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reaching at last the stranded sloop, drew a fresh one to the shore; but hungry, weak, and wearied, after four days' foodless tossing through the tempest, not one of the crew had courage or strength left to use it. He again rushed into the waves; he boarded the vessel : he took them man by man, and bore them to the land. Six men were rescued thus. His seventh charge was a boy, so helpless, that twice was the hold let go, and twice he had to dive after him into the deep. Meanwhile, in breathless stillness, the crowd had watched each perilous passage, till the double figure was seen tossing landward through the spray. But when the deed was done, and the whole crew saved, a loud cheer of admirable triumph arose around the gallant youth. This chivalric action was performed by Mr. John Honey, one of Mr. Chalmers' early and cherished college friends, afterwards ordained as minister of Bendochy, in Perthshire. Though his great strength and courage bore him apparently untired through the efforts of that exhausting day, there was reason to believe that in saving the lives of others he had sacrificed his own. The seeds of a deceitful malady were sown, which afterwards proved fatal. Mr. Chalmers was asked, and consented to preach his funeral sermon on the 30th of October, 1814, the Sabbath after the funeral.-Memoirs of Dr. Chalmers.
NEW YEAR'S DAY. Once more we congratulate our friends, on the recurrence of New Year's day. We wish them all the possession of true happiness; and we trust, that as they increase in stature and in years, that they will also increase in wisdom, and in favour both with God and with man. The first of January is the time that was fixed upon by Julius Caesar for New Year's day, because it is the period of the earth's annual motion when the earth is nearest to the sun. This appointment was not much regarded until the Pope, Gregory the thirteenth, in the sixteenth century, corrected the calendar, and introduced the new style. Previously, some persons regarded the 25th of December as New Year's day, because it was considered as the anniversary of the birth of
Jesus; and, in the reign of Henry the eighth, the 25th of March was declared by law to be the birth-day of the year, which was observed until the "new style” was introduced in the year 1582. The great King of Day, indeed, has all along paid no attention to human laws and regulations concerning his movements; he has obeyed the law of the Omnipotent.
If we knew correctly the season of the year, when God said, “Let there be light, and there was light :” when the suu became the ruler of the day, and the moon the ruler of the night, and when the stars were set for signs, for seasons and years, then we might be able to determine the birth-day of time.
The Jews have had much controversy respecting this matter. Some of their learned doctors maintaining creation to have taken place in the month of Nisan, or at the vernal equinox, and that the world was created in the full bloom of spring, when everything sprung up spontaneously without any previous germ. Others have equally maintained that the world was created in the month Tisri, or at the autumnal equinox. The eastern nations seem to support the latter opinion from the names of their months. The word Tishri is a Persian word, signifying “first or beginning.” Indeed, all the names of the months at present used by Jews are of Persian origin.
The institution of the Feast of Trumpets, recorded in Leviticus xxiii. 23, 24, is supposed to be in commemoration of the creation, and to be emblematic of that rejoicing when the foundations of the earth were fastened, and the corner stone brought forth with shouting, "When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy.” Job xxxviii. 6,7. The Jews commence their civil year on the first of the month Tisri, answering to the latter part of our month of September. At this time they celebrate the festival, called, “Rosh-Hashana,” or, the Festival of the New Year. The Jews, however, have a sacred year, which commences in the month Nisan or Abib, answering to our March and April. This was instituted in commemoration of the deliverance of Israel out of Egypt.
The Jews also reckoned the years of their kings from the first of Nisan. Whatever the period of accession might be, even though in Adar, or the twelfth month, the following Nisan would be considered as the commencement of the second year of their reign. A knowledge of this fact may help our Bible classes in the study of the chronology of the kingdoms of Israel and Judah. This mode of computing time also accounts for the conduct of Herod in requiring all the children that were in Bethlehem, from two years old and under, to be slain. He had diligently inquired of the wise men what time the star appeared. It is likely, therefore, that the children to be slain were nearly all of one age. “Those born before the close of the old year, though only a few months or weeks, would be in their second year; and those born since the beginning of the year would be well described by the phrase " and under one year dd.” Probably, therefore, the order extended to infants of six months only. Yet this act was more malignant than any or all of his other acts, for he sought to destroy the Messiah. Yet, “Why do the heathens rage ? and why do the princes of the earth set themselves against the Lord, and against his anointed ? He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision.” Unto the Son he saith, “ Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever."
“ Wide as the world is thy command,
Vast as eternity thy love;
When rolling years shall cease to move." But the measurement of these "rolling years” sadly perplex men for a long time. Begin the year when they would, they had not a correct measurement of its duration. The sun travelled through the twelve signs of the zodiac in about 365 days. The Jews, however, with other nations, regulated their months and various religious festivals by the changes of the moon. But twelve lunar months consist of only 354 days, being eleven days less than the common solar year. Without some regulation, therefore, the festivals governed by the moon would return eleven days earlier every year. Moses prevented this by a wise regulation
his method prevented any very serious mistake. Instead of leaving it to the discretion of the priests to add an intercalary month, he provided that it should be regularly done as follows:
The first moon of the sacred year, answering nearly to our April was the harvest moon of Palestine. Moses called it the ear-moon; and required that on the sixteenth day, at the time of the full-moon, ripe ears of barley should be offered as first-fruits to God. At the end of the second or third year, therefore, a thirteenth month wa added to the year. This answered sufficiently well whilst the Jews resided in their own land; but afterwards, when removed to other countries, it was found necessary to adopt an astronomical rule. Hence at length a lunar cycle, or circle of years, was adopted. It was thus 'formed. Suppose that the moon should be full on a particular day in January, it would not be full again on the same day of the month, the same day of the week, and at the same hour of the day, under nineteen years. This, therefore, is called the lunar cycle, because it brings back the moon on the same day of the week and hour of the day, to the place from whence she started at the commencement. This is called the golden number, because of its great value in regulating Jewish and other festivals. In this cycle the intercalary month is seven times introduced for the purpose of rendering the average duration of the year quite or nearly correct.
Hot disputes have arisen in past ages concerning these questions! Since the cessation of the Jewish economy by the destruction of Jerusalem, the observance of annual festivals has been no longer obligatory; yet professing Christian churches have anathematized each other for a difference of calculation concerning Easter and other festivals. A superstitious regard to such things is reprehended by the Apostle Paul. “ Ye observe days and months, and years. I am afraid of you lest I have bestowed upon you labour in vain. Let us take heed that we become not entangled in such a yoke of bondage to the elements of the world."
But there was yet an error in the calculation of the solar year. This was in part discovered by observing the first appearance af Sirius, or the dog-star, in the heavens after having been hidden for a season in the light of the sun. The Egyptians “found that the risings of this brilliant star were advancing from the sun at the rate of a day in four years, which in the course of a century made a serious derangement of dates and calculations." The length of the solar year was thus discovered to be about 365 days and a quarter. The nominal new year's day came a day too soon in four years. Julius Cæsar by the aid of the best astronomers in his day, found that the Roman calendar was two months out of the proper reckoning. He, therefore, added two months to the then current year, which was called the “year of confusion.” To provide in future for the extra six hours, which amounted in four years to a day, he established the observance of leap-year, placing the extra day, as we do now, in the month of February every fourth year.
Thus it was thought the calendar was set perfectly to rights. The clock had been too slow, and the astronomers had put it forward to true time. But whereas the year had been too short, Cæsar made it a little too long; and more accurate measurement shows us “ that the true year wants eleven minutes and ten seconds of 365 days six hours. This amounts only to a day in 130 years; and Cæsar's calendar had been in use more than 1500 years before it was detected. The clock now wanted to be put back—it had gone too fast. Pope Gregory, therefore, commanded that ten days should be struck out in October, 1582. This style was not adopted in England until the year 1752. In Russia and other countries it was not adopted until about twenty years ago.
The reason has been, that coming from the Pope, it was looked upon with suspicion as intended to support the pretensions of the Romish church, rather than as a necessary result of correct astronomical knowledge. When the new style was adopted in this country, eleven days were necessary to be struck out of the year, which was also like that of Julius Cæsar's, called “the year of confusion."