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is of the Lord's mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not."
It will be a call to repentance. This always commences in a conviction of sin, and is daily brought into exercise by fresh discoveries of its remaining existence. "They shall come with weeping, and with supplications will I lead them."
It will humble us. And we need every check to pride, for we are prone to think more highly of ourselves than we ought to think. But what are we? Have we lived a day without being fools, loiterers, undutiful servants, unfaithful stewards? And what reason can we have to be proud?
It will promote charity. We shall be tender towards others, in proportion as we deal honestly and severely with ourselves. The most effectual way to take us off from beholding the mote in our brother's eye, is to employ ourselves in extracting the beam from our own. We have all our infirmities, though they may not be precisely of the same kind with those which lead us so rigorously to condemn others. We are all "in the body, and should consider ourselves, lest we also be tempted."
It will be a spur to diligence. Do you ask, in what are we to use diligence? This depends, in some respects, upon the condition you are in. Perhaps to this hour some of you have been anxious about every thing, except the pardon of your sins. While these remain unforgiven, the wrath of God abideth on you, and you are every moment in danger of sinking into the lowest hell. It is obvious ly therefore your duty, immediately and earnestly to seek after an interest in Christ, by whom alone you can be justified freely from all things.
But diligence equally becomes those of you who hope that you are already partakers of this blessing. You can never do enough for him who has saved you by his grace. You have much lost time to redeem and much lost ground to recover. When you ought to have been running, you have been standing still-perhaps drawing back. Some who began the divine life long after you, are now far before you on the heavenly road. You are surrounded with dangers which require incessant vigilance and prayer. You have a thousand mistakes to rectify, and numberless excellences to acquire. What is the life of a good man? What is it that distinguishes him from others--but a faithful investigation of his faults; an attention to moral improvement; an endeavour to make each day a practical criticism on the past? He observes how he was hindered: and remarks where he fell, or was likely to fall. And thus he levies a contribution of profit even upon his losses; and derives wisdom from his ignorance, strength from his weakness, and zeal from his indifference.
To urge you to this four-fold review, Re member the intimation we gave you at the beginning of this address, and which is so fully expressed in the words of the Apostle"So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God." Therefore, judge yourselves, that you may not be condemned with the wicked. This account will be personal, public, and impartial. "He will bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil." And whence will he bring them? From the book of his remembrance: there he has recorded all your means and mercies, troubles and sins. From the book of your own memory: there also they are secured. For there is a difference between remembrance and memory; the former often fails, but what is inscribed upon the latter abides indelibly, and only requires something to shine upon the letters to render it legible. Have you not observed that what seemed dead in the mind, only required circumstances to revive it? With what freshness and force have things long forgotten sprung up in the memory when recalled by occurrences! Thus all the history of man will hereafter be re-traced-retraced in order to be tried-and tried in order to be approved or condemned. "Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless."
With this solemn thought, let us close the period of our time that is now going to be numbered with the years before the Flood. It has seen many carried down to their graves, and has brought us so much nearer our own. "The fathers-where are they? And the prophets, do they live for ever?" "Man goeth to his long home, and the mourners go about the strects." And when a few years are come, we shall go the way whence we shall not return. We are accomplishing, as an hireling, our days; and our neighbours, our friends, our relations will soon seek usbut-we shall not be. Let us sing:
OUR IGNORANCE OF FUTURITY.
guish the apostles we
(NEW YEAR'S DAY.)
So soon as I shall see how it will go with me. ties. Thus he said to the ch
Phil. ii. 23.
But there is another relation in which we may consider this day. When we begin a new division of time, we naturally look forward, and endeavour to penetrate our future condition. The prospect is intimately connected with many of our duties, and will become injurious or profitable, according to the manner in which it is indulged. Let us then confine our attention to this view of the subject. And consider, I. OUR INABILITY TO DETERMINE OUR FUTURE CIRCUMSTANCES. II. SHOW WHAT USE WE SHOULD MAKE OF OUR IGNORANCE. III. SEARCH FOR SOMETHING TO SATISFY AND COMFORT US, UNDER ALL OUR
SUSPENSION AND UNCERTAINTY.
I. Though the endowments which distin
"And now, behold, I go bound n.
And will this not apply more fully to our circumstances?
I HAVE the pleasure to address you on the first day of another year. The day is only distinguished from others by human institution; but this has given it various advantages and characters, natural and civil, intellectual and moral. It is often a season of peculiar transactions; in which persons balance their accounts, commence business, form connexions. It is a period marked by humanity and benevolence. Children beseech time mercifully to spare the guides of their youth. When we look into futurity, all that meets The father and mother hope to see their dear the eye is a dark unknown. Even in those offspring long coming around them. The cases in which God has announced things to husband congratulates the desire of his eyes, come, the prophecy is wrapped up in so much and the wife hails the companion of her jour-obscurity, that the fulfilment and the explaney. Friendship renews every lively desire; nation generally arrive together. We can and all, however indifferent at other times, previously ascertain nothing. And how often yield to custom, and wish your returns of this has this been exemplified in the calculations day to be many and happy. of wise men-and some not very wise-with regard to those predictions which remain to be accomplished! Not only have they been drawn off from more useful duties, but they have frequently survived their laborious schemes, and been ashamed of the confidence with which they have published them. After gazing from the tower of their folly, they found that God had gone by in another road than that which they appointed him, and had used other instruments than those which they had put into his hands. They did not consi
It is a season of thankfulness and joy. We praise the Preserver of men, who has held our souls in life, and carried us through the unnumbered dangers of another year-while our feelings are tempered to solemnity by the reflection that many have finished their course, and that we look for some of our own relations or acquaintances in vain.
For it is a period of seriousness and recollection. It reminds us of the instability of the world, and the rapidity of time. Of this indeed, every day and every hour should re-der that the advantage of prophecy is to be mind us; but the changes made, and the derived from the completion; and that so far losses occasioned by these variations, are too is a previous knowledge of it from being necommon and inconsiderable to awaken reflec- cessary, that it would in many instances prove tion. But the termination of a year rouses hurtful, and often prevent the accomplisheven the careless, impresses even the insen- ment. It is not for us to know the times and sible. And if we do not allow the subject to the seasons which the Father hath put into operate on the mind, who does not feel for the his own power. moment the sentiment of Job, "When a few years are come, I shall go the way whence I shall not return?"
In the course of a few years only, how have all our conjectures been disappointed! More than once we had imagined that we had seized the clew, and the skein of Providence seemed likely to be unravelled; but suddenly we found it more entangled than before. And would any one now undertake to determine what will be the state of the nations of the earth a few months hence?
Sometimes a cloud no bigger than a man's hand has overspread the heavens; and from apparently inadequate causes events have arisen the most astonishing: while, on the other hand, the best-concerted plans and the most powerful resources have failed. Some are offended at the word chance; but the Scripture employs it, and it is no improper term. If indeed we apply it to God, it is profane-for "known unto God are all his
Let us, II. SHOW WHAT USE WE SHOULD MAKE OF THIS IGNORANCE.
is of th from the beginning; his counsel shall | it assemble together on the return of this day! sumed, and he will do all his pleasure." But The wife may be seen in widowed weeds! Itat counsel is to him, chance is to us. We The children may appear orphans! The siswalow nothing before it arrives. The conse- ter may say, "Alas! my brother!" iquences of things would be known if these things themselves moved on in one even regular course, and always terminated uniformly in the same manner-but when we see them often turning up contrary to their natural tendency-when we see that "the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor yet bread to the wise, nor riches to men of understanding, nor favour to men of skill"—our anticipations must be always liable to uncertainty. "Time and chance happeneth to them all.”
Let us learn from it our littleness; let us confess that we are nothing, and that God is all in all. "Vain man would be wise;" and there is nothing of which he is so proud as his knowledge-but there is nothing that should make him more humble. For what can we know? "Who knoweth what is good for man in this life, all the days of his vain life which he spendeth as a shadow? For who can tell a man what shall be after him under the sun?" Can he distinguish between appearances and reality? Can he see the combination, the dependences, and the effects of things? Does he " boast himself of to
What says your own history? He has led you, but it has been by "a way which you knew not" and perhaps you hardly know it now. How wonderful have been the removals of your habitation, and the connex-morrow," when he "knoweth not what a day ions which you have formed! How strange may bring forth ?" "The way of man is not and unlooked-for have been both your friends in himself: it is not in man that walketh to and your enemies! Some have acquired direct his steps." Are we then qualified to be wealth, and others filled offices towards our own guides, or to manage our own affairs? which they could not have formerly aspired. “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart, and Had these changes a few years before been lean not unto thine own understanding. In foretold, they would have appeared incredi- all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall ble; and the subjects of them would have said, direct thy paths. "He shall choose our in"If the Lord should make windows in heaven, heritance for us." "Lord, my heart is not might this thing be!" haughty, nor mine eyes lofty: neither do 1 exercise myself in great matters, or in things too high for me. Surely I have behaved and quieted myself, as a child that is weaned of his mother: my soul is even as a weaned child."
So little have we been capable of judging aright, that we have in a thousand instances mistaken our real welfare: we have desired enjoyments which would have been a snare; and have been afraid of trials which have proved to be some of our chief mercies. When he was approaching to "empty us from vessel to vessel" to keep us from "settling upon our lees;" when he came to prune away our suckers-that we "might bring forth more fruit;" we mistook the friend for an enemy; and said, "All these things are against me,' when they were "all working together for our good!"
Nor have you any information that can enable you to see how things will go with you for a single year. You know not how it will go with your health this year-what seeds of disorder may spring up in your frame; what accidents may befall your persons. You know not how it will go with your circumstances this year-what losses or successes you may experience; what new scenes of enjoyment may be opened, or what old ones may be dried up. You know not how it will go with your relations this year-whether you will be in-changing his scene of action: for "as a dulged with their continuance or stripped of bird that wandereth from her nest, so is a man their company. Perhaps the eye of Provi- that wandereth from his place:" and "a rolldence now sees the hearse standing before ing stone gathers no moss." This may be your door; and you trying to go in to take a true-but what this man is here condemned last view of your happiness, before it be com- for is this-God is not in all his thoughts. mitted to "the house appointed for all living." These words, "I will," are too big for him. The Lord preserve this family! but in what Regardless of God, he engages to live a year, different circumstances may the members of and all the year to be successful. He seems
Secondly. Since we cannot see how things will go with us, we should beware of presumption. "Go to now, ye that say, to-day or to-morrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain: whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow." The Apostle here gives us the scheme of an unsanctified tradesman. He resolves to go without delay to some place where he can carry on business to advantage. His aim is not fraud, but fair gain in the lawful way of buying and selling. And where is the harm of all this? Is not diligence laudable? Are we not commanded to provide for our own house? Wherein then does this man appear blameable? Perhaps he was actuated by avarice; and was seeking not a subsistence, but a splendid independence. Perhaps he was influenced by imprudence, and was not aware of the bad effects of roving abroad, or of
to exclude the possibility of sickness or acci- | events are entirely his. And he says to us, dents; of unfaithful servants or insolvent as the king did to his prime minister: "Atdebtors: of dear purchases and cheap sales: tend you to my affairs, and I will attend to as if he foresaw and secured all the events yours." "Take therefore no thought for the of the year himself—While he was not sure morrow: for the morrow shall take thought that he should be able even to begin his jour- for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the ney, and knew not what should be even on day is the evil thereof. Be careful for nothing; the morrow. Well does the Apostle call this but in every thing by prayer and supplication rejoicing "boasting," and say, that "all such with thanksgiving let your requests be made rejoicing is evil." known unto God. And the peace of God which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus." Such is the temper and the business of a Christian. The child at school is not to lean his elbow on the table, and vex himself by thinking how he shall find raiment, how he shall get home, how the expense of his education is to be defrayed. He is a learner; he is to mind his book-the father requires no more of him-he will provide. The farmer is not to muse from day to day about the weather, "perhaps it may not be a fine season
there may be a blight—and all my labour may be lost." No: but he is to act; he goes
Things may be within the reach of our knowledge and not of our power; but how can that be within the reach of our power that does not fall under our knowledge? How can we ward off dangers of which we are not apprized? How can we arrange and regulate occurrences of which we can have no foresight? Now this is our case. We know only ཟླ the present; and what superstructure can we build on such a narrow foundation? How often, even while forming a plan, has the lapse of a few days so varied circumstances, that we have been compelled to new model it, or to abandon it altogether! "Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you seem-forth bearing precious seed, commits it to the eth to be wise in this world, let him become ground, and then pursues his other businessa fool, that he may be wise. For the wisdom and what can his anxiety do afterwards? of this world is foolishness with God. For it "So is the kingdom of God, as if a man is written, "He taketh the wise in their own should cast seed into the ground, and should craftiness. And again, The Lord knoweth the sleep, and rise, night and day, and the seed thoughts of the wise, that they are vain. He should spring and grow up, he knoweth not leadeth counsellors away spoiled, and maketh how. For the earth bringeth forth fruit of the judges fools." herself, first the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear." The soldier is to learn his exercise, to obey the word of command, to keep his arms bright, to be always at the post assigned him; but he is not to neglect all this, by busying himself in drawing plans of the campaign, and describing the duties of the general.
We dare not infer the future from the present. David erred here. After he had been delivered from Saul, and other enemies, he tells us that he had too much confidence. And in "my prosperity I said, I shall never be moved. Lord, by thy favour thou hast made my mountain to stand strong:" but hear what he adds "Thou didst hide thy face, and I was troubled." The rich have been often stripped of their wealth; and the caressed of their honour. Many a fair morning has turned out a very stormy day.
Thirdly, the same considerations which should check presumption, should also prevent despair. Seeing we know not how it will go with us, why should we look only for evil? It may be far better than the foreboding of our fears. Our deliverance may be much nearer than we imagine.
"The Lord can clear the darkest skies,
Indeed, our extremity is often his opportunity.
Fourthly. Since we see not how it will go with us, let us draw off our attention from future events to present duties. We are to cast not our work, but our care upon the Lord. Duty and means belong to us, but
Finally. Our ignorance of what may befall us should lead us to seek after a preparation for all events. Do you ask, where shall we find it? I answer, in the blessed influence of Divine grace. This drew prayer from Jacob when he went forth with a staff; and praise when he returned with a fortune. This preserved Daniel in the court of Darius and in the lion's den. This enabled Paul to say, "I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: everywhere and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me." And seeing we have not the ordering of the weather, nor the choice of our food-happy is the man, whose constitution enables him to bear any weather, and whose appetite enables him to relish any food.
This leads us, III. To inquire wHAT THERE Is TO ENCOURAGE US UNDER ALL THIS DARKNESS AND UNCERTAINTY. You say, I see not how it will go with me. And it is well you do not. You know as much as it is good for you. For it is with the mind as it is with the
senses. A greater degree of hearing would that "God is faithful, who will not suffer you incommode us; and a nicer degree of seeing to be tempted above that ye are able; but would terrify us. If our eyes could see things will with the temptation also make a way to microscopically, we should be afraid to move. escape, that ye may be able to bear it." In Thus our knowledge is suited to our situa- a word, and is it not enough to know this? tion and circumstances. Were we informed-you know that "all things work together beforehand of the good things prepared for for good to them that love God; to them that us by Providence, from that moment we are the called according to his purpose." should cease to enjoy the blessings we pos sess, become indifferent to present duties, and be filled with restless impatience. Or suppose the things foreknown were gloomy and adverse, what dismay and despondency would be the consequence of the discovery! and how many times should we suffer in imagination what we now only endure once in reality! Who would wish to draw back a vail that saves them from so many disquietudes! If some of you had formerly known the troubles through which you have since waded, you would have fainted under the prospect.
You say, You see not how it will go with you. But your ignorance only regards time: all in eternity is sure. Beyond this land of darkness dwells everlasting light. Your uncertainty only regards the roughness or smoothness of the way-for you know what stands at the end of it-It is your Father's house, where are many mansions!
You say, You see not how it will go with you; but God does. And he is your friend, and your father, and loves you better than you love yourselves, and is far more concerned for your happiness than you can be. "Why sayest thou, O Jacob, and speakest, O Israel, My way is hid from the Lord, and my judgment is passed over from my God?" Nothing is hid from him. "He knows thy walking through this great wilderness. He knows thy soul in adversity." He sees all thy dangers and all thy wants. Nothing can surprise him whose eyes are in every place. Nothing can elude his notice who numbers the heirs of thy head. When Abraham was called to leave his own country, and his father's house, he obeyed; and "he went out, not knowing whither he went." But though he knew not "whither he went," he knew with whom he knew that he followed a guide who could not lead him astray. And thus Job relieved his mind under a pressure of perplexity: "Behold, I go forward, but he is not there; and backward, but I cannot perceive him: on the left hand, where he doth work, but I cannot behold him he hideth himself on the right hand, that I cannot see him but he knoweth the way that I take when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold."
You say, You see not how it will go with you. But you know, "that it shall be well with them that fear God." You know that if you are his, though your way may be thorny, "your shoes shall be iron and brass;" and that as "your day is, so shall your strength be." You know that love is the spring of all your trials, as well as of your comforts. And that though no " chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless, afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness to them which are exercised thereby." You know
"See the kind angels at the gates
Inviting us to come;
There Jesus the forerunner waits
Yes, you know how it will go with you there.
"There-shall we see his face,
And never, never sin;
There from the rivers of his grace
Ah! blessed privilege-and happy they who can enjoy it! They have enough to relieve them in every distress. Their afflic tions must be light and momentary indeed, when they are persuaded that they are working out for them a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory. But this is not my case. My perplexity seems to increase in proportion as I advance. To me the other world seems darker than this; and it is a gloomy valley that leads to it. Oh! if I knew that all would end well!-But this is that which adds a pressure to every burden, and embitters all my comforts-I see not how it will go with me AT LAST."
My Christian friend: I designed not by what I have said, to intimate that such a persuasion is essential to your safety, but only that it is a desirable privilege; and in this we are agreed. But remember it is attaina ble. You may have "a good hope through grace," and "the full assurance of hope." You are commanded to seek it. In the mean time, I would observe, that the solicitude you feel, is no bad evidence in your favour. In proportion as the mind feels the importance of salvation, it longs for certainty, and, fearful of deception, is not satisfied with slender evidence. May the Lord, you are now fol lowing sorrowful and in darkness, shine upon your path, and "fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost."
But if we cannot begin the new year with confidence and joy, let us do it with seriousness and prayer. Let us resolve to walk before him in newness of life. Let us commit ourselves to the care of his Providence, to