Page images
PDF
EPUB

and yet talks of a speedy recovery. So it is also, both in the case of ministers and people, whom Satan hath desired to have, that he may sift them as wheat : like Ephraim, there has perhaps been a death upon their spirit, which has been marked and felt by all around them; yet when their affectionate friends have attempted to expostulate with them, they have proved not only insensible, but obstinate and stout-hearted.

We have a striking picture of this in the famous champion of Israel ; “I will go out as at other times before, and shake myself :” but “he wist not that the Lord was departed from him.” Strangers had “devoured his strength,” but he knew it not. He that lays his head in the lap of temptation, will very rarely take it up as he laid it down.

All earthly enjoyments have a tendency to darken the mind ; and such is the power and energy of sin, that if but the least thought of it be cherished in the heart, it will spread ruin and devastation on every hand. It is like a spark of fire, which if it fall upon combustible materials, will burn down a whole town. See Samson, though so great a man, yet involving himself, through a vile propensity, in the most ruinous consequences : and, at the same time, insensible and unconscious of the deep infatuation. He wist not that the Lord was departed from him.” Todestroy the soul's union with God, is what the world, the flesh, and the Devil aim at.

Let us, from this subject, take a view of man. How weak he is. If God depart from him, he is crushed as a moth : nothing is too insignificant to chastise and alarm him : and this is not all, but whenever any Christian is suffered to depart from God, he makes sport for the wicked wherever he goes.

In the darkest and most afflictive dispensations of God's children, we may read grace and mercy. While Samson was bound with fetters of brass, and made to grind in the prison house, “the hair of his head began to grow again;" which was a sign of his returning strength. There is mercy when God sends stroke after stroke upon the man who has departed from him ; when he makes the heart to bleed, and the eyes to run down with tears, in order to bring a wanderer back again. “ Before I was afflicted,” says David, “I went astray, but now I keep thy word.”

Many a man has kicked against his dispensation, and said, “I will be comfortable, I will go and shake myself as at other times ;" but he will never find comfort or healing, or recover his strength, till he seeks it by the blood of Jesus. “In that day thou shalt say, O Lord, I will praise thee: though thou wast angry with me, thine anger is turned away, and thou comfortedst me :” thou shalt have ground to say, and disposition to say, I will praise thee.”

If we would wage war successfully with hell, it must be under this impression, namely, that God is a friend. Nothing repels sin like it. When the heart feels the loving-kindness of God in the gospel, and experiences a nearness of approach to him, when it feels a forgiveness and sweetness in Christ, there is not only a seven-fold shield against sin and Satan, but heaven is begun in the heart. What is sensibility of conscience, but the first mark of God's good will towards us? See Hosea xiv. 1, 2.) “O Israel, return unto the Lord thy God; for thou hast fallen by thine iniquity. Take with you words,” &c. The best sign that we can have that God is renewing our spiritual strength, is, the gift of a broken heart. We must return to the Lord by faith, hope, prayer, repentance, and obedience; and he will undertake for all consequences.

When God chooses to imprison a man, any place will serve for a dungeon; it signifies little whether it be a palace or a pit. He can make a single idea passing through the mind, a fetter to lock up the soul in prison. “He shutteth up a man, and there can be no opening.” On the other hand, let every believer remember, that there is no state that sin and Satan can throw a man into, but God can bring him out: there is no place, nor state, but admits of prayer—hell only excepted. Therefore David prays, • Bring my soul out of prison, that I may praise thy name." We must plead with God: it is a good symptom when we desire enlargement. Imprisonment is often for correction, humbling, improvement. Satan at such a time is a preacher of despair : but the gospel holds out hope. We must wait God's time for deliverance, but we must wait in prayer : the promises teach us how to pray: there are promises that speak to our case as much as if they were written for us alone: Christ is a faithful High Priest, who can have compassion. (Heb. ii. 2.)

Nothing can separate us from God but sin; and an alarm sounding in the conscience, and calling us to return to him, is the first step to Peace.

SKETCH OF SHETLAND.

(By a Resident.)

SEVERAL years since, a young gentleman from the Shetland Islands proceeded to London, for the purpose of prosecuting the profession to which he was destined. He was invited one day, soon after his arrival, to dine with a party, at the house of an attached friend of his family. The youth had never before been absent from his home; public life, with all its forms and turmoils, was new to him, and it cannot be wondered at that he was reserved, and somewhat sad.

After the cloth had been removed, his kind hostess endeavored to amuse and interest him, by asking questions of his islandhome. When he had replied to them, a general in the army who was present, and who had attended to the slight conversation, addressed him politely. “Pray, sir, where is Shetland ?The colour mounted to the cheek and brow of the sensitive young stranger. He was taken quite by surprise, and asked himself, was this question put by way of sneer or banter ? The perfect gentlemanlike benevolence of the querist would not permit such a suspicion ; his beloved rocky father-land was therefore, quite unknown to this gentleman of rank and education. The youth's embarrassment was but momentary; yet a slight shade of surprise and formality might be detected mingling with the gentle suavity of his general demeanour, as he replied, “Shetland is a name given to a group of islands in the northern Atlantic, a hundred and fifty miles north of Scotland.”

We trust, there are few of our readers who require this piece of information in the present day. Yet still we believe Shetland is but little known; its very name is apt to be mistaken. Sir Walter Scott rendered Zetland the classical orthography, and in this form it now gives title to an earldom. But Zetland is a corruption of a comparatively modern vulgar Scotch, or rather Dutch name- - YetlandZ being sounded as Y ; in proper names especially « Shetland" is the more ancient name; it is also the vernacular pronunciation, and is by the natives universally and very properly preferred. Should the antiquity of a name give it a preferable title, Healtland can boast this superiority, as in this form it is to be found in the Icelandic Sagas.

The appearance, manners, and customs, of these islands are so different from aught that the generality of our readers see around them, that we trust a brief sketch, tending to describe and illustrate these, will not be unwelcome, nor inconsistent with the character of this magazine.

The first thing that strikes a stranger on landing in Shetland is the total absence of trees. Without doubt there have been woods here once, for decayed trunks are found in the bogs; but whether they can now be raised is a question which, though frequently proposed, is too often answered in the negative ; thus taking for granted what has never been proved by experiments deserving the name. A few gentlemen have succeeded in rearing trees of respectable size in their gardens. It is not the cold or frosts that injure vegetation in these islands ; for the temperature is more equable than in many other situations in Britain, but it is the attenuated sea spray, which, from its insular position is carried over the whole surface of the land, except a few sheltered valleys, by every storm that blows, and these are frequent, even in the summer months. After a high wind, especially from the west, when it has wreaked its fury on the wide Atlantic, every green leaf and blade, as well as the hair on the horses and sheep which browze the commons, is impregnated with salt spray, and vegetation is thus checked, and the leaves blackened, ofttimes at Midsummer. Can it be wondered at, that the enthusiasm of the lovers of trees and flowers is sore tested, when one day they are exulting in the blossoms they have fostered and coaxed into the sunshine, and on the next, every leaf and bud of hope is drooping, blackened, and scorched, as if a withering fire had passed over it; and this is what the Shetlanders are almost yearly doomed to witness.

The geological formation of the Shetland islands is what is called primitive. Most of the hills in the most northerly isle consist of serpentine ; and here is found a rare and beautiful mineral called hydrate of magnesia, and also what is of more importance, and has been a source of comparative wealth to many of the proprietors of the soil, the ore called chromate of iron. It is grey and very heavy; is used in arts and manufactures, chiefly as a yellow dye or pigment, and fetches the price of several pounds sterling per ton. The hills are covered with a very thin stratum of soil, on which grows a coarse and scanty herbage; and even on the low arable fields the soil is excessively thin and poor.

The botany of Shetland has been minutely surveyed and described by a youthful native, and several plants, mosses, and seaweeds, not previously met with in Britain, have been found by him.

The domestic animals are all of small size and distinct breeds; the ponies are well known for hardihood, spirit, and docility, and run in a semi-wild state on the commons, all the year round.

In some of the islands, mice will not live; and many of them are still free from the annoyance of rats, or any other ground vermin. Rabbits, however, are numerous, and hares have been lately introduced, and are increasing.

Shetland contains 33,000 inhabitants, scattered over the islands, in hamlets and isolated dwellings; but there is only one small town with a population of 3000.

The land is generally low, sloping to the shore every where, with the exception of a few precipitous headlands of no great height. Brown and mossy hills and bleak moorlands are all that meet the traveller's eye. In the interior, occasionally, he finds a little valley, at the bottom of which reposes, in unbroken solitude, a very small fresh water lake. Along the banks of the numerous inland friths it is that the land is cultivated and the population reside. The cottages are low, covered with turf, and then scantily thatched with straw : they are divided into two parts; the outer and larger apartment is used for all common family purposes ; the fire-place, without a chimney, is at one end; and several beds or sleeping places, each enclosed like a cupboard, at the other ; these beds serve as a partition from a small snugly panelled apartment, where the heads of the family repose, and which also serves as a parlour for guests, and a closet. It has a window and chimney, but no grate ; peat or bog-turf being the only fuel used, burns much better and more cheerfully on the ample and well-swept hearth.

MERCY AND MISERY. “ MERCY in God, and misery in man, are relatives ; and happy is that person who hath them well married and matched together."

« PreviousContinue »