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Plain Christian's Library.
THOUGHTS FOR THE NEW YEAR.
Christian Reader, we have again arrived at one of those seasons sacred to reflection. Another year has closed upon us. Yes, we are a year older;—by that large mass of time we are nearer to the grave-nearer to the Judgment. But let us not pass from the last to the present year without such recollections of the past as will, by God's blessing, tend to future improvement.
A Christian minister, feeling the responsibilities of his office, and anxious to improve every season to the good of his people, has addressed them as follows:
“During the year which has just expired, what have been your peculiar trials, temptations, besetting sins, delusive snares? To some, probably, they have been neither few nor small, exciting that bitterness which the heart only knows, but, though knowing, cannot describe. Have they been more successfully resisted than on any former occasions, and the tempter more easily repulsed ? Has the arrow of affliction pierced more deeply, or with less agonizing throbs, into your quivering members; and have you been enabled to endure its wounds with less murmuring, and more steady, faithful acquiescence in the will of God? Hath the sin which formerly led you an easy and willing captive, whose approach you always regarded rather with pleasure than with horror, been at all divested of any of its deceptive or destructive powers, so that it JANUARY, 1843,
no longer has dominion over you, but, pierced by the sword of the Spirit, lies prostrate at your feet, a vanquished enemy? Are you enabled to regard the fascination of the world with less complacent eyes, so that you are less in danger of being poisoned by its breath, or hugged to death by its polluted embrace; neither, on the one hand, seduced by its blandishments, nor, on the other, repulsed by its frowns? The lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, the pride of life, do they less incite you to daily gratification, and require, as the daily sacrifice upon their devouring altar, less of your time, your talents, your property, and your persons ? In a word, are you enabled, with greater facility and with greater success, to mortify the deeds of the flesh—to drive from your presence the unhallowed thought-to extinguish the raging passion—to overcome the long-accustomed habit of intemperance, or of idolatry of any kind ? Then, indeed, you
have been enabled to obtain a great victory, and may exclaim, in the language of Samuel, ‘Hitherto hath the Lord helped us.' You have been greatly signalised for your triumph over your enemies, and may claim preeminence in the list of generals; for, as Solomon says, “ he that ruleth his spirit is better than he that taketh a city.' It requires a greater effort, more of the grace of God,
, to obtain victory over self, one's own lusts and appetites, than to slay on the field of battle a whole army of Philistines; more of faith to subdue passions than kingdoms. It often happens that one single lust is fatal to him who has escaped unhurt from all the dangers of a military campaign. The sword of a temptation hath pierced him to the very vitals, whose heart the iron sword of the warrior hath failed to reach. But it may so happen, that in addition to these spiritual invisible foes, you have been exposed to the wrath of man; and that envy, hatred, malice, and uncharitableness, have excited against you the fierce indig
nation of some of your brethren; and that some, in the rancour of their hostility, may have been meditating to do you an injury, either in your person, your reputation, or your possessions. Nay, it sometimes occurs that a man's bitterest foes may be those of his own household, who, from a more intimate acquaintance with his habits and disposition, with greater liberty of access to his person, are put into possession of greater powers and greater facility of annoyance. Now, if in the course of the past year, their impetuosity hath been restrained, and they have not been permitted to carry their threatened vengeance into execution ; nay, if, instead of this, their animosity towards you has ought abated of its intensity, and they have shewn a disposition to stretch out the hand of friendship towards you ; while you, on your part, have not felt the rankling of unforgiveness towards them, but have been enabled to pray for them, in the spirit of your Divine Master,—thank God for it. Here has been a double victory obtained, over yourselves and over your enemies; thou hast gained thy brother, and art no longer included in that awful denunciation, Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer; and no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him.' Here is great cause for gratitude; you may indeed unite with Samuel's
· Hitherto hath the Lord helped us;' he hath helped you out of the hand of your adversary, and hath converted him into a brother; and he hath helped you to overcome his evil with your good. Thus it is, that when a man's ways please the Lord, he makes even his enemies to be at peace with him.'”
THE PRINCIPAL THING.
been with me this morning, my friend, you would have witnessed a scene more impressive than any thing I can write; you would have seen a corpse. Did
you ever see one ? If it was the corpse of some dear relative or friend, your grief at the loss you
had sustained divided your thoughts; but if the corpse was that of some person whom you had known but slightly, it is possible the effect of seeing it was greater ; you took a calmer, and perhaps a longer view of it; and thought more of your own death, and of judgment, and eternity.
There was nothing to terrify or disgust in the sight I saw this morning; the corpse was that of a young woman, nineteen years of age, who died in a consumption. I shall long remember all I saw, the neat clean room; the
nosegays of common flowers, lilacs and wall-flowers, and sweet-scented herbs; the small coffin, for she was little of stature, and looked but like a child as she lay there; the neatly plaited border of the cap round her pale thin face, the closed eyes and unmoving hands; it was even a pleasant sight, for all her sufferings and all her pains were ended; she had passed all the waves of this troublesome world, and landed on the shore from whence no traveller returns; one more was safe; and the holy angels with their golden harps had sung the praises of the Redeemer of her soul. And now, my friend, what do you think seemed “the principal thing," the chief thing, as I stood by that corpse ? Was it long life, or riches, or honour ? God forbid ! the Bible says, and that pale silent corpse said, and I trust, my heart replied, “Wisdom is the principal thing, therefore, get wisdom, and with all thy getting, get understanding.”
And what is wisdom ? Surely it is worth while to spend together a few moments more, if God will enable me to tell you. “ The fear of the Lord, then, is the beginning of wisdom.” Are you ignorant in the things of this world ? It is not the learning of earthly things that can make
you wise unto salvation. Are you even unable to read; but perhaps some kind friend is reading this to you, and God may help you to understand it.
your life careless about your soul ? Have you acted for twenty, thirty, or forty years as though “the principal thing," the chief thing, was to provide for the poor body, to get bread to eat, and raiment to put on, and a house to live in ? Is this your case ? It is a bad case, indeed; but there is hope. “ Doth not wisdom cry, and understanding put forth her voice? She standeth in the top of high places, by the way in the places of the paths. She crieth at the gates, at the entry of the city, at the coming in of the doors : Unto you, O, men, I call, and my voice is to the sons of man. O ye simple, understand wisdom, and ye fools, be ye of an understanding heart.” Mind the last verse : Wisdom speaks to the simple, and to fools ; even they may hear and understand.
See how one part of the Bible agrees with another: in the Old Testament you find it said, wisdom is the principal thing;" and in the New Testament, you find our gracious Saviour says that “one thing is needful.” This must be the same. Mary chose that one thing needful, the good part; she chose to sit at the feet of Jesus, and to hear his word : this, then, was wisdom. Oh, may you choose it! May you choose Jesus as your portion and your refuge, your Saviour, and
all. Wisdom's delight is with the sons of men.
“ And could'st thou be delighted
With creatures such as we;
And nailed thee to the tree.” My friend, I began by telling you of a sight I had seen ; and I said that it would have impressed you more than what I could write; but I know that nothing you can see, or hear, or meet with, can impress your minds, can really excite in you a desire for the salvation of your souls, unless it pleases God to give you his grace. He may use what instruments he pleases as the means of