A Portion for New Year's Day
James Smith, 1864
"I must turn over a new leaf!" said a man the other day — and it was quite time he did, for he was living in sin, neglecting his family, and despising his own soul. Now, I dare say many will read these lines who have often talked of turning over a new leaf — but have never done so. A temporary conviction flashed across the mind, and, without much thought, or any settled purpose — they gave utterance to the exclamation.
Friend, listen to me for a few moments, and I will try to show you that it is necessary to turn over a new leaf, and that the present is the best time to do so. A new year begins today. The old year has told its tale before the throne of God.
Every act performed,
every word spoken,
every thought conceived,
every temper indulged —
has been written as with a pen of iron on a table of brass! The record is permanent. Nothing can obliterate a single letter — but the precious blood of Christ. The recording angel has just turned over a new leaf, and, with pen in hand — is ready to register the thoughts, plans, purposes, and practices of this year. You cannot look over the past with much pleasure, and had need begin afresh.
First, If you have neglected your soul. Thousands have done so; perhaps you have. They have attended to the body, even indulging its lusts and evil propensities; but the soul, the never dying soul, has been neglected! What folly is this! It is like being careful of the clothes — and leaving the child to perish. The greatest loss in God's universe is the loss of a soul, and yet thousands of souls are daily lost by sinful neglect. If your soul is lost, it will be in consequence of your neglect; willful, deliberate, long-continued neglect. It may be saved, for Jesus is both able and willing to save it; but unless you apply to him, and seek salvation right earnestly — there is no probability that he will save you. Now if, up to the present time, you have neglected your soul; if you are still unpardoned, unsanctified, and unsaved — then I am sure it is high time that you "turned over a new leaf."
Secondly, If you have lived without God. That is, without the knowledge of his nature and character; without faith in his word; without reconciliation to him by the cross of his Son; without loving, worshiping, and obeying him. God is love — but if you do not love him, you do not know him. God is truth — but if you do not believe his word, you do not know him. God is the only object of adoration — but if you do not worship him in spirit and in truth, you do not know him. Now, if you do not know God, you are living without God — you have no faith in him, love to him, zeal for him, or fellowship with him. You are considered his enemy! An enemy that refuses to be reconciled to him. An enemy who prefers his absence to his company, his creatures to himself. And if you are living without God; if you neither know his character, study his word, worship at his throne, or seek to do his will — then I am sure it is high time for you to "turn over a new leaf."
Thirdly, If you are disregarding the rights of your neighbors. You neighbor has a right to your love, for God has commanded you to love your neighbor as yourself. You ought, therefore, to think kindly of everyone, speak kindly to everyone, and seek to do good to everyone; for if you do not, how can you be said to keep God's law? And if you willfully, allowedly, and habitually act contrary to God's law — are you not I criminal in his sight? And if a criminal — then you are exposed to punishment? And if exposed to punishment at the hand of God — are you not in great danger of being sent to Hell? And if in great danger of being sent to Hell — is it not high time to "turn over a new leaf."
"But my neighbor is no friend of mine." Perhaps not — but love makes friends, and keeps friends when made. "But my neighbor is above me, and I cannot do anything to show my love." Are you sure of that? Let love fill your thoughts — and it will look out at your eyes, and you will then soon see an opportunity to manifest that you love your neighbor. "But my neighbor is my enemy." If so, Jesus says, "Love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who despitefully use you, and persecute you; that you may be the children of your Father who is in Heaven." (Matthew 5:44, 45.) Did Jesus command what is right? Is his command binding on you? Do you live in the neglect, or violation of it? If so, then it is high time for you to "turn over a new leaf."
Finally, If you have slighted the Savior. Jesus came from Heaven to earth; he labored, suffered, and died, to save sinners. He cries, "Behold me! behold me!" He calls, "Come unto me." He promises, "He who believes shall be saved." Have you fixed your mind intently upon what is written in the New Testament, or preached by God's ministers, concerning the Lord Jesus Christ? Have you come to him on his throne of grace, confessing your sins with sorrow, and praying for salvation with all the fervor of your soul? Do you exercise confidence in his word, and rely alone on his obedience and sacrifice — for your acceptance before God! In a word, have you taken him to be your Savior, and placed yourself in his hands to be saved by him fully, freely, and forever? If so, you are devoted to his service, and active in his cause? Now, is this the case? If not, the Savior is still slighted by you; and to live and die slighting the Savior — is to make sure of eternal damnation! And I am sure if you are in this situation — then it is high time for you to "turn over a new leaf."
Reader, what do you say? With the new year will you begin a new course? If so, shun the alehouse, go to the house of prayer, begin in earnest to seek the Lord, and be sure every time you go upon your knees, to entreat the Lord to create in you a new heart, and bless you with a right spirit. You will always be — as your heart is. The great change, therefore, must commence there; this is the reason why God made the promise, which runs thus, "A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you; and I will take away the stony heart — and I will give you an heart of flesh." (Ezekiel 36:26.) This promise is given to show you that God is willing to give what you need, and to stir you up to ask for it at his hands. A new heart will embrace the Lord Jesus, and lead to a new course of life. And a new course of life flowing from faith in Jesus, will make a happy new year!