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even that delightful vine, Psal. lxxx. 8, exposed to the ravages of the boar out of the wood, and the wild beast of the field, ver. 13, even to error and corruption, which are more destructive than those would be to a pleasant planting or vine ?
Might not our ancient reformers, if they were now alive, adopt the language of the man of wisdom, with a little variation, and say,
“ We went by the field and vineyard of “ the church, which, owing to the slothful
ness of its watchmen and keepers, was all
grown over with thorns, and nettles had co“ vered the face thereof, and the stone wall " thereof was broken down, Prov. xxiv. 30, “ 31, quite different it appeared from the “ beautiful order in which it was left by us?”
Here, amidst a group of thorns, I see a delicate lily springing up. Charming flower! thou art destined to grow in a disagreeable situation; scarcely wilt thou have room to open thy delightful foliage for thy rugged neighbours, which, regardless of thy beauty or odours, will pierce thy blossoms; and scarce will the wind blow, but thou shalt find their hard oppression and sharp sting : yet though thus pierced and oppressed, thou wilt grow, spread forth, and flourish to perfection,
This putteth me in mind of that beautiful passage in the Song of Solomon, where the spouse is compared to a lily among thorns, Cant. ii. 2. Thus the church hath been in all ages surrounded by an unneighbourly and unfriendly world, which, regardless of either her beauty or salutary benefits, hath oppressed and pained her sore, and striven to retard, by the fierce winds of persecution, her growth and success in the world : yet, wonderful! to the praise of free grace, even of her head and husband Christ Jesus, in the midst of this incumbrance she hath been made to grow, bud forth, and blossom as the rose.
Isa. xxxv. 1, and Hos. xiv. 5.
As the bush burned and was not consumed, Exod. iii. 2, so the fire of persecution hath never been able to destroy her, but she hath always remained and grown, and shall grow when that fire shall be finally extinguished.
While I am musing, some how or other, these thorns have entangled me by my garments. This remindeth me of that mongter of wickedness and miracle of grace, even Manasseh the king of Judah’s being taken
thorns. Whether these were thorns literally, or the thorns of affliction, I shall not determine; only whatever they were, they were made the means of catching him in his mad race to perdition, and of making him stop and consider his ways, Hag. i. 5, 7; which consideration, through grace, was not only made effectual for stopping him in his mad career, but also of turning him about, and making him run a quite contrary, course, even the way of God's commands. Psal. cxix. 32.
Thus the royal Psalmist himself was once caught in the thorns of affliction, when he was running astray, and made to turn again into the paths of the righteous, Psal. cxix.
67. Happy thorns ! happy afflictions ! when thus blessed for preventing men from running to destruction.
But ah! how many are caught in the thorns of affliction, that are never made a whit the better thereby, but push forward in their mad career still. These may be said to be taught with thorns the evil of their doings, but, making no improvement of their lesson, are only torn thereby, as Gideon taught the men of Succoth, Judg. viii. 7, 16.
Surely then it is my duty, as well as that of all others, whenever we are caught in the thorns of affliction, to comply with that call, to consider our ways, Hag. i. 5, what we have been doing, and whither we have been going; what hath brought us into these troubles, and what is their language
This is not only to hear the rod, but also him who hath appointed it. Micah, vi. 9. If we are grieved for the pain only which these
thorns occasion, and seek to get rid of them, without looking duly to the cause that involved us in them, it is a sign they are destitute of that effect which they had upon David and Manasseh.
The thorns of affliction, instead of being a curse, according to their nature, are now made a blessing to the people of the Lord; and are graciously promised to them as preventatives from pursuing their idols to their destruction; “ Therefore, behold, I will “ hedge up thy way with thorns, and make
a wall that she shall not find her paths : " And she shall follow after her lovers, but " she shall not overtake them; and she shall “ seek them, but shall not find them. Then 66 shall she say,
and return to my “ first husband, for then was it better with me 66 than now.” Hos. ii. 6, 7.
But especially these thorns bring to my remembrance that awful event when the powers of earth and hell were let loose against our ever blessed Lord and Saviour; when a crown of thorns, for pain and deri