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The New Zealand Evangelist

The Expiring Year.—A Sketch

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The Expiring Year.—A Sketch.

The year 1849 draws to a close, and its last evening is one of extreme beauty. The day has been sultry and oppressive, but now the last rays of the setting sun scarce faintly gleam across the landscape; the bright queen of night is rising in unclouded majesty, whilst each orb and planet formed by the word of God, stands forth a silent but impressive revelation of the greatness and glory of the Omniscient hand that formed the whole. How sublime are the glories unfolded by night! How impressive the lesson taught to the humble and teachable heart, by objects more glorious, more radiant than sunlight's brightest pomp, or all the created splendour of the now sleeping world!

The owl's shrill cry alone awakes an echo in the stillness of evening: thoughts unbidden rise, strange yearnings of the spirit, sad varieties of feelings and wishes which chase each other in quick succession, yet amid the instability of human thought there is a longing to feel and know more of that hope and dependance, which time destroyeth not, the hope of the gospel.

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In midst of these reflections there bursts a sound which breaks the solemn quiet of night; yet that sound harmonizes with the scene, and blends itself with the thoughts of the listeners. Tis the song of thanksgiving from a band of pilgrims who have met to watch and pray: who together seek to record at God's footstool their sense of mercies past—who together pause on the threshold of another and a new year, to ask a blessing on its commencement.

Let us enter that humble temple and join that band of worhippers [sic: worshippers]—perchance some good may accrue even to us as individuals, whilst we listen to the glowing earnestness of description which pourtrays the mighty power for which the Christain contends, the imperishable nature of that crown of glory which the victor shall obtain. The temperance, the watchfulness, the perseverance, the energy, that must characterize the race of him who would come off conqueror, is plainly set forth; and we feel despite ourselves that anxious wish, that we may be found among the victors. But time is quietly though surely passing, and the parting minutes of the dying year are spent by us in solemn, in dead silence—a silence so profound, that its depth tells how serious is the task of self-communion. What billows of thought may rush across the mind in one brief moment: ‘tis well man seeth not that hideous sight, “a naked human heart.” The sweet and consoling thought that the eye now upon us is one of mercy: that like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear him, that He knoweth our frame, and doth not willingly affect, comes like oil on the troubled mind and prevents dispair; for in that full tide of deep unutterable feeling, of earnest penitence, of strong resolve, of entire dependance, of utter self renunciation, which must pass through every humbled heart, there needs indeed a sense of the full free love, and power of a Saviour.

But now the expired year has past! and with all its wasted or unimproved hours, with all its sin-laden days, its joys, sorrows, and unavailing regrets—an page 291 other year is numbered with those beyond the flood—charged with its great account, it is registered in Heaven's archives, to be brought against us at the last great day. Now with saddened hearts and subdued feelings, that little band stands forth to sing a hymn—a fitting jubilee, a peace offering, a tribute of love, in the very dawn of another circle of time; and as each line of that meaning hymn thrilled forth, one could fancy each mentally girded closer his armour and determined to begin his journey anew—

“With vigour arise,
And pass to their permanent place in the skies.”

A prayer for God's blessing, a fervently uttered and kindly greeting, and all dispersed—each to resume his appointed duty and care; to give and receive the sympathies, affections, and cares of social life. But the hour of deep wrought and earnest feeling will leave its traces behind; or rather its influences will be carried forward into daily life, tending to exalt and refine the mind and manners—and its remembrance will be treasured as among the sweet and lovely things which leave a fragrance behind.

To all reflecting persons there is something inexpressibly touching in such modes of marking the lapse of time; and tis fitting each individually should enquire how far the rapid progress of years is marked by corresponding improvement. We each one possess powers of which we ourselves are unconscious, till circumstances call them into action; talents which we thoughtlessly hide, and which perchance are only awakened by some painful reverse of fortune, too late for their possessors to put them out to usury.

The awful truth which standeth on divine authority—“Except ye repentye shall all likewise perish,“is familiar to us all. God has mercifully promised to us that divine assistance which shall enable us to forsake all sin, and help us to pursue with zeal and diligence the path of duty.

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None of us, even the youngest, should delay; for time and the use of our reasoning powers is essential to true repentance and amendment of life.

There is no word of scripture to encourage delay or indifference. The parables of creation speak the same language. Yet how often do we pass by these silent and lovely emblems of our mortal state without listening to the voice of instruction. In how many has the morning of life passed; how many of us feel that time is beginning to throw deeper shadows on our path—the joys of early youth will return no more; it is only those strongest impressions which are, by the hand of high and intense feeling, graven upon firm and energetic hearts, that remain to the grave—all other, the early scenes of weal and woe, imperceptibly die away.

Let us then value human life as a time of action; let the due importance of passing hours be estimated: not one is to be wasted, not one which has not its appointed duty. Instead of being employed in sin or wasted in idleness, they were sent to call into exercise the faith, and test the obedience, of creatures travelling to eternity. The shadow never stands still; and though other hours may be given, the peculiar circumstances and advantages which invested the last day or hour may never return. Tis a serious and solemn awakening when, after half our race is run, we start to the conviction of abused and mis-spent time gone for ever! Surely that is no easy conflict, in which the soldier needs the whole armour of God as his panoply:—surely that is no light promise made by us when received into Christ's Church militant,“that we will be the faithful soldiers and servants of Jesus Christ to our life's end;”— surely that is no light prize which shall be awarded to all who run with patience the race that is set before them, “so let us run that we may obtain.”