« AnteriorContinuar »
" Built upon the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the
THE COMING YEAR BOTH NEW AND OLD.,
BY THE REV. J. II. HINTON, M.A. We familiarly speak of the incoming year as the new year; and undoubtedly with justice, for in some respects it is new : but in some respecte also it is, from its very commencement, OLD; that is to say, it is the same as those which have gone before it.
The world we live in is the same. The transition in point of time from the past year to the present effects no change in the scene of our existence. The features of the natural world are the same the same the hills and vales, the woods and streanis, the crowded cities and the fruitful plains. The aspects of human life are the same, whether of life domestic, social, or public. We reside where we did; we are still under the wing of our parents, or in the midst of our children ; our engagements in business are the same, and our conditions of health or sickness, of prosperity or adversity. And public affairs are the same ; the state of nations, with the various elements of agitation or of peace, the attitude of statesmen, and the battle-strife.
We ourselves are the same. The change of the year has made no change in our character or habits. We bring with us across the boundary our whole selves; all that we were we are. All our constitutional teridencies, all our established habits, all our moral virtues or vices, still characterize us. If we have been hitherto irascible, sensual, proud, we are so still ; if we have been tem,' perate, benevolent, pure, we are 80 still. - Accessible to the same temptations, feeble in the same points, with the same marked imperfections or eminent excellencies, we have the same difficulties of self-discipline, and the same facilities for self-conquest.
Our circumstances are the same. The new year finds them exactly as they were. 'Were we rich ?. We are still rich. Were we poor? We are still poor. The fever that raged before still rages, the pain that racked the frame still racks it. 'Or the smile of prosperity continues unclouded, and successful enterprize pursues an uninterrupted course. Our facilities and advantages are the same as they were, and so likewise are our temptations and trials. Our old joy and sorrow, our old peace and conflict, enter without change, and without question, into possession of the newborn year.
The dispensations of God are the same. In this respect nothing finishes with the lapse of time, nothing begins with its new reckoning. “God repeateth that which is past."* The stately machine of Providence, in its vast operations, so
* Eccles. iii, 15.
uniform in principle but so multiform in detail, moves on in undisturbed identity, while the starry timepiece marks in heaven the commencement of another year. Summer and winter, seedtime and harvest, succeed each other as of old; sunshine and storm, abundance and famine, health and sickness, life and death, mingle themselves mysteriously together, as they have always done. The moral trial of mankind proceeds just as it did. Satan, the great enemy, still lies in wait to deceive, and seeks whom he may devour; the fascinations of pleasure still make their winning appeal to man's yielding heart; the cares of the world still lie heavy on the anxious bosom, and the temptations of sin and folly still besiege with power the citadel of virtue.
Our duties and supports are the same. We bring with us from the old year into the new the same burden of responsibility, and the same obligations of duty. No relaxation takes place in that which God requires of us. We have still to render a full consecration and cheerful obedience; we have still to watch and pray, to arm ourselves for war, and to fight the good fight of faith. But, if our obligations are the same, so also are our encouragements. If our need of help be no less, no less shall be the help kindly vouchsafed to us. promises still breathe their “exceeding great and precious assurances into our ears ; while the faithfulness of our covenant God is everlasting, and, like himself, changeth not. His ear, as of old, is quick to hear prayer, and, as of old, his arm is mighty to save.
It will not be unprofitable to us to remember these things. A hurtful fancy may lurk in the mind that the new year will bring to us many more things new than will really be found in its hand. It is a grave and profitable thought, that the new year is, in all practical matters, but repetition, or rather a prolongation, of the old. What, indeed, divides the one from the other but an imperceptible movement of the earth among the stars, altering, it is true, the place of the earth in the heavens, and the aspect of the heavens to the earth, but nothing more. We, and all things that interest us, are not new, but old.
Yet the year is, undoubtedly, in some sense new, and, in the course of its pro. gress, it may prove to be more new than at first it appears.
In relation to the course of time the year is obviously new. the earth on which we live commences a new revolution round the sun, and the record of a new period of time, which by such revolutions is ascertained and measüred. This period of time has never occurred before, nor have we erer spent it. In this sense it is both new in itself, and new to us.
And, although the mere commencement of the year produces no practical change to us, during its progress there may occur to us changes of great importance, and such as may render, not the year only, but our life, empbatioally
Not exactly, indeed, although generally will the occurrences and the expe. rience of this year resemble those of the past. We ourselves shall be somewhat older, and, it may be hoped, somewhat wiser, than we have ever been we shall view things in somewhat different lights, and address ourselves to our duties and trials, probably, in a somewhat different spirit. We may, perhaps, bring with us from the past a store of Christian wisdom, in the exercise of which we shall walk more humbly with God, fall into fewer sins, and commit fewer mistakes. Those around us, also, will have advanced somewhat in life, in common with ourselves—especially our children-and will present themselves to us in new aspects of loveliness, and in new forms of requirement. Nor will the dispensations of Divise Providence-although generally similar to the past -be absolutely identical with them; for these, with all their broad resemblances, possess an infinite diversity. Human life has no sameness-no monotony. Man's joys and sorrows are so numerous that they are capablo of being blended together in combinations of endless värléty ; so that, as no two human lives are
With the year
the same, no single life shall be the same throughout. We shall this year, undoubtedly, experience modifications of health and sickness, of comfort and distress, both personal, domestic, and social, which will, by fresh combinations of old elements, render it practically a new year to us.
And it may be to us a year of great changes. It may witness new and most important developments of character. If we enter on it still alienated from God, it may be the period of our reconciliation to him, the birthday of a new life; and so it may become the beginning of years to us. Or the coming year may find us growing in grace, and making rapid advances in the Christian life; or perhaps, unhappily, it may witness our backsliding from God, or our fall by the temptations of Satan.
It may witness the occurrence of great temporal changes. In this year may originate that greatest passion of the human heart, by which all subsequent life shall be influenced withi unspeakable power; or in this year may be formed a union to be productive of blessings which the longest life cannot exhaust. In this year you may greet with ineffable parental love your first-born ; or in this year another may be added to an already numerous family. Or the year may be one of sorrowful events; one in which those we love may sicken and die, and in which it may be required of us to lay the dearest objects of our affection in the grave. Nay, it may be the time for ourselves to suffer ; and, if we could hear the announcement of coming events, we might perceive it whispered to us, “This year thou shalt die."
It is evident, therefore, that the coming year will be one, not merely of old, but of new requirements from us: a watchfulness ever ready for new tempta. tions ; a patience ever ready for new trials ; a Christian wisdom adapted to new claims of duty, and steadfastness of piety prepared for new conflicts. If not with new substantial graces, the new year will require old graces in a new attitude of vigorous preparation—will require us to be in a greater degree the well equipped Christian than we have ever been. May it find us so !
and shall we not find new supports and consolations too? That great and glorious God, whose infinite and mysterious wisdom imparts to our life its end less changefulness, will he not be prepared to manifest in every change a welladapted aspect of mercy ? Undoubtedly he will. The treasures of his grace in Christ Jesus are as infinite as his wisdom. It is, indeed, in order to show forth his own glory, that he leads those he loves through such paths of trial, and he will not fail of his design. He said of old, “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee ;"* and the promise is as true for the year on which we are entering as it has been for any that are past. And as thy days thy strength :'t no more, and assuredly no less. Ever-varying, help shall attend us in ever-varying need. Something, perhaps much, of the loving-kindness of the Lord we have known in years that are past; and the new year, bringing, as it does, its new demands, shall witness exhibitions of it equally new. What can we need more to invigorate our courage, or to cheer our hope, than the animating appeal, “ Fear thou not; for I am with thee.”I
* Heb. xüi, 5.
+ Deut. xxxii. 25.
Isa xli. 10
“Oh that my words were now written! oh that they were printed in a book! that they were graven with an iron pen and lead in the rock for ever! For I know that my Redeemer livetb, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth : and though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in
my flesh shall I see God."-Job xix. 23–26.
We were not prepared for this utterance points ; viz., first, THE ORIGIN, and second, when it burst upon us. Instead of strength, THE OBJECTS, of this blessed anticipation. faith, victory, which these words seem to First, then, the origin of this hope. register, we had immediately before observed In a world where true and holy hope is the most languid weakness. The lowest point rare it concerns us to know how a hope in Job's painful experience seemed to have like this was produced. Whence grows this been reached. The hour and power of dark- lofty expectation? How came a hope so ness seemed to have attained its midnight majestic into the patriarch's heart? What gloom. Apparently from sheer exhaustion is the explanation of its presence? We of power, he ceases to impeach the righte. could explaiu the origin of all his doubts, ousness of God's dealings with him, and and sullenness, and fears. They seem the begins to beg for the pity of those friends simple and natural brood of night. But whose attacks he had resent with such whence comes this hope ? We see no withering scorn; when, as if the Spirit of break in his sufferings, no bow of procomfort had seized the occasion of the first mise in the cloud of gloom, no circumlull in his angry irritation to enter his stance of comfort which we could accept breast, we see him rising and shaking him. as explaining his returning hope and self from the dust of his sackcloth, loosing brightening expectation. The unrelieved himself from the bands of his neck, burst- pressure of affliction is still upon him. ing the bonds of sorrow with all the ease Whence in such circumstances does hope with which Samson burst asunder his green gather fresh vigour to its pinions, and withes. As if “moved by the stirring of soar so high in the atmosphere of pro. a gift Divine," his eye regains its bright- phetic light? Can it be that sorrow has ness, and his tone its loftiest grandeur. kindled a hope so lustrous ? Can it be that Conscious of the greatness of the words he grief has nurtured a solace so sublime ? is about to utter, he longs for a perpetual Let us see. record to preserve them to succeeding ages ; The Scripture account of the origin of and when, by the expression of this desire, hope is a very strange one. For while we he has raised our expectation to the high- naturally fancy that hope is the child of est pitch, he abundantly rewards it. For, light and peace, a plant that needs luxu. in words that transcend all other Old Tes. rious circumstance of heat and soil, and tament utterances in the range and clear- which requires that ness of prophetic vision they exhibit, in
“Heaven send it happy dow, words that would have done honour to the
Earth lend it sap enew, highest ecstasies of St. Paul himself, he Broadly to bourgeon and deeply to grow,” exclaims, “I know that my Redeemer Paul in one of his epistles gives a very difliveth, and that he shall stand at the latter ferent account of its genealogy. Beginning day upon the earth : and though after my far off, as we think, “ Tribulation," says he, skin worms destroy this body, yet in my “works patience ; and patience, experience ; flesh shall I see God."
and experience, HOPE.' So that, accordThere is evidently something here worthy ing to his account, hope springs not from of our study. The mere fact of a soul of the joyous experience of mercy, but from man cherishing such exultant hopes, is one the patient experience of suffering ; is not a whose importance we cannot overestimate; hot-house plant, but a root of hardy growth, and the importance is at once felt to be flourishing beneath the watery frown of sunimmensely increased when we note that less summers, and beneath the rind of these hopes are cherished in the midst of wintry frosts; something which, wherever deep affliction. Let us, then, dwell for a it is a plant of God's right hand's planting, little on the subject these words present, flourishes all the better for the difficulties looking at it with regard chiefly to two with which it has to contend. And strange
as this account of Paul's appears, it is so
invades his frame, when imminent death : well substantiated by facts that we cannot threatens the extinction of his being, disregard it. For, not to mention other would he not, as we all do at such times,.' proofs, is it not manifest that the “Songs ransack the upseen future for elements of in the Night Season” have always been the hope which might relieve the pressure of sweetest of all the songs of Zion; richest present ills ? At such a time is it strange in pathos, most refined in sentiment, most if he becomes impatient of the distance at fragrant with the sweetness of calm, assured which an unseen God keeps ? and hope ?
“Faltering where he firmly trod, Can it be, then, that the range, and
And falling 'neath his weight of cares strength, and clearness of Job's prophetic
Upon the great world's altar-stairs,
That slope through darkness up to God," hope are illustrative of the apostle's word ? that this sublime expectation is really in
is it any wonder if he longs for some per : great measure the result of the patient en.
sonal manifestation of God, such as takes durance of grief ? Can it be that this
place in Christ Jesus ? longs for some ear. sublime hope was nurtured with the dew
that is seen, to receive his cries, and some of tears, and rooted by the storms of groan
glance of pity that is perceived, to convey ings that could not be uttered? Yes, dear
the solace of his grief? for some manifest friends; the more you examine the matter,
Divine presence that would facilitate the the more you will see that this glorious
weakened fellowship? hope is indeed the offspring of sanctified
And when the grave holds all that is, 'trial and of grief.
dearest to him, is it any wonder if he be. For, ia the first place : Strange as it seems
gips to question its sovereignty and omni. to explain this bope on Paul's theory, there
potence? if, recalling elements of spiritual is no other explanation of it which is not
dignity in his children, his soul refuses to encompassed with greater difficulties. You
believe that the little span of earthly existcannot, for instance, conceive a hope of
ence has limited the duration of their this kind growing within the soul in his
being ? Would it be strange if, gazing on prosperity. While all things went well
the manifold glory of man, as seen in the with him there was nothing compelling
light of fond recollection, he should ask, bis thoughts to go so far afield as they do
with burning words, here, nothing to make his hope rest on ex
“ And he-shall heperiences so remote. Noble and spiritually
God's last work, who seemed so fair,
Such noble purpose in his eyes, minded as he was, IN HIS PROSPERITY
Who rolled the psalm to lofty skies, the majesty of his faith would show itself And built him fanes of holy prayer; rather in filling the present with noble
Who loved, who suffered countless ulls,
Who battled for the true and just deeds that enriched othere, than in eliciting
Be blown about the desert dust, from the future apocalyptic visions to en- Or sealed within the iron hills, rich bimself. His joy would come rather
And be no more ?" from the experience of present, than from Would it be strange if, recoiling from the the hope of resurrection blessings. Under thought of the finality of death, he should no pressure of ill, a longing for a nearer yearn for some restoration of his being, and and more personal manifestation of God longingly should alunost hope for complete would have been passing strange. Almost redemption ? Would it be strange if the ignorant of family bereavernent, disease, Spirit of God, whose name is the Comand death, it would have been strange in- forter, should reveal the ultimate issues of deed if the ultimate issues of being had so life, which his yearnings had already delong and deeply engrossed his thoughts as fined so well? should change his hope into to permit him to draw conclusions like
assurance, and his yearning desire into these before us. Ready to reveal everything peaceful expectation ? Would it be strange of the future necessary for comfort, the if embracing the first season of quiet in his Spirit could hardly have found in Job the soul, he should give the clear prospect of inquiring wistfulness which would have an Incarnate God and a restoring resurrec. been capable or worthy of receiving such tion, when his grief had almost guessed disclosures.
both, and would have expected both, had But, on the other hand, are not all the the agitation of his soul permitted it ? thoughts here expressed very congruous No, dear friends, you feel this is not with a season of adversity ? When be- strange! Of all developments it is most Teatement enters his home, when disease natural; and in a fainter degree is con