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ON THE OBSERVANCE OF THE TIMES,
The children of Issachar were men that had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do ;-and all their brethren were at their commandment." 1 Chron. xii. 32.
CHRISTIANS are, and ought to be, men of observation. If, in their proper character, they are the world's best friends, they must have their eye upon it. The passing events of the day, the prevalent maxims of society, and the conduct of public men, are not merely the allowable, but the proper subjects of their study. Though not of the world, they feel, and it is their duty to make others feel, that they are in the world ;-and this they will do, if they are seeking, each in his sphere, to
serve his own generation, according to the
will of God." The disciple of Christ has his Master's example and authority for seizing on the more noted occurrences and prominent features of the times, and turning them to a moral and spiritual account. It the
practice of our Lord to draw, from the events of Providence, and the conduct of the public characters of his day, those admirable axioms and impressive instructions, which gained him the reputation of speaking as never man spake, and of teaching with an authority peculiar to himself. In his ordinary ministrations, he taught his disciples how to avail themselves of every incident, for lessons of wisdom and practical utility. Referring to the severity of the Roman governor towards the Galileans, whose blood he had mingled with their sacrifices, and to the case of those persons on whom the tower of Siloam fell, and slew them, he takes occasion to caution them against a censorious and uncharitable spirit in judging of the unhappy sufferers; and teaches them rather to read, in both cases, a solemn call upon themselves to timely repentance. To this and other salutary purposes would he have us always turn our observance of human conduct and providential events. In the very lively description which he gives his disciples of the calamitous times that were about to befall Jerusalem, how minutely and impressively does he charge them to give such heed to the approaching signs of the times, as should prepare them to resist delusion, and secure their peace and safety !
“When ye see these things come to pass, know ye that the kingdom of God is at hand. Watch ye, therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man."
This spirit of cautiously and profitably observing the signs of the times, has been, more or less, cultivated in all ages of the world, by many of God's people. When the hand of the Lord has been lifted up, they have seen and acknowledged it. They have marked the expression of his will in his doings before them, and have taken their course accordingly; and not a few of them have been remarkably distinguished by the influence which
their exertions have had on the mind of a nation, and the measures adopted by its rules. We stay not to particularize examples, but we may observe that we have been indebted to the instrumentality of men chiefly of this description for those brilliant epochs in the course of time, when the progress of our species in every great improvement has been most efficiently promoted. We shall find this in the pages of both sacred and profane history. They were men, who, having "understanding of the times," saw and felt what ought to be done; and by their speaking, their writing, and their doing, served the interests at once of their own, and subsequent, generations. We have reason to bless God that the history especially of our own country, exhibits a goodly number of such desirable characters, to whose services many blessings now enjoyed, in our social state, are mainly to be traced. Nor is the present day destitute of talented and pious individuals, who possess such a sagacious perception of the most obvious features of the times, as to see and declare what we, as Christians, ought to do, in our re
spective spheres. It is, however, to be feared that there are very many professing Christians, -aye, and many truly regenerated, and, in most respects, exemplary believers in Christ, who, from whatever cause, do not sufficiently “consider the works of God, nor regard the operations of his hand.” They suffer the signs of the times, and the events of the world in which they sojourn, to pass from before them unstudied, and, therefore, unimproved. It was not so with the children of Issachar; they are described by the sacred historian with commendation, as
men that had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do.” Of all the tribes and companies, who flocked to the standard of David, after the death of Saul, the children of [ssachar alone are reported under this honourable distinction, which gave them a special ascendancy over others, for it is added, “and all their brethren were at their commandment.”
The events with which the words of our text are connected, are thus briefly explained by that excellent commentator, Mr. Scott. “The Lord had promised that David should