James Smith, 1855

The commencement of a new year calls for reflection, repentance, and reformation. We should . . .
reflect upon the past,
repent at present, and
aim at reformation in future.

If we reflect rightly, we shall repent sincerely; and
if we repent sincerely, we shall reform immediately.

"Let us search and try our ways, and turn again to the Lord."

Flying time cries, reflect;
approaching eternity cries, repent;
and the God of time and eternity cries, reform.

But who can bear close and serious reflection upon the past? It demands . . .
honesty of heart,
determination of spirit, and
zeal for the divine glory.

It is no trifling business to reflect upon . . .
sins committed,
mercies received,
duties neglected,
favors bestowed,
opportunities lost,
and kindness displayed.

But if we do not reflect we shall not repent;
if we do not repent we shall not walk humbly with God;
if we do not walk humbly with God we shall not be happy;
and if we are not happy we shall not honor our profession.

Reader, are you a Christian? If so, take the first quarter of an hour you have to spare, and go aside quietly to reflect upon the past year. Think of its twelve months, its fifty-two Sundays, its three hundred and sixty-five days. Turn over the book of remembrance, and see if you can reckon up . . .
the mercies you have received;
the evils from which you have been preserved;
the temptations you have escaped;
the sins you have committed;
the opportunities for doing or getting good;
and the privileges by which you have been distinguished.

Inquire . . .
what use you have made of your talents,
what motives have influenced your conduct,
what use you have been in the Church,
what good you have done to the world, and
what honor you have brought to the Lord Jesus Christ.

Alas! who of us can go over the ground we have trodden during the last year without being covered with shame and confusion of face. Brethren,
let us seriously consider the past,
let us, then, heartily confess our transgressions unto the Lord,
let us repair to the ever open fountain,
nor let us rest until the Holy Spirit bears his inward witness that our sins are all forgiven.

Are you a minister of Christ the pastor of one of his Churches? If so, give me your hand, and let us together seriously examine our souls before God. Things in the Churches are not as they ought to be, or as they have been. What part of the blame belongs to us? Let us not avoid the question, or try to cast all the blame on the people. We may be wrong in the very thing in which we imagine ourselves most right. Have we looked seriously into the low state of things in our Churches? Are we properly affected with it? Have we examined our own hearts respecting it?

Is our spirit and temper lovely?

Is our preaching plain, affectionate, and scriptural?

Are our motives pure?

Do we aim at the salvation of sinners, the edification of saints, and the glory of God alone in our sermons?

Do we feel our solemn responsibility?

Do we realize our dependence upon the person and ministry of the Holy Spirit?

Are we clothed with humility before God?

Do we deal faithfully with souls?

Is our affection as apparent as our fidelity, in our public work?

Do we so preach as to leave the impression upon the minds of our hearers that we heartily desire to do them good?

Do we love our people as we ought?

Do we visit them as we ought?

Do we watch over them as those who must give an account?

Do we feel for sinners as we ought, and travail in birth for them until Christ is formed in them?

Have we boasted too much, or put confidence in our abilities rather than in God?

Are we afflicted because the cause of God is struggling?

These are serious questions. Many more may be proposed. A serious consideration of them, with personal application, can do us no harm. Let us mourn over the past, seek closer communion with God, and greater communications from God; for it is only what comes from God which really does good, after all. It is his own Word which God blesses. If our preaching were more apostolic, there is reason to conclude that our success would be. Oh, to preach just what they did, and just as they did!

Are you an undecided hearer of the gospel?

How long have you sat under its sound?

How many sermons have you heard?

How many convictions have you felt?

How many purposes have you formed?

How many times have you declined, when just coming to a decision?

Study these questions.

Undecided! What, and enter upon a new year in such a state, and that perhaps your last year! For, concerning you, the decree may have gone forth, "This very year you are going to die!" And suppose you do die what will be the consequence? Jesus has said, "He who is not for me is against me." If you are not his friend then you are his foe. If you are not a child of God then you are a enemy to God. "How long will you halt between two opinions?" What can you gain by delay? The longer you live undecided . . .
the more sin will harden your heart,
the more power the world will have over you,
the more effectually Satan will ensnare you
until perhaps you may become a living illustration of what is spoken by the prophet, "Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard its spots? Neither can you do good who are accustomed to doing evil."

Why not submit at once? Why not make it your first business, this new year, to yield yourself to God? Are you not a sinner and do you not feel it? Is not Jesus a Savior and do you not need him? Has he not invited such as you are to come unto him, and promised that he will never cast out? Go, then, and cast yourself at his feet, appeal to his mercy, plead his promise, venture on his perfect work and you will find peace with God. Having done so, go and be baptized in his name, unite with his people, labor for his glory, walk with him in fellowship and Heaven will crown your course.

But should a careless, thoughtless sinner read these lines what can I say to you? My poor thoughtless brother, think! Think . . .
of the value of your soul,
of the desert of sin,
of the shortness of time,
of the uncertainty of life,
of your need of a Savior,
of the exact adaptation of Jesus to meet your case,
of his readiness to receive you,
of the folly of trifling with his Word, and
of the dreadful consequence of dying in your sin!

Care for your soul, if you care for nothing else. Remember, once lost and you are lost forever! If your soul is lost your own sin and folly will be the cause of it. No one can lose it for you. The blame will eternally rest upon yourself. Begin this year by seeking the Lord. He speaks to you when he says by his servant, "Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him, and to our God for he will abundantly pardon."

Perhaps the eye of a backslider may pass over this page. If so, let me affectionately beseech you, my poor fallen brother to begin this year by returning to your God. Go and return to your first husband, for it was better with you then, than now. You have fallen by your iniquity but God bids you take with you words and return unto him. He says, "Only acknowledge your iniquity." All he asks of you is to confess and be pardoned, to acknowledge and be blessed by him. He waits to be gracious unto you. You never can be happy, you never will have peace until you return. Doubt not his love. Fear not rejection.

Throw yourself at his feet,
plead what Jesus suffered,
mourn over your past follies,
seek restoring grace, and
this will be one of the happiest years of your life.

Let us all give up ourselves more unreservedly to the Lord. Let us make his glory the main business of our lives. Let us not live unto ourselves but unto Him who died for us and rose again. Living, may it be our aim to exhibit and exalt Christ and then dying will be to us everlasting gain. Let us seek the salvation of sinners more ardently, perseveringly, and prayerfully than we have ever done. Let us strive, in every possible way, to rouse up the Churches from their present sleepy state; nor rest, nor let others rest, until our chapels are crowded, our converts multiplied, our additions great, and our members holy. Let us realize the fact, that "the Lord Almighty is with us, the God of Jacob is our refuge "that his arm is not shortened that it cannot save, nor his ear heavy that it cannot hear; that he is saying to us, "Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it!" and, "You have not because you ask not, or because you ask amiss. Ask and receive, that your joy may be full."

Beloved, the writer wishes you all a holy, happy, and successful New Year!