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a feeble will or a Aickering and variable purpose. “ This one thing I do," always seems, more than any other, the motto written as with letters of light over the life of the Apostle Paul. His enemies, and even some of his friends, thought him obstinate; the man was not only careless of the aspersions and hostilities of his enemies, but he was superior to the pleadings and even the tears of his friends; and could go calmly on through all privation, up to the face of all peril, and at last to death itself, borne on' by the one purpose of his life-to serve the Lord. In that Lord Himself we see a strength of will corresponding to the perfection of His character. He said, " I will," " I must," "I work,” with a calmness, but yet with an intensity unparalleled among men ; and we rise towards Him in proportion as we resolve, day by day, to throw the strength and fulness of our life into the onward course of duty and obedience.
2. But we must look farther and deeper, and we shall see, beneath this selfwilling, something which sustains both the will and the self. “ I will go in the strength of the Lord God.” This is the fundamental reliance on which the personal resolution is built. The will of the man thus centres itself on the perfect Will. The strength of the man builds itself on the Everlasting Strength. This is self-renunciation. “ Nothing of myself,” says the Psalmist, “shall be my ultimate foundation of trust: at the root and very basis of my life shall be God only-God in His being, His righteousness, His salvation. I build on these: my will shall rise out of His will : it shall run parallel with His. My strength shall feed on His strength, and shall recruit and refresh itself from the undecaying energies of God. • I live, yet not I, He liveth in me.” I “ work out my salvation” with a will and with a purpose; but “He worketh in me to will and to do of His good pleasure."
II. SOME OF THE OCCASIONS WHEN THIS RESOLUTION MAY BE PUT IN FORCE.
Of course we may say truly that this resolve is for all times and occasions of life--for every place, for every company, for every hour. But as the mind is apt to receive but little impression from truth in a general form, it will be well to give it some special application. True, we ought to live in the spirit of these words at all times. We ought to be as trustful, as resolute, as devout at one time as at another, in one duty as in any other; and to some it may seem best not to separate life in our thought, nor to propose any special or more intense action of the religious principle at any one time.
No doubt this view correct in theory. But the truth is that the expressions “ought to be” and “ought to do” are sad deceivers. They often float men away from the doing of humble duties into what seems for the moment a loftier and serener region, but which sometimes turns out to be vague and unsubstantial. The fact is, that we are not what we ought to be, that we do not do what we ought to do: we do not live in the spirit of the Psalmist's resolve: none of us fully, some of us not at all : and the question is how we may attain to a better life? One means towards this end may be found
1. In this very way of selection—the setting apart of one duty, to begin withit may be a very light one-to be done in the spirit of faith and prayer, saying, “I will go into this, and through it, in the strength of the Lord God.
It is thus that progress is made in other things. It is thus that children are educated. They do not improve in a vague and general way at once in all the branches of a liberal education : they do one thing at a time. They learn a task and master it. They translate a sentence; or they draw an object; or they play a piece of music. And each of these things done, is one step towards the educated condition to which they are to rise. God deals with us as with sons and daughters. We are educated gradually in His ways. He sets us tasks; He leads us into the school of life every day, and all the duties that come are His lessons. We are not to neglect any of these; but we must take them up one by one, and it will be well fot us to say, as each comes to our hand, “I will do this as well as I can, by the help of God.” “ This, from beginning to end, I will endeavour to do to Him alone.” “In this action, I will not suffer selfishness to direct and move me.” “ In doing this routine work, as it is called, which I have done a hundred times before, I will try to make it a spiritual work to-day, by doing it to the Lord.”
All this would be very favourable to progress. Why? Because any one thing well done leaves the faculty of doing it again. The archer who has sent his arrow to the mark looks with a little more confidence to those still left in his quiver : by and bye he will not shoot at a venture. Not only is the faculty of doing it generated thus, but the desire to do it we might almost say, the tendency to do it-grows by the effort made. Those who attain to excellence almost certainly learn to love the thing in which they excel. So one duty and another, well done, leaves not only the power, but breeds a moral inclination to do the like again. Habit thus comes to the re-inforcement of principle, and principle re-acts on habit.
If, then, you adopt this suggestion, and apply it, more intensely than has been your wont, to any one duty, will you suffer another hint ?
2. Let the duty you select be one of the first duties of the day. The soul is apt to sympathize with the body, and to lose strength as the day wears on. Speak or act while the fire burns. Go from your chamber, or from your home, where God has met you, into the first clear duty that comes " in the strength of the Lord God.”
Suffer still one further suggestion.
3. Let the day you select be to-morrow. If days elapse between any gracious purpose and its performance, the strength of the purpose will be sure to diminish. To-morrow, therefore, “perform the doing of it." Write the text this evening over some one duty of to-morrow morning, and bind it hard upon it, till that day is done.
Apply this resolve, also, to a single day. In some lives it is difficult to find duties which can be easily separated from others. To many the single duty is hardly less than the single day. And it is certainly a step nearer to the ideal perfection which is set before us all that we should be able to rise from one duty to the larger field of one day. “Give us this day our daily bread.” That sentence of the Lord's Prayer recognizes the single day, teaches us to think about it, and to pray for the supply of its need. Our days come to us one by one, and if we redeem each one, we redeem our whole time. If we improve our single days, we sow seed which will be found " after many days ”-after all earthly days are gone by. Our days are separated, and yet vital influences stream from one to another. The living light and colour of one day flashes on the next. “This day” is a Painter; it is painting to-morrow. “ This day” is a Sower, and to-morrow, or some other day, will be the Reaper. “ This day” is the son of yesterday. It is also the father of to-morrow.
“I wish the day were over !” a man says sometimes, in weariness of body or disrelish of mind. He does not know how full the day is, which he despises, of sleeping powers. What prophecies of eternity are within it! What hidden symbols of greatness, or what seeds of care and shame! A man is thus praying against the Lord's Prayer. He is saying in effect, “Give me this day”—commonness—moral indifference—when nothing is common; when he cannot be in a state of absolute moral indifference for a moment. A far wiser and nobler prayer (for indeed it is a prayer as well as a resolution) is that of the Psalmist, “I will go " through this day “in the strength of the Lord God.” “ I will try to resist the vain excitements that may come, or to bear up against the undue depressions that may be creeping over me. I will try to rise above the spirit of formality, and to throw off the darkening spirit of fear. I will try to realize the importance of the fleeting but yet present hour. I will feel for Omnipotence the steps of this day, and go in the strength of God. I will “make mention” in my thoughts of His righteousness, and wrap it around me as I go.”
4. Let us apply this language, in our purpose at least, to the seasons of life. Life has times and seasons of special experiences as well as days. We often think of these seasons before they come to us. We are always forecasting the future, sometimes in our fear, sometimes in our hope; and in spite of continual disappointment, we are always trying to lay the hand of possession and rule
If it seems to shine, we strain every nerve to make it what it seems. If it glooms, we shrink in fear, or struggle in our feeble purpose, against the providential storm, although against all this restless thinking and striving stands the unchanging edict : “ The times and the seasons the Father hath reserved in His own power.” Are we then left in ignorance and helplessness ? No. In this very expression just quoted there is an immense communication of knowledge. “ The Father" has power over them, and the child is therefore safe. In all circumstances we are to go on our own way without presumption and without fear, humbly but resolutely, saying in our heart of hearts, “ I will go in the strength of the Lord God,"
Life is dark.” But well I know that the light is shining still, although I do not see it; and I believe I shall see it yet again soon, shining with a radiance to me all the sweeter that I am now for a season without it.
"I will go in the strength of God” through this darkness, until the Father of my spirit becomes the Father of lights to me again.”
“ Life is difficult.” Its currents threaten to bear me away. Its tasks require the very pith and marrow of my manhood, and so drain me of my strength that I know not sometimes how I am to endure and get through. But,
I will go," not in my own poor wasted strength, but " in the strength of the Lord God,” in the grace that is “ sufficient for me.”
Or, “ Life is smooth” and lightsome and easy now, like a soft flowing stream—like the shining of a summer day. May I not take it more easily now? May I not be carelessly glad that the struggle is over, that the storms have rolled away, that I feel the turning of the tide, that the stream is flowing my way now, that God is giving me some recompense and some rest ? No. I am to watch and pray still. · I am to watch, for the time may soon change: I am to pray, for, whether it changes or not, I shall need all the grace I can pray for. I am still to “go in the strength of the Lord God."
Or, “ Life with me is soon going to end." I am old, and it must; or I am enfeebled, and it probably will; or I am young and healthful, but still it may. Well, I will let it end in His good time ; there shall be no protest or murmur from me.
It is not a thing to be desired to live for ever here—in a world embittered so much by sin, and shadowed by suffering and sorrow, Why should I cling to this earth? Why should I wish to live here always ? True, I can never despise my life here: I must always hold it precious. True. The changing of worlds is a solemn and stupendous thing, requiring a courage as much greater than that of the battle-field as the occasion for its exercise is greater and more prolonged. But even to this inevitable crisis, to this deciding moment, to this gate of a life immortal, somewhere else than here, “ I will go in the strength of the Lord God.”
ALEXANDER RALEIGH, D.D.
The Night Season.
PSALM xvii. 3. “Thou hast proved and visited mine heart in the night season." There is no necessary contrast such as is sometimes supposed to exist between what are called the scientific and the religious views of nature. Science keeps its eye upon the facts of nature as they come before it; it carefully verifies and measures them; it endeavours to discover their exact relations to each other ; it sees in each of them a fragment of that vast universe that surrounds us, and of which each one of us forms a part. The man of science delights to trace each fact, feature, and occurrence in nature back to some law, some cause, some antecedent as its immediate parent, and, so far, its explanation. For him each fact has its discoverable, or, it may be, its undiscoverable yet certain place and function in that outward, unresting, unceasing movement which transcends the divisions of time and the vicissitudes of individual being, and growth and decay, and life and death. Each ripple on the surface of the mighty current, each phase of the swiftly changing being that presents itself only to disappear into the dark, unexplored background of what seems to be merely matter and force-each has for science the highest interest; and science, as such, has in it no interest beyond. But it is otherwise with religion. Religion, too, is interested in nature; for is not nature a revelation, partial and inadequate, yet still a revelation, of the Being whose handiwork it is ? Religion is interested in nature; but behind each natural fact, feature, and occurrence, religion sees not only or chiefly the immediate physical antecedent or cause of it, but Him to whom both effect and cause are alike traceable. And since He is not merely the first of all causes, not merely the first of all intelligences, but a moral Being, whose justice and whose love and interest in the creatures whom He has made, that they may know and love Him, are equal to His intelligence and His power, religion sees in nature, sees in its sterner as well as its more tender moods, in its storm and calm, in its rain and drought, in its cloud and sunshine, in its day and night, not mere phenomena, as they are scientifically apprehended, but successive and vivid expressions of the awful and beautiful character of the great Being beyond.
Science points its telescope to heaven, and calculates, with admirable and unerring precision the distance of a sun, or the speed at which a planet will accomplish its orbit, and the remote date at which a comet will again become visible; while religion chants the even sublimer truth_" The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament showeth His handiwork. There is neither speech nor language ; but their voices are heard among them. Their sound is gone out into all lands, and the words into the end of the earth.” There is an outbreak of Vesuvius, and science forthwith busies itself with the strength and the direction of the volcanic forces which are thus known to be in movement beneath the crust of the earth. Or a storm of exceptional violence bursts upon our shores, and new efforts are made to refer it to some cycle of atmospheric disturbance which is as yet imperfectly recognised. But religion, the while, utters her warning that God's voice is uttered in nature; that He has some message, be it what it may, for the moral and human world; that He is making the flames of fire to be His ministers; that His way is in the sea and His paths in deep waters, though His footsteps be unknown; that He is making the clouds His chariot and walking on the wings of the wind. Or some destroying epidemic, like cholera, is striking panic into the populations of great countries, and science is busying herself in the kindly and most useful task of discovering the insect, the germ, the bacillus, the bacterium, which propagates the disorder, and, if she may, of summarily dealing with it; while religion is equally prepared for her triumph or her failure, since the event, in any case, is from God.
Between these ways of looking at nature there is no necessary contradiction. Contradiction only arises when religious men hint that accurate scientific observation may be what it never can be-dangerous to religion ; or when scientific men abandon observation for rash hypothesis, or press conclusions derived from sensible observation into spheres of thought and being where they are plainly out of place.
These two states of mind do not belong to two different stages of civilisation. Religion is more necessary to us men than science, and, therefore, in the order of time, God has taught us religion first of all; but the two ways of looking at nature may coincide harmoniously in the same age and in the same mind—nay, the one may stimulate and minister to the other. Science, by its revelations, does but enhance in our minds the splendour, the mystery of Him who is beyond these revelations; and when religion names nature as a book of God, she consecrates every effort of science to interpret it.
The succession of day and night, and of work and rest, will illustrate what I am saying. Physically speaking, we all know night is the result of a revolution of the planet which we inhabit, whereby the spot which we happen to occupy is for some hours turned away from the sun. But if we look on this world as the dwelling-place of man—the one being on its surface who has conscious relations with its Maker—it is evident that night, whatever be the independent physical or astronomical account of it, must have another and a higher meaning; and this, its higher meaning and purpose, is hinted at in the exclamation of the psalmist—" Thou hast proved and visited mine heart in the night season.”
The religious aspects of night are many. We will try to consider three of them.
1. Night, VIEWED IN ITS RELATIONS TO THE LIFE OF MAN, STRIKES US AS
It breaks in upon and suspends human occupation of whatever kind ; it writes