Obrazy na stronie
PDF
ePub

short of them, they may be truly regarded righteous, who submit to that standard. They are considered so, in accommodation to their fallen and depraved powers which are morally incapable of obeying a perfect law, and hence they who rely supremely on the sacrifice of the Savior, and love and serve him with all their hearts are accounted righteous before God by virtue of the Mediator, and not their own works or deservings.* Thus, though there is none righteous, no, not one, as it respects their entire conformity to the laws of heaven, yet as all may be considered so who subreit to the Gospel planof salvation, we perceive that it is only in accommodation to human weakness, and that it is only owing to the free, unmerited grace of JEHOVAH.

The righteous, then, are not those who never sin, who never deviate by infirmity from the pure and perfect way, for such alas, exist not in the world. But they are those only who ingenuously perform all their duties to God, themselves, and their fellow creatures, and with contrite hearts ascribe their sole merit to him who has loved them and washed them in his own blood. Thus their virtue consists in integrity of heart and life, receiving from the Savior, as the earth from the sun, all their light, warmth and fertility.

Now nothing more fitly and beautifully characterizes the righteous than the palm tree, of which the Psalmist speaks in the text, both as it regards their qualities and the blessings which attend them. THE RIGHTEOUS SHALL FLOURISH LIKE THE PALM TREE.

In what respects, then, do the pious resemble this tree, and how may it be said that they shall flourish like the palm tree? There are three singular properties of this tree in which they may be compared to the righteous.

I. In their usefulness.
II. In their resistance to external calamity, and
III. In their duration.

I. The righteous shall flourish like the palm tree in their usefulness.

* See XI. Article of the Church.

The works of God not only manifest his power, wisdom, and benevolence, but illustrate the laws and doctrines of Divine revelation. That certain qualities of animal and vegetable nature should typify and explain the operations of mind and providence ; that the air we breathe-the light and comforts we enjoy, should be significant of correspondent gists to the soul, would be folly in the extreme, unless they were modes of teaching which our limited faculties require. As the mirror reflects and softens down the dazzling rays of the sun, so the works of creation reflect the glory of Divine truth and enable the soul to comprehend their wisdom.

Thus the palm tree illustrates the usefulness of the righteous. While other trees are distinguished by their devious trunks, this tree shoots perpendicularly upward to a considerable height, and thus resembles the pious mind, whose inclinations and pursuits ever tend toward heaven. Even Mahomet could

say
of the

geneorus man; “he stands erect before his Lord : in every

action he follows the impulse received from above, and his whole life is devoted to the welfare of his fellow creatures." Rearing its stem, and diffusing its refreshing shade in dreary solitudes, where nothing else can be found to shelter the exhausted traveller, how beautifully does this tree exemplify the character of the Christian in the midst of a desert world, who, when nothing else can satisfy or refresh the weary spirit, becomes alone a refuge of solace and support! Bearing its branches only on the top, the palm tree diffuses thence a most grateful shade upon all who are below; and is it not in a similar manner that they who are enlightened and warmed by the spirit of Christian faith and charity, become a shade to the friendless, the destitute, and the afflicted? Their elevated principles, and heaven-born affections, like the palm tree's shade from the top, refresh many a weary spirit, and sustain many a desponding heart. They who refuse to become a shade to others, to exercise a liberal and philanthropic spirit wherever it is needed, forget that they live for others as well as for themselves. They forget that benevolence "blesses him that gives and him that takes,” that in proportion as we gratify others, we rejoice ourselves, and that none are more miserable than those who live only to themselves. As the palm tree is repaid for the shade it yields in the cultivation

a

it receives from the grateful hand it blesses ; so they who benefit the needy, often live under the shade of the very bounty they inpart, or they enjoy an unspeakable delight in rendering the mourner happy, or they become the objects of those earnest prayers which their liberality has awakened in the hearts of cthers.

The palm tree is noted for the abundance of its fruit. The powerful action of the sap is developed not only in thick umbrageous foliage, but in multitudes of flowers and dates. “The dates hung from these trees,” says a learned traveller,* “in such large and tempting clusters, that we climbed to the tops of some of them, and carried away with us large branches with their fruit. Wherever," says he, “the date tree is found in these dreary deserts, it not only presents a supply of salutary food for men and camels, but nature has so wonderfully contrived the plant, that its first offering is accessible to man alone; and the mere circumstance,” he observes, "of its presence in all seasons of the year is a neverfailing indication of fresh water near its roots. A considerable part of the inhabitants of Egypt, of Arabia, and of Persia," he continues, “subsist almost entirely upon its fruit. They boast also of its medicinal virtues. Their camels feed upon the date stones. From the leaves and branches are made an astonishing variety of domestic furniture and utensils; from the fibres of the boughs are manufactured thread, ropes, and rigging; from the sap is prepared a spirituous liquor; the body of the tree furnishes fuel; and from one variety of the tree meal has been extracted, and has been used for food.” Are not thus the righteous pictured forth by this tree? They who “have put on Christ" abound in every good thought, word, and work, and remembering that they are the branches of the living vine, they yield much fruit of righteousness to the glory and praise of God. Are they not eyes to the blind, ears to the deaf, and feet to the lame? Who are readier than they to listen to the tale of distress, and, if unable to furnish temporal aid, to impart what is better, the treasures of feeling hearts? Is the Church of Christ in want of their assistance ?

* Dr. Clarke.

Who are more unwearied in rendering its gates salvation, and its walls praise? As neighbors and citizens-Who are more zealous in alleviating the burdens of one another, and promoting the honor and prosperity of their native land? As Parents and Christians, Who are more assiduous in rejoicing the hearts of their families and friends, and shedding around them, as the sun, light, life, and enjoyment? While the piety of some requires to be trumpeted forth by acts of ostentatious display, the righteous are always known, like the secret wells of the desert, by the living verdure about them; for wherever they go, blessings attend their steps. Like the palm, whose " presence is a never-failing indication of fresh water near its roots,” their presence is heralded by the happiness of those they have benefited, by the virtuous habits which have sprung up from the good seed they have sown, and by the shouts of industry and plenty which their influence and example have diffused. Go where they will, either in civilized or heathen lands --whether among the illiterate Esquimaux or the polished nations of Europe- and they receive the commendation of all who are around them. They carry with them an atmosphere of light, of cheerfulness, and holiness, which diffuse a grateful fragrance through the circles of society; and though they are not advanced to the highest stations of the empire, yet they receive as much, if not more, real honor from mankind; For they that honor me, saith God, I will honor, and they that despise me shall be lightly esteemed. Blessed and holy spirits ! Go on prospering and to prosper. The tongues of thousands bless you. The hearts of those ye have gladdened leap at your approach. In the Almighty Parent let your root be established, and from him shall your fruit be found. In him your branches shall spread, your beauty shall be as the olive-tree, and your smell as Lebanon.

II. The righteous, also, shall flourish like the palm tree, in their resistance to external calamity.

Neither weight nor violence can make this tree grow downwards or crooked; but the more it is oppressed, the more it flourishes, the higher it towers, and the stronger and broader it becomes at

VOL. II.-33

[ocr errors]

the top.* From this singular quality it became the emblem of constancy, patience, and victory by the eastern nations; and hence Christ was honored at Jerusalem by the waving of the palm branches; and the redeemed in heaven are described as carrying palms in their hands, in token of the triumphs they had achieved. How like indeed to thee, thou Prince of righteousness and life, was the palm that came forth to honor thee! “Eminent and upright, thou art ever verdant and ever fragrant; under the greatest pressure and weight of sufferings, still ascending towards heaven; affording both fruit and protection; incorruptible, immortal, and never fading away!Is it not thus with thy servants, thou blessed Prince of Peace; for are they not niembers of thy body, thy flesh and of thy bones? No situation so thoroughly proves the Christian as the afflictions of mortality. The feeblest infant may endure the sunshine, but it requires the man to face the storm. To bravely resist the attacks of calumny and disappointment, and evidence to the world that our piety is invincible and calm; to regard the desertions of fortune and the frowns of pain with composure, remembering that they are the debts and penalties of poor human nature; to walk away from the newmade grave with our hearts wrapped only in God, and resolutions more enkindled to benefit the surviving,—these are the characteristics of great and noble minds; but, like diamonds, they have been found in the lowliest situations. Like the waves in the storm, the righteous have been tossed to and fro by the trials of life, but like them they are uninjured; for soon the tempest of suffering subsides, and the light of heaven sleeps upon their

* See Cruden in loco, and H. J. Rose's edition of Parkhurst's Greek Lexicon. “The permanency and perpetual flourishing of the palm leaves, and their form resembling the solar rays, make this tree a very proper emblem of the natural, and thence of the divine light. Hence in the holy place or sanctuary of the temple, (the emblem of Christ's body) palm trees were engraved on the walls and doors, between the coupled cherubs. See 1 Kings, vi. 29, &c. The reason given by Plutarch and Aulus Gellius, why they were used as emblems of victory by idolaters, is the nature of the wood, which so powerfully resists incumbent pressure; but doubtless believers, by bearing palm branches after a victory, or in triumph, meant to acknowledge the divine Author of their support and success, and to carry on their thoughts to the divine Light, the great Conqueror of sin and death. (See 1 Mac. xii. 51, xriii. 17.)

| Dr. Horne,

« PoprzedniaDalej »