UNDER THE APPLE TREE
"I sat down under His shadow with great delight, and His fruit was sweet
to my taste."-Song of Solomon ii. 3.
Christ known should be Christ used. The spouse knew her Beloved to be like
a fruit-bearing tree, and at once she sat under His shadow, and fed upon
His fruit. It is a pity that we know so much about Christ, and yet enjoy
Him so little. May our experience keep pace with our knowledge, and may
that experience be composed of a practical using of our Lord! Jesus casts
a shadow, let us sit under it: Jesus yields fruit, let us taste the
sweetness of it. Depend upon it that the way to learn more is to use what
you know; and, moreover, the way to learn a truth thoroughly is to learn
it experimentally. You know a doctrine beyond all fear of contradiction
when you have proved it for yourself by personal test and trial. The bride
in the song as good as says, "I am certain that my Beloved casts a shadow,
for I have sat under it, and I am persuaded that He bears sweet fruit, for
I have tasted of it." The best way of demonstrating the power of Christ to
save is to trust in Him and be saved yourself; and of all those who are
sure of the divinity of our holy faith, there are none so certain as those
who feel its divine power upon themselves. You may reason yourself into a
belief of the gospel, and you may by further reasoning keep yourself
orthodox; but a personal trial, and an inward knowing of the truth, are
incomparably the best evidences. If Jesus be as an apple tree among the
trees of the wood, do not keep away from Him, but sit under His shadow,
and taste His fruit. He is a Saviour; do not believe the fact and yet
remain unsaved. As far as Christ is known to you, so far make use of Him.
Is not this sound common-sense?
would further remark that we are at liberty to make every possible use of
Christ. Shadow and fruit may both be enjoyed. Christ in His infinite
condescension exists for needy souls. Oh, let us say it over again: it is
a bold word, but it is true,-as Christ Jesus, our Lord exists for the
benefit of His people. A Saviour only exists to save. A physician lives to
heal. The Good Shepherd lives, yea, dies, for His sheep. Our Lord Jesus
Christ hath wrapped us about His heart; we are intimately interwoven with
all His offices, with all His honours, with all His traits of character,
with all that He has done, and with all that He has yet to do. The
'sinners' Friend lives for sinners, and sinners may have Him and use Him
to the uttermost. He is as free to us as the air we breathe. What are
fountains for, but that the thirsty may drink? What is the harbour for but
that storm-tossed barques may there find refuge? What is Christ for but
that poor guilty ones like ourselves may come to Him and look and live,
and afterwards may have all our needs supplied out of His fulness?
have thus the door set open for us, and we pray that the Holy Spirit may
help us to enter in while we notice in the text two things which we pray
that you may enjoy to the full. First, the heart's rest in Christ: "I sat
down under His shadow with great delight." And, secondly, the heart's
refreshment in Christ: "His fruit was sweet to my taste."
To begin with, we have here the heart's rest in Christ. To set this forth,
let us notice the character of the person who uttered this sentence. She
who said, "I sat down under His shadow
with great delight," was one who had known before what weary travel meant,
and therefore valued rest; for the man who has never laboured knows
nothing of the sweetness of repose. The loafer who has eaten bread he
never earned, from whose brow there never oozed a drop of honest sweat,
does not deserve rest, and knows not what it is. It is to the labouring
man that rest is sweet; and when at last we come, toil-worn with many
miles of weary plodding, to a shaded place where we may comfortably sit
down, then are we filled with delight.
spouse had been seeking her Beloved, and in looking for Him she had asked
where she was likely to find Him. "Tell me," says she, "0 Thou whom my
soulloveth, where Thou feedest, where Thou makest Thy flock to rest at
noon." The answer was given to her, "Go thy way forth by the footsteps of
the flock." She did go her way; but, after a while, she came to this
resolution: "I will sit down under His shadow."
Many of you have been sorely wearied with going your way to find peace.
Some of you tried ceremonies, and trusted in them, and the priest came to
your help; but he mocked your heart's distress. Others of you sought by
various systems of thought to come to an anchorage; but, tossed from
billow to billow, you found no rest upon the seething sea of speculation.
More of you tried by your good works to gain rest to your consciences. You
multiplied your prayers, you poured out floods of tears, you hoped, by
almsgiving and by the like, that some merit might accrue to you, and that
your heart might feel acceptance with God, and so have rest. You toiled
and toiled, like the men that were in the vessel with Jonah when they
rowed hard to bring their ship to land, but could not, for the sea wrought
and was tempestuous. There was no escape for you that way, and so you were
driven to another way, even to rest in Jesus. My heart looks back to the
time when I was under a sense of sin, and sought with all my soul to find
peace, but could not discover it, high or low, in any place beneath the
sky; yet when "I saw one hanging on a tree," as the Substitute for sin,
then my heart sat down under His shadow with great delight. My heart
reasoned thus with herself,-Did Jesus suffer in my stead? Then I shall not
suffer. Did He bear my sin? Then I do not bear it. Did God accept His Son
as my Substitute? Then He will never smite me. Was Jesus acceptable with
God as my Sacrifice? Then what contents the Lord may well enough content
me, and so I will go no farther, but: "sit down under His shadow," and
enjoy a delightful rest.
who said, "I sat down under His shadow with great delight," could
appreciate shade, for she had been sunburnt. Did we not read just now her
exclamation,-"Look not upon me, for I am black, because the sun hath
looked upon me"? She knew what heat meant, what the burning sun meant; and
therefore shade was pleasant to her. You know nothing about the
deliciousness of shade till you travel in a thoroughly hot country; then
you are delighted with it. Did you ever feel the heat of divine wrath? Did
the great Sun-that Sun without variableness or shadow of a turning-ever
dart upon you His hottest rays,-the rays of his holiness and justice? Did
you cower down beneath the scorching beams of that great Light, and say,
"We are consumed by Thine anger"? If you have ever felt that, you have
found it a very blessed thing to come under the shadow of Christ's atoning
sacrifice. A shadow, you know, is cast by a body coming between us and the
light and heat; and our Lord's most blessed body has come between us and
the scorching sun of divine justice, so that we sit under the shadow of
His mediation with great delight.
now, if any other sun begins to scorch us, we fly to our Lord. If domestic
trouble, or business care, or Satanic temptation, or inward corruption,
oppresses us, we hasten to Jesus' shadow, to hide under Him, and there
"sit down" in the cool refreshment with great delight. The interposition
of our blessed Lord is the cause of our inward quiet. The sun cannot
scorch me, for it scorched
Him. My troubles need not trouble me, for He has taken my trouble, and I
have left it in His hands. "I sat down under His shadow."
Mark well these two things concerning the spouse. She knew what it was to
be weary, and she knew what it was to be sunburnt; and just in proportion
as you also know these two things, your valuation of Christ will rise. You
who have never pined under the wrath of God have never prized the Saviour.
Water is of small value in this land of brooks and rivers, and so you
commonly sprinkle the roads with it; but I warrant you that, if you were
making a day's march over burning sand, a cup of cold water would be worth
a king' s ransom; and so to thirsty souls Christ is precious, but to none
Now, when the spouse was sitting down, restful and delighted, she was
overshadowed. She says, "I sat down under His shadow." I do not know a
more delightful state of mind than to feel quite overshadowed by our
beloved Lord. Here is my black sin, but there is His precious blood
overshadowing my sin, and hiding it for ever. Here is my condition by
nature, an enemy to God; but He who reconciled me to God by His blood has
overshadowed that also, so that I forget that I was once an enemy in the
joy of being now a friend. I am very weak; but He is strong, and His
strength overshadows my feebleness. I am very poor; but He hath all
riches, and His riches overshadow my poverty. I am most unworthy; but He
is so worthy that if I use His name I shall receive as much as if I were
worthy: His worthiness doth overshadow my unworthiness. It is very
precious to put the truth the other way, and say, If there be anything
good in me, it is not good when I compare myself with Him, for His
goodness quite eclipses and overshadows it. Can I say I love Him? So I do,
but I hardly dare call it love, for His love overshadows it. Did I suppose
that I served Him? So I would; but my poor service is not worth mentioning
in comparison with what He has done for me. Did I think I had any degree
of holiness? I must not deny what His Spirit works in me; but when I think
of His immaculate life, and all His divine perfections, where am I? What
am I? Have you not sometimes felt this? Have you not been so overshadowed
and hidden under your Lord that you became as nothing? I know myself what
it is to feel that if I die in a workhouse it does not matter so long as
my Lord is glorified. Mortals may cast out my name as evil, if they like;
but what matters it since His dear name shall one day be printed in stars
athwart the sky? Let Him overshadow me; I delight that it should be so.
spouse tells us that, when she became quite overshadowed, then she felt
great delight. Great "I" never has great delight, for it cannot bear to
own a greater than itself, but the humble believer finds his delight in
being overshadowed by his Lord. In the shade of Jesus we have more delight
than in any fancied light of our own. The spouse had great delight. I
trust that you Christian people do have great delight; and if not, you
ought to ask yourselves whether you really are the people of God. I like
to see a cheerful countenance; ay, and to hear of raptures in the hearts
of those who are God's saints! There are people who seem to think that
religion and gloom are married, and must never be divorced. Pull down the
blinds on Sunday, and darken the rooms; if you have a garden, or a rose in
flower, try to forget that there are such beauties: are you not to serve
God as dolorously as you can? Put your book under your arm, and crawl to
your place of worship in as mournful a manner as if you were being marched
to the whipping-post. Act thus if you will; but give me that religion
which cheers my heart, fires my soul, and fills me with enthusiasm and
delight,-for that is likely to be the religion of heaven, and it agrees
with the experience of the Inspired Song.
Although I trust that we know what delight means, I question if we have
enough of it to describe ourselves as sitting down in the enjoyment of it.
Do you give yourselves enough time to sit at Jesus'
feet? There is the place of delight, do you abide in it? Sit down under
His shadow. "I have no leisure," cries one. Try and make a little. Steal
it from your sleep if you cannot get it anyhow else. Grant leisure to your
heart. It would be a great pity if a man never spent five minutes with his
wife, but was forced to be always hard at work. Why, that is slavey, is it
not? Shall we not then have time to commune with our Best-beloved? Surely,
somehow or other, we can squeeze out a little season in which we shall
have nothing else to do but to sit down under His shadow with great
delight! When 1 take my Bible, and want to feed on it for myself, 1
generally get thinking about preaching upon the text, and what 1 should
say to you from it. This will not do; 1 must get away from that, and
forget that there is a Tabernacle, that 1 may sit personally at Jesus'
feet. And, oh, there is an intense delight in being overshadowed by Him!
He is near you, and you know it. His dear presence is as certainly with
you as if you could see Him, for His influence surrounds you.
Often have 1 felt as if Jesus leaned over me, as a friend might look over
my shoulder. Although no cool shade comes over your brow, yet you may as
much feel His shadow as if it did, for your heart grows calm; and if you
have been wearied with the family, or troubled with the church, or vexed
with yourself, you come down from the chamber where you have seen your
Lord, and you feel braced for the battle of life, ready for its troubles
and its temptations, because you have seen the Lord. "I sat down" said
she, "under His shadow with great delight." How great that delight was she
could not tell, but she sat down as one overpowered with it, needing to
sit still under the load of bliss. 1 do not like to talk much about the
secret delights of Christians, because there are always some around us who
do not understand our meaning; but 1 will venture to say this much-that if
worldlings could but even guess what are the secret joys of believers,
they would give their eyes to share with us. We have troubles, and we
admit it, we expect to have them; but we have joys which are frequently
excessive. We should not like that others should be witnesses of the
delight which now and then tosses our soul into a very tempest of joy. You
know what it means, do you not? When you have been quite alone with the
heavenly Bridegroom, you wanted to tell the angels of the sweet love of
Christ to you, a poor unworthy one. You even wished to teach the golden
harps fresh music, for seraphs know not the heights and depths of the
grace of God as you know them.
spouse had great delight, and we know that she had, for this one reason,
that she did not forget it. This verse and the whole Song are a
remembrance of what she had enjoyed. She says, "I sat down under His
shadow." It may have been a month, it may have been years ago; but she had
not forgotten it. The joys of fellowship with God are written in marble.
"Engraved as in eternal brass" are memories of communion with Christ
Jesus. "Above fourteen years ago," says the apostle, "I knew a man." Ah,
it was worth remembering all those years! He had not told his delight, but
he had kept it stored up. He says, "I knew a man in Christ above fourteen
years ago (whether in the body, 1 cannot tell; or whether out of the body,
1 cannot tell:)" so great had his delights been. When we look back, we
forget birthdays, holidays, and bonfire-nights which we have spent after
the manner of men, but we readily recall our times of fellowship with the
Well-beloved. We have known our Tabors, our times of transfiguration
fellowship, and like Peter we remember when we were "with Him in the holy
mount." Our head has leaned upon the Master's bosom, and we can never
forget the intense delight; nor will we fail to put on record for the good
of others the joys with which we have been indulged.
1 leave this first part of the subject, only noticing how beautifully
natural it is. There was a tree, and she sat down under the shadow: there
was nothing strained, nothing formal. So ought true piety ever to be
consistent with common-sense, with that which seems most fitting, most
comely, most wise, and most natural. There is Christ, we may enjoy Him,
let us not despise the privilege.
The second part of our subject is, the heart's refreshment in Christ. His
fruit was sweet to my taste. Here I will not enlarge, but give you
thoughts in brief which you can beat out afterwards. She did not feast
upon the fruit of the tree till first she was under the shadow of it.
There is no knowing the excellent things of Christ till you trust Him. Not
a single sweet apple shall fall to the lot of those who are outside the
shadow. Come and trust Christ, and then all that there is in Christ shall
be enjoyed by you. 0 unbelievers, what you miss! If you will but sit down
under His shadow, you shall have all things; but if you will not, neither
shall any good thing of Christ's be yours.
as soon as ever she was under the shadow, then the fruit was all hers. "I
sat down under His shadow," saith she, and then, "His fruit was sweet to
my taste." Dost thou believe in Jesus, friend? Then Jesus Christ Himself
is thine; and if thou dost own the tree, thou mayest well eat the fruit.
Since He Himself becomes thine altogether, then His redemption and the
pardon that comes of it, His living power, His mighty intercession, the
glories of His Second Advent, and all that belong to Him are made over to
thee for thy personal and present use and enjoyment. All things are yours,
since Christ is yours. Only mind you imitate the spouse: when she found
that the fruit was hers, she ate it. Copy her closely in this. It is a
great fault in many believers, that they do not appropriate the promises,
and feed on them. Do not err as they do. Under the shadow you have a right
to eat the fruit. Deny not yourselves the sacred entertainment.
Now, it would appear, as we read the text, that she obtained this fruit
without effort. The proverb says, "He who would gain the fruit must climb
the tree." But she did not climb, for she says, "I sat down under His
shadow." I suppose the fruit dropped down to her. I know that it is so
with us. We no longer spend our money for that which is not bread, and our
labour for that which satisfieth not; but we sit under our Lord's shadow,
and we eat that which is good, and our soul delights itself in sweetness.
Come Christian, enter into the calm rest of faith, by sitting down beneath
the cross, and thou shalt be fed even to the full.
spouse rested while feasting: she sat and ate. So, 0 true believer, rest
whilst thou art feeding upon Christ! The spouse says, "I sat, and I ate."
Had she not told us in the former chapter that the King sat at His table?
See how like the Church is to her Lord, and the believer to his Saviour!
We sit down also, and we eat, even as the King doth. Right royally are we
entertained. His joy is in us, and His peace keeps our hearts and minds.
Further, notice that, as the spouse fed upon this fruit, she had a relish
for it. It is not every palate that likes every fruit. Never dispute with
other people about tastes of any sort, for agreement is not possible. That
dainty which to one person is the most delicious is to another nauseous;
and if there were a competition as to which fruit is preferable to all the
rest, there would probably be almost as many opinions as there are fruits.
But blessed is he who hath a relish for Christ Jesus! Dear hearer, is He
sweet to you? Then He is yours. There never was a heart that did relish
Christ but what Christ belonged to that heart. If thou hast been feeding
on Him, and He is sweet to thee, go on feasting, for He who gave thee a
relish gives thee Himself to satisfy thine appetite.
What are the fruits which come from Christ? Are they not peace with God,
renewal of heart, joy in the Holy Ghost, love to the brethren? Are they
not regeneration, justification, sanctification, adoption, and all the
blessings of the covenant of grace? And are they not each and all sweet to
our taste? As we have fed upon them, have we not said, "Yes, these things
are pleasant indeed. There is none like them. Let us live upon them
evermore"? Now, sit down, sit down and feed. It seems a
strange thing that we should have to persuade people to do that, but in
the spiritual world things are very different from what they are in the
natural. In the case of most men, if you put a joint of meat before them,
and a knife and fork, they do not need many arguments to persuade them to
fall to. But I will tell you when they will not do it, and that is when
they are full: and I will also tell you when they will do it, and that is
when they are hungry. Even so, if thy soul is weary after Christ the
Saviour, thou wilt feed on Him; but if not, it is useless for me to preach
to thee, or bid thee come. However, thou that art there, sitting under His
shadow, thou mayest hear Him utter these words: "Eat, 0 friend: drink,
yea, drink abundantly." Thou canst not have too much of these good things:
the more of Christ, the better the Christian.
know that the spouse feasted herself right heartily with this food from
the tree of life, for in after days she wanted more. Will you kindly read
on in the fourth verse? The verse which contains our text describes, as it
were, her first love to her Lord, her country love, her rustic love. She
went to the wood, and she found Him there like an apple tree, and she
enjoyed Him as one relishes a ripe apple in the country. But she grew in
grace, she learned more of her Lord, and she found that her Best-beloved
was a King. I should not wonder but what she learned the doctrine of the
Second Advent, for then she began to sing, "He brought me to the
banqueting house." As much as to say,-He did not merely let me know Him
out in the fields as the Christ in His humiliation, but He brought me into
the royal palace; and, since He is a King, He brought forth a banner with
His own brave escutcheon, and He waved it over me while I was sitting at
the table, and the motto of that banneret was love.
grew very full of this. It was such a grand thing to find a great Saviour,
a triumphant Saviour, an exalted Saviour! But it was too much for her, and
she became sick of soul with the excessive glory of what she had learned;
and do you see what her heart craves for? She longs for her first simple
joys, those countrified delights. "Comfort me with apples," she says.
Nothing but the old joys will revive her. Did you ever feel like that? I
have been satiated with delight in the love of Christ as a glorious
exalted Saviour when I have seen Him riding on His white horse, and going
forth conquering and to conquer; I have been overwhelmed when I have
beheld Him in the midst of the throne, with all the brilliant assembly of
angels and archangels adoring Him, and my thought has gone forward to the
day when He shall descend with all the pomp of God, and make all kings and
princes shrink into nothingness before the infinite majesty of His glory.
Then I have felt as though, at the sight of Him, I must fall at His feet
as dead; and I have wanted somebody to come and tell me over again "the
old, old story" of how He died in order that I might be saved. His throne
overpowers me, let me gather fruit from His cross. Bring me apples from
"the tree" again. I am awe-struck while in the palace, let me get away to
the woods again. Give me an apple plucked from the tree, such as I have
given out to boys and girls in His family, such an apple as this, "Come
unto Me all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest."
Or this: "This man receiveth sinners." Give me a promise from the basket
of the covenant. Give me the simplicity of Christ, let me be a child and
feast on apples again, if Jesus be the apple tree. I would fain go back to
Christ on the tree in my stead, Christ overshadowing me, Christ feeding
me. This is the happiest state to live in. Lord, evermore give us these
apples! You recollect the old story we told, years ago, of Jack the
huckster who used to sing,-
"I'm a poor sinner, and nothing at all,
Jesus Christ is my all in all."
who knew him were astonished at his constant composure. They had a world of
doubts and fears, and so they asked him why he never doubted. "Well," said
he, "I can't doubt but what 1 am a poor sinner, and nothing at all, for 1
know that, and feel it every day. And why should 1 doubt that Jesus Christ
is my all in all? for He says He is." "Oh!" said his questioner, "I have my
ups and downs." "I don't," says Jack;" 1 can never go up, for 1 am a poor
sinner, and nothing at all; and 1 cannot go down, for Jesus Christ is my all
in all." He wanted to join the church, and they said he must tell his
experience. He said, "All my experience is that 1 am a poor sinner, and
nothing at all, and Jesus Christ is my all in all." "Well," they said, "when
you come before the church-meeting, the minister may ask you questions." "I
can't help it," said Jack, "all 1 know 1 will tell you; and that is all 1
a poor sinner, and nothing at all, But Jesus Christ is my all in alL'"
was admitted into the church, and continued with the brethren, walking in
holiness; but that was still all his experience, and you could not get him
beyond it. "Why," said one brother, "I sometimes feel so full of grace, 1
feel so advanced in sanctification, that 1 begin to be very happy." "I never
do," said Jack; "I am a poor sinner, and nothing at all." "But then," said
the other, "I go down again, and think 1 am not saved, because 1 am not as
sanctified as 1 used to be." "But 1 never doubt my salvation," said Jack,
"because Jesus Christ is my all in all, and He never alters." That simple
story is grandly instructive, for it sets forth a plain man's faith in a
plain salvation; it is the likeness of a soul under the apple tree, resting
in the shade, and feasting on the fruit.
at this time 1 want you to think of Jesus, not as a Prince, but as an apple
tree; and when this is done, 1 pray you to sit down under His shadow. It is
not much to do. Any child, when it is hot, can sit down in a shadow. 1 want
you next to feed on Jesus: any simpleton can eat apples when they are ripe
upon the tree. Come and take Christ, then. You who never came before, come
now. Come and welcome. You who have come often, and have entered into the
palace, and are reclining at the banqueting table, you lords and peers of
Christianity, come to the common wood and to the common apple tree where
poor saints are shaded and fed. You had better come under the apple tree,
like poor sinners such as 1 am, and be once more shaded with boughs and
comforted with apples, for else you may faint beneath the palace glories.
The best of saints are never better than when they eat their first fare, and
are comforted with the apples which were their first gospel feast.
Lord Himself bring forth His own sweet fruit to you! Amen.
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