Billeder på siden
[ocr errors]

As death is the immediate precursor of judg- | tian pilgrim at the moment when she was termiment, and comes with all the sternness of an nating her earthly course; "death is but a bridge, officer of justice, it is natural for conscience to a step, when I look on the Lord of glory on the take the alarm, and for guilt to put on all its ter- other side. Come, Lord Jesus, come quickly, rors; but here simplicity of dependence on the make no long tarrying, O my God." It is said infinite merits of Christ, and the assured hope of that most devoted of Missionaries, David arising out of it-of a personal interest in his Brainerd, that, from time to time, at the several almighty care and love-interpose to silence con- new symptoms of his dissolution, he was so far science, and to set the soul at perfect rest. Apos- from being discouraged, that he seemed to be tles, confessors, and martyrs felt this. "I know animated, as being glad at the appearances of whom I have believed," writes Paul the aged, to death's approach. He often used the epithet Timothy, his son in the Lord; "I know whom I "glorious," when speaking of the day of his death, have believed, and am persuaded that he is able calling it, "that glorious day;" and the nearer to keep that which I have committed to him death approached, the more desirous he seemed against that day." Indeed, this firm and unshaken to be of it. reliance on the atoning sacrifice of our Redeemer is the great secret of peace, and happiness, and triumph in death. But there is a natural terror in death, and how is this overcome by religion? The love of Christ, and the manifestation of Christ to the soul in his mediatorial relations and characters, are its effectual antidote; and by these, through the accompanying grace of the Holy Spirit, which is the common privilege of all who die in the Lord, death has not only been conquered, he has been trampled upon with a triumphant and exulting disdain. Dr. Johnson may regard this as supernatural, and may sneeringly say, that with the marvellous and the mira culous he has nothing to do; but it is surely incumbent upon him to avow or to deny that he is a Christian. Christians know that, on the assured principles of their religion, this is a phenomenon neither contrary to nature nor experi


"Last night," said an eminent divine in the hour of his dissolution, "I had a clear, full view of death as the king of terrors; how he comes and hurries the poor sinner to the very verge of the precipice of destruction, and then pushes him down headlong. But I felt that I had nothing to do with that; and I loved to sit like an infant at the feet of Christ, who had saved me from this fate. Now death was disarmed; all he could do would be to touch me, and let my soul loose to go to my Saviour." He added soon after, "Even now God is in the room; I see him. O how unspeakably glorious and lovely does he appear! worthy of ten thousand thousand hearts, if we had them." Again he said, "It makes my blood run cold to think how inexpressibly miserable I should now be without religion; to be here, and see myself tottering on the verge of destruction,-O, I should be distracted."

Another evil natural to death, and which often appals the dying sinner, is the darkness in which it wraps the soul and enshrouds the future. But over the darkness of the shadow of death, religion sheds her hallowed and blessed illumination, pervading all its deep recesses with the glories of an everlasting day. "O, glory, how delightful in contemplation!" exclaimed a youthful chris

Another Christian, after a lingering illness, and drawing near the borders of Immanuel's land, being asked how she did, replied, “Almostat home. My precious Bible! true every tittle; I never thought it could have supported me thus; but it does. I never thought I could have enjoyed so much. I have not an anxious wish. It is heaven already begun; I am happy as I can be on this side heaven." Another in the agonies of death, remarked, "Though it be very painful, I am persuaded that the longer I stay here the better it will be for me. What a charming thing it will be when I get to heaven! There I shall see my old Christian friends, and many saints whom I never saw; but it is a glorified Christ that will be the heaven of heavens." Being asked what he thought of heaven now, in this near view of it, he said, "Indeed I know not what to think of it; the place, the work, the enjoyments, every thing appears so great, that I am lost, I cannot form any distinct conceptions about it. All that my soul is engaged in is Christ; what Christ hath redeemed me from, and what he hath redeemed me to. There I can freely enlarge; all the rest I must leave till I get there." A few hours before he died he said, "My life hath been full of toil and pain; but I am going to an eternity of glory; I am within sight of glory. I have a great deal to tell you, if I could but speak."

All the instances here adduced are well authenticated, and have been taken almost at random from the pages of sanctified biography with which the church of Christ is continually instructing, and, we should hope, alluring the world from the vanities which end in vexation of spirit. Dr. Johnson, if he please, may smile, and tell his readers to discredit statements which, nevertheless, we know to be true. Here is no embellishment, no romance; and we contend that these are the natural results of a thorough knowledge of Christianity, and a sincere affiance in its doctrines and truths; even as it is natural for infidelity, profligacy, and vice to impress certain evidences of their character and power upon those votaries and victims who have been their zealous advocates and miserable dupes. That there are large classes of human beings who live

without any distinctly marked character, and who die as they live, we are not disposed to question; and that Dr. Johnson has seen many of these pass without consciousness, without either hope or dread, into the awful presence of the eternal Judge, we are as little disposed to doubt. But we assure him, sceptical though he be, that we have met with more than one medical professor who has declared, that he has found himself almost in heaven while seated by a dying believer. He has witnessed, in a conversation maintained on the part of his friend, with supernatural energy, the scintillations of animated hope, the high pulsations of mental health, the involuntary movements of a spirit feeling itself free even in the grasp of death.

[ocr errors]


ease affecting the mind as well as the body, as in the case of Cowper; or to lamentable incousistency in the life, and a consequent irregular progress in religion. "I was called on," said Mr. Cecil," to visit a sincere man, but who has been hurried too much with the world. I have no comfort,' said he; God veils his face from me; every thing around me is dark and uncertain.' I did not dare to act the flatterer. I said, 'Let us look faithfully into the state of things. I should have been surprised if you had not felt thus. I believe you to be sincere, your state of feeling evinces your sincerity. Had I found you exulting in God, I should have concluded that you were either deceived or a deceiver. For while God acts in his usual order, how could you expect to feel otherwise, on the approach of death, than you do feel? You have driven hard after the world; your spirit has been absorbed in its cares; your sentiments, your con

And that such cases are not more frequent, that they are not common as the Christian profession, is to be accounted for on principles that establish rather than weaken the claims of Christianity to be the only inspirer of hope and joy inversation, have been in the spirit of the world; death. Those instances of apparent failure, where the dying scene has presented all that is gloomy and comfortless, even though it had been preceded by a formal and sometimes sincere profession of the Gospel, may be traced either to an imperfect knowledge of the nature of justification, and a wavering reliance upon the merits of the Redeemer; to the morbid nature of dis

and have you any reason to expect the response of conscience and the clear evidence which await the man who has walked and lived in close fellowship with God? You know that what I say is true.' His wife interrupted me, stating, 'that he had been an excellent man.' 'Silence,' said the dying penitent, it is all true.""


In our first number, we have given an introductory article on the natural history of a leaf. Before we pursue the philosophy of the subject, our readers will not be displeased with a poetical illustration, and a theological improve ment of it; the one by a universal favourite; the other by a highly esteemed member of our society.

THE flush of the landscape is o'er,
The brown leaves are shed on the way,
The dye of the lone mountain flower
Grows wan, and betokens decay;
The spring in our valleys is born,
Like the bud that it fosters, to die,
Like the transient dews of the morn,
Or the vapour that melts in the sky.
All silent the song of the thrush,
Bewilder'd she cowers in the dale;
The blackbird sits lone in the bush-
The fall of the leaf they bewail.
All nature thus tends to decay,
And to drop as the leaves from the tree,
And man, just the flower of a day,
How long, long, his winter will be.


"We all do fade as a leaf."-ISAIAH. Have you never been struck, reader, by the evident resemblance between the various appearances of nature, and the various states of the

human mind, as well as the successive stages
of human life? If not, reflect on it, and you
will find it interesting. We can easily conceive
how the Divine Being 'might have created a
perpetual variance between our condition and the
state of nature around us. When he pronounced
the earth accursed "for our sakes," he might
have aggravated that curse, by surrounding us to
a painful extent with immitigable sameness. He
might have reduced the large variety of animal
tribes to the few which we use for food; and
have left us no quadruped to please us with its
gambols-no insect to sport in the summer's
sun-no birds to delight us with their flight and
their song.
He might have taken away all the
beauty of the landscape, by commanding the hill
to sink and the valley to rise to a perfect level
-by sinking the torrent and the rivulet beneath
the surface of the earth-and by substituting for
the towering and luxuriant tree nothing but the
thorn and the brier. And from this scene he
might have commanded the moon and the stars
to withdraw their light, and have permitted the
sun to look upon it only through a cloud.
had the face of nature worn an aspect so dreary,
he doubtless would have counted himself most
happy, or rather least miserable, who could have
secluded himself most effectually from beholding
it. But so far from being surrounded by such a

[merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small]


But this, if more than poetically correct, was only a presage of approaching revolution. From the tenour of the curse, we learn that a material change, never to be revoked, immediately followed. Nor do we know the effects produced by the universal deluge, and by other convulsions of But whatever they may have been, we find ourselves the passing inhabitants of a world where nature, animate and inanimate, seems to sympathize with our lot, to point out our duties, and to remind us of our end. Nature, in this light, is only a grand depository of means intended to promote the end of our being. It is a temple in which piety finds herself surrounded by a thousand emanations from the Supreme, and addressed by a thousand voices of warning and encouragement. The poet has drawn from it his most pathetic images the moralist many of his best arguments and examples-and the prophet some of his most arousing monitions.

In exemplification of this fact, but without pretending to furnish an adequate idea of it, you may be reminded of a few of the more obvious illustrations of our condition with which nature abounds. How often is the restlessness of man compared to the constant agitation of the ocean; and the uncertainty of friendship, and of success in life, to the instability of that element. How beautifully does the setting of the unclouded sun illustrate the closing scene of the Christian's life; how friendly the calm and twilight of evening are to solitude and meditation; and how aptly the rage of a storm represents the frequent turbulence of human passions. If life be compared to a day, it has its morning, its noon, its evening, and its night; and when compared with the year, it has its "flowering spring," its "summer's ardent strength," its

"Sober autumn fading into age;

And pale concluding winter comes at last
And shuts the scene."

No subject, however, has been more copiously illustrated, by comparisons drawn from nature, than the brevity and uncertainty of human life. The change continually passing upon every thing around us, can scarcely fail to remind even the most thoughtless that such, “in his best estate," is man. But it is an unwelcome subject to the majority of mankind, and often remanded, like Paul by Felix, untii a more convenient season shall have arrived. It cannot, however, be dis

missed at present on account of its unseasonableness, for scarcely can we walk out without being reminded of it by some striking emblem. The warmth of summer is gone, and the freshness of the grass. The tribes of insects have gradually disappeared, and those which Providence instructs to provide for the winter, have begun to live on the fruit of their industry. The trees have lost the beauty and luxuriance of their foliage; for while some of them are already left naked to the blast, the leaves which remain on the rest have become sere and yellow, and every breath of air diminishes their number. The birds are become silent, and the sun leaves us in darkness early in the day. Here then is a silent but an eloquent appeal to our hearts, and surely

no one can be offended when nature itself becomes the instructor. Had we, by any possibility, been ignorant that all the preceding generations of men had died, and that the same event awaited us, who could go out and contemplate those images of desolation, without wondering whether a change would ever take place in our condition, answering to this change in the aspect of nature? But this is not a subject of conjecture-we know that it is the lot of all, and nature only aims to remind us of it. We are too much disposed to act as though the winter of our life would never come. But nature addresses us in the tone of warning, and assures us that it will; and presents itself as an example. are so far absorbed in the present concerns of life, that we are in extreme danger of forgetting what awaits us at the end. But, as if to prevent this fatal inattention, nature dies before our eyes. It prospectively celebrates our funeral; and while the funeral procession is passing before us, the voice of wisdom pronounces in solemn accents, "We all do fade as a leaf."


And is it so, reader?-Then act as though you believed it. And remember that the portion which awaits the Christian, when he has faded and fallen here, is "an inheritance, incorruptible, undefiled, and that fadeth not away." His body too, like seed deposited in the earth, is eventually to burst into second life. It is designed to wear no earthly form, but to be "fashioned like unto Christ's glorious body." And at the same moment a new heaven and a new earth are to start into being likewise. Not more certainly will the present season give place to another spring, than the storms and vicissitudes of time will be succeeded by that glorious event. Το secure that, the Saviour died; and to accelerate it, he lives, and reigns, and triumphs. It is that to which all the affairs of the universe are hourly tending. Then a summer shall flourish which shall know no winter; then the verdure shall never wither; and the blessed who enjoy it, freed from every thing which rendered them fading on earth, shall know no change but that of advancing "from glory to glory."

[blocks in formation]

THE ingenuity displayed by these interesting | creatures, in accomplishing objects which they at any time require, is truly admirable. They are in themselves a fine study, and discover art in nature beyond what intellect and science have ever taught to the sons and daughters of reasoning humanity. "I have often observed," says a gentleman who has paid considerable attention to entomology, and especially to the habits of spiders, "the peculiar manner in which the little animal throws his web across from one object to another, through empty space. There are two ways in which it is principally done; the one is to fasten the end of the thread to an angle of a fence, or any other object similarly situated, and then to proceed along until it reaches an opposite angle, taking the precaution of keeping it from coming in contact with any of its parts, by projecting one of its posterior limbs, through the claw of which the thread is made to glide, in such a manner as to be kept nearly an inch from the wall. After having reached a situation suitable to its purpose, the slack of the web is speedily taken in, and the end firmly secured as before. This acts as the basis-line from which the others are extended in various directions. The second mode is, for the spider to ascend some eminence, and then, by elevating the abdomen, rapidly to dart out threads, so extremely fine as almost to elude the observation of the spectator, until they reach some neighbouring object, along which it then, with unusual speed, pursues its course, at the same time spinning out a much stronger line, and one far thicker in its dimensions.

"With the view of deciding the question, how spiders contrive to extend lines which are often many feet in length, across inaccessible openings, we are indebted to the Rev. Mr. Kirby for the following experiments; for the idea of which he

refers to the writings of Mr. Knight, who informs us, that if a spider be placed upon an upright stick, having its bottom immersed in water, it will, after trying in vain all modes of escape, dart out numerous fine threads, so light as to float in the air, some one of which, attaching itself to a neighbouring object, furnishes a bridge for escape, He says further, I accordingly placed the large garden spider upon a stick about a foot long, placed upright in a vessel containing water. After fastening its thread (as all spiders do before they move) at the top of the stick, it crept down the side until it felt the water with its fore feet, which seem to serve as antennæ; it then immediately swung itself from the stick, which was slightly bent, and climbed up the thread to the top; this it repeated perhaps a score of times, sometimes creeping down a different part of the stick, but more frequently down the very side it had so often traversed in vain. Wearied with this sameness in its operations, I left the room for some hours. On my return I was surprised to find my prisoner escaped, and not a little pleased to discover, on further examination, a thread extended from the top of the stick to a cabinet seven or eight inches distant, which thread had doubtless served as its bridge. Eager to witness the process by which the line was constructed, I replaced the spider in its former position. After frequently creeping down, and mounting up again, as before, at length it let itself drop from the top of the stick, not, as before, by a single thread, but by two, each distant from the other about the twelfth of an inch, guided, as usual, by one of its hind feet, and one apparently smaller than the other. When it had suffered itself to descend nearly to the surface of the water it stopped short, and, by some means which I could not distinctly see, broke off, close to the

spinners, the smallest thread, which, still adhering | gum, and committing themselves to those bridges

by the other end to the top of the stick, floated in the air, and was so light as to be carried about by the slightest breath. On approaching a pencil to the loose end of this line it did not adhere from mere contact; I therefore twisted it once or twice round the pencil, and drew it tight. The spider, who had previously climbed to the top of the stick, immediately pulled at it with one of his feet, and finding it sufficiently tense, crept along it, strengthening it, as it proceeded, by another thread, and thus reached the pencil.'

"A writer in the Journal de Physique asserts, on actual observation, that he saw a small spider, which he had forced to suspend itself by its thread from the point of a feather, shoot out obliquely, in opposite directions, other smaller threads, which attached themselves, in the still air of a room, without any influence of the wind, to the objects towards which they were directed. He therefore infers, that spiders have the power of shooting out threads, and directing them at pleasure towards a determined point, judging of the distance and position of the object by some sense of which we are ignorant. Whereupon, Mr. Kirby remarks, that he once witnessed something like this manœuvre in the male of a small garden spider (Aranea reticulata). 'It was standing midway on a long perpendicular fixed thread, and an appearance caught my eye of what seemed to be an emission of thread from its projected spinners. I therefore moved my arn in the direction in which they apparently proceeded; and, as I suspected, a floating thread attached itself to my coat, along which the spider crept.' Another authority is from an article contained in the transactions of the Linnean Society, in which its able writer states, that having procured a small branching twig, I fixed it upright in an earthen vessel containing water, its base being immersed in the liquid; and upon it I placed several of the spiders which produce gossamer. Whenever the insects thus circumstanced were exposed to a current of air, either naturally or artificially produced, they directly turned the thorax towards the quarter whence it came, even when it was so slight as scarcely to be perceptible; and elevating the abdomen, they emitted from their spinners a small portion of glutinous matter, which was instantly carried out in a line, consisting of four finer ones, with a velocity equal, or nearly so, to that with which the air moved, as was apparent from observations made on the motion of detached lines similarly exposed. The spiders, in the next place, carefully ascertaining whether their lines had become firmly attached to any object or not, by pulling at them with the first pair of legs; and if the result was satisfactory, after tightening them sufficiently, they made them fast to the twigs; then discharging from their spinners, which they applied to the spot where they stood, a little more of their liquid


of their own constructing, they passed over thein in safety, drawing a second line after them, as a security in case the first gave way, and so effected their escape.'

"I shall now conclude this communication with a brief description of the whole process, which I had an excellent opportunity of witnessing a few mornings since, even whilst the above letter was still in my possession. It was accomplished by one of the larger species of hunting spiders, that are so commonly met with along the walls and palings of our gardens during the more genial seasons of the year. When first observed, it had taken its station upon a superior corner of a piece of joist, about four inches square, and which projected three feet and a half beyond the building to which it was attached. Its abdomen was elevated in the air, and it was apparently, with great industry, spinning out its web, no doubt with the intention of reaching the nearest object to his position, which proved to be a plum-tree, situated nearly four feet distant. This web was so exceedingly fine, that a considerable time elapsed ere I could readily discern it floating most gracefully in long undulations upon the light morning air. In a short time I observed that it had become entangled in one of the smaller branches of the tree, which the spider almost instantaneously discovered, and after once or twice tugging at the line with its anterior feet, in order to ascertain that it was sufficiently secure, it suddenly, and with great force, launched out upon its aerial voyage, but not, however, before it had taken the precaution of firmly cementing an additional and much stronger thread to the point from whence it started. The utility of this measure soon became very apparent, for it had scarcely proceeded a few inches on this slender bridge, before the light thread suddenly disunited from the weight alone, when the spider was left freely swinging to and fro by the larger line, three or four inches beneath the joist, otherwise perfectly free from injury. It soon, however, regained its former position, and, with an industry fully equal, was soon again employed in a process in every respect precisely similar to that which preceded. Once again, however, it was its destiny to meet the same result; but the third attempt proved perfectly successful, and, with a rapid motion, I soon beheld it reach the desired position. The object of this spider in changing its situation was, unquestionably, for the purpose of procuring with more facility its ordinary food; for I beheld, in great numbers, a small species of musca rapidly traversing several branches of the plum-tree, and particularly that one upon which it had landed. Upon continuing my observations of this hunter, I was highly amused to see the cat-like caution with which it stole along the opposite side of the branch towards a position where several of these insects

« ForrigeFortsæt »