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of in this view: “I have espoused you to one Husband," says St. Paul, “ that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christp.” Know ye then, that if you have never solemnly engaged yourselves to Christ, as a virgin does to the object of her affections, and so pledged yourselves, as not for a moment to admit a rival to your heart, you are not yet Christians indeed: you may bear the name; but you have no just title to the character. I call upon you therefore to do this without delay. And, if you desire to postpone this necessary act, I ask, Whom have you found so worthy of your affections as the Lord Jesus Christ? Who has done so much for you to deserve them?
and who will ever make you so ich a return?
Say not, “What is thy Beloved more than another beloved, that thou dost so charge us9;" for there is none to be compared with Him, either in heaven or on earth. “ He is fairer than the children of men":" “ He is the chiefest among ten thousand :" “ He is altogether lovelys.” O, rest not, till with holy confidence you can say, “ This is my Beloved, and this is my Friend, o daughters of Jerusalem." And so set yourselves from this moment to prepare yourselves for him, that he may shortly" bring you to his banqueting-house, and his banner over you be love u."]
2. Those who profess to stand in the relation of his Spouse
[Look forward for the period when he will come and take you to himself. The precise hour of his arrival is not known: but it will not be very long, at all events. In the mean time, let your preparation for him be diligent and unintermitted. Seek to be daily more and more "glorious within," and to have your clothing of wrought gold ever ready; so that if his arrival be ever so sudden, he may not find you unprepared for his call. Be jealous over yourselves; and forgive me if I also be jealous over you, in relation to this matter. You know how “the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtlety” even in Paradise: and you may be sure that he will use his utmost efforts to “ corrupt you from the simplicity that is in Christ *.” Be on your guard therefore, lest either in principle or in practice you turn aside from him. He has numberless instruments whom he employs as his agents to deceive the world; “ deceitful workers, who can transform themselves into the Apostles of Christ; as he himself also is not unfrequently transformed into an angel of lighty." But entreat of God to keep you: beg of him to “ hedge up your way with thorns, and even to build up a wall around you, that, if you should for a moment incline to follow after your former lovers , you may not be able to find your paths.” If unhappily you have gone in pursuit of them -, implore of God, that “
p 2 Cor. xi. 2.
9 Cant. v. 9.
r Ps. xlv. 2. u Cant. ii. 4.
you may never find them; or, having found, may never overtake them:” or, if you have overtaken them
-, separate yourselves instantly from them, and say, “ I will go and return to my first husband; for then it was better with me than now?" ---]
2 Hos. ii. 6, 7.
THE RIVER OF GOD. Ps. xlvi. 4. There is a river, the streams whereof shall make
glad the city of God. FREQUENTLY, in the Holy Scriptures, is God compared to a fountain : in conformity with which idea, the blessings of salvation which flow from him may well be called “a river.” To the Israelites in the wilderness, there was given a stream which followed them in all their journeys: and to the Church, at this day also, is “a river opened for the refreshment of all who travel Zion-ward." Innumerable are the necessities of God's people in this dreary wilderness; and the “troubles" with which they have to contend are often so great as to make it appear as if “the earth itself were removed, and the mountains were carried into the midst of the sea.” But God is with his people; and the river which attends their steps supplies their every want. “The whole city of God is gladdened by it, and especially the holy place of the tabernacles of the Most High:” for the nearer any one's access to God is, the more abundant are the communications made to him of grace and peace.
The exalted character given of this river will justify a minute inquiry respecting it. Let us notice then, I. The source from whence it issues
[Whence can this be, but from God himself? But on this subject we are not left to form conjectures : for David says, “ With God is the fountain of lifea." And St. John says,
a Ps. xxxvi. 9.
that “ there was shewn to him a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God, and of the Lamb b." From God, as the primary cause of all good, and from the Lamb, who has "purchased the Church with his blood," and who is constituted “ Head over all things to his Church,” and has all fulness treasured up in him for his people's use; from our adorable Emmanuel, I say, all the blessings of salvation flow. The Father, of his own sovereign will, opened a way for the bestowment of them: the Son, by his atoning blood, procured them for us: and the Holy Spirit imparts them to the souls of men: so that from our Tri-une God does this river altogether proceed. In truth, it was typified by the waters that flowed from the rock in Horeb, and supplied the camp of Israel forty years :
· They all drank the same spiritual drink,” says the Apostle ; “ for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them; and that rock was Christo.”]
We may next notice,
[It is in the ordinances of the Gospel that all spiritual blessings are dispensed. For thus saith the prophet: 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, and shall water the valley of Shittim." To the house of God, those who are athirst come, that they may drink of its refreshing streams. “ O God, thou art my God,” saith holy David; “ early will I seek thee: my soul thirsteth for thee, my flesh longeth for thee in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is; to see thy power and thy glory, so as I have seen thee in the sanctuarye.' Yes; these are “ the golden pipes, by which the golden oil is communicated from the olive-trees” to every lamp in the sanctuary! See, in the days of old, what blessings attended the ministration of the word, accompanied as it was by an effusion of the Spirit from on high: nothing could withstand its power! So it still “sweeps away from men every refuge of lies, and overflows their hiding places 8 ;” at the same time that it bears them up, as in the ark, and saves them from the deluge that will destroy the world.]
We may not unprofitably direct your attention yet further to, III. The depths of “its streams
[The Prophet Ezekiel refers so particularly to this, that we must on no account omit the mention of it. He speaks of b Rev. xxii. 1.
c1 Cor. x. 4. d Joel iii. 18. with Isai. ii. 3. latter part. e Ps. Ixiii. 1, 2. i Zech. iv. 11, 12.
8 Isai. xxviii. 17.
this river as proceeding “ from under the threshold of the sanctuary, and from the side of the altar," where the sacrifices were offered. Being brought to it by the heavenly messenger who had been sent to instruct him, he was made to pass through its waters, which, in the first instance, rose only " to his ankles.” On being brought to another place, he found the "waters up to his knees;" and, at another place, “ up to his loins;" and then, a little further
out of the depth of any manh.” Now this gives a most just and beautiful representation of the Gospel; which, in our first approach to it, is so shallow, that the veriest child may walk in it with perfect ease: but, as we advance in it, we find yet deeper truths; till, at last, its mysteries are unfathomable by any created intelligence; “so unsearchable are God's judgments, and his ways past finding out'." Nothing can be more simple than the great leading truth of salvation by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ: a child that can but just run, may read,” and “ a wayfaring-man, though a fool, may understand, it.” But when we attempt to explore the love of Christ displayed in it, we find “ a length and breadth and depth and height that infinitely surpass any finite comprehension."
But of its chief excellencies we must especially mark,] IV. The salubrity of its waters
[The Prophet Zechariah, especially referring to the Gospel, says, “ It shall be in that day, that living waters shall go out from Jerusalem!.” And in the passage before quoted from the Prophet Ezekiel, their efficacy is fully declared : “ It shall come to pass, that every thing that liveth, which moveth whithersoever the rivers shall come, shall live: and there shall be a very great multitude of fish, because these waters shall come thither: for they shall be healed, and every thing shall live whither the river cometh m” Here then we see, that they give health to the diseased, and life to the dead. Verily, there is no disease which shall not be removed by the use of them. Naaman thought that “ Abana and Pharpar, rivers of Damascus, might be as serviceable as the waters of Israel":" and, in like manner, many vainly hope to heal themselves by the application of carnal remedies to their souls. But it is this river only that can purify us from our sins; and the man that washes in it, how leprous soever he may have been, shall instantly experience its healing efficacy. Nor shall its virtue be confined to a single patient: none shall have cause to complain, like the man at Bethesda's pool, that one less indigent or more highly-favoured than himself has been beforehand with him, and exhausted all its virtue. Not a human being shall fail of obtaining all he needs, if only he apply the remedy in faith: “ The fountain is opened for sin, and for uncleanness P: and its powers are yet as effectual as on the day that David washed in it', or the murderers of the Lord of glory sprinkled its waters upon their souls". It will even give life to the dead. When a dead man was cast into the sepulchre of Elisha, the very instant his body touched the bones of the prophet, he revived, and stood upon his feets. And shall not these waters, sprinkled on the soul, produce a like effect ? Has not our blessed Lord himself affirmed, “I am the Resurrection, and the Life: he that believeth on me, though he were dead, yet shall he live; and whosoever liveth, and believeth in me, shall never die'?” Let it not be thought that the Gospel has lost one atom of its power: for though men be in a state so desperate, that, as in Ezekiel's vision, their bones are reduced to dust, and scattered over the face of the earth, yet shall they “ rise a great army,” as soon as ever the Word and Spirit of God shall be applied with power to their souls 4.
h Ezek. xlvii. 1-5.
i Rom. xi. 33.
k Eph. iii. 18, 19.
That, however, of which our text more particularly speaks, is,] V. Its efficacy to“ gladden the whole city of God”.
[In two respects does it contribute to the happiness of every citizen of Zion; namely, by the defence it affords, and by the refreshment it administers. Common rivers, if they afford protection against those who have no means of crossing them, give, in many instances, a greater facility of assault, either by means of large fleets, which transport an enemy with ease to any point he may choose to attack; or by smaller vessels, whereby he may come suddenly and unperceived, and disembark upon its very banks. But this river admits not of access by any such means. Hear the account given of it by the Prophet Isaiah: “ Look upon Zion, the city of our solemnities; (the city spoken of in our text:) thine eyes shall see Jerusalem a quiet habitation, a tabernacle that shall not be taken down; not one of the stakes thereof shall ever be removed, neither shall any of the cords thereof be broken: for there the glorious Lord will be unto us a place of broad rivers and streams, wherein shall go no galley with oars, neither shall gallant ship pass thereby We may conceive of a river which, by its shoals and cataracts, bids defiance to vessels of any kind, and such is that which encompasses our Zion, and keeps it from
At the same time it supplies the wants of the besieged in rich abundance. From the moment that any one tastes its refreshing streams, “he thirsts no more:” he has o John v. 7.
p Zech. xiii. 1. 9 Ps. li. 7. r Acts ii. 41. s 2 Kings xiii. 21. t John xi. 25, 26. u Ezek. xxxvii. 1-10.
x Isai. xxxii. 20, 21.