A WALK TO CHURCH IN ROME

I know nothing more delightful than a walk to a country church on a fine day at the end of summer. All the lovely promises of spring have been fulfilled; the woods are clothed with their darkest foliage, and not another leaflet is to come anywhere. The lingering plumes of the meadow-sweet in the fields, and the golden trumpets of the wild honeysuckle in the hedges, make the warm air a luxury to breathe; and the presence of a few tufts of bluebells by the wayside gives the landscape the last finishing touch of perfection, which is suggestive of decay, and has such an indescribable pathos about it. Nature pauses to admire her own handiwork; she ceases from her labours, and enjoys an interval of rest. It is the sabbath of the year. At such a time every object is associated with its spiritual idea, as it is with its natural shadow. The beauty of nature suggests thoughts of the beauty of holiness; and the calm rest of creation speaks to us of the deeper rest of the soul in God. On the shadowed path that leads up to the house of prayer, with mind and senses quickened to perceive the loveliness and significance of the smallest object, the fern on the bank and the lichen on the wall, we feel indeed that heaven is not so much a yonder, towards which we are to move, as a here and a now, which we are to realise.

A walk to church in town is a different thing. Man's works are all around us, and God's excluded; all but the strip of blue sky that looks down between the tall houses, and suggests thoughts of heaven to those who work and weep; all but the stunted trees and the green grass that struggle to grow in the hard streets and squares, and whisper of the far-off scenes of the country, where life is natural and simple. But even in town a walk to church is pleasant, especially when the streets are quiet, before the crowd of worshippers have begun to assemble, and there is nothing to distract the thoughts. If we can say of the country walk, "This is holy ground," seeing that every bush and tree are aflame with God, we can say of the walk through the city, "Surely the Lord hath been here, this is a dreadful place." And as the rude rough stones lying on the mountain top shaped themselves in the patriarch's dream into a staircase leading up to God, so the streets and houses around become to the musing spirit suggestive of the Father's many mansions, and the glories of the City whose streets are of pure gold, in which man's hopes and aspirations after a city of rest, which are baffled here, will be realised. I have many pleasing associations connected with walks to church in town. Many precious thoughts have come to me then, which would not have occurred at other times; glimpses of the wonder of life, and revelations of inscrutable mysteries covered by the dream-woven tissue of this visible world. The subjects with which my mind was filled found new illustrations in the most unexpected quarters; and every familiar sight and sound furnished the most appropriate examples. During that half-hour of meditation, with my blood quickened by the exercise, and my mind inspired by the thoughts of the service in which I was about to engage, I have lived an intenser life and enjoyed a keener happiness than during all the rest of the week. It was the hour of insight that struck the keynote of all the others.