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CHRISTIAN'S PENNY MAGAZINE.
NEW YEAR COUNSEL.
EXOD. xiv. 45.
Ir is plain that such an admonition as this must not be indiscriminately urged. It belongs to Christians, to men converted to God, and sincerely the followers of Jesus Christ. To as many as are of this character we affectionately say-" Go forward." More particularly,
1. You are engaged in a high spiritual pursuit.
As the children of Israel had escaped from Egypt, and had shaken off the cruel bondage of their oppressor, so you have turned from the present evil world, have renounced the slavery of sin, the thraldom of Satan, and have in view the kingdom of heaven. This being the case, think not lightly of the concern in which you are embarked; it requires firm decision, and involves the most serious results.
The Israelites set out from Egypt to the land of Canaan; and you have left the region of destruction for the city of God: you have entered on a journey to the new Jerusalem above. Yours, therefore, is an enterprise of the greatest magnitude; but fear not. That God who has inclined your heart to attempt it, and indeed effected your release, will encourage you in your course, and enable you to hold on your way.
Your object now is, the acquisition of scriptural knowledge, not the knowledge of froth and folly; the cherishing and improving of religious impressions, not to stifle and strive against them. Your object is to vanquish sin; to rise in victory over it,
in all its various forms and baneful workings; to make progress in the way of holiness; not to sit down at the entrance of the way, or to be satisfied with any attainment short of entire conformity to God. Your object is to increase in spiritual consolation. Much of this is yet to be enjoyed. The pleasures of sin you have tried, and found them worthless; those you have relinquished, and have set your heart on joys substantial and sincere. In short, having through grace believed, your desire is to "add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge temperance, to temperance patience, to patience godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness charity." Your effort is “to press towards the mark for the prize;" your resolution is “to grow in grace," till this grace is matured in glory, and you prove the full measure of what the religion of Jesus Christ can produce in the world which is to come.
2. In this pursuit you must expect difficulties.
And be not surprised if you meet with them at the very entrance of your religious course. How was it with the children of Israel? Before they had well got out of Egypt, you see the difficulty which beset them-a most perplexing embarrassment. And you who have set out for heaven, dream not of uninterrupted ease and pleasure. The yoke of Christ indeed is easy, and His burthen light; but there are other yokes to be borne, and crosses which you must take up and carry. Three grand enemies are combined against you—the world, the flesh, and the devil; these have agents innumerable, and influence the most formidable. Continually varying their attacks, and assailing you at all points, wonder not that they cause you much anxiety and distress. Should any of you, therefore, suppose that because you have formed the resolution to be decided Christians, your spiritual enemies will not molest you; that, despairing of success, they will leave you to the quiet enjoyment of your comforts and your hopes; soon will you find yourselves mistaken; soon will you discover that dangers and difficulties await you, painful trials and severe conflicts; and that you "must through much tribulation enter the kingdom of God." But,
3. Notwithstanding difficulties, you must "go forward.”
Backward you cannot go, but at the hazard of life, at the cost of utter destruction. "If any man draw back, my soul," saith the Lord, "shall have no pleasure in him;" and to lie under the displeasure of the Almighty is to be wretched and undone for
ever. You are not situated exactly as the Israelites were at the border of the Red Sea; you may turn aside to either hand; you may sink in sloth and negligence; you may give way to levity and trifling; you may wander in a great variety of different directions; yet this is at the cost of your utter ruin, unless Sovereign Mercy interpose, and bring you back into the right way. Brethren, you must " 'go forward," or you cannot possibly be either safe or happy. Are you obstructed in your course? Do you meet with formidable and unexpected difficulties? Take heed you do not magnify them, by musing too much upon them. The wisest way is to dwell on what is your duty, your indispensable duty and inestimable privilege. This leads us toobserve,
4. In your progress there is much to encourage you. What is there? The command of God is evident. As He said by Moses to the children of Israel, so He says to you-" Go forward;" and His commandments are not grievous. This before us is directly the reverse; it is full of tenderness and love. Does the Lord command you to injure yourselves? Impossible! Though He direct you to face difficulties, and apparently to rush upon danger; yet He will hold you as in the hollow of His hand, He will keep you as the apple of His eye. "Go forward," therefore, at the command of God, and He who led the father of the faithful will lead you. He who divided the water for the seed of Abraham to pass through, will make darkness light before you, and crooked things straight. Moving at His word, your way shall be sufficiently plain; and your path that of "the just," resembling the sun, “which shineth more and more unto the perfect day."
The example of others is encouraging. You hear much of the trials of your fellow-Christians, and how their trials are surmounted. They meet with all the obstacles which you meet with, and some of them with more; yet they sink not; they rise above them; the grace of their God and Saviour is sufficient for them. And who are they in white robes, before the throne of God, serving Him day and night in His temple? Whence came they? "They came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb." Does not their conquest revive you? Their circumstances of trial were nearly similar; their dependance for support was exactly the same; the difference is, they are gone a little before. Join with them in singing, "Thanks be to God, who giveth us the victory, through our Lord Jesus Christ."
Your own experience is some encouragement. Have you not already been helped through difficulties? It cannot be that you have become thus decided in religion without inward struggles and outward trials; and who has brought you through them? You can testify with Paul, "Having obtained help of God, I continue unto this day." Be encouraged, therefore; He who hath helped you, is no less able and willing to help you still. Difficulties new to you may occur, but they are well known to Him who sends them. He sees as clearly the future as the past; what you have to meet, as well as what is already surmounted. Then "go forward," pleading with David, "Thou hast been my help; leave me not, neither forsake me, O God of my salvation."
The guidance which God gives is greatly encouraging. The children of Israel had Moses, and after him Joshua, for their guide. They had also "a pillar of cloud by day, and a pillar of fire by night." More than this; "Behold, saith the Lord, “I send an angel before thee, to keep thee in the way, and to bring thee into the place which I have prepared." Your privileges, Christians, rise much higher than those of the Israelites; and the guidance which you have is far more valuable, because better suited to your circumstances and wants. You have this good word, always accessible, and ever certain. Many subordinate guides might easily be enumerated; but you have one, superior to all the rest-Jesus, the good Shepherd! Have you entered the way to heaven? You are the peculiar charge of Him who is all wisdom, all power, all faithfulness, all tenderness and love; a guide who knows every step of the way, and knows all your weakness; whose eye is ever wakeful; whose arm is ever mighty; whose heart is ever kind. You may be young and inexperienced; soon intimidated, and subject to fear; but mark the promise:— 'He shall feed His flock like a shepherd, He shall gather the lambs with His arm, and carry them in His bosom." Such a guide may well invigorate your confidence and hope. Daily commit yourselves to His care; keep near to His side; rejoice in His love; and "go forward."
The refreshments of the way must encourage you. The Israelites, in their journey, had manna rained from heaven, and the rock gave them water to drink; its streams attended them the desert through; and "that rock was an instructive emblem of "Christ." Believers, remember what Zion's King hath provided for you as Zion's travellers! The Gospel is food, affording the
best support; the promises are a cordial, administering the richest consolation. "I had fainted unless I had believed." Thy words were found, and I did eat them; and thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of mine heart." Divine ordinances are wisely adapted to the same end. The Lord's Supper is a feast, a feast for refreshment. At His table His presence is enjoyed; weary pilgrims sit under the shadow of their beloved Lord with great delight, and His fruit is sweet unto their taste. Sitting around His board, partaking of the memorials of His love, their spirits are invigorated and refreshed; they "go forward."
And what shall we say of heaven at the end of your course? The Israelites had the prospect of Canaan, and it encouraged them; the hope of the promised land helped them through many trials. But yours is a much better hope, a much more animating prospect. You, as Christians, are "begotten again unto a lively hope, by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible, undefiled, and that fadeth not away." Never lose sight of this inheritance. It belongs to you. It is "reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation."
Some of you may be near the end of your course. You have travelled in the ways of Zion many years, and this year may be the last. While you lament the slowness of your progress, and your unhappy wanderings, you are thankful that these are still the ways you love, and in which you walk. "Now is your salvation nearer than when you believed." And what should be your feelings and your conduct under this reflection? The traveller, near his home, forgets fatigue, and urges on his way with cheerfulness. A thousand tender thoughts crowd into his mind, and interest his heart, as he approaches the scene of his endearing domestic comforts. Your home is heaven. Anticipating its enjoyment, therefore, "go forward." Do not fret and grieve about the troubles of the way; keep its end in view. Do not count your steps with impatient wishes; remember, each step brings you so much nearer the happy close. And as home is welcome to the traveller in proportion to his fatigue, so will heaven be welcome to you, as succeeding the toils and trials of the present state. You find not rest on earth, nor can you reasonably expect it; "there remaineth a rest for the people of God." Ere long you "shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of God." And the Saviour hath promised, “To him