Page images

and they who are destitute of grace are clouds without water, carried about of winds.

IX. As the Holy Spirit has rain for his emblem, so Christ is signified to us by the light, the other agent in vegetation. With the prophet Malachi, He is the sun of righteousness arising with healing in his wings. In the last words of David, He is compared to the light of the morning; and he said of himself, that He was the light of the world—giving light and warmth to the soul as the sun does to the earth. The sun was darkened when his glory was eclipsed upon the cross: and Elymas the sorcerer was struck with blindness, not seeing the sun for a season, because he would not see Christ when He was preached to him. So that we have the same agents in the invisible as in the visible world; spiritual vegetation is conducted in the same manner as natural; man is raised up to a state of grace, as the flowers of the spring are made to arise from the earth: the flowers grow by light and rain; man by Christ and the Holy Spirit; whose blessed influences at the appearance of the gospel were shed abroad upon the whole Jewish and Gentile world. For as Christ was the glory of his people Israel, so was He a light to lighten the Gentiles; and on them the rain of grace also fell as at first upon the Jewish disciples, who were astonished when they found that on the Gentiles also was poured out, as rain from the clouds of Heaven, the gift of the Holy Ghost. Thus did God, in an evangelical sense, make his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sent rain on the just and on the unjust.

X. By these means, and by these only, the flowers alluded to by the prophet in this sacred song, were made to grow. Several things are to be observed, wherein they as nearly resemble the children of God,

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

as in the manner of their generation from the earth. First and chiefly in their attire and outward appearance. They are adorned with all the colours of the Sun's light, either simple or compounded in a thousand various mixtures; and these colours, like those in the High-priest's garments, are for glory and for beauty. The priestly garments of gold (that is yellow) and blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine white linen, prefigured that brightness and perfection with which Christ, our true High-priest, should be clothed: and the colouring of a flower is given it for a like purpose, as a figure of those garments of salvation, that grace and beauty of holiness wherewith the saints are invested through the power of the christian faith. This will explain what is said by Isaiah the prophet on the conversion of the heathens-The wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad for them, and the desert shall rejoice and blossom as the rose. It shall blossom abundantly, and rejoice even with joy and singing: the glory of Lebanon shall be given to it, the excellence of Carmel and Sharon, all of them mountains remarkable for flowers: then follows the cause of this alterationThey shall see the glory of the Lord, and the excellency of our God. The poor barren Gentiles, by seeing the glory and excellency of Christ, were themselves to put on the glory of Lebanon, and the excellency of Carmel and Sharon; at the sight of their Saviour, they were to be changed into his image, and partake of his perfections, who calls himself the Rose of Sharon and the Lily of the vallies--and says of his disciples--The glory which thou gavest me I have given unto them*. Thus we find it in nature: for flowers of all kinds resemble, both in shape and colour, the

* John xvii. 22.


light that shines upon and gives them their birth. They are divided into rays or points, like the beams that proceed from the heavenly luminaries*; so that the earth covered with flowers makes the same kind of appearance as the Firmament bespangled with stars; and for their number and their glory, both I think have an equal claim to represent the children of Abraham.

There is one very considerable circumstance, common to the clothing of a flower and to the righteousness signified by it-that both are equally the work or gift of God. It is God that clothes the grass of the field with such beauty; and it is God that giveth to his people, the far more lasting ornaments of grace and sanctification: Man, with his utmost skill, can never weave such delicate embroidery as we find in one single leaf of any ordinary flower: and no works or merits of man, with all his toil and spinning, can compose that Robe of righteousness without which we must not hope to appear in the presence of God. As Solomon in all his glory, which (was the work of man) was not arrayed like a lily (the work of God;) so the righteousness of human wisdom, commonly called morality, is not only inferior in degree, but essentially different in kind, from that righteousness which is the work of the gospel, as it would be easy enough to shew: It is but as filthy rugs compared to fine linen, clean and bright; or as a ragged thistle to the glory of a rose and the whiteness of a lily. Therefore, thanks to our merciful Saviour, that we have full encouragement to expect a better raiment than

* Upon the flow'rs of heav'n we gaze;
The stars of earth no wonder raise:

Tho' these perhaps do, more than they,
The life of mankind sway.



with which we are able to furnish ourselves. For if God so clothe the grass of the field, how much more will he clothe those that believe on him?

Righteousness, as well as the glory of a lily, being the gift of God, they who trust not in God for it will be left destitute.-The Jews, who sought it not by Faith, but, as it were, by the works of the law, going about to establish their own righteousness, have reduced themselves to a miserable condition. Instead of the glory of a flower, they have nothing but the roughness and deformity of thorns and briars. Their Sharon, as the prophet foretold, is turned into a wilderness; and while the wilderness of the Gentiles is encouraged to rejoice and blossom as the rose, the case with them is the very reverse-Rejoice not, O Israel, for joy, as other people—for the pleasant places for their silver, nettles shall possess them, thorns shall be in their tabernacles. From this difference between the Jew and Gentile, it is said of the christian church, when compared with such unbelievers, As the lily among thorns, so is my beloved among the daughters*.

XI. Another thing to be observed in the flowers that appear on the earth—is their variety as to shape, size, and colour; like the children of God, who are endued with different graces and with different degrees of grace. For as one flower, like one star, differeth from another in glory, so also do the spiritual plants of the church; some of which have a larger portion of illumination and grace than others; and some have gifts in which others are deficient: for, saith the Apostle-Every man hath his proper gift of God; as flowers after their kind, have that size and colour which God hath been pleased to bestow upon

Cant. chap. ii. 2.

hem. No christian is to be blamed for wanting what God hath not given him; as no flower is to be esteemed an imperfect work, for not having in it all the colours of the Rain-bow.

XII. The sweet smell of flowers is another excellence we are to take notice of: for by a sweet sacour is meant any thing acceptable to God, be it a word or a work of righteousness, any thing meritorious through Christ Jesus. And as the sweet scent of flowers is not conveyed to us, unless a brisk air blow it from them; so the sweet and pleasant odours of righteousness, in the people of God, cannot arise but through the power of the Holy Spirit, breathing upon their hearts. Therefore the spouse in this divine song calls upon the spirit to produce this blessed effect-Awake, O north-wind, and come thou south, blow upon my garden, that the spices, the sweet aromatic odours, may flow out. Let but the spirit thus bestow his grace upon us, and the church, as Isaac pronounced of Jacob concerning things to come, is like the smell of a field which the Lord hath blessed.

But this smell, though it is precious and acceptable with God, and endears the Christian to his brethren, is of little account with the men of this world; it is rather disagreeable and offensive to them. The same is observable in nature: for naturalists have informed us, there are some dirty crawling insects which will sicken and die at the smell of a rose: a case which doth well illustrate the different success of the Holy Apostles, when they preached, through the power of the Holy Spirit upon them, the doctrine of Christ: for while they were a savour of life unto life in those that were saved, They were a savour of death unto death in them that perished.

XIII. To what hath been said much more might

« PreviousContinue »