(New Year’s Resolutions)
Excerpt from a sermon by:
Rev. W. John Murray
Reprinted from The Truth
Vol. XVI, No. 1, January 1927.
The beauty of a New Year’s resolution is that it always has something ahead of it, something to lure us on. We may not attain, without falling occasionally, the height of the right direction, and there is no reason why we cannot resolve again the same thing, even if we should slip once in a while. Many a man fails to keep his good resolutions because when he stumbles he asks: “What’s the use?” If “the just man falls seven times a day” it is because he refuses to stay down. As often as he falls he picks himself up again, on the principle that “a man may be down but he is never out.”
Many a man refuses to think that the new year is going to be an improvement on the old one. “All years look alike to me,” says he, and he neither resolves nor improves. He considers New Year’s resolutions all “bunk,” but if he never makes one he is no criterion. He is always looking back. Consequently he stands still, like Lot’s wife, but she turned to salt, and that was some advantage. As far as many people can see into the future there is not much to hope for, but this is not because the future holds nothing of worth — it is because they have no prophetic vision, and this is a calamity. In the early days it never seemed as if New York would extend itself above Fourteenth Street, but a certain Catholic bishop felt it would, and he bought a piece of property in the country for a future church. That church stands at Fiftieth Street and Fifth Avenue. It is St. Patrick’s Cathedral, and its value is enormous. All progress and prosperity come from looking to the future and resolving to make the present a fit preparation for it.
There is one thing we must remember at the commencement of a new year and that is to forget the old one as soon as it is possible. Let us have no regrets, and no remorse for the things we did or the things we failed to do. As the new year comes, and a mother’s face is absent from the family table, a son or daughter is apt to say: “If I had been kinder to her I could bear her passing with greater fortitude.” Don’t spoil next year by thinking of your meanness of last year. Pick yourself up and be kind to some other person’s mother. Otherwise you will be so full of regret that you will not be able to be kind to anybody. Say to your soul what the Prophet said to his: “If I have sinned, I will do so no more.” And if you should sin again, repeat the saying and presently your resolution will incorporate itself in your life and conduct as a persistent habit tends to become automatic.
I read in one of my Christmas presents this week a little sentiment entitled: “Start Where You Stand.” It was a poem, really based on an experience which Mr. Berton Braley quotes as follows: “When a man who had been in prison applied to Henry Ford for employment he started to tell Mr. Ford his story. ‘Never mind,’ said Mr. Ford. ‘I don’t care about the past. Start where you are.'”
The past won’t help you in beginning anew,
If you have left it all behind, at last,
Why, that’s enough, you’re done with it, you’re through.
This is another chapter in the book,
This is another race that you have planned;
Don’t give the vanished days a backward look,
Start where you stand.