SPRIG.

BY JOH CORDER,
" The earth bringeth forth her bud."— Is. Ixi. 11.
"The earth bringeth forth her bud." — Thus writes
the prophet,— using this observed fact in nature, as a
figure to illustrate the springing forth and spreading of
righteousness and praise before all the nations.
ature still works after her ancient methods, invit-
ing us to observe her ways, and see in them, still,
figures and illustrations and helps toward a deeper and
clearer and more satisfying apprehension of the ways
of God. " The earth bringeth forth her bud " still — the
token of reviving life after the long pause of our
lengthened winter. The winding sheet of snow is not
yet quite removed from our land, but already do we
feel the influence of the vital forces which are to lift
it altogether away, and raise life into manifestation
triumphantly and universally. " The trees of the Lord
are full of sap," writes the psalmist, "the cedars of
H
114 SERMO viri.
Lebanon which he hath planted." JJut the maples of
Canada, too, are his — planted by hlra, as surely as tlie
cedars of Lebanon. And the swelling buds of our
maples tliis moniing speak of the presence of the hving
God, working through the l?oueficent ministries of
nature, so familiar to our eyes, yet so marvellous and
mysterious.
On last Sunday, having shown forth the Lord Christ's
death, according to his own appointment and request,
we likewise declared his resurrection. The early
church of the west, which is the church of our fathers,
recognised the analogy between the operations of
nature and of grace, and desiring to perpetuate the
recognition, placed the high anniversary festival of
the resurrection of our Lord in the spring season
of the year, when the earth puts forth its buds and
other tokens of rising life. They substituted it for
the ancient easter or spring festival of the Saxons.
The resurrection in the material world comes to help
us by its analogies towards an adequate apprehension
of the resurrection in the spiritual world. The forms
and manifestations of death and life are wonderfully
commingled — we might rather say, mysteriously linked
together everywhere. It has been said of the city
of Rome that in walking through its present streets
wo walk upon the grave of a former city. If we raise
the pavement and dig far enough, we reach pavements
and monuments which speak afresh of the life of
former generations. And farther southward in Italy
I have seen a field waving with golden grain, while
SPRIG. 115
away far beneath its roots, wore the buried remains of
a city, whoso streets, gradually disentombed, showed
the fresh traces of a social and political life just as it
was lived eighteen centuries ago. But the whole earth,
though teeming with present life, is yet a tomb — a
huge monument of decay and death. The solid rocks
have yielded before the unremitting action of the ele-
ments throughout the countless ages, and they lie in
their dissolution beneath our feet at every step. What
is the rich and fertile soil which cheers the heart and
gives vigor to the arm of the cultivator ? The dissolved
and decayed remains of organic Hfe. The whole earth
is a sepulchre. In the bogs of Ireland may bo seen
the giants of forests of former epochs, prostrate and
entombed, — fir-trees ancient as those of Iliram and
Solomon, and oaks wlierein sap has ceased to flow
for untold centuries. Dig where you will, throughout
our globe, you come into contact with the rejnains of
former life. But these dead remains carry with them
or within them not only the germs and forms of life, —
which is marvellous ; — but they carry also, in some
profoundly secret way, the principle of life — so mys-
terious in itself. And so the earth is always ready for
a resurrection unto life as soon as certain conditions
outside of iteelf are fulfilled toward it. If one form of
manifested life is undesirable we may destroy it, but
we must be prepared to see it replaced by another.
We may burn up or root up one particular crop in
forest or in field, but the earth will not suspend its
vital forces, nor by its utter barrenness confess the
116 SERMO VIII.
exliauslion of its germs of life. It will assert its vital
powers and resources by putting forth fresh organisms.
Our planet revolves on its axis, and traverses its orbit
— one of the millions which go to make up the unut-
terable wonder and glory of the universe. It revolves
on its axis, and for a certain number of hours during
each revolution has a portion of its surface away from
the sun. Then, to some extent, may we see the decay
of life in plant and animal. The feebler plant has no
longer strength to keep its petals open. The ephemeral
insect dies. But when this portion of its surface re-
turns to the sun, the feeble and sensitive plant revives,
and other ephemerals rise into life. Our planet tra-
verses its orbit, and for a certain number of months
during its annual round, a portion of its surface receives
less of the sun's rays. Then vegetable life shrivels and
dies. Then in our northern latitudes the earth is
covered Tvith a winding sheet of ice and snow. But
when this portion of its surface turns more generously
to the sun, this winding sheet is loosened and removed,
and. Ufe breaks forth in strength and beauty and ample
promise. The frozen sepulchre unsealed by the sun's
genial rays, the earth asserts its powers and vindicates
its vital resources by putting forth its bud — its bud, at
once the token of present life and the promise of an
ampler and far more fully developed life yet to come.
" The earth bringeth forth her bud." And what a
marvel the bud is which the earth brings forth ! I do
not envy the mind that can look upon the buds of
spring with indifference. I do not envy the mind that
SPRIG. 117
can look with indifference on these thronging tokens of
renewal of life. I can have no feeling but that of com
passion for the mind which could examine one of the
full buds of spring without being moved to a feeling of
love and wonder and adoration towards God as source
of life, benignant providence, and gracious Father of
all spirits. We dwell in the midst of mystery, but all
the manifestations of the universe are gracious. —
' Manifold, indeed, are the works of God. In wisdom
has he made them all. The earth is full of his riches.
All creatures wait upon him. He openeth his hand
and they are filled with good. He taketh away their
breath, they die, and return to their dust. He sendeth
forth his spirit, they are created, and he reneweth the
face of the earth.' — Such song of praise, as the Hebrew
psalmist sung, is fitting still for all hearts. And at no
season more fitting than just now, when the sun which
warms our planet is rising daily higher, and, by his
increasing rays, breaking the fetters of winter, so that
every form of life may reappear to gladden the heart
of man by various use and beauty.
" The earth bringeth forth her bud." I have said
that the bud is a wonder in itself. And it is a beauti-
ful token and sign of the wonder-working providence
of God, which penetrates all the recesses of nature —
moving all its forces, moulding all its forms, and pro-
ducing all its results. What marvellous forecast is
every where manifested in nature ! Long before open
results are seen, the preparation therefor is made.
The little acorn carries concealed within its shell, at
. 118 SERMO viir.
once the prophecy of, and preparation for, the great
oak which is to spread its hundred branches in the au\
" The earth bringeth forth her bud." Our trees are
as yet bare of foliage, for the snow of winter as yet
lies on the ground. But the buds are on the branches
— faithful bearers of the promise of the joyous leafage
of more advanced spring and the luxuriant foliage of
the summer. Mute enough and lifeless enough the
buds appear as we give the tree a passing glance. But
when we pause to examine them, they speak to us
most impressively through the forms of life which they
carry concealed within, and the clear revelation which
they make of the working of a vital force in those
hidden forms, toward an ampler development of life,
when they shall be spread open to air and light and the
sight of all eyes. K we would not be content with a
mere passing glance, which gives us no knowledge nor
sense of the wonder of life and living force which a
bud contains, let us put forth our hand and draw it
near to us. Going into garden, or field, or by the
w^ayside, let us put forth our hand to examine the bud
w^hich the earth now brings forth. Looking at its out-
side or sheathing, we may not be much edified or
impressed, yet may a careful scrutiny, even here, show
us the signs of living forces at work within. But if
we carefully dissect the bud or take it asunder, the
marvels of its structure become very impressive and
suggestive. Take a chestnut bud for illustration, as
it is larger and more readily examined by the naked
eye. Observe its sheathing or external covering ; —
SPRIG. 119
its interior covering of wool ; — the minute leaf forms
within, &c.
" The earth bringeth forth her bud." The external
and material world presents us with types and figures
to illustrate the growth and development of life in the
inward and spiritual world. Look what the bud is.
We have just noticed its structure. The minute germ
of the future foliage is hidden away in the bud beneath
many coverings. The mysterious principle of life is
lodged in that germ, working from within, outward, in
its own marvellous way, gradually bursting the soft
white wool in which it is swathed, and the multiplied
folds of outward sheathing ui which it was sealed as in
a sealed sepulchre. In some such way is the hidden
life lodged within us all, working still outward, deve-
loping itself through divinely origmated forces and
laws. As in the material world the law is, " to every
seed its own body," so in the spiritual world the growth
and development of the individual life come from the
root principles which we cherish in our heart, as the
chief treasure thereof. Our life comes from our ruling
affections and desires. As in the material world from
the seed of thistles and the bud of thorns grows a
body of thistle and thorn, so in the spiritual world from
a cherished root principle of worldliness and sin grows
a body of character bearing the fruit of worldliness
and sin. As in the material world from the seed of
figs and the bud of grape grows the body of the fig-tree
and the grape, so in the spiritual world from a cherished
root principle of hoHness and righteousness grows a
120 SERMO VIII.
body of character bearing the fruit of holiness and
righteousness. While we are in the flesh and in this
mundane sphere, what we really are may never ade-
quately be made known — at least to each other. But,
in the divinely ordained order of nature, the fall of this
body of flesh will set free the body of character, which
is the spiritual body, and then we shall see, face to
face, clearly, openly, and without the concealment of
outside coverings. Then shall the secret things of all
hearts be revealed, and that w^hich has been covered
shall be openly made known. At present, there are
so many outside coverings and disguises, some know-
ingly put on through craft and simulation, and some
cleaving to us unconsciously, through sheer indolence
or personal wilfulness, that we not only fail to know
each other as we are, but we can scarcely know our-
selves as we ought. We are in such hot haste after
our gains, which we make our God, or after such poor
puerilities as please the whim of the hour, that we
refuse to pause and consider what manner of persons
we are, or what is the character of the hfe which is
growing up within us.
" The earth bringeth forth her bud," and the trees
^ now tell us that she will speedily burst the sepulchre
in which their hfe is now hid, and spread out its various
forms in full view. This is the joyous resurrection of
nature — a resurrection full of promise. What is the
promise of the other resurrection — the resurrection
moral and spiritual ? What is the character of the
life that lies concealed in us all, as the germ lies in
SPRIG. 121
tlie bud, for farther growth, and future open manifesta-
tion ? Whence does it seek its nourishment and sup-
port ? What are its ruling affections and desires ?
Does it seek to live by bread alone, or that which
satisfies the sense merely ? Or does it seize and appro-
priate the word of God as a support and joy to the
spirit ? Is it a life of sin bringing forth openly the
baleful fruits of sin, or a life of hidden worldliness
covered over by a cloak of decent outside morality ?
Or is it a life self-denying and devoted, after the
manner of Christ — a " life hid with Christ in God."
Here, my friends, are questions which deeply and
directly concern us all. In all affection I would pre-
sent them for your consideration, as in all sincerity I
would put them to myself. Verily they are great and
grave questions, challenging and demanding precedence
before all others. Here let me recur to the lessons of
the crucifixion in which we have been engaged so
recently. Recal the self-denial, self-sacrifice, love,
obedience and devotion of Christ. His spirit in us
conquers evil in all its forms of selfishness, worldliness
and open sin. His spirit within us brings a new and
potent principle of life, destined to a celestial develop-
ment in grace, glory, and joy eternal.
And here let me recur, likewise, to one of the lessons
suggested at our communion table last Sunday. Pe-
riodic seasons of self-recollection are of signal service
to us in reviewing the several stages of our individual
experience, and reaching an adequate knowledge of
our interior life in its actual character and prevailing
tendencies.
122 • SERMO VIII.
And here, finally, let me recur to the high and
inspiring thought of the resurrection which we con-
sidered also on last Sunday. The resurrection of the
Lord fills us with a hope which, in the faithful soul,
soon ripens into assurance that we, too, shall become
the subjects of a resurrection — of a resurrection unto
life, wherein and whereby we shall be raised to a life
of clearer light, of grander proportions, ot deeper
peace, and of higher joy, than we have ever yet expe-
rienced. " The earth bringeth forth her bud," and
rises to new and joyous life in the spring time, carry-
ing the promise of ampler and more fruitful hfe in
time yet to come. The risen and ascended Christ
has opened the w^ay and made it clear, whereby all
souls may rise from any and every present death of
sin to the life of righteousness. He has shown us all
that, through reception of his spirit, a life may be
formed within — a life of love, loyalty, and devotion
toward God, which time cannot limit, nor eternity
exhaust — a life divine, which is destined to disengage
itself from all mortal conditions, and grow with larger,
brighter and more glorious growth in the open pre-
sence of God throughout an immortal existence.
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