| Parables from Nature|
|by Margaret S. Gatty|
|Parables for children inspired by nature. This collection includes all 29 stories from the first, second, third, and fourth series, originally published in separate volumes. Ages 6-12 |
"Sages, leave your contemplations,
Brighter visions beam afar."
 FOR years there had been abroad over the earth a
whisper that a Deliverer was about to arise: a
Deliverer who had been promised from the earliest ages
of the world. Some mighty man or king, some sage or
conqueror, who would bring back lost justice, goodness,
and happiness to the suffering race of men, and begin a
reign of everlasting peace.
And the hearts of all whom the whisper reached caught
fire at the thought; for who so dull as not to know his
own wretchedness, or not see that things around him
might be better than they were? Ah! men knew it but too
well. Death, sickness, the necessity of labour, labour
bestowed in vain, wronged affections, the triumph of
might over right, wars and tumults, household
divisions, and the thousand other miseries of life, had
from year to year in every age unfolded to each man in
succession, as he awoke to reason, the strange, sad
fact, that some prevailing disorder existed in the
world in his own particular day; while at the same time
a strong instinct in his soul, told him, that it had
not always been so,—would not be so for ever.
 So the whisper of a Deliverer stole into all hearts
with a promise of better things in store; but, obscure
and indefinite, it was interpreted by many minds in as
many different ways, according to the bent of different
wishes and feelings. Only in one thing all agreed,
namely, that at the advent of this Mighty One, sorrow
and evil should flee away, and joy and peace be spread
over the earth as the waters cover the sea.
A Deliverer!—what should He deliver them from, if not
from the death so abhorrent to every instinct of their
being; from the grinding sicknesses which made life a
burden even to the young; from the toil that kept the
strong man back from ease and enjoyment; from the
disappointments which racked the tenderest and best
emotions of their hearts; from the chains of unjust
oppression; from the strife of parties and of tongues;
from the weakness of their own souls, which left them a
prey to evil imaginations from within and a thousand
temptations from without?
Truly such life was but a weariness at the best: and
"Oh for a Deliverer!" was the cry that went up from
each man's heart as his own particular burden bore him
down. Oh that the everlasting doors were lifted up,
that the King of Glory might come in, and touch the
earth with some magic sceptre, restoring all things to
order and joy!
But the name of the Mighty One was to be called
"Wonderful, Counsellor, The Mighty God, The Everlasting
Father, The Prince of Peace." And the government was to
be upon His shoulders, although He was to be a son, and
born a child. Where, then, but in palaces could He be
expected, or looked for; where but in palaces brought
forth and nurtured? Surely, kings must be His nursing
fathers and their
 queens his nursing mothers. Oh happy
parents of a happy child!—who great enough, who high
enough to be so favoured? Yet the child of these great
ones was to be greater and mightier than all, to rule
and triumph over all!—A King of kings, a Lord of lords!
Well might the longing eyes of hope be fixed on palaces
and regal halls! Well might the murmured question
arise, "Can this be He?" when the cry of a new-born
prince was heard within their walls! What wonder if
Sybil and Poet sang, by anticipation of His fame!
But ever as the children of these great ones grew up to
manhood, they merged by the common lot of suffering and
sin into common men, and hope was darkened: yet though
darkened not extinguished—and the Deliverer was still
looked for as before.
Some, however, there were who found in the titles
"Wonderful, Counsellor," another meaning and another
aim. Kingly the Deliverer might be by influence and
character, but not necessarily in His human birth. The
kingship of man's noblest faculty—Reason—might be at
hand, to overthrow all kingships of mere blood; the
triumph of mind over material things, the kingship of
intellect over brute passion and force.
The poor wise man who saved the city, but had neither
thanks nor honour for his pains, was a type of a state
of things now at last about to pass away. And the
midnight oil had not been wasted, nor the brain racked
in vain, if this were so indeed: if the day and hour
were at hand when He should be exalted as universal
Counsellor, whom wisdom had made fit to rule; He be
called Wonderful who was great by the secrets of His
And as Sages and Philosophers meditated on these
 things, there glowed in their bosoms aspirations which
bordered on devotion. And they stretched out
supplicating hands to the Unseen Ruler of all, asking
that the Wonderful, the Counsellor, might bring them
light and truth indeed, and conquer with those arms
alone the ignorance and errors of the world.
Oh for the rising of that day, when the real majesty
and power of the human mind should be revealed to the
ignorant multitude in all its magnificence! Here is the
only greatness worth the name! Here the only power fit
for universal rule!
But year after year the wise man died as the fool, and
his children followed him, and neither among them had
the Deliverer arisen, but must be looked for as before.
Again: "Prince of Peace!" mused others. In this, all is
comprehended. The conquering spoken of is but the
overcoming of all wish for strife; the rule in store,
the sovereignty of love, suppressing all desires but
that for universal joy.
Ah! surely, when the Deliverer came it would be to make
all men happy alike, and pour a healing balsam into
every wound! Then would all the old griefs be buried
and forgotten, and the soothed minds of contented men
trouble themselves no more with struggle and labour.
Oh for the dawning of that morn when each man should be
king and kingdom to himself, and the world resound once
more to the songs of rejoicing which gladdened the
golden age! Had not the Sybils so spoken, and had not
the Poet so sung? Then should every man sit under his
own vine and his fig-tree, and poor and rich alike
cease from the land, for all should be equal and all
 But whence should such a Deliverer be looked for—where
be expected to arise?—Ah! surely only in some happy
spot of Nature, some valley peaceful and beautiful as
that of Cashmere, among a race of pastoral simplicity;
in some perfect household, where disturbance was never
known, and one mind prevailed. Thence alone could come
He who would cause the cruel swords of war to be turned
into ploughshares, and spears into reapinghooks, and
animate and inanimate Nature to join in one general
song of joy.
So these looked to the lovely valleys and the quiet
nooks of Nature for the magic spot where discord had
never entered. But they, too, looked and waited in
vain—yet looked and waited on as before, and called
upon Nature herself to confirm their hopes.
And the inanimate Earth awoke at last to the
consciousness of some great approaching event, and
listened to the whisper of deliverance, even as before
she had suffered and sunk under the ancient curse. And
spring by spring, as she adorned herself in beauty,
putting on verdure and flowers, the sense of the Mighty
One who was to restore and renovate her lost glories
swelled through every pulse. But she could not be
troubled with the discordant expectations of men. . . .
"Come as He will," she cried, "as King, as Conqueror,
as Sage, as God: thus, thus, thus, in my bloom and
beauty, do I make myself meet and ready for His advent;
thus, thus, thus am I worthy to receive my Lord and
King! When He comes shall not all the hills leap for
joy, and the valleys laugh and sing, and the trees of
the forest rejoice?
So spring after spring she adorned herself in hope,
 and, summer after summer, she glowed with longing
expectation; but spring and summer fled away and no
Deliverer had come. And when the sap must return back
again to the roots of trees and plants, and flowers and
leaves decay, and a torpor as of death prevail over
them for a while, she wept with tears of regret while
they took sad leave of each other, but said—
"With a new
season there will be hope once more." And Earth echoed
the words, but, cold and desolate, she felt no
confidence, and showed no signs of hope. Only the
Evergreens cheered her up, for said they:
things cannot be had, be contented with us; at any
rate, we will remind you of what is to come."
Oh ignorant man and ignorant earth alike! While
darkness was over the mind of one, and deadness over
the face of the other—when the eyes of the common world
were fixed on earthly palaces, and the thoughts of the
wise on the fruits of earthly wisdom; yea, when the
lovers of pleasure hoped for a Deliverer in scenes of
earthly enjoyment—behold, God had chosen "the foolish
things of the world to confound the wise; . . . the
weak things of the world to confound the things which
are mighty; . . . and base things of the world, and
things which are despised," had He chosen, "that no
flesh should glory in His presence."
Turn aside your eyes from earthly grandeurs, ye
prisoners of hope! Put away from your hearts the
confidence of human wisdom! Generation after generation
had passed away, and the whole world lay yet in
wickedness, for "in the wisdom of God, the world by
wisdom knew not God;" and not many
 wise men after the
flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called by
And then, lo! in the stable of a village inn, where the
beasts of the field were wont to take their rest, a
weary foot-worn maiden had lain down for shelter and
ease, for no other room could be found. And hark to the
cry of a new-born babe which rose thence, unnoticed by
the busy world without! The first-born of a mother,
whose husband earned their bread by daily toil—what
mattered this common birth to other men?
another cry which went up amidst the wailings of the
lowly child: a cry of thanksgiving and praise. "Glory
be to God in the Highest, and on earth peace, good-will
toward men." "Unto you is born this day, in the city of
David, a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord!" And they
who sang this glad Hosanna were the angels of Heaven!
Oh day of glory and delight! the Deliverer had come at
last; the day of redemption was there; but what was the
sign whereby the long-expected Mighty One might be
known? Had kings at last given birth to Him? Had sages
at last found Him?
Nay!—to simple shepherds abiding in the field, keeping
watch over their flocks by night, was the news
declared, amidst the shining of the glory of the Lord;
and the sign whereby He was to be known, was, that He
should be found wrapped in swaddling clothes, and lying
in a manger.
Oh ignorant man and ignorant earth alike! When the cry
of that helpless infant broke forth in the shed of the
village inn, who, untaught of Heaven, could have dreamt
that at that moment, and thus, the Desire of all
nations had come among men?
Yet thus, thus, thus, in the counsels of God it
decreed it should be! Thus at His first coming He
should come, an Example to all men.
Aye! thus, thus, thus,—in poverty and lowliness. Thus,
thus, thus—while Nature lay torpid and hopeless, and
half the world was winter-wrapt in snow. Thus, thus,
thus—with healing on His wings, but not the healing
they sought for: not a deliverance from death or
sorrow, not a freedom from toil or pain, not even a
ransom from temptation and sin; but, behold, by the
strength and wisdom of God's right hand, and the power
of His Holy Spirit, to make men through all these
things "more than conquerors."
We strive after signs and wonders, we look for visible
manifestations, we long for sensible experiences, and
when unanswered we fall back without a hope; but how
often, and often, and often, must the lesson of the
Advent be repeated. Not always where and how we look
for Him does the Divine One make His presence known to
ourselves. Not always even when we are hopeful and
earnest. Not always when in confidence we cry, "Thus,
thus, thus, am I meet to receive my Lord and King,"
does He come indeed.
Then hang up the holly, the ivy and the yew, over the
Christmas snows, as memorials of a hope which human
reason could never teach. Not by the glories of summer
was the Comforter ushered into the world. In the season
of cold and of darkness He came to His own. In the
winter and humiliation of our souls, when the robes of
earthly righteousness have been laid aside, it may be
He will draw near again.
When learning and research
cannot find Him, it may be He will reveal Himself to
the simple in heart. When the expectations of great men
perish, He may come with healing on His wings to the
soul of the lowly and meek.
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