submission accept the particular destiny appointed for you. Your chief miseries come from rebellion: be content to be yourself, making the best of your gifts without vanity, hate, or complaint; and you shall find, in the submission we teach you, a fathomless good, a wondrous grace, a happiness unknown to you before.
The next lesson to which I wish to call your attention is the lesson of innocence and blithesomeness taught to man by Nature through the birds. Of all the varied phenomena with which Nature engages the attention and touches the heart of the man who goes from the city to pass a summer in the country, nothing else appeals with such force to every uncorrupted sentiment of his soul as the birds do by their beauty, their winsome ways, their guiltless mirth. In contrast with man laden with anxiety, distressed with jealousy, oppressed with troubles and alarms, scarred with sins, and lashed by guilt, with what a pathetic aspect of carelessness, sport and joy, does the entire panorama of insect society and bird-life pass before our view! Guiltless, free, happy to the brim, appear they all. The grasshopper, as he clinks and springs in the grass, suspects no ill, and is altogether contented. The bumblebee, loaded with. honey, but not with scandal, winds his horn as he nears the hive, and, depositing his sweet burden, folds his wings for the night in perfect peace. The sparrows that chirp in loving company on a twig, or build their nest on the ground in the shelter of some rock or shrub, harbor no malice, plot no deceit, but are as glad and contented as they can be. Through all the hours of the day every bird has his own voice, and his song addresses a different sentiment in the breast of the listener. There is, on the one extreme, the jocund warble of the lark poised in the cloud just reddening with sunrise, as if he had hearkened all night to the music of the angels, and were just coming down to bring us such snatches as he could remember. There is, on
the other extreme, the plaintive note of the whippoorwill whose lachrymose cry adds a pensive lonesomeness to the twilight. But in their varied range of key and tune no man whose mind is quick and whose heart unhardened can listen to them without the profoundest emotions. At one time they move an aching melancholy, as he reflects on the sins that have defiled him, or recalls the cherished comrades of other days now dead and forgotten. At another time they impart heavenly comfort and joy, as he turns to better thoughts of penitence and purity, unsullied sympathy and peace.
Far from any house or road, I climb upon the fence, and sit quietly there, leaning against an oak that half conceals me. The woods stretch away on my right; on the left are broad fields, partly wild, partly cultivated, and at my feet a wimpling streamlet glides along its bed with a low runnelling sound. Here, hour after hour, I sit and watch the blameless songsters as they play and sing; and many a mood of mingled sadness and pleasure steals over my soul, many a thought of things holy and pure comes and goes, and many a godly wish and longing is stirred in my heart. A robin alights on the margin of the rivulet, and, dipping in the water, carefully washes his coat of russet gold. Ah, beautiful bird! Wast thou sent to tell me how much I need to cleanse my soul from the stains of evil deeds and guilty desires? Yonder quail, rising out of the wheat with sudden whirr, seems whistling to tell me how blithe his bosom is, and how free from every wicked care. See that blue-jay tilting on the corn-stalk. How proud he is of the handsome dress God has clothed him in! How jauntily he tosses his head! His conscience does not upbraid him with any offences. He has never lied, nor cheated his neighbor, nor profaned his Maker's name! And then I think of the hapless wretches, high and low, rich and poor, whom the vicious and haughty city holds in its embrace, full of envy and selfish plots, full of corrupt passion and restlessness and pain and sorrow; and, half aloud, I involuntarily exclaim, Oh, ye guilty, hating, deceived, careburdened, miserable ones! Come from your haunts of toil and woe. Come here beneath this old oak-tree. Look upon