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joy had been more in his gifts than in himself. Oh, Jane, what would you and I have done without him in our sorrow? As I knelt in spirit by that manger, and followed that blessed child as he went about doing good till he reached the cross, and there bare my sins, comfort came such as I had not known before. I could almost rejoice that my loved ones were with him, rejoicing in his presence, and sure never to grieve him more. Try, Jane, and think of the wonderful love and tender compassion that had led him thus to humble himself for us, to death, even the death of the cross.
"I have been in a little town in Holland, just where the waves of the German Ocean washes its shore, a town with little beauty or interest of its own, yet which year by year is visited by travellers from all countries, because about two hundred years ago a little wooden hut there, consisting of two little rooms, containing the plainest and simplest furniture, was dwelt in by a great monarch, who left his throne and his country for a season, and there worked with his own hands at shipbuilding that he might learn the art, and go back and teach it to his people, and so elevate the condition of his country. To this day the name of Peter the Great of Russia is revered and admired for the generous self-denial of the act. But what is it compared with the love of him who is the King of kings, the height of glory and blessedness from which he came, the depth of humiliation and suffering to which he descended?"
Jane's tears still flowed, but quietly. The look and tone of unutterable wretchedness was gone. She did not speak; so Mrs. Mortimer went on. "Did you ever observe at what a blessed time our Christmas comes, just at the close of one year, at the very opening of another? I often fancy it is like a lighthouse built on a rock out in the lonely sea, which casts its rays back over the waters the voyager has already passed, and forward over those still before him. So in the light of that wonderful birth at Bethlehem we can bear to look back on the past year, its sins and sorrows, for it tells us of a Saviour, God and man, a Saviour who is Christ the Lord, who came to seek and to save that which is lost; 'who himself bare our sins in his own body on the tree;' whose blood 'cleanseth from all sin;' who not only bore the curse that we might be for ever blessed, but who sends down the Holy Spirit to dwell in our hearts, to purify and cleanse them; to take away the love for sin; to make us meet for the home he is gone to prepare for us. A Saviour, too, whose promise is, 'Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.'
"Then it sheds a blessed light on our sorrows too, for He who gave his only Son for us is He who appointed them to us; and he who then came has been with us through them all, to strengthen, to comfort, to bless, true to his word— 'When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee.' Then surely our joys are all the brighter because they are gifts of His tender love; each one of them a result of that work of redemption begun in His lowly birth that we celebrate at Christmas."
Mrs. Mortimer ceased to speak The last few minutes poor Jane's face had lighted up with a joy to which she had long been a stranger; but now again it was overcast, as she said, " Bad as I knew I was, I couldn't have believed it; I was forgetting Him, all his love, and all his goodness. My heart was set on the gifts he gave me, and I forgot Himself, the best gift of all. Sure it was in his love and mercy he sent you here to-day to remind me of him. And I wishing there was no Christmas, as if its very name ought not of itself to have brought me comfort! Yes, I forgot him after all his goodness to me and mine."
"Yes, Jane, that is very sad; but our lighthouse also throws its beams over the waters yet before us. We know not one step of the way; we are sure to meet storms, temptations within, troubles without; but, as we watch beside the infant Jesus, and listen to the song of the heavenly host proclaiming, 'Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will towards men,' shall we not calmly leave the
future with him who has promised that his people shall want no good thing; that all things shall work together for their good? Shall we, can we, distrust him when we are just recalling the crowning proof of his love? When ' He spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, shall he not with him freely give us all things?'
"I think we may both say boldly, 'The Lord is my helper,' or at least join David in saying, 'What time I am afraid I will trust in the Lord.' Do you think now, my poor friend, that your Christmas and mine need be so very sad, though we shall miss the loving greetings and companionship that once were ours?"
"Oh no, ma'am ! it cannot be dark and dreary even for us. The saddest of all is now that I should have forgotten him."
"But I have more Christmas thoughts for you, and I have kept almost the brightest and best for the last."
"What is that, ma'am?"
"It is that He will come again. We observe Christmas, not only to remind us especially that our Lord has already come in lowliness and humiliation to suffer and to die, but that he will come again in power and great glory, and he will not then come alone, but' all his saints with him.' 'For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and the trump of God, and the dead in Christ shall rise first. Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air; and so shall we be ever with the Lord '—with the Lord and with one another. Broken families shall then be reunited. Of all who have known and loved the Saviour in his first coming, not one shall be missing in the glory of his second advent. Then, too, he will bring rest to the weary. 'To you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven.' His own farewell words to his sorrowing disciples were, 'I go to prepare a place for you; and if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself, that where I am there ye may be likewise.'
"The angel's words of comfort to those who stood gazing up after him into heaven were, 'This same Jesus which is I taken up from you into heaven shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.' With such a promise still ringing in their ears, no wonder they 'returned to Jerusalem with great joy.'
"And our blessed Bible closes with the promise, 'Surely I come quickly.' Our sorrows, Jane, will help us to add the more fervently, 'Even so, come, Lord Jesus.'
"Now, dear Jane, have we not found strength and comfort where you feared to find only a waste and howling wilderness? Let us go on in that strength; and, as our God has seen it good for us to take away those who had the first claims on our love, our care, our teaching, let us the more give love, and care, and teaching to the poor and the sick, the lonely and the ignorant, and he will take it all as done to himself; and when he comes we shall hear the blessed words, 'Inasmuch as ye have done it unto the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.' We shall have the inexpressible joy of meeting some there who learned from us to know and love him as their own Saviour, who shall rejoice to meet him in his coming again."
We need hardly add that in those two homes, so desolate of earthly joy, there was deep and true holy joy on that Christmas morning.
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Mused as the midnight hour drew nigh, and
methought the Old Year stood before me.
Weary and wayworn he seemed, and in his hand
was an hour-glass, from which the last sands
As I looked upon his wrinkled forehead, memories both pleasant and mournful came over me. Fain would I have constrained his longer stay, and spake earnestly to him :— "Many blessings hast thou brought me, for which I give
thee thanks. New have they been every morning and fresh every moment. Thou hast indeed from my heart's garden uprooted some hopes that I planted there; with their clustering buds they fell, and were never quickened again."
Then he said, "Praise God both for what I gave and for what I took away. And lay up treasures in heaven, that thy heart may be there also. What thou hast called blighted hopes are ofttimes changed into the fruits of righteousness."
But I answered, "Thou hast also hidden from my sight the loved and rovered. They have gone down to the grave. They are in the land of silence, and they reply to my call no more. To the homes that they made so fair they return not, and the places that once knew them know them now no more for ever."
Still he said, "Give praise to God. Trouble not thyself about those that are with him; rather make thine own salvation sure, that thou mayest go unto them, and be parted no more for ever."
Then in a faint voice he murmured, "My mission unto man is done. For me the stone is rolled away from the door of the sepulchre. I shall enter in and slumber with the years beyond the Flood, till the last trumpet soundeth." I gazed upon his wan brow, and to me it was beautiful. Fain would I have swept away the snows that gathered around his hoary temples; but he suffered me not, and stretched himself out to die. By his side I knelt, and said, "O departing year, I behold a scroll folded beneath thy mantle. What witness shall it bear of me at the judgment?"
Low and solemn were his last words: "Ask me not; thou shalt know when the books are opened, and the dead, small and great, stand before God."
The midnight clock struck, and I covered my face and mourned for his death who had been to me as a friend. I remembered with pain how oft I had slighted his warnings, and the opportunities of doing good, and had cast away