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We have now entered upon the commencement of another year--the one which has just passed over us has gone to mingle itself with the infinity of that bygone duration which can never be recalled-we have been spared whilst others have been cut off, and none can tell who will remain to hail the beginning of that which will succeed the present. We have always looked upon the commencement of a new year with solemnized feelings, and we have felt an indefinable species of awe overshadowing our spirits with melancholy, when we reflected that we had approached one year nearer“ to judgment-one year nearer to the precincts of eternity, and that too trifling had been the preparation made for meeting the awful change which awaits us. The giddy may hail it with thoughtless frivolity—the careless may dismiss the consideration of its approach without one effort at serious meditation ;-and the profligate may plunge deep into the unballowed vortex of forbidden indulgence: but we envy not the lethargic indifference of the one party, nor the wild excitement of the other we desire to grow wiser and better as we advance in years, and to profit by the study of the past; and we hope to be stimulated ourselves to redoubled exertion, in the performance of our duties for the future. Are there no interesting associations connected with the termination of a past year, or with the commencement of a new one? Yes, verily; when we review the past, it is fraught with the lessons of wisdom and of instruction ; and when we endeavour to penetrate the future, to push our thoughts forward amidst its undiscovered scenes, how serious, how heaven-directed should be our feelings! We know not what that future
reveal to usthe loftiest flight of speculative fancy stops at its very margin, nor dares to trace those coming events which human wisdom cannot even pretend to scan. We wish not, however, to imitate the calm-he may call it, if he pleases, the philosophic, indifference of that man who, passing along the stream of
time, becomes so completely submersed in its currents, as not to be able to cast one glance of memory over the past, nor one sobered thought toward the future: he may be calm, but we fear that his is the calmness of spiritual death; he may
be philosophic, but it cannot be the noble philosophy of the Gospel which he practices, it is the benumbing lethargy of the stoic; it is not the calmness of Christian hope and resignation; it is not the heaven-inspired philosophy of the follower of the Son of God. True, it is not any morbid species of sentimentalism that can profit us, that may for a time cast its shade of gloom around the soul of some, but are they rendered better in consequence of this transient depression of annual spirits with which its influence is accompanied ? No, we fear they are not; the vigorous, spirit of Christian hope is wanting ; the true, the manly magnanimity, which is ever the product; of the philosophy of the Gospel, is not there. Let us not then brood with feelings of gloomy melancholy alone over the past, the remembrance of it can alone be beneficial by, producing a reformation for the future; there is an exalted spirit of Christian meditation upon a past year, which, whilst it touches the least intellectual mind, extends its influences to the noblest and most powerful with which the Almighty Creator has ever gifted any member of the innumerable family of man.
We have already mentioned that there are lessons of wisa dom to be derived from meditation upon the past, but it will not be possible for us to follow the train of thought which presents itself to us the subject would then become too ex-i tensive for our pages, and we will be compelled to satisfyi ourselves with a few gleanings from the rich field which presents to the reflecting mind such an abundant harvest of in.. struction. No flight of years, however, can give wisdom to the foolish-no passage of time can reclaim the wicked and the immoral; it is the grace of God which can alone convert the soul of him who is grovelling in the depths of profligacy and, debauchery; it is his power alone which can subdue the stubborn, rebellion of the notoriously wicked, and make them a willing; people in the day of his
power. Whilst our prayer ascends to our heavenly Father for the conversion and recovery of such characters, we address them not in the following observations-our thoughts have rather a reference to those who : have suffered bereavements and sorrows during the past year, and those who entertain serious views respecting death, judge, ment, and eternity. These are the subjects which naturally suggest themselves to us at the commencement of a new year, i
Man that is born of a woman is 'of few days and full of trouble: he cometh forth like a flower, and is cut down; he fleeth also as a shadow, and continueth not.” Such is the testimony of the Sacred Scriptures to the present situation and consequent mortality of all the family of man. The longest life that ever has been granted by the Almighty Maker to any
individual of the human race, is, when compared with the interminable duration of eternity, only a few days; and even these days, few and fleeting as they are, have troubles so rapidly succeeding each other, that in the emphatic declaration of the sacred writer, they are full of them. It does not require us to enter into a philosophical disquisition on the economy of the moral government of God to prove the truth of this declaration; nor shall we involve ourselves or our readers in the labyrinths of metaphysical argumentation, in order to 'establish the doctrine of the justice, and even mercy of fod, in the infliction of those chastisements' which bring troubles and sorrows to the hearts of men-our object is rather 'to point out that spirit of unrepining resignation with which we should bow beneath the afflictive dispensations of our Almighty Maker. Do we for a moment question the truth of the declaration, that the days of man are full of trouble ?we have only for a moment to turn our thoughts to the past history of our race; and what will it exhibit to us? Can we, from amongst all the mighty myriads of human beings who have floated down the stream of time, find one who has been exempted from his common share of the sorrow's and afflictions which environ the path of man in his brief career from the cradle to the grave ? No, we cannot find one; but why should we endeavour to penetrate the dark shades of years which have long since fitted past? we would only discover the ravages which the hand of time has inflicted upon our racé, when all
, after spending their few years, and these full of trouble, have had the original sentence passed upon them, “ Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return. look to the world as it is around us- let us look to ourselves who are mingling amidst its multitudes, and the truth of the statement will at once force itself upon our minds, that no matter what be our situation, no matter what be the relations of life with which we stand connected to the world, no matter what be the possessions of which we claim the inheritancestill we are notexempted from the universal lot of our species, we are the creatures of a few days, and these are full of trouble.
Is this world, then, a scene of uncertainty and of troubledo we feel the pang of sorrows, of disappointments, and of afflictions, from the first moment of our existence, to its last expiring struggle ? it was sin, if we believe the Sacred Scriptures, which introduced these, and all the other evils which embitter the short space of our few and weary days. The man who, in his own folly, looks to any other cause for them, shows that he is neither directed by the true spirit of sound philosophy, nor actuated by the feelings which should animate the bosom of the Christian; he is a mere child in his knowledge of the economy of God's moral government he has satisfied himself with a mere superficial view, both of the philosophy of religion and the laws of morals. Read that wide page which is printed by the types of nature itself
, and which is spread out in all its loveliness and beauty around us read the word of God from its commencement to its terminą
will find that it was sin which first unsheathed the sword of the Almighty's displeasure against man
--itis sin that has dragged down upon him whatever misery and trouble he endures here;- and it is sin that will rivet upon his soul the sentence of eternal condemnation, which shah banish him for ever from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his
are, however, two seasons of chastisement, the one here in this world, the other in a future and eternal world. These punishments differ materially in their design, and we ought to discriminate between them. Inaccuracy of ideas
upon this subjeet, has led to various errors in the doctrines of several professing Christian churches,- from this source has
sprung the doctrine of purgatory, with all its foul abominations, as professed by the Church of Rome; and from the same has sprung also the licentious and demoralizing doctrine of universal restoration, as held by the English Unitarians. It is worthy of observation bere, how true the old adage is, that extremes often meet; for it must be evident to every person, that this doctrine, as held by Unitarians, is only the Romish antiscriptural opinion of purgatory dressed up in a new form. The punishments which God inflicts in a future world are, in all respects, punishments of reward ; nor do the Scriptures furnish us with the slightest evidence for believing that he has any design of the ultimate restoration of the criminal by their infliction. But whilst the afflictive dispensations of the Lord do partake, in this world, of the character of retribution for iniquity, which is essential to vindicate the character of the Deity from the foul stain of injustice, they
have besides another design, and that is, the moral and scriptural improvement of the person who is suffering under them. The disciples of Jesus are chastised by the Lord, that they may not be condemned with the world; and this we have every reason to believe, is the ultimate object which God uniformly has in view in the visitation of afflictions, except with those who have bid defiance to the Sovereign Majesty of heaven, and have hardened their hearts still more and more in their own impenitency, until God gives them over to a reprobate mind, and swears, in his wrath, that they shall not enter into his rest. We may see, from these observations, two reasons why we should be patient and resigned under afflictions; first, because we have sinned, and consequently have deserved them; and second, because God designs by them to bring us nearer to himself-to humble us at the foot of the cross of Christ, that we may be sprinkled with that blood which cleanseth from all sin-to teach us our weakness, that we may seek for the strength and illumination of the Spirit—to wean us from this world, and to make us know that it is merely the wilderness of our wanderings, through which we are doomed to pass, before we arrive at the land of promise and of eternal rest. God expects that men should abandon their follies and their crimes when he afflicts them; and hence the prophet lamented in his day, as we have too much reason to do in our own, that “the people turneth not to him that meeteth them, neither do they seek the Lord of hosts.”—Isa. vii. 13. In the fourth chapter of Amos, where the prophet recounts the various visitations of God's displeasure upon the rebellious Israelites, the constant complaint of their hardened impenitency is mentioned at the conclusion of each 'announcement" Yet have ye not returned unto me saith the Lord.”
Let this never be said of us; but whilst we humble ourselves before the chastising hand of God, whilst we bow in patience and resignation beneath our afflictions, let us also endeavour for the time to come, to manifest a spirit of holier obedience to our God-let us enter into a closer communion with the Lord our Redeemer, that all things may work together for our good and for our eternal welfare.
These dispensations of heaven ought to impress upon our minds, that all earthly comforts, and joys, and hopes, are fleeting, uncertain, and perishing. If the Almighty did not thus in his mercy sometimes deal with us, we would look for more happiness from the things of this world than they can really bestow; we might forget the momentous truth, that we