CMF eZine The online magazine of the Christian Military Fellowship. 4 April Operation: Clear the Scatter By Rudy Swigart Leadership, Organization 0 Comment Operation: Clear the Scatter, 4 Tips for Effective Organizational Leadership Do you ever have those days where it seems that all you’ve done since you walked in the door is put out fires? Whether at work or in your home life, there are those days where it seems that you don’t get the chance to catch up and breathe! Have you ever had entire weeks like that? Has it ever (or is it now) become the work environment that you live in as your Modis Operandi? When faced with a few moments of quiet time (uh…what’s that?), are you able to climb out of the proverbial hole and get ahead of the tasks at hand? Military leaders are groomed from an early age to “improvise, adapt, and overcome” as the dynamic and fluid environment that they perform and excel in regularly dictates. But what about business leaders that are thrown into a fast paced and rigorous work environment without ever having been exposed to that kind of workflow? How do they cope? What do they do when burnout sets in (because it will)? Here are 4 tools that can help to ease the burden. They might take some time to implement completely before you can see a change in your workload and your stress levels, and it takes daily intentional activities, but there is light is at the end of the tunnel! Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. (Philippians 4:6 ESV) 1. Prepare for Battle How you begin your day is probably one of the most important social and psychological exercises that you may or may not give intentional credence towards. So let’s back up a little bit. Are you getting enough sleep? I probably don’t have to remind you but studies show that we need at least eight hours of sleep per night in order to obtain and maintain a healthy balance. In the next sections below, we’ll discuss some schedule management tools that will help you if you’re a “night owl” or just can’t seem to get to sleep before midnight. When your alarm goes off in the morning, what do you do? Do you hit snooze so many times that you oversleep? If you do, you know that leaping out of bed, brushing your teeth (let’s hope) and throwing a half toasted bagel in your mouth as you scramble out the door is not the best way to start your day. Beginning your day in “late mode” does not put you in the most beneficial frame of mind, and if you’re beginning your day that way, chaos can only ensue and the other drivers on the road will get to feel your wrath as you wrestle through traffic with a chaotic mindset. Safe? Probably not. As challenging as it may be, give yourself plenty of time to get up, out of bed and into the shower so that you’re not having to rush out the door in the morning. If you like to hit the snooze button, set your alarm for 10 minutes earlier than you have to get up. That way you can still hit snooze and get up on time. A better activity is to be able to sit down and eat your breakfast before you leave the house but let’s be real here…self-improvement and habit changing activities take baby steps! If possible, spend some quiet time with God. Daily devotionals only take about 5 – 10 minutes as you can read while you eat, ponder and sit in the message, and pray for a fruitful day. Sitting with the Lord at the beginning of your day will help to set the stage of calmness as you then begin to assess your daily schedule. If sitting quietly with the Lord and reading a daily devotional over breakfast is too challenging for you to implement at first, consider driving to work with the radio off, or with some Christian music and then pray while you drive (with your eyes open, please). The Lord loves to engage with you at any time of the day, in any situation and you don’t need to be in a certain posture in order for the Lord to hear your prayer. Just talk, He’s listening! Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. (Colossians 4:2 ESV) 2. Get Organized If you’re one of those people that has a hard time cleaning your room, I know that the concept of organization can be scary and maybe causes you some anxiety. You’ve managed to “make it work” your entire life so what’s the big deal if your desk/car/kitchen are a little messy, what does that have to do with your quality of work? I call it “swimming through the muck”. The “messy-ness” of your life, believe it or not, does have bleed-over into your organizational thinking and prioritization, and can have an impact on the overall workmanship of your products. Not to worry, we’ll eat this elephant one bite at a time and believe it or not the tasks of organization are not very daunting. You may even find that the process is relatively simple, easy to follow, and liberating. A. Start with your computer. Does your desktop look like the sea of lost files? Is your desktop filled with different types of files that are used for different reasons? Have you completely blocked out the desktop theme so you don’t even see the peaceful picture anymore? If so, is the “search” functionality your favorite friend? Believe it or not, there are ways to improve upon your file management system. i. Create folders! Organize your files by subject, or function such as: Supplies, Finance, HR, Training, Draft Documents, etc. In doing so, you’ll begin to learn how best to compartmentalize your mind so that when you need to find the latest files to work from, you won’t need to stress out or search, you’ll know right where to go! ii. Use your calendar! This may seem to be common sense but segregate your day by what’s on your calendar, and work the items that are on your calendar for that timeslot only. Now you might be saying…”that won’t work in my workplace”, but I’ll show you how it can when we discuss prioritization and Critical Chain Project Management. iii. Prioritize your tasks! Put out the quick “fires” but then build time into your calendar to catch up on the items that you’ve been avoiding. Use that time on your calendar for configuration management of your files, or to finalize documents, or to respond to emails. Be intentional and be consistent and most importantly, do it! a). Critical Chain Project Management allows you to identify the highest priority items, and then segregate them, and where possible, work those items ONLY. This means you might have to turn off your phone and set up your out-of-office reply. Segregate yourself as you are on the “Critical Path” burning down tasks that are critical to the success of the delivery. Others need to be aware of the Critical Chain and where they can help you to be segregated. You might need to delegate many things and empower others in your organization to do some tasks that you normally would do, during the time that you’re segregated working on prioritized critical tasks. I know this can be hard to do for us control freaks, but that’s an issue for another article. For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. (Jeremiah 29:11 ESV) B. Make lists! You’d be surprised how a simple checklist can help you to manage the tasks at hand, especially when they seemingly become overwhelming. Using your day planner, in conjunction with your calendar, or even just a piece of regular old paper, write out your tasks that you need to accomplish, as framed by the subject area of your calendar. Don’t overdo it and keep your lists compartmentalized to the task that you’re working based on what you’ve placed on your calendar for that timeframe. Once you complete the task, check it off of your list! Making lists eases your mind because it takes the scatter out of your mind and puts it on the paper, which then becomes manageable and less daunting. Why stay awake at night wondering what to do the next day with the multitude of overwhelming tasks running around your brain? Take a couple of minutes to get the tasks out of your head, and onto the manageable paper. 3. Turn Off Social Media This should be a “no-brainer”. If you’re that OCD person that can’t avoid the pressure to not address the blinking light on your phone, then put your phone in a drawer, or keep it out of sight as you focus on the critical path. Turn off all alerts, visible and audible so that you’re not tempted by the never-ending persistence of the blinking light. If there’s an emergency, your family can call your place of business on a separate line. This must be an intentional and disciplined approach if you aspire to clear the scatter effectively. 4. Be Still and Know Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way, over the man who carries out evil devices! (Psalm 37:7 ESV) At the beginning of the day, and all throughout the day we have to breathe. We can’t be effective leaders if we’re constantly running at a highly chaotic pace. If you’re functioning in that mode continuously, it’s not healthy for you, or for your peers and subordinates as you create and place undue pressures on them. Manage your workload accordingly, and you’ll make for a more harmonious leader that can help others to manage their workloads efficiently and effectively. Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth! (Psalm 46:10 ESV) In doing so, God wants you to slow down and be still, and know that He is God. Your identity is not in the ability to meet the deadline. Your identity is not in the salary that you make nor in the car that you drive. Your identity is not found within the stripes on your sleeve or the device on your collar. Your identity, first and foremost is as a loving child of the one true living God. The almighty creator that first breathed life into you and continues to be the very breath that fills your lungs on a daily basis. Be still in that, feel the overwhelming love and rest in the peace that is promised eternity, that which is found in Christ Jesus. Shalom. Operation: Clear the Scatter, 4 Tips for Effective Organizational Leadership Do you ever have those days where it seems that all you’ve done since you walked in the door is put out fires? Whether at work or in your home life, there are those days where it seems that you don’t get the chance to catch up and breathe! Have you ever had entire weeks like that? Has it ever (or is it now) become the work environment that you live in as your Modis Operandi? When faced with a few moments of quiet time (uh…what’s that?), are you able to climb out of the proverbial hole and get ahead of the tasks at hand? Military leaders are groomed from an early age to “improvise, adapt, and overcome” as the dynamic and fluid environment that they perform and excel in regularly dictates. But what about business leaders that are thrown into a fast paced and rigorous work environment without ever having been exposed to that kind of workflow? How do they cope? What do they do when burnout sets in (because it will)? Here are 4 tools that can help to ease the burden. They might take some time to implement completely before you can see a change in your workload and your stress levels, and it takes daily intentional activities, but there is light is at the end of the tunnel! Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. (Philippians 4:6 ESV) 1. Prepare for Battle How you begin your day is probably one of the most important social and psychological exercises that you may or may not give intentional credence towards. So let’s back up a little bit. Are you getting enough sleep? I probably don’t have to remind you but studies show that we need at least eight hours of sleep per night in order to obtain and maintain a healthy balance. In the next sections below, we’ll discuss some schedule management tools that will help you if you’re a “night owl” or just can’t seem to get to sleep before midnight. When your alarm goes off in the morning, what do you do? Do you hit snooze so many times that you oversleep? If you do, you know that leaping out of bed, brushing your teeth (let’s hope) and throwing a half toasted bagel in your mouth as you scramble out the door is not the best way to start your day. Beginning your day in “late mode” does not put you in the most beneficial frame of mind, and if you’re beginning your day that way, chaos can only ensue and the other drivers on the road will get to feel your wrath as you wrestle through traffic with a chaotic mindset. Safe? Probably not. As challenging as it may be, give yourself plenty of time to get up, out of bed and into the shower so that you’re not having to rush out the door in the morning. If you like to hit the snooze button, set your alarm for 10 minutes earlier than you have to get up. That way you can still hit snooze and get up on time. A better activity is to be able to sit down and eat your breakfast before you leave the house but let’s be real here…self-improvement and habit changing activities take baby steps! If possible, spend some quiet time with God. Daily devotionals only take about 5 – 10 minutes as you can read while you eat, ponder and sit in the message, and pray for a fruitful day. Sitting with the Lord at the beginning of your day will help to set the stage of calmness as you then begin to assess your daily schedule. If sitting quietly with the Lord and reading a daily devotional over breakfast is too challenging for you to implement at first, consider driving to work with the radio off, or with some Christian music and then pray while you drive (with your eyes open, please). The Lord loves to engage with you at any time of the day, in any situation and you don’t need to be in a certain posture in order for the Lord to hear your prayer. Just talk, He’s listening! Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. (Colossians 4:2 ESV) 2. Get Organized If you’re one of those people that has a hard time cleaning your room, I know that the concept of organization can be scary and maybe causes you some anxiety. You’ve managed to “make it work” your entire life so what’s the big deal if your desk/car/kitchen are a little messy, what does that have to do with your quality of work? I call it “swimming through the muck”. The “messy-ness” of your life, believe it or not, does have bleed-over into your organizational thinking and prioritization, and can have an impact on the overall workmanship of your products. Not to worry, we’ll eat this elephant one bite at a time and believe it or not the tasks of organization are not very daunting. You may even find that the process is relatively simple, easy to follow, and liberating. A. Start with your computer. Does your desktop look like the sea of lost files? Is your desktop filled with different types of files that are used for different reasons? Have you completely blocked out the desktop theme so you don’t even see the peaceful picture anymore? If so, is the “search” functionality your favorite friend? Believe it or not, there are ways to improve upon your file management system. i. Create folders! Organize your files by subject, or function such as: Supplies, Finance, HR, Training, Draft Documents, etc. In doing so, you’ll begin to learn how best to compartmentalize your mind so that when you need to find the latest files to work from, you won’t need to stress out or search, you’ll know right where to go! ii. Use your calendar! This may seem to be common sense but segregate your day by what’s on your calendar, and work the items that are on your calendar for that timeslot only. Now you might be saying…”that won’t work in my workplace”, but I’ll show you how it can when we discuss prioritization and Critical Chain Project Management. iii. Prioritize your tasks! Put out the quick “fires” but then build time into your calendar to catch up on the items that you’ve been avoiding. Use that time on your calendar for configuration management of your files, or to finalize documents, or to respond to emails. Be intentional and be consistent and most importantly, do it! a). Critical Chain Project Management allows you to identify the highest priority items, and then segregate them, and where possible, work those items ONLY. This means you might have to turn off your phone and set up your out-of-office reply. Segregate yourself as you are on the “Critical Path” burning down tasks that are critical to the success of the delivery. Others need to be aware of the Critical Chain and where they can help you to be segregated. You might need to delegate many things and empower others in your organization to do some tasks that you normally would do, during the time that you’re segregated working on prioritized critical tasks. I know this can be hard to do for us control freaks, but that’s an issue for another article. For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. (Jeremiah 29:11 ESV) B. Make lists! You’d be surprised how a simple checklist can help you to manage the tasks at hand, especially when they seemingly become overwhelming. Using your day planner, in conjunction with your calendar, or even just a piece of regular old paper, write out your tasks that you need to accomplish, as framed by the subject area of your calendar. Don’t overdo it and keep your lists compartmentalized to the task that you’re working based on what you’ve placed on your calendar for that timeframe. Once you complete the task, check it off of your list! Making lists eases your mind because it takes the scatter out of your mind and puts it on the paper, which then becomes manageable and less daunting. Why stay awake at night wondering what to do the next day with the multitude of overwhelming tasks running around your brain? Take a couple of minutes to get the tasks out of your head, and onto the manageable paper. 3. Turn Off Social Media This should be a “no-brainer”. If you’re that OCD person that can’t avoid the pressure to not address the blinking light on your phone, then put your phone in a drawer, or keep it out of sight as you focus on the critical path. Turn off all alerts, visible and audible so that you’re not tempted by the never-ending persistence of the blinking light. If there’s an emergency, your family can call your place of business on a separate line. This must be an intentional and disciplined approach if you aspire to clear the scatter effectively. 4. Be Still and Know Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way, over the man who carries out evil devices! (Psalm 37:7 ESV) At the beginning of the day, and all throughout the day we have to breathe. We can’t be effective leaders if we’re constantly running at a highly chaotic pace. If you’re functioning in that mode continuously, it’s not healthy for you, or for your peers and subordinates as you create and place undue pressures on them. Manage your workload accordingly, and you’ll make for a more harmonious leader that can help others to manage their workloads efficiently and effectively. Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth! (Psalm 46:10 ESV) In doing so, God wants you to slow down and be still, and know that He is God. Your identity is not in the ability to meet the deadline. Your identity is not in the salary that you make nor in the car that you drive. Your identity is not found within the stripes on your sleeve or the device on your collar. Your identity, first and foremost is as a loving child of the one true living God. The almighty creator that first breathed life into you and continues to be the very breath that fills your lungs on a daily basis. Be still in that, feel the overwhelming love and rest in the peace that is promised eternity, that which is found in Christ Jesus. Shalom. Related Frost and Thaw Frost and Thaw "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 Providence— 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 towards 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 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 be 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 from 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 operations of grace, of which frost and thaw are the outward symbols. 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. Yon 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 honour. 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 is it with the work of 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 grace. 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 shalt 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 saved. 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 realised 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. Amen. Spurgeon, C. H. (1882). Farm Sermons. New York: Passmore and Alabaster. (Public Domain) What the Farm Labourers Can Do What the Farm Labourers Can Do and What They Cannot Do "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. HERE is a lesson for "labourers 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 fruit. 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 could." 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 favourable 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 sower. 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 labour." 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 succour 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 know and what we cannot know. 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 life. 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 truth"? 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 further; 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 labour 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 leaped 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 towards 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 dishonours 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 all. 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 ear we are to labour 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. Spurgeon, C. H. (1882). Farm Sermons. New York: Passmore and Alabaster. (Public Domain) The Sword of the Word The Sword of The Word The word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in His sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of Him with Whom we have to do. Hebrews 4:12, 13. Great S. Mary’s Church, 21st Sunday after Trinity, 1870. Do we want an illustration of the moral truth conveyed in these words? We shall not have to look far for an example. Of all the heroes in Jewish history, none would appear more enviable, as none was more successful or more famous, than David, the triumphant king, the sweet Psalmist of Israel, the man after God’s own heart. We follow him step by step from the obscurity of his youth, till after many dangers and trials, through many vicissitudes, he has forced his way from the sheepfold to the throne. Seated there, he raises the power of his people, and the glory of the monarchy, to a height, which before him none could have foreseen, which after him none was destined to surpass. His success is now culminating. Everywhere respected, everywhere triumphant, honoured by his people and feared by his enemies, in all the consciousness of patriotic zeal, in all the plenitude of undisputed power, he might seem indeed to have attained such happiness as rarely falls to the lot of man. Moreover in his private life the same prosperity attends him. At this very moment he has accomplished a design which lies near to his heart; his well-laid plans have been carried out with secrecy and crowned with success; he is reaping the fruits of his stratagem. Who so proud, who so justly admired and envied as he? And yet at the very crisis of his triumph, in his mid-career of self-felicitation, the blow falls upon him; a sharp, chilling, piercing stroke from an unseen hand, which paralyses his whole being. And from what an unexpected quarter too does it fall! Not by famine or pestilence; not by defeat abroad or by revolution at home; not by loss of reputation, or loss of wealth, or loss of friends; not by disaster of any kind, as men reckon disasters, but by the agony of an awakened conscience. A simple child-like story uttered by a prophet’s lips has wrought the miracle. The Israelite king feels in anguish of spirit the biting edge of a sudden remorse. His very success is his bitterest punishment. The overflowing cup of happiness is become a draught of deadliest poison. His sin has been brought home to him. Henceforth his life is all changed. He is no more hopeful, no more joyous, no more proud and self-reliant. Bowed down with shame and sorrow, he lies prostrate before the throne of grace. ‘Against Thee only have I sinned.’ ‘Cast me not away from Thy presence, and take not Thy Holy Spirit from me.’ ‘O give me the comfort of Thy help again.’ The echo of those few terrible words ever lingers in his ear, ‘Thou art the man.’ Or again; pass from the Old Testament to the New. A very different scene awaits us here. From the captain of Israel we turn to the oppressor of Israel. A Roman governor is seated on his tribunal, protected by his guards and surrounded by the insignia of office. A man of unbridled passions and inhuman cruelty, he holds in his grasp the life and the property of all around him. Hated and feared by others, he knows no fear himself; he has no scruples, no misgivings of any kind. Before him stands a helpless prisoner, rude of speech, and mean in bodily presence, a poor invalid broken by cruel persecution and worn with distracting cares. He utters a few eager words on a strange topic. Do they seem like the dreams of a visionary or a fanatic? Certainly they take no account of the worldly schemes, the tangible advantages, the material pleasures, which absorb that ruler’s thoughts. And yet, the bold reckless tyrant dares not listen, dares not face them. Paul reasons of righteousness, temperance and judgment to come; and Felix trembles. I have set these two incidents side by side, because they are at once so like and so unlike the one to the other. In time, they are separated by the lapse of many centuries; and diverse forms of thought and usages of society and types of government have come and gone; and mighty nations have arisen and flourished and grown old and passed away meanwhile. In the principal actors also, the central figures in the two pictures, there is a direct contrast. The Israelite king, the devout servant of the one true God, has nothing in common with the reckless procurator, whose religion would have been idolatry, if he had had any religion at all; nothing in common at least, except his proneness to sin and his need of forgiveness. And, lastly, in the results the opposition is still more striking. David is overwhelmed with shame, and humbles himself before God: Felix stops his ears, and hardens his heart. Yet this broad gulf of time is spanned by one eternal power. Amidst all this diversity of circumstances, of persons, of consequences, there is one constant and abiding element; the unseen, but not unfelt, Witness and Judge, Who reveals and Who denounces sin. While all else changes, this alone remains unchangeable. For, though all flesh withereth like grass, and the glory of man falleth away, as the flower thereof, yet the Word of God endureth for ever. This mighty two-edged sword was the weapon wielded alike by Nathan and S. Paul. And, smitten thereby, David repented and Felix trembled. The Word of God. Much controversy and much misapprehension have gathered about this simple phrase. From all controversy I hope to keep clear. The subject which I have chosen, the power of the Word of God in revealing sin, is deeper and higher and broader than any controverted topic of theology—deeper, for it penetrates into the inmost recesses of the human heart; higher, for it carries us before the throne of God; broader, for it allows no distinction between man and man. All alike fall within its scope. But, if controversy should be avoided, misapprehension must be corrected. And to the true understanding of the text, the first step will be to discover what is meant by ‘the Word of God.’ In the common language of our own time the Word of God is a synonym for the Scriptures, the Bible, the Record, the written Word. Men are so accustomed to this limitation, that they find it difficult to shake themselves loose from the force of habit. Yet in the Bible itself the expression is not so used; and even in our Church formularies, though the phrase frequently refers to the written Record, it is not limited to this. Speaking generally, we may say that in the Bible itself the ‘Word of God’ is used as coextensive with Revelation in its widest sense. God’s voice is God’s declaration of Himself. Whensoever and howsoever He makes Himself known, there He speaks. Is it a precept, or a prediction, or a threat, or a promise? Is it a phenomenon of nature, or an act of grace? Is it an ordinary, or an extraordinary, exhibition of His power or His wisdom or His love? Does it speak to the eye by a written scroll, or does it speak to the ear through pulsations of air, or does it speak to the mind or the conscience with an impalpable, inaudible, motionless appeal? Whatever the subject, and whatever the mode of operation, the voice is still the same. In all these alike the Word of God is the agent or the agency, whereby He declares Himself. Thus the application is comprehensive. Wherever Revelation is—Revelation natural or Revelation special—there is the Word of God. But, with this comprehensive bearing, the conception is two-fold. Sometimes the Word of God is the agent, sometimes the agency or the act. In other language it is sometimes personal, and sometimes impersonal. 1. The Word personal. The direct language of S. John, and the indirect language of S. Paul, apply the expression to a Divine Being, Who became man, and for one brief space lived on earth as man. He was before the worlds; through Him the worlds were created, and are governed. He is the expression of the Father’s power, the Father’s wisdom, the Father’s love. He is the manifestation of God. His agency extends through all time, reaches back into the infinite past, and forward into the infinite future. Through Him is every revelation of God, whether natural or supernatural, whether in the world of sense or in the world of spirit. In His Incarnation, in His life and death and resurrection, the revelation of the Word culminates. Here its scattered rays are gathered into a focus. But it has begun countless ages before, and will continue countless ages after. 2. The Word impersonal. This is the most frequent, as it is the most obvious, use of the phrase. No longer the agent, but the operation or the agency, is denoted thereby. It is not now the speaker, but the speech, that is intended by the ‘Word of God’—the speech, but still in its comprehensive sense; the utterance which makes itself heard in nature and in history, the utterance which addresses itself to the hearts and consciences of men, not less than the utterance which communicates a special message to the prophet or the Apostle. ‘By the Word of God the heavens were of old, ‘says S. Peter in one passage, and in another, ‘Ye are born again by the Word of God.’ ‘His Word runneth very swiftly. He giveth snow like wool; He scattereth the hoarfrost like ashes … He sendeth out his Word, and melteth them;’ so says the Psalmist, and in the very next verse he adds, ‘He sheweth His Word unto Jacob, His statutes and His judgments unto Israel.’ These two great facts which awed the soul of the modern philosopher—the starry heavens above, and the sense of moral responsibility within—what are they but the two-fold utterance of the Eternal Word of God? In the text then the expression cannot be said of the written Word, for the usage of the Bible forbids this; neither can it be said of the personal Word, for the context does not encourage this meaning. It follows therefore that we adopt the third and only remaining sense, and understand it here of the operation or influence, which speaks to us from God and of God, which withdraws the veil of the material and sensible, which discloses to us the spiritual and unseen, alike in the phenomena of nature and the phenomena of grace—the same, of which it is written that, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every Word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.’ This Word, so comprehensive, so penetrating, has many functions. It instructs, it consoles, it stimulates, and encourages; but it also accuses and condemns. It addresses the understanding, the affections, the sympathies; but more especially it addresses the conscience. It is this last application to which the text refers. That man despises the Word of God and hardens his heart, as the people of old hardened their hearts in the wilderness, and brings down upon himself the like condemnation, and shuts himself out from the promised rest, who refuses to listen to the voice of right and truth, by whatsoever channel it reaches his ear, whether by the outspoken rebuke of a friend, or the angry taunt of a foe, or the inward workings of his heart, or the accidents of outward circumstances—if only he knows it to be God’s voice—not less surely, not less fatally, than though it were uttered by an accredited messenger from Heaven, or appealed to him in the language, and through the facts, of Holy Scripture. I spoke just now of the limited sense in which men commonly conceive and speak of the ‘Word of God,’ as not justified by the language of the Scriptures themselves. And yet this usage is only wrong, in so far as it is a limitation. I will not now discuss the more direct theological characteristics of the Bible, which vindicate its claim to this title as most legitimate and most true. I am rather concerned here with the moral power of the Word, for to this the text more directly points. And does not the written Record, the Bible, regarded in this aspect, satisfy the description most fully? It is living and active. Though the record of events transacted in bygone ages and in foreign lands, though the voice and the writing of men who have long since passed away, it is yet no dead letter, but a quick and a quickening spirit. It speaks still, as it has spoken ever, to the hearts and consciences of men; nay, it seems even to gain force and meaning by the lapse of ages. And it is a sharp two-edged sword also. It breaks the skin of social distinctions; it probes the conventional habits of a defective morality; it pierces to the inmost recesses of the soul; it severs, and it lays open. When therefore we are discussing the language of the text, we should do well to bear in mind that though the Word of God and the Bible are not coextensive and so convertible terms, yet the Bible pre-eminently satisfies the requirements which are demanded of the Word of God in this definition. And of all the tokens of Inspiration none is more striking, because none is more simple. It is the one evidence which makes no difference between mind and mind, which presupposes no previous special training, asks no laborious investigation or abstruse reasoning. The attestation of miracles requires careful weighing; the fulfilment of prophecy demands historical research; the marvellous oneness and continuity of the Scripture Revelation—manifesting the same increasing purpose throughout, yet manifesting it under various forms and in diverse ages (for the Bible is not a divine book, but a divine library, as it was truly called in times past)—this, which I venture to think the most weighty of all merely intellectual evidences, will not appear without much patient study and some concentration of thought. But here we are moving in a larger room, are breathing a free air. Here is neither Greek nor barbarian, learned nor unlearned, wisdom nor folly. Here is no parable of intricate meaning; ‘Lo, now speakest Thou plainly, and utterest no proverb. Now we believe that Thou camest forth from God.’ We have seen what is implied by the ‘Word of God,’ as used in this passage. Let us turn now to the image, under which its power is described. The victim bound with cords, helpless, prostrate on the altar; the sacrificial knife gleaming over him for a moment, then plunged into his neck; the convulsed limbs, the relaxing muscles, the quivering heart, the life ebbing out fast with the stream of his blood; the last, panting, throbbing gasp, and all is over. The victim is then separated limb from limb; the secret springs of his exuberant life are laid bare; the complex machinery of his active frame—bones, joints, muscles, arteries—all are seen. There is no concealment, no mystery now. And is it an idle fancy, if we discern something more in the image than this? Metaphors borrowed from heathen sacrificial rites are familiar to us in S. Paul. The fragrant incense, which perfumes the sacrifice, is the diffusive benevolence of the Christian heart accompanying the surrender of self to God. The libation poured over the head of the victim is the Apostle’s devotion of his own life to perfect the faith and self-sacrifice of his converts. The captives chained to the victor’s car, the triumphal procession winding along the Sacred Way to the temple on the Capitoline Mount, represent the spirits of men subjugated by the power of the Gospel, the triumph of Christ Who ascends up on high and leads captivity captive. May there not then be a similar reference here to certain rites which accompanied a heathen sacrifice? May not the image refer to the inspection of the victim for the purpose of taking omens? The carcase is dissected; the vital parts are laid open; the abode of the passions and affections is exposed to scrutiny. Is the heart healthy and whole? Or is there in some hidden recess a dark plague-spot, the germ of an eating canker, some fatal propensity of pride or malice or indolence or sensuality or selfishness or self-seeking in some other form—unrevealed to those without, unfelt and almost unsuspected even by the victim himself, and yet a terrible omen foreboding ruin to himself, to his family, to the society in which he moves, to the Church of which he is a member, to the country which reckons him as a son. It is well that his heart should be torn open; well that the dark presage should be read in time, while yet all is not lost, while yet the fearful consequences may be averted. This revelation the Word of God will make: piercing, slaying, dissecting, like the sacrificial knife; but unlike it in this, that it heals most completely, where it wounds most deeply; and gives life there only, where first it has killed. Such I suppose to be the force of the image in the text. But, whether this be so or not, it is clearly intended to suggest two main ideas, revelation and chastisement. 1. The Word of God is essentially a revelation of the secrets of the heart. And here again we cannot fail to see how the Book, the Record, fulfils this condition of the Word of God. ‘His words,’ said one of the fathers speaking of S. Paul, ‘are not words, but claps of thunder.’ Might we not have added that they are lightning-flashes also, darting through the pitchy darkness, and revealing so suddenly, so unexpectedly, the deepest recesses of selfishness and sin in the human heart? This, which is true of S. Paul, true of the whole Bible, is pre-eminently true of the recorded sayings of Him, Who spake as never man spake, Who is Himself the very Word of God. I cannot attempt to describe this moral power of Holy Scripture in language. I dare not hope to add anything to the image in the text. The joints and the marrow of the human soul and spirit—the most complex interdependencies of passion and thought and purpose and action, and the vital centre and home of the moral life—both these the Word of God probes and severs and lays bare. It is just this dissecting power, this keen penetration of the Scriptural Record, which is its most wonderful moral feature. I have read in other books many wise and beautiful reflections on the relations of God and man, on life and death, on time and eternity, many lofty precepts and salutary rules for the guidance of human conduct, much of all kinds that instructs, improves, elevates. I have read such with deep thankfulness; and I believe that all light, whatever it may be, comes from the great Father of lights. But in no other book, unless its inspiration has been derived from this Book, do I find the same delicate discrimination between the real and the seeming in things moral, the same faculty of piercing through the crust of outward conduct and revealing the hidden springs of action, of stripping off all conventional disguises, of separating mixed motives with their contradictory elements of good and evil. This analysing, dissecting moral power is the logical attribute of the written Word. 2. But the metaphor in the text implies punishment also. The revelation which probes the intricate joints and the inmost marrow of the human soul and spirit, cannot do so without inflicting much bitter anguish. Take the case of one who, after living on for years in a dream-land of self-delusion, is awakened to a sense of his true character. His life perhaps has been one of uncheckered success throughout; he is happy in his friends and his family; he is in easy circumstances; he maintains a high reputation with the world. And meanwhile his outward prosperity and calm have lulled him into a false security: he has come to survey his position and his character with infinite self-satisfaction. Then suddenly an unseen power flashes the truth upon him. He sees his own meanness, his selfishness, his hypocrisy and doubleness of heart. He is stabbed through and through with this new revelation. He is not worse now, he is very far better, than he was before. A converting, purifying influence, like a mighty rushing wind, has passed, or is passing, over him. Yet he was happy then, and now he is utterly wretched. Whence comes this difference? The world has not changed its opinion of him. It holds him upright and virtuous now, as it held him before. Good men seek his company and value his approbation still, as they did before. Is this new feeling then a mere phantom, a temporary mania? No: he knows that it is real; far more real than the haze of self-delusion, in which he has hitherto lived. And yet, if religion were not a true thing, if the distinction of good and evil were only a conventional distinction, a mere trick of education, the accumulated growth of ages, if morality were but a more imposing name for utility, then he would be right to fling these uncomfortable feelings aside, as idle fancies, unsubstantial ghosts, haunting his path and disturbing his peace. But this he dare not, he cannot do. He has felt the cutting edge of the Word of God. It has pierced to the dividing asunder of his inmost soul and spirit. I have taken an instance of one suddenly awakened in conscience by the power of the Word. Let me exemplify this retributive power exercised under different circumstances and with different results, no longer in correction but in vengeance, no longer for repentance but for remorse. A man is indulging habitually in some sinful course, whether dishonesty or sensuality or some other form of vice. He plunges deeper and deeper in his guilt; he goes on and on, conscious whither he is led. He feels himself falling, falling downward, into the abyss: and his guilty heart keeps its own secret. He dares not reveal himself even to his closest and dearest friend. What account, I ask, is to be given of this state of mind, so truly described as the heaviest of all punishments, worse than the sword of Damocles, worse than the tortures of Phalaris, by the heathen moralist and poet, whose language, expressing as it does the deepest moral truth in the noblest form, the preacher speaking in the name of Christ need not apologize for adopting. It is certainly not the fear of worldly consequences: his guilt may be beyond the reach of punishment, perhaps even of detection. He may have no very distinct sense of right and wrong, and yet he feels somehow that he is despising the right and choosing the wrong. He may not confess God with his tongue or even in his heart, and yet he is conscious that an ever-widening gulf yawns between him and all that is noble and beautiful and good, that is to say, the mind of God; he is dimly conscious that he is alienating himself from God. This is the source of his hidden terror; God is witnessing within him, is denouncing him, is punishing him. He too has felt the cutting edge of the Word. Are there any here, who have experienced that which I have attempted to describe; into whose soul this keen knife of the Word has pierced, healing with correction or slaying with remorse; who with David have repented, or with Felix have trembled? They will know that this sharp, painful shock cannot be wholly explained by the fear of detection or the dread of consequences; that beyond and above these lower influences a mightier hand wields the weapon. These may poison the barb, but they do not whet its point, nor direct its aim. In lower natures they will be more powerful. A brave man will despise them. It is only when that something which we call conscience whispers its tale in his ear, that the defiant eye is dropped, and the upraised arm sinks by his side, and he feels that the strength has gone out of him. His best ally, his inmost self, has turned against him; this it is, which unnerves, unmans him. ‘Conscience doth make cowards of us all.’ And if conscience is not a mere function of utility, so neither is it an artificial growth of education. Would you object that in the child the distinction of right and wrong seems merged in the idea of obedience or disobedience to external authority; that with the savage the conception of morality appears hardly to rise above the desire of appeasing, or the fear of offending, his fetich? What then: would you go to the child for a clear idea of syllogistic reasoning? To the savage for an adequate definition of scientific induction? And if you would not, then why should you do in the one case, what you would not do in the other? Education does develope; experience does ripen. This is true of the moral consciousness, as it is true of the intellectual reason. But neither education, nor experience, can create. The germ, the faculty, is there, there in the child and in the savage, as in the full-grown civilized man, bound up, we know not how, with the phenomena of our physical nature, influenced by them and influencing them in turn, but heaven-descended and heaven-implanted. ‘Conscience doth make cowards of us all.’ It is said, and said truly. But, if this be all, then its work is imperfect, is worse than useless. ‘Sin revived and I died,’ says S. Paul. But this is only a first stage. Death cannot be the rule of life. ‘God did not give us the spirit of cowardice, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.’ Conscience makes cowards of us; but conscience makes saints and heroes also; saints, for the perfect harmony, perfect guilelessness, perfect gentleness of character which we call saintliness, will only come to those who are ever sensitive to the most subdued tones of the still small voice, which speaks to us alike in the silence of the closet and the turmoil of the streets: heroes, for though there be heroes many, as the world counts heroes, whom ambition or vainglory or self-seeking have made bold and defiant, yet the true hero, the man (as he was painted of old) who is content to live a life of obloquy and die a death of shame, who strives to be just, more than to be called just—as Christians let us add also, to be pure, more than to be called pure—he can only be created by the consciousness of this Higher Presence, can only be sustained by the monitions of this Divine Witness within him. ‘His Word was in my heart as a burning fire.’ Youth and early manhood are the seed-time of the conscience, not less but even more than of the intellect. God’s law, which ordains that a man’s heart shall harden itself by neglect and selfishness and disobedience, till one by one each avenue is closed to His Spirit, and a thick, impervious crust encases the whole—this law, however mysterious as a dispensation, is a plain stubborn fact which daily experience confirms. I do not doubt that with you, young men—not with a few but with many—personal consciousness has winged the arrow and driven the image in the text home to your hearts. At some time or other, in one or more of many ways, the sword has pierced your soul; the Word of God, witnessing in you and against you, has found its way to the vital parts. It has done so, and it will do so again. But this will not last for ever. Instead of the sharp, short pang, which wounds only to heal, a moral numbness, a paralysis ending but in death may creep on at last. Do not therefore resist; do not sear the wound. If you entertain the high ambition, not only to pass through the world in respectability and comfort, not only to achieve a success more or less brilliant, but to do and to suffer, above all to be that which God wills for you, then this His Word speaking through your conscience is your real and only teacher. Honesty and truthfulness are the elements of morality; humility and reverence and purity are its head and crown. For the former the restraints of law and convention, the demands and the sympathies of social life may do not a little; for the latter they will effect almost nothing. These must grow from within. This inward monitor, and this alone, can create and sustain them. Therefore do not shield yourselves against the cutting double-edge of this Sword of God. Bear the pain, that you may find the cure. ‘He hath torn, and He will heal us; He hath smitten, and He will bind us up.’ Is it not significant, that in the words immediately following on the text—as the sequel and the counterpart to this description of the piercing, revealing, slaying Word of God—we are led at once into the presence of our great High Priest in the heavens, Who is ‘touched with a feeling of our infirmities,’ being tempted like us, though unlike us sinless, and bidden to ‘come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.’ Lightfoot, J. B. (1890). Cambridge Sermons. London; New York: MacMillan and Co. (Public Domain) The Gap: Where Do Leaders Fail? The Gap: Where Do Leaders Fail? 8 Tools to Leadership Success Knowing the landscape of what becomes well rounded leadership is only half the battle. In most cases, we fight ourselves and our cultural upbringing along the way. As a result, there can be gaps, or chinks in our armor. Our backgrounds and experiences can help or hinder in our abilities to lead others. Have you ever completed a SWOT analysis 1 on yourself? If you have, you know that the “W” is for Weaknesses. While we’d like to assume that we make very little mistakes and take calculated and well thought out mitigated risks, the truth of the matter is that upwards of 40 percent of leaders fail 2 within the first 18 months and have a gap in their toolbox in at least one of the following areas. What are your weaknesses? How do you know?  SWOT Analysis: acronym (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) is a simple but useful framework for analyzing your organization's strengths and weaknesses, and the opportunities and threats that you face. It helps you focus on your strengths, minimize threats, and take the greatest possible advantage of opportunities available to you.  Staffing Talk: http://staffingtalk.com/40-percent-new-leaders-fail-within-first-18-months 1. Organization — Understand Where You Fit! Knowing the landscape of the organization is also a large part of your leadership effectiveness. I call it “swimming through the muck.” In a large corporation, knowing your organizational structure, especially if you’re a “small fish in a big pond,” is paramount to being effective in your role. In some businesses, there are business areas, mission areas, business units, and then the “enterprise” corporate level Leadership Team. “An intelligent heart acquires knowledge, and the ear of the wise seeks knowledge.” (Proverbs 18:15 ESV) Knowing where you fit, and understanding your customer base, and who you support in your role are of vital importance in your ability to be an effective leader. In leadership, having the wisdom of placement, and knowing “who’s who in the zoo” assists in your abilities to lead others. Proverbs 3:13-18 (ESV) says: “Blessed is the one who finds wisdom, and the one who gets understanding, for the gain from her is better than gain from silver and her profit better than gold. She is more precious than jewels, and nothing you desire can compare with her. Long life is in her right hand; in her left hand are riches and honor. Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace....” 2. Be Concise The ability to provide specific direction to your subordinates will prevent them from floundering and wasting time. It also helps to keep up morale! Studies have shown that subordinates are more productive, and effective in a mission driven environment however if that mission is unclear, then they’re left potentially aimless and working in other directions rather than those which are intended. The “Commanders Intent” needs to be clear and concise. In addition to a clear vision or mission statement, subordinates need to have an “action plan” that shows them how to support the mission or vision within their role. The action plan, and what can be a workable list can also aid in evaluating individual performance against requirements. Set your team up for success! In your walk as a Christian, how do you know the direction that God has for you? Have you studied His word and discerned your followership? What role in your personal leadership development does God play? Have you considered His word as you exemplify your own leadership role? “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:2 ESV) 3. Equip Your Team As you’ve clearly communicated your intent, or the intent of the organization with regards to the vision and mission, have you set your subordinates up for success by equipping them with the tools, equipment, and accesses that they’ll require in order to perform effectively in their role? What do they need in order to carry out the mission? Will they require training, special certifications, gear or supplies to begin the mission? Once equipped, have you thought about how they’re to be sustained in their work environment? While Napoleon said, “An Army marches on its stomach,” Jesus says: “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4 ESV) 4. Be Ethical This should go without saying but you’d be surprised (or maybe not) at the business decisions of corporate leaders, military leaders, and the like. One of the biggest career killers in senior military leadership is in fraternization, or sexual harassment. In the corporate world, the darkness is often brought to the light when the unethical train begins to run freely down the tracks. Make a decision already! But do it ethically. There’s a time where you have to take your emotion out of the equation and consider ethical decision making reasoning approaches to weigh the potential outputs of your decision. Are you running through the ethical decision making approaches, for the tough ethical dilemmas of teleological (costs vs. benefits), ontological (rules, rights, justice) and deontological (virtues) reasoning? The Lord will guide in your ethical decision making. Are you listening before you act? “And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left.” (Isaiah 30:21 ESV) 5. Embrace the Culture Through Diversity, Equality, and Tolerance One of the greatest benefits that we have as leaders, whether in a corporate business environment or out on the battlefield, is diversity of the labor pool! Age, ethnicity, education, technical background, and the like can help to add value to a robust team of performers! Be careful to check your cultural biases at the door for God does the greatest things with the most unlikely people. “And David said to Saul, ‘Let no man's heart fail because of him. Your servant will go and fight with this Philistine.’” (1 Samuel 17:32 ESV) So put off your first impressions and give everybody a fair shake. Assess, assign, monitor, trust, and reinforce and your teams will perform like pistons in a vehicle: powerful and moving in a manner that advances the mission. 6. Empowerment This brings us to empowerment. Empowerment is one of the most beneficial tools that you can ever carry in your leadership toolbox. Not only is it liberating for the subordinate, but it also encourages them to undertake acts of leadership implied or specified in their newly empowered role! Empowerment gives your subordinates confidence to make decisions on their own, and to potentially lead others as they develop into young leaders themselves. Giving a subordinate an element of autonomy greatly assists in their inherent development and maturity in the work force. If you find that a subordinate is constantly questioning your decisions or leadership motives, perhaps making them a “trusted agent” by empowering them and including them in the solution decision making process is the answer. Jesus says: “Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you. Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” (Luke 10:19-20 ESV) 7. Empathy Self-check: is the hammer the biggest and most utilized tool in your leadership toolbox? If so, you may be missing out on some critical developmental opportunities not only for yourself, but for those that you mentor. Leading with empathy doesn’t make you soft, it makes you approachable and human. Have you ever had a boss or mentor that led by fear? How effective were they and how effective were you in your capacity to complete assigned tasks? Empathy will encourage your subordinates to be open and honest in a trusted environment without fear of repercussion and will improve and enhance workplace morale. Having an empathetic boss, or being an empathetic leader reflects Christ in areas where perhaps those attributes are lacking. Not only are you charged with the knowledge of the walk, but the enactment of the walk. In one Biblical example, the Apostle Paul compels us to: “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.” (Romans 12:15 ESV) 8. Identity First and foremost we must never forget, that our identity does not lie within our vocational position. While our working role is that of a corporate or military leader, our identity is not found there. Our identity is not in the clothes that we wear, the watch on our wrist, the car that we drive, our golf swing, our experiences, our mistakes, our successes, or other places where we place our value. Our identity is only to be found as a true and loving child of the one true living God. From that, and only that standpoint, can we begin to shape our thoughts, our actions, and our decisions to go forth and embody the attributes of Christ and display for those with whom we come into contact. As leaders, we are held to a higher regard, which encompasses greater responsibilities, to exude leadership and to lead by example. As Christ believers and followers, we must consider and give credence to the Lord of Lords, the one who puts breath in our lungs each and every second of every moment of every day. Shalom. The Parable of the Sower The Parable of the Sower "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 way side; 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 bye-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 way-side; 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 road-side, 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 way-side 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 waggon-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 armour 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 out-grow 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 briars have become intertwisted 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 honourable 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 glory. 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 sixty-fold. 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. Spurgeon, C. H. (1882). Farm Sermons. New York: Passmore and Alabaster. (Public Domain) Spring in the Heart Spring in the Heart "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 splendour 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 watercourses. 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 springing thereof. 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 labour. 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 amongst 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 labouring, 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 mau 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 springing thereof. 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 amongst "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 almanack, 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 thereof." 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 arises 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 now. 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 newborn 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 Jesu’s 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 were possible, to have this springing without God’s blessing! 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 amongst 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 advance. 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. Spurgeon, C. H. (1882). Farm Sermons. New York: Passmore and Alabaster. (Public Domain) Comments are closed.