« AnteriorContinuar »
THE METHODIST NEW CONNEXION MAGAZINE.
GOD'S GOODNESS IN THE GIFT OF HARVEST. We sometimes think that Evangelical Christians of the present day somewhat fail in their apprehension of the true spirit and practice of piety. With them religion is prone to become too inetaphysical. , It looks too much inwardly, and is unduly taken up with the exercises and emotions of the inner man. It thus feeds, upon itself, and is like the spider which spins its web out of its own bowels., 7
This with many passes for spirituality of mind; but it is falsely so called. True piety is a wakeful and observaut spirit. It comes out of the cell of its own heart and looks abroad on the works and ways of God, trying to recognise Him in all He has made and in all He does. Nor is it indifferent to our temporal condition, var material happiness. It looks upon the body as the workmanship of the Divine hand, and the bounties, of . Providence, as given us richly to enjoy. To a true piety the world is full of God, and it is sustained and cherished by meditations on His character and His dealings with the sons of men. In this spirit"the Apostle preached to the idolaters at Lycaonia: “God left not himself without witness, in that He did good, and gare us rain from heaven: and fruitful-seasons, filling our hearts with food and 'gladness.” In the same spirit the Prophet reproached the people of his day: “ This people hath a revolting and a rebellious heart; they are revolted and gone. Neither say they in their heart, Let us now fear the Lord our God, tbat giveth rain, both the former and the latter, in his season ; lle reserveth unto, us the appointed weeks of harvest.” We also know that the same spirit is breathed in many of the Psalms; they were, indeed, written to give expression and embodiment to this spirit. There is, for instance, the 68th Psalm. The writer reviews God's beneficent providential dealings with His people in supplying them with things necessary for the body, reaching the climax of his resiew with the words,
“ Thou, O God, didst send a plentiful rain, whereby thou didst confirm thine inheritance, when it was weary. Thou, O God, has prepared of thy goodness for the poor.", Ur take the 65th Psalm, which is still more illustrative of our meaning. This Psalm may be taken as an epitome of the piety taught and exemplified in the Scriptures. The writer commences by representing God as the object of universal invocation and praise. He then bemoads some afflictions of which he is the subject, but expresses a hope of deliverance through the interposition of God. After which, as if to justify his confidence, he describes the operations of God in the earth, both those which are of a fearful and those which are of a beneficent kind. Among the stormy elements, afar off upon the sea, He does terrible things in righteousness, so that men are afraid of the tokens of His presence and power. But then God does not always clothe Himself with awe-inspiring majesty. There are occasions when He is the great without being the terrible God: great in beneficence, great in goodness, great in mercy. Of such a manifestation the Psalmist proceeds to give a most beautiful and enchanting picture. But duly to appreciate what he has so exquisitely written a preliminary step seems almost necessary ; that is an actual survey of the scene described. This, however, to us is impossible; yet we may be helped by the exercise of our imagination, or by calling to remembrance similar scenes which at one time or other we may have witnessed. Let us do that. We suppose, then, that at this season of the year we stand on some lofty eminence which commands the view of an extensive tract of country. There is spread out before us on a large scale a landscape, diversified by hill and dale, by groves and streams, by corn fields and pasture grounds. The scene bears traces of a numerous population and the highest culture, combined with thickly-scattered domestic animals and the greatest profusion of natural fertility. Keeping this scene in our memory, we read what the Psalmist has written in this hymn of praise : “Thou makest the outgoings of the morning and evening to rejoice. Thou visitest the earth, and waterest it: Thou greatly enrichest it with the river of God, which is full of water: Thou preparest them corn, when Thou hast so provided for it. Thou waterest the ridges thereof abundantly : Thou settlest the furrows thereof: Thou makest it soft with showers : Thou blessest the springing thereof : Thou crownest the year with Thy goodness; and Thy paths drop fatness. They drop upon the pastures of the wilderness: and the little hills rejoice on every side. The pastures are clothed with flocks; the valleys also are covered over with corn; they shout for joy, they also sing." .
This enables us to put an intelligent meaning into the utterance, “ Thou crownest the year with Thy goodness." That is—Thou
placest on the year at its close a garland of beneficence and love, and Thou doest this by the gift of harvest. As applied to our division of the year the words lose their peculiar and beautiful significance. The year closes with us in the winter season, probably amid storms of rain or snow, and with the extreme of cold and gloom and sterility, and is, therefore, begirt rather with the stern crown of desolation than the mild diadem of goodness. But a reference to the Jewish Calendar shows us that the civil year of the Jews ended with summer, the season when the state of the country was literally as described in this Psalm ; when fatness was dropped on the pastures of the wilderness, when the hills were girded with joy, the meadows clothed with flocks, the valleys covered over with corn, and all nature seemed vocal with gladness and praise.
God has just manifested to us, and not to us only, but to all nations, His goodness in the same form as that in which the Psalmist celebrates it. Let us recognise it with the same devout, thankful, and joyous feeling.
First, let us acknowledge God in the gift of harvest; acknowledge the production of it to be the effect of His interposition. Biblical piety always does this, though scientific piety, if there can be such a thing, does not. The piety inspired of the teaching of the Scriptures is not a belief in Nature but in Nature's God. He makes the sun to sbine, and sustains the stars in their courses. He sends us seed time and harvest, summer and winter, cold and heat. Sad to think, such a piety is greatly assailed at the present day, sometimes by argument and sometimes by ridicule. We are not careful to enter into a logical defence of it. If our Christian consciousness, if our very natural instincts, do not enable us to rebut the assaults of the scientist or the scorner, logical argumentation will be of little avail. Our hearts tell us that the Apostle, the Prophet, and the Psalmist are right. Fruitful seasons are witnesses for God. He reserveth the appointed weeks of harvest. He renews the face of the earth, and giveth the increase. He openeth His land, and satisfieth the desire of every living thing. Let us get our minds, at this season especially, imbued with the beautiful idea here given-God's hand holds all the blessings needful for our subsistence and enjoyment, and a fruitful harvest is the opening of it; not its opening merely to let us see what are the blessings therein, but to scatter them down upon us with the richest profusion.
Secondly, then, let us acknowledge God's goodness in the gift of harvest, especially in the harvest given this year, not only to England but to the world. All, we should suppose, will admit that an abundant harvest is a good to those to whom it is given. In all