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AMERICAN NATIONAL PREACHER.
FROM LIVING MINISTERS OF THE UNITED STATES.
EDITED BY REV. J. M. SHERWOOD.
PUBLISHED BY J. M. SHERWOOD, 120 NASSAU ST.
No. 1, VOL. XXIII.
WHOLE NO. 265.
A NEW YEAR'S SERMON FOR 1849.
BY REV. J. FEW SMITH,
PROFESSOR IN AUBURN THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY.
HOW OLD ART THOU ?
"And Pharaoh said unto Jacob, how old art thou !"-GEN., 47: 8.
ANOTHER year has passed away! Its days, its hours have been all swallowed in the vast abyss of the infinite Past. Its transactions belong now to the province of history. Memory may recall them, and by her magic power cause their pictured resemblances to rise before us; but never again can they be living events: just as the portrait of a beloved friend may make that friend vividly present to the eye of the mind, while the sweet voice is silent, and the beauty of form and the grace of motion have been hidden in the tomb. We have a power
over the Past which we have not over the Future, and the Past sways us as the Future cannot sway. We may, in fancy, live over again our past existence; while the utmost stretch of fancy cannot reach into the secret lurking-places of "coming events." We have the faculty of memory by which we may recall; but no faculty with which man is endowed will, of himself, enable him to foresee. The Past has a strong hold upon us. It is acquainted with our ways, with all our secret thoughts. It holds the record of our doings, good or bad. It can touch the springs of conscience, and kindle the fires of remorse. It is fraught with a testimony that affects our character and peace. The Future can affect us only when faith enlightens our vision, and when in its light, the voice of the Past speaks cheeringly, or with bitter reproach and condemnation. The Past can teach us. In order to be instructed by the Future we need the light of revelation. The Past, though gone from us, is, in a certain sense, ours. have lived in it; our lives have taken a coloring from it; in it we have exerted an influence on the world; our weal or woe is Hinked with it. But the Future is not ours; it is altogether beyond our reach. Yet in that future we must live. That too in its turn must become our Past. And so we go on,-on, for
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ever; each moment casting behind us a portion of time, yet having still before us an infinite future; each moment diminishing that portion of time which is bounded by the grave, and has been allotted by an all-wise Creator as a period of preparation for that existence which is beyond the grave, and has no limit.
And now another grand division of time has disappeared; not a moment, merely; not a day, but a whole Year a large portion of our little period of probation. Not one Sabbath only; but fifty-two of those sacred days have passed away, with all their holy influences and precious privileges. And we stand at the commencement of a new year; we enter to-day upon a new cycle of Sabbaths. We penetrate still farther into the future. Our earthly journey is not yet finished. A new stage is reached. With seemingly accelerated speed we press on to its termination.
Do no reflections, peculiar to such a period, press upon our minds? Does not the rolling year speak to us? Is it not fitting that we should now give heed to the voice of the past year, and learn what preparation we have made, for the toils and temptations, the joys and griefs, the posterity and the adversity, aye, and the struggle with death which may await us in this new year upon which we have just entered?
That year has gone-gone with its sighs and tears, its pleasures and delights, its deeds of wickedness and of folly, its acts of benevolence and love, its prayers and praises, and lowly confessions, and sacrifices of broken and contrite hearts. We look back upon it and what do we behold? Shall I pause to speak of the shaking and overturning of thrones and dominions, of the exile of monarchs, of the births and deaths of princes, of the triumphs of liberty, of national prosperity and renown, or national adversity and disgrace? Do our hearts shudder, or do they swell, and the blood grow warm in our veins, at sight of deeds of cruelty and oppression, of diplomatic fraud, of. wholesale butchery, of the down-treading of the poor by a cold-hearted aristocracy or a gain-loving caste, and of the outbreaking of riotous passions, and the disregard of law? Do we weep as we behold the fires of bigotry, of sectarianism, and of persecution? Or do we rejoice as our vision is greeted by the banner of the cross waving on the hill-tops of Syria, and the plains of India, and our ear catches the song of thanksgiving and praise that rises from the Isles of the ocean? Do we count with joy the converts who flee to the ark of safety? Or do we mourn as the desolations of Zion force themselves upon our view?
The past year, my brethren, is full of such sights and sounds. It has circled the earth, and on the tablet which represents its journey, are mingled all these strokes of light and
shade. It is a picture whose study may well awaken saddened emotions, while yet joy attempers grief.
But why study thus the wORLD'S past year? We have enough for meditation if we bound our vision by our own circle. Brethren, think of these things. What blessings have you received at God's hand? Count up your fireside comforts and joys. Remember your deliverances from danger, your days of health, your comfort in sickness, your prosperity in business. Remember your spiritual joys-God's presence with you at the house of prayer, the refreshing of your soul in the place of social worship, the consolation and strength which he has vouchsafed unto you. Remember your errors, and deficiencies, and offences-your yielding to temptation, and then again your successful resistance of it. Those of you who are yet impenitent, can recall the many opportunities that have been granted you, for securing your salvation: the words of divine truth addressed to you, the warnings of God's providence, the strivings of the Holy Spirit, the anxiety which has been awakened in your souls, your convictions of guilt and danger, and the serious impressions which you have found it so difficult to throw off. And what trials have we had-what sicknesswhat experience of affliction? How many graves have we seen opened, and whom have we laid therein? Death has been around us and among us in the past year. The old, and the young, and the middle-aged, has he claimed as his victims. Scarcely an individual who hears me has escaped the sundering of some link of connection, either close or distant, by the hand of death, since the last year commenced its progress. Hardly any present have failed to witness funeral rites during that progress. All can remember eyes which twelve months since looked upon them, and which are now sealed in the tomb; voices which then greeted them, which shall be heard no more until the resurrection. And we are yet alive! some with tottering limbs and whitened locks, some just turning to old age, some in the full vigor of existence, some in the rosy morning of life. We are yet alive! and around about us are the mercies of our God. We are yet alive! and we walk among the graves of our fathers and our friends, and we gaze on the fresh turf and the newly-carved monument, or at the sunken grave, and the time-marked stone, the living in the city of the dead. We are yet alive! and to-day are gathered in the house of God, to hear the voice of warning, to drink in the hallowed influence of prayer and praise, to fill our lamps with oil, and trim them for the bridegroom's coming. We are yet alive! and the voice of the past speaks to us its lessons of wisdom, stirring the fountains of gratitude, moving the throb of contrition, awakening hope or fear. We are yet alive! But ah! my hearers, when this year too has fled, and another cycle commences, how many of our forms will have disappeared-how many new