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us of the tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil (Gen. 3), which once stood in paradise; then it reminds us of the sin of the human race, of the need and longing for redemption. It is to represent to our senses that salvation which is brought and offered to us through the birth of Christ. Paradise is no longer lost, it is regained. The approach to the tree is no longer forbidden, but allowed. All can and should now have the bliss of looking at its lovely apples, and of eating of them to satiety. The serpent lurks no longer, cunning and deceitful, beneath its branches. Manohas to bear the tantalizing torments of an ungratified longing no longer; the pleasant tree and its goodly fruit flee the outstretched hand no longer freely and joyfully may we now take and eat, may we now see and taste the kindness of the Lord (Ps. 34:8). A star is now often placed on the top of the tree, in the place of the angel, in reference to that star which guided the wise men from the East on their way to the manger at Bethlehem. But according to the oldest sacred records (Gen. 2: 9), there stood two trees in the midst of the garden, the tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, and the tree of Life. The express object of the expulsion from paradise after the fall, was (Gen. 3: 22): “ Lest he put forth his hand and take also of the tree of Life, and eat, and live forever.” In this lies a proof of the parental love of God. For eternal life on earth, with the poison of the serpent in the conscience, would be no blessing, but rather the greatest torment to our race. Only think of the legend of Ahasuerus, the Wan-: dering Jew.
This tree of life of the sacred Scriptures, with which the “tree of life” of the ancient Germans presagefully bears the same name, a name which, unconsciously, even in our days, if given to a certain tree of the cypress species, is represented by the Christmas tree. Its vegetable life is represented in the ever-green of the fir tree, its productive life in its brilliant fruits ; its life, in the highest divine sense of the word, is explained by the gift of eternal life which Christ gives to His people. Thence it is also, that ancient ecclesiastical art represents Christ as the second Adam with the apple in his hand.
The new-born Saviour of the world has again opened up the ways to this tree. By grace in Christ we can now approach and eat, and live forever. Christ himself is the Way to it, and to the genuine Eden of the New Covenant. Therefore the Christmas tree beams, on the night of his birth, with beautiful lights and precious fruits, the emblem of the tree of life primeval, and ever new, because eternal.
But are not those fruits new and strange, which the rootless, withered branch of the fir tree, on Christmas, bears? The Bible, as well as the truthful presentiment of the old German legend, gives us an answer to this question. Who is not acquainted with the story of the rod of Aaron, at first dead, and then covered with blossoms and fruits, which, laid rootless on the ground, received this new, miraculous life, in one night? Moses tells of this wonderful tree in the 17th chapter of Numbers. This rod
up in the ark of the Covenant in the Tabernacle, as a token of remembrance, and to the same purpose it stood on old Jewish coins. The German legend of the Middle Ages speaks of two quite similar stories, which also have grown up on a biblical subsoil.
There was once a German knight, his name was Tannhäuser-Richard Wagner has made him immortal by the beautiful opera called after him
who led a merry, worldly life. No sin was too bad for him. In this way he spent his youth. When he became of a more sedate age a mighty fear upon
him. He commenced to ask himself whether there still could be mercy for him with God. He could not satisfy himself. Then, in conformity with the belief of the times, he thought: You must go to Rome and ask the Pope. So, clothing himself in a worn-out smock frock, and with a withered white staff in hand, he travelled off, over the Alps, to Rome, amid many prayers and tears. Thus he arrived at Rome and gained admittance to the Pope, to whom he confessed all his sins, great and small
, just as a penitent does. Then he added the question whether he had any right to expect mercy and pardon. When he ceased speaking, the Holy Father took the pilgrim's staff from his hand, and set it against the wall, adding: “There will be grace for you as soon as this dead staff commences to put forth leaves.” The knight departed in deep sorrow. On the third day the Pope again entered the same room; the staff had put forth leaves and blossoms, to testify that there is grace and forgiveness with God for the greatest sinner when he repents.
The legend of the Emperor Barbarossa, who sleeps enchanted in the mountain of Kyffhäuser, is similar, but somewhat differently turned. When the emperor once awakens and comes out of the subterranean house in which he lives an enchanted life, when once the ravens cease to fly around the mountain, he will hang his shield upon a dead tree, which will immediately be clothed with verdure and this is the beginning of better times.
“Green is the golden tree of life.” To become green is a sign of new, fresh life. Grun or grün (green) meant the same as sinless in the Middle Ages. Thus the eve before the day of Christ's death is called Green Thursday, (Eng. Maunday Thursday). This does not at all mean that on this day nature commences to clothe herself in vernal green (Ps. 23 : 2), or that it is the day of bitter herbs (Ex. 12:8; Num. 9:11), which were eaten at the time of the Passover; but it denotes the day of the green--dies viridium, i. e. the day of those delivered from sin and freed from punishment. The saying of Jesus, in Luke 23 : 31, belongs here: “ for if they do these things in a green tree, what shall be done in the dry?” As the repentant, pardoned sinner commences a new life, a life which bears the fruits of the Spirit, the connexion is at once seen between the Mediæval • grun” and our “ grün ;” as also the connexion between the German legends and their biblical back-ground. And at the same time the contrast is explained, in which the green Christmas tree is to the other trees out of doors, which now all stand naked and leafless.
If the Christmas tree, richly and beautifully adorned with fruits, recalls paradise (delight) to mind; if the green tree recalls the verdure of Aaron's rod; then the burning Christmas tree represents the burning bush which Moses, the servant of God, and the future redeemer of his people, beheld on Mount Horeb. According to the Scriptures (Ex. 3:2), "the Angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire, out of a burning bush: and he looked, and behold, the bush burned with fire and the bush was not consumed.” When about to approach, a voice called out to him: "Draw not nigh hither : put off thy shoes from off thy feet; for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground.” The Christmas tree burns, but is not consumed ; in the light of the flames, which shine through the dark branches of the fir tree, a higher light, a heavenly fire beams upon us. God himself, who is a light, and in whom is no darkness, Jesus Christ, the Light of the world, who came to earth to kindle a fire, the Holy Spirit of God, who on the day of Pentecost appeared in tongues of fire—in a word, the Divine Being himself is here revealed, and comes to a visible manifestation.
Such a presentiment had the myths of Heathenism, and the Jehovahfaith of the Jews, who considered the fire as a symbol of the Theophanes. Such a light, in a spiritual sense, shines down upon us from the burning Christmas tree, and no severe law, no cruel prohibition frightens us back, when we, like Moses, wish to “turn aside and see this great sight.” But the Good News from the mouth of the Christmas-angel calls, and invites us gently and kindly, to “come near, for the place whereon we stand is holy ground.”
Prophecy, as well as the sacred history of the Old Covenant, takes up the figure of the tree, and gives it an historical, but at the same time a visionary significance. According to the prophets, the historical Christ himself, the flower and noblest fruit of the tribes of Israel, and of the royal race of David, is to be considered as the new tree of Life for humanity, and the Christmas tree becomes, finally and immediately, an emblem of the
person of Christ.
Just as the fir, decorated as Christmas tree, is the only green tree in the desolate and cold time of winter, thus Christ appears as the only green, living Branch and Stem in our otherwise cold and fruitless humanity, which slept the long winter-sleep of indifference and ignorance, or of self-sufficiency and self-deification, the sleep of sin and death. Thus do both the great prophets, Isaiah and Jeremiah, represent the expected Messiah : “And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots”. [Is. 11: 1). “Behold the days shall come, saith the Lord, that I will raise unto David a righteous branch, and a king shall reign and prosper, and execute judgment and justice in the earth ” (Jeremiah 23:5]. This Branch, 'this sprout of the race David, grew up in the still secrecy of the Christmas eve, planted into the old dead stem of humanity, and now has become a glorious tree, which, mounting up, tall and free, like a fir tree, lifts its crest up to the heavens, spreads its leaves far abroad, and stands among men beneficent and magnificent, full of lightblossoms like the Christmas tree, and full of ripe and precious fruit. Only a joyous, child-like heart, only an open, thankfully receiving hand, is necessary to take and eat of this tree of faith and bliss.
In this spirit the Theologian, the seer of the New Covenant, prophesies, when through him the Spirit of the Churches, that is, the Holy Spirit of
“ To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God” All that the Holy Scriptures offer for our purpose, is concentrated in these words, and conducted to the highest, holiest summit of glory. For, according to it, we must look aloft from the earthly Christmas tree, to the keeping of the feast there above, in the home of the blessed, where, surrounded by the solemn glories of Heaven, and re-echoing the triumphant psalms of the upper choirs, the Tree of Life is beheld and enjoyed, in everlasting peace.
GRACE APPREHENDING AND APPREHENDED. *
BY PROF. E. E. HIGBEE.
“* * * But I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.” Philippians iii. 12.
The Apostle here acknowledges that some mysterious power has taken hold of him, the full scope of which he is not himself as yet able to grasp. Its presence as coming down from Christ, and as operative under Him toward some end, is felt: and there is an awakened endeavour consciously to apprehend such end, and also a struggle to reach it, as “the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” This power seems to be regarded as a vast overwhelming mystery-wider than all experience,-transcending the limits of all thought,-immeasurably beyond the whole order of nature,--and yet challenging the most earnest efforts of the Apostle to apprehend its power, and grasp the compass of its activity. The mystery in question is regarded not as something present merely, but as something active, moving all in its sphere, as apprehended and apprehending, onward out of sin and death into righteousness and glorification, out of this passing seculum into one imperishable and eternal.
Not only here, but elsewhere, and with striking uniformity, does St. Paul make this acknowledgment, both as regards himself and those whom he addresses. Throughout his epistles, he distiuctly declares, not to a few, but to the whole Church, that they are in the very midst of heavenly powers; seated in heavenly places in Christ Jesus; crucified, buried, and risen with Him; called and justified and even glorified in Him. To the Corinthians, and while rebuking them for their divisions, and hence not to a special sainted few, but to all, he writes, “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?" To the Colossians, and while earnestly exhorting them to mortify their members which are upon the earth, he writes, “ for ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.” In fine, every where he urges obedience, and calls to the practice of Christian duties, and warns against sins, just because of some high privilege, and calling, and positive condition of grace back of all personal qualification, and yet by no means separate, but in some mysterious way at the very base of every possible process towards heaven. Whenever his
* This discourse was delivered by appointment before the Tercentenary Convention in Reading, Pa., Trinity Sunday evening, 1864. According to the request of many who heard it, the Author furnished it for the Guardian. The Aug. No. 1864, for which it had been set up, together with the Manuscript, was burnt in the Printing office in Chambersburg by the Rebels. The Author has kindly reproduced it for the Guardian at our request. Thus, so far as this excellent discourse is concerned, the Rebel rage has been frustrated. Would that many other valuables there destroyed could in like manner be restored !-ED. OF GUARDIAN.
mind turns to the condition into which in the Church those have been brought whom he addresses, and brought too primarily in some way entirely differing from the whole idea of merely moral influence, whether exerted by precept or example, then invariably comes the emphatic therefore of his exhortation, and without the least apparent difficulty about the logic that may be violated. Ye are called; therefore make your calling sure.
Ye are risen; therefore set your affections upon things above. Ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God; therefore mortify your members, and so on, in just the same order of thought, through every epistle, and to the whole Church indiscriminately, and to children even without a moment's hesitation, and without lowering at all the sublime tone of his admonition. It
may be said in this connection, that no statement, perhaps, could be more in accordance with the method of this Apostle's thought, than the one in the opening of our own catechism “Ye belong to Christ:" therefore come to know how great your sins and miseries are.
Surely, in St. Paul's view, something of no ordinary significance and force has taken hold of those to whom he thus speaks:—some mysterious, heavenly reality is made to surround both himself and them, to which his and their continuous and adoring efforts of apprehension should be directed.
What is this power? What is this mysterious, heavenly reality, reaching us, and yet so vastly above us; without us, and yet in some way so within us, that we are directed to it as at once apprehending us, and to be apprehended by us? To dismiss questions of this solemn import, is to do injustice to the word of God. Though a thousand difficulties, which seemed not to environ the Apostle, may perplex our minds, it is but a weak surrender of the supernatural, not to feel that we are challenged by such questions throughout the New Testament. We repeat then, what is this great apprehending mystery, to which the Apostle refers ?
The only general answer which we are able to give is that it is gracea supernatural order of life, reaching us, and apprehending us in a sacramental way:having its source in an incarnate, suffering, and dying, but now risen and glorified Redeemer: having its fulness of application through the descent of the Holy Ghost, organically in the Holy Catholic Church: coming into contact with our fallen humanity potentially, to release it, in one baptism for the remission of sin: consciously apprehended, so far as . apprehension be possible, by the divine gift of faith, through which its enlightening and enlivening energy is made to permeate our whole being, thus inwardly and really coming to a self-authentication in our wills and intellect (an energy, strengthened by a confirmation more than earthly, and nourished by more than manna, — by the sacramental flesh and blood of Christ); answering our acknowledged contrition amidst temptations and falls, with its comforting pardon; crowning our worship with its hallowed benedictions; sending us into the world with authority by its divine commission and gift of apostleship; covering every relation of life, from the nuptial altar to the opened grave; turning every where water into wine, and moving on amidst the ages, and vanishing powers of the world with ever-conquering march, until our risen and glorified humanity, body, soul, and spirit, shall reach the pearly gates, and join the sounding hallelujahs of heaven.
As sunlight fills the blue vault above, and yet bathes in liquid glory the