« PrécédentContinuer »
secrated to a close and filial communion with our Father in heaven; the hours when we felt the burden of mortality taken off, and our souls left light and free; when we breathed a better atmosphere and saw with a clearer vision, because the air of another world was around us, and the clouds of doubt had vanished away. There have been seasons in the life of every Christian when he has perceived that a fresh beam of divine light has come in upon his soul, that he has acquired a new apprehension of the attributes and providence of God, and that he has taken another step in the path of a holy pilgrimage. Such seasons are sacred, and sacredly let them be kept, in the record of every heart.
I have mentioned some of the joys to which memory may point us. The recollection must not be barren of improvement. It will show us, in the first place, how beneficent our Creator has been to us, in furnishing each age with its appropriate pleasures, and filling our days with a variety as well as a multitude of blessings. It will teach us to keep an honest account of our enjoyments, and to avoid the fault of those who minutely reckon up their pains and misfortunes, but ungratefully pass over the kind allotments of Providence. He who is faithful to the mercies of Heaven will not forget that he has tasted them, even though they may have been long resumed. He has once had them for his own, and that is enough to inspire him with gratitude for the past, and with trust in the continuance of his Father's love.
There is another moral which may be deduced from the remembrance of our joys. It is evident that they are not all of equal value, and that we must dwell on some of them with more complacency and satisfaction than on others. Now we shall find, if our moral taste is not entirely perverted, that the joys which afford the greatest delight to our memory, are those which flowed in childhood from its innocence, and in after life from our good deeds. The lesson is obvious. If we take pleasure in recurring to the innocence of our first years, let it be our watchful care to retain and preserve it; for it is not necessarily destroyed by knowledge, nor does it invariably depart at the approach of maturity. It is in continual danger, and it must be guarded with constancy. It is like a fountain which springs up in a frequented place, and is immediately exposed to rude contamination and surrounding impurities ; but we may build a temple over it, and keep it fresh and clear. A similar improvement may be made of the memory of our good deeds. We should use all diligence in adding to their store ; for if they are now the most precious treasures of the soul, they certainly will not diminish in price when the common enjoyments of
life are losing their relish, and its bustle no longer engages us, and the tide of our energies is fast ebbing away, and we only wait for the summons of departure. What solace is there to an aged man like the memory of his virtuous actions ? What medicine is there so healing to his wasted, solitary heart? What ground of hope is there so sure to his spirit, next to the mercy of his God and the intercession of Christ his Saviour ? And what wealth would not many a sinner give to purchase that, which the wealth of both the Indies is too poor to buy?
II. But it is time that I should change my subject, and come to a sadder theme. We cannot pass through the world without the experience of sorrow; and of this, as well as of joy, memory becomes the monitor. Here also she has a tale to tell of the days of old; for even innocent childhood is not exempt from grief, and many a cloud will rise to interrupt the brightness of its morning. So is it with every succeeding period of our brief day. We were born to sorrow, and our lot must be fulfilled.
And let us not complain that the shadows of sorrow return to haunt us, after the term of its actual existence is over. Why should they not be permitted the same licence as the phantoms of delight? The laws of memory are impartial, and do us no more injustice than the laws by which the realities of our condition are dispensed to us. If our sufferings as well as our enjoyments are rightly ordered, why not the remembrances of both ?
Whether we are led back more frequently to the bright or the gloomy passages of life, depends very much on the structure and tone of our minds, and the character of our present circumstances. It is to be observed, however, that in either case the transition is easy from what we are to what we were; that it is often made without any exertion or even volition of our own ; and that things of the lightest consequence have the irresistible power of effecting it. A face which meets us for a moment in the street, an old tree, a piece of household furniture, a snatch of music, the sighing of the wind, may bring along with them a crowd of imaginations and scenes which had not visited our mind for years, and seemed to have gone for ever.
In memory's land waves never a leaf,
There never a summer breeze blows,
Starts up from its deep repose;
We all of us know best what our own calamities have been,
and know best how often and how poignantly their memory afflicts us. Some bitter disappointment, perhaps, came along in the spring-time of our life, breathing on our young and flourishing hopes like the cold east wind, and converted them into a heap of withered leaves, and covered our heart with a mildew, which, though time and the sun have acted upon it, is still felt there, in the returning fits of memory, in its melancholy dampness. Or perhaps we were doomed to undergo the torturing attack of severe disease or casual pain; and we shudder when we recur to its agonies. It may be that we lost our property ; that we were cruelly neglected by the world, or unaccountably forsaken by a friend; and the thoughts of these things trouble us in the midst of our calmest repose. But there is a thought darker than any of these, and more common too with all of us, and more frequently crossing the minds of all with its sweeping shadow—the thought of those who, though tenderly loved, were never valued as they ought to have been, till they were removed from our sight-the thought of that oppressive hour, when the hand which had been so often warmly grasped in ours, grew colder and colder as we held it, and that expressive countenance became fixed like marble, which even then was answering ours with a placid smile—the thought of those who are gone from among us—the memory of the dead. I will not dwell more minutely on this remembrance. It would be cruel to do so. Perhaps I have already said too much on a subject which needs no description to bring it home most painfully to our bosoms. Perhaps I have struck too harshly on a chord which a touch or a breath will cause to vibrate with intensity. Oh, how many simple words there are, and unnoticed things, which raise up sweet faces of past times before the eye of our spirit, and make our heart swell and throb, even in the press of the indifferent crowd, and the world does not know it, because outwardly we are calm, and we mix with its people, and pursue our business as they do!
The memory of our sorrows is fitted to exert a favourable influence on the character, by softening it, and moulding it to the form of gentleness, and preparing it for the impressions of religion and piety. The memory of disappointment inay give us a friendly warning in the season of extravagant expectation, and teach us to shelter our hopes more cautiously than we did before, lest they should meet with a similar blighting. The memory of sickness may arrest us in a course of heedless indulgence, and repeat over to us the history of our pains, and induce us to fall back into the safer path of moderation ; or it may speak to us while we are in the innocent enjoyment of health and ease, and, without rudely alarming us, may kindly
crowd, amit swell and times before the
tell us how frail we are, and how dependent on the will of the Almighty. The memory of our lost friends has many solemn and affecting lessons to enjoin upon us. It may whisper to us a kinder treatment of those who are still left to us, and entreat us to avoid even a word or look which might inflict undeserved pain on those who are likewise mortal and of uncertain continuance. It will also bid us prepare to take our place with them in the grave, and so to cherish and imitate all that was good in them, as to be found worthy of joining them beyond the grave, in the mansions of eternal happiness.
III. It remains for me to speak of the memory of sins ; which ought to be the saddest, and which may also be the most useful memory of all. It is a memory which addresses itself to every conscience, and to which none but a careless or hardened conscience will refuse to listen with serious attention. Who will say that they have never committed sin, and therefore cannot be annoyed by its remembrance? If there be any such, they must be answered in the words of St. John, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us." It cannot be true that we have no sin. The most obstinate selfdeception alone could induce us to maintain an assertion so easily refuted, and so contrary to all experience. What! have we never wasted our time; never abused our faculties and privileges ; never disobeyed, with full knowledge of the wrong, a commandment of God ? Have we never raised expectations, and then idly or intentionally neglected to satisfy them, thereby causing disappointment and pain ? Have we never failed to state the clear and open truth, through fear, or pride, or some other motive worse even than those ? Have we never detained what was not rightfully our own; never taken an unfair advantage of our neighbour; never perverted the power of authority or love which has been placed in our hands, so that instead of a refuge, it became a torment? Have we been guilty of no secret faults or crimes ?-I will ask no more such questions. We have sinned and done wickedly. Let us not aggravate our offences by denying that we have offended; but when memory repeats to our hearts the history of our misdeeds, let us receive its rebukes patiently, nay, even gladly, that wemay be profited, perhaps saved.
If we have not repented of sin, it is the office of memory to lead us the first steps to repentance. It is her part to remove, with friendly solicitude, the veils with which we may try to cover our past misdoings. It is her part to dwell with anxious emphasis on those blots of former days from which we would gladly turn away our reflections. Oh that she may be suffered to persevere, with ever-recurring efforts, till we are subdued by contrition and penitence, and sink down in humility and selfabasement before a merciful and pardoning God !
But have we repented of sin, and felt that we have been forgiven ? Even then let memory come and tell again the history of error and disobedience. The recital will remind us of our frailty, convince us of our sinfulness, and we shall thus be put upon our guard against future acts of folly and rebellion. A shield will be given us against impending danger; a motive to increased precaution and vigilance. Beacon lights will gleam out from the past, to guide our present course, and warn us of the old and sunken perils. In times of excitement, of delusion, of trial, when the enemies of our virtue and constancy are out upon us with their forces, and we waver in the conflict, happy will it be for us then, if the memory of former guilt rise up and interpose itself between us and them, point to the melancholy consequences of defeat, and stimulate us to victory. Good reason we shall have to render thanks to God, and ascribe to Him the power and the praise, crying, “ Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but to thy name give the glory."
Cherish the memory of your innocent and lawful joys, that you may be grateful, just, and contented; of your sorrows, that you may be kind to your friends and careful of yourselves; of your sins, that you may be penitent, and humble, and watchful. And God grant that memory may be the friend of your last days and the soother of your dying bed !
THE BOOK OF ZECHARIAH.
PROPHECIES I. AND Il.
INTRODUCTORY NOTE. The Book of Zechariah, priest and prophet, consists, like that of Haggai, of four distinct prophecies, the two former of which were written in different months of the same year in which Haggai prophesied (being the eighteenth year after the first return from Babylon), the third two years later, and the fourth several years afterwards. The First Prophecy is a brief exhor