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I yesterday received a letter from my dear friend, A- Bthe Lord is indeed with him: he writes very sweetly, and appears to be making rapid progress in the divine life. His relations are all unacquainted with the power of religion, and consequently opposers of vital godliness. He has great trials. I wrote to him whilst he was in London, last January, to encourage him to hold fast his confidence. He is now in Oxford, from whence he begins his letter thus: Since I received yours, I have returned to Oxford. I beg you to accept my sincere thanks, and to assure you how opportunely your letter arrived to encourage me to stand firm and confess Christ, which I was that very day called upon to do, and to declare whether I would choose God or the world for my portion."
I cannot, my dear Friend, but admire the kind providence of God; for this letter had lain in a drawer for above a fortnight, and that it should just go to be received at a time when he wanted a friend's encouragement, is really very striking. Oh, let us praise our God, who watches over us with such tender concern, and makes use of the most unworthy instruments to promote his glory and his people's good. Let us not be faithless, but believing, If we looked more into the Volume of Providence, we should, I doubt not, live in a more admiring and rejoicing frame than we do. ******
Believe me, your truly affectionate Friend,
T. S. B. READE.
Leeds, 20th February, 1810.
MY DEAR FRIEND,- ****** It is a comfortable truth, that in every age God has had a people; sometimes, indeed, reduced to a very small number, but never did he leave himself without witness. This people, in the Revelation, are styled "the called, chosen, and faithful;" through the mighty power of God the Spirit, they are brought to the obedience of faith, and follow Jesus in the regeneration. They have ever met with opposition from the world, and often nobly sealed their testimony to the truth with their blood. These few reflections naturally arise, from reviewing Middleton's "Lives;" and oh, may we, my dear Friend, and all whom we dearly love, be found recorded, not in an earthly register, but in the Lamb's Book of Life: then will our joy increase like a river, and our peace like the waves of the sea. All true happiness must flow from a vital union to Christ. He is the storehouse of all wisdom and knowledge, the fountain of all felicity and joy. Faith is the sacred key which, as it were, opens the door; and faith is the hand which receives the blood-bought treasures. Lord, increase our faith! So precious is faith, that Jesus told his disciples that if they had but a single grain of it, they might remove mountains, and plant a sycamine tree in the sea. Oh, what mountains of difficulty have been removed through faith! witness the 11th chapter to the Hebrews.
When we duly consider the faithfulness and truth of God; what he has engaged, even by an oath, to do for his people; and the richness and freeness of the divine promises; how ought we to be ashamed at our
little faith; our wavering dependence, and our lamentable, dishonourable proneness to distrust, in seasons of distress and sorrow, a God who cannot lie, and who has promised never to leave nor forsake his people! The forbearance and long-suffering of our Heavenly Father are wonderful. "God is strong and patient, and God is provoked every day." How remarkable the expression, "strong and patient!" Jesus told Pilate that he could, in a moment, command twelve legions of angels, to prove the truth and power of his divinity, yet he patiently submitted to be led as a lamb to the slaughter, and to lay down his life for the salvation of a guilty world. Oh, never let us cease to admire and adore our compassionate High Priest, who can be touched with the feeling of our infirmities, and who ever liveth to make intercession for us. Here, my dear Friend, I must deeply bewail my own coldness and insensibility! How languid my affections! How slow my thoughts move towards Him who ought to be the centre of attraction, my chief joy! I can feel my heart warmed by the endearing presence of an earthly friend; how infinitely more delightful ought communion with God to be! "Did not our hearts burn within us, whilst he talked with us by the way?" said the enraptured disciples; and is not Jesus still speaking to us in his Word? and does he not promise to come and make his abode with us, and to manifest himself unto us, as he does not unto the world? Come quickly, Lord Jesus! Behold," says he, "I stand at the door, and knock; if any man open the door, I will come in to him and sup with him, and he with me.' Sweet condescension! This is one of the precious fruits of his redeeming love. All this is treated as enthusiastic reverie by the natural man. But St. John knew the blessedness of this spiritual communion, when he said, "Truly, our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ." If our spiritual growth depends solely on our union to Christ, (separate from whom we can do nothing,) our spiritual joy and comfort must greatly depend on our communion with Him. When God hides his face, what distress arises in the soul of His dear child; when He lifts up the light of His countenance, he feels more joy than those who find great spoil, or the worldling in his plentiful supply of corn and wine. How awful the state of those who are not united to Christ! 'If any man have not the Spirit of Christ he is none of His;" and we can only prove that we have this Spirit, by possessing the mind of Christ, and following the example of Christ. The Spirit always leads the sinner to Christ both in doctrine and practice; and whilst He sheds light abroad in the mind, He always Isheds love abroad in the heart. The former without the latter may be obtained to a certain degree, by reading and study; but without love it only puffeth up its possessor, and will leave him the more guilty and self-condemned at the Judgment day. Love is the fruit of the Spirit. Satan, like Pharaoh's magicians, may counterfeit many things; but love, as it is the sole prerogative of Heaven to bestow, so is it the best and surest mark and test of a faithful genuine disciple of Jesus Christ. Thus said Peter, "Lord, thou knowest all things, thou knowest that I love thee." St. John assures us that "Love is of God." (4th chap. 7th v.;) and that every one that loveth is "born of God," (ib.) and “knoweth God;" yea, that God dwelleth in him, for God is love! Oh, my dear Friend, let us often review our privileges, and pray daily more and more for the "Spirit of Love," (2 Tim. i. 7.) till our hearts overflow with increasing affection, and unceasing praise.
I am sorry you have been so unwell, but you are in good hands, and I am sure your Heavenly Father will abundantly compensate that diminution of your temporal enjoyment, by the sweet refreshings of his grace. May He be pleased, in His rich mercy, to give you health and strength, to proclaim His Gospel to a dying world. This, my dear Friend, is my earnest prayer; "That thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth." (3 John, i. ii.)
All friends are well; and if they knew I was writing, would, with united voice, join their love to you. I have been much better indeed lately, through the Divine blessing: although I have not dared to encounter the evenings yet, except twice to St. Paul's. ****** What the end will be I know not; but I much fear our scourge is yet to come. These commotions in London about Sir F. Burdett, are very alarming. Tumults are like the letting out of water; but happy for us that there is another and a better world. Oh, that through free, sovereign grace, we and ours may be daily preparing for it.
I remain, your truly affectionate Friend,
Leeds, April 13th, 1810.
T. S. B. READE.
THE CEDAR OF LEBANON,
"The righteous.... shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon."-PSALM XCII. 12.
THINGS invisible can only be described to man by means of figures drawn from things that can be seen. We find, therefore, that God has taken from the works of His material creation, those illustrations by which He has developed His operations on the spirits of men. He has made of them a glittering alphabet, in which are written the superior marvels of His love. The kingdoms of nature and of grace, being the workmanship of the same hand, afford numerous features of resemblance: they run, as it were, in parallel lines, and the former may be said to be an adumbration, or sketch in outline, of which the latter is the coloured picture. Hence the frequent elucidations of mental phenomena, taken from the animal and vegetable kingdoms, found in the sacred writings. Nor can we conceive any other means of communication between the Deity and beings of capacities so confined as ours, than the one He has been pleased to adopt, namely, that of taking as a basis what is already well known to us, and so encouraging and assisting us to lift our conceptions to higher revelations. The Scriptures are full of imagery, drawn principally from the imposing scenery of the East: and in no other part of the world, perhaps, could better materials have been found for this species of hieroglyphical instruction.
The cedar of Lebanon, a peculiar and picturesque production of Palestine, is often used for the purpose of spiritual illustration. In the passage placed at the head of these remarks, the reader is called upon to consider the points of resemblance between this tree and the righteous;
and it will not be difficult to find in the description given by naturalists of this tree, much that is analogous to the character of the true Christian.
I. The cedar of Lebanon is described by travellers as growing in the coldest parts of mountains. The snow may cover the landscape, but the hill of cedars still wears its verdant diadem: the tempest may howl across the plain, but the cedar still preserves the dark honours of its brow: and while many a plant, the production and fondling of summer, is weeping over its lost loveliness and fleeting life, the proud cedar stands unmoved, deriving its support from the tenacity of its root, and even gaining fresh strength from the impotent rage of the winds battling amid its top.
Here, then, we have a picture of the righteous man. Deriving his fortitude solely from heaven; invigorated by that grace which the Spirit of God has infused into his heart; his virtues are not the growth of kindly circumstances or favourable seasons: nurtured amid persecution and self-denial, hardened by the severe discipline of sorrow and disappointment, his spiritual growth is advanced by suffering, which, instead of leading him to relinquish his hold on his Almighty Protector, only induces him to cling the more closely to the sole ground of his joy and hope. He does not depend for happiness on the smiles of the world or the glitter of outward prosperity; and therefore, unlike the sons of pleasure, he is not at one moment standing erect in the sunshine of rapture, and at the next cast down at the foot of despair. The object of his desires is placed above the reach of vicissitude, for they are fixed on Him, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning." Let the children of mirth tremble fearfully at every breeze that shakes their silken pavilions; the Christian is stayed upon his God; and though he may occasionally bend beneath the storm, he is at length enabled, by divinely-imparted strength, to rise above it, and stand erect as before. That man cannot be finally overthrown, whose confidence is resting on the High and Mighty One by whom the pillars of the universe are upheld.
II. The cedar of Lebanon is a wide-spreading tree, often covering a space with its branches, the diameter of which is much greater than its height. "No tree in the forest is more remarkable for its close-woven, leafy canopy." And well may the Christian be compared to the cedar in this respect; for he is not satisfied with the conviction that he himself is in the safe path to heaven and is already a partaker of the joys of the spiritual world, but he is ever anxious that others should communicate in his privileges, and is desirous that the influence of his example should extend far around. He has no wish to limit the bounty of Heaven, but makes it his daily prayer that God would "have mercy upon all men." The knowledge he possesses he is ever willing to impart: he is "apt to teach;" and from this peculiarity of its disciples it is that Christianity has been wont to spread with unexampled rapidity. The religions of the heathen had their arcana, which were revealed only to a few highlyfavoured individuals, while the great mass of mankind were most carefully excluded from any participation in such mysterious knowledge. But the propagators of Christianity were anxious to spread their doctrines far and wide. Theirs was no exclusive theology; for the winds of heaven breathe not upon men with an impartiality greater than that with
which the primitive believers carried the good tidings.of salvation to the rich and the poor. Christianity is necessarily a diffusive system; and the Christian ever looks upon himself, not as an isolated being, but as one of a vast multitude, a single unit in the aggregate body of an universal Church.
III. The cedar of Lebanon retains its existence for a considerable period. In this respect, too, is the tree typical of the Christian. Protected by God, and reserved by Him for immortality, he bears about with him a charmed life: the malice of men and fiends is powerless against him; for nothing can destroy one who is guarded by the Creator of all. "Of those whom thou hast given me," said the blessed Saviour, “have I lost nothing." Death and Time, before whom all else must bow, have no annihilating power over the sons of God; Death to them is but a state of transition, and Time is for them but the first figure of the incalculable sum of Eternity.
Here the type falls immensely beneath the thing typified. The magnificent cedars of Lebanon, once numerous, are now become rare. The existing forests are mostly composed of young trees, and by the successive reports of recent travellers* we learn that of those trees still standing, which, by their size, are supposed to have been contemporaries of the Biblical times, the number has gradually decreased from thirty or forty to seventeen, to twelve, at last to seven.
"Mountain of mighty brow,
Where are thy cedars now?"+
Those gigantic trees, which fancy might imagine coeval with the creation of this globe, have yielded to time; those trees whose branches were, so to speak, stirred by the prayers of prophets, which were witnesses of so many miracles, and from amid whose ranks were taken materials for the temple where the true God vouchsafed to dwell, after surviving the lapse of many generations, have at length perished like common shrubs: and the scanty remnant of survivors, as they lift their dark and scarred foreheads amid the snow, seem to assume an eloquent voice to admonish us by the fate of their fallen brethren not to believe that anything is immortal but spiritual existences. Yes, these magnificent trees may have disappeared from the landscape they hallowed and adorned, but at the great day no spiritual cedar will be missing. They will all be found, gathered in the garden of the Lord. There will they stand in stately and completed ranks; not a leaf will be wanting; not a stain will be on their verdure; their noble heads will wave beneath the breath of heaven, and sweetly will their fragrance be ever ascending before the throne of the Most High.
IV. Another circumstance worthy of remark is, that cedar-wood was applied to high or holy purposes, being generally used by the ancients in building palaces or temples. The use made of this wood in Solomon's temple and palace is well known. In this respect also may the cedar be said to be emblematical of the Christian: he is reserved for a high and holy destiny: he is devoted to an august use; for believers are said to be made unto God "kings and priests. How lowly soever may be the lot of a Christian here, an extensive and mighty change, the Bible assures us, will pass over him on his departure from life: the tattered garments * See De Lamartine. Voyage en Orient. T. iii. p. 186. † Rev. T. Dale.