When viewed upon a grand scale, and from a commanding station, how beautiful are the tints of Autumn ! We look abroad, over hill and plain, interspread with grove and shrubbery, and the hedge-row that forms so remarkable a characteristic in our national scenery, and endless appears the diversity of rich and mellow tint, which by its loveliness half reconciles us to the legible symptom of speedy desolation. He who has willed the frequent changes that bereave us of our choicest possessions, has not failed to soften that bereavement with many tender touches of a hand that loves to pour balm into every wound it sees needful to make. Even in the material world, we trace the workings of this divine compassion ; and while shrinking from that dreary winter of which they are the infallible precursors, we still are compelled to greet the dying hues of autumn as among the most welcome spectacles that can gratify the eye of taste.
Yet it is when we are somewhat removed, and able to take a general view of the landscape, that such loveliness is rightly appreciated. Walking under the shade of our own withering bovvers, where the damp, fallen leaves impede our path, and mar the lingering beauty of our borders, it is by no means so pleasant. The visitation touches us too nearly, our individual comforts are too closely trenched upon ; and gladly would we bargain that, after going forth to look upon the beauty of neighbouring plantations in their progress towards utter decay, we might return to our especial garden, finding it exempt from the universal doom; as thickly clustering with green leaves as when summer first put on her finished livery.
I have thought of this, as illustrating in some degree my feeling, when I meet with narratives of interesting characters, whose passage from mortal to immortal life is arrayed in new glories, like the fading woods of autumn. I gaze, and admire, and rejoice, on behalf of the privileged saints, whose hour of approaching departure is the loveliest period of their visible sojourn here : but when it is upon mine own familiar friend that the visitation comes—when the tree that shelters me is to be stripped, when the verdure that gladdens my retreat is to fade away,—how different are the feelings excited ! To the eye of a more remote spectator, the withering of my bowers may form, perchance, the most beautiful spot in a widely varigated landscape : to me it is a source of comfortless repining, excepting only as faith looks confidently onward to the outbursting of a future, and a brighter vegetation.
By daily care, the fallen honours of the nut, the lilac, the ash, and the acacia, are removed from my sheltered border, where still the dear little heart's-ease, now revived by autumnal damps, retains its smiling aspect. During a droughty summer, the flowers lost much of their beauty, diminishing in size, and changing their colours for shades less bright; but now they stand arrayed as gorgeously as ever, telling again the familiar tale of him who, in far brighter apparel, is adorning the bowers of heaven. It was always my purpose to return to this subject; but I reserved it until my garden should begin to look sad; because in the retrospection .of what God shewed me, while privileged to contemplate the character of D. I find a cordial for fainting hours.
I have frequently wished to classify the beautiful features of that gifted mind ; but I could never succeed in it. Like my border of heart's-ease, it was full of variety ; and perfect, harmonious order reigned throughout the abundant distribution: but so many excellencies shone forth at once upon the view, that it was hardly possible to take them in succession, to confine the gaze to a single tint, or a single combination of tints ; unless when, in the actual scene of some passing day, circumstances called forth a separate, a peculiar manifestation of the grace most needed at the time. It was as when I cull one flower from the many, and bear it away, to ponder on its individual beauties.
I have spoken of gifts : now one remarkable trait in D. was the tenacity with which he clung to the principle, that all in him not hateful and repulsive, was a special gift, purchased by the blood of the cross. The usual close of his letters ran in these words, ' yours, by the grace of God, most affectionately.' I once asked him why he used this expression ; his answer was, ' Because, by nature, I am so vilely selfish, that sovereign grace alone can implant in my spirit one right impulse of disinterested affection. " Hateful, and hating one another," is the description of such as me : and I could not honestly love you, if the constraining love of Christ did not compel me to it.' Many can use such depreciating language concerning themselves, and, doubtless, many do so with sincerity : but there was a sorrowful earnestness in his remarks on the inward depravity, that always left me without power to reply.
On one occasion, when several of us were assembled, the conversation turned on passing events, scenes, and persons. D. bore his part in it with his accustomed sprightliness ; but presently leaned back in his chair with a look of pained abstraction. I addressed him, and his reply was, ' These are all material things, they engross our thoughts, and devour our time. Shall we never rise above sensible objects ? I often strive to do so, but I am pulled back, and fettered down, by the mass of matter. I am oppressed by it: why do you not help me to throw off the weight ? why is not our conversation more in heaven V This was spoken with a feeling that approached irritation; but he followed it up immediately, by sweetly leading the way in an interesting inquiry into what he used to call the progress of prayer. I could not but think of the expression " we that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened"—and when, just three months after, I saw him reposing in his coffin, i-n that very room, how sweet was the recollection of his secret groaning after what he now so fully enjoys, clothed upon with his - house from heaven : and his mortality swallowed up in life !