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74 THE SPRINGING OF HERBS AFTER WINTER.

soul, and the graces of thy Spirit will bud and break forth ; speak the word, and my soul shall live. Lord, teach me thyself, and leave me not to the teaching of man; thou canst reach the heart, whilst man speaks only to the ear.

Before I was afflicted I went astray: but now have I kept thy word.—It is good for me that I have been afflicted ; that I might learn thy statutes, Psa. cxix. 67, 71.

I have surely heard Ephraim bemoaning himself thus; Thou hast chastised me, and I was chastised, as a bullock unaccustomed to the yoke : turn thou me, and I shall be turned; for thou art the Lord my God. Surely after that I was turned, I repented; and after that I was instructed, I smote upon my thigh : I was ashamed, yea, even confounded, because I did bear the reproach of my youth, Jer. xxxi. 18, 19.

For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, 2 Cor. iv. 17.

For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. If

ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is •he whom the father chasteneth not?– Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous : nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby, Heb. xii, 6, 7, 11.

XXII.-UPON A WITHERING CLUSTER OF HERBS.

When I beheld a cluster of herbs in the garden in a decaying, withering condition, --some part dead, others languishing, and but few alive and flourishing,– I left off weeding, dressing, cutting, and manuring the greater number, as they were never likely to answer my pains, or recompense my labour. But considering there were some living, which were likely to be choked with weeds if let alone and disregarded, I transplanted them into a better soil, leaving the dead ones to themselves, for the fire, or any other use. I considered then how empty and unseemly the place was, when the living herbs were removed; what a confused and worthless plot of ground it was, of no profit, pleasure, or benefit.

The thought of this reminded me that as I had dealt with these withering herbs and flowers, so God oftentimes does by a withering church. Some of its members he takes into his bosom; others he transplants into a better place, and then roots up the rest, or reserves them for judgment. Thus he preserved Noah for another plot, which he was about to make when he destroyed the old world, which before was his garden, when the plants were almost dead. He removed Lot into another soil, when he rooted up his garden in Sodom; he would not fence a

UPON A WITHERING

76 place for so few living herbs, but laid it waste, and burned it up. He transplanted Abraham from the place of his nativity; and found room by his providence for Isaac and Jacob, whose posterity he transplanted into Egypt, where for a long time they thrived and prospered; till, in the end, overrun with weeds, briers, and thorns, he transplanted Israel into Canaan, and cast the Egyptians, those dead and worthless plants, those weeds and thorns, into the Red Sea. And since that time he has laid waste many gardens, when they withered and decayed, which formerly did flourish. Witness the famous seven churches of Asia, mentioned in Revelation ii. and iii. I considered—That when God removes his own plants, either into his bosom or elsewhere, it is time for professors to look about them. righteous perisheth, and no man layeth it to heart: and merciful men are taken away, none considering that the righteous is taken away from the evil to come, Isa. lvii. 1.

When God's jewels are removed, his care of that place is over. When his flowers are gone, he will pluck up his hedge, and throw down his wall, and let it be eaten up and trodden down; he will lay it waste; it shall not be pruned nor digged; and there shall come up briers and thorns; and he will command the clouds that they rain no rain upon it, Isa. v. 5, 6. And how dreary does that place look which is thus left and forsaken by God!

This consideration made me think, It is time for those in England to look about them ; gray hairs are here and there upon us, yet we consider it not, Hos. vii. 9. We may see many a

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CLUSTER OF HERBS.

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withering branch and dying Christian amongst us, that formerly seemed flourishing.

O my soul, art not thou one of these dead, or at least withering plants ? Art thou fallen from thy first love? Where is “ the love of thine espousals ?" Jer. ii. 2; the affections and the zeal manifested in thy younger years? Has thy age increased thy wisdom ? and art thou growing more strange with thy God, and more lukewarm in his service; and showing less care of thy soul, and taking less pains for heaven? Time was, when thou wast more fresh and flourishing, and more like to a green bay-tree; but now thou growest old and dry, and little sap and vigour appears. Is this the fruit of all the pains God hath bestowed upon thee? Is it to make thee more dry and barren? The trees of righteousness, planted by the rivers of water, should never want fruit nor leaf; yea, should “ bring forth fruit in old age,” Psa. xcii. 14. Yea, thy fruit in age may be expected to be more, and mellower, ripened by age and a more mature judgment. Thou hast borne the burden and heat of the day, and wilt thou now quit the vineyard, or cease or slacken thy work, when thou shouldst come and receive thy wages? If thou turn back, God will have no pleasure in thee; if thou put thy hand to the plough, and look back, thou art not fit for the kingdom of heaven, Heb. x. 38; Luke ix. 62; neither will thy righteousness be remembered. Wilt thou lose all the pains that ever thou hast taken in heaven's way, and at last remit thy zeal when thou shouldst double thy diligence? Is it not he

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UPON A WITHERING CLUSTER OF HERBS.

that holds out to the end that shall be saved ? Matt. xxiv. 13. Didst thou ever yet repent of any pains thou didst take for heaven; and dost thou think thou shalt ever have cause to repent hereafter ? Art thou afraid thy reward will be too great; or thy crown of glory too heavy; or that God will love thee too well; or that thou shalt make heaven too sure ? If not, why dost thou slacken thy pace? Dost thou expect a better master, or better work, or better wages ? If not, beware of negligence, lest thou force God to put thee out of his service.

my God, keep my heart upright in thy service, and direct my steps that I turn not aside. Keep me from the rage of Satan, that I be not captivated by him; he seeks my soul to undo it, and fain would make me lose my reward. Lord, make me faithful to the death, and then give me a crown of life, Rev. ii. 10.

Thou hast brought a vine out of Egypt: thou hast cast out the heathen, and planted it. Thou preparedst room before it, and didst cause it to take deep root, and it filled the land.—Why hast thou then broken down her hedges, so that all they which pass by the way do pluck her? The boar out of the wood doth waste it, and the wild beast of the field doth devour it. Return, we beseech thee, O God of hosts : look down from heaven, and behold, and visit this vine.-Turn.us again, O Lord God of hosts, cause thy face to shine ; and we shall be saved, Psa. lxxx. 8, 9, 12-14, 19.

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