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The Editors of the “ Christian MiscellANY cannot put a last hand to the Volume for 1853, without presenting sincere and respectful thanks to the numerous body of subscribers by whom this part of their labour has been encouraged. They have also to acknowledge, very gratefully, that their address to contributors, and suggestions as to contributions, last year, met with a very gratifying response, and that they are indebted to many for communications which they have had the happiness of publishing ; and are scarcely less indebted to another class, for papers that have not been published, although all received so far as they can remember-have been characterized with piety, excellent intention, and good-will. In short, the review of correspondence and editorial occupation during the past year awakens thankfulness to the Father of all mercies, and tends to revive their confidence in the prospect of another year.
To express their own desire and hope in regard to this publication would only be to reiterate what has been said already; but it may be right to state the feeling which just now predominates in their own mind over every other. Recollecting that this "Miscellany” is more extensively made use of by the great body of Wesleyan Methodists, of all classes, for Sunday reading, than any other periodical; and supposing that there are few Class-Leaders, Sunday-school Teachers, and Local Preachers into whose hands it does not fall; they are anxious that the spirit of each Number should be in harmony with that of every Christian reader, and that the topics selected should be such as to coincide with the sacred pursuits of those who labour to extend the work of God. Amidst the great variety of objects which naturally present themselves, it is difficult so to manage the selection as to gratify the desire for variety, and yet to keep any single object in such prominence as it really deserves. Perhaps, however, the friends of religious education and of Christian Missions will remember that Schools and Missions have not been forgotten. The monthly “ Notices," indeed, and occasional articles in other Wesleyan publications, afford a constant provision of intelligence; but the Editors of the “Miscellany" trust in the zeal of several of their correspondents for a constant supply of such papers as will interest and profit the labourers in our Day and Sunday Schools. General readers, however, may be assured, that unremitting care will be taken to set before them at least as
good an entertainment as they have had hitherto. And, finally, and with the utmost earnestness, the Editors present their affectionate respects to their ministerial brethren, and beg them, during the month of December, to render their wonted assistance in making up long lists of subscribers in their Circuits for the year 1854. Some other Clergy toil with an assiduity, to say the least, that challenges us to continue this part of our work with the diligence accustomed from the days of Wesley until now. We wish to circulate a cheap and not unuseful periodical among "the masses ;" not to bring back again the mummeries of the fourteenth century, not to preach up apostolical succession and baptismal regeneration, not to denounce brethren of other denominations as if they were aliens from the church of Christ, but “to spread vital godliness throughout the land.” In this better work all concerned may be assured that God will help them if they do it earnestly and humbly, and persevere in faith, truth, and charity.
And it must not be forgotten, that, while the propagators of infidelity, and of incentives to all sorts of immorality, deluge the country with pestiferous vehicles of all that is calculated to corrupt the public mind, it is the duty of all Christian people to promote the circulation of such works as may, by the Divine blessing, counteract the evil. Families ought to be provided with such periodical supplies as are likely to displace what is of bad, or even doubtful, tendency.
EBENEZER was the name of a stone raised on the battle-field where the Israelites had suffered two disastrous defeats by the Philistines. In the first contest they appear to have been the assailants; for “ Israel went out against the Philistines to battle, and pitched beside Ebenezer.” In this engagement they were defeated, and lost four thousand men. In the second conflict, to secure success, they “sent to Shiloh for the ark of the covenant of the Lord," concluding that with this symbol of the Divine presence in the camp, victory over the Philistines would be certain. But God was not with Israel, they had offended against Him by their wickedness and idolatry, and again they fled, suffering a very great slaughter;" "and the ark of God was taken, and the Philistines carried it away from Ebenezer to Ashdod.” Finding its possession a curse to them, they returned the ark to Israel; but continued to exercise the rule of conquerors over them. The Israelites seeing in their oppression the folly of having suffered their hearts to "go after strange gods, they lamented after the Lord.” Then Samuel, the Prophet of Israel, exhorted them to repent, and to "serve the Lord only;" assuring them that if they did so, the Lord would deliver them out of the hands of their enemies. On their promising obedience, Samuel engaged to pray for them, and directed them to assemble at Mizpeh. Then the lords of the Philistines hearing of this gathering, "went up against Israel," and the people were greatly afraid, and entreated Samuel not to cease to pray for them. The Prophet, therefore, offered a burnt-offering, and cried unto the Lord, and the Lord heard him; and when the Philistines drew near to battle, they were smitten before Israel, and were subdued all the days of Samuel. To perpetuate the remembrance of this victory, Samuel took a stone, and placed it in a conspicuous station between Mizpeh and Shen, and gave it the name of Ebenezer, signifying, "the stone of help;" saying, “ Hitherto hath the Lord helped us.” Thus the name of the monument was to remind them of help obtained in the day of trouble, and to give a double lesson of instruction, as to their own weakness, as well as the Lord's power. When they were alone, they failed; but when God was with them, they prospered. The example of Samuel is worthy of the imitation of saints in all ages. The help of God ought to be acknowledged and remembered; and it is well to appoint special times for the observance of this duty, that from the recollection of the past may be gathered encourage
ment for the future. Such a very suitable season is the close of an eventful year, and the commencement of a new one. Then the mind is in a solemn, thoughtful state, impressed with the past, and concerned about what is to
Such a period has once more elapsed; again the knell of a departed year is heard, and we pass the threshold of another. “Hitherto hain the Lord helped us," will be the language of the grateful; for to this confession they are called both by duty and by interest.
Saints should raise their Ebenezer, and review the help they have received from the Lord. And what help has been received ? This is a necessary, and may be a profitable, inquiry. We may limit the inquiry to the year just gone, the events of which must be fresh in memory. During this short period, however insensible many may be to the fact, all have received help from the Lord; for it is He who hath “held the soul in life.” Those who would imagine God to take no part in the government of the world, may ascribe the continuance of life to natural causes, and look upon living as a thing of course; but the divinely-instructed mind acknowledges that it is in God men "live, and move, and have their being." It is by His power and watchful care that the heart beats, the lungs play, and the vital fluid circulates. Why the living have not been numbered with the dead, is not to be ascribed to their wisdom, self-protection, and power, but to the pleasure of the Lord. To an observant and grateful reviewer of the past year, the help of God will be seen in the defence of the body from danger, in the communication of strength and vigour, in the removal of sickness and restoration to health, and in an unfailing supply of food and raiment. Nor is it less visible in the comforts than in the necessaries of life. It may be, that to some individuals and families the special interposition of the hand of God has been very apparent. Clouds of darkness rested on them, their path was hedged up, and relief and deliverance appeared impossible ; but God interposed, in a way altogether unexpected, but perfectly consistent with His watchful care over His saints, darkness was dispersed, difficulties disappeared, and the gladsome Ebenezer rose. Yes, in the spared life of that valued parent, that beloved child, that affectionate wife or husband, and that kind friend,-in that successful enterprise, that prosperity of business, that pecuniary aid in a day of great embarrassment, and in the prevention of that contemplated journey, or that projected speculation, even in the disappointment which was at the time so painful,—there was help from the Lord; then perhaps not seen, but subsequently made manisest, as in the case of Jacob. Of such circumstances of Providence it may be said, "Whoso is wise and will observe these things, they shall understand the loving-kindness of the Lord.” But more abundantly the Lord may have helped in the order of His grace. How frequently this has been received, by comfort in the day of trouble ; strength in the time of affliction; power in the hour of temptation, to resist the pleasing but dangerous lure, and withstand the fierce assault of Satan! Every duty, also, which has been acceptably performed, every conflict which has been victorious over spiritual foes, and every fruit and grace of the Holy Spirit that has appeared to sustain and adorn the Christian character, may all be traced to help from the Lord. This help has been enjoyed in private prayer, at the family-altar, or in the public sanctuary under the ministry of the word, which has often been made effectual for devotion, consolation, and warning. This help has been freely and most opportunely bestowed. How often when the heart was sad with sorrow, and the mind faint with watching, did the Lord send help from His holy habitation; help according to the day, and far beyond what was deserved, or even desired! Thus, on a review of His goodness, it must be acknowledged that in temporal and spiritual blessings, from the first to the
last day of the year, He has been a sufficient and very present aid, deserving the heartfelt acknowledgment, "Ebenezer, hitherto hath the Lord helped."
Saints should raise their Ebenezer, and contemplate the way in which help has been received from the Lord. His help is not always acknowledged, , because His hand is not always seen. To natural causes it is frequently ascribed, overlooking the fact, that these are appointed and controlled by the Lord. Thus at Mizpeh the Lord helped Israel by a thunder-storm, which terrified the enemy. The infidels might ascribe this to chance, or call it a favourable accident; but the sacred historian was better taught, and states, that “the Lord thundered with a great thunder on that day." In a variety of ways the Lord has helped, and continues to help, those who trust in Him, even by very unlikely instruments, showing that all agency is at His command. By His direction the ravens fed Elijah; the “great fish" preserved Jonah; the lions were the safe keepers of Daniel; and the viper, that harmlessly fastened on the hand of Paul in the island of Malta, brought him the reverence and friendship of the barbarians. The waters of the Red Sea formed a wall around Israel, but destroyed Pharaoh and his host. Fire protected the Hebrew children from the malice of their foes; and the very “stars in their courses fought against Sisera.” Even the wrath of man has been overruled to His praise, and the help of His people ; as when Haman's destructive designs led to the exaltation of Israel in the days of Esther the Queen. And the Lord's arm is not shortened" now: He could still employ similar means. The Christian's companion was made to help by the wise counsel given. Some unexpected friend has been raised up to assist in the time of pressing need; and even the miser's heart was moved and melted, so that, in spite of his flinty nature, he was constrained to relieve the necessities of saints. Yes, and in that bitter cup of sorrow, in those dark days of adversity, and even in heart-rending bereavement, mysterious as it is to human reason, there might be help from the Lord. But never should it be forgotten, that He chiefly helps His saints by their own endeavours. In the Divine conduct there is no encouragement for indolence or presumption. It must not be said, “ All things are possible to God," therefore we leave our concerns entirely to Him. No, Samuel prays; Israel fights; and then the Lord thunders. His people must prudently and diligently act, and then God will bless.
Saints should raise their Ebenezer, and gratefully record the help they receive from the Lord. That the special kindness of God to Israel should be remembered, was the design of Samuel in setting up the stone ; that when Israel saw it, they might be reminded of the Lord's goodness to them, and that their children also, on seeing the same, and inquiring, “Why this stone ?" might be taught the kindness of God to their fathers. The knowledge of the fact would be encouraging to them and theirs, and through successive generations embolden them to confide in the same gracious and powerful God. For this purpose, also, their pious rulers raised altars, instituted feasts, and gave expressive names to children. Thus Moses called his firstborn Gershom, “a stranger there,” to remind him of the Lord's favour to him in a strange land. So Hannah called her son Samuel, "heard of God," saying, “ I asked him of the Lord.” Thus his name brought the Lord to her remembrance, as the answerer of prayer. It was a wise resolve of the Psalmist that made him declare, " I will remember Thy works from days of old.” And as, now, the recollection of the past would be equally profitable for the future ; the helped should raise their altars of reflection, of gratitude, of love, and of devotion, and would do well for themselves and others by recording the dealings of the Lord with them and to them. In this way the past year might greatly profit in the year now begun. It may have similar trials, temptations, and troubles ;