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shrub. It is dry, and rough, and prickly, and harsh. It is of importance, as it proves the life, and perhaps the vigour of the tree: but is better merely to look at, than to touch. Consistency, however, requires that in the Christian, there should not only be vigour, but beauty. He should be, not only as the cedar, but as the olive tree, whose perpetual freshness and delicious fruit are at once attractive to the eye and pleasant to the taste.
Another effect of Divine influence is,
5. Moral fragrance. “ His smell shall be as Lebanon.” The fragrance of the flower garden, of the fruitful field, of the aromatic plantation, is borrowed to express the happy effect, the delightful influence of Christian feeling, and Christian character. Thus Solomon beautifully apostrophizes the wind: “Awake, 0 north wind; and come, thou south ; blow upon my garden, that the spices (that is, the fragrance thereof) may flow out." The apostle employs the same figure: “Now thanks be unto God, who always causeth us to triumph in Christ, and maketh manifest the savour of his knowledge by us in every place."
Two things are, probably, intended by this fragrance. First, that which is acceptable to God; and secondly, that which is agreeable to men. The church collectively, or the Christian considered separately and alone, may be in a state to call forth divine reprehension. Thus it was with the church at Laodicea. There was not a fragrance, but “a smoke in his nostrils." To send forth this “smell as Lebanon,” there must not only be justification ; but sanctification. This is the work of the Spirit ; the result of Divine influence. And of the church, purified and devoted to his service, the Lord saith, “ There will I accept them, and there will I require your offerings, and the first-fruits of your oblations, with all your holy things. I will accept you with your sweet savour.” And what is the effect of this influence upon the Christian ? It maketh his “ soul as a well-watered garden, as a field which the Lord hath blessed :" for he hath given him “of the dew of heaven.” As our senses are delighted with the fragrance which nature sends forth from the sweetest of her productions, so doth the Lord delight in his people,
walking worthy of Him unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work."
On the world itself, notwithstanding all its natural opposition to “the things of the Spirit of God," the sanctified influence of Christian character sheds a fragrance which every man, capable of appreciating the excellencies of moral beauty, feels and confesses. It is a perpetual exhibition of " whatsoever things are lovely and of good report.” One part of Mount Lebanon, it is said, enjoys a perpetual spring, the trees being always green, and the orchards filled with fruit : it is so agreeable and fertile, that some have called it a terrestrial paradise. It seems employed in our text, therefore, as the emblem of,
6. Universal excellence. They that dwell under his shadow shall return : they shall revive as the corn, and grow as the vine : the scent thereof shall be as the wine of Lebanon.” There is here something like the appearance of tautology. But two of the words may be differently rendered and read, as in the margin,—they shall blossom as the vine: and the memorial thereof shall be as the wine of Lebanon. Here, then, is promised to them that believe, under the influence of the Holy Spirit, --
The enjoyment of sacred repose. They “ dwell under his shadow.” And believing, they enter into rest. This may apply either to the recovery of backsliders, or to the conversion of sinners. Both are often strikingly illustrated in that state of prosperity in the church, of which the whole of our text is an illustrious promise, “ They shall return.” To the former of these, the connexion seems more especially to refer. “O Israel, return unto the Lord thy God. Take with you words, and turn to the Lord : say unto him, Take away all iniquity, and receive us graciously.” And then he promises, “I will heal their backslidings, I will love them freely."
Sinners, afar off, like men attracted by the loveliness of the scene, and the delights to be enjoyed, are gathered into the church. No longer satisfied with occasional, or merely formal services, they worship him, who is a Spirit, in spirit and in truth, partake of the spiritual blessings of the Gospel, and rejoice with singing,
“ Here would I find a settled rest,
While others go and come;
But like a child at home.” Again, a gracious revival shall follow : "They shall revive as the corn.” This allusion is equally beautiful and striking. The corn which is sown in Autumn, vegetates and springs up : for a time it presents the aspect of a flourishing field, covered with the richest verdure. But as the frost of Winter approaches, it is checked and withered. An inexperienced observer would suppose it to be entirely perished. It looks, at best, but like a field scattered with blades of withered grass. But behold it in the Spring. It revives, and branches forth, and grows, and becomes the more vigorous from the partial decay it has suffered. So when the dew of Divine influence falls upon the church, and the Sun of Righteousness pours forth his beams, true religion revives. That which was “ready to die,” is quickened
that which was stationary begins to advance -and that which was apparently worthless, assumes the freshness and verdure which contain the promise of the future and abundant harvest. Is not this, Christian, a change which you have known and felt? Or it is that, perhaps, for which you sigh. “Quicken thou me according to thy word.” Let us turn the promise itself into a prayer :
“Revive thy work in the midst of the years.” And then, as promised in the text, we shall perceive
The earnest of abundant fruitfulness. They shall blossom as the vine.” And what is the blossom, but the promise and the forerunner of fruit? The owner of the vineyard hails with pleasure the appearance, and watches with anxious solicitude, the progress of the blossom. So should we hail every appearance of reviving religion, either in the individual or in the church ; and with devout solicitude and holy fervour, pray that every such anticipation may be realized, that the fruit may be brought forth unto perfection. And then will follow the last thing here promised, namely
Grateful commemoration. One of the metaphors employed to represent the blessings of the gospel, is that of "wine on the lees well refined.” And to describe the effect of these blessings there is a reference to the wine of Lebanon. This wine, so celebrated for its deliciousness, was peculiarly grateful to the taste. And what so grateful to those “ who have their senses exercised to discern betwixt good and evil,” as these varied results of Divine influence! The commemoration affords the highest pleasure; and as men were wont, in the celebration of great events, to pour out libations of wine to their gods, and themselves to partake largely of the exhilarating viand, so the Christian pours out the libations of a grateful heart, and while he participates of the communicated blessing, presents the offering as "a sweet-smelling savour, acceptable to God, by Jesus Christ.”
And to you, my Christian brethren, what is the Sabbath ? Is it not the day of memorial ? the memorial of his triumphs, who, on this day, was
“ declared to be the Son of God with power, by his resurrection from the dead.”
“To day he rose and left the dead,
And Satan's empire tell ;
And all his wonders tell."
What is the Lord's Supper, but the ordinance of memorial ? The memorial of his love, “who humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross ?” And what is heaven itself, but the scene of everlasting memorial ? There shalt thou
remember all the way by which he led thee through the wilderness, unto a city of habitation ; there shall the church for ever perpetuate the memorial of his love : “Not unto us, not unto us, but unto him who hath loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, unto him be glory." Thus will we celebrate his triumphs,
“ And crown him Lord of All.” Learn from this subject,
1. The absolute necessity of Divine influence, and be solicitous to obtain a copious effusion of the Holy Spirit. Just what the earth would be, even in otherwise most favourable circumstances, without the rain or the dew, that will the church be without this heavenly communication. Every thing will be parched and barren. What the purest and the best seed would be cast on ground thus sterilized, that will truth itself be in the mind and heart on which this sacred influence does not descend. It will be like seed scattered by the way side or on stony ground. Even if it spring up, it soon withers away.
2. The end for which Divine influence is given, and for which it should be desired. We remind you of this, because it is possible that this greatest of all blessings may be desired from unworthy motives, and for unworthy ends. Convinced of its absolute necessity, the ministry may seek it for its own honour; and the church may ask it that she may glory in her own accessions, or triumph in her own achievements. Where this is the case, it is evident that self, the great common idol to which human nature is prone to pay its profoundest adorations, is set up in the place of Him, for whose glory alone, in the spiritual prosperity of his church, “the Spirit is poured out from on high.” While we ask the blessing, let us see that we seek it, and seek it only for the growth, the stability, the extension, the beauty, the fragrance, the revival, the universal glory of the church of Christ; that her renown may be great among the heathen ; that Israel may grow as the lily, and cast forth his roots as Lebanon ; that his branches may spread, that the hills may covered with his shadow, and the boughs thereof may be like the goodly cedars; that he may send forth his boughs unto the sea, and his branches unto the river. “Then they that dwell under his shadow shall return, they shall revive as the corn and blossom as the vine."
“ Unto the pure, all things are pure,”—and unto the spirituallyminded, all scenes and seasons are fraught with instruction. The Saviour, who “always did the will,” and sought the “glory" of his Father, did not think it unworthy of his ministry, nor inconsistent with it, to turn the seasons into sermons, and the events of the moment into lessons for eternity. The Spring of the year suggested to him the parable of the Sower; and the Autumn led him
“ The harvest is the end of the world." Thus, while day unto day uttered speech, and night unto night taught knowledge, his ear was open to their voice, and his lips interpreted and improved their language. And, if the Incarnate Wisdom of God did not think it beneath his hearers, or himself, to notice revolving seasons and passing circumstances, we need not shrink from learning at the same familiar sources. It is true, that no man can speak of nature as the Saviour spoke : but this is still more true of grace ; and, surely, if we venture to imitate him on the lofty and glorious subject of redemption, it cannot be presumption to copy his example in improving the seasons of the year.
This is my apology for drawing your attention to the Winter season. As a season, it has already gained your attention by its own power. You have marked and felt its approach. The cold has compelled us to take precautions, and to make provision against it: and when “God giveth snow like wool, and scattereth his hoar frost like ashes,” it will compel us to exclaim with David, can stand before his cold ?"
Winter is, however, calculated to awaken higher and holier reflections than this.