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EVENING EXERCISES

FOR THE CLOSET.

JANUARY 1.-" And now, behold, I go bound in the spirit unto Jerusalem, not knowing the things that shall befall me there : save that the Holy Ghost witnesseth in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions abide me."-Acts XX. 22, 23. Paul here speaks of himself

as an Apostle. But the facts he expresses with regard to his official destination, will apply to our experience as men, and as Christians. And we may derive from them a reflection peculiarly seasonable, at the commencement of another annual period of our time-With regard to the future, he was both ignorant and informed; unacquainted with some things, but well apprized of others.

Though Paul sometimes prophesied, he could not command the attribute of foreknowledge when he pleased. The use of it was always a miracle, and limited to a particular subject. He was therefore left uninformed of the ordinary course of life, and had to learn the will of God by events. Hence he says to the Philippians, "I hope presently to send Timothy, as soon as I see how it will go with me. It is the same with us; and as he was now going up to Jerusalem, not knowing the things that would befall him there, so are we entering into another year, not knowing what a day may bring forth. But is this to be lamented ? “Even so, Father, for so it seemeth good in thy sight.” The concealment is wise, and kind. We may judge of this by our past feelings. Had we been previously informed of the scenes through which we have passed, our hearts would have failed at the thought: yet when the dispensations came, we were able to bear them, and had been really though unconsciously prepared for them. And suppose we were now informed of some of the changes we may be called to endure in the months before us, we should be seized perhaps with an overpowering surprise and oppression, rendering us dead to all present enjoyments, and incapable of every present engagement. He therefore says, " I will bring the blind by a way that they knew not; I will lead them in paths that they have not known: I will make darkness light before them, and crooked things straight : these things will I do unto them, and not forsake them.” Let us trust in Him. He claims the full confidence of the heart, not only by his goodness but by his wisdom. Although we go out not knowing whither we go, iÍe knoweth the way that we take. Nothing can deceive or perplex our guide. Especially let us check the workings of a vain curiosity. To this we are naturally prone. All pant to draw back the veil, and peep into futurity. But none are entrusted with its secrets. Even our Lord's own disciples were rebuked for wishing to know the times and the seasons which the Father reserved in his own power. This advice will be found to be not only our duty but our privilege our strength" here “is to sit still." We may consider the year before us, as a desk containing three hundred and sixty-five letters, addressed to us, one for every day, announcing its trials, and prescribing its employments with an order to open daily no letter but the letter for the day. Now we may be strongly tempted to unseal beforehand some of the remainder; but this would only serve to embarrass us, while we should violate thereby the rule our Owner and Master had laid down for us—"Take, therefore, no thought for the morrow : for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof."

But Paul's ignorance was not entire. Though he knew not what in particular would befall him at Jerusalem, yet the Holy Ghost testified that in every place bonds and afflictions awaited him ; so that he was sure of one thing-sure of being always a sufferer, for the sake of the Lord Jesus. And thus it is with us. Though the future is not laid open to our view, yet it is not concealed from us in every respect and degree. Though we know not what is to come in the detail, we can apprehend much of it in the mass. Indeed, without some reliance on the general course of things, we could not properly carry on the system of life. Many of our present duties derive their existence and importance from some future relations. Instinct, in the brute creation, teaches them to look forward: and the turtle and the crane and the swallow observe the time of their coming; and the ant provideth her meat in the summer and gathereth her food in harvest. And is reason given us in vain ? Or is there nothing for it to operate upon beyond the present hour ? " The prudent man foreseeth ihe evil and hídeth himself,” says the Scripture. And the same authority adds, “Let thine eyes look right on, and let thine eyelids look straight before thee.”

With regard then to the future, in every period, relation, and condition of life, some things may be reckoned upon. Thus, in the natural world, we know that the seasons will come round in their time and place with little variation. “While the earth remaineth, seed-time and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night, shall not cease."

We also know that the general state and usages of society will be what they ever have been. "The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun. Is there any thing whereof it may be said, See, this is new? It hath been already of old time which was before us."

We are sure no creature possessions and enjoyments will fully meet our hopes and wishes. They never have produced satisfaction. They were never designed to do it-They are incapable of doing it.

We may certainly expect that trials of one kind or another will be our lot. They grow out of our very state and nature. “Man is born to trouble as the sparks fly upward.”

We must be infatuated if we are not aware that all our connexions here are precarious. Some may abandon us from insincerity ; some may leave us from infirmity; some may be removed to a distance by events; some may be laid in the grave. Need we be informed that the desire of our eyes is mortal ? That childhood and youth are vanity?

Can we be ignorant that with growing years we are to look for growing privations and weaknesses ? That our senses will decay, that desire will fail, that the grasshopper will be a burden ? It is the tax of age. The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength, labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away.”

For the living know that they shall die. It is the way of all the earth: and whatever may be doubtful when we look onward, there is not a human being but can say, “I know that Thou wilt bring me to death, and to the house appointed for all living.” He knows also that the event cannot be far off--and may be very near.

And is this all that we are apprized of? No. We also know that God will be found the same he always has been—we know that he will always prove himself the hearer of prayer-we know that he will never leave us nor forsake us we know that our shoes shall be iron and brass; and as our days so shall our strength bewe know that he will guide us with his counsel, and afterward receive us to glory.

JANUARY 2.—"Behold, now is the accepted tiine, behold, now is the day of salvation,"—2 Cor. vi. 2.

The importance of opportunity is readily acknowledged, and generally if not universally acted upon, with regard to temporal things. The seafaring man, with prudence and diligence, avails himself of the winds, and the tides. The husbandman, when the precious produce of the field is to be secured, is all anxiety and eagerness, lest he should lose a shining bour—and hence it early became a proverb, “He that gathereth in summer is a wise son, he that sleepeth in harvest is a son that causeth shame.” There are interesting conjunctures, and peculiar seasons, which never return; but, according as they are seized or neglected, decide the reputation and the condition of a man for life. But here we have an opportunity announced, as superior to every other opportunity, in its relations and consequences, as the soul is superior to the body, and eternity to time-an opportunity to gain acceptance with God, and salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ—" Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.”

This "now" takes in the whole period of the gospel dispensation, or the duration of the mediatorial reign of Christ. He is now exalted at the right hand of God to be a Prince and a Saviour ; to give repentance unto Israel and remission of sins.

He is the great High Priest over the house of God, to introduce our persons and services; and while we are reconciled by his death we are saved by his life. For he is now living a life of office as well as of glory: But this will not continue always. It is commensurate only with the continuance of the world. “ Then cometh the end, when he shall deliver up the kingdom to God, even the Father.”' This, in the whole of it, is a very extensive period. It has continued long, and will probably continue many ages longer. But this can only encourage us with regard to mankind successionally. It is delighiful to think that what those have found the Saviour to be who went before, those also will find him to be that shall come after us: for he is "the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever." But as individuals, our season is far less lengthened-at death, the angel swears, with regard to us, that “time shall be no longer.”

This "now" therefore is to be considered as the period of life. Patients have been recovered when they seemed incurable, and have been sent back from the very borders of the grave. Persons have been resuscitated when the functions of nature had ceased, and the principle of life seemed extinguished. So some have been saved at the eleventh hour, and they have adored the long suffering of God which proved their salvation-But the redemption of the soul is precious, and after our present state, ceaseth for ever. If there be hope to persons then, it is among the reserves of Divinc goodness; He has not been pleased to reveal it. Origen, and his brethren of the same sentiment, were called the merciful doctors: but should their notion be a mistake, and those that rely on it to be confounded for ever, they ought to be called the merciful doctors who, knowing the terror of the Lord, persuade men to flee from the wrath to come. But in this view how precious and all-important is life

"Life is the time to serve the Lord,
The time to ensure the great reward;
And while the lamp holds out to burn,

The vilest sinner may return." And how instantly and zealously should we avail ourselves of the only season! Especially when we consider how short, and how uncertain the continuance of it is. Another of the threescore years and ten, or of the fifty, or forty, or twenty that measure the whole extent, is gone,

"And cvery beating pulse we tell,

Leaves but the number less." And, O my soul! how many strokes remain ! There is but a step between me and death

"Great God! on what a slender thread

Ilang everlastin? things!

Upon life's feeble strings !" But this “ now" takes in, as distinguished from life at large, cvery period peculiarly favourable to religion. Youth is such a period. The young have fewer of the cares that perplex and engross us as we plunge deeper into the concerns of this life. Their hearts, though evil, are not yet hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. Their consciences, though defiled, are not yet seared as with a hot iron. Their memories, though limited, are not yet choked up with the lumber of the world. Their affections are warm ; their strength is firm; their connexions are as yet optional; life is fresh; nature is inviting-and amidst all these advantages, Grace says, “Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth: while the evil days

The eternal state of all the dead

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come not, nor the years draw nigh, when thou shalt say, I have no pleasure in them."* "Now is the accepted time, now is the day of salvation.”-Such a period is the Sabbath. The Sabbath was made for man. It befriends his civil comfort, his bodily health, and his mental improvement. But it chiefly regards his spiritual and eternal welfare. What a gracious appointment, to draw us once a week out of the world for a whole day—to afford us leisure to examine our character and condition before God—to remind us, in the midst of all other engagements, that one thing is needful--and to urge us, by a thousand motives, to choose that good part which shall not be taken away from us." How many have found "the Holy of the Lord,” an'accepted time, and a day of salvation ! Affliction is also such a period. It matters not from whence our troubles arise; they are designed for our profit—"In their affliction they will seek me early." They also naturally tend to impress the mind and soften the heart. They show us the evil of sin, and the vanity of the world; and the need we have of a better home than earth, and a better arm than flesh. Many have been chosen in the furnace of affliction beside Manasseh. How foolish to wish to get our trials removed without their being sanctified! How lamentable to lose the benefit of such a season !--Such is a period of religious excitement. It is said in the Gospel, “The law and the prophets were until John ; since that time the kingdom of God is preached, and every man presseth into it.” And when we see others seeking and finding ; delivered from the stings of a guilty conscience, and the tyranny of their passions; becoming meek and patient, and peaceful and happy ; does it not powerfully call upon us to take hold of the skirt of him that is a Jew ;” and to pray to the God of all grace, " Bless me, even me, also, O my Father {"_Such is the period in which conscience has been awakened and impressed.. Perhaps you have had, more than once, such views and feelings, that it has been said of you,“ Thou art not far from the kingdom of God.” It was thus with Felix when he trembled. He felt then as he had never felt before, and as he never felt afterwards. But instead of cherishing the conviction, he endeavoured to banish itand succeeded. Go thy way, said he to the preacher, for this time; when I have a convenient season I will send for thee. That season never came. He saw Paul indeed several times afterwards, but not a word was said concerning the faith in Christ! Beware! your impressions may die away, and never revive. But can you complain? Did you not oppose or neglect them? Beware! All good is from God, but he will not be trifled with. “My Spirit will not always strive with man." “Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation."

JANUARY 3.—Which things the angels desire to look into.”—1 Pet. i. 12.

Had we only heard of such an order of beings as angels, with all the attributes the Scripture ascribes to them; and then have been told, that there were several subjects with which they were intensely anxious to be acquainted ; how eagerly should we have inquired what these things were! And had we been left to conjecture, it is Vol. I.

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