Page images
PDF
EPUB

while they were partially seeming to serve the living and true God, Samuel, at length, remonstrated with them, saying, If ye do return unto the Lord with all your hearts, then put away the strange gods and Ashtaroth from among you, and prepare your hearts unto the Lord, and serve him only; and He will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines. Having obeyed his injunction, he commanded them to gather all Israel to Mizpeh, and he would pray for them unto the Lord. And they gathered together to Mizpeh, and drew water, and poured it out before the Lord, and fasted on that day, and said there, We have sinned against the Lord. And Samuel judged the children of Israel in Mizpeh. When the Philistines heard that they were assembled, unarmed and defenceless, they went up against them. The children of Israel hearing of it, were alarmed, and said to Samuel, Cease not to cry unto the Lord our God for us, that he will save us out of the hand of the Philistines. And Samuel took a sucking lamb, and offered it a burnt-offering wholly unto the Lord for Israel; and the Lord heard him. And as Samuel was offering up the burntoffering, the Philistines drew near to battle against Israel; but the Lord thundered with a great thunder on that day upon the Philistines, and discomfited them, and they were smitten before Israel. And the men of Israel went out of Mizpeh, and pursued the Philistines, and smote them until they came to Bethcar. 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.

Although this is the voice of a grateful nation, it may be appropriated by a grateful society, family, or individual. Although we have not, at this instant, been engaged in battle, nor have witnessed, in this respect, the particular interference of the Lord of Hosts, seeing that Scripture actually verified, The horse is prepared against the day of battle, but safety is of the Lord; yet, whenever we view the special goodness of Jehovah vouchsafed unto us, we may, with the greatest propriety and sensibility, adopt the language of the text. Though the right hand of the Almighty hath not been made bare in our behalf, yet He hath often gotten for us the victory. Though the livid lightning hath not burnt up our foes, nor the thunder's awful voice discomfited them, yet the Lord hath done great things for us, whereof we have reason to be glad. We have all reason to say in a temporal, and many of us, trust, also in a spiritual sense, Hitherto hath the Lord helped

us.

It was customary, in ancient times, to set up stones, or erect

pillars of grateful recollection. When the contest was decided, and the surviving warriors returned in triumph, adorned with the wreath of victory, the commanders set up stones to perpetuate the event. There was no way so easy of pointing out the field of the slain, and handing it down to future times. The memorials were lasting as the foundations of the earth; for though nearly a hundred generations have passed away, like the leaves of the forest in the desolating winter's blast, since the stone between Mizpeh and Shen was first set up, yet, if it has not been removed by the interference of God, or the hands of men, it must remain until this day. Many are still standing on our hills and dales, which point out the spots where deeds of vast moment to the race that then existed, have been effected, though the causes of their erection are now swallowed up in the gulf of oblivion. O! could they but speak, and tell us what they have heard, and felt, and witnessed, what wonderful tidings would they bring to our as tonished ears! We should not then rend them with the irresistible gunpowder, and erase them from the stations which they have kept for ages,-most of them since the flood. But since their erectors could not endow them with the gift of speech, and the rude hieroglyphics with which they engraved them have been effaced by the all-devouring teeth of time, so that fathers cannot now tell their sons why, and when they were raised; yet such of them as have been set up to perpetuate the doings of the Lord, which are marvellous in our eyes, shall not be forgotten by Him. His attention is not distracted, nor His memory over-burdened by a multiplicity of objects; for He not only telleth the number of the stars, but He calleth them all by their names. Nay, the particles which compose all the worlds which His almighty arm hath made, the drops of water which compose their fathomless oceans, and the sands which He hath made a swaddling-band to their shores, have all been numbered, and weighed, and measured by Him whose understanding is infinite. It is the same to Him who knoweth all things, and accepteth the offering of the heart, as well as the praise of the lips, whether a stone of gratitude hath been erected, or thanks returned, for particular blessings bestowed. Nevertheless, it would be singularly instructive if we knew all the reasons why our forefathers set up stones, and erected monuments. They would not only, while we were viewing them, recall to our remembrance the deeds of former times; but they would exhilarate or solemnize the mind, according to the different natures of the transactions they recorded. As we cannot now decipher what these rustic monu

ments record, the advantage to be derived from them must be lost to us, as the advantages to be derived from the stone that Samuel set up is lost to those who now inhabit that once highly-favoured, but now rejected and benighted land. They have not the guide that we possess, to lead them to those sacred spots where Jacob set up a stone for a pillar, or Samuel erected this stone of gratitude. Many places, once renowned in that distinguished land, are now trodden by them with heedless indifference, because they do not know the names of the places where the Angel of the Covenant visited and delivered His people, or where the dust of the great, the good, and the honourable, sleeps, until it shall hear the last trumpet's allawakening voice. The Persian, the Macedonian, the Roman, the Saracen, and the Turk, and many more, have steeped, in their turn, that land in blood; and were it not that Sacred Book which our forefathers transmited to us with the price of their blood, we should have been equally ignorant of the places, and stones, and transactions, which they record. Nor should we forget those hallowed spots, even in our own land, where our progenitors sleep. If classic ground is so much celebrated and venerated by those who idolize the writings, and actions, and sepulchres of the men who had no knowledge, and, consequently, could pay no acceptable service to the only living and true God, how much ought that consecrated ground to be venerated by us, where greater deeds were achieved than at Runimede, and greater battles (considering their consequences) fought, than at Marathon, Thermopyla, Phillippi, Agincourt, or Waterloo. On the hills and dales of Scotland, our forefathers contended not only for civil and religious liberty, but even for life itself; nay, for the way to eternal life; and though they fell in the arduous struggle, the cause which they espoused remained triumphant. Over the memorials of the glory and the shame of Scotland, many of her future sons have dropt a heartfelt tear, and wished their names had been so lastingly embalmed. While Britain is the glory of kingdoms, the cloud of witnesses for the prerogatives of the King of Zion shall never be forgotten. While her impious, and cruel, and bloodthirsty rulers, were fixing their heads, and hands, and hearts, upon the gates of her subjugated cities, little did they think, that they should be remembered with triumph while they lay forgotten, though in the sepulchres of nobles and of kings. Little did they think, that their memories should be execrated, and their names should rot, while the very dust of those they persecuted should be dear, and their names should be held in everlasting remembrance. Far less

did they think, that while they should be saying to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of Him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb: for the great day of His wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?—those whom they hunted like partridges on the mountains, should be saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth? The wicked may persecute the just, and slay the innocent; the powerful may, for a season, tyrannize over the weak; but the righteous Lord loveth righteousness, and, with a pleasant countenance, beholdeth the upright. He who sitteth in the heavens laugheth at the impotent rage and malice of the enemies of His people, and will, sooner or later, bring forth their righteousness as the light, and their salvation as a lamp that burneth. The gratitude of Samuel for his deliverance shall be told, and his stone of help shall stand, when cities and kingdoms, like the generations that peopled them, have passed away. While the Bible shall be preserved, what it records shall be repeated, and generations, yet unborn, as well as the individuals which compose them, shall, taught by Samuel, say, Hitherto hath the Lord helped us.

It might easily be proved, that every individual in this assembly has just cause to adopt, and frequently to use, the language of the prophet. The rich cannot refuse their assent to this truth; for every one thinks that the great, the wealthy, and the prosperous, have, every day they live, cause to bless the God of their mercies. They are not allowed to think, that their superior abilities have gained to them wealth, and riches, and honours. Nor would it be difficult to shew the meanest, the poorest, and those whom proud and ignorant men most despise, that even they, also, have just cause to be grateful. They have everything that the rich enjoy, but the perishing riches and the passing honours of this vain and wicked world. To have all the members of the body active and perfect,-to have such powers, and faculties, and capacities of soul, to have attentive and virtuous parents, and affectionate husbands and wives, and dutiful children,-to have liberty of body, and liberty of conscience, to have our personal and social rights and privileges so effectually guarded and secured, that the iron hand of violence cannot wrest them from the weakest and the poorest,-to have God's will revealed, with liberty and ability to read, and capacity to understand,-to have the seventh part of our time secured to prepare us for another and a better world,-to have the Gospel preached, and the ordinances dispensed,-to have everything which men

[ocr errors]

can enjoy in a free, and peaceful, and prosperous country,ought to call forth all the feelings, and sentiments, and energies of a grateful heart. If we were to trace on the tablet of memory all the successive stages through which we have passed in the waste and howling wilderness of the world,-if we were to recollect how we have been fed, and clothed, and educated, and sheltered, since our birth,-if we were to think how many dangers and deaths we have escaped, through the singular providence of the Most High,-if we were to view how many have been distanced, or disappointed, or called away, who started with us in the race of life,-if we were to mind how patrons and friends have been raised up by God for our protection and comfort,-if we were to remember how faithfully the promise has been fulfilled, in bread being given us, and water made sure,-if we were to call to mind how the Shepherd of Israel has anointed our head with the oil of gladness, and made our cup of blessings to run over,-if we were to consider how the cloud of adversity, when it seemed impenetrable, has instantly evanished, and the sunshine of prosperity has again illumined and cheered our weary way,-if we were to ponder how the God of our fathers has been with us in the waters and the rivers, the fire, the flame, and the furnace, how He has timeously strengthened, and helped, and upheld us by the right hand of His righteousness,— -we would be compelled to say, Hitherto hath the Lord helped us.

As it would be endless, so it would be needless for me to attempt to delineate the maze of the life of every individual here present. Every attentive observer of the ways of Providence must be sensible of some special interpositions of the Divinity in his behalf, which could be observed, and, perhaps, would be believed, by no other person. We may have had mercies bestowed in time of need, or may have been preserved while in the most imminent danger,-in youth, maturity, and age, both by sea and land; which may have made an impression on our mind never to be effaced, and never to be unacknowledged,_before the All-bountiful Giver and Almighty Preserver. Let each of us, therefore, when the first opportunity permits, or is offered, retire by ourselves to some place, where no eye sees, and no ear hears, but God; and there, reviewing all the way by which the Almighty has led us, mark all these eminences in our lives; and at each of them say, Hitherto hath the Lord helped us. Should it be possible, that any individual in this large assembly has passed through childhood, youth, manhood, vigour, maturity, decline, and even the decay of life, without observing that the Lord has wrought

« PreviousContinue »