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New Year's Day is often one of recreation or festivity. Some trip joyously to note the promise of young buds in the country: while in our towns and cities, museums and antiquities are explored ; and here we have many an affecting memento of the lapse of time. Let us step into the old cathedral, and mark the mutilated tombs of generations long passed away, or raise our eyes to the sculptured fret-work which adorns the roof, the rich carving of the blackened oak beams; and as we trace the various styles of architecture and ornament, the conviction grows upon us that each portion of the venerable pile must have had its different artificer; indeed the same mind, could it have planned all the details, could not have witnessed their completion. Poor ephemeral mortals! what a long succession must have worshipped within its walls during the centuries it has reared its majestic head! The very symphony from the organ, which echoes sweetly through the gothic aisles, recalls the scenes of ancient days when it was deemed more important to enchant the ear, than to instruct the soul for joining that holy throng, of "harpers harping with their harps," whose melody will far exceed all earthly sounds.
But in the neighbouring museum are relics more ancient still. Thousands of years have passed since those mummies were instinct with life and sense ; the elaborately-adorned coffin, the cunningly prepared grave clothes, betoken care and riches on the part of their surviving relatives; but their very names have perished, and their presence only serves to remind us still more vividly how many ages have rolled away since they were of any consequence among their fellow mortals.
Those fossil shells and bones betray a yet more remote origin ; and wisdom stands aghast, while science demonstrates the slowly accumulating process, which embedded these curious remains in the rocks, whence they were hewn. Quitting man's frail memorials however, when we gaze abroad upon nature's chronometers, we may still more accurately learn our true position ! In the fine starlight of a winter's evening, their figures are set forth in lambent orbs of golden hue, and comparing our own measurements with those of our companion-spheres, we are startled at the mighty periods which distinguish their revolutions round our central sun. We read of planets employing centuries in one circuit through their orbits ; of comets visiting us yet more rarely, and from the Beginning till the present hour, there they have pursued their steady route ; silently claiming attention to their stately march, yet defying the labors of the patient astronomer to compute their past career! We realize amidst such a scene, the brevity of our own individual existence, and viewing, by the light of Revelation, the endless duration which lies before us, we might well set about in breathless haste, to prepare for that everlasting condition of weal or woe, which no human soul can avoid. With such a work, such a tremendous alternative, depending upon the present life, can we wonder at the Apostle's affirmation “ This I say, brethren, that the time is short ? ” Can we wonder that he should counsel comparative indifference to every terrestrial circumstance; to every casual vicissitude; while we lay up for ourselves “ treasures in heaven where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt ?”
Poets talk of the morning and evening of life. The Saviour remonstrates, “ Are there not twelve hours in the day ?” and he warns his disciples that “the Master cometh, at even ; or at midnight, or at the cock crowing, or in the morning.” Dividing the “threescore years and ten” of man’s allotment upon earth, into the Saviour's “twelve hours of the day,” what time is it with you, my reader ? At twelve, eighteen, twentyfour years of age, the day is wearing on apace. You will soon reach your noontide, and after that, indifference or lassitude ofttimes overtakes the soul. Sometimes it is seen that the sun goes down while it is yet day; and the young man in his strength, and the maiden in her beauty, are cut off as the spring flower beneath the mower's scythe. Our first energies are ever the most effective; then delay not the grand question which must be settled in this world, if you would be happy in the next-What must you do to be saved ? Once safe by your faith in the Redeemer's atoning sacrifice, the lapse of time is but a lengthening roll of mercies in your diary!
If youth's buoyancy fade, the calm trustfulness of mature years succeeds, and if spared to old age, how delightful the review of all the goodness and the truth by which the Lord hath led the devoted Christian! What an inconceivable difference there must be in the reminiscences of the idler who had only wrought one hour, and the laborer who hath entered the field at the early dawn; between the servant who has feared the Lord from his youth up," and the aged sinner just "plucked as a brand from the burning ;” the one trembling with apprehension for his personal safety, his peace disturbed by recollection of the revels and vices of his youth : the other joyfully recounting the signal interpositions of his Lord's protection ; the fervent delights of his youthful devotion, the accumulated treasures of biblical lore. Have you never, my young friend, wished for such an old age as this? Then you must prepare for it now: for " the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.”
With what different emotions must Daniel and Paul have retraced their past careers! From his earliest years, Daniel was the unwavering believer, the faithful monitor, the consistent actor, the dignified expounder of truth, illustrated by his blameless life, the happy recipient of God's promised bounty, protection, and approval. Paul's revelations of his inward feelings, when “such an one as Paul the aged,” indicate a touching recollection, ever present to his memory, of the time when he was a blasphemer and a persecutor ; and while the heinousness of his youthful crimes endears the Lamb of God to his grateful heart, he shudders at the remembrance of the martyr Stephen's bleeding agony, and of those other disciples whom he “persecuted to the death. Will
you not from this time say unto the Lord “My Father, thou art the guide of my youth.
not from henceforth “flee youthful lusts,” and consecrate the first bloom of life, the earliest development of talent, to the Lord's service, secure that if faithful in the improvement of one, He will entrust yet more to your diligence ?
E. W. P.
" A cer
A FOOL ANSWERED ACCORDING TO HIS FOLLY.
A writer, in one of the American periodicals, says, tain preacher, while contending, as he thought, for the "ancient order of things,” by ridiculing the doctrine of a call to the ministry, as proof that there is no such call, observed that he believed he was never called to preach.
“And no person else ever believed it,” remarked an acquaintance standing by.”
HERODOTUS. WE have often wondered at the easy credulity of our fellowcreatures. The last question usually asked when any interesting intelligence is received, is this—“ How do you know it to be true ?" No scepticism arrests, or even impedes, its progress. “A bird of the air may carry the voice, and that which hath wings may tell the matter:" it may come to us from unknown sources, by unknown means, through a medium as trackless as the atmosphere itself, and yet it will not only be believed, but acted on, provided only that it does not clash with our wishes, or contravene our prejudices.
Nor is this the case only with the current news of the day. We entertain a book much in the same spirit, taking all for granted on the sole authority of its author, without once asking ourselves whether he had sufficient means of proving the truth of what he records. Errors and direct falsehoods are thus often handed down from generation to generation, till some original thinker starts up to do battle with them-usually with no other object than to get them out of the way of some opposite theory of his own-seldom with the sole motive of eliciting the truth for its own sake.
But in this thinking age especially, it is desirable that we should act otherwise. To “prove all things that we may hold fast that which is good,” is at once a duty and a pleasure to all rightly-constituted minds. Not only with regard to Scripture truth, but to truth generally, should we be able to render a reason for our belief-to go back to the fountain-head and ascertain the possibility, the probability, and if practicable, the certainty, of any statement we may meet with, instead of taking it for granted on the ground of its simple averment by an author of whose character, capabilities, and means of information, we know nothing.
These remarks apply with peculiar force to Ancient History, especially as respects the period occupied by the sacred writers of the Old Testament. We are sometimes told of events occurring amongst the heathen nations of antiquity, as long since as the days of David, of Moses, or even of Abraham, and we seldom trouble ourselves to ask by whom these events were originally recorded. The author, whose name stands at the head of this notice, has been always regarded as the father, or first writer of history; and if this be his correct designation, we shut him out from all access to earlier sources of information, since the man who writes first, can have no one to compile from. Hence we fix the limit of real history, if we except the inspired writings, at a period little beyond the days of Herodotus, with whom we are about to make our readers better acquainted.
Strictly speaking, Herodotus was not the first of profane authors. If such a person as Homer ever lived, and this is now considered very doubtful, he may have preceded our author by four or five centuries. But both he and Hesiod, his cotemporary, were mere poets and mythologists—not writers of legitimate history. Some have contended that they lived much earlier even than the period we have assigned to them ; but Herodotus places them in the ninth century only B. C. “ The invention of the Grecian Theogony,” he says, " the names, the honors, the forms, and the functions of the deities, may with propriety be ascribed to Hesiod and to Homer, who I believe lived four hundred years, and not more, before myself. If I might give my opinion, the poets who are reported to have been before them, were certainly after them. What I have said of the names and origin of the gods has been on the authority of the priests of Dodona; of Hesiod and of Homer I have delivered my own sentiments.” (Euterpe lüi.)
It was only natural to expect that the first writers would clothe their thoughts in a poetical dress. History," says Kenrick,* " is first poetical, then narrative, then philosophical. The cultivation of poetry has preceded that of prose, in every country whose literary history can be traced, because the imagination and passions are developed at an earlier stage in the progress of men than the reason and the judgment; and imagination and passion are excited by the marvels of poetry, by its diction, and that faint echo of music which its rhythm preserves. In the earliest stage of both it is impossible to define the limits of history and poetry ; poetry borrows facts from history, and lends to it invention and metre. Truth in history is not valued, till the practical relation in which the past and
* The Egypt of Herodotus, by John Kenrick, M.A. London, 1841.