The People's Bible by Joseph Parker
ALEPH. Blessed are the undefiled in the way, who walk in the law of the LORD.Human Pilgrimage
This is true of every human being. The term "stranger" has, however, various degrees of intensity. Take, for example, the child on the occasion of his first leaving home. He is a stranger among his schoolfellows; but, with the characteristic simplicity and confidence of early life, he soon becomes contented and happy in his new associations. This is the lowest degree of intensity attaching to the term "stranger." Look at the young man leaving home with a view of settling in business. He is no longer the simple and trustful boy he was at school. The involutions of the human heart have been disclosed to him to some extent. Now there is a half-closing of the eye, which denotes suspicion; and now there is a hesitation which signifies uncertainty as to consequences. He no longer adopts the first reading of a smile or the first interpretation of a genial tone; he thinks there may be something behind all this which is designed to embarrass his interests or despoil his property. He feels himself a "stranger," and proceeds on the principle that every man is a rogue until he has proved himself honest. Thus in a fuller degree we have the meaning of the term "stranger." Fellow the traveller into a foreign nation, and the meaning will be still further disclosed. He is unacquainted with the language, with the usages, with the spirit of the people. They may be plotting his plunder,—they may even be planning his assassination, yet he is ignorant of their designs. He sees ten thousand, faces in the gay city, but not one of them brightens at his coming; he hears ten thousand voices, but they utter no tone for him. If he is looked at at all, he is looked at as a stranger; if he is spoken to at all, he is spoken to as a stranger; and gradually a sadness steals over his spirit, and in his heart there burns a desire to commingle again with his own countrymen. A still deeper shadow even than this darkens the term "stranger." Let the traveller pass the boundaries of civilisation, in quest of the sources of rivers, the riches of mountains, or the wild life of the forest. Every man he meets is a savage; every savage thirsts for his blood: he wanders under the shadow of forests where no human foot but his own has ever stepped; he penetrates valleys which have never echoed but to the scream of the eagle or the roar of the lion, and through which there howls a drear and hollow wind which chills him to the bone; he stands on hills made grey by uncounted ages; and, though brave of heart and strong of limb, yet a sense of desolation occasionally overpowers him, and extorts from him the plaintive exclamation—"I am a stranger in the earth."
Nor is this the worst that may befall him. Let him become invalided in the far-off land; let the burning fever lay hold of him, or let the plague taint his blood; let the days be days of pain and the nights be nights of weariness; then will he feel how much is meant by the term "stranger," and how inexpressibly dear to him are all the elements which constitute even the humblest home in his own land. Add to this the exhaustion of his funds; then look at him—then hear him: far away, prostrate, poor, he cries in the bitterness of his soul—"I am a stranger in the earth."
So much for strangeness of mere position, but all such strangeness very faintly represents the loneliness of the heart A man may be a greater stranger in his own land, or even in his own family, than he can ever be on the wildest seas or bleakest hills. The traveller sighs for his home, and solaces himself with hopes of renewed association made the happier by the perils of absence; but the man who is a stranger at his own fireside shivers in a loneliness which has no hope from earth, and which would become despair but for the bow with which God has arched the storm, and declared the permanence of his regard for man. To carry in your breast a misunderstood heart is to feel every day the disadvantage and sorrow of a stranger. To be misunderstood by those who are afar off need not trouble the soul deeply; but to be misapprehended by those who bear our name or carry our image is to be the victim of continual crucifixion.
Thus step by step we ascend to the highest meaning of the term stranger, and get a partial view of the condition of the Psalmist when he said—"I am a stranger in the earth." Regarding the text as presenting one aspect of human life, we may review the grounds upon which the assertion rests, and thus confirm ourselves in an earnest recognition of the Christian's true position in the present state of existence.
I am as a stranger in the earth because of the impermanence of my position. Here we have no continuing city. At any moment the posts of our tent may be struck, and we may be borne forward to another scene. "Death's shafts fly thick; here lies the village swain, and there his pampered lord." The necessities of daily life may drive a man up and down with a harsh hand, but how secure soever his position there is one pursuer who can neither be bribed nor deterred. Look at yonder castle on the steep hillside. Its walls are thick, its defences are strong. The rich man's gold has thrown the charms of art upon the ruggedness of nature; garden and fount, glade and brook, birds of rarest plumage and sweetest song, broad paths on which the sunshine blazes, and hidden tracts on which it only glints, wreathing the shadows into tassels and tangles of every shape; all that money can buy or taste devise may be found in that hillside home:—
I am as a stranger in the earth because of my life and language. If there be but a slight difference between the Christian and the secularist, it is because the Christian has not been "transformed by the renewing of his mind," for though bearing a new name he carries an old nature. We instantly detect a foreigner by so small a sign as an accent or a posture; and the Christian is known to men of the world by a glance or tone, by a frown or smile. It should be the Christian's business to live down by a sublime, never-wavering faith all the little and selfish maxims and policies of the world, and to inaugurate an era of inextinguishable enthusiasm in relation to the heavenly life. This he will do most effectually not by destructive criticism, but by a quiet, all-penetrating, and all captivating example. Many men are not merely powerless, but self-defeating, when they begin to criticise; their words are as weapons of war; but when they live their convictions, they work as powerfully yet as silently as the all-transforming light. This should be the Christian's business as a stranger—to operate as the light, not as the lightning—to master men by attraction, and not by reprobation.
I am a stranger in the earth because of the perils to which I am exposed. The adventurous explorer feels that he is in constant danger. A stride may bring him upon the nest of a serpent; behind the next crag a tiger may crouch; and when he stoops to drink of the brook the imprint of the lion's paw arouses him to watchfulness. It is thus in moral pilgrimage. The way lies through a troubled region. Our adversary the devil as a roaring lion goeth about seeking whom he may devour. Our feet cross the slimy track of the serpent, and our inexperienced eyes are often tempted by an angel's light covering the infernal darkness of a devil. There is poison in every stream; there is a worm at the heart of the fruit; there is a thorn under the leaf of the flower. Again and again, every day, we are driven into a torturing consciousness of our ignorance and weakness in the world; and the long-drawn sigh, could men rightly interpret it, is continually telling the bitter story of the heart. The track of the foe is everywhere. We feel a horrible sense of his omnipresence. He gleams in the joys which beckon us to their sunny pastures; he skulks in the darkness which invites us to repose; his voice mingles with the song which charms the young listener; his shadow darkens the very hearthstone of home. When we pray he seeks to becloud the mind and beget mistrust in the heart, and when we open the Holy Book he tempts us to think that no letter of it was written by God. The presence and power of such a foe make us feel that we are but strangers, still far distant from the land which is full of light and peace.
A man must feel all this in order to realise the help which God is prepared to accord him. His heart must be quite given up to home-sickness. He must have "a desire to depart, and to be with Christ, which is far better." Then he will know what the Psalmist meant when he said, "Hide not thy commandments from me." He meant what the mariner means when he carefully consults his chart, while the night storm rocks the vessel and the sea threatens to swallow it up in anger. He gave up the direction of his own way, and cast himself upon the wisdom and power of God.
"Hide not thy commandments from me:" these words abound in practical suggestion. They show, for example, that God has not been unmindful of the earthly life of his saints, but provided for its effectual protection. "The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord, and he delighteth in his way." Here is the speciality of divine interposition. God watches each man as if he were the only man to be watched. "He will keep the feet of his saints, and the wicked shall be silent in darkness." No good man need be at a moment's loss as to the direction of his way. "In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths." If there be a reverent pause, it shall be of brief duration. "Thine ears shall hear a word behind thee, saying, This is the way, walk ye in it." These words save us, if we rightly heed them, from practical atheism. Like Enoch, we may "walk with God;" like Job, we may say, "He knoweth the way that I take;" we may say with Isaiah, "He giveth power to the faint:" and with Paul we may affirm, that though we are "cast down," yet we are "not destroyed." Is it nothing to have God continually at our right hand? Is it a small thing to walk in the light of the divine countenance? Is it a trifle to be able to hide one's self in the cleft rock until the calamities of life be overpast? "Why sayest thou, O Jacob, and speakest, O Israel, my way is hid from the Lord, and my judgment is passed over from my God?" This is a false testimony, for "the God of Israel is he that giveth strength and power unto his people."
There are, then, two different ways of meeting the exigencies of our position "as strangers in the earth." We may take life entirely into our own hands; we may grope in blindness and flounder in a most pitiful impotence; we may shut out God; we may quench the Holy Ghost, and go headlong to perdition; we may do all that; we may make fools of ourselves if we like! Or we may place ourselves under God's direction, leaning not to our own understanding, but resting in the Lord's grace and wisdom, walking in ever-brightening light, and hastening to the unbeclouded and eternal vision of the Lamb in heaven. These ways are before us. It is not in God to ignore man's moral nature; he leaves him, therefore, the option of going to hell if he so prefer!
This subject should peculiarly impress the hearts of the young. Life is to you an untrodden path. You know not its sinuousness, its countless disappointments, its bitter hardships. Start well! God's commandments will be a light unto your feet, and a lamp unto your path.
"Be not as the horse, or as the mule, which have no understanding." Get wisdom at the outset: "Then shalt thou walk in thy way safely, and thy foot shall not stumble."
The subject, too, should deeply affect the hearts of parents. Your children start their career from your fireside. Your maxims, principles, and examples enter into their notions of life, and to a large extent determine the tone of their being. Would you like your children to launch into the troubled life-sea without chart, or compass, or guide of any kind? If you are yourselves willing to risk the consequences of infatuation, should not the eternal interests of your children awaken your solicitude, and call you to repentance and truthfulness of life? I plead with you for their sakes! Think of the horribleness of a child learning atheism from his own father! Ponder the awful possibility of a father opening the gate of hell that his own child may enter! You cannot do God's work upon the child's heart, but you can do the work which is next best. You cannot force your child along the right way, but you can associate his earliest and tenderest memories with reverence for God's commandments, faith in God's Son, and all the charms of a beautiful and magnificent example.
To you who are walking in the light of God's countenance it may appear superfluous to say, "Go forward!" You have tested the rottenness of all the staves which you have provided for your own support; they have broken and pierced your hand! The way has been long, hard, barren, and dreary to many of you, yet every step of it has been taken by the feet of Christ, and as you move along the rugged path you may hear him saying, "He that endureth to the end shall be saved." Ah me, the end! We know not how suddenly we may come upon it; the shadow is lengthening so rapidly that it cannot be long till eventide; there are tokens of approaching sunset; the air is cooler, the sky is grayer, there are masses of cloud lying on the eastern horizon—let it come. Time can take nothing from us that is of any essential importance to our well-being; it can touch only the carnal: while it is plundering us with one hand, it is enriching us with the other. Being confident of this we calmly abide the oncoming of night—there will be a short sleep, and then—then the long summer day which has no sunset hour.
A silent religion, or a speaking religion—which shall it be? David says, "I will speak;" what do we say? Too often we resolve that we will keep silence.
As Christians, there is hardly a more important practical inquiry which we can put to ourselves than this:—How far are we guilty of keeping silence on the most vital and sublime of all subjects, namely, the divine testimonies? Take, as a great fundamental truth, this fact, that Christians are the treasurers of the divine testimonies. That is to say, Christians know what God has revealed on all the subjects which involve the pardon, the purity, and the peace of man: they profess to have read all his testimonies, to have felt them in their regenerating and enlightening power; and professing all this, the question is—are they not bound, by the most powerful considerations, to communicate all they know, and to be themselves God's testimonies translated into human life?
The difference between a silent religion and a speaking religion is the difference between a dead Church and a living one. Living men must speak, earnestness cannot be dumb; if it pause for a moment it is but the pause of a gathering stream, which deepens that it may flow with a stronger rapidity. Silence may be ruin. The neglect of an opportunity of speaking the right word may not only imperil, but absolutely destroy, the destiny of a soul. This matter, then, of silence or of speech, as relating to our religious life, becomes a test question, by which we may determine the reality of our spiritual condition.
The theme on which David says he will speak is God's testimonies. Has he chosen a barren topic? Has he pitched his tent on a fruitless land, or by an empty channel? Look at the range, the explicitness, and the emphasis of those testimonies, and you will say that never did man choose so fruitful, so abounding a theme. The fact is that there is not a single aspect of life which lies beyond the circumference of the divine testimonies. God has anticipated everything, provided for everything. David, then, is ready for all occasions, for all men, at all times, and in all places. Does he enter the palace: God has special messages to kings concerning righteousness, equity, oppression, wisdom. Does he encounter sorrow: some of the richest and tenderest testimonies of the divine revelation are specially addressed to those whose eyes are blinded with tears, and in whose breasts there is the tumult of a great woe. Does he enter the family circle: God calls himself Father, and tells us of a love more enduring than all the affections of human kind. Does he see wickedness: God's testimonies burn unquenchably against all wrong: in short, God's testimonies provide for every exigency of human life, for every aspect of human experience, for every anticipation of human hope. Nothing has been omitted; in this book there is provision for everything. The light nourisheth all things, from the cedar in Lebanon to the hyssop on the wall. Here is a word for kings, and here a word for the lowliest subject; here a psalm for joy, and here sympathy for woe; here is rest for the weary, and here stimulus for the indolent; here is work for health, and here is balm for sickness; here is a word for the hoary, and here a hymn for little children; great trees are here and little flowers, mighty rivers and threading rills, great lights and glimmering sparks. What, then, is the urgent practical lesson to be deduced from all this affluent provision? If there is one lesson clearer than another suggested by these circumstances, it is that we are left without excuse if we fail to speak of the divine testimonies. Opportunities occur every day. Circumstances arise under which no words can be so beautiful, so touching, so pithy, so real. Not a day elapses without securing to every Christian an opportunity of preaching the gospel. But are not Christians too often dumb when their voices should be lifted up as thunder? Are they not silent when their testimony should be pronounced with the sweetness of persuasion and the distinctness of a trumpet peal? Verily on this ground every man is guilty. God hath a long, black, unanswerable account against the doing of every one of us. At best we have pronounced our testimony in a hesitating tone; where we ought to have been emphatic, we have trembled; where we should have blighted error with a solemn, personal, experimental witness, we have availed ourselves of an evasive phraseology, and lost opportunities of re-pronouncing the mysterious revelations of God.
What is the excuse which is pleaded in extenuation of this course of irresolution and timidity? The excuse may be thus expressed,—"we are so afraid of cant." Are we, indeed? As a matter of fact there are some people who are never so guilty of canting as when they are running cant down. There is a great deal of cant talked against cant. Many a man makes himself a reputation for sincerity by talking loudly against the cant of other people. But is there no medium between cant and an ungrateful silence? Is there no medium between counterfeit coin and covetousness? Suppose a man talking after this fashion,—"I should have given something to that cause, but I do so much dislike base coin; I should have given bread to that hungry child, but I do so dislike poison; I should have sung that grateful psalm, but I do so detest profane songs; I should have preached the gospel to that dying man, but I am so afraid of hypocrisy." Would such talk be rational? Would such talk be tolerated by earnest men? Yet, when we plead that Christians should own their Lord, and maintain the honour of his Cross, they do often leave him to the mockers' scorn, lest they should be deemed guilty of cant! Let us learn that there is an earnest word, that there is a way of speaking an earnest word earnestly, and that it is our bounden duty to speak of God's testimonies with an enthusiasm beyond all shame. Yet why speak of this as a duty? Is duty the right word to apply in setting forth the act of speaking on behalf of Jesus Christ? We might recall that word duty, and for it substitute all that suggests privilege and honour and joy, beyond all estimation. If men only speak because speaking is a duty, there will be a constraint and poverty and pointlessness about their testimony which will deprive it of all vital influence; but if men speak because the divine fire is burning in them, because they feel themselves under the mighty power of the Holy Spirit, then their words will be characterised by a brightness, a force, an emphasis, and an unction, which will compel the attention of the most stubborn auditors.
David says he will speak of the divine testimonies before Kings. Mark these words—before kings; he will not merely speak in a cottage meeting, or in some hidden room where only poverty, ignorance, and barbarity hide their heads, but before kings—before his equals. Here is a most important lesson for the Church of today; for while Christian men are putting forth—and rightly putting forth—strenuous efforts for the benefit of the working classes, are they not in danger of neglecting a duty nearer home? It is a question for serious consideration whether in our anxiety for the welfare of strangers, we are not overlooking those nearest to us, and therein committing a serious error. If it is right to speak of God's testimonies at all, it is right to speak of them to our equals and associates, and to those by whom we are immediately surrounded in the occupations and pursuits of daily life. We miss many opportunities in the mart of business, on the crowded streets, in the busy market place. You need not commit yourselves to what is technically known as "preaching;" there is a way of doing so which may really do more mischief than good, but there is also a way of speaking a word, or turning a conversation, which will lift up daily life into a light above the brightness of the sun. There are many curious and startling inconsistencies perpetrated in connection with this matter of not being faithful to the divine testimonies. We have before the mind's eye a man who is a large employer of labour. He might have an immense moral influence over those who work in his employment. By a wise word here, and an encouraging word there, he might achieve untold good. That man is a member of the church, but his own servants are perfectly unaware of his piety until they see his name advertised as a speaker at a religious meeting. Is this right? Is this bearing a testimony concerning God? Is it rational that where a man could do most good he should never attempt to do any at all? What is the excuse usually pleaded upon this point? It is the objection to mingle business and religion. Who wishes to mingle business and religion? Raise your thoughts, for a few moments soar above a miserable, shop-keeping world, ascend the hills of eternity, and then remember that to those who earn their daily bread at your hands, you never spoke one word concerning the bread which endureth unto everlasting life! You practically denied God's name in commerce; you never saw on your gold any image and superscription but those of Cæsar! We need more and more enlightening on this subject of the connection between religion and business. Business should be religion, and religion should be business. Sunday is one of the seven days, and not a day by itself standing in perfect isolation. The testimonies of God are for every day in the week. If Christianity be a mere creed, if it be something outside of a man, if it be a mere accident in the development of moral life, then you may keep it for show-days; if it be a picture which can be hung upon a wall, then you have a right to put a screen over it when you wish: but if Christianity is a life and not a thing, if it is in you as a well of living water springing up into everlasting life, then you simply cannot disassociate it from business; you may as well talk of disassociating the atmosphere from your lungs, or of severing a star from its central sun.
If a man thinks that speaking God's testimonies simply implies that he must say so much religion today, and quote a prescribed portion of Scripture to-morrow, that man is leading an artificial life, certainly not a life of true union with Christ. It is quite possible to be quoting Scripture, and the sayings of wise men and good men, without the heart being engaged in the holy exercise of endeavouring to elevate the moral condition of man. There are two ways of doing everything. Christ should be our example; as he went about doing good we should put our feet into his footsteps, and re-deliver the tender and enlightening words which issued from his pure lips.
There is something very marvellous, yet not altogether inexplicable, about human shame in relation to the divine testimonies. There is no allowable topic of human conversation of which even good people are more ashamed than the gospel. They will talk upon any other subject more readily, more fluently, more intelligently, and more courageously. This is a circumstance loudly calling for consideration. Why should men be ashamed of God? Why should the creature shun the Creator? Why should the beneficiary forget the benefactor? To add to the difficulty of explaining this circumstance, it is to be recollected that the persons now spoken of are not ashamed of the gospel as a system of truth; that is to say, they are not ashamed of theology in the sense in which they are ashamed of experimental religion. Christianity may be looked at as a department of theology, or Christianity may be looked at as an element in our own spiritual life; in the former sense it may be discussed not only with intelligence, but with enthusiasm, while in the latter it may be ignored and shunned. Not only are such persons not ashamed of the gospel as a system of truth, but to a certain extent they are not ashamed of the gospel as vindicated by their own conscience and experience. If interrogated as to what they feel, they will instantly reply in a manner which might satisfy the most zealous saint; when the matter is pressed upon them, and they are made to follow rather than to lead, there may in reality be but little fault to find with their spirit and expression; but when they are left entirely to themselves they neglect to initiate an argument for the necessity and importance of immediate personal attention to the claims of the Lord Jesus Christ.
How, then, is all this to be accounted for? The argument which is derived from a foolish fear of what is called cant has been already suggested; but there is another consideration which ought not to escape attention in determining this subject; namely, that in our day gospel and sect have become synonymous terms. It is upon this ground that many worthy people do feel most acutely the difficulty and delicacy of their position. Let a man, for example, in a railway carriage, in a place of business, or in a scene of social festivity, introduce the subject of religion, and instantly his hearers will begin to speculate as to what section of the Christian Church he belongs. The probabilities are that they will at once conclude that he is a Methodist This, doubtless, is a great and well-deserved compliment to our honoured brethren of the Methodist persuasion. It implies a recognition of their fervour, zeal, and devotion, which puts to shame the pretensions of many other Christian bodies. Would that in this respect all the Lord's people were Methodists. Our reticence may be our disgrace; our sealed lips may be a crime, not an honour.
If those who have felt the power of the gospel will not speak of it, who will? The claim of Almighty God upon our best service is not only emphatic, but indisputable and most solemn. "Ye are the salt of the earth; ye are the light of the world; ye are cities set upon a hill." Everywhere, then, we find responsibility associated with blessing, and if we who know how to do good do it not, our sin is marked by a double aggravation. If the believer will not speak of the divine testimony, the unbeliever will! If there is silence in the Church, there is no silence in the camp of the enemy! The devil knows no leisure. All bad men seem to find rest in toil, and to recruit their energies by spending all their strength. If, then, the devil goeth about as a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour, let us, at least, follow him if we cannot outrun him, and bear witness to the fulness, freeness, and influence of the grace of God as manifested in Christ Jesus our Lord.
As it is impossible within the available space to go through the Psalter in detail (a work I earnestly desire to undertake) I have resorted to a method of condensation which finds a place for many an otherwise excluded passage. This is noted in order to explain change of plan. (See the Book Comments for information that followed this section in the printed edition.)
Almighty God, thy meaning concerning us is one of love, though the cloud is often great and thick, and we cannot see through it. Lord, increase our faith! That is the large life, the noble existence, the life that reaches unto heaven. We would not have our sense-life increased: there is nothing in it but beginnings: in it there is no satisfaction but that which leads to still deeper hunger; but the life of our faith we would have enlarged and glorified, so that all things may be ours in Christ—all time, all space, all opportunity for being and doing good, for growing in wisdom, in the knowledge of the Lord God Almighty, and in the service of all who may be less favoured than we are. This is our desire; thou wilt crown it with an abundant answer, thou wilt seal it with great honour. Thou hast sown us down here in this low place like seed; thy meaning is that we should take root here, and leave the root behind, whilst the golden fruit should be gathered in the skies. We bless thee for a growing-place, but we want it only for the root: all the influences of heaven itself must gather around our head and make the fruitfulness of life a great joy to thyself. Herein art thou glorified, that thy servants bear much fruit. Give us to feel how long is the seedtime of God. We have seen nothing else yet. Thou didst go forth to sow long, long ages since, and thou art sowing still—sowing men, women, and children all over the land, and thy meaning is that they should grow up into all heavenly beauty and fruitfulness and be gathered into the garner of the skies. Alas! some are fallen by the wayside, and others in stony places, and others have no deepness of earth, so that they soon wither away: is there not a, remedy in heaven for all this—some great answer of God to the peculiar circumstances of men? We will not judge: we will pray; we will not condemn: we will assist; be this our spirit, O thou Christ of the Cross, who didst take upon thyself the form of a servant that thou mightest save the world. Enable us to be quiet, solemn, thoughtful, in the presence of life's dark mystery. We bless thee for all fleeting joy, for the transitory lights which make us glad for a moment; but still when they come and go there is left the eternal mystery—What is Life? what is God? Check our impatience; displace it by noble reverence and with the sweet modesty which bows its head and waits in calm tranquillity until God's time be come. Meanwhile, we pray for one another that we be not hindrances to one another, but helps; that we throw no cloud upon each other's path, but all possible sunshine and laughter and true joy. Look upon us in various stages of life. Look upon the old man and tell him that old age is impossible upon earth to him who is rooted in God: for the growing days do but bring heaven nearer, and heaven is eternal youth. Speak to the busy man whose head is full of schemes and plans, who is even now, though in the sanctuary, buying and selling and getting again, arranging his journey and perfecting his plans; and tell him that the whole earth is not worth getting, that having got it he has bound a burden upon his back and blinded himself to heaven. Give him heart and hope to win honest bread, and plenty of it; give him what is needful for the true nurture and culture of his life, and give him the power of setting things down as though he did not want them, and setting them away from him at a long distance, as though he were afraid of their contagion. Thus may he use the world as not abusing it; thus may he stand above it, and rule over it, and hold it as God's trustee. Look upon those to whom life is all crookedness, and darkness, and disappointment; they know not why they were born: they see nothing and hear nothing as it really is; their life is one succession of mistakes; their days are but illuminated nights, they stumble at noonday, and are afraid of that which is high; they have no faculty, no sense, no grip of things; they wander and look around blindly; they put out their hand, and seize but the empty air. The Lord pity such; make of them what can be made of them: it lies within the scope of thine almightiness to save even such. Bless the little boys and girls—the sweet flowers of life; the little things that turn away attention from those high themes which never can be solved or adjusted, but whose discussion leads to mental distraction and final melancholy. The Lord give grace unto the children; the Lord save them from the bitter east winds that blow upon their young souls; the Lord give them early wisdom, and a long life to enjoy the good beginning. Remember our sick ones. Many whom thou lovest are sick. They thought to be well on God's day. They said, Sickness can endure but the poor cold six days; on God's day we shall be young again and hale, and ready to join in the public psalm. Keep them; heal them; give them to see that thou hast yet more than they have yet seized, more than they can ever appropriate. Then our loved ones who are far away—beyond the sea, in foreign lands, in the colonies, on the sea, in trouble on the sea: the Lord's eye be upon them for good, and the Lord pour down through all the winds that roll around the earth messages of comfort and love, and send secretly angels that shall assure the heart that all is well. Give us joy in the perusal of thy Book; give us some touch of heaven whilst we tarry in thine house: may thine altar be as thy throne, and through thy Cross, O Christ, may we see thy crown. Amen.