Page images

instead of piercing cold and stormy impetuous rain, we have got a warm sun, with soft refreshing showers and dews? By the influences of which, the flowers, whose roots and seeds lay buried in the earth during the winter season, now spring up and adorn the surface of it. The birds, perceiving that the cold which had silenced them is now past, immediately upon this change in nature resume their singing, and fill every wood and grove with their various notes. Among the rest, and different from them all, there is heard in the land the soft and gentle voice of the turtle-dove, come abroad from the clefts of the rock, where she had retired and sheltered herself from the inclemency of the winter. The trees also, whose branches were stripped and left naked by the frost, now put on a fresh covering of blossoms, leaves, and fruit. The fig-tree putteth forth her green figs, and the vine, which in the Eastern countries, where this picture of the spring was drawn, is much forwarder than with us, bears its tender grapes, giving a pleasant smell.

III. Things being thus altered, the spouse, by whom we suppose the Messiah to be signified to us throughout this sacred Song, calls to his best-beloved, his fair-one without spot or wrinkle, even to the christian church; bidding her remain no longer within, but rise up to her state of conversion, and come away to enjoy with him the beauties of the spring; not the spring of nature, but of grace. For as there is another sun besides that which gives light to the body, even Christ, the Sun of righteousness, and the light of life; so is there another winter, other rain, other flowers, trees, and fruits. In short, every article in this description was figuratively accomplished, when the Gospel first arose, with its salutary effects upon the souls of men. Every circumstance here offered

in commendation of the Spring, was verified in a proper sense by the christian religion, when it first appeared in the world.

IV. And, 1st, what is said in the beginning-For lo! the winter is past, the rain is over and gone. As the Spring hath the winter going before it, so the gospel, that dispensation of mercy, was preceded by a rough and gloomy season; during which the whole world, as divided into Jews and Gentiles, were in the same state with the earth and its products, till the Spring appeareth. The poor heathen was in his wintry state of nature, dead in trespasses and sins; bound up in the earth by a sharp and severe frost, and as unable to help himself, as a lily to bear its flowers in the middle of December. While Adam remained innocent, he flourished under the favour of God in the Garden of Paradise; but when sin entered into the world, an inclement season followed it. Man's root that had been warmed with sunshine, was nipped with frost, and there came a winter of spiritual death upon him and all his posterity. In this state lay the Gentile, when the Spring of the gospel found him, and furnished him with the necessary means of being renewed again unto life. Then his winter was past; and that unprofitable state of nature which no mortal is able to abide, was changed for the blessed influences of grace and righteousness. Plants, which in time. past had never been able to vegetate, lifted up their heads, and put forth their fruits, when he sent out his word and melted them.

V. If we turn now to the Jew, we shall find that to him also the gospel was as necessary as the spring. For though he was not under the dominion of nature, he was dead under that of the law: though he lay not under the depth of winter, yet a heavy and vio

lent rain, such as the Hebrew in this place expresses, was still upon him; for he was not under grace but under the law; which, when void of Christ, the end of it for righteousness, was the very strength of sin, and brought down from heaven the wrath of God. Of this wrath violent rain is a well known emblem; whence Zophar, in the Book of Job, shewing the portion of the sinner, says-When he is about to fill his belly, God shall cast his fury upon him, and shall rain it upon him while he is eating*. From this rain. of condemnation, brought down by the law upon the Jew, there was no escaping but by justification in Christ Jesus, by whom all that believe are justified from all things, from which they could not be justified by the law of Moses. Therefore said the Prophet Isaiah, foreseeing the justification of his people, A man shall be as an hiding-place from the wind, and a covert from the tempest, a place of refuge, and covert from storm and from RAIN‡. This hath been fully verified in our blessed Saviour. For as any place of shelter which protects man from the weather, is itself exposed to the heavens, and receives upon it the storm and the rain; so did he, our place of refuge, receive upon himself the curse of the law due to our transgressions, of it; and when it was falling, like an angry tempest, upon mankind, interposed between us and heaven, and catched the force of it in his own. body. Like Moses, who, when there was thunder and hail in Egypt, and fire ran along upon the ground, went out of the city, exposing himself single and defenceless to the terrors of divine wrath, and spreading forth his hands to make intercession for the sinful people of Egypt! On him its rage was spent; and

*Job xx. 23.

+ Acts xiii. 39.

Isaiah iv. 32.

there is now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus; for we are not under the law, but under grace. This rain of wrath is over and gone; or, to use the words of Christ when he had borne it for us upon the cross-It is finished.

VI. Such was the deliverance of the Jew and Gentile at the Spring of the gospel: and this the encouragement to them both to rise up and come away to the christian church; where the Gentile should no longer be left in his frozen state of nature, nor the Jew have any thing more to fear from the severity of the law; which was blown over as a black wintry cloud, giving place to a more clear and refreshing dispensation of mercy.

VII. The change that ensued, was the same with that which is wrought here before us in the earth, when the winter is past; and it is described to our senses under a succession of beautiful images, all belonging to the Spring--The flowers appear on the earth, the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land.

VIII. First, the flowers appear on the earth; when the light of the gospel visited the world, mankind were thereby raised from a death of sin unto a life of righteousness; they, who lay buried in the earth of nature, sprang up as flowers, and arose from the dead when Christ gave them light. Being planted together with him, at baptism, into the likeness of his death, they were renewed unto grace, and flourished in the power of his resurrection. This was the natural consequence of their coming into the church of Christ; for let but a dry rod be laid up in the sanctuary, and it buds, and blossoms, and bears fruit. If we would know what it is to be made a member of Christ's church, and become an heir of glory, let us consider

the flowers of the field, how they grow; and when we understand this, we cannot long be ignorant of the other. For the flowers of the field, and the children of God are both raised up from a state of death to a new state of life and glory, and that by the like means. A flower rises from its grave in the earth by the operation of light and water. The tender grass (as the prophet David expresses it in his last words) springeth out of the earth by clear shining after rain. The rain moistens and prepares the mould which supplies the plant with its substance, and the light forms it and brings it forward. Our senses tell us that this is the order of nature: let it but rain and shine in a due proportion, and the flowers are sure to grow and flourish. Thus it is with man in his birth and growth of grace; both of which are brought about by the operation of Christ and the Holy Ghost, represented to us in the scripture style by light and rain-water. The power of the Spirit residing in the Messiah was to come down like the rain into a fleece of wool, even as the drops that water the earth. The same is alluded to by the prophet' Hosea in the following words→→→ Break up your fallow ground, for it is time to seek the LORD, till He come and rain righteousness upon you -That is, till He come and rain the Spirit upon you, for the spirit is life because of righteousness. As the powerful operations, so the language, of the spirit, designed for the purposes of grace, is likened to the same natural agent--My doctrine (says Moses in his last song) shall drop as the rain; my speech shall distil as the dew, as the small rain upon the tender herb, and as the showers upon the grass. Hence the soul, when refreshed and supplied with the divine spirit, is compared by the prophet Jeremiah to a watered garden; A A


[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »