Almighty God, thou dost train us to strength and lead us to peace by thine own way. What strange things thou dost permit us to see; they shock our sense; yea, sometimes our piety revolts, and we begin to ask our souls most painful questions. Sometimes it seems as if thou wert absent altogether from thy creation, or as if thou hadst turned away from it in disdain, and left all men to do what they please. We have seen the wicked in great power, and spreading themselves like a green bay tree, and we have wondered where their root was, and how they came to be nourished by the light and the dew of heaven; they are not in trouble as other men: their eyes stand out with fatness; their houses are full of beautiful things, and their stables are full of horses, and as for their fields they abound in grass and in corn; and we have said to ourselves, surely God hath forgotten his own children, and hath lavished his love upon men who never name his name. The evildoer has outrun the doer of good, and has had rest and peace and plenty and fatness, when men whose souls are pure have been left without to lie down where they might, and suffer all the ills of contemptuous fortune. Behold, we have looked upon these things, and we have no answer to them. If they lie within the compass of time, then are we without reply to the mysteries which they present. Whilst we say these things our hearts go down within us; yea, they sink like lead in the waters. Then a voice is heard, saying, Their time is very short, their rope is very little, their opportunity is but a moment long: presently they will consume like the fat of lambs, into smoke shall they consume away, and the place of their root shall know them no more, and their evil shadow shall be chased from the earth. So then we take comfort in the words we have read—for ever; yea, for ever. Then any little measurable time set against this infinite period is as the twinkling of an eye, or as a watch in the night; it is nothingness and disappointment. Then we hear still further music from heaven: Rest in the Lord, wait patiently for him; commit thy way unto the Lord, and he shall bring it to pass; trust in the Lord, and do good. Such exhortations elevate us, bring us to a new level and tone of mind, and make us feel that we are not yet without teaching and without spiritual direction. Thou hast thine own way of teaching thine own school; we cannot tell altogether what it is, but we have come to believe that it is well, wise, best; we are now willing to do what once we could not do—to wait, to stand still, to expect and hope. This is thy miracle wrought in the heart. We praise thee for it. Once we were blind, now we see; once impatient, now time is nothing to us: the days come, and linger for a moment, and fly away, and the years are rounded off and the hour of consummation draws near. We bless thee for all thy care—tender, minute, full of detail, so that every moment has been treated as an eternity, and every pain as an agony, and every cry of sorrow and need as a mighty prayer. Thou hast anticipated all our wants: whilst we have been praying for them thou hast been spreading the table, so that when our eyes have been opened the feast has been ready. When we have said, we will hasten unto the sanctuary and tell God this, behold messengers have met us to say the prayer is answered. We thank thee for all personal testimony, for direct individual oath, sworn in the court of the universe and in the presence of men and of angels. We thank thee for the assurance that we are standing upon a rock, that what is over us is God’s own blue sky, full of hidden stars and warm with coming summer. So now we have no pain, or fear, or grief, dragging us down into unfaith and despair, but we know that the word of Jesus Christ thy Son shall be realized, that thy kingdom shall come, that thy will shall be done on earth as it is done in heaven, and that thy day will burn as an oven against all evil. We cannot give up this holy truth, this poetry of the soul, this revelation of God; it is most to us when the world is least to us: disappointment helps our prayer; the emptiness of the world suggests the fullness of heaven; when there is no water in the channel, when our feet are pained and bruised by the rocks over which we pass to seek thy fountains, behold a voice says, The river of God is full of water. All this we have learned in the school of Christ under the discipline of the Cross and under the inspiration of God the Holy Ghost. We have learned this because of thy providence in the ages gone. All past time gathers up its fullness in our experience; so that we are not ourselves only: we represent the generations that are passed. We increase the faith of the olden time; we add to it our own experience, and speak it all with our own accent. Look upon men as they need to be looked upon. Too swift a glance would kill some men, because they are so weak; look gently upon those, as if not looking: come to them as a dawning day rather than as a flash of lightning. Speak comfortably to those who are much cast down, whether through bodily infirmity, or circumstantial difficulty, or domestic perplexity, and breathe into such the spirit of hope. Comfort those who do not know what to do because of the many ways which lie before them—some full of temptation, and others hard with difficulty. Be thou the guide and light, and a lamp unto the feet, a directing voice in the soul; then shall men be delivered from perplexity and led in an open way. Pity those who have seen how bad a master the devil is, and how hot are the wages of sin,—fools who have been led miles down the wrong road, and who have been evasive and false and equivocating, who have tampered with evil, who have compromised with wickedness and have gone near to being criminals, but who this day see how foul is the wrong road, how detestable is the evil spirit, how awful is the pit of hell. They have come back; they are in thy house; they are scourged; they are bent down; they feel that their bones are full of arrows, and that a spear is in their heart Wherein they repent and shed true tears of contrition, thou wilt be pitiful to them, and merciful, with an infinite gentleness, and even they may be brought to see how good a master is Christ, how mighty a Redeemer bows his head upon the Cross. The Lord permit us to walk still in his way, and teach us by the sufferings of others how we may avoid some suffering ourselves; may the lessons of the day not be lost upon us; may the events of the time be eloquent preachers, discoursing of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come; and lead us to say to the living Father, hold thou me up, and I shall be safe. The Lord heal broken hearts; the Lord himself make soft the bed of pain and the pillow of weariness; the Lord set a lamp in the house at midnight; the Lord receive the prodigal with open arms. Cleanse us by the precious blood—the blood of Christ, the atoning, sacrificial blood,—the mystery of eternity, the mystery of love. Amen.