The Imperishable Beauty of the Spiritual Spring
Ezekiel 47:12
And by the river on the bank thereof, on this side and on that side, shall grow all trees for meat, whose leaf shall not fade…

The text is the promise and the picture of a never-fading spring. On which side of death is that imperishable beauty and fruitfulness — this or that? I think that, although the river comes down from the throne of God and the Lamb, and is, therefore, heavenly in its origin, the whole picture is an earthly scene, the springtide of human goodness, created and perpetually nourished by influences from above; the river being the love and grace of God flowing freely among us; the trees being the men who are planted by its side; the leaf and fruit being the moral and spiritual beauty and graces which they bear through their continual reception of the power and love of God into their nature. There is in this utterance a firm belief in the eternal power of goodness, a belief which also runs through the whole of Scripture, glorifying it to the last page. Is all this poetry, or is it fact? If goodness in the human spirit is to endure forever, if its beauty is not to fade, if its fruitfulness is not to fail, then there must be some sign, even on earth, of this strength and vitality. And. as a matter of fact, it is my observation of the character of goodness upon earth, as a living thing, that can be taken account of, that can be watched and measured in its progress or decline, that I have seen outlasting and outliving all manner of hostile influences, that I have beheld, as fair, as tender, as generously fruitful in old age and in youth, aye, even more so; it is this surprising, moral phenomenon which has led me to this theme. No one, I think, not even the most misanthropical, would deny that in youth, or in the early days of the soul's espousals to the Saviour, there is the charm of a perfect sincerity, of a guileless simplicity, of a warm affectionateness, of a noble enthusiasm, of a devoted self-forgetfulness. "Yes," rejoins the cynic, "and it all vanishes when he comes into contact with the realities Of life: his ingeniousness becomes cautious prudence, his zeal measured calculation, his brotherliness a mere show of warmth, his devoutness a proper formalism; he is corrupted from his simplicity, if he ever had any." Now, that is what I deny. Observe, I do not deny that it happens to some men — alas! to too many — to all whose spiritual life is nourished by inadequate influences, and is therefore a name not a reality; but the marvel is thereby only increased, that others should be able, by some means at their command, to withstand all blighting and perverting spiritual influences, and in their old age should he more like little children than ever they were before. You know good men and women, who, for a lifetime, have gone in and out of the cottages of the poor, unnoticed and unpraised; who have spoken words of truth to ears that seemed deaf, and to hearts that were like stone; who have sympathised with, and counselled and aided, the most hopeless of all classes; and who, now that their hair is grey and their strength failing, are abundant in labours. And they would do it all over again, if they were called of God. No regrets have they for undertaking such a task, but only that they have not done it better. No sorrow have they for having been too zealous, too prayerful, too laborious, but only that they were not more so. And through what various scenes they have passed, and what various fruits of the Spirit they have borne! In days of strength they were active, "ready to every good work." In days of prosperity they were humble, not boasting as if they could do anything as of themselves, but gladly confessing that from Christ was "their fruit found." In days of adversity they were hopeful, believing that "all things were possible with God." In days of sickness they were submissive, quieting their souls with the assurances of the Father's love. In days of disappointment they were silent, knowing that "though Israel be not gathered," yet God would be glorified. In all days they were brotherly, kindly affectioned, gentle, upright, true, striving to behave as became the children of the perfect Father. "The trees shall bring forth 'new' fruit, according to their months. Hereto is My Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit, so shall ye be My disciples." But do not let us even yet pass away from the fact that while the "outward man," the body, waxes feebler, and the brightness of the intellect is dimmed, the Divine beauty of the Spirit can shine forth with purer radiance, for "the inward man is renewed day by day." There is the case of Moses: was he, at the end of a forty years' struggle with the stubbornness, ingratitude, fickleness, and unbelief of the Israelites, a less ardent lover of his people, a feebler believer in God, a colder-hearted man, with less courage and less self-abandonment than when he went out frown Pharaoh's palace a lonely wanderer, "esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt, because he had respect unto the recompense of the reward"? There is the case of Daniel: his youth in the court of a heathen conqueror was most attractive for its sweet simplicity, its angelic regard for spiritual rather than carnal things; well, was he at all corrupted or degraded by that court, when, next to the king, he became its most conspicuous figure? Was he less temperate, less prayerful, less God-fearing, less spiritual in tone and temper? There is the case of St. Paul: you know with what heroic courage he threw himself into the battle for Christ against both Judaism and heathenism; you know, too, how much he had to endure for the Gospel's sake, but remark, chiefly, how much of this came from false brethren, and cold brethren, and unloving brethren, and brethren who slighted his love, and caricatured his appearance, and you will be better able to estimate the greatness of the triumph which Christ won over him, and through him. For he never slackened his labours the least, nor avoided one of his dangers, but fresh, with more than first enthusiasm, he spent every pulse of his life in his work. What is the explanation of this phenomenon? It is what the prophet gives, "Because their waters they issued out of the sanctuary." Yes, there is a sacred place, a pure, holy fountain where the spirit of a man may cleanse itself from the dust and stains of the world, where also it may refresh itself with living water, so that it. shall live forever. There is "a river of God" on whose banks we may grow as trees of life, bearing fruit for meat and leaves for medicine. We may have an eternal springtime out of this perennial stream. All depends upon the relation of the tree to the river whose waters issue out of the sanctuary, Only let the tree's roots be within reach of the river, and then the greater the summer heat, and the fewer the showers that fall, and the more freely will it draw its supplies from thence. So the soul of man when it finds no encouragement in human approval, or fashions, or hope of present reward, or even of present success, but is rather tried by all the influences around it, clings the more earnestly and more simply to God, receiving directly from Him its impulses, and finding in Him its satisfaction.

(J. P. Gledstone.).

Parallel Verses
KJV: And by the river upon the bank thereof, on this side and on that side, shall grow all trees for meat, whose leaf shall not fade, neither shall the fruit thereof be consumed: it shall bring forth new fruit according to his months, because their waters they issued out of the sanctuary: and the fruit thereof shall be for meat, and the leaf thereof for medicine.

WEB: By the river on its bank, on this side and on that side, shall grow every tree for food, whose leaf shall not wither, neither shall its fruit fail: it shall bring forth new fruit every month, because its waters issue out of the sanctuary; and its fruit shall be for food, and its leaf for healing.

The Double Service - Meat and Medicine
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