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all the retiring worshippers as the best practical application of the preacher's discourse. Before this day next year, many other graves will be dug in that quiet churchyard, and some of those happy and blithe to-day, will be the quiet occupants—a consideration to mingle trembling with the Christmas evening mirth. There will be much quiet happiness in the little village to-night-plenty of good cheer, gatherings round cheerful fires, and remembrance of the dead and the absent. When should there be pleasant human intercourse of friend with friend, if not on Christmas eve ? On Christmas eve the Emperor of all the Russias lays aside his sceptre and the burden of many realms, and, in conformity with the beautiful imperial custom, goes down into the streets and embraces his people, who are, for that night at least, his equals and his brethren. In Goethe's great poem, the music of the Christmas bells weans the dark spirit of Faust from despairing thoughts :
“O those sweet bells, with voices rich and heavenly,
The pledge and sign of a new covenant." Although the season brings to me many sad and serious thoughtsfor the twilight of that night in which no man can work is fast closing in upon me now-I cannot frown upon innocent Christmas festivities. It seems to me that gladness is most fit, most seasonable. The Americans rejoice, and with reason, too, on that white day of theirs in July—the anniversary of their independence. Flags wave, cannons boom, orators harangue, people crowd the streets in holiday dresses, and up to heaven, from all the confederated states, rise the flash and thunder of a nation's joy. On that day the pure name of Washington lives in a million hearts, and fathers relate to the children gathered around their knees the story of his battles, and how he built the freedom of his country up, and thus sow a fire in the young hearts, that in dark hours will gleam out from the deadly rifles of another and bloodier Bunker's Hill. We think the Americans quite right in so rejoicing. And shall Christian men be prohibited from the exhibition of a gladness-touched with solemnity, it may and ought to be-on this the greatest anniversary of the planet—when a Deliverer came to rescue the race from a deadlier tyranny than ever nation riveted upon another—who brought humility to the pure, and hope to the outcast, and tidings of great joy to all people? Surely not; and it delights me to think of the happiness that is all around me. Although I cannot be present at these friendly gatherings, I can, through sympathy, taste their sweetness, sitting in my room here alone.
Residing in this remote place, simply because I like it, and having formed no family tie or even very strong association of friendship, it has been my fate to eat my Christmas dinner alone. Friends are not readily made in old age. The making of friends belongs to youth, and it is one of youth's most precious privileges. And yet I need not say I sat alone. At such a time memory is busy, and to-day “ all the dead that ever I knew” were around me. I sat in company with brave youths, with fair girls, with those who were dearer to me than life itself—all mouldered into churchyard dust long ago—their graves all level with the churchyard grass, quite undistinguishable now to the eye. My whole life has, during the last few hours, passed before me in long-drawn, many-coloured procession-in spaces of clear sunshine, alternating with the gloom of tempest. Now it was laughter and merry voices, and now a dead silence, in which was only heard the dropping of bitter tears. I remembered my own youth, with its fiery aspirations and hopes ; I remembered the great shadow of Death that fell across my path at noon-day, making afternoon of my whole life thereafter; and I remembered, with something of a sigh, my existence since—its aimlessness, so far as personal achievement is concernedthe half-loving cynicism, which has grown over my nature like a crust, keeping out the sunshine often, warding off blows sometimes, too, the importance I attach to trifles, the strange humours in which I indulge, and the pleasures I derive from the commonest scenes and the most humdrum events--this retrospection has not been altogether pleasant, and yet I cannot say it has been altogether painful. I can quite readily imagine a happier Christmas dinner than this of mine, and quite as readily can I imagine a more disagreeable. There is not much for me to do now in the world. I have but to wait till the shadow comes to say that I am wanted by the Master. His coming cannot be far off now, and my prayer is that I may be found prepared. Happy they who at the close of a long life sit down, as it were, patiently at the door of heaven, waiting till Death opens it, and bids them enter!
Although suggested by the season, and a lonely Christmas dinner, it is not my purpose to indulge in personal reminiscence and talk. Let it pass, however. This is Christmas Day, the anniversary of the world's greatest event. Isaiah, standing on the peaks of prophecy, looked across ruined empires and the desolations of many centuries, and saw on the horizon the new Star arise, and was glad. On this night, eighteen hundred and fifty-nine years ago, Jove was discrowned, the Pagan heaven emptied of its divinities, and Olympus left to the solitude of its snows. On this night, so many hundred years by-gone, the despairing voice was heard shrieking in the Agean, “Pan is dead ! great Pan is dead !" At this night, according to the poets, all things that blast and blight are powerless-disarmed by sweet influences :
"Some say that ever 'gainst that season comes,
The bird of dawning singeth all night long;
The flight of the Pagan mythology before the new faith has been a favourite subject with the poets ; and it is strange enough that, with
one exception, the noblest dirge for the unrealmed divinities, and at the same time the most eloquent celebration of the new Power and prophecy of its triumphs, has been uttered by Shelley, who cannot in any sense be called a Christian poet. It was written near the close of his life, and perhaps, had he remained longer amongst us, it would have been the prelude to higher strains. Of this I am certain, that before his death the mind of that brilliant but misguided man was rapidly changing ; that for him the Cross was gathering attractions wound it; that the wall, which he complained had been built up between his heart and his intellect, was being broken down; and that rays of a new splendour were already streaming upon him through the chinks. What a contrast between the darkened glory of “ Queen Mab”-of which in after life he was heartily ashamed, both as a literary work and as an expression of opinion—and the intense, clear, lyrical light of this triumphant poem !
“A power from the unknown God :
A Promethean conqueror came;
The thorns of death and shame.
Which the orient planet animates with light.
Nor preyed until their Lord had taken flight.
“ Swift as the radiant shapes of sleep,
From one whose dreams are paradise,
And day peers forth with her blank eyes;
Fled from the folding star of Bethlehem.
Grew weak, for killing Truth had glared on them.
Their waters turned to blood, their dew to tears,
It has been my custom for many seasons to read Milton's “Hymn on the Nativity” on the evening of Christmas Day. To my ear the lines sound like the full-voiced choir and the rolling organ of a cathedral, when, the afternoon light, streaming through painted windows, fills the place with solemn colours and masses of gorgeous gloom. What a magnificent opening—the Prince of Peace entering a world then dwelling in unwonted peace !
“Nor war nor battle's sound
The idle spear and shield were high up hung :
The trumpet spake not to the armed throng;
As if they surely knew their Sovereign Lord was by.” The Heathen gods depart with weeping and vain lamentation, leaving oblivion to prey upon their empty thrones :
“ The oracles are dumb,
Runs through the arched roof in words deceiving;
With hollow shriek the steep of Delphos leaving.
Inspires the pale-eyed priest from the prophetic cell.
A voice of weeping heard and loud lament :
The parting genius is with sighing sent;
The nymphs in twilight shades of tangled thickets mourn.
With that twice-battered god of Palestine :
Now sits not girt with taper's holy shine!
“ And sullen Moloch, fled,
His burning idol, all of blackest hue :
In dismal dance about the furnace blue :
“ He feels from Juda's land
The rays of Bethlehem blind his dusky cyne
Not Typhon huge ending in snaky twine :
Can in his swaddling-bands control the damned crew." That is noble and spirit-stirring poetry. The bass of Ileaven's great organ seems to flow in the lines, and slowly and with many echoes the strain melts into silence. Milton's poem is a prophecy of the triumphs of Christianity. All the Heathen deities, numerous as stars in the Milky Way, will perish in the new dawn. The beautiful divinities of Greece, “the fair humanities of old religion,” fled with weeping, and dishevelled locks; and so also, sooner or later, are doomed to depart all other kinds of idolatry-the hundred-armed and hundred-headed divinities of Brahmin, as well as the Mumbo-Jumbo of the African. Believing, as I do, that my own personal decease is not more certain than that the religion of the Saviour will subdue and reign triumphant over the world, I own that it is with a somewhat saddened heart that I pass my thoughts rapidly over the globe, and consider how distant is yet that triumph. There are the great realms on which the Crescent beams; there are the monstrous idols and subtle philosophic meshes of Hindostan, of quite unknown antiquity, flowing out of the grey dawn and morning light of time ; there is the colossal heathenism of China, weighing like night upon its millions; and there is the African's Devil worship and bloody rites. These are to a large extent princípalities and powers of darkness with which our religion has never been brought into collision save at trivial and far-separated points, and in these cases the attack has never been made in strength. But what of our own Europe—the home of philosophy, and poetry, and painting? Europe, which has produced Greece, and Rome, and England's centuries of glory; which has been lighted up by the fires of martyrdom; which has heard a Luther preach, and has listened to the song of a Dante and a Milton? What of it? Did not, in the very year which is now dying out in the Christmas snow, the Italian hills hear the battle-thunders of a Magenta ? Were not the Italian plains cumbered with the useless carnage of a Solferino! And did not two emperors meet, and breakfast, and chat, and smoke cigars together, and depart, the dearest friends—a hollow friendship, purchased by the agonies of two empires, and at the price of a hundred thousand lives? Woe's me! God's heaven has seldom looked upon a sadder sight than that. And is not the public air which nations breathe at this moment charged with thunder ? Despots are plotting, ships are building, man's ingenuity is bent upon the invention and improvement of the instruments of death ; Europe is bristling with five millions of bayonets; and this is the condition of the world, for which the Son of God died eighteen hundred and fifty-nine years ago! There is no mystery of Providence so inscrutable as this ; and yet, is not the very sense of its mournfulness a proof that the spirit of Christianity is spreading and glowing in the minds of men ? For, of a verity, military glory is becoming in our best thoughts a bloody rag, and conquest the first in the catalogue of mighty crimes ; and a throned tyrant, with armies, and treasures, and the cheers of a hundred nations, rising up like a cloud of incense around him, but a mark for the thunderbolt of Almighty God-in reality, poorer than a Lazarus stretched at a rich man's gate. Besides, all these evil things are getting to some extent mitigated. Florence Nightingale, a true Sister of Mercy, walks through