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MUSINGS OVER THE CHRISTIAN YEAR
AND LYRA INNOCENTIUM.
The first suffering of the Infant Saviour is naturally the subject foremost in the Thoughts on Little Children. It is one of the simpler poems, reminding the mother who is almost angered as well as grieved by her innocent babe's pain, that he is as his Saviour Lord,' and that His blessed Mother patiently submitted to ber sinless Babe's sufferings
• For why? That mother's love Is one with His Almighty Will.'
That resignation of the will is the sole way of comfort.
But in the Christian Year, though the same thought of that suffering is introduced, it is in the deep doctrinal aspect. Without blood there is no atonement, and thus the natural wailings and tears of infancy were not sufficient. These are the ordinary portion of childhood throughout the world; but He was born under the Law,' and therefore submitted to the legal knife, shedding the drops that marked and dedicated Him for sacrifice like the libation of wine poured on victim's head. Again those blood-drops were the pledge, the earnest as it were, of the great Blood-shedding of the Atonement. And again, by admitting Him, the Lord Jesus, to the Israelitish congregation, His Circumcision made Him one with the ancient Jewish Church; and thus imparted to those of old, membership with Him, and participation in the benefits that He confers on us; so that He is the Salvation alike of those who lived before and after His coming in the Flesh-and His saving Love may be said to mount up against the stream of time, even as the sea in full tide drives back the current of a river. Thus both the saints of old and we ourselves equally belong to Him, and have our share in Him.
Circumcised into the Old Covenant; by His own Baptism sanctifying the instrument of admission to the New-both Covenants met in Him Who alone could perfectly fulfil either; and thus, through our union with Him, we are closely connected with the holy men of old, and • Saints parted by a thousand years may here in heart embrace.' The consolation of looking back to our predecessors as examples, nay, sympathizers in our trials, is then shewn by turning the eyes of the heart-sick and weary of the faithless world back to the Father of the Faithful, who once stood alone as a believer in his generation. As to the poet, where can such a range of notes of joy and woe, of praise or mourning, be found as in David's minstrelsy? To bothin all their characters, as to all else that we love and reverence among the saints of old—are we united by and through our Blessed Lord; and if it be a comfort to look back to such as these, how much greater that the child of tears, cradled in care and woe, lonely or disappointed, can remember that
· The Giver of all good,
From suffering, tears, and blood.' And by His example, Who suffered before He entered into His glory, we learn the lesson of mortification.
• If thou would'st reap in love,
First sow in holy fear;
To a bright endless year.'
The first half of this poem is one of ordinary human life and experience, and is easily understood; the second half is connected with the history of the world, and is less readily followed.
"The Day Star of Faith' dawns readily on the pure and believing heart of childhood, amid the training of home; but the keen perception becomes dimmed in the glare of earthly day, and less clear-sighted faith and hope must be our guides, and certain ones, for
the waymarks sure,
'Tis ours to mark them or forget.' And if they are well observed, the bright and vivid realizing faith (our childhood's star) will revive in us, in the serenity of old age, as to the wise men of the East; nor leave us until we have the fruition of His glorious Godhead.'
When that renewal of pure faith, almost sight, shall come, and enable, us to enter into the wondrous scene of our Sovereign Master
• Swathed in humblest poverty, On Chastity's meek lap reclined,
With breathless reverence waiting by,' will it not bring back the glow of joy and love that the child feels burning within him in his wonder and gratitude for stars and flowers ?
Here there is an almost abrupt transition from ourselves to the Church. There is this connection to be understood, though not expressed, that the history of the whole body is often typified in that of one particular member. The verse of entreaty—the prayer we are supposed to put up on our pilgrimage to our Lord's Presence-goes on to plead
• Did not the Gentile Church find grace
Our Mother dear—this favoured day;
With gold and myrrh she sought Thy Face,
Nor didst Thou turn Thy Face away.'
By the Gentile Church we are to understand the whole earth beyond the Jewish pale—that personification to whom the sixtieth chapter of Isaiah is addressed. In earlier purer days there was a patriarchal faith-the faith held by Melchizedek, by Job, by Jethro, by Heber the Kenite, by Jonadab the son of Rechab—the faith that together with corrupt practice we see in Balaam, and the remnant of which at the outset of the 'self-chosen ways’ is to be detected in the thoughts and systems of the more ancient races—in the primitive framework of the religions of India, Persia, Greece, Rome, and the North. Like the Wise Men like ourselves in early childhood-our Gentile mother had once had her glance directed aright; but she wandered aside from the way, into superstition and defilement; her eyes became dim, and she utterly lost the star of faith. Primitive religion-which can be traced in the earlier literature of India and Greece, and in the grand old Roman customs-vanished as time goes on, and only the nobler spirits of Greece and Rome strove hard to clear their sight by the efforts of philosophy; but the Day Star was not to be discovered again save by revelation.
Then, when Faith did dawn on the Gentile world, the shame for past idolatry equalled the joy of the present devotion. Her kings laid down their crowns, her wisest consecrated their wisdom; the choicest most precious gifts of beauty, architecture, music, art, wealth, have been laid at the feet of the Saviour.
Our forefathers gave their best. What do we give in offering to the Saviour? Where are our vigils and our fasts? They served Him with their whole heart; we serve Him as far as we can consistently with our own comfort.
The Lyra has a simple poem, summoning us to greet our King with the gifts that are represented in those of the wise men-the gold of love, the myrrh of penitence, the frankincense of prayer.
The elder poem of this day is in the first place a minute realization of the scene of St. Paul's conversion, passing midway into a meditation on the great answer, 'I am Jesus Whom thou persecutest;' and thereby bringing home to us that whatever we do unto the least of our Lord's members is done unto Himself.
• Christians, behold your happy state,
Make much of your dear Lord.'
The later one dwells on the question of the stricken Saul, 'Lord,
what wouldst Thou have me to do?' It is as it were on the practical outcome of the emotion of the heart, touched by the grace of God. The first step in repentance was to Baptism, and in after hours that same Baptismal grace will still
cleanse thee every hour, Christ's Laver hath refreshing power.'
Next-as Saul was sent to the holy man within the city, to be recovered of his blindness and joined to the body of the saints, there to learn what he was to do-50
• Where saints are met with one accord,
The praises of high God to shew;
But again, Saul spent three days in solitary fasting, darkness, and penitence, ere the healing touch came to him. So must our selfexamination go deep.
• What wouldst Thou have me do, O Lord ?
Think, little child, thy conscience try;
And selfish thought, and envious eye-
THIRD SUNDAY AFTER EPIPHANY.
The faith of the good centurion, shining forth in the comparatively unenlightened Roman, is the inspiring thought in this poem, which begins by describing the sight of the rainbow in the north, the dark quarter of the heaven.
That rainbow (not a frequent sight) lives in the thought of the pastor as a token "how light may find its way to regions furthest from the fount of day;' and in like manner the very dullest barest down is often full of the lark's sweet song, cheering the weary heart with cheerful notes of praise. In like manner the pastor is often comforted by unexpected evidences of heartfelt religion in the most unlikely parts of his parish, not only encouraging in themselves, but giving the hope that there may be piety as true where it is absolutely unsuspected by man. For there is often a tendency to reserve in strong devotion, and a dread of profession, lest by outrunning practice it should give occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme. The case of the pious judge, Sir Matthew Hale, is quoted as an instance in the note.
Such devout and anxious believers wait, like the good centurion, in silence and at a distance, longing to find a prayer their Lord may hear; but ever recommended to Him by the intercessions of the poor whom their charity has relieved, and whose grateful prayers rise up in their behalf and pierce the skies.' In like manner did the men of Capernaum plead for the friendly Roman who had loved their people, and further bad built for them that synagogue whose recently discovered entablature, carved with the pot of manna, the ears of corn, and the vine, shews how Israelite symbolism was standing at the very door of Christian reality.
So has the work of building a home for prayer and love, and full melodious praise,' been acceptable ever since as an offering to the Lord. For homely as was His life on earth in His voluntary humility, He accepts the most costly offerings that can be brought to Him, for the sake-not of their intrinsic value, which is of course nothing—but of the Love that cannot be content without pouring out her best at His Feet ;-such love as He commended in the Magdalen, and received from Joseph of Arimathea and the faithful women, and which now that He has left the earth, may spend the utmost efforts of poetry and art in glorifying Him. All alike these endeavours are worthless in themselves, and lost in the full ocean of His glory and love; but His mercy accepts and brightens them,
To sparkle in His crown above,
It is the very same thought that crowned this day, thirty years later.
The resemblance is traced between wealth eagerly searching for the most costly gift to express affection, and the delight of children by the sea-side in storing up their treasures for the companions left at home. For alike the offering comes of Love, and is to be accepted by Love. Love on either side gives it value. Not a crown, not even the first-born offered up, can equal the Love that is ready for us—not to be bought or earned by anything we can give, only by our love itself.
So-having learnt the worth of Love, both in the giver and receiver, from the children picking up shells and pebbles on the beach-the Christian poet is reminded of the freedom of the gift by the very cries that haunt the streets of the town. The shouts that proclaim wares to be bought for nothing, bring to his inward ear the cry of Wisdom in the streets : ‘Ho, everyone that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.' So even in the wilderness of the city, the very cries of mammon may bring the echo of the Saviour's invitation.