Scripture Imagery: 95. Painting the Lily

 •  5 min. read  •  grade level: 8
The whole Hebrew year was typical. It was “a dome of many-colored glass” through which one looked out on “the white radiance of eternity.” It had two beginnings, each of them in the seventh month dating from the other. The month Tizri began the civil year, when we pass through cold and barren season till we come to the seventh month, Abib, which then becomes the first month of the new era1 when all is changed, “when the winter is past, the rain is over and gone; the flowers appear on the earth, the time of the singing of birds is come;” all is in resurrection life. Then again, the period beginning at Abib culminates on the seventh month, in a new Tizri when the Feast of Tabernacles reveals to us the glory of the Lord covering the earth as the waters cover the sea.
The feasts were all but one arranged in these first months: three feasts (Passover, Unleavened-bread, and First-fruits) in Abib, the beginning of the spiritual year; and three (Trumpets, Atonement, and Tabernacles) in Tizri, the beginning of the civil year. The remaining feast, that of the Two Loaves, which typified the Church period, is, so to speak, interjected in the month Sivan distinct from the other two groups of festivals but connecting them, like Panama betwixt the two seas.
Looking forward along the year from Tizri, the natural commencement, it begins with plowing and sowing, and ends in the general vintage (judgment). Looking forward from Abib, the spiritual commencement, the year begins with the Passover and First-fruits (death and resurrection) passes on through the period of Unleavened-bread, the barley2. and wheat harvests (the time of salvation), the blossoming fig-tree (devotion), the former and the latter rain, the vintage, culminating in the holy convocations and rejoicings of the Feast of Tabernacles. The sabbaths running through the year are perpetually recurring pledges of the coming divinely-appointed rest. The seventh year was sabbatic. Seven sevens brought round the jubilee when the slaves were set free, mortgages were canceled, and land that had been sold reverted to the original owner. In proportion as the jubilee was near, the lease of the land diminished in value to the holder. In proportion as the coming of Christ seems near to us, so is the value of the earth and earthly things lessened in our estimation.
This complete prophetic chart, this perfect picture of the dispensations, was handed to the Hebrews, and immediately they began to “improve” it; as though one should take a chart prepared by the Admiralty and make fresh lines on it to suit one's own taste, or take a picture, finished (say) by Turner or Leighton, and trim it up. “Just let me put a little carmine here, a little gainboage there; ah, there's nothing like good red and yellow” Go to, let us “add another hue to the rainbow.”
I do not speak of the impiety of this; indeed I do not think the impiety of adding to what God has perfected so great as that of taking from it; but I would ask you to consider its astounding impudence! I ask you, Theologians, how would you like everything you did to be taken and improved upon with clumsy fingers; as Neologus, whom you follow, improves upon every divine injunction and precept. This is the spirit of Neologus; and you can see its impudent folly in everything else, but are blind to it in spiritual matters. When the carpenter drives in a nail, Neologus insists on giving it a few more blows, and leaves his mark on the place. When he is shown a beautiful chord of Beethoven's, he says, “Yes, no doubt very fine; but there are only seven notes in it altogether, bass and treble. See I have three fingers still to spare; I may as well use them. Listen......!”
Well, whether the chord be better than before or not, we must no longer call it Beethoven's; it is Neologus'. And when the Jews had added on the feasts of Purim, Dedication, &c., to the “Feasts of Jehovah,” and otherwise degraded them, we find them no longer called the Feasts of Jehovah at all, but “feasts of the Jews!"3 as the institution which was once called the church of God comes to be called “the church of the Laodiceans.” You may “paint the lily,” but then it is God's lily no longer.
For instance, God demands repentance and faith for salvation; but Neologus insists on that and something more,—creed, ceremonial, or action, I do not understand exactly, nor does he. All I know is that it is not the “salvation of God” that he proclaims; it is something of his own. The Founder of Christianity established two sacraments'4, Neologus says there must be seven. The Founder gave a cup of wine to His disciples; Neologus says, “No! It must be wine and water.” Have you considered the colossal IMPUDENCE of all that?
And there is a way of developing this principle by which every foundational doctrine may be diluted away to nothing. I read a sermon by Theologicus, in which he was defending his own orthodoxy. “Do I believe in the doctrine of regeneration?” said he, “Most assuredly I do, Except a man be born again, and again, and again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.'“ Thus, whilst he appeared to be underlining the word, he had dexterously scored it out. He kept on hammering the nail in till he split the board.
Nevertheless the firm foundation of God standeth. And the building mysteriously grows towards completion,—
“No hammers fell, no ponderous axes rung;
Like some tall palm the mystic fabric sprung.
Majestic silence!”
“And He shall bring forth the headstone thereof with shoutings, crying Grace, Grace unto it!”