When You send Your Spirit, they are created, and You renew the face of the earth.
I. DOES NOT SPRING SPEAK TO US OF GOD AS THE LORD AND GIVER OF LIFE? For:
1. Life is starting from every pore of nature. The whole face of the earth heaves and throbs with an inexhaustible tide of life; every spot teems with the beginnings of new life. Who does not feel impressed with the unspeakable affluence of him who is its fountain? Every wood and grove, every hedgerow and field, every garden and pasture, bear witness to his bounty. Where but a few weeks before all was sombre and silent, bare, and seemingly lifeless, now, what a change has come over the scene! The grey clouds of winter have been replaced by the bright blue skies, the brown carpet of fallen leaves has yielded to the beautiful green with which the grass has covered the woodland ways. The till now hushed grove is resonant with song and the murmur of innumerable insects. The bare skeleton-like branches of the trees are laden with glorious foliage, and the stripped hedges are all clothed again with leaves and blossoms and flowers. Fulness of life everywhere; this is the common characteristic which meets the eye throughout the whole realm of nature at this beautiful season of the year.
2. And with what wondrous care all this is accomplished! As silently, as irresistibly as the tender blade pushes its way up through the heavy soil which, one would think, must forever hold it down. But slender as is that newly formed blade, yet to that which hath no might God increaseth strength, and so in due time it appears above ground, for God maketh it to grow.
3. And how quietly all this goes on! What a contrast to the noise and strain, the fret and toil, the loud din, and all the other accompaniments of man's strenuous labour! Here, as was said of Solomon's temple
"No hammer fell, no ponderous axes rung; 4. But whilst all this is interesting to observe in the natural world, it is yet more delightful to look upon the Divine energy of life which each spring tide shows as a promise and pattern of the higher spiritual life, which, with equal generosity, God shall one day cause to spring forth before all the nations. Why should it not be? If all this fulness of life be for the lower creation, shall the higher, the moral and spiritual, be left unblessed? "If God so clothes," etc. True, the lower life has to do with material things, and the higher with spiritual. But can that be any bar to him who called us into being, even as each spring he calls into being the full life we see around us? If, in consistency with that lower nature, he gives the new life, can he not, in consistency with man's higher nature, cause that also to be born again and to enter into the new and better life? He has done so already with one and another of us, even as he did with all the children of God in all the ages all along. In perfect harmony with man's freedom, he yet found means to convert, regenerate, and fully sanctify such as Paul, John, and myriads more. And - all glory to his Name! - he is doing this every day. Therefore we accept, not deny or doubt, the blessed prophecy of the spring. And let us each one take it for ourselves. II. AS LOVING ALL THAT IS BEAUTIFUL. See the wealth of beauty which everywhere spring presents, in colour; song; fragrance; beauty everywhere. Then, if God so loves beauty, let him have it. In our worship, our sanctuaries, most of all in our character. In this last God himself will help us. The beauty of the Lord our God shall be upon us even as, and yet more than, it is upon all the grace of nature in this blessed spring tide. III. AS PREDICTING AND PROMISING THE RESURRECTION OF THE DEAD. (cf. 1 Corinthians 15.) If God gives new life and form to bare grain, shall he not to human souls? "And to every seed its own body." Spring is the perpetual resurrection parable. IV. AS ADDRESSING TO US MOST EARNEST APPEAL. "Work while it is called today;" "Now is the accepted time," etc. If the husbandman waste the spring season, what hope of harvest can he have? Its days run along, and will soon be gone. - S.C.
4. But whilst all this is interesting to observe in the natural world, it is yet more delightful to look upon the Divine energy of life which each spring tide shows as a promise and pattern of the higher spiritual life, which, with equal generosity, God shall one day cause to spring forth before all the nations. Why should it not be? If all this fulness of life be for the lower creation, shall the higher, the moral and spiritual, be left unblessed? "If God so clothes," etc. True, the lower life has to do with material things, and the higher with spiritual. But can that be any bar to him who called us into being, even as each spring he calls into being the full life we see around us? If, in consistency with that lower nature, he gives the new life, can he not, in consistency with man's higher nature, cause that also to be born again and to enter into the new and better life? He has done so already with one and another of us, even as he did with all the children of God in all the ages all along. In perfect harmony with man's freedom, he yet found means to convert, regenerate, and fully sanctify such as Paul, John, and myriads more. And - all glory to his Name! - he is doing this every day. Therefore we accept, not deny or doubt, the blessed prophecy of the spring. And let us each one take it for ourselves.
II. AS LOVING ALL THAT IS BEAUTIFUL. See the wealth of beauty which everywhere spring presents, in colour; song; fragrance; beauty everywhere. Then, if God so loves beauty, let him have it. In our worship, our sanctuaries, most of all in our character. In this last God himself will help us. The beauty of the Lord our God shall be upon us even as, and yet more than, it is upon all the grace of nature in this blessed spring tide.
III. AS PREDICTING AND PROMISING THE RESURRECTION OF THE DEAD. (cf. 1 Corinthians 15.) If God gives new life and form to bare grain, shall he not to human souls? "And to every seed its own body." Spring is the perpetual resurrection parable.
IV. AS ADDRESSING TO US MOST EARNEST APPEAL. "Work while it is called today;" "Now is the accepted time," etc. If the husbandman waste the spring season, what hope of harvest can he have? Its days run along, and will soon be gone. - S.C.
Thou sendest forth Thy Spirit, they are created.
Plain Sermons by Contributors to the Tracts for the Times.The Holy Spirit is called the Breath of God, as being breathed out in a mysterious and marvellous way over His whole creation, but especially into the souls of reasonable beings, to make all in their several measure partakers of God and of happiness. The Holy Spirit is God secretly present, encompassing us about, entering into us, piercing even to the very depths of our being, like the air we breathe, unseen, but known by its effects. If this parable of Breath be well considered, it may seem to account for other like parables, so to call them, by which Holy Scripture teaches us how to think of this our most Holy Comforter. For instance, the Holy Spirit is sometimes compared to the wind, as in the discourse of our Saviour to Nicodemus: "The wind bloweth where it listeth," etc. Thus the wind, when we hear or feel it, may remind us of the Breath of Almighty God; and the effects of the wind, the clouds which it brings over the earth, the moisture which the air takes up, the dews which descend, the rains which pour down, the springs which gush out, the waters which flow over the earth; all these are in Scripture tokens of the same Spirit, showing Himself in gifts and sanctifying graces, and communicating spiritual life to His people. The Holy Ghost, one with the Father and the Son, as He is present in all His works, so is He ever in a peculiar manner abiding in those whom He has regenerated and made members of Jesus Christ, — out of sight, out of hearing, beyond all feeling or any outward sense, yet infinitely nearer and closer to every one of us than any of the things we do see, hear, or feel, or can make out by reasoning; ready at hand to all His faithful ones, at every moment of their dangerous and trying pilgrimage, to guide and comfort, to purify and refresll them. "By Him we live, and move, and have our being," as people of God.
(Plain Sermons by Contributors to the Tracts for the Times.)
Thou renewest the face of the earth
I. IN THE WORLD AROUND, AND IN THE WORLD WITHIN, THERE IS A CHANGE WHICH ONLY THE CREATOR'S POWER CAN BRING ABOUT. Nature apart from God is but a name. The truth may be used as an instrument, the chances and changes of life may be pressed into service, and the ministries of pastors, teachers, and parents may be employed; but after all we have to say, "Thou renewest." It is only "He that "sitteth" upon the throne that can say, "Behold, I make all things new."
II. LIKE THE RENEWAL OF THE FACE OF THE EARTH, THE SPIRITUAL RENEWAL IS OFTEN GRADUAL AND WITHOUT CLEARLY MARKED STAGES. We do not trouble about the almanack when we see the bursting blossoms and hear the song of birds. And you need not trouble as to how the "beauty of holiness" came to you, or when the "new song" was put into your mouth; it is enough that you sing and make melody in your heart unto the Lord, and that the new life is yours.
III. IN BOTH CASES GOD'S RENEWING WORK SEEMS OFT RETARDED BY HINDRANCES, AND PROCEEDS BY WAY OF REMOVING THINGS UNSUITABLE. Buds of promise may be nipped, flowers of grace may be withered, fruits of holiness may be retarded in their ripening; but He who worketh hitherto will work, He will not "fail nor be discouraged," for the fulness of the Spirit is with Him.
II. THE DIVINE FAITHFULNESS. Every spring is with God the keeping of covenant (Genesis 8:22). That is the general promise, and how true He is in the keeping of it! He is, as it were, conducting an argument as to His own fidelity. The argument is increscent and cumulative. It grows in length and strength year by year. The green fields to-day make it stronger than ever it was before. It will be stronger next year than it is to-day, although to-day it is strong enough for the trust of all the world.
III. GOD'S GREAT GOODNESS. It is not merely that He made a certain promise four thousand years ago, and must keep it. It is that He made the promise and loves to keep it.
IV. DIVINE TENDERNESS. Did God raise with His own hand that flower on its stem, with all those rich minglings of colour? Then He must love beauty. Did He call out in the grass and buds and flowers that exceeding delicacy of texture, that softness almost ethereal, which will vanish if you touch it, which seems to quiver almost if you draw near? Then God must be very tender Himself. The tenderest and dearest things we have we can bring to Him — our wounded feelings, our trembling hopes, our brightest joys, our children when they are sick, or when they are seeking salvation, our own souls when they are all sensibility — all these we may bring to Him whose mercy is "tender" mercy, whose kindness is "loving" kindness, who "pitieth" them that fear Him, and who gives new proof of His tenderness, love, and pity every spring.
V. A VOICE OF GOOD CHEER TO ALL WHO ARE SERVING GOD FAITHFULLY, and seeking good ends for themselves or for others, although as yet with little apparent result. For when does it come? Immediately after the winter. The darkest, bleakest, deadest season of all the year is followed by the freshest and most reviving, as if to show us every year anew that nothing is impossible with God.
VI. A VOICE WINCH SOUNDS AWAY INTO THE FAR FUTURE, and foretells "the time of the restitution of all things." God, in renewing the face of the earth, seems to give us a visible picture and bright image of that blessed moral renovation which is coming in the fulness of the time. If you were in the country you could not fail to be struck with the universality of the vegetative power, and with its resistlessness. You would see it everywhere — climbing up to highest places, and blooming down in lowly dells, invading the most hidden spots, embracing with its green arms the roughest rocks, healing the scars of winter. A type, I say, of the universality of the springtime of the world, when it comes. It will be everywhere.
VII. Another voice — giving announcement of THE GENERAL RESURRECTION FROM THE DEAD.
VIII. Another voice tells us that ALL OUR EARTHLY TIME IS THE SPRING SEASON OF OUR EXISTENCE. Every day we are sowing. And we must sow on to the end. To a certain extent we are reapers too, but summer prime and harvest wealth are not here.
(A. Raleigh, D.D.)I. LET US GO FORTH INTO THE FIELD TO MEDITATE: meditation is often better than books. Our own thoughts will do us much more good than the opinions of others. Danger often attends our perusal of the works of men; but there is no hazard in pursuing knowledge among the works of God.
II. IT BECOMES US NOT ONLY TO OBSERVE NATURE, BUT TO OBSERVE IT DEVOTIONALLY, AND AS CHRISTIANS. There is a difference between our studying them as mere admirers and philosophers, and applying them as men formed by Divine grace for a life of communion with God. See a Christian among the works of nature. He looks after God in all — for He needs Him in all: and be is enabled to find Him. Though familiar with the effect, he does not disregard the cause. He also makes them images to remind him of better things. The rising sun brings to his thoughts "the Sun of Righteousness arising with healing under His wings"; a flowing spring, the influence of the Holy Ghost; the rain and the dew, the doctrine of the Gospel. Thus, by a holy chemistry, he extracts heaven from earth.
III. LET US OBSERVE AND ADORE THIS WONDER-WORKING GOD IN RENEWING THE FACE OF THE EARTH. How many times has He done this since the creation! He does it every year. Let us remember, that He who renews the face of the earth, can renew the Church. Think of any particular cause — however depressed, He can revive it; however small, He can increase it. He can also renew the soul. We read of the "renewing of the Holy Ghost"; and of being "renewed in the spirit of our minds." Thus "God beautifies the meek with salvation"; and the change in nature is an imperfect representation of the change made in the soul by Divine grace.
I. THE SPRINGTIDE IS A PERIOD OF RESTORED VITAL ENERGY. Life is starting from every pore of Nature. The whole face of the earth heaves and throbs with an exhaustless tide of life. Every spot teems with new existence. We are impressed with the infinite affluence of the "Fountain of life." Spring is really a new display of God's presence and power — a renewal which comes from the putting forth of Divine energy. And what He does in the natural world He also does in the spiritual realm. There are times of refreshing from the presence of the Lord — veritable springtimes — which come both to the Church and to the individual soul. For such times we should pray, and expect them to come. A time of depression and barrenness should be succeeded by a time of new life and new spiritual energy.
II. THE SPRINGTIDE IS A PERIOD OF RENEWED AND BUOYANT ACTIVITY. Restored vitality must put on new forms of activity. It is only natural that where there is real life there should be vigorous effort.
III. THE SPRINGTIDE IS A PERIOD OF RESTORED BEAUTY. The beauty of the Lord is upon the face of nature, and that beauty is as fresh and full as if there had never been a springtide before. The minutest form of life has its wonder and beauty in structure, form, and hue. Beautiful, too, is the boundless variety and distribution of the whole. "The earth is full of Thy riches," and these are true riches, because they bring a wealth of life; they minister energy, beauty and joy to every living creature. What is the Gospel of Christ but the intention of God to impart to our life and character the beauty of holiness, the beauty of God's own being? The work of the Spirit is to produce in us meekness, gentleness, patience, charity — all of which go to form real loveliness of life. The springtime should have a message and influence for us on this part of our life.
IV. THE SPRINGTIDE IS A PERIOD OF RENEWED JOY AND HOPE.
(G. Avery.)I. HIDDEN LIFE.
II. QUIET LIFE. As we pass out of the striving town, with its trampling feet and rumbling vehicles, ringing hammers and roaring machinery, into the country, what a contrast we find! We hear the buzz of many insects, the music of many birds, and the occasional bleat of sheep and low of cattle; but this only serves to emphasize the prevalent stillness. The trees, grass and flowers do their work in absolute silence. But what a change is wrought in a few weeks or even a few days. There is life in a factory, where men are hurrying about with bared arms and spindles are flying and wheels are whirring, but the life is just as deep and full in the quietly springing grass and the noiselessly opening flowers. So applying this thought to spiritual things — there may be life in the Salvation Army barracks, but there may be life also in a Quakers' meeting. Noise, fire, smoke, are not the only signs of life: as life is strong and rich, it tends to become subdued. The brook babbles and makes a great noise, but it is very shallow, and there are only little minnows in it; the river sweeps along in silence, but it is deep and full of varied life.
III. BEAUTIFUL LIFE. It goes without saying that the spring life is beautiful. Firm Christian principles are a good stout trunk, stern moral qualities are good sturdy branches, Christian graces are the leaves, and blossoms, and fruit, which adorn life's tree with beauty.
IV. CONSTANT LIFE. The origin of life is an insoluble problem for science. If you give the scientific man a bit of protoplasm, he will build you up any creature whatever in an astonishing manner, but he cannot bridge over the gulf between life and no life. Years since, however, the psalmist could account for the origin of life, "Thou sendest forth Thy Spirit," etc. The corn which waved in the fields last autumn is gathered in and consumed or soon will be, so the fruit; the winter has killed off thousands of birds and animals, human creatures are continually ending their days. You see where this would soon lead us. But presently the blade will shoot through the ground and again the fields will be laden with golden corn, and the trees with fruit. Young birds will come from their nests to take the place of those dead. The human family is not only maintained but increases. Life is like a lake with an outflow at one end, but at the other end there is a stream continually flowing in. The life of the world is continually renewed. The trees which yielded you apples last year, have come under the sleep of winter, but they will yield you apples this year; the bush from which you gathered roses last year will yield you roses this year. And as spring after spring, the face of the earth is renewed, so is it in God's Church.
(T. Pitt.)1. It bids us be content and patient, and believe that God has never forgotten any of our need; that His care and providence girdle our lives everywhere.
2. It fills us with joy and gladness, and bids us break away from the spell of dark moods and rejoice with all nature when "the mountains and hills break forth into singing, and all the trees of the field clap their hands."
3. It teaches us, by the objects of tenderness and beauty which it places everywhere before our eye, to make our own lives beautiful, and to excite nobler tastes and simpler emotions in the minds of our fellow-creatures.
4. But the one I would most impress upon you is reverence for the buds. Cherish your worthiest purposes and impulses as most sacred things. Do not think lightly of even your loftiest dreams and imaginings of a perfect and holy life. They will come to fruitage. They will be presently realities. Here on earth you will see many of them translated into fact, and you have a hope beyond earth.
(A. J. Griffith.)I. A PROOF OF OUR ENTIRE DEPENDENCE UPON GOD. By a suspension of His power He might in a moment stop the varied mechanism of nature; or, by applying that power in a different way, He might produce the very opposite of the expected and desired results. Now let us only reflect how fatal would be the consequences should spring altogether cease, or should it even for any length of time delay its coming. Let the frost of winter continue to bind the earth in its iron fetters: let its snows continue to fall, its cold to blast, and its feeble sun to struggle in vain with the ice-bound fields; and then the seed which was intended to produce a future harvest must remain unscattered; the hopes of the husbandman must give place to despair; plenty must soon be exchanged for famine.
II. SPRING AS EMBLEMATIC OF MISERY FOLLOWED BY HAPPINESS. It is but a very limited experience any of us can have of the progress of the cause of righteousness during our stay upon the earth; but when we look back on the centuries which are past, and consider the advancement which has undoubtedly been made, we see enough to persuade us that the world's winter is surely, though slowly, passing away, and that even now we may be treading on the confines of its promised and expected spring.
III. SPRING AS EMBLEMATIC OF A COMING RESURRECTION. IV SPRING AS EMBLEMATIC OF YOUTH. The husbandman, we know, is fully alive to the duty and necessity of diligently employing the days, and even the hours, of spring. If he trifle or loiter in spring, it will be vain that he is active and industrious in summer. Now, the point of analogy in this respect between youth and spring is plain, and it should suggest a most important lesson both to parents and children. It warns all parents that if they neglect their children when young, no future efforts will compensate for the loss.
(A. Roberts, D.D.)I. Spring, in the simple fact of its return, proclaims to the world GOD'S FAITHFULNESS. Our tendency is to forget this. Because we know something of the way God gathers the rain into the chambers of the clouds, we are apt to forget that it is the gift of God; because we have learnt something about the growth of corn in the furrows, we almost forget that the harvest is from God; because we have heard that the earth revolves upon an axis, and that spring, like everything else, is produced by adequate means, we are in danger of saying, It is no gift; it is nothing to be thankful for. There is no benevolence in it whatever. Let us not thus deny the great Father's love, but as we mark that God's method is orderly, let us the more adore His wisdom, and bless His faithful, fatherly care.
II. Spring instructs us as to THE MANNER OF GOD'S WORKING. God works not as man works. Man must display his power, must blow a trumpet before him when about to perform some great work. Not so God. With the quietness that belongs to strength; with the gentleness, the noiselessness, the secrecy that pertains to mightiest power, He has wrought the wondrous change. His working has been silent as the fall of dew, it has been gradual as the dawn, it has been tender, yet mighty, as the light.
III. Spring proclaims that GOD IS A LOVER OF BEAUTY.
IV. Spring teaches us by its profusion THE INFINITE WEALTH OF GOD'S RESOURCES. Power, wisdom, beneficence, seem to have spent themselves upon the earth's teeming life. No ocean tide has ever rolled in upon its shore so proudly, so grandly, so full in volume, as the tide of life that has now touched our world. No thoughtful mind can watch it without awe!
(H. Wonnacott.)I. GOD IN THE RENEWAL OF NATURE. Canon Mozley bids us think of nature both as labouring as a machine, and as sleeping as a picture — to regard its uses, and its impressions. In both these aspects we may regard the Divine renewal of the earth.
1. As working secret causes of change in the revolution both of the earth and of the whole solar system that has its effect in making one primrose blow.
2. As effecting a change in the appearance of things making the earth's "face" express Life, Love, and Joy.
II. GOD IN THE RENEWAL OF MAN. His work here is illustrated by His work in nature.
1. There is secret work at hidden causes — repentance, regeneration.
2. There is the effecting of change in outward appearance, the character, like the spring, has Life, Love. Joy. For illustration of this look —(1) At the individual. Natural childhood and youth is a renewal of the face of the earth. The buddings of childhood's intellect, the bursting forth of youthful love. The beginnings of spiritual life. The glory of God seen by any soul in the face of Jesus Christ awakens new life in that soul. In raising to immortal life after death. That is the renewal of which spring sings to us in graveyards and cemeteries.(2) At the race. As flowers and fields seek the sun, we may all say to Christ, "All men seek for Thee." In the time of the restitution of all things it may be said literally, sung gloriously, "Thou renewest the face of the earth."
(U. R. Thomas.)I. THE POWER OF GOD. What power there is displayed in making the trees and plants grow forth from the ground! So little is this power within the power of man that, until he saw it, he could not suspect such a thing. And not only in growth itself, but in the shape and feature of the growth, there are equal marks of the power of God. When the seed grows, it grows according to certain fixed laws, and those laws cannot be changed. They may be enlarged, but not altered. This power is none the less apparent in the variety in each species. How weak, how powerless is man in this sphere again! Even if he had creative power, could he create? Would he not have to copy servilely from what he saw? Could he make a blade of grass or a leaf of a tree so distinct that there should be no other blade of grass, no other leaf of a tree exactly like it? Could he even imagine how it should be done, much less do it?
II. THE GOODNESS OF GOD. God foresees for us. He is never in a hurry; He is never after His time. God begins His provision in spring, that we may have it in due time in the autumn. And how richly does He provide! How ungrudgingly! How equally! He sends the sun to flood the whole world with its life-giving beams. And He gives not only necessary food, but enjoyment and luxury He gives not only bread to strengthen man's heart, but wine to make his heart glad, and oil to make him a cheerful countenance. He scatters enjoyments in every sphere; for every sense He finds delight.
III. THE BEAUTY OF GOD. When we look into the face of nature, now all renewed, do we not trace some of the Divine features of the great Creator arid Renewer? And oh, if this beauty can be traced in this fallen nature, how much more could it be traced in unfallen Eden!
(E. Browne, M.A.)I. WHAT A DIVERSITY OF ANIMATION SURROUNDS ME! What a stirring and bustling! Everything in motion, above, below, in the air and on the ground! How powerfully everything is at work, within itself and without, through all and upon all! Yes, the vivifying energy of nature, or rather of the Author of nature, is ever new, ever active, is inexhaustible! Oh let us adore this eternal, never-failing source of life! Thence we may draw eternal life and the fulness of joy! If. THE ORDER OF NATURE IS INVARIABLE. It is therefore a constant, speaking witness to the being of God, His superintendence over all, His providential care for all, His vital influence in all. He is and works on all sides; in the scarcely visible moss as in the tall and stately cedar, in the mite as in the eagle, in the creeping worm as in the spirit that worships before the throne of His glory. And where He is and works, there is order, connection, harmony, beauty, perfection; there is the most accurate correspondence between ends and means.
III. JOY AND HAPPINESS IS THE FINAL AIM OF ALL THE REVOLUTIONS AND PHENOMENA IN NATURE, OF ALL THE REGULATIONS WHICH GOD HAS ESTABLISHED. Whichever way ye turn, do ye not now walk in a paradise of delights? And what salutes your ear on all sides but sounds of mirth and exultation, the celebration of the grand festival of nature?
IV. INNOCENT, SEDATE ENJOYMENT OF NATURE, AND PROFOUND INWARD ADORATION OF THE GOD OF NATURE ARE THE MOST HONOURABLE AND PLEASING OCCUPATIONS. Yes, this is enjoyment, unalloyed, truly worthy of the man, which never draws after it either surfeit or repentance. Thou art the priest of nature, O man, and the temple of thy God, the gorgeous fabric of the universe is everywhere filled with votaries, who ask thy ministration.
V. THE RENOVATION AND EMBELLISHMENT OF THE FACE OF THE EARTH, THE RESUSCITATION OF THE LIFE OF NATURE IS A GLORIOUS TYPE OF THE FUTURE RENOVATION AND PERFECTION OF THE HUMAN RACE, Of the general resurrection of the dead to the superior life. What a scene of most astonishing revolutions and transformations! What diversity of life and enjoyment of life, of thoughts never yet conceived and emotions never yet imagined! What a harvest from the sowing of all ages, of all the thousands of years that have elapsed since the first to the last of mortals! What a glorious unravelment of all that appears to us now mysterious and incomprehensible in the ways of Providence and the fortunes of mankind!
(G. J. Zollikofer, D. D.)I. SPRING IS AN AWAKENING. So is the turning of a soul to God. It was a soul asleep; it is a soul awake. It is opening its eye on a new world, a new time, new thoughts, new possibilities, a blessed new life.
II. SPRING IS A MANIFESTATION OF LIFE. How full, how manifold is this new life in a converted soul! Thoughts which came and went without God before, are now alive with God. Hear how the birds are singing in the actual woods! That is nothing to the song of a soul on whom the spring of a new life has descended. See how the verdure hastens to clothe the naked branches of the trees! That is nothing to the glory which decks the hitherto bare and dead powers of a converted soul. See how the fields are aglow with flowers! That is nothing to the beauties of holiness in a regenerated soul. Oh, the joy of spring! Oh, the better joys of conversion! Oh, the newness, the freshness, the deliciousness of the hum of the singing of birds! Oh, the more blessed newness, freshness, and deliciousness of a soul attuned by grace to God! The summer which follows spring is not more truly a natural sequence of spring, than holiness, trust, love, righteousness, prayer, joy in the Holy Ghost are natural outcomes of the awakening we name conversion. Why is this not always experienced? Because we will not believe the truth of God, and will not taste and see that God is good: because we refuse to be filled with the Spirit, and are slack to go in and possess the land.
III. SPRING IS A GATEWAY. It is the gateway to the harvest — seedtime first, then harvest. At the gateway of the year, a promise; at the end, fulfilment. A gateway! — A way into the King's highway; a way to bread and wine, and milk and honey; a way to joy and wealth, and labour and the reward of labour. Wordsworth speaks of "the harvest of a quiet eye." But every new-born faculty in the life of the converted gathers a harvest for itself. The life becomes fruitful; and the several powers of life bring forth fruit to God. In every form, and along every line by which it comes, we owe to Christ the renewal of life, which leads to these harvests of the soul. His blood was the price He paid for our joys. The death that was ours, He took upon Himself, that we might become the heirs of the life that is His.
(A. Macleod, D.D.)
Homilist.I. AS A REVELATION OF GOD.
1. The profuseness of His vital energy.
2. His wonderful tastefulness.
3. The calm ease with which He carries on His work.
4. The regularity of His procedure.
II. AS THE EMBLEM OF HUMAN LIFE. Both in spring and in human life —
1. There are vast capabilities of improvement.
2. There is remarkable changeability.
3. There are many fallacious promises.
4. There is nothing that can substitute for the present.
III. AS A SYMBOL OF MORAL RENOVATION. The new spiritual life is like the spring —
1. In the season from which it has emerged.
2. In the tenacity with which the past seeks to maintain its hold.
3. In that it tends to a perfect future.
IV. AS A TYPE OF THE GENERAL RESURRECTION.
1. A resuscitation.
2. A resuscitation from apparently extinct life.
3. A resuscitation against which many antecedent objections might have been raised.
"Save certeynly whan that the monethe of May
Is comen, and that I here the foules synge,
And that the floures gynnen for to sprynge,
Fairewel my boke and my devocioun."So also Wordsworth sings —
"To me the meanest flower that blows can give
Thoughts that do often lie too deep for tears."But whether we are poets or not we may yield ourselves to the gentle influences of the spring. How welcome it is after the ice-bound winter. You may see the welcome on many a pale face and in the weary eyes of the invalid to whom it will be the coining of a new life. You may hear it in the happy laughter of children who can now go out to play in the meadows and to gather cowslips by the river's brim. Spring has the peculiar charm of anticipation. It is like the rosebud to the rose. Not the tired dusty veteran laying his weapons down, but the young and ardent soldier buckling on his armour for the war. Spring is the truest emblem of childhood, and childhood is a springtime which is always with us if we look for it. There is always a new world in the cradle and in the playground. A new generation travels across the planet every thirty years. It is the merciful provision of God by which He stirs up the stagnant pool of our thought and interest. It would be sad indeed if we saw around us the evidences of the mighty power of God in nature, if we felt that sinful and guilty men were like dead branches which nettling could renew. But the Word we preach is a gospel of infinite hope. The infinite love of God, the mercy of a Saviour, and the power of the Spirit hover around the hardest heart and the most deified life seeking to renew and cleanse and to impart the Eternal and Heavenly Life. "Thou renewest the face of the earth," but it is only a renewal and a repetition of those forms of life which have appeared year after year and age after age. They seem new to us and no doubt culture does introduce some fresh varieties, but practically we look upon the same world as the psalmist did when he wrote these words. And to apply the analogy to human life, we find that there is no new thing under the sun." They were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage in the days of Noah when the flood came upon the earth, and so will it be when the Son of Man shall come. "Thou renewest the face of the earth," but it is only the face. The earth itself remains the same. The ripples pass over the face of the great deep. It may even roll in great billows, but beneath is the undisturbed ocean. So while there are processes wrought by raging fires in the heart of the earth which we know little about, while a lonely rock is upheaved or sunk suddenly here and there in some lonely sea, the general configuration of mountain and plain, land and water is unchanged. Or if we go down through the earth's crust we find that the geological strata were formed long before the historic period. Granite was still granite, coal was still coal. chalk was chalk, and the old red sandstone was still there. Or to carry it further back, the ultimate elements of matter wore the same as now and subject to the same laws. In exactly the same way, while the face of human life is renewed, in its depths it is very old. If we measure it intellectually, it has never varied. None of our inventions can add a single ounce to the human brain, or a single capacity to the human mind. We know better how to use the forces of light and heat and electricity, but if we go back to the age which knew none of these things we find teachers as wise, thinkers as subtle, and poets as sublime as those of to-day. The moral and spiritual needs of man are unchanged. Sin and sorrow and death cast their shadow on his path; he is a victim to the same fears; he is facing the religious problems of 3,000 years ago; he lives in the same wonderful relation to the unseen; his most urgent cry is still for God. Therefore the world can never outgrow the answer which Christ offers to its cry. Every age, every condition and period of life may rest upon the rock, which is Christ, just as the wintry ice and the spring flowers rest upon the same substratum of earth.
(J. H. Shakespeare, M.A.)John Bunyans "Pilgrim's Progress." This world lies in the wicked one. In it the Christian is a stranger and a pilgrim. To participate in the joys and pleasures of this world is to delay his progress to the loved eternal city, and even to jeopardize his final entrance into it. Even though nature should display parts of God's ways, there was the clearer and fuller revelation of the Scripture and in Christ. Seeing then that that which is perfect is come, where is the wisdom of troubling about that which is in part? A yet more considerable factor is to be found in the philosophic view of God then current. Deism held the field. God was practically outside His universe. Creation displayed the skill of the Creator in the mechanical adaptation of means to end. Design was utilitarian, the design of a carpenter making a tool. Against this hard and unsympathetic presentation of God, those who loved Nature for her own sake, and felt that she was not a machine, but was throbbing with life, revolted with their whole heart; the notion of such a God they flung away, and, like Shelley, proclaimed themselves Atheists. Thereupon also rose a new school of investigation of nature, the standpoint and earlier conclusions of which seemed to run counter to the current interpretation of Scripture. So it came to pass that in earnest Christian circles research into nature was deprecated as likely to result in the abandonment of the Evangelical faith and the denial of God. But times are changing. Denizens of the crowded cities, with their restricted field of vision, their unpleasing and unnatural objects of sight, and their unwholesome atmosphere, begin to cry out against such cruel bondage of their elemental feeling, and to long for open spaces and green swards, for woodland and hill, for stream and valley, for singing birds and the sounds of the country. On grounds of both tradition and tendency, therefore, a somewhat timid and tepid enthusiasm for nature would seem the path of discretion. But is there really sufficient cause for such a position? Indifference to nature is not, and never has been, of itself a sign of spirituality, neither is a quickened pulse in the spring the proof of total depravity. Surely, of all men in the world, the people of God should be most sensitive to the works of God. Those who know Him most intimately should be in closest accord with all that He has created and made. The children of the Old Covenant, as well as the nation that knew not Israel's God, celebrated the great epochs of the year with festival and sacrifice. They waved the firstfruits of the earth's increase, and gave thanks for the completed harvest, rejoicing before the Lord in their feast. Search the literature of any nation or any period, and you will find it hard even to equal the appreciation of the majesty, the beauty and the manifold wonder of the works of God as shown in many of the Psalms. I say it reverently — What a Child of Nature was the Lord Jesus Christ. How He delighted in the country and loved the fresh air. His discourses are redolent of the open field. Is it not indeed truer to say that to understand nature you must be a learner of Christ? The more fully you know Him and the power of His resurrection, the more fully nature will yield to you her secrets and increase your pure delight in her companionship. To an inconsiderable degree the new feeling for nature is itself the outcome of the Evangelical Revival. That is the true order. See God in Christ, and you have the key that unlocks the mystery of God everywhere. Already the Christian lives in a new heaven and a new earth; not merely in anticipation, but in experience. "If any man be in Christ, there is a new creation, old things pass away, behold all things become new," the old world along with them. The world on which he now looks forth all speaks to him of the Father. Despite the sin and the darkness, he obtains joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing flee away.
(F. L. Wiseman.)
(F. L. Wiseman.)
(W. Cooke, D. D.)
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