Here in the UK, bramble picking season is upon us. Rev Stephen Steele, minister of Stranraer RP Church and a keen historian, stumbled across the following old meditation by Rev J. P Struthers on the humble blackberry and has kindly transcribed it for us to share!
One day when his companion on a walk amused himself by slashing off the juicy tops of the brambles in the hedge with his walking-stick, the late Dr. Benson, Archbishop of Canterbury, stopped him sharply: “Don’t do that; it’s breaking the Third Commandment!”
When Dr. Benson made that remark about the Third Commandment no doubt the young man was greatly astonished. A little thought would show him that he was doing a useless thing and a wrong thing, but what had slashing brambles to do with the Third Commandment? He wasn’t speaking, much less swearing, or saying bad words! How then could he be taking God’s Name in vain? And one may be sure that that is what he would say to the Archbishop.
But if that lad had learnt the Shorter Catechism in his childhood, he would instantly have said to himself – What is required in the Third Commandment? And then, What is forbidden in the Third Commandment? And he would have repeated the answer in his mind – “The Third Commandment forbiddeth all profaning or abusing of anything whereby God maketh Himself known.” That is one advantage in being brought up a Presbyterian! We are “rooted and grounded” in the faith. Indeed I am pretty sure Dr. Benson himself had got his knowledge of what the Third Commandment means either directly or indirectly from that very Shorter Catechism.
A Bramble-berry, like every other berry, is one of God’s works. It is good for food, and a delight to the eyes, and it grows in waste places, and by the roadside, for poor and weary travellers, and it costs nothing, and it comes late in the year, just before winter, when the harvest is all over and the time of other fruits is past, and it is full of honour, for it plays hide-and-seek, and smiles and beams out of the darkness on the diligent that find it. Yes, there is a lot of love in the making of a bramble-bush, and that is how it is one of the things “by which God maketh Himself known”, that is, shows us what He is.
O the Bramble-bush is the Poor man’s tree,
For it loves the king’s high road,
And none dare say, “It belongeth to me,”
For it roams like the winds of God.
O, the Bramble-bush for me!
O the Bramble-bush is the Bairnies’ tree,
For it loves to trail on the ground,
And by little or big, whatever you be
There are berries to be found.
O the Bramble-bush for me!
And the Bramble-bush is like God’s own tree,
‘Tis the place where dwells Goodwill;
For its thorns are hands that say, “Come, see,
Eat every one your fill.”
O the Bramble-bush for me!
But the Bramble-tree improves by cultivation. I knew a man once one of whose hobbies it was to gather every kind and variety of bramble he could find or hear of, and in his grounds he had specimens of bushes from every part of Europe.
But the special beauty of the Bramble as of every other tree is this. Its thorns remind us of Paradise Lost, but its fruit tells us that Paradise has been regained. Every green leaf, every flower, every whistling bird, every drop of water in the world, proves that the great gulf between us and God is not only not yet “fixed,” but has been bridged by Christ; they all prove to us that God is still in the world, and that he is not far from any one of us. Everything God gives us brings with it an offer of Christ and his salvation. The God Who gives us these little things wishes to give us more, wishes to give us everything He has.
J. P. Struthers
Morning Watch, October 1906.