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ances; form the compendium of the whole: but “ Hitherto hath the Lord helped us,” and “the “ gates of hell have not prevailed.”—The experience likewise of believers harmonizes in many respects with the records of Israel: and it is
peculiarly useful frequently to review, with care and attention, all the Lord's dealings with us, and our conduct towards him; “ for hitherto hath he
helped us.”—To assist such a review, at the entrance of another year, will be the object of the present discourse'; in which I shall,
I. Consider and illustrate the import of the words, “ Hitherto hath the LORD helped us :
II. Inquire what is meant by “ Setting up an “ Eben-ezer,” according to the common, and not improper, use of the expression.
I. The import of the words, “ Hitherto hath “ the LORD helped us."
1. The Lord hath hitherto helped us all in his superintending providence. We came into the world indigent and helpless : our wants were numerous and urgent, and we were utterly incapable of making any provision for them. All these wants the Lord alone supplied; and others were merely the instruments by which he conferred his bounty. Numbers die in infancy, because they are not properly taken care of and provided for: but we were preserved ; and, in the kindness and ability of parents or friends supplying our wants, we experienced, and should acknowledge, the distinguishing goodness of God. The use of our limbs, senses, and faculties; the measure of our natural abilities ; and the advantages of our education, by which we were severally brought into our
present comfortable way of subsistence; as well as our possessions, with all that distinguishes every one's situation in society from that of others; should be traced back to the special kindness of the Lord. We should each of us remember, with good old Jacob, that “God hath fed us all our life “ long unto this day.”! He hath given us our temporal provision, whatever it hath been ; and, if we have lived thirty, förty, fifty, or more years, without experiencing the want of food or the other necessaries of life; we have abundant reason to say,
“ Hitherto hath the Lord helped us.” This has laid us under as deep obligations to gratitude, as if we had been fed by miracle, according to the kindness of the Lord to Israel: and in some respects we have had a decided advantage over them; for our supply has been more pleasant, in its nature and variety, than manna from the clouds and water from the rock would have been. “The “ earth is the Lord's and the fulness of it." “ openeth his hand and filleth all things living “ with plenteousness ;” and he hath put it in our power to obtain a portion of his bounty.
Nor have our dangers been fewer than our wants. What multitudes are swept away by various sicknesses and disasters, in every stage of human life, even from the earliest infancy! How many have all their days embittered by perpetual disease! What frequent instances do we witness of such as have been deprived of their limbs or senses; or even rendered most pitiable objects by incurable insanity! If then we have been favour
' Gen. xlviii, 15.
ed with a comfortable state of health ; if violent maladies have not seized on us, or have been removed; if the use of our eyes, ears, senses, limbs, and understandings have been continued, or restored to us; whatever second causes have concurred, we should thankfully say, “ Hitherto hath “ the LORD helped us.”
Our lives and comforts are likewise exposed to perpetual dangers from wicked men.
If then we have lain down in peace, one night after another, and risen in safety; if we or our dear friends have journeyed from time to time, without having been injured or even alarmed by robbers and murderers; or if, to shew us our danger, and remind us of our invisible Protector, we have been alarmed, and yet preserved from material detriment; how ought we to bless and praise the Lord for his peculiar kindness to us? Every time that we have gone from home, by land or sea; or have parted with our beloved relatives, thus called into distant parts ; and on our return have met them in safety, without having experienced fatal disasters, or heart-rending distresses ; should excite us to renew our grateful acknowledgments to the God of our lives.
Some of us can say, ' We were never, during all our past years, disturbed by the midnight alarm of fire in our habitations ; our property, or part of our families was never thus tremendously taken from us.' Others may indeed have been thus alarmed, and endangered, but were mercifully preserved, and extricated from the difficulties in which they were involved. And have
we not, my friends, abundant cause for gratitude to our kind Protector and Deliverer?
Let us not on this occasion forget the special mercies we enjoy in this favoured land. The nation has indeed, within our days, been frequently engaged in war, and great complaints have been made: but few of us know any thing experimentally of the horrors attending on actual warfare. We have not been shut up in besieged cities, nor witnessed the dismay, carnage, and devastation of such a scene. Streets flowing with human blood, or strewed with mangled corpses; the groans of the wounded and dying ; the ruins or smoke of houses made the graves of the inhabitants; with all the dire effects of places being taken by assault, and given up to plunder and massacre; have not been rendered familiar to our senses. We have not beheld the fields ravaged by hostile armies; the labour of the husbandman destroyed ; towns and villages reduced to ashes ; and the neighbourhood rendered almost a desert; except as the engines of destruction, the conflicting armies, the moans of the dying, or the more affecting lamentations of surviving 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 woful 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 wonderful works to the children of
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 inquirer 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
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