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'Ready to give thanks, and live
On the least that Heaven may give.'
Then comes the walk along the stony vale, with the nightingales singing, as they seem to do by preference by the road side, loving, as the sociable birds seem to do, the neighbourhood of man, and stir of life, though never visible. Their example is summed up in the two concluding lines:
'So ye live in modest ways,
Trust entire, and ceaseless praise.'
This is the Sunday of the one Gospel of our Lord's childhood, the Gospel that gives us the lesson of obedience in His subjection to His parents; but there is another lesson drawn in the Lyra Innocentium, and one that every older generation feels in. turn. No two hearts are ever exactly alike, in all-even where there is a hereditary likeness, and one character has been moulded on another. None then can thoroughly fathom another heart; and Trustworthiness' speaks to those who begin to find the young spirit they have hitherto guarded begin to reach beyond their ken, and to wander in regions they have not trodden. Glad may they be, and calm of heart,' who can be perfectly sure of the holiness, innocence, and devotion, of their child in whatever walk he chooses
'Who out of sight
Know all is right,
One guide for darkness and for light.'
It was a thought that Mr. Keble always liked to dwell on, that the three days absence of her Holy Son was, as it were, an intimation to His blessed Mother, that He would not be as other women's sons, always hers and at her side-nay, that it served as a mysterious preparation for the three days that He would indeed be hidden from her sight; and that in like manner some little incident of child life, unnoted at the time, but perhaps laid up deep in a mother's heart, may be a training for the greater griefs and joys of after life by the impression it leaves on the soul.
'Prepare Thou still
Our heart and will,
Our friends' and ours for good or ill.'
SECOND SUNDAY AFTER EPIPHANY.
THE Wedding Feast of Cana is the subject of both the poems of this day; but while the one applies the saying, 'Thou hast kept the good wine until now' to the things of human life, the other reaches upwards, and reads in it a meditation upon things earthly and things divine.
Turning first to the poem on the 'best kept to the last,' in human life, we find the scene opening with the picture of childish joy and mirth—
the natural happiness and high spirits with which we begin life, but which will assuredly be lost in the course of self-indulgence. If we follow the natural human impulse to make the most of our enjoyments, we shall certainly find them dropping away from us one after the other, and leaving us desolate.
Such is the world's feast, and the parallel to the habit referred to by the governor of the feast is carried into further detail. As those who drink for mere enjoyment soon lose the delicacy of their taste, and require the fiercest stimulants, impure as well as fiery; so those who live for pleasure soon find harmless amusements pall on them, and cry with Madame de Longueville, 'I have no taste for innocent pleasures!' or with that other blasée Frenchwoman, who, on drinking a glass of cold water, exclaimed, 'Would that this were a sin!' as if that were wanting to give it a zest.
How unlike the feast of good things the Saviour offers! Nor, indeed, is it needful to be less happy in youth in order to be innocent. Even as the purest freshest water sparkles brightest, so
'Why should we fear youth's draught of joy,
If pure, would sparkle less?
Why should the cup the sooner cloy,
Which God hath deigned to bless ?'
For the very charm of youth, the secret of its joy, lies in those graces that are the essence of the Christian life. Hope would be the attribute of youth alone, and would perish with experience; but for Faith, who keeps her ever alive and fresh, directs her gaze and steadies it, and thus ensures the continuance of that spring of joy.
Love, again-the joy of childhood and early life-love can only find means of lasting existence in Faith. Parents pass away, but God is still our Father; brethren may fail or die, but our great Elder Brother is the more near and precious. All the choicest treasures of early life are then increased, not wasted, by the lapse of years, in the true Christian; and the prime glory and tenderness of all comes with old age like the sunset hues of autumn. The life that has begun in purity and self-discipline is the life ever brightening, ever youthful.
A still deeper note is struck in the Lyra. There the thought is on the Divine Power which made the water wine, and which imparts sacramental grace to our Church rites,' and brings a mysterious change to those who partake in faith. Marriage, thus sanctified, gives 'an angel friend' to share 'the everlasting rest.' Baptism changes the human sin-stained infant to an innocent saint bearing his Saviour's Ordination renders the mortal youth God's highly gifted Priest, with power to bind and loose; and even with the Gift, as his Master's representative, to render the Bread and Wine 'more than angels' food.' Again, that touch changes death to Resurrection, all through the power of Christ imparted to His Living Body, the Church.
Such is the drift, if we may so venture to interpret it, of this latter poem, one of those most remarkable for a certain fulness of thought, scarcely finding adequate expression in the brief stanzas, throughout fraught with awe at the mysterious might of the Divine touch-not only in itself but conveyed through the Church.
On the day on which our Sunday year begins to adapt itself to the time of Easter-when, following the old beginning of the year, the course of reading reverts to the opening record in the Bible-the Christian Year has chosen as its subject the accordance between the visible and invisible things of creation; and in one of the earliest, simplest, and most popular poems of the entire collection, has set the Book of Nature beside the Book of Grace, and traced how all things are double one against another.'
After all the hints are but brief and few, but they are the key to many more. The all-embracing firmament, like the Divine Love; the sun, the Sun of Righteousness, the Light that lighteth every man that cometh into the world; the moon, shining by his reflected light, and showing us that light in his absence, figuring the Church; her saints triumphant shining like stars for ever and ever, her saints below growing as trees by the water side, rooted in faith, blossoming in hope, bearing fruit of 'fair deeds of charity,' beneath the fostering dew of Divine Grace-all are touched on, as well as the voices of the sea, the destructive might of fire and tempest, the gentler influence of the wind, the emblem of the silent working of the Holy Spirit; and the two latter verses lead us, both by suggestion and by the prayer the final one breathes, to gaze through the grand allegory of nature, and 'read God everywhere.'
Some might say that allegory of a fanciful kind reigns again in the Lyra 'New Creation;' but it is only allegory because God's great works so wondrously figure one another, and even as a tiny drop mirrors a whole landscape, so the New Creation at each baptism is as it were a reflection of the Beginning when God created the heaven and the earth.
So the work of grace is traced through its analogies-the dark waste ere the Holy Spirit brooding on the waters awake life and give power to bear fruit, and the Light of Christ dawning on the soul recall the first day of creation. The second, the day when
'God stored on high
The dewy treasures of the sky,'
is made to stand for the opening of the stores of grace to the new Christian; the third, when the land was parted from the waters, represents the rescue of the soul from the waves of this troublesome world.
Sun and moon, becoming visible on the fourth day, are, as ever, Christ and His Church shining on the new created soul.
'Motion and life and flight and song'
in the birds of the fifth day foreshow the powers imparted to the soul in Baptism. Then more solemnly is introduced that sixth day, which
'Moulded at morn the cold dull clay,
when the first man Adam was made a living soul.'
That same day was chosen for the Death of the Second Man, and in the water of Baptism with Him we die unto sin,
'the fontal wave
Washing us clean, that we might hide
The Sabbath of rest then follows. It is said in a half interrogative manner, that it may find its antitype in the sleep
We own that this does not seem to us of quite sufficiently universal application. The rest of the Sabbath here appears to mean that of the babe who slumbers at once to wake in Paradise; but surely there is a Sabbath for all other Christians on their own Easter Eve, when they shall lie down in hope of the new First Day of Resurrection. Or does the infant's Sabbath sleep after the Baptism refer to that long rest of all faculties and absence of responsibility, before the real labour of life begin?
AWFUL, yet comforting, are both the meditations founded on the history of the Fall of man. The first rehearses the sentence on the sin, and then draws from each point thereof the hidden consolation. The doom of woman to bring forth children in sorrow, is softened by her special share in bringing the Saviour into the world; and her other punishment of inferiority and subjection to man, is brightened by the mystic resemblance to the union of Christ and the soul, or rather of that aggregate of Christian souls, the Church. The curse of labour is given in mercy to train us on our way to Heaven.' The shame left on us is compensated by the garments bestowed by God Himself, coats of skin, the skins evidently of sacrificed animals, and therefore typifying the Robe of Righteousness, bestowed on us by the Victim.
'The very weeds we daily wear
Are to Faith's eye a pledge of God's forgiving might,'
and last and sharpest of all-Death-is Rest in the Lord, and the gate of life.
So the fiery two-edged sword of the Cherubim-those fourfold beings who are around the Mercy-seat in Heaven, if it for a time warned man aloof from Paradise, yet shewed it too, and at once enlightening and piercing their hearts, (for is it not the Word of God?) kept ever before them that the Tree of Life is still in its place, and that 'blessed are they who have a right' thereto.
The verses entitled Confession, in the Lyra, are chiefly founded on the inference mentioned above, that the coats of skins which God gave to Adam and Eve must have been taken from sacrifices, since animals were not as yet used for food, and that sacrifice involved the first revelation of the Atonement, and thus the clothing taken therefrom is an emblem of the imputed Righteousness of Christ.
So the thought is gradually worked up. The gentle breeze among the trees brings the thought of the LORD GOD walking in the Garden in the cool of the day; and then, from the shrinking of the guilty pair, we are led to think of our own shrinking from the pain of avowal, and reminded of the fruitlessness of the attempt at concealment, above all from Him who yearns to forgive, but requires our voluntary confession and humiliation. These fluttering leaves' (our excuses, our self-defence, and subterfuges,) 'do but unveil thy shame.'
'Fall humbly down, and hide thine eyes in dust,
For fullness of doctrine implied in the fewest possible words, this last line seems to us unequalled.
(To be continued.)
CHRIST IN THE PSALMS.*
BY THE REV. WILLIAM WALLACE, M. A.
THE Book of the Psalms is so much used that any suggestion bearing upon it is important and may be influential; and when, as my subject purports to do, a principle of interpretation is discussed, it is the more worthy of our attention, as in fact it becomes of the nature of a general commentary on every sentiment and purpose of the book.
It is for this reason I suggested the theme, Christ in the Psalms, and it is not only the remarks I may throw out on which I rely for interest this evening, but the topic itself is fruitful, and if decided in our minds
* A paper read at a meeting of the East London Clerical Society, held on the evening of November 3rd, 1868.