Nor does it end here : whatever be the rod, the chastisement is ordered and over-ruled by a loving Father, that it may yield to his children who are exercised thereby, the peaceable fruit of righteousness. To overlook the rod as a mere instrument, in itself utterly contemptible, and from the permitted chastening to draw sweets, is a very delightful privilege. Thus it is that the wrath of man is made to praise the Lord, beyond whose permission it cannot extend—no, not to the fraction of a hair's breadth. The remainder of wrath he restrains ; where malice purposed to pour down an overwhelming torrent, to drown its devoted object, God suffers a few drops to fall, sufficient only to refresh and fertilize; and then, with his mighty breath, drives off the swelling cloud to vent its rage beyond the precints of His garden. " Ye shall have tribulation ten days," is Jehovah's award, to those whom Satan marked out for utter destruction; and surely these ten days should be days of rejoicing, to the souls who hear not only the rod, but him who hath appointed it. How sweet are those lines !
Man may trouble and distress me,
'Twill but drive me to thy breast; Life with trials hard may press me,
Heaven will give me sweeter rest.
Dear Reader, have you ever yet come into contact with nettles, concealed among the rose-bushes?
then probably, you can, through grace, bear testimony that my experience is no chimera. You have surely sought the healing leaf; and if so, unquestionably you have obtained it. You have extracted the honey from your nettle, as Sampson from his lion, and you may be well content to leave it where you found it, knowing that there shall be " a gathering out of all things that offend" without your putting yourself forward in the work of judgment. Rather bear in mind the humbling truth, that such a nettle once were you; stinging, by your vile aggressions, the hand that was stretched out on the cross to save you : and if the mighty working of unlimited power has changed your nature, why despair of its operation upon others ? Point out your enemy to the Lord, but as an object for converting and sanctifying grace, remembering that Saul of Tarsus was the first fruits of Stephen's dying prayer.
I have mentioned the Ranunculus, as the prize in pursuit of which I made my first acquaintance with the stinging nettle. That flower has been a choice favourite from my very early years. I remember accompanying a party to a horticultural exhibition on a small scale, where a country gardener had made the most of his ground, for a display of flowers. He had retarded his hyacinths, and hastened his tulips, and disposed as they were, on distinct beds, in masses, the effect was splendid.
I recollect that our connoisseurs were learnedly expatiating on the rarity and consequent value, of certain magnificent tulips ; while amateurs, were bending with delight over the hyacinth bed, inhail-ing its delicious fragrance, and reposing the eye on those exquisite hues, which, in the species of flower, never lack a refreshing coolness. I was strongly tempted to enroll myself among the hyacinth devotees: but there was something in the neighbouring family of the Ranunculus' that struck my childish fancy above all the rest. There appeared a toy-like prettiness in the many-coloured balls, that was not to be rivalled by any other ; and when a light breeze suddenly swept over the garden, too faint to disturb the more substantial stems of their neighbours, my Ranunculus' were all in motion, nodding their innocent heads, as would seem, at me and at each other, with such lively, infantine restlessness, that it was rivetted to the spot, indifferent to any other attraction, while the party continued in the garden.
This was a point in my opening character that I cannot trace to any origin; but it cleaves to me yet, and always will do so—a strange faculty of forming, as it were, acquaintance with inanimate objects, until a sympathetic feeling seemed to exist between us, and T found a more interesting companionship in a tree, a flower, or a rivulet, than among the greater number of my own species. I am now fully convinced that, out of this comparatively most innocent enjoyment, Satan wove a powerful snare for my after-life. Imagination took the rein, and carried me out, far beyond the boundaries of reality and sober thought. A world that I could people entirely after my own unfettered fancy, was doubly attractive when I began to experience the hollowness and instability of sublunary things. My heart was never cold ; neither, as regards my fellow-creatures, was it ever treacherous. A very little kindness, the mere semblance of love in others, drew forth an abundant return of unfeigned affection ; and this, of course, exposed me, even in childhood, to frequent disappointments, on the discovery that I was receiving only base coin in exchange for my best gold. One would suppose that the affections of an immortal creature, repulsed on earth, would naturally rise with greater vigour heavenward ;—that when thus checked in their tendency to shoot, as it were horizontally, they would assume the perpendicular, and rise towards God. But, alas ! corrupt nature has no desire after that which alone is worthy to be desired; and I transferred every slighted affection to that ideal region which my own fancy had created, by combining the images of whatsoever was lovely and loveable in this dying world—thus using the gifts of my Creator as so many implements wherewith to effect the robbery of what was doubly His—my own heart, and the faculties of mind and body, implanted by His hand, that they might yield him a reasonable increase.
Thompson's beautiful hymn on the seasons, albeit that it rises no higher than deism, was the first thing that compelled me to see God in his works; and even this greatly sobered my wild imagination ; but it was not a humbling truth, as I viewed it. Looking around upon a universe of mute worshippers ; taught to consider myself as one of those Chief, for whom the whole creation smiles, At once the head, the heart, the tongue of all; without any knowledge of my own lost and exceedingly sinful state, any consciousness of that guilty perversion of imparted powers, which sank me far below the level of those things that implicitly follow the first law of their existence, even " the wind and storm, fulfilling his word,"—what benefit could I derive in offering vain oblations of praise, from an unsanctified, unhumbled heart ? But, blessed be God for Jesus Christ! the gospel came, not to divorce me from the contemplation of what was so lovely and so soothing when viewed aright, but to render that contemplation profitable —to print a gentle rebuke on every page of the great book, wherein I used only the lessons of pride, and slothful indulgence ; and to tell me that, while every inferior creature of God is filling its station, performing its office, and ministering to the accomplishment of one vast end, I, who am bought with a mighty price, must not cumber the ground, in a life of unfruitful idleness and visionary speculations. I, too, must be doing; and that as being well assured that my time is short at the longest, precarious in its best estate, and frail as the flower which bends before a zephyr's sigh.