Monday, February 15, 2010
THE ROSE, THE LILY, AND THE VINE
"I am the rose of Sharon, and the lily of the valleys."
Song of Solomon 2:1)
"I am the vine, ye are the branches."
First. "The rose." And O what mouth can utter the sweetness of the thought, that as the sweetest of the flowers, the rose and the lily are, (when fresh and in fairest bloom,) so the crimson blood of Christ is, in the forgiveness of sins!
The guilty alone know the swots of pardon! The sensibly guilty, through the curse of the law, and the bitter reproofs of the Spirit alone, know the sweet-smelling and charming gale that breathes perfumed with any hope or faith supernaturally, drawn from the virtues of the rose of Sharon, the Lord Jesus Christ. Sweet and very pleasant, yea, very sweet indeed is the hearty counsel of that friend, the Lord Jesus, that sticketh closer than a brother, to any one to whom be supernaturally says, "My son, be of good cheer."
"And it shall come to pass in that day, that the mountains shall drop down new wine, and the hills shall flow with milk, and all the rivers of Judah shall flow with waters, and a fountain shall come forth of the house of the Lord."
"For how great is his goodness, and how great is his beauty!"
"Ask ye of the Lord rain in the time of the latter rain; so the Lord shall make bright clouds, and give them showers of rain, to every one grass in the Held." (Zechariah 10:1)
"More base than mire, and more worthless than dust," in and of myself, my guilty soul feels the renovating, reviving, assuaging, soothing, and alluring odours of the balmy, sweet, and sight-delighting Rose of Sharon! Through him, "as a root out of a dry ground," to my hell-deserving sbul, the wilderness of my feelings blossoms! Yea, the wilderness and the solitary place, (through apprehensions of wrath,) are, in the soul, through the breezy delights, from "the wind that bloweth where it listeth," even from the Spirit taking of the things of Jesus, and showing them to the soul, made to look gay, blooming, sweet, and as pleasantly odorous as the rose!
O may my soul be enabled to wish to be more knitted and tied, as the leaves to the flower, to the Lord Jesus Christ! On him, as the sacred stalk, may I grow! From him draw sweetness, life, beauty, ravishing scents, pleasant appearance, and acceptable qualities. (Song of Solomon 4:9)
The thistles and nettles of free-will and licentiousness be kept out of this garden of my soul, where this precious Sharon's rose and lily of the valleys of humility and love do grow!
What are riches, what is earthly beauty, but faint and dim beams shadowing out the perfect beauty, and the true riches, put on the soul regenerated from the fountain of loveliness, and the universal treasure-house, (as Christ is,) of all that is great, good, desirable, strengthening, and gladdening!
"Honour and majesty are before him; strength and beauty are in his sanctuary."
And what sanctuary so sweet, what landscape so covered with charms, as (to the regenerate mind) the new man of the heart?
Amaranthine flowers, unfailing sweets, and immortal gracefulness deck that heavenly groundwork, where is laid out, as it were, and fixed, the supernatural garden of God, in each one elected by him, out of the human race. O may my soul know more of the heavenly gardener and husbandman in my soul! (John 15; Luke 13:6.)
May I be enabled so to do, and to wish so to do. For, alas! (such is our poverty,) grapes, roses, or blooming flowers thus, spiritually, are neither gladdening, nor in fragrance delicious, in the regenerate soul, except under the perpetual culture of the Holy Spirit, experienced in the soul. Wild grapes and hedge roses grow and flower
away in the cursed regions of Arminianism and letter Calvinism; but all roses and vines of religion, that do not grow on inward, experimental ground in the soul, burnt up first, all to pieces, through the fire of hell in the law, felt unto death, and, secondly, rendered fruitful, drinking the rains of heaven in the gospel, felt also; all Christianity, whether vine-branches or rose leaves, not after this fashion, will assuredly be the prey of the devourer at the last. "All go to their own place."
Secondly. "The lily." The pale lily, cool and moist, in the valleys of humility, is set in opposition to that fire-flower, (growing on the gardens of hell,) called "pride." Retiring, shaded, and modestly out of sight, (though thus bleached and rendered fair, under the washings of heaven's favour,) the humble Christian, predestinated to be conformed unto the image of Christ, lily-like, is forgotten and passed over, in the midst of the heated and blazing pride of this world.
But, what is pride, with its monkey-face?
Hollowness, deceit, like the paint on a harlot's face; "Though thou rentest thy face with painting, in vain shalt thou make thyself fair." (Jeremiah 4:30)
Pride, whether naturally, in well-mannered self-conceit, or religiously, under the daub of Arminianism, or intellectual Calvinism, shall not impose on God. For even also as every rich man, so also shall every proud man vanish and come to nothing. "..Because as the flower of the grass he shall pass away. For the sun is no sooner risen with a burning heat, than it withereth the grass, and the flower thereof falleth, and the grace of the fashion of it perishes; so also (it is much worse with the proud) shall the rich man fade away in his ways." (Mark that word, "shall.") (James 1:10-11)
Yea, while I have been writing a few of the past lines, I saw, "at the window of the house where I am living, I looked through the casement, and beheld" a parson -magistrate, and a swearing man of fortune; and the fawning respect of the parson, and the deathly hollowness of the smiles of the man of rank disgusted me. Like the harlot, seen by Solomon, so it is exactly true of pride, "She is loud and stubborn; her feet abide not in her house; now is she without, now in the streets, and lieth in wait at every corner." (Proverbs 7:12)
How different to the mild, unostentatious, and unassuming appearance of the flower we are speaking of; the whiteness of the flower, compared with the rouge of this world's fashions; the paleness of the floweret of the valleys, compared with the fuming wands of this world's painted, tempting, hollow, and varnishing baubles!
"For the fashion of this world passeth away."
(1 Corinthians 7:31)
Simplicity, as the lily, is unvarnished; as also, are godly sincerity, and an absence of fleshly wisdom. And however much the fashions of this world may be admired, the absence of them is, in my eye, still more admirable; as much so more, as heaven is higher than earth, or the unleavened bread of truth is more acceptable to an unsophistical palate, than the swelling largeness of falseness, grimace, earth-taught customs, in mere show.
For, as the lily would suffer in its charms, from the brocading touch of the most master artist in paint; so, I would ask, what master of ceremonies, what "usher of the black rod" of gentlemanly manners, can touch with additional streaks of beauty or of grace, the subdued colouring, pale alluringness, and gentleness, and delicacy of heavenly simplicity and sincerity, as a lily in the soul?
Paint and varnish do better for wood than for the human skin!
Whoever beard of paint and varnish being put on gold or silver, or precious stones?
But, my friends, in this world, (in this wooden world, and sapless, through the withering curse of God on it,) there is nothing else scarce than paint and varnish. Happy is he who is not of this world, even as Christ was not of this world. Happy is he who (at all thus as pale as a lily,) is not conformed to the world's rouged attractions, assumption, airs, emptiness, whims, fancies, and glare!
When pride lifts up its awful head,
And rears its baneful crest;
(As oft it does,) like sun-set led,
I sink amid the west.
My hopes then die, for who can lift
His head to Christ mid pride
Like burying snows all o'er the drift,
Pride thus all grace does hide.
Blest be the Lamb! if his dear grace
Melts down my self-conceit!
Blest, since for pride's mad redd'ning race,
I'm lamed in both my feet!
Religiously to man, this flower, a lily, may, first, be an emblem of the absence of creature-righteousness; the vermilion blush of creature-righteousness must be left to Wesleyans and other Arminians; but, alas! they are past shame.
May the paleness of a lily be ever the fair mark on me of an absence of the red paint of creature-righteousness. An imputed righteousness is mine; for I have stood, spiritually, as pale as death, under the certainty, experienced in my soul, that all who have not the imputed righteousness, are damned, be they who they may. (Romans 11:6)
This felt, makes the elect soul step off the hill of pride quickly, into the valleys of humility, where the pale beauty of a supernatural righteousness, (to us imputed,) does grow. O sweet absence of every florid look of haughtiness and loftiness! Or, secondly, this flower may beautifully set forth the water which ran out of Christ's wounded side. By that water I am sanctified. "Having our bodies washed with pure water." (Hebrews 10:22) I leave all other co-working sanctification to those painted rebels, the Arminians and Methodists.
Lastly, "The vine." Bread, the staff of life, that strengtheneth man's heart; and water, the universal allayer and assuager to the fiery sense of thirst in man; (with various other typifying excellencies;) these embalm, to the realizing eye of a supernatural faith, the Lord Jesus Christ, in scripture.
And as the eastern sages spread forth "gold, frankincense, and myrrh," opening their treasures thus, and worshipping before the mysterious stranger, born King of the Jews, as the elect are, (Romans 2:28-29) when ushered into this world, under the hymning carols of angels' songs in the sky, (a multitude of the heavenly host there praising God,) when the adorable babe, the God-Man, was born in the stable, and laid in the manger; as I say, the magi, worshipping the illustrious stranger, spread forth gold, frankincense, and myrrh, emblematic of the riches of all this fallen world, wherein we live; so have I, at the head of this poor paper, styled Jesus of Nazareth, my God, "the rose, lily, and vine," according to scripture. But the fragrancy of the rose, the charms of the lily, and the gladdening grape, are, as figures, lost like rushlights, amid the transporting dawn, the twinkling brilliancy of the eastern star, (seen by the wise men,) 'Burning my faith's vista, as regards the adorable Immanuel.
As regards Christ being called a vine, what poor dead stuff will our various religionists "hammer out on that anvil!" One will hammer out one thing, and another of them will hammer out another thing out of it. But, alas! the hammerers hammer it all out of their heads. For their writing evidently bewrays to me that their hearts never felt the indenting hammer of God's grace yet. All nearly that I shall say here concerning almost all writers on Christ, as a vine., is this; namely, "Good Lord, deliver me from their vine, and the wine they make of it too, in their mongrel religion." Alas! what writing we have about religion! One might think we were the most pious nation that ever was, to judge from the quantity of religious writing! a judgment that will do very well for those who like to make soup of bones, without any marrow in!
The anointed bramble, and the finger-pricking thorns, may have, (for any thing I care,) the gift of the tongue, in speaking concerning Christ, as a vine. (Judges 9) But they will all know one ,day, that it is not talking concerning the elect vine of the chosen Israel, that will save either their souls or mine. No. But, alas! nearly all the vines of religion, that I meet with, are rather the vines of Sibmah, (Moabitish,) than growing as the pleasant plant, savouring of electing love, redeeming grace, and quickening love, from the ever-blessed Trinity; (Jeremiah 48:30,32) that I acknowledge, instead of getting edification, I only gather weariness from off the vintage of well nigh nearly all men's writings and profession of religion. Happy is he who has the kernel, and not merely the shell; the juice, and not merely the skin of Christianity!
By John Kay of Abingdon, England
The Gospel Standard, 1839