Afterward, Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen. He named it Ebenezer, saying, "Thus far the LORD has helped us."
1 Samuel 7:12. (Between MIZPAH and SHEN - the tooth or crag.)Genesis 28:8). Other instances, Genesis 31:45; Exodus 17:15; Joshua 4:9, 21, 22; Joshua 24:26. This memorial was set up -
I. ON THE OPPORTUNE RECEPTION OF DIVINE HELP. Looking backward on the past, let us remember -
1. How much that help has been needed by us - in sorrow, labour, conflict, danger, which our own strength was wholly inadequate to meet.
2. How often it has been afforded when we were at the point of despair. But why, it may be asked, should God have allowed us to arrive at such a point?
(1) To teach us the very truth concerning ourselves, and deliver us from a vain confidence in ourselves. "This unfortunate self-reliance forms within us a little favourite sanctuary, which our jealous pride keeps closed against God, whom we receive as our last resource. But when we become really weak and despair of ourselves, the power of God expands itself through all our inner man, even to the most secret recesses, filling us with all the fulness of God" (A. Monod).
(2) To produce in us humility and submission, to excite us to fervent prayer, and to strengthen and perfect our faith.
(3) To afford occasion for a more impressive manifestation of his power and grace.
3. How completely it has been adapted to our need and accomplished our deliverance. Here we are this day, after the trouble and conflict, ourselves monuments of his mercy! "We went through fire and through water: but thou broughtest us out into a wealthy place" (Deuteronomy 8:2; Psalm 66:12; Psalm 77:10; Acts 26:22).
II. IN GRATEFUL RECOGNITION OF DIVINE HELP. Looking upward to heaven, let us reflect -
1. How plainly the Source of our deliverance now appears. "Hitherto hath the Lord helped us." "Not with thy sword, nor with thy bow" (Joshua 24:12). His arm alone has brought salvation nigh. We see it now more clearly than we did before, and as we meditate upon it our hearts overflow with thankfulness. We have not always recognised the Source of our mercies, and therefore often omitted to be thankful; but who can fail to see these signal tokens of his power? "Not unto us," etc. (Psalm 115:1).
2. How much we owe to the God of our salvation. Everything.
3. How we can best testify the gratitude of our hearts. "What shall I render unto the Lord?" (Psalm 116:12). Loud songs of praise. Renewed vows of consecration. Earnest written or spoken words for God. Large gifts of what he has given. Fresh acts of piety and beneficence. These shall be the memorial we now set up.
III. AS A PERMANENT RECORD OF DIVINE HELP. Looking forward to the future, let us considered. How helpful the record may be to ourselves in times of conflict and trial. For such times will come; we are liable to forget what has occurred; and it will remind us of him who changes not, and incite us to faith and prayer.
2. How useful it may be to others in similar circumstances. What he has done for us he can do for them, and seeing it they "may take heart again."
3. How conducive it may be to the glory of God. As often as we behold it we shall be stirred to fresh thanksgiving. When we are gone it will still endure. Others will gather around it, and ask the meaning of the "great stone which remaineth unto this day" (1 Samuel 6:18), and, on being told, will give glory to God. So his praise shall be perpetuated from generation to generation, until it merge into the anthem of heaven. Conclusion. -
1. Let us be thankful for the memorials of Divine help which others have left for our benefit. They are among the greatest treasures the earth contains, and meet our view wherever we turn.
2. Let us do something to add to these treasures, and further enrich the earth.
3. Above all, let us seek to be ourselves the everlasting monuments of the Divine power and grace. - D.
And Samuel took a stone.Ecclesiastes 2:16.) But there is a memorial which shall never be erased — a monument that shall never crumble into dust, and persons who shall never be forgotten. The events connected with the life everlasting have all their stones of remembrance, and the righteous shall ever shine as the sun in the kingdom of the Father. The providences which ministered to the children of God are all recorded in the heart, and will ever be recalled with thanksgiving to the God of grace who ordered them. In the history of His Church God has commemorated the interpositions and providences of His hand. Many a monumental stone stands in the chronicles of Israel. Ararat is ever associated with Noah's thank offering after the Deluge. Mount Moriah has been embalmed in believing hearts since Abraham built there his altar and called it Jehovah-jireh — "The Lord will provide." Since Jacob set up the stone which had been his pillow on that memorable night when he saw the ladder, Bethel has been fondly cherished by all who love the House of God. When Jordan was crossed by the pilgrim Church twelve stones marked out the spot where the priests' feet had stood; and Bochim became associated with the record of a nation's tears. So when Samuel and the children of Israel received such a token of the Lord's love and help in their victory at Mizpeh in answer to prayer they erected a stone and called it Ebenezer, to perpetuate their gratitude. Thus has the Church of God advanced. Constituted a pilgrim through this wilderness to the land of promise, every step of progress marks her gratitude. Commissioned to war against sin, every conquest becomes a spiritual march in music. Sent to evangelise, every convert is a trophy and "Hitherto hath the Lord helped us" is the chorus of every stanza in her progressive song. Thus David set to music the history of Divine mercy to His people, and recalled the past in their daily praises, while the experience of his own soul became the "Hitherto" of the common chorus. The perils to which the children of Israel were exposed were beyond their own strength to overcome. They were weakened by oppression. They were faint by backsliding. They needed help from the hand of God. They had met together at Mizpeh, and, amidst general weeping, had confessed their sins, and renewed their covenant with God. But as they were paying their vows, and joining in a religious service, they were wantonly attacked. Their newborn zeal was put to an early test; but as their penitence was sincere, their vow hearty, their prayer believing, so was the faithfulness of God availing in their need. How many hearts were that day restored to God, confirmed in faith, and revived to prayer! Temporal deliverance and spiritual restoration went hand in hand, and a common Ebenezer marked the rare experience. The Church was blessed with a revival, and the State with liberty; souls were awakened, and citizens restored to patriotism. The spiritual man became the truest patriot, the best subject of the laws, and the most courageous defender of the State. Thus they had reason for this stone of remembrance and. this eucharistic inscription. But they teach us a lesson — both in temporal and spiritual things to recognise the answer to our prayer, and to give thanks. Have you experienced the providential mercies of God? They demand recognition — a stone of memorial, and an Ebenezer — a psalm of thanksgiving. Have you been brought onward in life to this day, finding daily bread and watchful care? But there are other blessings of greater importance to the soul, and which call for special notice and unceasing gratitude — the helps vouchsafed in grace. The deliverance of the soul from sin is a Divine interposition of the grandest kind. The recovery of the soul from backsliding is an appropriate occasion for an Ebenezer. It was this especially which was Israel's national blessing. Their deliverance from the Philistines followed their restoration from the backsliding of twenty years. It was a touching token of the Lord's acceptance of their tears and of their prayers. It was a manifest pledge of His unchanging love. After a season of carelessness, spiritual sloth, and coldness in prayer, have you been revived? Has your first love returned? Then, have you returned to give God thanks, and in a more consistent devotedness inscribed the Ebenezer of your soul? These Ebenezers are useful to the believer. They remind him of dependence, and recall his confidence in the strength of God. They encourage him by the past, to trust and not be afraid in all future trials.
I. THE SPOT WHERE THE STONE OF EBENEZER WAS SET UP.
1. Twenty years before on that field Israel was routed. Twenty years before, Hophni and Phineas, the priests of the Lord, were slain upon that ground, and the ark of the Lord was taken, and the Philistines triumphed. It was well that they should remember the defeat they had sustained and that amidst the joyous victory they should recollect that the battle had been turned into a defeat unless the Lord had been upon their side. Let us remember our defeats.
2. The field between Mizpeh and Shen would also refresh their memories concerning their sins, for it was sin that conquered them. Had not their hearts been captured by sin, their land had never been captured by Philistia. Had they not turned their hacks' upon their God, they would not have turned their backs in the day of conflict. Let us recollect our sins; they will serve as a black foil on which the mercy of God shall glisten the more brightly.
3. Again, that spot would remind them of their sorrows. What a mournful chapter in Israel's history is that which follows their defeat by the Philistines.
4. While dwelling upon the peculiarity of the locality, we must remark that, as it had been the spot of their defeat, their sin, their sorrow, so now before the victory, it was the place of their repentance. You see, they came together to repent, to confess their sins, to put away their false gods, to cast Ashtaroth from their houses and from their hearts. It was there that they saw God's band and were led to say, "Hitherto hath the Lord helped us." When you and I are most diligent in hunting sin, then God will be most valiant in routing out foes.
5. You must remember, too, that Ebenezer was the place of lamentation after the Lord. They came together to pray God to return to them. We shall surely see God when we long after Him.
6. On that day, too, Mizpeh was the place of renewed covenant, and its name signifies the watchtower, These people, I say, came together to renew their covenant with God, and wait for Him as upon a watchtower. Whenever God's people look back upon the past they should renew their covenant with God. Put your hand into the hand of Christ anew, thou saint of the Most High, and give thyself to Him again.
II. THE OCCASION OF THE ERECTION OF THIS MEMORIAL. The tribes had assembled unarmed to worship. The Philistines, hearing of their gathering, suspected a revolt. A rising was not at that time contemplated, though no doubt there was lurking in the hearts of the people a hope that they would somehow or other be delivered. The Philistines being as a nation far inferior in numbers to the children of Israel, they had the natural suspiciousness of weak oppressors. If we must have tyrants let them be strong ones, for they are never so jealous or cruel as those little despots who are always afraid of rebellion.
1. The victory obtained was by the lamb. As soon as the lamb was slaughtered, and the smoke went up to heaves, the blessing began to descend upon the Israelites, and the curse upon the foes. "They smote them" — note the words — they "smote them until they came under Bethcar," which, being interpreted, signifies "the house of the Lamb." At the offering of the lamb the Israelites began to fight the Philistines, and slew them even to the house of the lamb. If we have done anything for Christ, bear witness that it has been all through the Lamb.
2. As in this occurrence the sacrifice was exalted, so also was the power of prayer acknowledged. The Philistines were not routed except by prayer. Samuel prayed unto the Lord. They said, "Cease not to cry unto the Lord for us." Let us bear our witness that if aught of good has been accomplished it has been the result of prayer.
3. Again, as there was prayer and sacrifice, you must remember that in answer to the sweet savour of the lamb and the sweet perfume of Samuel's intercession, Jehovah came forth to rout his foes.
III. THE INSCRIPTION UPON THE MEMORIAL. "Ebenezer, hitherto the Lord hath helped us." The inscription may be read in three ways. You must read first of all its central word, the word on which all the sense depends, where the fulness of it gathers. "Hitherto the Lord hath helped us." Note that they did not stand still and refuse to use their weapons, but while God was thundering they were fighting, and while the lightnings were flashing in the iceman's eyes they were making them feel the potency of their steel. So that while we glorify God we are not to deny or to discard human agency. We must fight because God fighteth for us. I said this text might be read three ways. We have read it ones by laying stress upon the centre word. Now it ought to be read looking backward. The word "hitherto" seems like a hand pointing in that direction. Look back, look back. Then the text may be read a third way — looking forward. For when a man gets up to a certain mark and writes "hitherto," he looks back upon much that is past, but "hitherto "is not the end, there: is yet a distance to be traversed.
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
I. THE PRINCIPLES OF THE TEXT, AS THEY ENTER DEEPLY INTO RELIGIOUS EXPERIENCE. We are taught:
1. That we all need help from God. Christians need assistance from a power superior to their own as certainly as did Israel at this crisis. Sin, which has robbed man of his original rectitude, has also deprived him of strength. Unrescued by Divine grace, he is utterly powerless. Nor does the most matured Christian possess the least spiritual energy but as he receives it from on high. There is no equality between the power of the Christian's enemies and his own unaided efforts. There are times when the Christian becomes so painfully conscious of this that he is almost ready to quit the field, but this, instead of driving us to despair, should operate powerfully in leading us to God for help, so as to feel with the Apostle: "When I am weak, then am I strong."
2. The help of God is bestowed in connection with the use of the means appointed by God, and it is only in their employment that we can reasonably expect Divine aid. Neither the fact of our weakness nor the promise of Divine assistance has been revealed to lead to the exclusion of human exertion. The text implies that it is "help" that is promised, not the performance of the work for us, but assistance by which we shall be enabled to do our duty.
3. The actual bestowment of this help. The text records a fact: "Hitherto hath the Lord helped us." It was not help promised or provided merely, but help actually bestrewed. Help implies just that amount of assistance which the case requires, and by which the Christian shall be sustained under every trial, and delivered out of the last.
II. THE CHARACTER OF THE HELP WHICH GOD SUPPLIES.
1. Suitable and efficient. Without adaptation in the remedy the case must remain unrelieved. The source of the Christian's help stamps its character. It is Divine.
2. Divine help is certain. Human aid, feeble as it is, is very uncertain in its bestowment. By a sad perversity of human nature, there is a disposition to confer favours with a liberal hand on those who are already affluent, while the indigent are sometimes allowed to drag out a miserable existence and pine away in penury. If a man once opulent should be ruined by misfortunes, persons who proudly recognised him when on the height of prosperity pass him by as if the man's calamities had so altered every feature of his countenance that they cannot recognise him. Should an individual fall a prey to his own folly, pride and extravagance, he must struggle with his self-caused miseries alone. And not infrequently a cold, inactive, good-for-nothing sympathy is all that is manifested toward the most deserving. But the causes which render human aid so uncertain cannot affect God. The relation which He sustains to His Church renders it impossible for Him to regard the interests of any of its members with indifference: "God is in the midst of her;...God shall help her and that right early."
3. This help is seasonable, it comes at the right time to a moment. It may not be given just when it is expected, nor when to human eyes it would seem most desirable. But are the Divine plans and arrangements to be precipitated and thrown into confusion just to meet human fretfulness and patience? The God by Whom help is bestowed knows the most opportune season for its bestowment. God is attentive to "times end seasons;" and the Divine slowness has never been opposed to the Divine punctuality.
4. The help of God is constant and unfailing. "Hitherto," wrote Samuel, "the Lord hath helped us." This was at a protracted period in the history of God's people, and up to that time there had nothing failed of all that the Lord had spoken. Whenever they were defeated it was not the result of failure in the Source of their supplies, but of their own unfaithfulness and sins. The promise of Divine help is conditional; and only let the conditions of the promise be fulfilled, and the help shall be continued. The last soldier on the field of Christian warfare; the last labourer in the vineyard of the Lord; the last pilgrim in the toilsome way to heaven, will need help from God as we do at this moment; and all shall have it.
III. THIS CONDUCT TO WHICH THIS HELP SHOULD LEAD ON OUR PART.
1. Grateful acknowledgment of past favours. The expression of gratitude was public and monumental. There is a way of making the expression of our gratitude monumental and lasting by making it practical. Seize every opportunity of testifying to the goodness and faithfulness of God. Let the world know what a wise and almighty Helper ours is. Strive to spread the truth of God; and labour to perpetuate the institutions and auxiliaries of the Christian Church.
2. Past help should lead to confidence in God at the present moment. The words of Samuel were retrospective; but this recognition of past help was designed to teach the practical lesson: "Have faith in God" now. When friends meet who have a past to look back upon they soon talk over the difficulties and trials with which they have had to struggle, memory generally recalls them first. At a deeply afflictive crisis in David's life, when our harps would have been unstrung and mute, the Psalmist swept his and pealed forth: "I will sing of mercy and judgment." He saw that the two were blended, and he would sing of both; but as "mercy" greatly predominated, he placed that first in his song.
3. Inspire hope as to the future.
I. Let us consider WHAT WE HAVE TO RECORD.
II. Let us now consider WITH WHAT VIEWS AND FEELINGS OUR STONE OF MEMORIAL SHOULD BE SET UP, and this expressive word, Ebenezer, inscribed upon it.
1. With sincere piety. To ascribe the honour and power of a work of grace to ministers instead of God the Spirit, is about as irrational as it would be to give praise and glory to the pen with which Milton wrote his immortal poem, instead of giving it to the sublime genius of the bard himself. O let me be forgotten as far as possible, and Christ only thought of.
2. This expression, Ebenezer, must be uttered by us, as it was by Samuel and the Jews, with adoring wonder.
3. Can joy be absent or unsuitable on this occasion? Impossible!
4. A sense of unworthiness should make our gratitude the more intensely fervent.
(J. A. James.)
I. EBENEZER IS THE LANDMARK OF WORK ACCOMPLISHED. There are some people, as you know, or perhaps I ought to say that it is a peculiarity which characterises all people more or less, that they have a very keen sense of evils and disadvantages which belong to the present, and a very dull perception of the privileges secured and the progress which has been made. Of this we have a familiar illustration in the Israelites themselves. Men are constantly looking with affectionate regret upon the past —
"That past which always wins a glory from its being far,
And orbs into the perfect star we saw not when we moved therein."Whatever millennium there may be is there in the "good old times." Hence, the world is always standing still or going back. Now against such tendencies as these Ebenezer is a needed and useful protest. There may be other hills to climb, and they may be hills which will try our strength to the very utmost; but let not this prevent our acknowledging with joy and thankfulness that one hill has, at least, been climbed. The Church is a long, long way from perfection, I know. The grey dawn is not breaking at this very moment into the golden tints of the millennial morning; nay, the clouds may be as thick as they were in Israel under Ahab and Jezebel. Nevertheless, let Elijah remember that that glorious scene did take place on Carmel, the fire did come down from heaven, and the king of darkness did receive a staggering blow. Say what you will, the Lord did thunder in the heavens with a great thunder, and the Philistines were discomfited by it, therefore set up a stone and call it Ebenezer. The world is bad enough, God knows, but thank God it is not without its Ebenezers. In those good old times to which you are looking back there were not so many cases of drunkenness recorded; but neither were there so many people to get drunk nor so many newspapers to bring the sin to light. In those good old times the English artisan and the English yeoman were little better than serfs; and though the day of emancipation is bringing out a generation as demoralised (or so they say) as that which followed Moses out of Egypt, and is marked by excesses as wild as those which raged at Meribah and Massah and under the mount, still the day of emancipation has dawned, and my firm expectation is that the womb of the future is bearing within it a race of Israelites indeed, who will enter into the promised land. In those good. old times the traffic in human souls, which degrades man to the level of goods and chattels, was not only tolerated, but defended on Christian principles. In the good old times war was an expedient to which any tyrant who felt himself strong enough would resort without compunction, and without exciting any deep indignation. Now a moral sense in regard to war has grown up, which can compel even the most powerful of tyrants to pause ere he wantonly draws the sword. Yes; the Philistines may not be driven out of the country; they may not be utterly annihilated; but their grip, which was at our throat for more than twenty years, has been shaken off. They have been heavily smitten; they are at least quiet. Raise then a stone, and call it "Ebenezer," for hitherto hath the Lord helped us.
II. THIS STONE IS A MONUMENTAL MEMORIAL OF THE SECRET OF SUCCESS. Come near to it and read what is written thereon, and you will find — not some inflated bombast extolling the valour of the Israelites, but — a very simple sentence, giving glory to Jehovah of Hosts. And see how the future which is briefly epitomised in the next verse confirms this "hitherto." "The hand of the Lord was against them all the days of Samuel." And what was Samuel? — a mighty man of valour? a Moltke among generals? a Bismarck among statesmen? Nay; but a judge who built up a kingdom of righteousness, and preeminently a man who could pray. Praying, as his very name implies, was his forte. It was as one who called upon the Lord that he was distinguished. And it was under the regime of prayer that the Philistines were held in such complete subjugation. The truth which is thus condensed in the word Ebenezer is of the utmost practical importance. There is a Divine Ruler who providentially governs and personally superintends the lives of individuals and the histories of nations. We are not living under a reign of abstract law or inexorable fate; we are not moved round by a mechanism of wheels, revolving in predestined cycles, and grinding out an unalterable sequence of causes and effects. Let devout faith set up then a stone and write upon it, Ebenezer, and with what awful and yet rapturous solemnities life becomes invested. I have often stood with a feeling of almost reverence upon me, high up on some mountainside, looking at vast mysterious boulders, once deposited there by forces which it is hardly possible to conceive, but to the existence of which these mighty masses of rock are the indisputable testimony. But when I come upon Ebenezer, I come upon a stone which says to me, "The mighty God, even Jehovah Himself, has been here. Here the sword of the Lord has been flashing unsheathed, and here the banner of the Lord has been waving unfurled." Let devout faith set up a stone and write upon it Ebenezer. and with what calm, persistent, uncompromising steadiness we are inspired to advance, just living and working out the everlasting will of righteousness, and simply do that which is just and true and acceptable to God. The only peril you have really to fear is the extinction of Samuel as a reigning influence; for then you will be on the same footing as the other nations of the earth, and the question will be: Can you send as many battalions as they can into the field? So long as Samuel, the man of righteousness and the man of prayer, is influential, you will come safe out of every crisis, under the banner of the God of battles. Remember Ebenezer, and let that keep you from meddling, hasty tactics, as well as from despondency or dismay; and let the believer come and rest his soul upon this stone.
(R. H. Roberts, M. A.)Him into your hearts, whom we preach unto you as the author and finisher of your salvation. Let the idol altar be thrown down, and the name of Jesus Christ be inscribed thereon; may that natural, dead, indurated heart yield its place to the living stone, which will impart new life and vigour to all its energies and emotions, and gratefully record the achievements of Divine grace to the glory of God the Father.
(H. S. Plumptre, M. A.)
(H. W. Beecher.)I. WHAT THE MEMORIAL COMMEMORATED. It was erected on a battle field where they had been twice defeated. Thus it reminded them of their own
1. Helplessness. But it was also erected on a spot where they had witnessed a great victory, won by God's help. It therefore also reminded them
2. God was their Helper. The stone also commemorated —
3. The extent of their victory. "Hitherto hath the Lord helped them," as far as this place. It was a kind of border stone marking their advance on a former position.
II. HOW IT HELPED THEM. They called it "Help Stone." In commemorating past help it proved a present help.
1. By keeping them from self-trust.
2. By stimulating their activity. The sight of this stone aroused their patriotism and religious fervour. It was like the flag which stirs the soldier's martial spirit.
3. It deepened their sense of obligation. To retreat from the position marked by this memorial would have been as disgraceful as for an army to lose its standard.
III. THE PLACE OF MEMORIAL IS A CHRISTIAN LIFE. A written pledge or a spoken vow is for us what "Help Stone" was for Israel. By that act we warn the enemy that he has no more claim upon the territory of our hearts. And each subsequent communion is a gazing afresh upon the memorial of victory won by Christ.
(R. C. Ford, M. A.)1. Observe, the language here of the writer is retrospective. It takes in the wide sweep of the Jewish history.
2. Thus it becomes the language of gratitude.
3. Then, too, consider how the inscription on the stone set up by Samuel, lays a good foundation for hope and trust. And it is upon this help we ground too our faith. The true Christian must always feel deeply humbled at the remembrance of his transgressions, but in the effort of a true repentance he is conscious of God's merciful aid and compassion. The text furnishes a motive for future perseverance.
5. The text indicates that those who are Divinely assisted in their undertaking, will find in the end that their life of labour and of uprightness, as regards both character and conduct, has not been in vain. No. In some matters of an outward kind, at first sight, it may seem that even the most exemplary career has ended in disappointment, in perfect uselessness.
6. Hence arises the duty of cooperation with the help of the Almighty. The builder when furnished with proper materials must use them. It would be downright folly for him to fold his hands, to make no exertion, and only to call aloud for help. The Christian too must take his place in the Church, as in a city, and although he knows that without God's help his watchfulness will be of no use, still he must not sleep at his post.
(W. G. Horwood.)
I. THE LORD'S HELPING HIS PEOPLE.
1. How doth the Lord help His people?(1) Sometimes the Lord helps His people, by working all for them, they themselves contributing nothing to their deliverance. Moses said unto the people, "Fear ye not, stand still and see the salvation of the Lord, which He will show you today; for the Egyptians whom ye have seen today, ye shall see them again no more forever. The Lord shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace."(2) Sometimes the Lord assists His people in working. They endeavour their own deliverance in God's way, and He fits them to act, and blesseth their exertions, crowning them with success.(3) Sometimes God helps His people by appointing means. Thus in the case of Hezekiah, Isaiah said, "Let them take a lump of figs, and lay it for a plaster upon the boil, and he shall recover." If He intends having His people brought out of Babylon, He raiseth up Cyrus for that purpose. If Elijah must be fed in his hiding place, the ravens shall be employed rather than he suffer want.(4) Sometimes without means. "Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the Lord of Hosts."(5) Sometimes by contrary means, as our Lord cured the blind man by laying clay upon his eyes.
2. Let us inquire why the Lord helpeth His people.(1) Because they are in covenant with Him.(2) Because of their special relation to Him. Christ is the believer's head. Hence if the foot be hurt, the Head in heaven cries out (Acts 9:4).(3) Because they look to Him and trust in Him for their help. The 91st psalm has in it a great many blessed promises, but see to whom they belong.(4) Because the Lord brings His people into straits for this very end, that He may have the glory of helping them; and that they may get the greater experience of His kindness.
II. To speak of THE KEEPING UP OF THE MEMORIAL OF THE EXPERIENCES WHICH THEY HAVE HAD OF THE LORD'S HELPING THEM.
1. What it is to keep up the memorial of the Lord's helping us.(1) It implies an observing of the dispensations we meet with, for our help in the course of our life. If the thing itself be not observed, we cannot keep up the memorial of it.(2) A discerning of the Lord's hand in the help we receive.(3) Laying up these experiences add recording them, if not in a book yet in a faithful memory. "And all they that heard them (the things said of John the Baptist at his birth) laid them up in their hearts, saying, what manner of child shall this be! And the hand of the Lord was with him." Many instead of laying such things up, lay them down in the grave of forgetfulness, and instead of setting up a stone, lay a stone upon them, burying them out of sight.
2. Inquire what of these experiences of the Lord's helping should be recorded and kept in memory.(1) We should record the timing or seasonableness of them. There is often a weight lies on this very circumstance, that the help came at such a time and not another is worthy to be remembered.(2) The effects of them on our spirits How we are affected with them when they come. "Then," says the Church, "was our mouth filled with laughter and our tongue with singing." Many times the Lord helps His people in such a manner that the experience of His goodness fills them with shame, looks their doubts and fears ova of countenance, proves their unbelief to be a false prophet, and makes them resolve never to distrust God again and fills them with thankfulness. (Isaiah 38:10, 12, Psalm 73:22, 23; and 116:11, 12.) O how useful would this he afterwards to the Christian.(3) Their harmony and agreement with the promise(4) Their agreement with their prayers. (Genesis 24:45.) What are the Christian's experiences but returns of prayers. Such was that in the text. This seems to be the ground of that conclusion; "By this I know that thou favourest me, because mine enemy doth not triumph over me." Even the very place of our experiences should be recorded. "I will remember thee," says David, "from the land of Jordan and of the Hermonites, from the hill Mizar." (Genesis 28:11-19.) And the Lord loves to have His people remember these blessed places, (Genesis 31:13; and 35:1). Let us now,
3. Inquire why we should keep up the memorial of these things(1) We owe this to God: In point, of obedience, when we meet with experiences of His goodness He calls us to set up our Ebenezer. O monstrous ingratitude to forget experiences. We owe it to Him also, in point of compliance with His design in giving experience of His help to His people God intends His people more comfort by a mercy, than the mercy itself singly considered He intends it as a ground to hope for more He gives the valley of Achor for a door of hope.(2) We owe this to ourselves in point of interest. If we would consult our own advantage, we would not let them slip For former experiences of the Lord's help are very supporting to the soul in a dark night These experiences are pledges of further mercies. Some promises have their day of payment here, others after this life. The performing of the former, is an earnest given to faith to look for the other.
(T. Boston, D. D.)
I. THAT IT IS OUR ESPECIAL DUTY, UNDER THE APPREHENSION OF ANY IMPENDING CALAMITY, TO SEEK UNTO GOD FOR DELIVERANCE BY FERVENT BELIEVING PRAYER.
II. WE ARE TAUGHT BY THIS PORTION OF SACRED HISTORY, THAT GOD WILL HEAR THE RELIEVING PRAYERS OF HIS SERVANTS. We are far from affirming that prayers, offered up in faith, and "for things agreeable to God's will," will always be granted in the season or in the manner that the supplicants might either desire, or in their fallible judgment might deem most proper No! This would be to usurp God's prerogative, and to substitute our own erring judgments in the place of His wise and all. disposing sovereignty. All that God permits us to do, is to approach Him in importunate, believing prayer, leaving the result to His own unerring disposal.
III. IT IS OUR DUTY TO RECOGNISE THE HAND OF GOD IN EVERY DELIVERANCE.
IV. A PUBLIC ACKNOWLEDGMENT OF GRATITUDE IS DUE TO ALMIGHTY GOD FOR MERCIES RECEIVED AND FOR DELIVERANCE FROM IMPENDING EVILS. In perusing the history of the heathen world, we are particularly struck with the practice of perpetuating the memory of great events to future generations. When nations were delivered from impending calamities or favoured with unlooked for blessings, they raised the song of gratitude to those whom they esteemed their preservers. The praises of their deliverers were sung by the poet, and extolled by the historian; their statues adorned the cities which gave them birth; and other striking memorials were instituted to convey to future generations an abiding sense of the value of their services. If, from the heathen, we turn to the enlightened world, we shall find that the memorials which, in the one, were erected to the statesman or the conqueror, were, in the other, expressly instituted in token of gratitude to God — the great and only Deliverer.
V. LET YOUR RECOLLECTION OF GOD'S PAST MERCIES INSPIRE YOU WITH THE FEELINGS OF FUTURE, UNRESERVED CONFIDENCE.
VI. LET ME CALL UPON YOU TO TESTIFY YOUR SENSE OF THE DIVINE MERCIES, BY AN INCREASING DEVOTEDNESS TO THE SERVICE OF YOUR GOD.
1. Christian gratitude is retrospective.
2. Christian gratitude is devout. It connects the thought of God with the travelled past. There may have been second causes: gracious interpositions and friendly agencies; but above and beyond all, the good man recognises the hand of God, and in real devotion says, "Hitherto the Lord hath helped me."
3. Christian gratitude is joyful. Every event in the providence of God has a message of mercy in it to the good man. Day unto day is saying to him, "Rejoice in the Lord, ye righteous, and shout aloud for joy, all ye that are upright in heart."
4. Christian gratitude is ever trustful. It speaks thankfully of the past, and looks forward hopefully to the future; hitherto sounds the keynote of hereafter.
(W. G. Barrett.)
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