OUR WINTER RETREAT.
OR reasons of health we take our “minister’s holiday “ in the winter instead of the summer. It suits us best to leave our seaport isle when it is most smothered in fogs. It is a long time since we had a day’s sunshine, and we are about to make a journey in search of it. We remember a book entitled “A Stray Sunbeam”; surely the bad example set by one has affected all the rest, and the sunbeams have turned every one to its own way. We go to find out where their haunt is. When this number of The Sword and the Trowel reaches our readers we hope to be far away from fogs and frosts; not exactly in a land “Where everlasting spring abides And never-withering flowers,” but in a region as near akin to it as we can expect to meet with in this world of changeful seasons. We shall at least be in a spot where the swallow never migrates, where the lizard basks and sports in the sun all the year round, where the brilliant dragon-fly darts before the eye in midwinter, and the spider spins his web every month in the year, and finds abundant insect food. On our last visit we remained for a whole month and never saw a drop of rain, and only noticed a single threatening cloud, and that was the theme of conversation among the sojourners beneath that azure sky; so that we could almost realize the expectation of rain which filled Elijah’s bosom when he saw the little cloud arising out of the sea.
The benefit which we derived from our stay was so’ great that we cannot think of it without gratitude, and the wish that many other rheumatic sufferers were able to share the privilege. The dryness of the atmosphere and the delicious warmth of the sun proved to be nature’s best medicine, and we returned to pass a whole year with only a slight return of our disorder, though working on with incessant strain.
Thinking that our friends would like to see our retreat as far as it can be represented upon paper, we have borrowed two or three of the many engravings which adorn our friend Dr. Henry Bennett’s most valuable work, entitled “Winter and Spring on the Shores of the Mediterranean; or, the Riviera, Mentone, Italy, Corsica, Sicily, Algeria, Spain, and Biarritz, as winter climates,” published by John Churchill and Sons, New Burlington Street. This book is exceedingly well written, and, unlike a guide book, is attractive reading even to those who may not be able to visit the places personally. The author has an eye for the sublime and beautiful, a taste for natural history, a relish for the moral teachings of creation, and an absorbing interest in his subject; hence he is never prosaic and dry, though always practical and to the point. He has been in a very large degree the maker of Mentone as a health resort; and as Brighton honors “the first gentleman in Europe,” and Cannes cultivates the memory of Lord Brougham, from a lively sense of obligation, Mentone may well cherish the name of J. Henry Bennett as her benefactor. Restored from the borders of the grave by the influence of its sunny clime, this able physician makes Mentone his constant winter residence, and draws towards it, both by his book and by his personal influence, so large a number of visitors, that it is almost to be feared that accommodation will soon be difficult to obtain, for even now villa residences can only be procured for the season at enormous rents. At present, however, one may spend five weeks at the best hotel, and after paying the railway fares of both going and returning, will find that he has not expended more in the whole time of his absence from home than it would have cost him to reside in a corresponding hotel at Brighton. This may encourage invalids who suppose the expenditure to be excessive.
Compared with the once popular voyage to Madeira, the cost is little and the toil of traveling nothing at all. It is a long way for a sick man, but it can be accomplished in four comparatively easy stages; London to Paris, Paris to Lyons, Lyons to Marseilles, and Marseilles to Mentone. The strain upon the strength cannot be mentioned in the same day with a sea voyage down the Channel into the boisterous Atlantic.
Mentone is a small Italian town of about five thousand inhabitants, pitched upon a inure cornice of land, guarded by a background of hills, and shut in by an amphitheater of lofty mountains which most effectually protect it from the north-west, north, and north-east winds. The mountains seem to fold it in their arms and clasp it round, as a mother embraces her babe; indeed, the simile may be pushed further, for as the child lies upon the warm bosom of love, so does Mentone flourish in the radiated heat which the limestone rocks pour forth. There are occasional frosts, but the abundance of lemon and orange trees covered with fruit at mid-winter, and the blooming of the veronica and the flowering of the rose at the same season, prove that these are not very frequent nor of great severity. Ice may be found in the valleys which are chilled by down-draughts from the mountains, but cold is a thing of the night, when the invalid is safe in his chamber; the day is warm, and, as he sits in the sun, he is generally glad of an umbrella to screen him from its powerful rays, and that, be it remembered, when further south at Florence or Rome he might be shivering with cold. The temperature falls suddenly when the sun sets, and, consequently, it is the invalid’s duty to get within doors at once; but from sunrise to sunset he may move out at a gentle pace, or sit under the rocks, and think that summer is holding sway; indeed, it seems almost ridiculous to read in our letters from home of the wretched weather, the deep snows, or the dense fogs, which are afflicting our friends in the land we have left behind us. We never felt so much before the beauty of the comparison of the Lord Jesus to the sun, for in the Riviera the sun is everything, he is the father of the flowers, the ruler of the weather, and the comforter of those to whom his wings bring healing: out of his range the balm departs from the air, and the climate is little or no better than elsewhere, but beneath his beams life laughs for joy. The Italians have a proverb that where the sun does not enter the physician must, and we have proved it true all too sadly, for in a room with a northern aspect at Nice we were chilled to the bone, and assailed in such a manner with our painful disorder, that it was a month before we recovered. If the Sun of Righteousness does not visit our souls, we shall soon be in an evil case, languishing and pining for lack of the spiritual health which he alone can supply.
Those who require dissipation to render a holiday pleasant will think Mentone dull, and prefer the gaieties of Nice — our taste lies in the direction of quiet and repose. “There is nothing to see here” was the exclamation of a young swell, who reckoned theaters necessaries of life.
Nothing to see, with that glorious sea before you, those innumerable valleys, that gorgeous scenery, those weird olive groves and golden gardens! Nothing to see, where every turn opens up a new vista among the mighty hills, or, as you climb, fresh Alps on Alps tower before your eyes!
To the blind, beauty herself has no charms. To the man who sees in nature the garments of the Invisible One, the footprints of infinite love, all nature furnishes recreation and enjoyment. The fact is that it would be hard to find a place with so many walks near at hand as Mentone; you are out of the town in a moment, a single turn takes you into a secluded valley, or to a lonely foot-track among the rocks, whence you have only to look back upon the glorious Mediterranean, or forward to lofty mountains. There are footways innumerable among the olive and orange gardens, and one’s rambles are not abruptly brought to a pause by announcements that “TRESPASSERS WILL :BE PROSECUTED,” such as in our own country confine us to dusty roads shut in by hideous walls, which deny to the tourist even a glimpse of nature’s loveliest landscapes. Here, when feeble knees forbid a walk of many miles, a few minutes will place the invalid upon a position fit for an emperor, where he may sit under the olive and figtree, none making him afraid, and drink in health and beauty at the same moment. Nothing to see! The fop, the debauchee, and the idiot may have the monopoly of such an exclamation. There is everything to see that a restful spirit can desire.
Never shall we forget when our eye first caught a glimpse of Corsica across a distance of at least one hundred and twenty miles: it rose like a dream of fairy-land, a vision hardly to be realized as actually before our opened eyes. We had been told that at sunrise the tops of the mountains of Corsica could be seen, but we had looked in vain, and it was while we were climbing a rock in the afternoon of the day that quite to our surprise the fair island seemed to rise like Venus out of the sea. Owing to the rotundity of the earth the shores of Corsica, which are ninety miles distant, are not visible, but the mountain summits, which are from six to nine thousand feet above the sea, are distinctly to be seen, with the markings of the clefts and ravines, and even the masses of cloud anchored upon them.
The clearness of the atmosphere may be readily inferred from this fact.
When our heart is clear of all doubts and unbelief’s our spiritual eye can behold the land which is very far off, and far over the sea of time the bejewelled city may be seen gleaming in a glory brighter than the sun.
The old part of Mentone is just like every other Riviera town, made up of lofty houses, arranged in narrow alleys instead of streets. Standing on the pitch of a hill it is all up and down, except in the part which visitors frequent, which is a wider street, and forms a portion of the famous Corniche road. This road keeps very near the sea for the simple reason that the -locks come down so nearly to the water, in many parts of its course, that it must either run by the ocean’s edge or be carried aloft over the hills.
In passing through Mentone it traverses one or two bridges over mountain torrents, and beyond it, towards St. Remo, it is carried over the lofty arch which spans a ravine dividing France from Italy. From this main road by the sea there are lesser roads, bridle paths, and walks into the mountainous regions. Beyond the frontier are the famous bone caves, in which have been found organic remains, flint instruments, and portions of charcoal.
The supporters of the pre-Adamic existence of man have here gathered ammunitions of war, but for our part we are not converted to their theory, and moreover our hands are so full of matters which concern the present race that we care not to inquire whether any other humanities occupied the world before our own came upon it. Even if men existed before Adam, it would make no difference to the Mosaic history, which does not profess to tell us of any other race but our own. We think the idea to be all moonshine, but are not at all alarmed for the Scriptures, whether it should turn out to be true or not. It is, however, very interesting to see the indisputable evidences that the caves were once inhabited by creatures which were neither vegetarians nor members of the Peace Society, but in all probability were men of like passions with ourselves. Many of the remarkable relics are preserved in the local museum.
Everybody who visits Mentone goes over to Monaco. The Casino and gaming-tables there are great attractions to gamblers of both sexes, but altogether apart from these enticements the spot is charming. The little principality of Monaco is almost the only place in Europe where the abomination of public gambling is allowed, and there under the eye of all comers it is carried on to the fullest extent. It is sad to see this vice so glaringly displayed in a place which, for its beautiful gardens and picturesque position, is worthy to be called a paradise. Truly the serpent is in every earthly Eden. While we were enjoying the loveliness of land and sea we heard the cooing of pigeons, and saw that vast numbers of the pretty creatures were preserved in elegant houses, and were kept in readiness for pigeon-shooting. On the outside of the houses were poor wounded birds wanting to get in and associate with their old companions.
We were sick at heart to see them suffering. What sport our countrymen find in shooting these innocent creatures we cannot tell! It is an amusement only worthy of savages, and yet the aristocracy are the chief patrons of it.
It is sad that it should pollute so lovely a scene. And yet we do not know; perhaps this pigeon-shooting outside is an instructive arrangement, intended to warn the unwary who venture within the gambling saloons, an intimation that what is done outside by means of powder and shot is performed upon superior game within the Casino by a surer method. Many a bird is trapped, plucked, wounded, and done to death at the gamblingtable, where sights are occasionally witnessed which the lover of his race would wish to forget. The rock of Monaco is altogether a thing of beauty, whether you walk around it or look down upon it from the lofty platform at Turbia, which well repays you for the labor of the ascent.
Roccabruna and Castellar also afford excellent excursions, and to Nice by road and back by rail is an easy day’s work. In the other direction Bordighera and San Remo are very pleasant rides along the shore. To us the most charming resort is Dr. Bennett’s garden, just over the Italian frontier. The main avenue of it salutes the eye upon entrance, and, being full of the choicest flowers freely blooming, it delights you at once. The doctor has terraced the rocks, and, by employing women to carry up baskets of earth to fill up the terraces, he has, by perseverance and skill, created a garden where else had been nothing but bare stone. He has also restored an ancient Saracenic tower, which forms a picturesque object. The view is magnificent, and there are dainty seats at points of sight most desirable. There is a croquet-ground, fernery, and summerhouse, and best of all a hammock where the sick man may lie at ease and gaze around him.
If he does not get well there what can become of him? We never knew hours roll away so swiftly as those we spent in friendly chat with the Doctor in his Elysium; all that could comfort the suffering body and brace the wearied mind we had around us, and we praised God at every breath for his infinite love in providing “so sweet a rest for wearied minds.”
The doctor says of his garden : — “ I have long had a garden in heatherclad, fir-covered Surrey, where summer flowers smile on me when I return from the south, bat it is only a few years ago that the thought came to establish a garden on the sunny shores of the Riviera. At first I was satisfied with the luxuriant wild vegetation of winter in this region, with the sunshine, and with the natural beauties of the district. As I became more and more familiarized with my winter home I began to grieve that the precious sunshine, light, and heat, that surrounded me should be turned to so little horticultural account. Nature in these southern regions is left pretty much to herself as regards flowers, and it is surprising what fioricultural wonders she does produce unassisted. Then the desire came to see what I myself could do with the gardening lore previously acquired in England. So I purchased a few terraces and some naked rocks on the mountain side, about a mile from Mentone, three hundred feet above the sea level, with a south-westerly aspect, and thoroughly sheltered from all northerly winds.
Here, hanging as it were on the funk of the mountain, I have set to work, assisted by an intelligent peasant from the neighboring village of Grimaldi, whom I have raised to the dignity of head-gardener, and in whom I have succeeded in instilling quite a passion for horticulture. We think we have done wonders in the first three years of our labors, and, as the results obtained throw a considerable light on the winter climate in this part of the world, I shall briefly narrate them. I am encouraged to do so also by the reflection that should this work fall into the hands of others trying, like myself, to establish a winter garden in the south of Europe, my experience, slight as it yet is, may be of some avail. “I would firstly repeat that I think I have found out why horticulture is so utterly neglected in the south of Europe, and in warm countries generally.
Mere ordinary gardening — the cultivation of common garden flowers — is attended with considerable expense, owing to the necessity of summer and even winter irrigation, if any degree of excellence, or if certain results are to be obtained. In climates where, as on the Riviera, it does not rain from April until October, where the rain falls tropically, in cataracts, at the autumnal and vernal equinoxes, and where often in midwinter there are droughts of six weeks’ duration under an ardent, burning sun, frequent watering becomes indispensable for most garden plants. Thus additional labor is required, and a heavy expense entailed, in addition to that of the ordinary work of the garden. “On the other hand, southerners of the higher and middle classes are thrifty and economical, have few outlets for activity, and are at the same time indolent. Those who have property usually live on one-fifth of their income, and put by the rest. They thus provide for their children, and yet can remain quiescent, taking life easily, and spending their days in an agreeable state of ‘ dolce far niente.’ By such persons horticultural expenses are considered an extravagance, and those foreigners who indulge in them are thought to be all but demented. They understand paying labor for planting and irrigating orange-trees, cabbages, peas, or wheat, because there is a return — -a profit on the transaction; but to spend good money on roses and jasmines, unless to make perfumes for sale, passes their comprehension. Thus my Mentone neighbors think I am preparing for the erection of a large house, and nearly all the masons in the country have applied to me for my patronage. They cannot understand any one making a mere flower garden for pleasure on the mountain side, a mile or two from the town. “In the gardens planted as adjuncts to the villas built for strangers many flowers and plants will thrive and blossom, more or less, all winter, with scarcely any care. Thus, the following grow luxuriantly : — Aloes, Cactaceae in general, his, Maritime Squill, Wallflowers, Stocks, Carnations, Marguerite, Geranium, Marigold, Primula (common and Chinese), Violets, Pansies, Nemophila, Crocus, Snowdrop, Hyacinth, Ranunculus, Narcissus, Ixia, Sparaxis, Hepatica, Roses, Chrysanthemum, Salvias of many kinds, Lavender, Mignionette, Tobacco, red Valerian, Daphne, Veronica, Nasturtium, Petunia, Cyclamen, Camellias, Azaleas, Calla AEthiopica, Begonias, Cineraria, Verbena, Cytisus, Cistus, many species of Passion flowers, Chorozema, and many Australian winter flowering Mimosae and Acacias. As stated, many of these plants can rest in the warm, dry summer without being injured thereby. They are all, or nearly all, perennial in this climate. They start into life with the autumn rains, flowering more or less early in the winter or spring, and most of them continue in full bloom from Christmas to April, a month which, horticulturally, corresponds to June in England. “Most winters, in England, paragraphs appear in the newspapers, from residents in the more favored regions of our island, giving lists of the flowers still blooming in their gardens. It may be remarked, however, that these lists never appear after Christmas, or the end of December at the latest. The fact is that in England November and December are generally rainy, and not very cold months; although the weather is very often damp, foggy, cold, and unfavorable to human health, it does not actually freeze so as to destroy vegetable life, The hard frosts of winter generally commence about Christmas or the week after, and then the autumn flowers are all destroyed to the ground, and no such floricultural triumphs are possible.
On the Genoese Riviera, on the contrary, after Christmas, if there has been sufficient rain, vegetation takes a start and rapidly gains ground, under the influence, not so much of a higher night temperature (for we feel the January cold of continental Europe), but of the increasing length of the day, and of the ardent light and sun of an unclouded sky.”
Lest we weary our readers with a theme in which they must naturally take less interest than the actual visitor to that sunny region, we break off abruptly for t. he present, hoping to resume the theme when on the spot; if we do so we shall insert a second article in our March number. Till then we ask for prayer that our many enterprises may not flag during our absence, that no untoward incident may occur, and that the means for carrying on the Lord’s work may be constantly forthcoming. Brethren, pray for us.
THE GREAT MASTER.
“I AM my own master!” cried a young man proudly, when a friend tried to persuade him from an enterprise which he had on hand; “I am my own master.” “Did you ever consider what a responsible post that is?” asked his friend. “Responsible? Is it?” “A master must lay out the work which he wants done, and see that it is done right. :lie should try to secure the best ends by the best means. He must keep on the look-out against obstacles and accidents, and watch that everything goes straight, else he must fail.” “Well.” “To be master of yourself you have your conscience to keep clear, your heart to cultivate, your temper to govern, your will to direct, and your judgment to instruct. You are to be master over a strong company, and if you don’t master them they will master you. “That is so,” said the young man. “Now I would undertake no such thing,” said his friend. “I should surely fail if I did. Saul wanted to be his own master and failed. Herod did. Judas did. No man is fit for it. ‘ One is my Master, even Christ.’ I work under his direction. He is regulator, and where He is Master all goes right.” “‘One is my Master, even Christ,’” repeated the young man slowly and seriously; “all who put themselves under his leadership, win at last: he shall be my Master henceforth.”
NOTES We had a glorious Christmas at the Orphanage. Our loving friends sent us much more than was needed to provide for the expenses of the day, and there is quite a bonus to pay ever to the general fund. Great was the joy and rejoicing, and there was nothing to mar the pleasure. The orphan lads presented to the President an album containing all their portraits, with the inscription, “From the boys of the Stockwell Orphanage to their best earthly friend.” A little lady who was told that this was our Christmas present, wanted to know however Santa Claus could get it into our stocking! A very natural inquiry, seeing that the album is the largest we have ever seen, measuring nineteen inches by fifteen.
New Year’s-day was a second high-day at the Orphanage, for then mothers and aunts came to see the boys, and Mr. Spurgeon gave away the prizes. It was a very excellent meeting, much was said that was well calculated to be a blessing to the poor widows and to their boys, and their real gratitude was shown by the hearty way in which they brought in the various small sums, which in the aggregate made up the amount of £75 17s.
The Annual Tea Meeting of the College was held Wednesday, Dec. 30.
The ladies, with their usual generosity, gave the tea, and we gave our Sermons in Candles. We are afraid that misreports of our remarks at that meeting may lead to misunderstanding. Our students are in all respects equal to those which have preceded them, and we trust that many of them will become eminently useful. Still, we earnestly wish that young men of the upper and middle classes would consecrate themselves unto the Lord; their carly advantages would be much in their favor, and help them to take leading positions in the church. Many who think themselves called to preach are evidently under a delusion, for they have neither capacity for learning, nor ability for teaching; we, should rejoice indeed to see those young men coming forward whose five talents employed in business would make them rich, or exercised in a learned Profession would bring them honor. We want the best men for Jesus. The noblest human mind is not too good a raw material for the Lord to use in fashioning a minister of the gospel. We fear that wealthy parents discourage the aspirations of their sons to preach the gospel, because they see our ministry to be poor; but, though this is too sadly true, yet for Christ’s sake even poverty should be endured. The cure for the poverty of our ministry lies in the increase of its mental and spiritual power. We believe that for young men of ability, zeal, and abundant grace, there is no more honorable, happy, and holy course open in this world than the ministry of a Baptist church.
The best laid plans of mortal men are often set aside. Instead of journeying to our warm retreat, we are made the prisoner of the Lord at home. Pain seized upon us suddenly as an armed man, and made our feet and legs useless except for suffering. We had much to do, — too much, and to our grief we could not even so much as think of all the good things we had planned. We have the best advice, both from our surgeon and physician.
Our friend Dr. Palfrey, who has watched us for years, came again to counsel us. The disease springs from mental causes, and can be as fairly reckoned upon, when an extra pressure of care or labor occurs, as the tides may be calculated by the moon. We shall now have rest, if the Lord will, and be at our work again when that rest is over, but it is very sad to be pulled up thus in full course, when good is to be done -and so much of it lies before us.
The Annual Church-meeting at the Tabernacle was held Jan. 8, without the Senior Pastor, whose absence and sickness · every one bewailed. After tea, Pastor J. A. Spurgeon took the chair, and there was a warm-hearted, loving, prayerful, enthusiastic meeting. Everybody seemed to feel that as the leader was absent each one must do his best to keep up the interest, and prevent the meeting from flagging. The right noble officers who so faithfully aid the pastors at all points were there in force, and so were the hundreds of loving brethren and sisters who make up the strength of the thousands of our Israel.
We have received many prescriptions for the gout, both for inward and outward application, and should have been dead long ago if we had tried half of them. We are grateful for the kindness although we cannot utilize it.
Those who would really aid in the restoration of our health can best do so by preventing our having any anxiety about either College, Orphanage, or Colportage while we are away. If the funds keep up, and the works are carried on by those engaged in them, and especially if the Lord will bless the enterprises, it will be better to us than all the lotions, liniments, specifics, and elixirs put together, with twenty sorts of magnetisms thrown in.
In leaving home the Pastor commits his church to the Lord’s hands, hoping that as last year a revival broke out during his absence the same may occur again. Special services to that end will he trusts be held, but he leaves all to the brethren at home.
Baptisms at Metropolitan Tabernacle, by Mr. J. A. Spurgeon : — December 31st, 1874, twenty-three.
APPEAL FOR PRAYER ON BEHALF OF MORE THAN ONE HUNDRED AND FIFTY MILLIONS OF CHINESE.
There are nine provinces of China, each as large as a European kingdom, averaging a population of seventeen or eighteen millions each, but all destitute of the pure gospel. About a hundred Roman Catholic priests from Europe live in them, but not one Protestant missionary.
Much prayer has been offered on behalf of these nine provinces by some of the friends of the China Inland Mission, and during the past year nearly £4,000 has been contributed, on condition that it be used in these provinces alone. We have some native Christians from these regions who have been converted in our older stations, and who are most earnestly desiring the evangelization of their native districts. Our present pressing need is of missionaries to lead the way. Will each of your Christian readers at once raise his heart to God, and spend ONE MINUTE in earnest prayer that God will raise up this year eighteen suitable men to devote themselves to this work? Warmhearted young men who have a good knowledge of business, — clerks, or assistants in shops, who have come in contact with the public, learned to discover the wants and to suit the wishes of purchasers, are well fitted for this work. They should possess strong faith, devoted piety, and burning zeal; and be men who will gladly live, labor, suffer, and, if need be, die for Christ’s sake.
There are doubtless such in the churches of the United Kingdom. May the Lord thrust many of them out. We shall be glad to hear from such.
J. HUDSON TAYLOR China Inland Mission, 6, Pyrland Road, N., January, 1875.