I was musing a little on the beautiful description given to Israel of the land (before they entered it) by Moses, in Deuteronomy 8: 7-9; 11: 10-12. He exhibits it to them in its positive and comparative excellencies--as it was in itself, and in contrast with Egypt. In itself it was to be full of all manner of good things--wheat, wine, and oil; (Deut. 8: 8;) of which good things another scripture says, "Wine that maketh glad the heart of man--and oil to make his face to shine, and bread which strengtheneth man's heart." (Psalm 104: 15.) And not only was the soil or land itself to be thus the storehouse of these most needed and best things, but their hills and their stones were to be warehouses of brass and iron, wanted in the common traffic and use of life in their place as well as the other. (Deut. 8: 9.) But in contrast with Egypt, dear sister, the character of the promised land is very blessedly described. Egypt was watered by the foot, i.e., by the common industry of her people drawing off the water of the Nile upon their fields and gardens. (Deut. 11: 10.) Their river was everything to them--and all they wanted was to be busy round its banks, and they could supply themselves out of it. But Canaan was to be tilled by the Lord. He would water it from heaven Himself--His heart would care for it, and His eyes would rest on it from one end of the year to the other. (Deut. 11: 11, 12.) As another scripture says, "Thy land shall be married." (Isaiah 62.) A strong figure. The Lord was Himself the husband or the husbandman (kindred words, no doubt,) of the land of His people. But, beside, Canaan was to be a land "of brooks of water, of fountains and depths that spring out of valleys and hills." (Deut. 8: 7.) And this is still blessed, I believe, containing deep intimations of the peculiar glory and joy of Canaan. Egypt had a mighty river that was everything to it, but the source of that river was unknown. Canaan, on the contrary, had no mighty river. A "brook," as it were, was its largest stream--even Jordan compared with the Nile was but as a streamlet to a river. But it had "fountains" springing up in all its hills and valleys. Its currents and channels may have been small, but it was full of the sources and springs of those currents. This was just the opposite of Egypt. There the current was mighty, but the source unknown; here, the channels were small and unimportant, but the sources were all known and enjoyed, together with their waters and streams. And, as we know, beloved, that these two lands were mysteries: the land of Egypt representing the world, or the place of nature, out of which the redeemed are called, and Canaan, the scene of communion with God into which the redeemed are brought--so we may learn that these features of the two lands have meaning also. For the world can go on, supplying itself from the great current of daily providential mercies, and leave the source or parent of it altogether a secret; while the believer or the Church has to do with the great Source or Parent in all things and in every place; a fountain is to be known in every hill and every valley, and if the little tiny brooks be tasted, it is well known where they rise and from what recess in glen or mountain they broke forth. Has not this a voice in it? The Nile itself commanded the notice of the world, while its birthplace was a mystery. No river in Canaan was worth the geographer's notice, at least in the scale of rivers--but every hill and valley there had its fresh and sweet springs. And we may ask ourselves, In which land are we more at home? Do we like to walk in a place that is full of the presence of God, like Canaan; or would we choose a place like Egypt, where we may get all providential supplies, while keeping the great Source of them at an unknown distance?
The character of heaven too, dear sister, is signified by this Canaan. It will be a rest surely so, it will be deliverance from a dreary wasted wilderness, but it is to be a rest full of the presence of God, and of the incessant and abiding witnesses of that presence. The fountain is to be everywhere. (Rev. 7: 17.) May we the more welcome it, because of this! and the more we can dwell in the presence of the fountain now, dear sister, may we be the better pleased. If we go up to a hill or down to a valley, may the fountain meet our gladdened eye! Perhaps I will not speak now with you on Matthew 20, though in its place and at its season it is indeed an important and interesting lesson for our souls. I know the little hymn you sent me, but never till I saw it in print. This will tell you that it is not mine. I am not sure that you ever knew dear Mrs. M . . . . She was for some time at Plymouth, but lived rather at Worcester. She came here three weeks ago, and, after spending a week with us, went on to Kilkenny, where her dear son, James (who is also in communion), is employed on the Waterford Railway; but after a few days' illness in fever, her spirit has departed to be with Christ. Sudden and unexpected, dear, dear sister, but happy that another has ended the journey in the peace of the precious gospel.
"There glory sits on every face, And friendship smiles in every eye; And every tongue relates the grace That led them homeward to the sky.
O'er all the names of Christ, the King, There sweet harmonious voices rove And golden harps from every string Record aloud his bleeding love."--WATTS.
It is well to have the mind bearing itself to some distinct thoughts of the heavenly court.
The Lord bless you. Accept for yourself and dear mother our united love. May His Spirit and presence cheer your heart, and believe me, ever your affectionate brother.
July 25, 1845.
I had been looking for a little word from you, beloved sister, and your letter was very welcome to me. But do not think yourself debtor to me, for I know that you cannot sit easily at the paper with pen and ink as I do. But the Lord is with you, beloved, manifesting Himself, as is the common way of His glory in the weakness and trial of His dear elect ones. I send you a little word on 1 Corinthians 11 and as to the breaking of bread, would only say that I feel a hesitation to break bread save on the first day of the week and in the place of the assembled saints. I may be inapprehensive of the simple and free mind of the Lord in this, as I know that generally brothers find their liberty much beyond this. But I do not and I have a great dread of soiling the simplicity of faith, and introducing to the heart or even to the eye anything to interfere with the precious sufficiency of Christ, or to divide the confidence of the heart between faith and any ordinance. I always am tempted to fear, if I hear of people taking the Lord's Supper in sick rooms, that there is want of simplicity in the soul's assurance, though I know that this is not the case in many such cases. But my judgment may be below the measure of the light and liberty of the Spirit in this. Our united love to yourself and to your dear mother. She has known her sorrows, but the thought that "Whom He loves He chastens," and that all shall work good when looked at in the light of eternity, are blessed provisions for the soul's comfort. My love also to dear Mr. S . . . . and to Dr. T . . . . , tell him I once breakfasted with him, and was happy with him in the days of Mr. . . . . and Mr . . . .at Tor; he will remember me. I send you a little word on "Hagar." I never print anything, dear sister, but if others like any MS. of mine and wish to do so, I do not object. This has been the history of that on "Heaven and Earth," and "The Scriptures," and I judge it to be a safer plan than putting forth anything on the authority of one's own mind. You may give "Rebecca" and this of "Hagar" to whom you like.
I saw dear Mrs. M. yesterday. Any letter to her had better be directed here, perhaps, as I could send it to her every day. I had not heard of dear W. J . . . .'s illness, and shall be very glad to know that he is better. A gloomy, disappointing scene, beloved, but bright, unspeakably so, to faith and hope. How the death of Sir W. Follett speaks the vanity of human hopes! He and I were the dearest companions at Exeter school in the year 1812. But those days are gone. The Lord bless you, beloved sister.