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the world, and should be deemed a desirable abode by all who really love, and would manifest their love to the Saviour; indeed it is a duty devolving upon every one who has felt convictions of sin, and is acquainted with the plague of his own heart, to join the church of Christ, that he may find rest unto his soul; for we may be assured there is no rest to be met with out of communion with him. The necessity of entering into church fellowship is evident enough, as the Lord of the vineyard will hold no communion with those who live in the habitual neglect of his commands. He gave the commandment “Do this in remembrance of me,” under the most affecting circumstances. A feeling heart will look back, and reflect with grief upon the scene that followed the giving that commandment; and then in looking inward, and feeling conscious of living in its neglect, will become agonized and distressed; and in looking forward will be uneasy and dissatisfied until the command is obeyed.
In a nursery there are trees of all ages ; some are seedlings—and to these in the church of Christ
be compared the children of believing and professing parents, who, as such, are nominally members of the church, hereafter to be admitted into fellowship when they come to express their love to the Master of the vineyard. Some are saplings-to these may be compared the young persons who have made a public profession of attachment to the Saviour; and it is a subject of regret that there are comparatively so few young persons who dare to be singular, who dare to renounce the world with its pleasures and its lusts. May the heart of some one who reads this be affected with the consideration, and be led to make a firm resolve to declare on the Lord's side. Others are full grown ; and of which some are taller than others; some are cedars—these have all attained “to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.” Or these different gradations of growth, seedlings, saplings, and full grown trees, may be applied to the different advances that believers have made in knowledge, faith, patience, love, and humility.
In directing our attention to the culture of a nursery, we notice that some trees thrive better in one kind of soil than another ; some in a dry soil, some in a humid soil, some in a gravelly soil : so it is with believers, if they are planted in a rich soil they are apt to run to wood, and in that case bear but little fruit; “ How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of heaven.” Hence we may see the reason why some trees require so much more pruning than others do to make them bear fruit; it is frequently necessary to lop off one bough after another to bring them to the Christian standard. The oxen and the asses are taken first, as in the case of Job ; then the sheep and camels; afterwards the servants; and if this does not prove sufficient, the children are cut off; then, if they still remain barren, personal afflictions, bodily sufferings, come next in order ; until they are brought to acquiesce, and say, “ Shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil ?”
Some trees thrive most in the shade; they cannot bear a situation in which they are exposed to all the concentrated rays of the meridian sun, for they would be quickly burnt up and destroyed; but place them in some cool refreshing retreat, and they will bring forth fruit in its season. We need not look far into the Lord's vineyard for characters to meet this comparison, for there are many who are not made for a post of observation, but are of retiring habits; they court not the notice of others, their very faculties become benumbed and torpid if brought from their respective retreats ; they shrink from the touch, like the sensitive plant; but let them occupy some sequestered corner of the vineyard, and they also will yield their fruit in its
It is also worthy of remark that in a nursery ground the trees retain their allotted stations; they do not envy each other the situations in which they are planted, nor express any desire for a change; and, above all, they do not quarrel with the nurseryman
for placing them in their respective positions. And how will this remark apply to the church ? or how will it apply to us individually? We who have posts assigned to us, stations allotted from which it behoves us not to flinch-duties to perform, which, if we neglect, it is at our peril—examples to enforce by an uniform and consistent deportment—we call ourselves Christians ; and we are familiar with the parable of a certain nobleman who went into a far country to receive a kingdom, and he gave unto his ten servants ten pounds, saying unto them,“ Occupy till I come.” Now, we can apply this parable to ourselves; how is it then that we are employing our talents ? How are we fulfilling the conditions that we, as members of Christ's church, have covenanted to perform ? How are we trading with our gifts in a spiritual sense ? we manifesting the praises of Him who hath redeemed and brought us out of darkness into his marvellous light? Oh, my readers, let us for once be upon intimate terms with our consciences, and require of them to tell us whether we have never quarrelled with the gardener for placing us just in the niche we occupy ? Have we never envied a neighbour who was prosecuting a more thriving trade than ourselves, or who,
in a similar trade or business, enjoyed greater prosperity, possessed more capital, or had a better opening? Have we never repined at our lot, and wished or desired something over and above that which we possessed ? Have family afflictions been our portion, and have we never thought it cruel of Him who is the disposer of all events in depriving us of such a relative? one perhaps to whom we were deeply attached, who was entwined about our heart, and had taken strong hold of our affections ? or one upon whom we depended for sustenance and support, or to whom we looked up for guidance and direction, and now feel bereft and alone in an inhospitable world; and have we not thought in such circumstances that we had done nothing to call for or deserve such a trial ? Has bodily pain been our portion, and have we had reason to say with Job, “I am made to possess months of vanity, and wearisome nights are appointed to me;" and in a spirit of despondency have concluded, “ Now shall I sleep in the dust, and thou shalt seek me, but I shall not be”? Probably we have shewn the pride of our nature by adopting the excuse of the unprofitable servant, and have laid the blame of our miscarriages upon God: “For I feared thee, because thou art an austere man; thou takest up that thou layedst not down, and reapest that thou didst not sow.” The cases might be greatly multiplied if necessary in which it is more than probable that we have repined at our lot, and fretted because our circumstances were not as we would wish them to be. The Rev. John Newton, in speaking of the performance of duties in a proper spirit, says, “ When some people talk of religion, they mean, they have heard so many sermons, and performed so many devotions; and others mistake the means for the end. But true religion is an habitual recollection
of God and intention to serve him, and this turns everything into gold. We are apt to suppose we need something splendid to evince our devotion, whereas the act of washing plates, or cleaning shoes, is a high office if performed in a right spirit. If three angels were sent to earth, they would feel perfect indifference who should perform the part of prime minister, parish minister, or watchman."
May we each take a lesson from these thoughts, a lesson to stimulate us to shew a more becoming spirit, a spirit of contentment beyond anything that we have hitherto manifested ; assured that it is our Father in heaven who has chosen our inheritance for us, that it is our elder brother who has purchased it, for it is beyond doubt that by sin we had forfeited everything, all claim to temporal blessings, as well as life eternal, and that if, in covenant with him, he has regained for us all we lost, that we have neither a jot less or more than that which he redeemed for us, and that it is exactly as much as would prove beneficial to us ; for this, together with every trial with which we are exercised, has been arranged and ordered by infinite wisdom. Let us therefore learn with David to say, in every situation in which we may be placed, and in every trial with which we may be exercised—“I was dumb, I opened not my mouth, because thou didst it!”
As in a nursery every tree is under culture, so in the garden of the Lord every Christian is under discipline; from the first budding of grace, to the seared leaf of death, when they are transplanted into the garden of paradise above, where he has “appointed unto them that mourn in Zion to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness, that they might be