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Title: Talks To Farmers
Author: Spurgeon, Charles Haddon
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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  THE SLUGGARD'S FARM,                                 1

  THE BROKEN FENCE,                                   24

  FROST AND THAW,                                     39


  THE PLOUGHMAN,                                      71

  PLOUGHING THE ROCK,                                 88

  THE PARABLE OF THE SOWER,                          103

  THE PRINCIPAL WHEAT,                               118

  SPRING IN THE HEART,                               132

  FARM LABORERS,                                     149

  CANNOT DO,                                         164

  THE SHEEP BEFORE THE SHEARERS,                     181

  IN THE HAY-FIELD,                                  196

  THE JOY OF HARVEST,                                211

  SPIRITUAL GLEANING,                                226

  MEAL-TIME IN THE CORNFIELDS,                       241

  THE LOADED WAGON,                                  258

  THRESHING,                                         275

  WHEAT IN THE BARN,                                 290



"I went by the field of the slothful, and by the vineyard of the man
void of understanding; And, lo, it was all grown over with thorns, and
nettles had covered the face thereof, and the stone wall thereof was
broken down. Then I saw, and considered it well: I looked upon it, and
received instruction."--PROVERBS 24:30-32.

No doubt Solomon was sometimes glad to lay aside the robes of state,
escape from the forms of court, and go through the country unknown. On
one occasion, when he was doing so, he looked over the broken wall of a
little estate which belonged to a farmer of his country. This estate
consisted of a piece of ploughed land and a vineyard. One glance showed
him that it was owned by a sluggard, who neglected it, for the weeds had
grown right plentifully and covered all the face of the ground. From
this Solomon gathered instruction. Men generally learn wisdom if they
have wisdom. The artist's eye sees the beauty of the landscape because
he has beauty in his mind. "To him that hath shall be given," and he
shall have abundance, for he shall reap a harvest even from the field
that is covered with thorns and nettles. There is a great difference
between one man and another in the use of the mind's eye. I have a book
entitled, "The Harvest of a Quiet Eye," and a good book it is: the
harvest of a quiet eye can be gathered from a sluggard's land as well as
from a well-managed farm. When we were boys we were taught a little
poem, called, "Eyes and no Eyes," and there was much of truth in it, for
some people have eyes and see not, which is much the same as having no
eyes; while others have quick eyes for spying out instruction. Some look
only at the surface, while others see not only the outside shell but the
living kernel of truth which is hidden in all outward things.

_We may find instruction everywhere._ To a spiritual mind nettles have
their use, and weeds have their doctrine. Are not all thorns and
thistles meant to be teachers to sinful men? Are they not brought forth
of the earth on purpose that they may show us what sin has done, and the
kind of produce that will come when we sow the seed of rebellion against
God? "I went by the field of the slothful, and by the vineyard of the
man void of understanding," says Solomon; "I saw, and considered it
well: I looked upon it, and received instruction." Whatever you see,
take care to consider it well, and you will not see it in vain. You
shall find books and sermons everywhere, in the land and in the sea, in
the earth and in the skies, and you shall learn from every living beast,
and bird, and fish, and insect, and from every useful or useless plant
that springs out of the ground.

_We may also gather rare lessons from things that we do not like._ I am
sure that Solomon did not in the least degree admire the thorns and the
nettles that covered the face of the vineyard, but he nevertheless found
instruction in them. Many are stung by nettles, but few are taught by
them. Some men are hurt by briers, but here is one who was improved by
them. Wisdom hath a way of gathering grapes of thorns and figs of
nettles, and she distils good from herbs which in themselves are noisome
and evil. Do not fret, therefore, over thorns, but get good out of them.
Do not begin stinging yourself with nettles, grip them firmly, and then
use them for your soul's health. Trials and troubles, worries and
turmoils, little frets and little disappointments, may all help you if
you will. Like Solomon, see and consider them well--look upon them, and
receive instruction.

As for us, we will now, first, consider _Solomon's description of a
sluggard_: he is "a man void of understanding"; secondly, we shall
notice _his description of the sluggard's land_: "it was all grown over
with thorns, and nettles had covered the face thereof." When we have
attended to these two matters we will close by _endeavoring to gather
the instruction which this piece of waste ground may yield us_.

First, think of SOLOMON'S DESCRIPTION OF A SLOTHFUL MAN. Solomon was a
man whom none of us would contradict, for he knew as much as all of us
put together; and besides that, he was under divine inspiration when he
wrote this Book of Proverbs. Solomon says, a sluggard is "a man void of
understanding." The slothful does not think so; he puts his hands in his
pockets, and you would think from his important air that he had all the
Bank of England at his disposal. You can see that he is a very wise man
in his own esteem, for he gives himself airs which are meant to impress
you with a sense of his superior abilities. How he has come by his
wisdom it would be hard to say. He has never taken the trouble to
think, and yet I dare not say that he jumps at his conclusions, because
he never does such a thing as jump, he lies down and rolls into a
conclusion. Yet he knows everything, and has settled all points:
meditation is too hard work for him, and learning he never could endure;
but to be clever by nature is his delight. He does not want to know more
than he knows, for he knows enough already, and yet he knows nothing.
The proverb is not complimentary to him, but I am certain that Solomon
was right when he called him "a man void of understanding." Solomon was
rather rude according to the dainty manners of the present times,
because this gentleman had a field and a vineyard, and as Poor Richard
saith, "When I have a horse and a cow every man biddeth me good morrow."
How can a man be void of understanding who has a field and a vineyard?
Is it not generally understood that you must measure a man's
understanding by the amount of his ready cash? At all events you shall
soon be flattered for your attainments if you have attained unto wealth.
Such is the way of the world, but such is not the way of Scripture.
Whether he has a field and a vineyard or not, says Solomon, if he is a
sluggard he is a fool, or if you would like to see his name written out
a little larger, he is a man empty of understanding. Not only does he
not understand anything, but he has no understanding to understand with.
He is empty-headed if he is a sluggard. He may be called a gentleman, he
may be a landed proprietor, he may have a vineyard and a field; but he
is none the better for what he has: nay, he is so much the worse,
because he is a man void of understanding, and is therefore unable to
make use of his property.

I am glad to be told by Solomon so plainly that a slothful man is void
of understanding, for it is useful information. I have met with persons
who thought they perfectly understood the doctrines of grace, who could
accurately set forth the election of the saints, the predestination of
God, the firmness of the divine decree, the necessity of the Spirit's
work, and all the glorious doctrines of grace which build up the fabric
of our faith; but these gentlemen have inferred from these doctrines
that they have to do nothing, and thus they have become sluggards.
Do-nothingism is their creed. They will not even urge other people to
labor for the Lord, because, say they, "God will do his own work.
Salvation is all of grace!" The notion of these sluggards is that a man
is to wait, and do nothing; he is to sit still, and let the grass grow
up to his ankles in the hope of heavenly help. To arouse himself would
be an interference with the eternal purpose, which he regards as
altogether unwarrantable. I have known him look sour, shake his aged
head, and say hard things against earnest people who were trying to win
souls. I have known him run down young people, and like a great steam
ram, sink them to the bottom, by calling them unsound and ignorant. How
shall we survive the censures of this dogmatic person? How shall we
escape from this very knowing and very captious sluggard? Solomon
hastens to the rescue and extinguishes this gentleman by informing us
that he is void of understanding. Why, he is the standard of orthodoxy,
and he judges everybody! Yet Solomon applies another standard to him,
and says he is void of understanding. He may know the doctrine, but he
does not understand it; or else he would know that the doctrines of
grace lead us to seek the grace of the doctrines; and that when we see
God at work we learn that he worketh in us, not to make us go to sleep,
but to will and to do of his own good pleasure. God's predestination of
a people is his ordaining them unto good works that they may show forth
his praise. So, if you or I shall from any doctrines, however true, draw
the inference that we are warranted in being idle and indifferent about
the things of God, we are void of understanding; we are acting like
fools; we are misusing the gospel; we are taking what was meant for meat
and turning it into poison. The sluggard, whether he is sluggish about
his business or about his soul, is a man void of understanding.

As a rule we may measure a man's understanding by his useful activities;
this is what the wise man very plainly tells us. Certain persons call
themselves "cultured," and yet they cultivate nothing. Modern thought,
as far as I have seen anything of its actual working, is a bottle of
smoke, out of which comes nothing solid; yet we know men who can
distinguish and divide, debate and discuss, refine and refute, and all
the while the hemlock is growing in the furrow, and the plough is
rusting. Friend, if your knowledge, if your culture, if your education
does not lead you practically to serve God in your day and generation,
you have not learned what Solomon calls wisdom, and you are not like the
Blessed One, who was incarnate wisdom, of whom we read that "he went
about doing good." A lazy man is not like our Saviour, who said, "My
Father worketh hitherto, and I work." True wisdom is practical: boastful
culture vapors and theorizes. Wisdom ploughs its field, wisdom hoes its
vineyard, wisdom looks to its crops, wisdom tries to make the best of
everything; and he who does not do so, whatever may be his knowledge of
this, of that, or of the other, is a man void of understanding.

Why is he void of understanding? Is it not because _he has opportunities
which he does not use_? His day has come, his day is going, and he lets
the hours glide by to no purpose. Let me not press too hardly upon any
one, but let me ask you all to press as hardly as you can upon
yourselves while you enquire each one of himself, Am I employing the
minutes as they fly? This man had a vineyard, but he did not cultivate
it; he had a field, but he did not till it. Do you, brethren, use all
your opportunities? I know we each one have some power to serve God; do
we use it? If we are his children he has not put one of us where we are
of necessity useless. Somewhere we may shine by the light which he has
given us, though that light be only a farthing candle. Are we thus
shining? Do we sow beside all waters? Do we in the morning sow our seed,
and in the evening still stretch out our hand? for if not, we are
rebuked by the sweeping censure of Solomon, who saith that the slothful
is a "man void of understanding."

Having opportunities he did not use them, and next, _being bound to the
performance of certain duties he did not fulfil them_. When God
appointed that every Israelite should have a piece of land, under that
admirable system which made every Israelite a land owner, he meant that
each man should possess his plot, not to let it lie waste, but to
cultivate it. When God put Adam in the garden of Eden it was not that he
should walk through the glades and watch the spontaneous luxuriance of
the unfallen earth, but that he might dress it and keep it, and he had
the same end in view when he allotted each Jew his piece of land; he
meant that the holy soil should reach the utmost point of fertility
through the labor of those who owned it. Thus the possession of a field
and a vineyard involved responsibilities upon the sluggard which he
never fulfilled, and therefore he was void of understanding. What is
your position, dear friend? A father? A master? A servant? A minister? A
teacher? Well, you have your farms and your vineyards in those
particular spheres; but if you do not use those positions aright you
will be void of understanding, because you neglect the end of your
existence. You miss the high calling which your Maker has set before

The slothful farmer was unwise in these two respects, and in another
also; _for he had capacities which he did not employ_. He could have
tilled the field and cultivated the vineyard if he had chosen to do so.
He was not a sickly man, who was forced to keep his bed, but he was a
lazy-bones who was there of choice.

You are not asked to do in the service of God that which is utterly
beyond you, for it is expected of us according to what we have and not
according to what we have not. The man of two talents is not required to
bring in the interest of five, but he is expected to bring in the
interest of two. Solomon's slothful was too idle to attempt tasks which
were quite within his power. Many have a number of dormant faculties of
which they are scarcely aware, and many more have abilities which they
are using for themselves, and not for Him who created them. Dear
friends, if God has given us any power to do good, pray let us do it,
for this is a wicked, weary world. We should not even cover a
glow-worm's light in such a darkness as this. We should not keep back a
syllable of divine truth in a world that is so full of falsehood and
error. However feeble our voices, let us lift them up for the cause of
truth and righteousness. Do not let us be void of understanding, because
we have opportunities that we do not use, obligations that we do not
fulfil, and capacities which we do not exercise.

As for a sluggard in soul matters, he is indeed void of understanding,
for _he trifles with matters which demand his most earnest heed_. Man,
hast thou never cultivated thy heart? Hast the ploughshare never broken
up the clods of thy soul? Has the seed of the Word never been sown in
thee? or has it taken no root? Hast thou never watered the young plants
of desire? Hast thou never sought to pull up the weeds of sin that grow
in thy heart? Art thou still a piece of the bare common or wild heath?
Poor soul! Thou canst trim thy body, and spend many a minute at the
glass; dost thou not care for thy soul? How long thou takest to decorate
thy poor flesh, which is but worm's meat, or would be in a minute if God
took away thy breath! And yet all the while thy soul is uncombed,
unwashed, unclad, a poor neglected thing. Oh it should not be so. You
take care of the worse part and leave the better to perish through
neglect. This is the height of folly! He that is a sluggard as to the
vineyard of his heart is a man void of understanding. If I must be idle,
let it be seen in my field and my garden, but not in my soul.

Or are you a Christian? Are you really saved, and are you negligent in
the Lord's work? Then, indeed, whatever you may be, I cannot help saying
you have too little understanding; for surely, when a man is saved
himself, and understands the danger of other men's souls, he must be in
earnest in trying to pluck the firebrands from the flame. A Christian
sluggard! Is there such a being? A _Christian_ man on half time? A
Christian man working not at all for his Lord; how shall I speak of him?
_Time_ does not tarry, DEATH does not tarry, HELL does not tarry; Satan
is not lazy, all the powers of darkness are busy: how is it that you and
I can be sluggish, if the Master has put us into his vineyard? Surely we
must be void of understanding if, after being saved by the infinite love
of God, we do not spend and be spent in his service. The eternal fitness
of things demands that a saved man should be an earnest man.

The Christian who is slothful in his Master's service _has no idea what
he is losing_; for the very cream of religion lies in holy consecration
to God. Some people have just enough religion to make it questionable
whether they have any or no. They have enough godliness to make them
uneasy in their ungodliness. They have washed enough of their face to
show the dirt upon the rest of it. "I am glad," said a servant, "that my
mistress takes the sacrament, for otherwise I should not know she had
any religion at all." You smile, and well you may. It is ridiculous that
some people should have no goods in their shop, and yet advertise their
business in all the papers; should make a show of religion, and yet have
none of the Spirit of God. I wish some professors would do Christ the
justice to say, "No, I am _not_ one of his disciples; do not think so
badly of him as to imagine that I can be one of them." We ought to be
reflections _of_ Christ; but I fear many are reflections _upon_ Christ.
When we see a lot of lazy servants, we are apt to think that their
master must be a very idle person himself, or he would never put up with
them. He who employs sluggards, and is satisfied with their snail-like
pace, cannot be a very active man himself. O, let not the world think
that Christ is indifferent to human woe, that Christ has lost his zeal,
that Christ has lost his energy: yet I fear they will say it or think it
if they see those who profess to be laborers in the vineyard of Christ
nothing better than mere sluggards. The slothful, then, is a man void of
understanding; he loses the honor and pleasure which he would find in
serving his Master; he is a dishonor to the cause which he professes to
venerate, and he is storing up thorns for his dying pillow. Let that
stand as settled--the slothful, whether he be a minister, deacon, or
private Christian, is a man void of understanding.

Now, secondly, LET US LOOK AT THE SLUGGARD'S LAND: "I went by the field
of the slothful, and by the vineyard of the man void of understanding;
And, lo, it was all grown over with thorns, and nettles had covered the
face thereof." Note, first, that _land will produce something_. Soil
which is good enough to be made into a field and a vineyard must and
will yield some fruit or other; and so you and I, in our hearts and in
the sphere God gives us to occupy, will be sure to produce something. We
cannot live in this world as entire blanks; we shall either do good or
do evil, as sure as we are alive. If you are idle in Christ's work, you
are active in the devil's work. The sluggard by sleeping was doing more
for the cultivation of thorns and nettles than he could have done by any
other means. As a garden will either yield flowers or weeds, fruits or
thistles, so something either good or evil will come out of our
household, our class, or our congregation. If we do not produce a
harvest of good wheat, by laboring for Christ, we shall grow tares to be
bound up in bundles for the last dread burning.

Note again that, if it be not farmed for God, _the soul will yield its
natural produce_; and what is the natural produce of land if left to
itself? What but thorns and nettles, or some other useless weeds? What
is the natural produce of your heart and mine? What but sin and misery?
What is the natural produce of your children if you leave them untrained
for God? What but unholiness and vice? What is the natural produce of
this great city if we leave its streets, and lanes, and alleys without
the gospel? What but crime and infamy? Some harvest there will be, and
the sheaves will be the natural produce of the soil, which is sin,
death, and corruption.

If we are slothful, _the natural produce of our heart and of our sphere
will be most inconvenient and unpleasant to ourselves_. Nobody can sleep
on thorns, or make a pillow of nettles. No rest can come out of an
idleness which lets ill alone, and does not by God's Spirit strive to
uproot evil. While you are sleeping, Satan will be sowing. If you
withhold the seed of good, Satan will be lavish with the seed of evil,
and from that evil will come anguish and regret for time, and it may be
for eternity. O man, the garden put into thy charge, if thou waste thy
time in slumber, will reward thee with all that is noisome and painful.
"Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee."

_In many instances there will be a great deal of this evil produce_; for
a field and a vineyard will yield more thistles and nettles than a piece
of ground that has never been reclaimed. If the land is good enough for
a garden, it will present its owner with a fine crop of weeds if he
only stays his hand. A choice bit of land fit for a vineyard of red wine
will render such a profusion of nettles to the slothful that he shall
rub his eyes with surprise. The man who might do most for God, if he
were renewed, will bring forth most for Satan if he be let alone. The
very region which would have glorified God most if the grace of God were
there to convert its inhabitants, will be that out of which the vilest
enemies of the gospel will arise. Rest assured of that; the best will
become the worst if we neglect it. Neglect is all that is needed to
produce evil. If you want to know the way of salvation, I must take some
pains to tell you; but if you want to know the way to be lost, my reply
is easy; for it is only a matter of negligence:--"How shall we escape if
we neglect so great salvation?" If you desire to bring forth a harvest
unto God, I may need long to instruct you in ploughing, sowing, and
watering; but if you wish your mind to be covered with Satan's hemlock,
you have only to leave the furrows of your nature to themselves. The
slothful asks for "A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of
the hands to sleep," and the thorns and thistles multiply beyond all
numbering, and prepare for him many a sting.

While we look upon the lazy man's vineyard let us also peep into the
ungodly sluggard's heart. He does not care about repentance and faith.
To think about his soul, to be in earnest about eternity, is too much
for him. He wants to take things easy, and have a little more folding of
the arms to sleep. What is growing in his mind and character? In some of
these spiritual sluggards you can see drunkenness, uncleanness,
covetousness, anger, and pride, and all sorts of thistles and nettles;
or where these ranker weeds do not appear, by reason of the restraint of
pious connections, you find other sorts of sin. The heart cannot be
altogether empty, either Christ or the devil will possess it. My dear
friend, if you are not decided for God, you cannot be a neutral. In this
war every man is for God or for his enemy. You cannot remain like a
sheet of blank paper. The legible handwriting of Satan is upon you--can
you not see the blots? Unless Christ has written across the page his own
sweet name, the autograph of Satan is visible. You may say, "I do not go
into open sin; I am moral," and so forth. Ah, if you would but look, and
consider, and search into your heart, you would see that enmity to God
and to his ways, and hatred of purity, are there. You do not love God's
law, nor love his Son, nor love his gospel, you are alienated in your
heart, and there is in you all manner of evil desires and vain thoughts,
and these will flourish and increase so long as you are a spiritual
sluggard, and leave your heart uncultivated. O, may the Spirit of God
arouse you; may you be stirred to anxious, earnest thought, and then you
will see that these rank growths must be uprooted, and that your heart
must be turned up by the plough of conviction, and sown with the good
seed of the gospel, till a harvest rewards the great Husbandman.

Friend, if you believe in Christ, I want to peep over the hedge into
_your heart_ also, if you are a sluggish Christian; for I fear that
nettles and thistles are threatening you also. Did I not hear you sing
the other day--

  "'Tis a point I long to know"?

That point will often be raised, for doubt is a seed which is sure to
grow in lazy men's minds. I do not remember reading in Mr. Wesley's
diary a question about his own salvation. He was so busy in the harvest
of the Master that it did not occur to him to distrust his God. Some
Christians have little faith in consequence of their having never sown
the grain of mustard-seed which they have received. If you do not sow
your faith by using it, how can it grow? When a man lives by faith in
Christ Jesus, and his faith exercises itself actively in the service of
his Lord, it takes root, grows upward, and become strong, till it chokes
his doubts. Some have sadly morbid forebodings; they are discontented,
fretful, selfish, murmuring, and all because they are idle. These are
the weeds that grow in sluggards' gardens. I have known the slothful
become so peevish that nothing could please them; the most earnest
Christian could not do right for them; the most loving Christians could
not be affectionate enough; the most active church could not be
energetic enough; they detected all sorts of wrong where God himself saw
much of the fruit of his Spirit. This censoriousness, this contention,
this perpetual complaining is one of the nettles that are quite sure to
grow in men's gardens when they fold their arms in sinful ease. If your
heart does not yield fruit to God it will certainly bring forth that
which is mischievous in itself, painful to you, and injurious to your
fellow-men. Often the thorns choke the good seed; but it is a very
blessed thing when the good seed comes up so thick and fast that it
chokes the thorns. God enables certain Christians to become so fruitful
in Christ that their graces and works stand thick together, and when
Satan throws in the tares they cannot grow because there is no room for
them. The Holy Spirit by his power makes evil to become weak in the
heart, so that it no longer keeps the upper hand. If you are slothful,
friend, look over the field of your heart, and weep at the sight.

May I next ask you to look into _your own house_ and home? It is a
dreadful thing when a man does not cultivate the field of his own
family. I recollect in my early days a man who used to walk out with me
into the villages when I was preaching. I was glad of his company till I
found out certain facts, and then I shook him off, and I believe he
hooked on to somebody else, for he must needs be gadding abroad every
evening of the week. He had many children, and these grew up to be
wicked young men and women, and the reason was that the father, while he
would be at this meeting and that, never tried to bring his own children
to the Saviour. What is the use of zeal abroad if there is neglect at
home? How sad to say, "My own vineyard have I not kept." Have you never
heard of one who said he did not teach his children the ways of God
because he thought they were so young that it was very wrong to
prejudice them, and he had rather leave them to choose their own
religion when they grew older? One of his boys broke his arm, and while
the surgeon was setting it the boy was swearing all the time. "Ah," said
the good doctor, "I told you what would happen. You were afraid to
prejudice your boy in the right way, but the devil had no such qualms;
he has prejudiced him the other way, and pretty strongly too." It is our
duty to prejudice our field in favor of corn, or it will soon be covered
with thistles. Cultivate a child's heart for good, or it will go wrong
of itself, for it is already depraved by nature. O that we were wise
enough to think of this, and leave no little one to become a prey to the

As it is with homes, so is it with _schools_. A gentleman who joined
this church some time ago had been an atheist for years, and in
conversing with him I found that he had been educated at one of our
great public schools, and to that fact he traced his infidelity. He said
that the boys were stowed away on Sunday in a lofty gallery at the far
end of a church, where they could scarcely hear a word that the
clergyman said, but simply sat imprisoned in a place where it was
dreadfully hot in summer and cold in winter. On Sundays there were
prayers, and prayers, and prayers, but nothing that ever touched his
heart; until he was so sick of prayers that he vowed if he once got out
of the school he would have done with religion. This is a sad result,
but a frequent one. You Sunday-school teachers can make your classes so
tiresome to the children that they will hate Sunday. You can fritter
away the time in school without bringing the lads and lasses to Christ,
and so you may do more hurt than good. I have known Christian fathers
who by their severity and want of tenderness have sown their family
field with the thorns and thistles of hatred to religion instead of
scattering the good seed of love to it. O that we may so live among our
children that they may not only love us, but love our Father who is in
heaven. May fathers and mothers set such an example of cheerful piety
that sons and daughters shall say, "Let us tread in our father's
footsteps, for he was a happy and a holy man. Let us follow our mother's
ways, for she was sweetness itself." If piety does not rule in your
house, when we pass by your home we shall see disorder, disobedience,
pride of dress, folly, and the beginnings of vice. Let not your home be
a sluggard's field, or you will have to rue it in years to come.

Let every deacon, every class-leader, and also every minister enquire
diligently into the state of the field he has to cultivate. You see,
brothers and sisters, if you and I are set over any department of our
Lord's work, and we are not diligent in it, we shall be like barren
trees planted in an orchard, which are a loss altogether, because they
occupy the places of other trees which might have brought forth fruit
unto their owners. We shall cumber the ground, and do damage to our
Lord, unless we render him actual service. Will you think of this? If
you could be put down as a mere cipher in the accounts of Christ, that
would be very sad; but, brother, it cannot be so, you will cause a
deficit unless you create a gain. Oh that through the grace of God we
may be profitable to our Lord and Master! Who among us can look upon his
life-work without some sorrow? If anything has been done aright we
ascribe it all to the grace of God; but how much there is to weep over!
How much that we would wish to amend! Let us not spend time in idle
regrets, but pray for the Spirit of God, that in the future we may not
be void of understanding, but may know what we ought to do, and where
the strength must come from with which to do it, and then give ourselves
up to the doing of it.

I beg you once more to look at the great field of _the world_. Do you
see how it is overgrown with thorns and nettles? If an angel could take
a survey of the whole race, what tears he would shed, if angels could
weep! What a tangled mass of weeds the whole earth is! Yonder the field
is scarlet with the poppy of popery, and over the hedge it is yellow
with the wild mustard of Mahometanism. Vast regions are smothered with
the thistles of infidelity and idolatry. The world is full of cruelty,
oppression, drunkenness, rebellion, uncleanness, misery. What the moon
sees! What God's sun sees! What scenes of horror! How far is all this to
be attributed to a neglectful church? Nearly nineteen hundred years are
gone, and the sluggard's vineyard is but little improved! England has
been touched with the spade, but I cannot say that it has been
thoroughly weeded or ploughed yet. Across the ocean another field
equally favored knows well the ploughman, and yet the weeds are rank.
Here and there a little good work has been done, but the vast mass of
the world still lies a moorland never broken up, a waste, a howling
wilderness. What has the church been doing all these years? She ceased
after a few centuries to be a missionary church, and from that hour she
almost ceased to be a living church. Whenever a church does not labor
for the reclaiming of the desert, it becomes itself a waste. You shall
not find on the roll of history that for a length of time any Christian
community has flourished after it has become negligent of the outside
world. I believe that if we are put into the Master's vineyard, and will
not take away the weeds, neither shall the vine flourish, nor shall the
corn yield its increase. However, instead of asking what the church has
been doing for this nineteen hundred years, let us ask ourselves, What
are we going to do now? Are the missions of the churches of Great
Britain always to be such poor, feeble things as they are? Are the best
of our Christian young men always going to stay at home? We go on
ploughing the home field a hundred times over, while millions of acres
abroad are left to the thorn and nettle. Shall it always be so? God
send us more spiritual life, and wake us up from our sluggishness, or
else when the holy watcher gives in his report, he will say, "I went by
the field of the sluggish church, and it was all grown over with thorns
and nettles, and the stone wall was broken down, so that one could
scarcely tell which was the church and which was the world, yet still
she slept, and slept, and slept, and nothing could waken her."

I conclude by remarking that THERE MUST BE SOME LESSON IN ALL THIS. I
cannot teach it as I would, but I want to learn it myself. I will speak
it as though I were talking to myself.

The first lesson is, that _unaided nature always will produce thorns and
nettles, and nothing else_. My soul, if it were not for grace, this is
all thou wouldst have produced. Beloved, are you producing anything
else? Then it is not nature, but the grace of God that makes you produce
it. Those lips that now most charmingly sing the praises of God would
have been delighted with an idle ballad if the grace of God had not
sanctified them. Your heart, that now cleaves to Christ, would have
continued to cling to your idols--you know what they were--if it had not
been for grace divine. And why should grace have visited you or me--why?
Echo answers, Why? What answer can we give? "'Tis even so, Father, for
so it seemed good in thy sight." Let the recollection of what grace has
done move us to manifest the result of that grace in our lives. Come,
brothers and sisters, inasmuch as we were aforetime rich enough in the
soil of our nature to produce so much of nettle and thistle--and God
only knows how much we did produce--let us now pray that our lives may
yield as much of good corn for the great Husbandman. Will you serve
Christ less than you served your lusts? Will you make less sacrifice
for Christ than you did for your sins? Some of you were whole-hearted
enough when in the service of the evil one, will you be half-hearted in
the service of God? Shall the Holy Spirit produce less fruit in you than
that which you yielded under the spirit of evil?

God grant that we may not be left to prove what nature will produce if
left to itself.

We see here, next, _the little value of natural good intentions_; for
this man, who left his field and vineyard to be overgrown, always meant
to work hard one of these fine days. To do him justice, we must admit
that he did not mean to sleep much longer, for he said--"Yet a little
sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep." Only a
little doze, and then he would tuck up his sleeves and show his muscle.
Probably the worst people in the world are those who have the best
intentions, but never carry them out. In that way Satan lulls many to
sleep. They hear an earnest sermon; but they do not arise and go to
their Father; they only get as far as saying, "Yes, yes, the far country
is not a fit place for me; I will not stay here long. I mean to go home
by-and-by." They said that forty years ago, but nothing came of it. When
they were quite youths they had serious impressions, they were almost
persuaded to be Christians, and yet they are not Christians even now.
They have been slumbering forty years! Surely that is a liberal share of
sleep! They never intended to dream so long, and now they do not mean to
lie in bed much longer. They will not turn to Christ at once, but they
are resolved to do so one day. When are you going to do it, friend?
"Before I die." Going to put it off to the last hour or two, are you?
And so, when unconscious, and drugged to relieve pain, you will begin
to think of your soul? Is this wise? Surely you are void of
understanding. Perhaps you will die in an hour. Did you not hear the
other day of the alderman who died in his carriage? Little must he have
dreamed of that. How would it have fared with you had you also been
smitten while riding at your ease? Have you not heard of persons who
fall dead at their work? What is to hinder your dying with a spade in
your hand? I am often startled when I am told in the week that one whom
I saw on Sunday is dead--gone from the shop to the judgment-seat. It is
not a very long time ago since one went out at the doorway of the
Tabernacle, and fell dead on the threshold. We have had deaths in the
house of God, unexpected deaths; and sometimes people are hurried away
unprepared who never meant to have died unconverted, who always had from
their youth up some kind of desire to be ready, only still they wanted a
little more sleep. Oh, my hearers, take heed of little delays, and short
puttings-off. You have wasted time enough already, come to the point at
once before the clock strikes again. May God the Holy Spirit bring you
to decision.

"Surely you do not object to my having a little more sleep?" says the
sluggard. "You have waked me so soon. I only ask another little nap."
"My dear man, it is far into the morning." He answers, "It is rather
late, I know; but it will not be much later if I take just another
doze." You wake him again, and tell him it is noon. He says, "It is the
hottest part of the day: I daresay if I had been up I should have gone
to the sofa and taken a little rest from the hot sun." You knock at his
door when it is almost evening, and then he cries, "It is of no use to
get up now, for the day is almost over." You remind him of his overgrown
field and weedy vineyard, and he answers, "Yes, I must get up, I know."
He shakes himself and says, "I do not think it will matter much if I
wait till the clock strikes. I will rest another minute or two." He is
glued to his bed, dead while he liveth, buried in his laziness. If he
could sleep forever he would, but he cannot, for the judgment-day will
rouse him. It is written, "And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in
torment." God grant that you spiritual sluggards may wake before that;
but you will not unless you bestir yourselves betimes, for "now is the
accepted time"; and it may be now or never. To-morrow is only to be
found in the calendar of fools; to-day is the time of the wise man, the
chosen season of our gracious God. Oh that the Holy Spirit may lead you
to seize the present hour, that you may at once give yourselves to the
Lord by faith in Christ Jesus, and then from his vineyard--

                  "Quick uproot
  The noisome weeds, that without profit suck
  The soil's fertility from wholesome plants."


"I went by the field of the slothful, and by the vineyard of the man
void of understanding; and lo, it was all grown over with thorns, and
nettles had covered the face thereof, and _the stone wall thereof was
broken down_. Then I saw, and considered it well: I looked upon it and
received instruction."--PROVERBS 24:30-32.

THIS slothful man did no hurt to his fellow-men: he was not a thief, nor
a ruffian, nor a meddler in anybody else's business. He did not trouble
himself about other men's concerns, for he did not even attend to his
own--it required too much exertion. He was not grossly vicious; he had
not energy enough to care for that. He was one who liked to take things
easily. He always let well alone, and, for the matter of that, he let
ill alone, too, as the nettles and the thistles in his garden plainly
proved. What was the use of disturbing himself? It would be all the same
a hundred years hence; and so he took things just as they came. He was
not a bad man, so some said of him; and yet, perhaps, it will be found
at last that there is no worse man in the world than the man who is not
good, for in some respects he is not good enough to be bad; he has not
enough force of character about him to serve either God or Baal. He
simply serves himself, worshipping his own ease and adoring his own
comfort. Yet he always meant to be right. Dear me! he was not going to
sleep much longer, he would only have forty winks more, and then he
would be at his work, and show you what he could do. One of these days
he meant to be thoroughly in earnest, and make up for lost time. The
time never actually came for him to begin, but it was always coming. He
always meant to repent, but he went on in his sin. He meant to believe,
but he died an unbeliever. He meant to be a Christian, but he lived
without Christ. He halted between two opinions because he could not
trouble himself to make up his mind; and so he perished of delay.

This picture of the slothful man and his garden and field overgrown with
nettles and weeds represents many a man who has professed to be a
Christian, but who has become slothful in the things of God. Spiritual
life has withered in him. He has backslidden; he has come down from the
condition of healthy spiritual energy into one of listlessness, and
indifference to the things of God; and while things have gone wrong
within his heart, and all sorts of mischiefs have come into him and
grown up and seeded themselves in him, mischief is also taking place
externally in his daily conduct. The stone wall which guarded his
character is broken down, and he lies open to all evil. Upon this point
we will now meditate. "The stone wall thereof was broken down."

Come, then, let us take a walk with Solomon, and stand with him and
consider and learn instruction while we _look at this broken-down
fence_. When we have examined it, let us _consider the consequences of
broken-down walls_; and then, in the last place, let us try to _rouse up
this sluggard that his wall may yet be repaired_. If this slothful
person should be one of ourselves, may God's infinite mercy rouse us up
before this ruined wall has let in a herd of prowling vices.

I. First let us take a LOOK AT THIS BROKEN FENCE.

You will see that in the beginning it was a very good fence, for it was
a stone wall. Fields are often surrounded with wooden palings which soon
decay, or with hedges which may very easily have gaps made in them; but
this was a stone wall. Such walls are very usual in the East, and are
also common in some of our own counties where stone is plentiful. It was
a substantial protection to begin with, and well shut in the pretty
little estate which had fallen into such bad hands. The man had a field
for agricultural purposes, and another strip of land for a vineyard or a
garden. It was fertile soil, for it produced thorns and nettles in
abundance, and where these flourish better things can be produced; yet
the idler took no care of his property, but allowed the wall to get into
bad repair, and in many places to be quite broken down.

Let me mention some of the stone walls that men permit to be broken down
when they backslide.

In many cases _sound principles were instilled in youth_, but these are
forgotten. What a blessing is Christian education! Our parents, both by
persuasion and example, taught many of us the things that are pure and
honest, and of good repute. We saw in their lives how to live. They also
opened the word of God before us, and they taught us the ways of right
both toward God and toward men. They prayed for us, and they prayed with
us, till the things of God were placed round about us and shut us in as
with a stone wall. We have never been able to get rid of our early
impressions. Even in times of wandering, before we knew the Lord
savingly, these things had a healthy power over us; we were checked when
we would have done evil, we were assisted when we were struggling
toward Christ. It is very sad when people permit these first principles
to be shaken, and to be removed like stones which fall from a boundary
wall. Young persons begin at first to talk lightly of the old-fashioned
ways of their parents. By-and-by it is not merely the old-fashionedness
of the ways, but the ways themselves that they despise. They seek other
company, and from that other company they learn nothing but evil. They
seek pleasure in places which it horrifies their parents to think of.
This leads to worse, and if they do not bring their fathers' gray hairs
with sorrow to the grave it is no virtue of theirs. I have known young
men, who really were Christians, sadly backslide through being induced
to modify, conceal, or alter those holy principles in which they were
trained from their mother's knee. It is a great calamity when
professedly converted men become unfixed, unstable, and carried about
with every wind of doctrine. It shows great faultiness of mind, and
unsoundness of heart, when we can trifle with those grave and solemn
truths which have been sanctified by a mother's tears and by a father's
earnest life. "I am thy servant," said David, "and the son of thy
handmaid": he felt it to be a high honor, and, at the same time, a
sacred bond which bound him to God, that he was the son of one who could
be called God's handmaid. Take care, you who have had Christian
training, that you do not trifle with it. "My son, keep thy father's
commandment, and forsake not the law of thy mother: bind them
continually upon thine heart, and tie them about thy neck."

Protection to character is also found in the fact that _solid doctrines
have been learned_. This is a fine stone wall. Many among us have been
taught the gospel of the grace of God, and they have learned it well,
so that they are able to contend earnestly for the faith once delivered
to the saints. Happy are they who have a religion that is grounded upon
a clear knowledge of eternal verities. A religion which is all
excitement, and has little instruction in it, may serve for transient
use; but for permanent life-purposes there must be a knowledge of those
great doctrines which are fundamental to the gospel system. I tremble
when I hear of a man's giving up, one by one, the vital principles of
the gospel and boasting of his liberality. I hear him say, "These are my
views, but others have a right to their views also." That is a very
proper expression in reference to mere "views," but we may not thus
speak of _truth_ itself as revealed by God: that is one and unalterable,
and all are bound to receive it. It is not your view of truth, for that
is a dim thing; but the very truth itself which will save you if your
faith embraces it. I will readily yield my way of stating a doctrine,
but not the doctrine itself. One man may put it in this way, and one in
another; but the truth itself must never be given up. The spirit of the
Broad School robs us of everything like certainty. I should like to ask
some great men of that order whether they believe that anything is
taught in the Scriptures which it would be worth while for a person to
die for, and whether the martyrs were not great fools for laying down
their lives for mere opinions which might be right or might be wrong.
This Broad-churchism is a breaking down of stone walls, and it will let
in the devil and all his crew, and do infinite harm to the church of
God, if it be not stopped. A loose state of belief does great damage to
any man's mind.

We are not bigots, but we should be none the worse if we so lived that
men called us so. I met a man the other day who was accused of bigotry,
and I said, "Give me your hand, old fellow. I like to meet with bigots
now and then, for the fine old creatures are getting scarce, and the
stuff they are made of is so good that if there were more of it we might
see a few men among us again and fewer mollusks." Lately we have seen
few men with backbone; the most have been of the jelly-fish order. I
have lived in times in which I should have said, "Be liberal, and shake
off all narrowness": but now I am obliged to alter my tone and cry, "Be
steadfast in the truth." The faith once delivered to the saints is now
all the more attractive to me because it is called narrow, for I am
weary of that breadth which comes of broken hedges. There are fixed
points of truth, and definite certainties of creed, and woe to you if
you allow these stone walls to crumble down. I fear me that the slothful
are a numerous band, and that ages to come may have to deplore the
laxity which has been applauded by this negligent generation.

Another fence which is too often neglected is that of _godly habits
which had been formed_: the sluggard allows this wall to be broken down.
I will mention some valuable guards of life and character. One is the
habit of _secret prayer_. Private prayer should be regularly offered, at
least in the morning and in the evening. We cannot do without set
seasons for drawing near to God. To look into the face of man without
having first seen the face of God is very dangerous: to go out into the
world without locking up the heart and giving God the key is to leave it
open to all sorts of spiritual vagrants. At night, again, to go to your
rest as the swine roll into their sty, without thanking God for the
mercies of the day, is shameful. The evening sacrifice should be
devoutly offered as surely as we have enjoyed the evening fireside: we
should thus put ourselves under the wings of the Preserver of men. It
may be said, "We can pray at all times." I know we can: but I fear that
those who do not pray at stated hours seldom pray at all. Those who pray
in season are the most likely persons to pray at all seasons. Spiritual
life does not care for a cast-iron regulation, but since life casts
itself into some mould or other, I would have you careful of its
external habit as well as its internal power. Never allow great gaps in
the wall of your habitual private prayer.

I go a step farther; I believe that there is a great guardian power
about _family prayer_, and I feel greatly distressed because I know that
very many Christian families neglect it. Romanism, at one time, could do
nothing in England, because it could offer nothing but the shadow of
what Christian men had already in substance. "Do you hear that bell
tinkling in the morning?" "What is that for?" "To go to church to pray."
"Indeed," said the Puritan, "I have no need to go there to pray. I have
had my children together, and we have read a passage of Scripture, and
prayed, and sang the praises of God, and we have a church in our house."
Ah, there goes that bell again in the evening. What is that for? Why, it
is the vesper bell. The good man answered that he had no need to trudge
a mile or two for that, for his holy vespers had been said and sung
around his own table, of which the big Bible was the chief ornament.
They told him that there could be no service without a priest, but he
replied that every godly man should be a priest in his own house. Thus
have the saints defied the overtures of priestcraft, and kept the faith
from generation to generation. Household devotion and the pulpit are,
under God, the stone walls of Protestantism, and my prayer is that these
may not be broken down.

Another fence to protect piety is found in _week-night services_. I
notice that when people forsake week-night meetings the power of their
religion evaporates. I do not speak of those lawfully detained to watch
the sick, and attend to farm-work and other business, or as domestic
servants and the like; there are exceptions to all rules: but I mean
those who could attend if they had a mind to do so. When people say, "It
is quite enough for me to be wearied with the sermons of the Sunday; I
do not want to go out to prayer-meetings, and lectures, and so
forth,"--then it is clear that they have no appetite for the word; and
surely this is a bad sign. If you have a bit of wall built to protect
the Sunday and then six times the distance left without a fence, I
believe that Satan's cattle will get in and do no end of mischief.

Take care, also, of the stone wall of _Bible reading_, and of speaking
often one to another concerning the things of God. Associate with the
godly, and commune with God, and you will thus, by the blessing of God's
Spirit, keep up a good fence against temptations, which otherwise will
get into the fields of your soul, and devour all goodly fruits.

Many have found much protection for the field of daily life in the stone
wall of _a public profession of faith_. I am speaking to you who are
real believers, and I know that you have often found it a great
safeguard to be known and recognized as a follower of Jesus. I have
never regretted--and I never shall regret--the day on which I walked to
the little river Lark, in Cambridgeshire, and was there buried with
Christ in baptism. In this I acted contrary to the opinions of all my
friends whom I respected and esteemed, but as I had read the Greek
Testament for myself, I felt bound to be immersed upon the profession of
my faith, and I was so. By that act I said to the world, "I am dead to
you, and buried to you in Christ, and I hope henceforth to live in
newness of life." That day, by God's grace, I imitated the tactics of
the general who meant to fight the enemy till he conquered, and
therefore he burned his boats that there might be no way of retreat. I
believe that a solemn confession of Christ before men is as a thorn
hedge to keep one within bounds, and to keep off those who hope to draw
you aside. Of course it is nothing but a hedge, and it is of no use to
fence in a field of weeds, but when wheat is growing a hedge is of great
consequence. You who imagine that you can be the Lord's, and yet lie
open like a common, are under a great error; you ought to be
distinguished from the world, and obey the voice which saith, "Come ye
out from among them, be ye separate." The promise of salvation is to the
man who with his heart believeth and with his mouth confesseth. Say
right boldly, "Let others do as they will; as for me and my house, we
will serve the Lord." By this act you come out into the king's highway,
and put yourself under the protection of the Lord of pilgrims, and he
will take care of you. Oftentimes, when otherwise you might have
hesitated, you will say, "The vows of the Lord are upon me: how can I
draw back?" I pray you, then, set up the stone wall, and keep it up, and
if it has at any corner been tumbled over, set it up again, and let it
be seen by your conduct and conversation that you are a follower of
Jesus, and are not ashamed to have it known.

Keep to your religious principles like men, and do not turn aside for
the sake of gain, or respectability. Do not let wealth break down your
wall, for I have known some make a great gap to let their carriage go
through, and to let in wealthy worldlings for the sake of their society.
Those who forsake their principles to please men will in the end be
lightly esteemed, but he who is faithful shall have the honor which
cometh from God. Look well to this hedge of steadfast adherence to the
faith, and you shall find a great blessing in it.

There is yet another stone wall which I will mention, namely, _firmness
of character_. Our holy faith teaches a man to be decided in the cause
of Christ, and to be resolute in getting rid of evil habits. "If thine
eye offend thee"--wear a shade? No; "pluck it out." "If thine arm offend
thee"--hang it in a sling? No; "cut it off and cast it from thee." True
religion is very thorough in what it recommends. It says to us, "Touch
not the unclean thing." But many persons are so idle in the ways of God
that they have no mind of their own: evil companions tempt them, and
they cannot say, "No." They need a stone wall made up of noes. Here are
the stones "no, _no_, NO." Dare to be singular. Resolve to keep close to
Christ. Make a stern determination to permit nothing in your life,
however gainful or pleasurable, if it would dishonor the name of Jesus.
Be dogmatically true, obstinately holy, immovably honest, desperately
kind, fixedly upright. If God's grace sets up this hedge around you,
even Satan will feel that he cannot get in, and will complain to God
"hast thou not set a hedge about him?"

I have kept you long enough looking over the wall, let me invite you in,

To make short work of it, first, _the boundary has gone_. Those lines of
separation which were kept up by the good principles which were
instilled in him by religious habits, by a bold profession and by a firm
resolve, have vanished, and now the question is, "Is he a Christian, or
is he not?" The fence is so far gone that he does not know which is his
Lord's property and which remains an open common: in fact, he does not
know whether he himself is included in the Royal domain or left to be
mere waste of the world's manor. This is for want of keeping up the
fences. If that man had lived near to God, if he had walked in his
integrity, if the Spirit of God had richly rested on him in all holy
living and waiting upon God, he would have known where the boundary was,
and he would have seen whether his land lay in the parish of All-saints,
or in the region called No-man's-land, or in the district where Satan is
the lord of the manor. I heard of a dear old saint the other day who,
when she was near to death, was attacked by Satan, and, waving her
finger at the enemy, in her gentle way, she routed him by saying,
"Chosen! chosen! chosen!" She knew that she was chosen, and she
remembered the text, "The Lord that hath chosen Jerusalem rebuke thee."
When the wall stands in its integrity all round the field, we can resist
the devil by bidding him leave the Lord's property alone. "Begone! Look
somewhere else. I belong to Christ, not to you." To do this you must
mend the hedges well so that there shall be a clear boundary line, and
you can say, "Trespassers, beware!" Do not yield an inch to the enemy,
but make the wall all the higher, the more he seeks to enter. O that
this adversary may never find a gap to enter by!

Next, when the wall has fallen, _the protection is gone_. When a man's
heart has its wall broken all his thoughts will go astray, and wander
upon the mountains of vanity. Like sheep, thoughts need careful folding,
or they will be off in no time. "I hate vain thoughts," said David, but
slothful men are sure to have plenty of them, for there is no keeping
your thoughts out of vanity unless you stop at every gap and shut every
gate. Holy thoughts, comfortable meditations, devout longings, and
gracious communings will be off and gone if we sluggishly allow the
stone wall to get out of repair.

Nor is this all, for as good things go out so bad things come in. When
the wall is gone every passer-by sees, as it were, an invitation to
enter. You have set before him an open door, and in he comes. Are there
fruits? He plucks them, of course. He walks about as it were a public
place, and he pries everywhere. Is there any secret corner of your heart
which you will keep for Jesus? Satan or the world will walk in; and do
you wonder? Every passing goat, or roaming ox, or stray ass visits the
growing crops and spoils more than he eats, and who can blame the
creature when the gaps are so wide? All manner of evil lust and desires,
and imaginations prey upon an unfenced soul. It is of no use for you to
say, "Lead us not into temptation." God will hear your prayer, and he
will not lead you there; but you are leading yourself into it, you are
tempting the devil to tempt you. If you leave yourself open to evil
influences the Spirit of God will be grieved, and he may leave you to
keep the result of your folly. What think you, friend? Had you not
better attend to your fences at once?

And then there is another evil, for _the land itself will go away_.
"No," say you; "how can that be?" If a stone wall is broken down round a
farm in England a man does not thereby lose his land, but in many parts
of Palestine the land is all ups and downs on the sides of the hills,
and every bit of ground is terraced and kept up by walls. When the walls
fall the soil slips over, terrace upon terrace, and the vines and trees
go down with it; then the rain comes and washes the soil away, and
nothing is left but barren crags which would starve a lark. In the same
manner a man may so neglect himself, and so neglect the things of God,
and become so careless and indifferent about doctrine, and about holy
living, that his power to do good ceases, and his mind, his heart, and
his energy seem to be gone. The prophet said, "Ephraim is a silly dove,
without heart:" there are flocks of such silly doves. The man who
trifles with religion sports with his own soul, and will soon degenerate
into so much of a trifler that he will be averse to solemn thought, and
incapable of real usefulness. I charge you, dear friends, to be sternly
true to yourselves and to your God. Stand to your principles in this
evil and wicked day. Now, when everything seems to be turned into marsh
and mire and mud, and religious thought appears to be silently sliding
and slipping along, descending like a stream of slime into the Dead Sea
of Unbelief--get solid walls built around your life, around your faith,
and around your character. Stand fast, and having done all, still
stand. May God the Holy Ghost cause you to be rooted and grounded, built
up and established, fixed and confirmed, never "casting away your
confidence, which hath great recompense of reward."

Lastly, I want, if I can, TO WAKE UP THE SLUGGARD. I would like to throw
a handful of gravel up to his window. It is time to get up, for the sun
has drunk up all the dew. He craves "a little more sleep." My dear
fellow, if you take a little more sleep, you will never wake at all till
you lift up your eyes in another world. Wake at once. Leap from your bed
before you are smothered in it. Wake up! Do you not see where you are?
You have let things alone till your heart is covered with sins like
weeds. You have neglected God and Christ till you have grown worldly,
sinful, careless, indifferent, ungodly. I mean some of you who were once
named with the sacred name. You have become like worldlings, and are
almost as far from being what you ought to be as others who make no
profession at all. Look at yourselves and see what has come of your
neglected walls. Then look at some of your fellow-Christians, and mark
how diligent they are. Look at many among them who are poor and
illiterate, and yet they are doing far more than you for the Lord Jesus.
In spite of your talents and opportunities, you are an unprofitable
servant, letting all things run to waste. Is it not time that you
bestirred yourself? Look, again, at others who, like yourself, went to
sleep, meaning to wake in a little while. What has become of them? Alas,
for those who have fallen into gross sin, and dishonored their
character, and who have been put away from the church of God; yet they
only went a little farther than you have done. Your state of heart is
much the same as theirs, and if you should be tempted as they have been,
you will probably make shipwreck as they have done. Oh, see to it, you
that slumber, for an idle professor is ready for anything. A slothful
professor's heart is tinder for the devil's tinderbox; does your heart
thus invite the sparks of temptation?

Remember, lastly, the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. Shall he come and
find you sleeping? Remember the judgment. What will you say to excuse
yourself, for opportunities lost, time wasted, and talents wrapped up in
a napkin, when the Lord shall come?

As for you, my unconverted friend, if you go dreaming through this
world, without any sort of trouble, and never look to the state of your
heart at all, you will be a lost man beyond all question. The slothful
can have no hope, for "if the righteous scarcely are saved," who strive
to serve their Lord, where will those appear who sleep on in defiance of
the calls of God? Salvation is wholly and alone of grace, as you well
know; but grace never works in men's minds toward slumbering and
indifference; it tends toward energy, activity, fervor, importunity,
self-sacrifice. God grant us the indwelling of his Holy Spirit, that all
things may be set in order, sins cut up by the roots within the heart,
and the whole man protected by sanctifying grace from the wasters which
lurk around, hoping to enter where the wall is low. O Lord, remember us
in mercy, fence us about by thy power, and keep us from the sloth which
would expose us to evil, for Jesus' sake. Amen.


"He giveth snow like wool: he scattereth the hoarfrost like ashes. He
casteth forth his ice like morsels: who can stand before his cold? He
sendeth out his word, and melteth them: he causeth his wind to blow, and
the waters flow."--PSALM 147:16-18.

LOOKING out of our window one morning we saw the earth robed in a white
mantle; for in a few short hours the earth had been covered to a
considerable depth with snow. We looked out again in a few hours and saw
the fields as green as ever, and the ploughed fields as bare as if no
single flake had fallen. It is no uncommon thing for a heavy fall of
snow to be followed by a rapid thaw.

These interesting changes are wrought by God, not only with a purpose
toward the outward world, but with some design toward the spiritual
realm. God is always a teacher. In every action that he performs he is
instructing his own children, and opening up to them the road to inner
mysteries. Happy are those who find food for their heaven-born spirits,
as well as for their mental powers, in the works of the Lord's hand.

I shall ask your attention, first, _to the operations of nature spoken
of in the text_; and, secondly, _to those operations of grace of which
they are the most fitting symbols_.

I. Consider, first, THE OPERATIONS OF NATURE. We shall not think a few
minutes wasted if we call your attention to the hand of God in frost and
thaw, even upon natural grounds.

1. Observe the _directness_ of the Lord's work. I rejoice, as I read
these words, to find how present our God is in the world. It is not
written, "the laws of nature produce snow," but "HE _giveth snow_," as
if every flake came directly from the palm of his hand. We are not told
that certain natural regulations form moisture into hoarfrost; no, but
as Moses took ashes of the furnace and scattered them upon Egypt, so it
is said of the Lord "HE _scattereth the hoarfrost like ashes_." It is
not said that the Eternal has set the world going and by the operation
of its machinery ice is produced. Oh, no, but every single granule of
ice descending in the hail is from God; "HE _casteth forth his ice like
morsels_." Even as the slinger distinctly sends the stone out of his
sling, so the path of every hailstone is marked by the Divine power. The
ice is called, you observe, _his_ ice; and in the next sentence we read
of _his_ cold. These words make nature strangely magnificent. When we
look upon every hailstone as God's hail, and upon every fragment of ice
as his ice, how precious the watery diamonds become! When we feel the
cold nipping our limbs and penetrating through every garment, it
consoles us to remember that it is _his_ cold. When the thaw comes, see
how the text speaks of it:--"_he sendeth out his word_." He does not
leave it to certain forces of nature, but like a king, "_He sendeth out
his word and melteth them: he causeth_ HIS _wind to blow_." He has a
special property in every wind; whether it comes from the north to
freeze, or from the south to melt, it is _his_ wind. Behold how in God's
temple everything speaketh of his glory. Learn to see the Lord in all
scenes of the visible universe, for truly he worketh all things.

This thought of the directness of the Divine operations must be carried
into providence. It will greatly comfort you if you can see God's hand
in your losses and crosses; surely you will not murmur against the
direct agency of your God. This will put an extraordinary sweetness into
daily mercies, and make the comforts of life more comfortable still,
because they are from a Father's hand. If your table be scantily
furnished it shall suffice for your contented heart, when you know that
your Father spread it for you in wisdom and love. This shall bless your
bread and your water; this shall make the bare walls of an ill-furnished
room as resplendent as a palace, and turn a hard bed into a couch of
down;--my Father doth it all. We see his smile of love even when others
see nothing but the black hand of Death smiting our best beloved. We see
a Father's hand when the pestilence lays our cattle dead upon the plain.
We see God at work in mercy when we ourselves are stretched upon the bed
of languishing. It is ever our Father's act and deed. Do not let us get
beyond this; but rather let us enlarge our view of this truth, and
remember that this is true of the little as well as of the great. Let
the lines of a true poet strike you:--

  "If pestilence stalk through the land, ye say the Lord hath done it--

   Hath he not done it when an aphis creepeth upon the rosebud?

   If an avalanche tumbles from its Alp, ye tremble at the will of

   Is not that will as much concerned when the sere leaves fall from
   the poplar?"

Let your hearts sing of everything, Jehovah-Shammah, the Lord is there.

2. Next, I beg you to observe, with thanksgiving, the _ease_ of Divine
working. These verses read as if the making of frost and snow were the
simplest matter in all the world. A man puts his hand into a wool-pack
and throws out the wool; God giveth snow as easily as that: "He giveth
snow like wool." A man takes up a handful of ashes, and throws them into
the air, so that they fall around: "He scattereth the hoarfrost like
ashes." Rime and snow are marvels of nature: those who have observed the
extraordinary beauty of the ice-crystals have been enraptured, and yet
they are easily formed by the Lord. "He casteth forth his ice like
morsels"--just as easily as we cast crumbs of bread outside the window
to the robins during wintry days. When the rivers are hard frozen, and
the earth is held in iron chains, then the melting of the whole--how is
that done? Not by kindling innumerable fires, nor by sending electric
shocks from huge batteries through the interior of the earth--no; "He
sendeth forth his word, and melteth them; he causeth his wind to blow,
and the waters flow." The whole matter is accomplished with a word and a
breath. If you and I had any great thing to do, what puffing and
panting, what straining and tugging there would be: even the great
engineers, who perform marvels by machinery, make much noise and stir
about it. It is not so with the Almighty One. Our globe spins round in
four-and-twenty hours, and yet it does not make so much noise as a
humming-top; and yonder ponderous worlds rolling in space track their
way in silence. If I enter a factory I hear a deafening din, or if I
stand near the village mill, turned by water dropping over a wheel,
there is a never-ceasing click-clack, or an undying hum; but God's great
wheels revolve without noise or friction: divine machinery works
smoothly. This ease is seen in providence as well as in nature. Your
heavenly Father is as able to deliver you as he is to melt the snow, and
he will deliver you in as simple a manner if you rest upon him. He
openeth his hand, and supplies the want of every living thing as readily
as he works in nature. Mark the ease of God's working--he does but open
his hand.

3. Notice in the next place the _variety_ of the Divine operations in
nature. When the Lord is at work with frost as his tool he creates snow,
a wonderful production, every crystal being a marvel of art; but then he
is not content with snow--from the same water he makes another form of
beauty which we call hoarfrost, and yet a third lustrous sparkling
substance, namely glittering ice; and all these by the one agency of
cold. What a marvellous variety the educated eye can detect in the
several forms of frozen water! The same God who solidified the flood
with cold soon melts it with warmth; but even in thaw there is no
monotony of manner: at one time the joyous streams rush with such
impetuosity from their imprisonment that rivers are swollen and floods
cover the plain; at another time by slow degrees, in scanty driblets,
the drops regain their freedom. The same variety is seen in every
department of nature. So in providence the Lord has a thousand forms of
frosty trials with which to try his people, and he has ten thousand
beams of mercy with which to cheer and comfort them. He can afflict you
with the snow trial, or with the hoarfrost trial, or with the ice trial,
if he will; and anon he can with his word relax the bonds of adversity,
and that in countless ways. Whereas men are tied to two or three methods
in accomplishing their will, God is infinite in understanding and
worketh as he wills by ways unguessed of mortal mind.

4. I shall ask you also to consider the works of God in nature in their
_swiftness_. It was thought a wonderful thing in the days of Ahasuerus
that letters were sent by post upon swift dromedaries. In our country we
thought we had arrived at the age of miracles when the axles of our cars
glowed with speed, and now that the telegraph is at work we stretch out
our hands into infinity; but what is our rapidity compared with that of
God's operations? Well does the text say, "He sendeth forth his
commandment upon earth: his word runneth very swiftly." Forth went the
word, "Open the treasures of snow," and the flakes descended in
innumerable multitudes; and then it was said, "Let them be closed," and
not another snow-feather was seen. Then spake the Master, "Let the south
wind blow and the snow be melted": lo, it disappeared at the voice of
his word. Believer, you cannot tell how soon God may come to your help.
"He rode upon a cherub and did fly," says David; "yea, he did fly upon
the wings of the wind." He will come from above to rescue his beloved.
He will rend the heavens and come down; with such speed will he descend,
that he will not stay to draw the curtains of heaven, but he will rend
them in his haste, and make the mountains to flow down at his feet, that
he may deliver those who cry unto him in the hour of trouble. That
mighty God who can melt the ice so speedily can take to himself the same
eagle wings, and haste to your deliverance. Arise, O God! and let thy
children be helped, and that right early.

5. One other thought: consider the _goodness_ of God in all the
operations of nature and providence. Think of that goodness negatively.
"Who can stand before his cold?" You cannot help thinking of the poor in
a hard winter--only a hard heart can forget them when you see the snow
lying deep. But suppose that snow continued to fall! What is there to
hinder it? The same God who sends us snow for one day could do the like
for fifty days if he pleased. Why not? And when the frost pinches us so
severely, why should it not be continued month after month? We can only
thank the goodness which does not send "His cold" to such an extent that
our spirits expire. Travellers toward the North Pole tremble as they
think of this question, "Who can stand before his cold?" For cold has a
degree of omnipotence in it when God is pleased to let it loose. Let us
thank God for the restraining mercy by which he holds the cold in check.

Not only negatively, but positively there is mercy in the snow. Is not
that a suggestive metaphor? "He giveth snow _like wool_." The snow is
said to warm the earth; it protects those little plants which have just
begun to peep above the ground, and might otherwise be frost-bitten; as
with a garment of down the snow protects them from the extreme severity
of cold. Hence Watts sings, in his version of the hundred and
forty-seventh Psalm--

  "His flakes of snow like wool he sends,
   And thus the springing corn defends."

It was an idea of the ancients that snow warmed the heart of the soil,
and gave it fertility, and therefore they praised God for it. Certainly
there is much mercy in the frost, for pestilence might run a far longer
race if it were not that the frost cries to it, "Hitherto shalt thou
come, but no farther." Noxious insects would multiply until they
devoured the precious fruits of the earth, if sharp nights did not
destroy millions of them, so that these pests are swept off the earth.
Though man may think himself a loser by the cold, he is a great
ultimate gainer by the decree of Providence which ordains winter. The
quaint saying of one of the old writers that "snow is wool, and frost is
fire, and ice is bread, and rain is drink," is true, though it sounds
like a paradox. There is no doubt that frost in breaking up the soil
promotes fruitfulness, and so the ice becomes bread. Thus those
agencies, which for the moment deprive our workers of their means of
sustenance, are the means by which God supplies every living thing.
Mark, then, God's goodness as clearly in the snow and frost as in the
thaw which clears the winter's work away.

Christian, remember the goodness of God in the frost of adversity. Rest
assured that when God is pleased to send out the biting winds of
affliction he is in them, and he is always love, as much love in sorrow
as when he breathes upon you the soft south wind of joy. See the
lovingkindness of God in every work of his hand! Praise him--he maketh
summer and winter--let your song go round the year! Praise him--he
giveth day and sendeth night--thank him at all hours! Cast not away your
confidence, it hath great recompense of reward. As David wove the snow,
and rain, and stormy wind into a song, even so combine your trials, your
tribulations, your difficulties and adversities into a sweet psalm of
praise and say perpetually--

  "Let us, with a gladsome mind,
   Praise the Lord, for he is kind."

Thus much upon the operations of nature. It is a very tempting theme,
but other fields invite me.

II. I would address you very earnestly and solemnly Upon THOSE

There is a period with God's own people when he comes to deal with them
by _the frost of the law_. The law is to the soul as the cutting north
wind. Faith can see love in it, but the carnal eye of sense cannot. It
is a cold, terrible, comfortless blast. To be exposed to the full force
of the law of God would be to be frost-bitten with everlasting
destruction; and even to feel it for a season would congeal the marrow
of one's bones, and make one's whole being stiff with affright. "Who can
stand before his cold?" When the law comes forth thundering from its
treasuries, who can stand before it? The effect of law-work upon the
soul is to bind up the rivers of human delight. No man can rejoice when
the terrors of conscience are upon him. When the law of God is sweeping
through the soul, music and dancing lose their joy, the bowl forgets its
power to cheer, and the enchantments of earth are broken. The rivers of
pleasure freeze to icy despondency. The buds of hope are suddenly
nipped, and the soul finds no comfort. It was satisfied once to grow
rich, but rust and canker are now upon all gold and silver. Every
promising hope is frost-bitten, and the spirit is winter-bound in
despair. This cold makes the sinner feel how ragged his garments are. He
could strut about, when it was summer weather, and think his rags right
royal robes, but now the cold frost finds out every rent in his garment,
and in the hands of the terrible law he shivers like the leaves upon the
aspen. The north wind of judgment searches the man through and through.
He did not know what was in him, but now he sees his inward parts to be
filled with corruption and rottenness. These are some of the terrors of
the wintry breath of the law.

This frost of law and terrors only tends to harden. Nothing splits the
rock or makes the cliff tumble like frost when succeeded by thaw, but
frost alone makes the earth like a mass of iron, breaking the
ploughshare which would seek to pierce it. A sinner under the influence
of the law of God, apart from the gospel, is hardened by despair, and
cries, "There is no hope, and therefore after my lusts will I go.
Whereas there is no heaven for me after this life, I will make a heaven
out of this earth; and since hell awaits me, I will at least enjoy such
sweets as sin may afford me here." This is not the fault of the law; the
blame lies with the corrupt heart which is hardened by it; yet,
nevertheless, such is its effect.

When the Lord has wrought by the frost of the law, he sends _the thaw of
the gospel_. When the south wind blows from the land of promise,
bringing precious remembrances of God's fatherly pity and tender
lovingkindness, then straightway the heart begins to soften and a sense
of blood-bought pardon speedily dissolves it. The eyes fill with tears,
the heart melts in tenderness, rivers of pleasure flow freely, and buds
of hope open in the cheerful air. A heavenly spring whispers to the
flowers that were sleeping in the cold earth; they hear its voice, and
lift up their heads, for "the rain is over and gone; the flowers appear
on the earth, the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of
the turtle is heard in our land." God sendeth his Word, saying, "Thy
warfare is accomplished, and thy sin is pardoned;" and when that
blessedly cheering word comes with power to the soul, and the sweet
breath of the Holy Spirit acts like the warm south wind upon the heart,
then the waters flow, and the mind is filled with holy joy, and light,
and liberty.

  "The legal wintry state is gone,
   The frosts are fled, the spring comes on,
   The sacred turtle-dove we hear
   Proclaim the new, the joyful year."

Having shown you that there is a parallel between frost and thaw in
nature and law and gospel in grace, I would utter the same thoughts
concerning grace which I gave you concerning nature.

1. We began with the directness of God's works in nature. Now, beloved
friends, remark the _directness of God's works in grace_. When the heart
is truly affected by the law of God, when sin is made to appear
exceeding sinful, when carnal hopes are frozen to death by the law, when
the soul is made to feel its barrenness and utter death and ruin--this
is the finger of God. Do not speak of the minister. It was well that he
preached earnestly: God has used him as an instrument, but God worketh
all. When the thaw of grace comes, I pray you discern the distinct hand
of God in every beam of comfort which gladdens the troubled conscience,
for it is the Lord alone who bindeth up the broken in heart and healeth
all their wounds. We are far too apt to stop in instrumentalities. Folly
makes men look to sacraments for heart-breaking or heart-healing, but
sacraments all say, "It is not in us." Some of you look to the preaching
of the Word, and look no higher; but all true preachers will tell you,
"It is not in us." Eloquence and earnestness at their highest pitch can
neither break nor heal a heart. This is God's work. Ay, and not God's
secondary work in the sense in which the philosopher admits that God is
in the laws of nature, but God's personal and immediate work. He putteth
forth his own hand when the conscience is humbled, and it is by his own
right hand that the conscience is eased and cleansed.

I desire that this thought may abide upon your minds, for you will not
praise God else, nor will you be sound in doctrine. All departures from
sound doctrine on the point of conversion arise from forgetfulness that
it is a divine work from first to last; that the faintest desire after
Christ is as much the work of God as the gift of his dear Son; and that
our whole spiritual history through, from the Alpha to the Omega, the
Holy Spirit works in us to will and to do of his own good pleasure. As
you have evidently seen the finger of God in casting forth his ice and
in sending thaw, so I pray you recognize the handiwork of God in giving
you a sense of sin, and in bringing you to the Saviour's feet. Join
together in heartily praising the wonder-working God, who doeth all
things according to the counsel of his will.

            "Our seeking thy face
            Was all of thy grace,
  Thy mercy demands, and shall have all the praise:
            No sinner can be
            Beforehand with thee,
  Thy grace is preventing, almighty and free."

2. The second thought upon nature was _the ease with which the Lord
worked_. There was no effort or disturbance. Transfer that to the work
of grace. How easy it is for God to send law-work into the soul! You
stubborn sinner, _you_ cannot touch him, and even providence has failed
to awaken him. He is dead--altogether dead in trespasses and sins. But
if the glorious Lord will graciously send forth the wind of his Spirit,
that will melt him. The swearing reprobate, whose mouth is blackened
with profanity, if the Lord doth but look upon him and make bare his
arm of irresistible grace, shall yet praise God, and bless his name, and
live to his honor. Do not limit the Holy One of Israel. Persecuting Saul
became loving Paul, and why should not that person be saved of whose
case you almost despair? Your husband may have many points which make
his case difficult, but no case is desperate with God. Your son may have
offended both against heaven and against you, but God can save the most
hardened. The sharpest frost of obstinate sin must yield to the thaw of
grace. Even huge icebergs of crime must melt in the Gulf-stream of
infinite love.

Poor sinner, I cannot leave this point without a word to you. Perhaps
the Master has sent the frost to you, and you think it will never end.
Let me encourage you to hope, and yet more, to pray for gracious
visitations. Miss Steele's verses will just suit your mournful yet
hopeful state.

  "Stern winter throws his icy chains,
    Encircling nature round:
  How bleak, how comfortless the plains,
    Late with gay verdure crown'd!

  The sun withdraws his vital beams,
    And light and warmth depart:
  And, drooping lifeless, nature seems
    An emblem of my heart--

  My heart, where mental winter reigns
    In night's dark mantle clad,
  Confined in cold, inactive chains;
    How desolate and sad!

  Return, O blissful sun, and bring
    Thy soul-reviving ray;
  This mental winter shall be spring,
    This darkness cheerful day."

It is easy for God to deliver you. He says, "I have blotted out like a
thick cloud thy transgressions." I stood the other evening looking up at
a black cloud which was covering all the heavens, and I thought it would
surely rain; I entered the house, and when I came out again the sky was
all blue--the wind had driven the cloud away. So may it be with your
soul. It is an easy thing for the Lord to put away sin from repenting
sinners. All obstacles which hindered our pardon were removed by Jesus
when he died upon the tree, and if you believe in him you will find that
he has cast your sins into the depths of the sea. If thou canst believe,
all things are possible to him that believeth.

3. The next thought concerning the Lord's work in nature was the
_variety_ of it. Frost produces a sort of trinity in unity--snow,
hoarfrost, ice; and when the thaw comes its ways are many. So it is with
God in the heart. Conviction comes not alike to all. Some convictions
fall as the snow from heaven: you never hear the flakes descend, they
alight so gently one upon the other. There are soft-coming convictions;
they are felt, but we can scarcely tell when we began to feel them. A
true work of repentance may be of the gentlest kind. On the other hand,
the Lord casteth forth his ice like morsels, the hailstones rattle
against the window, and you think they will surely force their way into
the room, and so to many persons convictions come beating down till they
remind you of hailstones. There is variety. It is as true a frost which
produces the noiseless snow as that which brings forth the terrible
hail. Why should you want hailstones of terror? Be thankful that God has
visited you, but do not dictate to him the way of his working.

With regard to the gospel thaw. If you may but be pardoned by Jesus, do
not stipulate as to the manner of his grace. Thaw is universal and
gradual, but its commencement is not always discernible. The chains of
winter are unloosed by degrees: the surface ice and snow melt, and by
and by the warmth permeates the entire mass till every rock of ice gives
way. But while thaw is universal and visible in its effects you cannot
see the mighty power which is doing all this. Even so you must not
expect to discern the Spirit of God. You will find him gradually
operating upon the entire man, enlightening the understanding, freeing
the will, delivering the heart from fear, inspiring hope, waking up the
whole spirit, gradually and universally working upon the mind and
producing the manifest effects of comfort, and hope, and peace; but you
can no more see the Spirit of God than you can see the south wind. The
effect of his power is to be felt, and when you feel it, do not marvel
if it be somewhat different from what others have experienced. After
all, there is a singular likeness in snow and hoarfrost and ice, and so
there is a remarkable sameness in the experience of all God's children;
but still there is a great variety in the inward operations of divine

4. We must next notice the _rapidity_ of God's works, "His word runneth
very swiftly." It did not take many days to get rid of the last snow. A
contractor would take many a day to cart it away, but God sendeth forth
his word, and the snow and ice disappear at once. So is it with the
soul: the Lord often works rapidly when he cheers the heart. You may
have been a long time under the operation of his frosty law, but there
is no reason why you should be another hour under it. If the Spirit
enables you to trust in the finished work of Christ, you may go out of
this house rejoicing that every sin is forgiven. Poor soul, do not think
that the way from the horrible pit is to climb, step by step, to the
top. Oh no; Jesus can set your feet upon a rock ere the clock shall have
gone round the dial. He can in an instant bring you from death to life,
from condemnation to justification. "To-day shall thou be with me in
Paradise," was spoken to a dying thief, black and defiled with sin. Only
believe in the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be

5. Our last thought upon the operation of God was _his goodness_ in it
all. What a blessing that God did not send us more law-work than he did!
"Who can stand before his cold?" Oh! beloved, when God has taken away
from man natural comfort, and made him feel divine wrath in his soul, it
is an awful thing. Speak of a haunted man; no man need be haunted with a
worse ghost than the remembrance of his old sins. The childish tale of
the sailor with the old man of the mountain on his back, who pressed him
more and more heavily, is more than realized in the history of the
troubled conscience. If one sin do but leap on a man's back, it will
sink the sinner through every standing-place that he can possibly mount
upon; he will go down, down, under its weight, till he sinks to the
lowest depths of hell. There is no place where sin can be borne till you
get upon the Rock of Ages, and even there the joy is not that _you_ bear
it, but that Jesus has borne it all for you. The spirit would utterly
fail before the law, if it had full sway. Thank God, "he stayeth his
rough wind in the day of his east wind." At the same time, how thankful
we may be, that we ever felt the law-frost in our soul. The folly of
self-righteousness is killed by the winter of conviction. We should
have been a thousand times more proud, and foolish, and worldly, than we
are, if it had not been for the sharp frost with which the Lord nipped
the growths of the flesh.

But how shall we thank him sufficiently for the thaw of his
lovingkindness? How great the change which his mercy made in us as soon
as its beams had reached our soul! Hardness vanished, cold departed,
warmth and love abounded, and the life-floods leaped in their channels.
The Lord visited us, and we rose from our grave of despair, even as the
seeds arise from the earth. As the bulb of the crocus holds up its
golden cup to be filled with sunshine, so did our new-born faith open
itself to the glory of the Lord. As the primrose peeps up from the sod
to gaze upon the sun, so did our hope look forth for the promise, and
delight itself in the Lord. Thank God that spring-tide has with many of
us matured into summer, and winter has gone never to return. We praise
the Lord for this every day of our lives, and we will praise him when
time shall be no more in that sunny land--

  "Where everlasting spring abides,
    And never withering flowers.
  A thread-like stream alone divides
    That heavenly land from ours."

Believe in the Lord, ye who shiver in the frost of the law, and the thaw
of love shall soon bring you warm days of joy and peace. So be it.


"And Jesus answered them, saying, The hour is come, that the Son of man
should be glorified. Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of
wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it
bringeth forth much fruit. He that loveth his life shall lose it: and he
that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life
eternal."--JOHN 12:23-25.

CERTAIN Greeks desired to see Jesus. These were Gentiles and it was
remarkable that they should, just at this time, have sought an interview
with our Lord. I suppose that the words "We would see Jesus" did not
merely mean that they would like to look at him, for that they could
have done in the public streets; but they would "see" him as we speak of
seeing a person with whom we wish to hold a conversation. They desired
to be introduced to him, and to have a few words of instruction from

These Greeks were the advanced guard of that great multitude that no man
can number, of all nations, and people, and tongues, who are yet to come
to Christ. The Saviour would naturally feel a measure of joy at the
sight of them, but he did not say much about it, for his mind was
absorbed just then with thoughts of his great sacrifice and its results;
yet he took so much notice of the coming of these Gentiles to him that
it gave a color to the words which are here recorded by his servant

I notice that the Saviour here _displays his broad humanity_, and
announces himself as the "Son of man." He had done so before, but here
with new intent. He says, "The hour is come, that the Son of man should
be glorified." Not as "the Son of David" does he here speak of himself,
but as "the Son of man." No longer does he make prominent the Jewish
side of his mission, though as a preacher he was not sent to save the
lost sheep of the house of Israel; but as the dying Saviour he speaks of
himself as one of the race, not the Son of Abraham, or of David, but
"the Son of man": as much brother to the Gentile as to the Jew. Let us
never forget the broad humanity of the Lord Jesus. In him all kindreds
of the earth are joined in one, for he is not ashamed to bear the nature
of our universal manhood; black and white, prince and pauper, sage and
savage, all see in his veins the one blood by which all men are
constituted one family. As the Son of man Jesus is near akin to every
man that lives.

Now, too, that the Greeks were come, our Lord _speaks somewhat of his
glory_ as approaching. "The hour is come," saith he, "that the Son of
man should be glorified." He does not say "that the Son of man should be
crucified," though that was true, and the crucifixion must come before
the glorification; but the sight of those first-fruits from among the
Gentiles makes him dwell upon his glory. Though he remembers his death,
he speaks rather of the glory which would grow out of his great
sacrifice. Remember, brethren, that Christ is glorified in the souls
that he saves. As a physician wins honor by those he heals, so the
Physician of souls gets glory out of those who come to him. When these
devout Greeks came, saying, "Sirs, we would see Jesus," though a mere
desire to see him is only as the green blade, yet he rejoiced in it as
the pledge of the harvest, and he saw in it the dawn of the glory of his

I think, too, that the coming of these Greeks somewhat _led the Saviour
to use the metaphor of the buried corn_. We are informed that wheat was
largely mixed up with Grecian mysteries, but that is of small
importance. It is more to the point that our Saviour was then undergoing
the process which would burst the Jewish husk in which, if I may use
such terms, his human life had been enveloped. I mean this: aforetime
our Lord said that he was not sent save to the lost sheep of the house
of Israel, and when the Syrophenician woman pleaded for her daughter he
reminded her of the restricted character of his commission as a prophet
among men. When he sent out the seventy, he bade them not to go into the
cities of the Samaritans, but to seek after the house of Israel only.
Now, however, that blessed corn of wheat is breaking through its outer
integument. Even before it is put into the ground to die the divine corn
of wheat begins to show its living power, and the true Christ is being
manifested. The Christ of God, though assuredly the Son of David, was,
on the Father's side, neither Jew nor Gentile, but simply man; and the
great sympathies of his heart were with all mankind. He regarded all
whom he had chosen as his own brethren without distinction of sex, or
nation, or the period of the world's history in which they should live;
and, at the sight of these Greeks, the true Christ came forth and
manifested himself to the world as he had not done before. Hence,
perhaps, the peculiar metaphor which we have now to explain.

In our text, dear friends, we have two things upon which I will speak
briefly, as I am helped of the Spirit. First, we have _profound
doctrinal teaching_, and, secondly, we have _practical moral principle_.


Our Saviour suggested to his thoughtful disciples a number of what might
be called doctrinal paradoxes.

First, that, _glorious as he was, he was yet to be glorified_. "The hour
is come, that the Son of man should be glorified." Jesus was always
glorious. It was a glorious thing for the human person of the Son of man
to be personally one with the Godhead. Our Lord Jesus had also great
glory all the while he was on earth, in the perfection of his moral
character. The gracious end for which he came here was real glory to
him: his condescending to be the Saviour of men was a great
glorification of his loving character. His way of going about his
work--the way in which he consecrated himself to his Father and was
always about his Father's business, the way in which he put aside Satan
with his blandishments, and would not be bribed by all the kingdoms of
the world--all this was his glory. I should not speak incorrectly if I
were to say that Christ was really as to his moral nature never more
glorious than when throughout his life on earth he was obscure,
despised, rejected, and yet the faithful servant of God, and the ardent
lover of the sons of men. The apostle says, "The Word was made flesh,
and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only
begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth," in which he refers not
only to the transfiguration, in which there were special glimpses of the
divine glory, but to our Lord's tabernacling among men in the common
walks of life. Saintly, spiritual minds beheld the glory of his life,
the glory of grace and truth such as never before had been seen in any
of the sons of men. But though he was thus, to all intents and purposes,
already glorious, Jesus had yet to be glorified. Something more was to
be added to his personal honor. Remember, then, that when you have the
clearest conceptions of your Lord, there is still a glory to be added to
all that you can see even with the word of God in your hands. Glorious
as the living Son of man had been, there was a further glory to come
upon him through his death, his resurrection, and his entrance within
the veil. He was a glorious Christ, and yet he had to be glorified.

A second paradox is this--that _his glory was to come to him through
shame_. He says, "The hour is come, that the Son of man should be
glorified," and then he speaks of his death. The greatest fulness of our
Lord's glory arises out of his emptying himself, and becoming obedient
to death, even the death of the cross. It is his highest reputation that
he made himself of no reputation. His crown derives new lustre from his
cross; his ever living is rendered more honorable by the fact of his
dying unto sin once. Those blessed cheeks would never have been so fair
as they are in the eyes of his chosen if they had not once been spat
upon. Those dear eyes had never had so overpowering a glance if they had
not once been dimmed in the agonies of death for sinners. His hands are
as gold rings set with the beryl, but their brightest adornments are the
prints of the cruel nails. As the Son of God his glory was all his own
by nature, but as Son of man his present splendor is due to the cross,
and to the ignominy which surrounded it when he bore our sins in his own
body. We must never forget this, and if ever we are tempted to merge
the crucified Saviour in the coming King we should feel rebuked by the
fact that thus we should rob our Lord of his highest honor. Whenever you
hear men speak lightly of the atonement stand up for it at once, for out
of this comes the main glory of your Lord and Master. They say, "Let him
come down from the cross, and we will believe on him." If he did so what
would remain to be believed? It is on the cross, it is from the cross,
it is through the cross that Jesus mounts to his throne, and the Son of
man has a special honor in heaven to-day because he was slain and has
redeemed us to God by his blood.

The next paradox is this--_Jesus must be alone or abide alone_. Notice
the text as I read it: "Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and
die," and so gets alone, "it abideth alone." The Son of man must be
alone in the grave, or he will be alone in heaven. He must fall into the
ground like the corn of wheat, and be there in the loneliness of death,
or else he will abide alone. This is a paradox readily enough explained;
our Lord Jesus Christ as the Son of man, unless he had trodden the
winepress alone, unless beneath the olives of Gethsemane he had wrestled
on the ground, and as it were sunk into the ground until he died, if he
had not been there alone, and if on the cross he had not cried, "My God,
my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" so that he felt quite deserted and
alone, like the buried corn of wheat--could not have saved us. If he had
not actually died he would as man have been alone forever: not without
the eternal Father and the divine Spirit, not without the company of
angels; but there had not been another man to keep him company. Our Lord
Jesus cannot bear to be alone. A head without its members is a ghastly
sight, crown it as you may. Know ye not that the church is his body, the
fulness of him that filleth all in all? Without his people Jesus would
have been a shepherd without sheep; surely it is not a very honorable
office to be a shepherd without a flock.

He would have been a husband without his spouse; but he loves his bride
so well that for this purpose did he leave his Father and become one
flesh with her whom he had chosen. He clave to her, and died for her;
and had he not done so he would have been a bridegroom without a bride.
This could never be. His heart is not of the kind that can enjoy a
selfish happiness which is shared by none. If you have read Solomon's
Song, where the heart of the Bridegroom is revealed, you will have seen
that he desires the company of his love, his dove, his undefiled. His
delights were with the sons of men. Simon Stylites on the top of a
pillar is not Jesus Christ; the hermit in his cave may mean well, but he
finds no warrant for his solitude in him whose cross he professes to
venerate. Jesus was the friend of men, not avoiding them, but seeking
the lost. It was truly said of him, "This man receiveth sinners, and
eateth with them." He draws all men unto him, and for this cause he was
lifted up from the earth. Yet must this great attractive man have been
alone in heaven if he had not been alone in Gethsemane, alone before
Pilate, alone when mocked by soldiers, and alone upon the cross. If this
precious grain of wheat had not descended into the dread loneliness of
death it had remained alone, but since he died he "bringeth forth much

This brings us to the fourth paradox--_Christ must die to give life_.
"Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone:
but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit": Jesus must die to give
life to others. Persons who do not think confound dying with
non-existence, and living with existence--very, very different things.
"The soul that sinneth it shall die:" it shall never go out of
existence, but it shall die by being severed from God who is its life.
There are many men who exist, and yet have not true life, and shall not
see life, but "the wrath of God abideth on them." The grain of wheat
when it is put into the ground dies; do we mean that it ceases to be?
Not at all. What is death? It is the resolution of anything possessing
life into its primary elements. With us it is the body parting from the
soul; with a grain of wheat it is the dissolving of the elements which
made up the corn. Our divine Lord when put into the earth did not see
corruption, but his soul was parted from his body for a while, and thus
he died; and unless he had literally and actually died he could not have
given life to any of us.

Beloved friends, this teaches us where the vital point of Christianity
lies, _Christ's death is the life of his teaching_. See here: if
Christ's preaching had been the essential point, or if his example had
been the vital point, he could have brought forth fruit and multiplied
Christians by his preaching, and by his example. But he declares that,
except he shall die, he shall not bring forth fruit. Am I told that this
was because his death would be the completion of his example, and the
seal of his preaching? I admit that it was so, but I can conceive that
if our Lord had rather continued to live on--if he had been here
constantly going up and down the world preaching and living as he did,
and if he had wrought miracles as he did, and put forth that
mysterious, attracting power, which was always with him, he might have
produced a marvellous number of disciples. If his teaching and living
had been the way in which spiritual life could have been bestowed,
without an atonement, why did not the Saviour prolong his life on earth?
But the fact is that no man among us can know anything about spiritual
life except through the atonement. There is no way by which we can come
to a knowledge of God except through the precious blood of Jesus Christ,
by which we have access to the Father. If, as some tell us, the ethical
part of Christianity is much more to be thought of than its peculiar
doctrines, then, why did Jesus die at all? The ethical might have been
brought out better by a long life of holiness. He might have lived on
till now if he had chosen, and still have preached, and still have set
an example among the sons of men; but he assures us that only by death
could he have brought forth fruit. What, not with all that holy living?
No. What, not by that matchless teaching? No. Not one among us could
have been saved from eternal death except an expiation had been wrought
by Jesus' sacrifice. Not one of us could have been quickened into
spiritual life except Christ himself had died and risen from the dead.

Brethren, all the spiritual life that there is in the world is the
result of Christ's death. We live under a dispensation which shadows
forth this truth to us. Life first came into the world by a creation:
that was lost in the garden. Since then, the father of our race is Noah,
and life by Noah came to us by a typical death, burial, and
resurrection. Noah went in unto the ark, and was shut in, and so buried.
In that ark Noah went among the dead, himself enveloped in the rain and
in the ark, and he came out into a new world, rising again, as it were,
when the waters were assuaged. That is the way of life to-day. We are
dead with Christ, we are buried with Christ, we are risen with Christ;
and there is no real spiritual life in this world except that which has
come to us by the process of death, burial, and resurrection with
Christ. Do you know anything about this, dear friends?--for if you do
not, you know not the life of God. You know the theory, but do you know
the experimental power of this within your own spirit? Whenever we hear
the doctrine of the atonement attacked, let us stand up for it. Let us
tell the world that while we value the life of Christ even more than
they do, we know that it is not the example of Christ that saves
anybody, but his death for our sakes. If the blessed Christ had lived
here all these nineteen hundred years, without sin, teaching all his
marvellous precepts with his own sublime and simple eloquence, yet he
had not produced one single atom of spiritual life among all the sons of
men. Without dying he brings forth no fruit. If you want life, my dear
hearer, you will not get it as an unregenerate man by attempting to
imitate the example of Christ. You may get good of a certain sort that
way, but you will never obtain spiritual life and eternal salvation by
that method. You must believe on Jesus as dying for you. You have to
understand that the blood of Jesus Christ, God's dear Son, cleanses us
from all sin. When you have learned that truth, you shall study his life
with advantage; but unless you recognize that the grain of wheat is cast
into the ground, and made to die, you will never realize any fruit from
it in your own soul, or see fruit in the souls of others.

One other blessed lesson of deep divinity is to be learnt from our
text: it is this--_since Jesus Christ did really fall into the ground
and die, we may expect much as the result of it_. "If it die, it
bringeth forth much fruit." Some have a little Christ, and they expect
to see little things come of him. I have met with good people who appear
to think that Jesus Christ died for the sound people who worship at Zoar
Chapel, and, perhaps, for a few more who go to Ebenezer in a neighboring
town, and they hope that one day a chosen few--a scanty company indeed
they are, and they do their best by mutual quarrelling to make them
fewer--will glorify God for the salvation of a very small remnant. I
will not blame these dear brethren, but I do wish that their hearts were
enlarged. We do not yet know all the fruit that is to come out of our
Lord Jesus. May there not come a day when the millions of London shall
worship God with one consent? I look for a day when the knowledge of the
glory of God shall cover the earth as the waters cover the sea, when
kings shall fall down before the Son of God, and all nations shall call
him blessed. "It is too much to expect," says one; "missions make very
slow progress." I know all that, but missions are not the seed: all that
we look for is to come out of that corn of wheat which fell into the
ground and died: this is to bring forth much fruit. When I think of my
Master's blessed person as perfect Son of God and Son of man; when I
think of the infinite glory which he laid aside, and of the unutterable
pangs he bore, I ask whether angels can compute the value of the
sacrifice he offered. God only knows the love of God that was manifested
in the death of his Son, and do you think that there will be all this
planning and working and sacrifice of infinite love, and then an
insignificant result? It is not like God that it should be so. The
travail of the Son of God shall not bring forth a scanty good. The
result shall be commensurate with the means, and the effect shall be
parallel with the cause. The Lord shall reign for ever and ever.
Hallelujah! Ay, as the groanings of the cross must have astounded
angels, so shall the results of the cross amaze the seraphim, and make
them admire the excess of glory which has arisen from the shameful death
of their Lord. O beloved, great things are to come out of our Jesus yet.
Courage, you that are dispirited. Be brave, you soldiers of the cross.
Victory awaits your banner. Wait patiently, work hopefully, suffer
joyfully, for the kingdom is the Lord's, and he is the governor among
the nations.

Thus have I spoken upon profound divinity.

I close with a few words upon PRACTICAL INSTRUCTION. Learn now that what
is true of Christ is in measure true of every child of God: "Except a
corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it
die, it bringeth forth much fruit." This is so far applicable to us, as
the next verse indicates--"He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he
that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal."

First, _we must die if we are to live_. There is no spiritual life for
you, for me, for any man, except by dying into it. Have you a fine-spun
righteousness of your own? It must die. Have you any faith in yourself?
It must die. The sentence of death must be in yourself, and then you
shall enter into life. The withering power of the Spirit of God must be
experienced before his quickening influence can be known: "The grass
withereth, the flower fadeth: because the spirit of the Lord bloweth
upon it." You must be slain by the sword of the Spirit before you can be
made alive by the breath of the Spirit.

Next, _we must surrender everything to keep it_. "He that loveth his
life shall lose it." Brother, you can never have spiritual life, hope,
joy, peace, heaven, except by giving everything up into God's hands. You
shall have everything in Christ when you are willing to have nothing of
your own. You must ground your weapons of rebellion, you must drop the
plumes of your pride, you must give up into God's hand all that you are
and all that you have; and if you do not thus lose everything in will,
you shall lose everything in fact; indeed, you have lost it already. A
full surrender of everything to God is the only way to keep it. Some of
God's people find this literally true. I have known a mother keep back
her child from God, and the child has died. Wealthy people have
worshipped their wealth, and as they were God's people, he has broken
their idols into shivers. You must lose your all if you would keep it,
and renounce your most precious thing if you would have it preserved to

Next, _we must lose self in order to find self_. "He that hateth his
life shall keep it unto life eternal." You must entirely give up living
for yourself, and then you yourself shall live. The man who lives for
himself does not live; he loses the essence, the pleasure, the crown of
existence; but if you live for others and for God you will find the life
of life. "Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and
all these things shall be added unto you." There is no way of finding
yourself in personal joy like losing yourself in the joy of others.

Once more: if you _wish to be the means of life to others, you must in
your measure die yourself_. "Oh," say you, "will it actually come to
death?" Well, it may not, but you should be prepared for it if it
should. Who have most largely blessed the present age? I will tell you.
I believe we owe our gospel liberties mainly to the poor men and women
who died at the stake for the faith. Call them Lollards, Anabaptists, or
what you will, the men who died for it gave life to the holy cause. Some
of all ranks did this, from bishops downward to poor boys. Many of them
could not preach from the pulpit, but they preached grander sermons from
the fagots than all the reformers could thunder from their rostrums.
They fell into the ground and died, and the "much fruit" abides to this
day. The self-sacrificing death of her saints was the life and increase
of the church. If we wish to achieve a great purpose, establish a great
truth, and raise up a great agency for good, it must be by the surrender
of ourselves, yea, of our very lives to the one all-absorbing purpose.
Not else can we succeed. There is no giving out to others, without
taking so much out of yourself. He who serves God and finds that it is
easy work will find it hard work to give in his account at the last. A
sermon that costs nothing is worth nothing; if it did not come from the
heart it will not go to the heart. Take it as a rule that wear and tear
must go on, even to exhaustion, if we are to be largely useful. Death
precedes growth. The Saviour of others cannot save himself. We must not,
therefore, grudge the lives of those who die under the evil climate of
Africa, if they die for Christ; nor must we murmur if here and there
God's best servants are cut down by brain exhaustion: it is the law of
divine husbandry that by death cometh increase.

And you, dear friend, must not say, "Oh, I cannot longer teach in the
Sunday-school: I work so hard all the week that I--I--I"--shall I finish
the sentence for you? You work so hard for yourself all the week that
you cannot work for God one day in the week. Is that it? "No, not quite
so, but I am so fagged." Very true, but think of your Lord. He knew what
weariness was for you, and yet he wearied not in well-doing. You will
never come to sweat of blood as he did. Come, dear friend, will you be a
corn of wheat laid up on the shelf alone? Will you be like that wheat in
the mummy's hand, unfruitful and forgotten, or would you grow? I hear
you say, "Sow me somewhere." I will try to do so. Let me drop you into
the Sunday-school field, or into the Tract-lending acre, or into the
Street-preaching parcel of land. "But if I make any great exertion it
will half kill me." Yes; and if it shall quite kill, you will then prove
the text, "If it die, it bringeth forth much fruit." Those who have
killed themselves of late in our Lord's service are not so numerous that
we need be distressed by the fear that an enormous sacrifice of life is
likely to occur. Little cause is there just now to repress fanaticism,
but far more reason to denounce self-seeking. O, my brethren, let us
rise to a condition of consecration more worthy of our Lord and of his
glorious cause, and henceforth may we be eager to be as the buried,
hidden, dying, yet fruit-bearing wheat for the glory of our Lord. Thus
have I merely glanced at the text; another day may it be our privilege
to dive into its depths.


"Doth the ploughman plough all day to sow?"--ISAIAH 28:24.

UNLESS they are cultivated, fields yield us nothing but briers and
thistles. In this we may see ourselves. Unless the great Husbandman
shall till us by his grace, we shall produce nothing that is good, but
everything that is evil. If one of these days I shall hear that a
country has been discovered where wheat grows without the work of the
farmer, I may then, perhaps, hope to find one of our race who will bring
forth holiness without the grace of God. Hitherto all land on which the
foot of man has trodden has needed labor and care; and even so among men
the need of gracious tillage is universal. Jesus says to all of us, "Ye
must be born again." Unless God the Holy Spirit breaks up the heart with
the plough of the law, and sows it with the seed of the gospel, not a
single ear of holiness will any of us produce, even though we may be
children of godly parents, and may be regarded as excellent moral people
by those with whom we live.

Yes, and the plough is needed not only to produce that which is good,
but to destroy that which is evil. There are diseases which, in the
course of ages, wear themselves out, and do not appear again among men;
and there may be forms of vice, which under changed circumstances, do
not so much abound as they used to do; but human nature will always
remain the same, and therefore there will always be plentiful crops of
the weeds of sin in man's fields, and nothing can keep these under but
spiritual husbandry, carried on by the Spirit of God. You cannot destroy
weeds by exhortations, nor can you tear out the roots of sin from the
soul by moral suasion; something sharper and more effectual must be
brought to bear upon them. God must put his own right hand to the
plough, or the hemlock of sin will never give place to the corn of
holiness. Good is never spontaneous in unrenewed humanity, and evil is
never cut up till the ploughshare of almighty grace is driven through

The text leads our thoughts in this direction, and gives us practical
guidance through asking the simple question, "Doth the ploughman plough
all day to sow?" _This question may be answered in the affirmative_,
"Yes, in the proper season he does plough all day to sow;" and,
secondly, _this text may more properly be answered in the negative_,
"No, the ploughman does not plough every day to sow; he has other work
to do according to the season."

I. First, our text may be ANSWERED IN THE AFFIRMATIVE--"Yes, the
ploughman does plough all day to sow."

When it is ploughing time he keeps on at it till his work is done; if it
requires one day, or two days, or twenty days to finish his fields, he
continues at his task while the weather permits. The perseverance of the
ploughman is instructive, and it teaches us a double lesson. When the
Lord comes to plough the heart of man he ploughs all day, and herein is
his patience; and, secondly, so ought the Lord's servants to labor all
day with men's hearts, and herein is our perseverance.

"Doth the ploughman plough all day?" _So doth God plough the heart of
man, and herein is his patience._ The team was in the field in the case
of some of us very early in the morning, for our first recollections
have to do with conscience and the furrows of pain which it made in our
youthful mind. When we were little children we woke in the night under a
sense of sin; our father's teaching and our mother's prayers made deep
and painful impressions upon us, and though we did not then yield our
hearts to God, we were greatly stirred, and all indifference to religion
was made impossible. When we were boys at school the reading of a
chapter in the Word of God, or the death of a playmate, or an address at
a Bible-class, or a solemn sermon, so affected us that we were uneasy
for weeks. The strivings of the Spirit of God within urged us to think
of higher and better things. Though we quenched the Spirit, though we
stifled conviction, yet we bore the marks of the ploughshare; furrows
were made in the soul, and certain foul weeds of evil were cut up by the
roots although no seed of grace was as yet sown in our hearts. Some have
continued in this state for many years, ploughed but not sown; but,
blessed be God, it was not so with others of us; for we had not left
boyhood before the good seed of the gospel fell upon our heart. Alas!
there are many who do not thus yield to grace, and with them the
ploughman ploughs all day to sow. I have seen the young man coming to
London in his youth, yielding to its temptations, drinking in its
poisoned sweets, violating his conscience, and yet continuing unhappy in
it all, fearful, unrestful, stirred about even as the soil is agitated
by the plough. In how many cases has this kind of work gone on for
years, and all to no avail. Ah! and I have known the man come to middle
life, and still he has not received the good seed, neither has the
ground of his hard heart been thoroughly broken up. He has gone on in
business without God; day after day he has risen and gone to bed again
with no more religion than his horses: and yet all this while there have
been ringing in his ears warnings of judgment to come, and chidings of
conscience, so that he has not been at peace. After a powerful sermon he
has not enjoyed his meals, or been able to sleep, for he has asked
himself, "What shall I do in the end thereof?" The ploughman has
ploughed all day, till the evening shadows have lengthened and the day
has faded to a close. What a mercy it is when the furrows are at last
made ready and the good seed is cast in, to be received, nurtured, and
multiplied a hundred fold.

It is mournful to remember that we have seen this ploughing continue
till the sun has touched the horizon and the night dews have begun to
fall. Even then the long-suffering God has followed up his
work--ploughing, ploughing, ploughing, ploughing, till darkness ended
all. Do I address any aged ones whose lease must soon run out? I would
affectionately beseech them to consider their position. What! Threescore
years old and yet unsaved? Forty years did God suffer the manners of
Israel in the wilderness, but he has borne with you for sixty years.
Seventy years old, and yet unregenerated! Ah, my friend, you will have
but little time in which to serve your Saviour before you go to heaven.
But will you go there at all? Is it not growing dreadfully likely that
you will die in your sins and perish for ever? How happy are those who
are brought to Christ in early life; but still remember--

  "While the lamp holds out to burn,
   The vilest sinner may return."

It is late, it is very late, but is not too late. The ploughman ploughs
all day; and the Lord waits that he may be gracious unto you. I have
seen many aged persons converted, and therefore I would encourage other
old folks to believe in Jesus. I once read a sermon in which a minister
asserted that he had seldom known any converted who were over forty
years of age if they had been hearers of the gospel all their lives.
There is certainly much need to caution those who are guilty of delay,
but there must be no manufacturing of facts. Whatever that minister
might think, or even observe, my own observation leads me to believe
that about as many people are converted to God at one age as at another,
taking into consideration the fact that the young are much more numerous
than the old. It is a dreadful thing to have remained an unbeliever all
these years; but yet the grace of God does not stop short at a certain
age; those who enter the vineyard at the eleventh hour shall have their
penny, and grace shall be glorified in the old as well as in the young.
Come along, old friend, Jesus Christ invites you to come to him even
now, though you have stood out so long. You have been a sadly tough
piece of ground, and the ploughman has ploughed all day; but if at last
the sods are turned, and the heart is lying in ridges, there is hope of
you yet.

"Doth the ploughman plough all day?" I answer--Yes, however long the day
may be, God in mercy ploughs still, he is long-suffering, and full of
tenderness and mercy and grace. Do not spurn such patience, but yield to
the Lord who has acted toward you with so much gentle love.

The text, however, not only sets forth patience on God's part, but it
teaches _perseverance on our part_. "Doth the ploughman plough all day?"
Yes, he does; then if I am seeking Christ, ought I to be discouraged
because I do not immediately find him? The promise is, "He that asketh,
receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it
shall be opened." There may be reasons why the door is not opened at our
first knock. What then? "Doth the ploughman plough all day?" Then will I
knock all day. It may be at the first seeking I may not find; what then?
"Doth the ploughman plough all day?" Then will I seek all day. It may
happen that at my first asking I shall not receive; what then? "Doth the
ploughman plough all day?" Then will I ask all day? Friends, if you have
begun to seek the Lord, the short way is, "Believe on the Lord Jesus
Christ, and thou shalt be saved." Do that at once. In the name of God do
it at once, and you are saved at once. May the Spirit of God bring you
to faith in Jesus, and you are at once in the kingdom of Christ. But if
peradventure in seeking the Lord, you are ignorant of this, or do not
see your way, never give up seeking; get to the foot of the cross, lay
hold of it, and cry, "If I perish I will perish here. Lord, I come to
thee in Jesus Christ for mercy, and if thou art not pleased to look at
me immediately, and forgive my sins, I will cry to thee till thou dost."
When God's Holy Spirit brings a man to downright earnest prayer which
will not take a denial, he is not far from peace. Careless indifference
and shilly-shallying with God hold men in bondage. They find peace when
their hearts are roused to strong resolve to seek until they find. I
like to see men search the Scriptures till they learn the way of
salvation, and hear the gospel till their souls live by it. If they are
resolved to drive the plough through doubts, and fears, and
difficulties, till they come to salvation, they shall soon come to it by
the grace of God.

The same is true in seeking the salvation of others. "Doth the ploughman
plough all day?" Yes, when it is ploughing-time. Then, so will I work
on, and on, and on. I will pray and preach, or pray and teach, however
long the day may be that God shall appoint me, for--

  "'Tis all my business here below
   The precious gospel seed to sow."

Brother worker, are you getting a little weary? Never mind, rouse
yourself, and plough on for the love of Jesus, and dying men. Our day of
work has in it only the appointed hours, and while they last let us
fulfil our task. Ploughing is hard work; but as there will be no harvest
without it, let us just put forth all our strength, and never flag till
we have performed our Lord's will, and by his holy Spirit wrought
conviction in men's souls. Some soils are very stiff, and cling
together, and the labor is heart-breaking; others are like the
unreclaimed waste, full of roots and tangled bramble; they need a steam
plough, and we must pray the Lord to make us such, for we cannot leave
them untilled, and therefore we must put forth more strength that the
labor may be done.

I heard some time ago of a minister who called to see a poor man who was
dying, but he was not able to gain admittance; he called the next
morning, and some idle excuse was made so that he could not see him; he
called again the next morning, but he was still refused; he went on till
he called twenty times in vain, but on the twenty-first occasion he was
permitted to see the sufferer, and by God's grace he saved a soul from
death. "Why do you tell your child a thing twenty times?" asked some one
of a mother. "Because," said she, "I find nineteen times is not enough."
Now, when a soul is to be ploughed, it may so happen that hundreds of
furrows will not do it. What then? Why, plough all day till the work is
done. Whether you are ministers, missionaries, teachers, or private
soul-winners, never grow weary, for your work is noble, and the reward
of it is infinite. The grace of God is seen in our being permitted to
engage in such holy service; it is greatly magnified in sustaining us in
it, and it will be pre-eminently conspicuous in enabling us to hold out
till we can say, "I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do."

We prize that which costs us labor and service, and we shall set all the
higher value upon the saved ones when the Lord grants them to our
efforts. It is good for us to learn the value of our sheaves by going
forth weeping to the sowing. When you think of the ploughman's ploughing
all day, be moved to plod on in earnest efforts to win souls. Seek--

  "With cries, entreaties, tears to save
   And snatch them from the fiery wave."

Doth the ploughman plough all day for a little bit of oats or barley,
and will not you plough all day for souls that shall live for ever, if
saved, to adore the grace of God, or shall live for ever, if unsaved, in
outer darkness and woe? Oh, by the terrors of the wrath to come and the
glory that is to be revealed, gird up your loins, and plough all day.

I would beg all the members of our churches to keep their hands on the
gospel plough, and their eyes straight before them. "Doth the ploughman
plough all day?" let Christians do the same. Start close to the hedge,
and go right down to the bottom of the field. Plough as close to the
ditch as you can, and leave small headlands. What though there are
fallen women, thieves, and drunkards in the slums around, do not neglect
any of them; for if you leave a stretch of land to the weeds they will
soon spread among the wheat. When you have gone right to the end of the
field once, what shall you do next? Why, just turn round, and make for
the place you started from. And when you have thus been up and down,
what next? Why, up and down again. And what next? Why, up and down
again. You have visited that district with tracts; do it again,
fifty-two times in the year--multiply your furrows. We must learn how to
continue in well doing. Your eternal destiny is to go on doing good for
ever and ever, and it is well to go through a rehearsal here. So just
plough on, plough on, and look for results as the reward of continued
perseverance. Ploughing is not done with a skip and jump; the ploughman
ploughs all day. Dash and flash are all very fine in some things, but
not in ploughing; there the work must be steady, persistent, regular.
Certain persons soon give it up, it wears out their gloves, blisters
their soft hands, tires their bones, and makes them eat their bread
rather more in the sweat of their face than they care for. Those whom
the Lord fills with his grace will keep to their ploughing year after
year, and verily I say unto you, they shall have their reward. "Doth the
ploughman plough all day?" Then let us do the same, being assured that
one day every hill and valley shall be tilled and sown, and every desert
and wilderness shall yield a harvest for our Lord, and the angel reapers
shall descend, and the shouts of the harvest-home shall fill both earth
and heaven.

II. But, now, somewhat briefly, THE TEXT MAY BE ANSWERED IN THE
NEGATIVE. "Doth the ploughman plough all day to sow?" No, he does not
always plough. After he has ploughed he breaks the clods, sows, reaps,
and threshes. In the chapter before us you will see that other works of
husbandry are mentioned. The ploughman has many other things to do
beside ploughing. There is an advance in what he does; this teaches us
that there is the like on God's part, and should be the like on ours.

First, _on God's part, there is an advance in what he does_. "Doth the
ploughman plough all day?" No, he goes forward to other matters. It may
be that in the case of some of you the Lord has been using certain
painful agencies to plough you. You are feeling the terrors of the law,
the bitterness of sin, the holiness of God, the weakness of the flesh,
and the shadow of the wrath to come. Is this going to last forever? Will
it continue till the spirit fails and the soul expires? Listen: "Doth
the ploughman plough all day?" No, he is preparing for something
else--he ploughs to sow. Thus doth the Lord deal with you; therefore be
of good courage, there is an ending to the wounding and slaying, and
better things are in store for you. You are poor and needy, and you seek
water, and there is none and your tongue faileth for thirst; but the
Lord will hear you, and deliver you. He will not contend forever,
neither will he be always wroth. He will turn again, and he will have
compassion upon us. He will not always make furrows by his chiding, he
will come and cast in the precious corn of consolation, and water it
with the dews of heaven and smile upon it with the sunlight of his
grace; and there shall soon be in you, first the blade, then the ear,
after that the full corn in the ear, and in due season you shall joy as
with the joy of harvest. O ye who are sore wounded in the place of
dragons, I hear you cry, Doth God always send terror and conviction of
sin? Listen to this: "If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the
good of the land," and what is the call of God to the willing and
obedient but this: "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be
saved." Thou shalt be saved now, find peace now, if thou wilt have done
with thyself and all looking to thine own good works to save thee, and
wilt turn to him who paid the ransom for thee upon the tree. The Lord is
gentle and tender and full of compassion, he will not always chide,
neither will he keep his anger for ever. Many of your doubts and fears
come of unbelief, or of Satan, or of the flesh, and are not of God at
all. Blame him not for what he does not send, and does not wish you to
suffer. His mind is for your peace, not for your distress; for thus he
speaks: "Comfort ye, comfort ye, my people, saith your God. Speak ye
comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is
accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned." "I have blotted out, as a
thick cloud, thy transgressions, and, as a cloud, thy sins: return unto
me; for I have redeemed thee." He has smitten, but he will smile; he has
wounded, but he will heal; he has slain, but he will make alive;
therefore turn unto him at once and receive comfort at his hands. The
ploughman does not plough for ever, else would he reap no harvest; and
God is not always heart-breaking, he also draws near on heart-healing

You see, then, that the great husbandman advances from painful agencies,
and I want you to mark that he goes on to _productive work_ in the
hearts of his people. He will take away the furrows, you shall not see
them, for the corn will cover them with beauty. As she that was in
travail remembers no more her sorrow for joy that a man is born into the
world, so shall you, who are under the legal rod, remember no more the
misery of conviction, for God will sow you with grace, and make your
soul, even your poor, barren soul, to bring forth fruit unto his praise
and glory. "Oh!" says one, "I wish that would come true to me." It will.
"Doth the ploughman plough all day to sow?" You expect by-and-by to see
ploughed fields clothed with springing corn; and you may look to see
repentant hearts gladdened with forgiveness. Therefore, be of good

You shall advance, also, to a _joyful experience_. See that ploughman;
he whistles as he ploughs, he does not own much of this world's goods,
but yet he is merry. He looks forward to the day when he will be on the
top of the big wagon, joining in the shout of the harvest home, and so
he ploughs in hope, expecting a crop. And, dear soul, God will yet joy
and rejoice over you when you believe in Jesus Christ, and you, too,
shall be brimful of joy. Be of good cheer, the better portion is yet to
come, press forward to it. Gospel sorrowing leads on to gospel hoping,
believing, rejoicing, and the rejoicing knows no end. God will not
chasten all day, but he will lead you on from strength to strength, from
glory unto glory, till you shall be like himself. This, then, is the
advance that there is in God's work among men, from painful agencies to
productive work and joyful experience.

But what if the ploughing should never lead to sowing; what if you
should be disturbed in conscience, and should go on to resist it all?
Then God will make another advance, but it will be to put up the plough,
and to command the clouds that they rain no rain upon the land, and then
its end is to be burned. Oh! man, there is nothing more awful than for
your soul to be left to go out of cultivation; God himself giving you
up. Surely that is hell. He that is unholy will be unholy still. The law
of fixity of character will operate eternally, and no hand of the
merciful One shall come near to till the soul again. What worse than
this can happen?

We conclude by saying that _this advance is a lesson to us_; for we,
too, are to go forward. "Doth the ploughman plough all day?" No, he
ploughs to sow, and in due time he sows. Some churches seem to think
that all they have to do is to plough; at least, all they attempt is a
kind of scratching of the soil, and talking of what they are going to
do. It is fine talk, certainly; but doth the ploughman plough all day?
You may draw up a large programme and promise great things; but pray do
not stop there. Don't be making furrows all day; do get to your sowing.
I fancy that those who promise most perform the least. Men who do much
in the world have no programme at first, their course works itself out
by its own inner force by the grace of God; they do not propose but
perform. They do not plough all day to sow, but they are like our Lord's
servant in the parable of whom he saith, "the sower went forth to sow."

Let the ministers of Christ also follow the rule of advance. _Let us go
from preaching the law to preaching the gospel._ "Doth the ploughman
plough all day?" He does plough; he would not sow in hope if he had not
first prepared the ground. Robbie Flockart, who preached for years in
the Edinboro' streets, says, "It is in vain to sew with the silk thread
of the gospel, unless you use the sharp needle of the law." Some of my
brethren do not care to preach eternal wrath and its terrors. This is a
cruel mercy, for they ruin souls by hiding from them their ruin. If they
must needs try to sew without a needle, I cannot help it; but I do not
mean to be so foolish myself; my needle may be old-fashioned, but it is
sharp, and when it carries with it the silken thread of the gospel, I am
sure good work is done by it. You cannot get a harvest if you are afraid
of disturbing the soil, nor can you save souls if you never warn them of
hell fire. We must tell the sinner what God has revealed about sin,
righteousness, and judgment to come. Still, brethren, we must not plough
all day. No, no, the preaching of the law is only preparatory to the
preaching of the gospel. The stress of our business lies in proclaiming
glad tidings. We are not followers of John the Baptist, but of Jesus
Christ; we are not rugged prophets of woe, but joyful heralds of grace.
Be not satisfied with revival services, and stirring appeals, but preach
the doctrines of grace so as to bring out the full compass of covenant
truth. Ploughing has had its turn, now for planting and watering.
Reproof may now give place to consolation. We are first to make
disciples of men, and then to teach them to observe all things
whatsoever Jesus has commanded us. We must pass on from the rudiments to
the higher truths, from laying foundations to further upbuilding.

And now, another lesson to those of you who are as yet hearers and
nothing more. I want you to go from ploughing to something better,
namely, _from hearing and fearing to believing_. How many years some of
you have been hearing the gospel! Do you mean to continue in that state
for ever? Will you never believe in him of whom you hear so much? You
have been stirred up a good deal; the other night you went home almost
broken-hearted; I should think you are ploughed enough by this time; and
yet you have not received the seed of eternal life, for you have not
believed in the Lord Jesus. It is dreadful to be always on the brink of
everlasting life, and yet never to be alive. It will be an awful thing
to be almost in heaven, and yet forever shut out. It is a wretched thing
to rush into a railway station just in time to see the train steaming
out; I had much rather be half-an-hour behind time. To lose a train by
half-a-second is most annoying. Alas, if you go on as you have done for
years, you will have your hand on the latch of heaven, and yet be shut
out. You will be within a hair's-breadth of glory, and yet be covered
with eternal shame. O beware of being so near to the kingdom, and yet
lost; almost, but not altogether saved. God grant that you may not be
among those who are ploughed, and ploughed, and ploughed, and yet never
sown. It will be of no avail at the last to cry, "Lord, we have eaten
and drunk in thy presence, and thou hast taught in our streets. We had a
seat at the chapel, we attended the services on week-nights as well as
on Sundays, we went to prayer-meetings, we joined a Bible-class, we
distributed tracts, we subscribed our guinea to the funds, we gave up
every open sin, we used a form of prayer, and read a chapter of the
Bible every day." All these things may be done, and yet there may be no
saving faith in the Lord Jesus. Take heed lest your Lord should answer,
"With all this, your heart never came to me; therefore, depart from me,
I never knew you." If Jesus once knows a man he always knows him. He can
never say to _me_, "I never knew you," for he has known me, as his poor
dependant, a beggar for years at his door. Some of you have been all
that is good except that you never came into contact with Christ, never
trusted him, never knew him. Ah me, how sad your state! Will it be
always so?

Lastly, I would say to you who are being ploughed and are agitated about
your souls, Go at once to the next stage of believing. Oh! if people did
but know how simple a thing believing is, surely they would believe.
Alas, they do not know it, and it becomes all the more difficult to them
because in itself it is so easy. The difficulty of believing lies in
there being no difficulty in it. "If the prophet had bid thee do some
great thing, wouldst thou not have done it?" Oh, yes, you would have
done it, and you would have thought it easy too; but when he simply
says, "Wash, and be clean," there is a difficulty with pride and self.
If you can truly say that you are willing to abase your pride, and do
anything which the Lord bids you, then I pray you understand that there
is no further preparation required, and believe in Jesus at once. May
the Holy Spirit make you sick of self, and ready to accept the gospel.
The word is nigh thee, let it be believed; it is in thy mouth, let it be
swallowed down; it is in thy heart, let it be trusted. With your heart
believe in Jesus, and with your mouth make confession of him, and you
shall be saved. A main part of faith lies in the giving up of all other
confidences. O give up at once every false hope. I tried once to show
what faith was by quoting Dr. Watts's lines:

  "A guilty, weak, and helpless worm,
    On thy kind arms I fall.
  Be thou my strength, and righteousness,
    My Jesus and my all."

I tried to represent faith as falling into Christ's arms, and I thought
I made it so plain that the wayfaring man could not err therein. When I
had finished preaching, a young man came to me and said, "But, sir, I
cannot fall upon Christ's arms." I replied at once, "Tumble into them
anyhow; faint away into Christ's arms, or die into Christ's arms, so
long as you get there." Many talk of what they can do and what they
cannot do, and I fear they miss the vital point. Faith is leaving off
can-ing and cannot-ing, and leaving it all to Christ, for _he_ can do
all things, though you can do nothing. "Doth the ploughman plough all
day to sow?" No, he makes progress, and goes from ploughing to sowing.
Go, and do thou likewise; sow unto the Spirit the precious seed of faith
in Christ, and the Lord will give thee a joyous harvest.


"Shall horses run upon the rock? will one plough there with oxen?"--AMOS

THESE expressions are proverbs, taken from the familiar sayings of the
east country. A proverb is generally a sword with two edges, or, if I
may so say, it has many edges, or is all edge, and hence it may be
turned this way and that way, and every part of it will have force and
point. A proverb has often many bearings, and you cannot always tell
what was the precise meaning of him who uttered it. The connection would
abundantly tolerate two senses in this place. An ancient commentator
asserts that it has seven meanings, and that any one of them would be
consistent with the context. I cannot deny the assertion, and if it be
correct it is only one among many instances of the manifold wisdom of
the Word of God. Like those curiously carved Chinese balls in which
there is one ball within another, so in many a holy text there is sense
within sense, teaching within teaching, and each one worthy of the
Spirit of God.

The first sense of the text upon which I would say just a word or two is
this: The prophet is expostulating with ungodly men upon their _pursuit
of happiness where it never can be found_. They were endeavoring to grow
rich and great and strong by oppression. The prophet says, "Ye have
turned judgment into gall, and the fruit of righteousness into hemlock."
Justice was bought and sold among them, and the book of the law was made
the instrument of fraud. "Yet," says the prophet, "there is no gain to
be gotten in this way--no real profit, no true happiness. As well may
horses run upon a rock, and oxen plough the sand; it is labor in vain."

If any of you try to content yourselves with this world, any hope to
find a heaven in the midst of your business and your family without
looking upward for it, you labor in vain. If you hope to find pleasure
in sin, and think that it will go well with you if you despise the law
of God, you will make a great mistake. You might as well seek for roses
in the grottoes of the sea, or look for pearls on the pavements of the
city. You will find what your soul requires nowhere but in God. To seek
after happiness in evil deeds is to plough a rock of granite. To labor
after true prosperity by dishonest means is as useless as to till the
sandy shore. "Wherefore do you spend your money for that which is not
bread, and your labor for that which satisfieth not?" Young man, you are
killing yourself with ambition; you seek your own honor and emolument,
and this is a poor, poor object for an immortal soul. And you, too, sir,
are wearing out your life with care; your mind and body both fail you in
endeavoring to amass riches, as if a man's life consisted in the
abundance of the things which he possesses; you are ploughing a rock;
your cares will not bring you joy of heart or content of spirit; your
toil will end in failure. And you, too, who labor to weave a
righteousness by your works apart from Christ and fancy that with the
diligent use of outward ceremonies you may be able to do the work of the
Holy Spirit upon your own heart, you, too, are ploughing thankless
rock. The strength of fallen nature exerted at its utmost can never save
a soul. Why, then, plough the rock any longer? Give over the foolish

So far, I believe, we have not misread the text, but have mentioned a
very probable meaning of the words; still another strikes me, which I
think equally suitable, and upon it I shall dwell, by God's help.

It is this. _God will not always send his ministers to call men to
repentance._ When men's hearts remain obdurate, and they do not and will
not repent, then God will not always deal with them in mercy. "My Spirit
shall not always strive with man." There is a time of ploughing, but
when it is evident that the heart is wilfully hardened, then wisdom
itself suggests to mercy that she should give over her efforts. "Shall
horses run upon the rock? will one plough there with oxen?" No, there is
a limit to the efforts of kindness, and in fulness of time the labor
ceases, and the rock remains unploughed henceforth and for ever.

I. Taking that sense, we shall speak upon it, and remark, first, that
MINISTERS LABOR TO BREAK UP MEN'S HEARTS; the wise preacher tries by the
power of the Holy Ghost to break up the hard clods of the heart, so that
it may receive the heavenly seed.

Many truths are used like sharp ploughshares to break up the heart. Men
must be made to feel that they have sinned, and they must be led to
repent of sin. They must receive Christ, not with the head only, but
with the heart; for with the heart man believeth unto righteousness.
There must be emotion; we must cut into the heart with the ploughshare
of the law. A farmer who is too tender-hearted to tear and harrow the
land will never see a harvest. Here is the failing of certain divines,
they are afraid of hurting any one's feelings, and so they keep clear of
all the truths which are likely to excite fear or grief. They have not a
sharp ploughshare on their premises, and are never likely to have a
stack in their rickyard. They angle without hooks for fear of hurting
the fish, and fire without bullets out of respect to the feelings of the
birds. This kind of love is real cruelty to men's souls. It is much the
same as if a surgeon should permit a patient to die because he would not
pain him with the lancet, or by the necessary removal of a limb. It is a
terrible tenderness which leaves men to sink into hell rather than
distress their minds. It is pleasant to prophesy smooth things, but woe
unto the man who thus degrades himself. Is this the spirit of Christ?
Did he conceal the sinner's peril? Did he cast doubt upon the
unquenchable fire and the undying worm? Did he lull souls into slumber
by smooth strains of flattery? Nay, but with honest love and anxious
concern he warned men of the wrath to come, and bade them repent or
perish. Let the servant of the Lord Jesus in this thing follow his
Master, and plough deep with a sharp ploughshare, which will not be
balked by the hardest clods. This we must school ourselves to do. If we
really love the souls of men, let us prove it by honest speech. The hard
heart must be broken, or it will still refuse the Saviour who was sent
to bind up the broken-hearted. There are some things which men may or
may not have, and yet may be saved; but those things which go with the
ploughing of the heart are indispensable; there must be a holy fear and
a humble trembling before God; there must be an acknowledgment of guilt
and a penitent petition for mercy; there must, in a word, be a thorough
ploughing of the soul before we can expect the seed to bring forth

II. But the text indicates to us that AT TIMES MINISTERS LABOR IN VAIN.
"Shall horses run upon the rock? will one plough there with oxen?" In a
short time a ploughman feels whether the plough will go or not, and so
does the minister. He may use the very same words in one place which he
has used in another, but he feels in the one place great joy and
hopefulness in preaching, while with another audience he has heavy work,
and little hope. The plough in the last case seems to jump out of the
furrow; and a bit of the share is broken off now and then. He says to
himself, "I do not know how it is, but I do not get on at this," and he
finds that his Master has sent him to work upon a particularly heavy
soil. All laborers for Christ know that this is occasionally the case.
You must have found it so in a Sunday-school class, or in a cottage
meeting, or in any other gathering where you have tried to teach and
preach Jesus. You have said to yourself every now and then, "Now I am
ploughing a rock. Before, I turned up rich mould which a yoke of oxen
might plough with ease, and a horse might even run at the work; but now
the horse may tug, and the oxen may wearily toil till they gall their
shoulders, but they cannot cut a furrow; the rock is stubborn to the
last degree."

There are such hearers in all congregations. They are as iron, and yet
they are side by side with a fine plot of ground. Their sister, their
brother, their son, their daughter, all these have readily felt the
power of the gospel; but _they_ do not feel it. They hear it
respectfully; and they so far allow it free course that they permit it
to go in at one ear and out at the other, but they will have nothing
more to do with it. They would not like to be Sabbath-breakers and stop
away from worship; they therefore do the gospel the questionable
compliment of coming where it is preached and then refusing to regard
it. They are hard, hard, hard bits of rock, the plough does not touch

Many, on the other hand, are equally hard; but it is in another way. The
impression made by the word is not deep or permanent. They receive it
with joy, but they do not retain it. They listen with attention, but it
never comes to practice with them. They hear about repentance, but they
never repent. They hear about faith, but they never believe. They are
good judges of what the gospel is, and yet they have never accepted it
for themselves. They will not eat; but still they insist that good bread
shall be put on the table. They are great sticklers for the very things
which they personally reject. They are moved to feeling; they shed tears
occasionally; but still their hearts are not really broken up by the
word. They go their way, and forget what manner of men they are. They
are rocky-hearted through and through; all our attempts to plough them
are failures.

Now this is all the worse, because certain of these rocky-hearted people
have been ploughed for years, and have become harder instead of softer.
Once or twice ploughing, and a broken share or two, and a disappointed
ploughman or two, we might not mind, if they would yield at last; but
these have since their childhood known the gospel and never given way
before its power. It is a good while since their childhood now with some
of them. Their hair is turning gray, and they themselves are getting
feeble with years. They have been entreated and persuaded times beyond
number, but labor has been lost upon them. In fact, they used to feel
the word, in a certain fashion, far more years ago than they do now. The
sun, which softens wax, hardens clay, and the same gospel which has
brought others to tenderness and repentance has exercised a contrary
effect upon them, and made them more careless about divine things than
they were in their youth. This is a mournful state of things, is it not?

Why are certain men so extremely rocky? Some are so from a _peculiar
stolidity of nature_. There are many people in the world whom you cannot
very well move, they have a great deal of granite in their constitution,
and are more nearly related to Mr. Obstinate than to Mr. Pliable. Now, I
do not think badly of these people, because one knows what it is to
preach to an excitable people, and to get them all stirred, and to know
that in the end they are none the better; whereas some of the more
stolid and immovable people when they are moved are moved indeed; when
they do feel they feel intensely, and they retain any impression that is
made. A little chip made in granite by very hard blows will abide there,
while the lashing of water, which is easy enough, will leave no trace
even for a moment. It is a grand thing to get hold of a fine piece of
rock and to exercise faith about it. The Lord's own hammer has mighty
power to break, and in the breaking great glory comes to the Most High.

Worse still, certain men are hard because of their _infidelity_--not
heart-infidelity all of it, but an infidelity which springs out of a
desire not to believe, which has helped them to discover difficulties.
These difficulties exist, and were meant to exist, for there would be no
room for faith if everything were as plain as the nose on one's face.
These persons have gradually come to doubt, or to think that they doubt,
essential truths, and this renders them impervious to the gospel of

A much more numerous body are orthodox enough, but hard-hearted for all
that. _Worldliness_ hardens a man in every way. It often dries up all
charity to the poor, because the man must make money, and he thinks that
the poor-rates are sufficient excuse for neglecting the offices of
charity. He has no time to think of the next world; he must spend all
his thoughts upon the present one. Money is tight, and therefore he must
hold it tight; and when money brings in little interest, he finds
therein a reason for being the more niggardly. He has no time for
prayer, he _must_ get down to the counting-house. He has no time for
reading his Bible, his ledger wants him. You may knock at his door, but
his heart is not at home; it is in the counting-house, wherein he lives
and moves and has his being. His god is his gold, his bliss is his
business, his all in all is himself. What is the use of preaching to
him? As well may horses run upon a rock, or oxen drag a plough across a
field sheeted with iron a mile thick.

With some, too, there is a hardness, produced by what I might almost
call the opposite of stern worldliness, namely, a _general levity_. They
are naturally butterflies flitting about and doing nothing. They never
think, or want to think. Half a thought exhausts them, and they must
needs be diverted, or their feeble minds will utterly weary. They live
in a round of amusement. To them the world is a stage, and all the men
and women only players. It is of little use to preach to them; there is
no depth of earth in their superficial nature; beneath a sprinkling of
shifting worthless sand lies an impenetrable rock of utter stupidity and
senselessness. I might thus multiply reasons why some are harder than
others, but it is a well-assured fact that they are so, and there I
leave the matter.

III. I shall now ask everybody to judge whether the running of horses
upon a rock and the ploughing there with oxen shall always be continued.
ALWAYS CONTINUE TO LABOR IN VAIN. These people have been preached to,
taught, instructed, admonished, expostulated with, and advised; shall
this unrecompensed work be always performed? We have given them a fair
trial; what do reason and prudence say? Are we bound to persevere till
we are worn out by this unsuccessful work? We will ask it of men who
plough their own farms; do they recommend perseverance when failure is
certain? Shall horses run upon the rock? Shall one plough there with
oxen? Surely not for ever.

I think we shall all agree that labor in vain cannot be continued for
ever if we consider _the ploughman_. He does not want to be much
considered; but still his Master does not overlook him. See how weary he
grows when the work discourages him. He goes to his Master with, "Who
hath believed our report, and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?"
"Why hast thou sent me," says he, "to a people that have ears but hear
not? They sit as thy people sit, and they hear as thy people hear, and
then they go their way and they forget every word that is spoken, and
they obey not the voice of the Lord." See how disappointed the preacher
becomes. It is always hard work when you appear to get no forwarder,
although you do your utmost. No man, whoever he may be, likes to be set
upon work which appears to be altogether a waste of time and effort. To
his own mind it seems to have a touch of the ridiculous about it, and he
fears that he will be despised of his fellows for aiming at the
impossible. Shall it always be the lot of God's ministers to be trifled
with? Will the great Husbandman bid his ploughmen spill their lives for
nought? Must his preachers continue to cast pearls before swine? If the
consecrated workers are so bidden by their Lord they will persevere in
their painful task; but their Master is considerate of them, and I ask
_you_ also to consider whether it is reasonable to expect a zealous
heart to be for ever occupied with the salvation of those who never
respond to its anxiety? Shall the horses always plough upon the rock?
Shall the oxen always labor there?

Again, there is _the Master_ to be considered. The Lord--is he always to
be resisted and provoked? Many of you have had eternal life set before
you as the result of believing in Jesus; and you have refused to
believe. It is a wonder that my Lord has not said to me, "You have done
your duty with them; never set Christ before them again; my Son shall
not be insulted." If you offer a beggar in the street a shilling and he
will not have it, you cheerfully put it into your purse and go your way;
you do not entreat him to have his wants relieved. But, behold, our God
in mercy begs sinners to come to him, and implores them to accept his
Son. In his condescension he even stands like a salesman in the market,
crying, "Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he
that hath no money; come, buy wine and milk without money and without
price." In another place he says of himself, "All day long have I
stretched out my hands to a disobedient and gainsaying generation." If
the Lord of mercy has been refused so long in the sight of you who
reverence him, does not some indignation mingle with your pity, and
while you love sinners and would have them saved, do you not feel in
your heart that there must be an end to such insulting behavior? I ask
even the careless to think of the matter in this light, and if they do
not respect the ploughman, yet let them have regard to his Master.

And then, again, there are so many _other people_ who are needing the
gospel, and who would receive it if they had it, that it would seem to
be wise to leave off wearying oneself about those who despise it. What
did our Lord say? He said that if the mighty things which had been done
in Bethsaida and Chorazin had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would
have repented. What is more wonderful still, he says that if he had
wrought the same miracles in Sodom and Gomorrah which were wrought in
Capernaum, they would have repented in sackcloth and ashes. Does it not
occur to us at once to give the word to those who will have it, and
leave the despisers to perish in their own wilfulness? Does not reason
say, "Let us send this medicine where there are sick people who will
value it?" Thousands of people are willing to hear the gospel. See how
they crowd wherever the preacher goes--how they tread upon one another
in their anxiety to listen to him; and if these people who hear him
every day will not receive his message, "in God's name," saith he, "let
me go where there is a probability of finding soil that can be
ploughed." "Shall horses run upon the rock? Will one plough there with
oxen?" Must I work always where nothing comes of it? Does not reason
say, let the word go to China, to Hindostan, or to the utmost parts of
the earth, where they will receive it; for those who have it preached in
the corners of their streets despise it?

I shall not lengthen this argument, but shall solemnly put the question
again. Would any of you continue to pursue an object when it has proved
to be hopeless? Do you wonder that when the Lord has sent his servants
to speak kind, gracious, tender words, and men have not heard, he says
to them, "They are joined unto their idols; let them alone"? There is a
boundary to the patience of men, and we soon arrive at it; and assuredly
there is a limit, though it is long before we outrun it, to the patience
of God. "At length," he says, "it is enough. My Spirit shall no longer
strive with them." If the Lord says this can any of us complain? Is not
this the way of wisdom? Does not prudence itself dictate it? Any
thoughtful mind will say, "Ay, ay, a rock cannot be ploughed for ever."

IV. Fourthly. THERE MUST BE AN ALTERATION, then, and that speedily. The
oxen shall be taken off from such toil. It can be easily done, and done
soon. It can be effected in three ways.

First, the unprofitable hearer can be removed so that he shall no more
hear the gospel from the lips of his best approved minister. There is a
preacher who has some sort of power over him; but as he rejects his
testimony, and remains impenitent, the man shall be removed to another
town, where he shall hear monotonous discourses which will not touch
his conscience. He shall go where he shall be no longer persuaded and
entreated; and there he will sleep himself into hell. That may be
readily enough done; perhaps some of you are making arrangements even
now for your own removal from the field of hope.

Another way is to take away the ploughman. He has done his work as best
he could, and he shall be released from his hopeless task. He is weary.
Let him go home. The soil would not break up, but he could not help
that; let him have his wage. He has broken his plough at the work; let
him go home and hear his Lord say, "Well done." He was willing to keep
on at the disheartening labor as long as his Master bade him; but it is
evidently useless, therefore let him go home, for his work is done. He
has been sore sick, let him die, and enter into his rest. This is by no
means improbable.

Or, there may happen something else. The Lord may say, "That piece of
work shall never trouble the ploughman any more. I will take it away."
And he may take it away in this fashion: the man who has heard the
gospel, but rejected it, will die. I pray my Master that he will not
suffer any one of you to die in your sins, for then we cannot reach you
any more, or indulge the faintest hope for you. No prayer of ours can
follow you into eternity. There is one name by which you may be saved,
and that name is sounded in your ears--the name of Jesus; but if you
reject him now, even that name will not save you. If you do not take
Jesus to be your Saviour he will appear as your judge. I pray you, do
not destroy your own souls by continuing to be obstinate against
almighty love.

God grant that some better thing may happen. Can nothing else be done?
This soil is rock; can we not sow it without breaking it? No. Without
repentance there is no remission of sin. But is there not a way of
saving men without the grace of God? The Lord Jesus did not say so; but
he said, "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved, but he that
believeth not shall be damned." He did not hint at a middle course or
hold out a "larger hope;" but he declared "He that believeth not shall
be damned," _and so he must be_. Dream not of a back door to heaven, for
the Lord has provided none.

What then? Shall the preacher continue his fruitless toil? If there is
only half a hope left him, he is willing to go on and say, "Hear, ye
deaf, and see, ye blind, and live, ye dead." He will even so speak this
day, for his Master bids him preach the gospel to every creature; but it
will be hard work to repeat the word of exhortation for years to those
who will not hear it.

Happily there is one other turn which affairs may take. There is a God
in heaven, let us pray to him to put forth his power. Jesus is at his
side, let us invoke his interposition. The Holy Ghost is almighty, let
us call for his aid. Brothers who plough and sisters who pray, cry to
the Master for help. The horse and the ox evidently fail, but there
remains One above who is able to work great marvels. Did he not once
speak to the rock, and turn the flint into a stream of water? Let us
pray him to do the same now.

And, oh, if there is one who feels and mourns that his heart is like a
piece of rock, I am glad he feels it; for he who feels that his heart is
a rock gives some evidence that the flint is being transformed. O rock,
instead of smiting thee, as Moses smote the rock in the wilderness and
erred therein, I would speak to thee. O rock, wouldst thou become like
wax? O rock, wouldst thou dissolve into rivers of repentance? Hearken to
God's voice! O rock, break with good desire! O rock, dissolve with
longing after Christ, for God is working upon thee now. Who knows but at
this very moment thou shall begin to crumble down. Dost thou feel the
power of the Word? Does the sharp ploughshare touch thee just now? Break
and break again, till by contrition thou art dissolved, for then will
the good seed of the gospel come to thee, and thou shalt receive it into
thy bosom, and we shall all behold the fruit thereof. And so I will
fling one more handful of good corn, and have done. If thou desirest
eternal life, trust Jesus Christ, and thou art saved at once. "Look unto
me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth," says Christ, "for I am
God, and beside me there is none else." He that believeth in him hath
everlasting life. "Like as Moses lifted up the serpent in the
wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: that whosoever
believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life."

O Lord, break up the rock, and let the seed drop in among its broken
substance, and get thou a harvest from the dissolved granite, at this
time, for Jesus Christ's sake. Amen.


"And when much people were gathered together, and were come to him out
of every city, he spake by a parable: a sower went out to sow his seed:
and as he sowed, some fell by the wayside; and it was trodden down, and
the fowls of the air devoured it. And some fell upon a rock; and as soon
as it was sprung up, it withered away, because it lacked moisture. And
some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprang up with it and choked it.
And other fell on good ground, and sprang up, and bare fruit an
hundredfold. And when he had said these things, he cried, He that hath
ears to hear, let him hear."--LUKE 8:4-8.

IN our country, when a sower goes forth to his work, he generally enters
into an enclosed field, and scatters the seed from his basket along
every ridge and furrow; but in the East, the corn-growing country, hard
by a small town, is usually an open area. It is divided into different
properties, but there are no visible divisions, except the ancient
landmarks, or perhaps ridges of stones. Through these open lands there
are footpaths, the most frequented being called the highways. You must
not imagine these highways to be like our macadamized roads; they are
merely paths, trodden tolerably hard. Here and there you notice by-ways,
along which travellers who wish to avoid the public road may journey
with a little more safety when the main road is infested with robbers;
hasty travellers also strike out short cuts for themselves, and so open
fresh tracks for others. When the sower goes forth to sow he finds a
plot of ground scratched over with the primitive Eastern plough; he
aims at scattering his seed there most plentifully; but a path runs
through the centre of his field, and unless he is willing to leave a
broad headland, he must throw a handful upon it. Yonder, a rock crops
out in the midst of the ploughed land, and the seed falls on its shallow
soil. Here is a corner full of the roots of nettles and thistles, and he
flings a little here; the corn and the nettles come up together, and the
thorns being the stronger soon choke the seed, so that it brings forth
no fruit unto perfection. The recollection that the Bible was written in
the East, and that its metaphors and allusions must be explained to us
by Eastern travellers, will often help us to understand a passage far
better than if we think of English customs.

The preacher of the gospel is like the sower. He does not make his seed;
it is given him by his divine Master. No man could create the smallest
grain that ever grew upon the earth, much less the celestial seed of
eternal life. The minister goes to his Master in secret, and asks him to
teach him his gospel, and thus he fills his basket with the good seed of
the kingdom. He then goes forth in his Master's name and scatters
precious truth. If he knew where the best soil was to be found, perhaps
he might limit himself to that which had been prepared by the plough of
conviction; but not knowing men's hearts, it is his business to preach
the gospel to every creature--to throw a handful on the hardened heart,
and another on the mind which is overgrown with the cares and pleasures
of the world. He has to leave the seed in the care of the Lord who gave
it to him, for he is not responsible for the harvest, he is only
accountable for the care and industry with which he does his work. If no
single ear should ever make glad the reaper, the sower will be rewarded
by his Master if he had planted the right seed with careful hand. If it
were not for this fact with what despairing agony should we utter the
cry of Esaias, "Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of
the Lord revealed?"

Our duty is not measured by the character of our hearers, but by the
command of our God. We are bound to preach the gospel, whether men will
hear, or whether they will forbear. It is ours to sow beside all waters.
Let men's hearts be what they may the minister must preach the gospel to
them; he must sow the seed on the rock as well as in the furrow, on the
highway as well as in the ploughed field.

I shall now address myself to the four classes of hearers mentioned in
our Lord's parable. We have, first of all, those who are represented by
the _way-side_, those who are "hearers only"; then those represented by
the _stony ground_; these are transiently impressed, but the word
produces no lasting fruit; then, those _among thorns_, on whom a good
impression is produced, but the cares of this life, and the
deceitfulness of riches, and the pleasures of the world choke the seed;
and lastly, that small class--God be pleased to multiply it
exceedingly--that small class of _good ground_ hearers, in whom the Word
brings forth abundant fruit.

I. First of all, I address myself to those hearts which are like the
WAY-SIDE: "Some fell by the wayside; and it was trodden down, and the
fowls of the air devoured it." Many of you do not go to the place of
worship desiring a blessing. You do not intend to worship God, or to be
affected by anything that you hear. You are like the highway, which was
never intended to be a cornfield. If a single grain of truth should fall
into your heart and grow it would be as great a wonder as for corn to
grow up in the street. If the seed shall be dexterously scattered, some
of it will fall upon you, and rest for a while upon your thoughts. 'Tis
true you will not understand it; but, nevertheless, if it be placed
before you in an interesting style, you will talk about it till some
more congenial entertainment shall attract you. Even this slender
benefit is brief, for in a little season you will forget all that you
have heard. Would to God we could hope that our words would tarry with
you; but we cannot hope it, for the soil of your heart is so hard beaten
by continual traffic, that there is no hope of the seed finding a living
root-hold. Satan is constantly passing over your heart with his company
of blasphemies, lusts, lies, and vanities. The chariots of pride roll
along it, and the feet of greedy mammon tread it till it is hard as
adamant. Alas! for the good seed, it finds not a moment's respite;
crowds pass and repass; in fact, your soul is an exchange, across which
continually hurry the busy feet of those who make merchandise of the
souls of men. You are buying and selling, but you little think that you
are selling the truth, and that you are buying your soul's destruction.
You have no time, you say, to think of religion. No, the road of your
heart is such a crowded thoroughfare, that there is no room for the
wheat to spring up. If it did begin to germinate, some rough foot would
crush the green blade ere it could come to perfection. The seed has
occasionally lain long enough to begin to sprout, but just then a new
place of amusement has been opened, and you have entered there, and as
with an iron heel, the germ of life that was in the seed was crushed
out. Corn could not grow in Cornhill or Cheapside, however excellent the
seed might be; your heart is just like those crowded thoroughfares; for
so many cares and sins throng it, and so many proud, vain, evil,
rebellious thoughts against God pass through it, that the seed of truth
cannot grow.

We have looked at this hard roadside, let us now describe what becomes
of the good word, when it falls upon such a heart. It would have grown
if it had fallen on right soil, but it has dropped into the wrong place,
and it remains as dry as when it fell from the sower's hand. The word of
the gospel lies upon the surface of such a heart, but never enters it.
Like the snow, which sometimes falls upon our streets, drops upon the
wet pavement, melts, and is gone at once, so is it with this man. The
word has not time to quicken in his soul; it lies there an instant, but
it never strikes root, or takes the slightest effect.

Why do men come to hear if the word never enters their hearts? That has
often puzzled us. Some hearers would not be absent on the Sunday on any
account; they are delighted to come up with us to worship, but yet the
tear never trickles down their cheek, their soul never mounts up to
heaven on the wings of praise, nor do they truly join in our confessions
of sin. They do not think of the wrath to come, nor of the future state
of their souls. Their heart is as iron; the minister might as well speak
to a heap of stones as preach to them. What brings these senseless
sinners here? Surely we are as hopeful of converting lions and leopards
as these untamed, insensible hearts. Oh feeling! thou art fled to
brutish beasts, and men have lost their reason! Do these people come to
our assemblies because it is respectable to attend a place of worship?
Or is it that their coming helps to make them comfortable in their sins?
If they stopped away conscience would prick them; but they come hither
that they may flatter themselves with the notion that they are
religious. Oh! my hearers, your case is one that might make an angel
weep! How sad to have the sun of the gospel shining on your faces, and
yet to have blind eyes that never see the light! The music of heaven is
lost upon you, for you have no ears to hear. You can catch the turn of a
phrase, you can appreciate the poetry of an illustration, but the hidden
meaning, the divine life, you do not perceive. You sit at the
marriage-feast, but you eat not of the dainties; the bells of heaven
ring with joy over ransomed spirits, but you live unransomed, without
God, and without Christ. Though we plead with you, and pray for you, and
weep over you, you still remain as hardened, as careless, and as
thoughtless as ever you were. May God have mercy on you, and break up
your hard hearts, that his word may abide in you.

We have not, however, completed the picture. The passage tells us that
the fowls of the air devoured the seed. Is there here a wayside hearer?
Perhaps he did not mean to hear this sermon, and when he has heard it he
will be asked by one of the wicked to come into company. He will go with
the tempter, and the good seed will be devoured by the fowls of the air.
Plenty of evil ones are ready to take away the gospel from the heart.
The devil himself, that prince of the air, is eager at any time to
snatch away a good thought. And then the devil is not alone--he has
legions of helpers. He can set a man's wife, children, friends,
enemies, customers, or creditors, to eat up the good seed, and they will
do it effectually. Oh, sorrow upon sorrow, that heavenly seed should
become devil's meat; that God's corn should feed foul birds!

O my hearers, if you have heard the gospel from your youth, what
wagon-loads of sermons have been wasted on you! In your younger days,
you heard old Dr. So-and-so, and the dear old man was wont to pray for
his hearers till his eyes were red with tears! Do you recollect those
many Sundays when you said to yourself, "Let me go to my chamber and
fall on my knees and pray"? But you did not; the fowls of the air ate up
the seed, and you went on to sin as you had sinned before. Since then,
by some strange impulse, you are very rarely absent from God's house;
but now the seed of the gospel falls into your soul as if it dropped
upon an iron floor, and nothing comes of it. The law may be thundered at
you; you do not sneer at it, but it never affects you. Jesus Christ may
be lifted up; his dear wounds may be exhibited; his streaming blood may
flow before your very eyes, and you may be bidden with all earnestness
to look to him and live; but it is as if one should sow the sea-shore.
What shall I do for you? Shall I stand here and rain tears upon this
hard highway? Alas! my tears will not break it up; it is trodden too
hard for that. Shall I bring the gospel plough? Alas! the ploughshare
will not enter ground so solid. What shall we do? O God, thou knowest
how to melt the hardest heart with the precious blood of Jesus. Do it
now, we beseech thee, and thus magnify thy grace, by causing the good
seed to live, and to produce a heavenly harvest.

II. I shall now turn to the second class of hearers: "And some fell upon
a ROCK; and as soon as it was sprung up, it withered away, because it
lacked moisture." You can easily picture to yourselves that piece of
rock in the midst of the field thinly veiled with soil; and of course
the seed falls there as it does everywhere else. It springs up, it
hastens to grow, it withers, it dies. None but those who love the souls
of men can tell what hopes, what joys, and what bitter disappointments
these stony places have caused us. We have a class of hearers whose
hearts are hard, and yet they are apparently the softest and most
impressible of men. While other men see nothing in the sermon, these men
weep. Whether you preach the terrors of the law or the love of Calvary,
they are alike stirred in their souls, and the liveliest impressions are
apparently produced. Such may be listening now. They have resolved, but
they have procrastinated. They are not the sturdy enemies of God who
clothe themselves in steel, but they seem to bare their breasts, and lay
them open to the minister. Rejoiced in heart, we shoot our arrows there,
and they appear to penetrate; but, alas, a secret armor blunts every
dart, and no wound is felt. The parable speaks of this character thus:
"Some fell upon stony places, where they had not much earth: and
forthwith they sprung up, because they had no deepness of earth." Or as
another passage explains it: "And these are they likewise which are sown
on stony ground; who, when they have heard the word, immediately receive
it with gladness; and have no root in themselves, and so endure but for
a time: afterward, when affliction or persecution ariseth for the word's
sake, immediately they are offended." Have we not thousands of hearers
who receive the word with joy? They have no deep convictions, but they
leap into Christ on a sudden, and profess an instantaneous faith in him,
and that faith has all the appearance of being genuine. When we look at
it, the seed has really sprouted. There is a kind of life in it, there
is apparently a green blade. We thank God that a sinner is brought back,
a soul is born to God. But our joy is premature; they sprang up on a
sudden, and received the word with joy, because they had no depth of
earth, and the self-same cause which hastened their reception of the
seed also causes them, when the sun is risen with his fervent heat, to
wither away. These men we see every day in the week. They come to join
the church; they tell us a story of how they heard us preach on
such-and-such an occasion, and, oh, the word was so blessed to them,
they never felt so happy in their lives! "Oh, sir, I thought I must leap
from my seat when I heard about a precious Christ, and I believed on him
there and then; I am sure I did." We question them as to whether they
were ever convinced of sin. They think they were; but one thing they
know, they feel a great pleasure in religion. We put it to them. "Do you
think you will hold on?" They are confident that they shall. They hate
the things they once loved, they are sure they do. Everything has become
new to them. And all this is on a sudden. We enquire when the good work
began. We find it began when it ended, that is to say, there was no
previous work, no ploughing of the soil, but on a sudden they sprang
from death to life, as if a field should be covered with wheat by magic.
Perhaps we receive them into the church; but in a week or two they are
not so regular as they used to be. We gently reprove them, and they
explain that they meet with such opposition in religion that they are
obliged to yield a little. Another month and we lose them altogether.
The reason is that they have been laughed at or exposed to a little
opposition, and they have gone back. And what, think you, are the
feelings of the minister? He is like the husbandman, who sees his field
all green and flourishing, but at night a frost nips every shoot, and
his hoped-for gains are gone. The minister goes to his chamber, and
casts himself on his face before God, and cries, "I have been deceived;
my converts are fickle, their religion has withered as the green herb."
In the ancient story Orpheus is said to have had such skill upon the
lyre, that he made the oaks and stones to dance around him. It is a
poetical fiction, and yet hath it sometimes happened to the minister,
that not only have the godly rejoiced, but men, like oaks and stones,
have danced from their places. Alas! they have been oaks and stones
still. Hushed is the lyre. The oak returns to its rooting-place, and the
stone casts itself heavily to the earth. The sinner, who, like Saul, was
among the prophets, goes back to plan mischief against the Most High.

If it is bad to be a wayside hearer, I cannot think it is much better to
be like the rock. This second class of hearers certainly gives us more
joy than the first. A certain company always comes round a new minister;
and I have often thought it is an act of God's kindness that he allows
these people to gather at the first, while the minister is young, and
has but few to stand by him; these persons are easily moved, and if the
minister preaches earnestly they feel it, and they love him, and rally
round him, much to his comfort. But time, that proves all things,
proves them. They seemed to be made of true metal; but when they are put
into the fire to be tested, they are consumed in the furnace. Some of
the shallow kind are here now. I have looked at you when I have been
preaching, and I have often thought, "That man one of these days will
come out from the world, I am sure he will." I have thanked God for him.
Alas, he is the same as ever. Years and years have we sowed him in vain,
and it is to be feared it will be so to the end, for he is without
depth, and without the moisture of the Spirit. Shall it be so? Must I
stand over the mouth of your open sepulchre, and think, "Here lies a
shoot which never became an ear, a man in whom grace struggled but never
reigned, who gave some hopeful spasms of life and then subsided into
eternal death?" God save you! Oh! may the Spirit deal with you
effectually, and may you, even you, yet bring forth fruit unto God, that
Jesus may have a reward for his sufferings.

III. I shall briefly treat of the third class, and may the Spirit of God
assist me to deal faithfully with you. "And some fell among THORNS; and
the thorns sprang up with it, and choked it." Now, this was good soil.
The two first characters were bad; the wayside was not the proper place,
the rock was not a congenial situation for the growth of any plant; but
this is good soil, for it grows thorns. Wherever a thistle will spring
up and flourish, there would wheat flourish too. This was fat, fertile
soil; it was no marvel therefore that the husbandman dealt largely
there, and threw handful after handful upon that corner of the field.
See how happy he is when in a month or two he visits the spot. The seed
has sprung up. True, there's a suspicious little plant down there of
about the same size as the wheat. "Oh!" he thinks, "that's not much, the
corn will outgrow _that_. When it is stronger it will choke these few
thistles that have unfortunately mixed with it." Ay, Mr. Husbandman, you
do not understand the force of evil, or you would not thus dream! He
comes again, and the seed has grown, there is even the corn in the ear;
but the thistles, the thorns, and the briers have become inter-twisted
with one another, and the poor wheat can hardly get a ray of sunshine.
It is so choked with thorns every way, that it looks quite yellow; the
plant is starved. Still it perseveres in growing, and it does seem as if
it would bring forth a little fruit. Alas, it never comes to anything.
With it the reaper never fills his arm.

We have this class very largely among us. These hear the word and
understand what they hear. They take the truth home; they think it over;
they even go the length of making a profession of religion. The wheat
seems to spring and ear; it will soon come to perfection. Be in no
hurry, these men and women have a great deal to see after; they have the
cares of a large concern; their establishment employs so many hundred
hands; do not be deceived as to their godliness--they have no time for
it. They will tell you that they must live; that they cannot neglect
this world; that they must anyhow look out for the present, and as for
the future, they will render it all due attention by-and-by. They
continue to attend gospel-preaching, and the poor little stunted blade
of religion keeps on growing after a fashion. Meanwhile they have grown
rich, they come to the place of worship in a carriage, they have all
that heart can wish. Ah! now the seed will grow, will it not? No, no.
They have no cares now; the shop is given up, they live in the country;
they have not to ask, "Where shall the money come from to meet the next
bill?" or "how shall they be able to provide for an increasing family."
Now they have too much instead of too little, for they have _riches_,
and they are too wealthy to be gracious. "But," says one, "they might
spend their riches for God." Certainly they might, but they do not, for
riches are deceitful. They have to entertain much company, and chime in
with the world, and so Christ and his church are left in the lurch.

Yes, but they begin to spend their riches, and they have surely got over
that difficulty, for they give largely to the cause of Christ, and they
are munificent in charity; the little blade will grow, will it not? No,
for now behold the thorns of pleasure. Their liberality to others
involves liberality to themselves; their pleasures, amusements, and
vanities choke the wheat of true religion; the good grains of gospel
truth cannot grow because they have to attend that musical party, that
ball, and that soirée, and so they cannot think of the things of God. I
know several specimens of this class. I knew one, high in court circles,
who has confessed to me that he wished he were poor, for then he might
enter the kingdom of heaven. He has said to me, "Ah! sir, these
politics, these politics, I wish I were rid of them, they are eating the
life out of my heart. I cannot serve God as I would." I know of another,
overloaded with riches, who has said to me, "Ah! sir, it is an awful
thing to be rich; one cannot keep close to the Saviour with all this
earth about him."

Ah! my dear readers, I will not ask for you that God may lay you on a
bed of sickness, that he may strip you of all your wealth, and bring
you to beggary; but, oh, if he were to do it, and you were to save your
souls, it would be the best bargain you could ever make. If those mighty
ones who now complain that the thorns choke the seed could give up all
their riches and pleasures, if they that fare sumptuously every day
could take the place of Lazarus at the gate, it were a happy change for
them if their souls might be saved. A man may be honorable and rich, and
yet go to heaven; but it will be hard work, for "It is easier for a
camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter
into the kingdom of heaven." God does make some rich men enter the
kingdom of heaven, but hard is their struggle. Steady, young man,
steady! Hurry not to climb to wealth! It is a place where many heads are
turned. Do not ask God to make you popular; they that have popularity
are wearied by it. Cry with Agur, "Give me neither poverty nor riches."
God give me to tread the golden mean, and may I ever have in my heart
that good seed, which shall bring forth fruit a hundredfold to his own

IV. I now close with the last character, namely, the GOOD GROUND. Of the
good soil, as you will mark, we have but one in four. Will one in four
of our hearers, with well-prepared heart, receive the Word?

The ground is described as "good"; not that it was good by nature, but
it had been made good by grace. God had ploughed it; he had stirred it
up with the plough of conviction, and there it lay in ridge and furrow
as it should lie. When the gospel was preached, the heart received it,
for the man said, "That is just the blessing I want. Mercy is what a
needy sinner requires." So that the preaching of the gospel was THE
thing to give comfort to this disturbed and ploughed soil. Down fell the
seed to take good root. In some cases it produced fervency of love,
largeness of heart, devotedness of purpose of a noble kind, like seed
which produces a hundredfold. The man became a mighty servant for God,
he spent himself and was spent. He took his place in the vanguard of
Christ's army, stood in the hottest of the battle, and did deeds of
daring which few could accomplish--the seed produced a hundredfold. It
fell into another heart of like character; the man could not do the
most, but still he did much. He gave himself to God, and in his business
he had a word to say for his Lord; in his daily walk he quietly adorned
the doctrine of God his Saviour--he brought forth sixtyfold. Then it
fell on another, whose abilities and talents were but small; he could
not be a star, but he would be a glow-worm; he could not do as the
greatest, but he was content to do something, however humble. The seed
had brought forth in him tenfold, perhaps twentyfold. How many are there
of this sort here? Is there one who prays within himself, "God be
merciful to me a sinner"? The seed has fallen in the right spot. Soul,
thy prayer shall be heard. God never sets a man longing for mercy
without intending to give it. Does another whisper, "Oh that I might be
saved"? Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou, even thou, shalt be
saved. Hast thou been the chief of sinners? Trust Christ, and thy
enormous sins shall vanish as the millstone sinks beneath the flood. Is
there no one here that will trust the Saviour? Can it be possible that
the Spirit is entirely absent? that he is not moving in one soul? not
begetting life in one spirit? We will pray that he may now descend, that
the word may not be in vain.


"The principal wheat."--ISAIAH 28:25.

THE prophet mentions it as a matter of wisdom on the part of the
makes it his principal care. The text, with the connection, runs thus:
"Does not the husbandman cast in the principal wheat?" He does not go to
the granary and take out wheat, and cummin, and barley, and rye, and
fling these about right and left, but he estimates the value of each
grain, and arranges them in his mind accordingly. He does not think that
cummin and caraway, which he merely grows to give a flavor to his meal,
are of half such importance as his bread-corn; and, though rye and
barley have their values, yet he does not reckon that even these are
equal to what he calls "the principal wheat." He is a man of discretion,
he arranges things; he places the most important crop in the front rank,
and spends upon it the most care.

Here let us learn a lesson. Do keep things distinct in your minds--not
huddled and muddled by a careless thoughtlessness. Do not live a
confused life, without care and discretion, running all things into one;
but sort things out, and divide and distinguish between the precious and
the vile. See what this is worth, and what the other is worth, and set
your matters in rank and order, making some of them principal, and
others of them inferior. I suggest to you young people especially that,
in starting life, you say to yourselves, "What shall we live for? There
is a principal thing for which we ought to live, what shall it be?" Have
you turned over that question, or have you gone at it hit or miss? What
are you living for? What is your principal aim? Is it going to be that
of the old gentleman in Horace who said to his boy, "Get money: get it
honestly, if you can; but, by all means, get money." Will you be a
money-spinner? Shall coin be your principal corn? Or will you choose a
life of pleasure--"a short life and a merry one," as so many fools have
said to their great sorrow? Is it in dissipation that your life is to be
spent? Are thistles to be your principal crop? Because there is a
pleasure in looking at a Scotch thistle, do you intend to grow acres of
pleasurable vice? And will you make your bed upon them when you come to
die? Search and see what is worthy of being the principal object in
life; and, when you have found it out, then beseech the Holy Spirit to
help you to choose that one thing, and to give all your powers and
faculties to the cultivation of it. The farmer, who finds that wheat
ought to be his principal crop, makes it so, and lays himself out with
that end in view; learn from this to have a main object, and to give
your whole mind to it.

This farmer was wise, because _he counted that to be principal which was
the most needful_. His family could do without cummin, which was but a
flavoring. Perhaps the mistress might complain, or the cook might
grumble, but that did not signify so much as it would do if the children
cried for bread. They certainly must have wheat, for bread is the staff
of life. It is bread that strengtheneth man's heart, and therefore the
farmer must grow wheat if he does not grow anything else. That which is
necessary he regarded as the principal thing. Is not this common sense?
If we were wisely to sit down and estimate, should we not say, "To be
forgiven my sins, to be right with God, to be holy, to be fit to live
eternally in heaven, is the greatest, the most needful thing for me, and
therefore I will make it the principal object of my pursuit"? A creature
cannot be satisfied unless he is answering the end for which he is
created; and the end of every intelligent creature is first, to glorify
God, and next, to enjoy God. What a bliss it must be to enjoy God
himself for ever and ever! Other things may be desirable, but this thing
is needful. A competence of income, a measure of esteem among men, a
degree of health--all these are the flavoring of life, but to be saved
in the Lord with an everlasting salvation is life itself. Jesus Christ
is the bread by which our soul's best life is sustained. Oh, that we
were all wise enough to feel that to be one with Christ is the one thing
needful; that to be at peace with God is the principal thing; that to be
brought into harmony with the Most High is the true music of our being.
Other herbs may take their place in due order, but grace is the
principal wheat, and we must cultivate it.

This farmer was wise, because _he made that to be the principal thing
which was the most fit to be so_. Of course, barley is useful as food,
for nations have lived on barley bread, and lived healthily too; and rye
has been the nutriment of millions; neither have they starved on oats
and other grains. Still, give me a piece of wheaten bread, for it is the
best staff for life's journey. This farmer knew that wheat was the most
fitting food for man, and so he did not put the inferior grain, which
might act as a substitute, into the prominent place; but he gave his
wheat the preference. He did not say, "the principal barley," or "the
principal rye," much less "the principal cummin," or "the principal
fitches," but "the principal wheat."

And what is there, brethren, that is so fit for the heart, the mind, the
soul of man, as to know God and his Christ? Other mental foods, such as
the fruits of knowledge, and the dainties of science, excellent though
they may be--are inferior nutriment and unsuitable to build up the inner
manhood. In my God and my Saviour, I find my heaven and my all. My soul
sits down to a crumb of truth about Jesus, and finds great satisfaction
in living upon it. The more we can know God, and enjoy God, and become
like to God, and the more Christ is our daily bread, the more do we
perceive the fitness of all this to our new-born natures. O beloved,
make that to be your principal object which is the fittest pursuit of an
immortal mind.

  "Religion is the chief concern
    Of mortals here below;
  May I its great importance learn,
    Its sovereign virtue know!

  "More needful this than glittering wealth,
    Or aught the world bestows:
  Not reputation, food, or health,
    Can give us such repose."

Moreover, this farmer was wise, because _he made that the principal
thing which was the most profitable_. Under certain circumstances, in
our own country, wheat is not the most profitable thing which a man can
grow; but, ordinarily, it is the best crop that the earth yields, and
therefore the text speaks of "the principal wheat." Our grandfathers
used to rely upon the wheat stack to pay their rent. They looked to
their corn as the arm of their strength; and though it is not so now, it
always was so of old, and perhaps it may yet be so again. Anyhow, the
figure holds good with regard to true religion. That is the most
profitable thing. I am told that rich men find it very hard to get hold
of anything which yields five per cent, nowadays; but this blessed fear
of the Lord is an extraordinarily profitable investment, for it does not
yield a hundred per cent, or a thousand per cent, but a man begins with
nothing and all things become his by faith. Being freely discharged of
our sins, we are by overflowing grace greatly enriched, so that we
number among our possessions heaven itself, Christ himself, God himself.
All things are ours. Oh, what a blessed crop to sow! What a harvest
comes of it! Godliness is profitable for the life that now is, and for
that which is to come. Godliness is a blessing to a man's body, it keeps
him from drunkenness and vice; and it is a blessing to his soul, it
makes him sweet and pure. It is a blessing to him every way. If I had to
die like a dog, I would like to live like a Christian. If there were no
hereafter, yet still, for comfort and for joy, give me the life of one
who strives to live like Christ. There is a practical everyday truth in
the verse--

  "'Tis religion that can give
   Sweetest pleasures while we live;
   'Tis religion must supply
   Solid comfort when we die."

Only that religion must not be of the common sort; it must have for its
root a hearty faith in Jesus Christ. See ye to it. Our religion must be
either everything or nothing, either first or nowhere. Make it "the
principal wheat," and it will richly repay you.

II. Secondly, the husbandman is a lesson to us because HE GIVES THIS
PRINCIPAL THING THE PRINCIPAL PLACE. I find that the Hebrew is rendered
by some eminent scholars, "He puts the wheat into the principal place."
That little handful of cummin for the wife to flavor the cakes with he
grows in a corner; and the various herbs he places in their proper
borders. The barley he sets in its plot, and the rye in its acre; but if
there is a good bit of rich soil--the best he has--he appropriates it to
the principal wheat. He gives his choicest fields to that which is to be
the main means of his living.

Now, here is a lesson for you and for me. Let us give to true godliness
our principal powers and abilities. Let us give to the things of God our
best and _most intense thought_. I pray you, do not take religion at
second hand from what I tell you, or from what somebody else tells you;
but think it over. Read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest the word of
God. The thoughtful Christian is the growing Christian. Remember, the
service of God deserves our first consideration and endeavor. We are
poor things at our prime, but we ought to give the Lord nothing short of
our best. God would not have us serve him heedlessly, but he would have
us use all the brain and intellect and mind that we have in studying and
practising his word. "Acquaint now thyself with him, and be at peace."
"Meditate upon these things. Give thyself wholly to them." If your mind
is more clear and active at one time than at another, then sow the
principal wheat. If you feel more fresh and more inclined to think at
one time of the day than at another, let your mind then go towards the
best things.

Be sure, also, to yield to this subject _your most earnest love_. The
best field in the little estate of manhood is not the head, but the
heart; sow the principal wheat there. Oh, to have true religion in the
heart; to love what we know--intensely to love it; to hold it fast as
with the grip of life and death--never to let it go! The Lord says, "My
son, give me thy heart," and he will not be contented with anything less
than our heart. Oh, when your zeal is most burning, and your love is
most fervent, let the warmth and the fervency all go towards the Lord
your God, and to the service of him who has redeemed you with his
precious blood. Let the principal wheat have the principal part of your
nature. Towards God and his Christ also turn your _most fervent
desires_. When you enlarge your desire, desire Christ; when you become
ambitious let your ambition be all for God. Let your hunger and your
thirst be after righteousness. Let your aspirations and your longings be
all towards holiness, and the things that shall make you like to Christ.
Give to this principal wheat your principal desires.

Then let the Lord have _the attentive respect of your life_. Let the
principal wheat be sown in every action. If we are truly Christians we
must be as much Christians outside the church as in it. We shall try to
make our eating and our drinking, and everything we do, tend to the
glory of God. Draw no line between the secular and the religious part of
your conduct, but let the secular be made religious by a devout desire
to glorify God in the one as much as in the other. Let us worship God
in the commonest duties of life, even as they do who stand before his
throne. So it ought to be. Let us sow the principal wheat in all the
fields of our conversation, in business, in the family, among our
friends, and with our children. May we each one feel, "For me to live is
Christ. I cannot live without Christ, or for anything but Christ." Let
your whole nature yield itself to Jesus, and to none else.

We should give to this principal wheat _our most earnest labors_. We
should spend ourselves for the spread of the gospel. A Christian man
ought to lay himself out to serve Jesus. I hate to see a professing man
zealous in politics and lukewarm in devotion; all on fire at a parish
vestry, and chill as winter when he comes to a prayer-meeting. Some fly
like eagles when they are serving the world, but they have a broken wing
in the service of God. This should not be. If anything could rouse us
up, and make the lion within us roar in his strength, it should be when
we confront the foes of Jesus or fight in his cause. Our Lord's service
is the principal wheat, let us labor most in connection with it.

This, I think, should also take possession of us so as to lead to _our
greatest sacrifices_. The love of Christ ought to be so strong as to
swallow up self, and make sacrifice our daily joy. For Christ's name's
sake we should be willing to endure poverty, reproach, slander, exile,
death. Nothing should be dear to a Christian in comparison with Christ.
Now, I will put it to you whether it is so or no. Is the love of Jesus
the principal wheat with us? Are we giving our religion the chief place
or not? I am afraid some people treat religion as certain gentlemen
treat an off-hand farm; they put a bailiff into it, and only give an
eye to it now and then. Their minister is the bailiff, and they expect
him to see to it for them. These off-hand farms are losing concerns.
Look at these half-and-half brethren. They have religion? Certainly. But
they are like the man of whom the child spoke at the Sunday-school. "Is
your father a Christian?" said the teacher. "Yes," said the child, "but
he has not worked much at it lately." I could point out several of this
sort, who are sowing their wheat very sparingly, and choosing the most
barren patch to sow it in. They profess to be Christians, but religion
is a tenth-rate article on their farm. Some have a large acreage for the
world, and a poor little plot for Christ. They are growers of worldly
pleasure and self-indulgence, and they sow a little religion by the
roadside for appearance sake. This will not do. God will not thus be
mocked. If we despise him and his truth we shall be lightly esteemed. O
come let us give our principal time, talent, thought, effort to that
which is the chief concern of immortal spirits. May we imitate the
husbandman who gives the principal wheat the principal place in his

SEED-CORN WHEN HE IS SOWING HIS WHEAT. When a farmer is setting aside
wheat for sowing, he does not choose the tail corn and the worst of his
produce, but if he is a sensible man he likes to sow the best wheat in
the world. Many farmers search the country round for a good sample of
wheat for sowing, for they do not expect to get a good harvest out of
bad seed. The husbandman is taught of God to put into the ground "the
principal wheat." Let me learn that if I am going to sow to the Lord
and to be a Christian, I should sow the best kind of Christianity.

I should try to do this, first, _by believing the weightiest doctrines_.
I would believe not this "ism," nor that, but the unadulterated truth
which Jesus taught; for a holy character will only grow by the Spirit of
God out of true doctrine. Falsehood breeds sin: truth begets and fosters
holiness. You and I therefore ought to select our seed carefully, and
cast out all error. If we are wise we shall think most of the most
important truths, for I have known people attach the greatest importance
to the smallest things. They fight over the fitches, and leave the wheat
to the crows. As for me, those who will may dispute over vials and
trumpets, I shall mainly preach the doctrine of the precious blood and
the glorious truths of substitution and atonement. These doctrines are
the principal wheat, and therefore these shall have my choice.

Next to that, we ought to sow _the noblest examples_. Many men are
dwarfed because they choose a bad model to start with. They imitate dear
old Mr. So-and-so till they grow wonderfully like him with the best of
him left out. A minister happens to be of a gloomy turn of mind, and he
preaches the deep experience of the children of God, and in consequence
a band of good people think it their duty to be melancholy. Why need
they fall into a ditch because their leader has splashed himself? We
should never copy any man's infirmities. To be like Paul there is no
need to have weak eyes; to be like Thomas there is no necessity to
doubt. If you copy any good man, there is a point at which you ought to
stop short. If I must have a human model, I would prefer one of the
bravest of the saints of God; but oh how much better to follow that
perfect pattern which you have in Christ Jesus!

We should sow the best wheat by seeing that we have _the purest spirit_.
Alas! how soon do spirits become soiled by self or pride, or despondency
or sloth, or some earthly taint. But what a grand thing it is to live in
the spirit of Christ! May we be humble, lowly, bold, self-sacrificing,
pure, chaste, and holy.

And, then, there is one more mode of sowing selected seed. We should
endeavor to live in _the closest communion with God_. A dear brother
prayed just now that we might have as much grace as we were capable of
receiving, and that God would bring us into such a state that we might
not hinder him in anything which he willed to do by us. This is a good
prayer. It should be our desire to rise to the highest form of spiritual
life. If you sow this principal wheat, get the best sort of it. There is
a spirit and a spirit; and there are doctrines and doctrines; the best
is the best for you. O young men, if you mean to have piety, go in for
it thoroughly. Do not sneak through the world as if you were ashamed of
your Lord. If you are Christ's, show your colors. Rally to his banner,
gather to his trumpet call, and then stand up, stand up for Jesus. If
there is any manhood in you, this great cause calls for it all; exhibit
it, and may the Spirit of God help you so to do.

PRINCIPAL CARE. Some critics say that the proper translation is that the
husbandman plants his wheat in rows. It is said that the large crops in
Palestine in olden time were due to the fact that they planted the
wheat. They set it in lines, so that it was not checked or suffocated
by its being too thick in one place, neither was there any fear of its
being too thin in another. The wheat was planted, and then streams of
water were turned by the foot to each particular plant. No wonder,
therefore, that the land brought forth abundantly.

We should give our principal care to the principal thing. Our godliness
should be carried out with discretion and care. Brethren, are we careful
enough as to our religious walk? Have you ever searched to the bottom of
your profession? Why do you happen to be members of a certain church?
Your mother was so. Well, there is some good in that reason, but not
enough to justify you in the sight of God. I pray you judge your
standing. If any Christian minister is afraid to urge you to this duty,
I stand in doubt of him. I am not at all afraid. I beg you to examine
all that I teach you, for I would not like to be responsible for another
man's creed. Like the Bereans, search and see whether these things be
according to Scripture or not. One of the greatest blessings that could
come upon the church would be a searching spirit which would refer
everything to the Holy Scriptures. If they speak not according to this
word it is because there is no light in them. Do your service to God as
carefully as the eastern farmer planted his wheat, when he set it in
rows with great orderliness and exactness. You serve a precise God,
therefore serve him precisely. He is a jealous God, therefore be jealous
of the least taint of error or will-worship.

Take care, also, that you water every part of your religion, as the
farmer watered each plant. Pray for grace from on high that you may
never be parched and dried up. Perform to your faith, to your hope, to
your love, and to all the plants that are in your soul every other
service which the husbandman renders to his wheat. Give grace your
principal care, for it deserves it.

V. With this I close. Do this, because FROM THIS YOU MAY EXPECT YOUR
PRINCIPAL CROP. If religion be the principal thing, you may look to
religion for your principal reward. The harvest will come to you in
various ways. You will make the greatest success in this life if you
wholly live to the glory of God. Success or failure must much depend
upon the fitness of our object. It is of no use _my_ attempting to sing,
for I shall never be able to conduct a choir. I could not succeed in
that, but if I preach, I may succeed, for that is my work. Now you,
Christian man, if you try to live to the world you will not prosper, for
you are not fitted for it. Grace has spoiled you for sin. If you live to
God with all your heart you will succeed in it, for God has made you on
purpose for it. As he made the fish for the water, and the birds for the
air, so he made the believer for holiness, and for the service of God;
and you will be out of your element, a fish out of water, or a bird in
the stream, if you leave the service of God. The Eastern farmer's
prosperity hinges on his wheat, and yours upon your devotion to God. It
is to Godliness that you must look for your joy. Is there any bliss like
the bliss of knowing that you are in Christ, and are the beloved of the
Lord? It is to your religion that you must look for comfort on a sick
and dying bed, and you may be there very soon.

In the world to come what a crop, what a harvest will come of serving
the Lord! What will come out of all else? What but mere smoke? A man has
made a million of money, and he is dead. What has he got by his wealth?
A man's fame rings throughout the earth as a great and successful
warrior, and he is dead. What has he as the result of all his honors? To
live to the world is like playing with boys in the street for halfpence,
or with babes for bits of platter and oyster shells. Life for God is
real and substantial, but all else is waste. Let us think so, and gird
up our loins to serve the Lord. May the divine Spirit help us to sow
"the principal wheat," and to live in joyful expectation of reaping a
happy harvest according to the promise, "They that sow in tears shall
reap in joy."


"Thou waterest the ridges thereof abundantly: thou settlest the furrows
thereof: thou makest it soft with showers: thou blessest the springing
thereof."--PSALM 65:10.

THOUGH other seasons excel in fulness, spring must always bear the palm
for freshness and beauty. We thank God when the harvest hours draw near,
and the golden grain invites the sickle, but we ought equally to thank
him for the rougher days of spring, for these prepare the harvest. April
showers are mothers of the sweet May flowers, and the wet and cold of
winter are the parents of the splendor of summer. God blesses the
springing thereof, or else it could not be said, "Thou crownest the year
with thy goodness." There is as much necessity for divine benediction in
spring as for heavenly bounty in summer; and, therefore, we should
praise God all the year round.

Spiritual spring is a very blessed season in a church. Then we see
youthful piety developed, and on every hand we hear the joyful cry of
those who say, "We have found the Lord." Our sons are springing up as
the grass and as willows by the water-courses. We hold up our hands in
glad astonishment and cry, "Who are these that fly as a cloud and as
doves to their windows?" In the revival days of a Church, when God is
blessing her with many conversions, she has great cause to rejoice in
God and to sing, "Thou blessest the springing thereof."

I intend to take the text in reference to individual cases. There is a
time of springing of grace, when it is just in its bud, just breaking
through the dull cold earth of unregenerate nature. I desire to talk a
little about that, and concerning the blessing which the Lord grants to
the green blade of new-born godliness, to those who are beginning to
hope in the Lord.

I. First, I shall have a little to say about THE WORK PREVIOUS TO THE

It appears from the text that there is work for God alone to do before
the springing comes, and we know that there is work for God to do
through us as well.

_There is work for us to do._ Before there can be a springing up in the
soul of any, there must be _ploughing_, harrowing, and sowing. There
must be a ploughing, and we do not expect that as soon as ever we plough
we shall reap the sheaves. Blessed be God, in many cases, the reaper
overtakes the ploughman, but we must not always expect it. In some
hearts God is long in preparing the soul by conviction: the law with its
ten black horses drags the ploughshare of conviction up and down the
soul till there is no one part of it left unfurrowed. Conviction goes
deeper than any plough to the very core and centre of the spirit, till
the spirit is wounded. The ploughers make deep furrows indeed when God
puts his hand to the work: the soil of the heart is broken in pieces in
the presence of the Most High.

Then comes the _sowing_. Before there can be a springing up it is
certain that there must be something put into the ground, so that after
the preacher has used the plough of the law, he applies to his Master
for the seed-basket of the gospel. Gospel promises, gospel doctrines,
especially a clear exposition of free grace and the atonement, these are
the handfuls of corn which we scatter broadcast. Some of the grain falls
on the highway, and is lost; but other handfuls fall where the plough
has been, and there abide.

Then comes the _harrowing_ work. We do not expect to sow seed and then
leave it: the gospel has to be prayed over. The prayer of the preacher
and the prayer of the Church make up God's harrow to rake in the seed
after it is scattered, and so it is covered up within the clods of the
soul, and is hidden in the heart of the hearer.

Now there is a reason why I dwell upon this, namely, that I may exhort
my dear brethren who have not seen success, not to give up the work, but
to hope that they have been doing the ploughing, and sowing, and
harrowing work, and that the harvest is to come. I mention this for yet
another reason, and that is, by way of warning to those who expect to
have a harvest without this preparatory work. I do not believe that much
good will come from attempts at sudden revivals made without previous
prayerful labor. A revival to be permanent must be a matter of growth,
and the result of much holy effort, longing, pleading, and watching. The
servant of God is to preach the gospel whether men are prepared for it
or not; but in order to large success, depend upon it there is a
preparedness necessary among the hearers. Upon some hearts warm earnest
preaching drops like an unusual thing which startles but does not
convince; while in other congregations, where good gospel preaching has
long been the rule, and much prayer has been offered, the words fall
into the hearers' souls and bring forth speedy fruit. We must not expect
to have results without work. There is no hope of a church having an
extensive revival in its midst unless there is continued and importunate
waiting upon God, together with earnest laboring, intense anxiety, and
hopeful expectation.

_But there is also a work to be done which is beyond our power._ After
ploughing, sowing, and harrowing, there must come the shower from
heaven. "Thou visitest the earth and waterest it," says the Psalmist. In
vain are all our efforts unless God shall bless us with the rain of his
Holy Spirit's influence. O Holy Spirit! thou, and thou alone, workest
wonders in the human heart, and thou comest from the Father and the Son
to do the Father's purposes, and to glorify the Son.

Three effects are spoken of. First, we are told _he waters the ridges_.
As the ridges of the field become well saturated through and through
with the abundant rain, so God sends his Holy Spirit till the whole
heart of man is moved and influenced by his divine operations. The
understanding is enlightened, the conscience is quickened, the will is
controlled, the affections are inflamed; all these powers, which I may
call the ridges of the heart, come under the divine working. It is ours
to deal with men as men, and bring to bear upon them gospel truth, and
to set before them motives that are suitable to move rational creatures;
but, after all, it is the rain from on high which alone can water the
ridges: there is no hope of the heart being savingly affected except by
divine operations.

Next, it is added, "_Thou settlest the furrows_," by which some think
it is meant that the furrows are drenched with water. Others think there
is an allusion here to the beating down of the earth by heavy rain till
the ridges become flat, and by the soaking of the water are settled into
a more compact mass. Certain it is that the influences of God's Spirit
have a humbling and settling effect upon a man. He was unsettled once
like the earth that is dry and crumbly, and blown about and carried away
with every wind of doctrine; but as the earth when soaked with wet is
compacted and knit together, so the heart becomes solid and serious
under the power of the Spirit. As the high parts of the ridge are beaten
down into the furrows, so the lofty ideas, the grand schemes, and carnal
boastings of the heart begin to level down, when the Holy Spirit comes
to work upon the soul. Genuine humility is a very gracious fruit of the
Spirit. To be broken in heart is the best means of preparing the soul
for Jesus. "A broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not
despise." Brethren, always be thankful when you see high thoughts of man
brought down; this settling the furrows is a very gracious preparatory
work of grace.

Yet again, it is added, "_Thou makest it soft with showers_." Man's
heart is naturally hardened against the gospel; like the Eastern soil,
it is hard as iron if there be no gracious rain. How sweetly and
effectively does the Spirit of God soften the man through and through!
He is no longer towards the Word what he used to be: he feels
everything, whereas once he felt nothing. The rock flows with water; the
heart is dissolved in tenderness, the eyes are melted into tears.

All this is God's work. I have said already that God works through us,
but still it is God's immediate work to send down the rain of his grace
from on high. Perhaps he is at work upon some of you, though as yet
there is no springing up of spiritual life in your souls. Though your
condition is still a sad one, we will hope for you that ere long there
shall be seen the living seed of grace sending up its tender green shoot
above the soil, and may the Lord bless the springing thereof.

II. In the second place, let us deliver A BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE

After the operations of the Holy Spirit have been quietly going on for a
certain season as pleaseth the great Master and Husbandman, then there
are signs of grace. Remember the apostle's words, "First the blade, then
the ear, then the full corn in the ear." Some of our friends are greatly
disturbed because they cannot see the full corn in the ear in
themselves. They suppose that, if they were the subjects of a divine
work, they would be precisely like certain advanced Christians with whom
it is their privilege to commune, or of whom they may have read in
biographies. Beloved, this is a very great mistake. When first grace
enters the heart, it is not a great tree covering with its shadow whole
acres, but it is the least of all seeds, like a grain of mustard seed.
When it first rises upon the soul, it is not the sun shining at high
noon, but it is the first dim ray of dawn. Are you so simple as to
expect the harvest before you have passed through the springing-time? I
shall hope that by a very brief description of the earliest stage of
Christian experience you may be led to say, "I have gone as far as
that," and then I hope you may be able to take the comfort of the text
to yourselves: "Thou blessest the springing thereof."

What then is the springing up of piety in the heart? We think it is
first seen in _sincerely earnest desires after salvation_. The man is
not saved, in his own apprehension, but he longs to be. That which was
once a matter of indifference is now a subject of intense concern. Once
he despised Christians, and thought them needlessly earnest; he thought
religion a mere trifle, and he looked upon the things of time and sense
as the only substantial matters; but now how changed he is! He envies
the meanest Christian, and would change places with the poorest believer
if he might but be able to read his title clear to mansions in the
skies. Now worldly things have lost dominion over him, and spiritual
things are uppermost. Once with the unthinking many, he cried, "Who will
show us any good?" but now he cries, "Lord, lift thou up the light of
thy countenance upon me." Once it was the corn and the wine to which he
looked for comfort, but now he looks to God alone. His rock of refuge
must be God, for he finds no comfort elsewhere. His holy desires, which
he had years ago, were like smoke from the chimney, soon blown away; but
now his longings are permanent, though not always operative to the same
degree. At times these desires amount to a hungering and a thirsting
after righteousness, and yet he is not satisfied with these desires, but
wishes for a still more anxious longing after heavenly things. These
desires are among the first springings of divine life in the soul.

"The springing thereof" shows itself next in _prayer_. It _is_ prayer
now. Once it was the mocking of God with holy sounds unattended by the
heart; but now, though the prayer is such that he would not like a human
ear to hear him, yet God approves it, for it is the talking of a spirit
to a Spirit, and not the muttering of lips to an unknown God. His
prayers, perhaps, are not very long: they do not amount to more than
this, "Oh!" "Ah!" "Would to God!" "Lord, have mercy upon me, a sinner!"
and such-like short ejaculations; but, then, they _are_ prayers. "Behold
he prayeth," does not refer to a long prayer; it is quite as sure a
proof of spiritual life within, if it only refers to a sigh or to a
tear. These "groanings that cannot be uttered," are among "the
springings thereof."

There will also be manifest _a hearty love for the means of grace_, and
the house of God. The Bible, long unread, which was thought to be of
little more use than an old almanac, is now treated with great
consideration; and though the reader finds little in it that comforts
him just now, and much that alarms him, yet he feels that it is the book
for him, and he turns to its pages with hope. When he goes up to God's
house, he listens eagerly, hoping that there may be a message for him.
Before, he attended worship as a sort of pious necessity incumbent upon
all respectable people; but now he goes up to God's house that he may
find the Saviour. Once there was no more religion in him than in the
door which turns upon its hinges; but now he enters the house praying,
"Lord, meet with my soul," and if he gets no blessing, he goes away
sighing, "O that I knew where I might find him, that I might come even
to his seat." This is one of the blessed signs of "the springing

Yet more cheering is another, namely, that the soul in this state has
_faith in Jesus Christ_, at least in some degree. It is not a faith
which brings great joy and peace, but still it is a faith which keeps
the heart from despair, and prevents its sinking under a sense of sin.
I have known the time when I do not believe any man living could see
faith in me, and when I could scarcely perceive any in myself, and yet I
was bold to say, with Peter, "Lord, thou knowest all things, _thou_
knowest that I love thee." What man cannot see, Christ can see. Many
people have faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, but they are so much engaged
in looking at it that they do not see it. If they would look to Christ
and not to their own faith, they would not only see Christ but see their
own faith too; but they measure their faith, and it seems so little when
they contrast it with the faith of full-grown Christians, that they fear
it is not faith at all. Oh, little one, if thou hast faith enough to
receive Christ, remember the promise, "To as many as received him, to
them gave he power to become the sons of God." Poor, simple,
weak-hearted, and troubled one, look to Jesus and answer, Can such a
Saviour suffer in vain? Can such an atonement be offered in vain? Canst
thou trust him, and yet be cast away? It cannot be. It never was in the
Saviour's heart to shake off one that did cling to his arm. However
feeble the faith, he blesses "the springing thereof." The difficulty
raises partly from misapprehension and partly from want of confidence in
God. I say misapprehension: now if like some Londoners you had never
seen corn when it is green, you would cry out, "What! Do you say that
yonder green stuff is wheat?" "Yes," the farmer says, "that is wheat."
You look at it again and you reply, "Why, man alive, that is nothing but
grass. You do not mean to tell me that this grassy stuff will ever
produce a loaf of bread such as I see in the baker's window; I cannot
conceive it." No, you could not conceive it, but when you get
accustomed to it, it is not at all wonderful to see the wheat go through
certain stages; first the blade, then the ear, and afterwards the full
corn in the ear. Some of you have never seen growing grace, and do not
know anything about it. When you are newly converted you meet with
Christians who are like ripe golden ears, and you say, "I am not like
them." True, you are no more like them than that grassy stuff in the
furrows is like full-grown wheat; but you will grow like them one of
these days. You must expect to go through the blade period before you
get to the ear period, and in the ear period you will have doubts
whether you will ever come to the full corn in the ear; but you will
arrive at perfection in due time. Thank God that you are in Christ at
all. Whether I have much faith or little faith, whether I can do much
for Christ or little for Christ, is not the first question; I am saved,
not on account of what I am, but on account of what Jesus Christ is; and
if I am trusting to him, however little in Israel I may be, I am as safe
as the brightest of the saints.

I have said, however, that mixed with misapprehension there is a great
deal of unbelief. I cannot put it all down to an ignorance that may be
forgiven: for there is sinful unbelief too. O sinner, why do you not
trust Jesus Christ? Poor, quickened, awakened conscience, God gives you
his word that he who trusts in Christ is not condemned, and yet you are
afraid that you are condemned! This is to give God the lie! Be ashamed
and confounded that you should ever have been guilty of doubting the
veracity of God. All your other sins do not grieve Christ so much as the
sin of thinking that he is unwilling to forgive you, or the sin of
suspecting that if you trust him he will cast you away. Do not slander
his gracious character. Do not cast a slur upon the generosity of his
tender heart. He saith, "Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast
out." Come in the faith of his promise, and he will receive you just

I have thus given some description of "the springing thereof."

III. Thirdly, according to the text, THERE IS ONE WHO SEES THIS
SPRINGING. Thou, Lord--_thou_ blessest the springing thereof.

I wish that some of us had quicker eyes to see the beginning of grace in
the souls of men; for want of this we let slip many opportunities of
helping the weaklings. If a woman had the charge of a number of children
that were not her own, I do not suppose she would notice all the
incipient stages of disease; but when a mother nurses her own dear
children, as soon as ever upon the cheek or in the eye there is a token
of approaching sickness, she perceives it at once. I wish we had just as
quick an eye, because just as tender a heart, towards precious souls. I
do not doubt that many young people are weeks and even months in
distress, who need not be, if you who know the Lord were a little more
watchful to help them in the time of their sorrow. Shepherds are up all
night at lambing time to catch up the lambs as soon as they are born,
and take them in and nurse them; and we, who ought to be shepherds for
God, should be looking out for all the lambs, especially at seasons when
there are many born into God's great fold, for tender nursing is wanted
in the first stages of the new life. God, however, when his servants do
not see "the springing thereof," sees it all.

Now, you silent, retired spirits, who dare not speak to father or
mother, or brother or sister, this text ought to be a sweet morsel to
you. "_Thou_ blessest the springing thereof," which proves that God sees
you and your new-born grace. The Lord sees the first sign of penitence.
Though you only say to yourself, "I will arise and go to my Father,"
your Father hears you. Though it is nothing but a desire, your Father
registers it. "Thou puttest my tears into thy bottle. Are they not in
thy book?" He is watching your return; he runs to meet you, and puts his
arms about you, and kisses you with the kisses of his accepting love. O
soul, be encouraged with that thought, that up in the chamber or down by
the hedge, or wherever it is that thou hast sought secrecy, God is
there. Dwell on the thought, "Thou God seest me." That is a precious
text--"All my desire is before thee;" and here is another sweet one,
"The Lord taketh pleasure in them that fear him, in them that hope in
his mercy." He can see you when you only hope in his mercy, and he takes
pleasure in you if you have only begun to fear him. Here is a third
choice word, "Thou wilt perfect that which concerneth me." Have you a
concern about these things? Is it a matter of soul-concern with you to
be reconciled to God, and to have an interest in Jesus' precious blood?
It is only "the springing thereof," but he blesses it. It is written, "A
bruised reed he will not break, and the smoking flax he will not quench,
till he bring forth judgment unto victory." There shall be victory for
you, even before the judgment-seat of God, though as yet you are only
like the flax that smokes and gives no light, or like the reed that is
broken, and yields no music. God sees the first springing of grace.

IV. A few words upon a fourth point: WHAT A MISERY IT WOULD BE, IF IT

The text says, "Thou _blessest_ the springing thereof." We must, just a
moment, by way of contrast, think of how the springing would have been
without the blessing. Suppose we were to see a revival among us without
God's blessing. It is my conviction that there are revivals which are
not of God at all, but are produced by excitement merely. If there be no
blessing from the Lord, it will be all a delusion, a bubble blown up
into the air for a moment, and then gone to nothing. We shall only see
the people stirred, to become the more dull and dead afterwards; and
this is a great mischief to the church.

In the individual heart, if there should be a springing up without God's
blessing, there would be no good in it. Suppose you have good desires,
but no blessing on these desires, they will only tantalize and worry
you; and then, after a time, they will be gone, and you will be more
impervious than you were before to religious convictions; for, if
religious desires are not of God's sending, but are caused by
excitement, they will probably prevent your giving a serious hearing to
the Word of God in times to come. If convictions do not soften they will
certainly harden. To what extremities have some been driven who have had
springings of a certain sort which have not led them to Christ! Some
have been crushed by despair. They tell us that religion crowds the
madhouse: it is not true; but there is no doubt whatever that
religiousness of a certain kind has driven many a man out of his mind.
The poor souls have felt their wound but have not seen the balm. They
have not known Jesus. They have had a sense of sin and nothing more.
They have not fled for refuge to the hope which God has set before them.
Marvel not if men do go mad when they refuse the Saviour. It may come as
a judicial visitation of God upon those men who, when in great distress
of mind, will not fly to Christ. I believe it is with some just
this--you must either fly to Jesus, or else your burden will become
heavier and heavier until your spirit will utterly fail. This is not the
fault of religion, it is the fault of those who will not accept the
remedy which religion presents. A springing up of desires without God's
blessing would be an awful thing, but we thank him that we are not left
in such a case.

V. And now I have to dwell upon THE COMFORTING THOUGHT THAT GOD DOES
BLESS "THE SPRINGING THEREOF." I wish to deal with you who are tender
and troubled; I want to show that God _does_ bless your springing. He
does it in many ways.

Frequently he does it by the cordials which he brings. You have a few
very sweet moments: you cannot say that you are Christ's, but at times
the bells of your heart ring very sweetly at the mention of his name.
The means of grace are very precious to you. When you gather to the
Lord's worship you feel a holy calm, and you go away from the service
wishing that there were seven Sundays in the week instead of one. By the
blessing of God the Word has just suited your case, as if the Lord had
sent his servants on purpose to you: you lay aside your crutches for
awhile, and you begin to run. Though these things have been sadly
transient, they are tokens for good.

On the other hand, if you have had none of these comforts, or few of
them, and the means of grace have not been consolations to you, I want
you to look upon that as a blessing. It may be the greatest blessing
that God can give us to take away all comforts on the road, in order to
quicken our running towards the end. When a man is flying to the City of
Refuge to be protected from the man-slayer, it may be an act of great
consideration to stay him for a moment that he may quench his thirst and
run more swiftly afterwards; but perhaps, in a case of imminent peril,
it may be the kindest thing neither to give him anything to eat or to
drink, nor invite him to stop for a moment, in order that he may fly
with undiminished speed to the place of safety. The Lord may be blessing
you in the uneasiness which you feel. Inasmuch as you cannot say that
you are in Christ, it may be the greatest blessing which heaven can give
to take away every other blessing from you, in order that you may be
compelled to fly to the Lord. You perhaps have a little of your
self-righteousness left, and while it is so you cannot get joy and
comfort. The royal robe which Jesus gives will never shine brilliantly
upon us till every rag of our own goodness is gone. Perhaps you are not
empty enough, and God will never fill you with Christ till you are. Fear
often drives men to faith. Have you never heard of a person walking in
the fields into whose bosom a bird has flown because pursued by the
hawk? Poor, timid thing, it would not have ventured there had not a
greater fear compelled it. All this may be so with you; your fears may
be sent to drive you more swiftly and more closely to the Saviour, and
if so, I see in these present sorrows the signs that God is blessing
"the springing thereof."

In looking back upon my own "springing" I sometimes think God blessed me
then in a lovelier way than now. Though I would not willingly return to
that early stage of my spiritual life, yet there were many joys about
it. An apple tree when loaded with apples is a very comely sight: but
give me, for beauty, the apple tree in bloom. The whole world does not
present a more lovely sight than an apple blossom. Now, a full-grown
Christian laden with fruit is a comely sight, but still there is a
peculiar loveliness about the young Christian. Let me tell you what that
blessedness is; you have probably now a greater horror of sin than
professors who have known the Lord for years; they might wish that they
felt your tenderness of conscience. You have now a graver sense of duty,
and a more solemn fear of the neglect of it, than some who are further
advanced. You have also a greater zeal than many: you are now doing your
first works for God, and burning with your first love; nothing is too
hot or too heavy for you: I pray that you may never decline, but always

And now to close. I think there are three lessons for us to learn.
First, _let older saints be very gentle and kind to young believers_.
God blesses the springing thereof--mind that you do the same. Do not
throw cold water upon young desires: do not snuff out young believers
with hard questions. While they are babes and need the milk of the Word,
do not be choking them with your strong meat; they will eat strong meat
by-and-by, but not just yet. Remember, Jacob would not overdrive the
lambs; be equally prudent. Teach and instruct them, but let it be with
gentleness and tenderness, not as their superiors, but as nursing
fathers for Christ's sake. God, you see, blesses the springing
thereof--may he bless it through you!

The next thing I have to say is, _fulfil the duty of gratitude_.
Beloved, if God blesses the springing thereof we ought to be grateful
for a little grace. If you have only seen the first shoot peeping up
through the mould be thankful, and you shall see the green blade waving
in the breeze; be thankful for the ankle-deep verdure and you shall soon
see the commencement of the ear; be thankful for the first green ears
and you shall see the flowering of the wheat, and by-and-by its
ripening, and the joyous harvest.

The last lesson is one of _encouragement_. If God blesses "the springing
thereof," dear beginners, what will he not do for you in after days? If
he gives you such a meal when you break your fast, what dainties will be
on your table when he says to you, "Come and dine"; and what a banquet
will he furnish at the supper of the Lamb! O troubled one! let the
storms which howl and the snows which fall, and the wintry blasts that
nip your springing, all be forgotten in this one consoling thought, that
God blesses your springing, and whom God blesses none can curse. Over
your head, dear, desiring, pleading, languishing soul, the Lord of
heaven and earth pronounces the blessing of the Father, and the Son, and
the Holy Spirit. Take that blessing and rejoice in it evermore. Amen.


"I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase. So then
neither is he that planteth anything, neither he that watereth; but God
that giveth the increase. Now he that planteth and he that watereth are
one: and every man shall receive his own reward according to his own
labor. For we are laborers together with God: ye are God's
husbandry."--1 CORINTHIANS 3:6-9.

I SHALL begin at the end of my text, because I find it to be the easiest
way of mapping out my discourse. We shall first remark that _the church
is God's farm_: "Ye are God's husbandry." In the margin of the revised
version we read, "Ye are God's tilled ground," and that is the very
expression for me. "Ye are God's tilled ground," or farm. After we have
spoken of the farm we will next say a little upon the fact that _the
Lord employs laborers_ on his estate: and when we have looked at the
laborers--such poor fellows as they are--we will remember that _God
himself is the great worker_: "We are laborers together with God."

I. We begin by considering that THE CHURCH IS GOD'S FARM. The Lord has
made the church his own by his sovereign _choice_. He has also secured
it unto himself by _purchase_, having paid for it a price immense. "The
Lord's portion is his people; Jacob is the lot of his inheritance."
Every acre of God's farm cost the Saviour a bloody sweat, yea, the blood
of his heart. He loved us, and gave himself for us: that is the price
he paid. Henceforth the church is God's freehold, and he holds the title
deeds of it. It is our joy to feel that we are not our own, we are
bought with a price. The church is God's farm by choice and purchase.

And now he has made it his by _enclosure_. It lay exposed aforetime as
part of an open common, bare and barren, covered with thorns and
thistles, and the haunt of every wild beast; for we were "by nature the
children of wrath, even as others." Divine foreknowledge surveyed the
waste, and electing love marked out its portion with a full line of
grace, and thus set us apart to be the Lord's own estate forever. In due
time effectual grace came forth with power, and separated us from the
rest of mankind, as fields are hedged and ditched to part them from the
open heath. Hath not the Lord declared that he hath chosen his vineyard
and fenced it?

  "We are a garden wall'd around,
   Chosen and made peculiar ground;
   A little spot, enclosed by grace
   Out of the world's wide wilderness."

The Lord has also made this farm evidently his own by _cultivation_.
What more could he have done for his farm? He has totally changed the
nature of the soil: from being barren he hath made it a fruitful land.
He hath ploughed it, and digged it, and fattened it, and watered it, and
planted it with all manner of flowers and fruits. It hath already
brought forth to him many a pleasant cluster, and there are brighter
times to come, when angels shall shout the harvest home, and Christ
"shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied."

This farm is preserved by the Lord's continual _protection_. Not only
did he enclose it, and cultivate it by his miraculous power, to make it
his own farm, but he continually maintains possession of it. "I the
Lord do keep it; I will water it every moment: lest any hurt it, I will
keep it night and day." If it were not for God's continual power her
hedges would soon be thrown down, and wild beasts would devour her
fields. Wicked hands are always trying to break down her walls and lay
her waste again, so that there should be no true church in the world;
but the Lord is jealous for his land, and will not allow it to be
destroyed. A church would not long remain a church if God did not
preserve it unto himself. What if God should say, "I will take away the
hedge thereof, and it shall be eaten up; and break down the wall
thereof, and it shall be trodden down"? What a wilderness it would
become. What saith he? "Go ye now unto my place which was in Shiloh,
where I set my name at the first, and see what I did to it for the
wickedness of my people Israel." Go ye to Jerusalem, where of old was
the city of his glory and the shrine of his indwelling, and what is left
there to-day? Go ye to Rome, where once Paul preached the gospel with
power: what is it now but the centre of idolatry? The Lord may remove
the candlestick, and leave a place that was bright as day to become
black as darkness itself. Hence God's farm remains a farm because he is
ever in it to prevent its returning to its former wildness. Omnipotent
power is as needful to keep the fields of the church under cultivation
as to reclaim them at the first.

Inasmuch as the church is God's own farm, _he expects to receive a
harvest from it_. The world is waste, and he looks for nothing from it;
but we are tilled land, and therefore a harvest is due from us.
Barrenness suits the moorland, but to a farm it would be a great
discredit. Love looks for returns of love; grace given demands gracious
fruit. Watered with the drops of the Saviour's bloody sweat, shall we
not bring forth a hundredfold to his praise? Kept by the eternal Spirit
of God, shall there not be produced in us fruits to his glory? The
Lord's husbandry upon us has shown a great expenditure of cost, and
labor, and thought; ought there not to be a proportionate return? Ought
not the Lord to have a harvest of obedience, a harvest of holiness, a
harvest of usefulness, a harvest of praise? Shall it not be so? I think
some churches forget that an increase is expected from every field of
the Lord's farm, for they never have a harvest or even look for one.
Farmers do not plough their lands or sow their fields for amusement;
they mean business, and plough and sow because they desire a harvest. If
this fact could but enter into the heads of some professors, surely they
would look at things in a different light; but of late it has seemed as
if we thought that God's church was not expected to produce anything,
but existed for her own comfort and personal benefit. Brethren, it must
not be so; the great Husbandman must have some reward for his husbandry.
Every field must yield its increase, and the whole estate must bring
forth to his praise. We join with the bride in the Song in saying, "My
vineyard, which is mine, is before me: thou, O Solomon, must have
thousand, and those that keep the fruit thereof two hundred."

But I come back to the place from which I started. This farm is, by
choice, by purchase, by enclosure, by cultivation, by preservation,
entirely the Lord's. See, then, the injustice of allowing any of the
laborers to call even a part of the estate his own. When a great man
has a large farm of his own, what would he think if Hodge the ploughman
should say, "Look here, I plough this farm, and therefore it is mine: I
shall call this field Hodge's Acres"? "No," says Hobbs, "I reaped that
land last harvest, and therefore it is mine, and I shall call it Hobbs's
Field." What if all the other laborers became Hodgeites and Hobbsites,
and so parcelled out the farm among them? I think the landlord would
soon eject the lot of them. The farm belongs to its owner, and let it be
called by his name; but it is absurd to call it by the names of the men
who labor upon it. Shall insignificant nobodies rob God of his glory?
Remember how Paul put it: "Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos?" "Is
Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the
name of Paul?" The entire church belongs to him who has chosen it in his
sovereignty, bought it with his blood, fenced it by his grace,
cultivated it by his wisdom, and preserved it by his power. There is but
one church on the face of the earth, and those who love the Lord should
keep this truth in mind. Paul is a laborer, Apollos is a laborer, Cephas
is a laborer; but the farm is not Paul's, not so much as a rood of it,
nor does a single parcel of land belong to Apollos, or the smallest
allotment to Cephas; for "Ye are Christ's." The fact is that in this
case the laborers belong to the land, and not the land to the laborers:
"For all things are yours; whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas." "We
preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your
servants for Jesus' sake."

II. We have now to notice, as our second head, that THE GREAT HUSBANDMAN
EMPLOYS LABORERS. _By human agency God ordinarily works out his
designs._ He can, if he pleases, by his Holy Spirit get directly at the
hearts of men, but that is his business, and not ours; we have to do
with such words as these: "It pleased God by the foolishness of
preaching to save them that believe." The Master's commission is not,
"Sit still and see the Spirit of God convert the nations;" but, "Go ye
into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature." Observe
God's method in supplying the race with food. In answer to the prayer,
"Give us this day our daily bread," he might have bidden the clouds drop
manna, morning by morning, at each man's door; but he sees that it is
for our good to work, and so he uses the hands of the ploughman and the
sower for our supply. God might cultivate his chosen farm, the church,
by miracle, or by angels; but in great condescension he blesses her
through her own sons and daughters. He employs us for our own good; for
we who are laborers in his fields receive much more good for ourselves
than we bestow. Labor develops our spiritual muscle and keeps us in
health. "Unto me," says Paul, "who am less than the least of all saints,
is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the
unsearchable riches of Christ."

Our great Master means that every laborer on his farm should receive
some benefit from it, for he never muzzles the mouth of the ox that
treadeth out the corn. The laborer's daily bread comes out of the soil.
Though he works not for himself, but for his Master, yet still he has
his portion of food. In the Lord's granary there is seed for the sower,
but there is also bread for the eater. However disinterestedly we may
serve God in the husbandry of his church, we are ourselves partakers of
the fruit. It is a great condescension on God's part that he uses us at
all, for we are poor tools at the best, and more hindrance than help.

The laborers employed by God are all _occupied upon needful work_.
Notice: "I have planted, Apollos watered." Who beat the big drum, or
blew his own trumpet? Nobody. On God's farm none are kept for ornamental
purposes. I have read some sermons which could only have been meant for
show, for there was not a grain of gospel in them. They were ploughs
with the share left out, drills with no wheat in the box, clod-crushers
made of butter. I do not believe that our God will ever pay wages to men
who only walk about his grounds to show themselves. Orators who display
their eloquence in the pulpit are more like gypsies who stray on the
farm to pick up chickens, than honest laborers who work to bring forth a
crop for their master. Many of the members of our churches live as if
their only business on the farm was to pluck blackberries or gather wild
flowers. They are great at finding fault with other people's ploughing
and mowing; but not a hand's turn will they do themselves. Come on, my
good fellows. Why stand ye all the day idle? The harvest is plenteous,
and the laborers are few. You who think yourselves more cultivated than
ordinary people, if you are indeed Christians, must not strut about and
despise those who are hard at work. If you do, I shall say, "That person
has mistaken his master; he may probably be in the employ of some
gentleman farmer, who cares more for show than profit; but our great
Lord is practical, and on his estate his laborers attend to needful
labor." When you and I preach or teach it will be well if we say to
ourselves, "What will be the use of what I am going to do? I am about
to teach a difficult subject; will it do any good? I have chosen an
abstruse point of theology; will it serve any purpose?" Brethren, a
laborer may work very hard at a whim of his own, and yet it may be all
waste labor. Some discourses do little more than show the difference
between tweedle-_dum_ and tweedle-_dee_, and what is the use of that?
Suppose we sow the fields with sawdust, or sprinkle them with
rose-water, what of that? Will God bless our moral essays, and fine
compositions, and pretty passages? Brethren, we must aim at usefulness:
we must as laborers together with God be occupied with something that is
worth doing. "I," says one, "have planted": it is well, for planting
must be done. "I," answers another, "have watered": that also is good
and necessary. See to it that ye can each bring in a solid report; but
let no man be content with the mere child's-play of oratory, or the
getting up of entertainments and such like.

On the Lord's farm _there is a division of labor_. Even Paul did not
say, "I have planted and watered." No, Paul planted. And certainly
Apollos could not say, "I have planted as well as watered." No, it was
enough for him to attend to the watering. No man has all gifts. How
foolish, then, are they who say, "I enjoy So-and-so's ministry because
he edifies the saints in doctrine; but when he was away the other Sunday
I could not profit by the preacher because he was all for the conversion
of sinners." Yes, he was planting; you have been planted a good while,
and do not need planting again; but you ought to be thankful that others
are made partakers of the benefit. One soweth and another reapeth, and
therefore instead of grumbling at the honest ploughman because he did
not bring a sickle with him, you ought to have prayed for him that he
might have strength to plough deep and break up hard hearts.

Observe that, on God's farm, _there is unity of purpose_ among the
laborers. Read the text. "Now he that planteth and he that watereth are
one." One Master has employed them, and though he may send them out at
different times, and to different parts of the farm, yet they are all
one in being used for one end, to work for one harvest. In England we do
not understand what is meant by watering, because the farmer could not
water all his farm; but in the East a farmer waters almost every inch of
his ground. He would have no crop if he did not use all means for
irrigating the fields. If you have ever been in Italy, Egypt, or
Palestine, you will have seen a complete system of wells, pumps, wheels,
buckets, channels, little streamlets, pipes, and so on, by which the
water is carried all over the garden to every plant, otherwise in the
extreme heat of the sun it would be dried up. Planting needs wisdom,
watering needs quite as much, and the piecing of these two works
together needs that the laborers should be of one mind. It is a bad
thing when laborers are at cross purposes, and work against each other,
and this evil is worse in the church than anywhere else. How can I plant
with success if my helper will not water what I have planted; or what is
the use of my watering if nothing is planted? Husbandry is spoiled when
foolish people undertake it, and quarrel over it; for from sowing to
reaping the work is one, and all must be done to one end. Let us pull
together all our days, for strife brings barrenness.

We are called upon to notice in our text that _all the laborers put
together are nothing at all_. "Neither is he that planteth anything,
neither he that watereth." The workmen are nothing at all without their
master. All the laborers on a farm could not manage it if they had no
one at their head, and all the preachers and Christian workers in the
world can do nothing unless God be with them. Remember that every
laborer on God's farm has derived all his qualifications from God. No
man knows how to plant or water souls except the Lord teaches him from
day to day. All these holy gifts are grants of free grace. All the
laborers work under God's direction and arrangement, or they work in
vain. They would not know when or how to do their work if their Master
did not guide them by his Spirit, without whose help they cannot even
think a good thought. All God's laborers must go to him for their seed,
or else they will scatter tares. All good seed comes out of God's
granary. If we preach, it must be the true word of God, or nothing can
come of it. More than that, all the strength that is in the laborer's
arm to sow the heavenly seed must be given by the Master. We cannot
preach except God be with us. A sermon is vain talk and dreary
word-spinning unless the Holy Spirit enlivens it. He must give us both
the preparation of the heart and the answer of the tongue, or we shall
be as men who sow the wind. When the good seed is sown the whole success
of it rests with God. If he withhold the dew and the rain the seed will
never rise from the ground; and unless he shall shine upon it the green
ear will never ripen. The human heart will remain barren, even though
Paul himself should preach, unless God the Holy Ghost shall work with
Paul and bless the word to those that hear it. Therefore, since the
increase is of God alone, put the laborers into their place. Do not make
too much of us; for when we have done all we are unprofitable servants.

Yet, though inspiration calls the laborers nothing, it says that _they
shall be rewarded_. God works our good works in us, and then rewards us
for them. Here we have mention of a personal service, and a personal
reward: "Every man shall receive his own reward according to his own
labor." The reward is proportionate, not to the success, but to the
labor. Many discouraged workers may be comforted by that expression. You
are not to be paid by results, but by endeavors. You may have a stiff
bit of clay to plough, or a dreary plot of land to sow, where stones,
and birds, and thorns, and travellers, and a burning sun may all be
leagued against the seed; but you are not accountable for these things;
your reward shall be according to your work. Some put a great deal of
labor into a little field, and make much out of it. Others use a great
deal of labor throughout a long life, and yet they see but small result,
for it is written, "One soweth, and another reapeth": but the reaping
man will not get all the reward, the sowing man shall receive his
portion of the joy. The laborers are nobodies, but they shall enter into
the joy of their Lord.

_Unitedly_, according to the text, _the workers have been successful_,
and that is a great part of their reward. "I have planted, Apollos
watered; but God gave the increase." Frequently brethren say in their
prayers, "A Paul may plant, an Apollos may water, but it is all in vain
unless God gives the increase." This is quite true; but another truth is
too much overlooked, namely, that when Paul plants and Apollos waters,
God does give the increase. We do not labor in vain. There would be no
increase without God; but then we are not without God: when such men as
Paul and Apollos plant and water, there is sure to be an increase; they
are the right kind of laborers, they work in a right spirit, and God is
certain to bless them. This is a great part of the laborer's wages.

III. So much upon the laborers. Now for the main point again. GOD
HIMSELF IS THE GREAT WORKER. He may use what laborers he pleases, but
the increase comes alone from him. Brethren, you know it is so in
natural things: the most skilful farmer cannot make the wheat germinate,
and grow, and ripen. He cannot even preserve a single field till harvest
time, for the farmer's enemies are many and mighty. In husbandry there's
many a slip 'twixt the cup and the lip; and when the farmer thinks, good
easy man, that he shall reap his crop, there are blights and mildews
lingering about to rob him of his gains. God must give the increase. If
any man is dependent on God it is the husbandman, and through him we are
all of us dependent upon God from year to year for the food by which we
live. Even the king must live by the produce of the field. God gives the
increase in the barn and the hay-rick; and in the spiritual farm it is
even more so, for what can man do in this business? If any of you think
that it is an easy thing to win a soul I should like you to attempt it.
Suppose that without divine aid you should try to save a soul--you might
as well attempt to make a world. Why, you cannot create a fly, how can
you create a new heart and a right spirit? Regeneration is a great
mystery, it is out of your reach. "The wind bloweth where it listeth,
and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it
cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the
Spirit." What can you and I do in this matter? it is far beyond our
line. We can tell out the truth of God; but to apply that truth to the
heart and conscience is quite another thing. I have preached Jesus
Christ with my whole heart, and yet I know that I have never produced a
saving effect upon a single unregenerate man unless the Spirit of God
has opened the heart and placed the living seed of truth within it.
Experience teaches us this. Equally is it the Lord's work to keep the
seed alive when it springs up. We think we have converts, and we are not
long before we are disappointed in them. Many are like blossoms on our
apple trees; they are fair to look upon, but they do not come to
anything; and others are like the many little apples which fall off long
before they have come to any size. He who presides over a great church,
and feels an agony for the souls of men, will soon be convinced that if
God does not work there will be no work done: we shall see no
conversion, no sanctification, no final perseverance, no glory brought
to God, no satisfaction for the passion of the Saviour, unless the Lord
be with us. Well said our Lord, "Without me ye can do nothing."

Briefly I would draw certain practical lessons out of this important
truth: the first is, if the whole farm of the church belongs exclusively
to the great Master Worker, and the laborers are worth nothing without
him, _let this promote unity among all whom he employs_. If we are all
under one Master, do not let us quarrel. It is a miserable business when
we cannot bear to see good being done by those of a different
denomination who work in ways of their own. If a new laborer comes on
the farm, and he uses a hoe of a new shape, shall I become his enemy? If
he does his work better than I do mine, shall I be jealous? Do you not
remember reading in the Scriptures that, upon one occasion, the
disciples could not cast out a devil? This ought to have made them
humble; but to our surprise we read a few verses further on that they
saw one casting out devils in Christ's name, and they forbade him
because he followed not with their company. _They_ could not cast out
the devil themselves, and they forbade those who could. A certain band
of people are going about winning souls, but because they are not doing
it in our fashion, we do not like it. It is true they have odd ways; but
they do really save souls, and that is the main point. Instead of
cavilling, let us encourage all on Christ's side. Wisdom is justified of
her children, though some of them are far from handsome. The laborers
ought to be satisfied with the new ploughman if their Master smiles upon
him. Brother, if the great Lord has employed you, it is no business of
mine to question his choice. Can I lend you a hand? Can I show you how
to work better? Or can you show me how I can improve? This is the proper
behavior of one workman to another.

This truth, however, ought to _keep all the laborers very dependent_.
Are you going to preach, young man? "Yes, I am going to do a great deal
of good." Are you? Have you forgotten that you are nothing? "Neither is
he that planteth anything." A divine is coming brimful of the gospel to
comfort the saints. If he is not coming in strict dependence upon God,
he, too, is nothing. "Neither is he that watereth anything." Power
belongeth unto God. Man is vanity and his words are wind; to God alone
belongeth power and wisdom. If we keep our places in all lowliness our
Lord will use us; but if we exalt ourselves he will leave us to our

Next notice that _this fact ennobles everybody who labors in God's
husbandry_. My soul is lifted up with joy when I mark these words, "For
we are laborers together with God": mere laborers on his farm, and yet
laborers _with him_. Does the Lord work with us? We know he does by the
signs following. "My Father worketh hitherto, and I work," is language
for all the sons of God as well as for the great Firstborn. God is with
you, my brethren, when you are serving him with all your heart. Speaking
to your class concerning Jesus, it is God that speaks by you; picking up
that stranger on the way, and telling him of salvation by faith, Christ
is speaking through you even as he spoke with the woman at the well;
addressing the rough crowd in the open air, young man, if you are
preaching pardon through the atoning blood, it is the God of Peter who
is testifying of his Son, even as he did on the day of Pentecost.

But, lastly, _how this should drive us to our knees_. Since we are
nothing without God, let us cry mightily unto him for help in this our
holy service. Let both sower and reaper pray together, or they will
never rejoice together. If the blessing be withheld, it is because we do
not cry for it and expect it. Brother laborers, come to the mercy-seat,
and we shall yet see the reapers return from the fields bringing their
sheaves with them, though, perhaps, they went forth weeping to the
sowing. To our Father, who is the husbandman, be all glory, for ever and
ever. Amen.


"And he said, So is the kingdom of God, as if a man should cast seed
into the ground; and should sleep, and rise night and day, and the seed
should spring and grow up, he knoweth not how. For the earth bringeth
forth fruit of herself; first the blade, then the ear, after that the
full corn in the ear. But when the fruit is brought forth, immediately
he putteth in the sickle, because the harvest is come."--MARK 4:26-29.

THERE is a lesson for "laborers together with God." It is a parable for
all who are concerned in the kingdom of God. It will be of little value
to those who are in the kingdom of darkness, for they are not bidden to
sow the good seed: "Unto the wicked God saith, What hast thou to do to
declare my statutes?" But all who are commissioned to scatter seed for
the Royal Husbandman, will be glad to know how the harvest is preparing
for him whom they serve. Listen, then, ye that sow beside all waters; ye
that with holy diligence seek to fill the garners of heaven--listen, and
may the Spirit of God speak into your ears as you are able to bear it.

I. We shall, first, learn from our text WHAT WE CAN DO AND WHAT WE
CANNOT DO. Let this stand as our first head.

"So is the kingdom of God, as if a man should cast seed into the
ground:" this the gracious worker can do. "And the seed should spring
and grow up, he knoweth not how:" this is what he cannot do: seed once
sown is beyond human jurisdiction, and man can neither make it spring
nor grow. Yet ere long the worker comes in again:--"When the fruit is
brought forth, immediately he putteth in the sickle." We can reap in due
season, and it is both our duty and our privilege to do so. You see,
then, that there is a place for the worker at the beginning, and though
there is no room for him in the middle passage, yet another opportunity
is given him further on when that which he sowed has actually yielded

Notice, then, that _we can sow_. Any man who has received the knowledge
of the grace of God in his heart can teach others. I include under the
term "man" all who know the Lord, be they male or female. We cannot all
teach alike, for all have not the same gifts; to one is given one
talent, and to another ten; neither have we all the same opportunities,
for one lives in obscurity and another has far-reaching influence; yet
there is not within the family of God an infant hand which may not drop
its own tiny seed into the ground. There is not a man among us who needs
to stand idle in the market-place, for work suitable to his strength is
waiting for him. There is not a saved woman who is left without a holy
task; let her do it and win the approving word, "She hath done what she

We need never quarrel with God because we cannot do everything, if he
only permits us to do this one thing; for sowing the good seed is a work
which will need all our wit, our strength, our love, our care. Holy seed
sowing should be adopted as our highest pursuit, and it will be no
inferior object for the noblest life. You will need heavenly teaching
that you may carefully select the wheat, and keep it free from the
darnel of error. You will require instruction to winnow out of it your
own thoughts and opinions; for these may not be according to the mind of
God. Men are not saved by our word, but by God's word. We need grace to
learn the gospel aright, and to teach the whole of it. To different men
we must, with discretion, bring forward that part of the word of God
which will best bear upon their consciences; for much may depend upon
the word being _in season_.

Having selected the seed, we shall have plenty of work if we go forth
and sow it broadcast everywhere, for every day brings its opportunity,
and every company furnishes its occasion. "In the morning sow thy seed,
and in the evening withhold not thy hand." "Sow beside all waters."

Still, wise sowers discover favorable opportunities for sowing, and
gladly seize upon them. There are times when it would clearly be a waste
to sow; for the soil could not receive it, it is not in a fit condition.
After a shower, or before a shower, or at some such time as he that hath
studied husbandry prefers, then must we be up and doing. While we are to
work for God always, yet there are seasons when it were casting pearls
before swine to talk of holy things, and there are other times when to
be silent would be a great sin. Sluggards in the time for ploughing and
sowing are sluggards indeed, for they not only waste the day, but throw
away the year. If you watch for souls, and use hours of happy vantage,
and moments of sacred softening, you will not complain of the scanty
space allowed for agency. Even should you never be called to water, or
to reap, your office is wide enough if you fulfil the work of the

For little though it seem to teach the simple truth of the gospel, yet
it is essential. How shall men hear without a teacher? Servants of God,
the seed of the word is not like thistle-down, which is borne by every
wind; but the wheat of the kingdom needs a human hand to sow it, and
without such agency it will not enter into men's hearts, neither can it
bring forth fruit to the glory of God. The preaching of the gospel is
the necessity of every age; God grant that our country may never be
deprived of it. Even if the Lord should send us a famine of bread and of
water, may he never send us a famine of the word of God. Faith cometh by
hearing, and how can there be hearing if there is no teaching? Scatter
ye, scatter ye, then, the seed of the kingdom, for this is essential to
the harvest.

This seed should be sown often, for many are the foes of the wheat, and
if you repeat not your sowing you may never see a harvest. The seed must
be sown everywhere, too, for there are no choice corners of the world
that you can afford to let alone, in the hope that they will be
self-productive. You may not leave the rich and intelligent under the
notion that surely the gospel will be found among them, for it is not
so: the pride of life leads them away from God. You may not leave the
poor and illiterate, and say, "Surely they will of themselves feel their
need of Christ." Not so: they will sink from degradation to degradation
unless you uplift them with the gospel. No tribe of man, no peculiar
constitution of the human mind, may be neglected by us; but everywhere
we must preach the word, in season and out of season. I have heard that
Captain Cook, the celebrated circumnavigator, in whatever part of the
earth he landed, took with him a little packet of English seeds, and
scattered them in suitable places. He would leave the boat and wander up
from the shore. He said nothing, but quietly scattered the seeds
wherever he went, so that he belted the world with the flowers and herbs
of his native land. Imitate him wherever you go; sow spiritual seed in
every place that your foot shall tread upon.

Let us now think of what you cannot do. _You cannot, after the seed has
left your hand, cause it to put forth life._ I am sure you cannot make
it grow, for you do not know how it grows. The text saith, "And the seed
should spring and grow up, he knoweth not how." That which is beyond the
range of our knowledge is certainly beyond the reach of our power. Can
you make a seed germinate? You may place it under circumstances of damp
and heat which will cause it to swell and break forth with a shoot, but
the germination itself is beyond you. How is it done? We know not. After
the germ has been put forth, can you make it further grow, and develop
its life into leaf and stem? No; that, too, is out of your power. And
when the green, grassy blade has been succeeded by the ear, can you
ripen it? It will be ripened; but can _you_ do it? You know you cannot;
you can have no finger in the actual process, though you may promote the
conditions under which it is carried on. Life is a mystery; growth is a
mystery; ripening is a mystery: and these three mysteries are as
fountains sealed against all intrusion. How comes it that there is
within the ripe seed the preparations for another sowing and another
growth? What is this vital principle, this secret reproducing energy?
Knowest thou anything about this? The philosopher may talk about
chemical combinations, and he may proceed to quote analogies from this
and that; but still the growth of the seed remains a secret; it springs
up, he knoweth not how. Certainly this is true of the rise and progress
of the life of God in the heart. It enters the soul, and roots itself we
know not how. Naturally men hate the word, but it enters and it changes
their hearts, so that they come to love it; yet we know not how. Their
whole nature is renewed, so that instead of producing sin it yields
repentance, faith, and love; but we know not how. How the Spirit of God
deals with the mind of man, how he creates the new heart and the right
spirit, how we are begotten again unto a lively hope, we cannot tell.
The Holy Ghost enters into us; we hear not his voice, we see not his
light, we feel not his touch; yet he worketh an effectual work upon us,
which we are not long in perceiving. We know that the work of the Spirit
is a new creation, a resurrection, a quickening from the dead; but all
these words are only covers to our utter ignorance of the mode of his
working, with which it is not in our power to meddle. We do not know how
he performs his miracles of love, and, not knowing how he works, we may
be quite sure that we cannot take the work out of his hands. We cannot
create, we cannot quicken, we cannot transform, we cannot regenerate, we
cannot save.

This work of God having proceeded in the growth of the seed, what next?
_We can reap the ripe ears._ After a season God the Holy Spirit uses his
servants again. As soon as the living seed has produced first of all the
blade of thought, and afterwards the green ear of conviction, and then
faith, which is as full corn in the ear, then the Christian worker comes
in for further service, for _he can reap_. "When the fruit is brought
forth, immediately he putteth in the sickle." This is not the reaping of
the last great day, for that does not come within the scope of the
parable, which evidently relates to a human sower and reaper. The kind
of reaping which the Saviour here intends is that which he referred to
when he said to his disciples, "Lift up your eyes, and look on the
fields; for they are white already to harvest." After he had been sowing
the seed in the hearts of the Samaritans, and it had sprung up, so that
they began to evince faith in him, the Lord Jesus cried, "The fields are
white to harvest." The apostle saith, "One soweth, and another reapeth."
Our Lord said to the disciples, "I sent you to reap that whereon ye
bestowed no labor." Is there not a promise, "In due season we shall
reap, if we faint not"?

Christian workers begin their harvest work by watching for signs of
faith in Christ. They are eager to see the blade, and delighted to mark
the ripening ear. They often hope that men are believers, but they long
to be sure of it; and when they judge that at last the fruit of faith is
put forth, they begin to encourage, to congratulate, and to comfort.
They know that the young believer needs to be housed in the barn of
Christian fellowship, that he may be saved from a thousand perils. No
wise farmer leaves the fruit of the field long exposed to the hail which
might beat it out, or to the mildew which might destroy it, or to the
birds which might devour it. Evidently no believing man should be left
outside of the garner of holy fellowship; he should be carried into the
midst of the church with all the joy which attends the home-bringing of
sheaves. The worker for Christ watches carefully, and when he discerns
that his time is come, he begins at once to fetch in the converts, that
they may be cared for by the brotherhood, separated from the world,
screened from temptation, and laid up for the Lord. He is diligent to do
it at once, because the text saith, "immediately he putteth in the
sickle." He does not wait for months in cold suspicion; he is not afraid
that he shall encourage too soon when faith is really present. He comes
with the word of promise and the smile of brotherly love at once, and he
says to the new believer, "Have you confessed your faith? Is not the
time come for an open confession? Hath not Jesus bidden the believer to
be baptized? If you love him, keep his commandments." He does not rest
till he has introduced the convert to the communion of the faithful. For
our work, beloved, is but half done when men are made disciples and
baptized. We have then to encourage, to instruct, to strengthen, to
console, and succor in all times of difficulty and danger. What saith
the Saviour? "Go ye therefore, and make disciples of all the nations,
baptizing them into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the
Holy Ghost: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have
commanded you."

Observe, then, the sphere and limit of agency. We can introduce the
truth to men, but that truth the Lord himself must bless; the living and
growing of the word within the soul is of God alone. When the mystic
work of growth is done, we are able to garner the saved ones in the
church. For Christ to be formed in men the hope of glory is not of our
working, that remains with God; but, when Jesus Christ is formed in
them, to discern the image of the Saviour and to say, "Come in, thou
blessed of the Lord, wherefore standest thou without?" this is our duty
and delight. To create the divine life is God's, to cherish it is ours.
To cause the hidden life to grow is the work of the Lord; to see the
uprising and development of that life and to harvest it is the work of
the faithful, even as it is written, "When the fruit is brought forth,
immediately he putteth in the sickle, because the harvest is come."

This, then, is our first lesson; we see what we can do and what we
cannot do.

II. Our second head is like unto the first, and consists of WHAT WE CAN

First, _what we can know_. We can know when we have sown the good seed
of the word that it will grow; for God has promised that it shall do so.
Not every grain in every place; for some will go to the bird, and some
to the worm, and some to be scorched by the sun; but, as a general rule,
God's word shall not return unto him void, it shall prosper in the thing
whereto he hath sent it. This we can know. And we can know that the seed
when once it takes root will continue to grow; that it is not a dream or
a picture that will disappear, but a thing of force and energy, which
will advance from a grassy blade to corn in the ear, and under God's
blessing will develop to actual salvation, and be as the "full corn in
the ear." God helping and blessing it, our work of teaching will not
only lead men to thought and conviction, but to conversion and eternal

We also can know, because we are told so, that the reason for this is
mainly because there is life in the word. In the word of God itself
there is life, for it is written--"The word of God is quick and
powerful," that is, "living and powerful." It is "the incorruptible
seed which liveth and abideth for ever." It is the nature of living
seeds to grow; and the reason why the word of God grows in men's hearts
is because it is the living word of the living God, and where the word
of a king is there is power. We know this, because the Scriptures teach
us so. Is it not written, "Of his own will begat he us by the word of

Moreover, the earth, which is here the type of the man, "bringeth forth
fruit of herself." We must mind what we are at in expounding this, for
human hearts do not produce faith of themselves; they are as hard rock
on which the seed perishes. But it means this--that as the earth under
the blessing of the dew and the rain is, by God's secret working upon
it, made to take up and embrace the seed, so the heart of man is made
ready to receive and enfold the gospel of Jesus Christ within itself.
Man's awakened heart wants exactly what the word of God supplies. Moved
by a divine influence the soul embraces the truth, and is embraced by
it, and so the truth lives in the heart, and is quickened by it. Man's
love accepts the love of God; man's faith wrought in him by the Spirit
of God believes the truth of God; man's hope wrought in him by the Holy
Ghost lays hold upon the things revealed, and so the heavenly seed grows
in the soil of the soul. The life comes not from you who preach the
word, but it is placed within the word which you preach by the Holy
Spirit. The life is not in your hand, but in the heart which is led to
take hold upon the truth by the Spirit of God. Salvation comes not from
the personal authority of the preacher, but through the personal
conviction, personal faith, and personal love of the hearer. So much as
this we may know, and is it not enough for all practical purposes?

Still, there is _a something which we cannot know_, a secret into which
we cannot pry. I repeat what I have said before: you cannot look into
men's inward parts and see exactly how the truth takes hold upon the
heart, or the heart takes hold upon the truth. Many have watched their
own feelings till they have become blind with despondency, and others
have watched the feelings of the young till they have done them rather
harm than good by their rigorous supervision. In God's work there is
more room for faith than for sight. The heavenly seed grows secretly.
You must bury it out of sight, or there will be no harvest. Even if you
keep the seed above ground, and it does sprout, you cannot discover
_how_ it grows; even though you microscopically watched its swelling and
bursting, you could not see the inward vital force which moves the seed.
Thou knowest not the way of the Spirit. His work is wrought in secret.
"Explain the new birth," says somebody. My answer is, "Experience the
new birth, and you shall know what it is." There are secrets into which
we cannot enter, for their light is too bright for mortal eyes to
endure. O man, thou canst not become omniscient, for thou art a
creature, and not the Creator. For thee there must ever be a region not
only unknown but unknowable. So far shall thy knowledge go, but no
farther; and thou mayest thank God it is so, for thus he leaves room for
faith, and gives cause for prayer. Cry mightily unto the Great Worker to
do what thou canst not attempt to perform, that so, when thou seest men
saved, thou mayest give the Lord all the glory evermore.

III. Thirdly, our text tells us WHAT WE MAY EXPECT IF WE WORK FOR GOD,
AND WHAT WE MAY NOT EXPECT. According to this parable _we may expect to
see fruit_. The husbandman casts his seed into the ground: the seed
springs and grows, and he naturally expects a harvest. I wish I could
say a word to stir up the expectations of Christian workers; for I fear
that many work without faith. If you had a garden or a field, and you
sow seed in it, you would be very greatly surprised and grieved if it
did not come up at all; but many Christian people seem quite content to
work on without expectation of result. This is a pitiful kind of
working--pulling up empty buckets by the year together. Surely, I must
either see some result for my labor and be glad, or else, failing to see
it, I must be ready to break my heart if I be a true servant of the
great Master. We ought to have expected results; if we had expected more
we should have seen more; but a lack of expectation has been a great
cause of failure in God's workers.

_But we may not expect to see all the seed which we sow spring up the
moment we sow it._ Sometimes, glory be to God, we have but to deliver
the word, and straightway men are converted: the reaper overtakes the
sower, in such instances; but it is not always so. Some sowers have been
diligent for years upon their plots of ground, and yet apparently all
has been in vain; at last the harvest has come, a harvest which,
speaking after the manner of men, had never been reaped if they had not
persevered to the end. This world, as I believe, is to be converted to
Christ; but not to-day, nor to-morrow, peradventure not for many an age;
but the sowing of the centuries is not being lost, it is working on
toward the grand ultimatum. A crop of mushrooms may soon be produced;
but a forest of oaks will not reward the planter till generations of his
children have mouldered in the dust. It is ours to sow, and to hope for
quick reaping; but still we ought to remember that "the husbandman
waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for
it, until he receive the early and latter rain," and so must we. We are
to expect results, but not to be dispirited if we have to wait for them.

We are also to expect to see the good seed grow, but _not always after
our fashion_. Like children, we are apt to be impatient. Your little boy
sowed mustard and cress yesterday in his garden. This afternoon Johnny
will be turning over the ground to see if the seed is growing. There is
no probability that his mustard and cress will come to anything, for he
will not let it alone long enough for it to grow. So is it with hasty
workers; they must see the result of the gospel directly, or else they
distrust the blessed word. Certain preachers are in such a hurry that
they will allow no time for thought, no space for counting the cost, no
opportunity for men to consider their ways and turn to the Lord with
full purpose of heart. All other seeds take time to grow, but the seed
of the word must grow before the speaker's eyes like magic, or he thinks
nothing has been done. Such good brethren are so eager to produce blade
and ear there and then, that they roast their seed in the fire of
fanaticism, and it perishes. They make men think that they are
converted, and thus effectually hinder them from coming to a saving
knowledge of the truth. Some men are prevented from being saved by being
told that they are saved already, and by being puffed up with a notion
of perfection when they are not even broken in heart. Perhaps if such
people had been taught to look for something deeper they might not have
been satisfied with receiving seed on stony ground; but now they exhibit
a rapid development, and an equally rapid decline and fall. Let us
believingly expect to see the seed grow; but let us look to see it
advance after the manner of the preacher--firstly, secondly, thirdly:
first the blade, then the ear, then the full corn in the ear.

We may expect also to see the seed ripen. Our works will by God's grace
lead up to real faith in those he hath wrought upon by his word and
Spirit; but _we must not expect to see it perfect at first_. How many
mistakes have been made here. Here is a young person under impression,
and some good, sound brother talks with the trembling beginner, and asks
profound questions. He shakes his experienced head, and knits his
furrowed brows. He goes into the corn-field to see how the crops are
prospering, and though it is early in the year, he laments that he
cannot see an ear of corn; indeed, he perceives nothing but mere grass.
"I cannot see a trace of corn," says he. No, brother, of course you
cannot; for you will not be satisfied with the blade as an evidence of
life, but must insist upon seeing everything at full growth at once. If
you had looked for the blade you would have found it; and it would have
encouraged you. For my own part, I am glad even to perceive a faint
desire, a feeble longing, a degree of uneasiness, or a measure of
weariness of sin, or a craving after mercy. Will it not be wise for you,
also, to allow things to begin at the beginning, and to be satisfied
with their being small at the first? See the blade of desire, and then
watch for more. Soon you shall see a little more than desire; for there
shall be conviction and resolve, and after that a feeble faith, small
as a mustard seed, but bound to grow. Do not despise the day of small
things. Do not examine the new-born babe to see whether he is sound in
doctrine after your idea of soundness; ten to one he is a long way off
sound, and you will only worry the dear heart by introducing difficult
questions. Speak to him about his being a sinner, and Christ a Saviour,
and you will in this way water him so that his grace in the ear will
become the full corn in the ear. It may be that there is not much that
looks like wheat about him yet; but by-and-by you shall say, "Wheat! ah,
that it is, if I know wheat. This man is a true ear of corn, and gladly
will I place him among my Master's sheaves." If you cut down the blades,
where will the ears come from? Expect grace in your converts; but do not
look to see glory in them just yet.

IV. Under the last head we shall consider WHAT SLEEP WORKERS MAY TAKE,
AND WHAT THEY MAY NOT TAKE; for it is said of this sowing man, that he
sleeps and rises night and day, and the seed springs and grows up he
knoweth not how. They say a farmer's trade is a good one because it is
going on while he is abed and asleep; and surely ours is a good trade,
too, when we serve our Master by sowing good seed; for it is growing
even while we are asleep.

But how may a good workman for Christ lawfully go to sleep? I answer,
first, he may sleep the sleep of _restfulness_ born of confidence. You
are afraid the kingdom of Christ will not come, are you? Who asked you
to tremble for the ark of the Lord? Afraid for the infinite Jehovah that
his purposes will fail? Shame on you! Your anxiety dishonors your God.
Shall Omnipotence be defeated? You had better sleep than wake to play
the part of Uzzah. Rest patiently; God's purpose will be accomplished,
his kingdom will come, his chosen will be saved, and Christ shall see of
the travail of his soul. Take the sweet sleep which God gives to his
beloved, the sleep of perfect confidence, such as Jesus slept in the
hinder part of the ship when it was tossed with tempest. The cause of
God never was in jeopardy, and never will be; the seed sown is insured
by Omnipotence, and must produce its harvest. In patience possess your
soul, and wait till the harvest comes, for the pleasure of the Lord must
prosper in the hands of Jesus.

Also take that sleep of _joyful expectancy_ which leads to a happy
waking. Get up in the morning and feel that the Lord is ruling all
things for the attainment of his own purposes, and the highest benefit
of all who put their trust in him. Look for a blessing by day, and close
your eyes at night calmly expecting to meet with better things
to-morrow. If you do not sleep you will not wake up in the morning
refreshed, and ready for more work. If it were possible for you to sit
up all night and eat the bread of carefulness you would be unfit to
attend to the service which your Master appoints for the morning;
therefore take your rest and be at peace, and work with calm dignity,
for the matter is safe in the Lord's hands. Is it not written, "So he
giveth his beloved sleep"?

Take your rest because you have consciously resigned your work into
God's hands. After you have spoken the word, resort to God in prayer,
and commit the matter into God's hand, and then do not fret about it.
It cannot be in better keeping, leave it with him who worketh all in

But do not sleep the sleep of unwatchfulness. The farmer sows his seed,
but he does not therefore forget it. He has to mend his fences, to drive
away birds, to remove weeds, or to prevent floods. He does not watch the
growth of the seed, but he has plenty else to do. He sleeps, but it is
only in due time and measure, and is not to be confounded with the
sluggard's slumbers. He never sleeps the sleep of indifference, or even
of inaction, for each season has its demand upon him. He has sown one
field, but he has another to sow. He has sown, but he has also to reap;
and if reaping is done, he has to thresh and to winnow. A farmer's work
is never done, for in one part or the other of the farm he is needed.
His sleep is but a pause that gives him strength to continue his
occupation. The parable teaches us to do all that lies within our
province, but not to intrude into the domain of God: in teaching to the
era we are to labor diligently, but with regard to the secret working of
truth upon man's mind, we are to pray and rest, looking to the Lord for
the inward power.


"As a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his
mouth."--ISAIAH 53:7.

OUR Lord Jesus so took our place that we are in this chapter compared to
sheep: "All we like sheep have gone astray," and he is compared to a
sheep also--"As a sheep before her shearers is dumb." It is wonderful
how complete was the interchange of positions between Christ and his
people, so that he became what they were in order that they might become
what he is. We can well understand how we should be the sheep and he the
shepherd; but to liken the Son of the Highest to a sheep would have been
unpardonable presumption had not his own Spirit employed the
condescending figure.

Though the emblem is very gracious, its use in this place is by no means
singular, for our Lord had been before Isaiah's day typified by the lamb
of the Passover. Since then he has been proclaimed as "the Lamb of God
which taketh away the sin of the world;" and indeed even in his glory he
is the Lamb in the midst of the throne.

I. In opening up this divine emblem I would invite you to consider,
first, OUR SAVIOUR'S PATIENCE, set forth under the figure of a sheep
dumb before her shearers.

Our Lord was brought to the shearers that he might be shorn of his
comfort, and of his honor, shorn even of his good name, and shorn at
last of his life itself; but when under the shearers he was as silent as
a sheep. How patient he was before Pilate, and Herod, and Caiaphas, and
on the cross! You have no record of his uttering any exclamation of
impatience at the pain and shame which he received at the hands of these
wicked men. You hear not one bitter word. Pilate cries, "Answerest thou
nothing? Behold how many things they witness against thee"; and Herod is
wofully disappointed, for he expected to see some miracle wrought by
him. All that our Lord does say is in submissive tones, like the
bleating of a sheep, though infinitely more full of meaning. He utters
sentences like these--"For this purpose was I born, and came into the
world, that I might bear witness to the truth," and, "Father, forgive
them, for they know not what they do." Otherwise he is all patience and

Remember, first, that our Lord was dumb and opened not his mouth
_against his adversaries_, and did not accuse one of them of cruelty or
injustice. They slandered him, but he replied not; false witnesses
arose, but he answered them not. One would have thought he must have
spoken when they spat in his face. Might he not have said, "Friend, why
doest thou this? For which of all my works dost thou insult me?" But the
time for such expostulations was over. When they smote him on the face
with the palms of their hands, it would not have been wonderful if he
had said, "Wherefore do you smite me so?" But no; he is as though he
heard not their revilings. He brings no accusation to his Father. He
needed only to have lifted his eye to heaven, and legions of angels
would have chased away the ribald soldiery; one flash of a seraph's wing
and Herod had been eaten by worms, and Pilate had died the death he well
deserved as an unjust judge. The hill of the cross might have become a
volcano's mouth to swallow up the whole multitude who stood there
jesting and jeering at him: but no, there was no display of power, or
rather there was so great a display of power over himself that he
restrained Omnipotence itself with a strength which never can be

Again, as he did not utter a word against his adversaries, so he did not
say a word _against any one of us_. You remember how Zipporah said to
Moses, "Surely a bloody husband art thou to me," as she saw her child
bleeding; and surely Jesus might have said to his church, "Thou art a
costly spouse to me, to bring me all this shame and bloodshedding." But
he giveth liberally, he openeth the very fountain of his heart, and he
upbraideth not. He had reckoned on the uttermost expenditure, and
therefore he endured the cross, despising the shame.

  "This was compassion like a God,
     That when the Saviour knew,
   The price of pardon was his blood,
     His pity ne'er withdrew."

No doubt he looked across the ages; for that eye of his was not dim,
even when bloodshot on the tree: he must have foreseen your indifference
and mine, our coldness of heart, and base unfaithfulness, and he might
have left on record some such words as these: "I am suffering for those
who are utterly unworthy of my regard; their love will be a miserable
return for mine. Though I give my whole heart for them, how lukewarm is
their love to me! I am sick of them, I am weary of them, and it is woe
to me that I should be laying down my heart's blood for such a worthless
race as these my people are." But there is not a hint of such a feeling.
No. "Having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto
the end," and he did not utter a syllable that looked like murmuring at
his suffering on their behalf, or regretting that he had commenced the

And again, as there was not a word against his adversaries, nor a word
against you nor me, so their was not a word _against his Father_, nor a
syllable of repining at the severity of the chastisement laid upon him
for our sakes. You and I have murmured when under a comparatively light
grief, thinking ourselves hardly done by. We have dared to cry out
against God, "My face is foul with weeping, and on my eyelids is the
shadow of death; not for any injustice in mine hands: also my prayer is
pure." But not so the Saviour; in his mouth were no complaints. It is
quite impossible for us to conceive how the Father pressed and bruised
him, yet was there no repining. "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken
me?" is an exclamation of astonished grief, but it is not the voice of
complaint. It shows manhood in weakness, but not manhood in revolt. Many
are the Lamentations of Jeremiah, but few are the lamentations of Jesus.
Jesus wept, and Jesus sweat great drops of blood, but he never murmured
nor felt rebellion in his heart.

Behold your Lord and Saviour lying in passive resignation beneath the
shearers, as they take away everything that is dear to him, and yet he
openeth not his mouth. I see in this our Lord's _complete submission_.
He gives himself up; there is no reserve about it. The sacrifice did not
need binding with cords to the horns of the altar. How different from
your case and mine! He stood there willing to suffer, to be spit upon,
to be shamefully entreated, and to die, for in him there was a complete
surrender. He was wholly given to do the Father's will, and to work out
our redemption. There was _complete self-conquest_ too. In him no
faculty arose to plead for liberty, and ask to be exempted from the
general strain; no limb of the body, no portion of the mind, no faculty
of the spirit started, but all submitted to the divine will: the whole
Christ gave up his whole being unto God, that he might perfectly offer
himself without spot for our redemption.

There was not only self-conquest, but _complete absorption in his work_.
The sheep, lying there, thinks no more of the pastures, it yields itself
up to the shearer. The zeal of God's house did eat up our Lord in
Pilate's hall as well as everywhere else, for there he witnessed a good
confession. No thought had he but for the clearing of the divine honor,
and the salvation of God's elect. Brethren, I wish we could arrive at
this, to submit our whole spirit to God, to learn self-conquest, and the
delivering up of conquered self entirely to God.

The wonderful serenity and submissiveness of our Lord are still better
set forth by our text, if it be indeed true that sheep in the East are
even more docile than with us. Those who have seen the noise and
roughness of many of our washings and shearings will hardly believe the
testimony of that ancient writer Philo-Judæus when he affirms that the
sheep came voluntarily to be shorn. He says: "Woolly rams laden with
thick fleeces put themselves into the shepherd's hands to have their
wool shorn, being thus accustomed to pay their yearly tribute to man,
their king by nature. The sheep stands in a silent inclining posture,
unconstrained under the hand of the shearer. These things may appear
strange to those who do not know the docility of the sheep, but they are
true." Marvellous indeed was this submissiveness in our Lord's case; let
us admire and imitate.

II. Thus I have feebly set forth the patience of our beloved Master. Now
I want you to follow me, in the second place, to VIEW OUR OWN CASE UNDER

Did I not begin by saying that because we were sheep he deigns to
compare himself to a sheep? Let us look from another point of view; our
Lord was a sheep under the shearers, and as he is so are we also in this
world. Though we shall never be offered up like lambs in the temple by
way of expiation, yet the saints for ages were the flock of slaughter,
as it is written, "For thy sake we are killed all the day long, we are
accounted as sheep for the slaughter!" Jesus sends us forth as sheep in
the midst of wolves, and we are to regard ourselves as living
sacrifices, ready to be offered up. I dwell, however, more particularly
upon the second symbol: we are brought as sheep under the shearers'

Just as a sheep is taken by the shearer, and its wool is all cut off, so
doth the Lord take his people and shear them, taking away all their
earthly comforts, and leaving them bare. I wish when it came to our turn
to undergo this shearing operation it could be said of us as of our
Lord, "As a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his
mouth." I fear that we open our mouths a great deal, and make no end of
complaining without any apparent cause, or with the very slenderest
reason. But now to the figure.

First, remember that _a sheep rewards its owner for all his care and
trouble by being shorn_. There is nothing else that I know of that a
sheep can do. It yields food when it is killed, but while it is alive
the one payment that the sheep can make to the shepherd is to yield its
fleece in due season. Some of God's people can give to Christ a tribute
of gratitude by active service, and they should do so gladly every day
of their lives; but many others cannot do much in active service, and
about the only reward they can give to their Lord is to render up their
fleece by suffering when he calls upon them to suffer, submissively
yielding to be shorn of their personal comfort when the time comes for
patient endurance.

Here comes the shearer; he takes the sheep and begins to cut, cut, cut,
cut, taking away the wool wholesale. Affliction is often used as the big
shears. The husband, or perhaps the wife, is removed, little children
are taken away, property is shorn off, and health is gone. Sometimes the
shears cut off the man's good name; slander follows; comforts vanish.
Well, this is your shearing time, and it may be that you are not able to
glorify God to any very large extent except by undergoing this process.
If this be the fact, do you not think that we, like good sheep of
Christ, should surrender ourselves cheerfully, feeling, "I lay myself
down with this intent, that thou shouldst take from me anything and
everything, and do what thou wilt with me; for I am not mine own, I am
bought with a price"?

Notice that the sheep is itself _benefited by the operation of
shearing_. Before they begin to shear the sheep the wool is long and
old, and every bush and brier tears off a bit of the wool, until the
sheep looks ragged and forlorn.

If the wool were left, when the heat of summer came the sheep would not
be able to bear itself, it would be so overloaded with clothing that it
would be as uncomfortable as we are when we have kept on our borrowed
wool, our flannels and broadcloths, too late. So, brethren, when the
Lord shears us, we do not like the operation any more than the sheep do;
but first, it is for _his glory_; and secondly, it is for _our benefit_,
and therefore we are bound most willingly to submit. There are many
things which we should have liked to have kept which, if we had kept
them, would not have proved blessings but curses. A stale blessing is a
curse. The manna, though it came from heaven, was only good so long as
God's command made it a blessing, but when they kept it over its due
time it bred worms and stank, and then it was no blessing. Many persons
would keep their mercies till they turn to corruption; but God will not
have it so. Up to a certain point for you to be wealthy was a blessing;
it would not have been a blessing any longer, and so the Lord took your
riches away. Up to that point your child was a boon, but it would have
been no longer so, and therefore it fell sick and died. You may not be
able to see it, but it is so, that God, when he withdraws a blessing
from his people, takes it away because it would not be a blessing any

Before sheep are shorn _they are always washed_. Were you ever present
at the scene when they drive them down to the brook? Men are placed in
rows, leading to the shepherd who stands in the water. The sheep are
driven down, and the men seize them, throw them into the pool, keeping
their faces above water, and swirl them round and round and round to
wash the wool before they clip it off. You see them come out on the
other side frightened to death, poor things, wondering whatever is
coming. I want to suggest to you, brethren, that whenever a trial
threatens to overtake you, you should entreat the Lord to sanctify it to
you. If the good Shepherd is going to clip your wool, ask him to wash it
before he takes it off; ask to be cleansed in spirit, soul, and body.
That is a very good custom Christian people have of asking a blessing on
their meals before they eat bread. Do you not think it is even more
necessary to ask a blessing on our troubles before we get into them?
Here is your dear child likely to die; will you not, dear parents, meet
together and ask God to bless the death of that child, if it is to
happen? The harvest fails; would it not be well to say--"Lord, sanctify
this poverty, this loss, this year's bad harvest: cause it to be a means
of grace to us." Why not ask a blessing on the cup of bitterness as well
as upon the cup of thanksgiving? Ask to be washed before you are shorn,
and if the shearing must come, let it be your chief concern to yield
clean wool.

After the washing, when the sheep has been dried, it actually _loses
what was its comfort_. The sheep is thrown down, and the shearers get to
work; the poor creature is losing its comfortable fleece. You also will
have to part with your comforts. Will you recollect this? The next time
you receive a fresh blessing call it a loan. Poor sheep, there is no
wool on your back but what will have to come off; child of God, there is
no earthly comfort in your possession but what will either leave you,
or you will leave it. Nothing is our own except our God. "Why," says
one, "not our sin?" Sin was our own, but Jesus has taken it upon
himself, and it is gone. There is nothing our own but our God, for all
his gifts are held on lease, terminable at his sovereign will. We
foolishly consider that our mercies belong to us, and when the Lord
takes them away we half grumble. A loan, they say, should go laughing
home, and so should we rejoice when the Lord takes back that which he
had lent us. All our possessions are but brief favors borrowed for the
hour. As the sheep yields up its wool and so loses its comfort, so must
we yield up all our earthly properties; or if they remain with us till
we die, we shall part with them then, we shall not take so much as one
of them across the stream of death.

The shearers _take care not to hurt the sheep_; they clip as close as
they can, but they do not cut the skin. If possible, they will not draw
blood, even in the smallest degree. When they do make a gash, it is
because the sheep does not lie still; but a careful shearer has
bloodless shears. Of this Thomson sings in his "Seasons," and the
passage is so good an illustration of the whole subject that I will
adorn my discourse with it:

  "How meek, how patient, the mild creature lies!
   What softness in its melancholy face,
   What dumb complaining innocence appears!
   Fear not, ye gentle tribes! 'tis not the knife
   Of horrid slaughter that is o'er you waved;
   No, 'tis the tender swain's well guided shears,
   Who having now, to pay his annual care,
   Borrow'd your fleece, to you a cumbrous load,
   Will send you bounding to your hills again."

It is the kicking and the struggling that make the shearing work at all
hard, but if we are dumb before the shearers no harm can come. The Lord
may clip wonderfully close; I have known him clip some so close that
they did not seem to have a bit of wool left, for they were stripped
entirely, even as Job when he cried, "Naked came I out of my mother's
womb, and naked shall I return thither." Still, like Job, they have
added, "The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name
of the Lord."

Notice that the shearers always _shear at a suitable time_. It would be
a very wicked, cruel, and unwise thing to begin sheep-shearing in winter
time. There is a proverb which talks about God "tempering the wind to
the shorn lamb." It may be so, but it is a very cruel practice to shear
lambs while winds need tempering. Sheep are shorn when it is warm,
genial weather, when they can afford to lose their fleeces, and are all
the better for being relieved of them. As the summer comes on
sheep-shearing time comes. Have you ever noticed that whenever the Lord
afflicts us he selects the best possible time? There is a prayer that he
puts into his disciples' mouths, "Pray that your flight be not in the
winter;" the spirit of that prayer may be seen in the seasonableness of
our sorrows. He will not send us our worst troubles at our worst times.
If your soul is depressed the Lord does not send you a very heavy
burden; he reserves such a load for times when you have joy in the Lord
to be your strength. It has come to be a kind of feeling with us that
when we have much delight a trial is near, but when sorrow thickens
deliverance is approaching. The Lord does not send us two burdens at a
time; or, if he does, he sends double strength. His shearing time is
chosen with tender discretion.

There is another thing to remember. It is with us as with the sheep,
_there is new wool coming_. Whenever the Lord takes away our earthly
comforts with one hand, one, two, three, he restores with the other hand
six, a score, a hundred; we are crying and whining about the little
loss, and yet it is necessary in order that we may be able to receive
the great gain. Yes, it will be so, we shall have cause for rejoicing,
"joy cometh in the morning." If we have lost one position, there is
another for us; if we have been driven out of one place, a better refuge
is prepared. Providence opens a second door when it shuts the first. If
the Lord takes away the manna, as he did from his people Israel, it is
because they have the old corn of the land of Canaan to live upon. If
the water of the rock did not follow the tribes any longer, it was
because they drank of the Jordan, and of the brooks. O sheep of the
Lord's fold, there is new wool coming: therefore do not fret at the
shearing. I have given these thoughts in brief, that we may come to the
last word.

III. Let us, in the third place, endeavor to IMITATE THE EXAMPLE OF OUR
shearers, submissive, quiescent, even as he was.

I have been giving, in everything I have said, a reason for so doing. I
have shown that our shearing by affliction glorifies God, rewards the
Shepherd, and benefits ourselves. I have shown that the Lord measures
and tempers our affliction, and sends the trial at the right time. I
have shown you in many ways that it will be wise to submit ourselves as
the sheep does to the shearer, and that the more completely we do so the

We struggle far too much, and we are apt to make excuses for so doing.
Sometimes we say, "Oh, this is so painful, I cannot be patient! I could
have borne anything else but this." When a father is going to correct
his child, does he select something pleasant? No. The painfulness of the
punishment is the essence of it, and even so the bitterness of our
sorrow is the soul of our chastening. By the blueness of the wound the
heart will be made better. Do not repine because your trial seems
strange and sharp. That would in fact be saying, "If I have it all my
own way I will, but if everything does not please me I will rebel;" and
that is not a fit spirit for a child of God.

Sometimes we complain because of our great weakness. "Lord, were I
stronger I would not mind this heavy loss; but I am frail as a sere leaf
driven of the tempest." But who is to be the judge of the suitability of
your trial? You or God? Since the Lord judges this trial to be suitable
to your weakness, you may be sure that it is so. Lie still! Lie still!
"Alas," you say, "my grief comes from the most cruel quarter; this
trouble did not arise directly from God, it came through my cousin or my
brother who ought to have treated me with gratitude. It was not an
enemy; then I could have borne it." My brother, let me assure you that
in reality trial comes not from an enemy after all. God is at the bottom
of all your tribulation; look through the second causes to the great
First Cause. It is a great mistake when we fret over the human
instrument which smites us, and forget the hand which uses the rod. If I
strike a dog, he bites my stick; poor creature, he knows no better; but
if he could think a little he would bite _me_, or else take the blow
submissively. Now, you must not begin biting the stick. After all, it
is your heavenly Father that uses the staff; though it be of ebony or of
blackthorn, it is in his hand. It is well to have done with picking and
choosing our trials, and to leave the whole matter in the hand of
infinite wisdom. A sweet singer has put this matter very prettily; let
me quote the lines:

  "But when my Lord did ask me on what side
             I were content,
   The grief whereby I must be purified,
             To me was sent,

  "As each imagined anguish did appear,
             Each withering bliss
   Before my soul, I cried, 'Oh! spare me here,
             Oh, no, not this!'

  "Like one that having need of, deep within,
             The surgeon's knife,
   Would hardly bear that it should graze the skin,
             Though for his life.

  "Nay, then, but he, who best doth understand
             Both what we need,
   And what can bear, did take my case in hand,
             Nor crying heed."

This is the pith of my sermon: oh, believer, yield thyself! Lie passive
in the hands of God! Yield thee, and struggle not! There is no use in
struggling, for our great Shearer, if he means to shear, will do it. Did
I not say just now that the sheep, by struggling, might be cut by the
shears? So you and I, if we struggle against God, will get two strokes
instead of one; and after all there is not half so much trouble in a
trouble as there is in kicking against the trouble. The Eastern
ploughman has a goad, and pricks the ox to make it move more actively;
he does not hurt it much by his gentle prodding, but suppose the ox
flings out its leg the moment it touches him, he drives the goad into
himself, and bleeds. So it is with us, we shall find it hard to kick
against the pricks; we shall endure much more pain by rebelling than
would have come if we had yielded to the divine will. What good comes of
fretting? We cannot make one hair white or black. You that are troubled,
rest with us, for you cannot make shower or shine, foul or fair, with
all your groaning. Did you ever bring a penny into the till by fretting,
or put a loaf on the table by complaint? Murmuring is wasted breath, and
fretting is wasted time. To lie passive in the hand of God brings a
blessing to the soul. I would myself be more quiet, calm, and
self-possessed. I long to cry habitually, "Lord, do what thou wilt, when
thou wilt, as thou wilt, with me, thy servant; appoint me honor or
dishonor, wealth or poverty, sickness or health, exhilaration or
depression, and I will take all right gladly from thy hand." A man is
not far from the gates of heaven when he is fully submissive to the
Lord's will.

You that have been shorn have, I hope, received comfort through the ever
blessed Spirit of God. May God bless you. Oh that the sinner, too, would
humble himself under the mighty hand of God! Submit yourselves unto God,
let every thought be brought into captivity to him, and the Lord send
his blessing, for Christ's sake. Amen.


"He causeth the grass to grow for the cattle."--PSALM 104:14.

AT the appointed season all the world is busy with ingathering the grass
crop, and you can scarcely ride a mile in the country without scenting
the delicious fragrance of the new-mown hay, and hearing the sharpening
of the mower's scythe. There is a gospel in the hay-field, and that
gospel we intend to bring out as we may be enabled by the Holy Spirit.

Our text conducts us at once to the spot, and we shall therefore need no
preface. "He causeth the grass to grow for the cattle"--three things we
shall notice; first, that _grass is in itself instructive_; secondly,
that _grass is far more so when God is seen in it_; and thirdly, that
_by the growth of grass for the cattle, the ways of grace may be

I. First, then, "He causeth the grass to grow for the cattle." Here we
have SOMETHING WHICH IS IN ITSELF INSTRUCTIVE. Scarcely any emblem, with
the exception of water and light, is more frequently used by inspiration
than the grass of the field.

In the first place, the grass may be instructively looked upon as _the
symbol of our mortality_. "All flesh is grass." The whole history of man
may be seen in the meadow. He springs up green and tender, subject to
the frosts of infancy, which imperil his young life; he grows, he comes
to maturity, he puts on beauty even as the grass is adorned with
flowers; but after a while his strength departs and his beauty is
wrinkled, even as the grass withers and is followed by a fresh
generation, which withers in its turn. Like ourselves, the grass ripens
but to decay. The sons of men come to maturity in due time, and then
decline and wither as the green herb. Some of the grass is not left to
come to ripeness at all, but the mower's scythe removes it, even as
swift-footed death overtakes the careless children of Adam. "In the
morning it flourisheth, and groweth up; in the evening it is cut down,
and withereth. For we are consumed by thine anger, and by thy wrath are
we troubled." "As for man, his days are as grass: as a flower of the
field, so he flourisheth. For the wind passeth over it, and it is gone;
and the place thereof shall know it no more." This is very humbling; and
we need frequently to be reminded of it, or we dream of immortality
beneath the stars. We ought never to tread upon the grass without
remembering that whereas the green sod covers our graves, it also
reminds us of them, and preaches by every blade a sermon to us
concerning our mortality, of which the text is, "All flesh is grass, and
all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field."

In the second place, grass is frequently used in Scripture as _an emblem
of the wicked_. David tells us from his own experience that the
righteous man is apt to grow envious of the wicked when he sees the
prosperity of the ungodly. We have seen them spreading themselves like
green bay trees, and apparently fixed and rooted in their places; and
when we have smarted under our own troubles, and felt that all the day
long we were scourged, and chastened every morning, we have been apt to
say, "How can this be consistent with the righteous government of God?"
We are reminded by the Psalmist that in a short time we shall pass by
the place of the wicked, and lo, he shall not be; we shall diligently
consider his place, and lo, it shall not be; for he is soon cut down as
the grass, and withereth as the green herb. The grass withereth, the
flower thereof fadeth away, and even so shall pass away forever the
glory of those who build upon the estate of time, and dig for lasting
comfort in the mines of the earth. As the Eastern husbandman gathers up
the green herb, and, despite its former beauty, casts it into the
furnace, such must be your lot, O vainglorious sinners! Thus will the
judge command his angels, "Bind them in bundles to burn." Where now your
merriment? Where now your confidence? Where now your pride and your
pomp? Where now your boastings and your loud-mouthed blasphemies? They
are silent for ever; for, as thorns crackle under a pot, but are
speedily consumed, and leave nothing except a handful of ashes, so shall
it be with the wicked as to this life; the fire of God's wrath shall
devour them.

It is more pleasing to recollect that the grass is used in Scripture as
_a picture of the elect of God_. The wicked are comparable to the
dragons of the wilderness, but God's own people shall spring up in their
place, for it is written, "In the habitation of dragons, where each lay,
shall be grass with reeds and rushes." The elect are compared to grass,
because of their number as they shall be in the latter days, and because
of the rapidity of their growth. You remember the passage, "There shall
be a handful of corn in the earth upon the top of the mountains: the
fruit thereof shall shake like Lebanon: and they of the city shall
flourish like grass of the earth." O that the long expected day might
soon come, when God's people shall no longer be like a lone tuft of
grass, but when they shall spring up as among the grass, as "willows by
the water-courses." Grass and willows are two of the fastest growing
things we know of; so shall a nation be born in a day, so shall crowds
be converted at once; for when the Spirit of God shall be mightily at
work in the midst of the church, men shall fly unto Christ as doves fly
to their dovecots, so that the astonished church shall exclaim, "These,
where had they been?" O that we might live to see the age of gold, the
time which prophets have foretold, when the company of God's people
shall be innumerable as the blades of grass in the meadows, and grace
and truth shall flourish.

How like the grass are God's people for this reason, that they are
absolutely dependent upon the influences of heaven! Our fields are
parched if vernal showers and gentle dews are withheld, and what are our
souls without the gracious visitations of the Spirit? Sometimes through
severe trials our wounded hearts are like the mown grass, and then we
have the promise, "He shall come down like rain upon the mown grass; as
showers that water the earth." Our sharp troubles have taken away our
beauty, and lo, the Lord visits us, and we revive again. Thank God for
that old saying, which is a gracious doctrine as well as a true proverb,
"Each blade of grass has its own drop of dew." God is pleased to give
his own peculiar mercies to each one of his own servants. "Thy blessing
is upon thy people."

Once again, grass is comparable to _the food where-with the Lord
supplies the necessities of his chosen ones_. Take the twenty-third
Psalm, and you have the metaphor worked out in the sweetest form of
pastoral song: "He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth
me beside the still waters." Just as the sheep has nourishment according
to its nature, and this nourishment is abundantly found for it by its
shepherd, so that it not only feeds, but then lies down in the midst of
the fodder, satiated with plenty, and perfectly content and at ease;
even so are the people of God when Jesus Christ leads them into the
pastures of the covenant, and opens up to them the precious truths upon
which their souls shall be fed. Beloved, have we not proved that promise
true, "In this mountain shall the Lord of hosts make unto all people a
feast of fat things, a feast of wines on the lees, of fat things full of
marrow, of wines on the lees well refined"? My soul has sometimes fed
upon Christ till I have felt as if I could receive no more, and then I
have laid me down in the bounty of my God to take my rest, satisfied
with favor, and full of the goodness of the Lord.

Thus, you see, the grass itself is not without instruction for those who
will incline their ear.

II. In the second place, GOD IS SEEN IN THE GROWING OF THE GRASS. He is
seen first as a worker, "He _causeth_ the grass to grow." He is seen
secondly as a caretaker, "He causeth the grass to grow _for the

1. First, as a _worker_, God is to be seen in every blade of grass, if
we have but eyes to discern him. A blind world this, which always talks
about "natural laws," and "the effects of natural causes," but forgets
that laws cannot operate of themselves, and that natural causes, so
called, are not causes at all unless the First Cause shall set them in
motion. The old Romans used to say, _God_ thundered; _God_ rained. We
say _it_ thunders; _it_ rains. What "it"? All these expressions are
subterfuges to escape from the thought of God. We commonly say, "How
wonderful are the works of _nature_!" What is "nature"? Do you know what
_nature_ is? I remember a lecturer in the street, an infidel, speaking
about nature, and he was asked by a Christian man standing by whether he
would tell him what nature was. He never gave a reply. The production of
grass is not the result of natural law apart from the actual work of
God; mere law would be inoperative unless the great Master himself sent
a thrill of power through the matter which is regulated by the
law--unless, like the steam engine, which puts force into all the
spinning-jennies and wheels of a cotton mill, God himself were the
motive power to make every wheel revolve. I find rest on the grass as on
a royal couch, now that I know that my God is there at work for his

Having asked you to see God as a worker, I want you to make use of
this--therefore I bid you to see God in _common things_. He makes the
grass to grow--grass is a common thing. You see it everywhere, yet God
is in it. Dissect it and pull it to pieces; the attributes of God are
illustrated in every single flower of the field, and in every green
leaf. In like manner see God in your common matters, your daily
afflictions, your common joys, your everyday mercies. Do not say, "I
must see a miracle before I see God." In truth everything teems with
marvel. See God in the bread of your table and the water of your cup.
It will be the happiest way of living if you can say in each
providential circumstance, "My Father has done all this." See God also
in _little things_. The little things of life are the greatest troubles.
A man will hear that his house is burned down more quietly than he will
see an ill-cooked joint of meat upon his table, when he reckoned upon
its being done to a turn. It is the _little_ stone in the shoe which
makes the pilgrim limp. To see God in little things, to believe that
there is as much the presence of God in a limb falling from the elm as
in the avalanche which crushes a village; to believe that the guidance
of every drop of spray, when the wave breaks on the rock, is as much
under the hand of God, as the steerage of the mightiest planet in its
course; to see God in the little as well as in the great--all this is
true wisdom.

Think, too, of God working among _solitary things_; for grass does not
merely grow where men take care of it, but up there on the side of the
lone Alp, where no traveller has ever passed. Where only the eye of the
wild bird has beheld their lonely verdure, moss and grass display their
beauty; for God's works are fair to other eyes than those of mortals.
And you, solitary child of God, dwelling, unknown and obscure, in a
remote hamlet; you are not forgotten by the love of heaven. He maketh
the grass to grow all alone, and shall he not make you flourish despite
your loneliness? He can bring forth your graces and educate you for the
skies in solitude and neglect. The grass, you know, is a thing we tread
upon, nobody thinks of its being crushed by the foot, and yet God makes
it grow. Perhaps you are oppressed and down-trodden, but let not this
depress your spirit, for God executeth righteousness for all those that
are oppressed; he maketh the grass to grow, and he can make your heart
to flourish under all the oppressions and afflictions of life, so that
you shall still be happy and holy though all the world marches over you;
still living in the immortal life which God himself bestows upon you,
though hell itself set its heel upon you. Poor and needy one, unknown,
unobserved, oppressed and down-trodden, God makes the grass to grow, and
he will take care of you.

2. But I said we should see in the text God also as a great _caretaker_.
"He causeth the grass to grow _for the cattle_." "Doth God take care for
oxen? Or saith he it altogether for our sakes?" "Thou shalt not muzzle
the mouth of the ox that treadeth out the corn," shows that God has a
care for the beasts of the field; but it shows much more than that,
namely that he would have those who work for him feed as they work. God
cares for the beasts, and makes grass to grow for them. Then, my soul,
though sometimes thou hast said with David, "So foolish was I, and
ignorant: I was as a beast before thee," yet God cares for thee. "He
giveth to the beast his food, and to the young ravens which cry"--there
you have an instance of his care for birds, and here we have his care
for beasts; and though you, my hearer, may seem to yourself to be as
black and defiled as a raven, and as far from anything spiritually good
as the beasts, yet take comfort from this text; he gives grass to the
cattle, and he will give grace to you, though you think yourself to be
as a beast before him.

Observe, he cares for these beasts who are _helpless_ as to caring for
themselves. The cattle could not plant the grass, nor cause it to grow.
Though they can do nothing in the matter, yet he does it all for them;
_he_ causeth the grass to grow. You who are as helpless as cattle to
help yourselves, who can only stand and moan out your misery, but know
not what to do, God can prevent you in his loving-kindness, and favor
you in his tenderness. Let the bleatings of your prayer go up to heaven,
let the meanings of your desires go up to him, and help shall come to
you though you cannot help yourselves. Beasts are _dumb, speechless
things_, yet God makes the grass grow for them. Will he hear those that
cannot speak, and will he not hear those who can? Since our God views
with kind consideration the cattle in the field, he will surely have
compassion upon his own sons and daughters when they desire to seek his

There is this also to be said, God not only cares for cattle, but _the
food_ which he provides for them is fit food--he causeth _grass_ to grow
for the cattle, just the sort of food which ruminants require. Even thus
the Lord God provides fit sustenance for his people. Depend upon him by
faith and wait upon him in prayer, and you shall have food convenient
for you. You shall find in God's mercy just that which your nature
demands, suitable supplies for peculiar wants.

This "convenient" food the Lord takes care to reserve for the cattle,
for no one eats the cattle's food but the cattle. There is grass for
them, and nobody else cares for it, and thus it is kept for them; even
so God has a special food for his own people; "the secret of the Lord is
with them that fear him, and he will show them his covenant." Though the
grass be free to all who choose to eat it, yet no creature careth for it
except the cattle for whom it is prepared; and though the grace of God
be free to all men, yet no man careth for it except the elect of God,
for whom he prepared it, and whom he prepares to receive it. There is as
much reserve of the grass for the cattle as if there were walls around
it; and so, though the grace of God be free, and there be no bound set
about it, yet it is as much reserved as if it were restricted.

God is seen in the grass as the worker and the caretaker; then _let us
see his hand in providence at all times_. Let us see it, not only when
we have abundance, but even when we have scant supplies; for the grass
is preparing for the cattle even in the depth of winter. And you, ye
sons of sorrow, in your trials and troubles, are still cared for by God;
he will accomplish his own divinely gracious purposes in you; only be
still and see the salvation of God. Every winter's night has a direct
connection with the joyous days of mowing and reaping, and each time of
grief is linked to future joy.

III. Our third head is most interesting. GOD'S WORKING IN THE GRASS FOR

I will soliloquize, and say to myself as I read the text, "He causeth
the grass to grow for the cattle. In this I perceive a satisfying
provision for that form of creature. I am also a creature, but I am a
nobler creature than the cattle. I cannot imagine for a moment that God
will provide all that the cattle need and not provide for me. But
naturally I feel uneasy; I cannot find in this world what I want--if I
were to win all its riches I should still be discontented; and when I
have all that heart could wish of time's treasures, yet still my heart
feels as if it were empty. There must be somewhere or other something
that will satisfy me as a man with an immortal soul. God altogether
satisfies the ox; he must therefore have something or other that would
altogether satisfy me if I could get it. There is the grass, the cattle
get it, and when they have eaten their share, they lie down and seem
perfectly contented; now, all I have ever found on earth has never
satisfied me so that I could lie down and be satisfied; there must,
then, be something somewhere that would content me if I could get at
it." Is not this good reasoning? I ask both the Christian and the
unbeliever to go with me so far; but then let us proceed another step:
The cattle do get what they want--not only is the grass provided, but
they get it. Why should not I obtain what I want? I find my soul
hungering and thirsting after something more than I can see with my eyes
or hear with my ears; there must be something to satisfy my soul, why
should I not find it? The cattle pasture upon that which satisfies them;
why should not I obtain satisfaction too? Then I begin to pray, "O Lord,
satisfy my mouth with good things, and renew my youth."

While I am praying I also meditate and think--God has provided for
cattle that which is consonant to their nature; they are nothing but
flesh, and flesh is grass, there is therefore grass for their flesh. I
also am flesh, but I am something else beside; I am spirit, and to
satisfy me I need spiritual meat. Where is it? When I turn to God's
word, I find there that though the grass withereth, the word of the Lord
endureth for ever; and the word which Jesus speaks unto us is spirit and
life. "Oh! then," I say, "here is spiritual food for my spiritual
nature, I will rejoice therein." O may God help me to know what that
spiritual meat is, and enable me to lay hold upon it, for I perceive
that though God provides the grass for the cattle, _the cattle must eat
it themselves_. They are not fed if they refuse to eat. I must imitate
the cattle, and receive that which God provides for me. What do I find
provided in Scripture? I am told that the Lord Jesus came into this
world to suffer, and bleed, and die instead of me, and that if I trust
in him I shall be saved; and, being saved, the thoughts of his love will
give solace and joy to me and be my strength. What have I to do but to
feed on these truths? I do not find the cattle bringing any preparation
to the pasture except hunger, but they enter it and partake of their
portion. Even so must I by an act of faith live upon Jesus. Lord, give
me grace to feed upon Christ; make me hungry and thirsty after him; give
me the faith by which I may be a receiver of him, that so I may be
satisfied with favor, and full of the goodness of the Lord.

My text, though it looked small, grows as we meditate upon it. I want to
introduce you to a few more illustrations of divine grace. _Preventing
grace may here be seen in a symbol._ Grass grew before cattle were made.
We find in the first chapter of Genesis that God provided the grass
before he created the cattle. And what a mercy that covenant supplies
for God's people were prepared before they were born. God had given his
Son Jesus Christ to be the Saviour of his chosen before Adam fell; long
before sin came into the world the everlasting mercy of God foresaw the
ruin of sin, and provided a refuge for every elect soul. What a thought
it is for me, that, before I hunger, God has prepared the manna; before
I thirst, God has caused the rock in the wilderness to send forth
crystal streams to satisfy the thirst of my soul! See what sovereign
grace can do! Before the cattle come to the pasture the grass has grown
for them, and before I feel my need of divine mercy that mercy is
provided for me. Then I perceive an illustration of free grace, for
_when the ox comes into the field he brings no money with him_. So I, a
poor needy sinner, having nothing, come and receive Christ without money
and without price. The Lord maketh the grass to grow for the cattle, and
so doth he provide grace for my needy soul, though I have now no money,
no virtue, no excellence of my own.

And why is it, my friends, why is it that God gives the cattle the
grass? The reason is, _because they belong to him_. Here is a text to
prove it. "The silver and the gold are mine, and the cattle upon a
thousand hills." God provides grass for his own cattle, and grace is
provided for God's people. Of every herd of cattle in the world, God
could say, "They are mine." Long before the grazier puts his brand on
the bullock God has set his creating mark upon it; so, before the stamp
of Adam's fall was set upon our brow, the stamp of electing love was set
there: "In thy book all my members were written, which in continuance
were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them."

God also feeds cattle because _he has entered into a covenant with them
to do so_. "What! a covenant with the cattle!" says somebody. Ay! truly
so, for when God spake to his servant Noah, in that day when all the
cattle came out of the ark, we find him saying, "I establish my covenant
with you, and with your seed after you; and with every living creature
that is with you, of the fowl, of _the cattle_, and of every beast of
the earth with you." Thus a covenant was made with the cattle, and that
covenant was that seed-time and harvest should not fail; therefore the
earth brings forth for them, and for them the Lord causeth the grass to
grow. Does Jehovah keep his covenant with cattle, and will he not keep
his covenant with his own beloved? Ah! it is because his chosen people
are his covenanted ones in the person of the Lord Jesus, that he
provides for them all things that they shall need in time and in
eternity, and satisfies them out of the fulness of his everlasting love.

Once, again, God feeds the cattle, and then _the cattle praise him_. We
find David saying, in the hundred and forty-eighth Psalm, "Praise the
Lord ... ye beasts and all cattle." The Lord feeds his people to the end
that their glory may sing praise unto him and not be silent. While other
creatures give glory to God, let the redeemed of the Lord especially say
so, whom he has redeemed out of the hand of the enemy.

Nor even yet is our text exhausted. Turning one moment from the cattle,
I want you to notice the grass. It is said of the grass, "_He causeth_
the grass to grow": here is a doctrinal lesson, for if grass does not
grow without God's causing it to grow, how could grace arise in the
human heart apart from divine operations? Surely grace is a much more
wonderful product of divine wisdom than the grass can be! And if grass
does not grow without a divine cause, depend upon it grace does not
dwell in us without a divine implantation. If I have so much as one
blade of grace growing within me, I must trace it all to God's divine
will, and render to him all the glory.

Again, if God thinks it worth his while to make grass, and take care of
it, much more will he think it to his honor to cause his grace to grow
in our hearts. If the great invisible Spirit, whose thoughts are high
and lofty, condescends to look after that humble thing which grows by
the hedge, surely he will condescend to watch over his own nature, which
he calls "the incorruptible seed, which liveth and abideth for ever!"
Mungo Park, in the deserts of Africa, was much comforted when he took up
a little piece of moss, and saw the wisdom and power of God in that
lonely piece of verdant loveliness. So, when you see the fields ripe and
ready for the mower, your hearts should leap for joy to see how God has
produced the grass, caring for it all through the rigorous cold of
winter, and the chill months of spring, until at last he sent the genial
rain and sunshine, and brought the fields to their best condition. And
so, my soul, though thou mayest endure many a frost of sorrow and a long
winter of trial, yet the Lord will cause thee to grow in grace, and in
the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ; to whom be glory for
ever. Amen.


"They joy before thee according to the joy in harvest."--ISAIAH 9:3.

THE other day I kept the feast with a company who shouted "Harvest
Home." I was glad to see the rich and poor rejoicing together; and when
the cheerful meal was ended, I was glad to turn one of the tables into a
pulpit, and in the large barn to preach the gospel of the ever-blessed
God to an earnest audience. My heart was merry in harmony with the
occasion, and I shall now keep in the same key, and talk to you a little
upon the joy of harvest. Londoners forget that it is harvest time;
living in this great desert of dingy bricks we hardly know what a
wheat-ear is like, except as we see it dry and white in the window of a
corn dealer's shop; yet let us all remember that there is such a season
as harvest, when by God's goodness the fruits of the earth are gathered

WHAT IS THE JOY OF HARVEST which is here taken as the simile of the joy
of the saints before God? I am afraid that to the mere selfish order of
spirits the joy of harvest is simply that of personal gratification at
the increase of wealth. Sometimes the farmer only rejoices because _he
sees the reward of his toils_, and is so much the richer man. I hope
that with many there mingles the second cause of joy; namely, gratitude
to God that an abundant harvest will give bread to the poor, and remove
complaining from our streets. There is a lawful joy in harvest, no
doubt, to the man who is enriched by it; for any man who works hard has
a right to rejoice when at last he gains his desire. It would be well if
men would always recollect that their last and greatest harvest will be
to them according to their labor. He that soweth to the flesh will of
the flesh reap corruption, and only the man that soweth to the spirit
will of the spirit reap life everlasting. Many a young man commences
life by sowing what he calls his wild oats, which he had better never
have sown, for they will bring him a terrible harvest. He expects that
from these wild oats he will gather a harvest of true pleasure, but it
cannot be; the truest pleasures of life spring from the good seed of
righteousness, and not from the hemlock of sin. As a man who sows
thistles in his furrows must not expect to reap the golden wheatsheaf,
so he who follows the ways of vice must not expect happiness. On the
contrary, if he sows the wind he will reap the whirlwind. When a sinner
feels the pangs of conscience he may well say, "This is what I sowed."
When he shall at last receive the punishment of his evil deeds he will
blame no one but himself; he sowed tares and he must reap tares. On the
other hand, the Christian man, though his salvation is not of works, but
of grace, will have a gracious reward given to him by his Master. Sowing
in tears, he shall reap in joy. Putting out his talents to interest, he
shall enter into his Master's joy, and hear him say, "Well done, good
and faithful servant." The joy of harvest in part consists of the reward
of labor; may such be our joy in serving the Lord.

The joy of harvest has another element in it, namely, that of _gratitude
to God for favors bestowed_. We are singularly dependent on God; far
more so than most of us imagine. When the children of Israel were in the
wilderness they went forth every morning and gathered the manna. Our
manna does not come to us every morning, but it comes once a year. It is
as much a heavenly supply as if it lay like a hoarfrost round about the
camp. If we went out into the field and gathered food which dropped from
the clouds we should think it a great miracle; and is it not as great a
marvel that our bread should come up from the earth as that it should
come down from the sky? The same God who bade the heavens drop with
angels' food bids the dull earth in its due season yield corn for
mankind. Therefore whenever we find that harvest comes, let us be
grateful to God, and let us not suffer the season to pass over without
psalms of thanksgiving. I believe I shall be correct if I say that there
is never in the world, as a rule, more than sixteen months' supply of
food; that is to say, when the harvest is gathered in, there may be
sixteen months' supply; but at the time of harvest there is not usually
enough wheat in the whole world to last the population more than four or
five months; so that if the harvest did not come we should be on the
verge of famine. We live still from hand to mouth. Let us pause and
bless God, and let the joy of harvest be the joy of gratitude.

To the Christian it should be great joy, by means of the harvest, _to
receive an assurance of God's faithfulness_. The Lord has promised that
seed-time and harvest, summer and winter, shall never cease; and when
you see the loaded wain carrying in the crop you may say to yourself,
"God is true to his promise. Despite the dreary winter and the damp
spring, autumn has come with its golden grain." Depend upon it, that as
the Lord keeps this promise he will keep all the rest. All his promises
are yea and amen in Christ Jesus; if he keeps his covenant to the earth,
much more will he keep his covenant with his own people, whom he hath
loved with an everlasting love. Go, Christian, to the mercy-seat with
the promise on your lip and plead it. Be assured it is not a dead
letter. Let not unbelief cause you to stammer when you mention the
promise before the throne, but say it boldly--"Fulfil this word unto thy
servant on which thou hast caused me to hope." Shame upon us that we so
little believe our God. The world is full of proofs of his goodness.
Every rising sun, every falling shower, every revolving season certifies
his faithfulness. Wherefore do we doubt him? If we never doubt him till
we have cause for it we shall never know distrust again. Encouraged by
the return of harvest, let us resolve in the strength of the Spirit of
God that we will not waver, but will believe in the divine word and
rejoice in it.

Once more. To the Christian, in the joy of harvest there will always be
_the joy of expectation_. As there is a harvest to the husbandman for
which he waiteth patiently, so there is a harvest for all faithful
waiters who are looking for the coming and the appearing of our Lord and
Saviour Jesus Christ. The mature Christian, like the ripe ear of corn,
hangs down his head with holy humility. When he was but green in the
things of God he stood erect and was somewhat boastful, but now that he
has become full of the blessing of the Lord he is humbled thereby, and
bows himself down; he is waiting for the sickle, and he dreads it not,
for no common reaper shall come to gather Christ's people--he himself
shall reap the harvest of the world. The Lord leaves the destroying
angel to reap the vintage and to cast it into the wine-vat to be trodden
with vengeance; but as for the grain which he himself has sown, he will
gather it himself with his own golden sickle. We are looking for this.
We are growing among the tares, and sometimes we are half afraid lest
the tares should be stronger than ourselves and choke the wheat; but we
shall be separated by-and-by, and when the corn is well winnowed and
stored in the garner, we shall be there. It is this expectation which
even now makes our hearts throb with joy. We have gone to the grave with
precious sheaves that belonged to our Master, and when we were there we
thought we could almost say, "Lord, if they sleep they shall do well.
Let us die with them." Our joy of harvest is the hope of being at rest
with all the saints, and for ever with the Lord. A view of these shadowy
harvests upon earth should make us exceedingly glad, because they are
the image and foreshadowing of the eternal harvest above.

So much about the joy of harvest; but I hasten onward. WHAT JOYS ARE
notion that Christians are an unhappy people. It is true that we are
tried, but it is false that we are miserable. With all their trials,
believers have such a compensation in the love of Christ that they are
still a blessed generation, and it may be said of them, "Happy art thou,
O Israel."

One of the first seasons in which we knew a joy equal to the joy of
harvest--a season which has continued with us ever since it
commenced--was _when we found the Saviour_, and so obtained salvation.
You recollect for yourselves, brethren and sisters, the time of the
ploughing of your souls. My heart was fallow, and covered with weeds;
but on a certain day the great Husbandman came and began to plough my
soul. Ten black horses were his team, and it was a sharp ploughshare
that he used, and the ploughers made deep furrows. The ten commandments
were those black horses, and the justice of God, like a ploughshare,
tore my spirit. I was condemned, undone, destroyed, lost, helpless,
hopeless--I thought hell was before me. Then there came a cross
ploughing, for when I went to hear the gospel it did not comfort me; it
made me wish I had a part in it, but I feared that such a boon was out
of the question. The choicest promises of God frowned at me, and his
threatenings thundered at me. I prayed, but found no answer of peace. It
was long with me thus. After the ploughing came the sowing. God who
ploughed the heart made it conscious that it needed the gospel, and the
gospel seed was joyfully received. Do you recollect that auspicious day
when at last you began to have some little hope? It was very
little--like a green blade that peeps up from the soil; you scarce knew
whether it was grass or corn, whether it was presumption or true faith.
It was a little hope, but it grew very pleasantly. Alas, a frost of
doubt came; snow of fear fell; cold winds of despondency blew on you,
and you said, "There can be no hope for me." But what a glorious day was
that when at last the wheat which God had sown ripened, and you could
say, "I have looked unto him and have been lightened; I have laid my
sins on Jesus, where God laid them of old, and they are taken away, and
I am saved." I remember well that day, and so no doubt do many of you.
O sirs! no husbandman ever shouted for joy as our heart shouted when a
precious Christ was ours, and we could grasp him with full assurance of
salvation in him. Many days have passed since then, but the joy of it is
still fresh with us. And, blessed be God, it is not the joy of the first
day only that we look back upon; it is the joy of every day since then,
more or less; for our joy no man taketh from us; still we are walking in
Christ, even as we received him. Even now all our hope on him is stayed,
all our help from him we bring; and our joy and peace continue with us
because they are based upon an immovable foundation. We rejoice in the
Lord, yea, and we will rejoice.

The joy of harvest generally shows itself by the farmer giving a feast
to his friends and neighbors; and, usually, those who find Christ
express their joy by telling their friends and their neighbors how great
things the Lord hath done for them. The grace of God is communicative. A
man cannot be saved, and always hold his tongue about it; as well look
for dumb choirs in heaven as for a silent church on earth. If a man has
been thirsty, and has come to the living stream, his first impulse will
be to cry, "Ho! every one that thirsteth!" Do you feel the joy of
harvest, the joy that makes you wish that others should share with you?
If so, do not repress the impulse to proclaim your happiness. Speak of
Christ to brothers and sisters, to friends and kinsfolk; and, if the
language be stammering, the message in itself is so important that the
words in which you couch it will be a secondary consideration. Tell it,
tell it out far and wide--that there is a Saviour, that you have found
him, and that his blood can wash away transgression. Tell it every
where; and so the joy of harvest shall spread o'er land and sea, and God
shall be glorified.

We have another joy which is like the joy of harvest. We frequently have
it, too. It is _the joy of answered prayer_. I hope you know what it is
to pray in faith. Some prayer is not worth the words used in presenting
it, because there is no faith mixed with it. "With all thy sacrifices
thou shalt offer salt," and the salt of faith is needful if we would
have our sacrifices accepted. Those who are familiar with the mercy-seat
know that prayer is a reality, and that the doctrine of divine answers
to prayer is no fiction. Sometimes God will delay to answer for wise
reasons; then his children must cry, and cry, and cry again. They are in
the condition of the husbandman who must wait for the precious fruits of
the earth; and when at last the answer to prayer comes, they are then in
the husbandman's position when he receives the harvest. Remember
Hannah's wail and Hannah's word. In the bitterness of her soul she cried
to God, and when her child was given to her she called it "Samuel,"
meaning, "Asked of God;" for, said she, "For this child I prayed." He
was a dear child to her, because he was a child of prayer. Any mercy
that comes to you in answer to prayer will be your Samuel mercy, your
darling mercy. You will say of it, "For this mercy I prayed," and it
will bring the joy of harvest to your spirit. If the Lord desires to
surprise his children he has only to answer their prayers; for the most
of them would be astonished if an answer came to their petitions. I know
how they speak about answers to prayer. They say, "How remarkable! How
wonderful!" as if it were anything remarkable that God should be true,
and that the Most High should keep his promise. Oh for more faith to
rest upon his word! and we should have more of these harvest joys.

We have another joy of harvest in ourselves _when we conquer a
temptation_. We know what it is to get under a cloud sometimes; sin
within us rises with a darkening force, or an external adversity
beclouds us, and we miss the plain path we were accustomed to walk in. A
child of God at such times will cry mightily for help; for he is fearful
of himself and fearful of his surroundings. Some of God's people have
been by the week and month together exposed to the double temptation,
from without and from within, and have cried to God in bitter anguish.
It has been a very hard struggle; the sinful action has been painted in
very fascinating colors, and the siren voice of temptation has almost
enchanted them. But when at last they have got through the valley of the
shadow of death without having slipped with their feet; when, after all,
they have not been destroyed by Apollyon, but have come forth again into
the daylight, they feel a joy unspeakable, compared with which the joy
of harvest is mere childish merriment. Those know deep joy who have felt
bitter sorrow. As the man feels that he is the stronger for the
conflict, as he feels that he has gathered experience and stronger faith
from having passed through the trial, he lifts up his heart, and
rejoices, not in himself, but before his God, with the joy of harvest.
Brethren beloved, you know what that means.

Again, there is such a thing as the joy of harvest _when we have been
rendered useful_. The master passion of every Christian is to be useful.
There should be a burning zeal within us for the glory of God. When the
man who desires to be useful has laid his plans and set about his work,
he begins to look out for the results; but perhaps it will be weeks, or
years, before results will come. The worker is not to be blamed that
there are no fruits as yet, but he is to be blamed if he is content to
be without fruits. A preacher may preach without conversions, and who
shall blame him? but if he be happy, who shall excuse him? It is ours to
break our own hearts if we cannot by God's grace break other men's
hearts, if others will not weep for their sins it should be our constant
habit to weep for them. When the heart becomes earnest, warm, zealous,
God usually gives a measure of success, some fiftyfold, some a
hundredfold. When the success comes it is the joy of harvest indeed. I
cannot help being egotistical enough to mention the joy I felt when
first I heard that a soul had found peace through my youthful ministry.
I had been preaching in a village some few Sabbaths with an increasing
congregation, but I had not heard of a conversion, and I thought,
"Perhaps I am not called of God. He does not mean me to preach, for if
he did he would give me spiritual children." One Sabbath my good deacon
said, "Don't be discouraged. A poor woman was savingly impressed last
Sabbath." How long do you suppose it was before I saw that woman? It was
just as long as it took me to reach her cottage. I was eager to hear
from her own lips whether it was a work of God's grace or not. I always
looked upon her with interest, though only a poor laborer's wife, till
she was taken away to heaven, after having lived a holy life. Many since
then have I rejoiced over in the Lord, but that first seal to my
ministry was peculiarly dear to me. It gave me a sip of the joy of
harvest. If somebody had left me a fortune it would not have caused me
one-hundredth part of the delight I had in discovering that a soul had
been led to the Saviour. I am sure Christian people who have not this
joy have missed one of the choicest delights that a believer can know
this side heaven. In fact, when I see souls saved, I do not envy Gabriel
his throne nor the angels their harps. It shall be our heaven to be out
of heaven for a season if we can but bring others to know the Saviour
and so add fresh jewels to the Redeemer's crown.

I will mention another delight which is as the joy of harvest, and that
is _fellowship with the Lord Jesus Christ_. This is not so much a matter
for speech as for experience and delight. If we try to speak of what
communion with Christ is, we fail. Solomon, the wisest of men, when
inspired to write of the fellowship of the church with her Lord, was
compelled to write in allegories and emblems, and though to the
spiritual mind the Book of Canticles is always delightful, yet to the
carnal mind it seems a mere love song. The natural man discerneth not
the things that be of God, for they are spiritual, and can only be
spiritually discerned. But, oh, the bliss of knowing that Christ is
yours, and of entering into nearness of communion with him. To thrust
your hand into his side, and your finger into the print of the nails;
these be not everyday joys; but when such near and dear communings come
to us on our highdays and holydays, they make our souls like the
chariots of Ammi-nadib, or, if you will, they cause us to tread the
world beneath our feet and all that earth calls good or great. Our
condition matters nothing to us if Christ be with us--he is our God, our
comfort, and our all, and we rejoice before him as with the joy of

I have no time to enlarge further; for I want to close with one other
practical word. Many of us are anxiously desiring a harvest which would
bring to us an intense delight. Of late, divers persons have
communicated to me in many ways the strong emotion they feel of pity for
the souls of men. Others of us have felt a mysterious impulse to pray
more than we did, and to be more anxious than ever we were that Christ
would save poor perishing sinners. We shall not be satisfied until there
is a thorough awakening in this land. We did not raise the feeling in
our own minds, and we do not desire to repress it. We do not believe it
can be repressed; but others will feel the same heavenly affection, and
will sigh and cry to God day and night until the blessing comes. This is
the sowing, this is the ploughing, this is the harrowing--may it go on
to harvesting. I long to hear my brethren and sisters universally
saying, "We are full of anguish, we are in agony till souls be saved."
The cry of Rachel, "Give me children, or I die," is the cry of your
minister this day, and the longing of thousands more besides. As that
desire grows in intensity a revival is approaching. We must have
spiritual children born to Christ, or our hearts will break for the
longing that we have for their salvation. Oh for more of these longings,
yearnings, cravings, travailings! If we plead till the harvest of
revival comes we shall partake in the joy of it.

Who will have the most joy? Those who have been the most concerned about
it. You who do not pray in private, nor come out to prayer-meetings,
will not have the joy when the blessing comes, and the church is
increased. You had no share in the sowing, therefore you will have
little share in the reaping. You who never speak to others about their
souls, who take no share in Sunday-school or mission work, but simply
eat the fat and drink the sweet--you shall have none of the joy of
harvest, for you do not put your hands to the work of the Lord. And who
would wish that idlers should be happy? Rather in our zeal and jealousy
we feel inclined to say, "Curse ye Meroz, curse ye bitterly the
inhabitants thereof; because they came not up to the help of the Lord,
to the help of the Lord against the mighty." If you come to the help of
the Lord by his own divine Spirit, you shall share the joy of harvest.
Perhaps none will have more of that joy than those who shall have the
privilege of seeing their own dear ones brought to God. Some of you have
children who are a trial to you whenever you think of them; let them be
such a trial to you that they drive you to incessant prayer for them,
and, if the blessing comes, why should it not drop on them? If a revival
comes, why should not your daughter yet be converted, and that wild boy
of yours be brought in, or even your gray-headed father, who has been
sceptical and unbelieving--why should not the grace of God come to him?
And, oh, what a joy of harvest you will have then? What bliss will
thrill through your spirit when you see those who are united to you in
ties of blood united to Christ your Lord! Pray much for them with
earnest faith, and you shall yet have the joy of harvest in your own
house, a shout of harvest home in your own family.

Possibly, my hearer, you have not much to do with such joy, for you are
yourself unsaved. Yet it is a grand thing for an unconverted person to
be under a ministry that God blesses, and with a people that pray for
conversions. It is a happy thing for you, young man, to have a Christian
mother. It is a great boon for you, O unconverted woman, that you have a
godly sister. These make us hopeful for you. While your relations are
prayerful, we are hopeful for _you_. May the Lord Jesus be yours yet.
But, oh! if you remain unbelieving, however rich a blessing comes to
others, it will leave _you_ none the better for it. "If ye be willing
and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land;" but there are some who
may cry in piteous accents, "The harvest is past, the summer is ended,
and we are not saved." It has been remarked that those who pass through
a season of revival and remain unconverted are more hardened and
unimpressed than before. I believe it to be so, and I therefore pray the
divine Spirit to come with such energy that none of you may escape his
power. May you be led to pray,

  "Pass me not, O mighty Spirit!
     Thou canst make the blind to see;
   Witnesser of Jesus' merit,
     Speak the word of power to me,
                                 Even me.

  "Have I long in sin been sleeping,
     Long been slighting, grieving thee?
   Has the world my heart been keeping?
     Oh forgive and rescue me,
                             Even me."

Oh for earnest, importunate prayer from all believers throughout the
world! If our churches could be stirred up to incessant, vehement crying
to God, so as to give him no rest till he make Zion a praise in the
earth, we might expect to see God's kingdom come and the power of Satan
fall. As many of you as love Christ, I charge you by his dear name to be
much in prayer; as many of you as love the Church of God, and desire her
prosperity, I beseech you keep not back in this time of supplication.
The Lord grant that you may be led to plead till the harvest joy is
granted. Do you remember one Sabbath my saying, "The Lord deal so with
you as you deal with his work during this next month." I feel as if it
will be so with many of you--that the Lord will deal so with you as you
shall deal with his Church. If you scatter little you shall have little,
if you pray little you shall have little favor; but if you have zeal and
faith, and plead much and work much for the Lord, good measure, pressed
down and running over, shall the Lord return into your own bosoms. If
you water others with drops you shall receive drops in return; but if
the Spirit helps you to pour out rivers of living water from your own
soul, then floods of heavenly grace shall flow into your spirit. God
bring in the unconverted, and lead them to a simple trust in Jesus; then
shall they also know the joy of harvest. We ask it for his name's sake.


"Let her glean even among the sheaves, and reproach her not."--RUTH

COUNTRY friends need no explanation of what is meant by gleaning. I hope
the custom will never be banished from the land, but that the poor will
always be allowed their little share of the harvest. I am afraid that
many who see gleaning every year in the fields of their own parish are
not yet wise enough to understand the heavenly art of spiritual
gleaning. That is the subject which I have chosen on this occasion, and
my text is taken from the charming story of Ruth, which is known to
every one of you. I shall use the story as setting forth our own case,
in a homely but instructive way. In the first place, we shall observe
that there is _a great Husbandman_; it was Boaz in Ruth's case, it is
our heavenly Father who is the Husbandman in our case. Secondly, we
shall notice _a humble gleaner_; the gleaner was Ruth in this instance,
but she may be looked upon as the representative of every believer. And,
in the third place, here is a _gracious permission given_ to Ruth: "Let
her glean even among the sheaves, and reproach her not," and the same
permission is spiritually given to us.

I. In the first place, the God of the whole earth is A GREAT HUSBANDMAN.
This is true in _natural_ things. As a matter of fact all farm
operations are carried on by his power and prudence. Man may plough the
soil, and sow the seed; but as Jesus said, "My Father is the
husbandman." He appoints the clouds and allots the sunshine; he directs
the winds and distributes the dew and the rain; he also gives the frost
and the heat, and so by various processes of nature he brings forth food
for man and beast. All the farming, however, which God does, is for the
benefit of others, and never for himself. He has no need of any of our
works of husbandry. If he were hungry, he would not tell us. "The cattle
on a thousand hills," says he, "are mine." The purest kindness and
benevolence are those which dwell in the heart of God. Though all things
are God's, his works in creation and in providence are not for himself,
but for his creatures. This should greatly encourage us in trusting to

In _spiritual_ matters God is a great husbandman; and there, too, all
his works are done for his children, that they may be fed upon the
finest of the wheat. Permit me to speak of the wide gospel fields which
our heavenly Father farms for the good of his children. There is a great
variety of these fields, and they are all fruitful; for "the fountain of
Jacob shall be upon a land of corn and wine; also his heavens shall drop
down dew." Deut. 33:28. Every field which our heavenly Father tills
yields a plentiful harvest, for there are no failures or famines with

1. One part of his farm is called _Doctrine field_. What full sheaves of
finest wheat are to be found there! He who is permitted to glean in it
will gather bread enough and to spare, for the land brings forth by
handfuls. Look at that goodly sheaf of election; full, indeed, of heavy
ears of corn, such as Pharaoh saw in his first dream--ears full and
strong. There is the great sheaf of final perseverance, where each ear
is a promise that the work which God has begun he will assuredly
complete. If we have not faith enough to partake of either of these
sheaves, we may glean around the choice sheaves of redemption by the
blood of Christ. Many a poor soul who could not feed on electing love,
nor realize his perseverance in Christ, can yet feed on the atonement
and rejoice in the sublime doctrine of substitution. Many and rich are
the sheaves which stand thick together in Doctrine field; these, when
threshed by meditation and ground in the mill of thought, furnish royal
food for the Lord's family.

I wonder why it is that some of our Master's stewards are so prone to
lock the gate of this field, as if they thought it dangerous ground. For
my part, I wish my people not only to glean here, but to carry home the
sheaves by the wagon-load, for they cannot be too well fed when truth is
the food. Are my fellow-laborers afraid that Jeshurun will wax fat and
kick, if he has too much food? I fear there is more likelihood of his
dying of starvation if the bread of sound doctrine is withheld. If we
have a love to the precepts and warnings of the word, we need not be
afraid of the doctrines; on the contrary, we should search them out and
feed upon them with joy. The doctrines of distinguishing grace are to be
set forth in due proportions to the rest of the word, and those are poor
pulpits from which these grand truths are excluded. We must not keep the
Lord's people out of this field. I say, swing the gate open, and come
in, all of you who are children of God! I am sure that in my Master's
field nothing grows which will harm you. Gospel doctrine is always safe
doctrine. You may feast upon it till you are full, and no harm will come
of it. Be afraid of no revealed truth. Be afraid of spiritual ignorance,
but not of holy knowledge. Grow in grace and in the knowledge of your
Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Everything taught in the word of God is
meant to be the subject of a Christian's study, therefore neglect
nothing. Visit the doctrine field daily, and glean in it with the utmost

2. The great Husbandman has another field called _Promise field_; of
that I shall not need to speak, for I hope you often enter it and glean
from it. Just let us take an ear or two out of one of the sheaves, and
show them to you that you may be induced to stay there the live-long
day, and carry home a rich load at night. Here is an ear: "The mountains
shall depart, and the hills be removed; but my kindness shall not depart
from thee, neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed." Here is
another: "When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and
through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee; when thou walkest
through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame
kindle upon thee." Here is another; it has a short stalk, but a heavy
ear: "My strength is sufficient for thee." Another is long in the straw,
but very rich in corn: "Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in
God, believe also in me. In my Father's house are many mansions: if it
were not so I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you; and
if I go and prepare a place for you I will come again, and receive you
unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also." What a word is
that!--"I will come again." Yes, beloved, we can say of the Promise
field what cannot be said of a single acre in all England; namely, that
it is so rich a field that it could not be richer, and that it has so
many ears of corn in it that you could not insert another. As the poet

  "What more can he say, than to you he hath said,--
   You who unto Jesus for refuge have fled?"

Glean in that field, O ye poor and needy ones, and never think that you
are intruding. The whole field is your own, every ear of it; you may
draw out from the sheaves themselves, and the more you take the more you

3. Then there is _Ordinance field_; a great deal of good wheat grows in
this field. The field of Baptism has been exceedingly fruitful to some
of us, for it has set forth to us our death, burial, and resurrection in
Christ, and thus we have been cheered and instructed. It has been good
for us to declare ourselves on the Lord's side, and we have found that
in keeping our Lord's commandments there is great reward. But I will not
detain you long in this field, for some of our friends think it has a
damp soil: I wish them more light and more grace. However, we will pass
on to the field of the Supper, where grows the very best of our Lord's
corn. What rich things have we fed upon in this choice spot! Have we not
there tasted the sweetest and most sustaining of all spiritual food? In
all the estate no field is to be found to rival this centre and crown of
all the domain; this is the King's Acre. Gospel gleaner, abide in that
field; glean in it on the first day of every week, and expect to see
your Lord there; for it is written, "He was known of them in the
breaking of bread."

4. The heavenly Husbandman has one field upon a hill, which equals the
best of the others, even if it does not excel them. You cannot really
and truly go into any of the other fields unless you pass into this; for
the road to the other fields lies through this hill farm; it is called
_Fellowship and Communion with Christ_. This is the field for the Lord's
choicest ones to glean in. Some of you have only run through it, you
have not stopped long enough in it; but he who knows how to stay here,
yea, to live here, shall spend his hours most profitably and pleasantly.
It is only in proportion as we hold fellowship with Christ, and
communion with him, that either ordinances, or doctrines, or promises
can profit us. All other things are dry and barren unless we are
enjoying the love of Christ, unless we bear his likeness, unless we
dwell continually with him, and rejoice in his love. I am sorry to say
that few Christians think much of this field; it is enough for them to
be sound in doctrine, and tolerably correct in practice; they care far
less than they should about intimate inter course with Christ Jesus,
their Lord, by the Holy Ghost. I am sure that if we gleaned in this
field we should not have half so many naughty tempers nor a tenth as
much pride, nor a hundredth part so much sloth. This is a field hedged
and sheltered, and in it you will find better food than that which
angels feed upon; yea, you will find Jesus himself as the bread which
came down from heaven. Blessed, blessed field, may we visit it every
day. The Master leaves the gate wide open for every believer; let us
enter in and gather the golden ears till we can carry no more. Thus we
have seen the great Husbandman in his fields; let us rejoice that we
have such a great Husbandman near, and such fields to glean in.

II. And now, in the second place, we have A HUMBLE GLEANER. Ruth was a
gleaner, and may serve as an illustration of what every believer should
be in the fields of God.

1. The believer is a favored gleaner, for he _may take home a whole
sheaf if he likes_; he may bear away all that he can possibly carry, for
all things are freely given him of the Lord. I use the figure of a
gleaner because I believe that few Christians ever go much beyond it,
and yet they are free to do so if they are able. Some may say, Why does
not the believer reap all the field, and take all the corn home with
him? I answer that he is welcome to do so if he can; for no good thing
will the Lord withhold from them that walk uprightly. If your faith is
like a great wagon, and you can carry the whole field of corn, you have
full permission to take it. Alas, our faith is so little that we rather
glean than reap; we are straitened in ourselves, not in our God. May you
all outgrow the metaphor, and come home, bringing your sheaves with you.

2. Again, we may remark, that the gleaner in her business _has to endure
much toil and fatigue_. She rises early in the morning, and she trudges
off to a field; if that be closed, she hastens to another; and if that
be shut up, or gleaned already, she hurries farther still; and all day
long, while the sun is shining upon her, she seldom sits down to refresh
herself, but still she goes on, stoop, stoop, stoop, gathering the ears
one by one. She returns not to her home till nightfall; for she desires,
if the field is good, to do much business that day, and she will not go
home until she is loaded down. Beloved, so let each one of us do when we
seek spiritual food. Let us not be afraid of a little fatigue in the
Master's fields; if the gleaning is good, we must not soon weary in
gathering the precious spoil, for the gains will richly reward our
pains. I know a friend who walks five miles every Sunday to hear the
gospel, and has the same distance to return. Another thinks little of a
ten miles' journey; and these are wise, for to hear the pure word of God
no labor is extravagant. To stand in the aisle till ready to drop,
listening all the while with strained attention, is a toil which meets a
full reward if the gospel be heard and the Spirit of God bless it to the
soul. A gleaner does not expect that the ears will come to her of
themselves; she knows that gleaning is hard work. We must not expect to
find the best field next to our own house, we may have to journey to the
far end of the parish, but what of that? Gleaners must not be choosers,
and where the Lord sends the gospel, there he calls us to be present.

3. We remark, next, that _every ear the gleaner gets she has to stoop
for_. Why is it that proud people seldom profit under the word? Why is
it that certain "intellectual" folk cannot get any good out of our
soundest ministers? Why, because they must needs have the corn lifted up
for them; and if the wheat is held so high over their heads that they
can hardly see it, they are pleased, and cry, "Here is something
wonderful." They admire the extraordinary ability of the man who can
hold up the truth so high that nobody can reach it; but truly that is a
sorry feat. The preacher's business is to place truth within the reach
of all, children as well as adults; he is to let fall handfuls on
purpose for poor gleaners, and these will never mind stooping to collect
the ears. If we preach to the educated people only, the wise ones can
understand, but the illiterate cannot; but when we preach in all
simplicity to the poor, other classes can understand it if they like,
and if they do not like, they had better go somewhere else. Those who
cannot stoop to pick up plain truth had better give up gleaning. For my
part, I would be taught by a child if I could thereby know and
understand the gospel better: the gleaning in our Lord's field is so
rich that it is worth the hardest labor to be able to carry home a
portion of it. Hungry souls know this, and are not to be hindered in
seeking their heavenly food. We will go down on our knees in prayer, and
stoop by self-humiliation, and confession of ignorance, and so gather
with the hand of faith the daily bread of our hungering souls.

4. Note, in the next place, that what a gleaner gets _she wins ear by
ear_; occasionally she picks up a handful at once, but as a rule it is
straw by straw. In the case of Ruth, handfuls were let fall on purpose
for her; but she was highly favored. The gleaner stoops, and gets one
ear, and then she stoops again for another. Now, beloved, where there
are handfuls to be got at once, there is the place to go and glean; but
if you cannot meet with such abundance, be glad to gather ear by ear. I
have heard of certain persons who have been in the habit of hearing a
favorite minister, and when they go to another place, they say, "I
cannot hear anybody after my own minister; I shall stay at home and read
a sermon." Please remember the passage, "Not forsaking the assembling of
yourselves together, as the manner of some is." Let me also entreat you
not to be so foolishly partial as to deprive your soul of its food. If
you cannot get a handful at one stoop, do not refuse to gather an ear at
a time. If you are not content to learn here a little and there a
little, you will soon be half starved, and then you will be glad to get
back again to the despised minister and pick up what his field will
yield you. That is a sorry ministry which yields nothing. Go and glean
where the Lord has opened the gate for you. Why the text alone is worth
the journey; do not miss it.

5. Note, next, that _what the gleaner picks up she keeps in her hand_;
she does not drop the corn as fast as she gathers it. There is a good
thought at the beginning of the sermon, but the hearers are so eager to
hear another, that the first one slips away. Toward the end of the
sermon a large handful falls in their way, and they forget all that went
before in their eagerness to retain this last and richest portion. The
sermon is over, and, alas, it is nearly all gone from the memory, for
many are about as wise as a gleaner would be if she should pick up one
ear, and drop it; pick up another, and drop it, and so on all day. The
net result of such a day's work in a stubble is a bad backache; and I
fear that all our hearers will get by their hearing will be a headache.
Be attentive, but be retentive too. Gather the grain and tie it up in
bundles for carrying away with you, and mind you do not lose it on the
road home. Many a person when he has got a fair hold of the sermon,
loses it on the way to his house by idle talk with vain companions. I
have heard of a Christian man who was seen hurrying home one Sunday with
all his might. A friend asked him why he was in such haste. "Oh!" said
he, "two or three Sundays ago, our minister gave us a most blessed
discourse, and I greatly enjoyed it; but when I got outside, there were
two deacons discussing, and one pulled the sermon one way, and the
other the other, till they pulled it all to pieces, and I lost all the
savor of it." Those must have been very bad deacons; let us not imitate
them; and if we know of any who are of their school, let us walk home
alone in dogged silence sooner than lose all our gleanings by their
controversies. After a good sermon go home with your ears and your mouth
shut. Act like the miser, who not only gets all he can, but keeps all he
can. Do not lose by trifling talk that which may make you rich to all

6. Then, again, the gleaner _takes the wheat home and threshes it_. It
is a wise thing to thresh a sermon, whoever may have been the preacher,
for it is certain that there is a portion of straw and chaff about it.
Many thresh the preacher by finding needless fault; but that is not half
so good as threshing the sermon to get out of it the pure truth. Take a
sermon, beloved, when you get one which is worth having, and lay it down
on the floor of meditation, and beat it out with the flail of prayer,
and you will get bread-corn from it. This threshing by prayer and
meditation must never be neglected. If a gleaner should stow away her
corn in her room, and leave it there, the mice would get at it; but she
would have no food from it if she did not thresh out the grain. Some get
a sermon, and carry it home, and allow Satan and sin, and the world, to
eat it all up, and it becomes unfruitful and worthless to them. But he
who knows how to flail a sermon well, so as to clear out all the wheat
from the straw, he is it that makes a good hearer and feeds his soul on
what he hears.

7. And then, in the last place, the good woman, after threshing the
corn, no doubt _winnowed it_. Ruth did all this in the field; but you
can scarcely do so. You must do some of the work at home. And observe,
she did not take the chaff home; she left that behind her in the field.
It is a prudent thing to winnow all the discourses you hear so as to
separate the precious from the vile; but pray do not fall into the silly
habit of taking home all the chaff, and leaving the corn behind. I think
I hear you say, "I shall recollect that queer expression; I shall make
an anecdote out of that odd remark." Listen, then, for I have a word for
you--if you hear a man retail nothing about a minister except his
oddities, just stop him, and say, "We have all our faults, and perhaps
those who are most ready to speak of those of others are not quite
perfect themselves: cannot you tell us what the preacher said that was
worth hearing?" In many cases the virtual answer will be, "Oh, I don't
recollect that." They have sifted the corn, thrown away the good grain,
and brought home the chaff. Ought they not to be put in an asylum?
Follow the opposite rule; drop the straw, and retain the good corn.
Separate between the precious and the vile, and let the worthless
material go where it may; you have no use for it, and the sooner you are
rid of it the better. Judge with care; reject false teaching with
decision, and retain true doctrine with earnestness, so shall you
practise the enriching art of heavenly gleaning. May the Lord teach us
wisdom, so that we may become "rich to all the intents of bliss;" so
shall our mouth be satisfied with good things, and our youth shall be
renewed like the eagle's.

III. And now, in the last place, here is A GRACIOUS PERMISSION GIVEN:
"Let her glean among the sheaves, and reproach her not." Ruth had no
right to go among the sheaves till Boaz gave her permission by saying,
"Let her do it." For her to be allowed to go among the sheaves, in that
part of the field where the wheat was newly cut, and none of it carted,
was a great favor: but Boaz whispered that handfuls were to be dropped
on purpose for her, and that was a greater favor still. Boaz had a
secret love for the maiden, and even so, beloved, it is because of our
Lord's eternal love to us that he allows us to enter his best fields and
glean among the sheaves. His grace permits us to lay hold upon doctrinal
blessings, promise blessings, and experience blessings: the Lord has a
favor toward us, and hence these singular kindnesses. We have no right
to any heavenly blessings of ourselves; our portion is due to free and
sovereign grace.

I tell you the reasons that moved Boaz's heart to let Ruth go among the
sheaves. The master motive was _because he loved her_. He would have her
go there, because he had conceived an affection for her, which he
afterward displayed in grander ways. So the Lord lets his people come
and glean among the sheaves, because he loves them. Didst thou have a
soul-enriching season among the sheaves the other Sabbath? Didst thou
carry home thy sack, filled like those of Joseph's brothers, when they
returned from Egypt? Didst thou have an abundance? Wast thou satisfied?
Mark; that was thy Master's goodness. It was because he loved thee.
Look, I beseech thee, on all thy spiritual enjoyments as proof of his
eternal love. Look on all heavenly blessings as being tokens of heavenly
grace. It will make thy corn grind all the better, and eat all the
sweeter, if thou wilt reflect that eternal love gave it thee. Thy sweet
seasons, thy high enjoyments, thy unspeakable ravishments of spirit are
all proofs of divine affection, therefore be doubly glad of them.

There was another reason why Boaz allows Ruth to glean among the
sheaves; it was because he was her _relative_. This is why our Lord
gives us choice favors at times, and takes us into his banqueting-house
in so gracious a manner. He is our next of kin, bone of our bone, and
flesh of our flesh. Our Redeemer, our kinsman, is the Lord Jesus, and he
will never be strange to his own flesh. It is a high and charming
mystery that our Lord Jesus is the Husband of his church; and sure he
may well let his spouse glean among the sheaves; for all that he
possesses is hers already. Her interests and his interests are one, and
so he may well say, "Beloved, take all thou pleasest; I am none the
poorer because thou dost partake of my fulness, for thou art mine. Thou
art my partner, and my choice, and all that I have is thine." What,
then, shall I say to you who are my Lord's beloved? How shall I speak
with a tenderness and generosity equal to his desires, for he would have
me speak right lovingly in his name. Enrich yourselves out of that which
is your Lord's. Go a spiritual gleaning as often as ever you can. Never
lose an opportunity of picking up a golden blessing. Glean at the
mercy-seat; glean in private meditation; glean in reading pious books;
glean in associating with godly men; glean everywhere; and if you can
get only a little handful it will be better than none. You who are so
much in business, and so much penned up by cares; if you can only spend
five minutes in the Lord's field gleaning a little, be sure to do so. If
you cannot bear away a sheaf, carry an ear; and if you cannot find an
ear, pick up even a grain of wheat. Take care to get a little, if you
cannot get much: but gather as much as ever you can.

Just one other remark. O child of God, never be afraid to glean. Have
faith in God, and take the promises home to yourself. Jesus will rejoice
to see you making free with his good things. His voice is "Eat
abundantly; drink, yea, drink abundantly, O beloved." Therefore, if you
find a rich promise, live upon it. Draw the honey out of the comb of
Scripture, and live on its sweetness. If you meet with a most
extraordinary sheaf, carry it away rejoicing. You cannot believe too
much concerning your Lord; let not Satan cheat you into contentment with
a meagre portion of grace when all the granaries of heaven are open to
you. Glean on with humble industry and hopeful confidence, and know that
he who owns both fields and sheaves is looking upon you with eyes of
love, and will one day espouse you to himself in glory everlasting.
Happy gleaner who finds eternal love and eternal life in the fields in
which he gleans!


"And Boaz said unto her, At meal-time come thou hither, and eat of the
bread, and dip thy morsel in the vinegar. And she sat beside the
reapers: and he reached her parched corn, and she did eat, and was
sufficed, and left."--RUTH 2:14.

WE are going to the cornfields, not so much to glean, as to rest with
the reapers and gleaners, when under some wide-spreading oak they sit
down to take refreshment. We hope some timid gleaner will accept our
invitation to come and eat with us, and will have confidence enough to
dip _her_ morsel in the vinegar. May all of us have courage to feast to
the full on our own account, and kindness enough to carry home a portion
to our needy friends at home.

I. Our first point of remark is this--THAT GOD'S REAPERS HAVE THEIR

Those who work for God will find him a good master. He cares for oxen,
and he has commanded Israel, "Thou shalt not muzzle the ox when he
treadeth out the corn." Much more doth he care for his servants who
serve him. "He hath given meat unto them that fear him: he will ever be
mindful of his covenant." The reapers in Jesus' fields shall not only
receive a blessed reward at the last, but they shall have plenteous
comforts by the way. He is pleased to pay his servants twice; first in
the labor itself, and a second time in the labor's sweet results. He
gives them such joy and consolation in the service of their Master that
it is a sweet employ, and they cry, "We delight to do thy will, O Lord."
Heaven is made up of serving God day and night, and a foretaste of
heaven is enjoyed in serving God on earth with earnest perseverance.

God has ordained certain meal-times for his reapers; and he has
appointed that one of these shall be _when they come together to listen
to the Word preached_. If God be with ministers they act as the
disciples did of old, for they received the loaves and the fishes from
the Lord Jesus, and then they handed them to the people. _We_, of
ourselves, cannot feed one soul, much less thousands; but when the Lord
is with us we can keep as good a table as Solomon himself, with all his
fine flour, and fat oxen, and roebucks, and fallow-deer. When the Lord
blesses the provisions of his House, no matter how many thousands there
may be, all his poor shall be filled with bread. I hope, beloved, you
know what it is to sit under the shadow of the Word with great delight,
and find the fruit thereof sweet unto your taste. Where the doctrines of
grace are boldly and plainly delivered to you in connection with the
other truths of revelation; where Jesus Christ upon his cross is always
lifted up; where the work of the Spirit is not forgotten; where the
glorious purpose of the Father is never despised, there is sure to be
rich provision for the children of God.

Often, too, our gracious Lord appoints us meal-times _in our private
readings and meditations_. Here it is that his "paths drop fatness."
Nothing can be more fattening to the soul of the believer than feeding
upon the Word, and digesting it by frequent meditation. No wonder that
men grow so slowly when they meditate so little. Cattle must chew the
cud; it is not that which they crop with their teeth, but that which is
masticated, and digested by rumination, that nourishes them. We must
take the truth, and turn it over and over again in the inward parts of
our spirit, and so shall we extract suitable nourishment therefrom. My
brethren, is not meditation the land of Goshen to you? If men once said,
"There is corn in Egypt," may they not always say that the finest of the
wheat is to be found in secret prayer? Private devotion is a land which
floweth with milk and honey; a paradise yielding all manner of fruits; a
banqueting house of choice wines. Ahasuerus might make a great feast,
but all his hundred and twenty provinces could not furnish such dainties
as meditation offers to the spiritual mind. Where can we feed and lie
down in green pastures in so sweet a sense as we do in our musings on
the Word? Meditation distils the quintessence of joy from the
Scriptures, and gladdens our mouth with a sweetness which excels the
virgin honey. Your retired periods and occasions of prayer should be to
you refreshing seasons, in which, like the reapers at noonday, you sit
with the Master and enjoy his generous provisions. The Shepherd of
Salisbury Plain was wont to say that when he was lonely, and his wallet
was empty, his Bible was to him meat and drink, and company too; he is
not the only man who has found a fulness in the Word when all else has
been empty. During the battle of Waterloo a godly soldier, mortally
wounded, was carried by his comrade into the rear, and being placed with
his back propped up against a tree, he besought his friend to open his
knapsack and take out the Bible which he had carried in it. "Read to
me," he said, "one verse before I close my eyes in death." His comrade
read him that verse: "Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you:
not as the world giveth, give I unto you;" and there, fresh from the
whistling of the bullets, and the roll of the drum, and the tempest of
human conflict, that believing spirit enjoyed such holy calm that ere he
fell asleep in the arms of Jesus he said, "Yes, I have a peace with God
which passeth all understanding, which keeps my heart and mind through
Jesus Christ." Saints most surely enjoy delightful meal-times when they
are alone in meditation.

Let us not forget that there is one specially ordained meal-time which
ought to occur at least once in the week--I mean _the Supper of the
Lord_. There you have literally, as well as spiritually, a meal. The
table is richly spread, it has upon it both bread and wine; and looking
at what these symbolize, we have before us a table richer than that
which kings could furnish. There we have the flesh and the blood of our
Lord Jesus Christ, whereof if a man eat he shall never hunger and never
thirst, for that bread shall be unto him everlasting life. Oh! the sweet
seasons we have known at the Lord's Supper. If some of you knew the
enjoyment of feeding upon Christ in that ordinance you would chide
yourselves for not having united with the Church in fellowship. In
keeping the Master's commandments there is "great reward," and
consequently in neglecting them there is great loss of reward. Christ is
not so tied to the sacramental table as to be always found of those who
partake thereat, but still it is "in the way" that we may expect the
Lord to meet with us. "If ye love me, keep my commandments," is a
sentence of touching power. Sitting at this table, our soul has mounted
up from the emblem to the reality; we have eaten bread in the kingdom of
God, and have leaned our head upon Jesus' bosom. "He brought me to the
banqueting-house, and his banner over me was love."

Besides these regular meal-times, there are others which God gives us,
_at seasons when, perhaps, we little expect them_. You have been walking
the street, and suddenly you have felt a holy flowing out of your soul
toward God; or in the middle of business your heart has been melted with
love and made to dance for joy, even as the brooks, which have been
bound with winter's ice, leap to feel the touch of spring. You have been
groaning, dull, and earth-bound; but the sweet love of Jesus has
enwrapped your heart when you scarce thought of it, and your spirit, all
free, and all on fire, has rejoiced before the Lord with timbrel and
dance, like Miriam of old. I have had times occasionally in preaching
when I would fain have kept on far beyond the appointed hour, for my
overflowing soul has been like a vessel wanting vent. Seasons, too, we
have had on our sick beds, when we would have been content to be sick
always if we could have had our bed so well made by tender love, and our
head so softly pillowed on condescending grace.

Our blessed Redeemer comes to us in the morning, and wakes us up by
dropping sweet thoughts upon our souls; we know not how they came, but
it is as if, when the dew was visiting the flowers, a few drops had
taken pity upon us. In the cool eventide, too, as we have gone to our
bed, our meditation of him has been sweet; and, in the night watches,
when we tossed to and fro, and could not sleep, he has been pleased to
become our song in the night.

God's reapers find it hard work to reap; but they gain a blessed solace
when in one way or another they sit down and eat of their Master's rich
provisions; then, with renewed strength, they rise with sharpened
sickle, to reap again in the noontide heat.

Let me observe that, while these meal-times come we know not exactly
when, there are _certain seasons when we may expect them_. The Eastern
reapers generally sit down under the shelter of a tree, or a booth, to
take refreshment during the heat of the day. And certain I am that when
trouble, affliction, persecution, and bereavement become the most
painful to us, it is then that the Lord hands out to us the sweetest
comforts. We must work till the hot sun forces the sweat from our faces,
and then we may look for repose; we must bear the burden and heat of the
day before we can expect to be invited to those choice meals which the
Lord prepares for true laborers. When thy day of trouble is hottest,
then the love of Jesus shall be sweetest.

Again, these meal-times frequently occur _before_ a trial. Elijah must
be entertained beneath a juniper tree, for he is to go a forty days'
journey in the strength of that meat. You may suspect some danger nigh
when your delights are overflowing. If you see a ship taking in great
quantities of provision, it is probably bound for a distant port, and
when God gives you extraordinary seasons of communion with Jesus, you
may look for long leagues of tempestuous sea. Sweet cordials prepare for
stern conflicts.

Times of refreshing also occur _after_ trouble or arduous service.
Christ was tempted of the devil, and _afterward_ angels came and
ministered unto him. Jacob wrestled with God, and afterward, at
Mahanaim, hosts of angels met him. Abraham fought with the kings, and
returned from their slaughter, and then it was that Melchisedec
refreshed him with bread and wine. After conflict, content; after
battle, banquet. When thou hast waited on thy Lord, then thou shalt sit
down, and thy Master will gird himself and wait upon thee.

Let worldlings say what they will about the hardness of religion, we do
not find it so. We own that reaping for Christ has its difficulties and
troubles; but still the bread which we eat is of heavenly sweetness, and
the wine which we drink is crushed from celestial clusters:

  "I would not change my bless'd estate
   For all the world calls good or great;
   And while my faith can keep her hold,
   I envy not the sinner's gold."

II. Follow me while we turn to a second point. TO THESE MEALS THE
GLEANER IS AFFECTIONATELY INVITED. That is to say, the poor, trembling
stranger who has not strength enough to reap, who has no right to be in
the field except the right of charity the poor, trembling sinner,
conscious of his own demerit, and feeling but little hope and little
joy, is invited to the feast of love.

In the text _the gleaner is invited to come_. "At meal-time _come_ thou
hither." We trust none of you will be kept away from the place of holy
feasting by any shame on account of your dress, or your personal
character, or your poverty; nay, nor even on account of your physical
infirmities. "At meal-time come thou hither." I knew a deaf woman who
could never hear a sound, and yet she was always in the House of God,
and when asked why, her reply was that a friend found her the text, and
then God was pleased to give her many a sweet thought upon it while she
sat with his people; besides, she felt that as a believer she ought to
honor God by her _presence_ in his courts, and by confessing her union
with his people; and, better still, she always liked to be in the best
of company, and as the presence of God was there, and the holy angels,
and the saints of the Most High, whether she could hear or no, she would
go. If _such_ persons find pleasure in coming, we who _can_ hear should
never stay away. Though we feel our unworthiness, we ought to be
desirous to be laid in the House of God, as the sick were at the pool of
Bethesda, hoping that the waters may be stirred, and that we may step in
and be healed. Trembling soul, never let the temptations of the devil
keep thee from the assembly of worshippers; "at meal-time come thou

Moreover, _she was bidden not only to come but to eat_. Whatever there
is sweet and comfortable in the Word of God, ye that are of a broken and
contrite spirit are invited to partake of it. "Jesus Christ came into
the world to save _sinners_"--sinners such as you are. "In due time
Christ died for the _ungodly_"--such ungodly ones as you feel yourselves
to be. You desire to be Christ's. You _may_ be Christ's. You are saying
in your heart, "O that I could eat the children's bread!" You _may_ eat
it. You say, "I have no right." But the Lord gives you the invitation.
Come without any other right than the right of his invitation.

   "Let not conscience make you linger,
      Nor of fitness fondly dream."

But since he bids you "come," take him at his word; and if there be a
promise, believe it; if there be an encouraging word, accept it, and let
the sweetness of it be yours.

Note further, that she was not only invited to eat the bread, but to
_dip her morsel in the vinegar_. We must not look upon this as being
some sour stuff. No doubt there are crabbed souls in the church, who
always dip their morsel in the sourest imaginable vinegar, and with a
grim liberality invite others to share their misery with them; but the
vinegar in my text is altogether another thing. This was either a
compound of various juices expressed from fruits, or else it was that
weak kind of wine mingled with water which is still commonly used in the
harvest-fields of Italy and the warmer parts of the world--a drink not
exceedingly strong, but good enough to impart a relish to the food. It
was, to use the only word which will give the meaning, _a sauce_, which
the Orientals used with their bread. As we use butter, or as they on
other occasions used oil, so in the harvest-field, believing it to have
cooling properties, they used what is here called "vinegar." Beloved,
the Lord's reapers have sauce with their bread; they have not merely
doctrines, but the holy unction which is the essence of doctrines; they
have not merely truths, but a hallowed delight accompanies the truths.
Take, for instance, the doctrine of election, which is like the bread;
there is a sauce to dip it in. When I can say, "He loved _me_ before the
foundations of the world," the personal enjoyment of my interest in the
truth becomes a sauce into which I dip my morsel. And you, poor gleaner,
are invited to dip your morsel in it too. I used to hear people sing
that hymn of Toplady's, which begins--

  "A debtor to mercy alone,
   Of covenant mercy I sing;
   Nor fear, with thy righteousness on,
   My person and offering to bring."

The hymn rises to its climax in the lines--

  "Yes, I to the end shall endure,
   As sure as the earnest is given;
   More happy, but not more secure,
   The glorified spirits in heaven."

I used to think I should never be able to sing that hymn. It was the
sauce, you know. I might manage to eat some of the plain bread, but I
could not dip it in that sauce. It was too high doctrine, too sweet, too
consoling. But I thank God I have since ventured to dip my morsel in it,
and now I hardly like my bread without it.

I would have every trembling sinner partake of the _comfortable_ parts
of God's Word, even those which cavillers call "HIGH DOCTRINE." Let him
believe the simpler truth first, and then dip it in the sweet doctrine
and be happy in the Lord.

I think I see the gleaner half prepared to come, for she is very hungry,
and she has nothing with her; but she begins to say, "I have no right to
come, for I am not a reaper; I do nothing for Christ; I am only a
_selfish gleaner_; I am not a reaper." Ah! but thou art invited to come.
Make no questions about it. Boaz bids thee; take thou his invitation,
and approach at once. "But," you say, "I am such a _poor_ gleaner;
though my labor is all for myself, yet it is little I win by it; I get a
few thoughts while the sermon is being preached, but I lose them before
I reach home." I know you do, poor weak-handed woman. But still, Jesus
invites thee. Come! Take thou the sweet promise as he presents it to
thee, and let no bashfulness of thine send thee home hungry. "But," you
say, "I am _a stranger_; you do not know my sins, my sinfulness, and the
waywardness of my heart." But Jesus does, and yet he invites you. He
knows you are but a Moabitess, a stranger from the commonwealth of
Israel; but he bids you come. Is not that enough? "But," you say, "I owe
so much to him already; it is so good of him to spare my forfeited life,
and so tender of him to let me hear the gospel preached at all; I cannot
have the presumption to be an intruder, and sit with the reapers." Oh!
but he _bids_ you. There is more presumption in your doubting than there
could be in your believing. HE bids you. Will you refuse Boaz? Shall
Jesus' lips give the invitation, and will you say him nay? Come, now,
come. Remember that the little which Ruth could eat did not make Boaz
any the poorer; and all that thou wantest will make Christ none the less
glorious or full of grace. Are thy necessities large? His supplies are
larger. Dost thou require great mercy? He is a great Saviour. I tell
thee that his mercy is no more to be exhausted than the sea is to be
drained. Come at once. There is enough for thee, and Boaz will not be
impoverished by thy feasting to the full. Moreover, let me tell thee a
secret--Jesus _loves_ thee; therefore is it that he would have thee feed
at his table. If thou art now a longing, trembling sinner, willing to be
saved, but conscious that thou deservest it not, Jesus loves thee, and
he will take more delight in seeing thee eat than thou wilt take in the
eating. Let the sweet love he feels in his soul toward thee draw thee to
him. And what is more--but this is a great secret, and must only be
whispered in your ear--_he intends to be married to you_; and when you
are married to him, why, the fields will be yours; for, of course, if
you are his spouse, you are joint proprietor with him. Is it not so?
Doth not the wife share with the husband? All those promises which are
"yea and amen in Christ" shall be yours; nay, they all _are_ yours now,
for "the man is next of kin unto you," and ere long he will take you
unto himself forever, espousing you in faithfulness, and truth, and
righteousness. Will you not eat of your own? "Oh! but," says one, "how
can it be? I am a stranger." Yes, a stranger; but Jesus Christ loves the
stranger. "A publican, a sinner;" but he is "the friend of publicans and
sinners." "An outcast;" but he "gathereth together the outcasts of
Israel." "A stray sheep;" but the shepherd "leaves the ninety and nine"
to seek it. "A lost piece of money;" but he "sweeps the house" to find
thee. "A prodigal son;" but he sets the bells a-ringing when he knows
that thou wilt return. Come, Ruth! Come, trembling gleaner! Jesus
invites thee; accept the invitation. "At meal-time come thou hither, and
eat of the bread, and dip thy morsel in the vinegar."

III. Now, thirdly--and here is a very sweet point in the narrative--BOAZ
REACHED HER THE PARCHED CORN. She did "come and eat." Where did she sit?
Note well that she "sat beside the reapers." She did not feel that she
was one of them. Just like some of you who do not come to the Lord's
Supper, but sit and look on. You are sitting "beside the reapers." You
fear that you are not the people of God; still you love them, and
therefore sit beside them. If there is a good thing to be had, and you
cannot get it, you will sit as near as you can to those who _do_ get
it. "She sat beside the reapers."

And while she was sitting there, what happened? Did she stretch forth
her hand and take the food herself? No, it is written, "HE reached her
the parched corn." Ah! that is it. None but the Lord of the harvest can
hand out the choicest refreshments of spiritual minds. I give the
invitation in my Master's name, and I hope I give it earnestly,
affectionately, sincerely; but I know very well that at my poor bidding
none will come till the Spirit draws. No trembling heart will accept
divine refreshing at my hand; unless the King himself comes near, and
reaches the parched corn to each chosen guest, none will receive it. How
does he do this? By his gracious Spirit, he first of all _inspires your
faith_. You are afraid to think that it can be true that such a sinner
as you are can ever be "accepted in the Beloved"; he breathes upon you,
and your faint hope becomes an expectancy, and that expectation buds and
blossoms into an appropriating faith, which says, "Yes, my beloved is
_mine_, and his desire is toward _me_."

Having done this, the Saviour does more; _he sheds abroad the love of
God in your heart_. The love of Christ is like sweet perfume in a box.
Now, he who put the perfume in the box is the only person that knows how
to take off the lid. He, with his own skilful hand, opens the secret
blessing, and sheds abroad the love of God in the soul.

But Jesus does more than this; he reaches the parched corn with his own
hand, when he _gives us close communion with himself_. Do not think that
this is a dream; I tell you there is such a thing as speaking with
Christ to-day. As certainly as I can talk with my dearest friend, or
find solace in the company of my beloved wife, so surely may I speak
with Jesus, and find intense delight in the company of Immanuel. It is
not a fiction. We do not worship a far-off Saviour; he is a God nigh at
hand. His word is in our mouth and in our heart, and we do to-day walk
with him as the elect did of old, and commune with him as his apostles
did on earth; not after the flesh, it is true, but after a real and
spiritual fashion.

Yet once more let me add, the Lord Jesus is pleased to reach the parched
corn, in the best sense, when _the Spirit gives us the infallible
witness within, that we are "born of God_." A man may know that he is a
Christian beyond all question. Philip de Morny, who lived in the time of
Prince Henry of Navarre, was wont to say that the Holy Spirit had made
his own salvation to him as clear a point as a problem demonstrated in
Euclid. You know with what mathematical precision the scholar of
geometry solves a problem or proves a proposition, and with as absolute
a precision, as certainly as twice two are four, we may "know that we
have passed from death unto life." The sun in the heavens is not more
clear to the eye than his present salvation to an assured believer; such
a man could as soon doubt his own existence as suspect his possession of
eternal life.

Now let the prayer be breathed by poor Ruth, who is trembling yonder.
Lord, reach me the parched corn! "Show me a token for good." "Deal
bountifully with thy servant." "Draw me, we will run after thee." Lord,
send thy love into my heart!

  "Come, Holy Spirit, heavenly Dove,
     With all thy quickening powers,
   Come, shed abroad a Saviour's love,
     And that shall kindle ours."

There is no getting at Christ except by Christ revealing himself to us.

IV. And now the last point. After Boaz had reached the parched corn, we
are told that "SHE DID EAT, AND WAS SUFFICED, AND LEFT." So shall it be
with every Ruth. Sooner or later every penitent shall become a believer,
every mourner a singer. There may be a space of deep conviction, and a
period of much hesitation; but there shall come a season when the soul
decides for the Lord, and cries, "If I perish, I perish. I will go as I
am to Jesus. I will not play the fool any longer with my _buts_ and
_ifs_, but since he bids me believe that he died for me, I _will_
believe it, and will trust his cross for my salvation." Whenever you
shall be privileged to do this, you shall be "_satisfied_." "She did
eat, and was sufficed." Your _head_ shall be satisfied with the precious
truth which Christ reveals; your _heart_ shall be content with Jesus, as
the altogether lovely object of affection; your _hope_ shall be filled,
for whom have you in heaven but Christ? Your _desire_ shall be satiated,
for what can even your desire hunger for more than "to know Christ, and
to be found in him." You shall find Jesus charm your _conscience_, till
it is at perfect peace; he shall content your _judgment_, till you know
the certainty of his teachings; he shall supply your _memory_ with
recollections of what he did, and gratify your _imagination_ with the
prospects of what he is yet to do.

"She was sufficed, and left." Some of us have had deep draughts of love;
we have thought that we could take in all of Christ, but when we have
done our best, we have had to leave a vast remainder. We have sat down
with a ravenous appetite at the table of the Lord's love, and said,
"Nothing but the infinite can ever satisfy me," and that infinite has
been granted us. I have felt that I am such a great sinner that nothing
short of an infinite atonement could wash my sins away, and no doubt you
have felt the same; but we have had our sin removed, and found merit
enough and to spare in Jesus; we have had our hunger relieved, and found
a redundance remaining for others who are in a similar case. There are
certain sweet things in the Word of God which you and I have not enjoyed
yet, and which we cannot enjoy yet; and these we are obliged to leave
for a while, till we are better prepared to receive them. Did not our
Lord say, "I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear
them now"? There is a special knowledge to which we have not attained, a
place of intimate fellowship with Christ which we have not yet occupied.
There are heights of communion which as yet our feet have not
climbed--virgin snows of the mountain of God untrodden by the foot of
man. There is yet a beyond, and there will be for ever.

A verse or two further on we are told what Ruth did with her leavings.
It is very wrong, I believe, at feasts to carry anything home with you;
but _she_ was not under any such regulation, for that which was left she
took home and gave to Naomi. So it shall be even with you, poor
tremblers, who think you have no right to a morsel for yourselves; you
shall be allowed to eat, and when you are quite sufficed, you shall have
courage to bear away a portion to others who are hungering at home. I am
always pleased to find the young believer beginning to pocket something
for others. When you hear a sermon you think, "My poor mother cannot get
out to-day; how I wish she could have been here, for that sentence
would have comforted _her_. If I forget everything else, I will tell her
that." Cultivate an unselfish spirit. Seek to love as you have been
loved. Remember that "the law and the prophets" are fulfilled in this,
to love the Lord your God with all your heart, and your neighbor as
yourself. How can you love your neighbor as yourself if you do not love
his soul? You _have_ loved your own soul; through grace you have been
led to lay hold on Jesus; love your neighbor's soul, and never be
satisfied till you see him in the enjoyment of those things which are
the charm of your life and the joy of our spirit. Take home your
gleanings for those you love who cannot glean for themselves.

I do not know how to give you an invitation to Christ more pleasantly,
but I would with my whole heart cry, "Come and welcome to Jesus." I pray
my Lord and Master to reach a handful of parched corn of comfort to you
if you are a trembling sinner, and I also beg him to make you eat till
you are fully sufficed.


"Behold, I am pressed under you, as a cart is pressed that is full of
sheaves."--AMOS 2:13.

WE have been into the cornfields to glean with Boaz and Ruth; and I
trust that the timid and faint-hearted have been encouraged to partake
of the handfuls which are let fall on purpose for them by the order of
our generous Lord. We go to-day to the gate of the harvest-field with
another object--to see the wagon piled up aloft with many sheaves come
creaking forth, making ruts along the field. We come with gratitude to
God, thanking him for the harvest, blessing him for favorable weather,
and praying him to continue the same till the last shock of corn shall
be brought in, and the husbandmen everywhere shall shout the "Harvest

What a picture is a wagon loaded with corn of you and of me, as loaded
with God's mercies! From our cradle up till now, every day has added a
sheaf of blessing. What could the Lord do for us more than he has done?
He has daily loaded us with benefits. Let us adore his goodness, and
yield him our cheerful gratitude.

Alas! that such a sign should be capable of another reading. Alas! that
while God loadeth us with mercy, we should load him with sin. While he
continually heapeth on sheaf after sheaf of favor we also add iniquity
unto iniquity, till the weight of our sin becomes intolerable to the
Most High, and he cries out by reason of the burden, saying, "I am
pressed under you, as a cart is pressed that is full of sheaves."

Our text begins with a "_Behold!_" and well it may. "Beholds" are put in
the Bible as signs are hung out from houses of business, to attract
attention. There is something new, important, deeply impressive, or
worthy of attention wherever we see a "Behold" in sacred Scripture. I
see this "Behold!" standing, as it were, like a maiden upon the steps of
the house of wisdom, crying, "Turn in hither, O ye that are
wise-hearted, and listen to the voice of God." Let us open our eyes that
we may "behold," and may the Spirit make a way through our eyes and ears
to our hearts, that repentance and self-abhorrence may take hold upon
us, because of our evil conduct towards our gracious God.

It is to be understood before we proceed farther, that our text is only
a figure, since God cannot actually be oppressed by man; all the sin
that man may commit can never disturb the serenity of the divine
perfection, nor cause so much as a wave upon his everlasting calm. He
doth but speak to us after the manner of man, and bring down the
sublimities and mysteries of heaven to the feebleness and ignorance of
earth. He speaketh to us as a great father may talk to his little child.
Just as a cart has the axles bent, and as the wheels creak under the
excessive load, so the Lord says that under the load of human guilt he
is pressed down, until he crieth out, because he can bear no longer the
iniquity of those that offend against him. We shall now turn to our
first point; may the Holy Ghost make it pointed to our consciences!

The first and most apparent truth in the text is, that SIN IS VERY

Be astonished, O heavens, and be amazed, O earth, that God should speak
of being pressed and weighed down! I do not read anywhere so much as
half a suggestion that the whole burden of _creation_ is any weight to
the Most High. "He taketh up the isles as a very little thing." Neither
sun, nor moon, nor stars, nor all the ponderous orbs which his
omnipotence has created, cost him any labor in their sustenance. The
heathen picture Atlas as stooping beneath the globe; but the eternal
God, who beareth up the pillars of the universe, "fainteth not, neither
is weary." Nor do I find even the most distant approach to a suggestion
that _providence_ fatigues its Lord. He watches both by night and day;
his power goeth forth every moment. 'Tis he who bringeth forth Mazzaroth
in his season and guideth Arcturus with his sons. He beareth up the
foundations of the earth! and holdeth the cornerstone thereof. He
causeth the dayspring to know its place, and setteth a bound to darkness
and the shadow of death. All things are supported by the power of his
hand, and there is nothing without him. Just as a moment's foam subsides
into the wave that bears it and is lost for ever, so would the universe
depart if the eternal God did not daily sustain it. This incessant
working has not diminished his strength, nor is there any failing or
thought of failing with him. He worketh all things, and when they are
wrought they are as nothing in his sight. But strange, most passing
strange, miraculous among miracles, _sin_ burdens God, though the world
cannot; and iniquity presses the Most High, though the whole weight of
providence is as the small dust of the balance. Ah, ye careless sons of
Adam, ye think sin a trifle; and as for you, ye sons of Belial, ye
count it sport, and say, "He regardeth not; he seeth not; how doth God
know? and if he knoweth he careth not for our sins." Learn ye from the
Book of God, that so far from this being the truth, your sins are a
grief to him, a burden and a load to him, till, like a cart that is
overloaded with sheaves, so is he weighed down with human guilt.

This will be very clear if we meditate for a moment upon what sin is,
and what sin does. _Sin is the great spoiler of all God's works._ Sin
turned an archangel into an archfiend, and angels of light into spirits
of evil. Sin looked on Eden and withered all its flowers. Ere sin had
come the Creator said of the new-made earth, "It is very good"; but when
sin had entered, it grieved God at his very heart that he had made such
a creature as man. Nothing tarnishes beauty so much as sin, for it mars
God's image and erases his superscription.

Moreover, _sin makes God's creatures unhappy_, and shall not the Lord,
therefore, abhor it? God never designed that any creature of his hand
should be miserable. He made the creatures on purpose that they should
be glad; he gave the birds their song, the flowers their perfume, the
air its balm; he gave to day the smiling sun and to night its coronet of
stars; for he intended that smiles should be his perpetual worship, and
joy the incense of his praise. But sin has made God's favorite creature
a wretch, and brought down God's offspring, made in his own image, to
become naked, and poor, and miserable; and therefore God hateth sin, and
is pressed down under it, because it maketh the objects of his love
unhappy at their heart.

Moreover, remember that _sin attacks God in all his attributes_, assails
him on his throne, and stabs at his existence. What is sin? Is it not
an insult to God's _wisdom_? O sinner, God biddeth thee do his will;
when thou doest the contrary it is because thou dost as much as say, "I
know what is good for me, and God does not know." You do in effect
declare that infinite wisdom is in error, and that you, the creature of
a day, are the best judge of happiness. Sin impugns God's _goodness_;
for by sin you declare that God has denied you that which would make you
happy, and this is not the part of a good, tender, and loving Father.
Sin cuts at the Lord's wisdom with one hand, and at his goodness with
the other.

Sin also abuses the _mercy_ of God. When you, as many of you have done,
sin with the higher hand because of his long-suffering toward you; when,
because you have no sickness, no losses, no crosses, therefore you spend
your time in revelry and obstinate rebellion--what is this but taking
the mercy which was meant for your good and turning it into mischief? It
is no small grief to the loving father to see his substance spent with
harlots in riotous living; he cannot endure it that his child should be
so degraded as to turn even the mercy which would woo him to repentance
into a reason why he should sin the more against him. Besides, let me
remind the careless and impenitent that every sin is a defiance of
divine _power_. In effect it is lifting your puny fists against the
majesty of heaven, and defying God to destroy you. Every time you sin,
you defy the Lord to prove whether he can maintain his law or no. Is
this a slight thing, that a worm, the creature of a day, should defy the
Lord of ages, the God that filleth and upholdeth all things by the word
of his power? Well may he be weary, when he has to bear with such
provocations and insults as those! Mention what attribute you will, and
sin has blotted it; speak of God in any relationship you choose, and sin
has cast a slur upon him. It is evil, only evil, and that continually;
in every view of it must be offensive to the Most High. Sinner, dost
thou know that every act of disobedience to God's law is virtually an
act of _high treason_? What dost thou do but seek to be God thyself,
thine own master, thine own lord? Every time thou swervest from his
will, it is to put thy will into his place; it is to make thyself a god,
and to undeify the Most High. And is this a little offence, to snatch
from his brow the crown, and from his hand the sceptre? I tell thee it
is such an act that heaven itself could not stand unless it were
resented; if this crime were suffered to go unpunished, the wheels of
heaven's commonwealth would be taken from their axles, and the whole
frame of moral government would be unhinged. Such a treason against God
shall certainly be visited with punishment.

To crown all, _sin is an onslaught upon God himself_, for sin is atheism
of heart. Let his religious profession be what it may, the sinner hath
said in his heart, "No God." He wishes that there were no law and no
Supreme Ruler. Is this a trifle? To be a Deicide! To desire to put God
out of his own world! Is this a thing to be winked at? Can the Most High
hear it and not be pressed down beneath its weight? I pray you do not
think that I would make a needless outcry against sin and disobedience.
It is not in the power of human imagination to exaggerate the evil of
sin, nor will it ever be possible for mortal lips, though they should be
touched like those of Esaias with a live coal from off the altar, to
thunder out the ten-thousandth part of the enormity of the least sin
against God. Think, dear friends! We are his creatures, and yet we will
not do his will. We are fed by him, the breath in our nostrils he gives
us, and yet we spend that breath in murmuring and rebellion.

Once more, we are always in the sight of our omniscient God, and yet the
presence of God is not enough to compel us to obedience. Surely if a man
should insult law in the very presence of the lawgiver, that were not to
be borne with; but this is your case and mine. We must confess, "Against
thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight." We
must remember also, that we offend, knowing that we are offending. We do
not sin as the Hottentot, or the cannibal. We in England sin against
extraordinary light and sevenfold knowledge; and is this a light thing?
Can you expect that God shall pass by wilful and deliberate offences?
Oh, that these lips had language, that this heart could burn for once!
for if I could declare the horrible infamy of sin it would make the
blood chill in even a haughty Pharaoh's veins, and proud Nebuchadnezzar
would bow his head in fear. It is indeed a terrible thing to have
rebelled against the Most High. The Lord have mercy upon his servants
and forgive them.

This is our first point, but _I_ cannot teach you it, God himself must
teach it by his Spirit. Oh, that the Holy Ghost may make you feel that
sin is exceedingly sinful, so that it is grievous and burdensome to God!

of our text will help you to see the force of this observation.

There is no such thing as a little sin, but still there are degrees of
guilt, and it were folly to say that a sinful thought hath in it the
same extent of evil as a sinful act. A filthy imagination is
sinful--wholly sinful and greatly sinful, but still a filthy act has
attained a higher degree of provocation. There are sins which especially
provoke God. In the connection of the text we read that _licentiousness_
does this. The Jewish people in the days of Amos seem to have gone to a
very high degree of fornication and lechery. This sin is not uncommon in
our day; let our midnight streets and our divorce courts be the witness.
I say no more. Let each one keep his body pure; for want of chastity is
a grievous evil before the Lord.

_Oppression_, too, according to the prophet, is another great
provocation to God. The prophet speaks of selling the poor for a pair of
shoes; and some would grind the widow and the orphan, and make the
laborer toil for nought. How many business men have no "bowels of
compassion." Men form themselves into societies, and then exact an
outrageous usury upon loans from the unhappy beings who fall into their
hands. Cunning legal quibbles and crafty evasions of just debts often
amount to heavy oppression, and are sure to bring down the anger of the
Most High.

Then, again, it seems that _idolatry_ and _blasphemy_ are highly
offensive to God, and have a high degree of heinousness. He says that
the people drank the wine of false gods. If any man sets up his belly,
or his gold, or his wealth as his god, and if he lives to these instead
of living to the Most High, he hath offended by idolatry. Woe to such,
and equal woe to those who adore crosses, sacraments, or images.

Specially is _blasphemy_ a God-provoking sin. For blasphemy there is no
excuse. As George Herbert says, "Lust and wine plead a pleasure;" there
is gain to be pleaded for avarice, "but the cheap swearer from his open
sluice lets his soul run for nought." There is nothing gained by profane
talk; there can be no pleasure in cursing; this is offending for
offending's sake, and hence it is a high and crying sin, which makes the
Lord grow weary of men. There may be some among you to whom these words
may be personal accusations. Do I address the lecherous, or the
oppressive, or the profane? Ah, soul, what a mercy God hath borne with
thee so long; the time will come, however, when he will say, "Ah, I will
ease me of mine adversaries," and how easily will he cast you off and
appoint you an awful destruction.

Again, while some sins are thus grievous to God for their peculiar
heinousness, many men are especially obnoxious to God because of the
_length_ of their sin. That gray-headed man, how many times has he
provoked the Most High! Why, those who are but lads have cause to count
their years and apply their hearts unto wisdom because of the length of
time they have lived in rebellion; but what shall I say of you who have
been half a century in open war against God--and some of you sixty,
seventy, what if I said near upon eighty years? Ah, you have had eighty
years of mercies, and returned eighty years of neglect: for eighty years
of patience you have rendered eighty years of ingratitude. O God, well
mayest thou be wearied by the length and number of man's sins!

Furthermore, God taketh special note and feeleth an especial weariness
of sin that is mixed with _obstinacy_. Oh how obstinate some men are!
They _will_ be damned; there is no helping them; they seem as if they
would leap the Alps to reach perdition, and swim through seas of fire
that they may destroy their souls. I might tell you cases of men that
have been sore sick of fever, ague, and cholera, and they have only
recovered their health to return to their sins. Some of them have had
troubles in business, thick and threefold: they were once in respectable
circumstances, but they spent their living riotously, and they became
poor; yet they still struggle on in sin. They are growing poorer every
day, most of their clothes have gone to the pawnshop; but they will not
turn from the tavern and the brothel. Another child is dead! The wife is
sick, and starvation stares the family in the face; but they go on still
with a high hand and an outstretched arm. This is obstinacy, indeed.
Sinner! God will let thee have thine own way one of these days, and that
way will be thine everlasting ruin. God is weary of those who set
themselves to do mischief, and, against warnings, and invitations, and
entreaties, are determined to go on in sin.

The context seems to tell us that _ingratitude_ is intensely burdensome
to God. He tells the people how he brought them out of Egypt; how he
cast out the Amorites; how he raised up their sons for prophets, and
their young men for Nazarites; and yet they rebelled against him! This
was one of the things that pricked my heart when I first came to God as
a guilty sinner, not so much the peculiar heinousness of my outward
life, as the peculiar mercies that I had enjoyed. How generous God has
been to some of us--some of us who never had a want! God has never cast
us into poverty, nor left us to infamy, nor given us up to evil
example, but he has kept us moral, and made us love his house even when
we did not love _him_, and all this he has done year after year: and
what poor returns we have made! To us, his people, what joy he has
given, what deliverances, what love, what comfort, what bliss--and yet
we have sinned to his face! Well may he be as a cart that is pressed
down, that is full of sheaves.

Let me observe, before I leave this point, that it seems from our text,
that the Lord is so pressed, that _he even crieth out_. Just as the cart
when laden with the sheaves, groaneth under the weight, so the Lord
crieth out under the load of sin. Have you never heard those accents?
"Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth: for the Lord hath spoken, I
have nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against
me!" Hear again: "Turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye
die, O house of Israel?" Better still, hear the lament from the lip of
Jesus, soft and gentle as the dew--"O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that
killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how
often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen
gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!" Sinner, God
is cut to the heart by thy sin; thy Creator grieves over that which thou
laughest at; thy Saviour crieth out in his spirit concerning that which
thou thinkest to be a trifle--"O do not this abominable thing which I
hate!" For God's sake do it not! We often say "for God's sake," without
knowing what we mean; but here see what it means, for the sake of God,
that ye grieve not your Creator, that ye cause not the Eternal One
himself to cry out by reason of weariness of you. Cease ye, cease ye,
from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel? I now
leave those two points to pass on very briefly to the next.

While it is true that sin is grievous to the Lord, it magnifies his
mercy when we see that HE BEARS THE LOAD. As the cart is not said to
break, but is pressed only, so is he pressed, and yet he bears. If you
and I were in God's place, should we have borne it? Nay, within a week
we should have burned the universe with fire, or trodden it to powder
beneath our feet. If the Law of heaven were as swift to punish as the
law of man, where were we? How easily could he avenge his honor! How
many servants wait around him ready to do his bidding! As the Roman
consul went out, attended by his lictors carrying the axe, so God is
ever attended by his executioners, who are ready to fulfil his sentence.
A stone, a tile from a roof, a thunderbolt, a puff of wind, a grain of
dust, a whiff of gas, a broken blood-vessel, and all is over, and you
are dead, and in the hands of an angry God. Indeed, the Lord has to
restrain the servants of his anger, for the heavens cry, "Why should we
cover that wretch's head?" Earth asks, "Why should I yield at harvest to
the sinner's plough?" The lightnings thunder, and say, "Let us smite the
rebel," and the seas roar upon the sinner, desiring him as their prey.
There is no greater proof of the omnipotence of God than his
long-suffering; for it shows the greatest possible power for God to be
able to control himself. Sinner, yet Jehovah bears with thee. The angels
have been astonished at it; they thought he would strike, but yet he
bears with you. Have you ever seen a patient man insulted? He has been
met in the street by a villain, who insults him before a mob of boys.
He bears it. The fellow spits in his face. He bears it still. The
offender strikes him. He endures it quietly. "Give him in charge," says
one. "No," says he, "I forgive him all." The fellow knocks him down, and
rolls him in the kennel, but he bears it still; yes, and when he rises
all covered with mire, he says, "If there be anything that I can do to
befriend you, I will do it now." Just at that moment the wretch is
arrested by a sheriff's officer for debt; the man who has been insulted
takes out his purse and pays the debt, and says, "You may go free." See,
the wretch spits in his face after that! "Now," you say, "let the law
have its way with him." Is there any room for patience now? So would it
have been with man; it has not been so with God. Though like the cart he
is pressed under the load of sheaves, yet like the cart the axle does
not break. He bears the load. He bears with impenitent sinners still.

And this brings me to the fourth head, on which I would have your
deepest attention. Some of you, I fear, have never seen sin in the light
of grieving God, or else you would not wish to grieve him any more. On
the other hand some of you feel how bitter a thing evil is, and you wish
to be rid of it. This is our fourth head. Not only doth God still bear

These words would have deep meaning if put into the lips of Jesus--"I am
pressed under you, as a cart is pressed that is full of sheaves." Here
stood the great problem. God must punish sin, and yet he desired to have
mercy. How could it be? Lo! Jesus comes to be the substitute for all who
trust him. The load of guilt is laid upon his shoulders. See how they
pile on him the sheaves of human sin!

  "My soul looks back to see
     The burdens thou didst bear,
   When hanging on the cursed tree,
     And hopes her guilt was there."

"The Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all." There they lie,
sheaf on sheaf, till he is pressed down like the wain that groaneth as
it moves along. "He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows,
and acquainted with grief." See him, he did "sweat as it were great
drops of blood falling to the ground." Herod mocks him. Pilate jeers
him. They have smitten the Prince of Judah upon the cheek. "I gave my
back to the smiters, and my cheeks to them that plucked off the hair: I
hid not my face from shame and spitting." They have tied him to the
pillar; they are beating him with rods, not this time forty stripes
_save one_, for there is no "save one" with him. "The chastisement of
our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed." See him;
like a cart pressed down with sheaves traversing the streets of
Jerusalem. Well may ye weep, ye daughters of Jerusalem, though he bids
ye dry your tears! Abjects hoot at him as he walks along bowed beneath
the load of his own cross, which was the emblem of our sin. They bring
him to Golgotha. They throw him on his back, they stretch out his hands
and his feet. The accursed iron penetrates the tenderest part of his
body, where most the nerves do congregate. They lift up the cross. O
bleeding Saviour, thy time of woe is come! They dash it into the socket
with cruel force, the nails are tearing through his hands and feet. He
hangeth in extremity, for God hath forsaken him; his enemies persecute
and take him, for there is none to deliver him. They mock his nakedness;
they point at his agonies. They look and stare upon him. With ribald
jests they insult his griefs. They make puns upon his prayers. He is now
indeed a worm, and no man, crushed till you can scarcely think that
divinity dwells within him. Fever parches him; his tongue is dried up
like a potsherd, and he cries, "I thirst!" Vinegar is all they yield
him. The sun refuses to shine, and the dense midnight of that awful
mid-day is a fitting emblem of the tenfold darkness of his soul. Out of
that all-encompassing horror he crieth, "My God, my God, why hast thou
forsaken me?" Then, indeed, was he pressed down! There was never sorrow
like unto his sorrow. All mortal griefs found a reservoir in his heart,
and the punishment of human guilt spent itself upon his body and his
soul. Shall sin ever be a trifle to me? Shall I laugh at that which made
my Saviour groan? Shall I toy and dally with that which stabbed him to
the heart? Sinner, wilt thou not give up thy sins for the sake of him
who suffered for sin? "Yes," sayest thou, "yes, if I could believe that
he suffered for my sake." Wilt thou trust thy soul in his hands at once?
Dost thou do so? Then he died _for thee_ and took _thy_ guilt, and
carried all _thy_ sorrows, and thou mayest go free, for God is
satisfied, and thou art absolved. Christ was burdened that thou mightest
be lightened; he was pressed that thou mightest be free. I would I could
talk of my precious Master as John would speak, who saw him and bare
witness, for he could tell in plaintive tones of the sorrows of Calvary.
Such as I have I give you; oh that God would give you with it the
power, the grace to believe on Jesus at once.

V. For if not, and here is our last point, God will only bear the load
of our provocation for a little while; and if we are not in Christ when

My text is translated by many learned men in a different way from the
version before us. According to them it should be read, "I will press
you as a cart that is full of sheaves presseth your place." That is,
just as a heavy loaded wagon pressed into the soft eastern roads and
left deep furrows, so will I crush you, saith God, beneath the load of
your sin. This is to be your doom, my hearer, if you are out of Christ:
your own deeds are to press upon you. Need we enlarge upon this terror?
I think not. It only needs that you should make a personal application
of the threatening! Divide yourselves now. Divide yourselves, I say!
Answer each one for himself--Dost thou believe on the Lord Jesus Christ?
then the threatening is not thine. But if thou believest not I conjure
thee listen to me now as if thou wert the only person here. A Christless
soul will ere long be a castaway; he that believeth not in Christ is
condemned already, because he believeth not. How wilt thou escape if
thou wilt neglect so great salvation? Thus saith the Lord unto thee,
"Consider thy ways." By time, by eternity, by life, by death, by heaven,
by hell, I do conjure thee believe in him who is able to save unto the
uttermost them that come unto him; but if thou believest not in Christ
thou shalt die in thy sins.

After death the judgment! Oh! the judgment, the thundering trumpet, the
multitude, the books, the great white throne, the "Come, ye blessed,"
the "Depart, ye cursed!"

After judgment, to a soul that is out of Christ, Hell! Who among us? who
_among us_ shall abide with the devouring flame? Who among US? Who among
US shall dwell with everlasting burnings? I pray that none of us may.
But we _must_ unless we fly to Christ. I beseech thee, my dear hearer,
fly to Jesus! I may never see thy face again; thine eyes may never look
into mine again; but I shake my skirts of thy blood if thou believest
not in Christ. My tears entreat thee; let his long-suffering lead thee
to repentance. He willeth not the death of any, but that they should
turn unto him and live: and this turning lies mainly in trusting Jesus
with your soul. Wilt thou believe in Christ? Nay, I know thou wilt not
unless the Spirit of God shall constrain thee; but if thou wilt not, it
shall not be for want of pleading and entreating. Come, 'tis mercy's
welcome hour. I pray thee, come. Jesus with pierced hands invites thee,
though thou hast long rejected him. He knocks again. His unconquerable
love defies thy wickedness. He begs thee to be saved. Sinner, wilt thou
have him or no? "Whosoever will, let him come and take of the water of
life freely." God help you to come, for the glorious Redeemer's sake.


"For the fitches are not threshed with a threshing instrument, neither
is a cart wheel turned about upon the cummin; but the fitches are beaten
out with a staff, and the cummin with a rod. Bread corn is bruised;
because he will not ever be threshing it, nor break it with the wheel of
his cart, nor bruise it with his horsemen."--ISAIAH 28:27, 28.

THE art of husbandry was taught to man by God. He would have starved
while he was discovering it, and so the Lord, when he sent him out of
the Garden of Eden, gave him a measure of elementary instruction in
agriculture, even as the prophet puts it--"His God doth instruct him to
discretion, and doth teach him." God has taught man to plough, to break
the clods, to sow the different kinds of grain, and to thresh out the
different sorts of seeds.

The Eastern husbandman could not thresh by machinery as we do; but still
he was ingenious and discreet in that operation. Sometimes a heavy
instrument was dragged over the corn to tear out the grain. This is what
is intended in the first clause by the "threshing instrument," as also
in that passage, "I have made thee a sharp threshing instrument having
teeth." When the corn-drag was not used, they often turned the heavy
solid wheel of a country cart over the straw. This is alluded to in the
next sentence: "Neither is a cart wheel turned about upon the cummin."
They had also flails not very unlike our own, and then for still
smaller seeds, such as dill and cummin, they used a simple staff, or a
slender switch. "The fitches are beaten out with a staff, and the cummin
with a rod."

This is not the time or place to give a dissertation upon threshing. We
find every information upon that subject in proper books; but the
meaning of the illustration is this--that as God has taught husbandmen
to distinguish between different kinds of grain in the threshing, so
does he in his infinite wisdom deal discreetly with different sorts of
men. He does not try us all alike, seeing we are differently
constituted. He does not pass us all through the same agony of
conviction: we are not all to the same extent threshed with terrors. He
does not give us all to endure the same family or bodily affliction; one
escapes with only being beaten with a rod, while another feels, as it
were, the feet of horses in his heavy tribulations.

Our subject is just this. _Threshing_: all kinds of seeds need it, _all
sorts of men need it_. Secondly, _the threshing is done with
discretion_, and, thirdly, _the threshing will not last forever_; for so
the second verse of the text says: "Bread corn is bruised; because he
will not ever be threshing it, nor break it with the wheel of his cart,
nor bruise it with his horseman."

I. First, then, WE ALL NEED THRESHING. Some have a foolish conceit of
themselves that they have no sin; but they deceive themselves, and the
truth is not in them. The best of men are men at the best; and being
men, they are not perfect, but are still compassed about with infirmity.
What is the object of threshing the grain? Is it not to separate it from
the straw and the chaff?

_About the best of men there is still a measure of chaff._ All is not
grain that lies upon the threshing-floor. All is not grain even in those
golden sheaves which have been brought into our garner so joyfully. Even
the wheat is joined to the straw, which was necessary to it at one time.
About the kernel of the wheat the husk is wrapped, and this still clings
to it even when it lies upon the threshing-floor. About the holiest of
men there is something superfluous, something which must be removed. We
either sin by omission or by trespass. Either in spirit, or motive, or
lack of zeal, or want of discretion, we are faulty. If we escape one
error, we usually glide into its opposite. If before an action we are
right, we err in the doing of it, or, if not, we become proud after it
is over. If sin be shut out at the front door, it tries the back gate,
or climbs in at the window, or comes down the chimney. Those who cannot
perceive it in themselves are frequently blinded by its smoke. They are
so thoroughly in the water that they do not know that it rains. So far
as my own observation goes I have found out no man whom the old divines
would have called perfectly perfect; the absolutely all-round man is a
being whom I expect to see in heaven, but not in this poor fallen world.
We all need such cleansing and purging as the threshing-floor is
intended to work for us.

Now, _threshing is useful in loosening the connection between the good
corn and the husk_. Of course, if it would slip out easily from its
husk, the corn would only need to be shaken. There would be no necessity
for a staff or a rod, much less for the feet of horses, or the wheel of
a cart to separate it. But there's the rub: our soul not only lieth in
the dust, but "cleaveth" to it. There is a fearful intimacy between
fallen human nature and the evil which is in the world; and this compact
is not soon broken. In our hearts we hate every false way, and yet we
sorrowfully confess, "When I would do good, evil is present with me."
Sometimes when our spirit cries out most ardently after God, a holy will
is present with us, but how to perform that which is good we find not.
Flesh and blood have tendencies and weaknesses which, if not sinful in
themselves, yet tend in that direction. Appetites need but slight
excitement to germinate into lusts. It is not easy for us to forget our
own kindred and our father's house even when the king doth most greatly
desire our beauty. Our alien nature remembers Egypt and the flesh-pots
while yet the manna is in our mouths. We were all born in the house of
evil, and some of us were nursed upon the lap of iniquity, so that our
first companionships were among the heirs of wrath. That which was bred
in the bone is hard to get out of the flesh. Threshing is used to loosen
our hold of earthly things and break us away from evil. This needs a
divine hand, and nothing but the grace of God can make the threshing
effectual. Something is done by threshing when the soul ceases to be
bound up with its sin, and sin is no longer pleasurable or satisfactory.
Still, as the work of threshing is never done till the corn is separated
altogether from the husk, so chastening and discipline have never
accomplished their design till God's people give up every form of evil,
and abhor all iniquity. When we shake right out of the straw, and have
nothing further to do with sin, then the flail will lie quiet. It has
taken a good deal of threshing to bring some of us anywhere near that
mark, and I am afraid many more heavy blows will be struck before we
shall reach the total separation. From a certain sort of sins we are
very easily separated by the grace of God early in our spiritual life;
but when those are gone, another layer of evils comes into sight, and
the work has to be repeated. The complete removal of our connection with
sin is a work demanding the divine skill and power of the Holy Ghost,
and by him only will it be accomplished.

Threshing becomes needful for the sake of our usefulness; for the wheat
must come out of the husk to be of service. We can only honor God and
bless men by being holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners.
O corn of the Lord's threshing-floor, thou must be beaten and bruised,
or perish as a worthless heap! Eminent usefulness usually necessitates
eminent affliction.

Unless thus severed from sin, we cannot be gathered into the garner.
God's pure wheat must not be defiled by an admixture of chaff. There
shall in nowise enter into heaven anything that defileth, therefore
every sort of imperfection must come away from us by some means or other
ere we can enter into the state of eternal blessedness and perfection.
Yea, even here we cannot have true fellowship with the Father unless we
are daily delivered from sin.

Peradventure some of us to-day are lying up on the threshing-floor,
suffering from the blows of chastisement. What then? Why, let us rejoice
therein; for _this testifies to our value in the sight of God_. If the
wheat were to cry out and say, "The great drag has gone over me,
therefore the husbandman has no care for me," we should instantly
reply--The husbandman does not pass the corn-drag over the darnel or the
nettles; it is only over the precious wheat that he turns the wheel of
his cart, or the feet of his oxen. Because he esteems the wheat,
therefore he deals sternly with it and spares it not. Judge not, O
believer, that God hates you because he afflicts you; but interpret
truly and see that he honors you by every stroke which he lays upon you.
Thus saith the Lord, "You only have I known of all the nations of the
earth, therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities." Because a
full atonement has been made by the Lord Jesus for all his people's
sins, therefore he will not punish us as a judge; but because we are his
dear children, therefore he will chastise us as a father. In love he
corrects his own children that he may perfect them in his own image, and
make them partakers of his holiness. Is it not written, "I will bring
them under the rod of the covenant"? Has he not said, "I have refined
thee, but not with silver, I have chosen thee in the furnace of
affliction"? Therefore do not judge according to the sight of the eyes
or the feeling of the flesh, but judge according to faith, and
understand that, as threshing is a testimony to the value of the wheat,
so affliction is a token of God's delight in his people.

Remember, however, that as threshing is a sign of the impurity of the
wheat, so is _affliction an indication of the present imperfection of
the Christian_. If you were no more connected with evil, you would be no
more corrected with sorrow. The sound of a flail is never heard in
heaven, for it is not the threshing-floor of the imperfect but the
garner of the completely sanctified. The threshing instrument is
therefore a humbling token, and so long as we feel it we should humble
ourselves under the hand of God, for it is clear that we are not yet
free from the straw and the chaff of fallen nature.

On the other hand, the instrument is _a prophecy of our future
perfection_. We are undergoing from the hand of God a discipline which
will not fail: we shall by his prudence and wisdom be clean delivered
from the husk of sin. We are feeling the blows of the staff, but we are
being effectually separated from the evil which has so long surrounded
us, and for certain we shall one day be pure and perfect. Every tendency
to sin shall be beaten off. "Foolishness is bound in the heart of a
child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him." If, we
being evil, yet succeed with our children by our poor, imperfect
chastening, how much more shall the Father of spirits cause us to live
unto himself by his holy discipline? If the corn could know the
necessary uses of the flail, it would invite the thresher to his work;
and since we know whereunto tribulation tendeth, let us glory in it, and
yield ourselves with cheerfulness to its processes. We need threshing,
the threshing proves our value in God's sight, and while it marks our
imperfection, it secures our ultimate cleansing.

II. Secondly, I would remark that GOD'S THRESHING IS DONE WITH GREAT
DISCRETION; "for the fitches are not threshed with a threshing
instrument." The poor little fitches, a kind of small seed used for
flavoring cakes, were not crushed out with a heavy drag, for by such
rough usage they would have been broken up and spoiled. "Neither is a
cart wheel turned about upon the cummin;" this little seed, perhaps the
carraway, would have been ground by so great a weight; it would have
been preposterous to treat it in that rough manner. The fitches were
soon removed from the stalks by being "beaten out with a staff," and the
cummin needed nothing but a touch of a rod. For tender seeds the farmer
uses gentle means, and for the hardier grains he reserves the sterner
processes. Let us think of this, as it conveys a valuable spiritual

Reflect, my brother, that your threshing and mine _are in God's hands_.
Our chastening is not left to servants, much less to enemies; "we are
chastened of the Lord!" The Great Husbandman himself personally bids the
laborers do this and that, for they know not the time or the way except
as divine wisdom shall direct; they would turn the wheel upon the
cummin, or attempt to thresh wheat with a staff. I have seen God's
servants trying both these follies; they have crushed the weak and
tender, and they have dealt with partiality and softness with those who
needed to be sternly rebuked. How roughly some ministers, some elders,
some good men and women will go to work with timid, tender souls; yet we
need not fear that they will destroy the true-hearted, for, however much
they may vex them the Lord will not leave his chosen in their hands, but
will overrule their mistaken severity, and preserve his own from being
destroyed thereby. How glad I am of this; for there are many nowadays
who would grind the tender ones to powder if they could!

As the Lord has not left us in the power of man, so also he has not left
us in the power of the devil. Satan may sift us as wheat, but he shall
not thresh us as fitches. He may blow away the chaff from us even with
his foul breath, but he shall not have the management of the Lord's
corn: "the Lord preserveth the righteous." Not a stroke in providence
is left to chance; the Lord ordains it, and arranges the time, the
force, and the place of it. The divine decree leaves nothing uncertain;
the jurisdiction of supreme love occupies itself with the smallest
events of our daily lives. Whether we bear the teeth of the corn-drag or
men do ride over our heads, or we endure the gentler touches of the
divine hand, everything is by appointment, and the appointment is fixed
by infallible wisdom. Let this be a mine of comfort to the afflicted.

Next, remark that _the instruments used for our threshing are chosen
also by the Great Husbandman_. The Eastern farmer, according to the
text, has several instruments, and so has our God. No form of threshing
is pleasant to the seed which bears it; indeed, each one seems to the
sufferer to be peculiarly objectionable. We say, "I think I could bear
anything but this sad trouble." We cry, "It was not an enemy, then I
could have borne it," and so on. Perhaps the tender cummin foolishly
fancies that the horse-hoofs would be a less terrible ordeal than the
rod, and the fitches might even prefer the wheel to the staff; but
happily the matter is left to the choice of One who judges unerringly.
What dost thou know about it, poor sufferer? How canst thou judge of
what is good for thee? "Ah!" cries a mother, "I would not mind poverty;
but to lose my darling child is too terrible!" Another laments, "I could
have parted with all my wealth, but to be slandered cuts me to the
quick." There is no pleasing us in the matter of chastisement. When I
was at school, with my uncle for master, it often happened that he would
send me out to find a cane for him. It was not a very pleasant task, and
I noticed that I never once succeeded in selecting a stick which was
liked by the boy who had to feel it. Either it was too thin, or too
stout; and in consequence I was threatened by the sufferers with condign
punishment if I did not do better next time. I learned from that
experience never to expect God's children to like the particular rod
with which they are chastened. You smile at my simile, but you may smile
at yourself when you find yourself crying, "Any trouble but this, Lord.
Any affliction but this." How idle it is to expect a pleasant trial; for
it would then be no trial at all. Almost every really useful medicine is
unpleasant: almost all effectual surgery is painful! no trial for the
present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous, yet it is the right trial,
and none the less right because it is bitter.

Notice, too, that God not only selects the instruments, _but he chooses
the place_. Farmers in the East have large threshing-floors upon which
they throw the sheaves of corn or barley, and upon these they turn
horses and drags; but near the house door I have often noticed in Italy
a much smaller circle of hardened clay or cement, and here I have seen
the peasants beating out their garden seeds in a more careful manner
than would naturally be used toward the greater heaps upon the larger
area. Some saints are not afflicted in the common affairs of life, but
they have peculiar sorrow in their innermost spirits; they are beaten on
the smaller and more private threshing-floor; but the process is none
the less effectual. How foolish are we when we rebel against our Lord's
appointment, and speak as if we had a right to choose our own
afflictions! "Should it be according to thy mind?" Should a child select
the rod? Should the grain appoint its own thresher? Are not these
things to be left to a higher wisdom? Some complain of the time of their
trial; it is hard to be crippled in youth, or to be poor in age, or to
be widowed when your children are young. Yet in all this there is
wisdom. A part of the skill of the physician may lie, not only in
writing a prescription, but in arranging the hours at which the medicine
shall be taken. One draught may be most useful in the morning, and
another may be more beneficial in the evening; and so the Lord knows
when it is best for us to drink of the cup which he has prepared for us.
I know a dear child of God who is enduring a severe trial in his old
age, and I would fain screen him from it because of his feebleness, but
our heavenly Father knows best, and there we must leave it. The
instrument of the threshing, the place, the measure, the time, the end,
are all appointed by infallible love.

It is interesting to notice in the text the limit of this threshing. The
husbandman is zealous to beat out the seed, but he is careful not to
break it in pieces by too severe a process. His wheel is not to grind,
but to thresh; the horses' feet are not to break, but to separate. He
intends to get the cummin out of its husk, but he will not turn a heavy
drag upon it utterly to smash it up and destroy it. In the same way the
Lord has a measure in all his chastening. Courage, tried friend, you
shall be afflicted as you need, but not as you deserve; tribulation
shall come as you are able to bear it. As is the strength such shall the
affliction be; the wheat may feel the wheel, but the fitches shall bear
nothing heavier than a staff. No saint shall be tempted beyond the
proper measure, and the limit is fixed by a tenderness which never deals
a needless stroke.

It is very easy to talk like this in cool blood, and quite another thing
to remember it when the flail is hammering you; yet have I personally
realized this truth upon the bed of pain, and in the furnace of mental
distress. I thank God at every remembrance of my afflictions; I did not
doubt his wisdom then, nor have I had any reason to question it since.
Our Great Husbandman understands how to divide us from the husk, and he
goes about his work in a way for which he deserves to be adored for

It is a pleasant thought that God's limit is one beyond which trials
never go--

  "If trials six be fix'd for men
      They shall not suffer seven.
   If God appoint afflictions ten
      They ne'er can be eleven."

The old law ordained forty stripes save one, and in all our scourgings
there always comes in that "save one." When the Lord multiplies our
sorrows up to a hundred, it is because ninety-and-nine failed to effect
his purpose; but all the powers of earth and hell cannot give us one
blow above the settled number. We shall never endure a superfluity of
threshing. The Lord never sports with the feelings of his saints. "He
does not afflict willingly," and so we may be sure he never gives an
unnecessary blow.

The wisdom of the husbandman in limiting his threshing is far exceeded
in the wisdom of God by which he sets a limit to our griefs. Some escape
with little trouble, and perhaps it is because they are frail and
sensitive. The little garden seeds must not be beaten too heavily lest
they be injured; those saints who bear about with them a delicate body
must not be roughly handled, nor shall they be. Possibly they have a
feeble mind also, and that which others would laugh at would be death to
them; they shall be kept as the apple of the eye.

If you are free from tribulation never ask for it; that would be a great
folly. I did meet with a brother a little while ago who said that he was
much perplexed because he had no trouble. I said, "Do not worry about
_that_; but be happy while you may." Only a queer child would beg to be
flogged. Certain sweet and shining saints are of such a gentle spirit
that the Lord does not expose them to the same treatment as he metes out
to others; they do not need it, and they could not bear it; why should
they wish for it?

Others, again, are very heavily pressed; but what of that if they are a
superior grain, a seed of larger usefulness, intended for higher
purposes? Let not such regret that they have to endure a heavier
threshing since their use is greater. It is the bread corn that must go
under the feet of the horseman and must feel the wheel of the cart; and
so the most useful have to pass through the sternest processes. There is
not one among us but what would say, "I could wish that I were Martin
Luther, or that I could play as noble a part as he did." Yes; but in
addition to the outward perils of his life, the inward experiences of
that remarkable man were such as none of us would wish to feel. He was
frequently tormented with Satanic temptations, and driven to the verge
of despair. At one hour he rode the whirlwind and the storm, master of
all the world, and then after days of fighting with the pope and the
devil he would go home to his bed and lie there broken-down and
trembling. You see God's heroes only in the pulpit, or in other public
places, you know not what they are before God in secret. You do not know
their inner life; else you might discover that the bread corn is
bruised, and that those who are most useful in comforting others have to
endure frequent sorrow themselves. Envy no man; for you do not know how
he may have to be threshed to make him right and keep him so.

Brethren, we see that our God uses discretion in the chastisement of his
people; let us use a loving prudence when we have to deal with others in
that way. Be gentle as well as firm with your children; and if you have
to rebuke your brother do it very tenderly. Do not drive your horses
over the tender seed. Recollect that the cummin is beaten out with a
staff and not crushed out with a wheel. Take a very light rod. Perhaps
it would be as well if you had no rod at all, but left that work to
wiser hands. Go you and sow and leave your elders to thresh.

Next let us firmly believe in God's discretion, and be sure that he is
doing the right thing by us. Let us not be anxious to be screened from
affliction. When we ask that the cup may pass from us let it be with a
"nevertheless not as I will." Best of all, let us freely part with our
chaff. The likeliest way to escape the flail is to separate from the
husk as quickly as possible. "Come ye out from among them." Separate
yourselves from sin and sinners, from the world and worldliness, and the
process of threshing will all the sooner be completed. God make us wise
in this matter!

III. A word or two is all we can afford upon the third head, which is

The threshing will not last all our days even here: "Bread corn is
bruised, but he will not always be threshing it." Oh, no. "For a small
moment have I forsaken thee, but with great mercies will I gather thee."
"He will not always chide, neither will he keep his anger for ever."
"Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning."
Rejoice, ye daughters of sorrow! Be comforted, ye sons of grief! Have
hope in God, for you shall yet praise him who is the health of your
countenance. The rain does not always fall, nor will the clouds always
return. Sorrow and sighing shall flee away. Threshing is not an
operation which the corn requires all the year round; for the most part
the flail is idle. Bless the Lord, O my soul! The Lord will yet bring
home his banished ones.

Above all, tribulation will not last forever, for we shall soon be gone
to another and better world. We shall soon be carried to the land where
there are neither threshing-floors nor corn-drags. I sometimes think I
hear the herald calling me. His trumpet sounds: "Up and away! Boot and
saddle! Up and away! Leave the camp and the battle, and return in
triumph." The night is far spent with you, but the morning cometh. The
daylight breaks above yon hills. The day is coming--the day that shall
go no more down forever. Come, eat your bread with joy, and march onward
with a merry heart; for the land which floweth with milk and honey is
but a little way before you. Until the day break and the shadows flee
away, abide the Great Husbandman's will, and may the Lord glorify
himself in you. Amen.


"Gather the wheat into my barn."--MATTHEW 13:30.

"GATHER the wheat into my barn." Then the purpose of the Son of man will
be accomplished. He sowed good seed, and he shall have his barn filled
with it at the last. Be not dispirited, Christ will not be disappointed.
"He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied." He
went forth weeping, bearing precious seed, but he shall come again
rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him.

"Gather the wheat into my barn;" then Satan's policy will be
unsuccessful. The enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, hopeful
that the false wheat would destroy or materially injure the true; but he
failed in the end, for the wheat ripened and was ready to be gathered.
Christ's garner shall be filled; the tares shall not choke the wheat.
The evil one will be put to shame.

In gathering in the wheat, good angels will be employed: "the angels are
the reapers." This casts special scorn upon the great evil angel. He
sows the tares, and tries to destroy the harvest; and therefore the good
angels are brought in to celebrate his defeat, and to rejoice together
with their Lord in the success of the divine husbandry. Satan will make
a poor profit out of his meddling; he shall be baulked in all his
efforts, and so the threat shall be fulfilled, "Upon thy belly shalt
thou go, and dust shalt thou eat."

By giving the angels work to do, all intelligent creatures, of whose
existence we have information, are made to take an interest in the work
of grace; whether for malice or for adoration, redemption excites them
all. To all, the wonderful works of God are made manifest; for these
things were not done in a corner.

We too much forget the angels. Let us not overlook their tender sympathy
with us; they behold the Lord rejoicing over our repentance, and they
rejoice with him; they are our watchers and the Lord's messengers of
mercy; they bear us up in their hands lest we dash our foot against a
stone; and when we come to die, they carry us to the bosom of our Lord.
It is one of our joys that we have come to an innumerable company of
angels; let us think of them with affection.

At this time I will keep to my text, and preach from it almost word by
word. It begins with "but," and that is A WORD OF SEPARATION.

Here note that the tares and the wheat will grow together until the time
of harvest shall come. It is a great sorrow of heart to some of the
wheat to be growing side by side with tares. The ungodly are as thorns
and briers to those who fear the Lord. How frequently is the sigh forced
forth from the godly heart: "Woe is me, that I sojourn in Mesech, that I
dwell in the tents of Kedar!" A man's foes are often found within his
own household; those who should have been his best helpers are often his
worst hinderers; their conversation vexes and torments him. It is of
little use to try to escape from them, for the tares are permitted in
God's providence to grow with the wheat, and they will do so until the
end. Good men have emigrated to distant lands to found communities in
which there should be none but saints, and, alas! sinners have sprung up
in their own families. The attempt to weed the ungodly and heretical out
of the settlement has led to persecution and other evils, and the whole
plan has proved a failure. Others have shut themselves away in
hermitages to avoid the temptations of the world, and so have hoped to
win the victory by running away; this is not the way of wisdom. The word
for this present is, "Let both grow together;" _but_ there will come a
time when a final separation will be made. Then, dear Christian woman,
your husband will never persecute you again. Godly sister, your brother
will heap no more ridicule upon you. Pious workman, there will be no
more jesting and taunting from the ungodly. That "but" will be an iron
gate between the god-fearing and the godless; then will the tares be
cast into the fire, _but_ the Lord of the harvest will say, "Gather the
wheat into my barn."

This separation must be made; for the growing of the wheat and the tares
together on earth has caused much pain and injury, and therefore it will
not be continued in a happier world. We can very well suppose that godly
men and women might be willing that their unconverted children should
dwell with them in heaven; but it cannot be, for God will not have his
cleansed ones defiled nor his glorified ones tried by the presence of
the unbelieving. The tares must be taken away in order to the
perfectness and usefulness of the wheat. Would you have the tares and
the wheat heaped up together in the granary in one mass? That would be
ill husbandry with a vengeance. They can neither of them be put to
appropriate use till thoroughly separated. Even so, mark you, the saved
and the unsaved may live together here, but they must not live together
in another world. The command is absolute: "Gather the tares, and bind
them in bundles to burn them: _but_ gather the wheat into my barn."
Sinner, can you hope to enter heaven? You never loved your mother's God,
and is he to endure you in his heavenly courts? You never trusted your
father's Saviour, and yet are you to behold his glory for ever? Are you
to go swaggering down the streets of heaven, letting fall an oath, or
singing a loose song? Why, you know, you get tired of the worship of God
on the Lord's day; do you think that the Lord will endure unwilling
worshippers in the temple above? The Sabbath is a wearisome day to you;
how can you hope to enter into the Sabbath of God? You have no taste for
heavenly pursuits, and these things would be profaned if you were
permitted to partake in them; therefore that word "but" must come in,
and you must part from the Lord's people never to meet again. Can you
bear to think of being divided from godly friends for ever and ever?

That separation involves an awful difference of destiny. "Gather the
tares in bundles to burn them." I do not dare to draw the picture; but
when the bundle is bound up there is no place for it except the fire.
God grant that you may never know all the anguish which burning must
mean; but may you escape from it at once. It is no trifle which the Lord
of love compares to being consumed with fire. I am quite certain that no
words of mine can ever set forth its terror. They say that we speak
dreadful things about the wrath to come; but I am sure that we
understate the case. What must the tender, loving, gracious Jesus have
meant by the words, "Gather the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn
them?" See what a wide distinction between the lot of the Lord's people
and Satan's people. Burn the wheat? Oh, no; "Gather the wheat into my
barn." There let them be happily, safely housed for ever. Oh, the
infinite distance between heaven and hell!--the harps and the angels,
and the wailing and gnashing of teeth! Who can ever measure the width of
that gulf which divides the glorified saint, white-robed and crowned
with immortality, from the soul which is driven forever away from the
presence of God, and from the glory of his power? It is a dreadful
"but"--that "but" of separation. I pray you, remember that it will
interpose between brother and brother--between mother and child--between
husband and wife. "One shall be taken and the other left." And when that
sword shall descend to divide, there shall never be any after union. The
separation is eternal. There is no hope or possibility of change in the
world to come.

But, says one, "that dreadful '_but_'! Why must there be such a
difference?" The answer is, Because there always was a difference. The
wheat was sown by the Son of man; the false wheat was sown by the enemy.
There was always a difference in character--the wheat was good, the
tares were evil. This difference did not appear at first, but it became
more and more apparent as the wheat ripened, and as the tares ripened
too. They were totally different plants; and so a regenerate person and
an unregenerate person are altogether different beings. I have heard an
unregenerate man say that he is quite as good as the godly man; but in
so boasting he betrayed his pride. Surely there is as great a
difference in God's sight between the unsaved and the believer as
between darkness and light, or between the dead and the living. There is
in the one a life which there is not in the other, and the difference is
vital and radical. Oh, that you may never trifle with this essential
matter, but be really the wheat of the Lord! It is vain to have the name
of wheat, we must have the nature of wheat. God will not be mocked; he
will not be pleased by our calling ourselves Christians while we are not
so. Be not satisfied with church membership; but seek after membership
with Christ. Do not talk about faith, but exercise it. Do not boast of
experience, but possess it. Be not _like_ the wheat, but be the wheat.
No shams and imitations will stand in the last great day; that terrible
"but" will roll as a sea of fire between the true and the false. Oh Holy
Spirit! let each of us be found transformed by thy power.

II. The second word of our text is "gather"--that is A WORD OF
CONGREGATION. What a blessed thing this gathering is! I feel it a great
pleasure to gather multitudes together to hear the gospel; and is it not
a joy to see a house full of people, on week-days and Sabbath-days, who
are willing to leave their homes and to come considerable distances to
listen to the gospel? It is a great thing to gather people together for
that; but the gathering of the wheat into the barn is a far more
wonderful business. Gathering is in itself better than scattering, and I
pray that the Lord Jesus may ever exercise his attracting power in this
place; for he is no Divider, but "unto him shall the gathering of the
people be." Has he not said, "I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will
draw all men unto me"?

Observe, that the congregation mentioned in our text is selected and
assembled by skilled gatherers: "The angels are the reapers." Ministers
could not do it, for they do not know all the Lord's wheat, and they are
apt to make mistakes--some by too great leniency, and others by
excessive severity. Our poor judgments occasionally shut out saints, and
often shut in sinners. The angels will know their Master's property.
They know each saint, for they were present at his birthday. Angels know
when sinners repent, and they never forget the persons of the penitents.
They have witnessed the lives of those who have believed, and have
helped them in their spiritual battles, and so they know them. Yes,
angels by a holy instinct discern the Father's children, and are not to
be deceived. They will not fail to gather all the wheat and to leave out
every tare.

But they are gathered under a very stringent regulation; for, first of
all, according to the parable, the tares, the false wheat, have been
taken out, and then the angelic reapers gather nothing but the wheat.
The seed of the serpent, fathered by Satan, is thus separated from the
seed of the kingdom, owned by Jesus, the promised deliverer. This is the
one distinction; and no other is taken into consideration. If the most
amiable unconverted persons could stand in the ranks with the saints,
the angels would not bear them to heaven, for the mandate is, "Gather
the wheat." Could the most honest man be found standing in the centre of
the church, with all the members round about him, and with all the
ministers entreating that he might be spared, yet if he were not a
believer he could not be carried into the divine garner. There is no
help for it. The angels have no choice in the matter; the peremptory
command is, "Gather _the wheat_," and they must gather none else.

It will be a gathering from very great distances. Some of the wheat
ripens in the South Sea Islands, in China, and in Japan. Some flourishes
in France, broad acres grow in the United States; there is scarce a land
without a portion of the good grain. Where all God's wheat grows I
cannot tell. There is a remnant, according to the election of grace,
among every nation and people; but the angels will gather all the good
grain to the same garner.

"Gather the wheat." The saints will be found in all ranks of society.
The angels will bring in a few ears from palaces, and great armfuls from
cottages! Many will be collected from the lowly cottages of our villages
and hamlets, and others will be upraised from the back slums of our
great cities to the metropolis of God. From the darkest places angels
will bring those children of sweetness and light who seldom beheld the
sun, and yet were pure in heart and saw their God. The hidden and
obscure shall be brought into the light, for the Lord knoweth them that
are his, and his harvestmen will not miss them.

To me it is a charming thought that they will come from all the ages.
Let us hope that our first father Adam will be there, and mother Eve,
following in the footsteps of their dear son Abel, and trusting in the
same sacrifice. We shall meet Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and Moses,
and David, and Daniel, and all the saints made perfect. What a joy to
see the apostles, martyrs, and reformers! I long to see Luther, and
Calvin, and Bunyan, and Whitefield. I like the rhyme of good old father

  "They all shall be there, the great and the small,
   Poor I shall shake hands with the blessed St. Paul."

I do not know how that will be, but I have not much doubt that we shall
have fellowship with all the saints of every age in the general assembly
and church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven.

No matter when or where the wheat grew, it shall be gathered into the
one barn; gathered never to be scattered; gathered out of all divisions
of the visible church, never to be divided again. They grew in different
fields. Some flourished on the hillside where Episcopalians grow in all
their glory, and others in the lowlier soil, where Baptists multiply,
and Methodists flourish; but once the wheat is in the barn none can tell
in which field the ears grew. Then, indeed, shall the Master's prayer
have a glorious answer--"That they all may be one." All our errors
removed and our mistakes corrected and forgiven, the one Lord, the one
faith, and the one baptism will be known of us all, and there will be no
more vexings and envyings. What a blessed gathering it will be! What a
meeting! The elect of God, the _élite_ of all the centuries, of whom the
world was not worthy. I should not like to be away. If there were no
hell, it would be hell enough to me to be shut out of such heavenly
society. If there were no weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth, it
would be dreadful enough to miss the presence of the Lord, and the joy
of praising him forever, and the bliss of meeting with all the noblest
beings that ever lived. Amid the needful controversies of the age, I,
who have been doomed to seem a man of strife, sigh for the blessed rest
wherein all spiritual minds shall blend in eternal accord before the
throne of God and of the Lamb. Oh that we were all right, that we might
be all happily united in one spirit!

In the text there is next A WORD OF DESIGNATION. I have already
trespassed upon that domain. "Gather _the wheat_." Nothing but "the
wheat" must be placed in the Lord's homestead. Lend me your hearts while
I urge you to a searching examination for a minute or two. The wheat was
sown of the Lord. Are you sown of the Lord? Friend, if you have any
religion, how did you get it? Was it self-sown? If so, it is good for
nothing. The true wheat was sown by the Son of man. Are you sown of the
Lord? Did the Spirit of God drop eternal life into your bosom? Did it
come from that dear hand which was nailed to the cross? Is Jesus your
life? Does your life begin and end with him? If so, it is well.

The wheat sown of the Lord is also the object of the Lord's care. Wheat
needs a deal of attention. The farmer would get nothing from it if he
did not watch it carefully. Are you under the Lord's care? Does he keep
you? Is that word true to your soul, "I the Lord do keep it; I will
water it every moment: lest any hurt it, I will keep it night and day?"
Do you experience such keeping? Make an honest answer, as you love your

Next, wheat is a useful thing, a gift from God for the life of men. The
false wheat was of no good to anybody; it could only be eaten of swine,
and then it made them stagger like drunken men. Are you one of those who
are wholesome in society--who are like bread to the world, so that if
men receive you and your example and your teaching they will be blessed
thereby? Judge yourselves whether ye are good or evil in life and

"Gather the wheat." You know that God must put the goodness, the grace,
the solidity, and the usefulness into you, or else you will never be
wheat fit for angelic gathering. One thing is true of the wheat--that it
is the most dependent of all plants. I have never heard of a field of
wheat which sprang up, and grew, and ripened without a husbandman's
care. Some ears may appear after a harvest when the corn has shaled out;
but I have never heard of plains in America or elsewhere covered with
unsown wheat. No, no. There is no wheat where there is no man, and there
is no grace where there is no Christ. We owe our very existence to the
Father, who is the husbandman.

Yet, dependent as it is, wheat stands in the front rank of honor and
esteem; and so do the godly in the judgment of all who are of
understanding heart. We are nothing without Christ; but with him we are
full of honor. Oh, to be among those by whom the world is preserved, the
excellent of the earth in whom the saints delight; God forbid we should
be among the base and worthless tares!

Our last head, upon which also I will speak briefly, is A WORD OF
DESTINATION. "Gather the wheat _into my barn_." The process of gathering
in the wheat will be completed at the day of judgment, but it is going
on every day. From hour to hour saints are gathered; they are going
heavenward even now. I am so glad to hear as a regular thing that the
departed ones from my own dear church have such joy in being harvested.
Glory be to God, our people die well. The best thing is to live well,
but we are greatly gladdened to hear that the brethren die well; for,
full often, that is the most telling witness for vital godliness. Men of
the world feel the power of triumphant deaths.

Every hour the saints are being gathered into the barn. That is where
they want to be. We feel no pain at the news of ingathering, for we wish
to be safely stored up by our Lord. If the wheat that is in the field
could speak, every ear would say, "The ultimatum for which we are living
and growing is the barn, the granary." For this the frosty night; for
this the sunny day; for this the dew and the rain; and for this
everything. Every process with the wheat is tending toward the granary.
So is it with us; everything is working toward heaven--toward the
gathering place--toward the congregation of the righteous--toward the
vision of our Redeemer's face. Our death will cause no jar in our
life-music; it will involve no pause or even discord; it is part of a
programme, the crowning of our whole history.

To the wheat the barn is the place of security. It dreads no mildew
there; it fears no frost, no heat, no drought, no wet, when once in the
barn. All its growth-perils are past. It has reached its perfection. It
has rewarded the labor of the husbandman, and it is housed. Oh,
long-expected day, begin! Oh, brethren, what a blessing it will be when
you and I shall have come to our maturity, and Christ shall see in us
the travail of his soul.

I delight to think of heaven as _his_ barn; _his_ barn, what must that
be? It is but the poverty of language that such an expression has to be
used at all concerning the home of our Father, the dwelling of Jesus.
Heaven is the palace of the King, but, so far, to us a barn, because it
is the place of security, the place of rest for ever. It is the
homestead of Christ to which we shall be carried, and for this we are
ripening. It is to be thought of with ecstatic joy; for the gathering
into the barn involves a harvest home, and I have never heard of men
sitting down to cry over an earthly harvest home, nor of their following
the sheaves with tears. Nay, they clap their hands, they dance for joy,
and shout right lustily. Let us do something like that concerning those
who are already housed. With grave, sweet melodies let us sing around
their tombs. Let us feel that, surely, the bitterness of death is
passed. When we remember their glory, we may rejoice like the travailing
woman when her child is born, who "remembereth no more the anguish, for
joy that a man is born into the world." Another soul begins to sing in
heaven; why do you weep, O heirs of immortality? Is the eternal
happiness of the righteous the birth which comes of their death-pangs?
Then happy are they who die. Is glory the end and outcome of that which
fills our home with mourning? If so, thank God for bereavements; thank
God for saddest severings. He has promoted our dear ones to the skies!
He has blessed them beyond all that we could ask or even think; he has
taken them out of this weary world to lie in his own bosom for ever.
Blessed be his name if it were for nothing else but this. Would you keep
your old father here, full of pain, and broken down with feebleness?
Would you shut him out of glory? Would you detain your dear wife here
with all her suffering? Would you hold back your husband from the crown
immortal? Could you wish your child to descend to earth again from the
bliss which now surrounds her? No, no. We wish to be going home
ourselves to the heavenly Father's house and its many mansions; but
concerning the departed we rejoice before the Lord as with the joy of
harvest. "Wherefore comfort one another with these words."

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