A New Year Message

Isa. 42. 16. I will lead them in paths that they have not known: I will make darkness light before them, and crooked things straight. These things will I do unto them and not forsake them.

ON a foggy evening, shortly after the opening of a new electric railway, when a service of trains had been commenced but much finishing-off remained to be done, the writer boarded a train expecting to be taken to his home-station, which was the terminus of the line. Although it bore no indication of the fact and no warning was given by the porters, the train was making its last journey for the day and eventually, after much jolting, it lurched to a stand-still and all the lights were extinguished. I sat, wondering, in the darkness and the sudden complete silence, until a door opened and the guard appeared carrying a lamp – as surprised to see me as I was glad to see him. He explained that we were “in the depot” and led me through the train to the driver’s cabin, from which we all jumped down to the permanent way – amongst a vast network of sidings. As I landed, the driver steadied me and then commenced a strange journey through the gloom, amidst and across the lines, which included live rails, referred to by the train crew as “hot ones.” These men were in no way to blame for my predicament – although others were – but immediately and uncomplainingly they charged themselves with the responsibility of seeing me safely home.

So I journeyed, a guide on each side, one shining the light of the lamp before my feet, the other with his hand upon my arm. In addition to the live rails there were rough patches and hidden obstructions. At particularly bad spots words of special counsel, such as “there are several ‘hot ones’ together here,” were spoken. At the outset I had no idea of the distance to be travelled or of the difficulties and dangers of the way – they knew, but wisely and kindly kept the knowledge from me – but at last, rounding a bend, the station lights could be seen in the distance. But this did not mean that more rapid progress and less careful walking were possible; on the contrary, some of the darkest and most difficult places were found very near the end of the journey. At last, safe on the station platform, the guides left me to continue their delayed homeward journey.

The near presence of the guides, the light for the feet, the hand on the arm, the voice in the ear – the hand and voice of those who, in fog and darkness as in the light, knew the way, knew all its difficulties and dangers and were determined to bring the traveller safely through: the need to walk only in the light of the lamp, to respond instantly to the pressure of the hand, to obey unquestioningly the words spoken by the voice, a need which continued undiminished right to the end, the longed for and eventually triumphant end – the spiritual application of all this speaks for itself. May it be experienced by each of us during 1956 in greater measure than hitherto.

“Then all is peace and light
This soul within;
Then shall I walk with Thee
The loved Unseen.
Leaning on Thee, my God,
Guided along the road
Nothing between.”

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