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bids them repent, and believe the Gospel; but also make it their great business to hold fast the beginning of their confidence, stedfast unto the end.

XLV.—THE SHAKING OF THE FRUIT-TREE.

5. When thus it shall be in the midst of the land among the people, there

shall be as the shaking of an olive-tree, and as the gleaning grapes when the vintage is done. They shall lift up their voice, they shall sing for the majesty of the Lord, they shall cry aloud from the sea." Isa. xxiv. 13, 14.-See also Isa. xvii. 6. Matt. xx. 16.

They have been stripping yonder fruit-tree of its burden, and the work is nearly done. Scarcely can the baskets hold the fruit with which they are laden; so carefully have the gatherers gone over the boughs, and so completely have they plucked the ripe clusters. Once more they seem to be examining the vine, lest they should have left inadvertently any grapes under the foliage; and now they are bearing off its produce for sale, or other uses. Here and there, however, notwithstanding all their care, we can still see the purple fruit under the leaves of the utmost branches; and the toil of a diligent gleaner might even now be rewarded by the fruit which was unnoticed in the owner's search. What we

see is a dcriptural emblem of God's dealings, both of judgment, and mercy. It was thus that by the flood He swept away a sinful generation, saving s only Noah, the eighth person *." The few inmates of the ark were like the shaking of the olivetree, or the gleaning grapes, when the vintage is done. Thus also He snatched Lot and his family as brands from the burning, in the destruction of Sodom. It was thus that in His judgments on the houses of Israel and Judah, a remnant only was saved, while the great

3 Heb. jji. 14.

4 2 Pet. ii. 5.

majority of those sinful nations were plucked away from their land; and were either destroyed, or scattered over the face of the earth.

Surely, if we are spared in any general judgment, which perhaps carries off multitudes of our fellow-creatures, or involves vast numbers in one common calamity, we should remember that such preservation is due, not to our own merits, but to God’s free and distinguishing grace. And we should acknowledge that " it is of the Lord's mercy that we are not consumed 5." There is still a remnant in the worst of times ®; and to that remnant we should earnestly endeavour to belong by the diligence with which we should make our calling and election sure'. The prophet says of that remnant, which he compares to the gleaning grapes when the vintage is done, that “they shall lift up their voice, and sing for the majesty of the Lord.” The sense of such free and unmerited mercy would kindle them to unusual devotion and thankfulness. May similar mercy have the same effect on us! And when we hear those thrilling words, “ Many are called, but few chosen," let us bless God for the assurance that some at least “ through grace obey His calling &;" and pray also that we may ever strive to enter in at the strait gate; as knowing that "strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it."

XLVI.—THE FALLEN TREE.

If the tree fall toward the south, or toward the north, in the place

where the tree falleth, there it shall be." Eccles. xi. 3.-See also Rev. xxii. 11.

The sound of the woodman's axe gives note that some giant of the forest is about to fall: and now the

6 1 Kings xix. 18.

5 Lam. iii. 22.

8 Article xvii, [729]

7 2 Pet. i. 10. 9 Matt. vii, 14.

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crashing boughs tell plainly that the work is done, and the pride of the summer foliage is brought down to the ground. See what a gap is made in the screen of wood, and how the eye can now wander over the soft meadows, and the distant village, that were hid before ! Let us go towards the opening that is so apparent, and consider what solemn or useful reflections may be suggested by a sight of the fallen tree.

It lies in the direction in which it fell. While it still flourished in its pride and glory, the direction as well as the period of its fall was uncertain. It was possible that it might fall toward the north, or toward the south : nor was there any reason why it should not enjoy the sunshine, and the rain, through many a verdant summer. But the word was given that the axe should be laid unto its root; and now the direction in which it should fall is no more a question.

It is a fixed and unalterable fact. The period during which one or the other direction could have been given to its fall is past and gone

for ever. Surely a thought of unspeakable importance is thus suggested to us. The stroke of death fixes the direction and the character of our future and eternal state of being. Before that awful summons (as certain to arrive as the time of its arrival is uncertain) it is possible that we may depart to be with Christ', or, that we may die in our sins, and have our portion with the lost. The great question is not yet fixed : not so fixed but that on the one hand we need to be reminded of the danger of falling; and on the other, are still in a capacity for receiving and obeying the gracious invitation that bids us turn, and live. Our character may yet, through grace, be made meet for the inheritance of the saints in light ?; or it may, through a perverse rejection of God's mercy, become such as to make us ripe for destruction. Death terminates the period during which this

1 Phil. i. 23.

2 Col. i. 12.

possibility can continue. “In the place where the tree falleth, there it shall be." As to those who have undergone that awful change, may we not say, " He that is unjust, let him be unjust still: and he which is filthy, let him be filthy still: and he that is righteous, let him be righteous still: and he that is holy, let him be holy still?” How affecting is it, as we stand beside the grave of some brother, or sister, to reflect that the season of probation is thus ended, and that the soul has passed into a state of existence, the character of which, for holiness, and happiness, or for wickedness, and misery, is fixed for ever! and how wise is it to reflect, that surviving friends will soon stand beside our own grave; and so to apply ourselves to the great work of preparing for the change, that their grief at our departure may be hallowed and soothed by the blessed hope that we have fallen asleep in the Lord, and are awaiting a joyful resurrection! Grant, O Lord, that it may be thus with us, of thine infinite mercy, through Jesus Christ our Lord !

XLVII. -SALT.

“ Ye are the salt of the earth : but if the salt have lost his savour,

wherewith shall it be salted ? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.” Matt. v. 13.

See also Lev. ii. 13. 2 Kings ii. 20. Mark ix. 40. Salt is remarkable for its own peculiar savour, by which its presence in any substance with which it can unite itself is at once detected. It spreads itself through any substance with which it is thus mixed, and imparts its own quality of saltness to the previous taste or savour. It has also the quality of preserving from corruption, even for a number of years, many substances that would otherwise perish; so that it has often been considered an emblem of what is enduring or perpetual.

are

Our Blessed Saviour has told us, that His disciples

“the salt of the earth.” By using this figure He seems to intimate that they must be distinguished from the world around them by some positive and peculiar character, just as salt is distinguished from other substances by its own quality of saltness. The character by which Christians are distinguished from those who are only nominally Christians, or from such as are altogether unconverted, is the character of holiness, which seasons or gives a savour to all their thoughts, words, and deeds. Thus it is said, “Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt 3.” And under the law of Moses salt was mixed with all the sacrifices; to signify, perhaps, that sincerity and uncorruptness of mind with which we should present ourselves, our souls and bodies, whatever we are, and whatever we have, to the service of God.

And our Saviour probably meant farther to intimate, that true religion is to spread from one soul to another; and, also, that it is the means of preserving the world from those judgments for which it would otherwise be ripe. As God would have spared Sodom had there been ten righteous within it*; or as He did save from the waves not only St. Paul, but, for his sake, all those also who were with him in the ship”; so it may be that many a country is spared the judgments that fall on others, for the sake of the true worshippers by whom it is blessed; and that the world itself is spared for a season for the sake of the elect people of God.

May I have grace to examine whether there is in me this positive and distinguishing character, by which a Christian is known, in God's sight, from others, as salt is known by its saltness: and whether it pervades my own thoughts, and words, and deeds, so as to imbue them all with a Divine savour of grace, and holiness, which they would not have by nature;

3 Col. iv. 6.

4 Gen. xviii. 32.

3 Acts xxvii. 24.

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