I wish you a happy New Year,” will soon be repeated far and near, by parents and children, brothers and sisters, acquaintances and friends. In a world like ours, this New Year’s greeting seems far more appropriate than the Merry Christmas so lately echoed from lip to lip. On every hand are pale faces, brows furrowed with pain and care, or forms bowed with age. Wherever we turn may be seen the garb of mourning. The suffering, the care-worn, and the aged can no longer be merry. In many a household there is a vacant chair; a beloved child, a husband and father, whose presence gladdened the last Christmas and New Year’s festivity, is gone from the circle. A merry Christmas seems a mockery to that bereaved family.
But whatever the cares and sorrows of life, whatever the mistakes and errors of the past, the “Happy New Year,” when uttered as an expression of love or respect, falls pleasantly upon the ear. And yet, are not these kindly wishes often forgotten with the utterance? How often we fail to carry their import into the daily life, and thus to aid in their fulfillment. The New Year’s greeting is frequently uttered by insincere lips, from hearts that would not forego one selfish gratification in order to make other’s happy. Recipients of gifts and favors every new year, many accept these as their due. Receiving daily the bounties of Heaven, sunshine and shower, food and raiment, friends and home—all the unnoted yet priceless blessings of life—they forget the claims of the Giver; forget that God has left them a legacy in His poor; and that Christ, the Majesty of Heaven, identifies Himself with suffering humanity in the person of his saints.
Says our Saviour, “It was I Whom you neglected. While your wardrobe was supplied with costly apparel, I had no comfortable clothing; while you feasted, I was hungry; while you were absorbed in pleasure, I was sick, a stranger, and uncared for.” Let those who would have a happy new year, seek to honor God and make all around them happy. Let them share the gifts of Providence with those more needy, and bring to the Lord their offerings of gratitude, their sin-offerings, and their free-will offerings.
Let us review our own course during the past year, and compare our life and character with the Bible standard. Have we withheld from our gracious Benefactor that which He claims from us in return for all the blessings He has granted? Have we neglected to care for the poor, and comfort the sorrowing? Here, then, is work for us.
Upon many, God has bestowed His gifts with a lavish hand. Will they make corresponding returns? Some of these persons, when in poverty, were faithful in the smallest trust committed to them. They would sooner deny themselves of the comforts, or even the necessaries of life, than to withhold their offerings from the Lord’s treasury. God has rewarded their faithfulness by prosperity. But now a change comes over the recipients of His bounty. Their wants increase faster than their income, and they no longer return to God the portion which is His due. Thus is developed that same spirit of covetousness which proved the ruin of Judas.
Let us each bring our souls to task. Let us see if we have brought all our offerings to God. I would do this for myself as an individual. It may be that I have been remiss during the past year. I know not when or where, but to make sure that I have done my whole duty, I will at the first of the year bring an offering to God to be appropriated as may seem best, to some one of the branches of His work. If any of you, my brethren and sisters, are convicted that you have failed to render to God the things that are His; if you have not kindly considered the wants of the poor; or if you have withheld from any man his due, I entreat you to repent before the Lord, and to restore fourfold. Strict honesty toward God and men will alone meet the divine requirements. Remember that if you have defrauded a neighbor in trade, or in any manner deprived him of his own, or if you have robbed God in tithes and offerings, it is all registered in the books of Heaven.
Many are bemoaning their backsliding, their want of peace and rest in Christ, when the past year’s record shows that they have separated themselves from God by their departure from strict integrity. When they will faithfully examine their hearts, when they will open their eyes to see the selfishness of their motives—then their prayer will be, “Create in me a clean heart O God; and renew a right spirit within me” (Psalm 51:10). God requires us to have a pure heart and clean hands (Psalm 24:4). Let those who have committed wrong give proof of their repentance by seeking to make full restitution, let them in their after-life give evidence of a genuine reformation, and they will assuredly enjoy the peace of Heaven.
Let us enter upon the new year with a clean record. Let faults be corrected. Let bitterness and malice be uprooted. Let right triumph over wrong. Let envy and jealousy between brethren be put away. Heartfelt, honest confession will heal grave difficulties. Then, with the love of God in the soul, there may flow from sincere lips the greeting, “I wish you a happy New Year.”
Many who were with us at the beginning of 1881 are not here to welcome 1882. We ourselves may not live to see another year. Shall we not seek to improve the little time allotted us? Will not the church of Christ turn from their backslidings? Will they not cast aside their idols, repent of their love of the world, overcome their selfish greed, and open the door of the heart to bid the Saviour welcome? May the beginning of this year be a time that shall never be forgotten—a time when Christ shall come in among us, and say, “Peace be unto you.”
Brethren and sisters, I wish you, one and all, a happy New Year.
“We live in deeds, not years; in
thought, not breath;
In feelings, not in figures on the dial.
We should count time by heart-throbs
when they beat
For man, for duty. He most lives
Who thinks most, feels noblest, acts
The Review and Herald, January 3, 1882.