New Year's Resolutions
—New Year's Day
Most of Them May be Rolled into One—"Hold Fast to That Which Is Good."
THE LESSON—That the positive life, rather than the negative life, knows true happiness.
While this talk is planned for the special application to the opening of the fiscal or the school or church year, it may be revised very easily to fit many other occasions.
"Right now, at the beginning of the new year, we hear a great deal about making resolutions, 'turning over a new leaf,' and so on. In many cases, these things are spoken of lightly and laughingly, and yet, I know that many of us, away down deep in our hearts, are thinking of things which we are resolving to do during the new year and also of things which we have made up our minds not to do during the coming twelve months.
"What does it signify when we do this? It means that we have made mistakes and that we do not intend to make the same mistakes again. It is a strange thing to say, but it is true, nevertheless, that a man is a good deal like a fish in some respects. Whenever you go fishing, you use just the kind of bait which you think will fool the fish the most easily. You should know where a certain kind of fish is likely to abound and then use the style of bait which that kind of fish is most apt to mistake for something which it is not. Here, for instance, is a cork bobber on the surface of the water of a lake, with the line attached to it, and here, below, is the hook, nicely concealed from view by the bait in the form of an angle worm. [Draw the lines to follow the talk, completing Fig. 58.]
"It is evident that the fisherman who holds the line is not after the kind of fish which are to be captured by trolling or casting, for he is using the method known as still-fishing. And, sure enough, he has attracted a victim, a blue gill, which is making straight for what he thinks will mean more life to him but which probably means sure death unless he succeeds in getting away again. [Draw fish, completing Fig. 59.] So, the ingenuity of man is kept active in devising means of capturing game of all kinds.
"And are we not like the fish? Haven't you bitten into any baited hooks during the past year? Haven't you been fooled into thinking something was good for you when it turned out to be bad? Hasn't some alluring amusement or pastime brought disappointment or shame when you thought it would bring delight and satisfaction? Ah, yes. All of us have been fooled in one way or another, and when we come to this time of the year and decide to start anew we find that it isn't so easy as we thought, to get rid of many errors or vices which we would eliminate from our lives. Perhaps some have fallen victims to habits which grip us relentlessly, and if so we can doubtless agree with Pope that
"'Vice is a monster of so frightful mien
As to be hated needs but to be seen:
Yet seen too oft, familiar with her face.
We first endure, then pity, then embrace.'
"As Shakespeare says, 'There is no vice so simple, but assumes some mark of virtue on his outward parts.' There's where the trouble starts. We're completely fooled. And when we come to purify our lives by eliminating this thing and that, we are discouraged with the result, and in many instances we give up in despair.
"How, then, are we to make our resolutions good? How are we to be sure that the new leaf which we turn over will not be blown back again by the first wind of passion or discouragement which comes?
"I believe we can do it by making our resolutions positive and not negative. Let me explain what I mean. We are normal human beings. We demand activity. There must be something doing. If we are giving our time wastefully to society, to the theater, to the many other forms of amusement we shall find ourselves most miserable if we simply resolve to eliminate these things from our lives. To do this is to make a negative resolution. No, the thing to do is to resolve that hereafter our time will be spent in busying ourselves at those things which are wholesome, helpful to others, and of such a character to bring delight to us because of the service we can render to the world. What can you do? Why, the field to do good is never overcrowded. The church and the Sunday school offer many avenues of activity. Find out the thing you can do best—uncover your talent. Get busy at good works, and then there will be no room for the objectionable things and they will die out because good habits are growing in their stead.
"To do this is the surest way to 'set your mind on the things that are above, not on things that are upon the earth,' and when this is done we need have little concern about our happiness."
Next: The Mountain Climber