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the valley of Baca, I will explain myself.” They came to the valley of Baca, and, behold, it was very dry! The streams in the desert were passed away like the summer brook, and the heavens gave no sign of rain. The pilgrims were panting “as the hart for the water-brooks,” but found none. All eyes were turned to Sheshbazzar. “Shake the mulberry trees,” he said. They shook them, and dew, pure and plenteous as “the dew of Hermon,” began to pour from every leaf. They made wells around the mulberry trees to prevent the showers from being absorbed in the sand of the desert, and then shook the trees again. They drank; but, though refreshed, they were not satisfied. They looked to Sheshbazzar again. His eyes were up unto God. He raised “the song of Degrees” in that “house of their pilgrimage.” All joined in it, and sung, “I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. My help cometh from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.” The pilgrims paused. No cloud appeared on Carmel, and no sound of rain was heard from the wings of the wind. “Hath the Lord forgotten to be gracious?” was a question quivering on the parched lips of many. Sheshbazzar alone was utterly unmoved. He raised again the song of Degrees, and his rich and mellow-toned voice sounded in the wilderness like the jubilee-trumpet amongst the mountains of Jerusalem. The pilgrims listened as if an angel had sung:—“He will not suffer thy foot to be moved : he that keepeth thee will not slumber. The Lord is thy keeper: The Lord is thy shade upon the right hand. The Lord shall preserve thee from all evil: he shall preserve thy soul. The Lord shall preserve thy going out, and thy coming in, from this time forth, and for evermore.” He paused, and bowed his head, and worshipped. The pilgrims felt their faith in God reviving, and renewed their part of the song: I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. My help cometh from the Lord, who made heaven and earth. And whilst they sung, “the Lord gave a plentecus rain” to refresh his weary heritage in the wilderness. .
When they had drank, and were satisfied, and had blessed the God of their fathers, Sheshbazzar said, “My children the ProMises of God are the mulberry trees in this valley of tears. The dew of heaven lies all night on their branches, and some dew may always be shaken from them. When I was widowed, like our father Jacob, I shook that unfading mulberry tree, “The Lord liveth; and blessed be the rock of my salvation.’ When like David, our king, I was bereaved of my children, I shook that broad-branching mulberry tree, ‘I will be unto thce a better portion than sons or daughters.’ Accordingly, I have found no trial, without finding some dew of consolation upon the trees of promise, whenever I shook them. And when more was necessary, God has strengthened me with strength in my soul.”
The pilgrims looked at the mulberry trees in the valley of Baca, which they had shaken, and smiled
complacently on the good old man. He saw it, and continued his parable:–
“It was not whilst Job pondered and brooded over his calamities, that he said of God, ‘Though he slay me, yet will I put my trust in him : he was shaking the mulberry trees when he said this; and when he said, “The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” Abraham would never have yielded Isaac to the altar, if he had not shaken that great mulberry tree—“In thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed.’”
Thus the pilgrims went on, “from strength to strength,” listening to the wisdom of Sheshbazzar; and “every one of them” appeared “before God in Zion.”
It is, perhaps, quite as necessary to explain the implicit faith of some matrons, as the doubting faith of others.
Amongst many fond and fanciful names, which Sheshbazzar's young friends bestowed upon him, the favorite one, with them, was—the Beershebean Eagle. Agreeably to this title, his grove, upon the hill of vineyards, was called the Eagle's Nest.— The emblem was not misapplied; for “as an eagle stirreth up her nest, fluttereth over her young, spreadeth abroad her wings, taketh them, beareth them on her wings,” so Sheshbazzar, guarded and guided his young friends. It was not often, however, that the old man could climb the hill of vineyards to visit the eagle's nest. His favorite seat was under his fig tree. But there—his young friends could not be alone with him. The elders of Beersheba often visited him there, after the evening sacrifice; and some of them had no sympathy with the vivacity of the young. Sheshbazzar's eaglets seemed, to them, to require checks rather than encouragements. He himself was often told, that if he did not clip their wings, they would soon flee off from the ark of the covenant, and, like Noah's raven, never return. Sheshbazzar was wont to say, in answer to this, “that wings were not made to be clipped: if their flight be well directed, they cannot be too wide, nor too strong. Let us treat the young as Noah did the dove; welcoming them into the ark of our confidence whenever they are weary, and never putting them upon the wing except for sacred purposes; then, like the dove, they will return ‘bringing an olive leaf" to garland our grey hairs.”
The elders of Beersheba had not been treated thus in the days of their youth; and, therefore, they did not understand the principles of Sheshbazzar's conduct. “It is one of your odd ways,” they said, “and whoever lives to see the end of it will find that the old way of checking is the best.” He meekly answered, “We can never check what is evil in the young, unless we cherish what is good in them.” Agreeably to this maxim, he requested his young friends to meet him in the grove after the hour of the morning sacrifice.
They came to the eagle's nest, full of the recol
“Not in the least, Esrom,” said Sheshbazzar; “and, when you have more than one idea of this sobject, you will find that their character is superior, not to their knowledge, but to their talents and tongues. Each of them knows experimentally that the God of his fathers is the God of Salvation; and that single truth, when vividly and habitually realized, by minds of any order, is quite sufficient to account for any degree of hope or holiness. The minds of the elders are, indeed, comparatively narrow; but they are completely full, and absorbed with the TRUTH of TRUths;–and a serAph's mind cannot be more than full! I should, indeed, prefer to see their thoughts in clusters like the grapes, and in ears like the corn, or at least, threaded like the pearls of the Queen of Sheba; but pearls do not grow in strings, and the wine is sweetest when the grapes are picked off from the stalks, and the ear must be broken up before the corn can be made into bread.” Thus Sheshbazzar played with the subject, that he might divert the attention of his eaglets from it. But Rachel was there, and she had been wounded, as well as mortified, by the cold looks and cutting sarcasms of the elders; and as she was now more intent upon excelling in character, than on shining in talent or knowledge, she repeated the question—How do these good men act better than they understand?
Sheshbazzar denied again that they did, “They merely act better than they explain. They have reasons for their conduct and spirit, although they cannot always ‘render a reason' in words. Their reasons may be few, but they are not weak. The form of them may not be philosophical nor fascinating; but the substance of them is divine. The simple considerations—‘This is the will of God,'— ‘That is for the glory of God,”—“Thus the Patriarchs acted,'—determine the character of the elders, as effectually as the sublimest forms of these facts could sway the master-spirits of the universe, and far more effectually than your poetical reasons influence your faith or practice.”
“My children,” said the old man, and he became solemn as a dying man, “mistake not my meaning nor motives. I look at you too often not to see it, and love you too well not to tell it—your minds are not yet full nor happy by what you know of the
God of your fathers, as the God of salvation. Your hearts are still divided between God and the world. You are afraid to forget or forsake Him, and it is well; but you do not delight to be often alone with him in prayer, nor to meditate upon His character, except when your thoughts assume forms of mystery or majesty. You are rather fascinated by sublime ideas of Jehovah, than affected by sweet or solemn ideas. His character attracts you more by the boundless range which it opens to your excursive imagination, than by the solid basis it asfords for your eternal hopes. Accordingly, were your best thoughts resolved into their simple elements, they would lose more than one half of their hold upon you. The facts of the great salvation, without its figures, would be held tame by you—so much are you the creatures of fancy. But what are the constellated images with which genius has enshrined, as with another ‘cloud of glory,' the ark of the covenant; compared with the simple fact, that our God is the God of salvation ? This truth duly apprehended and appreciated, would render the ark of the covenant glorious in your eyes, even if the shechinah were removed from it, or had never rested upon it.”
“True, father,” said Rachel, blushing as she spoke; “but the God who gave the covenant of promise, gave the shechinah of glory along with it. He himself has invested and enshrined even the truth of truths with its chief attractions, and thrown around it all the pomp and plenitude of imagery.”
“I grant it, my daughter—readily grant it, and cordially rejoice in the ‘divers manners' in which God spoke unto our fathers by the prophets. I feel that I owe much both to the splendid and the mysterious forms in which the great salvation has been revealed. I doubt, from the character of my own mind, whether the covenant, is given in simpler forms, would have arrested my wayward attention, so as to win and fix my volatile heart. The majesty of God's language is, however, a part of God's infinite condescension. Nor must we forget the character of our nation, when He multiplied and heightened the hallowed enshrinements of the covenant. Noah required no shechinah on Ararat, nor Abraham on Moriah, to endear the covenant to them, or to induce them to set the bloody seal of sacrifice to it. Both the magnificence and the variety of Mosaic worship are, therefore, the measure of our fathers' minds, when they came out of Egypt
and settled in Canaan. *
“But I have no wish to evade the force of Rachel's remark. God has as evidently diversified the forms of truth to please the mind, as the flavor of fruits, or the color of flowers, to gratify the senses. The food of the soul is obviously from the same hand as the food of the body. It is not, however, the rind of the pomegranate, nor the bloom of the grape, nor the golden tinge of the corn, that we prize most. We do prize these lovely hues as proofs of ripeness, but the nourishment is in the fruit which they beautify: so it is with revealed truth.
“I have thought, too, at times, that there are deeper reasons for the profusion of figurative language in the word of God, than some suspect. For, by thus seizing upon all the sublime and lovely objects in nature, and consecrating them to the illustration of the Divine character and government, so that they burn as lamps around the eternal throne, God has created a grand antidote against Idol ATRY. The natural objects which are the gods of other nations are thus made the mere servants of the true God, or only the shadows of his glory: so that what they worship, we employ as helps in his worship. And, who could bow to the sun shining in his strength, or kiss the hand to the moon walking in her brightness, who had once read, that God is the “Father of lights, without variableness or the shadow of turning o' Esrom you can follow out this hint; it is quite in your line of things.
“And, Rachel, the following hint is in your line. There is a strong tendency to extremes in the human mind. Some who love nature with enthusiasm, loathe religion, or conceal their dislike to it under the thin veil of polite and vague compliments. Others love religion with unquestionable cordiality; but, from seeing the votaries of nature averse to the word and worship of Jehovah, they are afraid of nature, and inclined to frown upon
every reference to its beauties or sublimities. They |
thus seem to think that a star or a flower is as likely as Baal or Ashtaroth, to estrange the human mind from God and godliness. In their estimation, it is heresy to speak well of “the sweet influences of the Pleiades;” and empty sentimentality to be af. fected by the varied scenery of the heavens or the earth. They confine themselves to scriptural language, and yet forget that it is full of nature | The word of God registers all the works of God, and calls them all forth ‘in their season,’ to do homage to itself and its subjects; and yet these good people seem unconscious of the fact. Was it not as an antidote against this divorce of nature from religion, that God incorporated with the revelation of eternal things so many appeals to the scenes and seasons of nature ? Rachel, this is in your new line of things. Whilst you were prayerless, you were a mere sentimentalist; and only too willing to find excuses for the neglect of the Scriptures. You preferred the works of God to the word of God. This proved how little you read the latter, and how superficially you studied the former. Nothing honors nature so highly as the Bible has done. Moses and the Prophets have looked upon the heavens and the earth with a more poetic eye than the poets of antiquity, or the harpers of our own times.”
Thus the Eagle of Beersheba guarded and guided his young.
No. W. THE MARYS At The cross.
THERE are no familiar expressions, which a Chris
tian understands better, or means more by, than the
emphatic words,-"visiting Calvary,”—“going to
|tation, or even than Protestant admiration.
the Cross,”—“leaning on the Cross,”—“kneeling at the Cross,”—“clinging to the Cross,”—“looking to the Cross.” In one or other of these consecrated forms of speech, a Christian embodies all that is best in the spirit of his penitence, and of his faith, and of his devotion. Indeed, when his heart is not at the Cross, his penitence is neither deep nor tender; his faith neither strong nor lively; his devotion neither sweet nor solemn. Whenever he ceases to glory in the Cross, he sinks into coldness or formality. And is he quit the Cross, or lose sight of it, he loses both hope and heart, until he get back to it again. Nothing of this experience has, of course, any connection with the use that was once made of crosses and crucifixes, in religion. When they were most in use, such experience was least known. More hearts, and more of each heart, have been won to Christ crucified by the preaching of the Cross, than by all the visible exhibitions of it which painting ever embodied, or sculpture emblazoned.— When crosses were most numerous, real Christians were fewest, and the real Cross least influential.— This is only what might be expected. Emblems, by bringing home the crucifixion to the senses, kept the understanding and the heart far off from its great principles, and its true spirit.
But whilst Christian experience itself has had nothing to do with the once popular uses of a visible cross, the language in which that experience speaks, is, in no small degree, both derived and enriched from this old source. The familiar expressions which once described what the body did at a cross,
or with a crucifix, now describes exactly what the
soul tries to do when contemplating the Lamb of God, slain for the sin of the world. Not, however, that the scriptural worship of Protestantism is thus an intended or conscious imitation of the bodily service of Popery: no, indeed: such an idea never occurs to the mind, even when it is clasping and clinging to the Cross in thought, just as superstition did to the symbol in action...
We are not, however, indebted to superstition for all our emphatic forms of expressing the exercise of faith or penitence, at the Cross. Superstition itself borrowed the elements of its best language, on this subject, from the word of God. Both the holding up of the crucifix, by the priest, and the looking at it, by the penitent, are literal imitations: the one of setting forth Christ “openly crucified,” and the other of believing on Him with the heart. In like manner, the postures and gestures of superstition at a cross, are imitations of the real or supposed conduct of the Marys on Calvary. Their conduct, however, deserves something better than popish imiIt is more complimented than understood. The Marys were, indeed, “the last at the Cross, and the first at the Sepulchre, of Christ;” and felt, no doubt, all that poetry or piety has ascribed to them, on that solemn occasion. They must, however, have felt far more, and in another way, than is usually supposed. For, unless the Virgin Mary bc an excep
tion to the others, they had not exactly our views of the death of Christ, to guide their feelings.What we look at as an atoning sacrifice offered to God, they saw chiefly as an atrocious murder perpetrated by man. Whilst we see chiefly, on Calvary, the flashing sword of Divine Justice, and the bursting vials of Divine Anger, they saw only the gleaming of the Roman arms, and the glare of Jewish vengeance. Where we hear chiefly the thunders of the Divine Law, they heard-only the ferocious execrations of a frantic mob. Their feelings, whilst witnessing the crucifixion, could not therefore be akin to our feelings whilst contemplating it. Their sorrow, then, deep, and melting, and genuine as it was, was not penitence, nor was their overwhelming depression humility. Their love to Christ was, indeed, at its height, when his own love to them and to the world was highest; but it was not as an atoning Saviour they loved him then.
They did, however, love him then and before, as a Saviour; yea, as the only Saviour. It is as much under the sober truth to ascribe their love to Christ unto sympathy, friendship, or ordinary gratitude, as it is beyond the truth, to ascribe it unto faith in the atoning efficacy or design of his death. Two of the Marys, at least, cannot be supposed to have known or believed more, at the time, than the Apostles did: and they neither understood then what Christ had foretold of his resurrection, nor approved what he had foretold of his death. Accordingly, the women were as hopeless as the men, on the morning of the third day, until the Angels told them of his resurrection: for it was not to welcome a living Saviour, but to complete the entombment of the dead Saviour, that they went so early and eagerly to the sepulchre. The “sweet spices” they brought
to “anoint Him,” prove that they had no hope of
finding him alive then. Mark xvi. 1. They were not, however, without faith in Him, as the Saviour, even then. Mary of Magdala continued to speak of Him as her “Lord,” even when she supposed that his body had been removed from the sepulchre, and laid somewhere else. John xx. 13. “They have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid him,” was her first answer to the Angels, when they said to her, “Woman, why weepest thou?” I would not graft too much meaning upon the word “Lord” itself, in this instance; nor upon her use of it at the time. I will suppose nothing more, than that she used it then just in the sense she had been accustomed to attach to it, whilst the Saviour was alive: and there is no reason whatever, to think that His death had altered her opinion of either his Messiahship or his Sonship. It had, no doubt, blasted all her hope of seeing Him establish that temporal kingdom on earth, which all the disciples expected: but it withered none of the hopes of pardon and eternal life, which she had formerly
planted upon the power and promises of the Son of,
This is the real point to be kept in view, whilst judging of the motives and emotions of the Marys at the Cross. They did not understand that the
Lamb of God was then taking away the sin of the world, or laying down his life as a ransom for them; but they had no doubt, even then, of his being the Lamb of God, nor of his being their Saviour. All their conduct on Calvary, and especially the honorable and costly funeral they prepared for Christ, prove, to a demonstration, that their “hope in Christ” had not died with him. It does not seem to have dimmed at all, even when the sun became darkness; nor to have shaken at all, even when the earth shook and trembled; nor to have drooped at all, even when the sepulchre was sealed. Their hope of salvation was then as much with him “in Paradise,” as the spirit of the penitent thief was there with him. "
The truth of these strong assertions lies on the very surface of the narrative; and applies equally to Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus. Indeed, there is no evidence, director indirect, that the death of Christ overthrew the spiritual hopes, or altered the spiritual opinions, of any of the disciples. It upset all their hope of a temporal kingdom, or of what they called, “redeeming Israel;” but it does
'not seem to have brought the shadow of either a
doubt or a suspicion upon their minds, in regard to his Divine character or mission. They all forsook Him, indeed, at the crisis of his fate; but not from unbelief, but from fear and consternation. The sheep scattered when the Good Shepherd was smitten; but they did so lest they themselves should be smitten with him; and not because they had ceased to consider him as the Shepherd and Bishop of their souls. The idea of imposture, or fraud of any kind, on His part, never seems to have crossed their minds, even when appearances were most against his claims. John obeyed that dying injunction of Christ, “Behold 'thy mother " as promptly and cordially as ever he obeyed any command given by Christ, when in the plenitude of his power and glory. “From that hour that disciple took her into his own house.” John xix. 27. In like manner, the very “sadness” of the two disciples, on the way to Emmaus, proves, beyond all doubt, that their opinion of their Lord's integrity had undergone no change by his death. Their spirit would have been bitter or indignant, not sad only, if they had thought him a deceiver. Besides, they did not hesitate nor faulter to say of Him, even then, that he was both “Jests of Nazareth,” and “a Prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people.”
The conduct of the Marys is, however, still more decisive. They never would have followed Christ with tears to Calvary, nor stood either nigh to or asar off from the Cross, if they had changed their opinion of his truth or of his grace. They did not, indeed, recognise Him as then sealing the everlasting covenant with his blood; but they evidently saw Him sealing the truth of both his gracious promises
and his high pretensions by his blood; for it was
(and they knew it) because he would not retract nor qualify his high claims, that he was condemned and crucified. Accordingly, at his burial, they acted a part, throughout, in perfect harmony with strong and unaltered faith in both his truth and grace.— . For, who does not see at a glance, that the Marys neither would nor could have lavished their attentions and tenderness upon His funeral, if they had doubted his faithfulness or his sincerity ? Besides, Mary of Magdala had a living proof, in her own bosom, of His Divine power. He had “cast out seven devils” from her spirit: and, as they did not return when he was imprisoned, nor whilst he hung on the cross, nor even when he died, she could not but be sure that his death had neither disproved his power, nor discredited his character.
I bring out these facts with some care, because they enable us to make a right use of the example of these holy women: for, they are thus, perfect models of faith in the truth of the Saviour's promises, and of love to the Saviour's character. That faith and love they cherished, avowed, and exemplified, when all the aspects of the universe seemed to frown upon, and to fight against, His person and mission. Neither the cowardly flight of his friends, nor the reckless fury of His enemies, moved the Marys. They “stood by the cross,” when the cross itself could hardly stand on the quaking mount.— They forsook him not, even when they heard him declare that God had “forsaken” him 1
They did not, of course, understand, at the time, the mystery of that judicial “rama sabachthan ;” but neither its mystery, nor its terrors, alienated their affection or their confidence from the Saviour— “None of these things moved” them Shall, then, less things move you from the Cross of Christ 1– This is the point I wanted to bring you to. Now, if the Marys did and endured so well, whilst the death of Christ was before them only as a murder and a martyrdom, -what a height both their faith and love would have risen to, had they known, as you know, that it was an atoning Sacrifice, securing “eternal inheritance” to all in heaven, who had died in the faith of Christ; and “eternal redemption” to all on earth, who should then or afterwards believe on him! Oh, had they seen then, as you see now, how all the curse of the Law was cancelled by His bearing its curse; how all the perfections of Jehovah were satisfied and glorified in the highest, by His voluntary submission to their will; how all the balance and basis of the Divine government were established for ever, by His one offering of himself as the votary of their holiness, and as the victim of their justice;—had the Marys been aware of all this, whilst they stood by the Cross, their conduct and spirit, noble as these were, would have been nobler still 1. Surely, then, your conduct and spirit should not, need not, be inferior to theirs; seeing your knowledge of the glory of the Cross is so much superior to any and all that they possessed, when they thus rose above the fear of peril and reproach, and balanced all the mysteries of the crucifixion by faith in the character of the CRUCIFIED ONE.
throughout the universe. But, whilst this fact should teach us to expect it in the Cross too, our own character and spirit may well suggest to us, that our “faith and patience” require some “trial,” in common with others.
The Marys were not exempted: and why should we be so? They had to believe and obey, when there was more mystery and less majesty around the Cross, than now invest it: for now the crown of thorns, and the mock robe and reed of supremacy, are exchanged for the real crown and sceptre of universal government; the scornful “Hail, King of the Jews,” is followed by the vying and everlasting “Hallelujahs” of all the armies of heaven: the central cross on Calvary is succeeded by the “middle seat on the eternal throne:” the momentary frown of judicial anger, has given place for ever to the endless and unalterable complacency of paternal love: the keys of death and the invisible world hang upon the “vesture dipped in blood,” and He who was “numbered with transgressors,” is now identified with Deity, in all the homage and glory which saints or angels can render. Is, therefore, the miracles which the Marys saw, and the voices from heaven which they heard, proved to them the Divinity of Christ, and counterbalanced, all the wants and woes of His earthly lot; surely His place on the throne and in the worship of Heaven, may well overpower every difficulty which reason meets, or speculation suspects, in the Divinity and glory of the Saviour. . . . . . . . . . .
I neither profess to solve the mystery of His incarnation and sacrifice, nor pretend to be unaffected by it; but I do claim the right to be heard and heeded when I say to you, that an atoning Saviour is the universal creed of Heaven, and the only creed on earth which converts sinners, or consoles saints.
Happily, only a few females, amongst the increasing thousands and tens of thousands of the intellectual, have had the fool-hardiness to stand forward in open hostility to the Godhead of the Saviour. This pitiable contrast to all the pure spirits around the eternal throne—this monstrous singularity, in a universe which adores the Lamb,-is not presented by many of your sex. Long may it be proverbially true of the sex at large, that they are still the last to quit the Cross, and the first to visit the Sepulchre. * * * * *: o . o
You have, perhaps, some reproach to encounter in thus imitating the Marys. Well; brave an bear it as they did. Had they not dared all hazards, how many souls might have been lost, whom their noble example has won to Christ to Had th shrunk back from owning Him, after having received so much grace from him, how many traitors and cowards might have sprung from their timidity? And should you flee or flinch from the Cross, in order to escape “the reproach" of it, you will peril more souls than your own." " ... ." l
It is, indeed, a trying dilemma when a o: or a daughter cannot “confess Christ" in their family, without giving offence. It is a very frong tempo.