Obrázky na stránke
[blocks in formation]

This is the season for reckoning up; for striking balances; for estimating profits and losses; for taking stock, arranging business relations for the coming year, and generally bracing up the mind and energies for a renewed start in business enterprise, so soon as the new year shall open.

“ Business is splendid,” said a friend to us, the other day. Orders cannot be executed as fast as they come in. A general tone of independence marks the conduct of commercial travellers towards those on whom they “call;" and the buyer, rather than the seller or producer, has to go, hat in hand, to request the favour of a supply from the producer of such articles as he needs, but finds it somewhat difficult to obtain. There will be brightness and gladness in many counting-houses and bank-parlours in England, this Christmas-time that is just on us.

There will be mutual congratulations among partners and “firms.” Even “sleeping" partners will open their eyes to take in the bright sunbeams of joyousness, on account of successes achieved and profits realised. The workman himself is sharing the general prosperity ; is demanding, almost everywhere, his “nine hours" a day; and, on the whole, receiving an advance of remuneration.

All this is matter for sincere thankfulness, even to a Methodist Preacher, who can only look on and admire, and be thankful, while his own income gets no larger in the general prosperity, or his own larder more plenteous amidst the general fulness. No doubt he does a little, at times, feel the emotions of the "carnal mind,” in the slight form of the merest shadow of envy; and no doubt, were it not for the severest spiritual discipline, he might express that envy in a way that might be hardly consistent with the general temper of his placid and thankful mind, and his quiet relations to Deacons and Stewards in general. But let this pass; it is only just one little


speck of discontent amidst the general happiness, and will give way in time to proper discipline and diet.

There may be a few amidst the general mass who have not prospered this year. There may be some who have made mistakes; who have to put down in the ledger of “ profit and loss” more of loss than of gain, and who will draw a long and weary breath as they glance over a balance sheet that shows a bad and wasted year. It is not given to every one, even in the most prosperous times, to advance with the general current. There seems an election of


e" in these matters, which one cannot explain. Failures of plans and hopes cannot always be traced to visible causes—to want of industry, want of economy, or want of energy. The poor, the unfortunate, the unsuccessful, we always "have with us," and perhaps always shall have. To these their "ledger” can furnish little encouragement or joy. They will be apt to look on the well-lighted, well-furnished, and every way comfortable homes of their more fortunate neighbours, this Christmas-time, when feast and music and social glee combine to render those homes so cheerful, with sadness or envy; and will be disposed to write bitter things against that Providence which seems, but seems only, to administer things so unequally in this world. Still, even these have a “ledger.” The account is written up of us all, and for us all. The year is gone; the moral estimate must be summed up, for the Lord of those servants has come to “reckon" with them, and to ask us all, in effect, “What does your ledger


Have we any ledger at all ?—any moral gauge which we are accustomed to apply to our spiritual concerus? Or is it all accident and unconcern with us on these subjects? Many shrewd business men will read the words we are now writing who would think it a violation of their business order to let a single item go astray in their books, or a single letter go without a prompt answer, or a single business calculation be neglected; who read with the most careful attention the "city" articles in their daily papers, and the movements and utterances of their political “party," who have never given themselves any concern during the past year to estimate themselves, to “take stock ” of their own principles, attainments, and conduct in the spiritual business of life. Some tremendous knockings at the door of the heart there may have been under sermons, under personal afflictions, under waves of spiritual power which have come to them and to their neighbours from the infinite source of all light and love; but it has all passed " like a dream when one awaketh," and has left no permanent impress on the mind. No stock has been taken, no examination has been instituted ; the whole page of the moral account is a blank or a blurred and blotted record, which, if it shows anything at all, exhibits a mind ill at ease, hesitating, confused,

and dreamy as to the gravest matters that can occupy the attention of an immortal being. Oh, is that the way to live? Manhood has come, children are growing up around you, here and there a straggling grey hair indicates the meridian of life, and yet nothing is done, nothing at least to any effectual purpose, about the one thing needful ! If there were a right moral atmosphere around us in this world, it would be so that, given a man's earnestness, decision of character, and deep concern about spiritual things, would be his credit on Change or at his banker's. Of what use, it would be asked, is the fact that he gathers up every pin and needle he meets with in the street, calculates with the greatest nicety how many matches he shall use every week in lighting his lamp, or is careful of every bit of string which comes to him on his parcels, of what use is all this? He tithes his " mint and his cummin,” but neglects his soul. His great concerns are ill managed or disregarded. He is “penny wise and pound foolish,” and we cannot trust him. That this is not the sentiment of the business public, only shows how far we vary from the estimate which God forms of us. Our worldly things, however vast in their dimensions, or valuable in their results, are but the pins and needles in our path ; but the bits of string, and the comparatively worthless matches, which in themselves, except as care about them indicates a habit of mind, are of little consequence in the business of life. No man ever made a fortune or marred one by attention to these little things. So, relatively, the soul's wants are our greatest wants; the soul's business is our greatest business, and if there be no care of these, it matters little what else we are attending to.

If there is no account kept about these, that balance-sheet of your worldly condition on which you are looking with such intense interest and pleasure, as indicating your temporal security and prosperity, may as well be put into the fire for any safe conclusions it will ever help you to respecting what concerns you most. That is the first phase of the question. Have you any spiritual ledger at all? Or are you drifting to eternity without a purpose, without an aim, without principles, and, in fact, without a will upon the subject ? * What does your ledger say

?" If

and have kept it with any care, see what an immense debit there is against you ! A whole year's mercies! A whole year's trials even! All are there, or if not there, they are in the ledger which God has kept of your affairs. And, then, there are a whole year's opportunities ! A year's mercies, a year's trials, a year's opportunities! Can any one tell what those words imply? Thirty and less of such years are the lifetime of a generation. That is, the sum of human life when averaged does not amount to more than thirty years, scarcely more than twenty-nine. To the whole human family the mercies, trials, and opportunities of any one year cannot be more than thirty times repeated. This is a solemn consideration, yet they have been repeated to all of us another year.

you have one,

There has been no lack in the flow of Gospel mercies. The truth has sounded in our ears another year. All that men could do—men of various qualities, the sons of thunder and the sons of consolation, the close reasoner and the vehement declaimer-has been done to rouse attention, bring home conviction to the soul, and establish in the faith. Those grand hymns we sing, bringing us as they do, in sympathy and fellowship, so near to the heavenly choirs, have echoed their sweet and ballowing sentiments through our sanctuaries another year.

Whatever could be done to draw our souls heavenward has been brought home to our hearts. Around us have been the victories of the Cross. The young have been saved, the aged have died in the full triumphs of the faith. We have read of their struggling, suffering lives, and of the blessed mandate which has called them away to their never-ending rest. Our hours of leisure have been employed, or might have been, with such occupation as a varied religious literature has furnished for our instruction and profit. In our Christian homes many refining, comforting, and elevating influences have been acting upon us to bring out the social and Christian affections into greater warmth and purity. In the church and in our homes, by our firesides and in the converse of friendship, angel voices have been speaking to us, to come into nearer relations with holy things, and to have our whole nature overshadowed with the presence and power of the Holy Ghost. Are not these mercies which our "ledger” should record in clearest characters on its page ?

There are our temporal mercies also. We have been fed and clothed, we have been sheltered and protected. We have had enough and to spare. There has failed not aught of any good thing which the Lord has spoken to us : all has come to pass. To some large gains have come; to all sufficiency. Some are higher in social position and stronger in resources than when the year began, and to the weakest and poorest there has been succour in the time of need ; hitherto the Lord hath helped us. We have not lived in barbarism, but beneath the benignant influences of Christian civilization. War, which has desolated many homes, has not come nigh to ours. National convulsions, which have shaken at least one mighty nation to its very foundations, have not disturbed our repose. Our laws, our rights, our national institutions are all safe. The inestimable boon of freedom for conscience, and for political action within the bounds of law, is still ours. The figure which expressed the security, quietness, and plenteousness of the home life of Israel in the days of Solomon has been substantially realized to us : “and Judah and Israel dwelt safely, every man under his vine and under his fig-tree, from Dan even to Beer-sheba.” But the story of our mercies is too long to be told, the sum of them is too great to be estimated, and imagination itself, heightened as it may be by the warm impulses of the liveliest gratitude, could not reach the height or fathom the depths of those abundant mercies which our Heavenly Father, in the richness of his love, has lavished upon us.

To some there has come the ministry, or the endurance of suffering and trial; which whether it be not, though not in outward garb, the greatest mercy of all, may well admit of question. Prosperity tends to inflate if not to harden our hearts. Humanity is the product of many varied if not adverse influences. Its true image was never seen in one mirror, its perfect form was never built up by one class of circumstances. Nature seldom lives and thrives amidst great and continued prosperity. The splendours of high station, and the ready resources of abundant wealth, do not naturally minister to a sense of dependence. He who has few follows will not be likely to have over much of fellow-feeling. Neither the very high nor the very low can be the best exemplars of humanity. Lazarus and then the dogs ; Dives and then the cold-heartedness which wrapped itself in its own consciousness, and cared not and knew not, till it was too late, that there was a beggar so near. Neither station is to be desired for its own sake, but the infinitely better of the two, as the sequel proved, was that of the poor afflicted one at the rich man's gate. Let our station, however, be what it may, sooner or later we have all to drink of the bitter cup. Man continueth not in oue state. Surely every man walketh in a vain show. When God with rebukes corrects man for his iniquity, he maketh his beauty consume away like a moth. Surely every man is vanity. Our gourds are soon withered up, and even the place that knew us, our palaces, our castles, the very hoines and places we had made so strong and beautiful for us and ours, know us no more for ever. Perhaps this year we have watched by the pallet of the sick, or some one has watched by ours; bathing our fevered brow, moistening our parched lips, and looking every moment for our departure to the unseen world.

Yet here we are, with the ruins of households all around us by death or disaster ; our own, probably, showing a vacant chair where some loved one used to sit, or some vacant cradle from which the angels have snatched the little one that used to smile on us so sweetly as we caressed it. These things also, these things sent to soften our hearts and mellow our character, are they not written in our “ledger" against us? they not recorded as visits to our hearts from the soft-winged messengers who have been sent from heaven to bless and save us ?

Then, there are the year's opportunities—the openings for that which "might have been." In some one of these or more there may have been condensed more of the possibilities and responsibilities of our being than in any or all the years of our previous existence.

« PredošláPokračovať »