“The Lord looketh from heaven; he beholdeth all the sons of men.
“From the place of his habitation he looketh upon all the inhabitants of the earth.” – Psalm 33:13-14
Another year is at hand. Life is full of changes. It is the clear intent of the Creator that there should be changes, and that with these changes we should change for the better. The Psalm from which the text is taken tells of His continual providence over mankind. It tells us that trusting in ourselves will accomplish nothing of real value to us, and that if we look to the Lord, He will bring every possible blessing upon us.
One of the ancient philosophers said that change was the fundamental feature of the universe. And as we look back upon the history of the world, we see it as a succession of changes – of new eras.
With the birth of Christ a new era dawned upon the world. A few recognized the coming of the Lord. It took faith and courage to face the risks of proclaiming the new truth. The thirty-third Psalm is a prophecy of the fact that however much the evil might fight against the new truth, it would in the end prevail. It was a wonderful time in the history of the world. But the first Advent was to be followed by the second, and this has taken place. Under infinite wisdom everything becomes new, not only earth but in heaven. “The Lord’s mercies are new every morning,” and ever as man progresses does he “sing unto the Lord a new song.”
Every new year is an adventure, and should be full of promise. Changes take place in all fields of human activity. Changes are continually going on in the field of natural science. Perhaps as time goes on the year 1957 will be specially marked as the year when the first artificial satellite was successfully launched. This is an advance in scientific knowledge although it has given birth to many problems national and international. As yet the sense of unity among nations and of cooperation for mutual welfare struggles to maintain its slender hold on mankind. The tendency is to hold such new power for self and to use it for national advantage at the expense of others, and the tendency of those others is to envy and fear rather than to congratulate.
But somehow one always comes back to the fact that the things which really matter are within man and not outside of him. However much he may gather to himself of wealth, or power, or knowledge, or pleasure, it is not the possessing of these things that ultimately matters to him. They do not make him happy or miserable. They do not make him more a man or less a man. “A man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things that he possesseth.” Life on the material plane is continually developing everywhere to the betterment of the external lives of people.
Religion, too, is undergoing changes and some of these seem to be for the worse. There is a lessening of belief in the various religious teachings, and in many instances in the Bible. It is to be expected that a new era would be marked by changes. The purpose of the second Advent is to reveal the true nature of the Bible, the relation of this life to the immortal life, and the responsibilities therefore involved. Hitherto religion has been looked upon as more or less a matter of faith, and not associated with the business of life. The revelation given to the world in the second Advent teaches that “all religion has relation to life, and the life of religion is to do good.”
Today there is widespread uncertainty and fear. But in the past the spirit of man has risen to prevent disaster. For the spirit of man is greater than his inventions, and the power of the spirit is greater than the power of the atom. It is the use that men make of their inventions that will decide whether they will be a blessing or a curse.
We need to turn to the Lord and to live in the light of the new truths now revealed. They teach us the nature of God, of man, and of life. The fallacy that man is naturally and fundamentally good and can direct his own ways has much to answer for, but it is still believed. It is, of course, more flattering than the cold truth of man’s innate selfishness. But an enduring order cannot be built on fallacies, however flattering, and it is highly necessary that men shall first recognize their own condition, and the Divine means provided for their regeneration. And again it is the spirit of man, not his scientific exploration and discovery, that must lead him to an understanding of himself. Science is not something detached from man and from man’s mind – though it is often thought to be so – and it stands in the same need of direction as any other concern of man.
So far as our individual lives are concerned there have been through the past twelve months some bright days and some dark. It is not easy to discern the way of Providence in our lives. Yet behind all is the hidden power of the Lord operating in the deeps of the mind and disposing the outward circumstances of our lives to our eternal good. We should never despair.
This is true also of the world at large. There are those who see no hope for the future. Sooner or later, they say, men will destroy themselves. There are dark clouds in the sky bigger than a man’s hand and threatening to cover the whole horizon. But there are also encouraging signs. There is more determined planning for a better world, for better relationships among the peoples of the earth. Behind all changes is the Lord’s purpose to make Himself known as the Way, the Truth, and the Life. It is written concerning Him, “Forty years long was I grieved with this generation, and said, It is a people that do err in their hearts, and they have not known my ways.”
It is not fear of the destructiveness of modern weapons that will reform people or nations. To suppose that men can be reformed or cowed into submission by force is contrary to all the teachings of the Word and of history. Such a reform would leave men no whit better at the end. There is only one way by which the individual or the world can be reformed, and that is by means of truth. Therefore the Lord came again to man in His Word of truth. He has given a new revelation of truth for our guidance and instruction, and upon the acceptance of this truth the future betterment of mankind depends. The old has passed away.
For the Newchurchman the beginning of each new year should not be just a reminder of the passing of time, but a reminder of the new dispensation which has begun. “And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new.” New truth, a new church, a new and more spiritual way of life, these are the new things promised for the new age which has begun. It may seem that the fulfillment of the prophecies of the Word is a long time in coming. We have to think in terms of centuries rather than of years. “A thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past, and as a watch in the night.”
The present time is a “watch in the night.” But the new day has dawned, and we are called to “watch” in this age, to maintain worship of the Lord as the only God of heaven and earth, and to bear witness to the new revelation of truth, knowing that the Lord is working out His purpose as year succeeds year.
It is common to make new resolutions at the beginning of a new year. Strictly speaking it is not the new year which impels the resolutions, but the resolutions which make the year new.
Each new year in this new age should find in us greater hopes. The Second Coming has brought new truth to light. False beliefs have been exposed, and the ground is being cleared for more permanent building. We can now go forward with full confidence in the clear vision of the goal for the human race, and in the truth revealed for its attainment.
“Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.”