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THE beginnings, respectively, of our civil, ecclesiastical, and astronomical year, though not coincident, are so little apart, that they may be considered as essentially the same. The true beginning of our ecclesiastical year dates from the beginning of the year of our redemption, the birth into the world of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ; and this great event we celebrate on Christmas Day. Our civil year begins on the 1st of January; and our astronomical year begins on the 21st of December, when, in our hemisphere, the sun, having completed his journey through the ecliptic, sets out afresh on his annual course—or when the earth, having finished the circle of her orbit, enters again on her accustomed round. The luminaries of heaven which thence receive their apparent motion, are thus set for signs and for seasons, and for days and for years. They tell us of the progression of time and of its changes. Beneficent, as all the Divine arrangements are, they bring us seed-time and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night. And although, influenced by our sensations and circumstances, we do not always find the conditions which these bring with them agreeable to us, we know that they are all conducive to our temporal interests and physical wellbeing. Motion and change are the effects and the signs of life. They are, as all created things and conditions are, evidences not only of original design, but of presiding wisdom. Wisdom is displayed in the adaptation of means to ends. And where can we look without seeing everything in nature working towards some useful result? There is


nothing purposeless, nothing useless. Things are formed and moved by an intelligence and power not their own, and their course is shaped by ends and towards objects not of their own origination. The only created being who has a will that impels him, and an intelligence that enables him, to deviate from the limited track which the Creator has fixed for His creatures generally, is man. But man is as completely subject to the laws of nature as other creatures are. He owes to them all that his animal nature requires; and obedience is as necessary for his welfare as for theirs. But man is subject to a higher law, because he has been created with a higher nature, than the beasts of the field, the fowls of the air, and the fish of the sea. He is endowed with the faculty of reason, therefore with the power of reflection, therefore of choice. But the faculty of reason and the powers of reflection and choice indicate not only a higher nature, but a higher destiny, than that of the creatures to whom they have been denied. What would be the nature of these gifts, if intended only for the present life? The lower animals in some respects are better provided for than we, and live a freer life and a happier. They sow not, yet they reap; they have neither storehouse nor barns, yet they are fed; like the lilies of the field, they toil not, neither do they spin, and yet they are clothed, and in apparel more gorgeous than the Eastern monarch for whose adorning all parts of the earth were laid under contribution, and the highest human skill had been invoked. Is our physical condition such as it is, only that, unlike the lower animals, we may be compelled to labour and contrive, in order that we may procure the means of supporting a precarious and sometimes painful existence, and then that our last end may be like theirs? Do not even our physical necessities themselves suggest to our reason another and higher object than the mere exertion required to supply them? Are not the wants of our bodies a powerful means for the development of our minds? If we had no wants but those which nature spontaneously supplied, we would remain in a state of nature. How wonderfully are the mental faculties expanded by the efforts which they put forth to supply the demands of the body! The whole agriculture and trade and commerce of the world have grown out of our physical demands. It is true that the whole of our mental exertions are not needed nor made to supply our physical wants. The mind has its needs and cravings as well as the body. Hence arts and sciences that transcend our physical wants. But those which have been produced to satisfy the cravings of the mind would never have existed if the faculties had

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