JEZEBEL Mr.PETER BAYNE has taken Jezebel as the subject of a poem. (The Days of Jezebel an Historical Drama.) He is wise in his generation, for the Sidonian queen was no ordinary woman, and he who was raised up to battle with her was that chief among men, “my Elijah.” The period in which these two royal spirits appeared upon the stage was one of fierce conflict, in which the truth of God wrestled with the idolatries of the heathen, the spoil of battle being the whole nation of Israel, and the weapons of warfare the prophet’s voice on the one hand, and the sword of persecution on the other. It was a grand era, a time wherein the Lord revealed himself as “a man of war, Jehovah mighty in battle.” As for its history, is it not written in the book of the wars of the Lord?
Mr. Bayne has not proved himself too ambitions in his choice of a theme; he has worthily sung where most minstrels would have failed. If he has not girt himself with thunder, and ridden upon the whirlwind in such a manner as the subject demanded, throwing a fierce soul into the fury of the fray; he has, nevertheless, in flowing numbers, with a true poet’s language, rehearsed the conflict, and instructed future generations in its teachings. It needed a Byron to sing a Jezebel; but, had he essayed the theme, his song would, in all probability, have been such, that, like the painted enchantress herself, it had been better for the world had its voice never been heard. As for Elijah, the prophet of fire would require a poet of flame to be his expositor. Till a thunderbolt genius shall arise to speak in lightning and whirlwind, Mr. Bayne’s bright and benign star will be in the ascendant over Samaria and Carmel.
The historical drama opens with a dialogue between Ahab and Jezebel, in which, with the irresistible weapons of a beautiful woman’s fears, the queen subdues her husband to her will. She complains that her ideas of universal toleration for all religions had been insolently opposed by Jehovah’s prophets, who had filled the public ways “with howlings against Baal and Ashtoreth.” until the people “prompt to catch the flame of mad fanaticisms” were ready to revolt. She demanded that the prophets who resisted her liberal, broad-church, comprehensive policy should, at one blow, be utterly destroyed; for, as she said and the present age is altogether of her mind, “Tolerance Of those who will not tolerate is sin Against all toleration.” She was a bigot for liberality, an admirer of the music and statuary which adorned the divergent rites of the various religions, ardently desirous that all gods should be equally reverenced, and only fierce towards the God who so austerely demanded that he should reign alone. Her ideal of Church fellowship was the antitype of that which has the patronage of a certain learned dean, and a considerable and influential party both within and outside the National Church: she wished — “That every man of every nation round Who visited Mount Zion, there should find An altar to his country’s gods, and thus With friendly gods above and friendly men Below, the broad green earth might smile in peace Up to a smiling, azure firmament.” Obadiah enters while the queen is inveighing against the raving fanatics, and she fiercely puts it to him “think’st thou we cannot tread these rebels down.” The succeeding conversation appears to us to merit the highest praise, none but a true poet could so well have conceived, and so fitly have worded his conception. OBADIAH . “They are most weak, O queen, if spear and sword And iron chariot are the only strength In which a man may trust; but if their God Be pleased to help them, all their enemies Shall be like stubble in the crackling flame, When winds scud rapid o’er the blackened ground. JEZEBEL . Great swelling words, but with no jot of sense!
What armies can these prophets or their Jah Set in the tented field? What fortresses Can lend them shelter? Will a javelin Not pin a traitor to the ground because He mouths a prayer to Jah?
OBADIAH . What God will do, He only knoweth. All unsearchable By mortal man the secrets of His reign.
But what He can do he hath clearly shown By mighty signs and wonders. By a word, If such His will, He could the mountains fledge With hosts of bannered angels, helmed with flame.
The great sea is His slave, and, at His nod, Would bring its surges o’er the scarped hills.
The solid earth obeys Him, opens wide Its rock-fanged mouth to close it upon those Marked for its prey by Him. The moon by night Pauses among the stars to write His praise In silver glitterings on the solemn clouds.” There are many passages of equal power scattered all through the poem, of which another sample may be taken from a scene wherein Elijah foretells the withholding of dew and rain. “There was a change That moment in the sky and on the earth, The sun drank up the clouds like cups of wine, And glared, red-eyed, above. The dewy drops On lily and on vine flashed of’ in films Of thin white vapor, rushing to the sky.
The wind moaned low and died. The air grew hot And touched the brow like fire.” Here and there the master’s hand strikes what seems to our ear a discordant note, or, to use another simile, the eagle wing wearies and flies too low, but there are great passages full of fine flights of imagination which will never be forgotten. The description of Elijah’s mockery of the priests of Baal, the Sun-god, overflows with life, and strikes us as catching the very spirit of the Scripture narrative. “A fearful glee was in his eye, a mirth Too stern, methought, for man of woman born; His glance was vexing those robed prophets more Than the sun’s fire; and then he gave it words. ‘Might he not spare one little spark, but one, Your fine god riding there,’ he cried, ‘to light Your sacrifice? He surely has enough; He’s burning you, if not your offering.
Poor souls? I pity you! ‘They screamed for rage. ‘A little louder,’ smiled he, ‘for perhaps In his warm chariot he has fallen asleep.’
They leaped, they danced, they cut themselves with knives, Till the blood soaked their robes and poured in streams From their lanced foreheads. Then he laughed aloud, Great shouts of laughter, till the echoes rang From crag to crag on Carmel. ‘Keep it up, Another dance!’ he shrieked; another song!
Leap rather higher; never grudge some drops ‘Of’ your dear blood, so precious in his sight Ye know he is a god, my reverend friends; How often have ye told the people so?
Your pretty speeches and the miracles Which ye have shown them, these were not, of course, Mere lies accursed. He is a god, you know; Louder, I say; he’s old, perhaps, and deaf, Out with your beards that’s hopeful crack your throats In yelling chorus. Good, good ha, ha, ha! ‘ He rubbed his hands, waved wildly in the air His sheepskin mantle, laughed until the tears Streamed down his face, and all his body shook With paroxysms of mirth and scorn. Ah me!
That laughter sounded fearfully, and seemed Not human in its fiery ruthlessness.
But as he stood on Carmel, charred and gray, A dead land lay below, his native land; And the white corpse-eyes made appeal to him Against its murderers, murderers of the truth, Baal’s lying prophets. Furthermore, I think That this Elijah is not to be judged Like common men. The little, rippling lake, Safe hid among the hills, can never know The ocean’s tempest.”’ Our author represents Elijah as expecting after the slaughter of Baal’s priests to be installed in the place of power, and to be acknowledged “a greater Moses in the land,” but he was bitterly disappointed, for “the Sidonian woman” repulsed him from the palace gate. Then when the divine afflatus had left him, and the excitement of the day was over, the prophet sank into sadness, and is described by one who met him coming from.
Jezreel as — “Haggard and worn, with trouble in his gait, And infinite astonishment and pain Within his wildly sparkling eye.” The plan of Jezebel to avenge upon Naboth his denial of the king’s request for his vineyard is well conceived, and the conversations held by the elders of Jezreel have in them touches of grim humor which are after our own heart. One Melchi speaks for all the world like an Evangelical clergyman pleading for the continuance of himself and brethren in the Popish church of our realm. All along we suspected as we passed from page to page that Mr. Bayne had an underlying parable, but here the vein comes to the surface, and the riddle expounds itself. Melchi condemns Naboth for ‘wounding sensibilities finer perhaps than his own,” and as being unable quite — “In matters of morality and truth, To comprehend a motive if it lies Beneath the surface and its nature is Involved and subtle; fiercely positive That you must never sign a compromise ‘Tween truth and falsehood.” Melchi, good man, would be very pleased to see the true worship universal, but the policy of compromise he clearly sees to be most useful for the present, and he looks upon “accommodation” as a gift and grace, most fruitful in dear peace, in light, in sweetness, and in the honey-dew of bright tranquillity for home and heart. “Look round the land; I ask you could we have So much of purest truth from Jah’s own Book, Preached everywhere, but for the compromise So recently effected between Baal And Israel’s Jehovah!’ Many men, Of rank and influence famed upon the coast Of Tyre and Sidon, thus have been induced To listen to the truth, and who can tell What good has thus been done?” Assuredly we have heard all this before, not in blank verse, but in oftrepeated prose, of detestable deceivableness of unrighteousness.
Melchi is moreover quite persuaded that Dissent is a disreputable affair, and that he could never associate himself with it. The more respectable State church of which he is a member, is so grandly comprehensive, and withal, so conservative of propriety, that he will sooner swear Naboth into Tophet than leave her. “Will any candid, reasonable man Affirm that there is honor done to God, When crazy Homart and a half-starved knot Of rubel hill-men, meeting in some hole Among the rocks, sing hymns, and pray, and raise Elijah’s cry, and swear they never will Bow down to Baal, honor done, I say, To God by these ill-mannered, vehement men, So great as that which doth redound to Him From the decorous, regulated rites Which law permits us here in Jezreel?
It would do some men we wot of a world of good to read this poem line by line, and drink in its spirit, — men molluscous, invertebrate, gelatinous.
Truth they would fain love wisely, not too well, nay not well enough to be positive about it or to suffer for it. They believe that words mean what you can make them mean, and they have great art in creating senses which no one else would have dreamed of. The point up to which they will yield constantly recedes from view; doubtless they have a line beyond which they will never go, but the most daring heretic has no idea whereabouts it is drawn; the most daring Ritualistic mariner will find that though he push the prow beyond the pillars of Hercules known as Transubstantiation and reach the Ultima Thule of Mariolatry, he will find his Evangelical brother still with him at the dividing of the loaves and fishes. We lament the pertinacity of inconsistency which this fact reveals. Capacity for eating dirt must be great in certain quarters. Mr. Bayne is a “no compromise” man, and writes like a very Elijah for decision. We hope his poem, which is written right out of his heart, will accomplish in some measure the purpose for which he has sent it forth. It has been a great joy to us to traverse his fertile pages, and has paid us for journeying through leagues of wilderness verse sent to us for review; his is a goodly land, full of Sidonian lilies and sweet Sharon roses.
The little sonnets which occur here and there in the book do not strike us as being equal to the body of the work; we think the writer could do better.
We would not be quite so severe upon them as Jazebel was when she said, “Better, a little better; but not good;” but his is about the only matter in which we feel any sympathy with Jezebel’s sayings, or opinions. Mr. Bayne will not resent this criticism, for he is not one of the poets of “a spindling race” who “hang their heads and pout unless they’re praised.” We, however, much appreciate his song of Baal and Ashtoreth, and his imitation of Hebrew verse in the song of the prophets in the ave. The following is a passage: — “Is this the King of Israel, That is ruled by a woman?
Is this king Ahab, That trembleth before an arrogant heathen?
Hath he borne the shield and the spear?
Hath he gone in the chariot to battle?
Hath he shouted in the face of the foe-men?
Wherefore then should he fear a woman, And the countenance of his wife make him afraid?
Clothe him with the garments of a maidservant, Let his place be in the women’s chambers, Let his hand take hold of the distaff, Let him bring wool to the spinning women.” In closing, we cannot refrain from quoting Elijah’s description of the long drought; it strikes us as most impressive. “Then the great drought prevailed through all the land.
Upon the fields, instead of bladed grass, Lay a white scurf as on a leper’s face.
The drought pierced to the core of the gray hills And drank their secret wells. In the sere woods The buds half opened in the hope of spring, Then shriveled like the hands of dying babes, And made no Summer. ‘Mid the branches bare The voice of birds went silent, and the beasts, With black tongues hanging from their mouths, and eyes Sunk in their sockets, gazed int, the pools But found no water. Mountain villages Grew silent on the hill and stood as tombs.
Oh, it was weariness unspeakable To see nor fresh green leaf, nor yellow grain, Nor purple grape, nor blue corn-flower, nor spark Of scarlet poppy, nor white, sailing cloud.
No color, on the world! The woven robe Of air and moisture laid upon the earth, To make her beautiful and draw the love Of us her children, had been lifted off In God’s fierce anger.”’
C. H.S. THE KING’S MOWINGS IN MEMORIAM BY C. H. SPURGEON
“The king’s mowings.” — Amos 8:1.
CERTAIN lands belonged to the king, so far, that he always took the first cut of grass for himself; and left any aftermath to those who worked upon the land. Now, our great King has his mowings too. His church is the field which he has enclosed and blessed. At set seasons the king takes his mowings. Lately, beyond any other time in my life that I remember, the King has been taking his mowings in and around the church of which he has made me overseer. One has spent many hours at the bedsides of the dying, and in trying to console the bereaved. Our loss, if I may venture to call it a loss, as a church, at the opening of this year was extremely heavy.
The King has been taking his mowings among us, and has cut down here one and there another. When churches commence with a great many young members there naturally would not be so many deaths; but, as we all grow old together, there must be a larger proportion of removals from this world into the land above. I purpose to speak a little upon that subject, and I shall do so in a threefold way First, by way of consolation ; then, by way of admonition ; and, then, by way of anticipation .
I. First, by way of CONSOLATION. It is a sorrowful matter that our beloved brethren should be taken from us. We were not more but less than men if we did not sorrow. Jesus wept, and by that act he sanctified our tears. It is not wrong, it is not unmanly, much less is it sinful, for us to drop the tear of sorrow over the departed; yet let us help to wipe those tears with a handkerchief of sacred consolations.
First, seeing, “All flesh is grass, and all the comeliness thereof as the flower of the grass,” dost thou lament that the King has been mowing? Then let this thought abide thee. The King himself has done it! There is no such abstract thing as death, an unloosed monster devouring the saints at will, “drinking the blood of men, and grinding their bones between his iron teeth.” This is a poet’s raving. No destroying angel is sent forth to slay the Israel of God. There is a destroying angel, it is true; but he comes not near those who bear the blood-mark. It is not in the power of disease, or accident, to kill the children of God except as instruments in the divine hand. No saint dieth otherwise than by the act of God. It is ever according to the King’s own will; it is the King’s own doing. Every ripe ear in his field is gathered by his own hand, cut down by his own golden sickle, and by none other. Every fall-blown flower of grace is taken away by him, not smitten with blight, or cut down by the tempest, or devoured by some evil beast. “When mortal man resigns his breath, ‘Tis God directs the stroke of death; Casual howe’er the stroke appear, He sends the fatal messenger.
The keys are in that hand divine; That hand must first the warrant sign, And arm the death, and wing the dart.
Which doth his message to our heart.’“ The Lord has done it, in every case, and, knowing this, we must not even think of complaining. What the King doeth his servants delight in; for he is such a King, that, let him do what seemeth him good we will still bless him we are of the mind of him who said, “Though he slay in yet will I cruse in him.”
Again, those who have been in mown down and taken away are with the King. They are the King’s mowings: they are gathered into his stores. They are not in purgatory; they are not in the limbus patrum , much less are they in hell. They are not wandering in dreary pathways amidst the stars to find a lodging place. “Father, I will that they also whom thou hast given me be with me where I am, that they may behold thy glory, the glory which thou hast given me, for thou lovedst me from before the foundations of the world:” This prayer has fixed their abode. We shall enter into no questions now about whether heaven is a place, and where it is, or whether it be a state merely: it is enough for us that where Jesus is there his people are — not some of them on lower seats or sitting outside or in lower rooms, but they are all where he is. That will certainly content me, and if there be any degrees in glory you who want the high ones may have them. The lowest degree that I can perceive in Scripture is, “that they my be with me where I am, that they may behold my glory,” and that lowest degree is as high as my most vivid imagination can carry me. Here is enough to fill our souls even to the brim. And now do you sorrow? Do you not almost blame your tears when you learn that your beloved ones are promoted to such blissful scenes? Why, mother, did you ever wish for your child a higher place than that it should be where Jesus is? Husband, by the love you bore your wife you cannot grudge her the glory into which she has entered. Wife, by the deep devotion of your heart to him who is taken from you, you could not wish to have detained him a moment from the joy in which his soul now triumphs with his Lord. If he were gone to some unknown land, if you could stand on life’s brink, and hear the roaring billows of a dread mysterious ocean and say, “My dear one has gone, I know not whither, to be tossed like a waif or stray upon yonder tempestuous sea,” Oh, then you might mix your own tears with the brine of that ocean. But you know where they are, you know with whom they are, and you can form some idea by the joy of Christ’s presence here on earth what must be their bliss above. “Sounds of sweet melody fall on my ear; Harps of the blessed, your voices I hear!
Rings with the harmony heaven’s high dome, Joyfully, joyfully bring the saints home.” It is a sweet reflection, too, that although our dear friends have been cut down like flowers by the scythe, yet their lot is better than ours though we are standing and blooming to-day. Life seems better than death, and the living dog is better than the dead lion; but take into account the everlasting state, and who will dare say that the state of the blessed is worse than ours? Will not all assert that it is infinitely superior? We are suffering still, but they shall smart no more. We are weak and tottering here, but they have regained the dew of their youth. We know what want means, and wipe the sweat of toil from off our face, but they rest in abundance for ever. The worst of all is that we still sin, and have to wrestle hard with doubts and fears; Satan still besets us, the world is around us, and corruptions within us. But they are where not a wave of trouble can ever break the serenity of their spirit, beyond the barkings of the hell-dogs, and beyond the arrows of hell’s quiver; though there be archers who would shoot their darts into heaven itself if they could. The ingathered ones are supremely blest; they are far beyond what we are in joy, and knowledge, and holiness; therefore, if we love them, how can we mourn that they have gone from the worse to the better, and from the lower to the higher room?
And, moreover, brethren, although some of you sorrow very bitterly, because God has taken away the desire of your eyes with a stroke, let me remind you that you might have had a worse sorrow than this concerning them. Ah, the mother that hath to mourn over a grown up son who has become a profligate, has a bitterer pang a thousand times over than she who sees her infant carried to the grave. The father who knows that his sons or daughters have become a dishonor to his name, may well wish that he had long ago seen them laid in the silent tomb; and I have known men in the Church whom I would sooner have buried a thousand times over than have lived to see what I have seen afterwards in them. For years they stood as honorable professors; but they lived to dishonor the Church, to blaspheme their Lord, to go back into perdition, and prove that the root of the matter was never in them. Oh, ye need not weep for those in heaven; weep not for the dead, neither bewail them; but weep for the spiritually dead; weep for the apostate and backslider; weep for the false professor and the hypocrite, “the wandering stars,” “for whom is reserved the blackness of darkness for ever.” If ye have tears, go and shed them there; but for those who have fought the fight and won the victory, for those who have stemmed the stream and safely landed on the other side, let us have no tears; nay, put away the sacbut and bring forth the clarion, let the trumpet ring out jubilantly the note of victory. It is to them the day of jubilee; why to us should it be the hour of sorrow? They put on the crown and wear the palm branch, wherefore should we don these funeral weeds?
There is more to rejoice in infinitely than there is to sorrow for; therefore, let our hearts be glad. The Lord hath said to them, “Well done,” and rewarded them according to his grace, and this is infinitely better than that they should have lived to slip and slide. “But this is poor comfort,” you will say, and therefore let me come back to the text, and say the King has taken his mowings. Sorrowful as they may be, it is not the worst sorrow, but whether or no we must not grudge the King. All the friends we have are lent us. The old proverb says, “A loan should go laughing home,” that is, we should newer be unwilling to return a loan but cheerfully give it back. They were lent us — and, dear ones, what a blessing they have been to us. The lamps of our house, have they been the joy of our day? The Master says, “I want them back again,” and do we clutch at them and say, “No, Master, thou shalt not have them,” Oh, it must not be so. Our dear ones were never half as much ours as they were Christ’s. We did not make them, but he did; we never bought them with our blood, but he did; we never sweat a bloody sweat for them, nor had our hands and feet pierced for them, but he did. They were with us, but they belonged to him. Your prayer was, “Father, let them be with me where I am,” but Christ’s prayer was, “Father, I will that they whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am.” Your prayer pulled one way and Christ’s another, be not envious that Christ won the suit, for if I ever enter into the Lord’s court of chancery, if I find that Christ is on the other side, my Lord, I will not plead. Thou shalt have thy will, for I and thou and thou and I are one; and if it be thy suit that all I love be with thee, so be it, for I shall be with thee too, ere long, and I would not quarrel with thy wish. The King; as let out his church like a pasture to us, and he says, “I must take my mowings sometimes.” Well, he has so watered us and given us the smell of a field that the Lord God has blessed, that when he cometh and takes his rent, we may not stand at the gate and forbid him, but say “Good Master, come and take which thou wilt. Take thy quitrent, for the field is all thine own. Thou hast dearly purchased it, and thou hast tilled, it with much diligence take what thou wilt, for it is thine.”
And, let us add, to increase our comfort, that the King took his mowings at the right time. Out of those whom he has taken away from us, I think we must all confess that the Lord took them when they should be taken. In one case, a venerable sister, who, if she had lasted longer would have been the prey of weakness and of pain. ‘Twas well she fell asleep. In another case, a dear young friend was pining under that fell disease, consumption. Her throat was scarcely able to receive nourishment. I think those who loved her best must have felt relieved when at last she fell asleep. Two brethren rise before my mind’s eye — the one struggled through life, and wondered often that he did not sink before, for he was like a ship unfit for sea, which every wave threatens to engulf — it is a wonder that he survived so long as he did. He served his Lord up to the last, and when all was over it was well. Another, whom I saw with an afflicting disease about him that had brought him very low, had led as gracious a life that he did not need to utter any dying testimony. Brethren, beloved, also who were once with us in the College have fallen asleep, having finished their course and kept the faith.
I may add that, not only did the king take his mowings at the right time, but in every case I have now before my mind he took them in the easiest way. He took them gently. Some have a hard fight for it at the last, but in these cases though there were pains and dying strife, yet at the last their souls were kissed away by the dear lips of him who named them by their names and said they were his. They fell asleep, some of them, so sweetly, that those who looked on scarcely knew whether it was the sleep of life or the deeper sleep of eternity. They were gone; they were gone at once to their Lord and their God. Putting all these things together, reflecting that the King has done it, that those he has taken way he has taken to be with himself; that their present lot is an infinitely better one than anything beneath the moon; considering, too, that we must never grudge the King the heritage which he has so dearly bought, and that he took his mowings at the right time, and took them in the happiest manner, we will no longer repine, but we will bless the Lord.
II. And now, brethren, suffer me for a few minutes to use the subject by way of ADMONITION.
I hardly know whether under this head I have grouped together thoughts that are quite admonitory. The first one to me is very joyous. It is this, that as we belong to the King, our hope is that we shall be mown too. We are sitting on the banks of Jordan, especially some of riper years, waiting for a summons to the court of the Eternal King. It grows a wonder sometimes with aged Christians, why they stay so long. John Newton, methinks, used to marvel at his own age; and Rowland Hill used to say he half imagined they had forgotten him, and hoped they would soon recollect him and send for him. Well, we have not quite got that length — we who are young — but still we entertain the hope that some fair evening, calm and bright, the angel-reaper will come with the scythe. Then shall we, having fulfilled, like the hireling, our day, lay down our tools of labor and take our rest. Then shall we put down our sword, and take off our breast-plate, and unloose the shoes of iron and brass, for we shalt fight no more, but take the palm and claim the victory before the throne. Never let us look forward to this with dread. It is wondrous that we should do so, and we could not if our faith were stronger. When faith vividly realizes the rest that remaineth for the people of God, we are tempted to long to be up and away. Then why should we wish to linger here? What is there in this old musty worn-out world, worm-eaten and full of holes, with its very gold and silver cankered that can satisfy an immortal spirit? Let us away to the hills of spices and to the mountains of frankincense, where the King in his beauty stands with “helmed cherubim and sworded seraphim,” and all the hosts that serve him day and night, to behold his face, and evermore adore him. Let us anticipate cheerfully the time when the King’s mowings shall include us also.
Brethren, the admonition that rises out of all this, is — let us be ready.
Should not every Christian man live every day as if he were going to die that day? Should we not always live as if we knew our last hour to be at that the door? If a man in his right state were informed on a sudden, “You will die to-night,” he ought not to alter his mode of life one atom; he should be so living that he had nothing more to do but to continue his course. It is remarked of Bengel, the great critic, that “he did not wish to die in spiritual parade, but in the ordinary way; like a person called out to the street door from the midst of business: so much so that he was occupied with the correction of his proof-sheets at his dying season, as at other times.” To me it seems to be the very highest kind of death to die in harness, concluding life without suspending service. Alas, many are unready, and would sadly be put about if the midnight cry were suddenly heard. Oh, let us see that every thing is in order! Both for this world and the next, nothing should be left to be hurried over in the last few hours.
Christian man, is your will made? Are your business affairs all straight?
They ought to be, everything ought to be as near as you can keep it in perfect order, so that you are ready to go at any minute. Mr. George Whitefield used to live so in anticipation of death that he said, “I never go to sleep at night with even a pair of gloves out of place.” Oh, that we could be habitually ready and in order, especially in higher matters, walking before the Lord’ preparing to meet him Then dear friends, this departure of many friends, while it admonishes us to be going, at the same time teaches us to do twice as much while we are here, seeing that our numbers are being thinned. A brave soldier in the day of battle, if he hears that a regiment has been exterminated by the enemy’s shot and shell, says “Then those of us that survive must fight like tigers.
There is no room for us to play at fighting. If they have slain so many, we must be more desperately valiant.” And so, to-day, if one is gone here and there, a useful worker from the Sabbath-schools, from the street preaching, then it is time our broken ranks were repaired. O you young men, I pray you, fill up the gap; and you young women who love the Savior, if a Sabbath-school teacher is gone and you are teaching, teach better, or, if you are not teaching, come and fill the place. My dear brethren, I pray for recruits, I stand like a commander in the midst of my little army and see some of the best smitten down, here one and there one, and what can I do, but, as my Master bids me, lead you on, and say, “Brethren and sisters, step into their places; fill the gaps in the ranks.” Do not let death gain upon us, but even as one goes into the golden city, let another cry: “Here I am! I will fill up the place and seek to do the work until the Master shall call me also to my reward.” As for us who are at work we must labor more zealously than ever, we must pray more fervently than ever. When a certain great man suddenly died in the ministry, I remember in my young days an old preacher saying, “I must preach better than ever I did now that Mr. Soand- so is gone.” And you, Christian, whenever a saint is removed say, “I must live the better to make up to the church the loss which it has sustained.”
One other thought, by way of admonition. If the King has been taking his mowings, then the King’s eye is upon his church. He has not forgotten this field, for he has been mowing it. We have been praying lately that he would visit us. He has come, he has come! Not quite as we expected him, but he has come, he has come! Oh yes, and an he has walked these aisles, and looked on the congregation, he has taken one and then another. He has not taken me, for I was not ready and he has not taken you, for you are not quite ripe; but he has taken away some that were ripe and ready, and they have gone in with him. Well, then, he has not forgotten us, and this ought to stimulate us in prayer. He will hear us, his eye is upon us; this ought to stimulate us to self-examination. Let us purge out everything that will grieve him. He is evidently watching us. Let us seek to live as in his presence that nothing may vex his Spirit, and cause him to withdraw from us. Beloved, these are the words of admonition.
III. And, now, a few more words by way of ANTICIPATION. I hardly know under what head to place them. What anticipations are there that come out of the mowing? Why, these. There is to be an aftergrowth. After the King’s mowings there came another upspringing of fresh grass, which belonged to the King’s tenants. So we expect, now that the King has been mowing, that we shall have a fresh crop of grass. Is there not a promise, “They shall grow as the grass, as willows by the watercourses”? Fresh converts will come, and who will they be? Well, I look around, and I will not say with Samuel, as I look a some young man in the gallery, “Surely the Lord hath chosen him;” neither will look down here and say, “Surely the Lord hath chosen him ;” but I will bless God that I know he has chosen some, and that he means to make this fresh grass spring up to fill up the waste caused by the King’s mowings. Do you know who I should like to come if I might have my preference? Well, where the daughter died, how glad I should be if the father came, or the brother came; and where the father died, how would I be rejoiced if the son should come; and where a good woman has been taken away, how glad would I be if her husband filled up the place. It seems to me as if it were natural to wish that those who loved them best should occupy their position, and discharge their work for them. But if that cannot be, I stand here to-night as a recruiting sergeant. My king in his wars has lost his men, and the regiment wants making up. Who will come?
I put the colors in my hat to-night, but will not stand here and tempt, you with lies about the ease of the service, for it is hard service; yet I assure you we have a blessed Leader, a glorious conflict, and a grand reward.
Who will come? Who will come to fill up the gaps in the ranks? Who will be baptized for the dead, to stand in their place of Christian service, and take up the torch which they have dropped? I will put the question round, and I hope that many a heart will say, “Would God the Lord would have me. O that he would blot out my sins and receive me!” He delighteth in contrite hearts; he sayeth such as be of a contrite spirit. He will have whom he will have, but the way to be enlisted is plain, “Oh,” say you, “what must I give to be Christ’s soldier?” To be the queen’s soldier you do not give any thing; you receive a shilling. You take to be a soldier of the queen, and so to be Christ’s soldier you must take Christ to be your all in all, holding out your empty hand and receiving of his blood and righteousness to be your hope and your salvation. Oh that his good Spirit would sweetly incline your wills, that one after another were made willing in the day of his power. May he thus do and our hearts will greatly rejoice.
As I read the passage in Amos, which we have taken for our text, I noticed something about caterpillars. It is said that after the King’s mowings there came the caterpillars to eat up the aftergrowth. Oh, those caterpillars!
When the poor eastern husbandman sees the caterpillars, his heart is ready to break for he knows they will eat up every green thing. And I can see the caterpillars here to-night. There is the great green caterpillar that eats up all before him; I wish could crush him. He is called the caterpillar of procrastination. There are many, many other worms and locusts which eat up much, but this worm of procrastination is the worst, for just as the green blade is beginning to spring up this caterpillar begins to eat. I can hear him gnawing, “Wait, wait, wait; to-morrow, to-morrow; a little more sleep, a little more sleep, a little more sleep.” And so this caterpillar devours our hopes. Lord, destroy the caterpillar, and grant that instead of the fathers may be the children, instead of the King’s mowings may come up the aftergrass which shall be a rich reward to tire husbandman and bring glory to the owner of the soil.
We have reason to pray that the Lord would send the dew and the rain to bring forth the aftergrowth. “He shall come down like rain upon the mown grass.” Now this congregation is like mown grass. God has in mown it — a rich mowing has the King taken from us. Now, my brethren, we have the premise; let us plead it before the throne. All the preaching in the world cannot save a soul, nor all the efforts of men; but God’s Spirit can do everything, and, oh, that he would come down like rain upon the mown grass now. Then shall we see the handful of corn upon the top of the mountain multiply till its fruit shall shake like Lebanon, and they of the city shall flourish like grass of the earth. The Lord send it, the Lord send it now.
If any would be saved, here is the way of salvation “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved.” To believe is to trust. What you have to trust in is this: that Jesus is God, that he became man, that he suffered in the sinner’s place, and that whosoever believes in him shall be forgiven because God has punished Christ instead of believers. Christ bore God’s wrath instead of every sinner that ever did or ever shall believe in him, and if thou believest in him thou wast redeemed from among men. His substitution was for thee and it will save thee; but if thou believes not thou hast no part nor lot in this matter. Oh, that thou wert brought to put thy trust in Jesus. This would be the pledge of thy sure salvation to-night and for evermore. God bless you for Christ’s sake. Amen.
PREPARE to die whilst you are in health. It is an ill time to calk the ship when at sea, troubling up and down in a storm: this should have been looked to when she was in port. And as bad is it to begin and trim a soul for heaven when tossing on a sick bed. Things that are done in a hurry are seldom done well. Those poor creatures, I fear, go in an ill dress into another world who begin to provide for it when they are dying . . . but alas, they must go, though they have not time to put on proper clothes. — Gurnall .