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battle-flags of autumn are just beginning to wave in the forest, the advanced guard of the winter. So, good men and women, as they advance towards age, are apt to grow more mellow and tender, to bear better fruits in word and deed, purified from the hot passions of youth, and redeemed from the struggles of ambitious manhood.
But besides this gradual ascent of life, our road sometimes rises over hills, from which we again descend into valleys. On the hills we rest a moment and look over the level plain below, breathe for a little while the purer air, enjoy the larger landscape, and then pass down upon the more even level of common days. Such a hill-top is the Lord's day, when we rest from tormenting cares, dwell for an hour or two in contemplation of higher themes, and then turn refreshed to the work of every-day life. The Lord's day is no more holy, no more sacred, than other days; for every day that dawns comes to us direct from God, and on every day we are to serve him. But each returning Sunday is a little hill-top on which we rest, and from which we look forward. And there are other mounts in life,
into some mountain summit of thought, as Jesus and his disciples ascended the Mount of Transfiguration. When God gives us a dear child, or when he takes the dear child away, we are taken up into a mount of transfiguration. We are taken away from the lower world, and our faces are transfigured in the light of an open heaven. Holy hours come sometimes to all of us, freighted with love, when life seems worth living, and we feel a profound rest. All weariness is gone,
all loneliness; we have a perfect peace in our heart. We say, like Peter. “Let us stay here. Let us put up tents here, and live always on this enchanted ground.” But the inexorable current carries us on, and we descend again from that mountain. It recedes into the pale distance, and
when we go
stands at last almost a transparent cloud on the far horizon; yet we occasionally turn back and look at it, and are encouraged by the knowledge that there are such moments in life, worth all the rest, which remain as the master lights of all our seeing; which strengthen us in our weakness and comfort us in our sorrow. They are sent to teach us to "go higher.”
A lady once said to Mr. Whittier, “I must thank you for your Psalm,' for it always suits me exactly.” “I wish, madam,” the sincere poet replied, “ that it always, suited me.” It is not to be expected that we shall forever remain on the elevations we are competent sometimes to reach. We have hours of perfect peace, followed by other hours of discomfort and impatience; hours in which we almost forget that God or man has ever loved us. Be thankful that, though we may thus forget God, he does not forget us. And be thankful if you know, by your own experience, that there is such a thing as peace, even though you may for the time have lost it. You have not really lost it, if you have ever really had it. God never takes back his gifts. If he ever gave you a sight of his truth and love, you have it still. Clouds may pass between you and the sun, but the sun is there and will shine forth again. It may be a stormy night, but the stars are shining permanent and pure, behind the driving rain, and will again look out upon you with their calm
and from their inaccessible and infinite heights, "Be patient, little child! be patient ! and wait till all storms and all darkness shall have passed away
forever.” Sometimes one who has gone up high may learn a lesson from one who seems to stand much lower down.
An Oriental story tells us that they asked the famous Hatim Tayi, the most generous of mankind, "Have you ever met any one more independent than yourself?" He replied: "Yes! One day I gave a feast to the whole
neighborhood, and had fifty oxen roasted. As I was proceeding to the place, I found a woodcutter, tying up his faggots. I said, 'Why do you not go to Hatim's feast, which is open to all ?' But he answered, “Whoever can eat the bread earned by his own labor, will not put himself under obligation to Hatim Tayi.' Then I knew that I had found one more independent than myself.” Sometimes, a man who is on a low level, a man who pretends to no goodness, and perhaps has very little, does some action far above the reach of common virtue. The Publican, who stood afar off, and uttered his immortal prayer, the echo of which teaches Christians in the nineteenth century how to pray, was not as good, it may be, as the Pharisee, whose petition to God was only a piece of egotism. The worst men may shame the best, sometimes, by actions much nobler than they ever perform. The publicans and harlots sometimes enter into the kingdom of heaven before us, and the people of Nineveh, who repented at the preaching of Jonah, shame us, who listen to the words of Christ unmoved and unchanged.
Let us, then, go up higher. That is always the safest, happiest, easiest thing to do. It may seem harder at first, but in the long run it is the easiest. It is easier when we have a high and noble purpose, which animates life with a good object, which makes the world a good place, which prepares us equally to live and to die. So, sometimes, pain, and darkness, may carry us up higher, no less than light, peace and joy. For when Jesus ascended the Mount of Transfiguration and talked with God's saints, and his face shone like theirs, he did not go up so high as when he ascended Mount Calvary, and in the darkness of his anguish cried, “My God! why hast thou forsaken me? Sorrow and evil may carry us up nearer to God than peace and joy. We all go down as well as up, but only in the gospel
do we find that going downwards as well as upwards may bring us nearer to God.
To him, from wanderings long and wild,
“ SET THY HOUSE IN ORDER."
“SET THY HOUSE IN ORDER, FOR THOU SHALT DIE, AND NOT LIVE.
"HERE was once a German nobleman who led a fool
ish and dissipated life ; drinking, gambling and neglecting his vassals, his family and his affairs. He had a dream, one night, which vividly impressed him. He saw a figure, looking at him with serious face, and pointing to a dial, where the hands marked the hour of IV. The figure looked at him sadly, and said these words, “ After Four!” and disappeared. The nobleman awoke in great terror, and thought that vision foreboded his speedy death. “ After Four!” What could it mean? It must mean that he was to die after four days, so he determined to set his house in order. He sent for the priest, and confessed his sins, and received absolution. He sent for his family, and begged their forgiveness for his offences against them. He sent for his man of business, and arranged his affairs as well as he could. He then waited for death. The four days passed, and he did not die. He then thought that perhaps the vision meant that he was to die after four weeks. He had a longer time for preparation ; so he devoted these four weeks to making atonement for all the evil he had done in the world, and doing all the good he could. The four weeks passed and he still was alive. Then he thought it meant four months, and so he spent these