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frontiers pace, molnaps to
ADDRESS FOR THE NEW YEAR. “ My presence shall go with thee, and I will give thee rest.”—Exodus xxxii. 14. TO-DAY we stand on the solemn frontiers of a new year. Pilgriins through time, unlike pilgrims through space, must of necessity be ignorant of the region before them. We have no maps to consult; no reports of previous explorers to study; and can climb no “ Mount of Vision," which commands the prospect of our future path. What sights we shall see, what adventures we shall meet, or how near we are to that spot where we must cross the deeps of death, touch the shores of immortality, and learn the secrets of the spiritual world, are things which no glance of thought can open, and which no prophet is permitted to foretell. Although these facts are the same on every other day as they are on this, they naturally startle and arrest us with a new sense of their reality, when we are, ás now, gliding over one of the lines which measure out our life, and are entering upon a new stage of the way. It is an appropriate time for new praises, resolves, and hopes, but it is also a time when the mystery of the future is likely to give new trouble to the spirit, and fill it with restless and apprehensive thoughts.
“ My presence shall go with thee, and I will give thee rest." This is "a word in season to every one who is weary." Let no poor trembler who casts himself on God's sure truth and unspeakable affection, fear that it is not for him. A promise like this, having relation to elements of good, which are not merely circumstantial or temporary, but which are equally essential in every age, in every age retains its force. It will never become a dead letter from its antiquity; and although addressed in the first instance to a certain individual believer, all who are alike believers may claim it in a time of similar necessity ; because all believers in all times sustain the same relation to God ;-one life circulates in all, and they are members of one." body.” The promise given to Joshua was also meant for Paul ;* the promise given to Moses was also meant
* Compare Joshua i. 5, with Hebrews xiii. 5. VOL. III.-NEW SERIES.
for us. There it is on the page, waiting for appropriation. It is as surely ours as if, like the message to the shepherds at Bethlehem, it came to us, with stroke of light and rush of mystic music, straight from the eternal throne.
I. Let us ask in what sense God has said, "My presence shall go with thee." In one sense this is true both with regard to "him that feareth God, and to him that feareth him not." Go where we will, he is with us, and the place whereon we stand is always “holy ground." The laws, the harmonies, and the forms of nature, are only the modes of his agency, the habits of his existence, and the turns of his thought. Each dew-drop holds an oracle, each bud a revelation, and everything we see is the signal of a living spirit, present, but out of sight. Every whisper of the secret wind that bloweth where it listeth ; every colour of the dawning or the dying light; every aspect of the changing seasons; and all the mysteries of electricity, of vital growth, or of human thought, should make us feel that the Eternal presence is as close upon the soul as the breeze upon the brow, and may well wake up the cry, “ Surely God is in this place. O Lord, thou art very great. The rolling year is full of thee. Whither can I go from thy spirit, and whither can I flee from thy presence !"
Wherever creation is, God is, though man may be far away. " Shores," says one,“ on which man has never landed lie paved with shells; fields which his foot has never trod are carpeted with flowers; seas where he bas never dived are inlaid with pearls; and caverns which he has never mined are radiant with gems of finest form and purest lustre.” These things are not unseen. The solitude where there seems to be no watchful eye and no listening ear, overflows with the glory of a thinking, loving, ruling Presence, for God is there, rejoicing in the work of his own hands, and is “doing all things after the counsel of his own will." His Shekinah is bid within the veil, but his train fills the temple ; and could our thoughts fly beyond the precincts of created nature, they would find him even there, for though all things else are limited he is infinite. We cannot in life or in death travel out of his presence, however we may long to find a shade that can screen us from an eye so piercing, and a light so clear.
Since God is everywhere, in what sacred and peculiar sense is he present to the believing heart? “Lord, how is it that thou dost manifest thyself to us, as thou dost not to the world ?" The principle on which he does so, is illustrated by some of the common facts of life. A man is present to his friend, as he is not to a stranger, though he may be at the same moment speaking to both. The light which floods the landscape with a deluge of beauty is present to him who sees it, as it is not to the blind man walking at his side. Music, though it may ripple round the deafened ear, is only present to him who hears it. The discourse of the naturalist on his experiments, of the scholar on his books, of the mathematician who is talking with raptures on the beauties of a theorem, will bring things into the presence of initiated listeners, which are still remote from the minds of those in the very same company who have no sympathy with the theme. So,“ two women may be grinding at the mill ;" “ two men may be in the field;" one a believer, the other an unbeliever; and although the great Spirit is near to them both, there is a sense in which he is present to the one as he is not to the other; for in the case of the believer, the causes of estrangement have been taken away, a new relation exists, a new life has been born,