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The perfect day to which the Scriptures direct us to aspire is that in which the mind successively sets aside errors and receives truths, shuns evils as sins against God, and receives and nourishes the heavenly affections which proceed alone from Him; in which the soul yearns after the creation of a new heart and the renewal of a right spirit; in a word becomes regenerate. In that state the greatest amount of strength resides, and the church of the soul within is ultimated in the greatest progress of the church external.
Church progress therefore, in our view, involves a determination to follow the Lord in the regenerate life; to give up ourselves and live for Him, and for our fellow-creatures around us. Our progress in this place as individuals and as a society is wholly dependent upon our becoming better men and women. If we have this internal progress at heart, our external progress is certain and assured. In proportion as we have the love and light of the Lord within us, we shall unite with more or less heartiness with our fellow-members in promoting the external progress of our Societies as branches of the Church, and through them of the Church at large.
I repeat that we may have apparent external progress without internal, but it is impossible to have internal progress without its being followed by external advancement: every step we take from good motives and thoughtful consideration will be planted on a firm, solid and enduring basis. And we shall lay every stone of our external building in such a manner that the superstructure resulting shall form a temple worthy in its every arrangement to be the house of worship of the living God, living to us, because He lives in our hearts.
There is one further consideration which I may notice as arising out of the sacred words I have quoted. The words, as I remarked, give the measure of our own individual capability of progress, and warn us of a certain danger if we do not fulfil its behests. If we find ourselves possessed of the means, whether little or much, to assist the external progress of the society with which we are connected, and yet feel our selves unwilling to afford that assistance, we may be sure that our internal progress is not so great as we may suppose it to be; nay, that it is vastly short of what it ought to be; or it would impel us to sacrifice ourselves more, and heed personal and worldly considerations less. Short of injuring our bodily and social relations, we should assist the Church as our nursing mother to the limit of our means. No one is justified in depriving himself or his family of necessaries, for without these we cannot perform our legitimate work in this world. But after
these are supplied, our first duty is to contribute to the service and worship of Him, from whom our lives, our dearest social ties, our comforts, and our livelihood are solely and exclusively derived. One of the greatest blessings which the Saviour ever pronounced was conferred, not upon the rich, who gave out of their abundance, but upon the poor widow, who gave out of her penury the very mites of her subsistence -to the service and support of the Church. May the Lord enlarge our hearts, and give us willingness and generosity, not with the hope of reward for doing that which it is our duty to do, but yet with the consciousness that we cannot lose, but must gain by every good action we perform; either internally or externally-"to him that hath shall be given," and again to him that giveth more shall be accorded—the greater our efforts to do good the greater our capacity will become to increase and extend those efforts, and the greater abundance will the loving Father pour into our stores, not to be treasured there, but to be allowed to flow freely forth, like the great, ever-widening, ever-deepening, blessed stream of His own illimitable providence.
No. XI. THE BROAD-LEAVED TREES.-(Continued.)
30. THE SHITTAH-TREE (Acacia Seyal. Nat. Ord. Leguminosa). In the whole range of Scripture Botany there is certainly no plant more interesting than the shittah-tree, or than the timber procured from it, which is spoken of under the name of shittim-wood. When the Authorized Version of the Bible was put in shape, the translators appear to have had no clear idea what tree was intended, and hence their retention of the original Hebrew words. But it has long been known that by shittah is intended one of the species of the beautiful genus Acacia, the Hebrew word being no other than the Egyptian sont, or sant, by which name it is known to the present day in the ancient country of the Pharaohs, the n being omitted when the word passed into the language of the Old Testament. The genus in question is well known in English conservatories and greenhouses, where we find numerous very lovely shrubs of Australian origin, acacias being more abundant in the extreme south-east than anywhere else, and told, in almost every case, by their delicate feathery foliage, and innumerable
small yellow globes of fragrant bloom. These little globes are not independent flowers, but clusters of exquisitely minute ones, the stamens so long and numerous that no other part is visible, not, at least, until the pods are developed. In their native country some of these Australian acacias become trees of considerable dimensions. Even in England, when favourably circumstanced, the stems attain a diameter of many inches, while the stature becomes sufficient for the profuse and lightsome bloom to make the upper branches seem floating golden clouds. The fragrance they emit is in certain instances so rich and powerful, and reaches so far, as to remind one of the famous picture in Paradise Lost :
"As when to them who sail
Beyond the Cape of Hope, and now are past
Sabean odours from the spicy shore
Of Araby the blest; with such delay
Well pleased they slack their course, and many a league,
Such is our introduction to the genus, and certainly not one in nature is more inviting. It is to be wished that the actual Scripture species were as easy to be met with, but from some cause not yet explained, the true and absolute shittah-tree, the Acacia Seyal, appears to be in cultivation scarcely known. It is said to have been introduced before 1596, but gardeners in general evidently care nothing about it. The product familiar to every one as "Gum Arabic" is all we have in England to speak of it, except as regards the kindred from Australia.
Here it is important to observe that the tree so common in English gardens and pleasure-grounds under the name of the Acacia, though belonging to the same natural order, is quite a different thing, and, must by no means be confounded with the shittah-tree of the Bible. The garden acacia, easily distinguished by its large simply-pinnate leaves, strong twin thorns at the base of the petioles, and laburnumlike and pendulous racemes of cream-white and pea-shaped flowers, is a native of North America, and is properly the "Robinia." Brought across the Atlantic in 1640, it has now become one of the commonest ornamental trees of the milder portions of Europe, and has extended even to Egypt and south-west Asia. Hence we find it constantly alluded to in books of eastern travel, always, however, under the misleading name of acacia, the sooner that which could be disused the better would it be, since it leads only to confusion.
The species of Acacia which belong to Asia and Africa occur, more
or less, all the way from Senegal in the extreme west, to India, and probably further. Those indigenous more particularly to Egypt and the adjacent regions were noticed at a very early period, as proved by representations of the leaves and buds upon the monuments in the Theban sepulchres, and also by references to them in ancient literature. The pods appear to have been employed in the drawings as hieroglyphics, though what to denote is doubtful. Round about the ancient temple of Tindium there were many of these trees, and so greatly were they admired, that on sacred and festive occasions they were decorated with chaplets wrought of vine-leaves and pomegranateflowers. The name (acacia) which is Greek, and one of the few original appellations of plants that have never been lost, or transferred, except in error, to anything else,-just as here and there we find an ancient city retaining its original name, Damascus, to wit,-occurs first in Herodotus (B.c. 445), by whom it is remarked that the timber served the Egyptians for making boats, and the masts for them. After this we find it in the writings of Theophrastus (B.c. 300), the tree being spoken of as follows:-"The acacia is so called because every part, with the exception of the trunk, is prickly. It has thorns upon its shoots and upon its leaves. It is of a good size, for roofingtimber of twelve cubits in length is got out of it. There are two kinds; one white, the other black. The former is poor, and liable to decay; the latter is stronger and more lasting. Hence they (the Egyptians) use it in the dockyards for the ships' timbers. The tree does not grow very straight. Its seeds are in a pod, like pulse, and the natives use them for tanning leather, like galls. Its flower is both beautiful in appearance (so that they make garlands of it), and good for medicine. Gum also comes from the tree, flowing both spontaneously and when it is wounded."1 Later on, Dioscorides compares the pods of the acacia to those of the lupine; while Athenæus speaks of it under the name of acanthus, literally "thorny flower;" as does Virgil, in association with other trees indigenous to the east,-"baccas semper frondentis acanthi." 1 By bacca he probably means the drops of gum; or he may have intended the pods, the word bacca, ordinarily employed to denote a berry, having been assigned at times to any description of fruit that was not a pome or a nut, just as to-day we say strawberry
1 History of Plants, iv. 3. The statement as to the etymology of the name refers us to ȧký, a point or prickle. The other, that there are thorns upon the leaves, is of course to be understood of the stalks.
2 Georgic ii. 116.
and blackberry. The particular species had in view by these various authors would probably be the one specified at the head of this article, named from its appellation in the vernacular of the Arabs, Acacia Seyal, and reported to be now the largest and most plentiful tree of the deserts of Egypt and Arabia. But there are several other kinds, and in books there are many synonymes, some of the most familiar of which appear to be now rejected by those who have had opportunities of studying the plants as they stand in their native soil. The old Acacia vera, of which there are quaint and antiquated little pictures both in Lobel and Ursinus; and the Acacia Arabica, figured by Roxburgh in his Coromandel Plants (ii. 49), do not appear in the latest work on the trees and plants of the east,-the Flora Orientalis of Boissier, who gives instead of them the following four, Acacia Nilotica (the plant so named by Delile), Acacia Seyal, Acacia tortilis, and Acacia Ehrenbergiana.1 All occur in the deserts that are sundered by the Red Sea, and as regards the two first, which are the most important, it may be observed that the very compound leaves of the Nilotica consist of 4-6 pairs of pinnæ, every pinna having 10-20 pairs of leaflets; while in the Seyal there are only two pairs of pinnæ, and the pairs of leaflets are only 8-12. The flowers in both species are yellow. One or other of them is to be found in every part of the country that is hot and dry, from Egypt eastwards, to the extreme limits of the Indian peninsula. Spreading much in the same manner that very ancient and full-grown hawthorns do in England, when standing independently, and when they have been unmolested by man, but attaining very considerably larger dimensions, in the torrid and sunburnt landscapes they belong to, these acacias form remarkable and often highly picturesque objects. Ordinarily, they are dark and gnarled, the branches innumerable, and tangled in such a way as to constitute of themselves dense and thicket-like masses, the heads of the trees becoming somewhat flattened, or having the convexity of an open umbrella. They are evergreen, and when in bloom become exceedingly effective, the delicate beauty of the lace-like foliage being set off by 1 Vol. ii. p. 635, In 1842, Mr. Bentham, the highest living authority upon acacias, gave the following as the synonymy:
No. 255. Acacia Arabica. Willd. a. tomentosa A. Arabica, Guillem. Fl. Sen. 1.250. Senegambia.
B. Kraussiana. Natal.
7. Nilotica. Delile, Fl. Ægypt. Ill. 31 A. vera, Willd. Egypt,
8. Indica. Fl. Corom. 2:49. E. Indies, &c.
No. 261. Acacia Seyal, Delile, Pl. Eq. tab. 52. Senegal and Egypt.