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But, although plants are so fertile, all multiply within prescribed limits which they cannot pass. Fecundity is, therefore, no barrier to the variety which everywhere prevails, which is the principal charm of the vegetable creation, and from which we derive so much pleasure and instruction.
Our readers will now understand how it happens that the earth cherishes in her bosom, even in the depth of winter, innumerable seeds and spores ; 60 that, when spring comes, the floral beauty of the garden and the country is again renewed. The most fragile floweret is thus enabled to survive the cold. Even in winter, when vegetative life is comparatively torpid and inactive, Providence with unwearied band is ever actively engaged in fertilizing the earth; so that, when the flowers of spring awake from their slambers, they find in an enriched and renovated soil the elements necessary to their nutrition. The frost and snow of winter are of great service ; the former breaks the hard masses of stone, and renders the soil loose and porous ; the latter spreads a warm covering over the landscape, protecting the seeds, which the winds have scattered, and the tender roots of plants. Snow contains ammonia and other nourishing gases; and when it melts, the plants drink in its nutritive constituents. Thus, when winter covers the earth with snow-storms, they fertilize the earth quite as much as the showers which fall from the clouds in summer; and “ Nature” is even then really benevolent, although apparently stern and unpitying.
RURAL SOCIETY IN NORTH BRITAIN A CENTURY AGO.*
Tue valuable order of husbandmen, who constituted a considerable proportion of the population of North Britain in 1763, were of the third generation in descent from the Covenanters, who lived toward the latter end of the seventeenth century, and to whom their country owes a deep debt of gratitude for their pious zeal, patient sufferings, and severe but successful struggle with a despotic and persecuting government. From these venerable ancestors were derived the frugal habits, simple manners, and strong love for evangelical doctrines which still distinguished their respectable descendants. A regular attendance on holy ordinances, and a strict observance of the duties of family religion, (in which they included the careful training of their children and domestics in the Scriptures,) appear to have brought forth the good fruit of sobriety, domestic virtue, and general uprightness of deportment.
The habitation of a Scottish husbandman sixty or seventy years ago, at least in the southern counties, was generally a plain substantial building, holding a middle rank between the abodes of the inferior gentry, and the cottages of the peasantry. The farm-house proper, with the small windows of its second story often projecting through the thatched roof, occupied one
* Let not the reader be sceptical. True, that " distance lends enchantment to " many a " view:” yet, doubtless, in some sequestered spots this outline was, of old, realized,-EDITORS.
side of a sort of quadrangle, in which the young cattle were folded ; the other three sides being enclosed and sheltered by the barns, stables, and farm-offices. A kitchen-garden, stocked with common pot-herbs, and a few fruit-trees, extended on one side,--sheltered, perhaps, by a hedge of elder, and often skirted by a few aged forest-trees, which gave a sort of character to the whole; the low thatched dwellings of the hinds and cottars standing at a little distance, each with its little kail-yard behind, and peatstock in front.
An average upland farm of four or five hundred acres, partly arable and partly pastoral, employed three or four ploughs; and the master's household, exclusive of his family, consisted of six or seven unmarried servants, male and female. The married servants were the head shepherd, and the ploughmen, or hinds. These occupied cottages apart, as well as the cottars, who were rather farm-retainers than servants, being bound only to give the master, in lieu of rent, their services at stated periods,—haying, harvest, &c. The whole population of the farm often amounted to forty or fifty souls, living with much frugality and constant industry, but by no means oppressed with labour. In fact, the connexion between master and servant in those days was very much of a patriarchal character, and far less commercial than at present; the masters exercising a parental care over their servants, and the servants cherishing an almost filial regard for their masters. They sat together—ate together-often wrought together; and, after labour, assembled round the evening fire in the farmer's ha', conversing familiarly of current events, auld world stories, or the memory of the godly dead. This familiar intercourse was as decorous as it was kindly, a becoming order being strictly maintained. The great concern of the master and mistress was to get sober and (if possible) religious servants, who seldom thought of changing masters.
At ordinary meals, the gudeman took his seat at the head of the large hall table, the mistress sitting on his right, the children on his left; then the men and maids, one of the latter serving. The use of tea was at that date unknown in farm-houses. Porridge was the constant dish at breakfast and supper ; at dinner, broth and meat, milk, cheese, butter, and oatcakes. Twice in the annual round there was a farm-festival,--at new year and harvest-home; when all the population of the farm partook of the cheer, which was an abundant feast of baked and boiled, with homebrewed ale.
But the religious order of the family was the distinguishing trait of those early days. The whole household assembled in the hall or farm-kitchen, before breakfast, for family worship, and before supper in the evening ; the gudeman heading the devotions,-each of the household having his own Bible in hand. Even in seedtime and harvest this exemplary custom was observed; the hour of prayer being then five in the morning, so that no worldly business should interrupt its regularity. On Sabbath all went to church, except one in turn to take care of the house and younger children, and one to attend to the cattle. After second service they returned to a
late dinner, and in the evening all assembled round the master to be catechized. He required them to tell what they remembered of the sermons, and then examined them in the Shorter Catechism. All worldly affairs, except such as necessity or mercy required to be attended to, were laid aside during the holy hours of the day of rest, in which man and maid rested, ox and ass, cattle and stranger, as well as the chief of the household.
These homely details might picture to a superficial mind a clownish, melancholy, monotonous state of society at the farm. But such was by no means the case. The life of the old Scottish husbandman and his dependents was enlivened by more real enjoyment than is often to be witnessed in our more refined days. They had more leisure to be merry with their households than their descendants ; and, in reality, innocent amusements were never proscribed at the farm. Except at seedtime and harvest, the labours of the year were comparatively light. The preparing of peats and hay, the ewe-milking, the sheep-shearing, the dairy, and the tending of the flocks and herds, chiefly occupied the jocund days of summer; and in winter the leisure was still greater, and the recreations not less diversified. Field-sports were often followed in the intervals of labour, or during hard frost or snow ; and no game-laws demoralized the pleasure. And in the long winter evenings, when they were seated round the cheerful blaze of the peat-fire, harmless mirth alternated with instructive conversation ; the old romantic border-ballads and legends were recited by one, and the sweet pastoral songs of the country sung by another ; while, ever and anon, the gudeman or grannie would remind them of their godly ancestry, by a stirring story of martyrdom. And thus, without any variety of amusing books or games, without stimulating liquors, and though they seldom saw even a newspaper, the homely family of the farm beguiled their hours of leisure and relaxation,-on the whole, perhaps, as rationally, if not quite as elegantly, as their more bustling and ambitious offspring. Amidst the manifold improvements of recent times, it is very allowable to question whether all that has been abandoned of former manners has been equally well replaced; and whether our progress in knowledge and refinement has not been too dearly purchased, by the sacrifice of more valuable qualities.
This brief outline of rural Scottish manners, in the eighteenth century, is intended to present to English readers a picture, sketched from real life, of the lovely simplicity of the olden day. To the legitimate influence of such scenes, on hearts of ordinary sensibility, may be fairly ascribed many valuable traits of character in our North-British brethren.
DEACONESSES-THEIR MISSION AND PROGRESS ON THE
RHINE. A WRITER in the valuable monthly, “Christian Work,” observes :-As regards the order of deacon, this is so plainly scriptural that most churches have an office to wbich they give this name ; or if not now extant, it will be found at least in their Confessions. It will also, we think, be conceded generally that this office seems to have been originally intended to form the great organized agency of the church in its mission of mercy, just as the ministry has for its special vocation to proclaim and defend Christian truth.
Further : As regards deaconesses, almost all commentators of any eminence, be they Anglican, Lutheran, or Puritan, agree in admitting the existence of such a primitive office. It had long indeed fallen into desuetude in most of the churches, until revived of late years in Germany.
There is an unhappy prejudice existing in England against these offices, especially against the deaconess, as if the revival of such an order might tend in a Romish or semi-Romish direction. If we study the lessons of history, which are just the records of experience, they lead us to an opposite conclusion. The office of deaconess owed its gradual extinction to the rise of asceticism, and of the strict religious orders. The Church of Rome has its many sisterhoods, but it has lost every trace of the primitive Christian deaconess.
It is our purpose to inquire what the German deaconesses are doing for the Lord. Having recently visited Kaiserswerth, Duisburg, and Düsselthal, we would note the progress these establishments are making as Normal Institutions for the training of Christian agents. And we would ask, too, what lessons our British Christianity may learn from them. The perils of German society are our own. The masses of the poor crowded together in our large cities are greater even than with them; and the radiation of our wealthier classes, from our centres of population, is even more reinarkable. Every Englishman who can afford it readily prefers country life, and our railways afford great facilities for its enjoyment. The poor and the rich thus meet seldom together. How shall we meet this exigency? We have indeed in England, as nowhere else, a noble body of Christian volunteers ready for every work of faith and labour of love. But do we not need an organized agency, not to supersede these workers, but to help them in their la bours ? Our Christian nurses, our Bible-women, our Catechists, our City Missionaries, all seem to indicate this necessity. They have, indeed, in some measure supplied the “missing link ;” but they scarcely meet all the complex wants of our modern society.
These interesting institutions have added another attraction to the river. Some are drawn to the banks of the Rhine by those ancient picturesque ruins where so many ages of the past meet. Others are engrossed again with the river of the present, with its steanıships and barges and ceaseless busy trains, a picture of the intensity and rush of this nineteenth century. But there are other pilgrims, too, winding their way to Kaiserswerth and the other stations named, as above all attractive to them. As they witness the good and blessing resting on the busy agencies labouring in these localities, they feel that they are standing, as it were, by fountains of life whence healing waters are flowing forth to reclaim the marshes of our modern social life. May these waters deepen as they flow, as in the vision of Ezekiel,
till all moral wastes are reclaimed, and the fishermen of the Gospel ply their busy vocation from Engedi to Eneglaim !
Düsseldorf will be found to be the best station from which to visit these establishments. All of them can be reached from it by road or by rail in an hour. Kaiserswerth is, as many of our readers may know, a small ancient town situated on the Rhine, relieved only from dulness by its proximity to the noble river, always a majestic object, however tame the country through which it may flow. Few visit it, for it is at some distance from the railway-a happy circumstance for the mission, as the work goes on with little distraction from casual visiters. The town is of the usual old-fashioned German type, the only buildings which bulk on the eye being those charitable institutions which Dr. Fliedner founded. These have rather a straggling air, having been built at different times, as from small beginnings Dr. Fliedner's work prospered. They cannot, for instance, be compared, as regards symmetry and stateliness, with those really noble baildings erected by the city of Elberfeld for its charities. Still they are remarkable for so small a place, and are well adapted to their objects.
The writer of this article has already given some outline of the life, and especially of the last moments, of Dr. Fliedner. But at the death of so euident a philanthropist, it may not be out of place to mark the general features of his work ; and we observe that his plans were pre-eminently marked by the German characteristic of comprehensiveness. They were extensive in their charity as the wide-ranging sympathy of the Saviour, including all those works of beneficence over which the Judge shall at the last pronounce the approving reward. The first was a Magdalen, begun in & garden-house, but now occupying part of a large commodious building. Other institutions were added one by one. In the desultory range of buildings at Kaiserswerth you find an hospital for the sick, a deaconesses' house, an asylum for lunatic females, an orphan-house, an infant-school, a semimary for higher education. In the affiliated institution at Derendorf there is also an establishment for the Christian training of servants, where they may find a home when out of work. To those who have not maturely considered Dr. Fliedner's plans, it may seem as if it had been an error on his part not to have limited the field of his operations. Dr. Fliedner's great aim in all bis plans was to establish a normal institution where he might train op Christian agents whose mission should be co-extensive with the wants of society. He believed that he found such an institute, designed to give unity to the whole work of Christian mercy, in the Bible. Those who are interested in the question will find a statement of his views regarding the primitive place of the Christian deaconess in his “ Nachricht über das Diakonessen Werk.” Thus it is the deaconess-house at Kaiserswerth, which stands prominently out, giving unity and compactness to the whole work. This is our general conception of Dr. Fliedper's large Christian plan. But if we would duly estimate the mission of his life and its remarkable success, we must also take into the account the many admir