« 上一頁繼續 »
formed, if we except the crowning one of resurrection from death, none seems to have made such an impression on the spectators as the restoration of sight to the blind. One of the blind whose sight was restored by Christ, triumphantly declared to the doubters of the marvellousness of the miracle, “ Since the world began was it not heard that any one opened the eyes of one that was born blind.” The perplexed though not unfaithful Jews inquired, “Could not this man, which opened the eyes of the blind, have caused that even this man should not have died ?" And the opening of the eyes of the blind would startle us as much, did we witness it now. To the end of time men will acknowledge that He who formed the eye justly declared of it, that “the light of the body is the eye;" and all tender hearts will feel a peculiar sympathy for those whom it has pleased God in his unsearchable wisdom to deprive of sight, and for whom in this life “ Wisdom is at one entrance quite shut out."
DR. GEORGE WILSON,
THE CORN PLANTS.
Corn is the special gift of God to man. All the other plants we use as food are unfit for this purpose in their natural condition, and require to have their nutritious qualities developed, and their natures and forms to a certain extent changed, by a gradual process of cultivation. There is not a single useful plant grown in our gardens and fields but is utterly worthless for food in its normal or wild state ; and man has been left to himself to find out, slowly and painfully, how to convert these crudities of nature into nutritious vegetables. But it is not so with corn. made expressly for man, and given directly into his hands. "Behold," says the Creator, “I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth,”—that is, all the cereal plants, such as corn, wheat, barley, rice, maize, &c., whose peculiar distinction and characteristic it is to produce seed; "and to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to every creeping thing, I have given every green herb for meat,"
that is, all the species of grass and succulent plants whose nutritious qualities reside solely in the stems and foliage. The word of God plainly tells us this, and nature affords a remarkable corroboration of it.
We cannot regard it as an accidental, but, on the contrary,
a striking providential circumstance, that the corn plants were utterly unknown throughout all the geological periods. Not the slightest trace or vestige of them occurs in any of the strata of the earth until we come to the most recent formations, contemporaneous with man. They are exclusively and characteristically plants of the human epoch ; their remains are found only in deposits near the surface, which belong to the existing order of physical conditions. The testimony of geology, therefore, confirms unequivocally the testimony of revelation, and shows that corn was not only specially created for man's use, but was also got ready specially for the appointed hour of his appearance on earth. A table was spread for him in the wilderness by God's own hands, richly furnished with the finest of the wheat, and adorned with wreaths of roses and luscious fruits, and rendered fragrant with mint and spikenard and frankincense.
There is another proof that corn was created expressly for man's use, in the fact that it has never been found in a wild state. Much has been written, and many experiments have been tried, to determine the natural origin of these cereals, but every effort has hitherto proved in vain. Reports have again and again been circulated that corn and wheat have been found growing wild in some parts of Persia and the steppes of Tartary, apparently far from the influence of cultivation ; but when tested by botanical data, these reports have turned out in every instance to be unfounded. Corn has never been known as anything else than a cultivated plant. The oldest records speak of it exclusively as such. Wheat grains have been found wrapped up in the cerements of Egyptian mummies, (which were old before history began,) identical in every respect with the same variety which the farmer sows at the present day. And to the wild and roving savage in the uttermost parts of the earth corn continues still to be known only in a state of cultivation.
History and observation prove that it cannot grow spontaneously. It is never, like other plants, self-sown and self-diffused. Neglected of man, it speedily disappears and becomes extinct. It does not return, as do all other cultivated varieties of plants, to a natural condition, and so become worthless as food, but utterly perishes, being constitutionally unfitted to maintain the struggle for existence with the aboriginal vegetation of the soil. In the mythologies of all the ancient nations it was confidently affirmed to have had a supernatural origin. The Greeks and Romans believed it to be the gift of the goddess Ceres, who taught her son Triptolemus to cultivate and distribute it over the rth; and from her the whole class of plants received the name of Cereals, which they now bear. And we only express the same truth when we say to Him whom these pagans ignorantly worshipped, -" Thou hast prepared them corn, when thou hast so provided for it."
Let me bring forward one more proof of special design, enabling us to recognize the hand of God in this mercy. Corn is universally diffused. It is the only species of plant which is capable of growing everywhere, in almost every soil, in almost any situation. In some form or other, adapted to the various modifications of climate and physical conditions which occur in different countries, it is spread over an area of the earth's surface as extensive as the occupancy of the human race. From the bleak inhospitable wastes of Lapland to the burning plains of Central India, from the muddy swamps of China to the billowy prairies of America, from the level of the sea-shore to the loftiest valleys and table lands of the Andes and Himalayas, it is successfully cultivated. The immigrant clears the primeval forest of Canada, or the fernbrakes of New Zealand, and there the corn seed sown will spring up as luxuriantly as on the old loved fields of home.
Rice is grown in tropical countries, where periodical rains and inundations followed by excessive heat occur, and furnishes the chief article of diet for the largest proportion of the human
Wheat will not thrive in hot climates, but flourishes all over the temperate zone, at various ranges of elevation, and is admirably adapted to the wants of highly civilized communities. Maize spreads over an immense geographical area in the New World, where it has been known from time immemorial, and formed a principal element of that Indian civilization which surprised the Spaniards in Mexico and Peru. Barley is cultivated in those parts of Europe and Asia where the soil and climate are not adapted for wheat; while oats and rye extend far into the bleak North, and disappear only from those desolate arctic regions where man cannot exist in his social capacity. By these striking adaptations of different varieties of grain, containing the same essential ingredients, to different soils and climates, Providence has furnished the indispensable food for the sustenance of the human race throughout the whole habitable globe; and all nations, and tribes, and tongues can rejoice together, as one great family, with the joy of harvest.
Corn, as the German botanist Von Meyer says, precedes all civilization: with it are connected rest, peace, and domestic happiness, of which the wandering savage knows nothing. In order to rear it, nations must take possession of certain lands; and when their existence is thus firmly established, improvements in manners and customs speedily follow. They are no longer inclined for bloody wars, but fight only to defend the fields from which they derive their support. Corn is the food most convenient and most suitable for man in a social state. It is only by the careful cultivation of it that a country becomes capable of permanently supporting a dense population. All other kinds of food are precarious, and cannot be stored up for any length of time: roots and fruits are soon exhausted; the produce of the chase is uncertain, and if hard pressed, ceases to yield a supply.
In some countries the pith of the sago palm, the fruit of the breadfruit tree, the root of the esculent fern, or the lowly fungus, lichen, or sea-weed, supplied spontaneously by nature, serve to maintain a thinly scattered and easily satisfied population; but man in these rude circumstances is invariably found greatly depraved in body and mind, and hopelessly incapable of bettering his condition. But the cultivation of corn, while it furnishes him with a supply of food for the greater part of the year, imposes upon him certain labours and restraints which have a most beneficial influence upon his character and habits.
The various species of wild grasses allied to corn grow spontaneously, without manure or culture, on the pampas of America, the steppes of the Kirghiz, and the high pasturages of the Alps. “ He maketh grass to grow upon the mountains,” to feed those dumb helpless animals that can "neither sow nor reap.” The wild grass is self-sustaining, self-diffusing. It is perennial, propagating itself year after year, and century after century, with unfailing certainty. Prevented from flowering and seeding by the close cropping of animals, nevertheless, by the wise compensation of buds or lateral shoots, it is perpetuated, and made more abundant and luxuriant. But it is not so with the corn. It is an annual plant. It cannot be propagated in any
than by seed; and when it has yielded its harvest it dies down and rots in the ground. Self-sown, it will gradually dwindle away, and at last disappear altogether. “It can only be reared permanently by being sown by man's own hand, and in ground which man's own hand has tilled.” God gave it to him, in truth, on the express stipulation that “in the sweat of his brow he should eat bread.” And in having year after
his fields, and in thus having his daily bread measured out to him, and his daily bread only, he is taught in the most impressive way the solemn lesson of his entire dependence upon God.
“ Thou visitest the earth, and waterest it; thou preparest them corn, when thou hast so provided for it. Thou crownest the year with thy goodness; and thy paths drop fatness. The pastures are clothed with flocks; the valleys also are covered over with corn; they shout for joy, they also sing.”
REV. Hugh MACMILLAN.