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MUSING ON PAST EVENTIDES.
“And I lifted mine eyes up and lo!
An answer was written on high,
In the depths of the dark blue sky."
Happy musings dispersed the shadows that had for a moment darkened the clearness of the bright spirit, and the little poem, as befits the holy season, ends thus:
“So the burthen of darkness was taken
From my soul, and my heart felt light,
With peaceful thoughts that night."
Now these are not the lines of a great poetess, but, better still, they are the verses of an earnest, refined Christian woman, such as, thank God, many thousands of my countrywomen are. Multitudes of them there are who, in the sanctity of the Sunday evening, shut the chambers of the heart, and close the door upon all frivolous and worldly thoughts; and though their self-communings may not be devoid of painful memories, of melancholy musings, perchance of self-upbraiding, the senso of ineffable peace has at last hushed all unquiet thoughts to rest, and has taught them to endure through faith in the Invisible.
May I not, with a glad mind, thank God for many happy evenings which for their outward charm, and their relation to the inward sacred history of the soul and mind, are to me as memorable as any most striking exterior event of life? That evening, when through deepening twilight I passed on through Rydal and Grasmere--that glorious evening on Loch Katrine, when the rich gold of sunset mingled with the rich gold of autumn leaves, in the walk past Ellen's Isle—that evening, solitary and eventful, when from the casement of the chateau where I dwelt, I gazed on the broad Rhine, and the vine-clad heightsthat evening, when I first sailed the still waters of Lugano, or that when at midnight I looked upon solemn Maggiore, or that when, having sailed down the lake of Como, I came near and first beheld the noble Cathedral of Milan—that evening, when, having wished the superior of the hospice of the Simplon farewell, past crag, and waterfall, and piny forest I descended the precipitous pass-that evening when, with kindly friends I floated past Venetian palaces, beneath skies of rare pale loveliness reflected on the Adriatic waters! I remember, and evermore will remember all these, and as a miser counts over jewels and gold in vacant hours; in the "sessions of sweet, silent thought,” I surround Inyself with the imagery of these unforgotten things. But there are memories more precious still, and these are connected with English soil and the English Sunday evening.
Let me too then have my hour of reveries, and let me now summon
to memory two pure recollections of the Sunday evening. One shall be of summer in the country, and one of winter in our great city. It is a country district, where the wild moorland is in some parts crowded by the dense population which our manufacturing genius has evoked; where the scenery once was beautiful, and where strange gleams of beauty still interrupt the sordid and commonplace features of the landscape, by walk, by shaded brook, by tufted heights, by an expanse of fair water. The church, around which the roses in profusion cluster, and before which stretches the smooth, green, level sward, sanctifies and adorns the landscape. The late summer sun is slowly westering; softly through the oriel windows the rays fall on the kneeling villagers, and fling a saint-like glory on some dear head. The cadence of a noble voice is heard in silvery tones, “Lighten our darkness, we beseech thee, 0 Lord," and then the simple hymn, perchance, in which our large, and as yet unbroken, household circle join. Such is the memorial imagery of simple country days, before later years brought a wider knowledge and a sadder wisdom. And now a glance at another Sunday evening in the new London life. I am in the precincts of the mighty Abbey. I leave my friends, with whom I had been conversing, in the venerable close; and, threading my way through the quiet cloisters, I pass through a side door, and suddenly a wondrous scene reveals itself to me. Jets of foliated gas emerge from the antique pillars, thousands throng the vast nave, the crash of massive music breaks forth, which resounds to the dim, unlighted recesses of the far east of the minster. It is one of the carliest Sunday evening services in Westminster Abbey, that new feature in the ever young life of the Church of England. You remember it, too, but perhaps you cannot have such associations with it as I have. And so it is that on these Sunday evenings both retrospect and anticipation are busy. We think of our lost friends, of those who were once the most familiar forms in our daily life, who have now passed away, living now in other lands, and beneath other stars; perchance
"By the long wash of Australasian seas ;"
or severed from us by inconstancy, or falsehood, or misfortune, or evena kinder separation,-- by the cold hand that has silenced the lip, and laid the finger on the eye, but has not left us without a hope. As Lord Herbert of Cherbury says—the brother of that great saint and poet, George Herbert-in lines, the first example of that peculiar metre which “In Memoriam" has rendered so familiar :
eyes again thine eyes shall see, And hands again thine hands enfold,
And all chaste pleasures to be told, Shall with us everlasting bel"
That company of the loved and lost, which was at first so sparse, a two or three,--how the numbers increase, how the voices swell! Like the sand in the hour glass, they hurry into the vacant space; they leave us, our sweet friends, they no longer are on our muster-roll--as silent shadows they steal off into yonder ghostly camp. That hour is coming to us, my friends. Like a pilgrim, we every night pitch our tent a day's march nearer home. We know it well. For the last time we shall listen to those sweet vesper chimes, and for the last time watch the soft splendour of that setting sun. And then for us in years which we shall not see, some kindly friend, in melancholy musing some such hour as this, will have for us, perchance, that sorrowful recollection which we ourselves extend to those who have “
before.” Does this musing appear melancholy and regretful ? Not altogether such, I trust, for, in very trnth, the musings of Sunday evening have their lessons of hope, and calm, and consolation. They should teach us to look back upon the past without regret, and forward to the future without a sigh. If our dead friends can still think and feel for us, at such an hour as this their eternal regards may be fixed on us. If there are ministering spirits who in angelic mission attend on us, at such an hour we may listen to their heavenly whisperings.
That Eternal Spirit that strives with men, and would fain make their lives and deaths blissful, is tenderly pleading with the poor, erring human spirit, that still clings to the broken links of perishable things. It is now the Are hour of the Sunday evening. Such is the hour to listen to the voice of God: read some glorious page in which the burning hope of better things translates sorrow into serenity. Such is the hour of prayer : pray for your native land and for those you love, pray for forgiveness and for strength, pray for resolution to live a calm and Christlike life, pray for those who have your sorrows without
your hopes. And now to rehearse the last scene of all, by sinking into silence and forgetfulness. Yet for a moment pause. Withdraw the curtain and view the large night looming in its wintry sky over this great London. See how the multitudinous stars come out, army upon army of the great hosts of heaven, and remember how the music of the herald angels of Bethlehem is still lingering upon our ears. May not our last thoughts be of the “ many mansions” of our Father's house, of which eternal truth has assured us, and promised to seekers in them a home?
LADIES' WORK IN A COUNTRY PARISH.
WAYS AND MEANS.
"Doubt not, dear mind, that workest out the right
For the right's sake: the thin thread must be spun,
Hox. MRS. NORTOX.
SINCE the invention of Sunday-schools in 1780 by Mr. Raikes the
Church ?” said a teacher to a pupil she had only lately prepared for Confirmation, and saw confirmed.
Surely you must know how wrong it is after being confirmed into it!" “Please, ma'am," said the girl, after a long sullen silence, with hanging
IMPORTANCE OF SUNDAY CLASSES.
head and wriggling movements of her limbs, “I gets so much more for the time.” And on further inquiry the teacher found that she did nothing but learn to read from the Bible itself.
Perhaps some people might think it more judicious for the Church classes to counteract the attraction by adopting something of the same plan. But even if we say nothing of how wrong it would be to forsake a right principle of teaching, it would not even be expedient. For as the pupils improve they enter into, and are interested by, the explanations and catechizings on religious subjects, which are made additionally interesting by practical lessons suitable to their circumstances, and drawn from the particular Sunday Sunday classes should, then, be formed, not only of the weekly school children, but of both classes of the girls mentioned in our former account.
The girls must be taught to consider it a privilege to join together in reading the Bible, or in listening to and answering the religious advice and questions of their teacher. The Sunday class should be a lady's first attempt to gather the grown-up girls together. She must make it the bond of union between herself and her pupils, from which they are not to excuse themselves on any trifle, but which must remain superior to and distinct from every other class or plan invented for their advantage. In short, it should be the teacher's standing-point from which she originates her other forms of instruction, and on which they must all depend. Even her ever-increasing influence must draw its moral force from her Sunday teaching. Many persons may think that though it is right for school children to assemble together for Sunday instruction, it cannot be necessary for girls who have begun to work for their livelihood, especially if they have been confirmed.
But our former essay will have shown how much even the best educated need to have serious truths recalled to their minds from their peculiar position and temptations. But, besides, the daily work of the labouring class of girls leaves neither time nor ability to study these things for themselves; for the constant work of the body will by degrees dull the mind, and efface all remembrance of what they once knew, unless they receive timely help on their only day of rest. Nor can the second class, that, namely, of servant girls, be left out of the Sunday teaching. What can they do for themselves in the little places from or to which they have come or are going? We are constantly complaining of our servants; of their want of principle, etc. Have we ever considered why this is 80, and how they are to improve without any means of improvement ? Let us instruct them when under our care, or when they are waiting at home for fresh places, and then we may have some right to cry out. But as it is, we very much doubt whether even ladies or gentlemen would behave any better if they, like the generality of servants, were cut off from all means of study and instruction.