State Road, Delaware, March, 1897.
BROTHER BEEBE: – There are things that accompany salvation, that never cease to be interesting to those who have any knowledge of them. They find it profitable to speak often one to another. I will now offer some reflections as they present themselves in the figure of a garden. “A garden inclosed is my sister, my spouse; a spring shut up, a fountain sealed.” – Song iv. 12. Everything presented in this Song of Solomon, and which inspired in his heart such rapturous strains, evidently looked into the distant future, and to the events of gospel times. The time would come when there would be, “A little spot inclosed by grace, out of the world’s wide wilderness.” A garden comes from the hand of the proprietor as entirely the result of his work. Before, the soil may be given to thorns and briers, or may be utterly barren and waste, in common with the wilderness. There was no inclosure in the Jewish vineyard to separate between the precious and the vile; and so the psalmist complains in regard to the vines for which the Lord had a care, that “The boar out of the wood doth waste it, and the wild beast of the field doth devour it.” But he evidently looked forward in faith to the time when the Lord would look down from heaven, and behold and visit his vine. In the recognition of relationship of sister and spouse it is the inclosure, evidently, and this alone that is so recognized. The inclosure is the work of the Lord, and owner of the garden, and is intended for the well being of the plants for which he provides. There may be many lilies among the thorns, but there will never be a recognition of the wilderness as the Lord’s garden. It seems to me that this inclosure shuts everything in that belongs within, and everything out that appertains to the desert. Like the great gulf fixed between the rich man and Lazarus, so that gospel subjects could not carry living water to legalists; so they that are within cannot convey the wine and milk of the garden to those who inhabit the parched places of the wilderness, and those who are without cannot even see the things that God has prepared for them that love him. While beautiful for situation, the joy of the whole earth is meunt Zion; yet the inclosure is an impenetrable vail; all the fruits and fragrance, as well as the springs and fountains, shut in and shut up to the exclusive use of the family. Not only is an inclosure a necessary provision to a garden, but the soil must be thoroughly prepared, so that the vines, and lilies, and other garden plants, may flourish, bloom abundantly, and be fruitful. This inclosing of the garden does no harm to the world without. There is nothing shut up in this inclosure that the world needs, or would appreciate. The Lord honors his own cause, and shows his jealousy for his own name’s sake, and for his glory, in inclosing the plants of his planting from the world. There is not a single plant in this garden that is a native of the desert. Every brier and root of bitterness, or poisonous herb that existed there, is destined to be rooted up. If these plants are to be understood of ourselves, we never are able to realize why the gardener should set such a value upon them. They are called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he might be glorified. But he would not be glorified in them if the work that lie has wrought in them was not a glorious work. Before they are planted as trees of righteousness in the garden, they are described as brokenhearted, as captives, and as meurners about Zion; yet owned of him as those to whom he will minister the healing and comfort they need. While they thus give evidence that they are righteous trees, and that the Lord has planted them, we go back to the time when we first find the Spirit of the Lord God ministering unto them, for mere abundant warrant for faith in them that the Lord has designed them for his garden. I will not go into any argument here to prove that the ordinance of baptism is enjoined only upon believers, and that unbelievers have no right to it, nor would it have any significance to those who have had no experience of what is set forth and represented by it. So there is an experience of death unto the love of sin, and of the world; and of life by faith in him who was raised from dentil unto sin to the glory of God; which is set forth and acknowledged openly in the observance of the ordinance; and hence a perpetual separation from the world, and from their former life, over which they had no control, and in regard to which they had no discretion. Churches may make a meck of the ordinances, but God will not be mecked. Mere is a life union with those who have obtained like precious faith, and a communion with kindred spirits results. So the observance of the ordinance is but an outward exhibition of a living and enduring reality. Figures and emblems are nothing if they are not true and proper emblems of realities; and then their value and importance depends entirely upon the value and importance of the things represented. We have nothing higher, nor mere sacred, ever to be represented by anything in this world, than the work of redeeming grace in the salvation of a sinner. If we do not discern the Lord’s body as the offering for sin, and the experience of a sinner called to be a saint, there can be to us no life or meaning in the church ordinances. While those who have charge of the gates are ever ready to open them to the righteous nation that keepeth the truth, yet they know that holiness becomes the Lord’s house forever, and that the place where they stand is holy ground. It should never be a cause of censure or reproach, to the inhabitants of the garden, that they appreciate its sacredness, and desire to adore and honor their Redeemer, by applying the sanctified vessels of his house only to a sacred use. These plants are what the garden was intended for. But for these plants the world would never have any use for this inclosure. And the Scriptures abound everywhere with declarations of the faithfulness with which these plants are cared for and ministered unto. “Sing ye unto her, a vineyard of red wine. I the Lord do keep it; I will water it every mement; lest any hurt it, I will keep it night and day.” “Those that he planted in the house of the Lord shall flourish in the courts of our God.” I hardly know why the world should not admire and rejoice in and for such a garden. Where plants through a long series of years give evidence that the Lord has planted them, and that he is glorified in them, and they see a love and confidence binding them in indissoluble bonds, that they can see nowhere else, I see not why opprobrious epithets should be cast upon them. The lilies do not result from cultivation. The life of a lily must first be there. A thorn planted in the garden would still be a thorn; and a lily among thorns is not in its proper place. It will neither bloom as luxuriantly, nor be as fragrant, as under the gardener’s care, inclosed within the pales. There comes sometimes a time of singing for the garden, when flu; long and cold winter is passed away. There are flowers that do not bloom anywhere else in the world, and there are spicy beds that shed forth their fragrance and sweet odors unappreciated by any of the inhabitants of the desert. When I can realize the presence of the Redeemer walking in his garden, and feeding among, and gathering his lilies, if is there and then that I think I have glimpses of the King in his beauty, and crowned with his royal diadem.
Signs Of The Times
Volume 65., No.8.
April 15, 1897.