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As there are no vineyards in England, you will understand it better, if I ask whether you
have ever observed the dressing of a garden in spring and autumn, how the gardener clears away the noxious weeds, and prunes the trees ? Upon which plants do you think he bestows the greatest pains ?
On the most valuable and fruitful.
If they are so already, why does he cut their branches ?
If he were not, they would soon become weak; but, by this treatment, they are strengthened, and increase in productiveness.
You told me in the Parable of the Prodigal Son, that afflictions are intended to make the sinner consider his ways, and turn back to his God?
Yes. And so corrections are often the first means used for this merciful design : but they are not only sent to the wicked, for Christ says, “Every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth (or prunes), that it may bring forth more fruit.”
2. Is it, then, not to be considered a sign of God's displeasure, when true Christians are afflicted ?
No. It is a sign rather of His love ; for St. Paul
says, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world.”1 Cor. xi. 32.
many as. I love, I rebuke and chasten.”_Rev. iii. 19. “ Thou shalt also consider in thine heart, that, as a man chasteneth his son, so the Lord thy God chasteneth thee.”Deut. viii. 5. 6 Blessed is the man whom thou
chastenest, O Lord, and teachest him out of thy law."-Ps. xciv. 12.
You are quite right. Perhaps you will remember how beautifully the Christian Poet has expressed it.
“ Happy the man who sees a God employed
In all the good and ill that chequers life."* And as a gardener often lops the branches off his good trees, so God, in His wisdom and goodness, sees it necessary to remove many objects, to which, perhaps, His children were too fondly attached, that they may feel sensible of their dependance, and live more to His honour, and bring forth the fruit of humble and active piety. God speaks in different ways to His children“to their eyes by His providence; to their ears by His word; to their heart by His Spirit ; and to their feelings by His rod.” It is a solemn truth, that afflictions always make us better, or worse : they never leave us as they found us. Christ told His disciples that, “ As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me.” John xv. 4. And you have frequently confessed in words that “ without Him you could do nothing.” Tell me, then, what it is that unites us to Christ?
Faith. For Christ declared, “He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him. As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father; so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me. This is that bread
which came down from heaven: not as your fathers did eat manna, and are dead : he that eateth of this bread shall live for ever. It is the spirit that quickeneth ; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.”—John vi. 56, 58, 63. we (Christians) are members of His body, of His flesh, and of his bones.”—Eph. v. 30.
Will faith save us ?
Yes,If it be a real and living faith in Christ, who has declared that “ Whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die.”—John xi. 26.
Faith is the hand that takes hold of Christ, who communicates life to the soul, for He is the source of life. “ In Him was life; and the life was the light of men.”—John i. 4. - For the bread of God is He which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world.”—John vi. 33.
If we have this vital life-giving faith, how will it appear? In
every good word and work. “ God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work.”—2 Cor. ix. 8. “ For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.”—James ii. 26.
You may have heard the remark before, “that we must not work for life, but from life.” And in concluding, I must exhort you “to give all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge ; and to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godli
ness ; and to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ,” 2 Peter i. 5, through whose merits, and by whose Spirit you will be transplanted from God's vineyard on earth to His kingdom in heaven.
Will you repeat a hymn ?
Before he must resiga his breath,
And sink beneath the hand of death.
The fleeting hours which Thou hast lent;
And live for heaven ere life be spent.
Since few and evil are our days;
Where grace her finish'd work displays.
THE PARABLE OF THE TEN VIRGINS.
Matt. xxv. 1-13. LUKE xii. 35.
You will perceive, from the preceding chapter, that this parable was spoken with a view to teach the necessity of continual preparation for death and judgment. But before I proceed to the questions that arise out of it, you will, perhaps, wish to hear something about the custom from which the parable was drawn. The marriages in the East were generally performed in the open air, or on the banks of a river. To the ceremony succeeded a feast for seven days, at the home of the bride's father. At the end of that time, the bridegroom conducted his bride with great pomp to their future residence. This was done in the evening, or at night. Many persons accompanied them; and, besides these, there was another company, which came from the bridegroom's house to welcome them, and was probably composed of his friends or relations, who, to make the procession more splendid, carried lamps, made by winding rags around pieces of iron, or earthenware, hollowed, so as to contain oil, and fastened to handles of wood. Not knowing the precise time when the procession might come, the virgins would probably go out early, and
wait by the way until they saw it approaching. The marriage ceremony took place before the bride left her father's house; but a feast was given at the house of her husband, which was also called the marriage, or a part of the marriage solemnities. In this place what is meant by the Kingdom of Heaven ?
The Church of Christ on earth.
To ten virgins going forth to meet a bridegroom.
State the character of these virgins.