No.

4

G L E A N I N G S

F R O M

A

C H R I S T I A N ’ S

L I B R A R Y

In some of the London parks, many years ago, it was the custom at the end of the season to give the surplus plants to the people who may apply for them. A notice was placed which ran as follows;The Superintendent Having been instructed by the First Commissioner of Her Majesty’s Works, &c To distribute, as heretofore, his surplus bedding-out plants; Notice is hereby given That the said distribution will take place at Kennington Park, On Thursday October 25th, Between the hours of 9 am and 4 pm. Desiring to see the process of distribution, I visited the park, but did not get a particularly warm welcome from the officials. That day they meant business, and as I had only come to ask questions, I was, I suspect, considered a little bit of a hindrance. There stood the men behind a dozen large piles of plants, and they were so busy giving them to the applicants, to each a little that I desired to stand by, and be silent, and study the various aspects of the transaction. To begin, then, Firstly: I thought that God’s ministers should be like those park gardeners, so busy giving the people the Word of God as to have no time to spend in answering foolish questions, or to take notice of idle curiosity. As soon as it was apparent that I wanted no plants, I got the cold shoulder; and those who deal with souls will do well, while they treat earnest hearts with great tenderness, quietly avoid those whose only object is discussion, criticism or complaint. On my way to the scene of operations I was easily able to tell those who had been already supplied: they carried in their arms the precious plants they had received. A few tried to hide them under a shawl or apron, even as some Christian people, as foolish and ungrateful, try to hide the grace of God bestowed upon them. But for the most part the plants were uncovered; and a fine testimony to the produce of the park was the stream of people one met at each park gate, and along the streets in the vicinity. Many a person

stopped to inquire the reason of it all. And oh! If those who know Christ were not ashamed of Him, how many there would be who would inquire what these things meant, and hear, and fear, and turn unto the Lord. What struck my fancy most was that the plants were given to all sorts of people. There were children and old women: old men too, and middle-aged people by the score. Boys bounding from school stopped and took home an armful, while many came on set purpose to secure them. All seemed welcome, and none were refused. A man with one eye came up, but did not seem to be disqualified: neither was a woman with one leg, who followed him almost immediately. This is wondrously like salvation. All may come and share its blessings. The children cannot come too soon: the aged are never too late: nothing disqualifies, if only there is an honest desire for the salvation. “Him that cometh to Me I will in no wise cast out.” But most of those who came were poor people, I noticed; so I asked one of the caretakers whether the rich were not allowed to share. He said, “Yes, if they like; but many of them don’t come.” Even thus it is with the gospel – “not many rich, not many noble are called,” but the “poor have the gospel preached unto them.” Still the rich may come, if they like, you know; but the poor are just as welcome. The ‘little’ sinners and the ‘big’ sinners both get the same reception. There is no difference. I also saw some that put the plants in baskets: some in bags: some in paper: some in a cloth; but most of them carried them openly in arms. It didn’t matter how they took them so long as they did take them. Now, dear friend and seeking sinner, the same holds true with salvation. The grand thing is to get it: the way you get it, the experience you have, or the manner of your conversion matters but little. If only Christ is yours, all is well. But while the plants were given to all sorts of people, they all get them on the same terms; and those were true gospel terms: FOR NOTHING, even as Isaiah speaks of living water, “without money and without price.” (Isa.51:1-2) And yet there were certain conditions to be complied with before anyone could procure the supply of plants. These conditions did not partake of the nature of payment, but were only precautionary measures, in order that none might get the plants except those that really wanted them; else in an idle moment some might have taken them and the next, in an altered mind, flung them away. Each one had to apply at the lodge for a ticket, as a test of genuineness and sincerity. The tickets were given freely, but the crush at the

gate effectually kept back all but those who were in earnest. Now, God demands of seekers that they be in earnest; only those who seek with the whole heart find. Repentance is a pledge of sincerity, and therefore a man cannot be saved unless he repents. Some, seeing the crush, turned and went away; others waited for a little while, but soon got tired and departed. Fit emblems these of those, who, interested in divine things for a time, by-and-by, when persecution arises, straightaway are offended. One woman, I noticed, came up and expected to have the plants without a ticket, and would on no account apply for one. She thought her case should be an exception, and did not submit her will to that of the park authorities, who, if they gave the plants away, had a perfect right to make any conditions they chose. Many, like her, are not willing to have God’s way, and until they bend their will to His, they will never be partakers of His goodness. Having secured the ticket, all that the people had to do was to present it. They needed not to say a word, or give any other sign but this. Some asked for the plants while they held out the tickets; others asked not, but, holding out the ticket, were supplied. The ticket and not the ticket-holder was the reason of success. So, thought I, the promise of Christ is my plea when I come to God to ask for His forgiveness and acceptance, and not my own poor self. It matters not what I am, or what I say, if only I get hold of a promise, and present it at the throne of grace. This will I do: I will claim all God’s words as mine, and, pleading them, receive His fullness of blessing. And here, too, was another lesson close at hand. The tickets once used were sent into the lodge to be given to others and used again, and so many times. Thus, the promises used by God’s people of old, are used by us now, and shall be by others coming after us. There were a few who, though they had the ticket, did not present it at once, but waited, and hesitated, and looked with an abashed, half-ashamed look, first at the plants, then at the people who were getting them, and then at the men who gave them. Then, summoning up courage, they jerked out their ticket, and lo! They could scarcely believe it; they too were enriched in the self-fame way. They thought it too good to be true, like many who have long lingered on the verge of salvation: some linger still. Be encouraged, timid soul: late faith is still faith, though it is long delayed. Even now “take with you words and say, ‘Receive us graciously!’”

It was amusing to watch a group of children: they had got a ticket and ran up to the piles of plants, but they were afraid to present their ticket, and ran away again. This they did several times, and then stood still as if half-afraid, and slowly they held out their ticket, expecting to be at once taken to prison for their rashness. But instead thereof, the gardener’s face became covered with sunshiny smiles, and he gave them even more than their share. Laughing and skipping, they ran off, jumping in their glee, and sending back shrieks of merriment. Thus was weak faith honoured, and I think that I have seen it so, when some trembling and doubting souls come to God. They need not have feared while the Father smiled from Heaven. Many, like the children, went away happy and thankful; but there were some who were neither grateful nor joyful. But the possession of the plants depended neither on their feeling nor their praise, but on their complying with the conditions, and accepting the free gift. They ought to have been thankful; but the gift was theirs, even as eternal life is ours, simply because we took it. Unfortunately, I noticed that only a small proportion of the people were supplied. What were the reasons? 1. Many knew nothing about it: they had neither heard nor read the notice; some were too busy to do so, others too careless. 2. Some forgot all about it. 3. Some were too much occupied with other things to come. 4. Many had no desire for the plants: they stopped, read, looked, and passed on. 5. Some were too proud to take the plants for nothing: they would gladly have paid for them; but they were to be given and not sold. 6. Others desired to accept them, but would have been ashamed to carry them home. 7. And last of all, some were too late. The clock struck four and the plants were all gone, when some came hurriedly up to the gate, and when they discovered their position they tried to look unconcerned, but beneath their apparent carelessness lay an ill-concealed disappointment.

It is surely unnecessary to apply these seven points. Will the reader kindly favour the writer by going back over these reasons again, and finding out which of them is, spiritually, the hindrance to the acceptance of the good news in his or her case? It is one of seven. Ignorance from whatever cause; Forgetfulness; Worldliness; Carelessness; Pride; False shame; Procrastination. Which of these is it? Slay the monster! All who had a real desire for the plants were able to get them. The desire may have arisen when they, in the summer, saw the plants blooming in their beds, or saw others like them; or when some had read the notice; or when some had been told of the distribution by their friends; or when they had seen others carrying away their freely-given and gladly-received gift and inquired with them. (Those who hid the plants had no inquiries addressed to them; just as Christians who do not show their faith in everyday living are never used to lead others to Christ.) But however the desire originated, all who got the gift desired it, and determined to apply for it. If you desire salvation, no matter how the desire arose, arise and accept the salvation God offers you. Notice, lastly, that the gift was not to remain as it was given. The plant would thus have soon died. It was to be taken home and planted, watered, and cared for, put in the sunshine, kept away from close rooms, given plenty of fresh air, and otherwise nurtured and nourished. If this has been done the coming summer will see many afresh in full flower in many houses. Many a room will be made beautiful and many a heart made happier. And all this, so to speak, because these people will ‘work out their own salvation. You see I pass from the illustration to the reality. Learn, then, that though the salvation is a gift, the gift is to be planted in the heart, brought into contact with God’s Spirit and God’s word, and developed and displayed by all the holy influences of a life lived for God’s glory. And in this way what is good at the beginning will become better as the days go on, until, when the Summer shall have gone, and autumn comes, the plant of grace and the soul in which

it grows will be taken, and in better soil, and in better air, blossom in the splendour of glory. Only, my soul, do make certain that thou First of all apply for this precious plant: Comply with the conditions of Faith: Reply to the offer of salvation by accepting the gift: And supply the gift with the healthful surroundings to bring it to perfection
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I have not much to offer To Christ, my Lord and King; No wealth, no might, no wisdom, No noble gift to bring. "Five loaves and two small fishes?" But what alas are they Among the throngs of hungry who crowd life's troubled way? "Five loaves and two small fishes?" Not much, dear heart, 'tis true; But yield them to the Master and see what He can do! Placed in His hands of mercy Thy little will be much. 'Tis not thy gift that matters But His almighty touch!
All the above material is taken from books which are in my library. Totaf

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