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On the contrary, the most amiable and useful character which ever adorned and blessed this lower world, so regarded the instinctive attachment of the mother ass to her foal, that he would not permit them to be separated; and now while he occupies the exalted throne of his glory, condescendingly careth for oxen, and feedeth the young ravens when they cry.
But to recall your attention to our more immediate purpose, and for which we selected the question, "Will he harrow the vallies or furrows after "thee?" It will be proper to say something on this useful process of agriculture.
Harrowing is had recourse to with several different intentions; it is designed to reduce and break down the clods and lumpiness of the earth, to smooth the surface of the ground after it has been ploughed, and to cover in the various kinds of seeds which may have been sown; nor is it less effectual as a means of clearing the land of the dead roots and weeds which would endanger the crop.
This branch of tillage, so tears and disturbs the ground, that it has from the earliest ages, been considered as a fit emblem of very heavy and complicated trial. So far back as the reign of David, King of Israel, when he designed to humble and
depress the citizens of Rabbah, before which town his troops had been detained in a tedious siege, he made them pass under harrows.* And indeed, many years before, when bush harrows were the only kind in use, Gideon having been insulted and ill-treated by persons bound to succour him, avenged the injury done to the common cause, by taking thorns and briers and tearing the flesh of the elders of this treacherous city. Thus he taught the men of Succoth; and to the present day, the common proverb in frequent use to denote the same state of abject adversity is, "being under "the harrow."
It must be obvious, that strong and heavy lands require more harrowing in proportion, than light gravelly, sandy soils, which should be stirred as little as possible by this process, especially during the prevalence of hot weather, in order that there may be as small an escape as possible, of their necessary moisture. Here wisdom is profitable to direct, and the husbandman exemplifies his discretion. Nor should any one ignorant of agriculture, pronounce on the impropriety of such arrangements.
Surely then the analogy, the resemblance between the symbol and what is represented, is
already plain. And not wholly overlooking the general drift of the chapter whence our text is selected, we shall notice more particularly, the necessity and benefits of frequent adversity.
Without prying into the reasons which operate on the Divine mind, in permitting some to live in health and then to die in full strength, being wholly at ease and quiet; and ordaining that another should die in the bitterness of his soul, having never eaten with pleasure,-it is sufficient to observe, that none who are God's husbandry, are without their appropriate and needful culture; if without correction they are not children. The land fortuitously sown and then neglected, is only that by the way side, not the field blessed with tillage, and from whence thirty, sixty, or an hundred fold shall be gathered.
1. The human heart, naturally haughty, requires much to reduce it and break it into subjection to Christ; events adverse to our wishes, and which cross our inclinations, graciously effect this useful purpose. The proud, God is able to abase; and when in our pleasant fruits he intends to take delight and refreshment, this ability is kindly exercised on our behalf.
As the ground is torn and reduced by the har
row, so adversities administered by the Almighty, lower the haughty tempers and subdue the unhallowed dispositions of his people.
Sanctified afflictions have so broken the heart as to render it acceptable to God; with it he has then been well pleased; persons in adversity, who before avoided him, have now sought him early and earnestly; the prodigal was in distress,-his poverty was unpitied and his wants extreme, ere he came to himself. It was "Manasseh who made Judah and "the inhabitants of Jerusalem to err, and to do
worse than the heathen, whom the Lord had "destroyed before the children of Israel. And "the Lord spake to Manasseh, and to his people; "but they would not hearken. Wherefore the "Lord brought upon them the captains of the host “of the king of Assyria, which took Manasseh among the thorns, and bound him with fetters, " and carried him to Babylon. And when he was "in affliction, he besought the Lord his God, and "humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers, and prayed unto him: and he was en"treated of him, and heard his supplication, and brought him again to Jerusalem into his King"dom. Then Manasseh knew that the Lord he "was God."* Many and sweet are the uses of adversity!
* 2 Chronicles, xxxiii. 9-13.
"Father! I bless thy gentle hand,
"How kind was thy chastising rod, "That forc'd my conscience to a stand
"And brought my wand'ring soul to God."
And in all the years of our better and recovered life, since as the objects of Divine culture he has made a fence about us, has not that "cleaving "of our souls to the dust," which we have daily lamented, been effectually corrected by painful and humbling dispensations? If by the unkindness of others, we have been made "to pass under the har"row," how completely have we been taught the peril of trusting in an arm of flesh; the blessings attendant on confidence in God; been led to sympathize with those who are in like fiery trials; and never to oppress a stranger, for we know the heart of a stranger, seeing we were strangers in the land of Egypt.*
Inordinate adherence to practices which were of doubtful propriety, and to persons of questionable character, has been broken by arrangements of providence most painfully severe; and it required trials with many teeth, and those sharp and strong, ere we patiently renounced what was pleasing as the gourd to Jonah, or determined to come out from an ensnaring world and be wholly separate.
* Exodus, xxiii. 9.