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cumspection; that " whether we eat, or whether we drink, or whatever we do, we may do all to the glory of God.”
In these respects the Lord's Supper is a stated method of setting up an Eben-ezer. When, with serious recollection and self-examination ; with renewed exercises of repentance, faith and love ; with humble confessions, fervent prayers, and thankful praises, we commemorate the sufferings and death of our Redeemer: we then join ourselves to the Lord and his chosen people, we avouch him to be our God; we thank him for the past, and commit ourselves to his keeping for the future; and we declare our determined purpose, by his grace, to walk in his holy ways during the remainder of our lives. It seems therefore peculiarly proper to begin a new year, with this solemn act of adoring praise, this renewed dedication of ourselves to the service of our God and Saviour.
This review should likewise excite us to be “ followers of God, as dear children, and to walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us." Our conduct towards others ought to be a constant imitation of the long-suffering compassion, readiness to forgive and relieve, and persevering goodness of the Lord towards us; that " we may never be weary of well-doing,” or “be overcome of evil;" but that we may overcome evil with good."
Finally, the recollection and thankful acknowledgment that “hitherto hath the Lord helped us,” should encourage our hearts to run with patience the remainder of “the race set before us. The Lord, that delivered me out of the paw of the lion, and out of the paw of the bear, will deliver me out of the hand of the Philistine.” 1 Sam. xvii. 37. He that hath preserved and assisted us in so many dangers and difficulties already, will “ never leave us nor forsake us." “He fainteth not, neither is weary." His understanding is infinite, his resources inexhaustible, his faithfulness unfailing, and his mercy everlasting. We should therefore comfort one another with these considerations, learn “ to cast all our care on Him who careth for us,” and pour out our hearts before him; we should remember that “
our Father knoweth what things we have need of,” and that “ no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly.” “ Clouds and darkness are about him," and gloomy prospects may meet our view; but the perfections and covenant engagements of the Lord are unchangeable; and “
we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose." “ He will never suffer us to be tempted above what we are able ; but will with the temptation make a way to escape, that we may be able to bear it ;" yea “ The Lord shall deliver us from every evil work, and will preserve us to his heavenly kingdom. To whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.” i Cor. x. 13. 2 Tim. iv. 18.
These are some of the encouragements and instructions which real Christians may receive from the subject before us. But how stand matters with our souls? Hitherto the Lord hath prolonged all our lives, and we now enter on another year; while many of our acquaintance or relatives are gone to their long home. We yet remain in the land of faith, of hope, of mercy and of prayer; while numbers have been removed to the regions of darkness and despair, and some to the realms of endless day.—But the time is short.- The end of all things is at hand.-A little moment, as it were, will terminate our season of probation and preparation for eternity; the continuance of our earthly comforts or trials, and our opportunities of doing good to men, and glorifying God in this world of sin and misery.
Have none of you then entered on this new year, destitute of vital godliness, strangers to repentance and works meet for repentance, and unacquainted with a life of faith in the Son of God, and communion with the Father through him? Are none of you still loitering and procrastinating, loath to part with worldly idols, and averse to diligent piety? Or are you not trying to persuade yourselves, that so much strictness is unnecessary, that by attention to decent forms and moral duties, or an assent to certain doctrines, you may reconcile religion with your worldly spirit and pursuits, and thus serve God and mammon ?-You have indeed been spared to enter on anot year, and have great cause, though little heart for thankfulness: but w assurance have you that you shall live to the close of it ? Several who join with us last year in the service of the day, are now entered on an eternal state; and probably many of us shall join them before this year shall terminate. And how terrible will this be to those, who by a perverse abuse of the Lord's abundant mercies, have increased their own condemnation? Still the Holy Ghost says, “ To-day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts.” “ Seek ye the Lord while he may be found; call ye upon him while he is near." And we entreat you, join your prayer for yourselves to our supplications in your behalf, that in the present year you may be " turned from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God.”
Perhaps some are blessing God, that this has been their happy case, during the preceding year; and are now saying within themselves, · Had I died before the year 1795, I should have perished in my sins, without Christ and without hope. But the Lord who spared me when others were cut off, and rescued me from numberless dangers, seen and unseen, when I habitually trampled on his commandments, and neglected his salvation, hath at length in boundless mercy,
granted me repentance," enabled me to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and taught me by his grace to walk in newness of life.' “ Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits; who forgiveth all thine iniquities, and healeth all thy diseases; who redeemeth thy life from destruction, and crowneth thee with loving-kindness and tender mercy.”—How memorable with you, my brethren, even to eternal ages, will be this " acceptable year of the Lord," which to many hath doubtless been “ the day of vengeance of our God.” O endeavour to “ shew forth his praises, not only with your lips, but in your lives, by giving up yourselves to his service, and by walking before him in holiness and righteousness all your days." Then many will glorify God on your behalf, and you will be in some degree instrumental in bringing others to seek the same blessings. Abide in Christ; keep close to the means of grace ; watch against temptation ; be not high-minded, but fear, for your enemies are many, and your hearts are deceitful; yet “be sober and hope unto the end." - For greater is He that is in you, than he that is in the world.” Wait on the Lord continually, that he may renew your strength: and take heed, lest an increase of knowledge and maturity of judgment should be attended by an abatement in the fervour of your affections. Be not contented with the low attainments of professors in this lukewarm age; but follow those who have most closely followed Christ. And now approach with us to his table, to avow your acceptance of his salvation, and surrender of yourselves to his service; that as “ bought with a price, you may glorify God with your bodies and spirits which are his.”
Some perhaps to this very day, may stand in doubt to what class or company they belong.
May the Lord enable such persons to begin this new year with “ giving all diligence to make their calling and election sure !" Inquire, my friends, with impartial strictness, into the reasons of your uncertainty and darkness: cast away every idol, break off every entangling pursuit or engagement; return from your backslidings, and seek the Lord with all your hearts: that should this year terminate your lives, your setting sun may break forth with cheering beams, and gild the dark valley through which you must pass : or should you be spared—that your walk may be henceforth more close with God, more honourable and comfortable, and more edifying and encouraging to those around you.
My Christian brethren ! let us enter on this new year, by seriously reviewing the one that we have finished ; that we may be humbled for the sins into which we have been betrayed, and rendered more simply dependent and watchful: and that we may be more thankful for the special mercies, personal, social, and public, with which we have been favoured. Let us earnestly beg a blessing from God on every attempt we have made to sow the « Let your
seed of truth, to speak a word in season, and to recommend the gospel ; beseeching him also to prevent the bad effect of our mistakes and inconsistencies. We should likewise remember that time is short : that we may learn patience in tribulation, joyfulness in hope, indifference about things present, and diligence in our proper work. «Whatever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might: for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave whither thou goest.” Eccles. ix. 10. loins then be girded, and your lamps burning ;" and be habitually expecting the coming of the Lord. Endeavour to recollect what designs of usefulness you had formed, and intended to have executed during the last year, or in any former period ; and set about them without delay: persevere in every good work and Christian course on which you have entered ; and aim to press forward, to grow in grace, and abound more and more in all the fruits of righteousness. Then should this be your last year, as it possibly may, and as some have probable reason to expect, death will be your gain : and while the sur. vivors among us may meet together at the return of this season to set up another Eben-ezer to our merciful God; others will have joined the company before the throne, and be triumphantly rejoicing and blessing the Lord, that he hath helped them quite through, made them more than conquerors, and placed them for ever out of the reach of dangers and enemies.—May we all, as in succession called out of this world, thus join the heavenly worshippers ; till at length,
When all the chosen rac
Shall meet before the throne,
And make his wonders known;
the Holy Ghost, the one God of our salvation, to whom be praise and glory for evermore. Amen.
ON THE PROPER I TROVEMENT OF NATIONAL
ISAIAH, ix. 13.
For the people turneth not unto him that smiteth them : neither do they seek the
Lord of Hosts. *
« The Lord sent a word unto Jacob, and it hath lighted upon Israel :” Jehovah had denounced judgments on the nation descended from the patriarchs; which had begun to be accomplished on the kingdom of Israel, by the kings of Syria and Assyria : yet the people disregarded these tokens of the divine displeasure. “And all the people shall know, even Ephraim and the inhabitants of Samaria, that say, in the pride and stoutness of heart; The bricks are fallen down, but we will build with hewn stunes; the sycamores are cut down, but we will change them into cedars Therefore the Lord shall set up the adversaries of Rezin against him, and join his enemies together. The Syrians before, and the Philistines behind, and they shall devour Israel with
Preached on the ninth of Marel., 1796, being a day of fasting and humiliation.
open mouth. For all this his anger is not turned away, but his hand is stretched out still.” After all the calamities which came on Israel by these numerous enemies, still more complicated and tremendous miseries awaited the nation, which would be inflicted by the subsequent kings of Assyria, and terminate in their final ruin and dispersion." For the people turneth not unto him that smiteth them ; neither do they seek the Lord of Hosts.” The text, thus opened, suggests the following topics suited to the present emergency
I. When affliction is experienced, we should remember that the Lord smiteth us.
II. It is our duty and wisdom in this case to turn unto the Lord.
III. As Israel of old did not, so Great Britain at present doth not, properly attend to this duty.
IV. This circumstance may well create most serious alarm concerning the event of our present calamities.
V. The admonitions and instructions which may be deduced from these considerations.
I. We observe, that when affliction is experienced, we should remember that the Lord smiteth uş.
A vain philosophy is at present employed, to resolve all events into second causes, and impute them to men or measures: as if that God, who “ doeth according to his will in the armies of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth,” in fact did nothing, but left the universe to the established laws of nature, or the uncontrolled devices and machinations of his creatures !-I would not be supposed, my brethren, to speak against a true philosophy, the investigation of God's works, and a sober inquiry into the ordinary rules by which he governs the world: for this conduces to an intelligent perception of his operations, and an admiring sense of his wisdom, power, justice, and goodness. But sceptical reasonings about second causes, and an undue attention to instruments, exceedingly tend to make men overlook the First Cause, that great Agent “ who worketh all in all.”
In this respect as well as others, we should learn “ to speak according to the oracles of God :" for in Scripture his hand is acknowledged on every occasion. “ By Naaman the Lord had given deliverance unto Syria.” “ I inform you,” says the apostle, “ of the grace of God bestowed on the churches, of Macedonia;” that is their liberality which was the effect of divine grace. “ Thanks be to God who put the same earnest care into the heart of Titus.” 2 Kings, v. 1. 2 Cor. viii. 1-3, 16, 17. The exercise of faith leads us to view the Lord in every object and event; to taste his love in our most common mercies, and to submit to his correction by whatever means it is brought upon us.
The arrogance, blasphemy, rapacity, and ambition of Sennacherib can scarcely be exceeded : yet observe what the Lord says of him; “O Assyrian, the rod of mine anger, and the staff in their hand is mine indignation. I will send him against an hypocritical nation; and against the people of my wrath will I give him a charge, to take the spoil, and to take the prey, and to tread them down as the mire of the streets: howbeit he meaneth not so, neither doth his heart think so.” Isaiah, x. 5—7. Hezekiah and his principal assistants in reforming Judah were very sincere and zealous: 2 Chron. xxxi. 20, 21. but many of the princes, priests, and people had been mere dissemblers in their apparent concurrence. The Lord therefore determined to employ Sennacherib, to execute judgement on them for their hypocrisy; and when he had fulfilled that commission, he meant to take still more signal vengeance on him. It is vain then for us to expect success against our enemies, merely because they are infidels or atheists, if we be only nominal Christians; for the Lord commonly employs such men to correct or punish his hypocritical worshippers.-Executioners, in general, are not the most respectable cha
racters; and a malefactor would act absurdly who should hope to escape the sentence denounced against him, because he supposed the person appointed to inflict it, more criminal than himself. For the man might be spared till he had done his work, before he was called to account for his crimes.
The Lord smote Egypt with desolating plagues; and flies, lice, locusts, and frogs were his instruments, in pouring contempt, as well as vengeance, on haughty Pharaoh. But in smiting the Canaanites, he gave Joshua and Israel a charge against them. These nations deserved their doom; and an express commission, sealed by undeniable miracles, fully warranted all that was done against them. But in general, the instruments of punishment are unrighteous, though the Lord be righteous in the judgements they inflict. When the Israelites provoked him, the Philistines, Midianites, Syrians, Assyrians, Chaldeans, and Romans, were successively employed in smiting them : the rod of correction, or sword of vengeance was changed, but the hand that used it was the same. Nay, when domestic usurpers, tyrants, or persecutors, like Ahab, Athaliah, or Manasseh, brought calamities upon them, the Lord made use of them as his instruments. « Shall there be evil in the city, and the Lord hath not done it.” Amos iii. 6. The evil of sin is wholly from the creature, but the evil of suffering from the Lord, who thus punishes the transgressions of his offending subjects. Whether afflictions come immediately from the hand of God, as sickness, famine, pestilences, and earthquakes, or by the intervention of men, the case in this respect is not altered. The Chaldeans and Sabeans unjustly seized on Joh's property,and slew his servants; fire from heaven consumed his flocks; and the wind threw down the house upon his children ; yet he made no distinction, but said in general,
“ The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away ; blessed be the name of the Lord.”
Whether, therefore, our present public distresses and dangers be the natural consequences of providential dispensations; or whether the misconduct of men have been, and is in any degree the cause of them, we must acknowledge that it is the Lord who smiteth us.—A scarcity and dearness of provisions, decay of trade, and various hardships, are generally complained of; and many imagine that they are occasioned by the mistakes,or crimes of this or the other descriptioni of men. Now, in a political sense, it is a matter of great importance to investigate and develope this point, and to use proper methods of counteracting every attempt of such a nature: but as a religious concern, it is not in the smallest degree material ; for, on every supposition, the hand of God should be acknowledged. I am not competent to determine what grounds there are for such suspicions or censures; nor is this the place for so much as giving an opinion on the subject : but as a minister of religion, I must declare, that, till proper methods of discovering and removing the distresses we feel, be used and prospered, the righteous Lord continues to smite us, whether unjust men be his instruments or not.
“ The Lord's voice crieth unto the city, and the man of wisdom shall see thy name.” The power and perfections of God are perceived by men of wisdom in all public calamities. “ Hear ye then the Rod, and who hath appointed it ?" Micah vi. 9. The Rod calls us to repentance: but unless we recollect who it is that hath appointed it, we shall not hear and obey the voice of the Rod, however we may smart and groan under its repeated strokes. I insist the more fully on this point, because Satan successively contrives to confuse the minds even of serious persons about it. They are told, and they believe, that this or the other description of men, by their folly or knavery, occasion the public distresses : and others dispute with them and vindicate men and measures. But in the mean while, « the Lord's hand is lifted up, and they will not see;" he smites, and they refuse to humble themselves before him: being employed in disputing about the rod and the sword.
But if some men be infatuated in their counsels, or others intoxicated by extravagant projects; if one set of men will be rich at any rate ; another try to abuse power in tyranny and oppression; or a third would throw a nation into confusion, civil war, or anarchy; to gratify their own ambition or