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OBSERVATION. TT is a pleasant fight in antumn to see the fruitful branches hanging full of clusters, which weigh the boughs to the ground.
Alpice curvatos pomorum pondere ramos,
Which I may thus English.
The fruitful clusters boquing down the tree! But these laden branches are foon eafed of their burden; for as soon as they are ripe, the husbandman afcends the tree, and thaking the limbs with all his might, caules a fruitsul shower to fall like hailstones upon the ground below; which being gathered to a heap, are carried to the pound, broken all to pieces in a trough, and squeezed to a dry lump in the press, whence all their juice and moisture runs into the fat. How few escape this fat of all those multitudes that grow in the orchard ? If you look upon the trees, you may poffibly fee here one, and there another, two or three upon the utmost branches, but nothing in comparison to the vast number that are thus used.
THESE small remains of fruit, which are either left upon the tree,
or gathered in for an board, do well rcfumble that finall numher of God's elect in the world, which free-grace hath referved out of the general ruin of mankind. Tour things are excellently lhadowed forth to us by this fiinilituce.
1. You fee in a fruitful antuma, the trees even opprefled and overladen with the weight of their own fruits, before the shaking time comes, and then they are eared of their burden. Thus the whole creation groans under the weight of their fins, who inhabit it, Rom. viii. 22. the creatures are in bondage, and by an elegant Prosopopeia, are faid, both to groan and wait for deliverance. The original sin of nian brought an criginal curse, which burdens the creature, Gen.jii. 17. “ Curfel is the ground for thy fake; and the actual fin of man “ brings actual cursos upon the creature, Psalm cvii. 34. Thus the inbabitants of the world load and burden it, as the limbs of a tree are burdened, and sometimes broken with the weight of :heir own fruit.
2. You inay observe in your orchards every year, what abundance of fruits daily fail, either by forms, or of their own accord; but when the shaking time comes, then the ground is covered all over
with fruit. Thus it is with the world, that mystical tree, with respect to men that inhabit it; there is not a year, a day, or hour, in which some drop not, as it were, of their own accord, by a natural death ; and sometimes wars and epidemical plagues blow down thousands together into their graves; these are as high winds in a fruitful orchard; but when the shaking time, the autumn of the world, comes, then all its inhabitants shall be shaken down together, either by death, or a translation equivalent thereunto.
3. When fruits are shaken down from their trees, then the hurbandman separates them; the far greater part for the pound, and some few reserved for an hoard, which are brought to his table, and eaten with pleasure. This excellently shadows forth that great separation, which Christ will make in the end of the world, when some shall be cast into the wine-press of the Almnighty's wrath, and others preserved for glory.
4. Those fruits which are preserved on the tree, or in the board, are, comparatively, but an handful to those that are broken in the pound; alas ! it is scarce one of a thousand, and such a small remnant of elected fouls hath God reserved for glory.
I look upon the world as a great tree, consisting of four large limbs or branches; this branch or division of it on which we grow, hath, doubtless, a greater nu.nber of God's elect upon it than the other three; and yet, when I look with a serious and considering eye upon this fruitful European branch, and see how much rotten and withered fruit there grows upon it, it makes me fay, as Chrysostom did of his populous Antioch; Ah, how small a remnant hath Jesus Christ among these vast numbers ! « Many indeed are called, but « ah! how few are chosen ?” Mat. xx. 16. Alas! they are but as the gleanings when the vintage is done; here and there one upon its utmost branches : to allude to that, Isa. xvii. 6. It was a sad observarion which that searching scholar, Mr Brerewood, long fince made upon the world ; tbat, dividing it into thirty equal parts, he found no less than nineteen of them wholly overspread with idolatry and heathenith darkness; and of the eleven remaining parts, no less than fix are Mahometans; so that there remains but five of thirty which profess the Christian religion at large ; and the far greater part of these remaining five are invelopped and drowned in popith darknefs; so that you see the reformed Protestant religion is confined to a small spot of ground indeed. Now, if from these we subtract all the grofly ignorant, openly profane, merely civil, and secretly hypocritical, judge tben in yourselves, how small a scantling of the world falls to Christ's lhare.
Well might Christ say, Mat. vii. 14. “ Narrow is the way, and « ftrait is the gate that leadeth unto life; and few there be that find " it;" And again, Luke xii. 32. “ Fear not little flock.” The large piece goes to the devil; a little remnant is Christ's, Rom. ix. 27. Saints in scripture, are called jewels, Mal. iii. 17. Precious pearls
and diamonds, which the Latins call Uniones. Quia nulli duo fimul reperiuntur, (faith Pliny) because nature gives them not by pairs, but one by one : how many pebbles to one pearl ! Suitable to this notion, is that complaint of the prophet, Mic. vii. 1, 2. “ Wo is me! for I or am as when they have gathered the summer-fruits, as the grape“ gleanings of the vintage ; there is no cluster to eat; my foul de“ fired the first ripe fruits; the good man is perished out of the earth, " and there is none, (i. e. none comparatively) upright among men.” The prophet alludes to a poor hungry man, that, after the gathering time is paft, comes into an orchard defiring some choice fruit to eat ; but, alas ! he finds none; there is no cluster; possibly here and there one after the shaking time. True saints are the world's rarities.
1. What then will be my lot, when that great A reflection for onen
on shaking time shall come, who have followed the that follows the ex
multitude, and gone with the tide of the world ? ample of the multi
How, even when I have been pressed to strictness tude.
and fingular diligence in the matters of salvation, and told what a narrow way the way of life is, have I put it off with this? If it be so, then wo to thousands! Ah, foolish heart! Thousands, and ten thousands shall be woful and miserable, indeed, to all eternity! Will it be any mitigation of my misery, that I fall have thousands of miserable companions with me in hell ? Or, will it be admitted for a good plea at the judgment-seat, Lord, I did as the generality of my neighbours in the world did ; except it were here and there a more precise person, I saw none but lived as I lived. Ah, foolish sinner! is it not better to go to heaven alone, than to hell with company?. The worst courses have always the most imitators; and the road to destruction is thronged with passengers. 2. And how little better is my condition, who have often fathered
the wickedness of my own heart, upon the enA refle£tion for an couragement of mercy ? Thus hath my heart abuser of mercy. pleaded against strictness and duty; God is a mer
ciful God, and will not be so severe with the world, to damn fo many thousands as are in my condition. Deluded. foul ! if God had damned the whole race of Adam, he had done them no more wrong: yea, there is more mercy in saving but one man, than there is of feverity and rigour in damning all. How many drunkards and adulterers have lived and died with thy plea in their mouths, « God is a merciful God ?” But yet liis word expressly faith, "Be “ not deceived ; such shall not inherit the kingdom of God,” i Cor. vi. 9. God, indeed, is a God of infinite mercy; but he will never exercise his mercy to the prejudice of his truth.
3. Oh! what rich grace is here, That in a general shipwreck mere
of lould cast forth a line or plank to fave me !
01 The heaps of fruit which fall from shaken trees,
The greatest numbers to the pound are borne.
Had the whole species perish'd in their fin,
fruit-tree, if the husbandman see it be quite dead, and that there can be no more expectation of any fruit from it, he brings his ax, and hews it down by the root; and from the orchard it is carried to the fire, it being then fit for nothing else; he reckons it imprudent to let such a useless tree abide in good ground, where another may be planted in its room, that will better pay for the ground it stands in. I myself once saw a large orchard of fair but fruitless trees all rooted up, rived abroad, and ricked up for the fire:
APPLICATION. THUS deals the Lord by useless and barren professors who do but
cumber his ground, Matth. iii. 10. “ And now also the ax is “ laid to the root of the trees; therefore every tree that brings not “ forth good fruit, is hewn down and cast into the fire." And Lukexið. 7. “ Then said the dresser of the vineyard, Behold, these three years “ I came seeking fruit on this fig-tree, and find none ; cut it down; “ why cumbereth it the ground ?" These three years, alluding to the time of his ministry, he being at that time entering upon the last half-year, as one observes, by harmonizing the evangelifts; so long he had waited for the fruit of his ministry among those dead-hearted Jews; now his patience is even at an end : cut them down (faith he) why cumber they the ground ? I will plant others, (viz. the Gentiles) in their room. This hewing down of the barren tree doth, in a liveJy manner, shadow forth God's judicial proceedings against formal