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HOW TO BEGIN THE YEAR.
O that I might begin, continue, and end this year with God! This, we doubt not, has been the earnest wish of many a Christian, who yet already has failed to keep the Lord always before him, even for a single day of his existence. Yet it is good to have such a wish; if it be real and heartfelt, it comes from God, and it will certainly lead the soul to God. And now we should be very grateful, if any words that we can drop may help a single pilgrim towards the success of this blessed wish.
If a man begin the year with God, he will be likely to continue and end it with God. A great deal, therefore, depends upon the beginning. Hence, unless the Christian have another New Year's day for his soul, besides the New Year's day, which is so devoted to visiting and pleasure, the year is not well begun for a pilgrim. Indeed, there are few things more dissipating to the soul, or tending more certainly to distract the thoughts from pious meditation, or from such a season of self-examination and prayer as best becomes the beginning of the new year, than the running about, and calling, and eating and drinking, which are so customary:
The Christian needs to have a New Year's day for his soul; a day of holy rest and self-examination, and prayer and consecration to God, that he may recover from such distracting influences, and not sail into the bosom of the year under such a gale of worldliness.
A day is good, at the beginning of the year, for a man to retire, the world shut out, and examine his position, and give himself up to God. It is good to take account of stock, as the merchants say—to see in some measure what is the amount of one's spiritual capital-how stands the account with conscience and
with God. It is good to say within oneself, This year I may die; is my house in order ? Not
household merely, but the inner house of my soul? Am I staid upon God? Do I abide in Christ?
Is my heart sincere for him? Am I resolved to live for him ? Am I seeking the glory of my Saviour, or the things that I call my own? It is good to put these questions—to put them kneeling before God, beneath the light of his countenance, by the lamp of his word, and beseeching his grace, that the soul may answer them sincerely.
It is good also to have such a day for prayer; to say unto God, “I will not let thee go, except thou bless me;" to draw out the soul in holy importunity; to engage God, as it were, in a covenant, to be with the soul and never leave it, through every day and hour in the year. It is good to pray against temptation; to plead the mercy of the Saviour for a long time to come; to go over with one's deficiencies and sins the past year, and to weep over them, and to take warning from them; to plead with God for grace, to prevent and overcome them for the future. It is good to look upon God's mercies, and to enter the year in a fresh exercise of gratitude in view of them. "It is good to look forward over future prospects, and to say, I know not what may befall me this year; but, Lord, thou knowest, and that is enough.
“ My times are in thy hand,
My God, I wish them there!" It is good to take a view of heaven; and so to begin the year in the savour of heaven: to say, I am a year nearer my everlasting home-a year nearer my Saviour and my God -a year nearer the heavenly Jerusalem, and the innumerable company of angels, and the
general assembly and church of the first born, and God the Judge of all, and Jesus the blessed Mediator. Is my spirit ripening for heaven, in proportion as I draw near to it? Am I more weaned from the world, or more wedded to it, than I was one year ago ? Has the discipline of God with me the last year caused me to grow in grace, so that I am better prepared this year either for God's service or God's presence? Have my
Have my trials been sanctified? Is the hold of my affections on earth any more broken; and am I seeking my all in God?
It is good to say, also, I am a year nearer to death and the grave. I am so many years, so many days also. I have passed through so much of the space allotted to man's life, but have never yet met that event which is hid for me in one of the days of my mortal pilgrimage; that event, which is to change time into eternity. By so many days as have been, in the past year, taken from my probationary sum-by so many probabilities is it the more likely that I may meet that last great event in one of the days in the year on which I am entered. This year I may find that day for which all other days were made. God may have said concerning me, This year thou shalt die. Am I ready for death and eternity? Is there oil in my lamp, and is it trimmed and burning; that when the bridegroom cometh, and the cry is made, “Go ye forth to meet him," I may arise and go in with him unto the marriage? Do I mind what my Lord hath said: “At such a day and hour as ye know not, the Son of man cometh ?" but this know; that if the good man of the house had known in what hour the thief would come, he would have watched, and could not have suffered his house to be broken up. So, if I know a day and an hour in this year, in which death would come to me as my Lord's messenger, with what watchful diligence should I be waiting on God; with what faithfulness in all my duties; with what depth of feeling, with what earnestness in prayer?
Now these suppositions, and these questions, help to shew us, in a very striking manner, how we should begin the year with God. Dear Christian reader, just so as you would wish to be found living, when the cry is made, Behold the bridegroom cometh! go ye out to meet him! just so begin to live now; so begin this year with God, as you would be found living and walking with God, when the message of deliverance from the toils and dangers of this sinful world comes to you. In the spirit of such a beginning of the year with God, you may continue it with God, and end it with God; and blessed, thrice blessed, will you be, if this be the case with you.
Begin the year with a covenant with God. It is blessed on such an occasion to say, Lord, I am thine. With joy and gratitude I recognize and renew the consecration I have made of my soul and all my powers to Thee. And here, on the threshold of the New Year to which thy mercy hath brought me, and before I make one step farther into it, I thank Thee, O Father; Thee, O Saviour, that I may again consecrate these powers, this life, this being, these thoughts, these passions, this soul and body which thou hast made thy care, entire to Thee! And this consecration I renew, humbly relying on thy grace to seal it; to make it sincere and lasting; and to lead me to live every day in accordance with it. This is truly a good step across the threshold of a New Year. The first step will secure a great many steps: by God's
it may secure the whole year. It is a seal put upon the year for heaven; a package made up to be opened at the judgment, the contents being God's, and having the Saviour's seal upon it. Now it is true, that whatever you write in your own life this year, goes into that letter, whether accordant with the seal which you have put upon it or not: but the
very having sincerely so sealed up your life before-hand for God, for Christ, for heaven, will tend to bring the actions and the spirit of your life into a blessed accordance with that seal. The holy Spirit of God, on whose precious influences you rely to make your heart and your life holy, and whose aid you fervently seek, and to whose guidance in this very covenant you give yourself up, will assuredly be with you: and O, blessed assurance! the blood of Jesus Christ can and will as certainly take away your guilt, and remit your transgressions, as the Spirit can sanctify and seal you unto the day of redemption.
Begin the year with prayer. This you must do, if you begin it with a covenant. But, we say also, begin
fact of your