Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

but not in any degree fatal. The value to the world in general of old maids' benevolence it is scarcely possible to overestimate.

In the good she can do, and so often effects, may be found, perhaps, one of the reasons why in the human family circle there are more women than men.

More boys are born than girls, but the boys do not get past their cradle-time so well; consequently there are more of the fair sex who are destined to single life than of the rough or unfair one, and that it should be so must needs be for some excellent purpose in the Divine economy. Many great-souled women positively prefer to become “old maids," purely in order that they may feel themselves unshackled and unimpeded in the exercise of their benevolent purposes.

A celebrated historical instance is that of Lady Elizabeth Hastings, described in No. 42 of the Tatler (1709) under the poetical name of “Aspasia." Though she might many times have accepted a wedding-ring, she determined to keep single to the end of her days, in order to make wise and religious use of her great estate, and as she grew old, became more and more renowned for her love of giving. Giving is one of those truly “fine arts” the practice of which, carefully and judiciously, makes perfect. In days to come the world will look back with a yet more exceeding admiration upon the unpausing beneficence of that noble lady (now sixty-six) who has not only done more for the poor and faint, but more also, in the shape of help with money, for the Established Church of England than was before witnessed on the part of any woman not seated upon a throne. 1

A brief allusion was made above to “domestic duties." That the due fulfilment of these, or seeing that they are duly executed by subordinates, in proper order and proper season, is one of the proudest expressions of woman, when compared with her “brother," needs no argument. Man tills the soil in order that it shall produce corn, the basis and beginning of civilization, and practises mechanical arts and sciences that contribute to its advancement; but it is the hands of woman that present the world with the certificate of its having been reached. The credentials lie in the well-cooked dinner, the comfortable and tidy room, the spotlessness of all that should be white and clean, Wealth and vanity superinduce upon these much that is fictitious—showy, but useless and disturbing. The home-conditions, on the other hand, the credentials absent, are only a remove or two above those of barbarism ; so that it is to woman, in her capacity of

For a memoir, with particulars of what the Baroness Burdett-Coutts has done in public view, see the Treasury of Modern Biography, 1878, p. 450. Her title dates from 1871.

ever

1

ness.

stewardess of the household, that society owes the contrasted sweet

Woman does well to remember, at the same time, that if she is only "domestic," she is not truly domestic.

(To be continued.)

THE FOUR SEASONS.

WINTER. No. I.

“ And it was at Jerusalem, the feast of the dedication, and IT WAS WINTER.”

JOHN x. 22.

A New year is the opening of a vast and wonderful circle of bounties and blessings which no man can estimate or number. The thoughtful soul surveying it is drawn to exclaim in the words of the Psalmist, “O Lord, how manifold are Thy works! in wisdom hast Thou made them all: the earth is full of Thy riches."

Besides, however, the sense of the Divine Goodness which we feel when we meditate on the abundant supply of nourishment and beauty for earth's teeming millions, there is a series of edifying lessons afforded by each season to which we would invite the attention of our readers. Let us begin with Winter.

Winter is the season of cold, chilly weather, short days and long nights. It is the season of decay, of bare trees, stripped hedges, withered flowers, and barren fields. It is the season of fog and gloom, of frost and snow, of storm and tempest, of ice-bound rivers and of widespread desolation.

And is there not a mental season like this? Have we not experienced states when the affections were chilled and unhappy? The heart at such times is joyless and the wheels of life move slowly. The trees of our perceptions are not teeming with clear and cheerful thoughts as in happier days, but all things seem “flat, stale, and unprofitable."

The flowers of our inner life are withered; those loving sentiments respecting earth and heaven which made us glad in former days have all sunk down, our mental nourishment is very scanty. Sometimes our inner atmosphere is troubled with wild storms and tempests. Fogs of dark doubts and mists of dimness come, and we scarcely see our way.

The flowing streams of truth which at one time went gladly along in graceful loveliness are now ice-bound and cheerless. The heart is cold, and all is cold. This season occasionally lasts a considerable time; it is our Spiritual Winter.

To all but the young and the vigorous, winter is trying and disagreeable. To the aged its inclemencies are often grievous, and their weak places induce sufferings which make heavy demands upon their patience and their fortitude. They would willingly be spared their winters, which yet they know are appointed by Infinite Wisdom. He hath made summer and winter (Ps. lxxiv. 17). 6. While the earth remaineth (that is, for ever), seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night shall not cease” (Gen. viii. 22).

Yes, we all know that winters come from that grand law of Divine Order which induces universal variety by passing all things through circles or rather cycles of being. Every object has its birth, its growth, its fulness and perfection, its decay, its death and resurrection.

Every day has its morning, noon, evening, and night, and then comes a fresh morning, the resurrection of the day. The year has its spring, summer, autumn, winter, and winter fades and passes into spring, the resurrection of the year.

Man has his youth, manhood, decay, and death, and then his resurrection follows. So with Churches and dispensations. They have their morning of zeal and brightness; their noon of solid faithfulness, warmth, and success; then evening begins, worldliness creeps in, and gradually induces spiritual coldness, winter, and death.

In the days of the prophet Hosea, seven hundred and eighty years before our Lord's personal coming, it was said of Ephraim, “Gray hairs are here and there upon him, yet he knoweth it not” (Hosea vii. 9). And in the words prefixed to the head of this paper, it is not without the deepest significance that the words occur, “IT WAS WINTER.” The Church was filled with cold dead souls and whited sepulchres. They had made the commandments of none effect through their traditions. They were shutting out the Sun of the soul, which had long been shining in darkness, and the darkness comprehended it not. It was winter. But spring would soon follow.

We have remarked that winter is regarded by all save the youthful, the robust and energetic, as the disagreeable part of the year; the season that must be endured, but which we could gladly spare. When, however, we reflect a little, we shall be surprised to find what an amount of good winter can show for itself, until we are constrained to say, “O Lord, how manifold are Thy works! in wisdom hast Thou made them all: the earth is full of Thy riches(Ps. civ. 24). Those who have passed weeks and months under the continuous heat and glare of a constant sun, until they have become exhausted and panted for cooling air and rain, will be able to appreciate the bracing

[ocr errors]

effects of winter. The system is invigorated and fitted for work in such a winter as we experience in Great Britain, and nowhere can men continue as ours can so vigorously to go through the duties of every season unremittingly, which we owe largely to the bracing recurrence of the chilling colds of winter. Winter is also the season in which we have striking illustrations of Divine and human means, by which privations and difficulties are transformed into important gains and blessings.

See the ice formed over rivers. These fluid highways of nations are arrested, and if the ordinary law respecting fluids becoming heavier as they become solid prevailed, the rivers would be stopped and never flow again. The solid ice would sink to the bottom, and more would follow until the whole mass became frozen, and the sun would be unable to penetrate, and it would never again be melted. Behold, however, the Divine Wisdom educing out of seeming irregularity order and highest good. Water in the shape of solid ice obeys a law of its own; it becomes lighter and swims at the top, and so protects the stream below and all its swarms of life.

So likewise with human means. The glassy ice, dangerous for ordinary walking, obstructs the usual occupations of human life, and makes the pedestrian creep with caution. But see the youth fitting his feet with skates, now watch how brilliantly he passes over the smooth and slippery surface, gliding along triumphantly, showing how hindrances become to thoughtful minds suggestive of the means by which troubles are overcome, and serious antagonisms lead the way to triumphs never before achieved. Find the right means, and you are sure to win.

Winter is the season of snow. Snow is the Divine wool in which the Creator mantles the earth and keeps it warm, when the radiation from the earth would otherwise become too great and too rapid. Snow is an evidence that the sun is still shining and raising vapour invisibly from the sea, though he may not be seen by us; for if there were no vapour in the atmosphere, there would be no snow.

Snow corresponds to cold truth, truth learned as science and stored in the memory; but cold truth is still truth, and preserves us when our mental states are chilly, and until the Sun of love return in brightness, and perceptibly shines again. “As the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater: so shall My word be that goeth forth out of My mouth : it shall not return unto Me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it ” (Isa. lv. 10, 11). The white crystals of pure virgin snow with their six-formed radiations represent truth applicable to all the duties of daily life, directing and preserving us until warmer and happier days return again. Blessings, then, on the suow.

Winter, once more, is the season in which myriads of destructive vermin are destroyed. They would devour everything green and nutritive if they were suffered to swarm without some such check. The frost also breaks the clods and prepares the soil to fertilize the seeds and embrace them softly.

How much there is in human hearts that need the nipping frosts of keen affliction to remove ! Vain hopes, self-glorifying conceits; our manna even breeds the worms of self-complacency as that of Israel did. Afflictions come and chasten us. We learn through sorrow that our blessings are not our own; our feelings soften in grateful love, and we learn to sow in righteousness that we may reap in mercy. “Sweet are the uses of adversity."

They gie the wit of age to youth,

They let us ken oursel;
They make us see the naked truth;
The real guid or ill.

Though losses and crosses
Be lessons right severe,
There's wit there, you'll get there,

You'll find nae other where."

“Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted.”

Shakespeare beheld this correspondence of winter with clear poetic insight, and often alluded to it, but never so tenderly, mournfully, and perfectly as in the regretful lament of Wolsey :

Farewell, a long farewell, to all my greatness !
This is the state of man: to-day he puts forth
The tender leaves of hope ; to-morrow blossoms
And bears his blushing honours thick upon him :
The third day comes a frost, a killing frost,
And when he thinks, good easy man, full surely
His greatness is a ripening-nips his root,
And, then he falls as I do."

Another of the uses of winter is that it succours and causes growth in the roots of trees. The heat no longer draws the sap into the upper branches. The nourishing supply circulates about the root and strengthens it and prepares for the coming year. According as he root grows underground in winter, the flower and the fruit will come in spring and summer.

« AnteriorContinuar »