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UNIVERSALITY OF ITS JOY.
Holy Spirit, and your hands would tremblingly give and receive human gifts sanctified by the solemnity of this hour; for you would remember, that in this hour was born unto you Christ the Saviour, and you would rejoice in him with a holy joy.
i o that Christ Jesus would now appear to us in spirit! that we might all be like unto our children, to whom the invisible love of God is made manifest in the Christchild * under the form of an innocent babe, like unto them in appearance, but descending from heaven with pleasant gifts. Oh that the joy of this hour, wherewith we rejoice over the birth of our Saviour, could enable us to see in spirit the divine love of Christ Jesus, giving himself up to death to be a ransom for us. Let us rejoice in the hour in which he was made flesh, in the hour in which he brought into the world the great gift of his death to be deposited on the altar of divine love. From this hour was he the Lord's High Priest, the victim for our sins.
My friends, my brethren, and sisters! let us pray: ‘Bring back, O Lord, bring back unto the world those happy days, when mankind were truly rejoicing in their Saviour Jesus Christ, and in the hour of his birth. Bring back unto us those times, when at this hour the hearts of men were filled with the Holy Ghost, and their hands with gifts of brotherly love. O heavenly Father, thou wilt bring them back if we seek for them. And, as one of old asked Jesus Christ : ‘Lord what must I do to be saved ? even so let us ask: ‘Lord, what must we do, that Christmas-eve may bring unto us those blessings which it brought to the Christian world in its better days? what must we do that the joy of Christmas may be an universal joy to our house, as it was in the days of old to all mankind ?
“ It is by answering this question, my friends and brethren, that I will endeavour to edify you in the solemn moments of this festival, so sacred to the Christian's heart.
“My friends, my brethren! the joy of Christmas was to our fathers an universal joy, the common joy of humankind, because it was the joy of holy and heavenly love. In like manner in our house, the joy of Christmas will become a universal joy only if it become among us a joy of holy and heavenly love. The fellowship of love is the only true source of fellowship in rejoicing; its divine power alone can break the bonds by which joy is restrained in the human breast. In the absence of that love, our joy is only the joy of individuals in single objects, in whose excitement selfishness is
• Christmas-eve is abroad as here, the time when children receive gifts of every kind from their parents, godfathers, &c.; but instead of “ Christmas boxes,” they are “Christmas trees,” young fir-stems, lighted up with little wax-tapers, on the twigs of wbich all the glittering gists are hung. The preparation of the “ Christmas tree” is a family mystery, and if the child ask from whence all the goodly things come, the answer is, “ The Christcbild brought them.” B.
THE FELLOWSHIP OF LOVE.
enthroned. The troop of the joyful is separated from the multitude of the mournful; and the latter are left to their fate without one feeling of sympathy, while the former, full of envy and anxiety, are jealously guarding the sources of their joy, lest any of those that are rejoicing with them should divert its streams into their own channels. Such is the joy which, fettered by the bonds of human selfishness, is unable to rise into a holy and divine feeling.
“ My friends and brethren! wherever the fellowship of love is wanting, the fellowship of joy is precluded. If, then, we desire to make Christmaseve a festival to our hearts, as it was to the hearts of our fathers, the fellowship of love must first be established and secured among us. But this is wanting wherever there is not the mind of Jesus Christ and the power of his Spirit.
My friends and brethren! unless that mind and that power be in the midst of us, our house will prove to be built on sand. In vain shall we seek for the fellowship of joy, if we have not that of love.
“My friends and brethren! if there be no other but human and temporal ties to bind us, we are inwardly divided already, and our external union will and must be broken up, as a spider's web by the strong wings of a wasp, or by a gush of wind.
“My friends and brethren! it is no small thing for men to be united for a holy purpose. They must sanctify themselves in their union, that their purpose may remain to them a holy purpose, and that the work of their hands also may be holy. But it is far more common for men to corrupt than to sanctify themselves by their union.
“My friends and brethren! let us not overlook the dangers of every union between man and man. Wherever men unite in their human capacities, their union will not lead to their purification or sanctification. It is only where a divine life forms the tie of union, that man by his union with other men can become purified and sanctified; but the union in the tie of a divine life is only possible by the fellowship of the mind of Christ and the communion of his Holy Spirit. Whoever has not the mind of Christ, nor his Spirit, will not be ennobled by any union with man. Let us not be blind, therefore, my brethren, to the dangers of our union. They are great, very great. It is the work of thy mercy, O Lord, that they have not ensnared us already. For how variously has in our union the human nature of the one attached itself to the human nature of the other! how manifold has been among us the fellowship of weakness ! Have we not endeavoured each of us to make the weakness of others a cloak wherewith to cover his own. Oh, how little has the success of our undertaking effected towards raising us to a higher state, and strengthening in us the power of divine grace! How often have we rejoiced with a merely human joy, unsanctified by the divine Spirit, in that outward success which became the more illusory as we took a merely human view of it! O Lord, how little
DANGER OF HUMAN ASSOCIATIONS.
have we been strengthened, and how much have we been enfeebled, by our prosperity. My friends and brethren! let us not conceal this matter from ourselves; the history of our union is nothing else than the history of the merciful dealings of divine grace, with the weakness of men united together for a holy purpose. We have pursued this purpose after the fashion of men, but the Lord has blessed our labours with the blessing of heaven. Of that blessing we have proved ourselves unworthy, for in the midst of his loving kindness towards us, our weaknesses not only remained the same, but they were often increased.
“My friends and brethren! the days of our prosperity have not, as they ought to have done, prepared and strengthened us for the days of adversity; and yet adversity must necessarily come upon us, lest we should be subdued by our human weaknesses, which are in open conflict with the divine purpose of our union. My friends and brethren! are we to give way to those weaknesses of our human nature, and see our house stride on towards dissolution; or shall we, by elevating ourselves above them, save our work from destruction ?
“My friends and brethren ! is the coming Christmas to be to us a day of deep mourning, or a joyful day of triumph, to celebrate our conquests over ourselves and our infirmities? The decisive moment is come. We must no longer rely upon outward prosperity for the success of our undertaking; for there is no prosperity that can now become really conducive to its progress; nothing but righteousness can any longer advance the object of our union. You are left, my friends, almost without a leader. My strength is gone.
I am no longer an example for you of what you ought to be day by day, as members of our family. Your task is an important one.
You are to educate yourselves as well as the children entrusted to our care. You are to resist the world and its vain works, and yet you are to satisfy men who have grown greyheaded in its vanities. You are to pave a new road through impervious tracts, and to walk on it as if it had been paved long ago. You are to act the parts of youths in your development, and that of men in your position to the world.
My friends! our meeting together was on a less high, it was on a human ground; nor has our temporal connexion raised us to such an elevation; and yet it is indispensable for the attainment of our end, that we should rise to that point.
“Oh my friends, my brethren! in what a sublime light does this purpose present itself to my view. O that it were possible for me to present it to you in the like manner as I did the Christmas joy of our forefathers The purpose of our union is not founded upon our human nature, but upon the divine spark implanted within it; it is on this account that it embraces the whole of humankind; it is a universal purpose, because it addresses itself to that divine seed which God has universally deposited in the hearts of men. Our means likewise are not derived from our human nature; they
HOW TO BE AVOIDED.
emanate from a divine life within us.
So far only as we are alive to that purpose in its divine character, so far as it is unfolded in us by divine means, so far only has it in us a real foundation; and it is so far only, that the attainment of it can become to us a source of universal peace and tranquillity.
“My friends and brethren! if that be wanting among us, our union for the purpose of education is no more than a vain dream; from which when we wake, we shall find our eyes filled with tears.
“My friends and brethren! if we be united by no better tie than that which binds men together in the vanity of their common pursuits, our union will share the fate of all vain human associations. The fetters of this vain world will then keep our union in an unholy bondage, and we shall sink, as man always does in union with man, except he be raised above the degrading influence of merely human relationship by sanctification in a divine bond. Mean selfishness will then preside among us, as it presides every where in human society, and it will cause our union to perish in itself, like a house thrown on a heap by an earthquake, in the same manner
s it has ruined before thousands of human associations. Fix your view upon this prospect, my friends; do not turn your eyes from this picture. How should we feel if all this should be fulfilled in us? Oh! do not turn away your eyes from this picture of truth. If ever we should be overcome by our own weakness, and obliged to separate; if any of us should forsake the common cause and look to their private interests, some in the apparent calmness and satisfaction of selfishness, and some in the selfish sorrow of weakness; if we should part from each other; if those that are strong among us should abandon the weak ones to their fate; if any of should become intoxicated with the narcotic of vain glory, or should endeavour for the sake of contemptible gain to obtain for themselves the credit due to all...... My friends and brethren! is it possible for you to place this picture of dissolution, degradation, and ruin, before your eyes, and not to feel a sacred determination kindled in your bosom, to do all in your power to avert the day of such a calamity ?
“It is impossible, my friends, my brethren, that you can be indifferent to that prospect: you will, I know you will, be elevated and united. Oh! let us deliver ourselves and our cause from danger, by elevation and unity of spirit. Can we do otherwise ? Could we have cherished for years the idea of raising the condition of the people by a better education, and now allow it to sink into oblivion ? Is it possible for us to forget those sacred hours in which our hearts were filled with pious enthusiasm at the recollection 'of our great purpose; those hours in which, separated from the world, and firmly united among ourselves, we acknowledged each other as devoted instruments of that purpose, and gave each other the solemn promise, which also we have openly declared before men, that we would consecrate ourselves to the holy cause for which we are called, and assist
RENOVATION OF LIFE.
each other in its pursuit, until every one of us should have obtained strength and ability to pursue it by himself, independently of any farther assistance ! Who that has for a moment felt in his bosom the spirit of our union, could consent to abandon the least among us that is truly attached to our cause, instead of lending him a helping hand, and leading him to become a mature instrument for the common purpose. Is it possible to see our blooming youth, whom none can equal in cheerfulness, in native wit, in intelligence and practical acquirements, in physical power and agility, whose whole education is so evidently superior to that commonly imparted, and not to mourn at the thought that our union should ever be dissolved ? Is it possible to view the improvements produced in the method of instruction, by rendering it conformable to the nature of the human mind, and to be indifferent to the idea that the experiment, out of which these improvements arose, should be interrupted ? No, it is impossible. I know you, and though I may have to complain of much frailty among you, yet I am sure, that many of you would rather die, than suffer the blessed fruits of our union to be arrested in their growth by your failings.
“No, no! my brethren ! let the voice of union be raised among us with a shout in the solemn hour of this festival : the voice of that union which has raised us to the privilege of becoming the servants of our brethren. Let us be faithful to that union, let us not depart from the path prescribed to us by the love of mankind. Let our object be now and for ever, to consecrate ourselves to our holy calling, and to remain faithful to each other in co-operating for the attainment of our great purpose ; to remain faithful to the beloved children who grow up in the midst of us, in the flower of youth; to remain faithful to truth and love in all the means that we adopt; and in the whole sphere of our exertions to preserve purity of heart.
“My friends and brethren ! let this day, consecrated to the remembrance of a Saviour's birth, be the day of a holy renovation of our union! let it be the day of a holy renovation of ourselves for the purposes of our calling! let the joy that Jesus Christ came in the flesh, be one with the joy that we are united in his service; let our joy be the joy of faith and love in Him! Let the sacred, the divine character of our calling, raise us far above ourselves, and above the dangers of human weakness, which exist in our union as in the union of all our brethren. Let us be sincere with ourselves, let us not deceive ourselves by the vain jingle of words, let us not contaminate the holy night of our Lord by the delusion of selfishness! Whoever seeks in our union to serve himself only, let him depart from us! Whoever makes our union a scene for the freer indulgence of his weakness, let him depart from us! Whoever feels that in our union he grows more frail and faulty than he would have allowed himself to become elsewhere, let him depart from us!
“We are brought together by chance; it could not be otherwise; but let not chance keep us together like fishes caught in a net, who must all perish