The Signs of the Times



January 1, 1885

The Old Year and the New


The old year with its three hundred and sixty-six days of privilege and duty, has passed into eternity; and each day a record has been made in the books of Heaven. Our individual characters are as distinctly and faithfully represented there as are the features of the face on the polished plate of the artist. The Lord never mistakes in his estimate of our acts and motives. Our lives stand revealed before the angels in their true light. If the character is unlovely and debased, if the disposition is harsh, over-bearing, and passionate, these traits will exclude their possessor from Heaven. All our acts, with the motives that prompted them, are weighed in the balances of the sanctuary, and the decisions rendered are just and equal. The Lord does not excuse in one what he condemns in another. ST January 1, 1885, par. 1

Dear reader, examine your own heart and life in the light of God's word, and ask yourself, “What has my record been for the year that is just closing? What advancement have I made in the Christian life? what victories have I gained? and what have I done to help others, and lead them to Christ?” ST January 1, 1885, par. 2

God has not placed you in this world to lead an aimless life. He designs that you should be useful, and reach a high standard of moral excellence. To each one some work is given. During the old year have you performed your appointed task with cheerfulness and fidelity, having an eye single to the glory of God? Opportunities and privileges have been granted you; what use have you made of these good gifts intrusted to you by our loving heavenly Father? Have you made yourself a blessing to those around you? Have you done what you could to make them happy and win them to Christ? ST January 1, 1885, par. 3

All this is a part of your appointed work. God also requires each of us to subdue self, not giving the rein to self-indulgence or appetite, and to form characters that will stand the test of the Judgment and go with us into the future life. To guide us in this work he has given us his law, that great standard of right, which will prove a lamp to our feet and a light to our path. Have you been conforming your life to this standard? Have you been forming right habits; a Christlike character, or have vicious habits been left to grow and strengthen, until they hold mind and heart in bondage? ST January 1, 1885, par. 4

Let us remember that character is not the result of accident, but day by day it is forming for good or for evil. Great importance attaches to this work of character building; for it is far-reaching in its results. We are builders for time and for eternity. Few realize the power of habit. Inspiration asks, “Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots?” and adds, “Then may ye also do good that are accustomed to do evil.” This is a solemn assertion, and may well make us thoughtful. But there is comfort and courage in the reflection that if evil habits acquire such force that it seems almost impossible to turn in the right direction, the power of good habits is equally strong. The results of each day's work, whether the tendency be to elevate us in the scale of moral worth or to push us downward toward perdition, are influenced by the days that have preceded it. Defeat today prepares the way for still greater defeat tomorrow; victory today insures an easier victory tomorrow. Then how careful we should be to see that the habits and characters we are forming are correct and virtuous, fashioned after the Divine Model. ST January 1, 1885, par. 5

Young friends, restrain your feet from all evil ways. Do not take the first step in that direction; for there is no peace or happiness in them. Temptations may come to you in many bewitching forms to entice you from the path of rectitude; but beware. Evil angels, like a dark cloud, are around the vicious and depraved. They are binding them, body and soul, in firm chains that nothing but the grace of God can unloose. Look at the pale, sickly faces of your young companions who have gone astray. Their vicious practices may be read in their haggard countenances, and in their trembling, staggering gait. Bad habits have fixed a brand upon them which they will carry to the grave. They may reform, and improve their condition physically and mentally, and God will pardon, but the traces of sin will remain. ST January 1, 1885, par. 6

Men may discipline themselves to do right. Like Daniel they may have a Heaven-born purpose in their hearts that they will not defile soul or body, notwithstanding the degeneracy and corruption of the age. God gave Daniel “knowledge and skill in all learning and wisdom.” His blessing attended the man who put forth human effort in accordance with the divine will. The same help will still be given to all who pursue a similar course, and with the glory of God in view practice abstinence and self-restraint. The same difference will be seen between them and the self-indulgent that there was between Daniel and his fellows and the other youth in the king's court. There will be the clear eye and complexion, the firm tread, the strength and vigor of intellect, the keen perception of spiritual truth. ST January 1, 1885, par. 7

“Make straight paths for your feet,” says the apostle, “lest that which is lame be turned out of the way.” The path that leads away from God, away from his holy, perfect standard of right, is always crooked and dangerous. Yet during the past year many have been walking in this path of transgression. In many cases they did not start right in childhood and youth, and they have pursued crooked paths all the way along. Not only have they erred from the right way themselves, but through the influence of their example others have been turned aside from the straight, plain path, and have made fatal mistakes. ST January 1, 1885, par. 8

We do not always understand the sacred meaning attached to our life and our life-work. We do not always realize the power of example. We are brought in contact with others. We meet persons who are erring, who do wrong in various ways; they may be disagreeable, quick, passionate, dictatorial. While dealing with these we must be patient, forbearing, kind, and gentle. Satan works through them to provoke and harass, so that we shall not exhibit a pleasant and lovable disposition. There are trials and perplexities for us all to encounter; for we are in a world of cares, anxieties, and disappointments. But these continual annoyances must be met in the spirit of Christ. Through grace we may rise superior to our surroundings, and keep our spirits calm and unruffled amid the frets and worries of every-day life. We shall thus represent Christ to the world. ST January 1, 1885, par. 9

It is only through the help of the Spirit of God that we can gain so great a victory. The apostle exhorts his Ephesian brethren: “Be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.... Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; and your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance.” ST January 1, 1885, par. 10

Consecration to God must be a living, practical matter; not a theory to be talked about, but a principle interwoven with all our experience. We should let our light so shine before others that they, seeing our good works, shall glorify our Father who is in Heaven. We should show forth the praises of Him who has called us out of darkness into his marvelous light. If the light of Heaven is in the soul, it will be reflected to all around us. I wish all could see this important subject in its true light. There would not then be such thoughtlessness of words and acts, such careless, indolent, irreligious living. ST January 1, 1885, par. 11

Dear reader, shall the close of the year 1885 find you farther advanced than you are today? Will you put away evil habits? Will you be considerate of others, faithful to do the work of a Christian? If you will carry the principles of right-doing into all the affairs of life, you will find that it will promote health of body, peace of mind, and prosperity of soul. You will have a strength, dignity, and sweetness of character that will have a transforming influence upon others. ST January 1, 1885, par. 12

We are now entering upon a new year, and may it prove a beginning of years to us. If in the old year we have made failures, let us commence the new by rectifying these errors as far as we can. If the old year has borne into eternity a spotted record of opportunities neglected and privileges slighted, let us see that that of the new year is free from these blemishes. Its days are all before us; let us begin now to make the history of each as it passes such as we shall not tremble to meet in the Judgment. Let us fill each one full of loving, helpful work for others. Let us develop all our powers, and make of ourselves all that God designed we should. ST January 1, 1885, par. 13

In the keeping of God's commandments there is great reward. A reward awaits the overcomer in the great day, when he shall hear from the lips of our Lord the gracious words, “Well done, good and faithful servant;” and there is also a present reward in the peace and happiness that flow from a conscience at rest, from the sweet assurance that we enjoy the favor of God. “All the paths of the Lord are mercy and truth unto such as keep his covenant and his testimonies.” To all who walk in his ways the new year will be crowned with goodness and blessing. ST January 1, 1885, par. 14