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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 you have one, 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 ! 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.
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 nerer 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 fellows 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 hones 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? Are 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.
There are crises of being to us all—"points of time” when everything in us or about us conspires to a given or possible result, never again to be possible. In a general sense it may be admitted that errors may be retrieved and mistakes corrected at any time; in a particular sense, or in a particular case, this admission would lead to false and dangerous conclusions. It is not every day, or any day, that a blind Bartimeus can hail a passing Saviour. It is only once, and that on a special occasion, that this can be done. Missed then, the chance is lost for
It is not any day and every day that openings are made for us by Providence to great achievements, or to great usefulness.
There is a fitness in things, and an adaptation in circumstances, plainly stamped with the blazing characters, now OR NEVER! “The wise man's eyes are in his head" to see these things, while “ the eyes of a fool are in the ends of the earth” to miss and lose them. The precise combination of adaptations and possibilities exactly to suit our temperament, education, and circumstances, cannot be made to order, or called back from their secret recesses whenever we will. They come and sweep around us, and touch and coax us to their embrace; but they are sensitive to slights, and specially to stubbornness and contempt. Our soul's harmonies must be attuned to their sweet voices, or the swell of their music will change to those terrible thunderings of wrath which we may always be prepared to hear, when we know not, and especially despise “the day of our visitation.” Opportunities ! there would not be one unconverted soul in our congregations, had they by all been improved. There would not be one vacant crown in heaven, had they been embraced ; and in hell itself there would not be one lost companion of the prince of darkness, if the voice of opportunity had not spoken in vain. And we might expand the thought to the condition of this whole carth, and say—not extravagantly or rhetorically, but in sober truth-that there would not be one vestige of barbarism, of superstition, of sin, ignorance, and shame and suffering, if opportunities had been improved! Is this possible, or is it a fantastic dream? We affirm that it is no dream, but a solemn soul-scorching truth. Brother, sister, as far as you have any share in this truth, as far as it comes home to you and burns itself into your conscience, as far as you have contributed, in your short span of life, to the reverse of the picture we have now drawn, put that down in your “ledger” this Christmas-time on the debit side ; and if ever you wept, or blushed, or trembled, or felt ashamed at any wrong. doing in yourself or around you, weep, and blush, and tremble, and be ashamed now !
“What does your ledger say?"
First, Churchward. Have you blessed it, or have you troubled it ? helped it, or hindered it? Have you seen it in straits money-wise or otherwisc, and sat still with folded arms and seen its struggle, without a pang ?
Has its policy not suited you, and have you therefore revenged yourself upon it by “a masterly inaction,” and let all things go to wrack? Have you stopped the mouth of your minister, so that he could not speak by reason of the choking grief that wrung his soul, and the distracting anxieties which one word of yours, one lift of your little finger, would have effectually removed? If you have done this put it down in your “ledger," in the blackest writing you can write, and score it under, as a thing to be remembered in aftertime. It is a poor business to starve your own soul because of a little vexation from others.
Doubtless in saying this it can but be applied to a very small number. Most men, if from nothing else, still from habit and old associations, settle down into contented relations with the Church. They give it no trouble, and in counting heads theirs is one amongst the number. But true Church life is an inspiration, it is a passion, or it is nothing. Who was it that said, “ The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up?" Eaten me, absorbed me, assimilated me into it, and it into me. Is not that what the saying means? And here is another saying: “If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning; if I do not remember thee let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth, if I esteem not Jerusalem above my chief joy.” Is there one in every twenty of the members and hearers of our churches, or any churches, who fully realizes in his own feelings and personal experiences all that this quotation means? If all felt it what a blaze of glory there would be among us! what strength, what resources, what success, what conversions, what hallelujahs we should sing, and what victories we should have to record as the fruit of all our enterprises ! That it is not so is deeply to be lamented; but the
!; cause is not far to seek, Some are holding back from worldliness; some are at ease in Zion; some are asking where the Church is, and what are its foundations, or whether it has any foundations at all ? Some are in a mist—a mist in the pulpit-which is the most rascally mist of all, and a mist in the pew, till few of all the Christian world can say, “ The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up."
“What does your ledger say ? ” about the family. Is every house a house of prayer? Is there worship at home? Is there Christian fellowship at home? Is there sweetness, Christian sweetness, at home? What is the conversation at home? What books are read there? what instincts nurtured, what aims kept in view ? Is the maxim of the household, “ As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord ?” And if not, what other ? You cannot raise a family on confectionery. It is not good for their digestion. It will bring pallor to the countenance and debility to their frames. Plain food and plenty of it is the family recipe. Abernethy, we believe, it was who said, " Plenty of food, plenty of