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vainly hoping to mend and fit myself for Him. 'I will go up to the palm tree; I will take hold of the boughs thereof.""
Such, then, is the palm tree of the textsuch the blessed resolution formed, and, in the power of the same Holy Spirit who inspired it, carried out—so the first part of our subject brings the poor, weary, fruitless, sorrowing sinner to Jesus Christ, with a faith laying hold of His truth, and sheltering itself beneath His grace and graciousness.
II. The second part of our text gives us those blessed results which follow the carrying out the above resolution. I suppose the Lord to speak in these words—"Now, also," &c., answering to the words in which the child of God expressed her sweet determination to come to Him and lay hold of His gracious fulness. It is as though He said, “Now shall the desire of thy heart be sweetly accomplished. That blessedness thou hast been
. seeking after thou shalt enjoy. I have now directed thee into the true paths of righteousness for My name's sake; and thus I meet thee in those paths, according to the word, 'Thou meetest him that rejoices and works righteousness.' Thou art now made, by My grace, upright in My way, and thou shalt find these paths of believing in Me are paths of joy and peace.”
There are three things the Lord's people greatly desire—first, to have their own souls replenished with the joy of the Lord and the fruits of His Holy Spirit ; secondly, to be enabled to live as before the Lord a life of communion in prayer and praise; thirdly, to be useful and beneficial to the Lord's people, and glorifiers of God in their daily walk and conversation. These three blessed things are spoken of and represented as flowing forth from a simple cleaving of the heart by faith to Jesus. But we will consider things in the order of the text, which will be the reverse of our arrangement, and yet not signify that we were wrong in that arrangement
1. The children of God do greatly desire to be useful in their day and generation, and beneficial creatures, especially to the Church of God. They desire the blessing of Abraham in its fulness—not only to be blessed, but to be made a blessing. Now, as long as a child of God neglects Christ, he cannot bring forth fruit unto God. He resembles too much the sapless, withering branch that is cut off from the vine. But, on the other hand, when he is enabled to abide in Christ, or, as in the text, to go up close to the palm tree and lay hold of the boughs thereof, then the fruitfulness necessarily follows—“So shall yo bring forth much fruit, for without Me ye can do nothing.” This, then, is spoken of in the words, "Now shall thy breasts be as clusters of the vine." The breasts, we know, in Scripture language, are used as a metaphor for that whereby nourishment is administered. Thus,
one title of God, as providentially supplying the wants of His creatures, especially His people, is “ El Shaddai,” which some translate, “having many breasts ”—a sweet thought and sweet title.
But to proceed. The breasts of Zion are those gifts of the ministry, those gifts of the Spirit, and those blessed doctrines of the Word, whereby nourishment is ministered to the souls of God's people. Thus Peter writes, “Desire the sincere milk of the Word, that ye may grow thereby;" and the Lord sweetly promisos, in Isaiah, that the mourners in Zion shall suck and be satisfied with the breasts of her consolation. We see, then, from this what, in the figurative language of the text, is intended by the breasts of the spouse, the child of God-those doctrines, those gifts, whereby that child of God may administer benefit and blessing to others, and be a useful, beneficial creature.
Further, by these breasts being as clusters of the vine, we understand the abundance, comeliness, order, and excellent sweetness of the words and actions of the child of God under the circumstances, not single grapes, but clusters ; not confusion, but order, as in a branch of well-cultivated grapes; and not sourness, as in hodge fruit, but sweetness and deliciousness, as in the finest grapes of Eshcol. Such appears to be the thought. But now observe, when does all this take place ? When the soul cleaves closely to the Lord Jesus. The closer the cleaving, the simpler and stronger the reliance upon Him, the more He is laid hold of as the All in all
, the less the eye looks elsewhere, the more single it is to Him, the fuller, richer, riper will be the clusters; or, in other words, the more abundant, the mellower, the more truly beneficial, will be the words and works of the child of God. Dorcas clave to Jesus, and so she was a woman full of good works.” So the Thessalonians abode in Christ, and their love more and more abounded. Doctrines may furnish and remain in the head, truthful speeches may proceed from the lips, actions of an apparently excellent kind may appear in the life, and yet all be as a dry breast, utterly unsatisfactory to the spiritual mind. So it will and must be, if secret communion with God in Christ is not maintained. The name to live" may remain, the form of godliness may be retained; the life, power, and sweetness will all be gone if God in Christ is neglected. In vain the mask of true godliness is assumed. It will never have, to the discerning eye, the beauty and excellency of the living faith. The garments of those only will smell of the perfume whose souls are kept in the secret of the sanctuary. Of this, indeed, the child of God is so certain, that
2. He desires to be much with God in a blessed nearness in prayer and praise ; but it is only in Christ that nearness can be found. God out of Christ is as a consuming fire to sin and sinners-holy and unapproachable—so then, it is only as faith in Christ comes in that the soul can freely and sweetly draw nçar to God in prayer for His mercies, in praise for the reception of them. We are made, nigh by the blood of Christ, and draw nigh by faith in it; so then this second desire is fulfilled as the soul goes up to the palm tree. This is signified in the words “And the smell of thy nose like apples." I do not suppose this only to refer to the sweet perfume that the name of Jesus has to the spiritual senses of the child of God, though this is sweetly true--His name is as ointment poured forth—but I understand it rather to signify how the breath, so to speak, of the child of God himself becomes sweet and fragrant as it is perfumed through the soul's intercourse with Christ. The living soul sometimes finds the soul's breathing in prayer and praise sadly impeded. We draw our breath with the greatest difficulty. It is as though the lungs were diseased, or hindered in their free action." Sin, legality, the carnality of nature, are like a poisonous vapour to the heart. But when we get to Christ, we breathe the free, sweet air of Canaan. Now the breath comes freely; now the soul is turned as into prayer and praise. Even if no words, or mere broken onęs, are uttered, yet there is the very essence of prayer and praise in the heart. The soul brought into living union to Christ and communion with God breathes the air of free grace and of heaven, and prays and praises naturally and freely. These prayers and praises are sweetly acceptable to God, like the perfume of apples. Apples seem to represent in this Song the promises and other sweet things yielded in Jesus to the soul; and this figure may show us how the right working of these promises and sweet things in Jesus is to produce prayer and praise answerable to the things promised. The promises do not make the soul dumb, but eloquent." We ask for those things God Himself holds forth in the Gospel: A mere notion of things may beget dumb professors, but a living reception of the truth produces a corresponding return in the soul of prayer and praise. Thus, as through the nostrils the breath naturally flows, the nose of the spouse, in a figurative way, is said to be as apples.
Here, then, from a close adherence to Christ, two of the desires of the soul are accomplished. And so it is with the third. We desire to have our hearts replenished with joy and peace, and other sweet and blessed fruits of the Spirit; but how can this be ? How shall joy come into such hearts as ours-real, holy, substantial joy? Paul says, “In believing. "
“Joy is a fruit which will not grow
On nature's barren soil;.,
Is vanity and toil."
So it is here. The child of God at length goes up to Christ, lays hold of Him and His fulness. Now joy flows into her heart, peace into her conscience, and a holy living power into her faculties generally, wakening up every faculty of her heretofore slumbering soul into the praises of the Lord. This is shown in the words, "and the roof of thy mouth as the best wine for my Beloved, that goeth down sweetly, causing the lips of those that are asleep to speak.” The best wine is the wine of the eternal kingdom, of God's eternal love and free grace to sinners in Jesus. This was kept for the people of the Lord--the beloved of the Lord in Christ from all eternity-stored up in the eternal covenant, and to be distributed by Christ. This Jesus sweetly pours into the poor, distressed, sin-wearied soul which was ready to perish without Him. It flows down most sweetly over the roof of the mouth, or to the spiritual palate of the believer, the palate naturally being in the roof of the mouth." Yea, so sweetly does it flow down as to awaken every faculty of the soul to the sweet love and praise of God, as the Psalmist David experienced when he broke forth into his sweet song,:“Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless His holy name!” His soul broke forth into a song, and so does ours at times; and so will my reader's, if enabled by the Holy Spirit to go up freely unto Jesus, to lay hold of Him-His blood and righteousness-and then to receive in return from Him the sweet communications of His love, or, in other words, to "go up to the palm tree, and lay hold of the boughs thereof,” rejoicing in Jesus, and “having no confidence in the flesh.”!
ROWLANDS, the great Welsh preacher, used to say there were four lessons he had laboured to learn throughout the whole course of his religious life—first, to repent without despairing ; secondly, to believe without being presumptuous; thirdly, to rejoice without falling into levity; fourthly, to be angry without sinning. He used to often say that a self-righteous, legal spirit in man was like his shirt-a garment which he puts on first and puts off last.
JOHN BERRIDGE says, “Once I went to Jesus as a coxcomb, and gave myself fine airs, fancying, if He was something, so was I-if He had merit, so had I. I used Him as a healthy man will use a walking-stick-lean an ounce upon it, and vapour with it in the air. But now He is my whole crutch. No foot can stir a step without Him. True, I am apt to ramble; but, if evil tempers arise, I go to Him as some demoniac; if deadness creeps over me, I go as a paralytic; if dissipation comes, I go as à lunatic; if darkness clouds my face, I go as a Bartimæus ; and when I pray, I go as a leper, crying, 'Unclean! unclean !!!
SAINTS WHO HAVE BEEN PILLARS.
(GALATIANS ü. 9.)
(Concluded from page 239.) The wedding-day is commonly looked upon by society as the happiest period of man's life; and, willingly or unwillingly, the bridal pair are supposed to be happy then. The unworldly James Lewis, with his chosen partner, to whom he was publicly united on December 10th, 1818, spent this occasion in a way which both pleased and profited them. After the legal ceremony was performed at St. Olave's, Chichester, his godly father-in-law, Mr. John Baxter, and one or two friends, accompanied them to Donnington, to spend the day with a few Christian friends residing in that village. There they held Christian conversation, reading, singing, and prayer, the whole of the day, imploring the blessing of God upon the bride and bridegroom. Nor was this mere formality, much less hypocrisy; for the dear man tells us that the Lord granted unto them“ His sweet endearing presence, by shedding abroad His love in our hearts, and by giving us many infallible proofs of His kind approbation, which many of the friends sensibly felt, and which they used frequently to speak of
They were blessed spiritually, but each had bodily infirmities, and thus they were fitted to sympathize with each other. Mr. Lewis suffered from spasmodic asthma, which to him was a life-long trial. For many years he continued in the Bishop's Registry Office, and at times his religion was subjected to severe criticism by some Churchmen with whom he came in contact. But he was always helped to give a good reason of the hope which was in him; and, as his life corresponded with his profession, his feet confirmed the testimony that fell from his lips. An interesting circumstance is recorded by him, which we will here transcribe.
He says, “We received in the office a subpoena, demanding two original wills to be produced in court at the next general assizes to be holden at Lewes, which was to take place on the following Monday, there being a suit at law pending, and the production of those wills was necessary. The Registrar called me into his office, and said, 'You must go to Lewes, and take with you into court on Monday morning such wills as are required by this subpoena. You can go on Sunday morning by the coach.' This I did by no means admire, having a great aversion to travelling on the Sabbath Day. I felt somewhat like poor Nehemiah, when standing before the king. I immediately