The Tree Killer by G.G. Johnston – A Story from “The Two Roads”


I was thinking of the following story just recently as we walked around Ardgillan Castle which is situated overlooking the sea between Balbriggan and Skerries in north County Dublin. On the afternoon of our visit to this beautiful place the scent of roses perfumed the air after a recent shower of rain. A long while ago, when I first came to live in this area, I wrote a little verse about the lovely Ardgillan, from which the Mourne mountains are clearly visible across the sea…


 Imposing, yet familiar friend,

Beyond your ancient walls

Grey sky and blue sea blend.

And far across the foaming tide

My own dear Mournes peak quietly,

Where Northern lights abide.

 Elizabeth Burke

 In the grounds of Ardgillan there is also a rich variety of plant life and numerous trees, bringing to mind the story of “The Tree Killer” by G.G. Johnston…

“This peculiar form of plant life is a parasite, found in Venezuela and other tropical countries. Seeds carried by the wind, or by birds, fall into crevices in the bark of a giant ceiba, or other tree of the forest, and, moistened by the frequent rains, soon sprout. Slender roots quickly penetrate the bark and feed the plant from the sap within, while other tendrils, like cords, stretch themselves earthwards, sometimes many feet, until able to take root in the fertile soils beneath.

Other arms of this parasite creep up and down the trunk and branches, extending themselves, as if in loving embrace around the tree, but really sucking the life out of its victim, through the roots which grow from it at intervals of only a few inches, penetrating the bark of the tree.

Passing by one of these old giants covered with the tree-killer parasite, one is struck to note its excessive verdure, only to see upon closer observation that this is not the verdure of the tree, but of the parasite. Gradually the life of the noble ceiba is spent, and it stands dead and worthless. The parasite continues to feed upon the rotting form, becoming more distended and verdant. At length, a tropical windstorm hurls its fury against the mass and brings it down, a tangled, worthless pile of vines and leaves.

The story of the destruction of the great ceiba tree is also the story of man. Made in the image of God, he is head of all earth’s creatures. But sin laid hold of him, and, without exception, all have sinned. All in the human family are born with a sinful nature, and all, to some degree, have practiced sin.

The workings of sin are soon manifest in the child, increasing in their manifestations as the child grows. The occasional lie, the deceitful action, the tendency to steal, and the swear-words manifest the evil that is already sown in the heart. It grows with the years, as does the tree parasite, until in many cases the victim is brought down in disgrace, powerless to resist the onslaught of vice and sin.

In other cases, outside influence and inward pride preserve from open disgrace, but the evidences of sin’s presence are, nevertheless, not lacking.

The only hope for the beautiful tree of the forest is in some deliverer, who might come and destroy the tree-killer parasite. The sinner’s hope is not in himself, but in Another. One has come to destroy the power of sin, and deliver the soul of man. The Son of God, born of Israel’s virgin, Mary, in human form, but without the taint of sin, has lived, has died, and has risen again. His sinless life proved His fitness; in His death He suffered God’s judgement for sin, not His, but ours. His dying words were, “It is finished.” He rose in triumph, and went back to glory. The gospel is preached; men believe its message, and immediately experience a new power in their lives. The debt of sin is cancelled: its burden is gone. All fear of coming judgement is over.

My friend, do you not acknowledge before God that you are a sinner? You need a Saviour. Have you received Christ, and have you been saved by His grace? If not, open your heart this moment and accept Him as yours. “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life, through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 6v23)

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