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Since religion is so supremely necessary, life so precarious, and death so surely approaching, let us call off our thoughts from this world, and direct them to our future and everlasting concerns. This is the dictate of reason, of scripture, and of providence. Let us realize human frailty, pity those in adversity, and stand prepared for similar trials. Let not the prosperous flatter themselves, that they never shall be moved, nor the young and vigorous imagine, that their mountains stand strong. The day is hastening, when the strong must bow themselves. Health, strength, youth, and vigour, when death approaches, can make no resistance. Virtue, usefulness, helpless dependents, and weeping, praying friends, cannot procure an exemption from the grave.
Whatever your hands find to do, do it with your might; there is no work in the grave, whither ye are going. Let your repentance be speedy, that death may not prevent it; let your hope be well founded, that death may not disappoint it ; and let it be improved, and confirmed by the constant exercise of piety, that your departure may be comfortable, your entrance into heaven abundant, and your reward rich and glorious.
Reflections on Harvest
Neither say they in their heart; Let us now fear the Lord our
God, that gideth rain, both the former and the leller rain in his season. He reserveh. unlo us the appointed.wecks of the hardest.
AMONG the many instances of the great. corruption and degeneracy of the Jews, enumerated in this chapter, one of the plainest, is their in.. attention to, and disregard of, the constant govern-' ment of God's providence, when there were the most obvious and familiar proofs of it daily before their eyes. They paid their devotions to inanimate idols and imaginary divinities, and renounced the worship and service of that almighty and most glorious Being, whose hand created, and still sus. tains, the whole frame of nature, and whose good. ness supplies the wants of every living creature.
“ Hear this, O foolish people," says God by his prophet, “
a people without understanding, who have eyes, and see not ; who have ears, and hear not :- Fear ye not me? - Will ye not tremble at my presence, who have placed the sand for the bound of the sea, by a perpetual decree, that it cannot pass it ; and though the waves thereof toss themselves, yet can they not prevail ; and though they roar, yet can they not pass over it ?”
The restraint of the ocean, that tumultuous body of waters, which the Jews, living near the Mediterranean, had frequent opportunities to observe, is often mentioned in scripture, as an effect of God's watchful providence, and an evidence of his mighty power. This is selected from among the numerous proofs of God's government, not because it is more immediately his work, but be. cause the grandeur and majesty of the scene strikes the mind with a deeper and more awful sense of his continual superintending influence, than most other appearances in the natural world.
The direction of the seasons, the interchanges of rain and sunshine, and the timely returns of harvest, are, if not so grand, yet as plain and convincing proofs of God's providence, as the control of the ocean. To this God appeals in the text, and complains, that while his people partook of his bounty, they regarded not his hand.
“But 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, who giveth us rain, the former and latter rain in his season, and reserveth to us the appointed weeks of the harvest.”
There is frequent mention of the former, and the latter rain. The one came on just after seed time ; the other, not long before harvest, and is called, “the latter rain of the first month," or the month in which harvest began. The fruitful. ness of the season depended much on these rains, which seem to have been periodical in that country. · If either of them failed the harvest was small.
The message contained in this chapter, was probably delivered to the people about the time of harvest. In some preceding years, the crops had been cut short by unfavourable weather, as well as by the incursions of enemies. It is said, in the third and fourth chapters, that for the wickedness of the people, “the showers had been withheld, and there had been no latter rain, all the birds of heaven were fled, and the fruitful field was become a wilderness." The failure of the harvests, in seasons past, had given them anxious apprehensions for the next. But having, beyond all expectation, received timely rains, they beheld their fields cov. ered with corn, and their pastures clothed with flocks. And yet they remained as regardless of the divine government as before : Neither, said they, let us now fear the Lord, who gives us rain in season, and bestows upon us the rich, but unexpected blessings of harvest.
There are two observations suggested to us in our text.
I. That the regular return of harvest is a demonstration of the existence and providence of God.
II. That the time of harvest naturally calls us to pious meditations and reflections.
I. The regular return of harvest is an obvious proof of the existence and providence of God.
The Jews, who, with this evidence before their eyes, feared not God, are called “a foolish people, and without understanding.
The fruits of the earth, so necessary to the support of animal life, depend on causes beyond the reach of human power. Our labour in the culture of the soil, is useless and vain without a friendly disposition of the seasons.
But in the direction of the seasons, we can have no more influence than in the creation of worlds. There is nothing within the sphere of human agency, that in the least contributes to hasten or restrain the showers of heaven, to increase or moderate the heat of the sun, to continue or change the course of the winds. The whole management of the natural world is in hands superiour to ours, in the hands of an invisible, al. mighty Being. The invisible things of God are not more clearly seen from the creation of the world, than from the productions of nature. Had we been present, when God laid the foundation of the earth, we could not have had more convincing evidence, than what we now have in the stated returns of seed time and harvest, that there is a Being who fills, sustains, and rules the universe, who is above all, through all, and in us all.
The prophet remarks, that God reserves to us the appointed weeks of harvest.
That we may order our affairs with discretion, the world is governed by general, established laws. If the seasons should be thrown into confusion, or their regular succession frequently interrupted, there would be an end of human prudence and activity : We could never judge how to plan and pursue our business; when to sow our seed, or look for a harvest; and what provision to make, in one season, for our support till the return of the next. But as the system of God's government is uniform and steady, or subject only to small and occasional variations, we are able to form and prosecute aur necessary designs with success.
We see that the seasons are ordered with wisdom superiour to ours. If we had power to influence them, yet we have not skill to guide them. Experience convinces us, how erroneously we have judged : But all our experience has not enabled us to judge perfectly for the future. A plentiful harvest often follows seasons, which to us appeared unfavourable ; and the fruits of the earth as often are cut short after promising prospects. There are