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Brevities for the New Year.
HERE is a custom in Burmah of casting water one on
another at the commencement of a New Year, arising out of a superstition about thus cleansing away old sins. Desire for purification is thus shown, while the mistake
and inefficacy of all human endeavours is equally conspicuous. Who does not long to be cleansed from sins that trouble memory, harass conscience, and darken the prospect of the future? Some would give anything to be delivered from last year's transgressions. Yet how vain merely to forgive one another—to grasp hands and wish well! With our best sentiments we fail to touch the relationship between man and God. How blessed to read of the possibility of being freed from an “evil conscience and washed as with pure water” through the peace-speaking blood of Christ ! A divine voice bids us welcome, and promises that, believing, we shall live.
The beginning of another year is a good time to reflect, Have we vowed and not paid ? An old Puritan writer tells a suggestive story. A rich merchant, in a great storm at sea, vowed to Jupiter if he would gave him and his vessel he would give him a hecatomb. The storm ceased, and he bethought himself that a hecatomb was unreasonable: he resolves on seven oxen. Another tempest comes, and now he vows again the seven at least. Delivered then also, he thought that seven were too many, and one ox would serve the turn. Yet another peril coines, and now he solemnly vows to fall no lower: if he might be rescued, an ox Jupiter shall have. Again freed, anew he grudges, and would fain draw his devotion to a lower rate. A sheep was sufficient. But at last, being set ashore, he thought a sheep too much, and proposed to carry to the altar only a few dates. But by the way he eats up the dates and lays on the altar only the stones. Is it not thus in spirit too often with many ? Strong feelings lose their force when peril is past, and the most meagre return is offered for help deemed invaluable in the moment of calamity. An old attendant at a sea-bathing place once told how he had saved a gentleman's life, and yet was only offered a shilling by the rescued man when afterwards he had come to himself. At such a value did
a he appraise his life-perhaps it was not worth any more. Remember vows to pay them. Let not delay blunt the edge of feeling, nor continued procrastination lead to the question, Is there any need for this? "Doth not He that pondereth the heart consider it, and He that keepeth thy soul, doth not He know it; and shall He not render to every man according to his works ?”
How constantly, in view of this and for all the ends of spiritual life, do we need fresh supplies of grace? Humboldt says of the electric eel in the lagoons of South America, that the shock at first felt is enough to stagger a horse; but when again and again touched it loses its force, and may be handled with impunity. Is it not thus with our best feelings and spiritual life as a whole? Does not the world by its touches draw out strength and vigour ; and unless replenished, do we not become languid, weak, and helpless ? Live much in prayer, that so the inner springs of being may be supplied and renewed. Christ can never fail. If it were possible for every member of the human race to touch at one moment a chain connected with an electrical machine, and a shock were turned on, I suppose all would simultaneously feel a thrill. How surely, then, the grace of Christ can be given to every one, if needed, at the same time, if we only touch Him by faith. So is He unexhausted and inexhaustible.
When Queen Elizabeth came to Kenilworth in 1575, she was met near the castle by a fictitious sibyl who promised peace and prosperity to the country during her reign. It would be pleasant at the opening of the year to have such assurance extended over its months. But if we trust ourselves to the best guidance, and rest in the faithfulness