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of disease of body and mind, where none are so welcome as the song of consolation, whose gentle ministry is rather felt than perceived in any other manner, since they would ‘fain shun both ear and sight.'
Such were the tender arms that cherished the Church in her earliest day ; such the comfort they have learnt from the Comforter Himself.
It is the early Christian ministry depicted in all their tenderness, with “hands that cannot bless in vain,' since through them their Lord's blessing is promised; and hearts that had undergone the same suffering, and had proved the consolations they bestowed. These first Apostles, like St. Barnabas, had closed the world behind them, and were solely devoted to tasks of love, free from care, and able to brighten the most showery times with their store of quiet mirth.' To lay new hearts before their Saviour was their first and dearest joy; and next, to draw souls together in love, as when Saul was brought by Barnabas to the rest of the brotherhood, and felt himself
• Never so blest as when in Jesus' roll
They write some hero soul;
Such were Barnabas and his brethren; and though long since they have worn their crowns in Heaven, still in the Communion of Saints they are one with us, and in their hearts of sympathy
• We and our earthly griefs may ask and hope a part.'
Surely it must be an additional joy among their many joys to know how the remembrance of them still cheers and blesses us, and how all the love and patience still existing here below is the continuation of the sparks they helped to light-yes, the devotion of the priesthood, and the comfort that such devotion enables them to carry forth to the mourners! For there is no end to the influence and power of holy words and deeds; and thus
• The saints that seem to die in earth's rude strife,
Only win double life;
Single lines of this are unusually beautiful, and stand alone as jewels of the memory; but the general idea of the poem is not an easy one to grasp, though perhaps it may best be expressed as being on the tender comforting power of the ministry of the Church, derived from the Comforter Himself, and blessing us even to the end.
But the Lyra has to-day one of the grandest and most beautiful poems that the author ever wrote; one of those few later ones that to our mind rise far above the Christian Year itself. The wealth laid at the Apostles' feet, gives to St. Barnabas' Day the glory of this noble appeal:
• Christ before thy door is waiting,
Rouse thee, slave of earthly gold ;
Hungry, by whom saints are fed
Healing waters spring and glide ;
May put off His robe of light;
In the Father's Bosom bright.'
Having given this magificent antithesis to shew the unusual structure and ring of the stanzas, we must deny ourselves further quotation. Indeed, the poem is not hard to follow. The second verse shews the Lord in 'kind ambush,'--that is, in His poor, (as typified in many a mediæval legend,)-coming to enable us to 'make to ourselves friends,' and obtain the prayers of the poor against the day of wrath. That treasure of works of love lies like the manna on the dew, and unless won and stored will quickly vanish. In the Offertory, as our great High-Priest, He demands, by the voice of St. Paul, the fruit of our week; and those who respond to that summons 'open-handed, eagleeyed,' have His blessing now, and may best abide His coming at the last day.
Again, the free generosity of little children is a token from Him, whose members they are, of the love and open-heartedness that He delights in. They "naught enjoy but what they share, and have neither grudge nor care. In the great harmony of all things—as the moaning whisper of the winds sometimes blends with the music of lute or harp, or as the evening sky and autumn tints answer to one another, or in a landscape the chance position of a flower or leaf in the foreground aids the expression of the whole scene whether for melancholy or joyousness,—so to some minds a playful child's spontaneous generosity may recall the free outpouring of worldly substance at the feet of the Apostles in the early days of burning love, especially by St. Barnabas
"Son of holiest consolation,
When thou turndst thy land to gold,
Leaving all by Christ to hold.'
He was first of those priests and monarchs who gave up their all in this world, and are reaping everlasting treasure above. At least I think this must refer primarily rather to the whole course of the self-devoted, than to the four-and-twenty elders of the Vision of St. John; though of course, when these are said to cast their crowns before the Throne, we understand them to lead and typify all the offerings of honour, victory, or wealth, that ever were made, from Abraham's to the end of the world. The continuation of the verse certainly refers to the saintly priests and kings whose noble offerings the Church still enjoys:
• Now in gems their relics lie,
Gleam athwart their own loved fanes;
On the sacred Altar floor;
Or their mite the mean and poor.' Constantine, Clovis, Charles the Great, buried at Aix-la-Chapelle; St. Swithun, whose form does literally gleam athwart Winchester Cathedral (not his own fane though) from the 'storied pane, as does that of St. Louis in his Ste. Chapelle ;-multitudes of such names throng on us; but the conclusion, after appealing to us to give our utmost and most overflowing treasure, brings us to the recollection that our heart, or utmost, is the true gift, and that love is the measure, not the amount. Even the blessed widow's part' needs atonement ere it be perfectly acceptable.
The Accession Day has led to the composition of a poem whose lines often return on the ear with a most soothing and encouraging echo. For the prime thought is one that everyone needs in time, save they who are taken away in earliest youth.
Not only the newly-made sovereign feels like Solomon of old that he knows not ‘how to go out or come in,' or falls on his knees like poor Louis XVI. with a cry for help under the burden of a nation's woe, feeling the loss and bereavement above all; but everyone who has loved, obeyed, trusted, and reverenced, has heard, if he live beyond early youth, in turn, 'Knowest thou that the Lord will take thy master away from thy head to-day?' and has needed the same voice that spake to Joshua, I will not leave thee nor forsake thee.'
That confidence is the one rock to cast anchor in amid the floods—the one torch in a tempestuous night-the one unchanging evergreen among the fading trees. To many a faithful king it has so proved to none less than to the unfortunate sovereign we have referred to above, sensible of his responsibility, but physically and intellectually incapable of rising to it, unable to take pleasure even in the splendours and gaieties of his prosperity, and doomed to drink to the very dregs the cup of woe that the vice and tyranny of his forefathers had filled for him. But the Cross supports them all. The fate that was outwardly retributive justice was spiritually martyrdom !
And if such were the case with Louis XVI., what lot may not be brightened by the Cross ?
But this has led us from the text of our poem, which turns from the orphaned king to the feelings of those who take the place of true pastors, and tremble at their own inferiority, and thence to all who succeed to any place of trust in the sense of their own weakness and inefficiency. all alike there is the one sure encouragement, 'Be strong and of a good courage : I will not leave thee nor forsake thee.'
ST. JOHN THE BAPTIST.
By the Church is here meant the chosen of old. The first Elijah came when the decay of Israel under Ahab called for him; the second Elijah came when the restoration by Ezra and the patriotic zeal of the Maccabees had died away into Pharisaic hypocrisy and Sadducean liberalism; and we know that in our final dispensation, in some manner or other, Elijah will come again before the end, and methinks we need him. “But where shall he be found ?' The first Elijah, 'wafted to his glorious place by harmless fire, has owned in Paradise the loved harbinger of Christ,' and deathless himself, learns of him what was a martyr's death and glory -of him who came like the star before the dawn, and even before his birth owned the presence of her from whom Christ was about to spring.
There these two, so strangely alike, are, we may believe, interceding for God's Church still on earth, even though, as pain may not reach to the Place of Rest, the rebellion and evil below be veiled from their sight. Nay, since we live in the last days, and the twilight of the latter end is even now at hand, why wait for visible demonstrations? "The ministers and stewards of His mysteries are called on to make ready and prepare the way, after the example of him who boldly rebuked vice, and patiently suffered for the truth's sake, having gathered wisdom in his stern solitude, and proved his humility by his willingness that he should decrease as His Lord increased. Thus the underlying thought of the poem is of the three great reprovers-Elijah, the Baptist, and he of that further prophecy, which we do not yet understand, but which may be in course of fulfilment by the witness of the Christian ministry.
The conclusion is a prayer to Him who gave to the Church the wings of an eagle to take refuge in the wilderness from the dragon who would devour her children, that before the hour of Judgement He would light up her watch-fires, and make our ministers 'turn the hearts of the children to their parents, and through them to their God, so as to burn with the flame of Love.
The Lyra poem is on the mysterious joy of the unborn John-a joy of which the reverential poet of childhood traces the reflection in the bright unconscious gleams on the countenance of the newly-baptized babe, and the gladsome upward look and outstretched arm, as though seeing and greeting something far beyond our ken,
* Enkindling like the shafts of old,
The allusion is to the arrow of Acestes, which, in the funeral games on the death of Anchises, flew up into the liquid clouds,' burning as it flew, and marked its course with flame, as it mingled with the stars. The mother, perceiving such 'upward gazing,' has something of the spirit of the holy Elizabeth, rejoicing with her babe in the unseen Son of the Blessed Virgin.
But the grave lesson is that the babe who thus thrilled at his Lord's Coming was a stern, self-denying, mortified hermit, set apart by strong discipline, and suffering failure and disappointment ere he attained to his glory-throne.
This poem is the one which has most of what has been called Scripture realization, the setting the imagination to develop, as it were, the scenes merely narrated by the terseness of inspiration. Here, of course, nothing can be more reverent and beautiful than the picture of St. Peter's sleep and dreams as he lay in his fetters the night before he was to have been given up to the fury of the Jews. The past scenes that might rise before him that night are recounted—the One Look
* Sweetening the sorrow of his fall,
Which else were rued too bitterly.'
Or again, the solemn scene by the Lake of Galilee, when the Good Shepherd commended His flock into his hands, and therewith foretold how he should follow in those footsteps to the 'inverted tree.' The very door of that suffering seems to have been attained, the wakening to the day of death here and life above has surely come, but
Not Herod but an angel leads ;'
and when his dizzy doubting footsteps had brought him to freedom and cool moonlight air, he returns
• The pastoral staff, the keys of heaven,
To wield awhile in grey-haired night;
And follow Jesus out of sight.'
This poem, as is plain, goes no farther than the dwelling spiritually upon two memorable scenes in the Apostle's life, bringing them before us as having perhaps recurred to him in his dream. This, we need scarcely observe, is a very different thing from what the author always deprecated —the using all the powers of description of scenery, sensational writing, and familiar dissection of character and imputation of motive, to humanize, as it is said, but really to lower the Saints of God in our estimation.