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Ember-days for the fruits of the earth, in self-abasementy as being unworthy even of the least of God's mercies; and now we are offering up of its corn and wine as a propitiation, and are eating and drinking of them with thanksgiving.
“All things' come of Thee, and of Thine own have we given Thee'.” If we have had the rain in its season, and the sun shining in its strength, and the fertile ground, it is of Thee. We give back to Thee what came from Thee. “When Thou givest it them, they gather it, and when Thou openest Thy hand, they are filled with good. When Thou hidest Thy face, they are troubled; when Thou takest away their breath, they die, and are turned again to their dust. When Thou lettest Thy breath go forth, they shall be made, and Thou shalt renew the face of the earth.” He gives, He takes away. “Shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evilo?” May He not "do what He will with His own"?” May not His sun set as it has risen? and must it not set, if it is to rise again? and must not darkness come first, if there is ever to be morning? and must not the sky be blacker, before it can be brighter? And cannot He, who can do all things, cause a light to arise even in the darkness? "I have thought upon Thy Name, O Lord, in the night season, and have kept Thy Law;" “Thou also shalt light my candle, the Lord my God shall make my darkness to be light;" or as the Prophet speaks, “At the evening time it shall be light'."
“All things come of Thee,” says holy David, “for we
11 Chron. xxix. 14.
+ Matt. xx. 16.
s Ps. civ. 28-30. 3 Job ü. 10.
3 Zoch. xiv. 7.
are strangers before Thee and sojourners, as were all our fathers; our days on the earth are as a shadow, and there is none abiding?.” All is vanity, vanity of vanities, and vexation of spirit. "What profit hath a man of all his labour which he taketh under the sun ? Onc generation passeth away, and another generation cometh; but the earth abideth for ever; the sun also ariseth, and the sun goeth down; ... all things are full of labour, man cannot utter it; ... that which is crooked cannot be made straight, and that which is wanting cannot be numbered'.” “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven; a time to be born and a time to die; a time to plant and a time to pluck up that which is planted; a time to kill and a time to heal; a time to break down and a time to build up;
a time to get and a time to lose; a time to keep and a time to cast away'.” And time, and matter, and motion, and force, and the will of man, how vain are they all, except as instruments of the grace of God, blessing them and working with them! How vain are all our pains, our thought, our care, unless God uses them, unless God has inspired them! how worse than fruitless are they, unless directed to His glory, and given back to the Giver!
“Of Thine own have we given Thee," says the royal Psalmist, after he had collected materials for the Temple. Because “the work was great,” and “the palace, not for man, but for the Lord God,” therefore he“prepared with all his might for the house of his God,” gold, and silver, and brass, and iron, and wood, “onyx stones, and stones to be set, glistering stones, and of divers colours, and all man
1 1 Chron. xxix. 15. ? Eccles. i 3 - 15. 3 Eccles. iii. 1-6.
ner of precious stones, and marble stones in abundance!.” And “the people rejoiced, for that they offered willingly;
and David the king also rejoiced with great joy." We too, at this season, year by year, have been allowed in our measure, according to our work and our faith, to rejoice in God's Presence, for this sacred building which He has given us to worship Him in. It was a glad time when we first met here, -- many of us now present recollect it; nor did our rejoicing cease, but was renewed every autumn, as the day came round. It has been "a day of gladness and feasting, and a good day, and of sending portions one to another”.” We have kept the feast heretofore with merry hearts; we have kept it seven full years unto "a perfect end;” now let us keep it, even though in haste, and with bitter herbs, and with loins girded, and with a staff in our hand, as they who have "no continuing city, but seek one to come.”
So was it with Jacob, when with his staff he passed over that Jordan. He too kept feast before he set out upon his dreary way. He received a father's blessing, and then was sent afar; he left his mother, never to see her face or hear her voice again. He parted with all that his heart loved, and turned his face towards a strange land. He went with the doubt, whether he should have bread to eat, or raiment to put on. He came to "the people of the East," and served a hard master twenty years. “In the day the drought consumed him, and the frost by night; and his sleep departed from his eyes*.” O little did he think, when father and mother had forsaken
11 Chron. xxix. 1, 2. 9.
Heb. xiii. 14.
2 Esther ix. 19.
him, and at Bethel he lay down to sleep on the desolate ground, because the sun was set and even had come, that there was the house of God and the gate of heaven, that the Lord was in that place, and would thence go forward with him whithersoever he went, till He brought him back to that river in “two bands," who was then crossing it forlorn and solitary!
So had it been with Ishmael; though the feast was not to him a blessing, yet he feasted in his father's tent, and then was sent away. That tender father, who, when a son was promised him of Sarah, cried out to his Almighty Protector, “O that Ishmael might live before Thee?!”—he it was, who, under a divine direction, the day after the feast, "rose up early in the morning, and took bread, and a bottle of water, and gave it unto Hagar, putting it on her shoulder, and the child, and sent her away. And she departed, and wandered in the wilderness of Beersheba?." And little thought that fierce child, when for feasting came thirst and weariness and wandering in the desert, that this was not the end of Ishmael, but the beginning. And little did Hagar read his coming fortunes, when “the water was spent in the bottle, and she cast the child under one of the shrubs, and she went and sat her down over against him a good way off; .
. . . for she said, Let me not see the death of the child. And she sat over against him, and lift up her voice, and wept.”
So had it been with Naomi, though she was not quitting, but returning to her home, and going, not to a land of famine, but of plenty. In a time of distress, she had
1 Gen. xvii. 18.
? Gen. xxi. 14.
left her country, and found friends and made relatives among the enemies of her people. And when her husband and her children died, Moabitish women, who had once been the stumbling-block of Israel, became the support and comfort of her widowhood. Time had been when, at the call of the daughters of Moab, the chosen people had partaken their sacrifices, and “bowed down to their gods. And Israel joined himself unto Baal-peor, and the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel.” Centuries had since passed away, and now of Moabites was Naomi mother; and to their land had she given her heart, when the call of duty summoned her back to Bethlehem. “She had heard in the country of Moab, how that the Lord had visited His people in giving them bread. Wherefore she went forth out of the place where she was, and her two daughters-in-law with her, and they went on the way to return unto the land of Judah?."
Forlorn widow, great was the struggle in her bosom, whether shall she do?-leave behind her the two heathen women, in widowhood and weakness like herself, her sole stay, the shadows of departed blessings? or shall she selfishly take them as fellow-sufferers, who could not be protectors? Shall she seek sympathy where she can. not gain help? shall she deprive them of a home, when she has none to supply? So she said, "Go, return each to her mother's house: the Lord deal kindly with you, as ye have dealt with the dead and with me!” Perplexed Naomi, torn with contrary feelings; which tried her the more, -Orpah who left her, or Ruth who remained ? Orpah who was a pain, or Ruth who was a charge?
i Ruth i. 6--8. 14, 15 [s. D.]