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Canaan ;-saw those who honoured Him and sung Hosannas to His name, the children and women as He passed along would see what was sown to be the least of all seeds : would acknowledge the justness of the prophecy, “ He shall grow up as a tender plant, as a root out of a dry ground."
32. “But when it is sown, it groweth up, and becometh
greater than all herbs, and shooteth out great branches ; so that the fowls of the air may lodge under the shadow of it.”
Even before the death of Jesus, the tree was growing. The chief priests saw it needful to consult together, and said “What do we ? For this man doeth many miracles; and if we let Him alone, all men will believe in Him.” A few years after, “the word of God increased, and 'the number of disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly; and a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith."9 "The complaint of the unbelieving Jews at Thessalonica acknowledges the growth of the plant ;' for they said, “ Those that have turned the world upside down have come hither also." And Demetrius at Ephesus stirred up his fellow craftsmen, saving, “ Ye see how not alone at Ephesus, but almost throughout all Asia this Paul hath
persuaded and turned away much people.”
6 Isaiah liii. 2.
7 Travellers state this to be the case with the mustard tree of the East.
8 John xi. 47. 9 Acts vi. 7. " Ib. xvii. 6. ? Ib. xix. 26.
So “mightily grew the word of God, and prevailed,” till at last the least of all seeds became greater than all herbs, and shot out great branches. Those false gods which the ancient countries of Europe and Asia had “ignorantly worshipped,” gave way before the God of all the earth : and the temples which had been raised to Satan paid honour to Him who came to destroy the works of Satan. The gospel grew up like a gigantic forest tree; which for a while is overshadowed by those around it, and remains unobserved amongst the rest : till at length it rises above them, and spreads its branches on every side, and attains the lofty height which belongs to its nature, while the small shrubs and plants below gradually disappear, and cannot continue to exist under its shade.
But the fowls of the air may lodge under the shadow of it. The fowls of the air have nests, for which the branches of a spreading tree afford a proper resting place.
They find a shelter there, in the night season, or during the raging of the tempest. And so St. Paul speaks of those who have found a shelter in the gospel, having “fled for refuge to lay hold on the hope set before them.”3 And our Lord in uttering this parable, foresaw the fulfilment of that prophecy which said concerning Jerusalem,
The Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising." “ Lift up thine eyes round about, and see ; all they
3 Heb. vi. 18.
gather themselves together, they come unto thee,” they “fly as a cloud, like doves to their windows." 4 What else was it, when the dark
, ness which covered the earth was dispersed, and the light of the gospel prevailed : when multitudes came from the East and from the West, from the North and from the South, and sat down in the kingdom of God :" when all the nations which formed the vast empire of Rome one after another turned from the vanities of their idolatry " to serve the living and true God, and wait for His Son from heaven ?" 5 So that the least of all seeds to outward appearance and in earthly power, became greater than all herbs, and the fowls of the air lodged under its shadow.
And they are blessed who do find this resting place: experience the truth of the promise, “Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me, and ye
shall find rest unto your souls." As night approaches, or when a storm threatens, we observe the fowls of the air resorting to the shelter of some well known tree, and defending themselves beneath its branches. But it is their ancient haunt; their accustomed place of refuge. They have not then to seek one, when the darkness or the storm has come
So it must be with all who desire to find at last the shelter of the gospel. They must have foreseen the danger will arrive, and have provided for their souls in time. They must
4 Isa. lx. 1-4. 51 Thess. i. 9.
have prepared a shelter from the darkness during the proper season : whilst it is day. Our Lord has left a solemn caution against delay: “Many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able." 33. “ And with many such parables spake He the word
unto them, as they were able to hear it. 34. “But without a parable spake He not unto them :
and when they were alone, He expounded all things to His disciples.
TRIALS TO BE UNDERGONE.
MARK ix. 49.
49. “For every one shall be salted with fire, and every
sacrifice shall be salted with salt.” To understand this verse, we must call to mind the thoughts and sayings which precede and introduce it. Jesus had been speaking of the trials which His disciples must overcome; trials so severe, as to be justly compared to the parting with a right eye or a right hand : privations so painful to human nature, that nothing could induce men to submit to them, and maintain their faith in spite of them, except the awful alternative, It is better for thee to enter into the kingdom of God halt or maimed, than to be cast into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched.
• Luke xiii. 24.
He then proceeds to say, that they must be prepared for such trials. He tells them before they came to pass, in order that when they came, they might not be unexpected or unforeseen. “ For every one that would live godly in Christ Jesus,”—every faithful disciple-must expect to be tried, “even as gold is tried in the fire." For every one shall be salted with fire, and every sacrifice shall be salted with salt.
Three different images are here placed together : and must be separately considered, with the qualities belonging to them.
We have, first, an allusion to the properties of salt. It preserves from corruption. The salt enters into the substance to which it is applied ; and the consequence is, that what would otherwise speedily decay is kept free from putrefaction and dissolution.
The next image is taken from the properties of fire. Fire has the effect of separating the parts of substances exposed to it: and therefore enables the workman to remove what is worthless, and retain what is valuable. Such is the process of refining. The metal is dissolved by the operation of heat: those parts of it which are impure and refuse ascend towards the surface, and are skimmed off by the workman as they rise, till by degrees the alloy has altogether been removed, and only the pure silver or gold remains.
These reflections on the respective properties of salt and of fire, prepare us for the explanation of the words, For every one shall be salted with