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THE FEAST OF INGATHERING AT THE YEAR'S END.*
“And thou shalt observe the feast of weeks, of the first-fruits of wheat-harvest, and the feast of ingathering at the year's end."--Exodus 34 : 22.
The festivals of ancient Israel were memorable occasions. Passover, Pentecost, and the Feast of Tabernacles, here called the “ Feast of Ingathering,” were seasons of festive joy, replete with valuable instruction. Without attempting to draw an exact parallel, we shall accommodate the language of the sacred writer to the present season. If we have no literal ingathering of the fruits of the earth at this particular period, even that is not long past, and we may now have a moral review-an ingathering of spiritual fruits at the year's end, as the result of previous labour.
First of all, mark the particular period of time specified "THE YEAR'S END.” It is a season pregnant with useful lessons to a reflective mind. In the case of ancient Israel, the people at this feast of ingathering dwelt in temporary booths, to remind them that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. We, too, are travelling through a desert, and dwelling in tents; and, at the year's end, when we look back on the way by which we have been led, mingled emotions rise within the breast. The closing year has, to most of us, its dark as well as its sunny memories. As we recall its rapid course, it tells of sorrow's tear and sudden death-it tells of the widow's sigh and the orphan's wail of sorrow-it tells of new-made graves and desolated homes !
* From the United Presbyterian Magazine, of Scotland. VOL. IX. no. 12.
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Should it not also remind you and me, my brother, of the close of life and the end of time? At the end of one year, and near the dawn of another, we stand, as it were, between two worlds ; and, as the old year sinks into its grave and the new one rises to our view, have we not a vivid picture of death and the resurrection—of the transit from this life to the next? The "year's end" comes to every thoughtful mind with a voice of power; and if it could give utterance in words to the comprehensive lesson it is so well fitted to teach, that utterance would be, “Set your affections on things above."
Second. The year's end is expected to exhibit IMPORTANT RESULTS. It is a season of ingathering. The agriculturist computes the result of his toil and the fruits of all his increase, and expects to find his barns filled with plenty. The merchant, at this period, scrutinizes his ledger with special care, reckoning up all the items of profit and loss, and striking a balance, that he may know whether his estate is better or worse for the enterprise of the year. And why should there not be a computing of profit or loss, of progress or backsliding, in spiritual things? The modern Jew, we are told, carefully examines both sides of the spiritual account at the close of every year, that he may know how his soul stands with Heaven. The season is appropriate and suggestive. It is well fitted to fix and define our view, and to help us in our calculation, as we cast our eye back over a given period, and ask ourselves what are the results ? Comparing January with December, can we apply to our own case the language of inspiration, “ Better is the end of a thing than the beginning ?” Is it better with our own souls? Is it better with our children and friends? Is it better with the church to which we belong?
If the agriculturist would look blank and bewildered should he find no ingathering at the year's end,-should not we feel alarmed and ashamed, if, upon careful investigation, we discover that, during twelve months, we have made no progress in the divine life?
Do you, my reader, ever make this periodical investigation into the state of your soul's account with Heaven? If you do not, be concerned, I beseech you, lest you become bankrupt before God! When the merchant has an inward consciousness that he is going back in the world—that it is all loss and no profit in his businesshe shrinks from an investigation of his ledger, lest it should, too certainly, reveal to him the dreaded truth!
Better to pause in time, and ponder, and investigate, and place thyself, my brother, under Divine guidance, lest, when it is too late, a balance be found struck against thee in the book of God's remembrance. At this year's end, let there be in every home, and in every conscience, a careful reckoning, so as to determine, if possible, what is the result—what the ingathering which arises from the providences and privileges of the past.
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