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A DAILY THOUGHT FOR THE FIRST MONTH OF THE YEAR 1851.
* Fifty-one! The year's begun!
1. BEGIN the year well; with enlightened meditation, seriousness, and prayer, relying implicitly on the care and kindness of the God of immutable fidelity and love, and it will proceed well, and end well. You know not what may occur this year; but leave all with Heaven: God will dispose everything wisely, and for your ultimate good.
2. In commencing the year 1851, let the inquiry be searchingly proposed— “How are we living *" Is it in the exercise of faith? in the spirit of holiness? under the influence of prayer? or in the neglect of everything which is spiritual and divine—everything associated with our happiness and salvation? This is a most grave inquiry for every reader; let it be seriously pondered upon.
3. During this year, and, indeed, every year, let us confide implicitly in
nothing of a sublunary nature: if we .
do, we shall indubitably be disappointed, and shall act with the utmost weakness and folly. Mutability is identified— essentially interwoven — with everything that is terrestrial. We can securely and infallibly depend on no object but what is heavenly. Where is your dependence fixed 2 You are not relying, are you, on any of the streams of earthly comfort? If so, how greatly will you be disappointed! 4. This day, every day, let me walk with God — as Enoch did — as Noah did — as Abraham did—and the day, indeed every day, will be one of pure affections, of elevated thoughts, of sublime resolves, of holy desires, and
heavenly communion. If you thus walk, dear reader, you will partake of angels' food, and cherish the angelic spirit; yes, and more, you will possess the temper of the Son of God himself. 5. The first Sabbath in the year. Let it be a memorable one. Let it be one of special humility, special reflection, special gratitude and praise. Be determined that it shall not pass away listlessly and unimproved. Be resolved, in God's help, that a singular blessing shall result from its engagements and services. Commune with God pre-eminently, believers! at the table of the Lord this day: it may give a tone to all the succeeding Sabbaths of the year. 6. As the days revolve, do you not feel how great is the weakness of man? That excellent old writer, Mr. Shower, observes, “He cannot carry his own wishes, without falling under them. He cannot prosper in his designs, without being changed in the temper of his mind upon every success." If we were to have our wishes uniformly gratified, we should be ruined. Do you feel, reader, in this manner? 7. Human life, it cannot be too earnestly remembered, is too precious to be trifled with ; much less, frittered away. By multitudes, however, it is wantonly and criminally squandered, without reflection and without remorse. A long life passes away, with many, without any regard to its object and end—without any improvement whatever. My soul! how is it with thee? What report does conscience furnish? Is life properly estimated? Ever consider that its due appreciation is of transcendent importance. 8. It is a contemplation the most impressive and wonderful, that our present existence, instead of being the whole, or the greater part of our duration, is, in fact, comparatively nothing. It is only a drop, when contrasted with the ocean;
a moment, when viewed in connexion with eternity. Our future existence will be boundless, undefinable, inconceivable. We shall be ever in happiness, or ever in misery. What a thought! Let us, then, at all times rightly and profoundly estimate our present existence; but we can only do so when we associate it with immortality. 9. The acute Cecil observes, “We seldom discern mercy in its first approach. Does it prune away the finest branches, nip the loveliest buds, and cover the earth with blossoms?" Yes, this is frequently the Divine arrangement, and it is the arrangement of Infinite Mercy. It must be remembered that the life of the whole often depends on the removal of a part. Mercy will then wound, in order to heal. Regard to the fertility of the tree will strip off its most flourishing suckers. Always endeavour, dear reader, to discern mercy in your afflictions: nothing will more sustain and tranquillise. 10. As the professed disciples of Christ, you should be studious at all times to realise “a better country, that is, a heavenly.” It will operate most beneficially and powerfully. It will wean you from the present world. It will stimulate you in the prosecution of your journey. It will compose and strengthen you under your daily and hourly trials. It will induce you only to pitch your tent here, and to be continually looking for the celestial city—“the city which hath foundations." Is this your character? Are these your views? Are these your anticipations? 11. In passing through life, how often we need “the rod"—the discipline of Providence, painful, yet paternal. Still, let us remember that the rod has a voice. When God strikes, he addresses us. Under such circumstances, let us attend with, peculiar earnestness to his communications. The voice is that of the best Friend, and of the sagest Counsellor. Indeed, it is the voice of Heaven. Never let us put our finger in our ears when
the rod is speaking. How many do this They will not hear. 12. The second Sabbath in the year ! How did we value the first Did we afresh consecrate ourselves to God, and resolve to walk with him more humbly, to serve him more cheerfully, and to persevere in his ways more vigorously than ever? Was it a profitable Sabbath? was it one of much spiritual enjoyment? Let us properly regard this Sabbath, and remember that every Sabbath should be improved by us as carefully as though it would be our last. 13. Consider, in all your engagements, and all your contemplated movements, dear reader, what a span of life, even though protracted to its utmost duration, lies between you and the grave; and, if you would appropriately estimate its value, review your past life, read the heads of its history at a rapid, though not a trifling, glance, and measure, by this moment, the future. 14. By the lapse of months and years, that vagueness and indefiniteness are removed, and that silent and imperceptible movement, which would otherwise accompany the flow of time. By the revolving year, we are enabled, in some degree, to ascertain the point, as to this mortal life, on which we stand; and certain measures are afforded by which accurately to compute the sum of the past, and to calculate, by experience, the probable amount of the portion yet to come. As the months roll away, carefully observe the revolution. 15. How startling, reader' is the reflection, and how it ought to impress every heart, that the end of all things is at hand, even though myriads of years were interposed between us and the last day! Our doom may be sealed in an instant—“in the twinkling of an eye,” it might occur; and when it does, will be fixed and irreversible. 16. During the present year, if life be prolonged, desire to improve in everything that is excellent and divine; pray habitually that you may improve; strive earnestly that your improvement may be visible to yourselves and others, and be assured of this, that it will be apparent. By God's help, you will, you must succeed, if you are determined that the end of your desire may be secured. It is the idle, listless, irresolute profes. sor who does not prosper. 17. Let us this year look around in the world, and see how little, comparatively, is done. How much mind lies waste for want of culture | By attention, by labour, by skill, it might be most productive. How many immortal beings, in relation to their moral, their religious, their undying welfare, are utterly neglected! Ministers! parents! teachers! members of churches! we must all arise, and work for God. Let none of us stand with folded arms. In reference to ourselves, let us endeavour to correct what is wrong, and improve what is right; and in relation to others, let us aim at lessening the sum of human misery, and augmenting the amount of human happiness. 18. Be exceedingly anxious, this year, to cultivate a grateful spirit. Consider what God has done for you already, what he is now doing, and what he has engaged to do. Every year, as it comes, and as it rolls away, should find you more thankful. What personal mercies are imparted ' What domestic comforts are afforded ! With what relative blessings are you crowned How mercies accumulate day by day!—and they are all bestowed on the most undeserving! Never expect that God will give you that for which you will not thank him. 19. The third Sabbath in the year! How quickly Sabbaths come, and how swiftly they depart! We can scarcely say, “They are here," before they have vanished. Their opportunities are soon gone; their enjoyments, their privileges, their priceless blessings, are soon realised: and the world, with all its cares, temptations, and dangers, speed
ily follows. How necessary, then, is it to redeem the time of the Sabbath!— not to lose a moment, as every one is golden; not to neglect an opportunity, as every one is most precious; not to undervalue a single privilege, as each may be regarded as a pearl of great price. 20. Let us attend to the service of Christ this year more seriously than ever. It should be our continual employment, our habitual study, our deep solicitude, our absorbing desire. “What can I do for my Lord?" should be, dear reader, your unceasing inquiry. And not only must you ask the question, but perform the work. 21. It is important to bear in mind, that you may have many difficulties and trials during the year 1851. Anticipate them; be armed against them; and, when they arrive, meet them in the right spirit. And remember, Christian reader, that there could be no difficulty in your way, if God did not permit it. Besides, do you not owe much to difficulty? much to trial? much to danger? Would character have been formed, or matured, without them 2 Would high Christian attainments and excellencies have been developed without them? Impossible. Go on, then, determined to endure. 22. “It is my way"—said a masterspirit--" to suffer no impediment, no love of ease, no avocation whatever, to chill the ardour, to break the continuity; or divert the completion, of my literary pursuits." Let every Christian, in relation to the labours, the trials, the conflicts, of the religious life, exemplify the same temper. It is, and will be found, invaluable. By heroic energy like this, anything can be done. There is in such a spirit the surest pledge of success. 23. Peruse the Bible more this year. Read it more devotionally; with greater simplicity and docility of mind than ever. There is no book like the Book of God, to aid us in discharging the duties of the year; to succour us amidst the temptations of the year; to support us under the afflictions of the year; and to carry us through all the changes of the year. By every Christian the Bible is read too little. Will you, avowed followers of the Redeemer, old and young, pay closer attention to the word of God during this year, than any preceding one? 24. Ministers! parents! teachers! earnestly seek the conversion of sinners this year. It is a noble, an heroic work But what difficulties are associated with it ! Weigh it well. Go about it in the wisest, firmest, humblest manner. Attempt nothing in your own strength. Observe all the impediments in your way, and make ample preparation to overcome them. Look up to the Spirit of God to assist you, and grant you a blessing;-them, collect your energies, strain every nerve, pierce to the centre, strike to the heart. Will you be the instrument, reader, of converting a soul this year? 25. Bishop Hall observes, with his usual point and sagacity, that “a man's best monument is his virtuous actions." Take care, dear readers, that you are helping to rear this monument daily, and doing it without noise or ostentation; building it up in the most solid, and yet the most quiet and unpretending, manner. 26. Let it be with each one of us a leading object throughout the entire course of life, not only to preserve what knowledge we have acquired, but also to increase it; and especially in relation to scriptural knowledge. And if we only carry out this principle from day to day, it is surprising on what a fund we shall be able to draw in twenty or thirty years. Let every reader add daily to his stock of Christian knowledge. 27. The fourth Sabbath in the year. Let it be the best of the month; the holiest, the most spiritual, the most profitable, the most heavenly; and in order that it may be, you must abound in prayer, and delight in prayer. Those
Sabbaths are always the happiest, and the most advantageous, when we are most anxious to hold communion with God our Saviour, at the mercy-seat. Regard it as an indubitable principle, that no Sabbath will be connected with a blessing, if prayer be neglected, or offered in a cold and apathetic manner. Pray more on the Sabbath, and God will instruct and bless you more. 28. During this year do not be too anxious. It is unnecessary, injurious, improper. Regard the will of God; follow the directions which He has given you in His own word; and then leave all the rest to Him. He will take care of you. He will supply your wants— He will regard your prayers—He will fulfil His promises—He will disperse your fears. 29. A great writer has given us a fine direction:—“Fill your little sphere with brightness and happiness.” And if it were thus filled, how pure and sunny would be the radiance how beaming and lasting would be the joy! Will you, reader, endeavour, this year, to fill your sphere in this manner? 30. Look well to your hope for eternity this year, as it may be your last. See that it is purely scriptural in its character; that it is well-grounded ; that it has the warrant which the word of God will sanction; that there is about it no deception whatever, Always ponder the solemn remark of a sage and holy writer:—“There is a hope that is like the spider's web; as curiously wrought, as easily destroyed.” 31. In aiming to do good this year, you must not suppose that all will be tranquil and pleasant; that there will be no obstructions in your way. No great work, remember, can be done without much opposition. Never, then, look for peace, while you proclaim war, and carry it on. In doing good to souls, Satan will give you no rest. The last day of the month ! How solemn the thought ! It will soon be the last day, the last hour, the last moment, of life How do you feel in the prospect of eternity? Are you ready for your change? Are you pressing towards the mark? Will you reach heaven? Will you wear the crown? Make it your great business every day to be prepared for the last day of life;
and then let the days, the months, the years, roll on. They will only be bringing you nearer the kingdom—the rest which God has promised, and the boundless inheritance which you shall eternally enjoy.
THE DUTY OF SELF-EXAMINATION. MUSINGS AT THE COMMENCEMENT OF A NEW YEAR.
WHAT more suitable as a requiem to the departed year, than the bewailings of a sincere heart, while, in the secret and silent chamber, it voluntarily subjects itself to the testing process of the crucible of self-examination ? Such a descent into the deep caverns of the human soul must, we know, at any time, present an appalling spectacle ; but never does the sight shock us so much, perhaps, as when, at the commencement of a new year, we look back and contemplate that which has just expired, and which has borne in, beyond recal, its solemn accounts to the Judge of quick and dead. Truly a naked human heart exhibits enough of sin and corruption, to produce the deepest humiliation and the most entire self-abasement, and might well lead to the entreaty, “Enter not into judgment with thy servant, O Lord! for in thy sight shall no flesh living be justified.” But what ought to be our feelings at such a season as the present, at the commencement of a new year, and in the review of sins, of judgments, and of mercies, past away, as to time, but blending with the things of eternity—gone from us as creatures of earth, but colouring our destinies as the heirs of immortality — what, we say, ought to be our feelings? Surely penitence for the past, and holy resolve in respect to the future, should characterise the tone of our minds before God. At the commencement of the testing process, probably, the more prominent sins of the by-gone year alone will present themselves; but these, alas! are but as a vestibule to the spiritual and imma
W 0 L. XXIX.
terial temple—the soul. There lie hidden, as in ambush, a fearful host of unrecognised enemies that war against its best interests. These are lodged in its secret chambers, and, as it were, serve to fill up the interstices thereof, so that the “candle of the Lord " alone can search them out. If such, on inspection, be found the condition of an individual, such is also the heart of man universally And let us bear in mind, that not less intimately connected with the interests and happiness of others, are the principles which regulate our thoughts, feelings, and actions, individually What caution and fidelity, therefore, are required of us, in order that we may neither deceive ourselves, nor mislead others! For, be it remembered, that no thought passes through the mind but gives birth to expression, in word or deed, and exerts its proportionate influence, for good or for evil, upon others as well as upon ourselves; and more than this, every comparative trifle will be seen, by and by, to have formed parts of that great whole in which will be summed up the ultimate destinies of every human being. This is a solemn fact, and one which we should seek to keep ever before the mind, that we may, in the strength of that grace which is sufficient for us, and which is made perfect in human weakness, cultivate and excrcise those virtues which are expected to be found in, and which ought conspicuously to adorn, the Christian professor. Purity, truth, benevolence, charity, should shine forth from him with double brilliancyC