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means especially was the victory procured; and he is careful to set up this monument of thankfulness. The place where it was set up was between Mizpeh and Shen, a rock over against Mizpeh. It is set up there where they got the deliverance and near to the place where they prayed for it. We have also the name which was put upon the monument, Ebenezer. We read of it before, chap. iv. 1. The place is called in the history, Ebenezer, by way of anticipation. In that very place they got a sore disaster before, but now a signal deliverance. Ebenezer, that is, the stone of help, including a respect to God, and bearing not only a remembrance of the victory, but that it was obtained not by them but by the Lord.
We have the reason of the name. Hitherto hath the Lord helped It is a grateful ackowledgment of the Lord's help for the time past, to raise their confidence in him for the time to come. hath helped us, and shewn himself on our side; not only helped us to bear our burdens, but he hath taken them off our shoulders and wrought for us.
DOCTRINE-It is the duty of the Lord's people to keep the memorial of the experience which they have of the Lord's helping them. I shall discuss this point under two general heads.
I. I shall speak of the Lord's helping his people.
II. I will speak to the keeping up of the memorial of the experiences which they had of his helping them. I am then,
I. To speak of the Lord's helping his people. Here I shall answer two questions. 1. How doth the Lord help his people; and, 2. Why doth he help his people?
First, How doth the Lord help his people? Here I reply,
1. Sometimes the Lord helps his people, by working all for them, they themselves contributing nothing to their deliverance. Moses. said unto the people, "Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will shew you to-day; for the Egyptians whom ye have seen to-day, ye shall see them again no more for ever. The Lord shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace." Many times the children of God may be brought to that, that they can do nothing for themselves, but commit their cause to God, and depend upon him, but even then their case is not despair. "Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass," Psal. cxlii. 4-7. Thy Lord can do all things, said Luther to a person solicitous about a future event.
2. Sometimes the Lord assists his people in working. They endeavour their own deliverance in God's way, and he fits them to act, and blesseth their exertions crowning them with success. Like
Paul, "they labour, yet not they, but the grace of God who is with them." In this God's help is to be acknowledged, for all depends on him. "For except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it." We must be at our work, and look to God for his assistance. Pray and labour.
3. Sometimes God helps his people by appointing means. Thus in the case of Hezekiah, Isaiah said, "Let them take a lump of figs, and lay it for a plaster upon the boil, and he shall recover." When God intends to help his people and to make use of means and instruments for it, he can easily bring them about and raise them up. Sometimes no way appears for their help, but the Lord brings them about unexpectedly, so that "when the Lord turned again the captivity of Zion, we were like them that dream." If he intends to have his people brought out of Babylon, he raiseth up Cyrus for that purpose. If Elijah must be fed in his hiding place, the ravens shall be employed rather than he suffer want. And often their help comes by such unexpected means that they must say as Jacob did of his son's venison. "How is it that thou hast found it so quickly, my son? And he said, because the Lord thy God brought it unto me." 4. Sometimes without means. "Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the Lord of Hosts. God is not bound to means, as he can work without them. A word from the Lord will bring about his people's help. He can speak peace to them, and so create it. And often when he hath tried his people's patience, by frustrating of means, he will bring about their help without them.
5. Sometimes by contrary means, as our Lord cured the blind man by laying clay upon his eyes. God does not only bring light after, but out of darkness. The troubling of the waters of Bethesda made them healing waters; and the whale that swallowed up Jonah was the ship in which he came ashore. Christ's going away filled the disciples' hearts with sorrow. "Nevertheless," said he, "I tell you the truth, it is expedient for you that I go away; for if I go not away, the comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you." The promise guides the ship of providence, and will make a cross wind drive them to the harbour. "Out of the eater came forth meat, and out of the strong came forth sweetness. For all things shall work together for good to them that love God, and are the called according to his purpose."
Secondly, Let us inquire why the Lord helpeth his people.
1. Because they are in covenant with him. There is a league offensive and defensive betwixt Christ and his people. They have common friends, and common enemies. Hence all the attributes of God are engaged for them, and their help. The promise is made;
He shall call upon me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honour him. Thus the power of God is made the ground of Abraham's comfort by virtue of the covenant, Gen. xvii. 1, 2.
2. Because of their special relation to him. Christ is the believer's head. Hence if the foot be hurt, the head in heaven cries out, Acts ix. 4. He who is their maker, is their husband, their father, and elder brother; in a word they are one with him, one spirit. This is the ground of sympathy betwixt Christ and his people, and secures their help. "For he that toucheth them toucheth the apple of his eye."
3. Because they look to him and trust in him for their help. The 91st psalm has in it a great many blessed promises, but see to whom they belong. "The Lord is a buckler to all those that trust in him." The Lord gives this for the reason why he would help and deliver Ebedmelech the Ethiopian; "because thou hast put thy trust in me, saith the Lord."
It lies upon the honour of God to help those who trust in him. Trust on an ingenuous man will engage him to answer the trust put in him; and God will see to those that trust in him, that they shall not be ashamed.
4. Because the Lord brings his people into straits for this very end, that he may have the glory of helping them; and they may get the greater experience of his kindness. A good friend is best known in adversity and the Lord will let his people's case grow darker till it be near past hope, and then he will arise. "For the Lord shall judge his people, and repent himself for his servants, when he seeth that their power is gone, and there is none shut up, or left." For the lower they are, the greater is the glory of God in delivering them. "For great is thy mercy toward me, saith David, and thou hast delivered my soul from the lowest hell." And none have such rich experience of the Lord's goodness as they that are most in straits, Hos. ii. 14. We now proceed,
III. To speak of the keeping up of the memorial of the experiences which they have had of the Lord's helping them. Here three things demand our attention. First, What it is to keep up this memorial. Secondly, What of these experiences of the Lord's helping should be recorded and kept in memory. And, Thirdly, why should we keep up such a memorial.
First, What it is to keep up the memorial of the Lord's helping
1. It implies an observing of the dispensations we meet with, for our help in the course of our life. If the thing itself be not ob
served, we cannot keep up the memorial of it. "Who is wise and will observe these things, even they shall understand the loving kindness of the Lord." Many times the Lord helps, when we are sleeping and do not observe it. And this makes us like the unjust steward in recounting our mercies, setting down fifty for a hundred. 2. A discerning of the Lord's hand in the help we receive. Alas! men are ready to sacrifice to their own net, and burn incense to their drag: it requires wisdom to see the hand of the Lord in the good things we meet with. "For she did not know, saith the Lord, that I gave her corn, and wine, and oil, and multiplied her silver and gold, which they prepared for Baal."
3. Laying up these experiences and recording them, if not in a book yet in a faithful memory. "And all they that heard them, (the things said of John Baptist at his birth) laid them up in their hearts, saying, what manner of child shall this be! And the hand of the Lord was with him." Many instead of laying such things up, lay them down in the grave of forgetfulness, and instead of setting up a stone, lay a stone upon them, burying them out of sight. They forget that God remembered them in their low estate. "My people," says God, "have forgotten me, days without number." But if these experiences were carefully laid up, the former part of our life would help the latter, and the longer we live the richer we would grow. As in wars former success encourages to future exertions, so is it with the Christian warfare. "Thy servant," said David, "slew both the lion and the bear; and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be as one of them, seeing he hath defied the armies of the living God." Let us,
Secondly, Inquire what of these experiences of the Lord's helping should be recorded and kept in memory.
1. We should record the timing or seasonableness of them. There is often a weight lies on this very circumstance; that the help came at such a time and not another is worthy to be remembered. Many instances of this kind occur in scripture, Gen. XXV. 45; Judges vii. 13. The church remembers the time of her deliverance, Ps. cxxvi. 1. The Lord's help comes always seasonably, though not at our time, yet at his time which is the best. This will let us see the frame of spirit in which the help did overtake us, sometimes when we were looking for it, sometimes when we were not. 2. The effects of them on our spirits. How we are affected with them when they come. "Then," says the church, was our mouth filled with laughter and our tongue with singing." Many times the Lord helps his people in such a manner that the experience of his goodness fills them with shame, looks their doubts and fears out of
countenance, proves their unbelief to be a false prophet, and makes them resolve never to distrust God again and fills them with thankfulness. Isaiah xxxviii. 10, 12; Psal. Ixxiii. 22, 23; and cxvi. 11, 12. O how useful would this be afterwards to the Christian.
3. Their harmony and agreement with the promise. If help come not by virtue of a promise, little use can be made of it this way, and for want of recording this, many of the Lord's people do often question their experiences. Experiences are the bread which the saints have to feed upon in their mournful hours; but the promise is the staff and stay of this bread without which there will be no nourishment in it. Now as face answereth to face in a glass, so God's works answer his words. As we have heard, so have we seen in the city of the Lord of Hosts. Thus David records his experience, saying, "Thou hast dealt well with thy servant, O Lord, according to thy word. The promises in the Bible are all written over in the experiences of the saints. "There failed not ought, said Joshua, of any good thing which the Lord had spoken unto the house of Israel; all came to pass."
4. Their agreement with their prayers. Gen. xxiv. 45. What are the Christian's experiences but returns of prayers. Such was that in the text. This seems to be the ground of that conclusion; "By this I know that thou favourest me, because mine enemy doth not triumph over me." It is of great importance to notice this, for a mercy that is an answer of prayer is a double mercy; and mercies are certainly obtained by prayer, are enjoyed with thankfulness, as in the text. Only there is need of wisdom here, for sometimes God answers prayer not with the blessing itself that was desired but with as good as instead of removing Paul's thorn in the flesh, he said to him, "my grace is sufficient for thee:" and sometimes experiences of the Lord's helping us with our expression in prayer, though not with the pressure of our own spirits, Rom. viii. 26, 27.
Lastly, Even the very place of our experiences should be recorded. The stone was set up where the victory was obtained. There are some golden spots on earth, where the Lord has entertained his people, whereof the very remembrance hath been refreshful to them afterwards. "I will remember thee," says David, "from the land of Jordan and of the Hermonites, from the hill Mizar;" Gen. xxviii. 11–19. And the Lord loves to have his people remember these blessed places, Gen. xxxi. 13; and xxxv. 1. Let us now,
Thirdly, Inquire why we should keep up the memorial of these things.
1. We owe this to God: In point, of obedience, when we meet