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vices, and invited them to trust in his shadowt. Thus it had happened in the case of Abimelech : and doth not experience shew us at this day, that the moral is still good ? that the worst, and most worthless, are always the most forward to thrust themselves into power, and promise great things; how safe and happy we should be under their shadow! As if brambles, of a nature to tear the skin, and draw blood from every part of the body, and fit for nothing but to be burned out of the way, could form an agreeable shade for the people to sit under. The good and the virtuous, who are fruitful and happy in themselves, would be deprived of their internal comforts by the hurry and danger which attend the possession of power: but bad men, who have no source of content and enjoyment within themselves, are always so forward to seek it without themselves, and would turn the world upside down, or tear its inhabitants to pieces, to satisfy their own ambition. When circumstances conspire to bring those into action who are most worthy of power, then people sit under the vine, and under the fig-tree, in, the enjoyment of peace
+ See Judges ix. 8, &c.
Our blessed Saviour, with a like allusion, hath referred us to the natural state and condition of plants and flowers; thence to learn the unprofitableness of that anxiety and distrust, with which we seek after the things of this world. Consider the lilies, how they grow-If God so clothe the grass of the field, shall he not much more clothe you? S As if he had said : " You adinire the beautiful clothing of a flower; and indeed it is worthy of all admiration : the God on whom you depend is the author of its wonderful contexture; whence you ought to learn, that if he hath bestowed this rich attire upon the inferior part of the creation, the grass of the field, so fading and transient, he will never leave you unpro.vided who are made for eternity.”
The accidents to which plants are exposed in their growth, afford matter for the beautiful and instructive parable of the sower, which conveys as much in a few plain words, as a volume could do in any other form 1. The seed of God's word, when it is sown by a preacher, may fall into an honest and good heart, as the seed of the sower into a happy, fruitful soil ; or it may light among the thorns
of worldly cares, and the rank weeds of worldly pleasures, which, springing up with it, will choke it, and render it unfruitful: or it may fall into an hasty, impatient mind, like seed upon a shallow, rocky soil, where it has no depth of earth, and so cannot endure when the heat of the sun dries it. Other minds are open to the ways of the world in public or fashionable life, and unguarded against the dangers of sin ; so are exposed to the depredations of evil spirits, which rob them of what they had heard : as birds of the air pick up without fear or molestation the seeds which are scattered by the side of a public road.
The transient nature of plants and flowers. has given occasion to many striking representations of the brevity and vanity of this mortal life. " As the leaves wither and fall
away from the trees, and others succeed,
so,” saith an ancient poet, “ are the gene" rations of men *.
* Οιη σερ φυλλων γενεη, τοιηδε και ανδρων.
Hom. II. 5. 146.
Pope's Homer, b. 6. 1. 181.
How sublime and affecting is that reflection in the book of Job" Man that is born of a woman hath but a short time to live, and is full of misery: he cometh up like a flower, and is cut down t:" In the same figurative language doth the Psalmist speak of the flourishing state of man in youth, and his decay in the time of age: “ In the morning they are like the grass which groweth up, in the morning it flourisheth and groweth up; in the evening it is cut down and withered.” To cure us of our confidence in the wealth and prosperity of this world, and make way for the serious temper of the gospel, nothing can be more expressive and rhetorical than that sentence of St. James : « Let the brother of low degree rejoice in that he is exalted; but the rich in that he is made low; because as the flower of the grass he shall pass away: for the sun is no sooner risen with a burning heat, but it withereth the grass, and the flower thereof falleth, and the grace of the fashion of it perisheth : so shall the rich man fade away in his ways:" that is, he shall decay in his prosperity, as the flower fades the sooner for the enjoyment of the sun-shine.
+ Job xiv. 2.
The reviving of seeds and roots buried in the earth, though so common a fact, is yet so wonderful, that it is more than a figure, it is a pledge and assurance that the dead shall rise again. In every spring nature presents us with a general resurrection in the vegetable world, after a temporary death and burial in the winter. The root that lies dormant under the ground is a prisoner of hope, and waits for the return of the vernal sun. If it could speak, it might repeat (and to the ear of faith it does repeat) those words of the apostle :o
grave, where is thy victory? So plainly doth vegetable nature preach this doctrine of the resurrection, that the man is supposed to be senseless, who does not make this use of it-thou fool, it is not quickened, except it die.
I would now only observe, after what hath been said, that a right use of our present subject in all its parts must contribute to the dignity, and to the happiness of man. How innocently, and how pleasantly is he entertained, who in cultivating the various productions of the earth, hath the elements working with him, and assisting him to perfect his flowers and fruits, and raise a Paradise around