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It is the prayer of a devout mind which not only feels the necessity of Divine instruction, but also of Divine guidance and support in the narrow way which leads to eternal life, “So teach us, that we may apply our hearts to wisdom."
It is worthy of our deepest consideration that the Psalmist in this prayer does not ask for light only, that is, for mere intelligence, but he prays
that his heart may be applied to uisdom. In these words we have another beautiful instance of the language of analogy, that is, of the strict correspondence between the natural and the spiritual. We know that in the natural body the heart and the lungs are the great life centres; that these life centres are necessary to each other, and are therefore wonderfully connected in their operations, and that from these life centres the entire body is sustained. But this fact in the natural body is the outbirth, and therefore the proper exponent of a fact in the soul or spiritual body. The life centres of the inind are the will and the understanding. These are to the spirit what the heart and lungs are to the body; and hence there is the strictest analogy between them. When then the Psalmist prays that he may be instructed and guided to apply his heart to wisdom, the meaning is that his will, and all the affections which pertain to it, may be turned from folly unto wisdom. The very life of man is in his love ; for as in the natural body the heart centre is predominant over the lung centre, so in the spirit of man love is the inmost and thence the predominating principle. From the ruling quality of love radiate all the subordinate principles of life, and to the central love return all the delights of life. To apply the heart to wisdom is, therefore, to change the entire disposition of the will from self and the world to the Lord and His kingdom, for this only is wisdom. How little is this word “wisdom" understood! It is too commonly applied to mere knowledge, or mere shrewdness and prudence; and true it is that the word signifies knowledge, but it means knowledge properly applied, and the proper application of knowledge is to purify the heart from its evils, and thus to change the entire current of the life-stream. An intelligent mind is a mind highly instructed ; but a wise man is he who applies intelligence to the noblest and purest ends of life.
There is but one kind of wisdom, and it is that which conjoins the heart and mind with Him who is the essential Divine Wisdom, even the ever-to-be-adored Lord Jesus Christ--the Alpha and the Omega, the Be-all and the End-all.
How solemn then is the prayer before us! How fitting a text for
reflection on entering into a new year; nay, for daily meditation! How fitting a prayer to be ever in the thought, and frequently on the lips !
If there is one phrase which, above all others, aptly expresses the end of human existence it is this—to apply the heart to wisdom. Fully understood, it is seen to be indeed a phrase of Divine inspiration, in which is embosomed all that the Lord can bestow, all that man can receive.
ODE TO THE MIDNIGHT BELLS.
Ring forth, ye merry midnight bells !
Tells it in each clanging peal,
When it makes the heart more leal.
And the symbol of all gladness,
Joy for blessings of the past,
Ring out the old year, midnight bells!
Of the past to us reveald ;
Till the future is unseal'd.
Be of hope the soul's expression;
Whisp'ring to the heart's belief,
Yet, ring on, merry midnight bells,
For their grand resonance speaks
Mighty in the deeds it seeks.
Seem but a dirge unto the Past;
And the sounds of mingled chimes,
THE VINE (Vitis vinifera, Nat. Ord. Vitaceæ). WHETHER the Hebrews possessed any large number of different varieties of grapes is not known. The Romans had very many sortsone in particular with berries so much elongated that they were called “finger-grapes." Nor is anything precisely known as to the Hebrew methods of culture, beyond what may be gathered from the celebrated passage in Isaiah, “My beloved hath a vineyard in a very fruitful hill. And he fenced it, and gathered out the stones thereof, and planted it with the choicest vine, and built a tower in the midst of it, and also made a wine-press therein " (v. 1, 2). These, it will be remembered, are as nearly as possible the words employed by our Lord in the parable of the vineyard (Matt. xxi. 33). Sometimes fences were constructed of stones : “The angel of the Lord stood in a path of the vineyards, a wall being on this side, and a wall upon that side" (Num. xxii. 24). Sometimes they were simple hedges :
Why hast thou then broken down the hedges, so that all those that pass by the way do pluck her?” (Ps. lxxx, 12.) Fruitfulness was well understood to depend upon regular and skilful pruning; the law forbade the gathering of fruit till the tree was three years old; hence, during these three years, the vine-dresser was very careful in the use of his knife. The established practice is referred to by our Lord Himself in the celebrated passage in St. John: "I am the True Vine, and my Father is the Husbandman. Every branch in Me that beareth not fruit He taketh away; and every branch that beareth fruit, He purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit” (xv. 1, 2).
The vine is one of the most ornamental plants in nature. Cultivated as it is by ourselves, almost invariably against a wall, or trained to the rafters of a greenhouse, we miss no slight portion of its beauty. Left to its own sweet will, the slender branches ramble away in every direction, and in the inost graceful manner conceivable, attaching themselves to whatever prop may serve by means of those ingenious curling fingers, the tough green tendrils, which, after all, are not a special gift to the plant, but simply flower-branches altered from their original purpose. So beautifully does nature economize her strength, contriving always to attain the highest ends with the smallest expenditure of material. The large broad leaves are substantial and long-enduring, yet sufficiently thin, and though plentiful, sufficiently far apart, to allow easy and pleasant passage to the sunlight; their long stalks, and the five great angular spaces in the blade again give help, so that an arhour roofed with vine-foliage supplies ideas of lucid green more lively than come of any other :-in autumn, before they fade, they turn deep yellow, clouded with crimson, and in some varieties become purely and wholly crimson, more beautiful in death than in the full vigour of their existence. Even the flowers carry a charm with them, for, though unpretentious, they are honey-scented, which latter feature is probably intended in the beautiful picture in the Song of Solomon : “The fig-tree putteth forth her green figs, and the vines with the tender grapes give a good smell. Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away !”1 The luxuriant growth of the plant supplies that of the beautiful picture in the prophet : “ They that dwell under his shadow shall return; they shall revive as the corn, and grow as the vine; the scent thereof shall be as the wine of Lebanon ” (Hosea xiv. 7). Singular that, with recommendations such as these, the vine is so rarely employed as a decorative plant. “To sit under one's own vine” in the sweet fulness of the literal meaning, gathering the ripe produce in due season, and year by year, of course, is a promise which in England
Pliny, praising Italy, says that it surpasses all other countries of the earth, with the sole exception of those that produce the perfumes ; "and even here,” he continues, “when the vine is in flower, there is not a perfume known which in exquisite sweetness can surpass it ” (xiv. 2).
we cannot realize, though in the southern counties, in fair autumns, the grapes ripen pretty fairly. That is no reason, however, why, as far as practicable, every man who has a large garden should not render the vine a part of his own inheritance, associating it with other climbers, the honeysuckle, and the clematis, and the rose, and enjoying the sweet spectacle of its green apparel. One of the good signs of the growth in our country of pure taste in matters of church ornament, which, when dealt with lovingly, as by the Plantagenet architects, is shown outside as well as inside, will be planting a vine beside the porch, and training it so as to form an archway to the house of God. With the Romans it was a conimon practice to train the vine to an elm-tree. Horace speaks of “vine-mantled elms.” Virgil cites a vine so trained as the image of one who is the pride of his companions.
In the last-named author we have illustration also of the early employment of the vine in Art, though this, in truth, dates from the time of the Iliad. What a beautiful description is that of the beechen cups, carved by Alcimedon, "round which a curling vine, superadded by the easy-moving graver, mantles the bunches diffused from the pale ivy." Ivy-trails, that is to say, surrounded the upper portion, while vine-trails rose under each handle, the leaves blending in such a way as to furnish two lateral spaces for the figures which the poet then proceeds to describe. “ Pale ivy” seems to imply that the sort in favour was that which has the foliage dappled with cream-colour. It is nothing less than becoming that this noble plant, the Vitis vinifera, should always be foremost in design. By reason of “viticulæ,” or vine-trails, having originally been used to encircle them, miniatures and dainty little pictures are called “vignettes.”
The fruit of the vine, like the fig, formed in early times no trifling portion of the staple of human sustenance. Regarding grapes, as we do in England, almost exclusively as the source of exotic wines, and
luxurious addition to the dessert, the place th are fitted to hold as a substantial human aliment is overlooked. The fact remains, nevertheless, that with the addition of bread, man can subsist upon grapes almost indefinitely. Eminently palatable, and at all times wholesome as an adjunct to other foods, grapes are in themselves in high degree nutritious. Hence, we find that in the grape-districts of France, Italy, and Spain, the peasants make many a satisfying meal upon the simple mixture indicated, resorting only at intervals to milk, etc. ; while every one who has had long care of invalids knows that grapes will revive and strengthen where other food is powerless and useless. To many a poor soul who, for months and years perhaps, has never moved from the couch of sickness; to many a poor suffering