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our family! Now we are left orphans, without one kind pitying parent to guide our youthful steps; no faithful monitor always at hand to check the levity of youth, to give comfort when in distress, or lead our wandering feet to God. O Thou, the orphans' God, take us under thy especial guardianship,Oh be a wall of fire round about us,-enable me, who have made a public profession of my faith in Christ, to adorn the doctrine I profess, to live near unto thee, and to train up my younger brother and sisters in the nurture and admonition of the Lord! Help me to supply to them the place of a mother, and prepare us all to meet her in a better world! This affliction is very trying,-it is mysterious ;-clouds and darkness are round about it; but God is merciful as well as just. He has gracious ends in view, for we know "all things shall work together for good to them that love God."
THE BRINK OF THE PRECIPICE.
A TIMELY TALE.
ONCE upon a time I was travelling in a far country, and as I journeyed, I came unto a certain field of clover, wherein a great number of sheep were feeding. Now the field, which was exceeding large, was bounded on the one side by a vast precipice, but on the other, by another field, whereof the pasturage was also good and wholesome, albeit it was grass and not clover, and many sheep did also feed therein.
And as I drew nigh unto the field of clover, I beheld a great company of shepherds tending the sheep, and unto each shepherd was given the care of certain of them, that he might watch them, and lead them unto wholesome food, but some led their flocks towards the brink of the precipice, and some sheep of their own accord wandered towards the field of grass.
Now on the brink of the precipice there grew many noxious plants, and he that looked over the brink did perceive at the bottom, very bright and gaudy flowers, which were pleasant to the eyes, and seemed good for food. And one stood at the bottom of the precipice in strange attire and cried "He that leaps over the precipice shall feed in this goodly pasture, and I will catch him in my arms so that he shall not sustain any hurt."
But though the man in strange attire did say that the gay and gaudy flowers were good for food, I perceived that the sheep which ate thereof became sick, and after a time died, and so I understood that the food which appeared so pleasant, was poisonous. Now the various plants which grew in the field of clover, on the brink of the precipice, were to look upon like the gay flowers beneath, and the shepherds which led their flocks thither, grieved not that their sheep did eat of these plants, instead of the wholesome clover, and they warned them not of their danger, but did rather rejoice that they relished such food. And many of the sheep strayed towards the edge of the precipice, and looked down at the gay flowers beneath, and listened to the words of the man in strange attire.
And after a time, certain of the sheep being enticed by his smooth words, did leap from the precipice, and some were caught in his arms, but others died in the fall; and they that were caught, began speedily to eat of the gaudy flowers, and devoured them greedily. But I perceived that in a short time they also died. And many of the sheep which were led to the brink of the precipice leapt over day by day, and it grieved me that they leaped over, and forsook the field of clover, and I wept. Howbeit the shepherds led not their flocks away from the edge, nor warned them against the noxious plants which grew there, and I wondered much that they were so unfaithful.
Again I looked towards the other end of the field, and I perceived that many shepherds allowed their flocks to wander towards the field of the grass, and they talked, but as I thought somewhat distantly, with the shepherds who fed their flocks in the field of grass, though I heard not their discourse.
Now there was but a small hedge between the field of clover and the field of grass, and many of the sheep crept through and did feed on the other side, but they received no harm when they crept through, and they ate of the grass, and lived. So I understood that the grass was as wholesome as the clover. But certain of the shepherds which led their flock towards the precipice were wroth, and said, “Why do ye not build up the hedge, and make it high and strong so that the sheep may not creep through to the field of grass, and eat of the grass, for it is not good?"
But the other shepherds answered "We are not over-careful to build up the hedge, and make it stronger, for we perceive that the grass is also wholesome for food, and that the sheep which eat thereof do live and thrive.
Then the unfaithful shepherds answered, "The shepherds of the field of grass do not carry crooks like unto ours; and we have a book, called the 'Traditions of Men,' which saith, that shepherds, whose crooks resemble not ours, are but hirelings'— therefore ye should lead your sheep away from the field of grass that they may not stray into it.
But the other shepherds, "Our master hath given us a Book to guide us, and we find nothing therein that ye say, about crooks, and we care not for the traditions of men; but ye are unfaithful, for ye lead your sheep towards the precipice, so that they hear the enticing words of the man in strange attire, and see the gay but poisonous flowers beneath, and many leap over and perish-and ye perceive how they are deceived, but yet lead not your flocks away from the brink. Ye do blame us, that we let our flocks wander towards the field of grass, but we care little to drive them away, for we perceive that, though many stray therein, no harm befalleth them; howbeit, all your sheep which do leap over the precipice, if they die not suddenly, eat of the poisonous flowers, and but few escape with their life."
And as they parleyed thus, I journeyed on, and their voices died away on mine ear, so that I heard them no more.
WORK FOR THE NEW YEAR.
I DESIRE to call the attention of my readers to that love to God which we must all feel before we have any right to conIclude that we are his children. And I do not think I can introduce this subject at a more appropriate season than at the commencement of a new year, when our minds are rendered peculiarly sensitive to profitable impressions, from the number of serious reflections which force themselves upon our attention, leading us to form resolutions which it will be impossible to carry out and bring to good effect, without sincere love to God.
I need not spend much time in proving the necessity for, or the reasonableness of, its existence in our hearts. With regard to the former, our blessed Saviour has taught us that "The first and great commandment is, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind;" and as to the latter, it is only necessary to remember that "we love God, because he first loved us."
I will therefore proceed at once to show that one test of our possessing sincere love to God, is our feeling it habitually. If such texts as these mean anything, "In all thy ways acknowledge God," "Whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all to the glory of God," it is doubtless this-that our love to God must lead us to do everything with a view of promoting, directly or indirectly, his glory. Nor do they admit of a negative construction, which would permit us to do things, simply because they do not actually violate this principle; for if so, worldly gratification might be allowed to almost any extent, provided eveything openly profane was excluded. This however we know would be quite a false conclusion, since, "If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.”
And further, it would be a palpable infringement on our ordinary notions of the character of God, to suppose he would take any pleasure in a person who was only religious now and then, on Sundays or on seasons like the present, when the recollection of friends called, within the past year, to appear before God, reminds him more especially of the great uncertainty of life. And why do we feel this? Because we know that such an one fears, but does not love God, dreads the torments of hell, but has no taste for the pleasures of heaven.
And if any suppose that what I have said would make slavery of the service of God, "which is perfect freedom," let me remind them that such an idea shows, on their part, a want of love; for love makes every yoke easy, and every burden light. And it may be well to add a caution against the fear of being thought by unbelievers, ostentatious or hypocritical. Though the world may mistake the two, there is a very vast difference between "letting our light shine before men,” and proclaiming our own goodness. Love to God demands the one, and renders the other impossible; though I believe the dread of
being thought insincere has led many, if not positively to deny at least culpably to disguise, their feelings upon truths most dear to them; and we must not forget that our Lord told his disciples to expect the sneers and scoffs of an ungodly world. "If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you." "Whosoever will be the friend of the world is the enemy of God."
I. Having said thus much on this distinguishing feature of true piety, let me now give you some hints for the cultivation of it in yourselves. And to this end, I would beg you, in the first place, to regulate your thoughts. And I lay the greatest stress upon this, because our thoughts are the index of our hearts. Now, "where our treasure is, there will our hearts be also." If then, our thoughts turn continually towards God, we may safely infer that our hearts are set upon Him. I have no doubt many of have found great difficulty in keeping your thoughts in anything like a fixed or profitable direction, and upon summing up your ideas at the end of solitary and leisure hours, have regretted to feel that, if weighed in a balance, they would be found very wanting.
I would recommend to you the works of creation, as affording a never-ceasing, and ever-varying fund for profitable reflection; and dwelling upon them much and often, will be found peculiarly conducive to that piety, the necessity of which, as a habit of mind, I have been striving to impress upon you. They lead us at once to admire and adore the wisdom, goodness, and of God, who has shewn in them all, so great a regard for the comfort and happiness of the human race.
But there is one aspect in which I wish you particularly to view them, as illustrative of God's compassion to our shortsighted carelessness with regard to futurity, and beautifully shewing "the end of the Lord, that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy." It is this-the works of God will be found to be most strikingly calculated to keep us in continual remembrance, "that this world is not our rest;" that " we are pilgrims and sojourners as all our fathers were." Let us take one or two examples: I will first notice the strong analogy between the different stages of our life, and the changes which the foliage of the trees undergoes at the different seasons of