A Summer Day’s Excursion.
Farewell ye horrors of winter, ye have fled to your bleak habitation in the north, and even gentle spring with all her “vernal airs,” have taken flight – summer, rosy summer, triumphs in her turn, and spreads verdure, health, and festivity, through the vegetative, animal and rational worlds.
Come, my Miranda, friend of my heart, let us walk forth with the early dawn, let us contemplate the dew drops that shine upon the grass, those bright diamonds of the morning; let us admire the rising sun, while he permits us to behold his glories; ere long his rays will be too powerful, and his splendors too refulgent for us to bear: but now the air is balmy, cool, and delightful, we may lift up our eyes and behold the wonders of the heavens – See the eastern clouds glow with most magnificent colours, azure, purple and gold: Phoebus has just mounted his flaming car, Aurora flies before him, and the hours in dance, follow in his train; and are they silent? is the bright progress of the imperial king of day uncelebrated with celestial song? No, methinks I hear the music of the spheres – Listen, my Miranda, listen O my soul, for meditation has an ear can catch the most distant sound; softly wasted on gentle echo’s wing it comes.
Fly, shadows fly! bright Sol appears,
Obtrusive darkness, haste away;
His flowing robe of light he wears,
And pours around a flood of day.
Rejoice, ye grove-crown’d hills rejoice,
Ye humbler vallies laugh and sing,
Let universal nature’s voice
Raise the loud triumphs of her King.
God of the Sun, his brightest rays
Sink into night, compar’d with thine,
In his refulgent noontide blaze
The glimm’rings of thy glories shine.
Yes, O Sun, bright and glorious as thou art, how infinitely brighter, how inconceivably more glorious must he be, who called thee into being by his word, created and upholds thee by his power, and from whom as the great fountain of light, thou receives all thy splendours. And who is this infinite Being, this glorious God, but the Lord Jesus Christ? Col. i. 16. For by him were all things created that are in heaven and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones or dominions, or principalities or powers, all things were created by him and for him: Yes, O my soul, he that created the heavens and formed the earth, is no other than the great God thy Savior! how sweet, how delightful a reflection; the Creator and Preserver of all the grand and noble objects around me, became a babe at Bethlehem, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief for me –lived for me, died for me! O how grand, how noble, how sufficient and infinite must that atonement, that righteousness and intercession be which is the work of no less a person than the author of universal nature: Is his work of creation perfect? so is his grand work of redemption. Yes, my soul, his works are all perfect, all complete, and thou art complete in him, Col. ii. 10.
How cheerful, my dear Miranda, appears the face of nature; a little while ago it was covered with the shades of night; all was silent and solemn; but now the rising sun has dissipated the gloom, the fields look gay, the flowers open to drink in the dew and the first gales of the morning, while the little feathered warblers of the grove, are sending up a sweet song to their great Creator and Benefactor, without whose permission, a sparrow cannot fall to the ground. And O how cheerful is the believer in Jesus, when after a long night of sorrow, the Sun of Righteousness arises upon him with healing in his wings, heals his sorrows, speaks peace to his soul, discovers some of the glories of his person and offices, and gives the soul to see and enjoy a little of the wonders of redeeming grace and dying love: How sweet, how inexpressibly sweet is such a transition? then the believer experiences the truth of the Psalmist’s assertion, “sorrow may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.”
Now blooms the rose, now the noble lily rears its stately head; the garden puts on its most lovely appearance and emits its most fragrant perfumes; while the fields look gay, though clad with more artless attire: there the yellow butterflower, the humble daisy, the sweet smelling violet and spiral sorrel, mingling with the tender grass, form a delicate carpet of the most variegated colours; – and the softly breathing zephyrs, carries on his gentle wings far and wide, the healthful and pleasing effluvia of the new made hay. How delightful and wide extended is the prospect around us! the meadows are covered with flocks; here are sheep feeding in green pastures, while the playful lambs are striking hither and thither, and the contented shepherd sitting under yon lofty oak, diverts himself with his pipe, enjoys the beauteous scene, unenvious of the pomp and magnificence of the great. On the other hand, see that vast ridge of hills that rise as it were, half way to heaven, and forbid our sight to penetrate any further: How sublimely majestic they appear. O! my Miranda, who would not leave the confinement and confusion of London, for the calm delights of so sweet a retirement, and to contemplate the beauties of such a prospect as this; and yet how far more noble a prospect, how infinitely more grand a scene does the believer in Jesus behold, when he is enabled to view by faith, Immanuel’s land, the kingdom of grace and glory, where his inheritance is. “All things are yours, whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present or things to come, all are yours, and ye are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s,” I Cor. iii. 21-23.
Here are heights and depths of salvation; lengths and breadths of astonishing grace: and all this our own; yes, my friend, it was for us, and all the heirs of glory, that the heavens and the earth were created: it is for us they still continued; for us the sun shines, the rains descend, the dews distil; for us the earth is crowned with fruitfulness and fragrance: the wicked partake of the bounties of providence, but they are not the proprietors of them. This world is a grand school erected by the omnipotent God, in which he chuses to educate his children, and when their education is complete, he will present them to himself a glorious church without spot or wrinkle, or any such thing; and then he will pull down the school as a useless place: then sun, moon and stars, shall be swept away, and all the wonders of the first creation sink into nothing to make room for the superior glories of the second; that brighter better world, where the sun of righteousness shall shine in his meridian splendor, and to which, the ransomed of the Lord shall return and come with singing, and everlasting joy upon their heads.
Upon what swift pinions doth time fly! already hath the sun entered the zenith: all nature seems to faint under his scorching beams; the flowers droop, the cattle take refuge under the wide spread shadow of the oak, the elm, or the walnut tree. Come, my Miranda, let us retire to yonder rural bower, it is composed of laurel and bay, it is ornamented with jasmine and honeysuckles; O how sweet, how delightful a retirement. The robin has come hither before us; see, he sits on yonder bough and whistles forth his joy. Here let us sit down and recollect for a moment, that if this retreat from the sultry beams of noon is so welcome, so desirable, so refreshing to our wearied bodies and fatigued spirits, how precious, how inexpressibly precious must the Lord Jesus Christ be to that soul, who when fainting under the fiery temptations of satan, the scorching heat of persecution and overwhelming afflictions, is brought to sit down under his shadow; for one of the glorious characters he sustains, is that of a shadow from the heat, Isa. xxv. 4. “The shadow of a great rock in a weary land.”
The Lord Jesus may be compared to a rock, because of his immutability, and everlasting strength; and to a great rock, because he is the great God. “Tell me,” says the spouse in the Canticles, “tell me, O thou whom my soul loveth, where thou feedest? where thou makest thou flock to rest at noon?” the good Shepherd leads his flock to green pastures; he feeds them under his own shadow, and upon the finest of the wheat; his everlasting love, his exceeding great and precious promises, his unchangeable veracity, his all-sufficient power, the riches of his grace, the infinite merit of his life and death, his covenant and oath. O my dear friend, are not these some of the branches of that glorious apple-tree, under whose shadow you and I have oft-times sat down with great delight? are not these some of the rich fruit upon which we had fed, when the king has taken us into his banqueting house, and made his banner over us to be love? These are soft resting places, quiet and secure resting places; the apostle Paul found them so, and therefore could say, “I know whom I have believed, and I am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day,” 2 Tim. i. 12. It was a sultry noon of persecution with Paul when he wrote those words, but notwithstanding, he could sweetly rest in peace, under the shadow of an Almighty Savior.
What gradual advances doth Phoebus make in his diurnal journey? he doth not burst upon us with a flood of light and heat, out of the womb of midnight darkness, but arises upon our world by gentle degrees, till at length he arrives at his zenith, then he blazes forth in his full refulgence, and not only the corn is ripened, the fruit matured, but his piercing rays penetrate to the deepest recesses of the earth, and shed their influences upon the most solid rock, to form the diamond, to bid the ruby glow, and to adorn the emerald, the amethyst, and the pearl, with all their varied beauties. Thus gradual, thus progressive, were the discoveries of the Lord Jesus Christs, and his great salvation, made to a lost fallen world; the sun of righteousness did not arise at once, his first rising beams shone but faintly, the great designs of Jehovah were revealed at first in dark sayings, mystical ceremonies, types so enveloped with clouds, that nothing but the eye of faith could penetrate them: then brighter, and still brighter displays of sovereign grace and mercy in the person of Christ, were given by the divinely inspired lips of the prophets; and in the appointed time, the sun of righteousness shone forth in his meridian splendor, “God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory,” I Tim. iii. 16. In this gradual manner also, does the Lord Jesus carry on his work in the hearts of his people; the Holy Spirit sheds a little of his divine light on their dark understandings, and the night of nature is in a measure dissipated, but they perceive spiritual objects in a very imperfect manner, like the man whose eyes when once touched by the hand of Christ, saw men as trees walking; but the sun of righteousness shines with brighter and brighter beams, and they see more and more of his beauty and excellence; their faith is strengthened, their hope is confirmed, their hearts glow with the stronger beams of divine love; they become more and more acquainted with their own vileness, wretchedness, and helplessness, and thus they go from one degree of grace to another, from strength to strength, till they appear before the Lord, in Zion. “The path of the just is like the shining light which shineth more and more unto the perfect day.”
What little dependence is to be placed on the weather; how very certain is all created good; see, my Miranda, the sun has hid his radiant head; the clouds gather, they appear dark and gloomy, and threaten a shower. Well, it will be a welcome refreshment to the gardens, the fields will smell more aromatic; see! it comes already, in what gentle drops it falls, there are no thunders to alarm, no vivid lightnings to terrify us, it is not attended with a storm, it does not descend in a rapid torrent: no, it is a mild pacific shower, the clouds drop fatness, it will revive and invigorate all nature: so when the clouds of affliction gather around the christian, there is no real cause for him to be terrified and affrighted, there is no storm of Dwrath to overwhelm him, no thunders of Sinai, no curses of a fiery law to consume him, they are quenched in the precious blood of Jesus: thy darkest cloud, O believer, will produce nothing but the gentle chastisement of a father’s hand, it will drop the fatness on thy paths, humble thy spirit, soften thy hard heart, and in due time, bring forth the peaceable fruits of righteousness: then shall thy sun again shine forth, and till he does, wait patiently for him, and remember that he abideth faithful, he is the same yesterday, to day, and for ever.
The rain is over, the clouds break off, the blue heavens again appear in their ethereal beauty and elegance; again the sun sends forth his golden beams to drink up the residue of the late fallen shower, but he shines in milder beams, abated splendor; in the calm hour of morn he crowned the eastern clouds with gold and purple, but now he illuminates the western hemisphere with his glories, and instead of the sultry blaze of noon, presents us with the cool delights, the refreshing breezes of the sober evening. Welcome, “sweet hour of prime,” thou art sacred to meditation, devotion, and the muses: thus peaceful, thus serenely calm is the conscience sprinkled with the blood of Jesus: but hark, my Miranda, friend of my heart, did I not hear the cuckow’s cheerful note? yes, yonder he sits, perched on that tall fir, and repeats, and again repeats his pleasing tale: wherever he is, he has but one theme to record, and though he constantly pays us a visit with every returning May, yet his story is always the same, his song never varies. Will not this remind us, my dear Miranda, that the joyful sound of the glorious Gospel, in all ages, in all climates, is constantly, unalterably, invariably the same. The Lord Jesus christ is its grand theme, he is the illustrious object it incessantly displays. God the Father presents him to our view, and says, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased, hear ye him,” Matt. xvii. 5. The Holy Spirit leads the repenting sinner to none but Jesus, as the great author and finisher of salvation; “He shall glorify me,” says the Savior, “for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you,” John xvi. 14 “He shall testify of me,” ibid xv. 26. the Lord Jesus is the grand subject of the scriptures, both of the old and new testament. “Search the scriptures, for in them ye think ye have eternal life, and they are they that testify of me,” John v. 39. “To him give all the prophets witness,” Acts x. 43. and the apostle of the Lamb had nothing else to preach or write of, but the sovereign love, free grace and rich abundant mercy of a triune Jehovah, as manifested in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ, the prophet, the priest, the king, the wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption of his people. O, my Miranda, if this joyful sound has reached our ears, has penetrated our hearts, has filled our souls with triumph; this will be, yes, and this is our language, God forbid that we should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, I am determined to know nothing among you, O ye sons and daughters of this world, but Jesus Christ and him crucified.
The shadows of evening are lengthening apace, and warn us of the approach of night, the moon is rising in cloudless majesty. Come, my dear friend, let us return to our habitation, how short is the longest day: thus when in the evening of life the night of death approaches, may it find my dear Miranda and her friend, thus fearless, thus calm and peaceful: yes, O thou gloomy tyrant of the grave, we shall triumph over thee, Jesus our all-conquering God and Savior hath taken away thy sting, and he is gone as our great Forerunner to prepare us an habitation among the blessed; he hath given us an inheritance among the saints in light, there our sun shall no more go down, neither shall our moon withdraw itself; there the Lord shall be unto us an everlasting light, and our God our glory; there we shall enjoy an eternal summer, and employ our golden harps through endless ages, in celebrating the God of our salvation, to whom we would join with angels and archangels, and all the ransomed throng in ascribing glory and praise, for ever. Amen.
Text: Divine Poems and Essays, 1791, pp. 185-96.