Page images
PDF
EPUB

the miserable condition of an unhappy servant, who has to bear in some ill-governed household the caprices, not of one mistress, but of many. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, but the fear of man bringeth a snare. How many of the young are ruined, just because they have not the courage to say, Nay, to do what they know to be right—allowing themselves to be laughed out of their virtuous habits, and early holy training. Then, into what misery do we see parents plunge themselves and their families by a course of extravagance, into which they are drawn by the whirpool of fashion. To sacrifice the well-being of your children to a wretched vanity, to do mean or dishonest things that you may appear genteel, to prefer the approbation of the world to that of your own conscience, to incur the wrath of God that you may win a man's or woman's smiles, to stand more in fear of the hiss of dying men than of the deadly serpent— this slavery, common in the world, is one to which Christ's freemen should not yield—no, not for an hour. Hear how God asks, as in surprise, " Who art thou, that thou shouldest be afraid of a man that shall die, and of the son of man which shall be made as grass; and forgettest the Lord, thy maker, that hath stretched forth the heavens, and laid the foundations of the earth?"

Yet see, how men of the coblest genius and proudest intellect have crouched, slave like, before the world, laying their heads in the very dust at her feet. When Byron, for instance, stood aloft on the pinnacle of his fame, he confessed that the disapprobation of the meanest critic gave him more pain than the applause of all the others gave him pleasure. Miserable confession, and miserable man! not less a slave that laurela wreathed his brow, and that a star glittered on his breast. What a contrast do we see in Paul? He was a freeman! Like some tall rock, he stands erect; unmoved from his place, or purpose, or judgment, or resolution, by the storm of a world's disapprobation raging fiercely around him. "With me," he says, " it is a very small thing that I should be judged of you, or of man's judgment; ... he that judgeth me is the Lord." What more grandeur is here! What a testimony to the elevating power of piety! What a glorious illustration of the poet's words,

"He is the freeman whom the truth makes free,
And all are slaves besides."

In old times, men and women were said to have sold their souls to Satan, consenting that he should have them at death, on condition of receiving a power to command, in their lifetime, any wealth, any honors, any pleasure their hearts might desire. As the story goes, the devil held them to the bargain; and when they died, the old castle shook, and the screech-owls hooted, and the dogs howled, and the lights burned blue, and the tempest roared, and people crossed themselves as they heard the shrieking spirit borne away through the black night to hell. An old superstition! True; yet fables are often less wonderful than facts; and there are things more incredible in real life than you or I have read in the wildest romance. Did Satan, according to these old legends, drive a hard bargain? With sinners, now, he drives a harder. Deluded, defrauded, cheated, the poor sinner has no lifetime, no season of profit and pleasure. He sells himself for nought. 1 could fill this house with living proofs of it. They swarm in our streets in their rags and wretchedness. And what though many, who are living a life of sin, are apparently happy and prosperous? If their hearts had a window whereby we could look within, and see the fears that agitate them, the gnawing of remorse, the stings of conscience, the apprehensions of discovery and impending evil that haunt the steps and cloud the path of guilt, we should conclude that, though there were neither hell nor hereafter, the way of transgressors is hard. From their way I pray all here to turn. Why will ye die? Why? when Christ is willing, wishful, waiting to save. Sin's is a miserable thraldom. If its wretched slaves, you are the objects of deepest compassion. Nor ever more so than when, intoxicated with the pleasant but poisoned cup, you sing and laugh and dance in chains. To men in your circumstances, and with your appalling prospects, how may we apply the words, I said of laughter, It is mad; and of mirth, What doeth it? God help you! God bring you to a better mind ; that, raising your fettered arms and weeping eyes to heaven for help to burst these fatal, accursed bonds, you may be free—blessed with holy liberty, and true peace, and pure pleasure, and lasting joys—redeemed and ransomed by the blood of Christ.

[ocr errors]

la whom we have redemption tL-ough his blood, even the forgivenesi

of sins.—Colossi Ans i. 14.

No place touches us with a more melancholy sense of the fleeting nature of earthly glory, than an old deserted castle. All is gone but the main keep. Stoutly battling with time, as one not easily subdued, it stands erect in its ruin amid the grass-green mounds, that, like graves of the past, show where other buildings once have stood. Gray with moss, or mantled with ivy, the strong thick walls are slowly mouldering; and there is deep desolation in these silent courts. No step but our own treads the floor that in other days shook to the dancers' feet; nor sound is heard in halls which once rung with music, and sweet voices, and merry laughter, but the moaning wind, which seems to wail for the wreck around it; or the sudden rush and flapping of some startled bird that flies at our intrusion from her lonely nest. If happily an empty chain hangs rusting in the dungeon where captives once had pined how cold the hearth around whose roaring fires in long winter nights many a tale was told, and many a bright group had gathered, and the mother nursed her babe, and the father told his rapt and listening boys of stirring scenes in flood and field! In the grass-grown court below, where once they had mustered gay for the bridal, or grim for battle, the sheep are quietly feeding. And here on the battlement some pine, or birch, or mountain ash, rooted in a crevice and fed by decay, lifts its stunted form, where the banner of an ancient house floated proudly in days of old, or spread itself out, defiant, as the fight raged around the beleagured walls, and the war-cry of assailants without was answered by the cheers of gallant men within. Now all is changed—the stage a ruin, spectators and actors gone. They sleep in the grave ; their loves, and wars, their fears, and joys, and sorrows—where ours, too, Boon shall be—buried in its cold oblivion.

"Their memory and their name is gone,
Alike unknowing and unknown."

And, greatest change of all, the heirs of those who reared that massy pile, and rode helmed to battle with a thousand vassals at their back, have sunk amid the wrecks of fortune. Fallen into meanness and obscurity, as humble rustics, they now, perhaps, plough the lands which once their fathers held.

Such changes have happened in our country. But changes corresponding to these never happened in ancient Israel. It was there, as in the heavens above us, whose luminaries, after a certain period of time has elapsed, always return to the same place in the firmament, and the same relative position to each other. The sun, for instance—although changing his place daily—shall rise and set, twelve months from this date, at the same hour, and appear at his meridian in the same spot as to-day. Corresponding to that, or like the revolution of a wheel, which restores every spoke to its former place, society—whatever change meanwhile took place in personal liberty or hereditary property—returned among the old Hebrews to the

« PreviousContinue »