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ON THE BEGINNING OF THE CENTURY.
PSALM CII. 27.
“ Thou art the same: and thy years shall not fail."
He commencement of a new year is an event which leads even the most thoughtless to some degree of reflection. There is something always solemn in the return of these stated memorials of time. They call upon us to some review of our conduct in the years that are past, and to some estimate of what we have gained or have lost in our commerce with the world. They remind us of the progress of time, and of our own progress to eternity. But, far more than all, they remind us of our dependence upon him, who is “the Ancient of “ Days;" who, while we change, “ is still the same," and " whose years alone shall never fail.”
Life, while it thus is passing from us all, leaves us the sense of its importance. It was given us for the greatest and most magnificent purpose. It was given us by Him who alone is good, that we might advance in knowledge, in virtue, and in happiness; that we might rise in the system of being to some unknown ends of moral and intellectual
perfection; and that, at the last, under the light of the Sun of Righteousness, we might join “ that in6 numerable multitude of all nations, and kindred, " and tongues, who stand before the Throne and “the Lamb for ever."
On the return, then, of those seasons by which we number our days, it is wise in us to think how our years have hitherto been employed ; what it is that we have been doing in the time we have enjoyed; and whether we have indeed been fulfilling the great ends for which we were brought into being. Meditations of this kind become us all; and, while they remind us of the magnificent purposes for which we were born, they fit us to enter upon a new year with comfort and resolution. I pray God that it may be with these solemn, but elevated sentiments, that all of us may now enter upon the new season, which is given us by “ Him that liveth for ever.”.
At this time, however, my brethren, we have entered upon a greater period. The same hour which closed the year, closed also a Century of years, and, what is to us more important, it closed the eighteenth century of the religion of Him 66 who 6 has brought Life and Immortality to light by his “Gospel.” There are innumerable reflections which will arise in every thoughtful mind upon so solemn and so unusual an occasion. The course of time has led us, as it were, to a higher eminence in the prospect of human nature. The past and the future seem more distinctly to lie before us, and
a solemn pause is afforded us, in which we can more truly estimate what life has brought, and what it is to bring.-The moment itself is profuse in instruction; and I shall limit myself to suggest to you some of those simple and obvious reflections, which seem most naturally to arise from the circumstances in which we now assemble.
1. The first and the most powerful of these reflections is, that of our dependence upon “Him who 66 inhabiteth eternity.” We are arrived, in our generation, at the opening of the nineteenth age of the Religion of Christ, and we have presented this day, to the Throne of Heaven, the same petitions which have been offered by the faithful who have gone before us, in every age of that memorable time. They are all now mouldering in their graves; but He that made them never dies. The same ear which listened to their petitions, now listens to ours. The same spirit which was in the midst of them, and the infant assemblies of the church, is in these moments in the midst of us, and of every congregation that is met in his name: and the same arm, which, in every difficulty or danger, has made the Church of Christ triumphant to our day, is still uplifted to protect the progress of the “everlasting Gospel." There is something, my brethren, inexpressibly consoling to the weakness of humanity, in this reflection : while we stand as it were amid the ruins of time, and see the races of men thus successively rising and falling before us, we see, at the same
time, the Eternal Mind that governs the whole design. We see a system carrying on, in which all thing's “are working together for good” to the wise and to the virtuous; and which is to close at last, “ in honour, in glory, and in immortality.” Meditations of this kind are fitted to strengthen and elevate every heart. They are fitted to give a voice to time as it passes, and to make it speak to us of the goodness of Him who liveth for ever and “ ever.” They are fitted still more to prostrate us, in the opening of a new age, before the Throne of Eteruity; to dispose us to cast all our cares upon that God who careth for us; and to subject every thought and desire of our own to the will of Him, in whom alone are all the treasures of wisdom, " and who” alone " was, and is, and is to come.”
2. In descending from this first and greatest reflection, we are led to consider, in the second place, the nature of that age, of which we have witnessed the close. Every thing tells us that there is some progress going on in Nature,-some advance of the human race, either to improvement or degradation ; and it is natural to us to inquire, whether the age which is gone is likely to transmit happiness or misery to posterity. In this respect also, my brethren, we have much reason for consolation.
The century which has now left us, has doubtless been one of the most distinguished in the annals of human nature. It succeeded ages of rudeness and barbarism, and has