Imatges de pÓgina
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a strong delusion to believe a lie, that they might

all be damned, who believed not the truth, but “ had pleasure in unrighteousness.” How is it then, my brethren, that any of us have been “ re“ covered out of the snare of the devil, who had “ taken us captive at his will ?” We can in no other way account for it than by saying that God mercifully“ gave us repentance to the acknow“ ledging of the truth."2 “ God who is rich in

mercy, of his great love wherewith he loved us, “ even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened “us together with Christ.”

“ For by grace are ye saved through faith : and that not of your“ selves ; it is the gift of God.”3 « The Giver of

every good and perfect gift," not only bestowed the Saviour, and the free pardon and salvation of all that truly believe in him; but gave us repentance and faith likewise, and made us “ willing in “ the day of his power:” and thus he has a claim upon us for the highest possible gratitude and admiring praise.

Even since the time when we first were warn“ed to flee from the wrath to come,” and to “ lay “ hold for refuge on the hope set before us;" how numerous have been our conflicts, difficulties, and dangers ? Many, who appeared to the most competent judges far more promising than we were, “ in time of temptation have fallen away;" or

they have been choked with cares, and riches, “ and the lusts of other things, and have brought “ no fruit to perfection.” Some have evidently returned to “ their wallowing in the mire, and

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2 Thess. ii. 11, 12. ? 2 Tim. ii. 25, 26. Eph. ii. 3-8.

“ their last state is worse than the first." Others have been “ carried about with every wind of doc“ trine, by the sleight of men, and cunning crafti

ness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive.” Thus they have proved “unstable in all their ways," have become the zealous propagators of some pestilential heresy, or have “ turned aside to vain “jangling.” Many have grown lukewarm in the grand essentials of religion, and proportionably fierce and contentious in supporting certain dogmas, by which some parts of the truth are pushed to anti-scriptural extremes. In short, in a course of years, if we have accurately observed the affairs of the church, we have witnessed and lamented many astonishing changes, suited to excite our gratitude to God, who “ hath hitherto helped us, and guided us at a distance from those rocks, quicksands, and whirlpools, which have proved fatal to numbers.

Our own experience likewise may help us to form a proper judgment of the divine goodness, in thus far protecting and upholding us. If we have for any length of time “ fought the good fight of

faith," we must have a consciousness, that in many instances we were “ cast down, but not de

stroyed.” Our enemy has been sometimes ready to rejoice over us as actually vanquished. Outward circumstances gave force to our innate depravity, and our customary or easily besetting sins; the tempter was permitted “ to sift us as wheat;"

we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that

we should not trust in ourselves, but in God that “ raiseth the dead” Perhaps temptation prevailed against us; and a guilty conscience united with an

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unbelieving despondency to bring us into “ deep “ waters.” The insults of enemies, or the censures of friends, perhaps concurred with divine rebukes and corrections, to dismay our hearts. Yet amidst all we determined, even “ from the belly of hell,” to look unto the Lord, and to cry unto him, “O “ Lord, I beseech thee, deliver my soul !" We waited on “ him, and he heard our prayer; he “ brought us out of the horrible pit, out of the “ miry clay; he set our feet upon a rock and esta“blished our goings ; and he hath put a new song “ into our mouth even praise unto our God.”! Thus “ he delivered us from so great a death, and “ in him we trust that he will yet deliver us.” 2 Even if our conflicts have not been so severe, if we have not been thus baffled and shamed, we know to whom we owe our preservation : and we have had so many humiliating proofs of our own perverseness, weakness, negligence, and relapses into idolatrous attachments and various evils, that we cannot but look upon our escapes as marvellous, and sometimes stand amazed that we have not been left to renounce or disgrace the gospel ! Every year, month, week, or even day, during which we have been preserved, and every declension from which we have been recovered, is an addition to obligations already great beyond all computation.

Indeed a general view of our situation in this evil world must increase our conviction that the Lord alone hath kept us, or can keep us, from evil. The countless dangers of our path ; the course of

Psal. xl. 1-3. cxvi. 1-8. cxxx.

? 2 Cor. i. 9, 10.

the world, with its maxims, fashions, examples, and allurements; the influence of fear, hope, affection, and even gratitude to men, upon our religious conduct; our natural strong desire of honour, friendship, ease, wealth, or indulgence; our aversion to censure, reproach, contempt, and poverty; and the various ways, in which these propensities may

be addressed to turn us aside from the direct path, suggest many interesting reflections to the serious mind. The infectious examples even of some zealous preachers and professors of evangelical truth, and the worldly spirit sanctioned by them; with the snares, which are laid in all our employments, connexions, and comforts ; in solitude and in company, and even in religious duties : the number, power, subtlety, and unwearied malice of our enemies the powers of darkness: the fallibility of our judgment, the scantiness of our knowledge, the weakness of our purposes, and the deceitfulness and “ desperate wickedness" of our hearts : all remind us, how greatly we are indebted to the Lord, who hath“ hitherto helped us.” It is indeed a marvellous mercy, if we can say, “ Hav“ing obtained help of God, we continue to this

day;" and have neither “ made shipwreck” of our faith, nor brought a scandal upon the gospel ; but still desire with purpose of heart to cleave unto the Lord.

Much more might profitably be added, did time permit, concerning the continued kindness we have received; in the friends raised up for us ; and, the way in which our heavenly Father hath made up our losses, extricated us out of difficulties, moderated our temptations, renewed our comforts,

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revived our hopes and earnestness, prolonged our days, and afforded us means of grace and opportunities of usefulness. These and many more subjects may be thought of, in our private meditations, while we endeavour to enter on another year with thankfully acknowledging that “ hitherto the “ Lord hath helped us.”—We inquire then,

II. What is meant by “ Setting up an Eben

ezer,” according to the common, and not improper, use of the expression.

The nature of the case, and the example before us, concur in proving that it implies a disposition to give God the glory of all the blessings we have received. We do not ascribe the favourable difference between our situations, prospects, or character, and those of other men, to our own wisdom, management, or exertions; but to that God from 6 whom all holy desires, all good counsels, and all ‘just works do proceed. We pretend not to have merited the divine protection, guidance, and blessings ; but feel that all was given us, as creatures, without our deserving any thing; and that every good thing bestowed on us, as sinners, is contrary to our deserts. We ascribe none of our deliverances or successes to chance, necessity, or second causes : but trace them all to the great First Cause; to him“ who doeth all things after the counsel of “ his own will.” Samuel gave not the honour of Israel's preservation to any of the servants of God, who had been raised up from the days of Moses; nor did he take it to himseif; but ascribed it to the Lord alone. “ Who then is Paul, and who is “ Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed,

even as the Lord gave to every man? I have

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