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is our life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.” “As for man, his days are as grass : as a flower of the field, so he flourisheth. For the wind passeth over it and it is gone; and the place thereof shall know it no more.” We cannot but feel that if death is to be the end of us, life is not worth the trouble of living. To many a man it brings a decided preponderance of suffering. Manifestly, if death ends all, it would have been better for that man if he had not been born,-better for him if he had been left in the rest of non-existence. And the thought of death will be even more grievous to us if our lives have been prosperous and happy. Oh the pity of it! if, just after we have tasted the joy of being, we must cease to be.
Twelve centuries and a half ago there was a discussion in the Court of Edwin, King of Northumbria, as to whether Christianity was a religion worthy of being adopted. An old Earl spoke as follows in its defence. “The life of man reminds me,” he said, “ of a sparrow which in the winter time flies through a well-lighted and well-heated hall. It enters by one door, and rapidly passes out by another. It has a brief escape from the chilling storms of rain and snow
without. It enjoys a momentary calm and shelter. But again it goes forth to another winter, and vanishes from our sight. So also seems the short life of man. Of what went before it, and what is to follow it, we know not. If this new doctrine brings us something more certain, it is in my mind worthy of adoption.” The old Earl was right. It is one of the crowning glories of the Gospel, that it has brought life and immortality to light. We find in the New Testament that the doubt and despair, so often noticeable in the Old, have given place to a hopeful moral certainty. Job had asked anxiously and timidly, “If a man die, shall he live again ?” The Psalmist had inquired, still more sceptically, “Wilt Thou show wonders to the dead ? ... Shall Thy loving-kindness be declared in the grave ? ... Shall Thy wonders be known in the dark; and Thy righteousness in the land of forgetfulness ?” But St Paul declared without hesitation,
—“God will render to every man according to his deeds: to them who, by patient continuance in well-doing, seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life.”
Yes, the wages of virtue is not to be dust. It could not be, except in a universe that
was fundamentally irrational and immoral. As Tennyson finely says
“My own dim life should teach me this,
That life shall live for evermore,
Else earth is darkness at the core,
Without immortality our present life is a ghastly mockery. The still, sad music of humanity is but an unceasing wail attending an infinite series of abortions,—hopes born only to be blighted, yearnings roused only to be crushed, beings created only to be destroyed. It is the future alone that redeems the present from contempt. When regarded as an opportunity for the development of “the power of an endless life” that is latent within us, when viewed in the light of eternity, our life on earth acquires infinite significance and value: it is no longer paltry; it is sublime.
But let us remember that eternal life life in the highest and fullest sense of the word—comes only to those who seek it “by patient continuance in well-doing.” It must be won by effort, conflict, suffering. There must be a struggle for existence in eternity as in time. Just as we only exist physically by resisting the adverse forces in surrounding nature, so we can only exist spiritually if we conquer our ghostly enemies. Each of us has daily and hourly to choose,—to choose between right and wrong, between gratification and duty, between pleasing ourselves to the injury of others, and benefiting others at the cost of selfdenial. To choose in the one way is easy, and at the time agreeable; but it means defeat and death. To choose in the other way is difficult, and at the time painful; but it means victory and life. To him that overcometh, and to him alone, is it granted to eat of the tree of life.
The Progress of Christianity.
“I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto Me."
-John xii. 32.
TS there any proof that this prediction is likely 1 to be fulfilled ? Was not Christ too sanguine? Is not His influence already on the wane ? Ten years ago a gifted poet sang a pean on the supposed decay of Christianity, and he ventured to speak of the Cross of Calvary in the following terms :
“ It creaks and rocks to left and right,
Consumed of rottenness and rust,
Dead as their spirits who put trust,
In the time-cankered name of it.” Moreover, several of the leaders of thought in Europe have of late been asking the question, Are we still Christians ? and answering this question in the negative. Let us look into the matter a little, and see how it actually stands.