Billeder på siden


in nearly all such companies of people in this world, there are some whom the Good Shepherd knows to be not His sheep. And every such company of worshippers is a spiritual mother to some persons, and performs for them the offices of a mother. And all such companies, in the aggregate, constitute the entire visible church of Christ, or the spiritual mother in the widest but not in the highest sense. Think of what this church has done, and is still doing through its various branches, to aid in building up the kingdom, or in bringing down from heaven that Holy City, whose " light is like unto a stone most precious”! Think how its united labours are hastening forward that glorious era when the tabernacle of God shall be with men, and God Himself shall be with them, their God”! Think of what it has done and is doing in the way of preserving and translating the written Word, in multiplying copies thereof by the million, and circulating them in all the various languages of the earth almost as free as air! Think how much it has done and is doing to elucidate the letter of the Word-to implant in human hearts a love and reverence for its simple precepts to teach many of its solemn truths in a form accommodated to the states of natural men, or men in the early stages of regeneration—to keep alive the belief in Christ as the all-sufficient Redeemer and Saviour, and a belief in a future state of rewards for the righteous and punishment for the disobedient! Pray tell me, brethren, is there no gratitude, no love, no honour due from us towards that great visible body of professed disciples who have done and are still doing so much for the Master's cause? Does it become us, as children of the Heavenly Father, now that we are blessed with more abundant knowledge of God and the eternal world than our mother ever enjoyed, to cherish feelings of unkindness, disrespect, or aversion towards that mother?—to speak of her, as some are accustomed to speak, in terms of disparagement and contempt? In the name of our common Master, does such conduct become us?

Or, to bring the subject nearer home. I have called the aggregate Christian organizations, or visible churches of Christ, our spiritual mother. I speak advisedly in what I am here saying. Nearly all of us, I presume, who now rejoice in the glad light of the New Jerusalem, have been born and nurtured in the bosom or under the auspices of some one of these churches, known as Episcopalian, Presbyterian, Methodist, Baptist, or Unitarian-no matter what the name. There we received our earliest religious instruction. There we learned to read and reverence God's Holy Word. There we were taught to obey the commandments

to remember and keep holy the Sabbath day—to respect the forms and ordinances of religion--and perhaps were taught some simple prayer. There, too, we learned, through religious books and tracts, as well as the public preaching of the Gospel, many valuable lessons of duty, of piety, and of Christian love. I submit that the church which has done these things for us—be its name or creed whatever it may-is our more immediate spiritual mother, and should be so regarded by us. Why not? She has performed for us the duties and offices of a mother. She watched over our souls in their earlier stages of regeneration, with all the care and solicitude of a mother. She furnished us with spiritual food and clothing, and nursed us with a mother's sleepless anxiety. What though the food she provided were not all healthy or nutritious! What though the spiritual garments she put upon us were not all white and clean, and neatly fitted as if woven in the looms of heaven! She furnished the the best that she knew of. She acted according to her highest wisdom, and what more could any mother do? Besides, we should not forget that whatever there is of Christ's kingdom or church within us, had its foundations laid by the hands of that same mother;—that to her, under God, we are indebted for the rudiments, at least, of all that we at present know and enjoy of the kingdom of heaven. And shall we now look down upon that mother with proud disdain ? Shall we point at her in very scorn because she is old and infirm, and her eyesight dim? Shall we deride her for her ignorance, her imperfections, or her errors ? As justly might we deride our natural mother, when the infirmities of age or disease have laid her prostrate, or insultingly taunt her with her ignorance or errors because we have become wiser than she. And if it were an act of flagrant impiety thus to treat a natural mother, is it, I ask, any the less impious to treat our spiritual mother in a corresponding manner? If due honour to a natural mother requires that we should respect and love her, with all her errors and infirmities, and seek to do her all the good we can—to do it, too, in the kindest, tenderest, and most loving way, then due honour to our spiritual mother demands of us a like filial regard and filial conduct. We need not love or cling to the errors she inculcates—it is in no such way that we best honour our natural mother; but rejecting her errors, or with God's help rising clear of them, we should yet endeavour to cherish for her that filial gratitude, respect, and love which is ever due to a mother, and which is implied by the term honour. Thus should each one of us seek to honour that particular church in which he has been born and nurtured, and which has performed for him the offices of a mother.

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]


But there is a still higher sense to this word mother, in which it denotes all the children of God everywhere-all who have attained to a vital union with Christ by a life according to the divine precepts, be their creed, profession, or outward fellowship what it may. This is the highest or celestial meaning of the word. To quote the language of the illumined Swedenborg—“By mother, in this sense, is meant the communion of saints; in other words, the Lord's church dispersed throughout the whole world.” (T. C. R. 307.) This “communion of

( saints” is no visibly organised body of people, but all whose hearts are in sympathy with Christ and in fellowship with each other,—whose souls are knit together by the invisible but mighty bonds of heaven's own love, who are one in spirit, however they may differ in name, or in outward church relations,—who enjoy an internal heart-communion with each other, being all united to the true and living Vine, and drawing their life from Him as the branch lives by virtue of its union with the trunk. This is the true but invisible church of Christ. Strange that any among us should speak of it as though it were a shadow, a chimera, a thing of the imagination merely, because its limits cannot be defined geographically or numerically, or because we can never say of it,

Lo, here! or, Lo, there!” Not only is this church a substantial reality, but it is the only true and living church, including within its ample pale all God's children here below, and none others. This is the church which is internally associated with the white-robed armies above, and is the medium through which heaven comes down to earth, and angels hold communion with men. No narrow or exclusive sect is it, but a true church catholie, forming within all the sects, and gradually breaking down or overleaping their barriers--a church that is becoming freer, broader, and stronger, as the years roll on, and as it gathers closer and closer around its living Head, and the life of Christ descends into it with increased fulness and power. This is the Bride, the wife of the Lamb. This is the church which the revelator saw descending out of heaven from God, having the glory of God," and which he describes under the figure of the holy city New Jerusalem. This is the mother in the highest sense,—in the true New Jerusalem sense,—the heavenly mother whose face beams with the benignity of the Heavenly Father's heart, who fondly cherishes all the Father's children, clasping them tenderly in her embrace, and imbuing their hearts with her sweet spirit.

This, then, is the mother whom we of the New Jerusalem are especially required to honour. And we honour this mother, first, by

[ocr errors]

acknowledging her' as our mother in the highest sense; secondly, by learning to love and to feel ourselves in fellowship with all who have the spirit of Christ, whatever their name or creed; and thirdly, by endeavouring to show ourselves worthy children of such a mother, striving evermore to do the Father's will, and seeking fellowship with all who bear the Father's likeness. By thus honouring this mother, our hearts are enlarged; we are made broader and truer men and women; our souls are opened to a freer influx of heavenly life; our companionship with the angels is rendered more intimate and tender; we are brought nearer to the moral likeness of Him “who is over all, God blessed for ever," and a state of heavenly peace and rest is infallibly secured.

Hence the reason of the latter clause of the text—"That thy days may be prolonged upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee." Days denote states of life. And by the land here mentioned, which, literally, was the land of Canaan— the land promised to the Hebrew church_is denoted the spiritual or heavenly Canaan, that is, heaven or the heavenly state. To have the days long or prolonged in this land, is to enjoy a perpetual augmentation of states of good, or a constant influx and increase of heavenly affections, with their delights, throughout the ages of eternity. This is the sure and rich reward which Infinite Love and Wisdom will bestow on all who obey this precept in each of its senses. Therefore it is said that the Lord thy God giveth thee this land. The all of heaven and its delights is from the influx of the Lord's own life, and consequent indwelling of His Love and Wisdom in the minds of men and angels. All of heavenly love in the will flows from the Lord's Divine-Human Love; and all of heavenly truth in the understanding, from His Divine-Human Wisdom. The name Lord or Jehovah is used to signify the Divine Love, and the name God, to signify the Divine Wisdom-both of which are now received from the Divine Humanity, the glorified Christ. To give, when predicated of the Lord, signifies influx from Himself into the minds of those to whom He is said to give. Hence the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee," viewed spiritually, is none other than the heavenly Canaan—that kingdom of the heavens which dwells within, the sure reward of every

faithful and obedient soul.

God grant that this blessed reward may be ours !—that we may all 80 " honour our Father and our mother, that our days may be prolonged upon the land which the Lord our God giveth!”






The Dispersion of Plants upon the face of the Earth. TRAVELLERS, on their return from the exploration of distant countries, tell us of every conceivable diversity of climate and of terrestrial surface. Those who have penetrated the Arctic circle describe snows almost perennial, and a region so inhospitable that everything necessary to support human life must be carried thither; those who bring home the browned faces that shew the intensity of Indian sunshine tell of arid and sandy plains from which every particle of moisture appears to have been evaporated long ages ago. Some give us accounts of buge moun. tains where, at midsummer, the white mantle of mid-winter still lingers undissolved, though at the base it is fervid summer, all latitudes being represented in miniature during the course of a few thousand feet of vertical ascent; others, again, tell us of countries where rain does not fall for a dozen years at a time, and where the surface of the ground is covered with the dry crystallisation of the salts contained in its substance. Wonderful is this, whatever the associations under which it is regarded ; more wonderful yet is the fact that every spot of earth, hot or cold, high or low, is supplied with vegetation at once appropriate and ornamental. No place is incapable of supporting vegetable life of some kind; and although there are districts where grass and trees are never seen, and perpetual desolation gives the idea of their being worn-out and effete, as happens in the great deserts in the interior of northern Africa, -even there it is not so much an absolute incapacity to sustain life, as the want of springs of water, that causes the absence of it. In those sweet spots which have become a metaphor for all happy and blessed breaks in the history of trouble and sorrow—the “oases” of the desert-water is present, and vegetation is triumphant. Such an "oasis” was Elim, where “ there were twelve wells of water and three score and ten palm trees.”

How marvellous then, in our eyes, does that Divine power and wisdom again become, which provides a fitting vesture of plant and flower for every spot of earth, yea, and a vegetable population for every stream and pond of water, for every lake and every sea, whether salt or tasteless. Hot springs have their vegetable inhabitants no less than cold rivers and chilly cascades. The driest acres of Arabia have plants congenial to

[ocr errors]
« ForrigeFortsæt »