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ishment from it, and puts forth no leaves to grace it, and remains an ugly and distorted thing, only to disfigure the fair plant. And have we not seen other off-sets of a sickly growth-full of leaves, and useless wild luxuriance, pretty in spring, but an incumbrance as the time of fruit approaches, of which it gives no promise. Attached are these also to the source of life and nourishment, and have derived some measure of succor from it; but nothing of its fruit-producing life and vigor. Yes, and we know what comes of them-what must come of them, when the pruner's knife approaches: they must not stay to shame the culture and to spoil the tree. God is indeed a patient husbandman: he does not his work as men do: He comes round many and many a year, and watches these young scions of his confessing church, to see if they be indeed its believing, repenting and obedient members. And why so often? 66 He knows them that are his”—and did know from all eternity who they were; but this is not the way he works. He suffers them to be engrafted-he allows them to remain-he lets them take and renew their baptismal vows-lets them come month by month and sit among the faithful at his feast. He does much more than this: for meantime his rains descend and his dews to water the earth, and many a summer's sun shines out upon these branches. He pours into the
young ear the persuasions of his love, and exhibits before their eyes the warnings of his anger. He compasses them, as it were, with an atmosphere of grace, in the prayers and preaching and ordinances of the church, into which they have been received. And then he waits—0 how long he waits!
The most lifeless, the most graceless communicant may gaze upon the emblems of redeeming love, and when he hears it said, 6 Which was shed for you,” 66 which was broken for you,”—may be assured that to that body and blood he owes the suspensive mercy that gives him time to repent and believe, to bring forth fruits meet for repentance, and to work the work of faith. But, “ if a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them up and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.” The pruning time must come. And here let the young ones pause; and let the new proselytes listen; and whether they be going to the sacrament unprepared, or have determined to remain unprepared away, let them deeply consider their position. He who has a sum of money in possession, knows by his expenditure how much there is remaining; the simple peasant who notches days upon a stick, and cuts off the notches as another and another passes, can reckon how many he has left. But to you, the fewer gone are no imitation of the more
to come; the small expenditure no proof of wealth remaining; brief as the time may be, and few as the years may be that have been lost in godlessness and folly, you may not have as many remaining to redeem them. The off-casting of the worthless branch waits no fixed season; it must be when the health and beauty of the tree require it, and the wisdom of the husbandman so determines; perhaps when the unholy influence and example would become injurious to others; when the false profession or inconsistent life would bring disgrace upon religion, and shame the name of Christ. And this is not all. There are other risks than the uncertainty of life, and other dangers than untimely death. We know that the sudden tempest lays low the diseased and rotten tree, and scatters the dead branches on the ground, while it leaves uninjured and unmoved the firm and thriving ones. But have we not seen also when the long winter snows begin to melt, when the iron-hearted frost gives way, and we go round our borders to see what mischief has been done? We know which it is that we most surely miss. It is not those that had taken deep root and made a vigorous growth, before the winter came; they lift their scatheless heads to the returning sunshine, and seem to triumph in the desolation; the ruined ones are those that had a sickly and redundant growth, that were imperfectly rooted, attached
too feebly to the parent plant, or otherwise ill prepared to bide the blighting time. Yes; and I have seen the same amid the trials and sorrows of the world. The very affliction which has brought light and life into the penitent soul, strengthened the faith, and confirmed the hope, and purified the character of the believer, making Christ thrice precious to him, and himself more like to Christ; I have seen the same affliction chill to death the fictitious excitements of religious feeling, the feeble stirrings of an awakened conscience. I have seen it turn the natural heart to stone, instead of breaking it into godly sorrow; and together with the withered sympathies and blighted promise of young, untried existence, indifference has laid its icy hand upon the early yearnings of the soul towards God. I have observed it often in the poor and in the rich, and watched the declension of what seemed a religious disposition, under the growing pressure of adversity, till the rootless promise has utterly died away.
The closed Bible, the neglected church, the avoided counsellers-how well we know the first symptoms of revolt and disavowal; no leisure, no spirits, no resolution now to go with them that keep holiday before the Lord. And then there follows, with the poor, the neglected person, the slovenly house, the domestic discord, dissolute habits, and disaffection to the laws. With the rich, habits of dissipation,
frivolity, and selfishness, to get rid of the poignancy of remaining feeling, or fill the void of sympathies extinguished. All this I have seen to grow out of unsanctified affliction, and disappointed earthliness; out of those very trials, which, acting upon a living faith, are the culture with which the watchful husbandman purges the branches that they may bring forth more fruit. They used to hear the gospel; they used to come to the sacrament; they used to pray in their families, and keep strict the Sabbath. What has happened?
Oh, the blighting time has come, and they have withered away, because they had no root. And if the winter had spared them, there had come the drought and heats of summer. Prosperity is thought to be more dangerous than adversity; and so it is, in so far that while adversity pursues us, it may be hoped it is the pruner's knife to purify and invigorate the branches; whereas unsanctified prosperity is the known wages of the wicked one; but if that hope prove fallacious, I know not whether prosperity or adversity has the more hardening influence on the heart of the impenitent; if the happy forget God, the miserable defy him. Oh could the young disciple but be persuaded what he risks by hesitating, how soon the soft emotions of his soul may die away; how soon the sacred influences and opportunities may be withdrawn; how the touching incidents of Jesus' dying love