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Thoughts and Reflecting on the New Year - by Dr. James Buchanan

Articles on the Christian Walk, Systematic Theology and Practical Theology

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Dr. James Buchanan on thoughts concerning the stages of life and the New Year.

One of the most obvious reflections suggested by the close of one year and the commencement of another, arises from the familiar figure by which life is compared to a journey, and the different years of life to successive stages in our course; for just as a traveller is reminded, by looking on a mile-stone, that he has left another stage behind him, and that he has one fewer before, so the commencement of another year should awaken the thoughtful reflection, how large a portion of life is already past, and how much less remains for us before we reach our final destination.

Were life bounded by a limit which, besides being fixed and certain in itself, was also ascertainable by each of us – could we all count securely on the full tale of three-score years and ten – even on that supposition we might be expected to be seriously impressed by the succession of one year after another, each vanishing away, and leaving a smaller number before us; for the youth might say: Twenty years are gone – twenty stages have been passed over – how short they seem in the retrospect! yet fifty more, and my race is run! And the man of mature age might say: More than the half of my allotted time is expired, and in less time than I have already spent I shall be in eternity. Thus, as one stage after another was completed, it were natural to count how many mile-stones have been passed, and to compute how few remain before us; but how much more natural, and how deeply solemn the thought in the actual circumstances of our case, that we have reached another distinct landmark in our course – we, who “know not what a day may bring forth,” and who are passing on with the assurance that beyond a certain limit, we cannot live; but at the same time in the constant hazard of an early and unexpected death!

The maximum of life is known – the minimum of life no man call tell. It is a journey which may extend to seventy stages, or may terminate in one. It is a voyage on a flowing stream, whose utmost reach may carry a few onward for threescore years and ten; but a stream which has many divergent channels opening at every point into the great ocean of eternity. Might not the close of one year and the commencement of another be expected, in such circumstances, to suggest the thought, that we have really no certainty except in regard to the years that are past and gone? We know of them that they are gone for ever, and can never return; but of the future we know only this, that our years are drawing fast to an end, and that possibly this may be our last. We know what stages have been passed over, but at any coming stage we may drop down and die; and the commencement of a new year is only a proof that we are nearer, by one long interval, to the end of our journey – nearer, by so much time, to heaven or hell.

Oh! if the last step – the step by which we pass from time to eternity – be so awful that the very thought of it harrows up our feelings, and makes our flesh creep and our blood run cold, should not every step we take in advance towards it be solemn, and should not every year, which brings us nearer to death, leave us more ready to die?

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