I Will Turn Over a New Leaf!
by James Smith, 1860
Many of our old sayings are very pithy, and are full of important meaning. But they are too often used lightly, or with an improper motive. Some always have them at their tongues' end, to serve a purpose. How often, have I heard the one at the head of this article employed as a mere excuse, or to silence the voice of reproof. Yes, yes, it is very easy to say, "I will turn over a new leaf." But the question is, how many times have you said so — and yet have never done it? Some are very ready to promise — but we generally find that those who are most ready, with their promises, are very backward with their performances.
I would like to turn this good old saying to some account — but if I do so, I am afraid I shall strike some hard blows, and while I reprove others, it is ten to one, that I shall not escape without a bruise myself.
There is Deacon Kiffen — he is a stout heavy man, and very nervous also. No one that looked at him would think that he kept many fast days, or beat his body to bring it into subjection. The deacon has a very good gift in prayer, and when he uses it, the friends profess to profit by it. But sometimes you will not see him at a prayer meeting for months together, and if his Pastor or fellow-deacons speak to him of his lax attendance, he always meets them with "I must turn over a new leaf!"
Many a new leaf has the deacon professed to turn over — but they have all been blanks — or have soon been as bad as the old one. If any particular stir is made, or if a new Pastor is chosen, the deacon will be very regular in his place, and will use his gift of prayer very acceptably for a little time; but it will not be long before he will be seized with one of his nervous fits, and then the prayer-meeting must be given up.
Brother Kiffen, this is wrong, very wrong of you. Let me exhort you to be honest, and confess the true cause of your neglect. Are you not too fond of self-indulgence? Do you not prefer your warm parlor, cheerful fire, and exhilarating glass — to the Bible, and the prayer meeting? I am afraid you do.
But I will not be uncharitable! Think over the matter, "turn over a new leaf," and either fill up your place or resign your office, assigning the true reason for your doing so.
There is Jacob Swift — he cannot afford to give to the cause of God, other people must build the house of prayer, pay for its being kept clean, warm, and comfortable, and they must support the minister, too.
Jacob likes a comfortable seat, and you will generally find him in one of the best; but if you ask him to subscribe to the support of the cause, or the Missionary Society, or to the Bible or Tract Societies — he assures you that he cannot afford it. Nor would you question the truth of his statement, if you knew how much he spends weekly out of his wages on tobacco and strong drinks. Jacob, Jacob, it is quite time that you "turned over a new leaf." Smoking is injuring your lungs, and drink is undermining your character, and you are forming habits which will let out all your spirituality, if you have any; or will ruin your soul if you have not. Tamper not with temptation any longer, give up your injurious and expensive habits — and you will be able to do much good, and in so doing will enjoy much comfort and peace.
If Paul would say to a thief, "He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need," — then I would say to the man who, by smoking and drinking, so impoverishes himself that he cannot discharge his duties to the church and the world, "Let him that smokes and drinks, smoke and drink no more — but rather let him abstain, that he may have something to share with those in need, and glorify God."
Jacob, take my advice, break your pipe, cast away your tobacco-box, drink no more than is absolutely necessary for your health, and "turn over a new leaf," it will be for your good and God's glory.
Evan Solomon is a good man — but he is weak. He imagines himself to be well taught of God, and of some importance in the church. He can pray, converse, and pass muster among his fellows as a true Christian. But either he is deficient in knowledge, or principle, or confidence in God; for he grieves his fellow-members, by yielding to the promises or threats of his fellow-men. He cannot, or will not commit himself to God, determine to do right, or act up to his principles, let the consequences be as they may. He thinks, "if I should lose my trade, or if I should displease my customers, or if I should have my reputation taken away — what shall I do?"
He professes to trust God with his soul — but he cannot trust him for the body; he talks of trusting God for eternity — but he cannot trust him for time. If there is a political contest, you are almost sure to find Solomon on the wrong side; and by his practice condemning his principles. He has no doubt some difficulty in quieting his conscience — but as Satan is always ready in deceiving those who are willing to be deceived — he is much more ready to help them who wish to deceive themselves. I am afraid the time will come, when such characters will find out their mistake. I would advise all such to "turn over a new leaf," and either change their principles, or their practices — that so both may square together. The words of Jesus are solemn words, "You cannot serve both God and mammon."
Sarah Aldridge is always late when she attends the public worship of God. Unless if she thought the place would be crowded, so that she could not get her own comfortable seat, you would never see her there in time. I am afraid things are not very orderly at home, for I always imagine if people are orderly in their families, they will be orderly out of them; but surely no one will say it is orderly to come into the house of prayer ten or twenty minutes after the service has commenced. Such conduct interrupts the minister, disturbs the congregation, and insults God.
Now, though there are very few but may occasionally be compelled by circumstances to come in after the service has commenced, there are none that are compelled to be always late. My friend Sarah, is destitute of good manners, has not a sufficient measure of self-respect, and forgets the duty that she owes to others and to God. I should advise her to "turn over a new leaf," rise a little earlier, sit less time over her meals, do no more on the Lord's day than is necessary, and above all make it a matter of conscience to be always in her place before the service begins.
Distracted as our minds frequently are, we should be in time to unite in the first prayer, beseeching God to collect our thoughts, calm our minds, and fill us with devotional feelings. And as loaded as we are with the divine benefits, we should be present to join in the first hymn, and so express our gratitude to God for his mercies. Reader, if you have contracted the habit of being late at worship, "turn over a new leaf," and turn it over at once.
Jane Elliot, I have observed, has become very fond of dress of late. I am sure she dresses above her station, and spends more money in finery than her wages will justify. She seems to forget that God has given precepts to regulate the dress of his people: they are not to adorn themselves with gold, pearls, or costly array; but to dress as befits women professing godliness, wearing the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit.
When the love of dress creeps in — the concern to please God and to honor the Lord Jesus Christ departs. Spiritual people will not be anxious to be in the height of the fashion, much less will they spend that money in dress, which ought to be given to supply the widow's needs, to dry the orphan's tears, or to spread the everlasting gospel over the face of the earth. True religion does not require us to make ourselves singular in point of dress — but it does teach us to live within our income, and to inquire how much of that income may justly be spent in dress, before we spend it: or, as Solomon says, it teaches to "guide our affairs with discretion."
There are many professing Christians, whom I should like to recommend to "turn over a new leaf." They would look much nicer, be respected much more, and enjoy more of divine things, if they dressed plainer, or more in accordance with the situation in which God has placed them.
Christina Adams is one of a class who has sat under the Word for years, has often trembled at the threatenings of the law, and been affected with the invitations of the gospel. She has often determined to give her heart to God — but has put it off. She is fond of trifling companions, indulges in foolish conversation, and stifles the convictions of her soul. Very often, in times past, it may have been said to her, "You are not far from the kingdom of God." She has been heard weeping and praying in her bedroom, she has been terribly alarmed in a storm of thunder and lightning. But again she has yielded to temptation, and I am afraid she is becoming "hardened through the deceitfulness of sin."
Christina, listen to me, and take my advice, and "turn over a new leaf;" give up your mirthful and giddy companions, and set your heart to seek God. Daily go upon your knees, and pray for the Holy Spirit, whom God has promised to every one that asks him. Fix your mind upon the Lord Jesus Christ, believing all that you read of him in his word, place confidence in him, and solemnly commit your soul to him, that he may cleanse it in his blood, sanctify it by his Spirit, justify it by his righteousness, and so save it for evermore. It would be a sad thing for you, after having heard the word for so many years, after having been impressed so many times, after being on the very threshold of the kingdom of God — to be lost forever. But you will be, you must be lost — except you "turn over a new leaf." Turn it over then, Christina — or whoever reads these lines and is in such a state, nor rest until salvation is enjoyed in your heart.
But I must proceed no further, for if he who despises reproof errs — then he who carries his reproof to an undue length, errs too. In many things we offend all, and I am sure the writer, as well as the reader, has much cause in many respects "to turn over a new leaf." Conscience has spoken more than once, while I have been penning these lines, and Satan has suggested once or twice, "In so saying — you condemn yourself!" Well, let me condemn myself if I deserve it, and let me write what condemns myself, if by so doing I may benefit others.
May the Lord, grant his great mercy, show us all wherein we are wrong, set our heart against whatever is displeasing to himself, cleanse us thoroughly from the guilt of all our past sins, give us grace, that in future we may live more like the Lord Jesus, and so not only talk, read, tor write about it — but really, and in good truth "Turn over a new leaf."