Upon the Balsam Tree
Soem faces are by the painter drawn with less difficulty than others, the lineaments and features of them being such as are more easy for his eye to observe, and for his hand also happily to express. And so it wi with some subjects of meditation above others, which with less labor of the mind are by the pencil of the thoughts formed into lively resemblance of heavenly things, and thereby bearing a proportion to our senses, do convey spiritual mysteries by a facile and delightful manner to our understanding.
Such a subject is the balsam tree which while I think of the place of this growth, the way of obtaining it juice, and the sovereign virtue that it hath to effect strange cures, and to heave inveterate diseases, ti carries forthwith my thought to my blessed savior, who is the only repository in which God has laid up allis invaluable treasurers of healing balsams.
It readily suggests to me such moving considerations as to serve to exalt Christ’s excellency in my heart, and to endear him to me in all the ties of choices affections. And that it may do so for others, I will draw the parallel between this tree and Christ, that others may see what a sweet representation it is of him, who, as David says, forties all our iniquities and heals all our diseases. [Ps. 103:3]
First, in the sole place of this tree’s growth is in Emanuel’s Land [Israel. It is Pliny’s observation, Balsamum uni terrarum Judea concessum est, it is a special grant bestowed by God upon Judea: the country which is renowned for Christ’s birth is also only celebrated for this balm, all other nations wholly wanted [lack] it, or least had none like it.
Moses tells us that it was anciently on of the Ishmaelites’ commodities which they carried from Gilead to Egypt. And Ezekiel says it was Israel’s and Judah’s merchandise to Tyre.
Does it not then genuinely point out unto us the whole world must be beholding to Christ for salvation and healing? Does it not as spiritual hieroglyphic assert that weighty doctrine of Peter’s That there is no name under heaven given amongst men, whereby we must be saved, but by the name of Christ? [Acts 4:12]
Whey then do men lay out their month for that which is not balm? Why do they take hold sometimes one one creature and sometimes one another, saying, Be thou our healer, let this ruin be under thy hand? [Is. 3:6] Is it not one of those glorious appellations which God in Scripture is pleased to take unto himself, I am the Lord that healeth thee? [Ex. 15:26]
Take heed then, O Christin, when you are under any distress, or under any malady to cheat yourself with false remedies: to use figs leaves instead of figs themselves. Adam took the one [Gen. 3:7], which did only hide his nakedness but not cure it. But to restore Hezekiah, God took the other. [2 Kings 20:7] Use what God has appointed, not what you fancy.
Secondly, this balsam tree drops and weeps forth its balsam to heal their wounds, that cut and mangle it, and did not our blessed Savior do thus? What a strange requital did this great innocent and holy person make unto those from whom he suffered?
They mock and revile him hanging upon the cross,
and he prays and begs forgiveness for them.
They shed his blood,
and he makes it a precious medicine to heal their putrid sores.
They smite and pierce him to the heart with a spear,
and he erects in his heart a fountain to wash them from their sin and uncleanness.
Was it ever hear that a physician would sweat and bleed for his surfeited patient? Or than an offended prince would expiate the foul treasons of his subjects with his own life?
Surely well might the Apostle [Paul] say, that God commended his love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us. [Rom. 5:8]
Be astonished ye angels of Heaven who delight to pry into Gospel mysteries [1 Pet. 1:12] of this abyss of divine love from which Seraphim themselves connote be detract if they should if the least conceive that they could either fathom with their knowledge or express in their praises.
And be ye melted O rocky hearts of sinners with ardency and strength of such love, which is stronger than death itself. [Song 8:6] It was his love which held him upon the cross to finish your salvation when death could not hold him in the grave. Let this love of Christ constrain you henceforth not to live unto yourself, but him that died for you.
Thirdly, this balm which distills from this wounded tree of such virtue and efficacy as that is medicana omni morbia, physic [medicine] to cure all diseases, being applied inwardly and outwardly.
It allays the headache, it restores eye-sight, helps asthma, purges ulcers, cures the poison sting of serpents, heals all kinds of wounds. Is not then this balm in the letter an apt emblem of the balm in the master of the blood of Christ (which is of unlimited power and excellency). What is the evil that can befall for which this is not a certain cure?
Oh, when taken inwardly, as in the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, it is both food and physic, it enlightens the dark mind, it heals the broken heart, it fells the hungry with good things. [Luke 1:53] When sprinkled outwardly, as in baptism, it is effectual to stop the leprosy of sin, to cure the venom and rage of lusts, to mollify the stony heart, and to make the fruitful barren.
Be then of good cheer, O ye drooping and afflicted souls, let me say to you, as Paul to those in the tempest, The lives of none of you shall be lost. [Acts 27:22] If you complain, No sins like yours [my sins are greater than your sin]; let me add, There is no salvation like Christ’s. If you say, you are a system, a fardle [a bundle] of sins and lusts, hear what the Apostle [John]says, The blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from all sin. 1 John 1:7.
No man every miscarried [failed to achieve this salvation] for being a great sinner, but only for being an impenitent sinner. Be not in love with your sin, as beggars are with their sores, that will not party with them. And then doubt not of your physician’s skill or care. It is his peculiar glory, that never any patient miscarried under his hand, though such was their condition that they were utterly incurable by any other.