By John Hames
Among the many admirable and attractive pieces of divine workmanship seen in the world today there is hardly one to be found more instructive and inspiring than a tall, majestic tree, as it lifts its bushy head above the woody maze and stretches out its beautiful boughs to the gentle breeze. There is no marvel that this piece of high-class workmanship is so frequently spoken of in the Scriptures. The tree seems to have held such a prominent place in the divine mind that He used it in testing the obedience and fortitude of man:
"And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of if: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die" (Gen. 2:16, 17).
In the first Psalm God also likens the godly to a tree planted by the rivers of water, and in Matt. 3:10, John likens a whole generation to trees. He spoke as follows: "And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire."
Now, reader, since a tree is such a common thing and is seen almost everywhere, permit me to call your attention to a few facts about it which will no doubt be of great help in your Christian life if properly applied.
1. The first thought suggested by this noble piece of divine workmanship is as follows: A tree is a great instructor and also an object lesson of what can be accomplished through time, perseverance and patience. The tree is first seen a tiny twig peering out of a decayed acorn. But after weathering the sunshine, cold and rain for a century or more, it is developed into a hundred foot, giant oak, capable for boat and bridge material. Just so it is with religious principles and holy aspirations, which though small in their beginning, if properly cultivated will develop the converts into giants and giantesses for the cause of Jesus Christ. Like the oak, they may be a long time reaching the goal, however, let us continue to watch, wait, pray and believe for them, for "patience is a plaster for all sores." "All comes right to him that can wait."
2. Another singular thing about the tree is this, it obtains all of its strength and supplies from an unseen source. It does not depend upon the underbrush, weeds or grasses about it, neither does it depend upon the morning dew or summer showers, but keeps alive through all kinds of changes and droughts. So it is with the child of God. He is not sustained by the summer showers of society, pleasure, wealth and prosperity, but the water of life unceasingly flows into his soul and thus keeps it flourishing all the year. The worldlings often wonder why he does not grow discouraged and dry up, but he can not while the sparkling water of life continues to flow into his soul.
3. A third interesting feature about a tree is seen in the fact that it is never affected by the various changes of the weather, but bears unflinchingly the bleak winds, the snow gales and also the torrid glare of the summer sun. Nothing seems to affect or retard its onward course toward maturity.
Equally so should it be with every child of God and heir of heaven. No created thing should ever be permitted to impede his onward march to the city of God. They should exclaim with the lion-hearted apostle: "None of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy. For I am ready not to be bound only, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus" (Acts 20:24; 21:13).
4. The tree annually clothed in its beautiful green robe also strikingly reminds us of the thoughtfulness and accuracy of our heavenly Father in providing and caring for His children. Notwithstanding his attention being given to millions of other matters in the universe, yet He never forgets to in due time beautifully decorate the tree in its robe of glossy green. Think, reader, if He takes such special care of trees, grasses and sparrows, how can He forget His children for whom Christ died? It is true, Satan often tries to make us think so, but it cannot be, for He has beautifully said through the prophet Isaiah: "Behold, I have graven these upon the palms of my hands; thy walls are continually before me" (Isa. 49:16).
The next lesson of value taught by the tree is seen in the way it yields its substance to all who may apply. It cheerfully furnishes shade and protection for the bleating sheep, the lowing kine and singing birds, besides, it stands daily with outstretched arm offering cheerful assistance to all who chance to pass that way. What a reflection and sharp rebuke upon those who turn the widow and orphans from their door unfed, close their ear to the lamentable cry of the poor, and also suffer the homeless beggar to freeze in the street. Think of a man with heaps of cankered gold in the bank while his fellow creature perishes with want. Of course such a man is no more a Christian than he is an angel, neither is he any more in the way that leads to heaven than the devil.
6. The next interesting feature about the tree which is full of significance is, it soars above all other created things and abides in a pure, healthy atmosphere where it gets the purest dew and freshest air the whole year 'round. We are glad to remark right here that this is also the actual experience of every sanctified Christian in the world. He, too, has learned the secret of mounting above the fog of creeds, parties, greed, worldly ambition and carnal pleasure and is living where he enjoys continually the pure buxom air of Beulah Land.
7. A seventh noticeable as well as interesting fact about the tree which should teach us a few points of interest is this: It never makes itself monotonous to the observers by wearing the same colored gown the year around, but changes from green to yellow and from yellow to red and from red to a ginger brown. It would be a grand thing if some of our preachers and gospel workers would take a few lessons from the tree on this subject and thus avoid so much monotony in their prayers, testimony, exhortations and sermons. They remind us of the old country musician who had but the one tune, therefore, as a result, he used it for the waltz, two-step, round dance and what not. No matter what the people called for, he always struck up the same tune.
8. The tree does not move from forest to forest every week or two neither does it go off of duty but is always at its post; therefore, for this reason it serves as a fitting and reliable way-mark, land-mark and state-line. Would this not be an excellent lesson for those Christians to learn who are so vacillating, unstable and full of changes? For with their present experiences we do not know where to find them, whether with the Methodist, Baptist, Come-outer or the devil.
9. There is such unity and heart to heart fellowship existing between the trees that oftentimes after the woodsman has succeeded in cutting one clear off of its stump, it remains standing upright from the fact that its fellow trees lend a helping hand and thus prevent it from going down. Oh, that God's people, instead of censuring and criticizing an unfortunate brother or sister, would rally around him with outstretched arms of prayer, love, sympathy and financial aid, and thus prevent his falling into the slough of misfortune, discouragement, sin and despair.
10. The next profound lesson taught by the tree is how uniquely it extracts great blessings and benefits from the storms and hurricanes that come against it. Instead of capsizing it, the storms only loosen the earth around its roots and thus cause them to push downward and get a tighter grip around the rocks. No doubt every farmer has long since realized the fact when trying to uproot an oak stump that it possessed more territory than it appeared to at first sight.
God's children should make a similar use of temptations, accidents, misfortunes and fiery trials. Instead of becoming frustrated and upset by them, they should go deeper in God and get a tighter hold of the horns of the altar.
11. Finally: A tree is also a beautiful reminder and divine pledge of the coming resurrection of the just. We all have noticed how dead, dry and void of beauty it appears during the winter months; but when spring puts in her appearance and the sap begins to rise, it puts forth a beauty in foliage, flower and fragrance akin to those of heaven. "So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruption: it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory: it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power: it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. As we have born the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly" (1 Cor. 15:42-44; 15:49).
Reader, think of these frail, decaying bodies arising some day radiant with light and beauty, "all glorious and immortal."