« AnteriorContinuar »
parents, widows, and orphans, give a sad variety to the dreary scene. How few comparatively of the human race have passed so large a portion of their lives, without sharing these sorrows, or having their hearts pained by these woeful spectacles! Is there then no cause on this account to set up our Eben-ezer, and say,
“ Hitherto hath the Lord helped us ?" If any doubt of it; a few months' residence in a country that is made the seat of war would effectually teach them (provided they be peaceably disposed) to value a land of peace; and to be thankful, if henceforth they may know nothing of war, except from newspapers and taxes.-Many apprehensions have lately been entertained in our land on this account; but during another year we have been preserved. “Oh that men would “ praise the Lord for his goodness, and for his won« derful works to the children of men !"
The same may likewise be observed concerning pestilences, earthquakes, hurricanes, famines, and other dreadful scourges of a guilty world. We have thus far been exempted from them; and our fears of these dire judgments, which desolate other cities and countries, with complicated miseries that baffle all description, should excite us to bless God, who hath hitherto distinguished us by his special protection.
It would occupy too much time, and prove tedious, to enter into further particulars of the deliverances, comforts, and mercies, which a kind Providence hath vouchsafed us. This specimen may suffice to aid the serious enquirer in recollecting the peculiar favours, that he has received during his past life: and this may prove one of the most useful studies in which he can
engage.--It may, however, be proper to ask, whether there has not been some peculiar trial, which you have dreaded more than any other ? Now, if you
have either been preserved from this; or have, beyond expectation, been supported and carried through it; you can scarcely help considering this as a powerful call on you to say with gratitude, " Hitherto hath the “Lord helped us.”
But it behoves us also to enquire, in what manner we have received the blessings of a kind Providence, and what returns we have made for them? Alas, we have generally the utmost reason to confess our ungrateful forgetfulness of our Benefactor, our disposition to abuse or idolize his gifts; to undervalue them because not answerable to our exorbitant desires; to ascribe our safety and success to our own prudence and good conduct; or to spend our abundance in gratifying our carnal passions! This subject therefore, if investigated with care, may probably convince us, that we have great cause to admire the Lord's good. ness, in preserving us from ourselves, and the consequences of our own vices and follies. If we had been left without restraint, we might, either directly or by excesses, have long since proved our own murderers : we might have been hurried on, by violent passion or resentment, or in prosecution of some favourite project, to murder others, or have provoked them to murder us. We might in various ways have exposed ourselves to the sword of human vengeance: and it is indeed wonderful that God hath borne with our rebellion and perverseness, and hath not cut us off in the midst of our sins. « It is of the LORD's mercies " that we are not consumed, because his compassions "fail not.” We are infinitely indebted to his patience and long-suffering. He spared, protected, and provided for many of us, during a number of years, when we neither asked him to do it, nor thanked him for his kindness. While multitudes were perishing around us, and several of our companions in ungod. liness were cut off; while we sinned on amidst repeated warnings and narrow escapes; our offended God would neither destroy us, nor permit others to do it: nay, he prevented the fatal effects of our own madness and folly, and over-ruled many instances of it for our good. Thus he gave us space for repentance: his providential dealings with us had a tendency to excite our attention, and lead us to consider our ways: and every true penitent will perceive that they were actually designed to effect the most gracious purposes. We have been spared by the forbearance of our God, that we might be saved by his mercy! 2. God hath hitherto helped believers by his spe
grace. Ages before we were brought into existence, He forsesaw our wants and miseries, as the descendants of fallen Adam; “ by whom sin entered into the world, and death by sin:” and in infinite mercy
he had made all things ready for our salvation, in the person and redemption of his beloved Son. In due season he blessed the land, which was destined to be our residence, with the light of the gospel; and by a variety of wonderful interpositions he hath continued to it that light, while it hath been extinguished or
greatly obscured in other lands. When we found our lot cast in a country thus distinguished; we had, perhaps for a long time, no disposition to attend to the word of salvation; but lived, carelessly or by choice, in Egyptian darkness on the very verge of Goshen. At length we were brought to hear the gospel, by events and circumstances in which we had no willing concurrence, or at least no intention of enquiring the way of life. Many have said, “ I will go into such a
city, and continue there a year, and buy, and sell, “ and get gain.” Or ' I will go, and take my fill of pleasure and diversion with my friends and companions:' but they have been disappointed of their aim; and in the very place of their purposed indul. gence, gain, or preferment, have been induced to hear the word of God, and been made partakers of blessings inestimably precious. Thus the case of Saul, who went to seek the asses, but found them not, yet met with Samuel, and was anointed king of Israel, has been far exceeded. Secular inducements have led others to remove to places favoured with the faithful preaching of God's word, without the least intention of regarding it: but after a while, curiosity, or persuasion, or some other motive, induced them to give it a hearing, and thus they were made wise unto eternal life. Some, having resided a long time in a situation where little regard was paid to religion, they were at length excited to resist, with all their influence, the introduction of another kind of preaching, and were much chagrined at not being able to carry the point:
: yet afterwards attachment to a customary place of worship, or some motive of conveniency, brought them to hear the new doctrine, even the doctrine of Christ crucified; and at length a total change in their views, dispositions, and conduct has filled them with admiring gratitude, and dictated most fervent praises to the Lord. Nay, in some instances, a man's gross misconduct has proved the occasion of bringing him to hear the word of life to the salvation of his soul! Thus Onesimus, dishonestly leaving his master Philemon, fled to Rome, where the ministry of Paul was blessed to his conversion, and he became, as it is generally supposed, an able pastor of the Christian church: and thus, I trust, several, whose vices were the cause of their seeking admission into this hospital, * have here been brought to repentance, faith in Christ, and newness of life; and will admire to all eternity the manifold wisdom and inexpressible mercy of God to them, in this gracious dispensation.
In these, and numberless other ways, the Lord is “ found of them that sought him not, and made mani. “ fest to them that enquired not after him. f.” And the hints now offered may assist the serious Christian, in recollecting the peculiar means, by which God first “opened his eyes, and turned him from darkness to " light, and from the power of Satan to God.”
We should however, observe, that numbers have been favoured with the same means, who never obtained the same blessing. It occurs therefore to enquire, “ Who made thee to differ from another ?» Some of us are conscious, that when we first heard or read the doctrine of Christ, which now is “all our