A Sermon Delivered by FRANK CORNELL January 1, 1905 at New Market Friends' Church, Ontario, Canada.
Insert in The Canadian Friend, Vol. I, No. 8 (January, 1906.)
This is The Quaker Homiletics Online Anthology, Part Four: The 20th Century.
Ringing bells and clanging chimes have announced to the world that time's steady march has
brought us to the beginning of another year. How strange it seems; how reluctantly we give up
the old. For some days yet most of us will write 1904 instead of 1905. But many friendly
greetings and kind wishes have convinced us that we today are standing on the threshold of a new
year. As we see 1905 stretching before us, we try to peer into the future and see what burdens,
what pleasures, what joys, what sorrows, the year may have for us. 1905 holds its secrets so
closely however, that to most of us, they are hidden from view. There may be a few persons,
possessing that wonder gift, that the Scotch call "second sight," who may indistinctly discern the
faint shadows of some coming events, but it is questionable whether such a perspective is a
blessing or not. I think Alexander Pope has wisely said:
Heaven from all creatures hides the book of fate, All but the page prescrib'd, their pre- sent state, From brutes what man, from man what spirits know Or who could suffer being here be- low? * * * * * * * * * * Oh, blindness to the future, kindly given, That each may fill the circle marked by heaven.
But while it is true that we cannot penetrate the future by looking ahead, we may know something
of what it hold in store for us by looking at the past, for "that which is to be hath already been."
As we glance at the past, I think there is much to encourage us, much to make us look into the
future with bright hope. Each year sees this world take a step out of the darkness of sin into the
sunlight of god. The cause of peace has perhaps made greater advancement during the year just
closed than any previous to it.
The work of the Hague Arbitration Tribunal, and the International Peace Convention of Boston,
proclaim in the loudest terms, that the world is beginning to see the sin and folly of war. The
blessed seed of peace has been sown in many lands, and I think there are those in this church this
morning, who may live to see the time when war between civilized nations will be a thing of the
As I look at the year gone by, I see another sign of the world's progress. The welfare of the
masses has become the study of men of wealth, influence, and education. Millions have been
freely given to endow schools, colleges and free libraries, to help the poor. Thought, care and
work, have been expended to better the lower classes of the great cities of the world. Wise and
goodmen have taken the temperance question in hand and have tried to arrive at a proper
solution. We all smiled when we heard of Bishop Potter's "church saloon," but we may look for
good to come from this experiment. Not that I have nay faith in the "church saloon" method, but
because it came from honest hearts who wished to be good to their fellow-men and who said to
themselves "We must not take away the poor man's club-house without giving him a substitute."
And while I think the church saloon will soon pass away as a fruitless experiment,, I am greatly
rejoiced to see wealthy, influential, christian men so concerned for their poorer brothers, that they
are willing to spend and to be spent to uplift them. God will bless the earnest effort of honest me
to uplift the fallen, and this strange scheme shall, in some way, be productive of good results.
I think too, that the politics of our country are growing purer. I know that there have been
unearthed some dastardly plots to steal elections, but men of both political parties have blushed
with shame and have done their utmost to bring the guilty ones to punishment. The character of
the candidate for political honors, is more considered than in the past; we are looking for men
who regard the Golden Rule, rather than for candidates who can draw votes.
Not only do I see signs of advancement as I view the secular world, but the leavening influence of
the religion of Jesus Christ is to be seen, no matter which way we look. Thousands of workers
and millions of consecrated dollars have gone to heathen lands. The churches of our own land no
longer look upon one another with holy horror. There is a desire for greater union, and the hard
and fast forms of creed are giving place to the broader principle laid down by our Lord when He
said "Ye are my friends if ye do whatsoever I command you."
Looking at our own denomination we see evidences of advancement. It is true, that we are not
numerically a strong church, but members do not mean everything. That we have in the past, been
a mighty weapon against evil, is to be seen in the fact that the great moral reforms first advocated
by our society, have been endorsed by most other churches. Abolition of slavery, temperance,
prison reform, peace, and many other great reforms that have blessed this world, were first
introduced by Friends. And the Friends are not dead; there are on this content alone over 115,00
and this vast army under the blessing of heaven, shall go forward to do great things for God and
humanity. If we fully consecrate ourselves to His service, He will bless us. The world needs
Quakerism as much today as ever. Our past achievements do not warrant us casting aside our
armour. There are many battles yet to fight, and many blessings yet to come to this world through
the Friends, if only we are faithful to our trust. God is still God, and He will bless us if only we
will put ourselves in the way of blessing. Let us then, beloved, not forget the condition of our true
membership with the great Head who said "A new commandment I give you, that ye love one
another. As I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are
my disciples, if ye have love one to another."
But there is in our text a wholesome lesson for all who desire to know what the year to come may
have in store for them as individuals, for "that which is to be hath already been." Have we had
seasons of doubt during the year that has gone? We will have them in 1905. Darkness and gloom
come to each individual at times. There will be seasons, when we must look thru the mists about
us and say as did the Psalmist "Yea though he slay me, yet will I trust in him." Lady Henry
Somerset tells us that in the darkest hour of her life she was struggling with doubt and saying "Is
there a God?" when there came to her this message "Live as though I were, and you shall know
that I am." So too, if we live at all times, as if there were a God, we shall soon know of his living,
Have we made mistakes during the year gone by? We will make them in the year to come; but our
mistakes of the past should be warnings to us in the future. Have you ever noticed that the
mistakes men make are usually when they are naturally strong? Abraham, the faithful, distrusts
God; Moses, the meek man, gets angry; Peter, the rock, denied his Lord. So too the mistakes that
we have made during the year gone by are in the very places where we felt secure, and so we
were unguarded. Canada would, undoubtedly, have been a French possession today had Wolfe
not found the unguarded spot. The enemy is sure to do that. There is but one place of security,
and we should say at all times, "I life up mine eyes to the hills from whence cometh my help;"
"For who is he that will harm you, if ye be followers of that which is good?"
But some of us, as we look back over the year that is past, see that we have not accomplished
very much. What is the reason? I believe the greatest reason of our failure is that we have not
tried. Heaven helps those who try. He helps only where we cannot help ourselves. Someone had
said that "God made tree to grow for builders, but he made no houses." Man must do what he is
able, and God will take up the work when man can go no farther. See the blessed Master standing
before the tomb of Lazarus while men roll away the stone. Surely the same power that could call
the dead to life, had no need of human aid, but man has his part to do.
"Faith will remove mountains, but it is the faith that goes at the mountain with shove and pick."
Fred Douglas tells us in his autobiography that he prayed for freedom for many years, At last one
day when engaged in prayer, he heart a voice from heaven say to him, "Fred, pray with your
legs." He obeyed, and in thirty days had reached the land of freedom. If our prayers for 1904 have
not been answered, let us se if we have not failed to express our faith by action.
God wants each one of us to make 1905 a better year than the one that has gone. Said one of the
great Italian masters to his favorite pupil, "Paint me a picture." "I cannot paint a picture for such a
worthy master," replied the student. "But do it for my sake--for my sake," was the response. The
student shut himself away in his studio, and worked week after week, and month after month, and
at last he returned to the master and said "Come and see." When the curtain was drawn, the
greatest picture of the age stood before them, "The Last Supper," of Leonardo da Vinci.
1905 lies before us a clean canvas and our Mater says to each one of us "Paint me a picture." If
spared to come to the close of the year what will we have to show Him? It may look to us a
miserable daub, a failure, but if in it the Master sees evidences of honest effort, He will be well
Many years ago, a Quaker mother in Pennsylvania found he six year old son had made a picture of
his baby sister. His brush was the hairs of a cat drawn in a quill, his colors were the juices of
berries, chalk, and charcoal. The mother kissed the boy and said "Well done," for she saw in the
crude drawing the honest effort that years after made Benjamin West, President of the Royal
Academy. So too, each year of faithful endeavor enables us to do better work in the years to
The clean canvas of 1905 lies before thee, my friend. Use the brush of opportunity, and apply
knowledge, temperance, patience, brotherly-kindness. See that all be well mixed with love and thy
picture, though it may not satisfy thee, will please the Master; and there will be far more in it than
thou art able to see from day to day, for it will be retouched by an unseen hand.
You have, no doubt, read of the wonderful painting exhibited at the World's Fair at St. Louis this
summer, entitled "In The Shadow Of The Cross." It has astonished the scientific world. Its history
briefly is this. An humble, New England artist was painting a portrait of Christ. When his picture
was near completion, going into his studio one night for a sheet of music, he was astonished to
see back of the figure that he had painted, a shining cross. He had no thought of a cross while
painting, and had used no luminous paints. There was far more in his picture than he had
expected. May is be so with thy endeavor for the coming year, and when thou dost reach the land
immortal mayest thou see thy consecrated effort retouched by the Master's hand, adorning the
jasper wall of the celestial city.