SWEET VARIETY IN THE GARDEN OF GOD.
A HINT BY C. H. SPURGEON.
THE plants of the Lord’s right-hand planting have many and prominent points of likeness, and yet they differ exceedingly. We shall err from the truth and from love if we look for all the same traits of character in all the children of God: some are constitutionally vigorous, and others are feeble; some are aspiring, and others drooping; many are contemplative, and more are active; many are excitable, while a few are deliberate. Each form of mind has its beauties and its uses. All flowers are so much alike that we rightly place them in one group, and never mistake them either for minerals or animals, and yet their variety is as wide as it is charming. Even so all the regenerate belong to one family, and yet no one is exactly like another. All the Israelites are of the seed of Abraham, and yet Judah is not Dan, nor Issachar Manasseh: why should they be?
Many of God’s people are naturally cheerful; in their case the holiness of their joy comes from the Spirit of God, but the joyousness itself is in a measure due to a healthy body and a contented mind. These bright Christians are like the flowers which bathe in the sunlight, and flourish best on a warm border where no biting wind ever makes its way. These joyous people may live out a depression, but they are at their best when they can rejoice in the Lord always, and yet again rejoice. See the crocus fast closed while “the clouds return after the rain,” but open and filled with glory when the sun pours its rays into its cup of pure gold like unto transparent glass.
At such times did you ever note the soft golden flame which seems to burn deep down in the cup, — a sort of fiery sheen of liquid light? How like to the raptures and ecstasies which are enjoyed by certain of our Lord’s household! A clear, warm, steady sunshine is the element of the crocus; under such influence it throws out a blaze of color, and as we look within its chalice the golden glory seems to quit the leaf, “and roll like a fiery atmosphere within.” Such are the happy hearts that live in full communion with the Lord. Let us not envy them, much less tremble for their joyousness, as though it were a great peril.
On the other hand, there may be in the disposition of other Christians tendencies which naturally incline them to the shady side of life. Such bring forth the choice flowers of patience and resignation, and are seen at their best in a partial gloom; who shall, therefore, condemn them? The evening primrose exhibits nothing better than faded and dis-colored flowers all day long, as if it were altogether withering away, for noontide is not the hour of its beauty. Wait till the summer twilight is beginning, and you shall see it gradually open its fragrant blossoms, and display its pale yellow colors. It is the joy of the evening and the night: the garish sun woos it in vain, it loves the fair face of the moon. We all know godly women who would never be seen to advantage among the public activities of our churches, and yet in the sick-room and in the hour of affliction they are full of beauty, and shed a lovely fragrance all around.
We will not excuse a tendency to despondency, for there is abundance of joy in Christ Jesus for all orders of saints; but nevertheless we perceive great beauty in men and women of a sorrowful spirit, whose patience in tribulation is given them of their Lord. No one should utter a syllable against saints whose resemblance is found in the “Fair flower that shuns the glare of day, Yet loves to open, meekly bold, To evening hues of silver gray, Its cup of paly gold.” Among the night-blooming flowers are found a few of rare beauty and delicious perfume. Take, for instance, the Cereus, or Cactus grandiflora. It is a grandee of the floral world, and wears at night a crown which is a foot in diameter, of a splendid yellow within and a dark brown without. Its scent perfumes the air to a considerable distance, and makes night fragrant as Solomon’s palace of cedar. A little before midnight this cactus displays its wondrous charms, and is seen to be one of “the precious things put forth by the moon.” We think we know believers worthy to be compared to this glorious flower; brilliant in endurance, more than conquerors in tribulation; of whom the world is not worthy.
Let not the evening primrose despise the tulip for its love of the sun; and let not the tulip find fault with the night-blooming flower for its delight in the moon. Each of these has its use, and is beautiful in its season. The bees gather about the beauties of the day, and the moths sip of the blooms of the night. The rejoicing child of God must not grow heady and high-minded, and push his weak and weeping brother; and, on the other hand, the sad and lowly one must not begin to tyrannize over his joyous friend, by measuring his heavenly experience by the standard which dolorous doubters have set up. God’s flowers must be left to bloom in their own way, and the more natural they are the better. Some of them naturally hang down while yet in bud, and yet when they are fully opened they gaze upward with clear vision; is not the drooping posture modestly suitable to the youth of their buds? It would be useless to upbraid them, they are best as they are. The gardener thinks he improves God’s handiwork, but a man of pure taste is not of his mind; true, he may gain in one direction, but he loses in several others. The distinctive features of a flower are made less striking by the processes of education, and the tendency is for all such flowers to be globular and like each other. There are eyes that love the child of nature in his own raiment more than the heir of art in his finer and stiffer apparel. Roses and dahlias in their first estate have more expression than when art has given them an aristocratic form and fashion.
You know that in the habit of opening and closing, flowers are so varied that some one or other of them is sure to be opening at each quarter of an hour of the day. The star of Jerusalem is up by three, and the chicory at four: the buttercup opens at six, the water-lily at seven, the pink at eight, and so on till the night comes on. Linnaeus made a clock of flowers. If you are well acquainted with the science of botany, you, too, may tell the time without a watch. “On upland shores the shepherd marks The hour when, as the dial true, The chicory to the lowering lark Lifts her soft eyes, serenely blue.” God has made everything beautiful in its season, everything lovely in its own order. It were a pity that there should be a battle among the flowers, and a greater trouble still if there should be a conflict among saints as to which state of experience is the better, or as to which is the higher mark of grace.
One thing I have learned from flowers which should be a lesson for us all: it is the dependence of most of them upon the great heavenly light. If you will look on a lawn when it rains, you may at a little distance see nothing but the green grass; but as soon as the shower is over, and the sun shines forth, countless daisies, which have shut themselves up while the sun is away, will open their eyes and look up to him. Well are they called Day’seyes.
The sweet marguerites lie asleep all night, shut up like pearls in their shells; but when brave Sol is up they hide themselves no longer, but come forth to meet the bridegroom. Should we not act according to such sort towards the Well-beloved, whose presence makes our day? When our Lord Christ conceals his face, let us shut up our hearts in sorrow, even “as the closing buds at eve grieve for the departed sunbeams.” When Jesus shines upon us with brightness of beauty and warmth of grace, then let our hearts unclasp their folded leaves again, and let them drink in a fullness of light and love. We may all try to be alike in this respect, for we all love Jesus. If we cannot all rejoice in him at this moment, yet we can all refuse to rejoice in aught besides. And there is no mere fancy in such refusal; for how can the flower of the day be content without the sun, and how can we be happy without our Lord? The poet says, — The tyrant night oppresses the innocent flower until its pure deep eyes are wet with tears; but when the conquering sun appears the flower smiles through its tear-drops. The Pharisees complained that, while they often fasted, the disciples of Jesus did not fast at all. Well did the Master answer them, “Can the children of the bride-chamber mourn, as long as the bridegroom is with them? but the days will come, when the bridegroom shall be taken from them, and then shall they fast.” Now, this is true of us all. While Christ is with us we could not be sad if we were to try, and if he be once gone we cannot be glad, however much we may attempt to be so. He is everything to us — our joy, our hope, our all. Our bliss depends, not upon what we are in ourselves, but upon what he is in himself. What a songster sung to a flower may be fitly applied to every believer; he would have it joy in the sun, and so he sings — “‘Tis thine to rest in his embrace, Nor labor to be sweet and fair; Do thou but gaze into his face, And all thy beauty shineth there:
Heaven thee hath made a mirror in whose sheen The shining of you sun is in sweet beauty seen.” Here, then, is a clear point of union for all believers of every shape of character. We are one in our need of Jesus, one in our joy in him, one in our growth beneath his heavenly influences. To him we turn as the heliotrope turns to the sun, and towards him we are moving as truly, though as slowly, as the purple orchids moves towards the south, the land of the sun. Oh, to dwell in the unclouded glory of the Sun of righteousness for evermore!
PLINY’S MYRTLE AND CHRIST’S CROSS THE heathen naturalist, Pliny, tells of a peculiarly fragrant myrtle-tree which grew in great abundance in his own time, and which he represents as possessing a strange and even miraculous virtue. A spray cut from it and carried in the hand could so continuously sustain the body that weariness was impossible, while it exercised such an exhilarating potency over the mind that no feeling approaching the sense of discouragement or despondency could ever be experienced. That fabled tree was a fitting emblem of the efficacy of grace in healing all the soul’s diseases, and, in its ultimate result, delivering the body also from every malady which may now afflict or oppress it, raising it up on the resurrection-day in the likeness and loveliness of the glorious body of the Son of God. — R . W. Forrest.
KEEP UP THE SUNDAY-SCHOOL.
HERE is a fit place to urge our friends to look well to the Sabbath-school.
Our richer people in the town churches live out of town, and so the school loses those who should be its leaders. Cannot the sons and daughters of our well-to-do people try to deny themselves, and stop up in town between the morning and evening services, so as to take classes? How richly would they enjoy a Lord’s-day thus spent! If this be thought impracticable, let more of our older friends come to the rescue. We know school after school where there are children in hundreds, but tethers are so few that dozens, if not scores, of children are taught by one person with great labor and little profit. By all the honorable records of the past we plead that the Sabbathschool must not be suffered to go down in any place on any account. Men and brethren, women and sisters, help! Help at once! Keep on helping as long as you live. — C. H.S.HIGHER AND HIGHER BY THOMAS SPURGEON.
WHEN the visitor asked how the invalid was, her anxious friends replied, “Oh, she’s getting lower and lower.” But when he grasped her trembling, transparent hand, and inquired if that were so, she said sweetly, “Oh, no; higher and higher !”
The condition of her poor body may be thus described: — “Lower and lower the pulse-beats sink, Lesser and lesser the life-cords shrink, Looser and looser the vital link, Little by little she nears the brink.” But she, thinking more of her near approach to glory and to Jesus than of the sinking of her body, would not have it so: not lower and lower, but higher and higher. “Higher and higher, not lower and lower, Each pain proves a lever to lift; Brighter and brighter, not darker and darker, Each cloud has its light-letting rift! “Nearer and nearer, not farther and farther, I’ll soon reach the harbor of peace; Calmer and calmer, not rougher and rougher, For I’m nearing the happy release!” And this was not mere fancy, nor the expression of a hope; it was a glorious, bright reality, — “Nearer and nearer her Savior drew, Clearer and clearer the glory grew, Dearer and dearer the promise true, Minute by minute, as minutes flew. “Slighter and slighter her pain she deemed, Lighter and lighter the burden seemed, Brighter and brighter the vista gleamed, Daily and nightly of Jesus she dreamed. “Deeper and deeper the flow of grace, Sweeter and sweeter the Lamb-lit face, Meeter and meeter the heavenly place, Hourly enjoying her Lord’s embrace.” Ere long she fell on sleep. She had been gradually rising “higher and higher”: she was suddenly liked into the highest. “Higher, and nigher, and better, — nay, best!
When Jesus said, ‘Friend, come up higher, and rest Thy poor weary head, like John, on my breast!’
Precious Savior, vouchsafe we may each thus be blest!”
TWO PRAYER-MEETINGS AT THE TABERNACLE IT has been thought that an account of Tabernacle Prayer-meetings might be useful to those who conduct these holy gatherings elsewhere. It will exhibit the great variety of which such meetings are capable, and may suggest to friends who complain of dull prayer-meetings methods for curing such a grievous ill. We do not set up our prayer-meetings as models, but merely as suggestions. We give only two meetings, but we hope to continue the account next month. Monday evening, September 25. — The meeting opened by singing hymn 314, “He’s gone — the Savior’s work on earth, His task of love is o’er,” to a tune which it was desired to introduce into the worship of the Sabbath.
By singing the tune to both of the first two hymns the people caught the strain, and are now prepared to recognize it when the tune is used in the great congregation. Prayer was offered by Pastor C. H. Spurgeon, who presided. There was a large attendance, occupying both the area and the first gallery. Again we sang, and prayer was offered by our deacon, Mr. Allison, and by Mr. H. Driver, a student who has come to the College from Auckland, New Zealand. These prayers did not exceed five minutes, and followed without break.
The following request for prayer was then presented before the Lord by Mr. Harrald: — “ A lady, who has already lost several children by consumption, asks for special prayer for her daughter, who has been attacked by the same disease. Her mother begs for prayer both for her and for her only son, whom she has long since dedicated unconditionally to the Lord. The letter further says, — ‘I have no rest in my spirit till these two are brought in,’“ Upon this sentence the Pastor dilated, stating that our anxiety for others is frequently a prophecy of good to their souls. He hoped that many of us would become thus restless till our children are all saved.
After Mr. Harrald’s intercession we joined in song with the lines: — “With joy we meditate the grace Of our High Priest above; His heart is made of tenderness, His bowels melt with love.
Touch’d with a sympathy within, He knows our feeble frame; He knows what sore temptations mean, For he has felt the same.
He, in the days of feeble flesh, Pour’d out his cries and tears, And in his measure feels afresh What every member bears.” The Pastor read the following notes: — “A mother requests the prayers of the Lord’s people for a daughter once good and kind, but now addicted to drink.”
A wife says, “I write these few lines to ask you to pray for my dear husband. He was once a preacher, but his present sin is drink I cannot bear the thought that after he has preached to others he himself should become a castaway. Do make special prayer for us both.”
In calling upon Elder Cox to pray for these two cases, Mr. Spurgeon said — “It is a dreadful thing that so many hopeful spirits, bright spirits, loving spirits, who were beloved by all who knew them, should fall by little and little through the insidious habit of drunkenness. They never meant to take too much; but they were lured on by the appetite. This withering sin touches the character as with a hot iron, and all the beauty and the joy of life fade away. How can this plague be stayed? No one can bear the thought that those who have preached to others should themselves fall short of the kingdom, yet drink has slain its millions; I had almost said it has dragged down men who stood like angels in their brightness, and quenched them into degradation and misery till they were like to devils in wickedness and fury. Alas, alas, for the doings and the undoings wrought by drunkenness! All sins are deadly, but this is a sword with which men play till it cuts them to the heart. God he? us to blunt the edge of that sword! Meanwhile we plead for the wounded.” Mr. Cox prayed with much earnestness, and the great congregation was stirred with strong desire.
Mr. Wm. Olney, Jun., prayed for several persons in spiritual distress, whose cases were described by the Pastor.
Elder Sedcole and Mr. Perry, one of our students, very touchingly related the way in which they were brought to Christ, and urged sinners to fly to Jesus. This was deeply interesting, and constituted the feature of this gathering. The brethren were called upon without notice, but spoke most touchingly, and we believe that their testimonies will be used of God to conversion. Hymn 499, commencing — “Come, poor sinner, come and see, All thy strength is found in Me,” was sung, and then Mr. Dunn pleaded for some who desired to be healed of bodily sickness, and specially for one who was believed to be dying with cancer in the throat, who, if taken away, would leave a wife and ten children behind him. There was much fervor in the meeting at this point.
Pastor Levinsohn, himself of the seed of Israel, next prayed for his own nation, after we had sung that choice hymn — “Wake, harp of Zion, wake again, Upon thine ancient hill, On Jordan’s long deserted plain, By Kedron’s lowly rill.
The hymn shall yet in Zion swell That sounds Messiah’s praise, And thy loved name, Immanuel!
As once in ancient days.
For Israel yet shall own her King, For her salvation waits, And hill and dale shall sweetly sing With praise in all her gates. Hasten, O Lord, these promised days, When Israel shall rejoice; And Jew and Gentile join in praise, With one united voice.” Just before the close of the meeting a telegram arrived from PastorC. Spurgeon, of Greenwich, who was on his way to attend the Christian Convention at Chicago. This was the message: — “1 Thessalonians 5:25. 2 Corinthians 13:14.” — “Brethren, pray for us.” “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy G host, be with you all. Amen.”
Mr. William Olney, Senr., prayed both for Mr. Charles Spurgeon in his work in America, and for his brother Thomas in New Zealand. The Pastor pronounced the benediction, and as we left the Tabernacle we felt that we had been doing real business at the throne of grace, and that the “Sweet hour of prayer” had passed all too quickly. Monday evening, October 2, was largely devoted to the STOCKWELL ORPHANAGE.
The boys and girls marched down to the Tabernacle, and filled up the end of the first gallery. Pastor C. H. Spurgeon presided, and there was again a large congregation, the greater portion of the area and the first gallery being occupied. The meeting was opened with the hymn, commencing “I feel like singing all the time,” sung by the children and the people, after which the Pastor offered prayer. Then followed the hymn, “Art thou weary?” in which the children and adults alternately sang the inquiry and the response. Mr. Gardiner, a city missionary, prayed for a blessing upon the work of the church, and specially mentioned the various agencies for the benefit of children. Many friends, who had arrived during the last prayer, were waiting to take their seats, so one verse was sung, “Come, my soul, thy suit prepare,” and then Elder Sedcole pleaded very earnestly for fruit from the services of the preceding day, and also for a blessing upon the sermon to be preached by the Pastor on Wednesday at Liverpool.
The children having sung, “Happy! ever happy!” Mr. Charlesworth asked for special petitions for the orphans. He said that many present could remember the beginning of the institution, when there were six boys in Mrs. Gilbert’s house. The first who was received, having passed through the College, has become a successful minister of the gospel Up to the present time no less than 789 have found a home at Stockwell, of whom 449 have left, leaving 340 now in residence. A few have been “called home,” and Mr. Charlesworth was glad to be able to say that every one of them, before they fell asleep, had borne testimony to their acceptance in Jesus Christ. The growing expenses of the institution had been met by constantly increasing contributions, so that the President had not been overweighted with care on account of his large fatherless family. Parents present, who knew the trouble that one child could cause, might estimate the difficulties to be overcome in training three hundred and forty in the way they ought to go. The Sunday-school held at the Orphanage on Sunday afternoons had been the means of leading many of the children to the Savior. Mr. Charlesworth closed his short address by reading what Mr. R. T. Booth wrote in the visitors’ book after the President conducted him over the institution. This is what he said: — “This is an autumn day in London, dark, and cold, and dreary. For the first time I step into the grounds of the Stockwell Orphanage, and am met by its thunder, my friend, Mr. C. H. Spurgeon. As I pass through the various buildings I find some 300 little fatherless children sheltered from the storm, and surrounded with every comfort of a happy home, and provided with all that a great loving heart can suggest. As I look into their bright, happy faces, listening to their-songs of glee, I observe that no two are dressed alike; the miserable, prison-like custom of uniformity being entirely banished; I find it difficult to persuade myself that these are not little ones just from the firesides of the surrounding homes come together for a childish romp. My whole heart’s best love goes out to him who is thus doing for him who said, ‘Feed my lambs.’ My dear wife unites with me in the above.”
The children sang, “Always cheerful,” — a most appropriate piece for them; Elder Everett, being called upon by the Pastor on a sudden, described the Sunday afternoon school at the Orphanage; and prayer for all children was offered by Mr. Hoyland and Elder Cox. One of the brethren having prayed “that the Lord would knock all the nonsense out of the pulpits,” the Pastor said, “That is a petition in which I very heartily join. It does seem to me surprising that men can preach sermons that have not a bit of Christ in them, sermons that would not save the soul of a mouse.
They would be first-rate sermons, capital sermons, if they were good for anything: they are clever to the last degree, but they would never save souls unless the Lord were to make the people misunderstand them.
Sometimes that has been the case, as it was with the good woman who was much refreshed by what her minister said about metaphysics. She thought he said that Christ was meat and physic too, and the misunderstanding was a deal more instructive than what he actually said.”
The Pastor then read a letter from Pastor C. T. Johnson, of Longton, containing cheering news of Mr. Bonser’s work at Fenton; and prayer for the laborers in the Potteries, and other spiritually dark places, was presented by Messrs. Lazenby and Newbat. The children sang “Sound the battle-cry”; and then followed the most impressive scene of the whole evening. The orphan girls alone sang very sweetly the hymn in Mr. Sankey’s book, commencing — “Oh, what a Savior that he died, for me!
From condemnation he hath made me free; ‘He that believeth on the Son,’ saith he, ‘Hath everlasting life.’ ‘Verily, verily, I say unto you!’ ‘Verily, verily,’ message ever new! ‘He that believeth on the Son’ — ‘Tis true! ‘Hath everlasting life!’“ At its close the Pastor had it repeated, in the hope that some might come to Christ while it was being sung. It was like a new song caroled by the angels, and many silent supplications were ascending to God that it might be a season of salvation to many souls. Special requests for prayer were read, and presented by the Pastor, as follow: — For the restoration of a young man in consumption, or for his soul’s recovery; and for the blessing of God to rest upon a meeting to be held at Cannon-street Hotel to promote the more widespread preaching of the doctrines of grace. In closing the meeting, the Pastor asked that his brother, who was to be married the following day, might be remembered in prayer, and that the church would plead for a special outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the service he was to conduct at Liverpool on Wednesday, and that all the meetings of the Baptist Union might be productive of much practical good.
So ended a session of prayer of quite another order to that of the previous Monday, but equally full of power.