Obrazy na stronie



wise above what is written, we may be was not one who would not gladly as well assured as of any revealed have exchanged his angels for ours. truth that God carried on his purposes

Hereafter," these are the words of of mercy towards us not merely true prophecy, “ hereafter ye shall see through these established laws of Heaven open and the angels of God nature, but by the ministrations of descending ”—and we live in that these glorious, though

invisible hereafter. Those patriarchs could spirits. And while there may be no come only to the “ mount that burned.” sin, there is surely a loss of consola- But we, we have come unto Mount tion in forgetting all this. The mys

Zion and to an innumerable company terious truth of the omnipresence of of angels.” “We have come to them.” God is too transcendental or occult They are here, in our paths, in our to our feeble comprehension to afford dwellings, beside us, all around us! us all the consolation we need in those In this only we come short-in the seasons of sorrow when God really strong, abiding, exulting faith that seems to have forsaken us. We feel keeps us

of their presence. after Him and do not find Him. Then It would exhort us to higher frames of even a human presence or voice, seen Christian life ; for if it be a blessed or heard in the dark night of life, gives thing, it is as well a solemn thing, thus us rapture, and even more of joy there to entertain angels." To enterwould be if we apprehended, as we

tain is a strong word. It signifies should, this revealed truth of angelic more than to receive and treat hosministries, so that in “entertaining pitably; it implies such treatment as angels it should be not unawares." is agreeable and affords delight to the In many cases the old saints were


courtesy in every way aware of the visitation. Surely, we adapted to the tastes and habits of the need not envy the saints of former visitor. The same hospitality extimes. We used to do so. When tended to an Esquimaux and a Parisian with childish fancy we read the sweet would not equally entertain them. stories of these heavenly visitations Now we must presume that an unto men, we envied them the bright angel's taste is very holy, and his visions. Thirsting and faint we walked habits very glorious. in the wilderness, and cried, " Would If we were preparing for an angelGod we could find Hagar's angel visit, there would be many things revealing the spring !” Restless and modified in our houses and our hearts. alone in the still and solemn night, we Our daily walk and conversation cried, “O, for Jacob's bright vision of would rise into higher frames, our shining angels descending to hearts would be as heavenly instrupillow !"

Broken-hearted, we went ments attuned unto hallelujahs, and forth to the grave whereinto had gone our lives as fair trees laden with the down all that made life beautiful, and flowers of love, and the fruit of the lifted up the voice in a deep and bitter Spirit would fill all the air with a cry, "O Lord, send, as unto Mary, a richer, heavenly fragrance, and the mighty angel to Aing heavenly glory very lowest cottage of humble piety through the glooms of our grave!' would be radiant and rapturous as So foolish and ignorant were we Bethel, “the very house of God and envy those men who had their spiritual the very gate of heaven," if with wise life amid shadows, when of all those and fitting preparation

we would most favoured servants of God there entertain angels."


There is in the text an earnest exhortation to the moods and minis. tries of a higher Christian life. It would tend to purify the Church of many foolish and worldly things, and to restore to piety those old qualities whereby "faith waxed valiant in fight,” if we lived daily under the power of the solemn truth. And beyond this, as indeed its higher meaning and power, it would greatly comfort us; for who, rightly thoughtful, would class it with wearisome duties ? Who would not rather accept it, and glory in it, as a surpassing privilege, “to entertain angels.” And we do entertain them. It matters not that we cannot see them. We do not see this air we breathe, yet how our hearts bound as its blessed breezes fan us ! All the tremendous forces of creation that are at work above and around us-light, heat, electricity, gravitation —though they hem us in and press upon us, yet we never see them; and yet our eyes flash and our hearts bound as we rely on them and glory in them. And surely the eye should flash and the heart bound with greater rapture at the thought of this more glorious ministry that surrounds us.

It is our own faith only that is at fault. If God assure us of any truth, we should rely on it more surely and gladly than in all truths demonstrated by our reason or objective to our

If a resplendent spirit should descend visibly from heaven, and cross my threshold, and stand in my presence, its very glory and beauty would confound me, and I should cry out in distrust. But now when God tells me that He has sent His mighty angels to be my ministers, then surely I can believe Him, and believing, how fair and bright and blessed this life and world ought to be! I may be in adversity, forms of suffering and sorrow may surround me, as in Daniel's

terrible trial-fierce monsters from the desert crouching for the spring—but then, as if a shining form rose between us, my joyous cry would be, “God hath sent His angel and shut the lion's mouth.” Is there a vacant place in the home and the heart of some dear one passed away, and do I, like the desolate Mary, go forth with all life's precious spices, to pour them in love's torturing sacrifice into the pitiless grave; why, then, having faith in God's Word, it should be only to find the sepulchre all ablaze with uncreated light, and to feel the brokenhearted swelling with unspeakable joy at the angel's words,

" He is not here! He is risen !” Nay, hath the form of terror sprang upon myself— death! death! is its cold breath on my brow? its mighty hand on my heart-strings? Yet

then it would be only as unto Elijah on the far side of Jordan, and the living spirit would spring forward with more than a conqueror's rapture, as the chariot of fire, with its angelic convoy, rushed in glory to the skies,




The Diminutions of Life.

ISAIAH xvii. 6, 7. Two or three berries in the top of the uppermost bough, four or five in the outmost fruitful branches thereof.-at that day shall a man look to his Maker."

The prophet is here predicting a season of national calamity. He represents the condition of the people under the figure of an autumnal scene. Armed hosts from the north have invaded the country like a sharp wind. The substance of its inhabitants has been carried away before their rapacity,

as when the harvest-man gathereth the corn, and reapeth the ears with his arm.” With this difference, however, that it has been destroyed by the violence of strangers, instead of being garnered for the use of those who had tilled the soil; and the sickle is the sword. The population is thinned, like the trees in the waning part of the year. Only that the wrath of man, unlike the severity of Nature, has no benevolent purpose in it. The comforts and blessings of life are shaken down as faded leaves. Only it is without any sign from experience, that they shall be replaced by a new spring. A desolated prospect rises before his sight. “ Two or three berries in the top of the uppermost bough; four or five in the outmost fruitful branches thereof." It was not that the patriotic seer was too easily alarmed,

1 as

, -as the event proved, -nor that he had pleasure in foreboding. The word of the Lord was a burden" in those days, and he felt its weight upon his own heart as he held it over the heads of his people. But he must needs speak. He must show what he

He was in hope, too, that he should do them service by what he said ; that, by representing the coming distress as the consequence of their sins, he should lead them to repentance.

Their lies in the text, apart from its historical reference, and from everything of a merely local interest, this general truth.



adverse, but when time and fortune have made the enjoyments of the world fewer, and thrown a longer shadow and a paler tint upon those that remain, the soul naturally remembers its truer and more enduring portions.

These occasions are continually recurring. Sometimes gradually, as the withering of the beauty of the year, and sometimes suddenly, as a hostile inroad, they come on. No one is exempt from them always. Few escape long without some touches of their power. In one form or another among a great multitude of forms, diminishing changes are dealing with us, or are not far off. Some things are leaving us, that we should be glad to hold longer. Some are altering, that we would keep always as they are. Some bloom is passing off. Some branching fancies are left bare. Some enjoyments have dropped. Some affections have suffered a chill. Some cherished things are dead. This is the inevitable lot of our humanity. Instead of sighing over it, instead of reaching backward after what cannot be regained, instead of desponding at the issue of events, instead of murmuring at the heavenly Providence, the true 46 " will “ look to his Maker." He will meditate the wise designs that are folded up in earthly appointments. He will endeavour to learn the sober thoughts and noble virtues which destitutions and trials impress. He will study to make himself more ample, as helping accidents decrease ;—and yet not himself, but the inward resources which the grace of God has accorded to him. He will try to make the little that is left more blest to him than the careless abun. dance that was at first bestowed. He will exchange the flush of the summer for the fruits of the harvest, without thinking he has suffered any wrong



[blocks in formation]


thereby. He will hope to be braced in which the prudent and the active to resolution by the times, that have fall behind in the competitions of the lost their young looks and more genial world, and riches spread their uncerinflences. He will commit the present tain wings and are away. But what and the future trustingly to the Lord, need of telling? Enough that the fact with whom "there is no restraint to

is so. save, whether by many or by few"; Many find their means compare and who delivers as easily through the but slenderly with those of the former resources that seem the least, days. They must measure carefully. through a whole army of physical where they used to scatter with a free strength and mercenary supplies. hand. They must refrain from accus

The language of the text leads us tomed indulgences. They must conto reflect on

tract their desires. They cannot do as they would, and that may appear hard :

or they cannot do as they did, and that This is the subject that is painted to is still harder, But they can do what us in its descriptive words; and it is

is better. They can show that they made more impressive by the cor- “ know how to lack.” They can show responding season, at which we have

that narrowed finances bring their now arrived,-a season not of entire

peculiar opportunities, as well as those desolation, indeed, but of fading and that are most expanded. They can scantiness. The experience of one show how far they are superior to the and another will show various respects

accidents of their lot; and by the side in which these diminutions have come of the old proverb,

“ All is not gold to take place.

that glistens,” they can set up their 1. With some the change relates to

illustration of a higher truth, that there their worldly goods and the general

is glistening far above that of gold. prosperity of their affairs. Their sub

This example of theirs may be rich stance has become less. Their pro- with incorruptible treasure. They can jects have been disappointed, or their show themselves above every artifice enterprises have miscarried; or else,

and dishonest subserviency, above while they have been planning nothing repining, above despair. They can be and attempting nothing, but only content with a little, which integrity thinking to hold fast what they had, makes sweet and humility makes loss has followed loss. Dishonest

enough. They can take it cheerfully hands have made themselves busy with when their sunshine is less, and be the gains of an upright industry. Or steady among tottering fortunes. They a sudden misfortune has swept away can prove themselves friendly, and the slow accumulation of many patient make themselves serviceable as effectyears. Or gradual reverses, that have ually as ever. neither man to blame nor the fire nor 2. A second class of diminutions flood to complain of, have reduced afflu- concerns the bodily ease and health. ent circumstances to straits. Demands Look about you as you walk through have increased faster than supplies. the streets, and you will be at no loss Exigencies have arisen that will not to discover the invalid. The cough, be put off; or causes that seem un- the languid step, the wasted form, the accountable are wearing away the eye too heavy or too bright, reveal the resources of a once flourishing estate. It ravages of an enemy within them, would take long to tell of all the ways You may see them lifted into coaches,


Did you

yet scarcely see them, they are closely wrapped up. Or if it has not come to that, you may observe them, as the weather roughens, choosing the sunny side of the way. If you went within doors, you would find much more of the same complexion. And even where your sight can detect nothing,—under round limbs and gay garments, and moving with an alert air,-disease is carried about, and the consciousness of decaying powers, and the monitor pain.

Without stating this evil in colours beyond the truth, we must own that it is widely spread and strikes deep. And now, you may say, what is left for those who have lost a possession like this? What is all that money can buy, that the whole bounty of nature can communicate, to those who are not well ? There is no bribing the keen officers of distress. A gold cup will not recommend a bitter potion. Tapestry and the eider's down have made

no treaty with repose. What are luxuries to the feverish lip, but one disgust more? What is the parade of life to the distempered or failing eye? What are the delights of the senses when “the whole heart is sick"? But when you ask, “What is there left ?" you are pressing me with a degrading exaggeration. What you represent as a loss is a diminution only, and not an utter ruin. There is less comfort but there is some. “ Two or three berries yet, in the top of the uppermost bough; four or five in the outmost fruitful branches thereof." Nay, the root may be as hearty as ever in the life-giving soil. Sickness may be but a transient disturbance, that will by and by cease ; and if it is mortal, it will have its alleviations and intervals of rest. The flesh refuses to suffer ys. Hope refuses absolutely to depart. The spirit will rise, through maladies that admit of no

cure, into states of delight; forgetting or despising those 'hurts, and even re-acting with a feeling of satisfaction against the worst they can do. It is not true, in the lowest physical sense, that there is no enjoyment without health. Nature is a kind mother over her infirm child,-breaking the blow, tempering the draught, compensating for the deprivation,

soothing the anguish, throwing in gracious respites, and giving a songs in the night.

What, then, when we look above Nature to a more benignant Guardian still ? You must go to the bedside which all earthly expectation has forsaken, if you would behold the full beauty of faith. The heavens bend close over that forlorn scene, and dis. play their all-sufficiency. sleep last night ?" was the question to one, surrounded with the humblest circumstances, torn with frequent pangs, and knowing there could be no recovery.

And the answer rested upon the memory, and shall not soon be dismissed : “ No, nor for others before it. My eyes are held watching, but I have enjoyed my thoughts.” What thoughts ? There was nothing to suggest those of joy in that mean chamber, in those destitute vigils, in that wasting life. No dream of am bition was there, such as sometimes kindles the fancy of expiring men, to excite that lowly head. No. With her, they rested nowhere short of the skies. At that day she “ looked to her Maker."

3. The third instance of diminutions to which our attention is called is found in the encroachments of age. Here is no question of more or less property, more or less health, which are distribu. ted without reference to periods of life. It is of those periods themselves that the discourse comes to speak. The years that remain are felt by many to be a lessening sum. Felt to be so;

« PoprzedniaDalej »