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In examining the literal sense of this passage, we must be struck with the beautiful description of an eastern spring: one circunstance only requiring an illucidatory remark; namely, that in Judea, and the neighbouring countries, the rains are periodical, and when the spring-rains are over, which is about the end of April, a succession of fine weather follows, without those changes to which we are subject.
There is no doubt but if this passage be allegorized, it must be referred to the gospel dispensation compared to the spring', in which I hope we may be allowed to trace the following resemblances.
1. The spring is preceded by the winter : so the times of the gospel were preceded by ages dark,barren, and tempestuous, especially in the heathen world. The apostle Paul calls them • times of ignorance, and it is very evident
' they were times of great wickedness. They sat in darkness and the shadow of death.'
2. The spring is a season of fruitfulness. Now the flowers blossom, the figs gather sweetness, and the vines yield fragrancy; so, under the gospel, those nations who in time past were
· So Theodoret, and the Christian commentators in general; and not these only, but certain of the Jewish writers, as quoted by Bp. Patrick. Benjamin Tudelensis, for instance, in the conclusion of his Itinerary, expressly applies these words to the coming of Messiah ; confessing that Israel
cannot be gathered to their own land till the time of the • singing of birds come, and the voice of the turtle; and till
they come who preach glad tidings, saying alway,- The · Lord be praised!'
barren and unfruitful, have become fruitful in every good word and work : And individuals who before conversion are barren toward God, or bring forth none but the wild and poisonous fruits of nature, when quickened by the grace of God, “ bring forth fruits meet for repent“ ance;" fruits of righteousness, and holiness, and
peace. · For as the earth bringeth forth her bud, and as the garden causeth the things that are sown in it to spring forth : 80 the Lord "God will cause righteousness and praise to ' spring forth before all people!.'
3. The spring is a season of love and joy, both which ideas are expressed by the voice of the turtle and the singing of birds”. So the gospel is a dispensation of love and joy. What is the gospel message but a display of the love of God to sinners? What, but love, is the principle of gospel holiness? God's love is the argument, not only of our love to him, but to one another: just as the love of a tenderfather
a is not only a ground of gratitude from the children, but of mutual love between each other,
! Isa. lxi. 11.
The eastern poets feign the nightingale to be in love with the rose, because they both appear together in the spring. So Hafez : • The beauty of the age of youth returns again to
the meads ; joyful tidings from the rose arrive to the nigh? tingale of the sweet songs.' Sadi reckons the nightingale as the herald of the spring: · Bring, 0 nightingale, the tidings . of spring; leave all unpleasant news to the owl.' The author of Bahur Danush joins the strain of the bulbul' (or eastern nightingale) with the cooing of the turtle dove.'
Jones's Pers. Gram. p. 19. Bahur Danush, vol. III. p. 180.
The gospel is also a dispensation of joy. There is joy in heaven over every repenting sinner; and there is joy also in the church of God, over every addition to their number. But especially is there joy in the heart of every converted sinner, so soon as he is assured of his interest in evangelical blessings.
4. The spring is a kind of resurrection of nature, which appears as if dead during great part of the winter season: but in spring the flowers, the trees, and the herbage are all renovated, as by a new creation, We have observed above, that the gospel found the world, as it finds every individual, in a state of barrenness and death.-Men
are by nature dead in trespasses and sins, until a living principle of faith is by grace implanted in their hearts.
5. The causes and progress of this renewal in nature and grace, are strikingly analogous.
Winter, it is well known, is brought on chiefly by a change of the relative position of the earth and the sun. It is not that the sun is really weaker in itself, but from this change of pesition its rays falling obliquely upon the globe, are weakened in their effect; the earth gets gradually cooler, and the long nights and short days, greatly contribute as well to the coldness, as the gloominess of winter. So it is in the other case. The Sun of righteousness is eternally the same. His glory and his strength admit of no diminution. But the fall has so placed us, that, in our natural state we receive not the direct beams of his grace; but only, if I may so speak, the oblique blessings of his pro
vidence. When “ the Sun of righteousness “ ariseth with healing in his beams,” then the spiritual spring commences, and the new creation smiles. These changes, however, both in nature and in grace are gradual. We are not instantaneously plunged into the cold and darkness of winter; neither are we all at once warmed and dazzled with the strength of a midsummer sun. It is a mercy that we are not; and strongly marks the wisdom and the goodness of divine Providence. ·But as the days are lengthened, and our part of the globe gradually falls more directly under the solar rays, the earth gets warmer, the sap is drawn upward in the plants and trees, and the earth assumes the gay and splendid livery of spring. So in the great seas toward the poles, as the sun gathers strength in becoming more verticle in those parts, the prodigious masses of ice in those seas melt away ; mountain after mountain breaks, dissolves, and swells the tides, and overflows the boundaries of the ocean.
| Thus gradual also are the effects of the beams of our spiritual Sun, both on the church at large, and on its individual members. When a revival takes place in the church, it begins in one family, or in one congregation; it spreads to another, and another-from parish 10 parish-from city to city--from village to village-till it covers a whole province, or a country. Religion, when it prospers, kindles and spreads like the flame in a forest, from tree to tree, and from bush to bush, till the whole wood becomes one universal conflagration, • Behold,' in this sense, ? how great a matter a ! little fire kindleth!'
Equally gradual is its progress in an individual. The mountains are levelled, and the valleys are exalted. Like the ices at the poles, first one lust, or one vice is broken off, or melted down, and then another, till the whole man is changed, and becomes altogether a new creature.
It must be confessed, however, that there is no rule without exceptions. Sometimes a warm day bursts on us at once, almost in the midst of winter: thus, in some instances, the change wrought in conversion is so sudden, and so great, as to challenge the admiration of all aroụnd, and they are ready to say, as of the blind man restored - Is this he that was born
blind?'— Is this he that was given to profaneness and all uncleanness? Or with the wicked prophet in his parable-- Lo! What • hath God wrought!'
Again, the return of spring, at least in this country, is often checked by intervals of severe, inclement weather; and the more so when the season is earlier than usual. When, as we said, summer appears coming on us at once : vegetation is pushed forward by the genial warmth, the trees bud, and perhaps blossom, when a sudden reverse of frost takes place, nips the swelling buds, and withers the opening blossoms. So is it oftentimes with young converts, especially with those called from a