THE LEAF. REV. JOHN HARRIS, D.D.

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

1

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. And 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 scene, paradise was not more adapted to man in his state of primeval

268 THE leaf:

purity, than the present condition of nature corresponds with our altered circumstances.

We know not to what extent the fall of man affected the original constitution of nature. In the poetic eye of Milton,

" Sky lowered, and, muttering thunder, some sad drops Wept at completing of the mortal sin Original."

But this, if more than poetically correct, was only

2

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 nature. But whatever they may have been, we find ourselves the passing inhabitants of a world where nature, animate and inanimate, seems to sympathize with out 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 un-

3

clouded sun illustrate the closing scene of the Christian's hfe; 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

AN ESSAY. 269

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, until a more conveni-

4

ent season shall have arrived. It cannot, however, be dismissed 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

5

270 THE LEAF.

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. We 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 pre-

6

sent season give place to another spring, than the storms and vicissitudes of time will be succeeded by that glorious event. To 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."

1. 68 FREE BOOKS http://www.scribd.com/doc/21800308/Free-Christian-Books

2. ALL WRITINGS http://www.scribd.com/glennpease/documents?page=1000

7

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful