Recently I acquired a book published in 1813, which is automatically excellent because it’s by Thomas Boston, and specially endearing because it is inscribed ‘Jennet Millar, Kirkcaldy 1857’. Whoever she was, I’ve no idea, but there’s something quite touching about thinking of other women and men in the past appreciating (presumably) the works of Boston and likeminded people.
Anyway, the book is a collection of sermons preached by Boston between the years approximately 1707 and 1726, mainly in locations around the Borders, and mainly associated with Communion services.
Here is an excerpt from one on the text in the Song of Solomon which compares Christ to an apple tree among the trees of the wood, for attractiveness and ability to refresh. ‘I sat down under his shadow with great delight, and his fruit was sweet to my taste.’ The main idea he develops is of the apple tree providing a shade or a covering from the scorching heat of all the miseries of this life and the life to come, which sinners are liable to, on account of sin.
What is it to sit down under Christ’s shadow? It is the soul fleeing to Jesus Christ for a refuge, coming unto him on the call of the gospel, and receiving him and uniting with him by believing on his name. … ‘How excellent is thy loving kindness, O God! therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of thy wings.’ …
I would exhort and invite you to come in, and sit down under Christ’s shadow this day. Our Lord is spreading out his shadow to you in this place, and we are sent to call you, and every one of you, to come under it. Come then, scorched souls, and repose yourselves under Christ’s shadow. I think you may all answer to that name, even the most insensible among you, whose spiritual barrenness declares your souls to be a scorched and parched soil where no good can grow.
Come under Christ’s shadow, you who are under apprehensions of the Lord’s wrath gone out against you for your sins, who feel … a sting of guilt in your consciences. Here is a shadow for ease to you, a covert of blood of infinite value, that will turn away wrath, give peace with an offended God, and pull the sting out of your consciences. ‘For the blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin, and purges the conscience from dead works.’ No arrows of wrath can pierce you here.
Come tempted souls, whom Satan is plying with fiery darts, ready to take hold of and set on fire the corrupt heart. If you sit under Christ’s shadow by faith, it will be a defence to you. ‘Above all, take the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.’ You are harrassed on every side with fiery flying serpents – look to the brazen serpent on the pole of the gospel. ‘I have blotted out, as a thick cloud, thy stransgressions, and as a cloud, thy sins: return unto me, for I have redeemed thee.’
Come you whose souls are pining and withering away within you, for lack of the kindly influences of heaven on them. Here is a reviving and refreshing shadow for you. ‘They that dwell under his shadow shall return: they shall revive as the corn, and grow as the vine; the scent thereof shall be as the wine of Lebanon.’ This shadow will put sap in the bones that are burnt as a hearth, a freshness in the heart that is withered as the grass, and make those who are faint, indisposed and inactive in their souls, to be lively and vigorous, like a giant refreshed with wine.
Come you, whose corruptions are rampant, and like summer vermin are destroying every green thing in or about you. Christ’s shadow will cool the distempered heat of your souls, and reduce them to a holy temperature. The sanctifying virtue of his blood, and the efficacy of his Spirit, is able to master the strongest sins. ‘And such were some you, but you are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified, in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.’
Come you to whom the world is made a weary land with the scorching heat of troubles. ‘And a man shall be as a hiding place from the wind, and a covert from the tempest, as rivers of waters in a dry pace, as the shadow of a great rock in a weary land.’ You are full of complaints of the hardships which you are made to undergo in the world. Trouble on your bodies, vexations in your mind, crosses and losses in your means, reproaches on your names. No ease can you find, however you shift about for it. The Lord lets the sun beat thus on your heads, to drive you to this shadow. Comply then with the design of his providence, by coming under this shadow.
Lastly, come all of you, whatever your case may be.
Sermon XIII in Sermons on the Most Important and Interesting Subjects. Song 2 v 3, titled ‘Suitable Improvement of Christ the Apple Tree,’ Galashiels, Saturday 28 July 1722 (p221-223)