“Farewell to the old year! Welcome to the new”
1866: “The bells in the church tower ring their noisy welcome, and usher in the new year with sounds of congratulation. As we stand on the boundaries of the future, they seem to bid us take courage, and go forward.
We heartily join in their salutation as we give to you “the compliments of the season,” and wish you
May it find you nearer to God and nearer to heaven than you were at the commencement of the year that has closed. May it come to you laden with benedictions! May it be among the best, the most useful, and the holiest of your life! May it bring you all that can minister to your present happiness, and prepare you for an eternal state of bliss. We thus meet you on New Year’s Day with friendly greetings and good wishes; but as “a wise man’s heart discerneth time,” we invite you to find a brief resting-place in the journey of life, from whence you may take a backward glance on the road you have already travelled, and ponder well the path that opens on your view. That you may begin the year wisely and well, we ask you to give a few moments to pious reflection, intermingled with prayer and praise.
May we not indulge the hope that to some who read these pages, the past year has been a time of happy decision for Christ. Oh, what a blessed year if you have escaped from the bondage of sin, and found rest in Jesus! Has it indeed been the “time of your espousals,” when you have made a cheerful surrender of yourself to Him who paid the ransom of your redemption by His precious blood? Sure it will be as the beginning of years to you; and you will not fail to raise your Ebenezer, while you cry, “O Lord, other lords have had dominion over me; but now I am Thine; Thou hast enriched me by Thy grace; Thou hast given me a place among Thy people !”
We now invite you, as you stand at the boundaries of two years, to exclaim in the confidence of faith:
We would now turn your thoughts from these considerations that you may listen to the monitory voice of the New Year. In solemn tones it seems to address you: What is your life? A vapour, as a flower of the field, as a feverish dream, as a tale that is told, a shadow that declineth, the flying of an arrow, a rapid journey, a short voyage.
“Life bears us on like the stream of a mighty river: our boat at first glides gently down the narrow channel, through the playful murmurings of the little brook and the windings of its grassy border.” The trees shed their blossoms over our young heads; the flowers on the brink seem to offer themselves to our young hands; we are happy in hope, and we grasp eagerly at the beauties around us; but the stream hurries us on, and still our hands are empty.
Our course in youth and manhood is along a wider and a deeper flood, and amid objects more striking and magnificent. We are animated by the moving picture of enjoyment and industry which passes before us; we are excited by some short-lived success, or depressed and rendered miserable by some equally short-lived disappointment. But our energy and our dependence are both in vain. The stream bears us on, and our joys and our griefs alike are left behind us. We may be shipwrecked, but we cannot anchor; our voyage may be hastened, but it cannot be delayed.
Whether rough or smooth, the river hastens towards its home, till the roaring of the ocean is in our ears, and the tossing of the waves is beneath our keel, and the lands lessen from our eyes, and the floods are lifted up around us, and the shore loses sight of us, and we take our last leave of earth and its inhabitants; and of our further voyage there is no witness but the Infinite and Eternal.
“Since such is the rapid passage of life, let the New Year’s voice speak to the true believer.”
It calls to him for a fuller surrender to the Lord; for more devotedness to His service; for a more faithful consecration of the talents committed to his hands; for more weanedness from the world; for greater spirituality of mind; for higher attainments in holiness; for more entire conformity to the likeness and example of Christ; for more of the sealing of the ever-blessed Spirit.
As he listens to the appeal he may press on his heart the serious inquiries:–How is it with me on this New Year’s Day? Have I advanced in the Divine life, or have I been drawn aside into forbidden paths? Is my love more or less servient? Is my religious character more mature? Is my faith in Christ more sincere and strong, or has it lost its early freshness and power? Is my walk close with Him, or am I following Him afar off? Is His peace-speaking blood on my conscience? Oh, professed disciple of Christ, do not hide from your view your real state. Arouse yourself to faithful self-inspection, to more frequent and fervid prayer; and let the dawn of a New Year urge you to renewed consecration, and to greater zeal in the Christian race.
Consider that this year you may die; and what then If “faithful unto death” ¹ you will be welcomed by your God and Saviour; you will join the happy company of the redeemed; another harp will be heard in heaven; another voice will swell the “new song.” Your prayers will then have been answered; your hopes more than realized. How changed will be your employments and your state. All will be peace, safety, and triumph. Oh, blessed change to begin the year in mortal weakness, in a sinful world, and to end it amidst the bliss of heaven.
Let the admonitory voice be also heard by the wavering and the undecided. It may be that you who read these lines are among those who say, “It is time enough yet.” Or, you speak of soon turning to God; but did you not say the same a year, or years ago? You are no nearer decision now than then. This habit of delay comes from an evil heart, and is fostered by Satan, the great deceiver. He desires no better security for your ruin than this fatal resolve: “I will at a future time turn to God.”
“Next year I will seek an interest in Christ.”
It is this vain promise of a future convenient season that destroys the souls of thousands. It is thus the shafts of truth are turned aside, and the day of merciful visitation hopelessly passed for ever. The hour may be close at hand that will put decision forever beyond your reach. If you do not now decide, the flight of a few months may extinguish all opportunity. The accepted time is Now.
“The days of 1866 will return no more: those of 1867 are not yours.” Updated: The days of 2018 will return no more, those of 2019 are not yours.
To-day the Saviour calls, and the Spirit invites. All things are now ready. Eternal interests and realities cluster round the present hour. “Oh, then, moments seize; Heaven’s on their wing: a moment you may wish when worlds want wealth to buy.”
Once again the voice of the New Year is heard; it is in tones of warning to the unconverted—the unprepared—the unpardoned sinner. Another portion of your short life is gone! Lost for all the great purposes for which it was given. A Roman emperor once exclaimed, “I have lost a day!” You may say, “I have lost a year—one more year of my transient life has been wasted, misused, perverted.” What privileges have been neglected. What seasons of grace lost! What mercies have been abused?
During the past months you have heeded neither God’s warnings nor his calls of mercy. You have entered on another year with an unconverted heart. Perhaps you have fallen into new forms of sin, while old sins have been confirmed and strengthened. Iniquity has been added to iniquity; your bonds have been made strong by your own hands; you have been filling up the measure of iniquity always; and at this moment you stand among the enemies of God. The memories awakened are sad and sorrowful.
“You know, or you suspect, that your state is not safe.”
And while life is thus passing away, you fear a possibility that you may not see another year. You have seen friends and companions, strong and vigorous, smitten down in a moment: and what immunity have you against sudden death? Of this you are assured, that when a few years are come, you shall go the way whence you shall not return.”
If it should be said of you, “This year thou shalt die!” It is certain that to many—an almost incredible number—this year will prove the last. More than twenty millions of mankind will pass away from earth within its twelve short months; and who can assure you that you will not be one of this vast multitude? It is computed that one in fifty dies as the result of casualty; and tens of thousands of others are smitten by sudden death. What presumption is it to suppose that these forms of death will not include you?
“Counting on long years of pleasure here, while quite unfurnish’d for the world to come.”
Some will pass away while the year is yet young; others in its summer prime, or when the leaves shall fade from the trees. Some in youth; others in the full flush of life: and others in decrepit old age. Some after a lingering affliction; others cut down at a stroke. Oh, how solemn a fact that we all stand on the very confines of eternity! A moment, and where may we be?
“How imperative, then, is the necessity for immediate repentance and immediate faith in the Lord Jesus Christ?”
If you would begin the year aright, begin it by a surrender of your heart to Him. What is life without Him; for no year can be truly happy unless it be spent in His service. Look to Him as the Saviour of your soul, as “able to save unto the uttermost all who come unto God by Him.” ¹
There is everything in His work and in His words to inspire your confidence. “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” ¹ But “while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.” ¹ Hope not to merit the priceless favour of salvation.
Come to Him just as you are, in all your unworthiness and sin. “Whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.” ¹ Question not the freeness of his invitations and offers. Give up all mistrust, and delay not. Let your believing cry be now heard: “Lord Jesus, save me, or I perish.” I would begin the year with Thee; forsaking all sin, I and taking Thee for my Lord and Master.
Be Thou my righteousness and rest, my portion, my pattern, and my all. O Thou whose blood cleanseth from all sin, accept the surrender of myself which I now make, that I may live for Thee, die in Thee, and spend eternity with Thee in glory.”
O Jesus, bountiful as strong to save,
For mercy as for mightiness adored:
Oh, give me grace Thy healing power to crave;
“If Thou be willing, Thou canst heal me, Lord.”
Thy pity ne’er a ruthless answer gave,
In lowly fervency of heart implored.
Ne’er wilt Thou spurn the sinner’s contrite soul;
Ne’er see unmoved the tear of anguish roll;
But gracious still reply, “I will it, be thou whole.”
Disciple of Jesus, we would close our New Year’s thoughts by joining with you in a shout of praise. “HALLELUJAH. Blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honour, and power, and might, be unto our God for ever and ever. Amen.” ¹ The Lord is at hand. “Behold, the Bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet Him. ¹ He shall come to be glorified in His saints, and to be admired in all them that believe.” ¹ Are you not among those who are “looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ?” ¹ Soon the days of your pilgrimage will be at an end, and you will be at home—safe in the heavenly home.
Think often of its attractions—those whom you shall there meet—its freedom from sin and sorrow and death—its glories, its happiness, and its triumphs—and the crowning glory, the presence and society of Him whom unseen you now love. It is said that Christians desire this heavenly home. In this is there any cause for surprise? Are you not of their number? Seeing, then, that when a few years are past, this shall be your felicity, what ought you to be in “all manner of conversation and godliness?” ¹ Gird up the loins of your mind; trim the lamp; and be as one that waiteth for the coming of his Lord.
“Make it evident that you are a child of God, and not a mere professor of religion.”
Often get a glimpse of your final rest, that your cold heart may be affected. Seek for Divine grace to abound more and more in your experience; for the power of the Holy Spirit to be manifested in the purity and consistency of your life. Make it evident that you are a child of God, and not a mere professor of religion. Let love to Christ, communion with Christ, and service for Christ, be the great – end of your life.
Show forth to the honour of your Lord, all those tempers, and feelings, conduct that may adorn the gospel, and, to recommend it to others. Live for something this year. Write your name by deeds of kindness and words of love on the hearts of all those who are around you. Let it be a year of effort for the glory of your Lord, and of effort to bless your fellow man. Devoutly join in the aspiration; “Oh let my life, great God, breathe forth a constant melody; and let every action be a note in the sweet hymn to Thee!”
Then, let days, and months, and years roll on; they will bring you nearer and nearer to the happy hour when you shall cast your crown at His feet, and ascribe to Him all the praise of your salvation.” Excerpts from; The Religious Tract Society; I Wish You A Happy New Year; 1866.
“The LORD bless thee, and keep thee:: The LORD make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee: The LORD lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace. Numbers vi. 24–26.