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Came to me in his fatal rounds,
“ As the bird trims her to the gale,
I trim myself to the storm of time,
I place here at the end a fine picture of a saintly man; old, with a mind clear and a spirit brave; with memories within and friends around him:
“How calmly he sat in his stall in the cathedral of life, with the banner of Christ's love over his head, waiting for the service to be over, that he might say with all his heart, Amen!”
CAVING considered Time, it is convenient
to look at the point in Time which we
call Now. It stands between the eternities. If that view is too extreme, it is an unchanging point between the years we have had and those into which we are moving. To understand the present we must know what has preceded it; there must also be the anticipating of the days to come.
The former seems more easy than it is; for much of the past has gone from our mind, while it is not a simple matter to trace the relation of events to the estate in which we are standing. As regards the future, while we cannot know in advance all which it contains, we can know the verities which are there, the principles which will prevail, and in a general way the results which will attend our action. Surely our experience, and the store of experiences of others, should throw light upon the course of things. Exploration and discovery will attend our steps; but these will come in a world with which we are acquainted. Reason and conscience will hold their place. The great interests will preserve their identity. There will be surprises, in order that Time may maintain its freshness and variety; but we can form plans with assurance, and arrange our motives in confidence, and go forward with a steady tread.
The uncertainties lie among the less important things, or relate chiefly to matters of detail. We cannot tell what kind of weather we shall have a week hence. But we can rely upon having some kind of weather. We do not know what particular things may assert their claim upon our time and strength. But we know as well now as in the future that it will be our duty to be honest and honourable, generous and helpful. No change will pass upon the two commandments which include our life. Under all circumstances it will be right to do right. Nothing can affect this duty, and upon it we may construct our plans with intelligence. We do not know where we shall be a year hence, or a day hence. But we do know that we shall be for a hundred to-morrows, and that wherever we are we shall be with the divine love, with the same principles for the fashioning of our life as we have in this world. The place may change at any moment; it is certain to change before many days. But the change does not involve a reconstruction of our motives and a new arrangement of our affections. I do not know that any event is so greatly overrated as the
passing from one world to another. Life is not subject to its control.
We must allow room in our expectations for the unexpected, though our thoughts have the element of prophecy. Nor should we desire more liberty in our anticipation, for we do not know what we shall want after twenty years have passed by. It would be foolish to attempt to lay a heavy mortgage on the coming time, and to insist that then everything shall be as we now think we should like to have it. Our desires may well change with our growth. In attempting to control the future many mistakes are made. This is frequently seen in wills. A man bequeathing his property has attempted to tie it to the opinions and wishes he has when he passes it on to others; although, in all probability, these would be modified if he continued here; while it often happens that the property cannot be used in the way which was indicated. Then the courts of the present have to act as it is supposed that he would act if he were here. Thus, a man left a sum of money to be used for the abolition of slavery in this country. When slavery was abolished, the courts directed that the money should be used in some other way for the benefit of those who had been slaves. The action in the Now was called upon to direct the action of the past. It would be better in the light of the present to intrust the bequests to young men of discretion, and to believe that they will act as the giver would if he had remained.
What others may choose will have its influence upon our own desires. We must leave ourselves at liberty, and grant liberty to those who are to take up our purposes. It is not for us alone, or for men alone, to determine the events and conditions of the future. A higher wisdom is over our life. An all-embracing mind holds men in its interest, and makes all things work together towards a common end. It is enough for us to know that which is vital and essential, and, for the rest, to live by the day whose evil and whose good are sufficient unto it. Even the divine promises, certain as they are, leave much to be found out only in their fulfilment. In the classic chapter on faith the unknown writer does not hesitate to say that the heroic men whom he presents " died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them and greeted them from afar.” What does this mean, but that even the promises which are given for our guidance and encouragement, and which are to be utterly trusted and held precious, are not in all cases to be limited to the letter, or confined to our ability to understand them and appreciate their meaning? In the obedient mind they are enlarged, and with this is a grateful contentment. I am not willing to say, with Robertson, that “God's promises never are fulfilled in the