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A general assembly being convened at Mizpeh, where Samuel was publickly owned as judge of Israel: while they were earnestly seeking the Lord with fasting, prayer, and other religious observances; 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, and called the name of “it Eben-ezer, saying, Hitherto hath the LORD helped “ us." He set up 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. The experiments of the chemist 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 deliverances, 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 consider and illustrate,
1. The import of the words “ Hitherto hath “ the LORD helped us.”
II. Enquire what is meant by “ Setting up an “ Eben-ezer,” according to the common, and
not improper, use of the expression. 1. 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, forty, fifty, or more years, riencing 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 it's 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." “ He openeth his hand and filleth all things living
Gen, xlviii. 15.
*s 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 sick. nesses 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 favoured 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,
“ Hither" to 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 sca; 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 were 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 De. liverer ?
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 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 husbandmen destroyed; towns and villa ges reduced to ashes; and the neighbourhood rendered almost a desert; except as the engines of destruction, the conflicting armies, the moans of the dy ing, or the more affecting lamentations of surviving