The First Bud
by James Smith, 1858
Today I have seen the first bud of the season on the hedges, and it is a beautiful and instructive sight. Death seemed to have seized the whole of the row for his own — but he is disappointed, life appears again. Let us not give up too soon. A case may appear hopeless — but it may not be so. What appears hopeless — may yet bud.
Mother, your prodigal son is not gone too far for the Lord to reclaim him. Father, your poor giddy girl may yet become a godly woman. After the appearance of death — then comes life. The first bud on the favorite rose-tree, which we thought was dead; or the first green leaf on the geranium, which our mother loved so much, and nursed with so much care, how pleasant. The first utterance of a beloved child, is like the first bud — pleasing and delightful; and the first symptom of returning health, in the case of our tenderly beloved friend, is not less so.
But the subject may be more interesting still. We have prayed for, and watched over, and sought to win for God — those in whom we felt the deepest interest. But for a considerable time, like the plants during the cold winter months — there is no sign of life, nothing to encourage hope. At length, something like an unusual seriousness appears. We see a tear on the eyelid while the Word is being preached. These like the swelling of the bud, excite attention, and awaken hope. Now, the closet is sought, and the sighs of sorrow and the tears of penitence are witnessed there. The bud will soon appear now. The lovely green leaves of faith in Jesus, hope towards God, and love to the brethren — will soon be seen; and when they are — there is the bud, the proof of spiritual and divine life.
Some people are much longer than others before they give satisfactory evidence that they are born of God. But let us hail with delight, the first indications. Let us encourage everything like concern for the soul. It will not do to pick off the buds, if we wish the plant to be covered with foliage and flowers. Nor will it do to despise the feeble desire, or discourage the ill-formed effort of the youthful mind. Wherever there is life — there is growth; and the little faith will become great, the feeble hope will acquire strength, and the love so weak, will abound.
There must be a beginning, the first bud indicates the coming spring, and the first conviction of sin, desire for holiness, and sigh for the Savior, indicates the work of the Holy Spirit in the heart. He who has begun a good work in us, will carry it on, and perfect it in the day of Christ.
Reader, you have perhaps admired the first bud of nature — but have you done so in grace? Lovely as nature is — grace is far lovelier. Has there been the appearance of the first bud on you — or do you still remain in the cold, lifeless, wintry state of nature? When the heart swells with sorrow for sin, when we pour out the sincere confession before God, when we begin to look to the Lord Jesus Christ, and when we leave the world not only because it is unsatisfactory — but unsuitable, then the first buds appear; and the descent of the dew of God's blessing, with a few warm rays from the Sun of righteousness — will bring forth the leaves of faith, hope, and love, and at length the beauteous, fragrant flowers of praise and joy in God. The spring will introduce the lovely summer, and the rich autumn of grace. The dawn will strengthen and expand into the perfect day. The babe will become the young man, and the young man the father in Christ!
Let us then mark the first buddings of grace and spirituality, and encourage them. Let us pray for those who begin to intimate that they have a little grace — that they may receive abundance of grace, and the gift of righteousness. Let us not expect perfection, none can acquire such evidence at first; nature brings forth by degrees, and so does grace. Nor let us despise the day of small things — for the Lord does not.
The first bud on the hedge was an assurance to me, that the whole hedge would soon be covered with foliage. And the first holy desire, the first heart-felt prayer, the first longing of the soul for Christ, assures me that soon, and it may be very soon — Christ will be found in the heart, the hope of glory. Nature's buds may die and drop off — but the buds of grace never can. The Lord will perfect that which concerns us; for his mercy endures forever. Grace always completes what it begins, and the buddings of grace will all be perfected in glory. O to see, in every direction, satisfactory indications, that God is at work in multitudes of souls; and may we hail with satisfaction and delight, the first buds of grace!