THE TREE OF LIFE by
The Shadow of Christ;
its Fruit and Repose
"I sat down under His shadow with great delight, and His
fruit was sweet to my taste." Song of Solomon 2:3.
These words may not embody an incident in the personal
life of Christ, such as in these pages will engage our study; nevertheless,
they refer to Christ Himself, which is better still; and they supply an
appropriate introduction to the interesting events in His personal history
upon which we propose to concentrate the reader's attention. We premise, in
the outset that, the religion of Christ is essentially and intensely
experimental in its character. There is nothing in it theoretic,
speculative, or ideal. Its history is true, its facts are authentic, its
doctrines are divine. It appeals to the intellect, and takes it captive; it
enters the heart, and finds a home. It blends with every faculty of the
mind, entwines with every passion of the soul, and is absorbed with our
entire mental, moral, and spiritual being.
The Word of God thus becomes the engrafted word- incorporated with, and
inseparable from, ourselves. This is the only knowledge of Christ worth
possessing, because it is only experimental knowledge of Christ that saves
the soul. What we need is salvation. What we need to know is how we may
escape the eternal damnation of the lost, and how to secure the eternal
happiness of the saved. Our knowledge of Christ is real and precious, as it
gives reality and certainty to the transcendently momentous fact that we are
saved. One feeble touch of His hem, one dim sight of His cross, one drop of
His sprinkled blood, has more in reality of Christ in it than the most
accurate intellectual knowledge, or the most refined, speculative theory.
The passage, then, of which this opening chapter of our volume is a brief
exposition, is essentially experimental. There is nothing in it borrowed,
imitated, or stolen. It does not refer to what the Church had heard, or had
read, or had imagined of Christ; but it unfolds the actual, spiritual, and
personal experience of Jesus and the truth. Oh, holy and precious experience
this! Blessed is that soul that can put its seal to this truth, and happy
if, as we close this volume, unfolding- as we humbly trust it will,
something of the divine glory and the practical grace of Jesus, we can say
concerning Him, "I sat down under His shadow with great delight, and His
fruit was sweet to my taste." Let us, taking up each particular of the
passage, speak in order of the shadow -the repose- the fruit.
Our first object of consideration is- the shadow of Christ. "His
shadow." Not as the worldling's shadow is the Christian's. All is but shadow
that appertains alone to this present life. The toil for wealth, the strife
for honor, the pursuit of pleasure, is but the race of shadows. I summon the
worldling as a witness. Does not your past experience confirm this
melancholy fact? Has your lust for gold been satisfied with wealth? Your
thirst for happiness, with worldly pleasure? Your longing for rest, with
earthly repose? Your sighing for creature friendship, sympathy, and love,
with the creature? Truth and honesty compel your emphatic answer, "No!" And
yet see how persistent is your folly! Although bubble after bubble has
burst, and dream after dream has vanished, and shadow after shadow has
dissolved, you are as eager and earnest as ever in chase of those phantoms
of earth born bliss which dazzle but to bewilder, and which allure but to
destroy. The Lord awake you from your sleep of spiritual insensibility,
convince you of your folly, give you to see your sin and danger as a dying
man, and to realize your position as a responsible being, as one who has to
give account of himself to God, that, ceasing from the vain pursuit of
earthly, carnal good, you may lay hold on eternal life.
Equally shadowy is the religion of the world. To the dim religious eye it
appears the very perfection of devotion. Its forms are many, and its
ceremonial gorgeous; its spirit is devout, and its doings abundant- even to
oppression, and costly even to sacrifice. And yet, what is the ritualism of
the formalist and the pharisaism of the self righteous but the religion of
mere empty shadow? And when the shadows of time meet the shadows of
eternity, when the gorgeous, glowing shadows of life blend with the cold,
darkling shadows of death, then will all the hopes built upon a religion of
form, of self righteous observance, of mere religious profession, dissolve
and perish, leaving nothing for the naked soul to enfold itself in but the
pale shroud of deep despair and the dark pall of eternal death!
Look well, my reader, to your hope of the future, and to the foundation
upon which it rests. Take nothing of so momentous a matter for granted.
Bring your religion to the test of God's word. Try it by the gospel of
Christ. You are on your way to another, a future and eternal world- see that
your chart is a sure one, your map a correct one, your light a true one.
There are false charts, and there are spurious maps, and there are decoy
lights, in the soul's travel to eternity. Heretical teaching abounds, and
erroneous doctrines are rife, and superstitious worship prevails.
Men are teaching from the pulpit and the press that baptism is
regeneration, and that the Lord's Supper is the real body and blood of the
Savior, and that ritualism is spiritual worship; that, confession of sin is
to be made to 'the priest', and that to man is given the prerogative and the
power to absolve from its guilt; that, religious duties and
alms-giving, and like works of human merit, render the soul worthy of, and
fit for, the enjoyment of heaven. But all these are false lights kindled
along the rock-bound shore of the soul's transit to eternity, by the sleight
of men, and cunning craftiness whereby they lie in wait to deceive.
Your only authentic chart and your only safe map in your solemn and
momentous journey to the other world is, God's word. The Gospel tells you
how you may be justified by the righteousness of Christ, how your sins may
be forgiven through the blood of Christ, how peace with God may be obtained
through the mediation of Christ, how your corruptions may be subdued by the
grace of Christ, and how all your trials may be sustained, your griefs
assuaged, and your sorrows soothed by the loving sympathy of Christ; and
that faith, or simply believing in Jesus, is the channel through which all
these blessings become yours.
But we turn to the only true and substantial shadow- the shadow of
Christ. "His shadow." The metaphor is of frequent and significant occurrence
in God's word, and in almost every instance it refers personally to Christ.
One example shall suffice. "And a man shall be . . . as the shadow of a
great rock in a weary land." This "man" is none other than the God-man, the
divine man, Christ the Lord. Now in what point of view may we regard Christ
as the shadow of His people? The following particulars will briefly
illustrate this truth.
Christ is a protecting shadow. He stands between the believing soul and
divine justice, between the saint of God and the fiery darts of Satan,
between the tempter and the tempted, between the tried saint and the fiery
trial. Thus in Christ is fulfilled, as in Him alone it could be, the
precious promise, "There shall be a Tabernacle for a shadow in the day time
from the heat, and for a place of refuge and for a covert from storm and
from rain." In this point of light how suitable and precious does Christ
appear. We needed a shadow that could effectually interpose itself between
us and the law's loud thunder and the flaming sword of justice- that shadow
is Christ. "He was made a curse for us." He "who knew no sin was made sin
(or a sin-offering) for us." Christ threw Himself between His Church and the
righteous administration of God's moral government. Upon Him, as their
Surety, fell the crushing vengeance, the consuming fire, the bitterness of
death. All this He bore for us!
Come and sit down beneath His shadow, and you are safe. Not a flash
can scathe you, not a spark can kindle upon you, not a dart can wound you.
Christ is your "shadow from the heat," and in simple faith and assured peace
you may repose with great delight and perfect security beneath this
divine-human canopy, and gaze without fear upon the lurid lightning, and
listen without dread to the peeling thunder. "There is therefore now no
condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus."
Christ is a refreshing shadow. There is no real refreshment to the
believing soul but from Christ. And how deep is our need of it! The eastern
pilgrim traveling across the burning sands welcomes the spreading and
luxuriant foliage that greets him on his way. How grateful and refreshing to
him its shadow in a weary land! Such is Jesus to Zion's pilgrims. How much
there is in our travel to endear to us His sacred shadow! The roughness of
the way wounds us, the narrowness of the way wearies us, the trials of the
way sadden us, the loneliness of the way depresses us, the heat of the way
scorches us- our mind droops, our spirits flag, our hearts faint, and our
discouraged soul is "ready to halt." But Jesus interposes. Taking our hand,
He gently leads us to His cross, yes, leads us to Himself! and then we sit
down beneath His shadow with great delight, and find His fruit sweet to our
taste. Oh, the refreshment we now find in Him!
For example- How refreshing is the Communion of His body and blood! "The
cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of
Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of
Christ?" What a refreshing shadow is this! Let those testify who by faith
eat of the body and drink of the blood of Christ, what soul-refreshment they
have found beneath it. How one believing sight of Jesus, one endearing
thought of His love, one close view of His cross, has dissolved their hearts
into penitence, love, and praise at His feet! Absent not yourself, my
reader, from this Sacred Banquet because of your unworthiness to partake.
Wait not, before you approach these simple yet expressive symbols, for
self-fitness and preparation, which never can be found. The Lord, whose
dying love you commemorate, and for whom your own love is expressed, asks
not and expects not this at your hands.
He who provides the banquet, invites and prepares the guests. The love
that spread the feast, provides the festal robe. Jesus supplies His merit
for your demerit, substitutes His worthiness for your unworthiness, freely
gives and graciously imputes the righteousness that entitles you to take
your place at His table and, in grateful remembrance of His atoning death,
to eat and drink of His provision abundantly.
Oh, let the saints on earth and the saints in glory testify to the soul
refreshment found beneath this shadow of Christ! Here have you fed and
feasted on the fruit bending down from the tree of life to the feeblest,
lowliest saint as, clustering around His table, you sought to remember Him
who will remember you when He comes in all the glory of His most glorious
kingdom. What soul-refreshing seasons, what heaven-attracting moments, what
Christ-endearing feelings have you experienced, and how has the fragrance of
your graces poured forth as the King has sat at His table, and you have
bowed your head upon His breast at supper!
"Come, let us join a joyful tune
To our exalted Lord,
You saints on high around His throne,
And we around His board.
"While once upon this lower ground
Weary and faint you stood,
What dear refreshments have you found
From this immortal food."
Will you then, living and professing the Savior, turn from this sacred
feast, refusing obedience to His command- "Do this in remembrance of me?"
When again He spreads the banquet, and you are prompted by your feelings to
regard lightly the invitation, imagine that you hear the gentle accents of
His winning, pleading voice saying, "Will you also go away?" Let your heart
respond, "No, Lord, to whom shall I go if I turn my back upon You? How can I
ever cease to remember One who has done so my soul?"
"Gethsemane can I forget?
Or there Your conflict see,
Your agony and bloody sweat-
And not remember Thee?
"When to Your cross I turn my eyes,
And rest on Calvary,
O Lamb of God, my sacrifice!
I must remember Thee.
"Remember You and all Your pains,
And all Your love to me;
Yes, while a breath, a pulse remains
Will I remember Thee.
And when these failing lips grow dumb,
And mind and memory flee,
When You shall in Your kingdom come,
Jesus, remember me."
What refreshment, too, is found beneath the shadow of Christ's
mercy-seat! Christ is inseparably associated with every true prayer we
breathe to God. In His name it is presented, through His merit it is
accepted, and by His intercession it is answered. We draw near, and, lo! we
find ourselves overshadowed with a cloud! It is the cloud of Christ's
presence! And, oh, the refreshment which it diffuses throughout our spirit!
We come weary, and find repose; sad, and we experience joy; weak, and our
strength is renewed like the eagle's; exhausted and faint, and we
retire as giants refreshed with new wine. Sweet communion with God,
believing fellowship with unseen and eternal realities, has dissipated the
shadows that rested so darkly and coldly upon our hearts, and we have felt
ourselves as if floating in a higher and holier region. Brother, sister,
arise amid your weariness and woe, and give yourself to prayer! Your
Father's scepter bids you approach, your Savior's blood provides your plea,
the Spirit's grace gently draws you. Come and sit down beneath this shadow;
sweet and refreshing will it be to your soul.
Christ is a fruit promoting shadow. There are some flowerets in nature
which only grow in the shade. Too rare and delicate for the sun's heat, they
are often found blooming amid the shadows and snows of Alpine scenery. This
is strikingly illustrative of the kingdom of grace. There are some graces of
the Spirit which are seldom seen in full bloom and beauty but as the shadow
covers them. The Heavenly Husbandman knows best what soil and atmosphere
suits them. God therefore puts these His plants of righteousness in the
shade to grow.
Withdrawing them from the scorching beams of the ungodly world, and
taking them apart from the feverish excitement of the religious world, He
gently leads them to the Tree of life, and bids them sit beneath its shadow.
There faith buds, and love blossoms, and the blossom of faith and love
sets in the fruit of holiness. How seldom are the graces of patience and
lowliness and submission found in their vigor and beauty except in the
shadow of some enshrouding adversity. God has put you, suffering saint, in
the lonely shade of separation, or in the chill shade of neglect, or in the
veiling shade of obscurity, or in the funeral shade of bereavement, or in
the darkling shade of some overshadowing trial.
But He has put you there, you precious floweret of His own right hand
planting, to grow, to bloom, to bear fruit. It is when in separation, and
neglect, and obscurity, and bereavement, and trial, He draws near and covers
us with the shadow of His wings, and assures us that we are not all alone,
nor all unknown, that He knows those who are His, that He does not withdraw
His eye from the righteous, and that His encircling presence is with them in
all places where they go. Thus we learn the wisdom and the love of our
heavenly Father in all His dealings. We needed the shade!
The drought of prosperity had dried up in a great measure the spring of
our grace, and with it our graces drooped- for it should ever be remembered
by us that when the well-spring of spiritual life in the soul is at a low
ebb, the fruits of the spirit are painfully conscious of its decay. In the
warm glow of the world's sunshine, our hearts had strayed from Him we loved.
Like Jeshurun, we "grew fat and kicked." We walked distantly,
self-sufficiently, and proudly. Our love to Christ chilled, our communion
with God was restrained, the flesh grew strong, and the world seductive, and
spiritual pursuits lost their attraction, and gray hairs- emblems and
witnesses of spiritual declension- accumulated around us, and we knew it
But the Lord loved us too well to permit us to remain long in this state
of heart-backsliding. He saw that His tree of righteousness was unfruitful,
that the plant of His own right-hand planting was sickly, that the floweret
of His heart drooped, and He resolved upon its recovery. The rod is
uplifted, it smites, and its stroke falls just where it was most
instinctively dreaded and was most keenly felt. And now our God has brought
us out of the sunshine into the shade- the shadow, as it were, of death; and
we exclaim, as of old, "He has led us and brought us into darkness, and not
And now we have found a Shadow within a shadow- the shadow of life
beneath the shadow of death. The shadow of the cross, where hung, and bled,
and died the "Man of sorrows," the sympathizing high priest of His Church,
overshadows with its own vital, soothing, healing influence the dark, cold
shadow of our adversity. Never did we feel the Savior so sensibly near, or
so unutterably precious as now. We thank Him for the dark shadows that have
fallen on life's landscape. Never before were we so conscious of spiritual
growth in graces which previously were undeveloped, or, if developed, but
partially visible; the graces of patience and humility, of meekness
and submission, now shoot forth with a vigor, unveil a bloom and breathe a
sweetness we could never have imagined, and from the depth of our heart's
deep love we exclaim, "Lord! I thank You as much, no, even more, for the
dark cloud-veil as for the radiant sunshine. I have learned more
experimentally Your truth, and have known more fully of Yourself in the
darkness than I ever did in the light. My Christianity has deepened, my
religion has become more real, my hope more confirmed, and my peace
and joy and happiness more substantial in this one sanctified affliction
than during the whole of my previous spiritual life. O my God, I see Your
wisdom and Your love in placing Your poor, sickly plant, that withered and
drooped in the sun, now to grow and bloom and bear fruit in the shade. I
have learned more of myself and of You, have been brought into closer
relation with Him I love, in this isolated and dreary path than was ever my
experience when the candle of the Lord shone upon my head."
Rest assured, my reader, the Lord is leading you by a right way in
leading you along a dark one. It is good at times to walk in the shade of
the world's opinion and favor; even to be thrust aside, neglected, and
forgotten by the Church. The Lord would not thus put us in the shade did He
not love us, and were it not for our good. His darkest shadows have more of
sunshine in them than earth's brightest beams; His paternal frown more of
real love in it than the creature's blandest smile; His severest rebukes
more of tenderness than the world's softest caress.
But the shadow of Christ!- how fruitful is it! Possessing a vital
influence on all upon whom it falls, it quickens into life and verdure and
fertility the soul so happy as to be led beneath it by the Spirit. It is
then we are more personally and immediately alone with Christ. The world's
din is hushed into the quietness of peace, the Church's contentions subside
into the stillness of communion with God, and the fevered excitement of
religious duties and engagements gives place to holy reflection,
self-examination, and prayer.
Never, perhaps, did the Church of God more need to sit down beneath His
shadow as now! The exciting subjects of thought and the Christian activities
of the age- its ecclesiastical conflicts, its theological controversies, its
religious feuds- are calculated to exert a baneful and deteriorating
influence upon the individual piety of the Christian and the spiritual life
of the Church itself. How important, then, to retire from the close, sultry
atmosphere we breathe, and sit down beneath the refreshing and invigorating
shadow of Jesus!
Would you, my reader, be a fruitful branch of the Living Vine, you
must be much beneath its shade. "Abide in Me and I in you," says Jesus. "As
the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abide in the vine, no more
can you, unless you abide in Me." Retreating from earth's shadows, which,
alas! are but shadows of death, we must be in closer fellowship with Him who
is our life, from whom our fruit is found, and without whom we can do
This conducts us to another idea- the repose of which the Church speaks.
"I sat down under His shadow." It will thus be seen that not only is Christ
a protecting, a refreshing, and a fruit-promoting shadow to the saints, but
He is also a shadow of rest. Could language be more expressive of this
condition of the soul- "I sat down!" It is the attitude of perfect repose.
Look at this attitude in one or two points of view. It is the rest of
choice. It was a repose of her own free, deliberate choosing- "I sat down."
Is not this the experience of all whom the Spirit has made willing in the
day of His power to choose and accept the Savior? Most assuredly.
Is it not yours, my Christian reader? There was no hesitation or doubt
when the Holy Spirit led you by the gentle yet irresistible force of His
grace to receive Christ. The rebellion of your will conquered, the
reluctance of your heart overcome, the enmity of your carnal mind dislodged,
you exclaimed, with all the earnestness of your new-born emotions, "What
have I to do anymore with idols! Henceforth Christ shall have the
pre-eminence. He chose me before I made Him my choice. He loved me before I
surrendered my heart. He called me, or I would never have come. And now that
His grace has conquered, and His Spirit has made me willing, and His love
has drawn me, henceforth and forever I am my Beloved's, and my Beloved is
Can you ever forget that hour? No, never! Other memories have vanished,
other bright spots have faded, other joys have blended with the shadows of
the tomb, but upon the hour when the angels celebrated in their nuptial song
your union with Christ, the sun of glory will never set!- eternity will
enshrine it in deathless light. And oh, what a repose is this! It must be
experienced to be understood, and even though experimentally understood, it
cannot be fully described.
What are some of its distinctive features? It is the repose of certainty.
It is, in fact, the believing soul's only sure repose. Driven from billow to
billow in its battle with unbelief, the believer can only rest on one
object, which is Christ the Lord. As well may we expect the needle to fix at
any other point of the compass than the north, as to expect that the
believing soul can rest on any other object than Christ! In Christ he finds
a righteousness that freely justifies; in Christ, a pardon that fully
forgives; in Christ, grace that personally sanctifies; in Christ,
truth that combats all error, annihilates every doubt, answers every
argument, and meets to its utmost the earnest, yearning inquiry trembling on
a thousand lips, "What is truth?" The moment the soul returns from its
distant but fruitless travel, and finds Christ, it feels it has found a
sounding upon which it may firmly drop its anchor- an ark within which it
may fold its weary wing. Come to Christ in faith- in simple, child-like,
unquestioning, faith- and you, too, will, with the Church of old, exclaim,
"I sat down under His shadow with great delight, and found rest for my weary
It is the repose of love. Love will never rest but on the object of its
choice. Christ is the one object of the regenerate soul's true love. We have
sought repose beneath other shadows of the heart's love, and they refreshed
us for a while; but when the morning's sun arose, lo! like the prophet's
pleasant shade, they had vanished as in a night! Oh, how unsubstantial and
fleeting, though fond and precious, the human shadows we have loved! Even
while we pressed them to our hearts, admiring their beauty, and rejoicing in
their presence, in a moment they dissolved into the shadow of death, and
disappeared within the veil of eternity!
But the Object of divine love is no mere unsubstantial, passing shadow.
They who, through grace, set their hearts on Jesus, have found an object
worthy of their supreme affection, concerning whom they can with the
Psalmist say, "My heart is fixed, O God, my heart is fixed. I will sing and
give praise." Here true love finds its perfect repose. Here is an Object
that meets all its yearnings for affection, friendship, and sympathy. Here
is love that satisfies the soul. No infirmity impairs, no change affects it.
The heart that loves Jesus trembles at no passing cloud, dreads no
painful vicissitude, anticipates no stroke of the fell destroyer. Removal
cannot affect its love, distance cannot separate it from its object,
sickness cannot imperil, death cannot shade, nor the grave veil it from our
view. How triumphant the challenge of the apostle! "Who shall separate us
from the love of Christ! Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or
famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? No, in all these things we are
more than conquerors through Him that loved us."
Here let your love repose. It needs to rest on His love who rests on His
own. Its sensitiveness is often wounded, its serenity often disturbed, its
glow often shaded, and it needs just the repose and fixedness found only in
Him it loves. Has sin pierced it, has guilt burdened it, has sorrow shaded
it? Come and sit down beneath this tree of life, and you shall find its
shadow refreshing, and its fruit sweet to your taste.
It is also the rest of faith. Faith and love have a common object of
rest- JESUS. They both travel to the same source, and like twin-sisters,
repose on one maternal bosom. In fact, faith in Christ begets love to
Christ; and in the same degree in which we have believing transactions with
the Savior, our love to Him will increase and intensify. We love Him so
little, because we know Him so little. To know Christ, is to love Him. He is
a Friend towards whom an increasing acquaintance increases affection. He
grows upon you. The more you know Him, the more you love Him.
Now, faith delights to lie down under His shadow. There it travels in
weariness and woe, as in joy and gladness. In the dark and cloudy day, as in
the sultry heat, with its wound of sin, its burden of guilt; with its
bruised, crushed spirit, and its broken, bleeding heart; its pressing need
and its approaching troubles. Jesus is the magnet of faith. He attracts it,
draws it, binds it to Himself, and simple faith clings to and has dealings
with Him the more He is adored, and loved, and trusted in. Here, then,
beneath this sacred shadow, beloved, let your faith repose. It is, perhaps,
weary in its wanderings, pained by cruel unbelief, tossed from billow to
billow in many a surging tide; almost engulfed in the waves of care and
sorrow; sick and sad, weary, yearning, and footsore, and ready to halt, let
it travel to this Tree of Life, and beneath its shadow find rest!
Christ is all that your faith requires. Does it need vigor? Christ will
strengthen it. Fixedness? Christ will confirm it. Is it wounded? Christ will
heal it. Does it ask increase? Christ will replenish it. Does it need
encouragement and comfort? Christ will say to it, "Be it unto you according
to your faith." Is it ready to sink? Christ will take it by the hand, and
will reassure it with words of hope: "O you of little faith, why did you
doubt?" Come, then, you believing soul, whatever may be the measure of your
faith, its trials, its tremblings, its temptations, let it lie down under
His shadow with great delight, and it shall find, in a full, a present, and
a loving Christ, all that it needs.
"Jesus it owns a king,
And all-atoning priest;
It claims no merit of its own,
But looks for all in Christ.
"On Him it safely leans,
In times of deep distress;
Flies to the fountain of His blood,
And trusts His righteousness."
But the Church speaks of fruit. "And His fruit was sweet to my taste."
There is no difficulty in determining whose fruit is here meant. "His
fruit." How important to observe the distinction! The Church never speaks of
her own fruitfulness apart from Christ. It is more her barrenness than her
fertility, her unprofitableness than her productiveness, she is wont to
mention. The religionist who plumes himself on the splendor of his gifts,
and boasts of the abundance of his grace, and trumpets the success of his
services for Christ, encompasses himself with sparks of his own kindling,
and shall lie down in sorrow. But the most spiritually-minded and fruitful
saint is he who is little in his own eyes, and like the full and ripened
ear, bends the lowest to the ground.
"Lord," exclaims the humble soul, "I will not make mention of any fruit
that I have borne, but of Yours only. If in my soul there beats one pulse of
spiritual life, You have inspired it. If there glows in my heart one spark
of divine love, You have kindled it. If my walk and conversation is
sanctified and adorned with one bud of grace, or blossom of holiness, You
have formed it; and You shall have all the glory!
But it is of Christ's fruit the Church speaks. The saints of God find
real sweetness in no other. You cannot live, beloved, on your own grace, or
toy with your own graces. There is such a mixture of imperfection and sin
with all we are and do- the loveliest so marred, and the holiest so tainted;
the gracious soul cannot extract one drop of merit from anything that
springs from himself. True is it, blessedly true, that "there is a reward
for the righteous;" that holiness is happiness; that, "if we be
willing and obedient, we shall eat of the fruit of the land." Nevertheless,
the best saints have to complain that, after all they have done, they are
but unprofitable servants.
But how sweet is the fruit that grows upon our divine "Apple-Tree,"
beneath whose ever-pleasant shade we sit with such ineffable delight. The
fruit of His obedience and suffering, of His blood-shedding and death, of
His resurrection and ascension into glory; how sweet is it to the gracious
soul! The full forgiveness of our sins by His blood, the free justification
of our person by His righteousness, the sanctification of our hearts by His
grace, and the upholding of our feet in His ways by His power, is blessed
fruit, the real sweetness of which can only be known by its experience.
A few remarks must close this introductory chapter of our volume. Are the
gray shadows of adversity and sorrow falling thick and fast upon you? Come
and lie down beneath the Shadow of Christ, and all will be well. Or, is the
shadow of death upon your eyelids, does the darkness of the tomb veil from
your view the form you once so loved, and whose ashes are still so precious?
There is a place for your sad and shaded heart beneath the spreading foliage
of this sacred Tree, where you may lie down in a quiet resting-place.
"He that dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under
the SHADOW of the Almighty." Especially is it needful for those who are
bearing the burden and heat of the day in the Lord's service to heed the
invitation of Christ once addressed to His weary disciples, "Come apart into
a desert place, and rest awhile." Those who labor to bring others to rest,
must themselves rest. Those who water others, must themselves be watered.
Those who feed others, must themselves be nourished. Let all Christian
laborers, then, look well to their own vineyard, that it be not neglected,
and find time to come and lie down under Christ's shadow, and "rest awhile,"
lest they should have to take up the lamentation of the Church of old, "They
made me keeper of the vineyards, but my own vineyard have I not kept."
Remember that the fruit of this wondrous Tree bends so low that the
feeblest faith may lift its hand and pluck it. This divine Tree of Life
bears all manner of fruit, and at all seasons; so that there is
nourishment for every measure of grace, and for every degree of knowledge,
and for every stage in the Christian life- for babes and little children,
for young men, and fathers. Christ meets each and all, and all may eat and
find His fruit sweet to their taste. Oh, what a heart-cheering and
encouraging truth this is to you who have but "tasted that the Lord is
gracious." To have tasted only the graciousness of Christ puts you in a
condition more exalted and enviable than that of the greatest philosopher on
earth. May this be our condition and privilege!
Thus, the precious fruit that springs from Christ is not known to the
gracious soul by mere report. His is the knowledge of personal and blessed
experience. "His fruit is sweet to my taste." Sweet the streams that flow
from His inexhaustible fulness, sweet the gracious manifestations of His
presence, sweet the unfoldings of His love and the expressions of His
sympathy, sweet to lean upon His arm and know His power, sweet to recline
upon His bosom and feel His love. But let us not be content with this.
Having tasted, let us press onward to know more of Christ. Be not satisfied
with gathering fruit from the lower boughs of this "Tree," but ascend to the
higher ones. The nearer the sun, the riper and sweeter the fruit.
Go forward in your acquaintance with the doctrines of grace, and seek to
eat of the "strong meat" that belongs unto them who are of "full age." Thus
will your sanctification deepen, sin will become more hateful, self more
loathed, the world more crucified, and the Savior more precious. Then, when
we shall have passed from all earth's shadows, and even from the shadow of
Christ on earth, we shall go and lie down beneath the overspreading shadow
of His throne, and bask forever in the sunshine of His glory.
"Beneath His cooling shade I sat,
To shield me from the burning heat;
Of heavenly fruit He spread a feast
To feed my eyes, and please my taste.
"Kindly He brought me to the place,
Where stands the banquet of His grace;
He saw me faint, and over my head,
The banner of His love He spread.
"O never let my Lord depart;
Lie down and rest upon my heart;
I charge my sins not once to move,
Nor stir, nor wake, nor grieve my love."