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stead of expensive feasts for the wealthy; we shall abound in hospitality and kindness to the poor, and be glad to contribute to promote the cause, for which the Son of God became incarnate.
The sensual and ungodly mirth of vast multitudes, at this festival, is madness. They abound in the works of the devil, because the Son of God was manifested to destroy them! when the very event thus comme. morated will increase the weight of their condemnation, unless they can be persuaded to follow the apostle's counsel; “ Cleanse your hands, ye sinners, and “ purify your hearts, ye double minded; be afflicted, “ and mourn, and weep; let your laughter be turned " into mourning, and your joy into heaviness. Hum. " ble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall “ lift you up.”*
But “ let the heart of those rejoice that seek the “ Lord.” Let the poor in spirit, the weeping peni. tent take encouragement, from the astonishing instance of the Lord's good will to sinful men, this day commemorated. And let all, that have tasted this grace, and can rejoice in the love of God our Saviour, remember that they are subjects to the Prince of peace; that they may be animated, to pray for uni. versal peace, and by all suitable means, to follow after peace, to seek the peace of the church, and the peace of the world ; and “ by well doing to put to silence “ the ignorance of foolish men.”
: Jam. iv. 7-10.
1 Samuel, vii. 12.
Then Samuel took a stone, and set it between Mizpeh
and Shen, and called the name of it Ebenezer, say. ing, Hitherto hath the LORD helped us.
FROM the calling of Abraham to the time of Samuel, the Lord had shewn peculiar favours of inestimable value to his chosen people. Especially “ He "shewed his word unto Jacob, his statutes and his “ judgments unto Israel : he dealt not so with any na" tion, and as for his judgments, they had not known “ them.”+ But they had always manifested a perverse and ungrateful disposition, and were continually provoking him with their idolatries and rebellions. “ Therefore was the wrath of the Lord kindled es against his people, insomuch that he abhorred his "own inheritance: and he gave them into the hand « of the heathen; and they that hated them ruled over “ them. Their enemies also oppressed them, and
• Preached January 1, 1796.
+ Ps. cxlvii. 19, 20.
" they were brought in subjection under their hand. “Many times did he deliver them ; but they provo“ked him by their counsel, and were brought low " for their iniquity. Nevertheless he regarded their "affiction, when he heard their cry."*
Hophni and Phinehas, the priests, the sons of Eli, had by their wickedness caused a most deplorable prevalence of impiety among the people: this provoked God to deliver them into the hands of the Philistines, who triumphantly carried off the ark of the covenant, which had been presumptuously brought into the field of battle. For the Lord was able to vindicate his own glory, and to honour that symbol of his gracious presence even among his avowed enemies, without countenancing the vain confidence of his hypocri. tical worshippers. The Philistines were soon constrained to restore the ark; but while it was neglected in Israel, they retained their superiority. During the space of twenty years, Samuel, who at the beginning of these troubles was very young, seems to have labour. ed with zealous and unwearied diligence, in bringiyg the people to repentance, and reviving true religion. At the end of this time it is said, “ All the house of “ Israel lamented after the LORD.” The narrative of the subsequent reformation is indeed very brief; yet there is reason to conclude, that it was one of the most signal revivals of vital godliness, that stands up. on record : for “ the children of Israel did put away “ Baalim and Ashtaroth, and served the LORD only."
• Ps. coi. 40–44.
A general assembly being convened at Mizpeh, where Samuel was publickly owned as judge of Israel: while they were earnestly seeking the Lord with fasting, prayer, and other religious observances; the Philistines, jealous of their proceedings, marched di. rectly to attack them. But, in answer to the earnest prayers of Samuel and the people, these formidable enemies were entirely defeated. And on this memorable occasion, “ Samuel took a stone, and set it " between Mizpeh and Shen, and called the name of “it Eben-ezer, saying, Hitherto hath the LORD helped “ us." He set up a monument of God's kindness to Israel, (not of Israel's triumph over the Philistines ;) to perpetuate the memory of his gracious interposition in their behalf, and to declare their gratitude, to future generations.
The history of Israel may be considered as God's experimental trial of human nature. The experiments of the chemist on an ounce of gold or mercury, when properly repeated and established, authorize general conclusions concerning the properties of all the gold or mercury in the world. Thus the dealings of the Lord with Israel, as a specimen of the human race, when rightly understood, warrant general conclusions concerning the dispositions and propensities of all mankind : for the whole is, as it were, one mass, and has the same nature and properties. It is therefore mere self-flattery to suppose, that we should have acted better than they did, if we had been left to ourselves in exactly the same circumstances : and it is a vulgar prejudice to imagine that the Israelites were more wicked than other nations. Their history was more
impartially written, and their conduct tried by a stricter rule : in all other respects the records of any country tend to establish the same conclusions concerning human nature.
The history of the visible church in every age entirely coincides with that of the Israelites : special mercies conferred; base ingratitude and rebellion; severe chastisements and the triumph of cruel enemies; humiliation and revivals of religion, followed by gracious providential deliverances, form the compendium of the whole: but “ Hitherto hath the LORD “ helped us,” and “the gates of hell have not prevail. ed.”—The experience likewise of believers harmonizes in many respects with the records of Israel: and it is peculiarly useful, frequently to review with care and attention, all the Lord's dealings with us, . and our conduct towards him: “ For hitherto hath “ he helped us.”—To assist such a review, at the entrance of another year, will be the object of the present discourse ; in which I shall consider and illustrate,
1. The import of the words “ Hitherto hath “the LORD helped us.”
II. Enquire what is meant by “Setting up an “ Eben-ezer,” according to the common, and
not improper, use of the expression. 1. The import of the words, “ Hitherto hath the “ LORD helped us."
1. The Lord hath hitherto helped us all, in his superintending providence. We came into the world indigent and helpless : our wants were numerous and urgent, and we were utterly incapable of making any