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Church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but holy and without blemish.” And, alas! what do we see? We see the Kingdom of God to all appearance broken into fragments-authority in abeyanceseparate portions in insurrection-brother armed against brother-truth, a matter not of faith but of controversy. And looking at our own portion of the heavenly heritage, we see heresies of the most deadly character around us and within us; we see error stalking abroad in the light of day and over the length of the land unrebuked---nay, invading high places; while the maintainers of Christian truth are afraid to speak, lest it should offend those to whom it is a duty to defer. We see discipline utterly thrown down, the sacraments and ordinances of grace open to those who cannot come without profaning them and getting harm from them. Works of penance almost unthought of; the world and the Church mixed together; and those who discern and mourn over all this looked upon with aversion, because they will not prophesy smooth things and speak peace where there is no peace. On us have fallen the times described by the Psalmist when he laments, “ Thou hast broken the covenant of Thy servant, and cast his crown to the ground. Thou hast overthrown all his hedges and broken down his strongholds. . . Thou hast put out his glory and cast his throne down to the ground. The days of his youth hast Thou shortened, and covered him with dishonour.” The days of age have come on us, “the evil days" "when thou shalt say, I have no pleasure in them!," the days when the Bridegroom has
1 Eccles. xii. 1.
been taken away, and when men should fast ;-how then in the day of our fast can we find pleasure and keep festival ?
What profit is the full gathering and the concourse of men, when all the families of Israel that remain should rather mourn, "every family apart and their wives apart”? Music is for the merry; Darius put away his instruments of music when the Prophet was lost to him. The father of the family had music and dancing, and killed the fatted calf, when the wanderer came home. Tobit in captivity attempted to eat the bread of joyfulness on the feast of Pentecost, and was suddenly reduced to “eat his meat in heaviness," remembering the prophecy of Amos, as he said, “Your feasts shall be turned into mourning, and all your mirth into lamentation.” Flowers are for the innocent and gay; how suit they with the dark prison and the fretting chain ? Harmony in form and colour, the high arch and the rich window, what have these in common with the fallen and the polluted ? Beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness,—these surely should be reserved for the year of Jubilee, and when the season of redemption draweth near. This is what may be said, not without plausibility.
Nay, not said plausibly but felt acutely; so acutely felt, as to hinder the mind from taking part in the rejoicing to which it is invited. When men discern duly the forlorn state in which the Spouse of Christ at present lies, how can they have the heart to rejoice ? “The ark and Israel and Judah abide in tents," said
Uriah," and the servants of my lord are encamped in the open fields; shall I then go into mine house to eat and to drink? ... as thou livest, and as thy soul liveth, I will not do this thing." The desponding soul falls back when it makes the effort; it is not equal to the ceremonial which comes natural to light hearts, and at best but coldly obeys what they anticipate without being bidden. What is to be done with this dull, dispirited, wearied, forlorn, foreboding heart of ours ? “By the waters of Babylon we sat down and wept, when we remembered thee, O Sion. As for our harps, we hanged them up upon the trees that are therein. For they that led us away captive required of us then a song, and melody in our heaviness,-Sing us one of the songs of Sion. How shall we sing the Lord's song in a strange land ?”
Yet, since there is some danger of over-sensitiveness in this matter, it may be useful here to make some remarks upon it.
This then must be ever kept in mind, when such thoughts arise within us, that cheerfulness and lightness of heart are not only privileges, but duties. Cheerfulness is a great Christian duty. Whatever be our circumstances, within or without, though “without be fightings and within be fears,” yet the Apostle's words are express, "Rejoice in the Lord always.” That sorrow, that solicitude, that fear, that repentance, is not Christian which has not its portion of Christian joy; for “God is greater than our hearts,” and no evil, past or future, within or without, is equal to this saying, that Christ has died and reconciled the world unto
Himself. We are ever in His Presence, be we cast down, or be we exalted ; and “in His Presence is the fulness of joy." "Let the brother of low degree rejoice in that he is exalted, but the rich in that he is made low !.” “He that is called in the Lord, being a servant, is the Lord's freeman; likewise also he that is called, being free, is Christ's servant?." Whether we eat or drink, or whatever we do, to His glory must we do all, and if to His glory, to our great joy; for His service is perfect freedom: and what are the very Angels in heaven but His ministers? Nothing is evil but separation from Him; while we are allowed to visit His Temple, we cannot but “enter into His gates with gladness and thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise.” “Is any,” then,"among us afflicted ? let him pray; is any merry ? let him sing psalms."
Such even was the conduct of the devout Israelites, who had no promise such as we have, of a continual Divine Presence, which is our spiritual life,—which is the life of our very sorrow, if it be godly, the life of our repentance, our fear, our self-chastisement; and in which we must rejoice, because through it we repent, are in fear, and afflict ourselves. Even Jews, we see, attempted to rejoice in captivity, though it was prophesied against them, “I will turn your feasts into mourning, and all your songs into lamentation : ;" whereas the very reverse is graciously assured in the text to the Gospel Church, that her times of humiliation should be times of rejoicing. “The fast of the fourth month, and the fast of the fifth, and the fast of the
1 James i. 9, 10. 9 1 Cor. vii. 22. [s. D.]
3 Amos viii. 10.
seventh, and the fast of the tenth, shall be to the house of Judah joy and gladness and cheerful feasts; therefore love the truth and peace.”
What did Hezekiah and Josiah in those mournful times when wrath hung over the chosen people? In the Paschal Feast held by the former king, he prayed, “ The good Lord pardon every one that prepareth his heart to seek God, the Lord God of his fathers, though he be not cleansed according to the purification of the sanctuary." And the children of Israel kept the feast seven days with great gladness, and the Levites and priests praised the Lord with loud instruments, and Hezekiah spake comfortably to the Levites,--so that “there was great joy in Jerusalem ; for since the time of Solomon .. there was not the like in Jerusalem.” And of Josiah's passover it is said, “There was no passover like to that kept in Israel, from the days of Samuel the Prophet."
Again, what could be more miserable and forlorn than the state of the Jews when they returned from captivity? yet, in spite of the ruins among which they dwelt, God had shown them mercy, and thereby given them hope; He had begun to be gracious to them, and though they had no heart for the work of rebuilding the Temple, when so many things were against them, and the new fabric would for certain be so poor and unworthy at the best, yet it was their duty to look to the future and rejoice. “Thus speaketh the Lord of hosts, saying, This people say, The time is not come, the time that the Lord's house should be built.” And He
1 Haggai i. 2.