THE PAST REVIEWED.

BY JAMES SMITH

" Thou shali remember all the way lohich the Lord thy God led thee these forty years in the wilderness." — Deut. viii. 2. It is well sometimes to look forward, and anticipate " the blessed hope, even the glorious appearing of our Lord and Saviour." It is good sometimes to look within, and examine whether we be in the faith. It is right sometimes to look around, and see the posture of our foes, and what temptations are laid for us. It is necessary also to look hack, and see the way the Lord our God hath led us. Where have we been ? In a wilderness. For sin has changed the character of the present world ; it was once the garden of the Lord ; it is now a desolate wilderness. Its leading characteristic is barrenness. There is no food for the soul, nothing to satisfy the immortal spirits in it. He that knew most, possessed most, and enjoyed most of this world, has said, " Vanity of vanities, all is vanity." It is a dangerous place, full of robbers, wild beasts, and terrible pits. It is full of troubles, and all who dwell in it are exposed to many, great, and painful privations. Who has been our Guide *? The Lord thy God

THE PAST REVIEWED. 339 hath led tliee. He well knows the place, with all its turnmgs, windings_, and dangers. He tenderly

loves our persons ; His love has in it more than a mother's tenderness, and more than a father's constancy and strength. He always consults our welfare. He does not always aim to please or gratify us ; But He always guides us into safety, peace, and honour. He leads us accoiding to our nature and circumstances : for Israel He provided the cloud by day, and the pillar of fire by night, to refresh, preserve, and lead them ; but He leads us by His sacred Word, His Holy Spirit, and the events of His Providence. JBy what way have we been led ? ot by the nearest, or the smoothest, or the easiest, but the l>est. The right way. The only right way. It has been rough, difficult, and round about ; but it has been right. God chose it for us, and He has led us in it. It was the way in which He could teach us the most important lessons ; try and exercise all our graces ; prove the sincerity of our professions ; prepare us for His service below, and His glory above ; and make us really useful, that He might make us honourable. For only the useful are honourable in the kingdom of our God. How long has He been leading us ? Israel had been led forty years, — so has the writer, — eo, perhaps, has the reader ; this is a long period, more than half of man's allotted time below. It

340 THE PAST REVIEWED. is the most interesting period ; for in these years we have been called by grace, separated from the world, consecrated to God, sent into His vineyard, and formed into families. It is also the most important period. Few are converted after

they are forty years of age. Generally, tlie Lord's people are called young. In the past forty years our state has been changed, our nature renewed, our character formed, and our usefulness evident. What now does the Lord require ? '•' Thou shalt remember all the way the Lord thy God hath led thee." This implies we should notice, record, and preserve an account of the Lord's dealings and leadings. Remember the way ; all the way ; the occurrences of the way ; that you were led, not dragged, not driven, not carried, but led ; your leader was not a tyrant, but a God, a friend, a father ; you were led, not left to chance ; led every moment, every 'step, in every place, even when you least perceived it. The Lord's leading has preserved you, and but for that you had not arrived so far in safety. Remember your faults, how many, how great, how various ; how you have provoked the Lord, and grieved His Holy Spirit. (Deut. ix. 7, &c.) Remember His favours, how rich, how free, how suitable ; you were a slave, a rebel, a condemned criminal ; he ransomed you, reclaimed you, pardoned you, and raised you to freedom, dignity, and happiness (Deut. V. 15.) Remember your foes, how they

THE PAST REVIEWED. 341 hated yon, pursued you, fought against you, and were determined to destroy you ; but your God delivered you. (Deut. xxv. 17, 18 : Micah vi. 5.) Remember the friendship of your God, how necessary, how constant, how condescending. Friendship uuparalelled, on which your supply, your safety, your all depended. (Deut. xxxii. 7 — 14.) Remember the way, the Guide, and your own conduct, or you cannot be just ; you will not be cither grateful or humble. Remem-

ber, for God remembers. (.Ter. ii. 2.) Can I forget the v/ond'rous ways By which thou hast thy servant led Through a long lonely wilderness ! How strangely kept, how strangely fed I Tempted and proved by hopes and fears, I roved for many tedious years. Provoked, thou didst not quite depart. But farther yet the spirit tried ; And show'd the evil of my heart, The stubbornness, deceit, and pride. My depth of unbelief to prove, And groan beneath thy humbling love. Thy love's design I nov^' perceive ; Me to myself that love hath shown ; Justly thou didst thy servant leave. To come again and claim thy ov/n ; To save, when all my griefs were past, And do me endless good at last."

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