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« thy soul liveth, my lord, I am the woman that stood “by thee here praying unto the Lord. For this child "I prayed, and the Lord hath given me my petition « which I asked of him: therefore also I have lent “him to the Lord, as long as he liveth he shall be “lent to the Lord.” O, what were her feelings in this journey! what a contention between the mother and the saint! What a trial was here! an only child, a child long desired, and endeared by a thousand con: siderations; to give him up; to resign him for ever; to see him once a year, only to renew the pain of separation! what a superior delicacy, fervour, permanency, is there in the devotion of this female ? How does the patriarch vanish, from a comparison with this pious woman? Ilere Jacob ftill lingers, and discovers no disposition to perform his vows; and it becomes necessary for God himself to address him. " And God said “ unto Jacob, arise, go up to Bethel, and dwell there; “ and make there an altar unto God, that appeared “ unto thee when thou fleddest from the face of Esau
thy brother. Then Jacob said unto his household, “ and to all that were with him, put away the strange gods that are among you, and be clean, and change your garments: and let us arise, and go up to “ Bethel; and I will make there an altar unto God, “ who answered me in the day of my distress, and was “ with me in the way which I went.” From these words
Part II. We may derive some instructive and use. ful observations. First, we may remark how soon the influence of impressive scenes wears away, and how
prone we are to lose the sense of our mereies, and all the fine religious feelings they once produced. If a, person had seen Jacob on the morning after his vision, and when he was leaving the place made sacred by his. vow, and had said to him, “ God will accomplish thy “ desire ; he will guide thee and keep thee ; provide “ for thee, and bring thee back enriched and multiplied, " to see thy native land; and you will think nothing
i “ of all this; you will live
unmindful “ of Bethel, and suffer your vow to lie unperform
ed;" the prophecy would have been incredible ; he. wouid have exclaimed, “ can I ever thus trifle with. “God, or become insensible to such a benefactor ?" “What! is thy servant a dog, that he should do this “ thing ?” How. were the Israelites affected when God appeared for them! “ They sang his praise;" they resolved to distrust him no more; they said “ All " that the Lord commandeth us will we do."
< But “they soon forgot his works, and the wonders which “ He had shewn them;" murmured again ; rebelled again. Their mercies were written in the sand, and the first returning wave of trouble washed them out. Hence David lays an embargo upon his thoughts : “ Bless the Lord, o my soul, and forget not all his “ benefits.” It would be well if we could identify and secure our feelings in certain periods and conditions of life, that we may afterwards review them, compare ourselves with them, perceive our declensions and deficiencies; and 'bring forward these former experiences, when we grow cold to warm us, and when we grow slothful to quicken us. A faithful recollection is of peculiar importance to the christian. Things can
impress the mind no longer than they are in it ; and flips in the memory occasion failures in the life. But, alas! like a sieve, full while in the river, but when raised up, empty and dropping ; and as water, which has a natural tendency to be cold, but requires a perpetual fire to keep it warm ; so treacherous are our memories in divine things; so constantly do we need means and helps ; so necessary is it to have our“ minds “ stirred up by way of remembrance.”
Secondly, God will remind his people of forgotten duties. And he can never be at a loss for means to admonish us. He addresses us by his providence. The design of affliction is to bring our sin to remembrance. Sometimes the cause of affliction is not so obvious, and we say with Job, “ fhew me wherefore " thou contendest with me.” At other times there is a wonderful correspondence between the crime and the calamity; the one is the consequence and the discovery of the other, and leads back the mind instantly to it. When God brings us into new difficulties, and we apply for relief, our former deliverances and indul. gences are remembered; and our ingratitude, in not duly acknowledging and improving them, stares us in the face, and destroys the liberty and life of prayer. Have you succoured a fellow creature, and is he thank. ful? Can you hear his praises for your petty favours, and not be reminded of your obligations to God for benefits infinitely superior ? Or is. he unthankful and unworthy ? Here is a glass held up as you pass - along, in which you may catch a glance of your own image : “how much more unthankful and unworthy have I " proved to my almighty Friend, whose goodness and
mercy have followed me all the days of my life !" He renews recollection by means of his word. The scripture is not only “profitable for doctrine ; but re
proof, correction, and instruction in righteousness." It not only affords a word in season for him that is weary, but for him that is careless and lukewarm. Ву this the secrets of the heart are made manifest ; and happy are those who are willing to apply this touchstone, to use this balance of the sanctuary, to take this candle of the Lord, and examine the chambers of imagery within, and who, when they have done all, will invite a severer scrutiny ; " search me, O God, “ and know my heart, try me, and know my thoughts: " and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead
me in the way everlasting." Ministers are God's remembrancers. Their business is not to bring strange things to your ears, to entertain you with novelties, or to encourage in you a fondness for those speculations which bear slightly on the heart and life ; but they are to recall your attention to things, which though the most simple are the most important, and at the same time the most neglected; to remind you of things already known; to impress you with things already be. lieved ; to place your practice opposite your faith, and your lives by the side of your profession. “I will “ therefore put you in remembrance of these things,
though ye once knew them :" here is our example. “ If thou put the brethren in remembrance of these “ things, thou shalt be a good minister of Jesus Christ.” This is our commendation. God has also an internal witness and monitor. It is conscience; and if in its natural state it has power to accuse the transgressor,
how much more influence will it possess when renewed and sanctified ?
Thirdly, Gracious characters are alive to divine intimations. Herein we perceive a difference between them and others. They are encompassed with infirmity ; they may err; they may fall; but there is in them a principle which secures their rising again ; they are open to conviction, they welcome reproof ; they melt, retract, reform, and are watchful and prayerful to prevent similar miscarriages in future. A man asleep only, is very distinguishable from a person dead; the difference will appear as soon as you. endeavour to awake them. The one is unsusceptible; the other stirs, inquires, springs up. A living bough may bend down to the earth under a pressure ; but remove the load, and it is upright again, and points, heavenward. Elihu finely describes the feelings of a pious mind under divine correction ; “ surely it is
meet to be said unto God, I have borne chastisement, “I will not offend any more. That which I know, แ “not, teach thou me; if I have done iniquity, I will “ do no more.” When our Lord looked only upon Peter," he went out and wept bitterly.” Jacob does. not argue the matter with God, does not vindicate himself, does not extenuate his fault. The Lord em-, ploys no severe language, nor is it necessary; a soft word subdues him; " it is too plain to be denied, and “ too bad to be excused : I have sinned; what shall “ be done unto thee, O thou preserver of men. I will “ acknowledge my transgression, I will be sorry for my sin; I will forsake it; duty, neglected alas !
: “so long, shall be no longer neglected; thy voice !