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talk of casting all his care upon God, and aing Jehovah jireh—" the Lord will provide," as long as he please; but if he become idle, wandering about from house to house; if he omit opportunities of exertion, and lives beyond his income—let such a man remember, that he tempts God, but does not trust him— an inspired Apostle says, "if any man also will not work, neither shall he eat" God knows our dispositions, and hence he is prepared to advise us—and he has commanded us " not to be unequally yoked together with unbelievers." If we disregard this admonition, and form irreligious alliances—all the devotion in the world will never remedy the mischief or prevent the misery.
He then who, while he lives carelessly and indifferently, hopes to be delivered from evil merely by prayer, is only "sporting himself with his own deceivings." He who enjoined prayer, never intended to make it the "sacrifice of fools." Prayer, when unaccompanied by a corresponding course of action, is triflmg with God; and prayer, when contradicted by our practice, is insulting God to his race.
And therefore, not only be prayerful, but • sober and vigilant" And to enable you " to set a watch" successfully—take the following directions.
First Impress your minds with a sense of your danger. The evil which lurks under every temptation is inexpressible. The design of it is to make you sin; and to sin, is to debase your nature, to defile your conscience, to rob yourselves of peace and repu-, tat ion. and to destroy "both body and soul in hell." I know there is a deceitfulness in sin; I and that the enemy endeavours to represent it as a liberty and pleasure; or, if an evil at all, as a trifling one. But take your estimate of all sin from the Scripture, from the Judge: himself who is to punish it—and you will find that it is "exceeding sinful"—that its history, like Ezekiel's roll, is " written within and without, with lamentation and mourning and wo."
Think of this—and common sense being your counsellor, you will watch; you will be willing to make any sacrifices, any efforts, rather than lie down in everlasting shame and sorrow. "If I conquer—I gain endless honour and happiness. If I am overcome—I am undoue for ever. And, O my soul, is there no danger of this1 Are there not temptations in every situation? In my business? In my food? In my dress? Have I not a wise and a powerful adversary, who "goes about as a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour?" And is there not a subtle party within, carrying on a traitorous correspondence with the world and the devil without ?—O my soul, awake, and watch!" Secondly. Study your constitutional weaki and failings. Endeavour to know " what
manner of spirit your are of." Some are more inclined naturally to sloth; others, to anger and impatience: some, to pride and vanity; others, to wantonness and the pleasures of sense. There is a "sin that most easily besets us;" and this demands our peculiar circumspection and care.
Thirdly. Observe how you have already been foiled or ensnared. He who would encounter an enemy successfully should be informed of his mode of fighting; and how is this to be done but by observation and reflection? "How was such a place taken? How did I lose such a battle? What rendered the last campaign so little efficient ?—Let me look back upon my past life; and endeavour to derive wisdom from my old follies, and strength from my falls. By what secret avenue did sin enter? Have I not been taken by surprise, where I deemed myself most secure? And may not this be the case again? Are there not some places and companies from which 1 never returned without mjury? Shall I turn again to folly? Let painful experience awaken me—and keep me awake."
Thirdly. Guard against the beginnings of sin. You should learn, even from an enemy; and take the same course to preserve yourselves, as the Devil does to destroy you. Now the tempter never begins where he intends to leave off. Would he induce a man to impurity? He does not propose the crime at once—but prepares for it by degrees, by the cherishing of loose thoughts, by the inducing of improper familiarities, by the courting of favourable opportunities. If he would produce infidelity—he first reconciles the youth to read poisonous books, perhaps for the sake of the style, or some curious subject treated of; he draws him into the company of those who entertain loose notions of religion, and ridicule some of its doctrines and institutions: from these, he joins the sceptic; and he prepares him for the scoffer. Guard therefore against the first deviations from the paths of righteousness. Crush the cockatrice in the egg; or it will grow up into a frightful serpent Cut off the shoots of iniquity; yea, nip the very buds: it will otherwise "bring forth fruit unto death."
Finally. Avoid the occasions of sin. Nothing is more dangerous than idleness, or having nothing to do. Our idle days, says Henry, are the Devil's busy ones. And, says another, When the mind is full, temptation cannot enter; but when it is empty and open, the enemy can throw in what he pleases. Stagnant waters breed thousands of noxious insects; but this is not the case with living water.
A prudent man looketh well to lu's going, and will think it at any time worth while to go round, in order to avoid a pit "Remove thy way far from her, and come not nigh the door
of her house"—lest, by going nigh, you should be tempted to go in. "Can a man take fire in his bosom, and his clothes not be burnt? Can one go upon hot coals, and his feet not be burnt?" Can a man wish the weeds in his garden to wither, and daily water them? It a man prayed to be heavenlyminded, would he go and wait in a place of dissipation for the answer!
Sometimes Christians are called into situations and circumstances, in the discharge of their duty, that are very trying. When this is the case, the business is the Lord's; and he will take care of the servant employed in it And therefore, in such instances, we have seen the weakest believers preserved. But it is otherwise when you rush into such dangers, uncalled of God. Is God bound to work miracles as often as you choose to play the fool, or to act the sinner? Are you justified in bringing yourselves into a situation where the alternative is either a supernatural deliverance, or a shameful fall?
Thus, then, let us make our prayer to God, and set a watch. Let us impress our minds with a sense of our danger—let us study our natural dispositions—let us remark in what manner we have been injured already—let us guard against the begmnings—and shun all the occasions of sin. 1 hus shall we " stand in the evil day; and having done all, shall stand. Yea, in all these thmgs, we shall be more than conquerors through him that loved us."
Nor shall we be always in a state of warfere. We shall soon exchange the toil of the soldier for "the rest that remains for the people of God." Our praying and our watching will soon be needless. We shall put off the helmet, and put on the crown. "Sing, O daughter of Zion: shout, O Israel: be glad and rejoice with all. thy heart, O daughter of Jerusalem! The Lord hath taken away thy judgments: he hath cast out thine enemy: the King of Israel, even the Lord, is in the midst of thee: thou slialt not see evil any more."
THE TREE OF LIFE.
In the midst of the ttreet of it, and on either ride of the river, wat there the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruitt, and yielded her fruit evert/ month: and the leavet of the tree were for the healing of the nation*.—Rev. xicii. 3.
"Yea, doubtless, and I count all things but loss, for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lori" Such was the exclamation of the Apostle. Such was the judgment he formed of an acquaintance with the Saviour of sinners. He saw an excellency
in it that led him comparatively to undervalue and even despise every thing else. And no wonder.
What can be so suitable, so necessary, to creatures in our circumstances, as the knowledge of the Lord Jesus! If we are exposed —he is our refuge. If we are wanderers— he is our guide. If we are poor—he is rich. If we are nothing—he is "all, and in all."
The Christian, feeling his necessities, and enlightened from above to know the source of his supplies, often exclaims, as he reads through this sacred volume, " We have found him of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, did write; whom David, Joseph, Isaac, pre-figured; who realizes, in his own character, the temple, the altar, the paschal lamb, the ark." He holds communion with him as the "Rock of ages," as "the Sun of righteousness," as the " Fountain of living waters," as—" the Tree of life, in the midst of the paradise of God."'
Of this we have a striking representation in the words before us. John saw the new Jerusalem descending from heaven. It was a city four-square. The gates, the walls, the very foundations, were of precious stones. The pavement was of gold—for what we adore, they trample upon. Thus far the allusion is taken from the world of art—but nature also lends her combined aid—and here is a reference to Eden, the original residence of man. In this residence, it is well known, man drank pure water, and lived on fruit Accordingly, a fine river watered the garden; and a tree, called "the tree of life," grew in the centre. Hence the water of life, and the tree of life, stand significantly for all the supplies of the spiritual life. And here we have both. "And he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Iinnb. In the midst of the street of it and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations."
It will be necessary to premise, that the tree of life which John saw, was not a tingle tree: for, then, how could it grow on both sides of the river? but a species of tree, or many trees of one kind. There is nothing forced or unusual in this language. We should be easily understood were we to say, the cedar tree grows on both sides of Lebanon ; or the apple-tree flourishes best in such a soil: and we should be understood to mean —not an individual tree, but the kind of tree. And this is confirmed by a parallel passage, taken from the visions or Ezekiel. "And by the river upon the bank thereof, on this side and that side, shall grow all trees for meat whose leaf shall not fade, neither shall the fruit thereof be consumed: it shall bring forth new fruit according to his months, because
their waters they issued out of the sanctuary: and the fruit thereof shall be for meat, and the leaf thereof for medicine." Upon the same principle, it is not necessary to suppose the tree of life in Eden was a single tree; it was more probably'a number of trees of the same species, finely arranged, and bearing in
takers of Christ" without resembling him. We cannot receive a life-giving Saviour, and remain dead in trespasses and sins. If joined to him, we shall be quickened by him, and walk "in newness of life." And it is owing to the little communion we have with him that our religion is so languishing, and that
abundance. This conjecture has to plead not there are so many "things in us that are
only probability, but authority. The learned Doctor Kennicot has defended this opinion.
But however this may be—whatever the tree of life was to man in his innocency, Christ is to man in his fallen estate; what that was to Adam under a covenant of works, Christ is to man under a covenant of grace. That insured life to obedience; he insures life to faith. It is his own declaration, "God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." This is the new and living way opened in the Gospel, and by which we can alone pass into a happy immortality.
Whether the tree of life in paradise was more than sacramental, affording a pledge of the continuance of life, while man remained in a state of obedience; or whether, in addition to this, it had an innate virtue to perpetuate the immortality of those who partook of it—we cannot absolutely determine. The latter has been deemed probable by many, from the words of Moses; "And the Lord God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever: therefore the Lord God sent him forth from the garden of Eden to till the ground from whence he was taken. So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life." But we are sure that Jesus Christ has not only procured for us a title to endless life, but actually communicates life to all those who believe in him. "God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son." And therefore it can only be derived from him. And as what we live upon is previously destroyed, so that we literally live by death —the death of fruits and vegetables, and animals—so by his death we live. It is his own declaration, though it may prove as offensive to some who read it, as it did to those who originally heard it: "Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you. For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him. As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father: so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me." And, therefore, we cannot be made " par
ready to die:" for he came not only "that we might have life," but "that we might have it more abundantly."
The situation of' this tree is worthy of our attention. Endeavour to apprehend the scenery as it appeared to the eye of John. The river softly rolled down the middle, and thus formed a street on each side of it; and in the midst of each street, in a beautiful row, grew'the tree of life. So that the inhabitants could walk between the houses and the trees, and between the trees and the river, on each side. It was therefore not concealed, but obviously seen; it everywhere met the eye, and tempted the hand. Nor was it confined, but easy of access to all who passed along, and to persons on either side of the river— "In the midst of the street of the city, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life."
And " the righteousness of faith speaketh on this wise, Say not in thine heart, who shall ascend into heaven? (that is, to bring Christ down from above:) or, who shall descend into the deep? (that is, to bring up Christ again from the dead.) But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach; that if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God lath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved." Is Christ hidden? Exposing himself to view in every direction, he cries, "Behold me, behold me. Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is none else. Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest."
Is he secluded from approach, and from participation? Few, comparatively, will partake of him—but he has told us the reason: "Ye will not come to me, that ye might have life." Otherwise, none are forbidden: for "there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female, for ye are all one in Christ Jesus: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him." Is he a fountain? He is a fountain opened. Was he represented by the manna? This fell all around the camp, and all were equally welcome to go and gather it up. Was he held forth by the brazen serpent? This was suspended upon a pole fixed in the centre of the camp, and it was announced, that every one that was bitten, when he looked upon it, should live. Was he typified by the cities of refuge?
There were six of these at certain distances from each other, that, in, what part soever of the country the man-slayer lived, he might soon reach a place of safety. They were situated on high hills, or on extensive plains, that the avenger of blood might not overtake him, while searching for (hem. The roads leading to them were fifty-eight feet four inches wide, and well repaired, that nothing should hinder his progress, or stop him for a moment Where rivers would have checked their course, bridges were thrown over: and where crossways would have perplexed their minds, directing posts were fixed, with their extended arms [minting and crying, Refuge, Refuge !—The application of all this is easy. Oh! think of it, ye who are disposed to " flee for refuge to the hope set before you!" Here is strong consolation—and spiritual distress requires it
Behold further, the fertility of this tree.
First. It is said that it bears "twelve manner of fruits." Other trees yield only after their. kind. To a vine we go for grapes, to a fig-tree for figs. But suppose a tree that should bear both these, and ten more sorts of the most delicious fruit! Would it not excite your curiosity? Would you not even go far only to see this wonder of nature 1
"Turn your eyes towards me," says the Saviour, "I am all this. I am the 'child born,' and 'the everlasting Father.' 'I am the root and the oflspring of David.' 'I am alpha and omega, the beginning and the ending.' I am he 'that liveth and was dead.' I am 'the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world,' and the 'lion of the tribe of Judah.' Such a combination of perfections and blessings, O man, did thy salvation require! Though all thy miseries flow from one cause—sin; thy wants are various, and demand various relief . You are enslaved, and need redemption—and I give my 'life a ransom for sinners.' You are guilty, and need justification—and my 'blood cleanseth from all sin.' You are unholy, and need sanctifying grace—and 'a new heart will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you.' You are weak—but' my strength shall be made perfect in weakness.' You have tribulation in the world—but'in me you shall have peace.'" Thus God "supplies all our need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus." Thus we are "blessed with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in
Secondly. The produce is not only abundant but continual. It yielded her fruit" every month." This is not the case with our trees. They bear only once a year. And hence our spring is so important—we go out and anxiously look for the buds and blossoms; and if we find none, our hope is cut off, and for twelve months we impatiently wait for the return of the season. But this tree bears al
ways—in winter, as well as in summer—perhaps he bears most in winter, or at least more is then gathered than at any other time Oar external troubles, and our internal distresses, endear him, and urge us to make a more earnest application to him. But the Apostle tells us that he found him answerable to all his varying conditions: "I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be conlent I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in sll things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me." If we prosper, he can keep us. If we fall into adversity, he can sustain ua He can bless you in social scenes; and also in solitary seasons. Joseph enjoyed him in the prison, and Daniel in the lions' den, and John in his banishment. And when nothing else looks green and fair—be affords succour and supplies. And therefore says the Christian, whose faith and hope are fixed on him; "Although the fig-tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls: yet I will rejoice in the Lord,I will joy in the God of my salvation." Hence, in a case more distressing to a good man than any other; I mean, when his family yields him no comfort bears nothing, yea, discovers no marks of spiritual life—he can pluck something from this tree, which is always bending with fruit: "Although my house be not so with God; yet he hath made with me an everlasting covenant ordered in all things and sure: for this is all my salvation, and a/I my desire, although he make it not to grow." And when we are taking a farewell of life, and all the powers of nature fail—he is the strength of our heart, and our portioa for ever—And hence the same tried and triumphant believer exclaims, "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for thou art with me: thy rod and thy staff they comfort me."
When our Saviour, as he came from Bethany, hungered, he saw a fig-tree, and went up to it hoping to find frmt thereon, and found none, " for the time of figs was not yet But he himself will never occasion such a disappointment in those who apply to him. Come when we will, it is always the time of fruit. The tree bears "every month." ^e young, you cannot come too soon. Ye aged, you cannot come too late. It is necesssrr, however, to observe that this is true only of the time of your continuance in this world. If you drop through life destitute of the blessings of his salvation, your opportunity is over, and will never return. You are therefore admonished to " seek the Lord while he may be found, and to call upon him while he is
near. Behold, now is the accepted time: behold, now is the day of salvation."
Observe, finally, what is said of the leaves of this tree. They "are for the healing of the nations." Other trees have leaves, and they are by no means useless. Not only do they add to the appearance and beauty of the tree—for how would a tree look without them!—'but they serve to screen the newhorn naked bud from the cold by night, and the excessive heat by day; they catch the dew and the rain; retain and guide the moisture; and thus they aid the preservation and growth of the fruit The leaves of a tree afford a comfortable shade to those who not only wish to partake of its produce, but want also to stand out of the sun. The Church therefore says, "I sat down under his shadow with great delight, and his fruit was sweet to my taste." Leaves, especially in the earlier ages of the world, were frequently applied to wounds, and many of them are to this day reckoned medicinal.
What then are the leaves of this tree, here distinguished from the fruit—but the institutions of religion, the ordinances of the Gospel, which we commonly and properly call the means of grace? These derive their being and their efficacy from him, as leaves from a tree. In the use of these he has promised his blessing: by the application of them, he brings us health and cure. What are our Sabbaths! What are our sanctuaries? What are the ministers of the word? What is this book—What are the leaves of this book?— but * the leaves of this tree, which are for the healing of the nations V
When we are perfectly recovered, and removed to that country, "where the inhabitants shall no more say, I am sick," these meansi and ordinances becoming unnecessary, will be laid aside. There will be no more prayer; no more sermons; no more bread and wine, the emblems and memorials of a Saviour's death. The end of all will be fully accomplished in our happy experience.
In the mean time, they are of unspeakable importance, and we should be careful to show our regard for them two ways:
First By being thankful that we are indulged With the means of grace ourselves. Let us hear what the saints of old said, who lived under a dispensation far inferior to ours. "How amiable are thy tabernacles, O Lord of Hosts!—Blessed are they that dwell in thy house; they Will be still praising thee. Blessed is the man Whom thdu choosest, and causest to approach unto thee, that he may dwell in thy courts: he shall be satisfied with the goodness of thy house, even of thy holy temple." As soon as ever our ministers end their discourses, we should remember the words of our Lord: "Blessed are your eyes, for they see; and your ears, for they hear. For verily I By unto you, that many prophets and rightist 8»
eous men have desired to see those things which ye see, and have not seen them; and to hear those things which ye hear, and have not heard them." Not only are these means instrumental in awakening us at first, but they are useful to revive, to refresh us; to strengthen our weak hands, and confirm our feeble knees, all through life. Here, like Hannah, we pour forth our sorrows, and leave them behind us. Here, with Jeremiah, we find his word and eat it, and it is the joy and the rejoicing of our hearts. Our doubts are solved. Our peace is restored. Our resolutions are invigorated. Our "strength is renewed. We mount up with wings as eagles, we run and are not weary, and walk ana are not faint"
Secondly. Let us be concerned for the extension of these privileges to others. Let us exert all our influence m diffusing them. Let us endeavour to spread them, not only in our own neighbourhood, and in our own country, but in all "the regions of darkness, and of the shadow of death." O when shall these leaves be for the healing of " the nations!" How much do they need the influences of the gospel of peace! How are they enslaved; how are they bruised; by tyranny^ by war, by superstition, by "the God of this world!" Hear how they groan; see how they bleed and die! How many millions of your fellow-creatures are there who never heard of the name of a Saviour! They feel the same depraved dispositions with yourselves, but know nothing of that grace that can create a clean heart, and renew a right spirit within them.- They are burdened with a sense of guilt, and many of them make costly sacrifices, and go toilsome pilgrimages, to get relief—but they never heard an Apostle saying, "Behold the Lamb of God that take th away the sin of the world!"
Let us therefore pray that God would pity the nations, and communicate to them the same means and privileges which he has bestowed upon us. It is easy to see how healing the institutions of the Gospel are to a nation, even when in numberless instances they are not eflectual to salvation. Where they prevail, they civilize the multitude. They tame the fierceness of their passions, and the savageness of their manners. They tend equally to secure the prerogative of the prince, and the rights of the subject The same may be said of all the other relations in life. They expand the aflections, quicken sensibility, and promote benevolence. There was no hospital in the heathen world. The philosophers of Greece and Rome never planned an infirmary. But in this country, so highly favoured by the Gospel, it is hardly possible to move without being struck with the monuments of christianized humanity. Here the blind are led into an asylum. There orphans Ore snatched from ruin. There the victims of seduction are hid from mfamy, and