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No, surely. We will prize higher this great gift of life than to waste any more of it in idleness, or to spend any more of it in a wrong object.
And remember, every life is wasted-every life is misspent which is not led to the glory and praise of God.
To lead such a life we must begin early. None are too young to work in God's vineyard. It is a great mischief, the notion that prevails so commonly, that such work may be left to our declining years—that religion is the proper occupation of the aged and infirm. The aged and infirm are little fit for work of any kind. Their feeble health, their failing senses ask for repose, and not for effort. If they have lived well before God, if they have sought Him and served Him in their youth and strength, He will not forsake them when they are old. They have His promise to the contrary,I will never leave thee nor forsake thee.
But if they have lived ill—if all their best days and best powers have been given not to God but to the world—if only when all things else fail, and life is ebbing from them, they take up religion as a last resource, and look to this for their comfort-shall I say that they will find comfort ? shall I promise peace at the last to such as these ?
Indeed, brethren, I dare not. God will not be put off with the leavings of our days. We owe Him, and He expects it of us, the best that we can offer—the prime of our years, the vigour of our faculties, our life while it is fresh and young. Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth, while the evil days come not, nor the
gyears draw nigh in which thou shalt say, I have no pleasure in them. . . . The living, the living, he shall praise Thee, as I do this day. There is reason enough at all times why we should lay to heart this counsel. But it comes upon us with unusual force at this moment. For this is the first day of the new year. Last night saw the close of one more of those threescore and ten years which mark the limit of our pilgrimage. Now are we reminded, in a way that none can help to notice, that life is shortening and death coming on. Since this day twelvemonth, some who lived amongst us, some who used to worship with us here, have been removed. The year which found them at its opening as likely to live as ourselves, has proved their last year. They cannot praise their Maker any more as we do this day. They cannot any more, on earth, sing the Lord's song to the stringed instruments in the house of the Lord l For good, or for evil, their trial is over, their fight fought, their race run And how soon may the same be said of ourselves! We cannot all of us hope to be alive when this new year shall be over. There will be again, ere it closes, as there have been in times past, breaches in families, separating of chief friends. When and where the stroke may fall is mercifully hidden. But surely, not the youngest, not the strongest, much less the weak and aged, can boast himself of to-morrow. All we can count upon as sure—as our own—is the present moment.
May God teach us to use it wisely! May He so incline our hearts to His service, so guard our steps from every evil way, that we may live the remainder of our days, be they few or many, to His glory! For so living —and only when so living—we need not be afraid to die. God's true servant has a sure refuge against all that can happen—when the earthly house of his mortal tabernacle is broken up, he has another and a better one provided for him a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens !
1 ST. JOHN 1. 3.
The Life was manifested, and we have seen it.
THESE are the words of the beloved disciple St. John, and they are a witness of God's goodness to him. To him and to his fellow Apostles, it was given to see Christ face to face, to be in His company, to sit at meat with Him, to hear the wonderful words which proceeded from His lips, to witness the miracles that He did on them that were diseased. To him and to two others yet more especial favours were granted—John, with James and Peter, was selected to be with our Lord in the moments of His mightiest manifestation. They were with Him on the Mount of Transfiguration—they were in the chamber when He raised to life the ruler's daughterHe took with Him these three to be with Him in His agony.
Well, then, might St. John, when writing in his old age for the use of the Christian Church for ever, dwell, as he does, on his personal knowledge of the Saviour.
Well may he speak of his fellowship with Jesus Christ. Well may he assert, at the beginning of his first Epistle, how intimate he was with Him, how closely he had looked upon Him. That which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon and handled of the word of life. For the Life was manifested and we have seen it, and bear witness, and shew unto gou that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested unto us. That which we have seen, and heard, declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us. But, brethren, the Life, which was then in a particular manner manifested to St John, has since been made known far and wide in the world. The Gospel has carried the name and true image of Christ to an ever widening circle of disciples. Thousands who were not born when St. John wrote, have gazed upon the Master whom he so loved. Thousands have entered into His fellowship; gone to their rest knowing in Whom they believed: not indeed having seen Him in the flesh, but having seen Him by the eye of faith, and with a sure and certain hope of seeing Him yet more perfectly in another world, We ourselves, brethren, who are worshipping here today, have surely shared in Christ's manifestation. We, in a degree, may say, The Life was manifested, and we have seen it. Each year, as the Epiphany comes round, our Church reminds us of our blessings; repeats the story how, in His cradle, the Son of God was manifested, not to the Jews only, among whom He was born, but to the Gentiles. Each year, on this day, are St. Paul's words employed,