tive, which to the spectator appears to be sta- we possess no arithmetic which could convey any tionary, though in fact rushing straight towards intelligible conception of the number of the miles. him at the rate of thirty or forty miles an hour. But so it is ; and, as certain as it is, that a well In fact, it was the stationary character of these instructed observer, by analysing light, can detect spangles of light, which corroborated the accuracy | the material nature of the source

the material nature of the source from whence it with which the radiant point had been determined comes, whether it be from the combustion of iron, by the intersections of the trains of other meteors. or nickel, or magnesium, or sodium; so certain it is,

From a discussion of the records of eleven that the light from the sun and from the stars, ininstances of November star-showers, which have dicates the combustion of these very metals, in those been observed between the years A.D. 902, and A.D. bodies which otherwise we must have considered, for 1833, it appears that every thirty-three years the such purposes, hopelessly remote. It is not a little shower may be expected to recur, and on each satisfactory then to find that so soon as we are unoccasion, perhaps, a day later than that of the pre-expectedly able to handle masses of matter, which ceding display. But inasmuch as star-showers are are the neighbours and the congeners of the sun and recorded to have occurred in the years 931 and 934, of the stars, rather than of ourselves and of our own and again in the two successive years 1832 and planetary home, we find all our scientific conjectures 1833; there is ground for expecting the recurrence verified, and we extract the very iron, and the very of these November meteors for two or three years magnesium, and the very materials from the meteor in succession. For this reason no doubt a good planets, which we saw on fire with our own eyes in look-out will be kept in the year 1867. The present the mid-air, and which we shrewdly guessed con. star-shower will probably have been observed with stitute the fires of the centre of our universe, and of greater intelligence and accuracy than any pre- those lesser lamps which are too remote even to feel ceding one, and consequently some notable increase the might of his influence. Thus suns and stars of our knowledge of these rings of planetary dusty and comets, and nebulæ, and the meteoric dust may now fairly be anticipated. When the elements, which is sometimes spread upon our fields, are all that is to say, the dimensions, positions, and vari. bound together in one common material relationship. able thicknesses or densities of these rings, shall But these are not all the tales which these mes. have been determined, then it will be possible to sengers from the realms of space can tell us, for predict with certainty the epochs, and durations, they bear within themselves further records of their and terrestial places of visibility, of each star- own history. They carry with them unquestionshower. But all this, though now in progress, able indications, that at one period they were like remains yet to be done.

the photosphere of the sun, in the state of gas, We come finally to the question, what is the in the state of intensely heated incandescent gas, material, what is the mineral constitutiou of these As to whence came that heat, or whence came they strange bodies? We have already observed that where they are found in those mysterious revolving they sometimes split into pieces high in the mid-air, rings, no philosopher as yet has been endued with and occasionally strew the ground in their fall. genius adequate to the upravelment of the mystery. We shall not now stop to give a catalogue of in. When these things are known, if that time ever stances; they may be found elsewhere, and speci. comes, then we shall know more of the origin of mens may be seen in almost every museum of any the earth we live on, and of the sun which cherishes consequence. On submitting them to chemical and sustains it. - The mystery is probably locked analysis they are found to consist most frequently up in those half-burnt, strange-looking masses, of iron in a metallic and malleable, and not in an which are now lying unobserved by thousands who oxidized state ; the iron is in general mixed with pass by, in the British Museum. Who shall fashion nickel, and there are various compounds of magnesia the key? and silica, and in some instances just those very It has been already stated that the meteor trains ingredients which are seen in the trap and basaltic assumed various hues; by which we mean that the rocks of our own earth. These fiery messengers colours varied from pale straw to bright orange, and then, bring with them tidings from the chill, distant from whitish to bright and decided blue, nor were regions of space, that matter therein abounds similar there wanting various shades of red. On some to the matter which constitutes what lies below the occasions changes of colour were observed in the crust of our own planet. But not only so, the same meteor, as for instance, from straw colour, positive handling and the actual analysis of this in- through orange, to blue at the final disappearance terplanetary, or, it may after all occasionally be, of the train. Moreover, it was not an uncommon this interstellar matter, serves only to confirm what circumstance to see a gradual increase up to a modern skill has been able to detect regarding the maximum, and then a diminution both in the brightmaterial constitution of the stars, nay of the very ness and the thickness of the train ; the sheaf of sun himself. It might seem a bold and a strange sparks thus assuming the shape of an elongated assertion to state that we possess any certain know. spindle. All these phenomena both of colour and ledge of the mineral constitution of bodies so ip of form appear to indicate the combustion and conceivably remote from us that we have no means | vaporisation of the various materials of which the to measure their distances, and if we had the means meteors were composed. The combustion of the metals, such as iron and nickel, might account for have no atmospheres, and so they are chilled inthe redder tints, while the magnesian and aluminous deed; and when they fall, although their surfaces earthy matters, might give rise to the yellow and for a time retain the heat of their fusion, they somethe blue. Attempts were, in fact, made by one of times carry with them at the core, the temperathe ablest and most philosophical of our observers, ture of the distant homes from whence they come. to determine by spectrum analysis, the constituents But now, reader-now comes that impatient, of the incandescent trains, but unfortunately in this ever-recurring, ever-intrusive question, Cui bono? instance with little success ; and yet that such an | Well, if for nothing else, these things exist for attempt is feasible, appears from the fact that it has us to look at, and to guess at, not to wonder at. been found perfectly practicable to detect at least | They exist at all events, lest cotton, and rail-roads, some of the ingredients of which rockets are com and banks, and shares, and Bessemer steel, engross posed, by the above method of experiment.

all our thoughts, and at last reduce us lower than We have said that these meteoric masses carry the senselessness of a meteoric lump. But thus with them much of the records of their own history; existing as they do, they serve also to sharpen and they also carry with them some records of the places improve that bright ethereal gift of God, wherewith where they have been. It is related of at least for some high purposes His creatures are endowed, one of these stones, as they are called, that for a the human mind. And that human mind, when long time after its fall it was impossible to touch it, thus improved, grows in knowledge; and knowledge, by reason of the-the reader will naturally expect rightly directed, grows up into admiration, and to find the heat; but no, quite the reverse—the admiration kindles into love. Three hundred years cold, which was insufferably intense. Now this (ex. ago, when the fiery rain shot along the skies, men cept to science) unexpected fact carries with it the were appalled, and they hid themselves in terror, evidence of two things. The first is the evidence fearing that the crack of doom was at their heels :of the intense cold, the utter negation of all heat, a few weeks ago, when the very stars seemed to in the interplanetary spaces where the stone had fall from their courses, thousands of God's wellbeen for ages wont to move. But not only so; instructed creatures looked steadily at the fiery Dr. Tyndall has recently shown, that were it not spectacle, not only without a shudder, but they felt, for the canopy of watery vapour which envelopes or they might have felt, like children peacefully our earth, it would, during the night, become by walking up and down in a Father's abode, and radiation so intensely cold that nothing endued gazing with joy at the bright treasures in a Father's with life could survive. These meteoric stones / house.


"And God requireth that which is past.”

THE past! we speak of it as we are wont to do of a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then the dead, and say, “ It is all over.” Past ages are vanisheth away." The image thus selected to dethonght of as cemeteries in which human beings scribe the frailty of man, conveys to us a most and events lie buried in eternal oblivion, leaving vivid impression of a substance existing, and then behind them only a few crumbling remains for the apparently ceasing to be. We see vapour one ' curious antiquary to examine and describe. The moment hanging in the air as a cloud, or flowing

present alone is real; for the future is dark, and down the hoary heads of the old hills like snowy the past annihilated. Good men are disposed to locks, and the next absorbed and lost in the warm forget the past in their eager longing for a more air. But soon a chill blast drives it forth, and it glorious future: bad men wish to forget it, for becomes cloud again, grows dark and heavy, and spectres come to them sometimes from it, and they then dissolves in showers, reflecting the glories of seek enjoyment in the present, or try to secure it the rainbow, passing through the dull earth in tiny for the immediate future. But “God requireth that streams of water, swelling into majestic rivers, then which is past”-and, depend upon it, what He joining the mighty ocean, and rolling along in requires shall answer to his call, and be found. mountain billows. If breathed upon by the freezing

It is very strange, when we reflect upon it, that North, it becomes ice, solid and silent as a rock. the past should be so unreal to us, for it was and But when thawed again and confined in an iron | is, and for ever shall be, whereas the future is not, boiler heated by fire, it grows into a power so apil the present only is.

irresistible that it drives proud navies over the Consider for a moment how 'wonderfully inde- impetuous waves, and in the teeth of the fiercest structible are material things. We see in them the burricades. As it escapes from its prison into the process of change, but never that of annihilation, air, it dies, Samson-like, from the very effort which * What is our life ?” says St. James. “It is even displayed its strength.

And as water thus pursues its ceaseless course minds and hearts, to depart from them no more for from ocean to sky, and froin sky to ocean, ever ever! changing, yet never ceasing to be, so it is with all Nor have any events in human history become other material things. All of them have a past, so past as to have perished. All that men have and a past which God can at any time require, and done lives in what men now possess, as really as which He ever sees in the present. His past the blood of our common ancestry flows in our creations in this world all remain in some form or veins. The battles for freedom may be past, but other. The old forests are preserved in the great though the warriors who fought them sleep in their beds of coal which feed our grates and furnaces. graves, and their victorious tramp disturbs no more The old ocean wonders are preserved in our moun. the quiet battle plain, yet they live in the present tains. The marvels of chemistry, sometimes gentle liberty which they secured to happy, though often and silent as the freezing of a quiet pool, sometimes forgetful and ungrateful nations. Unrecorded on terrible with the gigantic forces which poured forth the page of history are ten thousand honoured lava streams and upheaved continents, rent the names of whom the world was not worthy, but the mountains asunder, and sent the ocean foaming spirit which they possessed and have transmitted over their proud summits ;-all these agencies of endures in the life of their respective nations. the past live in the world on which we tread, in Passed from our knowledge are most who thought, the hills on which we pasture our flocks, in the discovered, and suffered for the world; but they earth we till, in the minerals we manufacture for are present in our enjoyment of new possessions, our use, and in the scenery on which we gaze with in the blessings of our advanced civilisation, and rapture and delight. Not a flower which bloomed i in our treasures of truth, peace, and eternal good. or scented the air in Edlen but is in some still | Abraham is not past, nor Moses, nor Paul, nor the existing form known to its Creator. Not a cup of teachers of the early Church, nor the conquerors cold water given in love by the poor to the poor, and civilizers of kingdoms, nor the discoverers of but lives-physically as well as morally--in the America, nor the inventors of printing, nor the universe of God.

great Protestant Reformers, nor the enlightened And if from the physical world we turn to the legislators, nor the zealous missionaries, nor the moral world, the world of history made up of what | self-denying philanthropists, whose forms are seen once living men said or did, what is past of it? no more, whose voices are silent, and whose names Euter an Egyptiau tomb, and there realize how the never disturb the air. They rest from their labours, long past yet visibly lives. Thousands of years and their works do follow them! Their past is not have fled; man's life, which seems to us so long, dead ; it lives, and God constantly requires it. has been repeated a hundred times in succession, But let us look at this fact more with reference to since the persons lived who lie around us here. Yet ourselves, so as to receive some profit from a right see the marks of the chisel on the walls ; the paint consideration of it, at this the end of one year and ing half finished, and the outline that was to have the beginning of another. been filled up in a few days, still waiting for the finishing touch of the master; read the thoughts God will require from each of us some account about life and death, about time and eternity, pour- of our past lives. Our wonderful existence is trayed in the coloured story. Look also at the man given us for a great and blessed purpose, -that who built the tomb! You can unwind the cere. we may love and serve God, and thus possess true ments of the grave, the fine linen of Egypt, from life and joy with Him here and for ever. I will his body ; you can grasp the hand that has not not distract you by any speculations as to the form been grasped since wife or child grasped it forty in which this purpose can in any degree be attainel, centuries ago, and touch the eyelids that opened througb the Spirit of God and under the universal once with wonder and admiration on the pomy and government of Christ, by those who have not our power of the Pharaohs. How all this impresses us measure of revelation. Let us rather seek to feel with the life of the past !

the awfulness of our own individual condition. But much more wonderfully does the past seem Let us seek to realise the facts of our responsibility to be restored to us, when we read the living to God, our endless life somewhere, our capacity thoughts of men long since dead. Time vanishes for joy or sorrow, for good or evil; and we shall as we read or sing the Psalms of David. That life find the thought that God will most surely require of thought and atiection, of spiritual joy and sorrow, from us an account of our past lives, and of how of deepest penitence and sublimest ecstasy which far we have sought to fulfil the purpose of our possessed him, seems no more past than a fountain being, a sufficiently serious and weighty one to is past when we drink of it far down the living occupy our minds without any additional burden, stream that issues from its ever-welling heart. We There is not a fact more clearly revealed in Scripdo not require the past of David-of all that characture than that, at some time or other, in some form terised bim as a man of God: we possess it already. or other, “God shall judge the world by that man How truly immortal are the thoughts which once whom He hath appointed, whereof He hath given lived in men's souls, and have been expressed in assurance to all men, in that He hath raised Him words, by which they find an entrance to our from the dead." Forbid that such a revelation of His will should become to us mere words, or cease account of our past lives, should lead us to attach to be believed! For upon that “day" the talent great importance to the present ; to see it in the of life must be accounted for, the work of life exa- serious light which truth imparts; and to act in it mined. Then shall the past be required : our past remembering that it is ever becoming the past, and childhood from the time we acted as responsible will give its character to the past, which again reacts being; our past youth, with the history of the on the present, seeking in some form to reproduce indumerable things which came to us from without, itself. We should, therefore, endeavour so to fill and were turned by us into good or evil within ; our up the present as not to be ashamed to meet it past manbood, with its manifold thoughts, desires, when as the past it is required of us by God. and actions moulded into habits, and shaped into Some people are auxious, as they say, to kill time character. A reckoning up shall be made of how and and to bury it out of sight, as if this dead could what we received, and how and what we bestowed; tell po tales, nor this murdered one rise to give of the general tenour of our lives, as to how far we evidence against its murderer. Oh, there is somelivel for God and for each other. We shall have thing singularly strange and sad in seeing respon. to account for all we have been and done even down sible and immortal beings, to whom not one hour to our last breath, when some one whispered the too many is given to educate them for immortality, words, soon to be spoken aloud to a wider or nar- wasting their strength and riches in contriving rower circle, He is dead !-a fact this of little by what frivolity, by what refined selfishness, by importance to the big and busy world, but of infinite what artistic combinations and arrangements, the importance to the solitary and silent man who has present day, or the present week, can be got over! departed—how ? and where? Inexpressibly solemn How will this conduct appear to them when God to the individual is the hour that closes his life. requires their past? Will it seem worthy in any It is the end of a trial, when the evidence is com respect of rational, responsible, immortal beings ? of plete, and nothing more is required in order that those who have heard of God, or have been taught the sentence of Guilty or Not Guilty should be pro- the first elements of duty ? nounced. He is, as it were, a great work finished; Still while I say this, I would by no means have each year of his life being a large volume, each you infer that the attaching of such importance to mooth a chapter, and each hour a page. And now the present implies our taking a dark and gloomy Dothing can be done to blot out a line, correct a view of existence, or the spending of our days as if sentence, or change a sentiment;-what is written some dread apparition were ever ready to appear, is written! If a new period of probation be pos- or as if some stern judge ruled the Universe, who sible for those whose lives as a whole are expressed is ever jealous of our happiness, and is ever watching in their having "preferred darkness to light,” that to note our sins. they " did not choose the fear of the Lord,” and Truly, God has not so ordered His world that ** vould none of his counsels," no hint of such is they who disregard His arrangements, and adopt given by Him who is to be the judge, but on the plans of life of their own, regulated by different contrary warnings and declarations are given, im- principles, and for different ends, shall enjoy more plying the very reverse. And though Scripture of existence, or fulfil a nobler destiny, than those were silent altogether, or even though it stated that who obey His will. What enjoyment can be reaDew opportunities would be afforded, where is the sonably desired in the present, which we will be hope from experience that those in the future would ashamed to have recalled at judgment? What good have a different result from those in the past ? is there to soul or body-what innocent recreation

And wbile this is a serious and solemn truth as —what social happiness—which is not given by regards life as a whole, it is solemn too as regards Him who gives us all things richly to enjoy? And gar life during even a single day. Let any one of what He gives, and we receive in the form and spirit us calmly review an ordinary day, much more one which are according to His will, we need never fear that may from its events be to us an extraordinary to have recalled. But if, on the other hand, we do one,--and let us recal, as far as we can, what we fear, and rightly fear, to have anything summoned have done in it; estimate the many persons we up from the past, we ought to fear to possess it in

have seen, conversed with, or in any way influ- the present. But as for sadness and gloom in ac1 weed; the good we have yielded ourselves to and cepting all things from our Father-I will pay no

septed, or the evil, or thought of evil, we may such compliment to the devil! For such thoughts li bare entertained or followed ; the time we may of God assume that the evil one, or the evil-doer, is

have misspent; what has been our character during more desirous to make us happy than our Creator, || the day, or any part of it ;-and we shall be made Preserver, and Redeemer. No man, indeed, has

to see what a large portion of life one day is, and ever tasted the true blessedness of the present until how much it contains. And if we see this, however he sees it in God's light, receives it from God's dimly, we shall also see more clearly how important hand, and enjoys it in God's presence, with the in the fact that this one day is past, and forms an reverence, the contidence, the peace of a child ! imperishable part of that history which God will Tequire of us.

Let me more particularly ask you, now, to rememNow the thought that God will thus require an ber that in requiring our past lives as a whole, God

will require our past sins. How anxious, as I shall not die, but what shattered health it has left have already hinted, are wrongdoers to remove behind! It is thus that the sinful past tells upon their sins into the past! As far as the east is from even the godly present, and lives in what we are the west, so far would they remove their sin from not, but might have been. And will not our past their memory. If it was only out of sight, they in a real sense affect our eternal future even in think it would be out of mind. Let the dead glory? There are lessons that may be learned past, they say, bury its dead! So blind do they here, which cannot be learned there, - lessons of become to the unseen, and to the very nature and patience, meekness, and forgiveness ; of faith long character of God, that in their hearts they exclaim, tried, but ever triumphing; and of self-sacrificing “How doth God know !” Many a man who has love for the glory of God and the good of man. committed some grievous offence agaiust society has Such lessons when learned will be an everlasting been so ashamed to meet his fellow men, and so possession, filling the heart with adoring gratitude, crushed by the insupportable burden of public to Him through whose wisdom and love it was opinion, that he has fled to a foreign land. Pog- / here acquired. And thus it must be that in prosibly he could forget his crime were he not con- portion to the use we make of our talents here stantly reminded of it by looks and words, by the will be our reward hereafter. (See Matt. xxv. silence and coldness of friends, or by what has been 14–29.) All who believe in the Lord, and, berecorded in the public press, keeping his offence lieving, live, love, and serve, if but for an hour, fresh in men's minds, and indicating that his past are faithful servants; but some are more faithful was required by every lover of justice. But a world than others, and necessarily enjoy more. But, of iniquity of which society knows nothing is known blessed be God! whatever the past has been, it to God, as being to Him ever present. “Our secret will never prevent all who have loved the Lord

sins are in the light of His countenance.” If we from singing the song of praise : “ Thou hast reI doubt this, we shall be convinced of it at judgment. deemed us with thy blood, and made us kings and

Now past sips may be unrepented of, and un. priests unto God, and we shall reign with thee!” forgiven. If so, the past will be required only to Oh! then, if you would not have a fearful looking condemn us. But if truly repented of, and if we for of judgment when the past is required, let the have turned to God through faith in the blood of present evince a hearty repentance, through faith Jesus, “which cleanseth from all sin," and given in Jesus, and a new life influenced by the love and our hearts and lives to God with a full purpose of fear of God. new obedience, and endeavour after it, then will our sins, though required, be to us as debts which have Once more: God will require the good that is been cancelled ; and while we recal them and all past, and it too will be found! The good never they deserved, we will also recal the mercy of God, perishes. It is sometimes seen, as it were, rising who hath blotted them out for ever from His book out of the grave, where it seemed buried, to live of remembrance. “Being justified freely by his again upon the earth and never more pass away. grace through the redemption that is in Christ It is thus, as I have noticed, that the sayings of Jesus: whom God hath set forth to be a propi- great men, patriarchs, prophets, apostles, which tiation through faith in His blood, to declare His were uttered in a few minutes of time, have conrighteousness for the remission of sins that are past, tinued to be repeated ever since. through the forbearance of God.”

And so will there be, in some form, an immorThere is a form, however, in which past sins, tality here to every good man. The better a man even when forgiven, re-appear in our own personal becomes, the less self-conscious is he of being good, bistory, and it is well to remember this in order to or doing good. Like a healthy and strong man, deepen in our hearts a sense of the loss we have who does not think about his health or strength, suffered through them. But those who have found but enjoys and uses both, the Christian does not so peace with God, and through His grace have entered much think of his love to God or of his spiritual on a new life, should have no morbid wish to recal strength, as enjoy the one and use the other. their sins. Instead of always looking inward at Nevertheless, his life of quiet goodness, manifested them, they should rather look outward, and upward, habitually in the common-place details of each aud onward! Still, alas ! the past is often recalled returning hour, but which seems to him so poor, so by its effects on present character. For how can miserable, so far short of what it ought to be and any Christian avoid noticing the defects in his might have been so unworthy at best of a child character and habits caused by a careless past? of God and the inheritor of such a property-all In his weak faith, dim views, evil thoughts, this past life of goodness, though now hid with careless prayers ; in his want of zeal and life ; in Christ in God, will yet be required and “appear." his dwarfed, decrepit, and deformed soul, --in all “ Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from these he sees the effects of past unbelief, procras- henceforth : Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may tination, sloth, and self-indulgence; of evil habits rest from their labours; and their works do follow of mind and body; of a long struggle against light, them.” The cup of cold water given in Christ's conviction, truth, and the indwelling of God's name; the small gift dropped into God's treasury Spirit. The disease has been healed so that he by the poor widow; the visit to the sick aud to the

« ForrigeFortsett »