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No. 5. VOL. XI.]
JEREMIAH viii. 20.
[WHOLE NO. 125.
BY REV. EDWARD F. CUTTER,
THE HARVEST PAST.
The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved.
IN the verses preceding the text, the prophet predicts an approaching inva. sion of the Chaldeans, upon the land of Judah. In strong and expressive language, he describes the desolations, that would attend their march. The grapes should perish from the vine, and the figs from the fig tree; and even the leaf should fade. Their land being thus laid waste, the inhabitants of Judah would consult together to flee to the defenced cities, and hide themselves there in silent fear; "for the Lord their God had put them to silence, and, because of their sins, given them water of gall for their drink."
Meanwhile the hosts of the enemy came on with rapid step. Their troops, were so numerous that the snorting of the war horses echoed through the whole land. Their fierceness and cruelty equalled their numbers. They are compared to deadly and venomous serpents and cockatrices, who would not be tamed by any charm, but would fasten their poisonous fangs upon all alike. This denoted the blood-thirsty spirit of the Chaldeans, who would spare neither age nor sex, but imbrue their hands in the blood of all, old and young, the infant of a few days, and the hoary headed veteran of three-score winters.
In this state of desolation the children of Judah would be overwhelmed with terror. When they sought comfort against sorrow, their hearts would faint within them, their cry would be great, their minds would be turned to their God and King, whom they had justly provoked to bring upon them this fearful desolation. But their sins had hid his face, and from him no deliverance came. The season in which they might have looked for aid from their allies, the Egyptians had also passed: the summer months were gone, and the autumnal season was rapidly wasting, the winter was fast approaching, in which no army could be expected to come to their relief. Every hope of safety or deliver,
VOL. XI. No. 5.
ance was cut off: all was dark and cheerless, and they exclaimed in the pathetic lamentation of the text, "the harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved." The season in which we might have looked for deliverance has forever fled, and we are still without means of escape. What shall we do? where turn our eyes? whither direct our steps? shall light yet break upon us, and hope once more cheer the soul: or shall we perish here by the sword of the enemy, or pine away under the wasting of famine and disease? We may imagine the feelings and perplexities of a people thus situated: we may form some idea of their distress and anxiety, as the season of hope passed away and no deliverance came, till the heart, already too often made sick by hope deferred, was shrouded in despair, and they settled down upon the fatal conviction that all expectation of safety was forever cut off. But what are such sufferings and anxieties, agonizing as they are, when compared with those of the sinner, who procrastinates the work of salvation so long, as to suffer the favorable opportunity of securing it to slip away, and awakes at last to the bitter consciousness, that the harvest is past, the summer ended, but his soul is not saved? It is, that I may, so far as lies in my power, warn all of you against this dreadful end, that I have chosen these words as the theme of our meditation on the present occasion. In the remarks to be offered upon them, I propose to consider,
I. Some seasons, that ought to be regarded, as special seasons, and oppor. tunities, of seeking salvation.
II. The danger of suffering such seasons to pass unimproved.
Let us then notice some of the seasons that ought to be regarded as peculiarly favorable to seeking, and securing salvation.
The period of our natural life is the great season of probation; God has been pleased at various eras of his government to grant unto man an allotted number of years upon earth, in which to gather up provision for immortality.
The years of the antediluvians were many, their life was protracted through many centuries, and they were permitted to see their posterity to many generations; but when they waxed mighty in sin, and instead of improving their long life as a means of growth in holiness, made it an occasion of more exceed. ing iniquity Jehovah, declared that "his Spirit should not always strive with man," and he reduced the number of his days to one hundred and twenty years. Afterward, in the time of Moses, he again limited man's sojourn on earth to threescore years and ten: this brief period now comprises the entire season of probation. There is no work, nor device, in the grave: but, after death cometh the judgment. Life viewed in this light, is clothed with a value and im. portance, which cannot attach to it under any other aspect. For, when considered with reference to its duration, it is a shadow that vanisheth away-the flower of the field that withereth in an hour,―the vapor that is dried up by the earliest sunbeam-it is even as an hand-breadth. When considered with refer. enee to its pursuits, its joys or its sorrows, they are mean, worthless, transi. tory-light as bubbles that float in the summer air. But when regarded as a season of preparation for eternity, life, though brief its duration and transitory its pursuits, has a value no human mind can estimate :
"It is the hour that God has given,
The Bible every where presents it to our consideration in this solemn light. And we ourselves in seasons of anxiety or suffering, are led to adopt similar views. Thus sickness or the approach of death causes many a careless sinner to look upon life, not as a season of mere earthly business or pleasure, but as a period, big with eternal interests. The hour of death is indeed to every individual, what the great day of account is to the world, a season of harvest, when all the seeds sown in the present life will yield their natural fruit. "They that have sown to the flesh, shall of the flesh reap corruption: and they that have sown to the spirit, shall of the spirit reap life everlasting." How many, in that hour of deep and solemn interest, who have sported away their precious life in pleasure's giddy round, and have toiled amid scenes of ambition or interest, to the neglect of the one thing needful, are left to cry, in bitter but unavailing repentance, "The harvest is past, the summer is ended, but we are not saved!"
There are however some periods of life, which afford more favorable opportunities than others for seeking the salvation of the soul, these claim espe cial notice. Thus the days of childhood and youth offer more promising seasons than any subsequent stage of life. The habits of sin are then less firmly fixed: the character is yet in the process of formation, the mind and heart are more susceptible and open to impression, the entangling influence of worldly companions is weaker: and the cares and avocations of life are less annoying and multifarious, than in middle life or old age. Moreover religious truth then comes fresh to the mind. It is new, and its motives have not been presented and resisted, till they have lost all power to interest or move. The child will weep when told of a Savior's sufferings; his tender sympathies will all be awake when you speak to him of the manger, the crown of thorns, the purple robe, and the cross. His eye will fasten with unwearied attention, on his mother's face, and his ear drink in every word, as she tells of the pearly gates, the golden streets, the chrystal fountains, the shining robes, and glorious songs of heaThe affecting story of Joseph or Samuel, beloved of God, from early childhood, will touch his heart and excite his emulation. But how soon does he lose this interest, and become hardened against these impressions! What mother has not had occasion to mourn, that, as her children advanced in years, the difficulty of gaining their attention to religious conversation has increased, and their aversion to religious truth has increased also. Youth is indeed a most favorable season to seek after God. Even with the aid of natural observation alone, we may see it is a favored hour, a day of grace, which once neglected, never returns. And the Bible by its invitations and promises, abundantly confirms this truth, "Remember thy Creator in the days of thy youth," says the royal preacher, "while the evil days come not, nor the years draw nigh, when thou shalt say I have no pleasure in them.' "They that seek me early," is the promise of God, "shall find me." "Suffer little children to come unto me," says the blessed Savior, " for of such is the kingdom of heaven."
Another season, deserving special notice, is the time of health and reason
This demands careful attention, because many would put off the whole work of salvation to a sick bed or dying hour. A moment's reflection will teach all such the absurdity and folly of such procrastination. Is there, in the whole compass of subjects which invite man's notice in the present life, one which demands so early and careful attention as religion? Is there one which calls for the exercise of mental vigor and strength in so great a degree as this? We act more wisely in reference to temporal affairs. No man thinks of postponing his most difficult and important business to the hour of sickness. On the contrary he improves the day of health in arranging his affairs and securing his interests; but, when he is urged to provide for the welfare of his soul, his wisdom often deserts him, and he would put off attention to this momentous subject till the hour of sickness and death. How well might God reply, as in the days of Malichi, "If ye offer the blind for sacrifice, is it not evil? and if ye offer the lame and the sick, is it not evil?” What? should the day of health and mental vigor be wasted in sin, and the hours of weakness and pain alone be consecrated to God? No! it is a delusion. The true harvest time, the proper season for laying up provision for immortality is while we are in the enjoyment of health and reason. The ant improves the warm days and clear, pleasant sunshine of summer, to gather her winter stores. And many a sluggard in spiritual things might go to her and be taught a lesson of wisdom. Sickness is to man, as the dread winter to her, the hour when he needs to satisfy his soul on the provision laid by in summer in the days of health, when all is bright and cheerful, and his mind is able to grasp the weighty realities of eternity. It is an hour of weakness and pain, when the mind itself is half distracted by the decay of its tenement, and a thousand dark forebodings of evil that depress the spirits, unhinge the judgment and almost unfit the man for calm and sober reflection. How melan. choly the situation of those who come to such an hour and are called to bear, besides all other mental and bodily suffering, the agonizing thought that the summer is ended, and they yet have made no provision for the winter that has already overtaken them!
A third season, claiming notice as a day of grace, is the Sabbath. God has hallowed this day for himself. He has clothed it with deep and awful interest, as a season of rest from worldly care and of special consecration to his service. He has made it the day of prayer. He has taught his children to open wide the gates of his sanctuary, and sound forth the note of invitation to all who will come up to the courts of the Lord. He has placed his heralds upon the walls of Zion, and commanded them to proclaim in the ears of every passer-by, the great messages of his word. In short, he has made the Sabbath for man; and, like all other gifts of our heavenly Father's hand, it is appointed for man's good. It is designed as a barrier to the flood of sin and temptation, that rolls around us during all the week. It is to stand as a friendly and whispering monitor at the door of every man's conscience, reminding him at the dawn of each week of eternal realities. It is therefore a peculiarly favorable season for seeking God. It breaks off, in a measure, the current of worldly business it admonishes of eternity: it leads the feet to the house of God: it