Down Nature's Paths



A NEIGHBOR of mine, busily pounding up limestone from an outcrop in the new lawn, intending to use the pieces in some masonry, suddenly noticed a fragment of a peculiar shape and had a vague feeling of having seen something like it before. A search through his wheelbarrow load soon turned up the other part of a rock that had broken along a certain line of cleavage. When put back together again, the two parts fitted so perfectly that the joint scarcely showed.

The next day he brought it to his place of employment and laid it on the step outside his office door. Soon I passed by and—enthusiastic "rockhound" that I am—snatched it up to look at. It fell apart in my hands, revealing the secret of its heart.

Due to my neighbor's generosity that stone now lies on my desk. I call visitors' attention to it as one of the choicest in my collection. I get little more than the most languid glance, for the irregular gray stone could not possibly be called beautiful. I encourage them to handle it, extolling its value, but their response is forced politeness. Sometimes one fairly jumps when the rock unexpectedly comes apart. Always interest comes alive at what the heart of the rock reveals—a perfect fossil and a cast of a brachiopod, an antediluvian mollusk.

A fossil of a brachiopod seashell is not especially rare. The beauty of this one is its perfect shape as it lies in one piece of rock and its perfect "cast," or mold, in the other part of the rock, and the perfect symmetry of the line of cleavage. It fits together so closely as hardly to be seen when the sections are replaced.

As I meditate over this curious mass, I can think of a number of "sermons in stones" which entitle this fossil to a page in God's two books. Perhaps the most obvious one is that when a secret sin is hidden in the heart, it weakens the moral fiber and sooner or later the stress of life will cause a cleavage that will reveal the plague spot.

But I prefer a happier thought. "Ointment and perfume," says the Proverb Maker, "rejoice the heart." We have heard of a certain stone casket in which some perfume was once hidden. Whose heart would have rejoiced in that perfume if the stone had not been broken? But the line of cleavage in Mary's alabaster box released the perfume that was the one drop of comfort in the Saviour's bitter cup. Its fragrance has pervaded not merely the Bethany home but the pages of all literature, the tones of all tongues, the realms of all rulers since that day. The precious secret could not be hid. The loving blow of Mary's gentle hand caused a cleavage that released the sweetest aroma ever breathed. The Sabbath question will be the issue in the great conflict in which all the world will act a part—unselfish love.

The well-directed blow of the Divine Artist has caused a cleavage in many a life that He loved, through which has poured forth the ointment that heals the world's wounds. Many an earthborn pebble, no more beautiful outwardly than my gray stone, has a line of cleavage visible only to the Heavenly Workman. The blows of life, under His direction, will reveal undreamed—of treasure in earthly hearts that yield submissively to His hand. 


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