Page images
PDF
EPUB

its power, and soon expands or rarifies; and (as I before remarked on the causes of the wind) the neighbouring sea-air rushes in to fill the vacancy: and at night, when the heat has passed away, the air that had ascended, again condenses, and comes down to us cooler than even the sea-breeze. But one must dwell, dear children, in tropical countries to know the mercy of these things.

But not only is the wind so valuable to us, as the preserver of health; but it is also the principal means of all our communications with other countries. Let us look again at your map of the world.* See how the water preponderates over the land. Look at the various Ports and Harbours and Rivers, as if the Lord intended the sea as the great highway by which the nations of the earth should have intercourse. Imagine that you could in a moment of time see all the ships that are at this moment on the ocean, all with their respective colours, how full of interest would the sight be. There you would see the union of England, the eagles of Russia and Prussia, the tri-coloured flags of France and Holland, the stars of America, some sailing this way, some that; some for pleasure, and, blessed be the God of peace, but few for war. But all intent on one thing, -to reach the port to which they are bound: for everything in a vessel's voyage bears on this. If you could hail each vessel, and ask them this question,

The surface of the globe contains about 196 millions of square acres, 147 millions being water, and 49 millions land.

“ Where are you bound?” not one* of the many

thousands would say, “I don't know.” No; they are in earnest; but, alas ! how many hundreds of thousands are sailing on the ocean of life, surrounded with danger, and yet, if you ask them whither they are going, they would be constrained to say, " I don't know:” for without a pilot, without a compass, without a rudder, they are driven on by fierce winds; and, if the Lord interfere not, ere long they will make shipwreck of their souls.

But reflect, my dear children, on the scene before you; and with the exception of those few steam-packets (few in comparison) which seem to pass on regardless of the winds, the commerce of the world is kept up by the unaided agency of the wind. I

say
unaided

agency; for though the sailor spreads his snowy canvas “low and aloft,” yet he is altogether dependent: the wind bloweth where it listeth; and only as he is obedient to its dictates he prospers. One while you see him in the midst of storm and tempest, ploughing his way through seas that seem to threaten his destruction; and at another time, in the light and gentle airs of summer, his vessel, like the bird, seems to ruffle her plumage with delight, extending her utmost sails to catch

See a valuable little book, entitled “ An Address to Seamen, by the late lamented Dr. Payson;" which, though addressed particularly to seamen, is equally suitable for all classes, as the language is so plain, heart-searching, and simple.- Wright, Bristol.

+ Looking on a beautiful vessel, with every sail spread, almost seeming instinct with life, bastening on at the rate of ten or twelve miles an hour, one can hardly

the straggling zephyr. I have sometimes been struck with wonder at the thought of a vessel leaving the Thames, and going the circuit of the globe and coming back to her first anchoring, and not one finger of man put out to impel her. The wind has done it entirelyMAN has simply acted as its servant. Beautiful is the language of our poet Cowper, when speaking of the ship that bore some missionaries to India:

Heaven speed the canvas gallantly unfurl'd,
To furnish and accommodate a world;
Let nothing adverse, nothing unforeseen,
Impede the bark that ploughs the deep serene,
That flies, like Gabriel, at its Lord's commands,
With message of God's Love to heathen lands.”

Cowper's Poems: -CHARITY, line 201.*

[ocr errors]

This is a favourite subject with me, as you know; but I must leave it, and pass on at once to two other gracious properties of the atmosphere.

What made those sounds come to our ears so sweet the other evening ? or, indeed, what made them come at all, when we heard the beautiful hymn-

wonder at the poor Esquimaux thinking that Captain Ross's ships were some large birds about to light on their coasts.

* See Appendix.

[ocr errors]

Why those fears ? behold 'tis Jesus

Holds the helm, and guides the ship:
Spread the sails and catch the breezes,
Sent to waft us through the deep,

To those regions,
Where the mourners cease to weep?"

It was still the gracious agency of the surrounding atmosphere, one of whose properties is to convey SOUND; and this too, just in the

proportion to make those sounds pleasant: for if indeed they were deeper, or our sense of hearing sharper, or more acute, what misery should we be in ;-or if the case was reversed, life would be a continual exertion, stretching the ear to hear; but as it is, lovingkindness and goodness mark this gracious boon. The proof of sound being conveyed by the atmospheric air is very simple. Now suppose we put our large bell in any glass vessel, and then exhaust the air ;now shake the vessel hard-all is quiet, and yet we see that the clapper has touched the side. Why does it not sound ? The air is gone. But now let the air in, and shake the bell, and it rings as usual. The sound was caused by the resistance of the atmosphere, through which it had to break its way. Suppose for a moment that the atmosphere was deprived of this property, what consternation would gather on every side,-all christian communion, all social intercourse would be at an end, and the business of the world would stand still, and every man would be as one that was dumb. Well,

then, may we join in that transport of praise, and with the Psalmist cry aloud, “ Praise God in the firmament of his power.” (Psalm

cl. 1.)

How fragrant the air was the other evening when we walked by the fields where they were gathering in the hay; but why did we inhale the fragrance so pleasantly? Here, again, the same means that conveyed the sound conveyed also the scent; for if instead of the bell, you had plucked a rose, and put it in the glass vessel, and exhausted the air, it would wither and die, without emitting one particle of scent to tell you what it once was.

But, my dear children, I think I never wrote you so long a letter before, and I must hasten to relieve your attention by only just briefly recapitulating the seven properties of the atmosphere I have endeavoured to explain to you.

1st, Its power of sustaining life, whether animal or vegetable. 2nd, Its being the reservoir of the rain,* snow, and dew, &c. 3rd, Its gracious properties of refraction and reflection of light. 4th, Its gracious property of reflecting light.

5th, The wind or agitated atmosphere ;—the great preserver of health ; and the means of all commercial intercourse.

6th, Its being the medium of sound, and therefore that by which all social communion and general intercourse is kept up.

7th, The medium of scent.

See Appendix.

« PreviousContinue »