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THE NEW YE A R.
STANDING as we now do upon the threshold of another year, and looking with something of curiosity and suspense, if not with anxiety and dread, upon the dark curtain which wisely and mercifully conceals the future from our view, it becomes us in deep seriousness to inquire and consider, not only what may happen, but whether we are prepared for the worst that can happen : for though there is one sense in which we ought not to take thought for the morrow," there is another in which we ought. It is as much our duty wisely to provide for coming time, as it is to abstain from unnecessary, useless, and distressing solicitude. Concerning many the decree is fixed, and the sentence gone forth, which was denounced on HANANIAH,“ This year thou shalt die.”—Jer. xxviii
. 16. This may be the case with any one of the readers the present Address, and therefore every one of them should seriously reflect upon
such a possibility.
This year you may die,—you have no revelation from God that you
shall not. This year you may die -because you are ever and everywhere exposed to the causes that take away life. Life is the most uncertain thing in the world, and you have not the assurance of a single moment beyond the present.
This year you may die,-although there is now no indication of approaching death; for many who appeared very likely to live have been cut off during the past year, and many who promise as well for life will die this year,—and why not you ?
Many are the probabilities that before next new year's day your place will be vacant in the family, at the scene of your daily occupation, and in the house of God! Ought not this to induce a habit of solemn, devout, practical, profitable reflection ? Bring home the thought. Take up the supposition ; and say, “Yes, it is possible, by no means improbable, that I may die—this year.
a ? Are you,
Suppose you should ;—it is natural, on the ground of this supposition, to propose a few QUESTIONS.
Are you really prepared for your latter end, by being a partaker of genuine faith, the new birth, a holy life, and a heavenly mind? Or are you a mere nominal professor, having “a name to live while you are dead ?” Are the fruits of a living branch in “the true vine" brought forth by you ? Put the question to your own heart; ask yourself, “What am I? Am I a spiritual, heavenly, humble, waiting, working servant of God ? Am I really crucified with Christ, dead to the world, ripening for glory? Is there anything heavenly about me? Is my assurance well settled, my joy established, my temper sanctified,
walk consistent ? Am I thus ready for death and like one waiting for the coming of the Master, with his loins girt about, and his lamp burning ?”
With your grave open before you, inquire seriously into this matter. Are you living as you would wish to be found when the summons comes? Is your soul in that state in which you would desire it to be found when death calls
you in your devotional habits, your temper, your general behaviour, as you should be, with eternity so near? Would you like to look up as you are, just as you are now, when reading these lines, and see your Master coming? Would you wish to die as you are? Is there no part of your conduct, which, upon the supposition you may die this year, you should alter? Nothing in the family, the closet, the church, the should amend ?
If you die this year, not only all your plans, projects, and business of a worldly nature will stop; but all your advantages of a spiritual kind, all the means of grace, all the opportunities of salvation, will cease for ever. The last sabbath, the last sermon, the last sacramental season, the last prayer, are included in the present year! This year you are to arrive in heaven or hell, and to know the meaning of this glorious or this dreadful term!
year to see the end of time, and the beginning of eternity! How solemn! So soon to have your profession tested, not by man, but by God; so soon to be found by the King coming in to see the guests, clothed in the wedding garment, and approvedor destitute of the necessary robe, and cast into outer darkness !-Matt. xxii. 11. How many false professors will be unmasked this year, and appear with astonishment and horror, both to themselves and others, as selfdeceivers, formalists, and hypocrites ! How many, in reply to the plea, “Lord, Lord, I have eaten and drank in thy presence," will hear the dreadful response, Depart from me, I never
knew you!" In whatever character you die this year, that will be yours for ever; the seal of eternal destiny will be put upon you. From that time you will have no opportunity to correct mistakes ; no second trial; no privilege of alteration. Your last words in time might be, “ It is finished,” and your first in eternity the same—“It is finished : I must be what I am for ever." your anxieties, and doubts, and fears, about the reality of your religion, are about to be confirmed or dissipated-for ever. This year you are to be proved a most awful example of self-delusion, or a most blessed instance of well-founded hope which the universe contains. The grand secret, if secret it yet be, is about to be developed, whether you are a child of God, or of the devil. Within a few months, perhaps weeks, that next moment after death, which fancy in vain attempts to paint, is to arrive; and waking up in eternity, you will exclaim with rapture, “ Then I am in heaven," or utter with a groan of despair and surprise, the dreadful question “ What, am I in hell ?" What a year are you entering upon, then, if
should die before it closes ! What disclosures are you about to witness—what discoveries to make! Many will grow rich this year; many will sink to poverty; many will be united in new friendships; many will be separated from their friends by the vicissitudes of life; many will leave their country and embark for a foreign land ;-but you will die—and what is all else to this ?
On the supposition you are prepared for death by simple faith in Christ for justification, by the renewal of your heart through the agency of the Holy Spirit-proved by a holy life, and by a heavenly mind,---what CONSOLATIONS stand connected with, and are included in, the decree, “ This year thou shalt die!” There is a dark side of death; the antecedent sufferings, and mysterious nature of dying--the separation from near and dear relatives--the retirement from the visible to the invisible world—the dropping of the body into the tomb, to be reduced to dust—the quitting of scenes of usefulness and enjoyment,_all this, and so near too; all is trying to humanity; nature shudders. But grace turns to the bright side, and very, very bright it is ;there is the promised presence and omnipotent gracious support of Him who has abolished death by dying, and brought life and immortality to life, by rising and ascending,—2 Tim. i. 10;of Him who “ can make a dying bed feel soft as downy pillows are;"—there is the release from all the evils of sin—the parent evil; and from sickness, poverty, toil, care, fear, sorrow,
--the dismal progeny. Yes, that last pulsation which leaves the heart still, sends the soul away for ever from every fruit and effect of the fall. The believer “may lift up his head, for his redemption draweth nigh." This year he will shed his last tear over sin and sorrow. This year he will feel the last corruption, and be agitated by the last anxiety. This year he will experience his blessed emancipation from all the countless ills that flesh is heir to. Nor is this all ;-heaven is more than negatives—it is life eternal ; glory everlasting ; immortal honour ;-it is the perfection of our nature in knowledge, holiness, and love; it is the presence of God, the vision of Christ, the society of angels, the communion of spirits made perfect ;-and death introduces to all. Who would not, then, be a follower of Christ? who would not give his heart to Him ? who would not tread in his footsteps ? Such an one may go forward with courage and confidence. Death is formidable only in front; the moment the child of God has passed him, he will look back upon him, as upon an angel of light: the stream may be dark, and the water deep; but it is narrow, fordable, and once crossed, it will never be to be crossed again. “ Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord.” There is nothing, then, in this sentence, “ This year thou shalt die,” which should dismay or distress the followers of Christ.
A few DIRECTIONS and COUNSELS may be appropriate to this solemn season.
Act upon the supposition, that this may be your closing year.-How suitable is the admonition of Solomon, “ Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest !” Whatsoever is to be done, or ought to be done, whatsoever thou canst find to do, do it. Look about and consider what will you
had done, in the hour of death ; or if you could look out of
your grave after you had entered it, what would you regret you had not done, for your own soul, for the souls of
your family, if
have one, for your friends, for the church, or for the world? What would
knew for certain this were your last year? Think how you would then act as regards your personal religion. How laboriously you would mortify remaining cor
on; how carefully you would watch against sin; how anxiously you would examine your soul, with a view to supply every defect; how regular and earnest would be your secret devotions; how constant your attendance at all the means of grace; how diligent and strenuous your endeavours after universal holiness! You would say, “O my soul, thou hast but a few more months in which to die to the world, to prepare for heaven, to do anything for thine own eternal welfare, to gain a you,
lofty seat in glory; and wilt thou not be diligent to the very last exertion ? Wilt thou not lay aside every weight, and the sin that doth most easily beset thee, when thou art so near the end of thy race? Wilt thou be lukewarm, careless, negligent in anything, when so near eternity ? Up, and be doing, • Knowing the time that it is high time to awake out of sleep.'
Should you think so much about the world, its pleasures, or its business, or its honours ? What, -and about to leave them so soon! What will they be to you this day twelve months ? What will it matter to you, whether you were rich or poor ; whether you were successful or unsuccessful ? And will you not abate your undue anxiety when so near the end of your pursuits ? What,-carry your solicitude about business and profit to the grave's mouth, and die in the act of determining to be rich and great! Will you, when so near your interview with God, to receive his frown or smile, be so solicitous to gain human applause, the honour that cometh from man, and the distinctions of society? What will these things do for in the dark valley, and beyond it ?
And then as regards your conduct to others :-Parents, what will you do, can you do, ought you to do, for your children, with only a few more months to pray for them, to teach them, to warn them, to save them from hell, and to persuade them to accompany you to heaven? Men of property, think how soon all your opportunity to spend for God and his cause is to stop, and the last shilling to be given, and your wealth to pass to other hands, which, perhaps, will not part with any for those interests which are so near your
be covetous with an opened grave before you, and worship mammon on the edge of the dark valley ? Can you act the part of the unfaithful steward, when in a month or two you are to be called to the account ? Possessors of influence, health, energy, who can do much in various ways for Christ and his cause, for the salvation of men, and the building up of the church, with what vigour should you apply yourselves to the interests of religion, the kingdom of God: how firmly and how emphatically should you echo as your own fixed, intelligent purpose, the words of your Lord, " I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work.”—John ix. 4. You should put forth all your energies as one who sees that his sun is touching the horizon, and who must soon lay down his implements of labour, but who has yet much to do. Let those who are doing anything for Christ, think how soon they will do no more; and those that do nothing for Christ, think how soon they are to appear in this character, and before their Master, to