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flutters over them that they may learn by degrees the right manner of exerting those powers. And as she helps them to rise out of the nest, and try their feeble strength, so she continually watches their endeavours, and turns back to them, if she sees them wearied or in difficulty; and she bears them on her own wings. How true to nature is each instance of her parental love, and each action of her instinctive wisdom, as here set forth to us! How beautiful is the image thus brought before us, of an eagle stirring up her nest, fluttering over her young, spreading out her wings, and taking and bearing on her wings her helpless offspring! She thus teaches and accustoms them to fly; and, by bearing them on her wings, protects them at her own risk from danger; since the body of the parent must then be pierced before the young eagles can be destroyed, or wounded. Surely every parent may well be reminded, by this description, of the duty of training and instructing his children ; that he must not suffer them to grow up in idleness, and in ignorance of their blessings, and duties; or to lose their powers of mind, or body, for want of exercise.
But this most beautiful image is used to show us, in the first instance, the care with which God trained His weak and wayward people in the wilderness. When they would have continued in Egypt, He stirred them up with the love of liberty and the hope of “a land flowing with milk and honey ;." and many times kept them from returning to that house of bondage. At every fresh difficulty He was at hand to counsel, to succour, and to comfort them; training them by degrees for what they had to do; and not leading them
struggles that would require strong faith and principle, and powers of enduring hardness, until they had been prepared for those greater trials, by mastering such as were more easy. With patient love, “ He suffered their manners in the wilderness?," and
2 Acts xiii. 18.
led them about and instructed them, with the tenderness and forbearance of a compassionate Father.
And does not the similitude apply as truly to His dealings with ourselves? He graciously stirs us up at first by the influence of His Holy Spirit, by the warnings of conscience, by the fear of hell, and by the hope of heaven; or else we should never move from our old bondage to sin and Satan. He gives us the desire for the glorious liberty” of His children who are freed from the tyranny of sin ; and many times He keeps us from returning to our old condition, when, if left to ourselves, we should go back to it. In all the trials or disappointments which come upon us, He still seeks to train us for the heavenly home, as well as to exercise us for the work which lies before us on earth. And our part is, to remember at all times His gracious purpose towards us; that His Holy Spirit is, as it were, hovering over us; and that He is willing, as it were, to bear and carry us on His wings. Nay, we should call to mind that our blessed Saviour has Himself interposed between the Divine justice and our guilty souls; and received in His own body the stroke under which we must otherwise have perished for ever. Surely one thought of what is here said of the eagle stirring up her nest and fluttering over her young, and taking and bearing them on her wings, should be enough to sustain us under every dispensation of Divine Providence, with cheerfulness, and with a calm trust in Him who has so infinite a compassion for His helpless creatures. Remember, also, that He tells us of all this unspeakable tenderness, in order that we may be drawn to Him as with cords of love *; and that we may walk with Him in the ways of obedience, as grateful and teachable children.
3 Rom. viii. 21.
4 Hos. xi. 4.
II.-THE DIVINE DOCTRINE COMPARED TO RAIN.
1, and by
My doctrine 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: Because I will publish the name of the Lord: ascribe ye greatness unto our God.” Deut. xxxii. 2, 3.—See also Ps. Ixxii. 6.
Isa. lv. 10, 11. Mic. v. 7. Heb. vi. 7. The heart of man is often compared in Holy Scripture to the hard ground, which must be ploughed or softened before it can either receive the good seed, or can bring forth such herbs as the sower looks for in their season. And as the heart is likened to the hard ground, so the Divine doctrine is compared to the softening rain or dew which the thirsty soil drinks in so eagerly ®, and by which it is rendered fruitful. Or, perhaps, the Holy Spirit may be chiefly meant, which is elsewhere likened to rain or dew?, which alone the “ doctrine" is made effectual in softening the hard heart. Accompanied by that gracious influence, the “ doctrine” has a softening and penetrating power, sufficient to soften and subdue the hardest and proudest spirit. The heart is sometimes
stony heart $ ;” and the doctrine is then spoken of as “ a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces";" and elsewhere it is compared to "a twoedged sword, piercing, even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow.”
Its gentler influence is alluded to, when it is likened to rain or dew; more gentle, but not less powerful, than when it acts as a sword, or 6 as a fire "," or as a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces.
You may have seen the ground so hard and parched in summer that it might almost be taken for rock. It can be broken only by the most violent effort, and you would not think that it could ever be made soft again. Yet, when “a gracious rain” is sent upon it,
5 Luke viii. 5.
6 Ps. cxliii. 6.
7 Ps. Ixviii. 9.
by degrees the hardness gives way.
66 He maketh it soft with the drops of rain’;" and it is again such as to receive into its bosom the seeds which shall bear fruit in due season. And thus has many and many a heart, which seemed “as hard as a piece of the nether millstone,” been softened and penetrated by the heavenly doctrine in due time. The man who seemed dead to all persuasion, and proof against all influence, has learnt to grieve over his sins, and to smite his breast with the most earnest conviction, saying, “ God be merciful to me a sinner!” He has learnt to reflect with amazement on those sufferings of our blessed Saviour, which were “ nothing” to him*
before; bis conscience has again become tender. The sense of shame, which seemed to be dead, has revived; and he reflects with remorse and confusion of face on the guilt which he has incurred, and the love against which he has sinned.
And the doctrine which has thus distilled like dew upon his heart, is the heavenly truth, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and that He hath committed unto His ministers the word of reconciliation. To hear that there are waters in which the leper may wash and be clean®; and a door open for a return to pardon, virtue, and happiness; and a quickening grace which can quicken to a new life the man who was dead in trespasses and sins; these “good tidings of great joy" are the truths which fall upon the heart like showers on the mown grass, and like the dew upon the tender herb. How fitly are they thus compared! Think how blessed are the showers which, on some sultry day, come down when the rain has long been wished for! How gently and silently do they come down; how quickly do they penetrate; how eagerly are they drunk in! And
2 Ps. Ixv, 10. 4 Lam. i. 12.
3 Job xli. 24.
6 2 Kings v. 10.
5 2 Cor. v. 19.
when the sunshine has returned, every blade is glistening as with pearls, and a change of verdure is already seen. So does the heavenly doctrine fall upon the heart. Silently and gently it makes its way. When all else is hushed, it has “a still, small voice, to tell of mercy and hope. It comes from above. In moments of loneliness; in the silence of the evening hour; in the solemnity of Divine worship, or (it may be) in the chamber of sickness and sorrow, that dew comes down. The heart recovers by degrees the freshness, and (so to say) the verdure of its baptismal grace; and the signs of life are seen in the fruits of a holy conversation.
Daily should we seek this blessed influence from God upon our wearied hearts. And not only daily. God has graciously promised, as to His vineyard, “I will water it every moment?;" and in making this promise, He shows us what we need and what we should desire every moment. As a thirsty land drinks in the rain that cometh oft upon it, so should we ever be desiring and receiving the influence of Divine truth: remembering always that the only proof of our receiving it rightly, is the discharge of Christian duties with zeal and perseverance.
111.-A PRICE IN THE FOOL'S HAND.
" Wherefore is there a price in the hand of a fool to get wisdom, seeing
he hath no heart to it?" Prov. xvii. 16.–See also Matt. xiii. 44–46.
The folly of those who live in sin is likened to the case of one who has the means put into his hand of procuring what he stands in need of, and yet from carelessness and stupidity continues to go without it. It is the case, for instance, of a miserable person, in rags and filth, who should have money given him
7 Isa. xxvii. 3.