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yet when once seen and believed, it is seen and believed by the spiritual mind; and therefore the violation of it is an evil committed against the clear and naked truth; and there is no higher light that can be brought to correct the falsehood and repair the evil.

The evil has penetrated into the inner man, and there remains no more sacrifice for his sin. The gate of paradise, guarded as it is by the cherubim of the Lord's watchful and merciful providence, has been forcibly entered, and the profane hand has been put forth, and has taken of the fruit, and the profaner has eaten, and the soul must live for ever a spiritual and awful death. When we speak therefore of the sin against the Holy Spirit, we speak of a sin that has been committed in our own spirit—a sin that has entered and desecrated the inner sanctuary of the mind, where the law of life had been placed, and over the mercy-seat of which, and between the cherubim who spread over it their protecting wings, the regenerate man communed with the Lord, who had created in him a new heart and renewed a right spirit within him.

Profanation is spoken of in the Writings as of two general kinds and of many degrees. "There are those who profane the goods of the Church and there are those who profane its truths. There are also those who profane much and there are those who profane little; there are those who profane internally and there are those who profane externally; there are those who profane by faith against the truths and goods of the Church, and there are those who profane by life; and there are those who profane by worship" (A. C. 10,287). He speaks as if only the celestial could profane good, and the spiritual could only profane truth. But we must remember, that when he speaks of truth, he does not mean truth alone. He tells us that although the Holy Spirit is called the Spirit of Truth, or the Divine Truth proceeding, it is good and truth united. So when he speaks of the spiritual as being in truth, he does not mean in truth alone. Spiritual good is the good of truth, and therefore is itself truth. Spiritual good is practical truth. The spiritual man may therefore profane good as well as truth, but only of his own degree. The profanation of celestial good can only be committed by celestial men. This degree of the sin was indeed committed by some in the latest stages of the Most Ancient Church, and is described in the Word by the sons of God going in unto the daughters of men, whence monstrous births called giants (Nephalim) were produced.

From the statements in the Word it seems that from the time of the first Church profanation was possible under all dispensations. But although the sin is always possible, there is reason to believe it is

seldom committed-I mean in its worst form. The many safeguards which the Lord provides encourages us to hope, both for ourselves and for others, that it is a sin as rare as it is awful. I have already had occasion to mention that the Lord exquisitely separates good and evil in every mind. His Providence is also exercised in admitting none into the interior acknowledgment of the truth of faith further than they can be preserved in it to the end of life. He hides heavenly things from the wise and prudent; he hardens men's hearts and blinds their eyes, lest they see with their eyes and hear with their ears, and be converted and be healed-knowing they would fall away. wise closes the hells of profaners so that they may not by their influx poison the springs of human life: nor are their prison houses ever opened unless man himself, in conjunction with such spirits, force the bolts and bars-for free will may not be restrained even from this iniquity. The bare possibility of this sin reads, however, to us a solemn warning. None but Christians can be guilty of the sin against the Holy Spirit -for the Holy Spirit was not until Jesus was glorified. But that glorification which gave the Holy Spirit gave also the power to receive it and preserve its sanctity. And under the Dispensation of the New Jerusalem we are enabled to know clearly what the sin against the Holy Spirit is, and we enjoy advantages which no other church ever possessed, to preserve us faithful and pure. There is reason to believe that no sin is absolutely beyond forgiveness, so long as we live in this world. In the literal sense of the passage before us the contrary of this seems to be taught. In the spiritual sense the declaration means, that profanation destroys all that is good and true both in the natural and in the spiritual mind. But we may conclude that this can never be so completely effected in this life as entirely to remove the basis of possible repentance and change; although the first downward step in such a course is fraught with the utmost danger.

The bare possibility of such a state gives us a solemn warning, and should make us most carefully to avoid the least appearance of sin.




31. THE MYRTLE (Myrtus communis. Nat. Ord. Myrtacea). The myrtle, like the acacia, is one of the little-considered but still most

interesting plants of Scripture. Every one is acquainted with its form and complexion; with the neat and comely figure it acquires when left to itself, the shining green of the perennial foliage, and the pleasant scent it evolves when lightly rubbed, the latter coming of an immense abundance of essential oil, contained in little cysts, which when a leaf is held between the eye and the light, are seen as translucent specks; every one is acquainted again with the sweet and uncontested delicacy of the maidenly bloom. It is not so generally known that the flowers are followed by berries so well flavoured that they serve for a simple repast. "Of the perfumed berries of the myrtle," says Miss Beaufort, in one of the most lively and picturesque books of Eastern travel ever printed, "while staying at Damascus, I made my luncheon." They are constantly exhibited for sale in the bazaars of the East, and ripen sometimes in England; the ancients prepared from them a kind of wine called myrtidanum.

The fame of the myrtle is immemorial. How esteemed in the time of the Cæsars appears from Virgil,

"Et vos, O lauri, carpam, et te, proxima myrte:


Sic positæ quoniam suaves miscetis odores!"

How esteemed, ages before, is shown in that ancient Hymn to Mercury, ascribed to Homer,2 and by Pindar, when he speaks of the whiteness of the flowers. The latter feature is one that in its way the myrtle claims as purely its own. The whiteness of the myrtle blossom is not the cold and wintry white of the snowdrop or of the white camellia, nor yet of the eucharis or of the lily-of-the-valley. It is the delicately tinted white that speaks rather of summer, and is not so much a pure and original white as the faintest possible shade of purple,-purple diluted to the thousandth degree, and still declared, very frequently, in a light and broken rosy margin. Ovid, that keen observer, does not miss it, giving to the myrtle the happy epithet of bicolor. It was esteemed by the ancients not alone for its beauty and fragrance. Medicinal virtues of many kinds were ascribed to it, as stated in detail by Dioscorides; and in connection with ideas of worship, we find the

1 Egyptian Sepulchres and Syrian Shrines. By Emily A. Beaufort. 1861.

P. 318.

2 Verses 81 and 190.

Whether or not actually composed by Homer is not material to the present issue. The hymns which go by his name are, without question, extremely ancient, and yield probably, in point of date, only to the Iliad and the Odyssey. See, on the general subject, H. N. Coleridge's Introduction to the Study of the Greek Classic Poets, p. 284.

3 Isthm. iii. 87, 88.

4 Met. x. 98.

myrtle dedicated to the goddess of love, whence the Virgilian epithet of Paphian.1 The reason assigned for the consecration to Venus is the fondness of this shrub for the immediate neighbourhood of the sea, which, according to the legend, was her birthplace, though in the Fasti the tale most usually told is superseded by an explanation that has nothing to recommend it. At the present day, just as when that lovely line in the second Georgic was put on paper,

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wherever in the southernmost portions of Italy and Greece the breeze from the water is constantly felt, it grows and flourishes. The myrtle is plentiful too on the coasts of France and Spain, and on certain parts of the opposite ones of Africa; also in Samaria and in Galilee, upon the hills about Jerusalem, and in the valleys of the Lebanon. Yet though now so widely diffused, at least in the vicinity of the Mediterranean, there is reason to believe that the myrtle came originally from Persia. Tradition relates that the first which grew in Europe was planted beside the tomb of one of the companions of Ulysses. Contrariwise, it is said by Daubeny, that traces of the myrtle have been discovered among the "tuffs" of Mount Etna, which are anterior to the formation of the mountain itself, and which thus not only declare it European by inheritance, but establish it as one of the most ancient plants in the world. Both views may be accepted, since it is quite possible that the first or elder plants may all have perished, and have been replaced by a new colony from the East. England first received the myrtle in 1585, when it was introduced by Sir Walter Raleigh and Sir Francis Carew, the same noble pair to which we owe our first acquaintance with the orange-tree. In the southernmost counties of England, as in its native Persia, it thrives to perfection, acquiring considerable stature, withstanding the cold of winter, and blooming profusely. The remarkable way in which not only the myrtle, but many another Persian plant, has taken to the soil and climate of England, is scarcely thought of as it deserves. This however is not the place to inquire into it minutely. Sufficient is it to mention the walnut-tree, the lilac, and the yellow jessamine, not the great fashionable one, but the simple old fruticans that our forefathers loved, as hardy representatives in our own country of the vegetation of the ancient kingdom of renowned Darius. In Scripture the myrtle appears under the name of hadas. The

1 Venus being specially worshipped at Paphos, in the island of Cyprus.
2 iv. 139-144.

most familiar passages are those already quoted because of their containing some other botanical element, and notably the two solacing ones in Isaiah :-"I will plant in the wilderness the cedar, the acacia, the myrtle, and the oil-tree;" and a little further on, "Instead of the thorn shall come up the fir-tree, and instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle-tree" (xli. 19; lv. 13). Whatever construction these words may bear in relation to particular tribes of mankind, either past or to arrive by and bye; and whatever reference they may involve to changes in the established localities of trees and plants, supernatural changes, of course, if accepted literally; you and I, at all events, as immediate objects of Divine providence, and personally interested in everything that Scripture contains, are directly concerned in their meaning and fulfilment. Associated with objects so worthy in the language of nature as the acacia and the cedar, the myrtle must needs have a meaning not inconsistent, and this would seem to be suggested to us already in the ancient dedication of the myrtle to love. The selection of emblems and symbols was in the olden time neither arbitrary nor accidental. Nowadays it may sometimes be so, but emblems founded on caprice or casualties never survive long; and when we find an emblem concurrent with the history of the intellect and the affections, and universally approved and accepted, we may be sure that the impulse to its use came in the beginning from Nature, which is only a conventional way of saying that God Himself framed and designed it. As for "accident" in the selection and institution of emblems, except as regards artificial insignia, which constitute a totally different class of objects, nothing is more unreasonable than to suppose "accident" could ever operate as a first cause. The word is one of the most meaningless in the English language, and ninety-nine times out of the hundred is only a refuge for incuriousness and indolence. Frightfully debased and sensualized in the hands of some few of the ancient poets, this being, unhappily, nothing uncommon with the pure and sacred of every kind, the myrtle has no doubt lost much of its primitive meaning. Aristophanes profaned it to the utmost, and even in modern days the use made of the name is often far from chaste,

"Know ye the land where the cypress and myrtle

Are emblems of deeds that are done in their clime?"


But the old and pure significance is not a thing to dissolve and perish ; the myrtle will never cease to be the emblem of love, a fitting chaplet for the affections, and a sacred symbol in the eyes of the Christian.

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