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REFLECTIONS FOR THE COMMENCEMENT OF THE YEAR. Deut. xi. 12. The eyes of the Lord thy God are always upon it, from the beginning of the year, even to the end of the year.
WITH these words Moses, the man of God, concludes his encomium on the promised land, evidently implying that whatever blessings might be included in " milk and honey,” and the rain and dews of heaven, this is the highest blessing with which any nation, or any people could be favoured, to have “the eyes of the Lord always upon it."
'We should be cautious of so allegorizing or applying Scripture, as to explain away its first and simple meaning; yet, as whatever was written aforetime was intended for our learning, we have abundant authority for so accommodating the Scriptures to our use, as to derive from them instruction suited to our times and circumstances. Without, therefore, any further apology, let us apply the good word of God before us to our own situation, considered as the professing people of God, his « British Israel;" or to our highly favoured country, as partaking with the Canaan of old in all its temporal blessings; and more particularly in this privilege, that it is “ a land which the Lord our God careth for: the eyes of the Lord our God are upon it from the beginning of the year, even to the end of the
Solomon tells ns, that “ the eyes of the Lord are in every place, beholding the evil and the good :" but it is a privilege peculiar to his people, that his eyes are over them for good, and not for evil; for the eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous; and his ears are open to their cry.” Yea, “ the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the earth, to shew himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect (or sincere) before him." The divine Watchman of Israel « never slumbereth nor sleepeth.” What consolation is conveyed in these precious passages of Scripture! Mun is soon weary, through perpetaal watching; and the eyes of an angel may be withdrawn to other objects; but it is the prerogative of Deity to see all things at once ; to see them without weariness and without change. Behold that languishing infant, and see the watchful eye of its fond mother. bended over it: but it languishes long, till the mother's eye grows dim with watching, or is closed by grief. Thus “a mother may forget her sucking child ;” nevertheless, the Lord will not forget his people ;-—" he withdraweth not his eyes from the righteous.” The omniscient eye of God watcheth with more than a paternal care. “Mine eyes and my heart shall be there continually;"--that is, " always ---from the beginning of the year, even to the end of the year.”
The eyes of God imply also his counsel and direction. “I
will instruct thee, and teach thee in the way that thou shalt go: I will guide thee with mine eye." Ah! how often is the believer at a loss in his journey through this wilderness! His way is hedged up on every side; and he sees no path before him! 0 then for the wings of a dove, and for an eagle's eyes! “ for her eyes behold afar off.” Vain and needless wish! His eye, which penetrates farther than the eagle's,-his eye shall guide thee; he can see through every winding maze; the darkness hideth not from him; but the night shineth as the day:" and the cloud is only cast around thee, that thou mayest look and trust to the glory that is within. Complain not with the prophet, “My way is hidden from the Lord," as though he neither saw nor regarded it: behold, “his eyes are upon it, from the beginning of the year, even to the end of the year.”
But while the eyes of the Lord are upon his people for their guidance and protection, his eyes are also“ open upon all the ways of the sons of men ; to give to every one, according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings."-" The afflicted people he will save ; but his eyes are upon the haughty, to bring them down." Like children who cover their eyes, and think they are not seen ; so the fool, involved in his own ignorance, cries, “ Tush! doth God see ? and is there knowledge in the Most High?” Even in this Christian country (so called) how often do we hear the heathenish enquiry,“ Doth God see this? Will he notice that ?” The eye of Providence hath no lid; can never be closed. Behold, he will bring every secret work into judgment; and for every idle word demand an account.-Who then can be saved ? None of us in ourselves. « Behold, O God, our Shield! and look upon the face of thine Anointed !” “ Let thine eyes be upon Him from the begining of the year, even unto the end of the year.”
The eyes of the Lord are upon nations as well as individuals ; and have they not, in an especial manner, been upon ours ?"-In what anxiety was the public mind, lest the peace should not be ratified, and the definitive treaty concluded ? What fears were harboured, lest the defective harvest should leave us at the mercy of oppressors and monopolizers? But “ He hath given peace in our borders, and fed us with the finest of the wheat." Still his judgments threaten, and will always threaten sinners : “ Behold the eyes of the Lord are upon this sinful kingdom ;” and he would doubtless “ destroy it from the face of the earth," but that he “ will not utterly destroy the house of Jacob.” No; he hath among us“ a poor and afflicted people :" these are “the salt of the earth,” and preserve it from destruction and corruption. It is for their sake the Lord careth for this land; and s his eyes are upon it from the beginning of the year, even to the end of the year.”
ON RELIGIOUS ZEAL.
If the question which Moses once put to the tribes of Israel, were proposed to all the readers of the Evangelical Magazine, “ Who is on the Lord's side ?” perhaps most of them would be ready to profess some degree of attachment to his cause. But if we were required to affirin, with David, or with him who is at once his Son and his Lord, “ The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up,”-must we not put a very low sense on that phrase before we could justify its application to ourselves? Yet, if we are in reality on the Lord's side, ought we not to be zealously affected towards the glory of his name, and the promotion of his kingdom among men?
O that every reader would indulge himself in a serious soliloquy on this subject! and let the evidences of his zeal for God pass in review before his own conscience.
« I am on the Lord's side, and the zeal of his house hath caten me up!” Can I say this with truth? may one enquire. “ I have been used to suppose that I was on the Lord's side ; but the only proofs I can bring are these :- I was born in a Christian land; I go most Sundays to my parish-church; and I mind my trade and my worldly concerns all the week. I lead a moral life, paying every one his own, and give sometimes a trifle to the poor; but I never troubled myself much about religion ; yet I trust in God's mercy, and look upon Christ as our Saviour, and if I be not safe, woe be to many others. I should be very angry if any one denied that I am a good Christian ; but as to the zeal of God's house cating me up, it is an odd sort of phrase that I do not understand.”
Another reader might say, " I was brought up a Dissenter. I go regularly to meeting on the Lord's Day, and subscribe to the support of the Gospel ; but I live as other folks do around me; and see no occasion to make myself particular. I go but
seldom to the play-house, which my parents always charged me to shun: nor do I love to engage in gaming; at which my neighbour, who is not more wealthy than I, will often lose five or six guineas at a time: whereas I subscribe half a guinea a quarter to our minister ; and give, two or three times a year, to persons who come from a distance to collect for the building of meeting-houses, &c. besides collections for the poor. I know not, therefore, wherein I can be charged with want of zeal, unless it be because I do not talk about religion as much as some others; nor do I pray in my family, nor have I offered to join the church: but I have not the gifts which some others possess; and, as to the peculiar ordinances of the gospel, they are not essential to salvation.”
A third, however, can say," I understand the gospel, &c. have made a public profession of my experience of a work of
grace; and was admitted, long ago, to the table of the Lord. I am well instructed in Evangelical doctrines, and would by no means sit under an unsound ministry. It is twenty or thirty years since I was converted; and I have never fallen under the censure of my fellow-professors. I do not pretend to have the same enjoyments which I once found in religion; and, indeed, I believe thad then more zeal than knowledge : but I have now done with living on frames, and can retain a persuasion of my safety, though I do not talk much of communion with God. I generally pray in my family in the evening, unless I am kept out too late on a visit; and I take my servants with me to hear the gospel, if they do not object to it; but I cannot find time to be always talking to them, or to my neighbours, about religion, as I was disposed to do in my younger days. As to the phrase recommended to notice, by the writer of this paper, it is used in Scripture, and was doubtless fulfilled in our Lord; and, perhaps, in an inferior sense, it may be applicable to some eminent saints: but I know of few modern professors who can justly apply it to themselves; and, possibly, those who would pretend to adopt it, might be chargeable with many inconsistencies."
Fain would I indulge the hope, that one reader in four might fix his attention on the expression, and muse upon it to the following purport :-“The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up." Thou couldst say so, O my blessed Redeemer! and the whole of thy life accorded with the declaration. 'Oh that the same mind were in me, which was in Christ Jesus! Alas! I am humbled when I think how little my temper and conduct correspond, at any time, to the language thou couldst use at all times. But, O my adorable Lord I do not I desire, above all things, to live unto thee? Surely I have loved the habitation of thy house, the place where thine honour dwelleth. I am glad when others say unto me,“ Let us go up to the house of the Lord;" and fain would I persuade all around me to attend on thy blessed service : yet I cannot rest in any outward show of religion; I must have communion with thee in thine ordinances, both public and private, or I cannot be satisfied. "I am also as desirous of doing thy will in my intercourse with men, as I am of attending punctually to the positive institutions of the New Testament, or the worship of thine house. I would acknowledge thee in all my ways, imploring thy direction continually, and invoking thy blessing upon all those thou hast given me; being especially concerned to use the bounties of thy providence in that manner, which shall most advance thy glory. I would value temporal blessings chiefly as they are thy gifts, in the use of which I may glorify thee! I would always consider myself as thy steward ; and occupy that wherewith thou entrustest me, as though. I expected thee soon to come, and demand an account, in person, of the manner in
which it shall have been employed. I dare not claim a right to dispose of the property of others, not even to obtain the honour or pleasure of contributing to every benevolent design. I would not rob a creditor to give to the noblest mission in the world : but, as far as thou hast put it in my power, to subserve the promotion of thy cause, thou knowest, O Lord! it is not a task, nor a burden; but a pleasure, and a high gratification. As David accounted it an honour to prepare liberally for that temple which he was not permitted to build, and said, “ Who am I? and what is my people, that we should be able to offer willingly after this sort ? for all things are of thee, and of thine own we have given thee;"so do I feel myself greatly indebted to God, both for the power and the inclination to honour him with my substance, and with all the fruits of mine increase. Yea, O Lord ! I am glad to deny myself in other respects, that I may the oftener enjoy this sweet pleasure of promoting the cause of Christ. Fain would I adorn the doctrine of God my Saviour in 'all things; and recommend the religion of Jesus to all around me. Nothing pains me so much as to hear or see any thing that tends to the dishonour of the gospel ; or that gives the adversaries of thy truth a handle to misrepresent thy holy religion. “When I behold transgressors, I am grieved, because they regard not thy law.” But when my Lord is “ wounded in the house of his friends," it fills me with peculiar distress; and surely I had rather meet with the heaviest trials of which I can conceive, than be left thus to dishonour thee myself. I would never be satisfied with any present attainments; but would follow hard after thee, O Lord ! The more I know of thee, the more do I long to know thee myself; and that thou mayest be known, and loved, and adored by all around me; yea, I long for the knowledge of my Lord, to fill the whole earth as the waters fill the bed of the ocean! Yes, I trust, I often pray, as I wish to do always, according to the spirit (if not in the words) of that prayer which our Lord taught to his disciples; that“ thy name may be hallowed, thy kingdom may come, thy will may be done on earth as it is in Heaven;" and would be more importunate and earnest in these petitions, than even in asking for my “ daily bread.”
THE VALLEY OF BACA.
The word Baca is to be found in Psalm lxxxiv. -a psalm well calculated to excite devout affections; and will be admired so long as a spirit of devotion shall exist in the world. The Psalmist is supposed to have penned it when driven from Jerusalem by the rebellion of Absalom. His want taught him more