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Showing posts from November, 2010

Of Caesar's Household

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(Taken from The High Calling, Meditations on Philippians by J.H. Jowett, 1909, Fleming H. Revell Company)

All the saints salute you, especially they that are of Caesar's household" (Phil. 4:22)

"That is a very wonderful thing that the general river of Christian courtesy should be flowing from the hard precincts of imperial lust and tyranny... Here is a clean, clear river streaming out of the very centre of a poisonous swamp. Here is a sweet spring lifting its healthful waters in the bitter waste. Here is a white lily spreading its radiant purity above a very noisome bed. This is the kind of miracle to arrest and startle the world. Goodness in unexpected places!

...A commissioner of one of our great London dailies has recently been exploring some of the awful howling wastes of London's slums. He went into one court, and up one terrible flight of stairs, where gin and sweat and swearing and putridity were horribly commingled, and in the very thick of it all he heard a wom…

Presenteeism

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This morning my wife and I had a heated disagreement on the way to a church service. It continued right into the parking lot, whereupon she said, "What's the point of our showing up today? Playing the hypocrites. Both of us steamed up as we are."

She was absolutely right. We drove home. Went to our neutral corners for a couple of hours. Got over things. Took our respective quiet devotional times. Found the key to repentance and reconciliation.

Earlier in the morning, strangely enough, my thoughts had gone to the workplace phenomenon, growing in frequency, and known as "presenteeism". Employees come to work sick. Coughing. In need of rest, medicine, change of pace, moments of reflection and self-assessment, prayer; all so that a normal process of healing might occur. But the employee is afraid to take the day off, miss the wages, miss possible opportunities, critical information in process. He or she reports to work, slinks by the token kiosk of hygienic handi-wip…

"Are You With Me?"

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The female preacher was giving a good message. Confident. Flowing with momentum. Excellent scripture recall. Moving about the podium. Interspersing remarks of "Are you following me?...Do you get this?"

The congregation always answered in the affirmative.

She drew from the prophetic passage in Zechariah 9; that Messiah would appear meek and lowly, having salvation, and riding on a donkey. She then went to the chapter in Mark where this prophecy was fulfilled as Jesus rode into Jerusalem on "Palm Sunday".

Focus then shifted to this donkey. One moment tethered "at a place where two ways met". Nothing significant about his life. Monotonous. Bound by circumstances. But the next moment released by command of the Master and brought into service for the King. What a promotion! There had been words written about that donkey, foreordained "since before the foundation of the world". But the donkey knew nothing of this and believed, sadly, that life would rema…

Or We Are Unblest

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In London, September 1802

O Friend! I know not which way I must look
For comfort, being, as I am, opprest,
To think that now our life is only drest
For show; mean handy-work of craftsman, cook,
Or groom!-We must run glittering like a brook
In the open sunshine, or we are unblest:
The wealthiest man among us is the best:
No grandeur now in nature or in book
Delights us. Rapine, avarice, expense,
This is idolatry; and these we adore:
Plain living and high thinking are no more:
The homely beauty of the good old cause
Is gone; our peace, our fearful innocence,
And pure religion breathing household laws.

(William Wordsworth)

(Photo by Derek Langley)

Forty-Six Days: Water Only

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They had intended to row in a 12 foot aluminum boat between two islands in the New Zealand territory of Tokelau. Instead they were launched on a 50 day ordeal lost in the South Pacific. Three teenagers ages 14 and 15. Presumed dead. Eulogized in their home village. Then surprisingly discovered on the horizon by a New Zealand tuna boat taking an uncommon hurried trip home.

The aluminum hull was right on the course set by the fishing boat. No diversion for rescue. The boys appeared sound of mind but extremely emaciated. They advised the crew that they had consumed coconuts for the first two days and a captured sea bird for the last two days. Nothing but rain water in between. Forty-six days!

A total of some 1300 kilometres traversed in the drifting.

The father of one of the boys related: "It's a miracle, it's a miracle. The whole village, the whole village. They were so excited and cried and they sang songs and hugging each other, yeah, on the road. Everybody was yelling and s…

A Son to His Father

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Yes, Father.
I have sought your face.
I have heard your voice.
I have found your will.
I have delighted in following.
As a youngster at home.
In the carpenter's shop.
As the Romans came to town and went.
At the Jordan with John.
Stretched in the wilderness.
In the teeming curious crowds.
Alone, and seeking in night hours.
With the sick.
With the cynical.
When challenged as to my service.
When challenged as to the Kingdom.
When disappointed by friends.
When weary of their ambition.
In Gethsemane.
Troubled and sore amazed.
Telling the Governor the truth.
Enduring the pain,
As one wretched thief
Acknowledged our plan,
And you seemed removed.

But the plan was sovereign.
I sit again at your side.
We have glorious fellowship.
We hear from the family.
We delight to bless.
And oh, dear Father,
They are coming.
Your sons, daughters to the feast.

His Smile in Me

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Yet it was well, and Thou hast said in season
As is the Master shall the servant be:
Let me not subtly slide into the treason,
Seeking an honour which they gave not Thee.

Never at even, pillowed on a pleasure,
Sleep with the wings of aspiration furled,
Hide the last mite of the forbidden treasure,
Keep for my joys a world within the world.

He as He wills shall solder and shall sunder,
Slay in a day and quicken in an hour,
Tune Him a chorus from the Sons of Thunder,
Forge and transform my passion into power.

Ay, for this Paul, a scorn and a reviling,
Weak as you know him and the wretch you see,
Even in these eyes shall ye behold Him smiling,
Strength in infirmities and Christ in me.

(Oswald Chambers, So Send I You)

Let's Do It!

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(Today's entry from F.B. Meyer in Our Daily Homily)

I must work the works of him that sent me - John 9:4

Is not this exceedingly tender and beautiful? The Lord does not hesitate to describe Himself as specially designated to do a certain work. In every part of this Gospel He speaks of Himself as the sent One; but He graciously conjoins His disciples and friends in it, saying, We must work. It is as though He said, "I have a designated work which must needs be done; but I cannot do it alone. We must do it, you and I, together."

Fellowship with God the Father is the law of all industry. - Every crop that goldens in the summer wind is due to the summons of the God of Nature to the husbandman, "Come and let us work together, thou and I." Every achievement in factory or mill of textile fabrics is due to the combination of the Divine laws and the human agency. We must work, is God's constant appeal.

Fellowship with the Son is the law of the Kingdom. - We have been ca…

Never Said Better

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(The following is from a letter by Robert Murray M'Cheyne,1842 to a concerned soul.)

A young woman called upon me tonight in great distress. She said, "I have a wicked heart within me that would sink a world." I said, "I am thankful to hear you complain of your wicked heart, dear friend, it is unsearchably wicked. There is not a sin committed on earth or in hell but has its spring and fountain in your breast and mine. You are all sin-your nature is sin,-your heart is sin,-your past life is sin,-your prayers are all sin. Oh that you would despair of being righteous in yourself! Then take the Lord Jesus for your righteousness. In Him is no sin. And He stood for us, and offers to be your shield,-your way to the Father. You may be righteous in Christ with a perfect righteousness, broad as the law, and pure as the light of heaven. If you had an angel's righteousness, you might well lay it down and put on Jesus. The robe of a blood-washed sinner is far whiter than that…

Serving, Resting

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(I am thankful for today's prayer entry in Knocking at God's Door by Oswald Chambers)

"Lord, I thank Thee for the counsel in the text this morning ("And let it be ...that thou shalt do as occasion serves thee; for God is with thee") not to fret myself into conscious usefulness, but just do as the occasion Thou hast engineered shall serve."

Was this not the method of Jesus? There always seemed to be a relaxed manner in the way the Master traveled about and made Himself available to those in need. Many nights were given to prayer and He was able to say that He did and said only as instructed by the Father. But did those prayer times result in specific instruction to be at a certain place at a certain time to work the Father's will? Or, rather, were they simply times to get close to the Father's heart. To hear Him pour in the comfort and encouragement and re-assurance that He was present and His power available.

Such intimacy energized a daily walk in whi…

Something to Love

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I Know an Aged Man Constrained to Dwell

I know an aged Man constrained to dwell
In a large house of public charity,
Where he abides, as in a Prisoner's cell,
With numbers near, alas! no company.

When he could creep about, at will, though poor
And forced to live on alms, this old Man fed
A Redbreast, one that to his cottage door
Came not, but in a lane partook his bread.

There, at the root of one particular tree,
An easy seat this worn-out Labourer found
While Robin pecked the crumbs upon his knee
Laid one by one, or scattered on the ground.

Dear intercourse was theirs, day after day;
What signs of mutual gladness when they met!
Think of their common peace, their simple play,
The parting moment and its fond regret.

Months passed in love that failed not to fulfil,
In spite of season's change, its own demand,
By fluttering pinions here and busy bill;
There by caresses from a tremul…

Suffer Little Children

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Children bound to toil and tears.
Thought the shame of former years.
Woe, the heart that never hears.
Some are fettered still.

Children bent to rake and hoe;
Torn from play by plague's death-throe.
Scratching dust to make it grow.
Some are fettered still.

Children weighed with coat and gun;
Warlord's whims to serve and run.
Mocking death ere day is done.
Some are fettered still.

Children pulled from Mother's breast;
Mother, back to work impressed.
Hurried plans leave them no rest.
Some are fettered still.

Children made the sport of night;
Pawns of lust, but out of sight.
Forced by fiends who once seemed right.
Some are fettered still.

Children never taught to pray;
Taught to live Redemption's way.
Starving souls with Hell to pay.
Some are fettered still.

Children bound to toil and tears.
Thought the shame of former years.
Woe, the heart that never hears.
Some are fettered still.

I Will Bring the Victory

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(Taken from the devotional Come Away My Beloved by Frances J. Roberts)

O My Child, have I ever failed thee? Have I ever turned My back upon thee, or forsaken thee? Have I not been thy refuge and thy strong defense?

I have protected thee and kept thee in sickness and in health. Yea, I am with thee to help thee now. Fear not. My purposes will be fulfilled in spite of thy weaknesses, if in thy need ye rely on My strength.

My will shall be done regardless of the flaws in thy life, if ye count upon the power of My righteousness. I do not work only in cases where there are no obstacles; but I glory in over-ruling the prevailing circumstances, and I take pleasure in bringing victories in those places where no victory is anywhere in sight.

Reckon upon My coming. Know that whenever faith brings Me on the scene, everything is changed. Darkness is turned to light. Grief is turned to joy. Sickness to health. Poverty to My sufficient supply. Doubt to faith. Anxiety to trust.

No negative force can occup…

Nothing Shall Separate Me

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(Taken from the devotional Make Haste My Beloved by Frances J. Roberts)

O God; Thy love is as a fire burning in my soul. When I think of Thee in the night seasons, Thou art as a refreshing shower. When I awaken in the morning, my first awareness is of Thy presence. My soul delights in Thy company, and Thy words are unto me as sustaining food.

Never have I been comfortless since Thou hast come to me in the person of Thy Holy Spirit. Never have I thirsted since Thou gavest me this Living Water. Thy countenance has been my sunshine. Thy love has kept my heart tender. I am not left to grope in the dark, but Thou guidest me with Thine eye, and with Thine hand upon my shoulder Thou restrainest me.

The sky shall be rolled up as a curtain. The stars shall be cast down as falling snow. The elements shall melt with fervent heat. Kingdoms shall be destroyed; but Thou, O My God, remainest forever, and I am held in Thy hand. Nothing shall separate me from the love of God.

Didn't I Send It?

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I remember an adult Bible study session when one of the men commented on the recent earthquake devastation in Haiti. He made us aware of a time in the history of that nation when leaders fresh from a colonial experience made a public pledge of allegiance to voodoo. We know that the island is heavily into witchcraft.

Others in the group took great exception to the suggestion that God had "caused" the devastation. They reminded that the judicial hammer of the Old Testament had been over-ridden by the "golden rule" of the New Covenant instituted by Jesus, the friend of sinners.

One might take a look at the story in John 8 where Jesus spares the woman caught in adultery. Indeed the religious crowd had found her in the very act. There is no explanation as to why the male wrongdoer was not also dragged forward for censure. Jesus discerned that this defect in the process prohibited any sentence of stoning unto death as prescribed in the law. No man in the gathering was sinl…

Hear Now from an Old Man

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In Psalm 71 there are seven requests made of God. ' Be Thou my strong habitation, my rock, my fortress, my hope, my trust, my strong refuge and my instructor.'

3Be thou my strong habitation, whereunto I may continually resort: thou hast given commandment to save me; for thou art my rock and my fortress.

4Deliver me, O my God, out of the hand of the wicked, out of the hand of the unrighteous and cruel man.

5For thou art my hope, O Lord GOD: thou art my trust from my youth.

6By thee have I been holden up from the womb: thou art he that took me out of my mother's bowels: my praise shall be continually of thee.

7I am as a wonder unto many; but thou art my strong refuge.

8Let my mouth be filled with thy praise and with thy honour all the day.

9Cast me not off in the time of old age; forsake me not when my strength faileth.

10For mine enemies speak against me; and they that lay wait for my soul take counsel together,

11Saying, God hath forsaken him: persecute and take him; for th…

Christ, Our Meekness

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(Taken from Like Christ by Andrew Murray)

For every one who longs to possess this spirit (of meekness), Christ’s word is full of comfort and encouragement: "Learn of me that I am meek." And what will it profit us to learn that He is meek? Will not just the experience of His meekness make the discovery of our want of it all the more painful? What we ask, Lord, is that Thou shouldest teach us how we may be meek. The answer is again: "Learn of me, that I AM MEEK."

We are in danger of seeking meekness and the other graces of our Lord Jesus as gifts of which we must be conscious, before we practice them. This is not the path of faith. "Moses knew not that his face shone," he had only seen the glory of God. The soul that seeks to be meek, must learn that Jesus is meek. We must take time to gaze on His meekness, until the heart has received the full impression: He only is meek: with Him alone can meekness be found. When we begin to realize this, we next fix our he…

Peace as Taught By the Needy

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In his book Seeds of Hope (edited by Robert Durback) Henri Nouwen describes conditions of his residency at "Daybreak" care facility near Toronto (@1987). There his primary focus of attention was "Adam" a seriously handicapped resident, and a thoroughly needy man who brought intense meaning to such concepts as humility, patience and thankfulness:

Adam is the most broken of us all, but without any doubt the strongest bond among us all. Because of Adam there is always someone home, because of Adam there is a quiet rhythm in the house, because of Adam there are moments of silence and quiet, because of Adam there are always words of affection, gentleness, and tenderness, because of Adam there is patience and endurance, because of Adam there are smiles and tears visible to all, because of Adam there is always space for mutual forgiving and healing...yes, because of Adam there is peace among us. How otherwise could people from such different nationalities and cultures, peo…

Love's the Thing

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Do not self-improve.
Do not even try.
I dispatched my Son
And I watched Him die.
And I heard His friends
Beg the reason why.
(That they needn't die.)

And this holy life
That you strive to score
Is not bought with sweat.
Not to be a chore.
Simply probe the depths
Of my love's rich ore.
(And I have much more.)

If you must repent
Of a single slight,
Let it be your coldness
Again last night.
I was there for you
Just to hold you tight.
(To make all things right.)

It's the love you miss
In this very hour
That will save and cleanse
And endue with power.
I have plans for you
And will see them flower.
(Let my mercy shower.)

Service 'Round the Cenotaph

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I remember the times when our son served with Air Cadets in the overnight vigil preceding the Remembrance Day parade and service in Kitchener. Sometimes frosty. Sometimes rainy. The kids took shifts at posting the various cenotaph locations overnight.

A warm breakfast followed the uncommon night and cadets suited up in full for the parade. Community bands would accompany the march through the downtown. Very old veterans participated with pride and tearful nostalgia. At the cenotaph various groups presented wreaths. The trumpet last post was sounded. The moment's silence observed. The pastor's message of hope and thanksgiving and empathy for those continuing in hazardous service.

All tremendously good experience and outlook for the cadets. The cold night a vivid reminder of life and responsibility in the trenches. The fellowship with the veterans in the parade and after-reception unforgetttable.

And that is what it is all about...not forgetting. The evil capability in the heart of…

To Remember...

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The Lark

From wrath-red dawn to wrath-red dawn,
The guns have brayed without abate;
And now the sick sun looks upon
The bleared, blood-boltered fields of hate
As if it loathed to rise again.
How strange the hush! Yet sudden, hark!
From yon down-trodden gold of grain,
The leaping rapture of a lark.

A fusillade of melody,
That sprays us from yon trench of sky;
A new amazing enemy
We cannot silence though we try;
A battery on radiant wings,
That from yon gap of golden fleece
Hurls at us hopes of such strange things
As joy and home and love and peace.

Pure heart of song! do you not know
That we are making earth a hell?
Or is it that you try to show
Life still is joy and all is well?
Brave little wings! Ah, not in vain
You beat into that bit of blue:
Lo! we who pant in war's red rain
Lift shining eyes, see Heaven too.


(Taken from Rhymes of a Red Cross Man by Robert Service)

Shipwrecked

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(Taken from the narrative poem Enoch Arden by Alfred Lord Tennyson)

No want was there of human sustenance,
Soft fruitage, mighty nuts, and nourishing roots;
Nor save for pity was it hard to take
The helpless life so wild that it was tame.
There in a seaward-gazing mountain-gorge
They built, and thatch'd with leaves of palm, a hut,
Half hut, half native cavern. So the three,
Set in this Eden of all plenteousness,
Dwelt with eternal summer, ill-content.

For one, the youngest, hardly more than boy,
Hurt in that night of sudden ruin and wreck,
Lay lingering out a three-years' death-in-life.
They could not leave him. After he was gone,
The two remaining found a fallen stem;
And Enoch's comrade, careless of himself,
Fire-hollowing this in Indian fashion, fell
Sun-stricken, and that other lived alone.
In those two deaths he read God's warning `wait.'

The mountain wooded to the peak, the lawns
And winding glades high up like ways to Heaven,
The slender coco's drooping crown of plumes,
The l…

Praise God for the Broken Piece

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The Mystery of the Afikomen

By Kevin Howard & Marvin Rosenthal

Around the same time that Christians will be celebrating the Resurrection of Jesus, Jewish people around the world will be commemorating the Passover -- the time when God delivered them out of Egyptian bondage some 3,400 years ago. By biblical definition, Passover is a one-day feast (holiday) that God actually commanded to be observed as a memorial forever (Exodus 12:14). He also declared that it was to be kept by a special service (Exodus 12:25).

Since the beginning of the Passover observance, the celebration has revolved around a traditional ceremonial dinner known as the Seder. The Seder dinner is highly symbolic through the foods that are served, prayers that are offered, stories that are told and blessings and praises offered up to God.
Three symbolic foods were to be eaten: 1. Lamb, representing the innocent lamb that was sacrificed the night of the Passover [so that its blood could be put on the door …

Bring It On

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The frost was already an eighth of an inch thick on the windows of the cottage. Dale had just finished his correspondence to the Diocese at St. John's. He heard the soft chatter and giggles of Lydia and young son Derek in the other larger living room doing home-school lessons.

They had been absolutely right. The numbing dampness and lifeless gray of late October in Labrador was no small challenge to the spirits or constitution. He had accepted this missions assignment in full knowledge of the fact that their predecessors had lasted only eleven months. How strange it seemed that this one-time insurance salesman from Halifax should now find himself on the other side of seminary, a fairly placid eighteen months' under-study at Cornerbrook and a double reading of the medical-missions exploits of Grenfell; now stationed with aboriginal peoples in their preparations for the long winter.

He and Lydia maintained the assurance that they had heard from God following prayer that night in t…

Autumn Perspective

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In autumn moonlight, when the white air wan by Robert Seymour Bridges (1844-1930)

In autumn moonlight, when the white air wan
Is fragrant in the wake of summer hence,
'Tis sweet to sit entranced, and muse thereon
In melancholy and godlike indolence:
When the proud spirit, lull'd by mortal prime
To fond pretence of immortality,
Vieweth all moments from the birth of time,
All things whate'er have been or yet shall be.
And like the garden, where the year is spent,
The ruin of old life is full of yearning,
Mingling poetic rapture of lament
With flowers and sunshine of spring's sure returning;
Only in visions of the white air wan
By godlike fancy seized and dwelt upon.

Note: Yes, I spent some good time today looking at sonnet form and thought.

Honest Sympathy

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West London by Matthew Arnold (1822-1888)

Crouch'd on the pavement close by Belgrave Square
A tramp I saw, ill, moody, and tongue-tied;
A babe was in her arms, and at her side
A girl; their clothes were rags, their feet were bare.
Some labouring men, whose work lay somewhere there,
Pass'd opposite; she touch'd her girl, who hied
Across, and begg'd and came back satisfied.
The rich she had let pass with frozen stare.
Thought I: Above her state this spirit towers;
She will not ask of aliens, but of friends,
Of sharers in a common human fate.
She turns from that cold succour, which attends
The unknown little from the unknowing great,
And points us to a better time than ours.

Release the Pain!

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Forgiveness

My heart was heavy, for its trust had been
Abused, its kindness answered with foul wrong;
So, turning gloomily from my fellow-men,
One summer Sabbath day I strolled among
The green mounds of the village burial-place;
Where, pondering how all human love and hate
Find one sad level; and how, soon or late,
Wronged and wrongdoer, each with meekened face,
And cold hands folded over a still heart,
Pass the green threshold of our common grave,
Whither all footsteps tend, whence none depart,
Awed for myself, and pitying my race,
Our common sorrow, like a mighty wave,
Swept all my pride away, and trembling I forgave!

John Greenleaf Whittier (1807-1892)

Raw Material for Revival in Wales

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(Taken from With Christ Among the Miners by Howell Elvet Lewis, 1906)

PRAYER MEETINGS AND SOCIETIES
One never hears in Welsh Wales of “the week-evening address.” It is observed in some of the English churches; otherwise it is unknown. Prayer meetings are an essential part of the church’s syllabus, not infrequently even taking the place of the morning or evening service on Sundays. If the expected preacher does not make his appearance, there is no nervous disturbance. Without any ado, a prayer meeting is held, as if all had been prearranged. Not only so, but in country districts especially, the pilgrim prayer-meeting is an old and honoured institution. This means that the meeting passes in circuit from house to house - the cottage of the labourer as well as the free-holders farmstead - week by week. The present writer owes more than he can tell to the Tuesday evening prayer meeting of the neighbourhood where he was brought up, circulating in this fashion from house to house. Young and ol…

Splendid Ship

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A Passer-By

WHITHER, O splendid ship, thy white sails crowding,
Leaning across the bosom of the urgent West,
That fearest nor sea rising, nor sky clouding,
Whither away, fair rover, and what thy quest?
Ah! soon, when Winter has all our vales opprest,
When skies are cold and misty, and hail is hurling,
Wilt thou glide on the blue Pacific, or rest
In a summer haven asleep, thy white sails furling.

I there before thee, in the country that well thou knowest,
Already arrived am inhaling the odorous air:
I watch thee enter unerringly where thou goest,
And anchor queen of the strange shipping there,
Thy sails for awnings spread, thy masts bare;
Nor is aught from the foaming reef to the snow-capped, grandest
Peak, that is over the feathery palms more fair
Than thou, so upright, so stately, and still thou standest.

And yet, O splendid ship, unhailed and nameless,
I know not if, aiming a fancy, I rightly divine
That thou hast a purpose joyful, a courage blameless,
Thy port assured in a happier …