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doubt are stupid; but so are some sermons—just a few. Some novels are bad; so is some meat. But you would not argue (unless you happen to be a vegetarian) that because some butchers sell diseased meat, therefore all meat must be unwholesome. Apart from the fact that we should sometimes read for amusement—the mind needs relaxation as much as the body—there are many works of fiction pregnant with instruction. Novels are the modern form of the drama: Shakespeare would have written them had he lived to-day.
But it is our duty, as far as possible, to read all kinds of books on all kinds of subjects. Did you do so last year? You may not have much time. You may be engaged in business all day long, and this leaves little energy for reading. But have you made the most of your opportunities, such as they are? Have you really tried to know as much as you can about the wonderful world you live in, and to make yourself acquainted with the thoughts of the great and wise and good of all ages? Are you conscious of your ignorance—comparative ignorance at any rate—in every department of human knowledge? Do you seriously wish to become less ignorant? Do you really try to discover magazines, books, persons, that will teach you something? Do you know more to-day than this time last year? Have all your mental faculties during the past year been strengthened by use? If not, why not? Was it all the fault of circumstances?
Then, thirdly, there is the culture of the heart —that faculty by which we sympathise with our fellow-men and wish to do them good. We are not doing the best for ourselves unless we are doing the best we can for humanity. Self-development includes living in and for the lives of others. Have you tried to cultivate your faculty of sympathy? What have you done for others during the past year? You may have given them some money, you could hardly avoid it, it would have looked so bad if you had not; but was that all? Have you made your wife happy? Do your children feel that there could not be so good and kind a father? Are your servants glad that they are in your service? Are the people you meet at dinners and dances the better or the worse for meeting you? Are you doing anything, by your words, by your example, by your personal efforts, for the amelioration of the race? Are you trying to improve the world or any part of it,—your country, for example, or your county, your town or your parish? If not, why not? Is it all the fault of circumstances?
And lastly, as to the culture of the spirit. Complete self-development includes not only living for others, but living with God. Nothing will so help us in doing our duty to others as the thought that we are brethren, that we are the children of one common Father. Besides, in our union with the Infinite lies our own real greatness. By ourselves we are weak, foolish, erring. It is only in communion with God we realise the fact that we are in a sense, that we may become in a higher sense, ourselves divine,—perfect as He is perfect.
Now what have you done during the past year for your spiritual culture? Have you sometimes retired into a secret spot, not for the purpose of saying your customary prayers and offering up your customary requests, but that you might be alone with God? Have you tried to find a church where the service is rendered in such a way as to help your devotion? Or have you dropped into any church that happened to be at hand, so as to get the thing over as quickly as possible? Have you sought out a preacher who would teach and stimulate and encourage youl Or have you persisted in hearing sermons, the only effect of which was to bore and annoy you? Are you really anxious that your own finite life should be suffused by the infinite life of God? If not, why not? Is it all the fault of circumstances?
And to-day we should look forward as well as backward; we should consider our future ways. Have you any scheme or plan of life? If so, what is it? Will it bear serious examination? What do you intend to do this year? What are you going to make of yourself? Will you not to-day and now resolve to profit by the past and to be wiser in all time to come? Will you not to-day and now determine henceforth to do your very utmost to live a noble and progressive life?
In conclusion, I should like to wish you all a Happy New Year:—happy, if it may be so; but if sadness must come, may God give you speedily the interest of tears!
"Thanksgiving Service" at the
T HAVE three things to do to-day. The first arises out of the fact that this is our Jubilee Service. I have to express for myself and you our humble but heart-felt congratulations to her Majesty our Queen, upon the completion of the fiftieth year of her reign, and upon the outburst of enthusiastic loyalty which that event has evoked from all classes of her subjects. Never has a monarch been more worthy of a people's love. If any proof of this were needed, it is to be found in the "complete and beautiful triumph" of Tuesday last. For, as the 'Times' truly said, "In bygone ages the English people were loyal with little reflection, being ready to cheer any wearer of the crown, and even to give their lives for the sovereign, simply because he occupied the throne. In the present age, the people have become too critical for this impulsive and unreasoning devo