|Vol. IV, No. 6
Elul 5606, September 1846
A Moral Discourse.
By A Believing Israelite.
“The harvest is past, the summer is ended and we are not saved.”
“Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there? why then is not the health of the daughter of my people recovered?”—Jeremiah 8:21-23.
The history of the children of Israel is full of the most striking evidences of the fatherly care and tender devotion of the Almighty over the spiritual and temporal welfare of the people of his choice. From the moment of the selection of Abraham as the Father of the Faithful, down to the present time, amid all the checkered scenes through which our nation has passed, have this devotion and care been strongly manifested. They were manifested when in Egypt we were preserved from annihilation under the cruel edicts of the heartless Pharaoh; they were manifested when with strong hand, and outstretched arm, He tore us from the grasp of cruel taskmasters, and bore us unharmed through the desert, and the fierce nations of the earth, and planted us in Zion’s holy land, where under the broad panoply of His love we lived and flourished. Nor is the manifestation of His care less striking even now, when the black cloud of his displeasure rests upon us. And, indeed, my friends, if our hearts were not cold and flinty; if they were not dead to all tenderness, and love, and gratitude, we would be covered with shame and confusion for our manifold sins, and our black ingratitude to our Father—our God. Through the whole Bible are scattered, like bright gems, living evidences of this love, this tenderness, this devotion—this constant anxiety that Israel “would cease to do evil and learn to do well.” God seems never weary of exhorting us to the performance of our duties, and entreating us in the tenderest terms, so to live as to secure happiness here and hereafter. “Can a woman forget her sucking child—yea, they may forget, but I will not forget thee.”—Isaiah 49:15.
But I would more especially call your attention to the solemn warning contained in the verses at the head of this discourse, and the strong manifestation of God’s love and tender solicitude for our welfare, which are there exhibited.
“The harvest is past—the summer is ended, and we are not saved.”
This apt, though figurative, illustration of Israel’s forlorn condition, and of the abiding sinfulness of the nation, is very striking, and peculiarly appropriate. It was addressed to an agricultural people, and most forcibly conveyed the idea of that sluggishness of sin, and indifference to virtue, into which Israel had fallen. The warm, bright beams of a summer’s sun had, in vain, been poured in rich effulgence upon the fertile fields—in vain had the yellow and ripened grain, waving in luxuriant beauty and fullness, invited the sickle of the husbandman. So, too, with Israel morally. The manifestations of God’s love, and his oft repeated exhortations to repentance, had all been unheeded, and the Prophet, sickening over the heart-rending spectacle of Israel’s sinfulness and indifference, exclaims in hid peculiarly energetic and flowing style, “The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved.”
And alas, my friends, I too, may exclaim to you, in the language of the inspired man of God, “The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved.” Search your own hearts, and answer me, when I ask you, are not these words as applicable to your present condition as they were to your sinful ancestors in the days when the pious Jeremiah mourned over the degradation of the people? Are you not daily and hourly neglecting to reap the harvest of salvation so freely and so temptingly offered to you?—are you not suffering the golden period of ripened manhood to pass away, without grasping the rich and inestimable treasures of God’s love and mercy?—are you not standing idle while time and opportunity are thus fleeting, perhaps never to return, unredeemed from your iniquities and from your sins “not saved?” Put these questions to your hearts in the quiet retirement of your chambers, and may God in his infinite mercy lead you to an active repentance—an utter abandonment of your sins, and a change from cold-hearted indifference to a zealous burning desire to obey the commandments of the Lord and to walk in his statutes. Is there any thing in life so important to you as the salvation of your immortal souls? Can you gather any harvest so rich, any treasure so valuable, as the priceless gem of a soul saved from the consequences of sin? at peace with the world, waiting the pleasure of the Lord, and ready, when time shall have passed away, to wing its course to mansions of the blessed?—The period of our stay upon earth is known to no man—we are here to-day and gone to-morrow. The old, the young, the rich, the poor, the strong and the weak, are each and all subject to the call of the King of Terrors. From the shafts of death no panoply can protect you; neither health, nor youth, nor wealth, nor power. Now, then, is the accepted hour—now is the tine of harvest. In the secret recesses of your chambers, under the broad canopy of heaven, or in the holy temples dedicated to the blessed unity of the living and ever merciful God, you may register your vows of amendment, and around His sacred altars gather the harvest of salvation. Oh! come then, house of Israel, to these living waters, wash yourselves from your iniquities, and “though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow—though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.”—(Isaiah, 1:18.) I would not, however, my friends, in a matter of such vast importance, appeal to your feelings alone—I would address myself to your reason; to your calm, dispassionate judgment.
Apart from the considerations of duty, as a mere matter of interest it would be well for us to obey God and keep his commandments. Have you ever compared time with eternity—the shortness of the one—the never ending duration of the other? Have you ever compared the vain, fleeting and transitory pleasures of this life, with the permanent, unchanging, and unchangeable joys of heaven? Who holds or can hold the goods of this world by any certain tenure? Riches take unto themselves wings and fly away—the glory and honours of this world are proverbially evanescent. The tender parent, the prattling babe, the loved and chosen bride of our heart, may in an instant be taken from us, and we be left like the blasted and withered tank of some noble tree, whose green and spreading beauties have been shattered and scathed by the lightnings of Heaven. It is, then, I repeat, clearly a matter of interest that we should prize and seek after the things of Eternity, and not of Time. The daily reading of God’s holy word with a prayerful heart—an habitual obedience to his commands—the restraining of our passions by proper self denial, and the practice of charity and other virtues—are the aids and appliances by which we may lay up treasures for Eternity. Let us do these things, and peace and tranquillity will be our lot, here and hereafter. They will give us an impenetrable shield against the ills, the privations, and the vexations of life—they will teach us to regard them as the mere trials of our faith—as the crucible through which we must pass to prepare and refine us for the higher and holier joys of heaven.
“Is there no balm in Gilead?—Is there no physician there?” These questions are not asked doubtingly, as is manifested by the prophet immediately exclaiming, “Why, then, is not the health of the daughter of my people recovered?” And well and feelingly might he ask the question; for why should there be any moral ailment in Israel, when they possess the living God as their Physician, and His blessed revelation from which they may draw a balm for every wound. In these degenerate days it is too common to hear Israelites say, that our religion wants spirit, and that there is something soothing in the idea of a redeemer and mediator. This is rank blasphemy when uttered by Jewish lips. The lack of spirit is in the heart of the blasphemer, who raises his voice against that religion which God has himself, established for his chosen people. Hast thou read thy Bible, O vain and foolish son of Israel? Alas! I fear not, or thou wouldst have known that all of lofty piety, pure morality, and extended charity, which is found in the book of Christ’s apostles is but copied from our own, and holy Bible “Why then is not the health of the daughter of my people recovered?” For there is balm in Gilead—there is a Physician there. God is that Physician, who will pour balm into our wounded hearts, and will heal all of our transgressions. He is our Redeemer, our Deliverer, our Saviour. Look unto Him, then, O house of Israel, and be ye saved.
Israel needs no other Redeemer than the Lord of Hosts, who spoke to Moses on the Mount, and revealed to him His sacred will. “The Lord’s hand is not shortened that it cannot save, neither his ear heavy that he cannot hear.” Isaiah 49:1.
We want no mediator. The tender mercies of the Lord are ever ready to be poured forth upon his repentant children.
“Seek ye the Lord while HE may be found.” “Call ye upon HIM while HE is near.” “Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; and let him return unto the Lord, and HE will have mercy upon him, and unto our God, for HE will abundantly pardon.” Isaiah 55:5, 7.