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A Monthly Magazine for Sunday Reading.

No. 6.]

MARCH, 1884.

[All Rights Reserved


folded our hands and took no notice. You think if you Sunday Talk.

were not at your place of business to-morrow, what a Au Literary Correspondence to be addressed to the Editor,

host of things would be sure to go wrong, what a 253 Argyle Street, Glasgow.

number of things would not be rightly done because Business Communications to be addressed to the Publishers,

you were not there.

You think again, some of you, if Messrs. GILLESPIE BROTHERS, Ltd., 253 Argyle Street, Glasgow.

you sat down by your looms for a little half-hour, of all that would happen. The warp would get disordered, the threads would break, the shuttle would be driving empty, the web would be spoiled, and everything would go wrong; all, if you only sat down careless for a short

half-hour. These things being so, you realize your imSermon.

portance, you see how you could not by any chance at all be done without. You see very clearly how much missed you would be if you were away

from your


only for a very short space : so while one is in health, By the Rev. P. Anton, Minister of Kilsyth.

these things all tend to foster one's ideas of his own AUTHOR OF "MASTERS IN HISTORY," "ENGLAND'S ESSAYISTS," &c. importance. But, strange to say, although we would

be terribly missed if we were away from our work for PSALM cxix. 71—"It is good for me that I have been afflicted."

an hour or two, let us be away for a week or two, a YONSIDERING the nature of my subject, I am sure month or two, a year or two, and we will not be missed there is no need I should say one single word by

at all. way of introduction to my discourse of to-day. With One evening comes. You feel strangely wearied by affliction and the sick bed we have been long familiar, the work of the past day. You leave it all behind you and when we speak of them we are not speaking of new and walk slowly away as if there was "a clog of lead but of very old friends indeed. Without further words

about your feet, a band of pain about your brow," and then we will enter the hushed chambers of the houses a sense of incapacity about your heart. Next morning of mourning, we will hear the whispers of the un- you are not able to go back again. There is your chair Wearied watchers, we will look on the thin and white empty; there is your book open ; there is your pen forms of the sick ones lying there so quietly, and we lying waiting you, but you cannot go and use them will recount together some experiences of deep distress. again. Your loom stands in the factory all quiet, while We will talk to each other of some of those things that the others beside it are busy ; your web is half completed make it sweet to kiss a heavenly Father's rod, we will and the shuttle is useless that you could work so deftly. detail some experiences of the back-lying years, we will But this does not last long. While you are lying quietly mark those beneficient issues of our tribulation which by yourself, another comes and takes the chair-your make us able to say-feeling we are telling the truth chair, and opens the book

your book, and plies the when we are saying it—"It is good for us that we have pen-it is your pen, and carries on the accounts, and been afflicted.

answers all the questions just as well as you used to do. 1. AFFLICTION GIVES US TRUER VIEWS OF OUR- While you are lying far from the clacking factory, BELVES.— It tells us distinctly, but at the same time another comes and stands before your loom and sets it very forcibly, how little any one of us would be missed in motion. The shuttle flies, the bars revolve, the in the world. Now that is a cold hard fact we do not cambs oscilate, the reeds take the woof home, the web like to bring home to ourselves. When we are going

When we are going is completed and the loom is filled again. You were about our work we see what we are doing, we see what missed for the little space, but you are not missed for we are performing every hour, we see distinctly what the long weeks, Everything goes on just as it used to wonld go wrong if we sat down for a few minutes and do. No doubt, there are many kind friends sorrowing,


with you.

but away out there the cold world is not missing you at motions of its tides and currents. So soon, however, all. You know there is nothing waiting for you to do, as our heads are laid down upon our pillows, other and nobody asking when you will be back again, nothing better thoughts come to us. The rough world seems that is not going on because you are not there. And far off, but another and brighter world seems nearer ; 80 while you are lying sick, and the bells ringing the our eyes rest on sweeter scenes than those of earth and people to church, and the whistles calling at the railway our spirits walk in diviner company.

It seems to us stations, and the ships ploughing the silent main, you that those who pass their whole lives in perfect health, get time to think how very little and insignificant you pass them at some considerable disadvantage to themare ;

how the great world would miss you but little, and selves. Good is it when summer days come round, to would go on without you just as actively as it ever did leave one's home and visit other neighbourhoods and

see other sights than those on which the eye has been I am not saying this of the commoner occupations. accustomed to rest; good is it to see the great crags I am saying it with an eye to the highest as well as to frowning on the sea, good to see the mountains capped the lowest. Affliction tells the same tale to the statesman with eternal snow lifting up their heads into the still and clergyman it does to the humblest in the land. spaces of the sky; and good is it too, my friends, to be One Sabbath morning comes: the bell rings, the con- taken by the hand of God and laid down sick upon our gregation gathers, but no minister comes.

That occurs

beds, that we may get other views than those of earth, one Sunday, but it does not occur again. Next Lord's and behold other sights than those of time. day the pulpit is filled as before, the worship goes on as And, my hearers, I am sure we never stood in any formerly, and the sick homes of the parish are all sick room—silent and with a touched heart, without comforted, as they use to be, although the venerable thinking how the one in deep distress has now other pastor goes no more out or in amongst his people, or things to think of, than those which used formerly to divides amongst them the bread of life.

occupy his thoughts. It touches me to notice how little You say, my hearers, this is all most true, but where former things are thought of then. The romance that is the good of it all. There is good in it.

There is good in it. It is good used to give so much delight and at which the sick one for a man to have his self-sufficiency taken out of him ; drank such draughts of pleasure, lies unopened nou. it is good for a man to know he can be done without. The work on history that occupied the patient's studious Although it were only that we might know how frail hours, and in which he lived over again scenes of and insignificant we are-only that our pride might be revolution or of blood, the dust falls thicker on it day checked, it would be good for us to be afflicted. by day as it lies there on the shelf. And the newspaper,

II. AFFLICTION GIVES US TRUER VIEWS OF THE —the newspaper so anxiously waited for, so eagerly read, WORLD.--In times of sickness it is not merely the case with its gossip and its politics, its spites and personalthat the world forgets us, we also begin to forget about ities, it is unopened: you notice that to-day's sheet is the world. When the hand of God is on us in affliction, piled above yesterday's, and you know that to-morrow's the world does not seem nearly so large or so important will be laid unopened on the top of it again. Standing as in seasons of health. You know how when anything in the sick room one feels in a very real way that the is viewed from a great distance it looks very small. interest of the former things has, to the sufferer, passed Some of the stars are thousands of times larger than completely away. We might speak of other scenes this planet, but they are so far away from us that they equally tender and touching, but there is little use; the seem to us to be but mere points of scintillating fire. lesson is the same from each one of them : no more, no From the sick bed we see the world as we see a star; more to the sick one are the things of the world anyit is far away and it has become very little to us. thing. And when we are laid down ourselves, how strange Formerly we used to be all taken up about it, now does it seem then we should have thought so much however, we find it looks small and insignificant. In about a thing so trivial ! that we should have estimated the quiet of the sick chamber, we find its rude voices at so great a value what is hardly worth a straw! That come to us in subdued tones, or only reach us in the we may make a correct estimate of the things about us, faintest murmurs. This is one of the fine advantages that the things of time should not occupy a first but a of affliction; it helps us to regard at their true value, subordinate place in our affections, that the heart may the fading, perishing things of earth. When we are in be raised from the things temporal to the things eternal, the world it engrosses all our time and takes


-it is good for us that we should be afflicted. attention. We conceive there can be nothing more III. AFFLICTION GIVES US TRUER VIEWS OF LIFE. glorious than its glories, nothing more honourable than Sickness fills the mind with a chastened sobriety; its honours, nothing more interesting than to watch the accompanied by the power of the Holy Spirit it makes

all our

himself a very

å man staider and more self-possessed. There is no God keep it to the end, that if we are spared to rise mistaking the man who has known much sorrow, and again, we will carry our cross with more patience, and to whom that sorrow has been sanctified. He is a man by the help of the Holy Spirit, live more for Christ sweeter, gentler, kindlier than other men. Afiction and less for ourselves. has in it a power to quicken the memory. So soon as we are laid down in the darkened room, the mind IV. IT IS IN SEASONS OF AFFLICTION THAT WE GAIN wanders away back through the past years.

In the OUR RICHEST EXPERIENCES OF DIVINE LOVE.-It is also hush of the chamber, the sins and errors of the past in seasons of affliction that we experince the largest seem to rise up again and take living forms. What we outflow of human love. In proportion as we are forthought was forgotten, we recognise then to be imperish- gotten by the outside world, when we are laid on a bed able. At such times a man may track himself in his of suffering, do we seem to be remembered by those of own snow. In the sick chamber we behold a mysterious our relations who are dear to us. As society falls away hand writing on the wall, strange fingers of terror from us, the friends of home grow ever dearer and pointing to us out of the darkness; and sins we thought dearer. In ordinary times, the wheels of domestic life long buried peering into view. Through the gloom the do not always run smoothly; when, however, affliction grey monuments rise and everyone bears its sad story in comes, it sweetens all their motions and everything indelible lettering.

moves quietly again, like a piece of freshly lubricated We fancy sometimes it has been by a desolate track mechanism. How often when the sister is ill does the that we have come; again we conceive we have passed rough brother prove

kind tender-hearted along a sea-washed shore, and there on the beech we brother indeed. Affections that slumbered or were: behold the wrecks of our broken life-purposes. Here repressed are almost invariably drawn out in the time is a hull, a hole in one of its sides and fast filling with of deep distress. Good is it to be afflicted, although it sand, and here again is a broken rudder, and here, once were for no other reason than that we might understand, more, a shattered mast. In the first days of affliction we as members of families and congregations, how much behold, with strange vividness, the broken and unfulfilled

we are loved. purposes of our days lying all along the shores of life. At And this human love should help us to understand such times, all we meant to do, but have not done, floats the sweetness of those divine experiences that come to calmly in before us like pieces of log borne on a full us in seasons of deep distress. In times of affliction tide. The lost opportunities float before our vision like many things become clearer to us about God that formerly living realities—like draggled weed in a current they were very mysterious and incomprehensible. This

clearer view does not lighten God's chastisement, but Good is it to be afflicted that we may learn the it makes us better able to bear it. Understanding what reality of life—have its inner meaning and purpose He is wanting to bring us to, understanding that He brought home to us. Let

heads be laid down for is working for our good, we then resign ourselves to & week or two, and you will then see more clearly than His will. In times of affliction, we feel that God has you ever saw before, that life's golden hours were not brought us into the wilderness that he may speak to us given to be frittered away in vain occupations, nor life's comfortably about our souls. In seasons of distress we opportunities to be wasted, nor life itself to be taken at feel he has “taken us aside from the multitude" that random or hap-hazard. You will not be long laid down He may tell us without fear of disturbance or intrusion when you will find yourself saying, If God spares me those serious things we had not time to listen to, when to rise again, I will take life differently in the future we were hard driving it in the world. from what I have done in the past. No grey monuments In the first days of illness, we usually look back only of sin will I have on my future track, no sad broken to brood, but by and bye over every grey monument of wrecks strewing my sunlit shores. You will not be sin we see standing a cross; by and bye we look back long laid down when you will feel coming on you like only to realize the need we have of Christ. This looka terrible misery, visiting you like a fierce shame, the ing back discloses a sight which touches us. Through absolute nothingness of all you have ever done for the weary, snowy waste of life we have come, we see Christ in comparison with what he has done for you. the prints of other feet beside our own, we see that all You will then see, although you have worked and toiled the way One has been walking near us although we did for yourself, yet for that Saviour who died for you and not see Him, has been close at our side although we gave himself for you, you have done hardly a thing- did not discern Him. Aye more, we see by the footspoken hardly a word. Good is it to be afflicted prints and the marks of blood that this One has been that we may make this resolve, and by the grace of following us in sorrow, following us while his hands and

swim past.



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feet were bleeding for us, following us while His heart was yearning over our erring ways.

But this is not all. When the work of affliction is perfected, a great change comes. The past sinks out of sight, the heart ceases to grieve, the past is forgotten and in days of suffering our thoughts ultimately set in that unbounded love the Father hath bestowed on us in Christ. Eventually the height and the depth, the length and the breadth of the love of God in Christ Jesus, crowds in and crowds out all other considerations and every emotion is lost in the hope that ultimately we may find rest in him. Oh! it is good to be afflicted for then from the earthly Pisgah God gives us the vision of the sinless land. Oh! good is it to be afflicted for then we feel the heavenly motions and know the love of Christ which passeth knowledge.

Good, my friends, are many things in God's world. Good is health, good is life, good are kind friends, but good also is heaven sent sorrow. And I am sure of this looking back on wife or child you have lost, looking back on the deep distress from which you have been raised and thinking of the high resolutions you have kept ever since these times, I am sure there are many of you can make these words of the Psalmist



sayfeeling how true they are—"It is good for us that we have been afflicted.”


And now unto Him who hath given us the promise of the life that now is; as well as of that which is to come, and whose grace can alone strengthen us to live, now so that hereafter we may abide in His presenceunto Him be glory for ever. Amen.

NOME years after the rebellion of the '15, in the D parish of Birse, a wild hilly district of Aberdeenshire, a schoolmaster of repute, named Skinner, married the widow of the Laird of Balfour. To this couple on the 3rd October, 1721, was born a son, John, destined to be the most remarkable of his name among his countrymen. What of sweetness, courage, or poetic fancy, the boy may have owed to his mother we cannot tell. To her training he owed nothing, as she was taken from him ere any picture of her could fill his eye or heart. Shortly after his wife's death the elder Skinner was transferred to the parish of Echt, where he taught for fifty years, with an efficiency which was remembered in the place for several generations, as we have been assured by those who knew it forty years ago. Whether he nursed his young genius on such aspects as nature presents in the Hill of Fare, the Leuchar Water, and the Loch of Skene, whether he saw the beauties of Deeside, and the rugged torrent of the Feugh, not so many miles away, we have no means of knowing. He certainly did get a most careful education from his father, and all his life through wrote Latin with ease and pleasure. His knowledge of Latin doubtless procured him the bursary which enabled him to pass from his thirteenth to his seventeenth year as e student at Marischal College, Aberdeen.

Leaving the University he began schoolmastering, like his father. While at Monymusk, in the capacity of assistant or "insett dominie" he made the acquaintance of the Episcopal clergyman, and this changed the current of his life. He became a convert. Youth is ever ingenuous and honest in conviction, and at eighteen few men think of the worldly consequences of a change of creed. As it happened, John Skinner was leaving the communion of the Church of the people, and the Church favoured by the State, for one that was suspected, persecuted and despised, and which, whatever its faults or follies may have been, has certainly never been in a position to bribe men into its ministry by any prospect of worldly advancement. He seems to have been attracted by the service and by the reasonableness of the Church order. He was neither moved by any political chivalry, nor led away by imposing ecclesiastical pretensions, or narrow fanaticism. Here, also, he began to poetise, and the longest of his poems celebrates a Christmas “Ba’ing,” at Monymusk. He delighted in the scenery, and he fell to studying and admiring human nature.


* The Life and Times of the Rev. John Skinner, M.A.. of Linshart, Longside ; Dean of Aberdeen ; author of "Tullochgorum." By the Rev. William Walker, M.A., Monymusk. London: W. Skoffington & Bon, 163 Piccadilly, W.

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