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they read in the book of Nehemiah, write a covenant, and, signing their names to it, give up their bodies, with all their senses, health and strength, their souls, with all their faculties, time and talents, to God. Others avoid this, lest it should be mere will-worship, and degenerate into slavish terror : yet, looking forward to future years, and all that may be allotted to them on earth, they, by solenn prayer, dedicate themselves wholly to God, as his own property, through all their existence. They say, with Peter, The time past of our life may suffice to have wrought the will of the flesh; and, with Jonathan Edwards, 'I have given myself wholly away, and have henceforth no more right to this body, with all its limbs and senses; to this soul, with its memory, understanding, affections, and all its acquirements; for I have given them all to God.
Amongst the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God,' must be reckoned holy thoughts; for our Lord has taught us, that as an evil man, out of the evil treasure of his heart, bringeth forth evil things, so a good man, out of the good treasure, bringeth forth good things. Now, ask the man whom Christ compares to the tree spared to bring forth fruit, what are his new year's thoughts, and he replies,' I was thinking how I might spend this year for God.'-The writer of this has just received a letter from one, who says, 'I was passing through your town, when I heard you preach, and, O amazing grace! the word came with power to my salvation; and I write to beg your prayers and to ask your advice how I may most glorify God, and benefit my fellow-creatures, as I pass through this wilderness.' This holy forecast is one of the first fruits borne by the tree that has not been spared in vain.
Holy tempers also, are among the sweet fruits produced by those who are become trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified.' What gratitude that he has been spared! that he has not been spared in vain! that he can now present fruits pleasing to God, tbrough Jesus Christ ! This joyful feeling makes the present the happiest new year of his existence! Love to holiness, longing for eminent conformity to God, is another fruit most grateful to him who planted this tree. Ah! could you see what Utopian plans he forms for his future character; what halcyon prospects he indulges of sin subdued, grace matured, devotion flaming, the world converted, and God glorified, you might smile at his simplicity, and his ignorance of the subtleness of his own heart; but if you are a Christian, you would venerate the principle which produced such aspirations after perfect likeness to God and fruitfulness in every good word and work. Among the fruits of holiness, I might mention conversation and actions; but I conclude that every one will see that the temper and the heart will as naturally produce these, as a good tree will bear good fruit. I point the reader now to fruits of benevolence. This may indeed be thought identical with the former, as benevolence is the essence of holiness; but as our goodness cannot extend to God, so as to make him happier, the saine holy principle which is exercised towards him in devout dispositions and conduct, operates towards man in active endeavours for bis happiness. I see the tree which now bears fruit bending down its branches, and inviting those who pass by the way to eat and live. If the man of whom we speak is possessed of wealth, he says, I have kept many a New Year's Day in feasting with the rich; I will now yield to the command of him whose words prevailed for me, Spare hin yet another year. I will make a feast for the poor, and the halt, and the blind, while I offer my thanksgiving to him who has now blest
harvest and my store: while I thus seek to alleviate the wants of the body, in this cold season, by giving food, raiment, or fuel, I will make it subservient to the wants of the soul; I will counsel them to buy of Jesus gold tried in the fire, that they may be rich; white raiment that they may be clothed, and that the shame of their nakedness may not appear, I will distribute Tracts on the New Year's Day, on The End of Time. What I have before done at the beginning of the year, as a man of the world, I will now do as a man of God: I will review iny expences, examine my income, lay my future plans of expenditure as one who feels that the silver and the gold are the Lord's. I will determine what I shall give for the support of the gospel where I enjoy it,—what for diffusing it in the country around, - what for missions to the Heathen, and for Bible and Book Societies. — Thus, on the first day of the year I will appropriate the store as God hath prospered me.'-Look: the gardener is burying the hatchet. Yes; for he has no further commands to employ it. No angry voice now says,
'Cut down this tiee;' for it no longer cumbers the ground. Safe from the axe of vengeance, or the withering frown of justice, it is like the laurel of which the Heathen said it is Apollo's own tree, and therefore lightning will not blast it; or rather, it is like the psalmist's 'tree, planted by the river of waters, that bringeth forth its fruit i due season : its leaf shall not wither; and whatsoever it bears shall prosper.' The great Proprietor said, “If it bear fruit well.' Ah! now it is well indeed. The blessing of the Lord of the vineyard is upon it, and he pronounces thus: -'Say to the righieous it shall be well with him. To all such the writers of this work join to say, A holy, happy New Year to you, ye blessed of the Lord !
But the ungodly are not so; for now, behold,
II. The Tree spared in vain, and abandoned to its fate. If it bear not fruit after that, thou shalt cut it down.'
1. The guilty cause is, 'not bearing fruit.' If we were to introduce into this parable the prosopopeia, or personification, adopted by Jotham in his fáble of the Speaking Trees, our readers might bear the Barren Tree, on receiving its sentence, speak thus:-- What have I done? Have I borne forbidden fruits, which have killed any body? or, Have I, like the fabulous poison tree of Java, destroyed men by a noxious effluvia, or shade? or, Has any fruit of mine falling, given any one a deadly blow? Why should I be cut down? I have done nothing.'— The master answers, ' For this very reason thou art cut down, because thou hast borne nothing : I did not plant thee, water thee, manure and prune thee, that thou shouldst do nothing,-but bear fruit.' Alas! how many are now in hell-fire for what they called doing nothing! We have killed nobody, wronged no one, done nothing, they say, why we should be damned! Unhappy men! the Creator did not make us to do nothing. Hark! Hear Isaiah's prophetic harp :-Now will I sing to my well-beloved a song conceruing his vineyard. My well-beloved hath a vineyard on a very fruitful hill
, and he fenced and watered it, and looked that it should bring forth grapes.' And what could be inore reasonable? And he that spared you this year, O sinners, did it upon consideration that ye should bring forth fruit. But ye have borne no fruit! Have ye never observed that the most awful cases stated in the Scriptures, are designed to shew men ruined by negative evils ! - I was hungry, said the Judge, and ye —'what?
mocked my hunger, tantalized me with the sight of good?" No:
did nothing to me; 'ye gave me no meat!'- I was thirsty,' and ye dashed the cup from my parched lips! No: 'ye gave me no drink.' In as much as ye did it not
, go, ye cursed.' - Then shall ye discern between him that served God,—and whom?--and him that blasphemed him ? No: him that served him not. • How shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation ? -- What! damnation for mere neglect! Yes: thus saith the Scriptures.
Now, Mercy herself consents to the sentence of justice. The very Intercessor said, 'If it bear not fruit after that, thou shalt cut it down.' O! who shall save me, when Jesus consents to destroy me!---How black must be the guilt of barrenness, when he that so long said 'Spare it,'now speaks the dreadful sentence, 'Cut it down; why cumbereth it the ground?'Now, perhaps, the wheels of Providence roll round, like the ancient war chariots, arined with scythes, and their next rcvoJution cuts him off by a change of residence from all opportunities of hearing the gospel again; far removed froin the vineyard, he is now cast out, where no faithful minister with warning voice alarms the careless; no wise instructor informs the ignorant; no procianation of mercy cheers the desponding!
But this barren tree may be more fearfully cut down by God's own inmediate hand, either upon mind or body. The Holy Spirit, provoked by his obstinate barrenness and abuse
of all the kind patience and culture of the last year, may now. abandon his soul to tenfold hardness. He no longer encumbers the holy ground, for he is never to be seen now among those who are planted in the house of the Lord. But in him are verified his words:-'If a man abide not in me, he is cast, forth as a branch; and men gather them up, and bind them in bundles to burn them.' Bound up in the bundle of the wicked, he is found only with those that are fuel for eternal burnings!
Next comes Death with his heavy axe, and down drops the wretch with a groan of deep despair: - an awful comment on the truth of John the Baptist's words : 'Now also the axe is laid to the root of the tree; every tree that beareth not good fruit, is hewn down and cast into the fire.'
ON THE RELIEF OF THE PIOUS POOR.
The number of Public Charities in the kingdom, is such as must fill the benevolent mind with pleasure. Human misery is, in a general way, provided for; and, to a considerable extent, alleviated ;-but the intention of this communication is, to lead to the private exercise of charity; and particularly in reference to the necessities of pious poverty.
I beg here to suggest a correction of an erroneous sentiment, which some wealthy professors seem to maintain, namely, that all charity to the poor is an optional matter. If they do not deny the principle itself, yet the objects of their regard may be as select as they please; and the extent of their reliet is an act of self-moved goodness, which is independent on all foreign controul or motive whatever. But if they were individually to inquire, What have I that I have not received? Why are talents given, but for their improvement ? Why am I a steward, but to be found faithful? What are the com. mands of Scripture on this subject? What immense obligations are due to Him who went about doing good, to set me an example of benevolence? How can I prove myself a partaker of his love, if I love not his poor brethren? &c. the result must surely be favourable to a beneficence at once active, disinterested, and persevering.
The first obvious question on ihis subject is, Who are my poor brethren? Let the persons be determined by the opinions of Christian society, whether professedly members of it or not. Their worship of God on the Sabbath, and their separation from a profligate world, are additional criterions of character which should ever guide us in forming the estimate; - and let us, when looking for these objects, look beyond the pale of our own respective communions as well as within it; and their poverty may usually be ascertained by their appearance, by seasonable visits, and by unreserved enquiry. It is by a careless or criminal negligence on these points, that so many of the aged and afflicted, among the pious poor, frequently languish, without pity and without relief!
Having carefully ascertained who are the objects of Christian compassion, our next enquiry will be,' What are their wants ?' In imitation of Him whose we are, and whom we serve, let us say, What wilt thou that I should do unto thee?' – and perhaps we may discover, that some want sympathy and consolation, prayer and Christian counsel;others, who are lingering in pain and infirmity, want a little proper food, or medicine, or attendance, which it is not in their power to procure; and a third class, especially in winter, may want assisiance in the purchase of necessary fuel, food, or clothing.
A third enquiry will naturally arise here, ' How can we set about relieving, immediately and suitably relieving, those whose wants are so obvious and pressing?' A friendly and devotional visit will often relieve the mourner in Zion and truly happy are they who are habituated to such practices;but temporal relief is a more serious thing; and many of us, I fear, have said, as we' passed by on the other side,' I
pray thee have us excused. The times, the times, the number of applicants, or what I did the other day, are often made use of in opposition to the precepts,' Withhold not good from them to whom it is due, when it is in the power of thine hand to do it. Let prudence, and especially conscience, determine the means or the power of doing good; and then, let the hand be ready to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and warm the frozen, till you raise their hearts to sing for joy!
The liberal man, who deviseth liberal things, will make a fourth enquiry, and that is, ' How shall I excite others to love and good works." How ?by a brilliant and disinterested example; by advocating, with them the cause of your needy brethren; by an appeal to their wealth, to their feelings, to the conduct of others, to the commands of God, to the example of the Son of God, and to the account they must give of their stewardship at the last day!
Finally, Let Christians of every station abound in this good work :- Whatever our hands, our hearts, or our God shall find for us to do, let us do it with all our might. Let brotherly love continue, till its expansion in the heavenly world. Read Job xxix. 11-16, and compare it with your own conduct. Reflect on the appeal to character by the apostle John, · Whoso hath this world's good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him? But if we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us.'