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“ the angels for the suffering of death.” They complain not of the special honour shewn to worthJess man, by this union of the Deity with our nature, not with their's: they are not reluctant to our felicity, and object not to our being made equal with them. Yea, they willingly and joyfully minister to the heirs of salvation, in the meanest cottage, workhouse, or dungeon ; nor do they deem the poorest believer an unmeet object of their condescending and compassionate services. This is genuine excellency: but have we been taught to resemble and imitate them? Are we thus attentive to the needy, ready to sympathize with the afflicted, and freed from selfishness, envy, and contempt of inferiors ?-Above all, let us remember and imitate “ the grace of the Lord Jesus, who, though he was
rich, for our sakes became poor, that we through “ his poverty might be made rich.” He hath said, “The poor ye have always with you; and “ when
ye may do good to them.” He hath appointed his needy disciples to be his representatives and receivers ; that in supplying their wants we may express our love and gratitude to him, and copy his most endearing example.
This season is generally attended with an interruption of secular business, and some additional expense : yet the time and money are generally worse than thrown away, while professed Christians, like Israel worshipping the golden calf,“ sit “ down to eat and drink, and rise up to play.” But, if we have a spiritual taste, and judge as angels do, we shall rather abridge ourselves of customary indulgences, than “make provision for the flesh,” when commemorating the humble birth of the
self-denying Saviour. We shall express our joy, and employ our leisure, in acts of solemn worship and grateful praises : and, instead 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 commemorated 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. Humble
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 penitent 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 universal peace, and by all suitable means, to follow after peace, to seek the peace of the church, and the peace of the world; and “ “ well doing to put to silence the ignorance of “ foolish men."
| Jam. iv. 7-10.
I SAMUEL VII. 12.
Then Samuel took a stone, and set it between Mizpeh and Shen, and called the name of it Ebenezer; saying, 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 nation; and as for his judgments they “ had not known them.”2 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 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 they
were brought in subjection under their hand. “ Many times did he deliver them; but they pro“ voked him by their counsel, and were brought “ low for their iniquity. Nevertheless he regarded “ their affliction, when he heard their cry."
Hophni and Phinehas, the priests, the sons of Eli, had by their wickedness caused a most deplorable Preached January 1, 1796.
Psal. cxlvii. 19, 20. 3 Psal. cvi. 40-44.
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 hypocritical 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 laboured with zealous and unwearied diligence, in bringing 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 stand upon record : for “ the chil“ dren of Israel did put away Baalim and Ashta
roth, and served the Lord only.”
A general assembly being convened at Mizpeh, where Samuel was publicly owned as judge of Israel ; while they were earnestly seeking the Lord with fasting, prayer, and other religious obseryances; the Philistines, jealous of their proceedings, marched directly 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,
He set up
“ and called the name of it Eben-ezer; saying, “ Hitherto hath the Lord helped us.” 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. riments of the chymist 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 deliver