Billeder på siden
PDF
ePub
[blocks in formation]

THE Guardian greets its readers with, A Happy New Year. For ten years our Magazine has visited you; and with this number it enters upon its eleventh volume. Many reflections crowd in upon our mind, and earnestly ask to be recorded; but we pass them by for the present. It will be proper, however, at this solemn season to present some remarks on the use and abuse of time.

What if we should ask a pagan to instruct us? Seneca, the tutor of Nero, who died, or was killed, or rather, was compelled to kill himself, about sixty-five years after Christ, was a prominent moralist in his day; and though a pagan, has said many things worthy of all acceptation. In many respects the children of this world are wiser in their generation than the children of light. Among other things, Seneca has said many things, good and true, in regard to the value and proper use of time.

Hear him: "In the distribution of human life, we find that a great part of it passes away in evil doing; a greater part in doing just nothing at all; and in effect the whole in doing things beside our proper business. Some hours we bestow upon ceremony and servile attendences, some on our pleasures, and the remainder runs to waste. What a deal of time is it that we spend in hopes and fears, love and revenge, in balls, treats, making of interests, suing for offices, soliciting of causes, and slavish flatteries !" How truly has the wise pagan depicted the follies which after eighteen hundred years of better teaching are still by far too prevalent even among professed Christians.

How correctly does he say: "It is with our lives as with our estates, a good steward makes a little go a great way; whereas, let the revenue of a prince fall into the hands of a prodigal, and it is gone in a moment. So that the time allotted us, if it were well employed, were abundantly enough to answer all the end and purposes of mankind. But we squander it in avarice, drink, sleep, luxury, ambition, fawning addresses, envy, gambling, voyages, impertinent studies, and the like; and when our portion is spent, we find the want of it, though we gave

no heed to it in the passage; and thus we have rather made our life short than found it so." How true. We have many examples that show how much can be done in a short life, when time is properly used. Those who waste their precious time in vanities and trivial affairs, he severely reproves. Hear him : Hear him "How many precious mornings do we spend in consultation with barbers, tailors, and tire-women, patching and painting betwixt the comb and the glass! A council must be called upon every hair we cut; and one hair cut amiss is as much as a man's life is worth. The truth, is we are more solicitious about our dress than our manners, and about our periwigs than that of the gov ernment. At this rate, let us but discount, out of a life of a hundred years, that time which has been spent in sauntering up and down to no purpose, diseases that we have brought upon ourselves, and this extent of life will amount perhaps to the minority of another man. It is a long being, but perchance a short life. We should do by time as we do by torrent, make use of it while we have it, for it will not last always."

If a pagan could write the following words, how ought a Christian to be impressed by them! "It should be our care, before we are old, to live well, and when we are so, to die well; that we may expect our end without sadness. For it is the duty of life to prepare ourselves for death; and there is not an hour we live that does not mind us of our mortality. Time runs on, and all things have their fate, though it lies in the dark. Our term is set, and none of us know how near it is. Let as therefore live as if every moment were to be our last, and set our account right every day that passes over our heads. Let us make haste to live, since every day to a wise man is a new life; for he has done his business the day before, and seeks to prepare himself for the next, that if it be not his last, he knows yet that it might have been so. No man enjoys the true taste of life, but he that is willing and ready to quit it." How many thousands there are in Christian lands who live far beneath the wisdom of this pagan, and spend their lives in the pursuit of ends far less noble than what he proposes.

[ocr errors]

Is it not strange that generally those very persons who love life most, that fear its coming to an end most, are the ones who spend it most carelessly. Seneca has taken notice of this singular fact. They never put time to account, which is the most valuable of all precious things: but because they do not see it, they reckon upon it as nothing; and yet these easy men, when they come to die, would give the whole world for those hours again which they so inconsiderately cast away before; but there is no recovering of them. Such is the love of life, that even those decrepit dotards that have lost the use of it will yet beg the continuance of it, and make themselves younger than they are, as if they could cheat even Fate itself. When they fall sick, what promises of amendment if they escape that bout! What exclamations of folly of their mis-spent time! and yet if they recover, they relapse. No man takes care to live well, but long; when yet it is in everybody's power to live well, but in no man's power to live long. How great a shame it is to be laying new foundations of life at our last gasps, and for an old man (that can only prove his age by his beard,) with one foot in the grave, to go to school again!" We may add-and to make only the sad results of his own former follies his teachers. How much better to learn betimes, from an

other source, to escape those gloomy consequences whose lessons are not only so painful, but generally bring so little solid fruit.

Our pagan moralist has some severe thoughts against that class of persons, who having nothing to do, or desiring themselves to do nothing, think themselves at liberty to rob those of their time who desire to do something. "There is nothing that we can properly call our own but our time, and yet everybody fools us out of it that has a mind to it. If a man borrows a paltry sum of money, there must be bonds and securities; but he that has my time, thinks he owes me nothing for it, though it be a debt that gratitude itself can never repay. He that takes away a day from me takes away what he can never restore to me. But our time is either forced away from us, or stolen from us, or lost; of which the last is the foulest miscarriage."

We commend these earnest thoughts of an earnest pagan, especially to the Young readers of the Guardian, as suitable New Year reflections. The year upon which we now enter, will soon be gone; and thus one after another glides away as a dream of the night. And the last wil come!

ORIGIN OF THE PASSAGE, "IN THE MIDST OF LIFE WE ARE IN DEATH."

You doubtless remember the story of the great Robert Hall who was preparing a sermon on these words, presuming that they were to be found somewhere in the Scriptures, but discovered that they belonged only to the burial service of the Church of England. But many have desired to know whence they were originally derived and it was with peculiar pleasure that I was enabled to trace the origin of the whole passage in the burial service which begins with these words, by means of the beautiful little work, just published, the "Lyra Germanica." preface says:

"The hymn 'In the midst of life,' which was translated by Luther im 1524, is founded in a more ancient hymn of Notker, a Benedictine of St. Gall, who died in 912. He is said to have composed it while watching some workmen who were building the bridge of Martinsbuck, at the peril of their lives. It was soon set to music, and became universally known; indeed, it was used as a battle song, until the custom was forbidden on account of its being supposed to exercise magical influences. In a German version it formed part of the service for burial as early as the 13th century, and is still preserved in an unmetrical form in the burial service of our own Church."

The following is the metrical form of the hymn, as composed by Luther:

"In the midst of life, behold,

Death hath girt us round

Whom for help then shall we pray,
Where shall grace be found?

In Thee, O Lord, alone.

We rue the evil we have done
That thy wrath on us hath thrown,
Holy Lord and God!

Strong and holy God!

Merciful and holy Saviour!
Eternal God!

Sink us not beneath

Bitter pain of endless death
Kyrie Eleison!

"In the midst of death, the jaws
Of Hell against us gape.
Who from peril dire as this
Openeth us escape?

'Tis Thou, O Lord, alone.

Our bitter suffering and our sin
Pity from Thy mercy win,

Holy Lord and God!

Strong and holy God!

Merciful and holy Saviour!
Eternal God!

Let us not despair

For the fire that burneth there,,

Kyrie Eleison !

"In the midst of Hell, our sins
Drive us to despair;

Whither shall we flee from them?

Where is refuge, where?

In Thee, Lord Christ, alone!

For Thou hast shed Thy precious blood!
All our sins Thou makest good,

Holy Lord and God!

Strong and holy God!

Merciful and holy Saviour;

Eternal God!

Let us never fail

From the true faith's hope for all
Kyrie Eleison.

INCREASE OF LONGEVITY.

Ir is a prevailing impression among many that long life was more common in the time of our ancestors than at present. Facts would seem to prove otherwise. In the latter part of the 16th century, onehalf of all who were born, died under five years of age, and the average proportion of the whole population was but eighteen years. In the 17th century one-half of the population died under twelve years. But in the first sixty years of the 18th century, one half of the population lived over twenty-seven years; in the latter forty years, one-half exceeded thirty-two years of age.

In the beginning of the present century, one-half exceeded forty years. The average longevity of these successive periods has been increased from eighteen years in the 18th century up to 43-7 by last reports. This increase in the duration of life is believed to be the result of improved medical science, improvement in the construction of houses, drainage of streets, and superior clothing.

SUDDEN JUDGMENTS.

BY THE EDITOR.

WE sometimes read with wonder those instances of sudden and fearful judgments which are recorded in the Bible-as that of Ananias and Saphira falling down dead for lying to the Holy Ghost, and that of Herod, who, for allowing himself to be hailed as a god, and was suddenly smitten by an angel that he gave up the ghost. We wonder at these things and feel as if such judgments of God belonged only to Bible times. But did we observe carefully what takes place around us, we might see judgments equally awful, and such as we should feel compelled to ascribe to divine interference.

Several such judgments occur to us at this moment. In one of the valleys of Pennsylvania there lived a man whose son-in-law, after the loss of his wife, married the daughter of a blind man as his second wife. His first father-in-law, who was a rich, rough, proud man, did not like this second marriage. He was wont to ridicule this son-in-law, and to say with a sneer, "When any one asks me who is your father-in-law, I have to say it is blind B- "This man himself became blind before he died!

In the same neighborhood lived a miserly, narrow-hearted woman who was wealthy. She used to hiss the dogs on the poor who came to her house for food. This woman was suddenly struck with such deep conviction on account of her wickedness, that though her organs were all right, she was not able to swallow any food. Though distressingly hungry at the time, she could not swallow a morsel even when she tried her utmost. In this sad state she died; but she directed that all her property should be given to the poor in the neighborhood; and left a special request that they all should be particularly invited back to the house after her funeral, and have the very best meal served up to them. So well were the facts and circumstances known in both these cases, and so deeply impressed were all in the neighborhood by the solemn issue of them, that they were universally regarded as direct and special judgments from Heaven. It would be easy to relate other instances equally striking. But this is not necessary, since almost any neighborhood has furnished them, and the recollection of the reader will readily supply him with facts similar to these. The God of the Bible still lives! His ways are unchanged; and His judgments are as sure now as they ever have been. As the righteous are not only rewarded in the life to come, but partly already in this; so the wicked are often visited even in this life, with something of the punishment due their deeds-as a kind of awful first-fruits of the final harvest of sorrow and wo! "He that, being often reproved, hardeneth his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy."

« ForrigeFortsæt »