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Now it struck me that God is every day preaching to us by similitudes. When Christ was on earth he preached in parables, and, though he is in heaven now, he is preaching in parables to-day. Providence is God's sermon. The things which we see about us are God's thoughts and God's words to us; and if we were but wise there is not a step that we take, which we should not find to be full of mighty instruction. O ye sons of men! God warns you every day by his own word; he speaks to you by the lips of his servants, his ministers; but, besides this, by similitudes he addresses you at every time. He leaves no stone unturned to bring his wandering children to himself, to make the lost sheep of the house ot Israel return to the fold. In addressing myself to you this morning, I shall endeavour to show how every day, and every season of the year, in every place, and in erery calling which you are made to exercise, God is speaking to you by similitudes.
I. EVERY DAY God speaks to you by similitudes. Let us begin with the early morning. This morning you awakened and you found yourselves unclothed, anıl you began to array yourselves in your garments. Did not God, if you would bat have heard him, speak to you by a similitude? Did he not as much as say to thee, “ Sinner, what will it be when thy vain dreams shall have ended, if thoa shouldst wake up in eternity to find thyself naked? Wherewithal shalt thou array thyself? If in this life thou dost cast away the wedding garment, the spotless righteousness of Jesus Christ, what wilt thou do when the trump of the archangel shall awaken thee from thy clay cold couch in the grave, when the heavens shall be blazing with lightnings, and the solid pillars of the earth shall quake with the terror of God's thunder? How wilt thou be able to dress thyself then?" Canst thou confront thy Maker without a covering for thy nakedness? Adam dared not, and canst thou attempt it? Will he not affright thee with his terrors? Will he not cast thee to the tormentors that thou mayest be burned up with unquenchable fire, because thou didst forget the clothing of ihy soul while thou wast in this place of probation? Well
, you have put on your dress, and you come down to your families, and your children gather round your table for the morning meal. If you have been wise God has been preaching to you by a similitude then: he seemed to say to thee“Sinner, to whom should a child go but to his father? And where shoald be his resort when he is hungry but to his father's table?" And as you feel your children, if you had an ear to hear, the Lord was speaking to you and saying, “How willingly would I feed you! How would I give you of the bread of heaven and cause you to eat angels' food! But thou hast spent thy money for that which is not bread, and thy labour for that which satisfieth not. Hearken diligently unto me, and eat ye that which is good, let thy soul delight itself in fatness." Did he not stand there as a Father, and say, “ Cuine my child, come to my table. The precious blood of my Son has been shed to be thy drink, and he has given his body to be thy bread. Why wilt thou wander hungry and thirsty ? Come to my table, O, my child, for I love my children to be there and to feast upon the mercies I have provided.”
You left your home and you went to your business. I know not in what calling your time was occupied-of that we will say more before we shall have gathered up the ends of your similitudes this morning-but you spend your time in your work; and surely, beloved, all the time that your fingers were occupied, God was speaking to your heart, if the ears of your soul had not been closed, so that you were heavy and ready to slumber, and could not hear his voice. And when the sun was shining in high heaven, and the hour of noon was reached, mightest thou not have lifted up thine eye and remembered that if thou badst committed thy soul to God, thy path should have been as the shining light which shineth more and more unto the perfect day? Did he not speak to thee and say, “I brought the sun from the darkness of the east; I have guided him and helped him to ascend the slippery steeps of heaven, and now he standeth in his zenith, like a giant that hath run his race, and hath attained his goal. And even so will I do with thee. Commit thy ways unto me and I will make thee full of light, and thy path shall be as brightness, and thy lite shall be as the noon-day: thy sun shall not go down by day, but the days of thy mourning shall be ended, for the Lord God shall be thy light, and thy salvation.”
And the son began to set, and the shadows ot' evening were drawing on, and did not the Lord then remind thee of thy death? Suns have their setting, and men have their graves. When the shadows of the evening were stretched out, and when the darkness began to gather, did he not say unto thee, “O man, take heed of thine eventide, for the light of the sun shall not endure for ever? There are twelve hours wherein a man shall work, but when they are past there is no work nor device in the night of that grave whither we are all hastening. Work while ye have the light, for the night cometh wherein no man can work. Therefore, whatsoever thine hand findeth to do, do it with all thy might." Look I say to the sun at his setting, and observe the rainbow hues of glory with which he paints the sky, and mark how he appears to increase his orb as he nears the horizon. O man kneel down and learn this prayer,-" Lord, let my dying be like the setting of the sun; help me, if clouds and darkness are round about me, to light them up with splendour; surround me, O my God, with a greater brightness at my death than I have shown in all my former life. If my death-bed shall be the miserable pallet, and if I expire in some lone cot, yet nevertheless, grant, O Lord, that my poverty may be gilded with the light that thou shalt give me, that I may exhibit the grandeur of a Christian's departure at my dying hour." God speaketh to thee, O man, by similitude, from the rising to the setting of the sun.
And now, thou hast lit thy candle and thou sittest down; thy children are about thee, and the Lord sends thee a little preacher to preach thee a sermon, is thou wilt hear. It is a little gnat, and it flieth round and round about thy candle, an i delighteth itself in the light thereof, till, dazzled and intoxicated, it begins to singe its wings and burn itself. Thou seekest to put it away, but it dashes into the flame, and having burned itself it can scarcely fan itself through the air again. But as soon as it has recruited its strength again, mad-like it dashes to its death and destruction. Did not the Lord say to thee, “Sinner, thou art doing this also; thou lovest the light of sin; oh! that thou wert wise enough to tremble at the fire of sin, for he who delights in the sparks thereof, must be consumed in the burning!” Did not thy hand seem to be like the hand of thy Almighty, who would put thee away from thine own destruction, and who rebukes and smites thee by his providence, as much as to say to thee, “Poor silly man, be not thine own destruction.” And whilst thou seest perhaps with a little sorrow the death of the foolish insect, might not that forewarn thee of thine awful doom, when, after having been dazzled with the giddy round of this world's joys, thou shalt at last plunge into the eternal burning and lose thy soul, so madly, for nothing but the enjoyments of an hour? Doth not God preach to thee thus?
And now it is time for thee to retire to thy rest. Thy door is bolted, and thou hast fast closed it. Did not that remind thee of that saying, “ When once the master of the house is risen up, and hath shut-to the door, and ye begin to stand without, and to knock at the door, saying, “Lord, Lord, open unto us;' and he shall answer and say unto you, 'I know not whence you are?'” in vain shall be your knocking then, when the bars of immutable justice shall have fast closed the gates of mercy on mankind; when the hand of the Almighty Master shall have shut his children within the gates of Paradise, and shall have left the thief and the robber in the cold chilly darkness, the outer darkness, where there shall be weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth. Did he not preach to thee by similitude? Even then, when thy finger was on the bolt, might not his finger have been on thy heart?
And at night time thou wast startled. The watchman in the street awoke thee with the cry of the hour of the night, or his tramp along the street. O man, if thou hadst ears to hear, thou mightest have heard in the steady tramp of the policeman the cry, “Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him.” And every sound at midnight that did awaken thee from thy slumber and startle thee upon thy bed, might seem to forewarn thee of that dread trump of the archangel which shall herald the coming of the Son of Man, in the day he shall judge both the quick and the dead, according to my gospel. O that ye were wise, that ye understood this, for all the day long from dewy morning till the darkness of the eventide, and the thick darkness of midnight, God evermore doth preach to man-he preacheth to him by similitudes.
II. And now we turn the current of our thoughts, and observe that ALL THE YEAR round God doth preach to man by similitudes. It was but a little while ago that we were sowing our seeds in our garden, and scattering the corn over the broad furrows. God had sent the seed time, to remind us that we too are like the ground, and that he is scattering seed in our hearts each day. And did he not say to us, "Take heed, O man, lest thou shouldest be like the highway whereon the seed was scattered, but the fowls of the air devoured it. Take heed that thou be not like the ground that had its basement on a hard and arid rock, lest this seed should spring up and by-and-bye should wither away when the sun arose, because it had not much depth of earth. And be thou careful, O son of man, that thou art not like the ground where the seed did spring up, but the thorns sprang up and choked it; but be thou like the good ground whereon the seed did fall, and it brought forth fruit, some twenty, some fifty, and some a hundred fold."
We thought, when we were sowing the seed, that we expected one day to see it spring up again.
Was there not a lesson for us there? Are not our actions all of them as seeds? Are not our little words like grains of mustardseed? Is not our daily conversation like a handful of the corn that we scatter over the soil ? And ought we not to reinember that our words shall live again, that our acts are as immortal as ourselves, that after having laid a little while in the dust to be matured, they shall certainly arise? The black deeds of sin shall bear a dismal harvest of damnation; and the right deeds which God's grace has permitted us to do, shall, through his mercy and not through our merit, bring forth a bounteous harvest in the day when they who sow in tears shall reap in joy. Doth not seed-time preach to thee, 0 man, and say, " Take heed that thou sowest good seed in thy field.”
And when the seed sprang up, and the season had changed, did God cease then to preach? Ah! no. First the blade, then the ear, and then the full corn in the ear, had each its homily. And when at last the harvest came, how loud the sermon which it preached to us! It said to us, " ( Israel, I have set a harvest for thee. Whatsoever a man soweth that shall he also reap. He that soweth to the flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption, and he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.” If you have an opportunity to journey into the country during the next three weeks, you will, if your heart is rightly attuned, find a marvellous mass of wisdom couched in a cornfield. Why, I could not attempt for a moment to open the mighty mines of golden treasure which are hidden there. Think, beloved, of the joy of the harvest. How does it tell us of the joy of the redeemed, if we, being saved, shall at last be carried like shocks of corn tully ripe into the garner. Look at the ear of corn when it is fully ripe, and see how it dippeth toward the earth! It held its head erect before, but in getting ripe how humble does it become! And how does God speak to the sinner, and tell him, that if he would be fit for the great harvest he must drop his head and cry, “Lord have mercy upon me a sinner.” And when we see the weeds spring up amongst wheat, have we not our Master's parable over again of the tares among the wheat; and are we not reminded of the great day of division, when he shall say to the reaper, "Gather first the tares and bind them in bundles, to burn them; but gather the wheat into my barn.” O yellow field of corn, thou preachest well to me, for thou sayest to me, the minister, “Behold, the fields are ripe already to the harvest. Work thou thyself, and pray thou the Lord of the harvest to send forth more labourers into the harvest.”. And it preaches well to thee, thou man of years, it tells thee that the sickle of death is sharp, and that thou must soon fall, but it cheers and comforts thee, for it tells thee that the wheat shall be safely housed, and it bids thee hope that thou shalt be carried to thy Master's garner to be his joy and his delight for ever. Hark, then, to the rustling eloquence of the yellow harvest.
In a very little time, my beloved, you will see the birds congregated upon the housetops in great multitudes, and after they have whirled round and round and round, as if they were taking their last sight at Old England, or rehearsing their supplications before they launched away, you will see them, with their leader in advance, speed across the purple sea to live in sunnier climes, while winter's cold hand shall strip their native woods. And doth not God seem to preach to you, sinners, when these birds are taking their flight ? Do you not remember how he himself puts it? “Yea, the stork in the heaven knoweth her appointed times; and the turtle, and the crane, and the swallow, observe the time of their coming; but my people know not the judgment of the Lord.” Doth he not tell us that there is a time of dark winter coming upon this world; a time of trouble, such as there has been none like it, neither shall be any more; a time, when all the joys of sin shall be nipped and frost-bitten, and when the summer of man's estate shall be turned into the dark winter of his disappointment ? And does he not say to you, “Sinner! fly away-away-away to the goodly
land, where Jesus dwells ! Away from self and sin! Away from the city of destruction! Away from the whirl of pleasures, and from the tossing to and fro of trouble! Haste thee, like a bird to its rest! Fly thou across the sea of repentance and faith, and build thy nest in the land of mercy, that when the great day of vengeance shall pass o'er this world, thou mayest be safe in the clefts of the rock.”
I remember well, how once God preached to me by a similitude in the depth of winter. The earth had been black, and there was scarcely a green thing or a flower to be seen. As you looked across the field, there was nothing but blackness-bare hedges and leafless trees, and black, black earth, wherever you looked. On a sudden God spake, and unlocked the treasures of the snow, and white flakes descended until there was no blackness to be seen, and all was one sheet of dazzling whiteness. It was at that time that I was seeking the Saviour, and it was then I found him; and I remember well that sermon which I saw before
“ Come now, and let us reason together; though your sins be as scarlet they shall be as snow, though they be red like crimson they shall be whiter than wool.” Sinner I thy heart is like that black ground; thy soul is like that black tree and hedgerow, without leaf or blossom; God's grace is like the white snowit shall fall upon thee till thy doubting heart shall glitter in whiteness of pardon, and thy poor black soul shall be covered with the spotless purity of the Son of God. He seems to say to you, “Sinner, you are black, but I am ready to forgive you; I will wrap thy heart in the ermine of my Son's righteousness, and with my Son's own garments on, thou shalt be holy as the Holy One."
And the wind of to-day, as it comes howling through the trees,-many of which have been swept down,---reminds us of the Spirit of the Lord, which" bloweth where it listeth,” and when it pleaseth; and it tells us to seek earnestly after that divine and mysterious influence, which alone can speed us on our voyage to heaven; which shall cast down the trees of our pride, and tear up by the roots the goodly cedars of our self-confidence; which shall shake our refuges of lies about our ears, and make us look to Him who is the only covert from the storm, the only shelter when “the blast of the terrible ones is as a storm against the wall."
Ay, and when the heat is coming down, and we hide ourselves beneath the shadow of the tree, an angel standeth there, and whispereth, “Look upwards, sinner, as thou hidest thyselt from the burning rays of Sol beneath the tree; so there is One who is like the apple tree among the trees of the wood, and he bids thee come and take shadow beneath his branches, for he will screen thee from the eternal vengeance of God, and give thee shelter when the fierce heat of God's anger shall beat upon the heads of wicked men.”
III. And now again, EVERY PLACE to which you journey, every animal that you see, every spot you visit, has a sermon for you. Go into your farm-yard, and your ox and your ass shall preach to you. “The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master's crib; but Israel doth not know, my people doth not consider.” The very dog at your heels may rebuke you. He follows his master; a stranger will he not follow, for he knows not the voice of a stranger, but ye forsake your God and turn aside unto your crooked ways. Look at the chicken by the side of yonder pond, and let it rebuke your ingratitude. It drinks, and every sip it takes it lifts its head to heaven and thanks the giver of the rain for the drink afforded to it; while thou eatest and drinkest, and there is no blessing pronounced at thy meals, and no thanksgiving bestowed upon thy Father for his bounty. The very horse is checked by the bridle, and the whip is for the ass; but thy God hath bridled thee by his commandments, and he hath chastened by his providence, yet art thou more obstinate than the ass or the mule; still thou wilt not run in his commandments, but thou turnest aside, wilfully and wickedly following out the perversity of thine own heart. Is it not so? Are not these things true of you? If you are still without God and without Christ, must not these things strike your conscience? Would not any one of them lead you to tremble before the Most High, and beg of him that he would give you a new heart and a right spirit, and that no longer you might be as the beasts of the field, but might be a man full of the Divine Spirit, living in obedience to your Creator
And in journeying, you have noticed how often the road is rough with stones, and you have murmured because of the way over which you have to tread; and have you not thought that those stones were helping to make the road better, and that the worst piece of road when mended with hard stones would in time become smooth and fit to travel on? And did you think how often Gol has mended you; how many stones of affliction le has cast upon you; how many waggon-loads of warnings you have had spread out upon you, and you have been none the better, but have only grown worse; and when he comes to look on you to see whether your life has become smooth, whether the highway of your moral conduct has become more like the king's highway of righteousness, hor might he say, “ Alas! I have repaired this road, but it is none the better; let it alone until it becomes a very bog and quagmire, until he who keeps it thus ill shall have perished in it himself.”
And thou hast gone by the sea-side, and has not the sea talked to thee? Inconstant as the sea art thou, but thou art not one-half so obedient. God keeps the sea, the mountain-waved sea, in check with a belt of sand; he spreads the sand along the sea-shore, and even the sea observe the landmark. “Fear ye not me? saith the Lord: will ye not tremble at my presence, which have placed the sand for the bound of the sea by a perpetual decree, that it cannot pass it: and though the waves thereof toss themselves, yet can they not prevail; though thes roar, yet can they not pass over it?” It is so. Let thy conscience prick thee. The sea obeys Him from shore to shore, and yet thou wilt not have him to be thy Gol, but thou sayest, “Who is the Lord that I should fear him? Who is Jehovah that I should acknowledge his sway?”.
Hear the mountains and the hills, for they have a lesson. Such is God. He abideth for ever, think not that he shall change.
And now, sinner, I entreat thee to open thine eyes as thou goest home to-day, and if nothing that I have said shall smite thee, perhaps God shall put into the way something that shall give thee a text, from which thou mayest preach to thyself a sermon that never shall be forgotten. Oh! if I had but time, and thought, and words, I would bring the things that are in heaven above, and in the earth beneath, and in the waters under the earth, and I would set them all before thec, and they should every one give their warning before they had passed from thine inspection, and I know that their voice would be, “Consider the Lord thy Creator, and fear and serve him, for he hath made thee, and thou hast not made thyself ;" we obey him, and we find it is our beauty to be obedient, and our glory ever to move according to his will; and thou shalt find it to be the same. Obey him while thou mayest, lest haply when this life is over all these things shall rise up against thee, and the stone in the street shall clamour for thy condemnation, and the beam out of the wall shall bear witness against thee, and the beasts of the field shall be thine accusers, and the valley and hill shall begin to curse thee. O man, the earth is made for thy warning. God would have thee be saved. He hath set hand-posts everywhere in nature and in providence, pointing thee the way to the City of Refuge, and if thou art but wise thou needest not miss thy way; it is but thy wilful ignorance and thy neglect that shall cause thee to run on in the way of error, for God hath made the way straight before thee and given thee every encouragement to run therein.
IV. And now, lest I should weary you, I will just notice that every man in his Calling has a sermon preached to him. The farmer has a thousand sermons; I have brought them out already; let him
eye, and he shall see more. He need not go an inch without hearing the songs of angels, and the voice of spirits wooing him to righteousness, for all nature round about him has a tongue given to it, when man hath an ear to hear.
There are others, however, engaged in a business which allows them to see but very little of nature, and yet even there God has provided them with a lesson. There is the baker who provides us with our bread. He thrusts his fuel into the oven, and he causeth it to glow with heat, and puts bread therein. Well may he, if he be an ungodly man, tremble as he stands at the oven's mouth, for there is a text which he may well comprehend as he stands there: “For the day cometh that shall burn as an oven, and all the proud and they that do wickedly shall be as stubble; they shall be consumed. Men ingather them in bundles and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.” Out of the oven's mouth comes a hot and burning warning, and the man's heart might melt like wax within him if he would but regard it.
Then see the butcher. How doth the beast speak to him? He sees the lamb almost lick his knife, and the bullock goes unconsciously to the slaughter. How might he think every time that he smites the unconscious animal, (who knows nothing of death),