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So again, marriage is the beginning of a new mode and manner of life. Hence it is natural that married people should “ number their days” by means of this new starting point. The practice is as grace
ful as it is natural. When marriage comes to be regarded in true light, and to be estimated at its proper value, the importance of this new epoch in individual history will be far more fully recognised than is now generally the case. The wedding-day will stand as the symbol of a solemn event, the sacred sign of a glorious thing. Adam and Eve, supposing these to be the names of the first parents of all mankind, nust indeed have grown necessary to each other in the other world, after all the millenniums of tender association, and ever-increasing oneness of feeling and thought through which they have passed. Even as we think of the one the thought of the other comes into the mind; their joint names have become inseparable in our thoughts : how much more inseparable must they themselves have become by this time ! The oldest married couple which this earth has given to eternity cannot, even yet, have quite forgotten the inward joy and blessedness of that new life which they together began, when neither of them was any longer" alone.” Their wedding-day was to them a new startingpoint in existence; its memories must lie deep among the ever-enduring treasures of deep and holy feelings and thoughts, which heavenly existence preserves and increases, not destroys. Every other two of their children whom the Divine Father has caused to be no longer twain but one, by giving to both of them the tender love which they bear to each other, and the deep yearning they feel to comfort and bless each other, may and should in like manner welcome the recurrence of the anniversary of the beginning of their new and more perfect mode of life.
Another starting-point, the register of which is so well and truly kept by fond mothers, begins, when God has sanctified marriage with a visible blessing, and crowned the young lovers with the royalty of fatherhood and motherhood. The birth of the first-born “mother's miracle” forms indeed a new era for the pair so richly endowed. A new and ever-enduring existence began, a new flame kindled that can never, never be extinguished, a new duty pressing upon its parents, new motives given them for work and waiting, new incentives supplied to them to strive after purity, self-control, and self-development, new causes come to them for gratitude to the Lord, and new provocatives of mutual love, parents may well count up the years of their children's
lives, and almost wonder whether the joy of the angels is perfect, seeing that no babes are born there.
In like manner, groups of families have some such common startingpoint. The Israelitish tribes could thus count up the
from the call of Abraham, and the date be the beginning of their national exist
The idea of God was in their thoughts invested with a new tenderness, and the idea of their progenitors was glorified with a new dignity by reason of the association of the ideas,—that He was the Lord God of their fathers; of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Far higher and nobler was this adjustment of their era by the Israelites than was dating the events of history from the beginning of a national festival, counting by Olympiads; or than a chronology dating from the death of a victorious king, Alexander; or than the era began by the building of a city, dating the annals of a self-glorious people from the time of the founding of Rome. Even these three epochs, which have been so significantly commemorated, are more human, they appeal more effectually to human sympathies as matters immediately pertaining to human life, and interwoven with multiplied human interests, than the coldly scientific, and far removed Julian period, calculated to embrace 7980 years, and which is said to have begun some 4709,
before the advent of the Lord. Astronomical cycles may serve the rigid necessities of scientific calculation, but they must ever fail to touch the hearts of the people. Far less scientific, but, it seems to me, far more suggestive, is the idea of counting up centuries from the last avatar of Vishnu; for it links the idea of time with the conception of
1 God, and does not banish, with the secret scorn of scientific politeness, the presence of God from the thoughts of men. There seems an Eastern harmony between the two eras, the call of Abraham, and the fabled avatar of Vishnu; for both refer the time-mark to some divine operaation. Prophecy misread as history explains the error of the fable : its perpetuation proves the veneration, the religiousness, of its pre
But the genius of Judaism was essentially narrow, and the call of Abraham has to be translated into a more universal language before it can cease to be both partial and exclusive. Hence the literal circumstance was necessarily inadequate to become the beginning of a universal epoch. To find such an epoch we must ascend to that grander circumstance of which the call of Abraham was, at once, the type and the prophecy. This grander circumstance is likewise the same that is predicted in the promised avatar of Vishnu, which tradition forgot
was a prophecy, and construed into an historic fact. This event, so doubly indicated, furnishes all men with a time-mark which is adequate and abiding; it is the advent of the one only true God into the world as “the man Christ Jesus.” Here, in fact, was the real new startingpoint in the history, not of a family, or a nation, or a race alone, but of all mankind. We of the nineteenth century owe some slight gratefulness to that old Roman abbot, Dionysius Exiguus, who, in the year 527, succeeded in fixing the year of the Lord's advent as having taken place at the end of the 4713th year of the Julian period, and thereby rendered it possible for Christendom to adopt “ Anno Domini” as the epoch which was never to be superseded. This mode of reckoning, apparently, was first begun, some five years later by another abbot, Denis the Little. We need not pay much heed to the long, learned, and fierce debates about the accuracy of the calculations, which have made noise enough, and bred bad blood enough in their times. Astronomers and chronologers have done their best to be exact, and we may content ourselves with their relative correctness.
The great fact, as we estimate it, has been accomplished, viz. that of counting the centuries from the central event in the history of mankind. That epoch was the “fulness of the times” which preceded it; the commencement of the ages which should follow. Just as a man's life is as a bridge placed midway in eternity, the endless expanse of non-being from which the living being emerges at the one end of the bridge, and at the other the endless ages through which he shall continue to exist ; so the Lord's sojourn upon the earth bridged the gulf between the end of the old and the beginning of the new order of things. Up to that point all previous history pointed its prophetic finger; down from that point all subsequent history must properly date.
Mahomet, in many respects a sagacious and far-seeing man, either plagiarized the idea, in his day likely enough to be known to some of the Christians with whom he may have met in his travels in early life, or invented it; for he, too, introduced a time-mark, which should, at one and the same time, embody the idea of the providence of “Allah” and of the history of “his prophet.” So the Hegira, since July 16th, 622, or thereabouts, has been the epoch which Moslems have done their uttermost to force into the customs of mankind. Perhaps a greater number of persons count the years by the Hegira than even by Anno Domini. If majorities mean everything that is valuable, and everything which should be potent in the world, the 400,000,000 of Mahometans may prove a trouble to modern thinkers. Yet it needs only a few moments' consideration to see that, in the nature of things, the Hegira of Mahomet is not nearly so well adapted to be a universal time-mark as Anno Domini. The immensity of human interests involved in the claims of the Christian Saviour, even considered merely as claims, and judged according to the grandeur of the ideas which they develop and involve, overwhelmingly outweigh the interests involved in the claims of Mahomet. Under any process of comparison Mahomet shrinks and dwindles when contrasted with the Man of Nazareth. To those who believe in the Divinity which became incarnate in Christ Jesus our Lord, any just comparison must seem simply impossible. The Christian epoch, Anno Domini, has also been forcing its triumphant way into the thoughts and usages of the world with an ever-increasing power. So much at least of acknowledgment of the Saviour's mission has spread over Europe, and Russia in Asia ; has obtained in North and South America ; is growing in the Pacific islands, and rules in the Australian archipelago; wherever Europeans have settled in Africa, and likewise wherever the enterprise of Europeans has established commercial relationships with Asia. much of acceptance of Christian chronology is conceded in every school in Hindostan, and it only needs the diffusion of the commerce of Europe among the Persians for Anno Domini to absorb, abolish, and in time to supersede the “ Jesdegird” which Persia reverences and employs. Viewed in this fashion, there is a sermon, in the four numerals with which we in England will have to become so familiar; and 1871 may be seen to really mean a multitude of momentous things.
This larger idea of "starting points" is very significantly illustrated in the Divine Word. Thus we read that “it came to pass in the sixhundred and first year, in the first month, the first day of the month, the waters were dried up from the earth, and Noah removed the covering of the ark, and looked, and behold, the face of the ground was dry” (Gen. viii. 13). The beginning of a new time for mankind could not be more emphatically or significantly stated. Emanuel Swedenborg
. most suggestively uses the word “terminus" as indicating the spiritual meaning of this date. It was the new starting-point for man historically: it denotes a new starting-point in the spiritual biography of the man who is becoming regenerate.
So also, the fact that the month of the Passover, the month of the redemption of Israel from the hand of their Egyptian enemies, was commanded to be to them “ the first month” (Ex. xii. 2). It is as if to say that the calendar of human regeneration must begin with redemption as its first month. To say the same thing with a wider reference, —the chronology of Christians must date from Anno Domini ! The advent of the Lord was the beginning of redemption, the passion of the Cross was its last temptation, the ascension was the symbol of His completed work. Of this universal redemption the deliverance of Israel from Egypt was the type, the prophecy, the promise.
So likewise, the command “on the first day of the first month shalt thou set up the tabernacle of the tent of the congregation ” (Ex. xl. 2). Another starting-point is here intimated, the beginning of a new state, wherein, from real charity and genuine faith, men commence to worship the Lord ; and the Lord establishes His sanctuary in the loving and believing soul.
The Word is full of significant intimations such as these, which might be pursued through all the injunctions relating to first-fruits, the first-born, first days, first months, and first years. But considerations of my readers' time and space in the Magazine urge self-restraint. The point I wish to enforce must be evident. Life has various starting-points; they are individual, social, national, humanitarian. All of them deserve some intelligent thought; some of them deserve to be practically commemorated. Among the latter, New Year's day, the common starting point of so many nations, especially deserves to be marked as a time for conscientious self-interrogation, for the practice of that penitence which worketh inwardly, and for the forming of those good resolutions which shall work themselves out into the life.
JESUS AND HIM GLORIFIED.
“These words spake Jesus, and lifted up His eyes to heaven, and said, Father, the hour is come ; glorify Thy Son, that Thy Son also may glorify Thee : as Thou hast given Him power over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as Thou hast given Him. And this is life eternal, that they might know Thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom Thou hast sent.” – Ver. 1-3. The Glorification of the Lord Jesus is but seldom heard of in the Christian world. It is referred to again and again in the Gospels, and is of the highest importance if we would really see the Lord as He is; yet much is required, much of teaching and much of consideration, to give that great fact the prominence it ought to have in the Christian conscience of mankind. Too many professing Christians have not lifted