« VorigeDoorgaan »
When we look forward to the year that is opening upon us, it is natural to indulge the sentiments of hope, and to feel these predominating in our prayers ; to trust that the same goodness which has watched over the course of our former years, and has bestowed upon us so many and invaluable sources of happiness, will still protect and continue them to us, and will not yet deprive us of the happiness which springs from them. Yet the years that have left us speak, likewise, of other remembrances. They tell us, -the single year which has last departed, tells us--of the many instances of the disappointment of human hopes, and the overthrow of human joys. Who has not some recollection of this kind near his heart and his affections ? --Who remembers not some venerable, or manly, or lovely, or innocent form, now for ever separated from the world and its concerns, whose presence gladdened the opening of the year which is gone ?-Who has not sympathized with the sorrows of parents weeping, perhaps, over the Son whose genius and virtue were not only felt in the bosom of family affection, but were welcomed by the hopes of nations ?-or, beholding that track of light suddenly quenched and darkened, on which the Daughter of their
love had entered full of animation and joy ? Who has not seen these dread calamities in the circle of his daily associates ? Alas! my brethren, in these later days, who has not sunk beneath them, when they came forward, in all their horrors, to mock the majesty of thrones,
- when the most agonizing sympathies of com-, mon nature were mingled with the desolation of a chaos gathering over the brightness of the world's glory,--and when a thick darkness shrowded, in a moment, that Mother and that Child, as they seemed to bend down to us with looks of love from that high promontory of existence, on which God had said, “Let there be light, and there was light!”—From such contemplations shall we not feel the fleeting instability of all that we here account happy and glorious ? The voice of the departing year has, indeed, cried to us, amid the howling of the winter winds," all flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field : the grass withereth, the flower fadeth, because the spirit of the Lord bloweth upon it: surely the Prince and the people alike are grass !"
III. There is, in the third place, in the present hours of our meeting, a similar voice arising
from the very Walls which inclose us. Within these walls we shall, after this day, assemble no more. A long bond of connection is about to be for ever broken ; and it seems like the breaking of that final tie which binds us to the present world of our being. The sentiments of piety which have here been engendered, or fostered, seem now to cluster with fond attachment around the places where they were formed ;-the seats in which we have listened to the glowing words of persuasive wisdom, the altar before which we have so often kneeled to receive the bread of life, all seem connected in our imaginations with the holy feelings which arose among them. Nor is it of ourselves alone, or of our own sentiments, that, in these moments, our imaginations are full. Those hallowed Spirits that formerly sat with us within these walls, and poured their prayers, along with us, and knelt down with us before that altar, seem once more to return to the places which they have left. We seem again to behold their holy and their loving countenances; and while we are quitting the scene of our mutual devotion, it is as if that hour had again returned, in which the chords of our
hearts were rent in twain. We go back, my brethren, to our Fathers. We think of that honoured Hand of diffusive bounty which first laid the foundation of this house,-of that Voice of simple piety which first blessed it -and of all those Examples of genuine and unassuming devotion which delighted to find a shelter within its walls from the temptations and the afflictions of the world ! “ Our Fathers, where are they ?” When in these moments their venerated forms again seem to rise before us, do they not speak to us of the passing current of human existence,—do they not point to that silent mansion to which we, too, must, in no long time, repair; and will not such thoughts and recollections as, at this time, are ours, in a few years be passing through the minds of our children? “ The voice said, cry; and he said, what shall I cry? All flesh is grass!"
If these are the words which the walls themselves around us now cry aloud to us, from them, too, ere we quit them for ever, let us hear the answering voice of consolation ;—“ The grass withereth, the flower fadeth, but the word of our God shall stand for ever."
66 This is none other than the house of God, and this is the
gate of Heaven!” Within these holy walls have been unfolded to us, in all the grandeur of their conception, the glorious truths of the Gospel ; we have in them seen the light which is poured upon the darkness of mortality ; the Son of God has here seemed to descend in our presence, and to withdraw the veil which darkens our fallen nature; and we have heard Him call us to enter into the Holy of Holies, purified by his Blood, and with affections lifted above this lower world. It is “ in His light that we have seen light.” He has instructed us to carry forward the social affections which now delight and bless our existence, while we tremble amidst their earthly uncertainty and decay,to carry them forward into higher scenes, and a holier being,—to behold in those whom we prize and love on earth, the candidates for Heaven,-and to trust, that the virtues upon which our affections now repose, are yet destined to glow with the everlasting “ brightness of the firmament !" He has shewn us, that amidst the memory even of recent afflictions, and from the bosom of seeming despair, there is yet a voice of divine consolation which arises; all those pure spirits who have torn our hearts as they left us, seem