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to show him, but he went out of the city and sat down and sheltered himself from the burning rays of the sun under the shade of a gourd which God had caused to grow there ;
6 and it was a shadow to him over his head, and Jonah was exceeding glad of the gourd."
E. What sort of tree is the gourd, mother ?
M. By a gourd we generally mean a kind of vine, not unlike the cucumber, but bearing large fruit like the melon. The gourd, however, mentioned here, is thought to have been a kind of Palma Christi, a tree which grows up very quickly, and has large spreading leaves, which afford a delightful screen from the sun. The Bible tells us that the Lord God prepared this gourd for Jonah, and made it to grow up over his head, that its agreeable shade might sooth his mind, as well as relieve his body from the heat, and that so it might deliver him from his grief.
Now Jonah, as I said before, was exceeding glad of the gourd. He was not, however, to enjoy it long; for the next day God prepared a worm which smote the gourd and it withered. And it came to pass, that when the sun arose, God brought with it a strong east wind.
Now the easterly breezes in those hot countries come over sandy deserts, and are often more suffocating than the heat of the sun, and make the sunbeams give a more intense heat. 5 And the sun beat upon the head of Jonah that he fainted, and wished in himself to die, and said, it is better for me to die than to live."
E. But he need not have sat there in that burning heat. Why did he not go into the city.
M. He was vexed, you know, with the city, because the Lord had spared it when he wished to see it destroyed ; and what was worse still, he was angry with God himself; for when God said to Jonah, “ Doest thou well to be angry, because I have saved this great city from death? doest thou well to be angry for the gourd ?”—which sprang, you know, at God's command, and at God's command had withered; Jonah, instead of feeling ashamed of his own uncharitable, discontented, and peevish temper, answered God, and said, “I do well to be angry, even unto death.”
E. Was not God very much displeased with Jonah, then?
M. Jonah's conduct, my son, must have been far from pleasing in the sight of God; but Jonah was not a wilful offender, though he acted under mistaken views, and therefore God was very kind and compassionate to him, notwithstanding his want of compassion towards the poor people of Nineveh: and the Almighty pitied his prophet for the unhappiness which he brought upon himself, and condescended to reason with him mildly on the sad state of his feelings towards Nineveh. Jonah, you know, had just felt great sorrow at seeing the gourd wither away, perhaps not only because it had given him a refreshing shade, but because of its great beauty, which had pleased his eye. 66 And the Lord said to Jonah, thou hast had pity on the gourd for the which thou hast not laboured, neither madest it grow, which came up in a night, and perished in a
night; and should not I spare Nineveh, that great city, wherein are more than six-score thousand children so young that they cannot discern between their right hand and their left?" For though these innocent children were too young to sin themselves, they must have perished with their parents had God destroyed the city. Besides which, God had regard to the cattle which were in great numbers in the city; thereby teaching us, that any violence towards the beasts of the field, much more towards human beings, is highly displeasing in his sight.
E. How kind it was of God, mother, to think of the children and of the cattle !
M. Yes, my son; when we consider the great wickedness of the people of Nineveh, we cannot but look upon this as an astonishing instance, not only of God's goodness to repenting sinners, but of the tender mercy with which he looks upon all the works of his hands; extending his kind compassion from the young children who are not old enough to know him, and to love him, to the cattle which dwell in our fields.
We hear no more, Edward, of the prophet Jonah, but we cannot help hoping that in the wide view which God here gave him of the divine mercy, he became ashamed of his own narrow views, and that he returned to his country, rejoicing that the people of Nineveh repented at his preaching, and that thus so many gentiles, who had sat in darkness and the shadow of death, should have been brought to the light of the knowledge of God.
E. Are you going to talk to me any more tonight, mother
M. Not much longer, my son, for it is late, and yet I cannot let you go without reminding you, that at the close of the history of Jonah we find another circumstance which draws our minds to the important fact of his being a type of the Redeemer of the world. Jonah was a preacher of repentance, and the men of Nineveh repented at his preaching: and upon their repentance God forgave them, and turned from them the evil with which they had been threatened. In like manner repentance is preached now in the name of Him who is far greater than Jonah. For as Jonah, when he was raised from the depths of the sea, went and preached to the Ninevites, and they repented, so when Christ was risen from the dead, he gave commandment that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among
all nations. Let us take care that we obey the voice of Christ calling us to repentance; for if we do not, the men of Nineveh will rise up in judgment against us, and put us to shame in that great day, when our Lord Jesus Christ shall come to judge the world. Their example will then condemn us, and point out how much we deserve to be punished: for the men of Nineveh repented at the preaching of Jonah, who held out to them no hopes of pardon, but only threatened them with destruction ; whereas we are most fully assured, that if we are really sorry for our sins, and forsake them, we shall be abundantly pardoned, for the sake of the Son of God, of whose death and resurrection for the salvation of us men, we have so striking a figure in the case of the prophet Jonah.
FIFTY-SEVENTH SUNDAY EVENING.
ISRAEL CARRIED INTO CAPTIVITY.
M. You heard, Edward, the Sunday before last, how Jehu had kept up idolatry in the kingdom of Israel, although he had been expressly appointed by God to root it out entirely from the land. You have seen, too, how this unhappy people were all along inclined to forsake the true God, and to follow the evil example of the heathen ; you will not, therefore, be surprised to hear that after Jehu had encouraged them in their idolatry, things became worse and worse, and that all the miseries they suffered by the hand of Hazael king of Syria, and the other enemies whom God raised up to afflict them, had no effect in turning their hearts back to Him. One king succeeded another, but they were almost all equally wicked, and the affliction of Israel became very bitter, nor was there any helper: till at length the Lord had once more compassion upon this part of his miserable people and allowed Jehoram, their third king, bad as he was, to deliver them from their enemies, for he overran all the land of Syria, and took back again many of the possessions of the Israelites, and even restored the kingdom of Israel in some degree to its former prosperity and greatness. Here then was a favourable opportunity