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If these things be true, we are all only God's children in a rudimentary condition : practically we are unborn, and death will really be birth, the emancipation of the soul, caged in the school-house of the body, the emergence of the spirit into the universe of realities, the attainment at last of life. I do not know how that sounds to you. To me it is the best news that ever fell on hungry ears. It is like the sound of the voice of the emancipator behind the prison door. Believing it, all evil things are vanquished, all good things won : for if this is true, I am only on the verge of being: my chance of life is not nearly over; it has not yet begun : and all these troubles, and burdens, and struggles are but the thin ripples on the great ocean of my being,—"the light afflictions which are but for a moment,” not to be compared with the “far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.” In that bright, beautiful faith, God keep us all, through life's wayfaring, till we shall have no more need to hope that we are “remembered.”

UNTO GOD, MY EXCEEDING JOY.

THE

'HE days in which we live are in the world of

religious thought and feeling, days of doubt and conflict, of resolute investigation and eager 'inquiry. To many, they are days of sheer chaos and iconoclasm : but to a truer insight they are days of orderly development, wherein struggle and denial and even unbelief appear only as parts of a very beautiful process of change. It is well that old creeds should be sifted and new creeds tested, that men should battle for truth of thought and truth of word. But the combatants are in grave danger, lest in the heat of conflict they forget the use, the end, the object of it all,—lest they be found striving for the husk and the shell while they let the kernel go : for a

be

very zealous and very earnest about opinions and views, and yet all the while be missing the best and only true uses of opinions and views. What are doctrines to us unless they help us, unless they strengthen us for duty, hearten us for toil, arm us against temptation, or inspire us with joy? What, for instance, is a doctrine about man to me, unless it helps me to live better, and to act more wisely and charitably towards my fellowmen ? And what is a doctrine about God to me, unless it takes away my fear and doubt, and brings me nearer to Him? Apart from such uses, these doctrines are little better than dust and ashes. This has been forgotten ; and the forgetting of it lies at the root of the dreary controversies and cruel persecutions that make the history of the Christian church one of the darkest as well as one of the brightest chapters of the history of mankind.

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What a refreshment it is to turn from the turmoil of contending parties, from the strife of tongues, from profitless creed-making and creed-believing, to the simple words of childlike trust and delight in God that seemed so natural to the men of old! What creed ever went down so deep, ever soared so high, as that touching cry of the Psalmist, “I will go unto God, my exceeding joy"? For all practical purposes, that one saying outweighs the most complete system of dogmatic theology. Yes! when a man has spent his life in laboured studies and learned controversies, and comes at last to bid good-bye to disciples and opponents, to church, and creed, and books, happy is he if he can look forward and say, as a little child who is falling asleep,—“I will go unto God, my exceeding joy."

That, in the matter of religion, is what we chiefly need. For hundreds and thousands of years, God has been a terror to man,

-a dread Being whose anger needs to be “turned away." And that, alas! in some form or another, has been put forth as the Christian religion; so that even the blessed face of Jesus is beclouded with this shadow of evil; and the presence of our Heavenly Father has, in it, more of the lightning that scathes than of the light that brightens and guides. "Religion, truly considered, then, is a very simple thing. It is something that does not depend on professors, on theologies, on churches, on books. It is simply the attitude of the soul towards God: and it is that which makes all the difference. Before Him, the soul may tremble with terror, or it may

be thrilled with delight : it may bow with fainting dread or bend with adoring reverence. But, in any case, the question of religion is simply the question of the soul's attitude before God: and the highest, and the noblest, yes! and the purest and most natural attitude possible to the soul, is that which finds expression in this simple, child-like, and yet most profound saying—"I will go unto God, my exceeding joy."

There is everything in that. There is consecration for joy, and comfort for sorrow; there is crowning in victory, and solacing in defeat; there is that which a little child can master, and that which a sage can never exhaust. It spreads, like the soft glow of summer, over all life here, and fills the unseen world with another summer's prolonged and peaceful rays. It takes away all fear; it dismisses all the bad dreams of the world's long night; it promises to fully reconcile us to God, and offers to give Heaven on earth ; for it is Heaven on earth to be able to say that God is the soul's “exceeding joy.”

Is it not strange that men are even now standing before this great lesson, and are not yet able to spell out even its first few letters ? so that this is almost the last thing that the creeds teach men to say. For God is still in our midst as a consuming fire, an inexorable Judge, a hard Taskmaster, an offended King. He is still set forth as the awful iron Will of the universe, the terrible Fate, the mysterious Destroyer; and His glorious Heaven is still believed to be undermined by a fearful and cruel Hell. And so it has come to pass that in the prayers and creeds, nay! in the very sacraments and psalms of the Church, there is an undertone of sadness, a background of terror, an undercurrent of despair.

The work of the age is to alter all this : and, thank God, it can be and is being altered. They who will may see it. The light is beaming in unexpected places, and the sweet contagion of divine love is spreading from heart to heart, and from Church to Church. Presently, we may expect to hear the joyous psalm taken up by ten thousand happy tongues, in every Church,-a psalm of praise to the Great Father whom men will no longer fear,-to God our "exceeding joy."

. What the Church sorely needs is a God who will be to us more than a name in our prayers and a phrase in our creed,-a God who will be something to us when the Church is closed and the psalm is only a memory and an echo in the soul,-a God who will be something to us when we are in need, and to whom we can go as a refuge, a refreshment, and a stay,—whose blessed presence has in it nothing to terrify but everything to invite and win.

Happy they, who can go unto God, their joy, when they need heart-rest. What does the weary need ? what does the tired child want at even-tide, when the little head is weary even with play,—what but the good mother, beyond whom the little one cannot look, and need not look ? for God's light beams through her loving eyes, and God's voice breathes in her gracious words. And are we

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