« AnteriorContinuar »
And if we look around us on the dispensation of life's blessings, we often find that
“So it falls out
The virtue that possession would not show us while it was ours.” I do not intend to write out any plans for the coming year, like some of the old moralists. You can make them if you wish, as you know better than I do what are your especial failings and desires. Yet there is a strange temptation to prose when thinking of the old year, even though I am told to “look not mournfully on the past, for it is gone." It must be because the parish bells are ringing so slowly. They, at any rate, do not speed the parting guest.
Mine is a quiet life, and so I expect I shall pass this New-Year's Eve in a quiet way. My dog lies stretched out at my feet before the fire, uttering occasionally strange noises, as though dreaming; and I presume will sleep it out, as nearly all my friends who are getting old are likely to do. I feel very sleepy myself; so let me follow my inclination.
I had not dozed long when the ringing of the bells awoke me, and I saw sitting in the chair opposite an old man whose face, though wrinkled by age and care, had a pleasantness that seemed to win upon me. I looked at him in a friendly way, and asked him to draw nearer to the fire and take a glass of wine. He said, “I thought I should like to bid you farewell, for it is not every one that gives me the opportunity."
“Who are you?"
“I am the Old Year, and, as you are aware, my existence on earth is a limited one, and I shall soon take my departure.”
“You do not look very sorrowful."
“Why should I! I do not believe in vain regrets, although we are prone to them. There are clear days in December after November mists; and the remembrance of the glorious spring and the radiant summer and the golden days of autumn should make the retrospect a cheerful one."
“But you seem to have had hard times."
“So I have. Yet I think during my year the world has made a step onward, and the secret of material, or mental, or spiritual progress is in that.”
"There is always pleasure in feeling that each year is an improvement on the last."
“If you think so, reflect on the past; not with regret for vanished possibilities, but to learn some lessons of wisdom to guide you in the future. Remember that the best use of the past is to enable you to wisely improve the present.”
Then the old man began to relate to me the events he had witnessed ; but ere he had finished, the clock was striking twelve, and as the last stroke sounded in my ears, he had gone.
I mused for a time on what he had said to me, when all at once my attention was arrested by a young child with golden hair, who was gamboling around the table. I could not help exclaiming, “Where did you come from ?”
"I came in when the Old Year went out. I am the New Year.” “You look promisingly—a rather precocious child I should say." “What can you expect with all the hereditary influence I possess. Though young in time, I inherit the wisdom of all past years."
“Take care you use the wisdom.” .
“That I do not expect very much. There are too many counteractive impulses in life for this always to be done. However, as you give the lesson, you can set the example."
“Well said; for it is much easier to preach goodness than to do it."
“And if I may remind you of another thing, it is that the happiness of this year will not be increased so much by extensive schemes for others to work out, as by individual effort. But I see you are tired, and as you are setting a bad example by sitting up so long, you had better think about this New Year to-morrow. I will go.”
With a ringing laugh the young sprite disappeared. I went to bed, perplexed by the conduct and sayings of my visitors; for mentally my New Year's Eve had not been a quiet one.
The next evening I could not help reflecting on what my visitors had said. I felt impelled to abandon my hastily-formed resolve of not making any new plans for the New Year. I could not look within my own heart without seeing that many evil tendencies were there, which must be changed if I would take a step onward; and however I might feel aggrieved at the wayward follies of others, it was necessary for my own improvement to set a good example. In common with others, I wished that the year I had begun to experience might be a happy one, yet I could not resist the conviction that happiness is not the true motive of life. Better by far that duty should be performed in spite of all impediments than sacrificed to the fleeting allurements of pleasure. And so in place of any rigid line of conduct, I thought that it would be well to strive to realize that ideal of every true Christian
"TRUST IN GOD AND DO THE RIGHT.” · I know that it is a hard task always to do the right; and our efforts would be feeble if we trusted in our own power. So the two must be combined; for in trying to do right our best strength is a sincere trust in God. It is pitiful to see the evasions we sometimes make to excuse the superficiality of our trust. They remind me of that story, in the “Colloquies” of Erasmus, of the voyager who, when overtaken by shipwreck, promised a wax candle to St. Christopher at Paris, bigger than himself, if he got safe to land. A fellow-passenger overhearing him, advised him to be careful, as if he sold all he possessed he would not be able to buy one. “Hold your tongue" was the reply ; “do you think I speak from my heart. If I touch land I will not give him a tallow candle.” There is the secret of our hollow trust. It is wrung from us by our fears.
It is only when the trust is from the heart that it is of sterling value. Do you remember that illustration of heartfelt trust shown by one in humble life? An old woman, whose age seemed no affliction, for her spirit was blithe and happy, was missed from her accustomed sphere of Christian labour. She was visited by a friend, who found her lying on a bed of sickness. The cough that shook her frame was endured patiently. When asked how it was that she, who had been so active and well previously, could be so cheerful under her trial, she replied, “When I was well, the Lord said to me, 'Betty, go here or go there; Betty, do this; Betty, do that, but now He says to me, 'Betty, lie still and cough.” There is the secret of Christian trust. It is not what I will, or you will that is necessarily the sphere of duty, but what the Lord wills. If our wills are in accordance with His will, the soul will be in peace; for He commands the sea to be still, and the winds and the waves obey His voice. It is the moulding of our wills to this similarity to the Divine will that is the life-work of the Christian.
Is it to be our purpose in this year? It may be that we have been trying in the past. Whether we have or not, let us take a step onward, for it is only by repeated efforts that what in the beginning is hard work becomes free play ;-only by little and little that we attain
Christian freedom—the state best fitted for the reception of God's Love.
“ There is in every human heart,
Some not completely barren part,
FOR YOUNG PEOPLE.
MY YOUNG FRIENDS AND FELLOW-LEARNERS,-I have two or three times read, and I daresay some of you have glanced at, an appeal “ To Contributors," made on your behalf by the Editor, on the inside of the Magazine cover, and at the request of Conference. Two or three times ; not because the words were hard to understand, but be- . cause the sense was—the exact thing wanted not being clearly stated in the Conference resolution. “Young people," as you know, is a very general expression; and theological “articles on scientific subjects suited to their minds” might freely range from “talk of bullocks” to study of the stars, or from little essays on vermin, needles, plants, camels, or dry bones (with some “ beautiful” moral appended), to serious considerations of the correlation of physical forces, or the necessary relativity of all knowledge. For equally well would any of these come under the idea of scientific subjects, equally would they be suitable to some or other of the minds among you, and their relation might alike be traced to the science of correspondence or to the Word of God. But as all interpretation must be taken with a little of the salt of common sense in the interpreter (sometimes, indeed, with a good deal), my common sense points out in this case that scraps of knowledge on geology, botany, or physics, to be picked up in any moderate school, or to be had in any scientific primer for a shilling, are not by any means wanted here, but rather, as I take it, some clear and simple presentation of scientific principles in their relation to spiritual principles, to the end that those of you inclined to such thoughts may be truly helped in your perilous way from difficulty, or even from doubt, to a belief and love of the very truth itself.
You may know so much of this same continuity as that it is played at football considerably at the present day by magazine writers and others; but beyond this, and the kind of glimmer the word itself gives you, you know nothing of its actually applied meanings, or of the part it plays in the theatre of the world's thought; nor can you guess why I should start out by compelling you to crack such a toothbreaking word as that. (For, no nut-crackers, mind you ! leave papa to his own work, and do you try your best here with your own teeth, and I will try my best with my — who will complete the illustration for me?) Well, the explanation I shall give you of it will also show you why I begin with it.
What is scientific continuity? I do not know that definitions will be of any real use to you at present, but as a sort of extempore one, take this permanent order. Order itself is an expression of the facts of nature as we know them in the sequences of law. Physical or scientific continuity, then, would be the unbroken permanence of the laws of physical order.
But having got this definition, how much wiser are you? Certainly it will give you little insight into the grandeur of the fact; and it is only this grasping of the facts that is of any avail towards general knowledge. “Sesames,” you know, are out of date, whether as definitions or otherwise; and definitions, you perceive, are only pocket editions of the facts for those who already know them. Illustrations of the thing itself here will be the best door by which to enter; and the general truth, some aspects of which we are to show, may be put thus :--The whole universe is a manifestation of continuous 1 force, --force, complex in form, that is, in appearance of component parts or special forces, but constant, unbroken, unbreakable both in fact and in method of operation. Plainly, the whole universe is of a piece, eternally. Let us work our way up to this conception.
You throw a stone and hit a given mark. You repeat the experiment a dozen times, and succeed but once more out of the dozen. Here we may observe two facts—a stone will always be throwable, other things being equal; and an equal force (other things again equal) will bring a stone to the same spot. You would think it
1 I dare not tell you “ of a continuous force,” for the absolute unity of force in nature is not as yet scientifically proved.