Old Truths and New Forms
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…

It is one proof of the divinity of the Gospel that, while maintaining its own character, unaffected by the changing currents of human speculation, it still adapts itself to the new conditions with which it has to deal. It brings forth new fruit according to the seasons. I propose to consider what the new fruit is, which we find in our own age, to inquire which of it is good, and which so evil that wisdom at once rejects it; and as introductory to it, to consider the influences which are at work among us tending to change, and the kind of change which has already been accomplished. Great changes, which have the most enduring effect are not, in general, those which most impress the imagination by their rapidity and suddenness, but those which are the result of slow processes, that go on silently, which are hardly noticed until they are revealed in the extraordinary effects which they have produced. There are two figures by which our Lord describes the action of His truth. The one is that of the seed, the other is that of leaven, and they alike illustrate the general principle that the "kingdom of God cometh not with observation." Both teach us to expect a subtle and inward spiritual influence gradually affecting society, not in miraculous force producing an immediate revolution. The figures, in truth, are descriptive of the history of all thought. Whether true or false, for good or evil, its power is, for the most part, of this diffusive nature, percolating class after class, spreading by seeds borne we know not how, finding lodgment in spots the most unexpected, and so springing up and bearing a harvest where we had not known there had been a scattering at all. The intellectual and moral history of individuals and of communities presents, in this respect, precisely similar features. In both sudden and startling revolutions are rare; in both a process of change is continually going on, of which there is a strange ignorance. Most men who are accustomed to look into themselves, must at times be surprised to find to how large an extent their views have been modified in the course of years, even on doctrines to which they would still give their hearty assent. They have not renounced the same creed and accepted another, but the old creed has become a new thing to them, because of the different light in which they have been brought to regard it. How could it be otherwise, in the case of minds which are not stagnant? All men who are alive to what is passing around them, who are willing to learn from all who have anything to teach, who are in the current of modern life, and yielding themselves up to it with more or less reluctance, who are ever taking at new ideas — find it impossible to retain their old position unaltered. A youth has grown up under the strong bias of education and association, He has looked at the world and men through the dimly-lighted windows of his own little cell, the glass of which may probably have been so coloured as to give him impressions very far removed from the fact. His opinions and sympathies alike have been confined within a very narrow circle, and it is difficult for him at first to understand that right and goodness may be found outside its lines. But as he comes into association with other men, and especially if he mingles with those of contrary opinions, he soon finds reason to suspect some of the conclusions he has too hastily adopted. If he is fortunate, he early learns that nothing is more to be distrusted than the arbitrary standard by which he has been too prone to judge character, and that there are those whose pure and noble qualities he is constrained to respect; whose doctrines he holds in abhorrence. He soon begins to see that truth has many sides, and that on some of them he has not looked at all, and, consequently, that some of his judgments need careful revision. The central verities may have become (if he has been living near to God, have become) more clear and distinct to him, but even his views of them have been modified by the diminished importance which he attaches to others, now seen to be subordinate, but which he once regarded as of supreme moment. The personal living Christ, his Saviour, Friend, and Lord, has come, to fill more of his vision, and he is drawn to men, or repelled from them, according to their relation to Him. The process by which he has been brought to regard as more trifles, dogmas and theories, about which his thought was once deeply interested, and in whose defence much of his energy was employed, has brought him to prize more highly those truths which he feels to be the core of all creeds. The change has thus been very great. Nevertheless, he is not less loyal to his Lord — in truth, more loyal and devoted to Him, not less simple in his trust in the great sacrifice, though less confident in his own ability to explain all its significance, or to vindicate all the ways of God to man in connection with it, not less wisely and earnestly attached to the particular Christian community of which he is a member, because he has learned to take a much wider view of the extent of the true Catholic Church.

(J. G. Rogers.)

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 Sin and Judgment of Spiritual Barrenness
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