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form metaphorical meaning in prophetic language. It cannot be better illustrated than by the commencement of the sixty-third chapter of Isaiah, where the Redeemer appears as a mighty conqueror returning from the combat, with garments stained red, as though he had been treading a wine-press. In answer to the question concerning the colour of his garments, he says: "I have trodden the wine-press alone, and of the people there was none with me: for I will tread them in mine anger, and trample them in my fury, and their blood shall be sprinkled upon my garments, and I will stain all my raiment : for the day of vengeance is in mine heart, and the year of my redeemed is come. And I will tread down the people in mine anger, and make them drunk in my fury, and I will bring down their strength to the earth." Such is the uniform representation of a vintage; the execution of the severest judgments of God upon the guilty. This wrath of God is brought upon the enemies of the Redeemer by an angel, to teach us that the Saviour has all these heavenly intelligences at his command; and at the call of another angel" coming out from the altar, who had power over fire"-the fire of the altar; the symbol of divine vengeance, demanding an atonement, and to be satisfied only with it. The vintage was to be full and complete; the vines and the grapes were at once to be cut off. It was "the vine of the earth" that was thus to be cut up; in opposition to that vine which was of the planting of our heavenly Father, and which so often represents the true church. The vineyard comprehends all antichristian nations. The blood coming out of the wine-press to the horses' bridles, represents the slaughter to be made of the enemies of the Redeem
er. It is like a terrible engagement, in which horses wade thus deeply in the blood of the enemies. It is to extend sixteen hundred furlongs; this perhaps is metaphorical; a definite for an indefinite number; although, when we consider the object of this prediction, there is certainly a singular coincidence pointed out by Mede, who shows that the "Stato della Chiesa," the state of the Roman church, or St. Peter's patrimony, contains just two hundred Italian miles, precisely sixteen hundred furlongs.
Here we pause. We have already said, that as these events are future, we wish to give only a general view of them, leaving history more fully to explain them. But the figures that are employed authorize, and even force us to present an important series of reflections for each individual; for every nation and church; for the world itself, there is a period when the harvest is ripe, and when the sickle shall be thrust in.
Let us rapidly illustrate this point; it is connected with our everlasting interests.
1. When are individuals ripe and ready for the harvest? All are preparing for it; every step that they take ripens them for wretchedness or glory; not a day passes over their heads, not an hour wings its flight, in which they are not made more meet for hell or for heaven. Not that all must sink to precisely the same degree of guilt, or rise to the same. elevations in holiness before they are removed from the world; this would be inconsistent with all those motives to piety derived from a consideration of the uncertainty of human life. But all live till that particular degree of preparation assigned to each individual is attained; and then, whatever may be the hopes of the person himself, or the expectations of
his friends and the community, the irresistible voice from heaven cries, "Put ye in the sickle; for the harvest is ripe :" he is mown down, and "he goes to his place." But you ask, and you should ask with deep apprehension, and with shuddering solicitude, who is he who appears nearly mature for the harvest of vengeance, almost ripe for eternal misery? That man who has long sinned against conviction; who has often quenched the motions of the Spirit, and resisted the remonstrances of an awakened conscience; who has lightly regarded many means of grace which God afforded him; who can now with indifference indulge in acts at which he once shuddered, and remain insensible in sin. I repeat it, without arriving at this height of wickedness, thou mayest be called to the holy tribunal; but if this be thy character, thou hast cause every day to fear the cry from heaven, "Cut him off, why cumbereth he the ground!" Ripe as thou art for perdition, canst thou suppose that the Intercessor will for ever plead, "Spare him this year also ?"
And who is the individual who is ripe for heaven? In one sense the feeblest real believer is prepared for glory; and he who dies when he first flees to the Saviour will be admitted to the joy of his Lord. But ordinarily the children of God are not removed from earth till they attain some maturity of grace, and till they become in some good degree confirmed believers. He who lives by faith; who, superior to the world, believingly and triumphantly anticipates divine joys; who constantly shakes off more and more the fetters of corruption, and has more heavenly aspirations and desires; who shows impressed upon him the image of God, and lives as Jesus lived when on earth; who, like the grain, as it ripens and fills,
bows lower, has more self-denial and humility: this man is ripe for heaven. Oh! why have we not more such characters among us! Much as we should miss them on their departure, greatly as we should lament the loss of their instructions, their example, their prayers, yet we should stand with composure round their open graves, exulting in the assurance that their souls have been gathered into "the garner of the Lord."
Inquire then, solemnly inquire, my dear brother, to which of these two classes thou belongest? Whether thou thinkest of it or not, thou art continually ripening for one of these two states. As yet, if thou art a sinner, a change is possible; but trifle a little longer, and the sentence will be pronounced, "Let him that is filthy be filthy still." Oh! seek the renewing grace of God before the decisive harvest. And if thou art a child of God, repine not at afflictions, disappointments, woes: these are all means of preparing you for the blessed harvest. The seed, to come to maturity, needs the dark sky, the cloud, and the rain, as well as the sunshine. Rejoice in the providence of Him who is conducting you, and implore from Him the dews of his grace, and the beams of the Sun of Righteousness. Confide in him: in the best mode he is maturing you for heaven.
2. I have not time to insist, as I intended, on this harvest, as it relates to nations or particular churches. I need only remark, that when the iniquity of any community, like that of the Amorites, is full: when they have filled up the measure of their wickedness, then "the sickle shall be thrust in," and all human endeavours to protract or evade the judgments of God, shall be found utterly unavailing.
3. But there is a period when we all must be assembled: when we shall perceive all that is affecting, and all that is awful in the harvest of the earth by our Redeemer. You perceive that I allude to the judgment-day, to which solemn occasion our Saviour applies similar language to that which is employed in the text. Then we shall see him coming in clouds, enthroned in glory inconceivable, bearing at once his divine and mediatorial crown, and attended, not by a single angel, but by all the heavenly host. These are the reapers, enabled to discern the characters of all: to separate the wheat and the tares that were here mingled together in society or the church. Dreadful indeed will be the separation! All that shall be found tares, all that were profane, formalists, or hypocrites, shall be bound up in bundles, and "cast into the furnace," but not to be utterly consumed, the fire is unquenchable: and these wretched beings shall for ever wail and gnash their teeth. "The wheat," the pious, shall be received to their eternal home: no longer mingling with the unholy, they shall dwell in the presence of God, and shall be happy, not merely beyond their deserts and hopes, but beyond their highest present conceptions. Brethren, in which of these two classes shall we then be found? What evidence have we that we shall not be crushed in the wine-press of the wrath of God? What scriptural proofs, confirmed by the indwelling Spirit, that we are, to use the fine expression of Job," like shocks of corn, fully ripe for the harvest ?" And if we ourselves, are safe, oh! let us look with affection and solicitude to our families and friends. In that day when there shall be so many separations of the dearest connexions, shall we all be united and enter together into glory, and be