"I will heal their backsliding, I will love them
freely; for mine anger is turned away from him. I will be as the dew
unto Israel: he shall grow as the lily, and cast forth his roots as
Lebanon. His branches shall spread, and his beauty shall be as the
olive tree, and his smell as Lebanon."—Hosea xiv. 4-6.
How bountifully does God bestow His blessing on the
returning penitent! These verses remind us of the reception of the
prodigal son,—"bring forth the best robe and put it on him." They
describe a free outpouring of love like the gush of a long pent-up
stream; and a rich profusion of beautiful images is employed to describe
the effect upon repenting Israel, as if no single type could suffice to
express the beauty, and strength, and fruitfulness produced by the
returning favour of God. The mercy and love of our God descend like the
dew upon the dry and thirsty ground; perhaps we in this climate of gray
skies and green pastures can scarcely estimate the force of this image,
but to the Israelite it must have been one of thrilling beauty;—and the
effects of this precious dew are quickly seen,—the believer shall grow
as the lily in purity and grace, as the cedar in strength, as the olive
in fruitfulness; his roots strike deeply down, "rooted and grounded in
love;" his branches spread shelter around, and the fragrance of his life
and example is sweet as the dewy morning among the cedars of Lebanon.
"As dew upon the tender herb,
Diffusing fragrance round;
As showers that usher in the spring,
And cheer the thirsty ground:
So shall His presence bless our souls,
And shed a joyful light;
That hallow'd morn shall chase away
The sorrows of the night."
"As often as ye eat this bread, and drink this
cup, ye do shew the Lord's death till he come."—1 Cor. xi. 26.
"Till He come." We
do shew forth His death, "till He come" not as He first came, but as He
has promised to come, in His glorious majesty. Let the thought of this
coming be ever present to my mind when I eat of this "bread, and drink
this cup;" He means us to look forward to it when we make our nearest
approach to Him; He points out to us the light in the distance, and
tells us to direct to it a steadfast eye; and if the time, seem long, He
comforts us by the thought of His presence with us now as typified in
the symbols He has given us, to be used by us in faith and hope of that
day's approach when such types shall be no longer needed, for we shall
see Him as He is. Let me seek to have a lively faith in the great fact
of His future coming; such a faith as may become a lively hope, cheering
the heart during waiting time,—"till He come." Whether His coming be to
me the coming in death, or His own glorious appearance, may I strive to
watch for it be-lievingly, hopefully. And in every approach to His
table, may the thought be present to my mind that this may be my last
opportunity of fulfilling His command; my last time of seeing Him
through the glass darkly; my last remembrance of His dying love "till He
"Watchers tell us that the night
Bears the signs of coming day;
Let us hope and watch for light
As the shadows flee away.'
And oh, with care,
Let each prepare
To meet the solemn hour for which we pray!"
"Verily, verily, I say unto thee, We speak that
we do know, and testify that we have seen; and ye receive not our
witness. If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how
shall ye believe if I tell you of heavenly things? And no man hath
ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the
Son of man who is in heaven."—John iii. 11-13.
It is a part of the plan of God towards us, that,
along with many plain truths, He has presented to us in His Holy Word
many deep mysteries. The new birth, of which our Lord spoke to
Nicodemus, is one of these. The work of the Holy Spirit upon the soul,
like the felt but unseen wind, is to
be believed in; not plainly understood, for it is above
man's reason. The person of our Lord himself, as God and man—"he that
came down from heaven, even the Son of man who is in heaven"—is
another of those glorious mysteries, which we are to receive, because,
as Jesus tells us, " we speak that we do know, and testify that we have
seen." Strange, that any man should dare to refuse this witness! And as
we are to believe these mysteries, because He has revealed them; so are
we to believe, with deep reverence and lowly faith, the greatest mystery
of God's revelation, the glorious truth of Three Persons in one God.
Lord, teach us to lift up our eyes to this great mystery with the
humblest awe and submission, and join the angels in saying, Holy, holy,
"Of old thou hast laid the foundation of the
earth: and the heavens are the work of thy hands. They shall perish,
but thou shalt endure: yea, all of them shall wax old like a
garment; as a vesture shalt thou change them, and they shall be
changed; but thou art the same, and thy years shall have no
end."—Ps. cii. 25-27.
"No end!" how little
can we conceive what this means ! We look up to the heavens as our
highest type of durability, and contrast their daily and nightly
splendour's with the passing nature of all earthly glories here below.
On how many generations have sun, moon, and stars looked down in their
changeless beauty!—yet these are but as of yesterday compared to the
awful eternity of God. "They shall perish, but Thou shalt endure." "As a
vesture shalt Thou change them;" it is a beautiful thought that they are
as His vesture—the robes of our King—the covering that hides Him from
us, and yet reveals Him to us—shewing us the skirts of His glory; "who
coverest thyself with light as with a garment." But had it not been for
His Word, by which He has made Himself known, we might have been, even
now, like the heathen, worshipping the vesture, instead of the Eternal
King; the glorious sun, instead of its great Creator.
"The glorious orb, whose golden beams
The fruitful year control,
Since first obedient to Thy word
He started from the goal,
Has cheer'd the nations with the joys
His orient rays impart;
But, Jesus, 'tis Thy light alone
Can shine upon the heart."
"Stormy wind fulfilling His word."—Ps. cxlviii.
"And now men see not the bright light which is in
the clouds; but the wind passeth and cleanseth them."—Job xxxvii.
The aspects of nature do not always speak to us of a
God of love. There are hours of terror as well as of beauty, days of
tempest as well as of sunshine, but both have their appointed ends to
fulfil, and God ordains them both. Dark storm clouds and mighty winds
may cause havoc in their course ; but if we could see the end from the
beginning, we would probably discover that without them nature would
languish; clouds and rain are needful as well as sunbeams, that the
earth may retain its green beauty; and the " stormy wind fulfilling His
word" purifies the air, and carries away in their turn the clouds that
have done their work. Oh, may I learn wisdom from His dealings in
governing nature, and believe that when great national revolutions (like
the Indian mutiny) convulse a country, these things are also under His
control, and are but the "stormy wind fulfilling His word." A bright
light may be behind the clouds that look so dark. Let me rely on His
wisdom, and believe that, "be the earth never so unquiet," the Lord
reigns over it.
"Jehovah doth reign
Encompass'd with light,
Though clouds may restrain
His beams from our sight.
Far up in his splendour
The sun shineth clear,
Though tempests may hinder
His light to appear!"
"Be not carried about with divers and strange
doctrines."—Heb. xiii. 9.
"That we henceforth be no more children, tossed
to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the
sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to
deceive."—Eph. iv. 14.
This warning is as much required now as ever; and we
have all great need to pray that God would Himself keep us—for we cannot
keep ourselves—in His own true faith and fear. "Winds of doctrine,"
"divers and strange," blow from all points, and men seem powerless as
children to resist them. The name of earnestness seems to carry
more weight than the name of truth. Human devices for stimulating
piety are followed eagerly, without the question
being once asked whether they are sanctioned by the Word of God.
Men forget that it is only by ways of His own choosing that they can
draw nearer to God; and in following self-appointed means they become
entangled in a "yoke of bondage," and lose the "liberty wherewith Christ
has made us free." Others are "tossed to and fro" by their vain efforts
to find or to make a perfect Church; though God has nowhere promised
that we shall ever find this on earth; such persons are very apt to be
led away by "sleight of men, and cunning craftiness." I believe that
this restlessness of spirit begins by our neglect of closet
duties; we do not walk closely with God there, and then we begin
to find fault with Churches and means of grace. Lord, do Thou so refresh
me with the continual dew of Thy blessing, that I may flourish like the
palm tree, in the place in which Thou hast planted me!
"Till I see Thee face to face,
Be Thyself my dwelling place!"
"Love not the world, neither the things that are
in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is
not in him."—John ii. 15.
"Keep yourselves in the love of God."—Jude v. 21.
The heart must love something. If the love of God
does not dwell in it, we may be sure that some idol rules there—either
the love of self, or the love of the world and the things that are in
the world—in some form or other. And how solemn is the warning of the
inspired apostle against this sin! Much is conveyed to us by the way in
which he brings in his great message here; "I write unto you little
children; I write unto you fathers; I write unto you young men; I write
unto you little children; I have written unto you fathers; I have
written unto you young men,"—A voice for all ages, a warning to every
class of believing men, young or old; applicable to all, whatever
may be their stage in life's journey, or in Christian experience,—"
love not the world!" Make me, O Lord, to
hear this voice, and understand and obey it. May I be quick to discern
what is the world, under whatever shape the false god may be
disguised ; and may I not only cast out the idol, but consecrate the
shrine to Thee and Thy blessed service; for Thou hast said, "Keep
yourselves in the love of God," and thus alone can we follow the other
command, "Love not the world."