« PreviousContinue »
Is the thread very brittle which the shuttle contains? So is it with the life of man. Our life hangs upon a very slender thread, and at any moment that thread may be broken; yea, when least expected, it may suddenly snap asunder. There is no certainty for the continued existence, even for another hour, of any of earth's inhabitants. A thousand dangers continually surround us, any one of which may suddenly dissolve the connection that binds us to time, and usher us into the unseen and eternal world. Would that we all not only acknowledged, but felt this as we ought! Would that we lived under the constant remembrance that the messenger of death is ever standing at our door!
"Life a field of battle is,
Thousands fall within our view;
And the next death-bolt that flies,
May be sent to me or you."
Does every successive stroke of the shuttle bring nearer and nearer the -execution of the web? Even so with the life of man in this transient world. The work given us to do-as the period given us to live-is being surely though silently filled in and accomplished. The span of our earthly existence is every day contracting within narrower limits. The sand-glass of our life is gradually expending itself, and will ere long be fully run out. The little isthmus of time on which we now stand, is every moment being washed and wasted by the waves of eternity. If we are reminded of this solemn truth by every revolving season, how much more by every successive year! How loudly does the knell of the year, now gone for ever, proclaim that we are all fulfilling as an hireling our days, and that we shall soon exchange our present homes for the shroud, the coffin, and the habitations of the dead!
"Life is short, and time is fleeting,
And our hearts, though strong and brave,
Still, like muffled drums, are beating
Funeral marches to the grave."
Does the shuttle cease to ply, when the web has been fully woven? In like manner, when the great web of human life has been wrought by us, we too, individually, will be "cut off" and removed. When every breath which makes up the sum of our earthly existence has been inhaled—when our appointed time on earth has run its course-then our web will be completed our work here will have come to an end. Each one of us may then say in the words of Hezekiah, "I have cut off like a weaver my life." (Isaiah, xxxviii., 12.) We shall then bid a final adieu to all earth's relationships and employments, and take our departure for that world where all shall receive according to their deeds whether they have been good, or whether they have been evil.
"Youth and vigour soon will flee,
Blooming beauty lose its charms;
Thus you see, my young friends, that in the important figurative sense
now described, you are all weavers. Whoever you may be, you are all without exception, engaged from day to day in weaving the web of life-that web that began at your birth, and that will be completed at your death. Every throb of your heart is the swift action of the shuttle-every thought, word, and deed, the woof and the warp which go to make up the finished fabric.
"My pulse is the clock of my life,
It shows how my moments are flying,
It marks the departure of time,
And tells me how fast I am dying."
What a deep solemnity should pervade our minds, when we meditate on these things! What an inexpressible importance should they throw around every hour you spend, every action you perform, and every scene in which you mingle! What if this year prove your last? It will be so for certain to thousands, yea, hundreds of thousands, in this land; and, God alone can tell, it may be so to you among the number. Again then, we ask, what if during this year you be gathered to the congregation of the dead? O live as if you knew that this year you must die! Let its rolling days, and weeks, and months, be marked by confiding trust in a Redeemer's blessed work, and by active, grateful service to advance his kingdom! O let nothing be written concerning you on the tablets of heaven now that you would be ashamed to hear read aloud on the day of judgment!
"I asked an aged man, a man of years,
Wrinkled, and curved, and white with hoary hairs.
'Time is the warp of life,' he said, 'Oh tell
The young, the fair, the gay to weave it well.'
I asked a spirit lost, and O, the shriek
That pierced my soul! I shudder while I speak ;
The path to glory, or the path to hell!'"
THE PRAYERLESS FATHER.
AT a prayer-meeting in Boston, the case of a girl of twelve years was reported, who went to a Sunday school a few weeks, and then was taken sick. Her physician informed her intemperate father that his daughter must die. He went to her bedside and told her that she must die. She answered, "I am going home." Going home?" said the father. "Yes;
my teacher has taught me the way to heaven, that is my home. Will you pray?" The father said that he could not pray. She told him to kneel down and she would pray. He followed her, and before he rose from his knees he had found mercy, and the spirit of his daughter had gone home. Since that time the whole family have been brought into the kingdom. This whole family was saved by a Sunday school teacher giving instruction a few weeks to a girl twelve years old.
A LEAF FROM A SUNDAY SCHOOL TEACHER'S
Ir was a cold dreary day, the wind was sighing dismally along the streets, and the snow was falling in thick heavy flakes. The streets were deserted except by some occasional passer-by, for it was the Sabbath; and though December had not invested it with an external peace congenial with that which characterises it internally, still, in the closed shops, and the cessation of the usual busy traffic, there was that which proclaimed the Day of Rest. I was sitting before a warm fire in my comfortable apartment when the hour for the Sunday school approached. I arose and looked from the window on the bleak prospect without, feeling unwilling to exchange the comfort of my room for the rude severity of the winter. But remembering the example of Him who went about continually doing good, and whose follower I professed to be; and thinking also of the eager little band who would soon be awaiting my arrival in the school-room, the desire to escape from duty was at once subdued.
The school room was situated in a suburb of the large commercial town of G. The boys and girls who formed the school belonged to the humbler classes, and most of them were employed in the neighbouring factories; several who had thus to labour for their daily bread being yet of tender years. A few were ignorant, and could only read with difficulty; but others were very intelligent, and had diligently improved their opportunities for acquiring knowledge. The entire class were assembled. The opening prayer and praise had been offered when I heard a gentle knock at the door. On opening it, I saw a little boy standing without, shrinking from the cold.
"Please, Sir, may I come in?" he asked.
"Yes, my dear boy," I replied, "you may, and I am very glad to see you."
I took his hand, and led him to a seat. He was poorly clad, but was neat and clean. His face was thin and pale, but his eyes were large and bright, and he had a quick intelligent expression that arrested my attention. The lesson for the evening was the death of Christ, and I was pleased to observe the boy's grave attention. He read distinctly and well, and also, with a little hesitation, answered some questions; his hesitation apparently arising, not from inability, but from diffidence. I purposed speaking to him at the close of the exercises, but he withdrew quickly ere my intention could be fulfilled. During the week he was often in my thoughts, and I felt curious as to whether he would again join us on the following Sabbath. To my joy he did so. I took occasion to intimate my wish to speak with him when the school was dismissed, and he accordingly remained at the close. His name, I found, was Joseph. His simple but affecting history I learned on subsequent occasions. His father and mother both died while he was yet an infant, and he was left to the care of his paternal grandfather, an old man, who had been a soldier. Joseph's grandfather was poor, but having been careful while in the army, he had amassed a little money, which, with his pension, kept him above
want. He was a good old man, and loved the boy tenderly. As Joseph grew, he sought to implant right principles in his breast. He taught him The Bible
to read, and early familiarised his mind with the Bible stories. and the Pilgrim's Progress were his only books, and with both Joseph was well acquainted. The boy's affections were centred in the old man, who had been to him as mother and father. But the stern messenger who had called away his parents summoned his only remaining relative also; and the day that Joseph was nine years old he followed his grandfather to the who grave. The old man left him to the care of a friend, a shoemaker, lived alone with his little niece. This friend took Joseph home; he was poor, but upright, and kind to the boy; and intended teaching him his own trade. Joseph's grandfather, when dying, gave him his whole riches-his Bible, his Pilgrim's Progress, and his blessing; he then charged the boy to search the Scriptures, to love Jesus, and, like Christian, to withstand the temptations that would entice him from his duty to God, by being constant in prayer, in striving after holiness - and so, the boy said, his grandfather entered the river, and crossed over to the celestial city. When I first knew Joseph the old man had been dead about a year; but his faithful instructions had sunk deep into the boy's heart, and directed his course of life. He was now a regular attendant at the school, and was a general favourite there. He was kind and conciliating; and I observed that his mild, forgiving glance, when treated with any rudeness, was an effectual reproof, protecting him from annoyance, and gaining him the love and esteem of the other scholars.
Joseph was not a strong boy, and I was pained to observe that as the spring advanced he gained no strength, but seemed to be gradually declining in health.
The first time I visited him during the week, he was sitting by the fireside with his favourite Pilgrim's Progress out-spread on his knee. The old shoemaker was sitting near him, busy at work. On my entrance Joseph explained who I was, and I was much pleased with the old man's cordial welcome.
I sat down beside the boy, and after inquiring for the welfare of the family, said, "You have got the Pilgrim there, Joseph; what part of his journey are you reading about?"
"About the hill called Difficulty, Sir," he replied, "and the harbour where Christian slept and lost the roll; and about Mistrust and Timorous, who would have turned him back for fear of the Lions."
"It is a wonderful book, Joseph; you have read it through many times, I know; do you understand its meaning?"
"Oh yes, Sir, my grandfather often explained it to me. The city of Destruction is the world, with all its sins and wickedness; and those who live in it, but hate its sin and wickedness, who love Jesus, and serve God, and seek earnestly to go to heaven, are like Christian.”
"I am glad you understand the meaning of the book so well. That portion of it you were reading as I entered is very instructive, and details the experience of every Christian, whether old or young. Whoever strives against sin, and endeavours amid surrounding temptations to preserve
holiness of life, has a hill of difficulty to climb. It is hard often to resist the devil, to deny an evil desire, to shut our ears to the voice of pleasure when it calls us from the path of duty. But if we rely upon God for strength to resist sin, if we pray for help in Jesus' name, and if we strive manfully against the temptation, He has promised to give us the victory." "Just like Christian when he fought with Apollyon."
"Yes, Joseph, Christian trusted in God for strength to overcome the adversary, and he did overcome him."'
"Ay," said the old shoemaker, "and he gives God all the glory. He knows that to lean on his own strength is to lean on a broken reed; but strong in the Lord, not only can he withstand the assaults of him who goeth about as a roaring lion, but even the gloom of the valley of the shadow of death cannot make him afraid.
Joseph delighted in conversation such as this, and he spoke with great propriety and good sense. He delighted also in speaking about God's love to sinners in the gift of His Son. He knew that the blood of Christ alone cleanseth from sin, and he had a simple trust in the Saviour which no doubt ever disturbed. He often spoke of Christ's work on earth and of His glory in heaven, of the angels that surround the throne of God, of the happiness and splendour of the land of pure delight, of the crowds of the redeemed; and his eye would sparkle with joy as he thought that there he would yet meet his grandfather, the old man whom he had so dearly loved. The spring had passed away, and the genial summer had come, but Joseph's health showed no sign of improvement.
The old shoemaker, when speaking of this on one occasion, said that Joseph had never been strong; early deprived of a mother's care, the loss could not be replaced, and those means of cure which might have restored the poor boy to health, his grandfather's circumstances could not afford; he feared Joseph's days on earth would be few, "but," he said, "he is a good boy; his knowledge of Divine things would shame many who are far older; and I have no doubt that when the Master calls him away it will be to dwell with Him in glory."
One Sabbath Joseph did not come to the school. It was the only time he had been absent since the memorable occasion I first saw him. When the school was dismissed I went to his humble home. He was very unwell, and the doctor had no hope of his recovery; but he was asleep, and fearing to disturb him, I withdrew. Next day I received a message from Joseph, saying he wished to see me. The old shoemaker's niece, who brought the message, said that Joseph was much worse; they did not expect he would be with them long. I obeyed the summons, and found Joseph lying on his little bed. On one side he had his Bible, on the other the Pilgrim's Progress. A sweet smile played on his thin white face as I entered.
"Joseph, my dear boy," I said, as I sat down by his side, "I am sorry to see you thus; is your trust in God still firm?"
"Yes," he said, "I trust in God."
"Is Christ still precious to you?"
"Yes, He is still precious to me; but I have not loved him as I ought."