« PreviousContinue »
overcome with love and sweetness; for ordinarily they walk by faith, not by sight: by these warm blinks he sometimes gives faith a breathing. And therefore, surely they make a wrong use of these sensible comforts, who cannot live without them : and who think God is gone, and Christ is gone, and all is gone, when these comforts are gone: Asaph calls himself a beast, for thinking so, Psalm lxxiii. 22, 23. “ So foolish was ), and ignorant; I was as a beast before thee: Nevertheless. I am continually with thee; thou hast holden me by my right-hand.” Under my temptations I questioned all my religion as vain, and thought God was gone; but now I see that, at my worst, his hand was round about me.
(4.) Yet it would still be remembered, that these sweet comforts and sealing favours are the effects of faith, if they be real and not delusive; “I sat down un.. der his shadow;" then foilows the sweetness and sensible tastes of his goodness and grace: these are sent, in order to cherish faith ; and to exercise faith in Christ, is the way to have more of these : “ In whom, believ, ing, we rejoice.--After ye believed, ye were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise.” When comforts are gotten in a way of believing, then they are free of delusion ; yea, then they are strengthening, and do much good; The joy of the Lord is your strength,” Neb: viii. 10.
6. It imports, that these fruits that are so sweet and delicious to the believer's taste, they are still his fruits. It was he, with the Father, and Holy Ghost, that from all eternity decreed the communication of that fruit; it is he that purchased all the fruit: it is he that is the store-house in whom it is laid up; for, “ All fulness dwelleth in him and out of his fulness we may receive it.” It is he that is the donor and dispenser of the fruit, according as his wisdom and love sees meet, he lets it out to them, not as they would, but as they need; it is he that guides the fruit he gives them, otherwise they would misguide it: and it is he that will make a good account of it all in due time; the day comes, when " He will be glorified in the saints, and
admired in all that believe." You may question, If this fruit be in his hand to give out, how you came to be so scrimped? But, as he is wise, so he will be true to his trust: and will bestow all in due time. In a word, it is his fruit, for it grows all upon him that is the Apple-tree; and this makes the fruit to be ineffably sweet, that it is all his; and, as the water of life is sweetest at the fountain-head; so the fruit is sweetest to the believer's taste that is seen to be growing on the tree of life, and to be all in him who is fulness and sweetness itself.
VI. The sixth and last thing proposed, was, To deduce some inferences for the application. And, in general, from the church's practice here, after her commending of this Apple-tree, as matchless, her sitting down under his shadow, saying upon the matter, I am an experimental witness of his singular and matchless excellency; my experience is an orator to set forth what Christ is, we may see,
1. That a commendation of Christ and an improve. ment of him should go together. For, Christ will accept of no commendation, or fair language, as a proof of sincerity and uprightness, unless it be attended with an improvement and use making of him. Christ is not only fair and beautiful, but also full and bountiful; and therefore he wants not only to be commended but improven, that men may come to him for life, John y. 20. And unless they come and taste and see that he is good, Psalm xxxiv. 8. he values not, but despises their flattering him with their mouth, Psalm lxxviii. 34. He wants not only that you speak good of him, but that you make use of the good that is in him. Know also that right improvement of Christ rises from a due sight and esteem of him as singular and matchless ; they that come and see, will come and share; “ We beheld his glory, full of grace and truth :" then it follows * Out of his fulness have all we received,” John xiv. 16. The knowledge of Christ draws men to improve him; and the improvementofhim draws forth commendation of him: these mutually influence one another. Christ is none of these who, the more they are known, the less they are esteemed; no: his half cannot be told nor known : admiration and sitting down speechless as overcome, is the highest pitch they can fly in his commendation. You that are strangers to Christ, should try him, before you say he is a wilderness ; you cannot judge of colours while you are blind; if you would come and see, or come and taste how good he is, you would, as the Samaritan, John iv. 42. not commend him only from hear-say, but from your own experience : your experience would tell more than we can say You that know him, and have any experience, see that you bring up no ill report of him ; you owe him a testi. mony: let him not be to you as other beloveds, but extol him above them all, even from your own experience : and let it be seen that you are at your centre, when you meet with him, and that there is no room for a plus ultra, that you need go no further, unless it be to grow in your knowledge and esteem of him.
2. Hence see, that all we have ado in the improvement of him, is to take of him what he hath to communicate; if we be weary, to sit down and rest; if scorched, to get under his shadow; if faint and hungry, to eat of his sweet fruit. It is said, Acts xx. 35. • Remember the words of our Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive.” Thus it is Christ's blessedness to give, and not to receive; and it is our blessedness to have to do with such an one, to whom we are called not to come and give, but to come and receive: we have nothing to give, and he can receive nothing: we have nothing but wants ; and he seeks nothing but necessities and wants to be brought to him : we have nothing but weakness; and he delights to make his strength perfect in weakness, 2 Cor. xii. 9. He delights to be washing and making white these that have lain among the pots, Psalm lxviii. 13. Yea, he delights to welcome apostates, and these that have played the harlot with many lovers, and to heal backslidings, Jer. iii. 1. Hos. xiv. 4. In a word, Christ alone is the only market for poor worthless souls: be thy case what it will, he is even as meet for you as you could wish ; and be thy case what it will, if
you make use of him, you are happy; and if you be brought to trade and traffic with him, whose blessedness is to give, and not to receive.
3. Hence see, that Christ is to be improven in every case, as being fully furnished for, not only some, but for all wants : if you want rest, or want a shadow, or want food and fruit; “ He is a sun and shield, he gives grace, and he gives glory," Psalm Ixxxiv. 2. And if these be not enough, then it follows, “ No good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly.”— Coming under his shadow, your grievances may grow, your troubles and difficulties may grow, but they cannot out-grow his all-sufficiency to supply: as your state alters and changes, he can give you change of raiment and change of armour; for, “ They that wait on the Lord, shall renew their strength; and make you able to do all things through Christ strengthening your" and make you content, how to be abased, and how to abound. If you be called to suffer and bear heavy reproaches, and heavy burdens that the world lay upon you, he can make your back invincible, so as they shall sooner weary to lay on burdens, than he shall weary to support you. In a word, believer, you are so complete in Christ, that it ill becomes you to go to another door ; nay, let all your wants be upon him, and improve him for all. And you should employ him not in lesser diff. culties only, and then give him over when surprised with great troubles, saying, “ This evil is of the Lord; why should I wait on the Lord any longer ?" as that wicked king did, 2 Kings vi. 33. no, by no means. Nor do you employ him in greater troubles, and think to wrestle alone with lesser; for the least trouble and temptation will be too hard for you, when you are alone without him; but, “ In all thy ways acknowledge him :" and, " In every thing make your requests known to him."
4. Hence see, that closing with Christ, and sitting down under his shadow, is the way to taste of his fruits, and to have communion with him: to make use of bim in every case, is the way to have a pleasant feast with him: "In every thing by prayer and supplication, with -thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God:” and then it follows, “ The peace of God, that passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus," Phil. iv. 6,7. Only you are not to choose and use him for adversities only, or to help you in particular exigents, but to sit down under his shadow, and take up your rest in him as your everlasting rest. Hence the bride of Christ runs to no other door, to no other tree,“ Knowing there is no other God, (though there be that are called gods, whether in heaven or in earth, as there be gods many, and lords many ;) but one, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him, and one Lord Jesus Christ, -by whom are all things, and we by him." There are many trees that people run to for shelter ; but the believer runs to Christ, and cannot rest any where else. The bride here had the watchmen to go to, the daughters of Jerusalem, but none of them please in his absence ; “0 tell him I am sick of love: if you find him tell him." Your company will not please me, pastors, ordinances, public and private, means, duties, and devotions cannot be a shadow to me; Christ is the only relief to a scorched soul. Mary came to seek Christ in the sepulchre; she sees two angels in white, pointing out their glory; one might have thought that sight might have sufficed her, and made her say with Peter, “ It is good to be here :" no; but she wept, and said, “ They have taken away my Lord;” The sight of angels could not satisfy her, when Christ was away; she could not sit down under any other shadow, but that of the Apple-tree.
5. Hence see the folly of these who have such a shadow as Christ in their offer, and yet trust in a lye, and sit down under the shadow of the trees of the wood, &c. that will fail them in the day of their need. I am afraid, that even in this company, there may be some that are expecting relief under some tree of the wood, and not under the shadow of the Apple-tree. Some rest themselves securely under the tree of civility, as a sconce from any heat in the world: but remember, though you be civil, and moral, and honest good neigh