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SIGNS AND DUTIES
THE PRESENT TIMES.
With some account of a Society of Clergymen in London, whose object it has been to promote
vital godliness at this alarming period.
DRAWN UP AND PUBLISHED BY THE DESIRE OF THE SOCIETY, 1799.
N.B. The substance of this Tract was first preached as a Sermon, on Chron. xii. 32, and though afterwards drawn up in another form, it seems proper that it should be added to the preceding Sermons on the same subject.
SIGNS AND DUTIES
THE TIMES, &c.
THE holy Scriptures are represented by the apostle, not only as "able to make us wise unto salvation, "through faith which is in Christ Jesus," but as sufficient likewise to "furnish us thoroughly unto all good "works."* Hence we may conclude with certainty, that they contain instructions, cautions, and examples, suitable to our various circumstances; and, if properly attended to, would in all cases be a "light to our feet, " and a lantern to our paths." On the other hand, the same apostle observes, that "Whatsoever things were "written aforetime, were written for our learning:"+ so that we may also be sure, that every part of Scripture contains some important lesson, which at one time or other may be peculiarly useful.
These considerations may suffice to prepare the reader for attending carefully to a passage in sacred history, which may hitherto have but little attracted his notice. The principal persons of Issachar, in the days of David, had so well considered the signs and events
2 Tim. iii. 15-17.
† Rom. xv. 4.
of the times in which they lived, and so well under. stood what the Lord was doing, and what he called them to do; that they were enabled to render their influence, in the tribe, subservient to the important good of the country. "The children of Issachar-were 'men that had understanding of the times, to know "what Israel ought to do: the heads of them were "two hundred, and all their brethren were at their “commandment."*--The Lord had promised that David should reign over all Israel: but so long as Ishbosheth the son of Saul was living, the men of Issachar wisely judged, that the time was not arrived for the fulfilment of that promise, and that a premature attempt would only occasion the needless effusion of human blood: but when Ishbosheth was removed, they understood that the time was come, and that it was their duty to afford David all the assistance in their power. Had they moved sooner, or had they waited longer, they would have acted unseasonably: but the timing of the service was as important as the service itself.
We may learn from this instance, that there is a kind of observation and intelligence concerning the circumstances and events of the times, which is intimately connected with the knowledge and perform. ance of our duty: and that this understanding of the times is peculiarly needful and useful to those, who in any way have influence over collective bodies. It may indeed at first sight be thought to belong exclusively
* 1 Chron. xii. 32.
to statesmen, senators, magistrates, and others who possess secular distinctions; and it might be supposed that ministers of religion especially have little occasion for it. But this sentiment, when adopted in too general a sense, is evidently erroneous: for though the political understanding of the times is principally requi site for those, who are concerned to know what they ought to do politically, for the good of the nation; yet every man's duty varies, in some respects, according to circumstances, and cannot properly be performed, if he remain entirely uninformed in these matters.
The understanding of the times, however, which is necessary for ministers or private christians, does not greatly relate to political questions: to be well acquainted with the instructions of the holy Scriptures concerning God's providential government of the world and of the church, and to know how to apply them to events which take place around us, is sufficient. Thus we shall be enabled to form a judgment, from what men have done, or are attempting, concerning what the Lord is doing or about to do; and to determine, from his word, the special duties to which he calls uş in our several places.
This knowledge is recommended in the Scriptures, and the want of it is severely reproved. Thus Isaiah says, "In that day did the LORD of Hosts call to "weeping, and to mourning, and to baldness, and to "girding with sackcloth: and behold joy and gladness, slaying oxen and killing sheep, eating flesh and "drinking wine. Let us eat and drink, for to-morrow << we shall die! And it was revealed in mine ears by