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There is a Scriptural exhortation which bids us to remember all the ways by which the Lord has led us. This exhortation is always timely — but at the close of a year, it has special timeliness.
Memory is a wonderful faculty. If we did not remember, our past would mean nothing to us. All the beautiful things we see, the noble or inspiring words we hear, the gentle emotions we experience — would pass and leave no trace behind. We would learn nothing as we go through life. But memory holds and treasures up for us, all that the day brings to us. Thus it enriches us in mind and heart, and makes our life like a river, widening and deepening as it flows.
It is God's leading which we are especially exhorted to remember — the way by which he has led us. Has God truly led us all the year?
It is unquestionably our privilege, to have the divine guidance at every point — but whether we have it or not, depends largely upon ourselves. God does not force himself upon us, even in his love for us. Christ came unto his own, and his own received him not. We may refuse to be led, insist upon going as we wish, turning every one to his own way. If trouble or misfortune come to us through our own wilfulness and waywardness — we cannot charge it upon God.
But if we are submissive to God, if we accept his will, and, laying our hand in his, quietly go as he guides us — then we shall have the divine leading in all our life. This means that God will order our steps day by day, giving us our work, unrolling to us the chart of our life in little sections as we go on. Sometimes the way he leads is easy and pleasant — just the way we would have chosen for ourselves. Sometimes, however, it is hard and painful — not the path on which we would have gone. Still we know that all the way the Lord our God has led us, is a good way, however full of disappointments and trials the way may have been to us.
Nothing was more beautiful in the death of President McKinley, than the spirit in which he laid all in God's hands when it became evident that he must lay down his work and leave this world. "It is God's way. His will be done, not ours." Thus always, Christian faith should meet even the keenest disappointments, taking God's way with confidence and joy, knowing that it is best.
When we are called to remember all the way by which the Lord has led us, it is intended that we should think of the goodness and mercy of the way, and of all that God has done for us. We are too apt to forget. Many of us have an unfailing memory for the unpleasant things — for the losses, the sorrows, the difficulties of the way; while we are most forgetful of the love which attends us every step. Murmuring seems more natural and more easy to many people, than gratitude. They will take blessings, common and uncommon, from God as they come in continuous flow through the years, with scarcely a thought of praise or an emotion of thanksgiving. But the moment there is a break in the current of pleasant things — they cry out in complaint. There are people who never see the lovely things in nature. They walk through scenes of inimitable beauty in garden and field — and see nothing to admire, experience no emotion of pleasure. So there are those who live three score years and ten amid manifestations of divine love, yet never get a glimpse of God's face.
"Earth's crammed with Heaven,
And every common bush afire with God;
But only he who sees takes off his shoes;
The rest sit round it, and pluck blackberries."
God has been in all this year's life. We should look over the story now at the close, to find the tokens of his love. As we fold up the volume to lay it away among the books to be opened on the judgment day, we should write upon it "Praise be to God!"