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The proprietor of the vineyard said, “Be-jobserve these remarkable interpositions themhold, these three years I come seeking fruit selves, and to say with David, “Bless the on this fig-tree, and find none.” Observe this. Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his beneYou see God distinctly notices how many fits." Nothing can impress or influence our seasons of unprofitableness people have minds when it is forgotten. We should passed through. And if he thought of cut-therefore recall our mercies, and place them ting down this tree because in a favourable full before us, that we may feel whether we situation it had yielded nothing for three have rendered according to the benefit done years only, what can he resolve but the im- us. How much of our insensibility and inmediate destruction of those individuals who gratitude springs from inattention and a bad have been fruitless under the means of grace memory! and how well may it be said of for ten, twenty, perhaps forty or sixty years ! thousands, as it was of Israel, “Of the rock Surely the vine-dresser himself cannot in that begat thee thou art unmindful, and hast plore for such, one year, one month, one forgotten God that formed thee!". week more! “ He that being often reproved As it is so necessary to keep things in the hardeneth his neck, shall suddenly be de- mind, and as our memories are so treacherstroyed, and that without remedy."
ous, it would be well for us, in every possible IL HE REQUIRES A REVIEW OF PAST MER-way, to aid our recollection, and to endeavour OLES. When humble and attentive minds to preserve and perpetuate those good feel look back, their mercies appear so many that ings, which our mercies produce when we it is impossible to enumerate them. And receive them. Thus “Samuel took a stone hence divines have taught Christians to serve and set it between Mizpeh and Shen, and their mercies as botanists do flowers—to class called the name of it Ebenezer, saying, Hithem: or as astronomers deal with the stars therto hath the Lord helped us.” And thus -to form them into constellations. They Joseph, by the very names of his children, tell them, in looking back, to think of mer- would recall the wonders which the Lord had cies temporal and spiritual; mercies public shown him: “Joseph called the name of the and private; mercies personal and relative. first-born Manasseh: for God, saith he, hath They tell them to think of continued mercies, made me forget all my toil, and all my farestored mercies; and of preventing and de- ther's house. And the name of the second livering mercies. They would have them called he Ephraim: for God hath caused me also fix their minds on particular instances to be fruitful in the land of my affliction." for instances affect much more powerfully And hence the command given to Ephraim; than things in a mass. They teach them also “Set thee up way-marks, make thee high not to overlook the circumstances which en- heaps; set thine heart toward the highway, hance their blessings; such as are derived even the way which thou wentest: turn from their seasonableness, their utility. Take again, O virgin of Israel, turn again to these their advice, and pursue this plan.
thy cities." How many times has he lulled you to sleep If we had indulged a person year after year in his arms; fed you at his table; clothed you all through life, should we not require him from his wardrobe! How often has he sup to think of it; to be sensible of our kindness, plied your wants, and wiped away tears from and to behave towards us in a manner beyour eyes! When brought low, has he not coming his obligations ? There is nothing helped you? When in jeopardy, has he not perhaps we feel more painfully than the undefended you? When sickness has alarmed grateful reception of the favours we bestow: your fears, has he not led you back from the and a very few instances of unthankfulness gates of the grave? When accidents have are sufficient to induce us to discontinue our been ready to destroy, have not “all your benefits. What then does God think of us ! bones said, who is a God like unto thee !" In Not only are the expressions of his goodness how many cases has he given us favour in the infinitely more numerous than any favours eyes of our fellow-creatures; and blessed us we can show our fellow-creatures, but they with the advantages and pleasures of friend- are all undeserved. Our fellow-creatures ship! From what low and obscure beginnings have claims upon us, and we are bound, as has he raised some of us in the course of his we have opportunity, to do good unto all men. wonder-working providence! and how well | But God is under no obligation to us. All does it become us to compare the former, his bounty is grace; and therefore, if he is when with our staves we passed over Jordan, continually doing us good, and filling our with the present, when we are become two hearts with joy and gladness, surely he exbands, and have all things richly to enjoy! . pects that the language of our lips, and of our
There are few persons who in looking back lives, should be, "What shall I render unto are not able to perceive some very striking the Lord for all his benefits towards me displays of Divine goodness. We do not wish He requireth that which is past." And he people to be forward to publish these to the demands, world-many of them would not be, and could III. A REVIEW OF OUR PAST SORROWS AND not be striking to others; but they ought to DISTRESSES. With all our supplies and in
dulgences, you have had your hours of trou- 1 more? one reason for loving heaven more, ble; and have found this world to be a vale and do I love it less ?” of tears. Can you forget those seasons in Past afflictions should also teach us not to which your worldly comforts fled, your re- be too much dejected or dismayed in prospect freshing gourds withered, your beloved friends of future ones. For how has it been with us? and relations were removed by death ?-Oh! We feared as we entered the cloud, but the never—"the wormwood and the gall" of such cloud was big with mercy, and poured down -and such an affliction—"my soul hath it blessings. What terrified us in imagination, still in remembrance, and is humbled within we bore with cheerfulness. When the day me." And be not afraid to think of it. “By of trial came, we had grace to help in time of the sadness of the countenance the heart is need; and it was found sufficient for us. And made better;" it is made more serious, and our God is the same, and has promised that more soft; and thus the soil is improved for he will never leave us nor forsake us. wisdom, and truth, and devotion to flourish in. And, oh! happy is he who, in reviewing Do not derive your morals from the school of his griefs, can say, “ Well, so many of my the world. Their maxims are imperfect op-troubles are gone for ever. So many steps position “ to the Spirit which is of God." of my wearisome journey I have taken-and They endeavour to banish from their minds the hour is not far off that shall end the toilevery thing that has a tendency to do them some pilgrimage.” good. Hence when troubles befall them, the design of which is to bring them to reflec
“O most delightful hour, by man
Experienc'd here below tion, they do every thing in their power to
The hour that terminates his span, escape a sense of them, and to prevent the
His folly and his wo! remembrance of them. And thus the kind
“ Worlds should not bribe me back to tread and salutary purposes of Heaven, in afflict
Again life's dreary waste; ing them, are disregarded, and they go on
To see my days again o'erspread
With all the gloomy past. thoughtlessly, till the “evil day" comes upon them with all its horrors and surprise.
" My home henceforth is in the skiesAs our troubles are designed to do us
Earth, seas, and sun, adieu ;
All heaven unfolded to my eyes, good, not only in experience, but also in re
I've no regret for you." view, we should labour after a practical remembrance of them. They have been lost IV. GOD REQUIRES US TO REVIEW OUR upon us, unless they have made us wiser, PAST SINS. Many of these have grown out more sober-minded, and less disposed to ex- of our privileges, our mercies, and our trials. peet a rest below the skies. We should They have been attended with singular ag.
judge of the future by the past, and conclude gravations. They are more in number than that life will be what it has been, a che- the hairs of our head. In many things we quered scene; and that no condition, no con- offend all. nexion, will afford us unmixed happiness. It is well, if upon a review of the year, we Surely, after the experience of years of can exculpate ourselves from sins committed vanity, we should begin to gird up the loins against man--but what are these compared of our minds, and to declare plainly that we with the offences which we have committed seek a better country. Surely these disap- against God! Indeed all sin is really compointments and regrets urge us to say, with mitted against God. There is not a duty David, " And now, Lord, what wait I for? which we owe our fellow-creatures, but he my hope is in thee;" or with Micah, “ There- has enjoined the observance of. He has comfore will I look unto the Lord, and will wait manded us to love our neighbour as ourfor the God of my salvation; my God will selves, and therefore every deviation from hear me !" We cannot now plead ignorance: this rule is a transgression of his law, and a our dreams have been disturbed: we are provocation of his anger. But when we awake-and it is high time to arise. It is judge ourselves more immediately in relation high time that the trifler should become a to him, when we consider what he has rightman, and the man a Christian.
| eously required of us, and reflect upon our It is an awful thing to come out of trouble: omissions of duty, and our actual departures for it always leaves us better or worse than from him, in thought, word, and deed, we it finds us. We should therefore ask, with are compelled to exclaim-“Who can underpeculiar concern—“What benefit have I de- stand his errors ?" The review is painful rived from such a visitation of Divine Provi- but it is useful, it is necessary. dence? The rod spoke-did I hear its mes. It will lead us to admire the longsuffering sage! The physician has been employed-is of God, in bearing with us year after year. my distemper even beyond the reach of medi- Though we have proved such cumberers of cine! I have lost the life of my friend—and the ground, he has still spared us. Though have I lost his death too? My relation has we have so often provoked him, he has not
entered the joy of his Lord I have one rea- destroyed us. We may look upon each other E son for loving earth less, and do I love it I this evening with astonishment, and say, "It
is of the Lord's mercies that we are not con- 1 To urge you to this four-fold review, Re sumed, because his compassions fail not." member the intimation we gave you at the
It will be a call to repentance. This al | beginning of this address, and which is so ways commences in a conviction of sin, and fully expressed in the words of the Apostleis daily brought into exercise by fresh dis- “ So then every one of us shall give account coveries of its remaining existence. “ They of himself to God.” Therefore, judge yourshall come with weeping, and with supplica- selves, that you may not be condemned with tions will I lead them."
the wicked. This account will be personal, · It will humble us. And we need every public, and impartial. “He will bring every check 'to pride, for we are prone to think work into judgment, with every secret thing, more highly of ourselves than we ought to whether it be good, or whether it be evil." think. But what are we? Have we lived And whence will he bring them? From the a day without being fools, loiterers, undutiful book of his remembrance: there he has reservants, unfaithful stewards? And what corded all your means and mercies, troubles reason can we have to be proud ?
and sins. From the book of your own memoIt will promote charity. We shall be ten- ry: there also they are secured. For there der towards others, in proportion as we deal is a difference between rernembrance and honestly and severely with ourselves. The memory; the former often fails, but what is most effectual way to take us ofl' from be- inscribed upon the latter abides indelibly, and holding the mote in our brother's eye, is to only requires something to shine upon the employ ourselves in extracting the beam from letters to render it legible. Have you not our own. We have all our infirmities, though observed that what seemed dead in the mind, they may not be precisely of the same kind only required circumstances to revive it! with those which lead us so rigorously to With what freshness and force bave things condemn others. We are all “ in the body, I long forgotten sprung up in the memory when and should consider ourselves, lest we also recalled by occurrences! Thus all the his. be tempted."
tory of man will hereafter be re-traced—re. It will be a spur to diligence. Do you traced in order to be tried-and tried in orask, in what are we to use diligence? This der to be approved or condemned. “Wheredepends, in some respects, upon the condition fore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such you are in. Perhaps to this hour some of things, be diligent that ye may be found of you have been anxious about every thing, him in peace, without spot, and blameexcept the pardon of your sins. While these less." remain unforgiven, the wrath of God abideth | | With this solemn thought, let us close the on you, and you are every moment in danger period of our time that is now going to be of sinking into the lowest hell. It is obvious- numbered with the years before the Flood. ly therefore your duty, immediately and It has seen many carried down to their graves, earnestly to seek after an interest in Christ, and has brought us so much nearer our own. by whom alone you can be justified freely “ The fathers—where are they? And the from all things.
prophets, do they live for ever?" "Man But diligence equally becomes those of goeth to his long home, and the mourners go you who hope that you are already partakers about the strects.” And when a few yean of this blessing. You can never do enough are come, we shall go the way whence we for him who has saved you by his grace. shall not return. We are accomplishing, as You have much lost time to redeem: and an hireling, our days; and our neighbours, much lost ground to recover. When you our friends, our relations will soon seck us ought to have been running, you have been but-we shall not be. standing still -perhaps drawing back. Some Let us sing : who began the divine life long after you, are
** Lord, what a feeble piece now far before you on the heavenly road.
Is this our mortal frame! You are surrounded with dangers which re
Our life, how poor a trifle 'tis, quire incessant vigilance and prayer. You
That scarce deserves the name! have a thousand mistakes to rectify, and " Alas, the brittle clay, numberless excellences to acquire. What is
That built our body first!
And, ev'ry month, and ev'ry day, the life of a good man? What is it that dis
'Tis mould'ring back to dust. tinguishes him from others—but a faithful
“ Our moments fly a pace, investigation of his faults; an attention to
Nor will our minutes stay;
Just like a flood, our hasty days moral improvement; an endeavour to make
Are sweeping us away. each day a practical criticism on the past?
"Well, if our days must fly, He observes how he was hindered : and re
We'll keep their end in sight; marks where he fell, or was likely to fall.
We'll spend them all in wisdom's way, And thus he levies a contribution of profit
And let them speed their flight. even upon his losses; and derives wisdom "They'll waft us sooner o'er from his ignorance, strength from his weak
This life's tempestuous sea;
Soon we shall reach the peaceful shore ness, and zeal from his indifference.
or blest eternity."
stands up works
OUR IGNORANCE OF FUTURITY.
guish the apostles we
cise by Him who g OUR IGNORANCE OF FUTURITY.
Paul could discern (NEW YEAR'S DAY.)
to come-but in
rance, and could only So soon as I shall see how it will go with me.
" ties. Thus he said to the cha Phil. ii. 23.
“ And now, behold, I go bound m. I HAVE the pleasure to address you on the unto Jerusalem, not knowing the thing first day of another year. The day is only shall befall me there." He was now a pri distinguished from others by human institu- soner at Rome. His trial was depending, tion; but this has given it various advantages but the result of it he was unable to deterand characters, natural and civil, intellectual mine. He could therefore only form his plan and moral. It is often a season of peculiar conditionally, and resolve to send Timothy to transactions; in which persons balance their the Philippians “so soon as he should see how accounts, commence business, form con- it would go with him.” nexions. It is a period marked by humanity And will this not apply more fully to our and benevolence. Children beseech time circumstances? mercifully to spare the guides of their youth. When we look into futurity, all that meets The father and mother hope to see their dear the eye is a dark unknown. 'Even in those offspring long coming around them. The cases in which God has announced things to husband congratulates the desire of his eyes, come, the prophecy is wrapped up in so much .and the wife hails the companion of her jour- obscurity, that the fulfilment and the explaney. Friendship renews every lively desire; nation generally arrive together. We can and all, however indifferent at other times, previously ascertain nothing. And how often yield to custom, and wish your returns of this has this been exemplified in the calculations day to be many and happy.
of wise men—and some not very wise—with It is a season of thankfulness and joy. We regard to those predictions which remain to praise the Preserver of men, who has held be accomplished! Not only have they been our souls in life, and carried us through the drawn off from more useful duties, but they unnumbered dangers of another year-while have frequently survived their laborious our feelings are tempered to solemnity by the schemes, and been ashamed of the confidence reflection that many have finished their with which they have published them. After course, and that we look for some of our own gazing from the tower of their folly, they relations or acquaintances in vain.
found that God had gone by in another road For it is a period of seriousness and recol- than that which they appointed him, and had leetion. It reminds us of the instability of used other instruments than those which they the world, and the rapidity of time. Of this had put into his hands. They did not consiindeed, every day and every hour should re- der that the advantage of prophecy is to be mind us; but the changes made, and the derived from the completion; and that so far losses oceasioned by these variations, are too is a previous knowledge of it from being necommon and inconsiderable to awaken reflec- cessary, that it would in many instances prove tion. But the termination of a year rouses hurtful, and often prevent the accomplisheven the careless, impresses even the insen- ment. It is not for us to know the times and sible. And if we do not allow the subject to the seasons which the Father hath put into operate on the mind, who does not feel for the his own power. moment the sentiment of Job, “ When a few In the course of a few years only, how years are come, I shall go the way whence I have all our conjectures been disappointed ! shall not return ?"
More than once we had imagined that we had But there is another relation in which we seized the clew, and the skein of Providence may consider this day. When we begin a seemed likely to be unravelled; but suddenly new division of time, we naturally look for- we found it more entangled than before. And ward, and endeavour to penetrate our future would any one now undertake to determine condition. The prospect is intimately con- what will be the state of the nations of the nected with many of our duties, and will be earth a few months hence ? come injurious or profitable, according to the Sometimes a cloud no bigger than a man's manner in which it is indulged. Let us then hand has overspread the heavens; and from eonfine our attention to this view of the sub-apparently inadequate causes events have ject. And consider, I. OUR INABILITY TO arisen the most astonishing : while, on the DETERMINE OUR FUTURE CIRCUMSTANCES. II. / other hand, the best-concerted plans and the SHOW WHAT USE WE SHOULD MAKE OF OUR most powerful resources have failed. Some IGNORANCE. III. SEARCH FOR SOMETHING TO are offended at the word chance; but the SATISFY AND COMFORT US, UNDER ALL OUR Scripture employs it, and it is no improper SUSPENSION AND UNCERTAINTY.
term. If indeed we apply it to God, it is I. Though the endowments which distin-profane-for “known unto God are all his
is of the 'rom the beginning; his counsel shall | it assemble together on the return of this day! sumed, and he will do all his pleasure." But The wife may be seen in widowed weeds!
Itit counsel is to him, chance is to us. We The children may appear orphans! The sis walow nothing before it arrives. The conse- ter may say, “ Alas! my brother!" in uences of things would be known if these Let us, 11. Show WHAT USE WE SHOULD things themselves moved on in one even re- MAKE OF THIS IGNORANCE. gular course, and always terminated uni. Let us learn from it our littleness; let us formly in the same manner-but when we confess that we are nothing, and that God is see them often turning up contrary to their all in all. “Vain man would be wise;" and natural tendency-when we see that “the there is nothing of which he is so proud as race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the his knowledge-but there is nothing that strong, nor yet bread to the wise, nor riches should make him more humble. For what to men of understanding, nor favour to men can we know? “Who knoweth what is good of skill"-our anticipations must be always for man in this life, all the days of his vain liable to uncertainty. “Time and chance life which he spendeth as a shadow! For happeneth to them all."
who can tell a man what shall be after him What says your own history? He has under the sun ?" Can he distinguish between led you, but it has been by “a way which appearances and reality? Can he see the you knew not;" and perhaps you hardly combination, the dependences, and the effects know it now. How wonderful have been the of things? Does he “boast himself of to removals of your habitation, and the connex- morrow," when he “ knoweth not what a day ions which you have formed! How strange may bring forth ?" “ The way of man is not and unlooked-for have been both your friends in himself: it is not in man that walketh to and your enemies ! Some have acquired direct his steps." Are we then qualified to be wealth, and others filled offices towards our own guides, or to manage our own affairs? which they could not have formerly aspired. “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart, and Had these changes a few years before been lean not unto thine own understanding. In foretold, they would have appeared incredi- all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall ble; and the subjects of them would have said, direct thy paths. “He shall choose our in“If the Lord should make windows in heaven, heritance for us." “ Lord, my heart is not might this thing be!”
| haughty, nor mine eyes lofty: neither do 1 So little have we been capable of judging exercise myself in great matters, or in things aright, that we have in a thousand instances too high for me. Surely I have behaved and mistaken our real welfare: we have desired quieted myself, as a child that is weaned of enjoyments which would have been a snare; his mother: my soul is even as a weaned and have been afraid of trials which have child.” proved to be some of our chief mercies. When! Secondly. Since we cannot see how things he was approaching to “ empty us from ves- will go with us, we should beware of presel to vessel”-to keep us from “settling upon sumption. “Go to now, ye that say, today our lees;" when he came to prune away our or to-morrow we will go into such a city, and suckers—that we “might bring forth more continue there a year, and buy and sell, and fruit;" we mistook the friend for an enemy; get gain: whereas ye know not what shall be and said, “ All these things are against me,” | on the morrow.” The Apostle here gives us when they were "all working together for the scheme of an unsanctified tradesman. He our good !"
| resolves to go without delay to some place Nor have you any information that can en- where he can carry on business to advantage. able you to see how things will go with you His aim is not fraud, but fair gain in the lawfor a single year. You know not how it will ful way of buying and selling. And where go with your health this year-what seeds is the harm of all this? Is not diligence laudof disorder may spring up in your frame; what able? Are we not commanded to provide for accidents may befall your persons. You know our own house? Wherein then does this man not how it will go with your circumstances appear blameable? Perhaps he was actuated this year-what losses or successes you may by avarice; and was seeking not a subsistence, experience; what new scenes of enjoyment but a splendid independence. Perhaps he was may be opened, or what old ones may be dried influenced by imprudence, and was not aware up. You know not how it will go with your of the bad effects of roving abroad, or of relations this year-whether you will be in-changing his scene of action: for “ as a dulged with their continuance or stripped of bird that wandereth from her nest, so is a man their company. Perhaps the eye of Provi- that wandereth from his place:" and "a rolldence now sees the hearse standing before ing stone gathers no moss." This may be your door; and you trying to go in to take a true but what this man is here condemned Last view of your happiness, before it be com- for is this—God is not in all his thoughts. mitted to "the house appointed for all living." These words, “ I will," are too big for him. The Lord preserve this family! but in what Regardless of God, he engages to live a year, different circumstances may the members of land all the year to be successful. He seems