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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.
3 Psal. cvi. 40-44.
Psal. cxlvii. 19, 20.
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 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 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
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, forty, 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." "He "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
1 Gen. xlviii. 15.