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THE LIFETIME OF MAN.
TRANSLATED FROM THE GERMAN.
When the world was created, and all creatures assembled to have their lifetime appointed, the ass first advanced and asked how long he would bave to live?
“Thirty years," replied Nature, "will that be agrecable to thee?"
“Alas!" answered the ass, “it is a long while. Remember wbal a wearisome existence will be mine; from morning until night I shall have to bear heavy burdens, dragging corn sacks to the mill, that others may eat bread, while I shall have no encouragement, nor be refreshed by anything but blows and kicks. Give me but a portion of that time I pray!"
Nature was moved with compassion, and presented but eighteen years. The ass went away coniforted, and the dog came forward.
"How long dost thou require to live ?” asked Nature. “Thirty years were too many for the ass, but wilt thou be contented with tbem ?”
“Is it thy will that I should ?” replied the dog. "Think how I shall have to run about; my feet will not last for so long a time, and when I shall have lost my voice for barking, and my teeth for biting, what else shall I be fit for but to lie in the corner and growl!"
Nature thought he was right, and gave twelve years.
"Thou wilt, doubtless, willingly live the thirty years," said Nature; thou wilt not have to labor as the dog and ass. Life will be pleasant to thee."
“Ah, no!” cried he; "so it may seem to others, but it will not be! Should puddings ever rain down, I shall excite laughter by my grimaces, and then be rewarded by a sour apple. How often sorrow lies concealed bebind a jest! I shall not be able to endure for thirty years.
Nature was gracious, and he received but ten.
As last came man, healthy and strong, and asked the measure of his days.
“Will thirty years content thee?” “How short a time !" exclaimed the man. “When I shall have built my house, and kindled a fire upon my own hearth-when the trees I shall have planted are about to bloom and bear fruit—when life shall seem to me the most desirable, I shall die. Ob, Nature, grant me a longer period.”
“Then thou shalt have the eighteen years of the ass beside." “That is not enough,” replied the man.
"Take likewise, the twelve years of the dog." "It is not yet sufficient,” reiterated the man; "give me more." "I will give thee, then, the ten years of the ape, and in vain wilt thou claim more.” Man departed unsatisfied.
Thus man lives seventy years. The first thirty are his human years, and pass swiftly by. He is then healthy and bappy. He labors carefully, and rejoices in his existence. The eighteen of the ass come next; burden upon burden is heaped upon him; he carries the corn that is to feed others; blows and kicks are the reward of his faithful service. The twelve years of the dog follow, and he loses his teeth, and lies down in the corner, and growls. When these are gone, the ape's ten years form a conclusion.
The man, weak and silly, becomes the sport of the children.
WONDERS OF THE ATMOSPHERE.
The atmosphere rises above us with its cathedral dome arching toward heaven, of which it is the most perfect synonym and symbol. It floats around us like that grand object which the Apostle John saw in his vision, "a sea of glass like unto a crystal.” So massive is it, that when it begins to stir, it tosses about great ships like playthings, and sweeps city and forest like snow-flakes to destruction before it.
And yet it is so mobile, that we have lived for years in it before we can be persuaded that it exists at all, and the great bulk of mankind never realize the truth that they are bathed in an ocean of air. Its weight is so enormous that iron shivers before it like glass, yet a soap ball sails through it with impunity, and the tini. est insect waves it aside with its wing. It ministers lavishly to all our senses. We touch it not, but it touches us. Its warm south wind brings back color to the pale face of the invalid ; its cool west winds refresh the fevered brow and make the blood mantle to our cheeks ; even its north blasts brace into new vigor the hardened children of our rugged climate.
The eye is indebted to it for the magnificence of sunrise, the brightness of midday, the chastened radiance of the morning, and the clouds that cradle near the setting sun. But for it, the rain. bow would want its “triumphant arch," the winds would not send the fleecy messengers on errands around the heavens; the cold either, would not send snow feathers on the earth, nor would drops of dew gather on the flowers. The kindly rain would never fall, nor the hailstorm nor fog diversify the face of the sky; our naked globe would turn its tanned and unshadowed forehead to the sun, and one dreary, monotonous blaze of light and heat dazzle and burn up all things.
Were there no atmosphere, the evening sun would in a moment set, and without warning, plunge the earth into darkness. But the air keeps in her hand a shield of her rays, and lets them slip but slowly through her fingers, so that the shadows of evening are gathered by degrees, and the flowers have time to bow their heads, and each creature space to find a place of rest, and to nestle to repose. In the morning the garish sun would at one bound burst from the bosom of the night, and blaze above the horizon; but the air watches for his coming, and sends first but one little ray to announce his approach, and then another, and then a handful; and gently draws aside the curtain of night, and slowly lets the light fall on the face of the sleeping earth, and like man, she goes forth again to labor until evening.
Those nervous folks, who are annoyed by everybody that approaches them, annoy every body they approach.
In the Incarnation begins the divine-human history of our adora. ble Saviour. As God He existed before, even from all eternity. He now begins His existence, not only as human, but as human and divine in one person. Here He enters our nature, and through it into the sphere of time and space. He is conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary; and thus He becomes Immanuel, God with us. “ The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us and we beheld His glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth."
I. We must consider the person who became Incarnate.
It is the same person who is mentioned, in the beginning of the second part of the creed, as “ Jesus Christ our Lord.” History, however, shows that it is not only possible, but common and easy, for men to profess faith in Rim under this name, and yet to assign to Him certain attributes, and deny to Him certain others, so as to make Him a being quite different from what the creed designs, and the Scriptures warrant. Persons may call Him JESUS, a Saviourmay call Him CHRIST, the anointed-may call Him their LORD, and yet they may have very false and inadequate ideas of the true dignity of the Person whom they call by these names, and from whom they expect the good which these names indicate and promise.
The question, therefore, properly arises, Who is that He, who was conceived and born ? The answer is given: "God's eternal Son, who is, and continueth true and eternal God.”
1. We are here taught that the person who became Incarnate was the “Son." Not the Father, nor the Holy Ghost-not the first, nor the third person in the Godhead, but the second. “The Son is the middle person in the divine Trinity, and, therefore, He is properly the Mediator.
The person who became Incarnate was not the Father in another form, or as another mode of manifestation.
This was the idea entertained by an ancient sect, against whom this word Son is directed. The Sabellians, a sect that rose in the third century, taught that there is but one person in the Godhead. They held that the Son and the Holy Ghost are only virtues, em&nations or functions of the Deity. They compared the Divinity to the natural sun in the Heavens: the substance is the Father, while the Son is the light, and the Holy Spirit the heat. They held that the divine influx went out from the Father as a ray of light goes out from the sun; that this entered the man Christ Jesus, and enabled Him to exert miraculous powers on the earth, but tbat it again returned into the Father, as a beam seems to return into the sun. Accordingly, the Son would not be divine, but only a divine influ. ence; nor would He be a being distinct from the Father.
Persons are still in danger of falling practically into this same error. Whenever it is forgotten that the Trinity is a mystery, and it is attempted to explain it by illustrations taken from the world of nature, this error is admitted. Thus Luther compared it to hot iron_here is the iron, the light, and the heat. The Indian compared it to a river covered with ice and snow-here is the water, the ice, the snow, and yet all is but one water. In both these illus. trations, the light and heat, the ice and snow, are but attributes or different forms of the iron and water. The illustrations, therefore, on. ly meet the Sabellian view of the Trinity. Three different forms of the same being is easily conceived ; but three distinct persons, or beings, in one, is a matter beyond our natural reach, and can only be received and rested upon by faith.
He, therefore, who became Incarnate, was not an attribute or emanation from the Father, not a different manifestation of the Father, but a distinct person from the Father, the second person which is called the Son.
2. The person who became Incarnate was the "eternal Son."
This is directed against tbose who believe that though the Son is a being distinct from the Father, that He is, nevertheless, not di. vine, consequently not eternal, but that He is a creature afterwards brought into existence—that He is a very exalted, the most exalted of beings, greater than all angels, but still a created beingnot divine, self-existent and eternal.
This error was broached by Arius, a presbyter of Alexandria, who began to promulgate bis peculiar views at the beginning of the fourth century. It received a wide-spread adherence, and perpetuated its influence over several centuries, but it was gradually thrown into the shade by the more rapid progress of the truth.
This error was again revived in 1531, by Faustus Socinus, in Tuscany, and became a sore trouble to the Reformers. It gave birth to the sect called, after their leader, Socinians. In modern times this error still exists, and has its home in the American Unitarian system, and in a still more modern sect calling themselves Christ.