2 THE BOOK OF CHRISTMAS.
think of time as of a section of eternity, separated and intrenched by absolute limits ;—and thus, we seem to have arrived at a definite idea, surrounded by points on which the mind can rest. But, when the imagination sets out upon the actual experiment,— and discovers that those limits are not assignable, save on one only side,—and finds but a single point on which to rest its failing wing,—and looks from thence, along an expanse whose boundaries are nowhere else within the range of its restricted vision,— then does the morlal bird return into its mortal nest, wearied with its ineffectual flight; and convinced that a shoreless ocean, and one whose shores it cannot see, are alike formless and mysterious to its dim and feeble gaze.
And yet, notwithstanding the connexion of these two ideas—of time and of eternity—(the notion of the former being only reached through the latter)—we deal familiarly, and even jestingly, with the one, while the mind approaches the other with reverential awe. Types, and symbols, and emblems—and those ever of a grave meaning—are the most palpable expressions which we venture to give to our conceptions of the one ; whilst the other we figure and personify,—and that, too often, after a fashion in which the better part of the moral is left unrepresented. Yet, who shall personify time ! And who that has ever tried it, in the silence of his cham ber, and the stillness of his heart, hath not bowed down, in breathless awe, before the solemn visions which his conjuration has awakened ! Oh! the mysterious shapes which time takes, when it rises up into the mind, as an image, at those hours of lonely inquisition !—" And he said unto her, What form is he of? And she said. An old man cometh up; and he is covered with a mantle."—The mysterious presence which it assumes " in thoughts from the visions of the night, when deep sleep falleth on men !"— Who, as he strove to collect the mournful attributes about which his fancy had been busy, into an impersonation, hath not suddenly felt as if " a spirit passed before his face! . . . It stood still, but he could not discern the form thereof: an image was before his eyes, there was silence;" and out of that silence hath seemed to come a voice, like that which whispered to Job—" They that dwell in houses of clay, whos"e foundation is in the dust, which are crushed before the moth, they are destroyed from