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THE CHRISTIAN'S CONFIDENCE FOR THE NEW YEAR.
ISAIAH xli. 10.
"Fear thou not; for I am with thee : be not dismayed; for I am thy God:
I will strengthen thee : yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of My Righteousness.”
Such is the comfortable promise which the Church draws forth out of her divine stores, the Oracles of God, to support and cheer us now on the first Sunday of the new year.
In early youth, men are not so greatly tempted to fear or to be disheartened; but, unless they learn where to find true and substantial comfort, and unless they can look to something whereon their hopes may rest securely, each new year is sure to bring them discouragement and fear.
Young people, at first, expect to find this world full of enjoyment; and whilst their hearts are yet comparatively pure, their hopes strong, and their minds vigorous, they too often persuade themselves there is no danger that they shall ever be led into any gross or grievous sin.
But as years go on, we are all forced to learn, that this world is full of trouble and perplexity, rather than of ease and enjoy
that we must expect each year to bring its share of sorrow and disappointment, yes, and of temptation also ; and what is far worse, we find that these temptations prove to be greater than we are able to withstand.
Thus as we grow older, hope too often gives place to fear, and
cheerfulness to sadness and dejection. Those who in youth were sanguine and confident, become in advanced years timid and desponding. Those who at first were sure they could resist any temptation, not unfrequently in the course of time give up in despair the very effort to struggle against many forms of evil.
Surely it would be far better for us, if we were from the first to consider our real condition, to open our eyes at once to the difficulties and dangers that encompass us,' and at the same time to the means by which God enables us, “if we be willing and obedient,” to be “ more than
conquerors” over them all. If indeed the sense of our danger could lead us to no security, then it would be useless for us to turn our thoughts to it; it might be as well to perish with our eyes blinded to the last, as to see beforehand the evils that are coming upon us, if there were no escape from them. But from the Bible we know most certainly, that although we are in great danger, we are not without a DEFENDER, nor without hope; and we are therein plainly taught, that to know our own misery and helplessness, and to have before our minds a view of our perilous condition, is a great step towards attaining deliverance, and preserving a sure hope and a substantial comfort. For in this our reasonable fear we look about for protection ; when we see we are unable to defend ourselves, we seek some One more powerful, Who will have pity on us and protect us. Our thoughts are then turned to that great unseen Being Who made us, Who preserves us, and Who, as we further learn from the Gospel, so loves us, that He gave even His only Son to save us by His death.
And then in the New Testament we hear St. Paul say, “If, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more being reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.”
We were cleansed from our sins by Christ's death, and still more now are we saved by His life. Neither does this mean merely that CHRIST, living and reigning in heaven, ever interceding with the FATHER, pleading the merits of His own sacrifice, and sending down continually the Gift of the Spirit upon His Church, does by this His life on high advance our salvation.
1 Rom. v. 16.
For, more than this, Christ not only lives at God's right hand, our Mediator and Intercessor, but He also liveth in us. CHRIST liveth in me?,” saith St. Paul. And that this gift was not peculiar to St. Paul, or to the great saints of those most holy ages of the Church, that the like grace is bestowed on all obedient and faithfal servants of the LORD JESUS, appears plainly and certainly from what our Lord Himself says: “If a man love me, he will keep My words; and My FATHER will love him, and We will come unto him, and make Our abode with him."
And St. Paul again in other places : “Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates * ?" and, “We are members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones 5.” So that if we be faithful and obedient Christians, if we be not cast out of God's light, and of the Grace unto which He once called us, then of a truth CHRIST is in us, and we in Him. We are bone of His Bone, Flesh of His flesh, very members and parts of Him.
Nothing, in a certain sense, can be more plain and simple than this truth; it is taught to our children at the very beginning of their Catechism, and yet it is full of deep and hidden wisdom. It was at once most awful, yet most encouraging; overwhelming, yet beyond all things cheering and supporting. To it I often endeavour to draw your thoughts, because I do not see how it is possible for us to live as Christians ought to live, unless we call to mind, Who is in us.
But now with these thoughts before us, first, the remembrance of our danger and helplessness, and secondly, the contemplation of the God Who dwells in us to save, and justify, and protect us, let us put our minds to our text, as well as to one or two other verses in the first Lesson, for then we shall be able, I trust, to approach at least to apprehension of their blessed and most comfortable meaning. Let us open our hearts to receive this His promise, that He will be with us. It is as though the Church set Him before us now, speaking to each of us in some such words as these : “My servant, thou art entering upon another portion of thy short time of trial; hast thou found that each succeeding year brings its own sorrows, its own temptations, and that under those temptations thou art but too apt to fall; and dost thou seem to thyself weaker for every trial ? Yet if thou wilt cleave to Me with thy whole heart, and seek to abide in Me, then fear not; thou art My chosen servant, I am thine indwelling God and Saviour.”
Gal. ii. 20. 4 2 Cor. xiii. 5.
3 John xiv. 23. 5 Eph. v. 30.
But let us hear the very words of the Bible. • Thou art My servant; I have chosen thee, and not cast thee away. Fear thou not ; for I am with thee: be not dismayed, for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of My righteousness. I the LORD thy God will hold thy right hand, saying unto thee, Fear not ; I will help thee. Fear not, thou worm Jacob, and ye men of Israel ; I will help thee, saith the LORD and thy REDEEMER, the Holy ONE of Israel.”
In humble dependence upon these most comfortable words, let us enter upon the duties of the new year, as making it our great labour, our one chief desire, that we may indeed abide in Him, and continue to be held up and protected in our slippery and dangerous way by His supporting hand. For though His word of truth be, "I will not forsake thee,” yet has He also said, that if we will deny Him, He also will deny us Ø ; and further warned us, that there are those who, while they profess, to know God, do in their works deny Him; such are they who will confidently claim His favour at the last day, as having prophesied and cast out devils in His name, unto whom He will profess, “I never knew you : depart from Me, all ye that work iniquity? What a motive then have we to watch ourselves, lest, falling into sin, we separate ourselves from our Saviour, our faithful Almighty Protector, who never would have forsaken us had we continued with Him. But if we pollute ourselves with sin, if we learn to love the world, and to act by the rules of the world, we separate ourselves from God; we withdraw ourselves from Him, so that He may hold us up no longer. Then do our iniquities separate between us and our God 8,” and we do in a manner drive from us our Almighty Protector and indwelling SAVIOUR.
For we may apply to our LORD, as the Word and Wisdom of the Father, that which is said of wisdom in the Apocrypha.
6 2 Tim. ii. 12.
1 Matt. vii. 22.
8 Isaiah lix. 2.