CMF eZine The online magazine of the Christian Military Fellowship. 20 April What the Farm Labourers Can Do By Charles Haddon Spurgeon Sermon, Farm Sermons 0 Comment 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) 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) Related Farm Labourers Farm Labourers "I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase. So then neither is he that planteth anything, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase. Now he that planteth and he that watereth are one: and every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labour. For we are labourers together with God: ye are God’s husbandry."—1 Corinthians 3:6–9. I SHALL begin at the end of my text, because I find it to be the easiest way of mapping out my discourse. We shall first remark that the church is God’s farm: "Ye are God’s husbandry." In the margin of the revised version we read, "Ye are God’s tilled ground," and that is the very expression for me. "Ye are God’s tilled ground," or farm. After we have spoken of the farm we will next say a little upon the fact that the Lord employs labourers on his estate: and when we have looked at the labourers—such poor fellows as they are—we will remember that God himself is the great worker: "We are labourers together with God." I. We begin by considering that the church is God’s farm. The Lord has made the church his own by his sovereign choice. He has also secured it unto himself by purchase, having paid for it a price immense. "The Lord’s portion is his people; Jacob is the lot of his inheritance." Every acre of God’s farm cost the Saviour a bloody sweat, yea, the blood of his heart. He loved us, and gave himself for us: that is the price he paid. Henceforth the church is God’s freehold, and he holds the title deeds of it. It is our joy to feel that we are not our own, we are bought with a price. The church is God’s farm by choice and purchase. And now he has made it his by enclosure. It lay exposed aforetime as part of an open common, bare and barren, covered with thorns and thistles, and the haunt of every wild beast; for we were "by nature the children of wrath, even as others." Divine foreknowledge surveyed the waste, and electing love marked out its portion with a full line of grace, and thus set us apart to be the Lord’s own estate for ever. In due time effectual grace came forth with power, and separated us from the rest of mankind, as fields are hedged and ditched to part them from the open heath. Hath not the Lord declared that he hath chosen his vineyard and fenced it? "We are a garden wall’d around, Chosen and made peculiar ground; A little spot, enclosed by grace Out of the world’s wide wilderness." The Lord has also made this farm evidently his own by cultivation. What more could he have done for his farm? He has totally changed the nature of the soil: from being barren he hath made it a fruitful land. He hath ploughed it, and digged it, and fattened it, and watered it, and planted it with all manner of flowers and fruits. It hath already brought forth to him many a pleasant cluster, and there are brighter times to come, when angels shall shout the harvest home, and Christ "shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied." This farm is preserved by the Lord’s continual protection. Not only did he enclose it, and cultivate it by his miraculous power, to make it his own farm, but he continually maintains possession of it. "I the Lord do keep it; I will water it every moment: lest any hurt it, I will keep it night and day." If it were not for God’s continual power her hedges would soon be thrown down, and wild beasts would devour her fields. Wicked hands are always trying to break down her walls and lay her waste again, so that there should be no true church in the world; but the Lord is jealous for his land, and will not allow it to be destroyed. A church would not long remain a church if God did not preserve it unto himself. What if God should say, "I will take away the hedge thereof, and it shall be eaten up; and break down the wall thereof, and it shall be trodden down"? What a wilderness it would become. What saith he? "Go ye now unto my place which was in Shiloh, where I set my name at the first, and see what I did to it for the wickedness of my people Israel." Go ye to Jerusalem, where of old was the city of his glory and the shrine of his indwelling, and what is left there to-day? Go ye to Rome, where once Paul preached the gospel with power: what is it now but the centre of idolatry? The Lord may remove the candlestick, and leave a place that was bright as day to become black as darkness itself. Hence God’s farm remains a farm because he is ever in it to prevent its returning to its former wildness. Omnipotent power is as needful to keep the fields of the church under cultivation as to reclaim them at the first. Inasmuch as the church is God’s own farm, he expects to receive a harvest from it. The world is waste, and he looks for nothing from it; but we are tilled land, and therefore a harvest is due from us. Barrenness suits the moorland, but to a farm it would be a great discredit. Love looks for returns of love; grace given demands gracious fruit. Watered with the drops of the Saviour’s bloody sweat, shall we not bring forth a hundredfold to his praise? Kept by the eternal Spirit of God, shall there not be produced in us fruits to his glory? The Lord’s husbandry upon us has shown a great expenditure of cost, and labour, and thought; ought there not to be a proportionate return? Ought not the Lord to have a harvest of obedience, a harvest of holiness, a harvest of usefulness, a harvest of praise? Shall it not be so? I think some churches forget that an increase is expected from every field of the Lord’s farm, for they never have a harvest or even look for one. Farmers do not plough their lands or sow their fields for amusement; they mean business, and plough and sow because they desire a harvest. If this fact could but enter into the heads of some professors, surely they would look at things in a different light; but of late it has seemed as if we thought that God’s church was not expected to produce anything, but existed for her own comfort and personal benefit. Brethren, it must not be so; the great Husbandman must have some reward for his husbandry. Every field must yield its increase, and the whole estate must bring forth to his praise. We join with the bride in the Song in saying, "My vineyard, which is mine, is before me: thou, O Solomon, must have a thousand, and those that keep the fruit thereof two hundred." But I come back to the place from which I started. This farm is, by choice, by purchase, by enclosure, by cultivation, by preservation, entirely the Lord’s. See, then, the injustice of allowing any of the labourers to call even a part of the estate his own. When a great man has a large farm of his own, what would he think if Hodge the ploughman should say, "Look here, I plough this farm, and therefore it is mine: I shall call this field Hodge’s Acres"? "No," says Hobbs, "I reaped that land last harvest, and therefore it is mine, and I shall call it Hobbs’s Field." What if all the other labourers became Hodgeites and Hobbsites, and so parcelled out the farm among them? I think the landlord would soon eject the lot of them. The farm belongs to its owner, and let it be called by his name; but it is absurd to call it by the names of the men who labour upon it. Shall insignificant nobodies rob God of his glory? Remember how Paul put it: "Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos?" "Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?" The entire church belongs to him who has chosen it in his sovereignty, bought it with his blood, fenced it by his grace, cultivated it by his wisdom, and preserved it by his power. There is but one church on the face of the earth, and those who love the Lord should keep this truth in mind. Paul is a labourer, Apollos is a labourer, Cephas is a labourer; but the farm is not Paul’s, not so much as a rood of it, nor does a single parcel of land belong to Apollos, or the smallest allotment to Cephas; for "Ye are Christ’s." The fact is that in this case the labourers belong to the land, and not the land to the labourers: "For all things are yours; whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas." "We preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus’ sake." II. We have now to notice, as our second head, that the great husbandman employs labourers. By human agency God ordinarily works out his designs. He can, if he pleases, by his Holy Spirit get directly at the hearts of men, but that is his business, and not ours; we have to do with such words as these: "It pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe." The Master’s commission is not, "Sit still and see the Spirit of God convert the nations;" but, "Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature." Observe God’s method in supplying the race with food. In answer to the prayer, "Give us this day our daily bread," he might have bidden the clouds drop manna, morning by morning, at each man’s door; but he sees that it is for our good to work, and so he uses the hands of the ploughman and the sower for our supply. God might cultivate his chosen farm, the church, by miracle, or by angels; but in great condescension he blesses her through her own sons and daughters. He employs us for our own good; for we who are labourers in his fields receive much more good for ourselves than we bestow. Labour develops our spiritual muscle and keeps us in health. "Unto me," says Paul, "who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ." Our great Master means that every labourer on his farm should receive some benefit from it, for he never muzzles the mouth of the ox that treadeth out the corn. The labourer’s daily bread comes out of the soil. Though he works not for himself, but for his Master, yet still he has his portion of food. In the Lord’s granary there is seed for the sower, but there is also bread for the eater. However disinterestedly we may serve God in the husbandry of his church we are ourselves partakers of the fruit. It is a great condescension on God’s part that he uses us at all, for we are poor tools at the best, and more hindrance than help. The labourers employed by God are all occupied upon needful work. Notice: "I have planted, Apollos watered." Who beat the big drum, or blew his own trumpet? Nobody. On God’s farm none are kept for ornamental purposes. I have read some sermons which could only have been meant for show, for there was not a grain of gospel in them. They were ploughs with the share left out, drills with no wheat in the box, clod-crushers made of butter. I do not believe that our God will ever pay wages to men who only walk about his grounds to show themselves. Orators who display their eloquence in the pulpit are more like gipsies who stray on the farm to pick up chickens, than honest labourers who work to bring forth a crop for their master. Many of the members of our churches live as if their only business on the farm was to pluck blackberries or gather wild flowers. They are great at finding fault with other people’s ploughing and mowing; but not a hand’s turn will they do themselves. Come on, my good fellows. Why stand ye all the day idle? The harvest is plenteous, and the labourers are few. You who think yourselves more cultivated than ordinary people, if you are indeed Christians, must not strut about and despise those who are hard at work. If you do, I shall say, "That person has mistaken his master; he may probably be in the employ of some gentleman farmer, who cares more for show than profit; but our great Lord is practical, and on his estate his labourers attend to needful labour." When you and I preach or teach it will be well if we say to ourselves, "What will be the use of what I am going to do? I am about to teach a difficult subject: will it do any good? I have chosen an abstruse point of theology: will it serve any purpose?" Brethren, a labourer may work very hard at a whim of his own, and yet it may be all waste labour. Some discourses do little more than show the difference between tweedle-dum and tweedle-dee, and what is the use of that? Suppose we sow the fields with sawdust, or sprinkle them with rosewater, what of that? Will God bless our moral essays, and fine compositions, and pretty passages? Brethren, we must aim at usefulness: we must as labourers together with God be occupied with something that is worth doing. "I," says one, "have planted": it is well, for planting must be done. "I," answers another, "have watered:" that also is good and necessary. See to it that ye can each bring in a solid report; but let no man be content with the mere child’s-play of oratory, or the getting up of entertainments and such like. On the Lord’s farm there is a division of labour. Even Paul did not say, "I have planted and watered." No, Paul planted. And certainly Apollos could not say, "I have planted as well as watered." No, it was enough for him to attend to the watering. No man has all gifts. How foolish, then, are they who say, "I enjoy So-and-so’s ministry because he edifies the saints in doctrine; but when he was away the other Sunday I could not profit by the preacher because he was all for the conversion of sinners." Yes, he was planting; you have been planted a good while, and do not need planting again; but you ought to be thankful that others are made partakers of the benefit. One soweth and another reapeth, and therefore instead of grumbling at the honest ploughman because he did not bring a sickle with him, you ought to have prayed for him that he might have strength to plough deep and break up hard hearts. Observe that, on God’s farm, there is unity of purpose among the labourers. Read the text. "Now he that planteth and he that watereth are one." One Master has employed them, and though he may send them out at different times, and to different parts of the farm, yet they are all one in being used for one end, to work for one harvest. In England we do not understand what is meant by watering, because the farmer could not water all his farm; but in the East a farmer waters almost every inch of his ground. He would have no crop if he did not use all means for irrigating the fields. If you have ever been in Italy, Egypt, or Palestine, you will have seen a complete system of wells, pumps, wheels, buckets, channels, little streamlets, pipes, and so on, by which the water is carried all over the garden to every plant, otherwise in the extreme heat of the sun it would be dried up. Planting needs wisdom, watering needs quite as much, and the piecing of these two works together needs that the labourers should be of one mind. It is a bad thing when labourers are at cross purposes, and work against each other, and this evil is worse in the church than anywhere else. How can I plant with success if my helper will not water what I have planted; or what is the use of my watering if nothing is planted? Husbandry is spoiled when foolish people undertake it, and quarrel over it; for from sowing to reaping the work is one, and all must be done to one end. Let us pull together all our days, for strife brings barrenness. We are called upon to notice in our text that all the labourers put together are nothing at all. "Neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth." The workmen are nothing at all without their master. All the labourers on a farm could not manage it if they had no one at their head, and all the preachers and Christian workers in the world can do nothing unless God be with them. Remember that every labourer on God’s farm has derived all his qualifications from God. No man knows how to plant or water souls except the Lord teaches him from day to day. All these holy gifts are grants of free grace. All the labourers work under God’s direction and arrangement, or, they work in vain. They would not know when or how to do their work if their Master did not guide them by his Spirit, without whose help they cannot even think a good thought. All God’s labourers must go to him for their seed, or else they will scatter tares. All good seed comes out of God’s granary. If we preach, it must be the true word of God, or nothing can come of it. More than that, all the strength that is in the labourer’s arm to sow the heavenly seed must be given by the Master. We cannot preach except God be with us. A sermon is vain talk and dreary word-spinning unless the Holy Spirit enlivens it. He must give us both the preparation of the heart and the answer of the tongue, or we shall be as men who sow the wind. When the good seed is sown the whole success of it rests with God. If he withhold the dew and the rain the seed will never rise from the ground; and unless he shall shine upon it the green ear will never ripen. The human heart will remain barren, even though Paul himself should preach, unless God the Holy Ghost shall work with Paul and bless the word to those that hear it. Therefore, since the increase is of God alone, put the labourers into their place. Do not make too much of us; for when we have done all we are unprofitable servants. Yet, though inspiration calls the labourers nothing, it says that they shall be rewarded. God works our good works in us, and then rewards us for them. Here we have mention of a personal service, and a personal reward: "Every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labour." The reward is proportionate, not to the success, but to the labour. Many discouraged workers may be comforted by that expression. You are not to be paid by results, but by endeavours. You may have a stiff bit of clay to plough, or a dreary plot of land to sow, where stones, and birds, and thorns, and travellers, and a burning sun may all be leagued against the seed; but you are not accountable for these things; your reward shall be according to your work. Some put a great deal of labour into a little field, and make much out of it. Others use a great deal of labour throughout a long life, and yet they see but small result, for it is written, "One soweth, and another reapeth"; but the reaping man will not get all the reward, the sowing man shall receive his portion of the joy. The labourers are nobodies, but they shall enter into the joy of their Lord. Unitedly, according to the text, the workers have been successful, and that is a great part of their reward. "I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase." Frequently brethren say in their prayers, "A Paul may plant, an Apollos may water, but it is all in vain unless God gives the increase." This is quite true; but another truth is too much overlooked, namely, that, when Paul plants and Apollos waters, God does give the increase. We do not labour in vain. There would be no increase without God; but then we are not without God: when such men as Paul and Apollos plant and water, there is sure to be an increase; they are the right kind of labourers, they work in a right spirit, and God is certain to bless them. This is a great part of the labourers’ wages. III. So much upon the labourers. Now for the main point again. God himself is the great Worker. He may use what labourers he pleases, but the increase comes alone from him. Brethren, you know it is so in natural things: the most skilful farmer cannot make the wheat germinate, and grow, and ripen. He cannot even preserve a single field till harvest time, for the farmer’s enemies are many and mighty. In husbandry there’s many a slip ’twixt the cup and the lip; and when the farmer thinks, good easy man, that he shall reap his crop, there are blights and mildews lingering about to rob him of his gains. God must give the increase. If any man is dependent on God it is the husbandman, and through him we are all of us dependent upon God from year to year for the food by which we live. Even the king must live by the produce of the field. God gives the increase in the barn and the hayrick; and in the spiritual farm it is even more so, for what can man do in this business? If any of you think that it is an easy thing to win a soul I should like you to attempt it. Suppose that without divine aid you should try to save a soul—you might as well attempt to make a world. Why, you cannot create a fly, how can you create a new heart and a right spirit? Regeneration is a great mystery, it is out of your reach. "The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is everyone that is born of the Spirit." What can you and I do in this matter? it is far beyond our line. We can tell out the truth of God; but to apply that truth to the heart and conscience is quite another thing. I have preached Jesus Christ with my whole heart, and yet I know that I have never produced a saving effect upon a single unregenerate man unless the Spirit of God has opened the heart and placed the living seed of truth within it. Experience teaches us this. Equally is it the Lord’s work to keep the seed alive when it springs up. We think we have converts, and we are not long before we are disappointed in them. Many are like blossoms on our apple trees; they are fair to look upon, but they do not come to anything; and others are like the many little apples which fall off long before they have come to any size. He who presides over a great church, and feels an agony for the souls of men, will soon be convinced that if God does not work there will be no work done: we shall see no conversion, no sanctification, no final perseverance, no glory brought to God, no satisfaction for the passion of the Saviour, unless the Lord be with us. Well said our Lord, "Without me ye can do nothing." Briefly I would draw certain practical lessons out of this important truth: the first is, if the whole farm of the church belongs exclusively to the great Master Worker, and the labourers are worth nothing without him, let this promote unity among all whom he employs. If we are all under one Master, do not let us quarrel. It is a miserable business when we cannot bear to see good being done by those of a different denomination who work in ways of their own. If a new labourer comes on the farm, and he uses a hoe of a new shape, shall I become his enemy? If he does his work better than I do mine, shall I be jealous? Do you not remember reading in the Scriptures that, upon one occasion, the disciples could not cast out a devil? This ought to have made them humble; but to our surprise we read a few verses further on that they saw one casting out devils in Christ’s name, and they forbade him because he followed not with their company. They could not cast out the devil themselves, and they forbade those who could. A certain band of people are going about winning souls, but because they are not doing it in our fashion, we do not like it. It is true they have odd ways; but they do really save souls, and that is the main point. Instead of cavilling, let us encourage all on Christ’s side. Wisdom is justified of her children, though some of them are far from handsome. The labourers ought to be satisfied with the new ploughman if their Master smiles upon him. Brother, if the great Lord has employed you, it is no business of mine to question his choice. Can I lend you a hand? Can I show you how to work better? Or can you show me how I can improve? This is the proper behaviour of one workman to another. This truth, however, ought to keep all the labourers very dependent. Are you going to preach, young man? "Yes, I am going to do a great deal of good." Are you? Have you forgotten that you are nothing? "Neither is he that planteth anything." A divine is coming brimful of the gospel to comfort the saints. If he is not coming in strict dependence upon God, he, too, is nothing. "Neither is he that watereth anything." Power belongeth unto God. Man is vanity and his words are wind; to God alone belongeth power and wisdom. If we keep our places in all lowliness our Lord will use us; but if we exalt ourselves he will leave us to our nothingness. Next notice that this fact ennobles everybody who labours in God’s husbandry. My soul is lifted up with joy when I mark these words, "For we are labourers together with God:" mere labourers on his farm, and yet labourers with him. Does the Lord work with us? We know he does by the signs following. "My Father worketh hitherto, and I work," is language for all the sons of God as well as for the great Firstborn. God is with you, my brethren, when you are serving him with all your heart. Speaking to your class concerning Jesus, it is God that speaks by you; picking up that stranger on the way, and telling him of salvation by faith, Christ is speaking through you even as he spoke with the woman at the well; addressing the rough crowd in the open air, young man, if you are preaching pardon through the atoning blood, it is the God of Peter who is testifying of his Son, even as he did on the day of Pentecost. But, lastly, how this should drive us to our knees. Since we are nothing without God, let us cry mightily unto him for help in this our holy service. Let both sower and reaper pray together, or they will never rejoice together. If the blessing be withheld, it is because we do not cry for it and expect it. Brother labourers, come to the mercy-seat, and we shall yet see the reapers return from the fields bringing their sheaves with them, though, perhaps, they went forth weeping to the sowing. To our Father, who is the husbandman, be all glory, for ever and ever. Amen. Spurgeon, C. H. (1882). Farm Sermons. New York: Passmore and Alabaster. (Public Domain) The Sluggard's Farm The Sluggard's Farm "I went by the field of the slothful, and by the vineyard of the man void of understanding; And, lo, it was all grown over with thorns, and nettles had covered the face thereof, and the stone wall thereof was broken down. Then I saw, and considered it well: I looked upon it, and received instruction."—Proverbs 24:30–32. NO doubt Solomon was sometimes glad to lay aside the robes of state, escape from the forms of court, and go through the country unknown. On one occasion, when he was doing so, he looked over the broken wall of a little estate which belonged to a farmer of his country. This estate consisted of a piece of ploughed land and a vineyard. One glance showed him that it was owned by a sluggard, who neglected it, for the weeds had grown right plentifully and covered all the face of the ground. From this Solomon gathered instruction. Men generally learn wisdom if they have wisdom. The artist’s eye sees the beauty of the landscape because he has beauty in his mind. "To him that hath shall be given," and he shall have abundance, for he shall reap a harvest even from a field that is covered with thorns and nettles. There is a great difference between one man and another in the use of the mind’s eye. I have a book entitled, "The Harvest of a Quiet Eye," and a good book it is: the harvest of a quiet eye can be gathered from a sluggard’s land as well as from a well-managed farm. When we were boys we were taught a little poem, called, "Eyes and no Eyes," and there was much of truth in it, for some people have eyes and see not, which is much the same as having no eyes; while others have quick eyes for spying out instruction. Some look only at the surface, while others see not only the outside shell but the living kernel of truth which is hidden in all outward things. We may find instruction everywhere. To a spiritual mind nettles have their use, and weeds have their doctrine. Are not all thorns and thistles meant to be teachers to sinful men? Are they not brought forth of the earth on purpose that they may show us what sin has done, and the kind of produce that will come when we sow the seed of rebellion against God? "I went by the field of the slothful, and by the vineyard of the man void of understanding," says Solomon; "I saw, and considered it well: I looked upon it, and received instruction." Whatever you see, take care to consider it well, and you will not see it in vain. You shall find books and sermons everywhere, in the land and in the sea, in the earth and in the skies, and you shall learn from every living beast, and bird, and fish, and insect, and from every useful or useless plant that springs out of the ground. We may also gather rare lessons from things that we do not like. I am sure that Solomon did not in the least degree admire the thorns and the nettles that covered the face of the vineyard, but he nevertheless found instruction in them. Many are stung by nettles, but few are taught by them. Some men are hurt by briars, but here is one who was improved by them. Wisdom hath a way of gathering grapes of thorns and figs of nettles, and she distils good from herbs which in themselves are noisome and evil. Do not fret, therefore, over thorns, but get good out of them. Do not begin stinging yourself with nettles, grip them firmly, and then use them for your soul’s health. Trials and troubles, worries and turmoils, little frets and little disappointments, may all help you if you will. Like Solomon, see and consider them well—look upon them, and receive instruction. As for us, we will now, first, consider Solomon’s description of a sluggard: he is "a man void of understanding"; secondly, we shall notice his description of the sluggard’s land: "it was all grown over with thorns, and nettles had covered the face thereof." When we have attended to these two matters we will close by endeavouring to gather the instruction which this piece of waste ground may yield us. First, think of Solomon’s description of a slothful man. Solomon was a man whom none of us would contradict, for he knew as much as all of us put together; and besides that, he was under divine inspiration when he wrote this Book of Proverbs. Solomon says, a sluggard is "a man void of understanding." The slothful does not think so; he puts his hands in his pockets, and you would think from his important air that he had all the Bank of England at his disposal. You can see that he is a very wise man in his own esteem, for he gives himself airs which are meant to impress you with a sense of his superior abilities. How he has come by his wisdom it would be hard to say. He has never taken the trouble to think, and yet I dare not say that he jumps at his conclusions, because he never does such a thing as jump, he lies down and rolls into a conclusion. Yet he knows everything, and has settled all points: meditation is too hard work for him, and learning he never could endure; but to be clever by nature is his delight. He does not want to know more than he knows, for he knows enough already, and yet he knows nothing. The proverb is not complimentary to him, but I am certain that Solomon was right when he called him "a man void of understanding." Solomon was rather rude according to the dainty manners of the present times, because this gentleman had a field and a vineyard, and as Poor Richard saith, "When I have a horse and a cow every man biddeth me good morrow." How can a man be void of understanding who has a field and a vineyard? Is it not generally understood that you must measure a man’s understanding by the amount of his ready cash? At all events you shall soon be flattered for your attainments if you have attained unto wealth. Such is the way of the world, but such is not the way of Scripture. Whether he has a field and a vineyard or not, says Solomon, if he is a sluggard he is a fool, or if you would like to see his name written out a little larger, he is a man empty of understanding. Not only does he not understand anything, but he has no understanding to understand with. He is empty-headed if he is a sluggard. He may be called a gentleman, he may be a landed proprietor, he may have a vineyard and a field; but he is none the better for what he has: nay, he is so much the worse, because he is a man void of understanding, and is therefore unable to make use of his property. I am glad to be told by Solomon so plainly that a slothful man is void of understanding, for it is useful information. I have met with persons who thought they perfectly understood the doctrines of grace, who could accurately set forth the election of the saints, the predestination of God, the firmness of the divine decree, the necessity of the Spirit’s work, and all the glorious doctrines of grace which build up the fabric of our faith; but these gentlemen have inferred from these doctrines that they have to do nothing, and thus they have become sluggards. Do-nothingism is their creed. They will not even urge other people to labour for the Lord, because, say they, "God will do his own work. Salvation is all of grace!" The notion of these sluggards is that a man is to wait, and do nothing; he is to sit still, and let the grass grow up to his ankles in the hope of heavenly help. To arouse himself would be an interference with the eternal purpose, which he regards as altogether unwarrantable. I have known him look sour, shake his aged head, and say hard things against earnest people who were trying to win souls. I have known him run down young people, and like a great steam ram, sink them to the bottom, by calling them unsound and ignorant. How shall we survive the censures of this dogmatic person? How shall we escape from this very knowing and very captious sluggard? Solomon hastens to the rescue and extinguishes this gentleman by informing us that he is void of understanding. Why, he is the standard of orthodoxy, and he judges everybody! Yet Solomon applies another standard to him, and says he is void of understanding. He may know the doctrine, but he does not understand it; or else he would know that the doctrines of grace lead us to seek the grace of the doctrines; and that when we see God at work we learn that he worketh in us, not to make us go to sleep, but to will and to do of his own good pleasure. God’s predestination of a people is his ordaining them unto good works that they may show forth his praise. So, if you or I shall from any doctrines, however true, draw the inference that we are warranted in being idle and indifferent about the things of God, we are void of understanding; we are acting like fools; we are misusing the gospel; we are taking what was meant for meat and turning it into poison. The sluggard, whether he is sluggish about his business or about his soul, is a man void of understanding. As a rule we may measure a man’s understanding by his useful activities; this is what the, wise man very plainly tells us. Certain persons call themselves "cultured," and yet they cultivate nothing. Modern thought, as far as I have seen anything of its actual working, is a bottle of smoke, out of which comes nothing solid; yet we know men who can distinguish and divide, debate and discuss, refine and refute, and all the while the hemlock is growing in the furrow, and the plough is rusting. Friend, if your knowledge, if your culture, if your education does not lead you practically to serve God in your day and generation, you have not learned what Solomon calls wisdom, and you are not like the Blessed One, who was incarnate wisdom, of whom we read that "he went about doing good." A lazy man is not like our Saviour, who said, "My Father worketh hitherto, and I work." True wisdom is practical: boastful culture vapours and theorizes. Wisdom ploughs its field, wisdom hoes its vineyard, wisdom looks to its crops, wisdom tries to make the best of everything; and he who does not do so, whatever may be his knowledge of this, of that, or of the other, is a man void of understanding. Why is he void of understanding? Is it not because he has opportunities which he does not use? His day has come, his day is going, and he lets the hours glide by to no purpose. Let me not press too hardly upon anyone, but let me ask you all to press as hardly as you can upon yourselves while you enquire each one of himself—Am I employing the minutes as they fly? This man had a vineyard, but he did not cultivate it; he had a field, but he did not till it. Do you, brethren, use all your opportunities? I know we each one have some power to serve God; do we use it? If we are his children he has not put one of us where we are of necessity useless. Somewhere we may shine by the light which he has given us, though that light be only a farthing candle. Are we thus shining? Do we sow beside all waters? Do we in the morning sow our seed, and in the evening still stretch out our hand; for if not, we are rebuked by the sweeping censure of Solomon, who saith that the slothful is a "man void of understanding." Having opportunities he did not use them, and next, being bound to the performance of certain duties he did not fulfil them. When God appointed that every Israelite should have a piece of land, under that admirable system which made every Israelite a landowner, he meant that each man should possess his plot, not to let it lie waste, but to cultivate it. When God put Adam in the garden of Eden it was not that he should walk through the glades and watch the spontaneous luxuriance of the unfallen earth, but that he might dress it and keep it, and he had the same end in view when he allotted each Jew his piece of land; he meant that the holy soil should reach the utmost point of fertility through the labour of those who owned it. Thus the possession of a field and a vineyard involved responsibilities upon the sluggard which he never fulfilled, and therefore he was void of understanding. What is your position, dear friend? A father? A master? A servant? A minister? A teacher? Well, you have your farms and your vineyards in those particular spheres; but if you do not use those positions aright you will be void of understanding, because you neglect the end of your existence. You miss the high calling which your Maker has set before you. The slothful farmer was unwise in these two respects, and in another also; for he had capacities which he did not employ. He could have tilled the field and cultivated the vineyard if he had chosen to do so. He was not a sickly man, who was forced to keep his bed, but he was a lazybones who was there of choice. You are not asked to do in the service of God that which is utterly beyond you, for it is expected of us according to what we have and not according to what we have not. The man of two talents is not required to bring in the interest of five, but he is expected to bring in the interest of two. Solomon’s slothful was too idle to attempt tasks which were quite within his power. Many have a number of dormant faculties of which they are scarcely aware, and many more have abilities which they are using for themselves, and not for him who created them. Dear friends, if God has given us any power to do good, pray let us do it, for this is a wicked, weary world. We should not even cover a glow-worm’s light in such a darkness as this. We should not keep back a syllable of divine truth in a world that is so full of falsehood and error. However feeble our voices, let us lift them up for the cause of truth and righteousness. Do not let us be void of understanding, because we have opportunities that we do not use, obligations that we do not fulfil, and capacities which we do not exercise. As for a sluggard in soul matters, he is indeed void of understanding, for he trifles with matters which demand his most earnest heed. Man, hast thou never cultivated thy heart? Has the ploughshare never broken up the clods of thy soul? Has the seed of the Word never been sown in thee? or has it taken no root? Hast thou never watered the young plants of desire? Hast thou never sought to pull up the weeds of sin that grow in thy heart? Art thou still a piece of the bare common or wild heath? Poor soul! Thou canst trim thy body, and spend many a minute at the glass; dost thou not care for thy soul? How long thou takest to decorate thy poor flesh, which is but worm’s meat, or would be in a minute if God took away thy breath! And yet all the while thy soul is uncombed, unwashed, unclad, a poor neglected thing! Oh it should not be so. You take care of the worse part and leave the better to perish through neglect. This is the height of folly! He that is a sluggard as to the vineyard of his heart is a man void of understanding. If I must be idle, let it be seen in my field and my garden, but not in my soul. Or are you a Christian? Are you really saved, and are you negligent in the Lord’s work? Then, indeed, whatever you may be, I cannot help saying you have too little understanding; for surely, when a man is saved himself, and understands the danger of other men’s souls, he must be in earnest in trying to pluck the firebrands from the flame. A Christian sluggard! Is there such a being? A Christian man on half time? A Christian man working not at all for his Lord; how shall I speak of him? Time does not tarry, death does not tarry, HELL does not tarry; Satan is not lazy, all the powers of darkness are busy: how is it that you and I can be sluggish, if the Master has put us into his vineyard? Surely we must be void of understanding if, after being saved by the infinite love of God, we do not spend and be spent in his service. The eternal fitness of things demands that a saved man should be an earnest man. The Christian who is slothful in his Master’s service has no idea what he is losing; for the very cream of religion lies in holy consecration to God. Some people have just enough religion to make it questionable whether they have any or no. They have enough godliness to make them uneasy in their ungodliness. They have washed enough of their face to show the dirt upon the rest of it. "I am glad," said a servant, "that my mistress takes the sacrament, for otherwise I should not know she had any religion at all." You smile, and well you may. It is ridiculous that some people should have no goods in their shop, and yet advertise their business in all the papers; should make a show of religion, and yet have none of the Spirit of God. I wish some professors would do Christ the justice to say, "No, I am not one of his disciples; do not think so badly of him as to imagine that I can be one of them." We ought to be reflections of Christ; but I fear many are reflections upon Christ. When we see a lot of lazy servants, we are apt to think that their master must be a very idle person himself, or he would never put up with them. He who employs sluggards, and is satisfied with their snail-like pace, cannot be a very active man himself. O, let not the world think that Christ is indifferent to human woe, that Christ has lost his zeal, that Christ has lost his energy: yet I fear they will say it or think it if they see those who profess to be labourers in the vineyard of Christ nothing better than mere sluggards. The slothful, then, is a man void of understanding; he loses the honour and pleasure which he would find in serving his Master; he is a dishonour to the cause which he professes to venerate, and he is storing up thorns for his dying pillow. Let that stand as settled—the slothful, whether he be a minister, deacon, or private Christian, is a man void of understanding. Now, secondly, let us look at the sluggard’s land: "I went by the field of the slothful, and by the vineyard of the man void of understanding; And, lo, it was all grown over with thorns, and nettles had covered the face thereof." Note, first, that land will produce something. Soil which is good enough to be made into a field and a vineyard must and will yield some fruit or other; and so you and I, in our hearts and in the sphere God gives us to occupy, will be sure to produce something. We cannot live in this world as entire blanks; we shall either do good or do evil, as sure as we are alive. If you are idle in Christ’s work, you are active in the devil’s work. The sluggard by sleeping was doing more for the cultivation of thorns and nettles than he could have done by any other means. As a garden will either yield flowers or weeds, fruits or thistles, so something either good or evil will come out of our household, our class, or our congregation. If we do not produce a harvest of good wheat, by labouring for Christ, we shall grow tares to be bound up in bundles for the last dread burning. Note again that, if it be not farmed for God, the soul will yield its natural produce; and what is the natural produce of land if left to itself? What but thorns and nettles, or some other useless weeds? What is the natural produce of your heart and mine? What but sin and misery! What is the natural produce of your children if you leave them untrained for God? What but unholiness and vice? What is the natural produce of this great city if we leave its streets, and lanes, and alleys without the gospel? What but crime and infamy? Some harvest there will be, and the sheaves will be the natural produce of the soil, which is sin, death, and corruption. If we are slothful, the natural produce of our heart and of our sphere will be most inconvenient and unpleasant to ourselves. Nobody can sleep on thorns, or make a pillow of nettles. No rest can come out of an idleness which lets ill alone, and does not by God’s Spirit strive to uproot evil. While you are sleeping, Satan will be sowing. If you withhold the seed of good, Satan will be lavish with the seed of evil, and from that evil will come anguish and regret for time, and it may be for eternity. O man, the garden put into thy charge, if thou waste thy time in slumber, will reward thee with all that is noisome and painful. "Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee." In many instances there will be a great deal of this evil produce; for a field and a vineyard will yield more thistles and nettles than a piece of ground that has never been reclaimed. If the land is good enough for a garden, it will present its owner with a fine crop of weeds if he only stays his hand. A choice bit of land fit for a vineyard of red wine will render such a profusion of nettles to the slothful that he shall rub his eyes with surprise. The man who might do most for God, if he were renewed, will bring forth most for Satan if he be let alone. The very region which would have glorified God most if the grace of God were there to convert its inhabitants, will be that out of which the vilest enemies of the gospel will arise. Rest assured of that; the best will become the worst if we neglect it. Neglect is all that is needed to produce evil. If you want to know the way of salvation I must take some pains to tell you; but if you want to know the way to be lost, my reply is easy; for it is only a matter of negligence;—"How shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation?" If you desire to bring forth a harvest unto God, I may need long to instruct you in ploughing, sowing, and watering; but if you wish your mind to be covered with Satan’s hemlock, you have only to leave the furrows of your nature to themselves. The slothful asks for "A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep," and the thorns and thistles multiply beyond all numbering, and prepare for him many a sting. While we look upon the lazy man’s vineyard let us also peep into the ungodly sluggard’s heart. He does not care about repentance and faith. To think about his soul, to be in earnest about eternity, is too much for him, He wants to take things easy, and have a little more folding of the arms to sleep. What is growing in his mind and character? In some of these spiritual sluggards you can see drunkenness, uncleanness, covetousness, anger, and pride, and all sorts of thistles and nettles; or where these ranker weeds do not appear, by reason of the restraint of pious connections, you find other sorts of sin. The heart cannot be altogether empty, either Christ or the devil will possess it. My dear friend, if you are not decided for God, you cannot be a neutral. In this war every man is for God or for his enemy. You cannot remain like a sheet of blank paper. The legible handwriting of Satan is upon you—can you not see the blots? Unless Christ has written across the page his own sweet name, the autograph of Satan is visible. You may say, "I do not go into open sin; I am moral," and so forth. Ah, if you would but look, and consider, and search into your heart, you would see that enmity to God and to his ways, and hatred of purity, are there. You do not love God’s law, nor love his Son, nor love his gospel, you are alienated in your heart, and there is in you all manner of evil desires and vain thoughts, and these will flourish and increase so long as you are a spiritual sluggard, and leave your heart uncultivated. O, may the Spirit of God arouse you; may you be stirred to anxious, earnest thought, and then you will see that these rank growths must be uprooted, and that your heart must be turned up by the plough of conviction, and sown with the good seed of the gospel, till a harvest rewards the great Husbandman. Friend, if you believe in Christ, I want to peep over the hedge into your heart also, if you are a sluggish Christian; for I fear that nettles and thistles are threatening you also? Did I not hear you sing the other day— "’Tis a point I long to know"? That point will often be raised, for doubt is a seed which is sure to grow in lazy men’s minds. I do not remember reading in Mr. Wesley’s diary a question about his own salvation. He was so busy in the harvest of the Master that it did not occur to him to distrust his God. Some Christians have little faith in consequence of their having never sown the grain of mustard seed which they have received. If you do not sow your faith by using it, how can it grow? When a man lives by faith in Christ Jesus, and his faith exercises itself actively in the service of his Lord, it takes root, grows upward, and becomes strong, till it chokes his doubts. Some have sadly morbid forebodings; they are discontented, fretful, selfish, murmuring, and all because they are idle. These are the weeds that grow in sluggards’ gardens. I have known the slothful become so peevish that nothing could please them; the most earnest Christian could not do right for them; the most loving Christians could not be affectionate enough; the most active church could not be energetic enough; they detected all sorts of wrong where God himself saw much of the fruit of his Spirit. This censoriousness, this contention, this perpetual complaining is one of the nettles that are quite sure to grow in men’s gardens when they fold their arms in sinful ease. If your heart does not yield fruit to God it will certainly bring forth that which is mischievous in itself, painful to you, and injurious to your fellow-men. Often the thorns choke the good seed; but it is a very blessed thing when the good seed comes up so thick and fast that it chokes the thorns. God enables certain Christians to become so fruitful in Christ that their graces and works stand thick together, and when Satan throws in the tares they cannot grow because there is no room for them. The Holy Spirit by his power makes evil to become weak in the heart, so that it no longer keeps the upper hand. If you are slothful, friend, look over the field of your heart, and weep at the sight. May I next ask you to look into your own house and home? It is a dreadful thing when a man does not cultivate the field of his own family. I recollect in my early days a man who used to walk out with me into the villages when I was preaching I was glad of his company till I found out certain facts, and then I shook him off, and I believe he hooked on to somebody else, for he must needs be gadding abroad every evening of the week. He had many children, and these grew up to be wicked young men and women, and the reason was that the father, while he would be at this meeting and that, never tried to bring his own children to the Saviour. What is the use of zeal abroad if there is neglect at home? How sad to say, "My own vineyard have I not kept." Have you never heard of one who said he did not teach his children the ways of God because he thought they were so young that it was very wrong to prejudice them, and he had rather leave them to choose their own religion when they grew older? One of his boys broke his arm, and while the surgeon was setting it the boy was swearing all the time. "Ah," said the good doctor, "I told you what would happen. You were afraid to prejudice your boy in the right way, but the devil had no such qualms; he has prejudiced him the other way, and pretty strongly too." It is our duty to prejudice our field in favour of corn, or it will soon be covered with thistles. Cultivate a child’s heart for good, or it will go wrong of itself, for it is already depraved by nature. O that we were wise enough to think of this, and leave no little one to become a prey to the destroyer. As it is with homes, so is it with schools. A gentleman who joined this church some time ago had been an atheist for years, and in conversing with him I found that he had been educated at one of our great public schools, and to that fact he traced his infidelity. He said that the boys were stowed away on Sunday in a lofty gallery at the far end of a church, where they could scarcely hear a word that the clergyman said, but simply sat imprisoned in a place where it was dreadfully hot in summer and cold in winter. On Sundays there were prayers, and prayers, and prayers, but nothing that ever touched his heart; until he was so sick of prayers that he vowed if he once got out of the school he would have done with religion. This is a sad result, but a frequent one. You Sunday-school teachers can make your classes so tiresome to the children that they will hate Sunday. You can fritter away the time in school without bringing the lads and lasses to Christ, and so you may do more hurt than good. I have known Christian fathers who by their severity and want of tenderness have sown their family field with the thorns and thistles of hatred to religion instead of scattering the good seed of love to it. O that we may so live among our children that they may not only love us, but love our Father who is in heaven. May fathers and mothers set such an example of cheerful piety that sons and daughters shall say, "Let us tread in our father’s footsteps, for he was a happy and a holy man. Let us follow our mother’s ways, for she was sweetness itself." If piety does not rule in your house, when we pass by your home we shall see disorder, disobedience, pride of dress, folly, and the beginnings of vice. Let not your home be a sluggard’s field, or you will have to rue it in years to come. Let every deacon, every class-leader, and also every minister enquire diligently into the state of the field he has to cultivate. You see, brothers and sisters, if you and I are set over any department of our Lord’s work, and we are not diligent in it, we shall be like barren trees planted in an orchard, which are a loss altogether, because they occupy the places of other trees which might have brought forth fruit unto their owners. We shall cumber the ground, and do damage to our Lord, unless we render him actual service. Will you think of this? If you could be put down as a mere cipher in the accounts of Christ, that would be very sad; but brother, it cannot be so, you will cause a deficit unless you create a gain. Oh that through the grace of God we may be profitable to our Lord and Master. Who among us can look upon his life-work without some sorrow? If anything has been done aright we ascribe it all to the grace of God; but how much there is to weep over! How much that we would wish to amend! Let us not spend time in idle regrets, but pray for the Spirit of God, that in the future we may not be void of understanding, but may know what we ought to do, and where the strength must come from with which to do it, and then give ourselves up to the doing of it. I beg you once more to look at the great field of the world. Do you see how it is overgrown with thorns and nettles? If an angel could take a survey of the whole race, what tears he would shed, if angels could weep! What a tangled mass of weeds the whole earth is! Yonder the field is scarlet with the poppy of popery, and over the hedge it is yellow with the wild mustard of Mahometanism. Vast regions are smothered with the thistles of infidelity and idolatry. The world is full of cruelty, oppression, drunkenness, rebellion, uncleanness, misery. What the moon sees! What God’s sun sees! What scenes of horror! How far is all this to be attributed to a neglectful church? Nearly nineteen hundred years are gone, and the sluggard’s vineyard is but little improved! England has been touched with the spade, but I cannot say that it has been thoroughly weeded or ploughed yet. Across the ocean another field equally favoured knows well the ploughman, and yet the weeds are rank. Here and there a little good work has been done, but the vast mass of the world still lies a moorland never broken up, a waste, a howling wilderness. What has the church been doing all these years? She ceased after a few centuries to be a missionary church, and from that hour she almost ceased to be a living church. Whenever a church does not labour for the reclaiming of the desert it becomes itself a waste. You shall not find on the roll of history that for a length of time any Christian community has flourished after it has become negligent of the outside world. I believe that if we are put into the Master’s vineyard, and will not take away the weeds, neither shall the vine flourish, nor shall the corn yield its increase. However, instead of asking what the church has been doing for this nineteen hundred years, let us ask ourselves, What are we going to do now? Are the missions of the churches of Great Britain always to be such poor, feeble things as they are? Are the best of our Christian young men always going to stay at home? We go on ploughing the home field a hundred times over, while millions of acres abroad are left to the thorn and nettle. Shall it always be so? God send us more spiritual life, and wake us up from our sluggishness, or else when the holy watcher gives in his report, he will say, "I went by the field of the sluggish church, and it was all grown over with thorns and nettles, and the stone wall was broken down, so that one could scarcely tell which was the church and which was the world, yet still she slept, and slept, and slept, and nothing could waken her." I conclude by remarking that there must be some lesson in all this. I cannot teach it as I would, but I want to learn it myself. I will speak it as though I were talking to myself. The first lesson is, that unaided nature always will produce thorns and nettles, and nothing else. My soul, if it were not for grace, this is all thou wouldst have produced. Beloved, are you producing anything else? Then it is not nature, but the grace of God that makes you produce it. Those lips that now most charmingly sing the praises of God would have been delighted with an idle ballad if the grace of God had not sanctified them. Your heart, that now cleaves to Christ, would have continued to cling to your idols—you know what they were—if it had not been for grace divine. And why should grace have visited you or me—why? Echo answers, Why? What answer can we give? "’Tis even so, Father, for so it seemed good in thy sight." Let the recollection of what grace has done move us to manifest the result of that grace in our lives. Come, brothers and sisters, inasmuch as we were aforetime rich enough in the soil of our nature to produce so much of nettle and thistle—and God only knows how much we did produce—let us now pray that our lives may yield as much of good corn for the great Husbandman. Will you serve Christ less than you served your lusts? Will you make less sacrifice for Christ than you did for your sins? Some of you were whole-hearted enough when in the service of the evil one, will you be half-hearted in the service of God? Shall the Holy Spirit produce less fruit in you than that which you yielded under the spirit of evil? God grant that we may not be left to prove what nature will produce if left to itself. We see here, next, the little value of natural good intentions; for this man, who left his field and vineyard to be overgrown, always meant to work hard one of these fine days. To do him justice, we must admit that he did not mean to sleep much longer, for he said—"Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep." Only a little doze, and then he would tuck up his sleeves and show his muscle. Probably the worst people in the world are those who have the best intentions, but never carry them out. In that way Satan lulls many to sleep. They hear an earnest sermon; but they do not arise and go to their Father; they only get as far as saying, "Yes, yes, the far country is not a fit place for me; I will not stay here long. I mean to go home by-and-by." They said that forty years ago, but nothing came of it. When they were quite youths they had serious impressions, they were almost persuaded to be Christians, and yet they are not Christians even now. They have been slumbering forty years! Surely that is a liberal share of sleep! They never intended to dream so long, and now they do not mean to lie in bed much longer. They will not turn to Christ at once, but they are resolved to do so one day. When are you going to do it, friend? "Before I die." Going to put it off to the last hour or two, are you? And so, when unconscious, and drugged to relieve your pain, you will begin to think of your soul? Is this wise? Surely you are void of understanding. Perhaps you will die in an hour. Did you not hear the other day of the alderman who died in his carriage? Little must he have dreamed of that. How would it have fared with you had you also been smitten while riding at your ease? Have you not heard of persons who fall dead at their work? What is to hinder your dying with a spade in your hand? I am often startled when I am told in the week that one whom I saw on Sunday is dead—gone from the shop to the judgment-seat. It is not a very long time ago since one went out at the doorway of the Tabernacle, and fell dead on the threshold. We have had deaths in the house of God, unexpected deaths; and sometimes people are hurried away unprepared who never meant to have died unconverted, who always had from their youth up some kind of desire to be ready, only still they wanted a little more sleep. Oh, my hearers, take heed of little delays, and short puttings off. You have wasted time enough already, come to the point at once before the clock strikes again. May God the Holy Spirit bring you to decision. "Surely you do not object to my having a little more sleep?" says the sluggard. "You have waked me so soon. I only ask another little nap." "My dear man, it is far into the morning." He answers, "It is rather late, I know; but it will not be much later if I take just another doze." You wake him again, and tell him it is noon. He says, "It is the hottest part of the day: I daresay if I had been up I should have gone to the sofa and taken a little rest from the hot sun." You knock at his door when it is almost evening, and then he cries, "It is of no use to get up now, for the day is almost over." You remind him of his overgrown field and weedy vineyard, and he answers, "Yes, I must get up, I know." He shakes himself and says, "I do not think it will matter much if I wait till the clock strikes. I will rest another minute or two." He is glued to his bed, dead while he liveth, buried in his laziness. If he could sleep for ever he would, but he cannot, for the judgment-day will rouse him. It is written, "And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torment." God grant that you spiritual sluggards may wake before that; but you will not unless you bestir yourselves betimes, for "now is the accepted time"; and it may be now or never. To-morrow is only to be found in the calendar of fools; to-day is the time of the wise man, the chosen season of our gracious God. Oh that the Holy Spirit may lead you to seize the present hour, that you may at once give yourselves to the Lord by faith in Christ Jesus, and then from his vineyard— "Quick uproot The noisome weeds, that without profit suck The soil’s fertility from wholesome plants." Spurgeon, C. H. (1882). Farm Sermons. New York: Passmore and Alabaster. (Public Domain) CHRIST the Believer’s Husband Christ the Believer’s Husband Isaiah 54:5 For thy Maker is thy Husband. ALTHOUGH believers by nature, are far from God, and children of wrath, even as others, yet it is amazing to think how nigh they are brought to him again by the blood of Jesus Christ. Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath it entered into the heart of any man living, fully to conceive, the nearness and dearness of that relation, in which they stand to their common head. He is not ashamed to call them brethren. Behold, says the blessed Jesus in the days of his flesh, "my mother and my brethren." And again after his resurrection, "go tell my brethren." Nay sometimes he is pleased to term believers his friends. "Henceforth call I you no longer servants, but friends." "Our friend Lazarus sleepeth." And what is a friend? Why there is a friend that is nearer than a brother, nay, as near as one’s own soul. And "thy friend, (says God in the book of Deuteronomy) which is as thy own soul." Kind and endearing appellations these, that undoubtedly bespeak a very near and ineffably intimate union between the Lord Jesus and the true living members of his mystical body! But, methinks, the words of our text point out to us a relation, which not only comprehends, but in respect to nearness and dearness, exceeds all other relations whatsoever. I mean that of a Husband. "For thy Maker is thy husband; the Lord of Hosts is his name; and thy Redeemer the Holy One of Israel, the God of the whole earth shall he be called." These words were originally spoken to the people of the Jews, considered collectively as a peculiar people, whom our Lord had betrothed and married to himself; and they seem to be spoken, when religion was on the decline among their churches; when they had, in a great measure, lost that life and power, which they once experienced; and their enemies began to insult them with a "where is now your God?" Such a state of things must undoubtedly be very afflicting to the true mourners in Zion; and put them upon crying unto the Lord, in this their deep distress. He hears their prayer, his bowels yearn towards them; and in the preceding verse, he assures them, that though the enemy had broken in upon them like a flood, yet their extremity should be his opportunity to lift up a standard against him. "Fear not, (says the great Head and King of his church) for thou shalt not be ashamed (finally or totally); neither be thou confounded, (dissipated or dejected, giving up all for gone, as though thou never shouldst see better days, or another revival of religion) for thou shalt not (entirely) be put to shame;" though for a while, for thy humiliation, and the greater confusion of thy adversaries, I suffer them to triumph over thee: "For thou shalt forget the shame of thy youth, and shalt not remember the reproach of thy widow-hood any more;" i. e. I will vouchsase you such another glorious gale of my blessed Spirit, that you shall quite forget your former troubled widow-state, and give your enemies no more occasion to insult you, on account of your infant-condition, but rather to envy you, and gnash their teeth, and melt away at the sight of your unthought-of glory and prosperity. And why will the infinitely great and condescending Jesus deal thus with his people? Because the church is his spouse; "For, (as in the words just now read to you) thy Maker is thy husband; thy Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel;" and therefore he loves thee too well, to let thy enemies always trample thee under foot, "The Lord of Hosts is his name, the God of the whole earth shall he be called;" and therefore he is armed with sufficient power to relieve his oppressed people, and overcome and avenge himself of all their haughty and insulting foes. This seems to be the prime and genuine interpretation of the text and context, especially if we add, that they may have a further view to the latter-day glory, and that blessed state of the church, which the people of God have been looking for in all ages, and the speedy approach of which, we undoubtedly pray for, when we put up that petition of our Lord’s, "thy kingdom come." But, though the words were originally spoken to the Jews, yet they are undoubtedly applicable to all believers in all ages, and, when inlarged on in a proper manner, will afford us suitable matter of discourse both for sinners and for saints; for such as know God, as well as for such who know him not; and likewise for those, who once walked in the light of his blessed countenance, but are now backslidden from him, have their harps hung upon the willows, and are afraid that their beloved is gone, and will return to their souls no more. Accordingly, without prefacing this discourse any farther, as I suppose that a mixed multitude of saints, unconverted sinners, and backsliders, are present here this day, I shall endeavour so to speak from the words of the text, that each may have a proper portion, and none be sent empty away. In prosecuting this design, I will, I. Endeavour to shew, what must pass between Jesus Christ and our souls before we can say, "that our Maker is our husband." II. The duties of love which they owe to our Lord, who stand in so near a relation to him. III. The miserable condition of such as cannot yet say, "their Maker is their husband." And IV. I shall conclude with a general exhortation to all such unhappy souls, to come and match with the dear Lord Jesus. And O! may that God who blessed Abraham’s servant, when he went out to seek a wife for his son Isaac, bless me, even me also, now I am come, I trust, relying on divine strength, to invite poor sinners, and recal backsliders, to my Master Jesus! And First, I am to shew, what must pass between Jesus Christ and our souls before we can say, "Our Maker is our husband." But before I proceed to this, it may not be improper to observe, that if any of you, amongst whom I am now preaching the kingdom of God, are enemies to inward religion, and explode the doctrine of inward feelings, as enthusiasm, cant and nonsense, I shall not be surprized, if your hearts rise against me whilst I am preaching; for I am about to discourse on true, vital, internal piety; and an inspired apostle hath told us, "that the natural man discerneth not the things of the spirit, because they are spiritually discerned." But, however, be noble as the Bereans were; search the Scriptures as they did; lay aside prejudice; hear like Nathaniel, with a true Israelitish ear; be willing to do the will of God; and then you shall, according to the promise of our dearest Lord, "know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself." I would further observe, that if any here do expect fine preaching from me this day, they will, in all probability, go away disappointed. For I came not here to shoot over people’s heads; but, if the Lord shall be pleased to bless me, to reach their hearts. Accordingly, I shall endeavour to cloath my ideas in such plain language, that the meanest negro or servant, if God is pleased to give a hearing ear, may understand me; for I am certain, if the poor and unlearned can comprehend, the learned and rich must. This being premised, proceed we to shew what must pass between Jesus Christ and our souls, before we can say, "our Maker is our husband." Now, that we may discourse more pertinently and intelligibly upon this point, it may not be amiss to consider, what is necessary to be done, before a marriage between two parties amongst ourselves, can be said to be valid in the sight of God and man. And that will lead us in a familiar way, to shew what must be done, or what must pass between us and Jesus Christ, before we can say, "our Maker is our husband." And First, In all lawful marriages, it is absolutely necessary, that the parties to be joined together in that holy and honourable estate, are actually and legally freed from all pre-engagements whatsoever. "A woman is bound to her husband, (faith the apostle) so long as her husband liveth." The same law holds good in respect to the man. And so likewise, if either party be betrothed and promised, though not actually married to another, the marriage is not lawful, till that pre-engagement and promise be fairly and mutually dissolved. Now, it is just thus between us and the Lord Jesus. For, we are all by nature born under, and wedded to the law, as a covenant of works. Hence it is that we are so fond of, and artfully go about, in order to establish a righteousness of our own. It is as natural for us to do this, as it is to breathe. Our first parents, Adam and Eve, even after the covenant of grace was revealed to them in that promise, "the seed of the woman shall bruise the serpent’s head," reached out their hands, and would again have taken hold of the tree of life, which they had forfeited, had not God drove them out of paradise, and compelled them, as it were, to be saved by grace. And thus all their descendants naturally run to, and want to be saved, partly at least, if not wholly, by their works. And even gracious souls, who are inwardly renewed, so far as the old man abides in them, find a strong propensity this way. Hence it is, that natural men are generally so fond of Arminian principles. "Do and live," is the native language of a proud, self-righteous heart. But before we can say, "our Maker is our husband," we must be divorced from our old husband the law; we must renounce our own righteousness, our own doings and performances, in point of dependence, whether in whole or part, as dung and dross, for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus our Lord. For thus speaks the apostle Paul to the Romans, chap. 7:4. "Ye also are become dead to the law (as a covenant of works) by the body of Christ, that ye should be married to another, even to him, who is raised from the dead." As he also speaketh in another place, "I have espoused you, as a chaste virgin to Jesus Christ." This was the apostle’s own case. Whilst he depended on his being a Hebrew of the Hebrews, and thought himself secure, because, as to the outward observation of the law, he was blameless; he was an entire stranger to the divine life: but when he began to experience the power of Jesus Christ’s resurrection, we find him, in his epistle to the Philippians, absolutely renouncing all his external privileges, and all his pharisaical righteousness; "Yea, doubtless, and I count all things but loss, nay but dung, that I may win Christ, and be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Jesus Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith." And thus it must be with us, ere we can say, "our Maker is our husband." Though we may not be wrought upon in that extraordinary way in which the apostle was, yet we must be dead to the law, we must be espoused as chaste virgins to Jesus Christ, and count all external privileges, and our most splendid performances (as was before observed) only "as dung and dross, for the excellency of the knowledge of Jesus Christ our Lord." But further; before a marriage among us can stand good in law, both parties must not only be freed from all pre-engagements, but there must be a mutual consent on both sides. We are not used to marry people against their wills. This is what the Jews called betrothing, or espousing, a thing previous to the solemnity of marriage. Thus we find, the Virgin Mary is said to be espoused to Joseph, before they actually came together, Mat. 1:18. And thus it is among us. Both parties are previously agreed, and, as it were, espoused to each other, before we publish, what we call the banns of marriage concerning them. And so it will be in the spiritual marriage, between Jesus Christ and our souls. Before we are actually married or united to him by faith; or, to keep to the terms of the text, before we assuredly can say, that "our Maker is our husband," we must be made willing people in the day of God’s power, we must be sweetly and effectually persuaded by the Holy Spirit of God, that the glorious Emmanuel is willing to accept of us, just as we are, and also that we are willing to accept of him upon his own terms, yea, upon any terms. And when once it comes to this, the spiritual marriage goes on apace, and there is but one thing lacking to make it compleat. And what is that? An actual union. This is absolutely necessary in every lawful marriage among men. There must be a joining of hands before witnesses, ere they can be deemed lawfully joined together. Some men in deed of corrupt minds, are apt to look upon this as a needless ceremony, and think it sufficient to be married, as they term it, in the fight of God. But whence men get such divinity, I know not. I am positive, not from the Bible; for we there read that even at the first marriage in paradise, there was something of outward solemnity; God himself (if I may so speak) being there the priest. For we are told, Gen. 2:22. that, after God had made the woman, "he brought her unto the man." And indeed, to lay aside all manner of outward ceremony in marriage, would be to turn the world into a den of brute beasts. Men would then take, or forsake as many wives as they pleased, and we should soon sink into as bad and brutal a state, as those nations are, amongst whom such practices are allowed of, and who are utterly destitute of the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Whoever has experienced the power of his resurrection, I am persuaded will never plead for such a licentious practice. For the terms made use of in Scripture, to represent the mystical union between Christ and his church, such as, our being "joined to the Lord," and "married to Jesus Christ," are all metaphorical expressions, taken from some analogous practices amongst men. And as persons when married, though before twain, are now one flesh; so those that are joined to the Lord, and can truly say, "our Maker is our husband," are in the apostle’s language, one spirit. This was typified in the original marriage of our first parents. When God brought Eve to Adam, he received her with joy at his hands, and said, "this is bone of my bone, and flesh of my flesh." They had there, primarily, but one name. For thus speaks the sacred Historian, Gen. 5:1, 2. "In the day that God created man, he blessed them, and called their name Adam." and why? because they were one flesh, and were to have but one heart. The self-same terms are made use of in Scripture, to express the believer’s union with Jesus Christ. We are called Christians, after Christ’s name, because made partakers of Christ’s nature. Out of his fulness, believers receive grace for grace. And therefore, the marriage state, especially by the apostle Paul, is frequently made use of, to figure out to us the real, vital union, between Jesus Christ and regenerate souls. This is termed by the apostle, Eph. 5:32. "A great mystery." But great as it is, we must all experience it, before we can say assuredly, that "our Maker is our husband." For what says our Lord, in that prayer he put up to his Father before his bitter passion? "Father, I will that those whom thou hast given me, shall be where I am, that they may be one with thee; even as thou, O Father, and I are one, I in them, and they in me, that we all may be made perfect in one." O infinite condescension! O ineffable union! Hence it is, that believers are said to be members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. Hence it is, that the apostle speaking of himself, says, "I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me." What an expression is that? How much does it comprehend? And, that we might not think this was something peculiar to himself, he puts this close question to the Corinthians; "Know ye not, that Christ is in you, unless you be reprobates?" Agreeable to what he says in his epistle to the Colossians, "Christ in you, the hope of glory," And hence it is, that our church, in the communion-office, directs the minister to acquaint all those who receive the sacrament worthily, that they are one with Christ, and Christ with them; that they dwell in Christ, and Christ in them. Words that deserve to be written in letters of gold, and which evidently shew, what our reformers believed all persons must experience, before they could truly and assuredly say, that "their Maker is their husband." From what has been delivered, may not the poorest and most illiterate person here present easily know whether or not he is really married to Jesus Christ. Some indeed, I am afraid, are so presumptuous as to affirm, at least to insinuate, that there is no such thing as knowing, or being fully assured, whilst here below, whether we are in Christ or not. Or at least, if there be such a thing, it is very rare, or was only the privilege of the primitive believers. Part of this is true, and part of this absolutely false. That this glorious privilege of a full assurance is very rare, is too, too true. And so it is equally too true, that real christians, comparatively speaking, are very rare also. But that there is no such thing, or that this was only the privilege of the first followers of our blessed Lord, is directly opposite to the word of God. "We know (says St. John, speaking of believers in general) that we are his, by the spirit which he hath given us;" and, "He that believeth hath the witness in himself;" "because you are sons (saith St. Paul) God hath sent forth his Spirit into your hearts, even the spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father." Not that I dare affirm, that there is no real christian, but what has this full assurance of faith, and clearly knows, that his Maker is his husband. In speaking thus, I should undoubtedly condemn some of the generation of God’s dear children, who through the prevalence of unbelief, indwelling sin, spiritual sloth, or it may be, for want of being informed of the privileges of believers, may walk in darkness, and see no light: therefore, though I dare not affirm, that a full assurance of faith is absolutely necessary for the very being, yet I dare assert, that it is absolutely necessary, for the well being of a christian. And for my own part, I cannot conceive, how any persons, that pretend to christianity, can rest satisfied or contented without it. This is stopping short, on this side Jordan, with a witness. And gives others too much reason to suspect, that such persons, however high their profession may be, have, as yet, on true saving grace at all. Men, whose hearts are set on this world’s goods, or, to use our Lord’s language, "the children of this world," act not so. I suppose there is scarce a single merchant in this great congregation, especially in these troublous times, that will venture out either his ship or cargo, without first insuring, both against the violence of an enemy, or a storm. And I suppose there is scarce a single house, of any considerable value, in any populous town of city, but the owner has taken out a policy from the fire-office, to insure it, in case of fire. And can I be so irrational as to think, that there is such a thing as securing my goods, and my house, and that there is no such thing as insuring, what is infinitely more valuable, my precious and immortal soul? Or if there be such a thing, as undoubtedly there is, what foolishness of folly must it needs be in men, that pretend to be men of parts, of good sense, and solid reasoning, to be so anxious to secure their ships against a storm, and their houses against a fire, and at the same time, not to be unspeakably more solicitous, to take a policy out of the assurance-office of heaven; even the seal and witness of the blessed Spirit of God, to insure their souls against that storm of divine wrath, and that vengeance of eternal fire, which will at the last decisive day come upon all those, who know not God, and have not obeyed his gracious gospel? To affirm therefore, that there is no such thing as knowing, that "our Maker is our husband;" or that it was privilege peculiar to the first christians, to speak in the mildest terms, is both irrational and unscriptural. Not that all who can say, their Maker is their husband, can give the same clear and distinct account of the time, manner and means of their being spiritually united and married by faith, to the blessed bridegroom of the church. Some there may be now, as well as formerly, sanctified from the womb. And others in their insancy and non-age, as it were silently converted. Such perhaps may say, with a little Scotch maiden, now with God, when I asked her, whether Jesus Christ had taken away her old heart, and given her a new one? "Sir, it may be, (said she,) I cannot directly tell you the time and place, but this I know, it is done." And indeed it is not so very material, though no doubt it is very satisfactory, if we cannot relate all the minute and particular circumstances, that attended our conversion; if so be we are truly converted now, and can say, the work is done, and that, "our Maker is our husband." And I question, whether there is one single adult believer, now on earth, who lived before conversion, either in a course of secret or open sin, but can, in a good degree, give an account of the beginning and progress of the work of grace in his heart. What think ye? Need I tell any married persons in this congregation, that they must go to the university, and learn the languages, before they can tell whether they are married or not? Or, if their marriage was to be doubted, could they not, think you, bring their certificates, to certify the time and place of their marriage; and the minister that joined them together in that holy state? And if you are adult, and are indeed married to Jesus Christ, though you may be unlearned, and what the world terms illiterate men, cannot you tell me the rise and progress, and consummation of the spiritual marriage, between Jesus Christ and your souls? Know you not the time, when you were first under the drawings of the Father, and Jesus began to woo you for himself? Tell me, O man, tell me, O woman, knowest thou not the time, or at least, knowest thou not, that there was a time, when the blessed Spirit of God stripped thee of the fig-leaves of thy own righteousness, hunted thee out of the trees of the garden of thy performances, forced thee from the embraces of thy old husband the law, and made thee to abhor thy own righteousness, as so many filthy rags? Canst thou not remember, when, after a long struggle with unbelief, Jesus appeared to thee, as altogether lovely, mighty and willing to save? And canst thou not reflect upon a season, when thy own stubborn heart was made to bend; and thou wast made willing to embrace him, as freely offered to thee in the everlasting gospel? And canst thou not, with pleasure unspeakable, reflect on some happy period, some certain point of time, in which a sacred something (perhaps thou couldst not then well tell what) did captivate, and fill thy heart, so that thou could say, in a rapture of holy surprize, and extacy of divine love, "My Lord and my God! my beloved is mine, and I am his; I know that my Redeemer liveth;" or, to keep to the words of our text, "My Maker is my husband." Surely, amidst this great and solemn assembly, there are many that can answer these questions in the affirmative. For these are transactions, not easily to be forgotten; and the day of our espousals is, generally, a very remarkable day; a day to be had in everlasting remembrance. And can any of you indeed, upon good grounds say, that your Maker is your husband? May I not then (as it is customary to wish persons joy who are just entered into the marriage state) congratulate you upon your happy change, and with you joy, with all my heart? Sure am I that there was joy in heaven on the day of your espousals: and why should not the blessed news occasion joy on earth? May I not address you in the language of our Lord to the women that came to visit his sepulchre, "All hail!" for ye are highly favoured. Blessed are ye among men, blessed are ye among women! All generations shall call you blessed. What! "is your Maker your husband? the holy one of Israel your Redeemer?" Sing, O heavens, and rejoice, O earth! What an amazing stoop is this! What a new thing has God created on the earth! Do not your hearts, O believers, burn within you, when meditating on this unspeakable condescension of the high and lofty one that inhabiteth eternity? Whilst you are musing, does not the sacred fire of divine love kindle in your souls? And, out of the abundance of your hearts, do you not often speak with your tongues, and call upon all that is within you, to laud and magnify your Redeemer’s holy name? Is not that God exalting, self-abasing expression frequently in your mouths, "Why me, Lord, why me?" And are you not often constrained to break out into that devout exclamation of Solomon, when the glory of the Lord filled the temple, "And will God indeed dwell with man?" ungrateful, rebellious, ill, and hell-deserving man! O, my brethren, my heart is enlarged towards you! Tears, while I am speaking, are ready to gush out. But they are tears of love and joy. How shall I give it vent? How shall I set forth thy happiness, O believer, thou bride of God! And is thy Maker thy husband? Is his name "The Lord of hosts?" Whom then shouldst thou fear? And is thy Redeemer the holy one of Israel? the God of the whole earth should he be called! of whom then shouldst thou be afraid? He that toucheth thee, toucheth the very apple of God’s eye. "The very hairs of thy head are all numbered;" and "it is better that a man should have a milstone tied round his neck, and be drowned in the sea, than that he should justly offend thee." All hail, (I must again repeat it) thou Lamb’s bride! For thou art all glorious within, and comely, through the comeliness thy heavenly bridegroom hath put upon thee. Thy garment is indeed of wrought gold; and, ere long, the King shall bring thee forth with a raiment of needle-work, and present thee blameless before his Father, without spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing. In the mean while, well shall it be with you, and happy shall you be, who are married to Jesus Christ: for all that Christ has, is yours. "He is made of God to you, wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and eternal redemption". "Whether Paul, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; all are yours." All his attributes are engaged for your preservation, and all things shall work together for your good, who love God, and, by being thus married to the Lord Jesus, give an evident proof that you are called according to his purpose. What say you? When you meditate on these things, are you not frequently ready to cry out, What shall we render unto the Lord for all these mercies, which, of his free unmerited grace, he hath been pleased to bestow upon us? For, though you are dead to the law, as a covenant of works, yet you are alive to the law as a rule of life, and are in, or under the law (for either expression seems to denote the same thing) to your glorious husband, Jesus Christ. Pass we on therefore to the Second general head, under which I was to shew, what duties of love they owe to Jesus Christ, who are so happy as to be able to say, "My Maker is my husband." I say, duties of love. For being now married to Jesus Christ, you work not for life, but from life. The love of God constrains you, so that, if there was no written law, or supposing Jesus would set you at liberty from his yoke, so far as grace prevails in your hearts, you would say, we love our blessed bridegroom, and will not go from him. And what does the Lord require of you? That we may speak on this head as plainly as may be, we shall pursue the method we begun with; and, by carrying on the allegory, and examining what is required of truly christian wives, under the gospel, infer what our Lord may justly demand of those who are united to him by faith, and can therefore say, "our Maker is our husband." And here let us go to the law and to the testimony. What says the scripture? "Let the wife see that she reverence her husband." It is, no doubt, the duty of married women to think highly of their husbands. From whom may husbands justly command respect, if not from their wives? The apostle’s expression is emphatical. "Let the wife see that the reverence her husband;" thereby implying, that women, some of them at least, are too prone to disrespect their husbands; as Michal, Saul’s daughter, despised David in her heart, when she tauntingly said, 2 Sam. 6:20. "How glorious was the king of Israel to-day, who uncovered himself to-day in the eyes of the handmaids of his servants, as one of the vain fellows shamlesly uncovereth himself." This is a source and fountain, from whence many domestic evils frequently flow. Women should remember the character that husbands sustain in scripture. They are to them, what Christ is to the church. And it is mentioned to the honour of Sarah, that she called Abraham "Lord." "Shall I have a child who am old, my Lord being old also?" It is remarkable, there are but two good words in that whole sentence, "my Lord," (for all the others are the language of unbelief) and yet those two words the Holy Ghost mentions to her eternal honour, and buries, as it were, the rest in oblivion. "Even as Sarah (says St. Peter) obeyed Abraham, calling him Lord." An evident proof how pleasing it is in the sight of God, for women in the married state to reverence and respect their husbands. Not that husbands therefore should Lord it over their wives, or require too much respect at their hands. This would be unchristian, as well as ungenerous, indeed. They ought rather, as God has taken such care to keep up their authority, commanding their wives to reverence and respect them; they ought, I say, to be doubly careful, that they live so holy and unblameable, as to lay their wives under no temptation to despise them. But to return from this digression. Does the apostle say, "Let the wife see that she reverence her husband?" May I not pertinently apply this caution to you who are married to Jesus Christ? See so it that you reverence and respect your husband. I say, see to it. For the devil will be often suggesting to you hard and mean thoughts against your husband. It was thus he beset our mother Eve, even in a state of innocence. He would fain persuade her to entertain hard thoughts of her glorious benefactor. "What, has God said, ye shall not eat of the trees of the garden?" Has he been so cruel to put you here in a beautiful garden only to vex and seize you? This he made use of as an inlet to all his succeeding insinuations. And this trade he is still pursuing, and will be pursuing to the very end of time. Besides, in the eyes of the world, Jesus Christ has no form or comeliness that they should desire him; and therefore, unless you "watch and pray," you will be led into temptation, and not keep up such high thoughts of your blessed Jesus as he justly deserves. In this you can never exceed. Women, perhaps, may sometimes think too highly of, and, through excess of love, idolize their earthly comforts. But it is impossible for you to think too highly of your heavenly husband, Jesus Christ. Farther, what says the apostle in his epistle to the Ephesians? Speaking of the marriage state, he says, "The wife is the glory of her husband:" as though he had said, a christian wife should so behave, and so walk, as to be a credit to her husband. As Abigail was an honour to Nabal, and by her sweet deportment made up in some degree, for her husband’s churlishness. This is to be a help-meet indeed. Such a woman will be praised in the gate; and her husband get glory, and meet with respect on her account. And ought a woman to be the glory of her husband? How much more ought you, that are the Lamb’s bride, so to live, and so to walk, as to bring glory, and gain respect, to the cause and interest of your husband Jesus? This is what the apostle every where supposes, when he would draw a parallel between a temporal and spiritual marriage. "The woman, is the glory of her husband, even as the church is the glory of Christ." Agreeable to this, he tells the Corinthians, "Whether you eat or drink, or whatsoever you do, do all to the glory of God;" and as he also speaks to the Thessalonians, 1 Thess. 2:11, 12. "As you know how we exhorted, and comforted, and charged every one of you (as a father doth his children) that you would walk worthy of God who hath called you to his kingdom, and his glory." What an expression is here! "That you would walk worthy of God." O! how ought this, and such like texts, to stir up your pure minds, O believers, so to have your conversation in this world, that you may be what the apostle says some particular persons were, even "the glory of Christ." You are his glory; he rejoices over you with singing; and you should so walk, that all who know and hear of you, may glorify Christ in you. Subjection, is another duty, that is enjoined married women, in the word of God. They are to "be subject to their own husband in every thing," every lawful thing: "For, the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church." And knowing how unapt some base minds would be to submit to the husband’s authority, he takes care to enforce this duty of subjection by many cogent and powerful arguments." "For Adam was first made, and not Eve. Neither was the man made for the woman, but the woman for the man." And again, "The man was not first in the transgression, but the woman." Upon which accounts, subjection was imposed on her as part of her punishment. "Thy desire (says God) shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule (though not tyrannize) over thee." So that, to use the words of pious Mr. Henry, those who attempt to usurp authority over their husbands, not only contradict a divine command, but thwart a divine curse. And if women are to be subject to their own husbands in every thing, how much more ought believers, whether men or women, to be subject to Jesus Christ: for he is the head of the church. He has bought her by his blood. Believers therefore are not their own, but are under the highest obligations to glorify and obey Jesus Christ, in their bodies and their souls, which are his. Add to this, that his service, as it is admirably expressed in one of our collects, is perfect freedom. His commandments holy, just, and good. And therefore it is your highest privilege, O believers, to submit to, and obey them. Earthly husbands may be so mean as to impose some things upon their wives, merely to shew their authority; but it is not so with Jesus Christ. He can and does impose nothing, but what immediately conduces to our present, as well as future good. In doing, nay, in suffering for Jesus Christ, there is a present unspeakable reward. And therefore I may say to believers, as the blessed Virgin said to the servants at the marriage in Cana, "Whatsoever he says unto you, do it." "For his yoke is easy, and his burden is light." And I believe it might easily be proved in a few minutes, that all the disorders which are now in the world, whether in church or state, are owing to a want of being universally, unanimously, chearfully, and perseveringly conformed to the laws and example of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Again, Faithfulness in the marriage state, is strictly enjoined in the scriptures of truth. "Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled. But whoremongers and adulterers God will judge." Nay, adultery is an iniquity to be punished by the earthly judges; it dissolves the marriage relation. "For the man has not power over his own body, but the woman; neither has the woman power over her own body, but the man." The heathens themselves have been taught this by the light of nature; and adultery, among some of them, is punished with immediate death. And ought married persons to be thus careful to keep the marriage-bed undefiled, how carefully then ought believers to keep their souls chaste, pure, and undefiled, now they are espoused to Jesus Christ? For there is such a thing as spiritual adultery; "O ye adulterers and adulteresses," saith St. James. And God frequently complains of his people’s playing the harlot. Hence it is, that St. John, in the most endearing manner, exhorts believers to "keep themselves from idols." For the lust of the eye, the lust of the flesh, and pride of life, are always ready to steal away our hearts from Jesus Christ. And every time we place our affections upon any thing more than Christ, we do undoubtedly commit spiritual adultery. For we admit a creature to rival the Creator, who is God over all, blessed for evermore. "Little children, therefore, keep yourselves from idols." But it is time for me to draw towards the close of this head. Fruitfulness was a blessing promised by God to the first happy pair; "Increase and multiply, and replenish the earth." "Lo, children, and the fruit of the womb, (says the Psalmist) are a gift and heritage, which cometh of the Lord." And so, if we are married to Jesus Christ, we must be fruitful. In what? In every good word and work: for thus speaks the Apostle, in his epistle to the Romans: "Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law, by the body of Christ, that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead." What follows? "That we should bring forth fruit unto God." Glorious words, and proper to be considered in a peculiar manner, by such who would explode the doctrine of free justification, as an Antinomian doctrine, and as though it destroyed good works. No; it establishes, and lays a solid foundation, whereon to build the superstructure of good works. Titus is therefore commanded to "exhort believers to be careful to maintain good works." And "herein (says our Lord) is my Father glorified, that ye bring forth much fruit. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven;" with a multitude of passages to the same purpose. Moreover, it is required of wives, that they not only love and reverence their husbands, but that they also love and respect their husband’s friends. And if we are married to Jesus Christ, we shall not only reverence the bridegroom, but we shall also love and honour the bridegroom’s friends. "By this, shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye love one another." "By this we know, (says the beloved disciple) that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren." Observe, the brethren, indefinitely, of whatever denomination. And this love must be "without dissimulation, and with a pure heart servently." This was the case of the primitive christians. They were all of one heart, and of one mind. It was said of them (O that it could be said of us!) "See how these christians love one another!" They were of the same spirit as a good woman of Scotland was, who, when she saw a great multitude, as is customary in that country, coming from various parts to receive the blessed sacrament, saluted them with a "Come in, ye blessed of the Lord, I have an house that will hold an hundred of you, and a heart that will hold ten thousand." Let us go and do likewise. Once more. Persons that are married, take one another for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, to love and to cherish each other in sickness and in health. And if we are married to Jesus Christ, we shall be willing to bear his cross, as well as to wear his crown. "If any man will come, after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me." Neither will they be compelled to do this, as Simon of Cyrene was, but they will be volunteers in his service; they will cry out, Crown him, crown him, when others are crying out, "Crucify him, crucify him." They will never leave or forsake him, but willingly follow the Captain of their salvation, though it be through a sea of blood. I might run the parallel still further, and also enlarge upon the hints already given; but I fear I have said enough already to reproach most believers; I am sure I have said more than enough to abash and upbraid myself. For alas! how vilely, treacherously, and ungratefully have we behaved towards our spiritual husband, the dear Lord Jesus, ever since the day of our espousals? Had our friends, or even the wives of our own bosoms, behaved to us as we have behaved to our great and best friend, our glorious husband, we should have broken off our friendship, and sued for a bill of divorcement long ago. Under our first love, what promises did we make to him? But how forwardly have we behaved ourselves in this covenant? How little have we reverenced him? How often has our Beloved been no more to us than another beloved? How little have we lived to his glory? Have we not been a shame and reproach to his gospel? Have we not crucified him afresh, and has he not been sorely wounded in the house of his friends? Nay, has not his holy name been blasphemed through our means? For alas! how little have we obeyed him? How careless and indifferent have we been, whether we pleased him or not? We have often said, indeed, when commanded by him to go work in his vineyard, We go, Lord; but alas! we went not. Or if we did go, with what reluctance has it been? How unwilling to watch with our dear Lord and Master, only one hour? And of his sabbaths, how often have we said, What a weariness is this? As for our adulteries, and spiritual fornications, how frequent, how aggravated have they been? Have not idols of all sorts, been suffered to fill up the room of the ever-blessed Jesus in our hearts? You that love him in sincerity, will not be offended if I tell you, that the xvith chapter of Ezekiel gives, in my opinion, a lively description of our behaviour towards our Lord. We were, like base-born, children, cast out in the field to the loathing of our persons: no eye pitied or had compassion on us. Jesus passed by, saw us polluted in our own blood, and said unto us, "Live," i. e. preserved us, even in our natural state, from death. And when his time of love was come, he spread the skirt of his imputed righteousness over us, and covered the nakedness of our souls, entered into covenant with us, and we became his. He washed us also with water, even in the laver of regeneration, and thoroughly washed us by his precious blood, from the guilt of all our sins. He cloathed us also with broidered work, and decked us with ornaments, even with righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost. We did eat fine flour and honey at his ordinances, and we fed on Jesus Christ in our hearts by faith, with thanksgiving. In short, we were made exceeding beautiful, and the kingdom of God was erected in our hearts. We were renowned among our neighbours for our love to God, and all that knew us took knowledge of us, that we had been with Jesus. But alas! how have we fallen, who were once sons of the morning! How have we trusted in our own beauty, have grown spiritually proud, and provoked our patient and unspeakably long-suffering Lord to anger? Where is that ardent love we spake of, when we told him, that, though we should die for him, we would not deny him in any wife? How desperately wicked, and deceitful above all things, have we proved our hearts to be, since we have done all these things, even the work of an imperious woman? These are great and numerous charges; but great and numerous as they are, there is not a single believer here present, but, if he knows his own heart, may plead guilty to some, or all of them. But this is a tender point: I see you concerned: your tears, O believers, are a proof of the anguish of your souls. And can any of us give any reason, why Jesus Christ should not give us a bill of divorcement, and put us away? May he not justly speak to us as he did to his adultress Israel, in the forementioned xvith of Ezekiel, "Wherefore, O harlot, hear the word of the Lord; I will judge thee as women that break wedlock, and shed blood, are judged. I will give thee blood in fury and jealousy, because thou hast not remembered the days of thy youth, but hast fretted me in all these things. Behold, therefore, I also will recompence thy way upon thy head. I will even deal with thee as thou hast done, who hast despised the oath, in breaking the covenant, the marriage contract that was between us." This, I am persuaded, you will confess to be the treatment which we all most justly deserve. But be not overwhelmed with overmuch sorrow: for though the Lord our God is a jealous God, and will certainly vsit our offences with a rod, and our backslidings with a spiritual scourge, yet his loving-kindness will he not utterly take from us, nor suffer his truth to fail. Though we have changed, yet he changeth not: He abideth faithful: his loving-kindness abideth for evermore. Hark! how sweetly he speaks to his backsliding people of old; "O Israel, thou hast destroyed thyself, but in me is thy help. I will heal their backsliding, and love them freely." And in the verses immediately following the words of the text, how comfortably does he address his espoused people! "In a little wrath, I hid my face from thee for a moment; but with everlasting kindness will I have mercy on thee, faith the Lord thy Redeemer. For this is as the waters of Noah unto me: for as I have sworn, that the waters of Noah should no more go over the earth; so have I sworn, that I would not be wroth with thee, nor rebuke thee. For the mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed, but my kindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed, faith the Lord that hath mercy on thee." O that this goodness may lead us to repentance! O that this unparalleled, infinite, unchangeable love, may constrain us to an universal, uniform, chearful, unanimous, persevering obedience to all the commands of God! Brethren, my heart is enlarged towards you, and I could dwell a long while upon the many great and precious invitations that are made to backsliders, to return to their first love, and do their first works: but it is high time for me, if, as was proposed, III. I give to every one their proper portion; to speak to those poor souls, who know nothing of this blessed Bridegroom of the church, and consequently cannot yet say, "My Maker is my husband." Ah! I pity you from my inmost soul; I could weep over, and for you, though perhaps you will not weep for yourselves. But surely you would weep, and howl too, did you know the miserable condition those are in, who are not married to Jesus Christ. Will you give me leave (I think I speak it in much love) to inform you, that if you are not married to Jesus Christ, you are married to the law, the world, the flesh, and the devil, neither of which can make you happy; but all, on the contrary, concur to make you miserable. Hear ye not, ye that are married to the law, and seek to be Justified in the sight of God, partly, at least, if not wholly, by your own works, what the law faith to those that are under it, as a convenant of works? "Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things that are written in the book of the law, to do them." Every word breathes threatening and slaughter to poor fallen creatures. Cursed, both here and hereafter, be this man, and every one, naturally engendered of the offspring of Adam, without exception, that continueth not, even to the very end of life, in all things; not only in some, or many, but in all things, that are written in the book of the law, to do them, in the utmost perfection: for "he that offendeth in one point, is guilty of all." So that, according to the tenor of the covenant of works, whosoever is guilty of one wicked thought, word, or action, is under the curse of an angry sin-avenging God. "For as many as are under the law, are under the curse." And do you know what it is to be under the curse of God, and to have the wrath of God abide upon you? If you did, I believe you would not be so unwilling to be divorced from the law, and be espoused, as chaste virgins, to Jesus Christ. And why are ye so wedded to the world? Did it ever prove faithful or satisfactory to any of its votaries? Has not Solomon reckoned up the sum total of worldly happiness? And what does it amount to? "Vanity, vanity, faith the preacher, all is vanity," nay he adds, "and vexation of spirit." And has not a greater than Solomon informed us, that a man’s life, the happiness of a man’s life, doth not consist in the things which he possesseth? Besides, "know ye not that the friendship of this world is enmity with God; so that whosoever will be a friend to the world, (to the corrupt customs and vices of it) is an enemy to God?" And what better reasons can you give for being wedded to your lusts? Might not the poor slaves in the gallies, as reasonably be wedded to their chains? For do not your lusts fetter down your souls from God? Do they not lord it, and have they not dominion over you? Do not they say, Come, and ye come; Go, and ye go; Do this, and ye do it? And is not he or she that liveth in pleasure, dead, whilst he liveth? And above all, how can ye bear the thoughts of being wedded to the devil, as every natural man is: for thus speaks the scripture, "He now ruleth in the children of disobedience." And how can ye bear to be ruled by one, who is such a professed open enemy to the most high and holy God? Who will make a drudge of you, whilst you live, and be your companion in endless and extreme torment, after you are dead? For thus will our Lord say to those on the left hand, "Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels." But, IV. Will you permit me, O sinners, that I may draw towards a close of this discourse, to propose a better match to your souls. This is a part of the discourse which I long to come to, it being my heart’s desire, and earnest prayer to God, that your souls may be saved. "And now, O Lord God Almighty, thou Father of mercies, and God of all consolations, thou God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hast promised to give thy Son the heathen for his inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for his possession, send me good speed this day, O Lord, send me now prosperity. Behold, I stand here without the camp, bearing a little of thy dear Son’s sacred reproach! Hear me, O Lord, hear me, and according to thy word, let thy dear, thine only begotten Son, see of the travel of his soul, and be satisfied! O help me so to speak, that many may believe on, and cleave unto thy blessed, thine holy child Jesus!" But who am I, that I should undertake to recommend the blessed Jesus to others, who am myself altogether unworthy to take his sacred name into my polluted lips? Indeed, my brethren, I do not count myself worthy of such an honour; but since it has pleased him, in whom all fulness dwells, to count me worthy, and put me into the ministry, the very stories would cry out against me, did I not attempt, at least, to lisp out his praise, and earnestly recommend the ever-blessed Jesus to the choice of all. Thus Abraham’s faithful servant behaved, when sent out to fetch a wife for his master Isaac. He spake of the riches and honours, which God had conferred on him; but what infinitely greater honours and riches, has the God and Father of our Lord Jesus, conferred on his only Son, to whom I now Invite every christless sinner! To you, therefore, I call, O ye sons of men, assuring you, there is every thing in Jesus that your hearts can desire, or hunger and thirst after. Do people in disposing of themselves or their children in marriage, generally covet to be matched with persons of great names? Let this consideration serve as a motive to stir you up to match with Jesus. For God the Father has given him a name above every name; he has upon his vesture, and upon his thigh, a name written, "The King of kings, and the Lord of lords;" and here in the text we are told, "The Lord of Hosts is his name." Nor has he an empty title, but power equivalent; for he is a prince, as well as a saviour. "All power is given unto him, both in heaven and on earth:" "The God of the whole earth, (says our text) he shall be called." The government of men, of the church, and of devils, is put upon his shoulders: "Thrones, principalities and powers, are made subject unto him; by him kings reign, and princes decree justice; he setteth up one, and putteth down another: and of his kingdom there shall be no end." Will riches be an inducement unto you to come and match with Jesus? Why then, I can tell you, the riches of Jesus are infinite: for unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach to poor sinners, the unsearchable riches of Jesus Christ. I appeal to you that are his saints, whether you have not found this true, by happy experience; and though some of you, may have been acquainted with him thirty, forty, fifty years ago, do you not find his riches are yet unsearchable, and as much past finding out, as they were the very first moment in which you gave him your hearts! Would you match with a wise husband? Haste then, sinners, come away to Jesus: He is the fountain of wisdom, and makes all that come unto him, wife unto salvation; "He is the wisdom of the Father: the Lord possessed him in the beginning of his way, before his works of old. When he prepared the heavens, he was there; when he appointed the foundations of the earth, then was he with him, as one brought up with him; he was daily his delight, rejoicing always before him." As he is wife, so is he holy; and therefore, in the words of our text, he is stiled, "The Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel:" and by the angel Gabriel, "That holy Thing." The apostles, addressing God the Father, stile him his "holy child Jesus:" and the spirits of just men made perfect, and the angels in heaven, cease not day or night, saying, "Holy, holy, holy." Nor is his beauty inferior to his wisdom or holiness; the seraphs veil their faces, when they appear before him: "He is the chiefest among ten thousand, nay, he is altogether lovely." And, as he is altogether lovely, so is he altogether loving: his name and his nature is Love. God, God in Christ is love: love in the abstract. And in this has he manifested his love, in that, whilst we were yet sinners, nay open enemies, Jesus, in his own due time, died for the ungodly. He loved us so as to give himself for us. O what manner of love is this! What was Jacob’s love to Rachel, in comparison of the love which Jesus bore to a perishing world! He became a curse for us. For it is written; "Cursed is every man that hangeth upon a tree." What Zipporah said to her husband improperly, Jesus may say properly to his spouse the church, "A bloody wife hast thou been to me, because of the crucifixion." For he has purchased her with his own blood. And having once loved his people, he loves them unto, the end. His love, like himself, is from everlasting to everlasting. He hates putting away: though we change, yet he changeth not: he abideth faithful. When we are married here, there comes in that shocking clause, to use the words of holy Mr. Boston, "Till death us doth part;" but death itself shall not separate a true believer from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus his Lord: for he will never cease loving his Bride, till he has loved her to heaven, and presented her before his Father, without spot or wrinkle, or any such thing. Nay, his love will, as it were, but be beginning, through the endless ages of eternity. And now, Sirs, what say you? Shall I put that question to you, which Rebecca’s relations, upon a proposal of marriage, put to her? "Will ye go with the man?" With the God-man, this infinitely great, this infinitely powerful, this all-wise, all-holy, altogether lovely, ever-loving Jesus? What objection have you to make against such a gracious offer? One would imagine, you had not a single one; but it is to be feared, through the prevalency of unbelief, and the corruption of your desperately wicked deceitful hearts, you are ready to urge several. Methinks I hear some of you say within yourselves, "We like the proposal, but alas! we are poor." Are you so? If that be all, you may, not withstanding, be welcome to Jesus: "For has not God chosen the poor of this world, to make them rich in faith, and heirs of his everlasting kingdom?" And what says that Saviour, to whom I am now inviting you? "Blessed are the poor in Spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." And what says his Apostle concerning him? "Though he was rich, yet for our sakes he became poor, that we through his Poverty might be made rich. But say you, "We are not only poor, but we are in debt; we owe God ten thousand talents, and have nothing to pay;" but that need not keep you back: for God the Father, from the Lord Jesus, his dearly beloved Son, has received double for all believers sins: the blood of Jesus cleanseth from them all. But you are blind, and miserable, and naked; to whom then should you fly for succour, but to Jesus, who came to open the eyes of the blind, to seek and save the miserable and lost, and cloath the naked with his perfect and spotless righteousness. And now, what can hinder your espousals with the dear and ever-blessed Lamb of God? I know but of one thing, that dreadful sin of unbelief. But this is my comfort, Jesus died for unbelief, as well as for other sins, and has promised to send down the Holy Spirit to convince the world of this sin in particular: "If I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I go away, I will send the Comforter, and he will convince the world of sin." What sin? of unbelief; "because they believe not on me." O that this promise may be so fulfilled in your hearts, and Jesus may so become the author of divine faith in your souls, that you may be able to send me the same message as a good woman in Scotland, on her dying bed, sent me by a friend: "Tell him, (says she) for his comfort, that at such a time he married me to the Lord Jesus." This would be comfort indeed. Not that we can marry you to Christ: No; the Holy Ghost must tie the marriage knot. But such honour have all God’s ministers; under him they espouse poor sinners to Jesus Christ. "I have espoused you (says St. Paul) as a chaste virgin to Jesus Christ." O that you may say, We will go with the man; then will I bow my head, as Abraham‘s servant did, and go with joy and tell my Master, that he has not left his poor servant destitute this day: then shall I rejoice in your felicity. For I know, my Master will take you into the banqueting-house of his ordinances, and his banner over you shall be love. That this may be the happy case of you all, may the glorious God grant, for the sake of Jesus his dearly beloved Son, the glorious bridegroom of his church; to whom, with the Father, and the Holy Spirit, be all honour and glory, now and for evermore. Amen, and Amen. Whitefield, G. (1772). The Works of the Reverend George Whitefield (Vol. 5). London: Edward and Charles Dilly. (Public Domain) Come and Welcome, to Jesus Christ, Part 20 Come and Welcome, to Jesus Christ, Part 20 Christ Would Have Comers Not Once Think That He Will Cast Them Out OBSERVATION THIRD.—I come now to the next observation, and shall speak a little to that; to wit, That Jesus Christ would not have them, that in truth are coming to him, once think that he will cast them out. The text is full of this: for he saith, “And him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.” Now, if he saith, I will not, he would not have us think he will. This is yet further manifest by these considerations. First, Christ Jesus did forbid even them that as yet were not coming to him, once to think him such an one. “Do not think,” said he, “that I will accuse you to the Father” (John 5:45). These, as I said, were such, that as yet were not coming to him. For he saith of them a little before, “And ye will not come to me;” for the respect they had to the honour of men kept them back. Yet, I say, Jesus Christ gives them to understand, that though he might justly reject them, yet he would not, but bids them not once to think that he would accuse them to the Father. Now, not to accuse, with Christ, is to plead for: for Christ in these things stands not neuter between the Father and sinners. So then, if Jesus Christ would not have them think, that yet will not come to him, that he will accuse them; then he would not that they should think so, that in truth are coming to him. “And him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.” Second, When the woman taken in adultery, even in the very act, was brought before Jesus Christ, he so carried it both by words and actions, that he evidently enough made it manifest, that condemning and casting out were such things, for the doing of which he came not into the world. Wherefore, when they had set her before him, and had laid to her charge her heinous fact, he stooped down, and with his finger wrote upon the ground, as though he heard them not. Now what did he do by this his carriage, but testify plainly that he was not for receiving accusations against poor sinners, whoever accused by? And observe, though they continue asking, thinking at last to force him to condemn her; yet then he so answered, so that he drove all condemning persons from her. And then he adds, for her encouragement to come to him; “Neither do I condemn thee; go, and sin no more” (John 8:1–11). Not but that he indeed abhorred the fact, but he would not condemn the woman for the sin, because that was not his office. He was not sent “into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved” (John 3:17). Now if Christ, though urged to it, would not condemn the guilty woman, though she was far at present from coming to him, he would not that they should once think that he will cast them out, that in truth are coming to him. “And him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.” Third, Christ plainly bids the turning sinner come; and forbids him to entertain any such thought as that he will cast him out. “Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon” (Isa 4:6). The Lord, by bidding the unrighteous forsake his thoughts, doth in special forbid, as I have said, viz., those thoughts that hinder the coming man in his progress to Jesus Christ, his unbelieving thoughts. Therefore he bids him not only forsake his ways, but his thoughts. “Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts.” It is not enough to forsake one if thou wilt come to Jesus Christ; because the other will keep thee from him. Suppose a man forsakes his wicked ways, his debauched and filthy life; yet if these thoughts, that Jesus Christ will not receive him, be entertained and nourished in his heart; these thoughts will keep him from coming to Jesus Christ. Sinner, coming sinner, art thou for coming to Jesus Christ? Yes, says the sinner. Forsake thy wicked ways then. So I do, says the sinner. Why comest thou then so slowly? Because I am hindered. What hinders? Has God forbidden thee? No. Art thou not willing to come faster? Yes, yet I cannot. Well, prithee be plain with me, and tell me the reason and ground of thy discouragement. Why, says the sinner, though God forbids me not, and though I am willing to come faster, yet there naturally ariseth this, and that, and the other thought in my heart, that hinders my speed to Jesus Christ. Sometimes I think I am not chosen; sometimes I think I am not called; sometimes I think I am come too late; and sometimes I think I know not what it is to come. Also one while I think I have no grace; and then again, that I cannot pray; and then again, I think that I am a very hypocrite. And these things keep me from coming to Jesus Christ. Look ye now, did not I tell you so? There are thoughts yet remaining in the heart, even of those who have forsaken their wicked ways; and with those thoughts they are more plagued than with anything else; because they hinder their coming to Jesus Christ; for the sin of unbelief, which is the original of all these thoughts, is that which besets a coming sinner more easily, than doth his ways (Heb 12:1–4). But now, since Jesus Christ commands thee to forsake these thoughts, forsake them, coming sinner; and if thou forsake them not, thou transgressest the commands of Christ, and abidest thine own tormentor, and keepest thyself from establishment in grace. “If ye will not believe, surely ye shall not be established” (Isa 7:9). Thus you see how Jesus Christ setteth himself against such thoughts, that any way discourage the coming sinner; and thereby truly vindicates the doctrine we have in hand; to wit, that Jesus Christ would not have them, that in truth are coming to him, once think that he will cast them out. “And him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.” Reasons of Observation Third I come now to the reasons of the observation. 1. If Jesus Christ should allow thee once to think that he will cast thee out, he must allow thee to think that he will falsify his word; for he hath said, “I will in no wise cast out.” But Christ would not that thou shouldst count him as one that will falsify his word; for he saith of himself, “I am the truth;” therefore he would not that any that in truth are coming to him, should once think that he will cast them out. 2. If Jesus Christ should allow the sinner that in truth is coming to him, once to think that he will cast him out, then he must allow, and so countenance the first appearance of unbelief; the which he counteth his greatest enemy, and against which he hast bent even his holy gospel. Therefore Jesus Christ would not that they that in truth are coming to him, should once think that he will cast them out. See Matthew 14:31; 21:21, Mark 11:23; Luke 24:25. 3. If Jesus Christ should allow the coming sinner once to think that he will cast him out; then he must allow him to make a question, Whether he is willing to receive his Father’s gift; for the coming sinner is his Father’s gift; as also says the text; but he testifieth, “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.” Therefore Jesus Christ would not have him, that in truth is coming to him, once to think that he will cast him out. 4. If Jesus Christ should allow them once to think, that indeed are coming to him, that he will cast them out, he must allow them to think that he will despise and reject the drawing of his Father. For no man can come to him but whom the Father draweth. But it would be high blasphemy, and damnable wickedness once to imagine thus. Therefore, Jesus Christ would not have him that cometh once think that he will cast him out. 5. If Jesus Christ should allow those that indeed are coming to him, once to think that he will cast them out, he must allow them to think that he will be unfaithful to the trust and charge that his Father hath committed to him; which is to save, and not to lose anything of that which he hath given unto him to save (John 6:39). But the Father hath given him a charge to save the coming sinner; therefore it cannot be, that he should allow, that such an one should once think that he will cast him out. 6. If Jesus Christ should allow that they should once think that are coming to him, that he will cast them out, then he must allow them to think that he will be unfaithful to his office of priesthood; for, as by the first part of it, he paid price for, and ransomed souls, so by the second part thereof, he continually maketh intercession to God for them that come (Heb 7:25). But he cannot allow us to question his faithful execution of his priesthood. Therefore he cannot allow us once to think that the coming sinner shall be cast out. 7. If Jesus Christ should allow us once to think that the coming sinner shall be cast out, then he must allow us to question his will, or power, or merit to save. But he cannot allow us once to question any of these; therefore not once to think, that the coming sinner shall be cast out. (1.) He cannot allow them to question his will; for he saith in the text, “I WILL in no wise cast out.” (2.) He cannot allow us to question his power; for the Holy Ghost saith HE IS ABLE to save to the uttermost them that come. (3.) He cannot allow them to question the efficacy of his merit; for the blood of Christ cleanseth the comer from all sin, (1 John 1:7), therefore he cannot allow that he that is coming to him should once think that he will cast them out. 8. If Jesus Christ should allow the coming sinner once to think that he will cast him out, he must allow him to give the lie to the manifest testimony of the Father, Son, and Spirit; yea, to the whole gospel contained in Moses, the prophets, the book of Psalms, and that commonly called the New Testament. But he cannot allow of this; therefore, not that the coming sinner should once think that he will cast him out. 9. Lastly, If Jesus Christ should allow him that is coming to him, once to think that he will cast him out, he must allow him to question his Father’s oath, which he in truth and righteousness hath taken, that they might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to Jesus Christ. But he cannot allow this; therefore he cannot allow that the coming sinner should once think that he will cast him out (Heb 6). USE AND APPLICATION I come now to make some GENERAL USE AND APPLICATION OF THE WHOLE, and so to draw towards a conclusion. USE FIRST.—the First Use—A USE OF INFORMATION; And, First, It informeth us that men by nature are far off from Christ. Let me a little improve this use, by speaking to these three questions. 1. Where is he that is coming [but has not come], to Jesus Christ? 2. What is he that is not coming to Jesus Christ? 3. Whither is he to go that cometh not to Jesus Christ? 1. Where is he? [Answer.] (1.) He is far from God, he is without him, even alienate from him both in his understanding, will, affections, judgment, and conscience (Eph 2:12; 4:18). (2.) He is far from Jesus Christ, who is the only deliverer of men from hell fire (Psa 73:27). (3.) He is far from the work of the Holy Ghost, the work of regeneration, and a second creation, without which no man shall see the kingdom of heaven (John 3:3). (4.) He is far more righteous, from that righteousness that should make him acceptable in God’s sight (Isa 46:12, 13). (5.) He is under the power and dominion of sin; sin reigneth in and over him; it dwelleth in every faculty of his soul, and member of his body; so that from head to foot there is no place clean (Isa 1:6; Rom 3:9–18). (6.) He is in the pest-house with Uzziah and excluded the camp of Israel with the lepers (2 Chron 26:21; Num 5:2; Job 36:14). (7.) His “life is among the unclean.” He is “in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity” (Acts 8:28). (8.) He is “in sin,” “in the flesh,” “in death,” “in the snare of the devil,” and is “taken captive by him at his will” (1 Cor 15:17; Rom 8:8; 1 John 3:14; 2 Tim 2:26). (9.) He is under the curse of the law, and the devil dwells in him, and hath the mastery of him (Gal 3:13; Eph 2:2, 3; Acts 26:18). (10.) He is in darkness, and walketh in darkness, and knows not whither he goes; for darkness has blinded his eyes. (11.) He is in the broad way that leadeth to destruction; and holding on, he will assuredly go in at the broad gate, and so down the stairs to hell. 2. What is he that cometh not to Jesus Christ? [Answer.] (1.) He is counted one of God’s enemies (Luke 19:14; Rom 8:7). (2.) He is a child of the devil, and of hell; for the devil begat him, as to his sinful nature, and hell must swallow him at last, because he cometh not to Jesus Christ (John 8:44; 1 John 3:8; Matt 23:15; Psa 9:17). (3.) He is a child of wrath, an heir of it; it is his portion, and God will repay it him to his face (Eph 2:1–3; Job 21:29–31). (4.) He is a self-murderer; he wrongeth his own soul, and is one that loveth death (Prov 1:18; 8:36). (5.) He is a companion for devils and damned men (Prov 21:16; Matt 25:41). 3. Whither is he like to go that cometh not to Jesus Christ? [Answer.] (1.) He that cometh not to him, is like to go further from him; so every sin is a step further from Jesus Christ (Hosea 11). (2.) As he is in darkness, so he is like to go on in it; for Christ is the light of the world, and he that comes not to him, walketh in darkness (John 8:12). (3.) He is like to be removed at last as far from God, and Christ, and heaven, and all felicity, as an infinite God can remove him (Matt 12:41). But, Second, This doctrine of coming to Christ informeth us where poor destitute sinners may find life for their souls, and that is in Christ. This life is in his Son; he that hath the Son, hath life. And again, “Whoso findeth me findeth life, and shall obtain favour of the Lord” (Prov 8:35). Now, for further enlargement, I will also here propound three more questions: 1. What life is in Christ? 2. Who may have it? 3. Upon what terms? 1. What life is in Jesus Christ? [Answer.] (1.) There is justifying life in Christ. Man by sin is dead in law; and Christ only can deliver him by his righteousness and blood from this death into a state of life. “For God sent his Son into the world, that we might live through him” (1 John 4:9). That is, through the righteousness which he should accomplish, and the death that he should die. (2.) There is eternal life in Christ; life that is endless; life for ever and ever. “He hath given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son” (1 John 5:11). Now, justification and eternal salvation being both in Christ, and nowhere else to be had for men, who would not come to Jesus Christ? 2. Who may have this life? I answer, Poor, helpless, miserable sinners. Particularly, (1.) Such as are willing to have it. “Whosoever will, let him take the water of life” (Rev 22:17). (2.) He that thirsteth for it. “I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life” (Rev 21:6). (3.) He that is weary of his sins. “This is the rest wherewith ye may cause the weary to rest; and this is the refreshing” (Isa 28:12). (4.) He that is poor and needy. “He shall spare the poor and needy, and shall save the souls of the needy” (Psa 72:13). (5.) He that followeth after him, crieth for life. “He that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life” (John 8:12). 3. Upon what terms may he have this life? [Answer.] Freely. Sinner, dost thou hear. Thou mayest have it freely. Let him take the water of life freely. I will give him of the fountain of the water of life freely. “And when they had nothing to pay, he frankly forgave them both” (Luke 7:42). Freely, without money, or without price. “Ho! every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money, come ye, buy and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price” (Isa 55:1). Sinner, art thou thirsty? art thou weary? art thou willing? Come, then, and regard not your stuff; for all the good that is in Christ is offered to the coming sinner, without money and without price. He has life to give away to such as want it, and that hath not a penny to purchase it; and he will give it freely. Oh what a blessed condition is the coming sinner in! But, Third, This doctrine of coming to Jesus Christ for life, informeth us, that it is to be had nowhere else. Might it be had anywhere else, the text, and him that spoke it, would be but little set by; for what greater matter is there in “I will in no wise cast out,” if another stood by that could receive them? But here appears the glory of Christ, that none but he can save. And here appears his love, that though none can save but he, yet he is not coy in saving. “But him that comes to me,” says he, “I will in no wise cast out.” That none can save but Jesus Christ, is evident from Acts 4:12: “Neither is there salvation in any other;” and “he hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son” (1 John 5:11). If life could have been had anywhere else, it should have been in the law. But it is not in the law; for by the deeds of the law, no man living shall be justified; and if not justified, then no life. Therefore life is nowhere to be had but in Jesus Christ (Gal 3). [Question.] But why would God so order it, that life should be had nowhere else but in Jesus Christ? [Answer.] There is reason for it, and that both with respect to God and us. 1. With respect to God. (1.) That it might be in a way of justice as well as mercy. And in a way of justice it could not have been, if it had not been by Christ; because he, and he only, was able to answer the demand of the law, and give for sin what the justice thereof required. All angels had been crushed down to hell for ever, had that curse been laid upon them for our sins, which was laid upon Jesus Christ; but it was laid upon him, and he bare it; and answered the penalty, and redeemed his people from under it, with that satisfaction to Divine justice that God himself doth now proclaim, That he is faithful and just to forgive us, if by faith we shall venture to Jesus, and trust to what he has done for life (Rom 3:24–26; John 1:4). (2.) Life must be by Jesus Christ, that God might be adored and magnified, for finding out this way. This is the Lord’s doings, that in all things he might be glorified through Jesus Christ our Lord. (3.) It must be by Jesus Christ, that life might be at God’s dispose, who hath great pity for the poor, the lowly, the meek, the broken in heart, and for them that others care not for (Psa 34:6; 138:6; 25; 51:17; 147:3). (4.) Life must be in Christ, to cut off boasting from the lips of men. This also is the apostle’s reason in Romans 3:19, 27 (Eph 2:8–10). 2. Life must be in Jesus Christ with respect to us. (1.) That we might have it upon the easiest terms, to wit, freely: as a gift, not as wages. Was it in Moses’ hand, we should come hardly at it. Was it in the pope’s hand, we should pay soundly for it. But thanks be to God, it is in Christ, laid up in him, and by him to be communicated to sinners upon easy terms, even for receiving, accepting, and embracing with thanksgiving; as the Scriptures plainly declare (John 1:11, 12; 2 Cor 11:4; Heb 11:13; Col 3:13–15). (2.) Life is in Christ FOR US, that it might not be upon so brittle a foundation, as indeed it would had it been anywhere else. The law itself is weak because of us, as to this. But Christ is a tried stone, a sure foundation, one that will not fail to bear thy burden, and to receive thy soul, coming sinner. (3.) Life is in Christ, that it might be sure to all the seed. Alas! the best of us, was life left in our hand, to be sure we should forfeit it, over, and over, and over; or, was it in any other hand, we should, by our often backslidings, so offend him, that at last he would shut up his bowels in everlasting displeasure against us. But now it is in Christ, it is with one that can pity, pray for, pardon, yea, multiply pardons; it is with one that can have compassion upon us, when we are out of the way; with one that hath an heart to fetch us again, when we are gone astray; with one that can pardon without upbraiding. Blessed be God, that life is in Christ! For now it is sure to all the seed. But, Fourth, This doctrine of coming to Jesus Christ for life informs us of the evil of unbelief; that wicked thing that is the only or chief hindrance to the coming sinner. Doth the text say, “Come?” Doth it say, “and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out?” Then what an evil is that that keepeth sinners from coming to Jesus Christ! And that evil is unbelief: for by faith we come; by unbelief we keep away. Therefore it is said to be that by which a soul is said to depart from God; because it was that which at first caused the world to go off from him, and that also that keeps them from him to this day. And it doth it the more easily, because it doth it with a wile. [Of the Sin of Unbelief.]—This sin may be called the white devil, for it oftentimes, in its mischievous doings in the soul, shows as if it was an angel of light: yea, it acteth like a counselor of heaven. Therefore a little to discourse of this evil disease. 1. It is that sin, above all others, that hath some show of reason in its attempts. For it keeps the soul from Christ by pretending its present unfitness and unpreparedness; as want of more sense of sin, want of more repentance, want of more humility, want of a more broken heart. 2. It is the sin that most suiteth with the conscience: the conscience of the coming sinner tells him that he hath nothing good; that he stands inditeable for ten thousand talents; that he is a very ignorant, blind, and hard-hearted sinner, unworthy to be once taken notice of by Jesus Christ. And will you, says Unbelief, in such a case as you now are, presume to come to Jesus Christ? 3. It is the sin that most suiteth with our sense of feeling. The coming sinner feels the workings of sin, of all manner of sin and wretchedness in his flesh; he also feels the wrath and judgment of God due to sin, and ofttimes staggers under it. Now, says Unbelief, you may see you have no grace; for that which works in you is corruption. You may also perceive that God doth not love you, because the sense of his wrath abides upon you. Therefore, how can you bear the face to come to Jesus Christ? 4. It is that sin, above all others, that most suiteth with the wisdom of our flesh. The wisdom of our flesh thinks it prudent to question awhile, to stand back awhile, to hearken to both sides awhile; and not to be rash, sudden, or unadvised, in too bold a presuming upon Jesus Christ. And this wisdom unbelief falls in with. 5. It is that sin, above all other, that continually is whispering the soul in the ear with mistrusts of the faithfulness of God, in keeping promise to them that come to Jesus Christ for life. It also suggests mistrust about Christ’s willingness to receive it, and save it. And no sin can do this so artificially as unbelief. 6. It is also that sin which is always at hand to enter an objection against this or that promise that by the Spirit of God is brought to our heart to comfort us; and if the poor coming sinner is not aware of it, it will, by some evasion, slight, trick, or cavil, quickly wrest from him the promise again, and he shall have but little benefit of it. 7. It is that, above all other sins, that weakness our prayers, our faith, our love, our diligence, our hope, and expectations: it even taketh the heart away from God in duty. 8. Lastly, This sin, as I have said even now, it appeareth in the soul with so many sweet pretences to safety and security, that it is, as it were, counsel sent from heaven; bidding the soul be wise, wary, considerate, well-advised, and to take heed of too rash a venture upon believing. Be sure, first, that God loves you; take hold of no promise until you are forced by God unto it; neither be you sure of your salvation; doubt it still, though the testimony of the Lord has been often confirmed in you. Live not by faith, but by sense; and when you can neither see nor feel, then fear and mistrust, then doubt and question all. This is the devilish counsel of unbelief, which is so covered over with specious pretences, that the wisest Christian can hardly shake off these reasonings. [Qualities of unbelief as opposed to faith.]—But to be brief. Let me here give thee, Christian reader, a more particular description of the qualities of unbelief, by opposing faith unto it, in these twenty-five particulars:— 1. Faith believeth the Word of God; but unbelief questioneth the certainty of the same (Psa 106:24). 2. Faith believeth the Word, because it is true; but unbelief doubteth thereof, because it is true (1 Tim 4:3; John 8:45). 3. Faith sees more in a promise of God to help, than in all other things to hinder; but unbelief, notwithstanding God’s promise, saith, How can these things be? (Rom 4:19–21; 2 Kings 7:2; John 3:11, 12). 4. Faith will make thee see love in the heart of Christ, when with his mouth he giveth reproofs; but unbelief will imagine wrath in his heart, when with his mouth and Word he saith he loves us (Matt 15:22, 28; Num 13; 2 Chron 14:3). 5. Faith will help the soul to wait, though God defers to give; but unbelief will take huff and throw up all, if God makes any tarrying (Psa 25:5; Isa 8:17; 2 Kings 6:33; Psa 106:13, 14). 6. Faith will give comfort in the midst of fears; but unbelief causeth fears in the midst of comfort (2 Chron 20:20, 21; Matt 8:26; Luke 24:26; 27). 7. Faith will suck sweetness out of God’s rod; but unbelief can find no comfort in his greatest mercies (Psa 23:4; Num 21). 8. Faith maketh great burdens light; but unbelief maketh light ones intolerably heavy (2 Cor 4:1; 14–18; Mal 1:12, 13). 9. Faith helpeth us when we are down; but unbelief throws us down when we are up (Micah 7:8–10; Heb 4:11). 10. Faith bringeth us near to God when we are far from him; but unbelief puts us far from God when we are near to him (Heb 10:22; 3:12, 13). 11. Where faith reigns, it declareth men to be the friends of God; but where unbelief reigns, it declareth them to be his enemies (John 3:23; Heb 3:18; Rev 21:8). 12. Faith putteth a man under grace; but unbelief holdeth him under wrath (Rom 3:24–26; 14:6; Eph 2:8; John 3:36; 1 John 5:10; Heb 3:17; Mark 16:16). 13. Faith purifieth the heart; but unbelief keepeth it polluted and impure (Acts 15:9; Titus 1:15, 16). 14. By faith, the righteousness of Christ is imputed to us; but by unbelief, we are shut up under the law to perish (Rom 4:23, 24; 11:32; Gal 3:23). 15. Faith maketh our work acceptable to God through Christ; but whatsoever is of unbelief is sin. For without faith it is impossible to please him (Heb 11:4; Rom 14:23; Heb 6:6). 16. Faith giveth us peace and comfort in our souls; but unbelief worketh trouble and tossings, like the restless waves of the sea (Rom 5:1; James 1:6). 17. Faith maketh us to see preciousness in Christ; but unbelief sees no form, beauty, or comeliness in him (1 Peter 2:7; Isa 53:2, 3). 18. By faith we have our life in Christ’s fullness; but by unbelief we starve and pine away (Gal 2:20). 19. Faith gives us the victory over the law, sin, death, the devil, and all evils; but unbelief layeth us obnoxious to them all (1 John 5:4, 5; Luke 12:46). 20. Faith will show us more excellency in things not seen, than in them that are; but unbelief sees more in things that are seen, than in things that will be hereafter;. (2 Cor 4:18; Heb 11:24–27; 1 Cor 15:32). 21. Faith makes the ways of God pleasant and admirable; but unbelief makes them heavy and hard (Gal 5:6; 1 Cor 12:10, 11; John 6:60; Psa 2:3). 22. By faith Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob possessed the land of promise; but because of unbelief, neither Aaron, nor Moses, nor Miriam could get thither (Heb 11:9; 3:19). 23. By faith the children of Israel passed through the Red Sea; but by unbelief the generality of them perished in the wilderness (Heb 11:29; Jude 5). 24. By faith Gideon did more with three hundred men, and a few empty pitchers, than all the twelve tribes could do, because they believed not God (Judg 7:16–22; Num 14:11, 14). 25. By faith Peter walked on the water; but by unbelief he began to sink (Matt 14:28–30). Thus might many more be added, which, for brevity’s sake, I omit; beseeching every one that thinketh he hath a soul to save, or be damned, to take heed of unbelief; lest, seeing there is a promise left us of entering into his rest, any of us by unbelief should indeed come short of it. USE SECOND. The Second Use—A USE OF EXAMINATION We come now to a use of examination. Sinner, thou hast heard of the necessity of coming to Christ; also of the willingness of Christ to receive the coming soul; together with the benefit that they by him shall have that indeed come to him. Put thyself now upon this serious inquiry, Am I indeed come to Jesus Christ? Motives plenty I might here urge, to prevail with thee to a conscientious performance of this duty. As, 1. Thou art in sin, in the flesh, in death, in the snare of the devil, and under the curse of the law, if you are not coming to Jesus Christ. 2. There is no way to be delivered from these, but by coming to Jesus Christ. 3. If thou comest, Jesus Christ will receive thee, and will in no wise cast thee out. 4. Thou wilt not repent it in the day of judgment, if now thou comest to Jesus Christ. 5. But thou wilt surely mourn at last, if now thou shalt refuse to come. 6. And lastly, Now thou hast been invited to come; now will thy judgment be greater, and thy damnation more fearful, if thou shalt yet refuse, than if thou hadst never heard of coming to Christ. Object. But we hope we are come to Jesus Christ. Answer. It is well if it proves so. But lest thou shouldst speak without ground, and so fall unawares into hell-fire, let us examine a little. First, Art thou indeed come to Jesus Christ? What hast thou left behind thee? What didst thou come away from, in thy coming to Jesus Christ? When Lot came out of Sodom, he left the Sodomites behind him (Gen 19). When Abraham came out of Chaldea, he left his country and kindred behind him (Gen 12; Acts 7). When Ruth came to put her trust under the wings of the Lord God of Israel, she left her father and mother, her gods, and the land of her nativity, behind her (Ruth 1:15–17; 2:11, 12). When Peter came to Christ, he left his nets behind him (Matt 4:20). When Zaccheus came to Christ, he left the receipt of custom behind him (Luke 19). When Paul came to Christ, he left his own righteousness behind him (Phil 3:7, 8). When those that used curious arts came to Jesus Christ, they took their curious books and burned them; though, in another man’s eye, they were counted worth fifty thousand pieces of silver (Acts 19:18–20). What sayest thou, man? Hast thou left thy darling sins, thy Sodomitish pleasures, thy acquaintance and vain companions, thy unlawful gain, thy idol-gods, thy righteousness, and thy unlawful curious arts, behind thee? If any of these be with thee, and thou with them, in thy heart and life, thou art not yet come to Jesus Christ. Second, Art thou come to Jesus Christ? Prithee tell me what moved thee to come to Jesus Christ? Men do not usually come or go to this or that place, before they have a moving cause, or rather a cause moving them thereto. No more do they come to Jesus Christ—I do not say, before they have a cause, but—before that cause moveth them to come. What sayest thou? Hast thou a cause moving thee to come? To be at present in a state of condemnation, is cause sufficient for men to come to Jesus Christ for life. But that will not do, except the cause move them; the which it will never do, until their eyes be opened to see themselves in that condition. For it is not a man’s being under wrath, but his seeing it, that moveth him to come to Jesus Christ. Alas! all men by sin are under wrath; yet but few of that all come to Jesus Christ. And the reason is, because they do not see their condition. “Who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?” (Matt 3:7). Until men are warned, and also receive the warning, they will not come to Jesus Christ. Take three or four instances for this. Adam and Eve came not to Jesus Christ until they received the alarm, the conviction of their undone state by sin. (Gen 3) The children of Israel cried not out for a mediator before they saw themselves in danger of death by the law (Exo 20:18, 19). Before the publican came, he saw himself lost and undone (Luke 18:13). The prodigal came not, until he saw death at the door, ready to devour him (Luke 15:17, 18). The three thousand came not, until they knew not what to do to be saved (Acts 2:37–39). Paul came not, until he saw himself lost and undone (Acts 9:3–8, 11). Lastly, Before the jailer came, he saw himself undone (Acts 16:29–31). And I tell thee, it is an easier thing to persuade a well man to go to the physician for cure, or a man without hurt to seek for a plaster to cure him, than it is to persuade a man that sees not his soul-disease, to come to Jesus Christ. The whole have no need of the physician; then why should they go to him? The full pitcher can hold no more; then why should it go to the fountain? And if thou comest full, thou comest not aright; and be sure Christ will send thee empty away. “But he healeth the broken in heart, and bindeth up their wounds” (Mark 2:17; Psa 147:3; Luke 1:53). Third, Art thou coming to Jesus Christ? Prithee tell me, What seest thou in him to allure thee to forsake all the world, to come to him? I say, What hast thou seen in him? Men must see something in Jesus Christ, else they will not come to him. 1. What comeliness hast thou seen in his person? thou comest not, if thou seest no form nor comeliness in him (Isa 53:1–3). 2. Until those mentioned in the Song were convinced that there was more beauty, comeliness, and desirableness in Christ, than in ten thousand, they did not so much as ask where he was, nor incline to turn aside after him (Song 5, 6). There be many things on this side heaven that can and do carry away the heart; and so will do, so long as thou livest, if thou shalt be kept blind, and not be admitted to see the beauty of the Lord Jesus. Fourth, Art thou come to the Lord Jesus? What hast thou found in him, since thou camest to him? Peter found with him the word of eternal life (John 6:68). They that Peter makes mention of, found him a living stone, even such a living stone as communicated life to them (1 Peter 2:4, 5). He saith himself, they that come to him, &c., shall find rest unto their souls; hast thou found rest in him for thy soul? (Matt 11:28). Let Us Go Back to the Times of the Old Testament 1. Abraham found THAT in him, that made him leave his country for him, and become for his sake a pilgrim and stranger in the earth (Gen 12; Heb 11). 2. Moses found THAT in him, that made him forsake a crown, and a kingdom for him too. 3. David found so much in him, that he counted to be in his house one day was better than a thousand; yea, to be a door-keeper therein was better, in his esteem, than to dwell in the tents of wickedness (Psa 84:10). 4. What did Daniel and the three children find in him, to make them run the hazards of the fiery furnace, and the den of lions, for his sake? (Dan 3, 6). Let Us Come Down to Martyrs 1. Stephen found that in him that made him joyful, and quietly yield up his life for his name (Acts 7). 2. Ignatius found that in Christ that made him choose to go through the torments of the devil, and hell itself, rather than not to have him.—Fox’s Acts and Monuments, vol. 1, p. 52, Anno. 111. Edit. 1632. 3. What saw Romanus in Christ, when he said to the raging Emperor, who threatened him with fearful torments, Thy sentence, O Emperor, I joyfully embrace, and refuse not to be sacrificed by as cruel torments as thou canst invent?—Fox, vol. 1, p. 116. 4. What saw Menas, the Egyptian, in Christ, when he said, under most cruel torments, There is nothing in my mind that can be compared to the kingdom of heaven; neither is all the world, if it was weighed in a balance, to be preferred with the price of one soul? Who is able to separate us from the love of Jesus Christ our Lord? And I have learned of my Lord and King not to fear them that kill the body, &c. P. 117. 5. What did Eulalia see in Christ, when she said, as they were pulling her one joint from another, Behold, O Lord, I will not forget thee. What a pleasure it is for them, O Christ! that remember thy triumphant victory? P. 121. 6. What think you did Agnes see in Christ, when rejoicingly she went to meet the soldier that was appointed to be her executioner. I will willingly, said she, receive into my paps the length of this sword, and into my breast will draw the force thereof, even to the hilts; that thus I, being married to Christ my spouse, may surmount and escape all the darkness of this world? P. 122. 7. What do you think did Julitta see in Christ, when, at the Emperor’s telling of her, that except she would worship the gods, she should never have protection, laws, judgments, nor life, she replied, Farewell life, welcome death; farewell riches, welcome poverty: all that I have, if it were a thousand times more, would I rather lose, than to speak one wicked and blasphemous word against my Creator? P. 123. 8. What did Marcus Arethusius see in Christ, when after his enemies had cut his flesh, anointed it with honey, and hanged him up in a basket for flies and bees to feed on, he would not give, to uphold idolatry, one halfpenny to save his life? P. 128. 9. What did Constantine see in Christ, when he used to kiss the wounds of them that suffered for him? P. 135. 10. But what need I give thus particular instances of words and smaller actions, when by their lives, their blood, their enduring hunger, sword, fire, pulling asunder, and all torments that the devil and hell could devise, for the love they bare to Christ, after they were come to him? What Hast THOU Found in Him, Sinner? What! come to Christ, and find nothing in him!—when all things that are worth looking after are in him!—or if anything, yet not enough to wean thee from thy sinful delights, and fleshly lusts! Away, away, thou art not coming to Jesus Christ. He that has come to Jesus Christ, hath found in him, that, as I said, that is not to be found anywhere else. As, 1. He that is come to Christ hath found God in him reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses to them. And so God is not to be found in heaven and earth besides (2 Cor 5:19, 20). 2. He that is come to Jesus Christ hath found in him a fountain of grace, sufficient, not only to pardon sin, but to sanctify the soul, and to preserve it from falling, in this evil world. 3. He that is come to Jesus Christ hath found virtue in him; THAT virtue, that if he does but touch thee with his Word, or thou him by faith, life is forthwith conveyed into thy soul. It makes thee wake as one that is waked out of his sleep; it awakes all the powers of the soul (Psa 30:11, 12; Song 6:12). 4. Art thou come to Jesus Christ? Thou hast found glory in him, glory that surmounts and goes beyond. “Thou art more glorious-than the mountains of prey” (Psa 76:4). 5. What shall I say? Thou hast found righteousness in him; thou hast found rest, peace, delight, heaven, glory, and eternal life. Sinner, be advised; ask thy heart again, saying, Am I come to Jesus Christ? For upon this one question, Am I come, or, am I not? hangs heaven and hell as to thee. If thou canst say, I am come, and God shall approve that saying, happy, happy, happy man art thou! But if thou art not come, what can make thee happy? yea, what can make that man happy that, for his not coming to Jesus Christ for life, must be damned in hell? USE THIRD.—the Third Use—A USE OF ENCOURAGEMENT Coming sinner, I have now a word for thee; be of good comfort, “He will in no wise cast out.” Of all men, thou art the blessed of the Lord; the Father hath prepared his Son to be a sacrifice for thee, and Jesus Christ, thy Lord, is gone to prepare a place for thee (John 1:29; Heb 10). What shall I say to thee? [First,] Thou comest to a FULL Christ; thou canst not want anything for soul or body, for this world or that to come, but it is to be had in or by Jesus Christ. As it is said of the land that the Danites went to possess, so, and with much more truth, it may be said of Christ; he is such an one with whom there is no want of any good thing that is in heaven or earth. A full Christ is thy Christ. 1. He is full of grace. Grace is sometimes taken for love; never any loved like Jesus Christ. Jonathan’s love went beyond the love of women; but the love of Christ passes knowledge. It is beyond the love of all the earth, of all creatures, even of men and angels. His love prevailed with him to lay aside his glory, to leave the heavenly place, to clothe himself with flesh, to be born in a stable, to be laid in a manger, to live a poor life in the world, to take upon him our sicknesses, infirmities, sins, curse, death, and the wrath that was due to man. And all this he did for a base, undeserving, unthankful people; yea, for a people that was at enmity with him. “For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more, then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life” (Rom 5:6–10). 2. He is full of truth. Full of grace and truth. Truth, that is, faithfulness in keeping promise, even this of the text, with all other, “I will in no wise cast out” (John 14:6). Hence it is said, that his words be true, and that he is the faithful God, that keepeth covenant. And hence it is also that his promises are called truth: “Thou wilt fulfil thy truth unto Jacob, and thy mercy unto Abraham, which thou hast sworn unto our fathers from the days of old.” Therefore it is said again, that both himself and words are truth: “I am the truth, the Scripture of truth” (Dan 10:21). “Thy word is truth,” (John 17:17; 2 Sam 7:28); “thy law is truth,” (Psa 119:142); and “my mouth,” saith he, “shall speak truth,” (Prov 8:7); see also Ecclesiastes 12:10; Isaiah 25:1; Malachi 2:6; Acts 26:25, 2 Timothy 2:12, 13. Now, I say, his word is truth, and he is full of truth to fulfil his truth, even to a thousand generations. Coming sinner, he will not deceive thee; come boldly to Jesus Christ. 3. He is full of wisdom. He is made unto us of God wisdom; wisdom to manage the affairs of his church in general, and the affairs of every coming sinner in particular. And upon this account he is said to be “head over all things,” (1 Cor 1; Eph 1), because he manages all things that are in the world by his wisdom, for the good of his church; all men’s actions, all Satan’s temptations, all God’s providences, all crosses, and disappointments; all things whatever are under the hand of Christ—who is the wisdom of God—and he ordereth them all for good to his church. And can Christ help it—and be sure he can—nothing shall happen or fall out in the world, but it shall, in despite of all opposition, have a good tendency to his church and people. 4. He is full of the Spirit, to communicate it to the coming sinner; he hath therefore received it without measure, that he may communicate it to every member of his body, according as every man’s measure thereof is allotted him by the Father. Wherefore he saith, that he that comes to him, “Out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water” (John 3:34; Titus 3:5, 6; Acts 2; John 7:33–39). 5. He is indeed a storehouse full of all the graces of the Spirit. “Of his fullness have all we received, and grace for grace” (John 1:16). Here is more faith, more love, more sincerity, more humility, more of every grace; and of this, even more of this, he giveth to every lowly, humble, penitent coming sinner. Wherefore, coming soul, thou comest not to a barren wilderness when thou comest to Jesus Christ. 6. He is full of bowels and compassion: and they shall feel and find it so that come to him for life. He can bear with thy weaknesses, he can pity thy ignorance, he can be touched with the feeling of thy infirmities, he can affectionately forgive they transgressions, he can heal thy backslidings, and love thee freely. His compassions fail not; “and he will not break a bruised reed, nor quench the smoking flax; he can pity them that no eye pities, and be afflicted in all thy afflictions” (Matt 26:41; Heb 5:2; 2:18; Matt 9:2; Hosea 14:4; Eze 16:5, 6; Isa 63:9; Psa 78:38; 86:15; 111:4; 112:4; Lam 3:22; Isa 42:3). 7. Coming soul, the Jesus that thou art coming to, is full of might and terribleness for thy advantage; he can suppress all thine enemies; he is the Prince of the kings of the earth; he can bow all men’s designs for thy help; he can break all snares laid for thee in the way; he can lift thee out of all difficulties wherewith thou mayest be surrounded; he is wise in heart, and mighty in power. Every life under heaven is in his hand; yea, the fallen angels tremble before him. And he will save thy life, coming sinner (1 Cor 1:24; Rom 8:28; Matt 28:18; Rev 4; Psa 19:3; 27:5, 6; Job 9:4; John 17:2; Matt 8:29; Luke 8:28; James 2:19). 8. Coming sinner, the Jesus to whom thou art coming is lowly in heart, he despiseth not any. It is not thy outward meanness, nor thy inward weakness; it is not because thou art poor, or base, or deformed, or a fool, that he will despise thee: he hath chosen the foolish, the base, and despised things of this world, to confound the wise and mighty. He will bow his ear to thy stammering prayers he will pick out the meaning of thy inexpressible groans; he will respect thy weakest offering, if there be in it but thy heart (Matt 11:20; Luke 14:21; Prov 9:4–6; Isa 38:14, 15; Song 5:15; John 4:27; Mark 12:33, 34; James 5:11). Now, is not this a blessed Christ, coming sinner? Art thou not like to fare well, when thou hast embraced him, coming sinner? But, Second. Thou hast yet another advantage by Jesus Christ, thou art coming to him, for he is not only full, BUT FREE. He is not sparing of what he has; he is open-hearted and open-handed. Let me in a few particulars show thee this: 1. This is evident, because he calls thee; he calls upon thee to come unto him; the which he would not do, was he not free to give; yea, he bids thee, when come, ask, seek, knock. And for thy encouragement, adds to every command a promise, “Seek, and ye shall find; ask, and ye shall have; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.” If the rich man should say thus to the poor, would not he be reckoned a free-hearted man? I say, should he say to the poor, Come to my door, ask at my door, knock at my door, and you shall find and have; would he not be counted liberal? Why, thus doth Jesus Christ. Mind it, coming sinner (Isa 55:3; Psa 50:15; Matt 7:7–9). 2. He doth not only bid thee come, but tells thee, he will heartily do thee good; yea, he will do it with rejoicing; “I will rejoice over them, to do them good-with my whole heart, and with my whole soul” (Jer 32:41). 3. It appeareth that he is free, because he giveth without twitting. “He giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not” (James 1, 5). There are some that will not deny to do the poor a pleasure, but they will mix their mercies with so many twits, that the persons on whom they bestow their charity shall find but little sweetness in it. But Christ doth not do so, coming sinner; he casteth all thine iniquities behind his back (Isa 38:17). Thy sins and iniquities he will remember no more (Heb 8:12). 4. That Christ is free, is manifest by the complaints that he makes against them that will not come to him for mercy. I say, he complains, saying, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem! how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!” (Matt 23:37). I say, he speaks it by way of complaint. He saith also in another place, “But thou hast not called upon me, O Jacob” (Isa 43:22). Coming sinner, see here the willingness of Christ to save; see here how free he is to communicate life, and all good things, to such as thou art. He complains, if thou comest not; he is displeased, if thou callest not upon him. Hark, coming sinner, once again; when Jerusalem would not come to him for safeguard, “he beheld the city, and wept over it, saying, If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace; but now they are hid from thine eyes” (Luke 19:41, 42). 5. Lastly, He is open and free-hearted to do thee good, as is seen by the joy and rejoicing that he manifesteth at the coming home of poor prodigals. He receives the lost sheep with rejoicing; the lost goat with rejoicing; yea, when the prodigal came home, what joy and mirth, what music and dancing, was in his father’s house! (Luke 15). Third. Coming sinner, I will add another encouragement for thy help. 1. God hath prepared a mercy-seat, a throne of grace to sit on; that thou mayest come thither to him, and that he may from thence hear thee, and receive thee. “I will commune with thee,” saith he, “from above the mercy-seat” (Exo 25:22). As who shall say, sinner, When thou comest to me, thou shalt find me upon the mercy-seat, where also I am always found of the undone coming sinner. Thither I bring my pardons; there I hear and receive their petitions, and accept them to my favour. 2. God hath also prepared a golden altar for thee to offer thy prayers and tears upon. A golden altar! It is called a “golden altar,” to show what worth it is of in God’s account: for this golden altar is Jesus Christ; this altar sanctifies thy gift, and makes thy sacrifice acceptable. This altar, then, makes thy groans golden groans; thy tears golden tears; and thy prayers golden prayers, in the eye of that God thou comest to, coming sinner (Rev 8; Matt 23:19; Heb 10:10; 1 Peter 2:5). 3. God hath strewed all the way, from the gate of hell, where thou wast, to the gate of heaven, whither thou art going, with flowers out of his own garden. Behold how the promises, invitations, calls, and encouragements, like lilies, lie round about thee! take heed that thou dost not tread them under foot, sinner. With promises, did I say? Yea, he hath mixed all those with his own name, his Son’s name; also, with the name of mercy, goodness, compassion, love, pity, grace, forgiveness, pardon, and what not, that may encourage the coming sinner. 4. He hath also for thy encouragement laid up the names, and set forth the sins, of those that have been saved. In this book they are fairly written, that thou, through patience and comfort of the Scriptures, mightest have hope. (1.) In this book is recorded Noah’s maim and sin; and how God had mercy upon him. (2.) In this record is fairly written the name of Lot, and the nature of his sin; and how the Lord had mercy upon him. (3.) In this record thou hast also fairly written the names of Moses, Aaron, Gideon, Samson, David, Solomon, Peter, Paul, with the nature of their sins; and how God had mercy upon them; and all to encourage thee, coming sinner. Fourth. I will add yet another encouragement for the man that is coming to Jesus Christ. Art thou coming? Art thou coming, indeed? Why, 1. Then this thy coming is by virtue of God’s call. Thou art called. Calling goes before coming. Coming is not of works, but of him that calleth. “He goeth up into a mountain, and calleth unto him whom he would; and they came unto him” (Mark 3:13). 2. Art thou coming? This is also by virtue of illumination. God has made thee see; and, therefore, thou art coming. So long as thou wast darkness, thou lovedst darkness, and couldst not abide to come, because thy deeds were evil; but being now illuminated and made to see what and where thou art, and also what and where thy Saviour is, now thou art coming to Jesus Christ; “Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee,” saith Christ, “but my Father which is in heaven” (Matt 16:17). 3. Art thou coming? This is because God hath inclined thine heart to come. God hath called thee, illuminated thee, and inclined thy heart to come; and, therefore, thou comest to Jesus Christ. It is God that worketh in thee to will, and to come to Jesus Christ. Coming sinner, bless God for that he hath given thee a will to come to Jesus Christ. It is a sign that thou belongest to Jesus Christ, because God has made thee willing to come to him (Psa 110:3). Bless God for slaying the enmity of thy mind; had he not done it, thou wouldst as yet have hated thine own salvation. 4. Art thou coming to Jesus Christ? It is God that giveth thee power: power to pursue thy will in the matters of thy salvation, is the gift of God. “It is God which worketh in you both to will and to do” (Phil 2:13). Not that God worketh will to come, where he gives no power; but thou shouldest take notice, that power is an additional mercy. The church saw that will and power were two things, when she cried, “Draw me, we will run after thee” (Song 1:4). And so did David too, when he said, “I will run the way of thy commandments, when thou shalt enlarge my heart” (Psa 119:32). Will to come, and power to pursue thy will, is double mercy, coming sinner. 5. All thy strange, passionate, sudden rushings forward after Jesus Christ, coming sinners know what I mean, they also are thy helps from God. Perhaps thou feelest at some times more than at others, strong stirrings up of heart to fly to Jesus Christ; now thou hast at this time a sweet and stiff gale of the Spirit of God, filling thy sails with the fresh gales of his good Spirit; and thou ridest at those times as upon the wings of the wind, being carried out beyond thyself, beyond the most of thy prayers, and also above all thy fear and temptations. 6. Coming sinner, hast thou not now and then a kiss of the sweet lips of Jesus Christ, I mean some blessed word dropping like a honey-comb upon thy soul to revive thee, when thou art in the midst of thy dumps? 7. Does not Jesus Christ sometimes give thee a glimpse of himself, though perhaps thou seest him not so long a time as while one may tell twenty. 8. Hast thou not sometimes as it were the very warmth of his wings overshadowing the face of thy soul, that gives thee as it were a gload upon thy spirit, as the bright beams of the sun do upon thy body, when it suddenly breaks out of a cloud, though presently all is gone away? Well, all these things are the good hand of thy God upon thee, and they are upon thee to constrain, to provoke, and to make thee willing and able to come, coming sinner, that thou mightest in the end be saved. Bunyan, J. (2006). Come and Welcome, to Jesus Christ (Vol. 1, pp. 271–273). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software. (Public Domain) Good Friday 1605 - Lancelot Andrewes Good Friday 1605 — Bishop Lancelot Andrewes Hebrews 12:2 Looking unto Jesus the Author and Finisher of our faith; Who for the joy that was set before Him, endured the cross, and despised the shame; and is set at the right-hand of the throne of God. St. Luke, though he recount at large our Saviour Christ’s whole story, yet in plain and express terms he calleth the Passion,* θεωρίαν, "a theory or sight," which sight is it the Apostle here calleth us to look unto. Of our blessed Saviour’s whole life or death, there is no part but is "a theory" of itself, well worthy our looking on; for from each part thereof there goeth virtue to do us good. From each part;—but of all, from the last part, or act of His Passion. Therefore hath the Holy Ghost honoured this last part only with this name, and none but this. This is the "theory" ever most commended to our view. To be looked on He is at all times, and in all acts; but then, and in that act, specially, "when for the joy set before Him, He endured the cross, and despised the shame." Then, saith the Apostle, "look unto Him." St. Paul being elsewhere careful to shew the Corinthians, and with them us, Christ; and as to shew them Christ, so to shew them in Christ what that is that specially concerneth them to know or look unto, thus he saith: that though he knew many, very many things besides, yet he "esteemed not to know any thing but Jesus Christ,"* et Hunc crucifixum, Him, "and Him crucified." Meaning respective, as they term it, that the perfection of our knowledge is Christ; and the perfection of our knowledge in or touching Christ, is the knowledge of His Cross and Passion. That the chief "theory." Nay, in this all; so that see this, and see all. The view whereof, though it be not restrained to any one time, but all the year long, yea all our life long, ought to be frequent with us;—and blessed are the hours that are so spent! yet if at any one time more than other, certainly this time, this day may most justly challenge it. For this day was this Scripture fulfilled, and this day are our ears filled full with Scriptures about it. So that though on other days we employ our eyes otherwise, yet that this day at least we would, as exceeding fitly the Apostle wisheth us, ἀφορᾷν "cast our eyes from other sights," and fix them on this object, it being the day dedicate to the lifting up of the Son of Man on high,* that He may draw every eye unto Him. The occasion of the speaking is ever the best key to every speech. The occasion then of this speech was this. The Apostle was to encourage the Hebrews, and in them us all, to hold on the well-begun profession of Christ and His faith. This our profession he expresseth in the former verse in the terms of a race or game, borrowing his similitude from the games of Olympus. For from those games, famous then over all the world, and by terms from them taken, it was common to all writers of that age, both holy and human, to set forth, as in the running the laborious course, so in the prize of it, the glorious reward of a virtuous life. Which race, truly Olympic, because they and we, the most of us, either stand still, or if we remove do it but slowly, and are ready to faint upon every occasion; that we may run the sooner, and attain the better, two sights he sets before us to comfort us and keep us from fainting. One, a cloud of witnesses, in the first verse, that is the Saints in Heaven—witnesses as able to depose this race may be run, and this prize may be won, for they have run the one, and won the other long ago. These look on us now, how well we carry ourselves; and we to look to them, that we may carry ourselves well in the course we have undertaken. On which cloud when we have stayed our eyes a while, and made them fit for a clearer object, he scattereth the cloud quite, and sets us up a second, even our blessed Saviour His Ownself. And here he willeth us, ἀφορᾷν, "to turn our eyes from them," and to turn them hither, and to fasten them here on Jesus Christ, "the Author and Finisher of our faith." As if he should say; If you will indeed see a sight once for all, look to Him. The Saints, though they be the guides to us, yet are they but followers to Him.* He the Ἀρχηγὸς, "the Arch-guide," the Leader of them and us all—Look on Him. They but well willers to our faith, but neither authors nor finishers of it; He, both. Both Author to call us to it, and set us in it; and Finisher to help us through it, and reward us for it:—Look to Him. Hunc aspicite is the Apostle’s voice, the voice that cometh out of this cloud, for it is the wish of them all, even all the Saints;—Hunc aspicite. At His appearing therefore the cloud vanisheth. There is a time when St. James may say,* "Take, my brethren, the Prophets for an example." But when He cometh forth That said, Exemplum dedi vobis,* "I have given you an example," exemplum sine exemplo, ‘an example above all examples;’ when He cometh in place,* Sileat omnis caro, "Let all flesh keep silence." Let all the Saints,* yea, the Seraphins themselves cover their faces with their wings, that we may look on Him, and let all other sights go. Let us then turn aside to see this great sight. The principal parts thereof are two: 1. The sight itself, that is, the thing to be seen; 2. and the sight of it, that is, the act of seeing it or looking on it. The whole verse, save the two first words, is of the object or spectacle propounded. "Jesus the Author, &c." The two first words, ἀφορῶντες εἰς, is the other, the act or duty enjoined. But as in many other cases,* so here, Et erunt primi novissimi, "the first must be last." For though the act, in the verse, stand foremost, yet in nature it is last, and so to be handled. We must have a thing first set up before our eyes, before we can set our eyes upon it. Of the object then first: this object is Jesus, not barely, but with His double addition of 1. "the Author," 2. "the Finisher of our faith, Jesus." And in Him more particularly, two theories or sights: 1. Of His Passion; 2. Of His Session. 1. His Passion, in these words: "Who for the joy," &c. 2. His Session, in these; "And is set," &c. In the Passion, two things He pointeth at: 1. What He suffered, 2. and what moved Him to it. 1. What He suffered; the cross and shame. The cross He endured, the shame He despised. 2. And what moved Him; "for a certain joy set before Him." Then is to follow the act or duty of looking on this sight, ἀφορῶντες εἰς. 1. Wherein first the two prepositions, 1. Ἀπὸ and 2. Εἰς, "from" and "to:" to look "from," and to look "to." 2. Then the two verbs: 1. One in the verse expressed, that is, ὁρᾷν in ἀφορῶντες. 2. The other of necessity implied, for we have never a verb in all the verse. Ἀφορῶντες is a participle, and but suspendeth the sentence, till we either look back to the verb before; and so it is 1. Ut curramus: or to the verse next after, and so it is 2. Ne fatigemur. In the one is the theory or sight we shall see, thus looking. In the other the praxis of this theory, what this sight is to work in us; and that is a motion, a swift motion, running. So to look on it that we run, and so to run that we faint not. And if the time will give leave, if our allowance will hold out, then we will take a short view of the session; that He "is set down." Wherein is 1. rest and ease opposed to His cross, where He hung in pain. 2. And in "a throne;" wherein is glory opposed to shame. 3. And "at the right hand of God," wherein is the fulness of both the joy wherein He sitteth, and the joy which was set before Him, and which is set before us. To give the better aspect to the party Whom he presenteth to our view, that with better will we may behold Him, before he name His Name he giveth Him this double addition, as it were displaying an ensign, proclaiming His style before Him; whereof these two are the two colours, 1. "The Author," 2. "The Finisher of our faith, Jesus." "Author and Finisher" are two titles, wherein the Holy Ghost oft setteth Him forth, and wherein He seemeth to take special delight. In the very letters, He taketh to Him the name of "Alpha"* the Author, and again of "Omega" the Finisher of the alphabet.* From letters go to words: there is He Verbum in principio,* "the Word at the beginning."* And He is "Amen" too, the word at the end.* From words to books.* In capite libri scriptum est de Me, in the very "front of the book"* He is; and He is Ἀνακεφαλαίωσις, "the Recapitulation," or conclusion of it too. And so, go to persons: there He is Primus and novissimus,* "the first and the last." And from persons to things:* and there He is, "the beginning and the end;" whereof ἀρχὴ, "the beginning," is in Ἀρχηγὸς, the Author; and τέλος, "the end," is in Τελειωτὴς, the Finisher.* The first beginning a Quo, He "by Whom all things are made;" and the last end He, per or propter Quem, "by, for, or through Whom" all things are made perfect. Both these He is, in all things. And as in all things else, so in faith, whereto they are here applied most fully and fitly of all other. Therefore look not aside at any in Heaven or earth for matter of faith, look full upon Him. He is worth the looking on with both your eyes, He hath matter for them both. The honour that Zerubbabel had in the material, is no less truly His in the spiritual temple of our faith.* Manus Ejus, "His hands" have laid the corner-stone of our belief, and His hands shall bring forth the head-stone also,* giving us "the end of our faith, which is the salvation of our souls." Of our faith, and of the whole race of it He is the Author, casting up His glove at the first setting forth. He is the Finisher, holding out the prize at the goal end. By His authority it is our course is begun; we run not without warrant. By His bounty it shall be finished and crowned in the end; we run not in vain, or without hope of reward. But what is this title to the point in hand? So, as nothing can be more. "Author and Finisher," they are the two points that move us to look to Him. And the very same are the two points wherein we are moved to be like to Him. To fix our eye, to keep it from straying, to make us look on Him full, He telleth us He is both these. In effect as if He said, Scatter not your sight, look not two ways, as if He I shew you were to begin, and some other make an end. He I shew you doth both. His main end being to exhort them, as they had begun well, so well to persevere; to very good purpose, He willeth them to have an eye to Him and His example, Who first and last, ἀπὸ φάτνης ἄχρι σταυροῦ, ‘from the cratch to the cross,’* from St. Luke’s time quo cœpit Jesus facere et diocere, "that He began to do and teach,"* to St. John’s time that He cried consummatum est,* gave them not over sed in finem usque dilexit eos, but "to the end loved them." And so must they Him, if they do Him right. Both set out with Him, as "Author" by a good beginning; and hold out with Him, as "Finisher," to a far better end; and follow Him in both Who is both. Were He "Author" only, it would serve to step forth well at the first. But He is "Finisher" too: therefore we must hold out to the last. And not rend one of them from the other, seeing He requireth both—not either, but both—and is indeed Jesus, a Saviour of none but those, that follow Him as "Finisher" too, and are therefore marked in the forehead with Tau the last letter of the Hebrew, as He Himself is Omega, the last of the Greek Alphabet.* This is the party He commendeth to our view; "Jesus, the Author and the Finisher of our faith." For these two to look upon Him, and in these two to be like unto Him. Our sight then is Jesus, and in Jesus what? you have called us hither, say they in the Canticles, to see your Shulamite;*—"what shall we see in Him?" What? saith the Spouse, but as "the company of an army," that is, many legions of good sights, an ocean or bottomless depth of manifold high perfections. We shall lose ourselves, we shall be confounded to see in Him all that may be shewed us, the object is too great. Two pieces therefore He maketh choice of, and but two, and presenteth Him to our eye in two forms only: 1. As hanging on the cross; 2. as sitting on the throne. 1. His Passion, and 2. His Session; these two. And these two, with very good and perfect correspondence to the two former. By the "cross," He is "Author;" by the "throne," He is "Finisher of our faith." As Man on the "cross," "Author;" as God on the "throne," "Finisher." "Author," on the "cross"—there He paid the price of our admitting. "Finisher," on the "throne"—there He is the prize to us of our course well performed, of the well-finishing our race, the race of our faith. And sure, with right high wisdom hath the Holy Ghost, being to exhort us to a race, combined these twain. For in these twain are comprised the two main motives, that set all the world on running, 1. love, and 2. hope. The love He hath to us in His Passion on the cross; the hope we have of Him, in His Session on the throne. Either of these alone able to move; but put them together, and they will move us, or nothing will. 1. Love first. What moveth the mother to all the travail and toil she taketh with her child? She hopes for nothing, she is in years, suppose; she shall not live to receive any benefit by it. It is love and love only. Love first. 2. And then hope. What moveth the merchant, and so the husbandman, and so the military man, and so all the rest? All the sharp showers and storms they endure, they love them not. It is hope, and hope only, of a rich return. If either of these will serve us, will prevail to move us, here it is.* Here is love, love in the cross: "Who loved us, and gave Himself for us, a sacrifice" on the cross. Here is hope,* hope in the throne. "To him that overcometh will I give to sit with Me in My throne." If our eye be a mother’s eye, here is love worth the looking on. If our eye be a merchant’s eye, here is hope worth the looking after. I know it is true, that verus amor vires non sumit de spe;—it is Bernard.* ‘Love if it be true indeed, as in the mother, receiveth no manner strength from hope.’ Ours is not such, but faint and feeble, and full of imperfection. Here is hope therefore to strengthen our weak knees, that we may run the more readily to the high prize of our calling. To begin then with His love, the love of His Passion, the peculiar of this day. In it we first look to what He suffered, and that is of two sorts. 1. "The cross He endured;" 2. "The shame He despised." 3. And then with what mind, for the mind is worth all; and love in it sheweth itself, if not more, as much as in the suffering itself:—but certainly more. And this is His mind, proposito Sibi gaudio, as cheerfully as if it had been some matter of joy. Of both first, jointly under one. Then severally each by itself. Two things are to us most precious, 1. our life and 2. our reputation. Pari passu ambulant, saith the lawyer, ‘they go arm in arm,’ and are of equal regard, both. Life is sweet: the cross cost Him His life. Honour is dear: shame bereft Him His honour. In the race which, before us and for us, our blessed Saviour ran, these two great blocks, 1. death, and 2. disgrace were in His way. Neither stayed Him. To testify His love, over both He passed. Put His shoulders under the cross and endured it, to the loss of His life. Set His foot upon shame and despised it, to the loss of His honour. Neither one nor other, life or honour, held He dear, to do us good. O, if we should hazard but one of these two, for any creature living, how much ado would we make of it, and reckon the party eternally obliged to us! Or if any should venture them for us, we should be the better every time we saw him. O that it might be so here! O that we would meet this love with the like measure! Certainly in His Passion, the love of us triumphed over the love of His life and honour both. One view more of both these under one, and we shall by these two discover two other things in ourselves, for which very agreeable it was He should suffer these two, that by these two of His for those two of ours He might make a full satisfaction. It will shew a good congruity between our sickness and His salve, between our debt and His discharge. The mother-sin then, the sin of Adam and Eve, and their motives to it, are the lively image of all the after-births of sin, and the baits of sin for ever. Now that which moved them to disobey, was partly pleasure, and partly pride. Pleasure—O the fruit was delightful to see and to taste.* Pride—eritis sicut Dii, it promised an estate equal to the highest. Behold then in His Passion, for our pleasure His pain, and for our pride, His shame and reproach. Behold Him in His patience, enduring pain for our wicked lust; in His humility, having shame poured on Him for our wretched pride.* "The Lord of life,"* suffering death; "The Lord of glory," vile and ignominious disgrace.* Tanquam agnus, saith the Prophet of Him, "as a lamb,"* pitifully slaughtered. Tanquam vermis, saith He of Himself, "as a worm," spitefully trod upon. So, by His enduring pains and painful death, expiating our unlawful pleasure; and by His sustaining shame, satisfying for our shameful pride. Thus may we under one behold ourselves, and our wicked demerits, in the mirror of His Passion. Gregory saith well: Dicendum erat quantum nos dilexit, ne diffidere; dicendum erat et quales, ne superbire et ingrati esse. ‘How greatly He loved us, must be told us, to keep us from distrust; and what we were when He so loved us, must be told us, to hold us in humility, to make us everlastingly thankful.’ Thus far both under one view. Now are we to part them, to see them apart. We shall have much ado to do it, they are so folded and twisted together. In the cross there is shame, and in shame there is a cross, and that a heavy one. The cross,* the Heathen termed cruciabile lignum, ‘a tree of torture;’ but they called it also, arborem infælicem, et stipitem infamem, ‘a wretched infamous tree’ withal. So it was in His crown; the thorns pricked Him—there was pain; the crown itself was a mere mockery, and matter of scorn. So in His robe; His purple body underneath in great pain certainly, His purple robe over it, a garment of shame and disgrace. All along the Passion, thus they meet still together. In a word,* the prints of His Passion, the Apostle well calleth stigmata Christi. Both are in that word; not only wounds, and so grievous, but base and servile marks, and so shameful, for so are stigmata. Thus shame and cross, and cross and shame run interchangeably. Yet since the Holy Ghost doth shew us them severally, so to see them as He shews them. Enduring is the act of patience, and patience hath pain for her object. Despising shame is the property of humility, even of the highest humility; not only spernere se, but spernere se sperni. First then we must see the pain His patience endured—that is meant by the cross; and then see the dispising His humility despised—that is meant by the shame. First then of His cross. It is well known that Christ and His cross were never parted, but that all His life long was a continual cross. At the very cratch, His cross first began. There Herod sought to do that which Pilate did, even to end His life before it began. All His life after, saith the Apostle in the next verse, was nothing but a perpetual "gainsaying of sinners,"* which we call crossing; and profess we cannot abide in any of our speeches or purposes to be crossed. He was. In the Psalm of the Passion, the twenty-second, in the very front or inscription of it, He is set forth unto us under the term of a hart, cervus matutinus, "a morning hart," that is, a hart roused early in the morning; as from His birth He was by Herod, and hunted and chased all His life long, and this day brought to His end, and as the poor deer, stricken and wounded to the heart. This was His last, last and worst; and this we properly call His cross, even this day’s suffering. To keep us then to our day, and the cross of the day. "He endured the cross." "He endured." Very enduring itself is durum, durum pati. Especially for persons of high power or place as the Son of God was. For great persons to do great things, is no great wonder; their very genius naturally inclineth to it. But to suffer any small thing, for them is more than to do many great. Therefore the Prophet placeth his moral fortitude, and the Divine his Christian obedience, rather in suffering than in doing. Suffering is sure the more hard of the twain. "He endured." If it be hard to endure, it must be more hard to endure hard things; and of all things hard to be endured, the hardest is death. Of the philosopher’s πέντε φοβερὰ,* ‘five fearful things,’ it is the most fearful; and what will not a man, nay what will not a woman weak and tender, in physic, in chyrurgery, endure, not to endure death? "He endured" death. And that if He endured, and no more but that, it might suffice; it is worth all we have, for all we have we will give for our life. But not death only, but the kind of death is it. Mortem, mortem autem crucis, saith the Apostle,* doubting the point; "death He endured, even the death of the cross." The cross is but a little word, but of great contents; but few letters, but in these few letters are contained multa dictu gravia, perpessu aspera, ‘heavy to be named, more heavy to be endured.’ I take but the four things ascribed by the Holy Ghost to the cross,* answerable to the four ends or quarters of it.* 1. Sanguis Crucis,* 2. Dolores Crucis,* 3. Scandalum Crucis, 4. Maledictum Crucis: that is, the death of the cross is all these four; a 1. bloody, 2. doleful, 3. scandalous, 4. accursed death. 1. Though it be but a cold comfort, yet a kind of comfort it is, if die we must, that our death is mors sicca, a dry, not sanguis crucis, not a bloody death. 2. We would die, when we die, an easy, not ὠδῖνες σταυροῦ, not a tormenting death. 3. We desire to die with credit if it might be; if not, without scandal—scandalum crucis. 4. At leastwise to go to our graves, and to die by an honest, ordinary, and by no means by an accursed death—maledictum crucis. In the cross are all these, all four. The two first are in "the cross," the two latter in "the shame." For "the cross" and "the shame" are in very deed two crosses; the shame, a second cross of itself. To see then, as in a short time, shortly. That of the poet, nec siccâ morte tyranni,* sheweth plainly, it is no poor privilege to die without effusion of blood. And so it is. 1. For a blessing it is, and our wish it is, we may live out our time, and not die an untimely death. Where there is effusion of blood, there is ever an untimely death. 2. Yet every untimely death is not violent, but a bloody death is violent and against nature; and we desire to pay nature her debt by the way of nature. 3. A violent death one may come to, as in war—sanguis belli best sheweth it—yet by valour, not by way of punishment. This death is penal; not, as all death, stipendium peccati, but, as evil men’s death, vindicta sceleris, an execution for some capital offence. 4. And not every crime neither. Fundetur sanguis is the punishment of treason and other more heinous crimes, to die embrued in their own blood. And even they that die so, die not yet so evil a death as do they that die on the cross. It is another case where it is sanguis mortis, the blood and life go away together at once; another, when it is sanguis crucis, when the blood is shed, and the party still in full life and sense, as on the cross it was; the blood first, and the life a good while after. This is sanguis crucis, an 1. untimely, 2. violent, 3. penal, 4. penal in the highest degree; there bleeding out His blood before He die, and then die. When blood is shed, it would be no more than needs; shed it would be, not poured out. Or if so, at one part, the neck or throat, not at all parts at once. But here was fundetur, havoc made at all parts; His Passion, as He termeth it, a second baptism, a river of blood,* and He even able to have been baptized in it, as He was in Jordan. And where it would be summa parcimonia etiam vilissimi sanguinis, ‘no waste, no not of the basest blood that is,’ waste was made here. And of what blood? Sanguis Jesu, ‘the blood of Jesus.’ And Who was He? Sure, by virtue of the union personal, God; and so this blood, blood of God’s own bleeding, every drop whereof was precious, more precious than that whereof it was the price, the world itself. Nay, more worth than many worlds; yea, if they were ten thousand. Yet was this blood wastefully spilt as water upon the ground. The fundetur and the Qui here, will come into consideration, both. This is sanguis crucis, and yet this is not all neither; there is more yet. For the blood of the Cross was not only the blood of Golgotha, but the blood of Gabbatha too. For of all deaths, this was peculiar to this death, the death of the Cross; that they that were to be crucified, were not to be crucified alone, which is the blood of Golgotha, but they must be whipped too before they were crucified, which is the blood of Gabbatha; a second death, yea worse than death itself. And in both these places He bled, and in either place twice. They rent His body with the 1. whips; they gored His head with the 2. thorns—both these in Gabbatha. And again, twice in Golgotha, when they 1. nailed His hands and His feet; when He was 2. thrust to the heart with the spear. This is sanguis crucis. It was to be stood on a little, we might not pass it. It is that whereon our faith depends, per fidem in sanguine Ipsius. By it He is "Author of our faith," faith in God,* and peace with God, both; pacificans in sanguine crucis,* "pacifying all with the blood of the Cross." Now this bloody whipping and nailing of His, is it which bringeth in the second point of pain; that it was not blood alone without pain, as in the opening of a vein, but it was blood and pain both. The tearing and mangling of His flesh with the whips, thorns, and nails, could not choose but be exceeding painful to Him. Pains, we know, are increased much by cruel, and made more easy by gentle handling, and even the worst that suffer, we wish their execution as gentle, and with as little rigour as may be. All rigour, all cruelty was shewed to Him, to make His pains the more painful. In Gabbatha they did not whip Him, saith the Psalmist,* "they ploughed His back, and made," not stripes, but "long furrows upon it." They did not put on His wreath of thorns, and press it down with their hands, but beat it on with bats, to make it enter through skin, flesh, skull, and all. They did not in Golgotha pierce His hands and feet,* but made wide holes like that of a spade, as if they had been digging in some ditch. These were pains, and cruel pains, but yet these are not ὠδῖνες, the Holy Ghost’s word in the text; those are properly "straining pains, pains of torture." The rack is devised as a most exquisite pain, even for terror. And the cross is a rack, whereon He was stretched, till, saith the Psalm,* all His bones were out of joint. But even to stand, as He hung, three long hours together, holding up but the arms at length, I have heard it avowed of some that have felt it to be a pain searce credible. But the hands and the feet being so cruelly nailed, parts of all other most sensible by reason of the texture of sinews there in them most, it could not but make His pain out of measure painful. It was not for nothing that dolores acerrimi dicuntur cruciatus,* saith the heathen man, ‘that the most sharp and bitter pains of all other have their name from hence, and are called cruciatus,’ "pains like those of the cross." It had a meaning that they gave Him, that He had for His welcome to the cross, a cup mixed with gall or myrrh, and for His farewell, a sponge of vinegar; to shew by the one the bitterness, by the other the sharpness of the pains of this painful death. Now, in pain we know the only comfort of gravis, is brevis; if we be in it, to be quickly out of it. This the cross hath not, but is mors prolixa, ‘a death of dimensions, a death long in dying.’ And it was therefore purposely chosen by them. Blasphemy they condemned Him of: then was He to be stoned; that death would have despatched Him too soon. They indicted Him anew of sedition, not as of a worse fault, but only because crucifying belonged to it;* for then He must be whipped first, and that liked them well, and then He must die by inch-meal, not swallow His death at once but "taste" it, as chap. 2:9,* and take it down by little and little. And then He must have His legs and arms broken, and so was their meaning His should have been. Else, I would gladly know to what purpose provided they to have a vessel of vinegar ready in the place,* but only that He might not faint with loss of blood, but be kept alive till they might hear His bones crash under the breaking, and so feed their eyes with that spectacle also. The providence of God indeed prevented this last act of cruelty; their will was good though. All these pains are in the cross, but to this last specially the word in the text hath reference; ὑπέμεινε, which is, He must μένειν ὑπὸ, "tarry, stay, abide under it;" so die that He might feel Himself die, and endure the pains of an enduring death. And yet all this is but half, and the lesser half by far of cruciatus crucis. All this His body endured. Was His soul free the while? No; but suffered as much. As much? nay more, infinitely much more on the spiritual, than His body did on the material cross. For a spiritual Cross there was too: all grant a Cross beside that which Simon of Cyrene did help Him to bear. Great were those pains, and this time too little to shew how great; but so great that in all the former He never shrunk, nor once complained, but was as if He scarce felt them. But when these came, they made Him complain and cry aloud κραυγὴν ἰσχυρὰν,* "a strong crying." In all those no blood came, but where passages were made for it to come out by, but in this it strained out all over, even at all places at once. This was the pain of "the press"—so the Prophet calleth it, torcular,* where-with as if He had been in the wine-press, all His garments were stained and gored with blood. Certainly the blood of Gethsemane was another manner of blood than that of Gabbatha, or that of Golgotha either; and that was the blood of His internal Cross. Of the three Passions that was the hardest to endure, yet that did He endure too. It is that which belief itself doth wonder how it doth believe, save that it knoweth as well the love as the power of God to be without bounds; and His wisdom as able to find, how through love it might be humbled, as exalted through power, beyond the uttermost that man’s wit can comprehend. And this is the Cross He endured. And if all this might have been endured, salvo honore, ‘without shame or disgrace,’ it had been so much the less. But now, there is a farther matter yet to be added, and that is shame. It is hard to say of these two, which is the harder to bear; which is the greater cross, the cross or shame. Or rather, it is not hard. There is no mean party in misery, but if he be insulted on, his being insulted on more grieves him than doth the misery itself. But to the noble generous nature, to whom interesse honoris est majus omni alio interesse, ‘the value of his honour is above all value;’ to him the cross is not the cross, shame is the cross. And any high and heroical spirit beareth any grief more easily, than the grief of contemptuous and contumelious usage. King Saul shewed it plainly, who chose rather to run upon his own sword,* than to fall into the hands of the Philistines, who he knew would use him with scorn, as they had done Samson before him.* And even he, Samson too, rather than sit down between the pillars and endure this, pulled down house and all, as well upon his own head, as theirs that so abused him. Shame then is certainly the worse of the twain. Now in his death, it is not easy to define, whether pain or shame had the upper hand; whether greater, cruciatus, or scandalum crucis. Was it not a foul disgrace and scandal to offer Him the shame of that servile base punishment of the whip, not to be offered to any but to slaves and bondmen? Loris? liber sum,* saith he in the comedy in great disdain, as if being free-born he held it great scorn to have that once named to him. Yet shame of being put out of the number of free-born men he despised, even the shame of being in formâ servi.* That that is servile, may yet be honest. Then was it not yet a more foul disgrace and scandal indeed to appoint Him for His death that dishonest, that foul death, the death of malefactors, and of the worst sort of them? Morte turpissimâ, as themselves termed it; ‘the most shameful opprobrious death of all other,’ that the persons are scandalous that suffer it? To take Him as a thief, to hang Him between two thieves; nay, to count Him worse than the worst thief in the gaol; to say and to cry, Vivat Barabbas, pereat Christus, ‘Save Barabbas and hang Christ!’ Yet this shame He despised too, of being in formâ malefici. If base, if dishonest, let these two serve; use Him not disgracefully, make Him not a ridiculum Caput, pour not contempt upon Him. That did they too, and a shame it is to see the shameful carriage of themselves all along the whole tragedy of His Passion. Was it a tragedy, or a Passion trow? A Passion it was, yet by their behaviour it might seem a May-game. Their shouting and outcries, their harrying of Him about from Annas to Caiaphas, from him to Pilate, from Pilate to Herod, and from him to Pilate again; one while in purple, Pilate’s suit; another while in white, Herod’s livery; nipping Him by the cheeks, and pulling off His hair; blindfolding Him and buffeting Him; bowing to Him in derision, and then spitting in His face;—was as if they had not the Lord of glory, but some idiot or dizard in hand. "Died Abner as a fool dieth?" saith David of Abner in great regret. O no.* Sure, our blessed Saviour so died; and that He so died, doth equal, nay surpass even the worst of His torments. Yet this shame also He despised, of being in formâ ludibrii. Is there any worse yet? There is. For though contempt be had, yet despite is beyond it, as far as earnest is beyond sport; that was sport, this was malice. Despite I call it, when in the midst of His misery, in the very depth of all His distress, they vouchsafed Him not the least compassion; but as if He had been the most odious wretched caitiff and abject of men, the very outcast of Heaven and earth, stood staring and gaping upon Him, wagging their heads, writhing their mouths, yea blearing out their tongues; railing on Him and reviling Him, scoffing at Him and scorning Him; yea, in the very time of His prayers deriding Him, even in His most mournful complaint and cry for the very anguish of His Spirit. These vile indignities, these shameful villanies, so void of all humanity, so full of all despite, I make no question, entered into His soul deeper than either nail or spear did into His body. Yet all this He despised, to be in formâ reprobi. Men hid their faces at this; nay, to see this sight, the sun was darkened, drew back his light, the earth trembled, ran one part from the other, the powers of Heaven were moved. Is this all? No, all this but scandalum, there is a greater yet remaining than scandalum, and that is maledictum crucis; that the death He died was not only servile, scandalous, opprobrious, odious, but even execrable and accursed, of men held so. For as if He had been a very reprobate, in His extreme drought they denied Him a drop of water, never denied to any but to the damned in hell, and instead of it offered Him vinegar in a sponge; and that in the very pangs of death, as one for whom nothing was evil enough. All this is but man, and man is but man, his glory is shame oftentimes, and his shame glory; but what God curseth, that is cursed indeed. And this death was cursed by God Himself, His own mouth, as the Apostle deduceth.* When all is said we can say, this, this is the hardest point of His shame, and the highest point of His love in bearing it. Christus factus est maledictum. The shame of a cursed death, cursed by God, is a shame beyond all shames, and he that can despise it, may well say consummatum est, there is no greater left for him to despise. O what contempt was poured upon Him! O how was He in all these despised! Yet He despised them all, and despised to be despised in them all. The highest humility, spernere se sperni; these so many ways, spernere se sperni. So have we now the cross, ξύλον δίδυμον, ‘the two main bars of it,’ 1. Pain, 2. Shame; and either of these again, a cross of itself; and that double, 1. outward, and 2. inward. Pain, bloody, cruel, dolorous, and enduring—pain He endured. Shame, servile, scandalous, opprobrious, odious—shame He despised. And beside these, an internal cross, the passion of Gethsemane; and an internal shame, the curse itself of the cross, maledictum crucis. Of these He endured the one, the other He despised. These, all these, and yet there remaineth a greater than all these, even quo animo, ‘with what mind,’ what having in His mind, or setting before His eyes, He did and suffered all this. That He did it not utcunque, but proposito Sibi, ‘with an eye to somewhat He aimed at.’ We handle this point last, it standeth first in the verse. And sure, if this as a figure stand not first, the other two are but ciphers; with it of value, nothing without it. To endure all this is very much, howsoever it were. So to endure it as to make no reckoning of it, to despise it is more strange than all the rest. Sure the shame was great; how could He make so small account of it? and the cross heavy; how could He set it so light? They could not choose but pinch Him, and that extremely; and how then could He endure, and so endure that He despised them? It is the third point, and in it is adeps arietis, ‘the fat of rams,’ the marrow of the Sacrifice; even the good heart, the free forward mind, the cheerful affection, wherewith He did all this. There be but two senses to take this ἀντὶ in, neither amiss, both very good, take whether you will. Love is in both, and love in a high measure. Ἀντὶ, even either pro or præ; pro, ‘instead;’ or præ, ‘in comparison.’ Ἀντὶ, pro, "instead of the joy set before Him." What joy was that? Ἐξῆν γὰρ Αὐτῷ ἐν οὐρανοῖς, saith Chrysostom, ‘for He was in the joys of Heaven: there He was, and there He might have held Him.’ Nothing did or could force Him to come thence, and to come hither thus to be entreated. Nothing but Sic dilexit,* or Propter nimiam charitatem quâ dilexit nos; but for it. Yet was He content,* "being in the form of God," ἀντὶ "instead of it," thus to transform,* yea to deform Himself into the shape of a servant, a felon, a fool; nay, of a caitiff accursed. Content to lay down His crown of glory, and ἀντὶ "instead of it," to wear a crown of thorns. Content, what we shun by all means, that to endure,—loss of life; and what we make so great a matter of, that to despise,—loss of honour. All this, with the loss of that joy and that honour He enjoyed in Heaven; another manner joy, and honour, than any we have here; ἀντὶ "for this," or "instead of this." But the other sense is more praised, ἀντὶ, præ, "in comparison." For indeed, the joy. He left in Heaven was rather περικειμένη than προκειμένη, joy ‘wherein He did already sit,’ than "joy set before Him." Upon which ground, ἀντὶ, they turn præ, and that better as they suppose. For that is, in comparison of a certain joy, which He comparing with the cross and shame and all, chose rather to go through them all than to go without it. And can there be any joy compared with those He did forego? or can any joy countervail those barbarous usages He willingly went through? It seemeth, there can. What joy might that be? Sure none other, but the joy He had to save us, the joy of our salvation. For what was His glory, or joy, or crown of rejoicing, was it not we? Yes truly, we were His crown and His joy. In comparison of this joy He exchanged those joys, and endured these pains; this was the honey that sweetened His gall. And no joy at all in it but this—to be Jesus, "the Saviour" of a sort of poor sinners. None but this, and therefore pity He should lose it. And it is to be marked, that though to be Jesus, "a Saviour," in propriety of speech be rather a title, an outward honour, than an inward joy, and so should have been præ honore, rather than præ gaudio; yet He expresseth it in the term of joy rather than that of honour, to shew it joyed Him at the heart to save us; and so as a special joy, He accounted it. Sure, some such thing there was that made Him so cheerfully say to His Father in the Psalm,* Ecce venio, "Lo I come." And to His disciples in earth, This, this is the Passover that desiderio desideravi,* "I have so longed for," as it were embracing and even welcoming His death. And which is more, quomodo coarctor! "how am I pinched, or straitened,"* till I be at it! as if He were in pain, till He were in pain to deliver us. Which joy if ever He shewed, in this He did, that He went to His Passion with Psalms, and with such triumph and solemnity, as He never admitted all His life before. And that this His lowest estate, one would think it, He calleth His exaltation, cum exaltatus fuero.* And when any would think He was most imperfect, He esteemeth and so termeth it, His highest perfection; Tertio die perficior. In hoc est charitas,* "here is love."* If not here, where? But here it is, and that in his highest elevation. That the joys of Heaven set on the one side, and this poor joy of saving us on the other, He quit them to choose this. That those pains and shames set before Him, and with them this joy, He chose them rather than forego this. Those joys He forsook, and this He took up; and to take it, took upon Him so many, so strange indignities of both sorts; took them and bare them with such a mind, as He not only endured but despised; nor that neither, but even joyed in the bearing of them, and all to do us good. So to alter the nature of things as to find joy in death whereat all do mourn,* and joy in shame which all do abhor, is a wonder like that of the bush. This is the very life and soul of the Passion, and all besides but the σκελετὸς only, ‘the anatomy,’ the earcass without it. So have we now the whole object, both what, and with what mind. And what is now to be done? shall we not pause a while and stay, and look upon this "theory" ere we go any farther? Yes, let us. Proper to this day is this sight of the cross. The other, of the throne, may stay yet his time a day or two hence. We are enjoined to look upon Him. How can we, seeing He is now higher than the heavens, far out of our sight, or from the kenning of any mortal eye? yes, we may for all that. As, in the twenty-seventh of the chapter next before, Moses is said to have seen "Him That is invisible;"* not with the eyes of flesh—so neither he did, or we can; but, as there it is, "by faith." So he did, and we may. And what is more kindly to behold "the Author" of faith, than faith? or more kindly for faith to behold, than her "Author" here at first, and her "Finisher" there at last? Him to behold first and last, and never to be satisfied with looking on Him, Who was content to buy us and our eye at so dear a rate. Our eye then is the eye of our mind, which is faith; and our aspicientes in this,* and the recogitantes in the next verse, all one; our looking to Him here, is our thinking on Him there; on Him and His Passion over and over again, Donec totus fixus in corde Qui totus fixus in cruce, ‘till He be as fast fixed in our heart as ever He was to His cross,’ and some impression made in us of Him, as there was in Him for us. In this our looking then, two acts be rising from the two prepositions: one before, ἀπὸ, in ἀφορῶντες, "looking from;" the other after, εἰς, "looking upon, or into." There is ἀπὸ, "from," abstracting our eye from other objects to look hither sometime. The preposition is not idle, nor the note, but very needful. For naturally we put this spectacle far from us, and endure not either oft or long to behold it. Other things there be, please our eyes better, and which we look on with greater delight. And we must ἀφορᾷν, ‘look off of them,’ or we shall never ὁρᾷν, ‘look upon’ this aright. We must, in a sort, work force to our nature, and per actum elicitum, as they term it in schools, inhibit our eyes, and even wean them from other more pleasing spectacles that better like them, or we shall do no good here, never make a true "theory" of it. I mean, though our prospect into the world be good, and we have both occasion and inclination to look thither oft, yet ever and anon to have an eye this way; to look from them to Him, Who, when all these shall come to an end, must be He that shall finish and consummate our faith and us, and make perfect both. Yea, though the Saints be fair marks, as at first I said, yet even to look off from them hither, and turn our eye to Him from all, even from Saints and all. But chiefly, from the baits of sin, the concupiscence of our eyes, the shadows and shows of vanity round about, by which death entereth at our windows; which unless we can be got to look from, this sight will do us no good, we cannot look on both together. Now our "theory," as it beginneth with ἀπὸ, so it endeth with εἰς. Therefore look from it, that look to Him; or, as the word giveth it rather, "into Him," than to Him. Εἰς is ‘into,’ rather than ‘to.’ Which proveth plainly, that the Passion is a piece of perspective, and that we must set ourselves to see it if we will see it well, and not look superficially on it; not on the outside alone, but, ὁρᾷν εἰς, ‘pierce into it,’ and enter even into the inward workmanship of it, even of His internal Cross which He suffered, and of His entire affection wherewith He suffered it. And we may well look into Him; Cancellis plenum est corpus, ‘His body is full of stripes,’ and they are as lattices; patent viscera per vulnera, His wounds they are as windows, through which we may well see all that is within Him. Clavus penetrans factus est mihi clavis reserans,* saith St. Bernard; ‘the nails and spear-head serve as keys to let us in.’ We may look into the palms of His hands, wherein, saith the Prophet,* He hath graven us, that He might never forget us.* We may look into His side, St. John useth the word, "opened." Vigilanti verbo,* saith Augustine, ‘a word well chosen, upon good advice:’ we may through the opening look into His very bowels, the bowels of kindness and compassion that would endure to be so entreated. Yea that very heart of His, wherein we may behold the love of our salvation to be the very heart’s joy of our Saviour. Thus "looking from," from all else to look "into" Him, what then? then followeth the participle, we shall see. What shall we see? Nay, what shall we not see? What "theory" is there worth the seeing but is there to be seen? To recount all were too long: two there are in especial. There is a theory medicinal, like that of the brazen serpent, and it serveth for comfort to the conscience, stung and wounded with the remorse of sin. For what sin is there, or can there be, so execrable or accursed, but the curse of the cross; what so ignominious or full of confusion, but the shame of it; what so corrosive to the conscience, but the pains of it; what of so deep or of so crimson a dye, but the blood of it, the blood of the Cross, will do it away? What sting so deadly, but the sight of this Serpent will cure it? This is a principal theory, and elsewhere to be stood on, but not here. For this serveth to quiet the mind, and the Apostle here seeketh to move it and make it stir. There is then another "theory" besides, and that is exemplary for imitation.* There He died, saith St. Paul, to lay down for us, ἀντίλυτρον, our "ransom;"—that is the former. There He died,* saith St. Peter, to leave unto us ὑπογραμμὸν, relinquens nobis exemplum, "a pattern," an example to follow, and this is it, to this He calleth us; to have a directory use of it, to make it our pattern, to view it as our idea. And sure, as the Church under the Law needed not, so neither doth the Church under the Gospel need any other precept than this one,* Inspice et fac, "see and do according to the theory shewed thee in the mount;" to them in Mount Sinai, to us in Mount Calvary. Were all philosophy lost, the theory of it might be found there. Were all Chairs burnt, Moses’ Chair and all, the Chair of the Cross is absolutely able to teach all virtue new again. All virtues are there visible, all, if time would serve: now I name only those five, which are directly in the text. 1. Faith is named there; it is, it was most conspicuous there to be seen, when being forsaken of God, yet He claspeth as it were His arms fast about Him, with Eli, Eli, "My God, My God,"* for all that. 2. Patience in "enduring the cross." 3. Humility in "despising the shame." 4. Perseverance, in that it was nothing for Him to be "Author," unless He were "Finisher" too. These four. But above these and all, that which is the 5. ratio idealis of all, the band and perfection of all, love, in the signature of love, in the joy which He found in all this; love, majorem quâ nemo, to lay down His life;* nay, parem cui nemo, in such sort to lay it down. Majorem quâ nemo, to do this for His friends; Parem cui nemo, to do it for His enemies. Notwithstanding their unworthiness antecedent to do it, and notwithstanding their unkindness consequent, yet to do it. This is the chief theory of all, but of love, chiefly, the most perfect of all. For sure, if ever aught were truly said of our Saviour, this was: that being spread and laid wide open on the cross, He is Liber charitatis,* wherein he that runneth by may read, Sic dilexit,* and Propter nimiam charitatem, and Ecce quantam charitatem;* love all over, from one end to the other.* Every stripe as a letter,* every nail as a capital letter. His livores as black letters, His bleeding wounds as so many rubrics, to shew upon record His love toward us. Of which love the Apostle when he speaketh, he setteth it out with "height and depth,* length and breadth," the four dimensions of the cross, to put us in mind, say the ancient writers, that upon the extent of the tree was the most exact love, with all the dimensions in this kind represented that ever was. Having seen all these, what is the end and use of this sight? Having had the theory, what is the praxis of this theory? what the conclusion of our contemplation? "Looking into" is a participle; it maketh no sentence, but suspendeth it only till we come to a verb to which it relateth. That verb must be either the verb in the verse before, ut curramus, or the verb in the verse following, ut ne fatigemur; that thus looking we run, or that thus looking we tire not. This is the practice of our theory. We said the use was, and so we see it is, to move us, or to make us move; to work in our feet, to work in them a motion; not any slow but a swift motion, the motion of running, to "run the race that is set before us." The operation it hath, this sight, is in our faculty motive; if we stand still, to cause us stir, if we move but slowly, to make us run apace; if we run already, never to tire or give over till we do attain. And by this we may know, whether our theory be a true one: if this praxis follow of it, it is; if not, a gaze it may be, a true Christian "theory" it is not. And here first our ἀφορᾷν, that is, our "looking from," is to work a turning from sin. Sure this spectacle, if it be well looked into, will make sin shall not look so well-favoured in our eyes as it did; it will make us while we live have a less liking to look toward it, as being the only procurer and cause of this cross and this shame. Nay, not only ἀποτρέπειν, ‘to turn our eye from it,’ but ἀποτρέχειν, ‘to turn our feet from it’ too; and to run from, yea to fly from it, quasi a facie colubri, ‘as from the face of a serpent.’ At leastwise, if not to run from it, not to run to it as we have; to nail down our feet from running to sin, and our hands from committing sin, and in a word have St. Peter’s practice of the Passion,* "to cease from sin." This abstractive force we shall find and feel; it will draw us from the delights of sin. And not only draw us from that, but draw from us too something, make some tears to run from us, or, if we be dry-eyed that not them, yet make some sighs of devotion, some thoughts of grace, some kind of thankful acknowledgments to issue from our souls. Either by way of compassion as feeling that He then felt, or by way of compunction as finding ourselves in the number of the parties for whom He felt them. It is a proper effect of our view of the Passion, this, as St. Luke sets it down at the very place where he terms it θεωρίαν,* that they returned from it "smiting their breasts" as having seen a doleful spectacle, themselves the cause of it. Now as the looking from worketh a moving from, so doth the looking to a moving to. For first, who is there that can look unto those hands and feet, that head and that heart of His that endured all this, but must primâ facia, ‘at the first sight’ see and say, Ecce quomodo dilexit nos? If the Jews that stood by said truly of Him at Lazarus’ grave,* Ecce quomodo dilexit eum! when He shed but a few tears out of His eyes, how much more truly may it be said of us, Ecce quomodo dilexit eos! for whom He hath "shed both water and blood," yea even from His heart, and that in such plenty? And He loving us so, if our hearts be not iron, yea if they be iron, they cannot choose but feel the magnetical force of this loadstone. For to a loadstone doth He resemble Himself,* when He saith of Himself, "Were I once lift up," omnia traham ad Me. This virtue attractive is in this sight to draw our love to it. With which, as it were the needle, our faith being but touched, will stir straight. We cannot but turn to Him and trust in Him, that so many ways hath shewed Himself so true to us. Quando amor confirmatur, fides inehoatur, saith St. Ambrose, ‘Prove to us of any that he loves us indeed, and we shall trust him straight without any more ado,’ we shall believe any good affirmed of him. And what is there, tell me, any where affirmed of Christ to usward, but this love of His, being believed will make it credible. Now our faith is made perfect by "works," or "well-doing,"* saith St. James; it will therefore set us in a course of them. Of which, every virtue is a stadium, and every act a step toward the end of our race. Beginning at humility, the virtue of the first setting out,—"let the same mind be in you,* that was in Christ Jesus, Who humbled Himself,"—and so proceeding from virtue to virtue, till we come to patience and perseverance, that keep the goal end. So saith St. Peter, Modicum passos perficiet, "suffering somewhat,* more or less; some crossing, if not the cross; some evil report, though not shame; so and no otherwise we shall come to our race end, our final perfection." And as the rest move us if we stand still to run, so if we run already, these two, patience and perseverance—patience will make us for all our encounters, μὴ κάμνειν, saith the Apostle in the next verse,* "not to be weary." Not in our minds, though in our bodies we be; and perseverance will make us, μὴ ἐκλύεσθαι, "not to faint or tire," though the time seem long and never so tedious; both these in the verse following. But hold on our course till we finish it, even till we come to Him, Who was not only "Author," but "Finisher;" Who held out till He came to consummatum est. And so must we finish, not stadium, but dolichum; not like those, of whom it was said, currebatis bene, "ye did well for a start,"* but like our Apostle that said, and said truly, of himself, cursum consummavi,* "I have finished my course, I have held out to the very end." And in this is the praxis of our first theory or sight of our love. But our love without hope is but faint: that then with better heart we may thus do and bestir ourselves, it will not be amiss once more to lift up our eyes, and the second time to look on Him. We have not yet seen the end, the cross is not the end; there is a better end than so, "and is set down in the throne." As the Prophet saw Him, we have seen Him, in such case as we were ready to hide our faces at Him and His sight. Here is a new sight; as the Evangelist saw Him, so we now may;* even His glory as the "glory of the only-begotten Son of God."* Ecce homo! Pilate’s sight we have seen.* Ecce Dominus et Deus meus! St. Thomas’ sight we now shall. The former in His hanging on the cross, the beginning of our faith. This latter sitting on the throne, the consummation of it. Wherein there is an ample matter of hope, as before of love, all being turned in and out. He sits now at ease That before hung in pain. Now on a throne, That before on the cross. Now at God’s right hand, That before at Satan’s left. So Zachary saw Him;* "Satan on His right hand," and then must He be on Satan’s left. All changed; His cross into ease, His shame into glory. Glory and rest, rest and glory, are two things that meet not here in our world. The glorious life hath not the most quiet, and the quiet life is for the most part inglorious. He that will have glory must make account to be despised oft and broken of his rest; and he that loveth his ease better, must be content with a mean condition far short of glory. Here then these meet not; there our hope is they shall, even both meet together,* and glory and rest kiss each the other; so the Prophet calleth it a "glorious rest." And the right hand addeth yet a degree farther, for dextera est pars potior. So that if there be any rest more easy, or any glory more glorious than other, there it is on that hand, on that side; and He placed in it in the best, in the chiefest, the fulness of them both. At God’s right hand is not only power, power while we be here to protect us with His might outward, and to support us with His grace inward; but at "His right hand also is the fulness of joy for ever," saith the Psalm;* joy, and the fulness of joy, and the fulness of it for evermore. This is meant by His seat at the right hand on the throne. And the same is our blessed hope also, that it is not His place only, and none but His, but even ours in expectation also. The love of His cross is to us a pledge of the hope of His throne, or whatsoever else He hath or is worth. For if God have given us Christ, and Christ thus given Himself, what hath God or Christ They will deny us? It is the Apostle’s own deduction.* To put it out of all doubt, hear we His own promise That never brake His word.* "To him that overcometh will I give to sit with Me in My throne." Where to sit is the fulness of our desire, the end of our race, omnia in omnibus; and farther we cannot go. Of a joy set before Him we spoke ere-while: here is now a joy set before us, another manner joy than was before Him; the worse was set before Him, the better before us, and this we are to run to. Thus do these two theories or sights, the one work to love, the other to hope, both to the well performing of our course; that in this theatre, between the Saints joyfully beholding us in our race, and Christ at our end ready to receive us, we may fulfil our "course with joy," and be partakers of the blessed rest of His most glorious throne. Let us now turn to Him and beseech Him, by the sight of this day, by Himself first, and by His cross and throne both—both which He hath set before us, the one to awake our love, the other to quicken our hope—that we may this day and ever lift up our eyes and heads, that we may this day and ever carry them in our eyes and hearts, look up to them both; so look that we may love the one, and wait and hope for the other; so love and so hope that by them both we may move and that swiftly, even run to Him; and running not faint, but so constantly run, that we fail not finally to attain the happy fruition of Himself, and of the joy and glory of His blessed throne; that so we may find and feel Him as this day here, the "Author;" so in that day there, the "Finisher of our faith," by the same our Lord Jesus Christ! Amen. Andrewes, L. (1841). Ninety-Six Sermons (Vol. 2). Oxford: John Henry Parker. (Public Domain) The Principle Wheat The Principle Wheat "The principal wheat."—Isaiah 28:25. THE prophet mentions it as a matter of wisdom on the part of the husbandman, that he knows what is the principal thing to cultivate, and makes it his principal care. The text, with the connection, runs thus,—"Does not the husbandman cast in the principal wheat?" He does not go to the granary and take out wheat, and cummin, and barley, and rye, and fling these about right and left, but he estimates the value of each grain, and arranges them in his mind accordingly. He does not think that cummin, and carroway, which he merely grows to give a flavour to his meal, are of half such importance as his bread-corn; and, though rye and barley have their values, yet he does not reckon that even these are equal to what he calls "the principal wheat." He is a man of discretion, he arranges things; he places the most important crop in the front rank, and spends upon it the most care. Here let us learn a lesson. Do keep things distinct in your minds—not huddled and muddled by a careless thoughtlessness. Do not live a confused life, without care and discretion, running all things into one; but sort things out, and divide and distinguish between the precious and the vile. See what this is worth, and what the other is worth, and set your matters in rank and order, making some of them principal, and others of them inferior. I suggest to you young people especially that, in starting life, you say to yourselves, "What shall we live for? There is a principal thing for which we ought to live, what shall it be?" Have you turned over that question, or have you gone at it hit or miss? What are you living for? What is your principal aim? Is it going to be that of the old gentleman in Horace who said to his boy, "Get money: get it honestly, if you can; but, by all means, get money." Will you be a money-spinner? Shall coin be your principal corn? Or will you choose a life of pleasure—"a short life and a merry one," as so many fools have said to their great sorrow? Is it in dissipation that your life is to be spent? Are thistles to be your principal crop? Because there is a pleasure in looking at a Scotch thistle, do you intend to grow acres of pleasurable vice? And will you make your bed upon them when you come to die? Search and see what is worthy of being the principal object in life; and, when you have found it out, then beseech the Holy Spirit to help you to choose that one thing, and to give all your powers and faculties to the cultivation of it. The farmer, who finds that wheat ought to be his principal crop, makes it so, and lays himself out with that end in view: learn from this to have a main object, and to give your whole mind to it. This farmer was wise, because he counted that to be principal which was the most needful. His family could do without cummin, which was but a flavouring. Perhaps the mistress might complain, or the cook might grumble, but that did not signify so much as it would do if the children cried for bread. They certainly must have wheat, for bread is the staff of life. It is bread that strengtheneth man’s heart, and therefore the farmer must grow wheat if he does not grow anything else. That which is necessary he regarded as the principal thing. Is not this common sense? If we were wisely to sit down and estimate, should we not say, "To be forgiven my sins, to be right with God, to be holy, to be fit to live eternally in heaven, is the greatest, the most needful thing for me, and therefore I will make it the principal object of my pursuit." A creature cannot be satisfied unless he is answering the end for which he is created; and the end of every intelligent creature is first, to glorify God, and next, to enjoy God. What a bliss it must be to enjoy God himself for ever and ever. Other things may be desirable, but this thing is needful. A competence of income, a measure of esteem among men, a degree of health—all these are the flavouring of life, but to be saved in the Lord with an everlasting salvation is life itself. Jesus Christ is the bread by which our soul’s best life is sustained. Oh, that we were all wise enough to feel that to be one with Christ is the one thing needful; that to be at peace with God is the principal thing; that to be brought into harmony with the Most High is the true music of our being. Other herbs may take their place in due order, but grace is the principal wheat, and we must cultivate it. This farmer was wise, because he made that to be the principal thing which was the most fit to be so. Of course, barley is useful as food, for nations have lived on barley bread, and lived healthily too; and rye has been the nutriment of millions: neither have they starved on oats, and other grains. Still, give me a piece of wheaten bread, for it is the best staff for life’s journey. This farmer knew that wheat was the most fitting food for man, and so he did not put the inferior grain, which might act as a substitute, into the prominent place; but he gave his wheat the preference. He did not say, "the principal barley," or "the principal rye," much less "the principal cummin," or "the principal fitches," but "the principal wheat." And what is there, brethren, that is so fit for the heart, the mind, the soul of man, as to know God and his Christ. Other mental foods, such as the fruits of knowledge, and the dainties of science, excellent though they may be—are inferior nutriment and unsuitable to build up the inner manhood. In my God and my Saviour, I find my heaven and my all. My soul sits down to a crumb of truth about Jesus, and finds great satisfaction in living upon it. The more we can know God, and enjoy God, and become like to God, and the more Christ is our daily bread, the more do we perceive the fitness of all this to our new-born natures. O beloved, make that to be your principal object which is the fittest pursuit of an immortal mind, "Religion is the chief concern Of mortals here below; May I its great importance learn, Its sovereign virtue know! "More needful this than glittering wealth, Or aught the world bestows; Not reputation, food, or health, Can give us such repose." Moreover, this farmer was wise, because he made that the principal thing which was the most profitable. Under certain circumstances, in our own country, wheat is not the most profitable thing which a man can grow; but, ordinarily, it is the best crop that the earth yields, and therefore the text speaks of "the principal wheat." Our grandfathers used to rely upon the wheat stack to pay their rent. They looked to their corn as the arm of their strength; and though it is not so now, it always was so of old, and perhaps it may yet be so again. Anyhow, the figure holds good with regard to true religion. That is the most profitable thing. I am told that rich men find it very hard to get hold of anything which yields five per cent. nowadays; but this blessed fear of the Lord is an extraordinarily profitable investment, for it does not yield a hundred per cent. or a thousand per cent., but a man begins with nothing and all things become his by faith. Being freely discharged of our sins, we are by overflowing grace greatly enriched, so that we number among our possessions heaven itself, Christ himself, God himself. All things are ours. Oh, what a blessed crop to sow! What a harvest comes of it! Godliness is profitable for the life that now is, and for that which is to come. Godliness is a blessing to a man’s body, it keeps him from drunkenness and vice; and it is a blessing to his soul, it makes him sweet and pure. It is a blessing to him every way. If I had to die like a dog, I would like to live like a Christian. If there were no hereafter, yet still, for comfort and for joy, give me the life of one who strives to live like Christ. There is a practical everyday truth in the verse— "’Tis religion that can give Sweetest pleasures while we live; ’Tis religion must supply Solid comfort when we die." Only that religion must not be of the common sort; it must have for its root a hearty faith in Jesus Christ. See ye to it. Our religion must be either everything or nothing, either first or nowhere. Make it "the principal wheat," and it will richly repay you. II. Secondly, the husbandman is a lesson to us because he gives this principal thing the principal place. I find that the Hebrew is rendered by some eminent scholars, "He puts the wheat into the principal place." That little handful of cummin for the wife to flavour the cakes with he grows in a corner; and the various herbs he places in their proper borders. The barley he sets in its plot, and the rye in its acre; but if there is a good bit of rich soil—the best he has—he appropriates it to the principal wheat. He gives his choicest fields to that which is to be the main means of his living. Now, here is a lesson for you and for me. Let us give to true godliness our principal powers and abilities. Let us give to the things of God our best and most intense thought. I pray you, do not take religion at second hand from what I tell you, or from what somebody else tells you; but think it over. Read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest the word of God. The thoughtful Christian is the growing Christian. Remember, the service of God deserves our first consideration and endeavour. We are poor things at our prime, but we ought to give the Lord nothing short of our best. God would not have us serve him heedlessly, but he would have us use all the brain and intellect and mind that we have in studying and practising his word. "Acquaint now thyself with him, and be at peace." "Meditate upon these things. Give thyself wholly to them." If your mind is more clear and active at one time than at another, then sow the principal wheat. If you feel more fresh and more inclined to think at one time of the day than at another, let your mind then go towards the best things. Be sure, also, to yield to this subject your most earnest love. The best field in the little estate of manhood is not the head, but the heart; sow the principal wheat there. Oh, to have true religion in the heart; to love what we know—intensely to love it; to hold it fast as with the grip of life and death—never to let it go! The Lord says, "My son, give me thy heart," and he will not be contented with anything less than our heart. Oh, when your zeal is most burning, and your love is most fervent, let the warmth and the fervency all go towards the Lord your God, and to the service of him who has redeemed you with his precious blood. Let the principal wheat have the principal part of your nature. Towards God and his Christ also turn your most fervent desires. When you enlarge your desire, desire Christ; when you become ambitious let your ambition be all for God. Let your hunger and your thirst be after righteousness. Let your aspirations and your longings be all towards holiness, and the things that shall make you like to Christ. Give to this principal wheat your principal desires. Then let the Lord have the attentive respect of your life. Let the principal wheat be sown in every action If we are truly Christians we must be as much Christians outside the church as in it. We shall try to make our eating and our drinking, and everything we do, tend to the glory of God. Draw no line between the secular and the religious part of your conduct, but let the secular be made religious by a devout desire to glorify God in the one as much as in the other. Let us worship God in the commonest duties of life, even as they do who stand before his throne. So it ought to be. Let us sow the principal wheat in all the fields of our conversation, in business, in the family, among our friends, and with our children. May we each one feel, "For me to live is Christ. I cannot live without Christ, or for anything but Christ." Let your whole nature yield itself to Jesus, and to none else. We should give to this principal wheat our most earnest labours. We should spend ourselves for the spread of the gospel. A Christian man ought to lay himself out to serve Jesus. I hate to see a professing man zealous in politics and lukewarm in devotion; all on fire at a parish vestry, and chill as winter when he comes to a prayer-meeting. Some fly like eagles when they are serving the world, but they have a broken wing in the service of God. This should not be. If anything could rouse us up, and make the lion within us roar in his strength, it should be when we confront the foes of Jesus or fight in his cause. Our Lord’s service is the principal wheat, let us labour most in connection with it. This, I think, should also take possession of us so as to lead to our greatest sacrifices. The love of Christ ought to be so strong as to swallow up self, and make sacrifice our daily joy. For Christ’s name’s sake we should be willing to endure poverty, reproach, slander, exile, death. Nothing should be dear to a Christian in comparison with Christ. Now, I will put it to you whether it is so or no. Is the love of Jesus the principal wheat with us? Are we giving our religion the chief place or not? I am afraid some people treat religion as certain gentlemen treat an off-hand farm; they put a bailiff into it, and only give an eye to it now and then. Their minister is the bailiff, and they expect him to see to it for them. These off-hand farms are losing concerns. Look at these half-and-half brethren. They have religion? Certainly. But they are like the man of whom the child spoke at the Sunday-school. "Is your father a Christian?" said the teacher. "Yes," said the child, "but he has not worked much at it lately." I could point out several of this sort, who are sowing their wheat very sparingly, and choosing the most barren patch to sow it in. They profess to be Christians, but religion is a tenth-rate article on their farm. Some have a large acreage for the world, and a poor little plot for Christ. They are growers of worldly pleasure and self-indulgence, and they sow a little religion by the roadside for appearance sake. This will not do. God will not thus be mocked. If we despise him and his truth we shall be lightly esteemed. O come let us give our principal time, talent, thought, effort to that which is the chief concern of immortal spirits. May we imitate the husbandman who gives the principal wheat the principal place in his farm. III. Let us learn a third lesson. The husbandman selects the principal seed-corn when he is sowing his wheat. When a farmer is setting aside wheat for sowing, he does not choose the tail corn and the worst of his produce, but if he is a sensible man he likes to sow the best wheat in the world. Many farmers search the country round for a good sample of wheat for sowing, for they do not expect to get a good harvest out of bad seed. The husbandman is taught of God to put into the ground "the principal wheat." Let me learn that if I am going to sow to the Lord and to be a Christian, I should sow the best kind of Christianity. I should try to do this, first, by believing the weightiest doctrines. I would believe not this "ism," nor that, but the unadulterated truth which Jesus taught; for a holy character will only grow by the Spirit of God out of true doctrine. Falsehood breeds sin: truth begets and fosters holiness. You and I therefore ought to select our seed carefully, and cast out all error. If we are wise we shall think most of the most important truths, for I have known people attach the greatest importance to the smallest things. They fight over the fitches, and leave the wheat to the crows. As for me, those who will may dispute over vials and trumpets, I shall mainly preach the doctrine of the precious blood and the glorious truths of substitution and atonement. These doctrines are the principal wheat, and therefore these shall have my choice. Next to that, we ought to sow the noblest examples. Many men are dwarfed because they choose a bad model to start with. They imitate dear old Mr. So-and-so till they grow wonderfully like him with the best of him left out. A minister happens to be of a gloomy turn of mind, and he preaches the deep experience of the children of God, and in consequence a band of good people think it their duty to be melancholy. Why need they fall into a ditch because their leader has splashed himself? We should never copy any man’s infirmities. To be like Paul there is no need to have weak eyes; to be like Thomas there is no necessity to doubt. If you copy any good man, there is a point at which you ought to stop short. If I must have a human model, I would prefer one of the bravest of the saints of God; but oh how much better to follow that perfect pattern which you have in Christ Jesus! We should sow the best wheat by seeing that we have the purest spirit. Alas! how soon do spirits become soiled by self or pride, or despondency or sloth, or some earthly taint. But what a grand thing it is to live in the spirit of Christ. May we be humble, lowly, bold, self-sacrificing, pure, chaste, and holy. And, then, there is one more mode of sowing selected seed. We should endeavour to live in the closest communion with God. A dear brother prayed just now that we might have as much grace as we were capable of receiving, and that God would bring us into such a state that we might not hinder him in anything which he willed to do by us. This is a good prayer. It should be our desire to rise to the highest form of spiritual life. If you sow this principal wheat, get the best sort of it. There is a spirit and a spirit; and there are doctrines and doctrines; the best is the best for you. O young men, if you mean to have piety, go in for it thoroughly. Do not sneak through the world as if you were ashamed of your Lord. If you are Christ’s show your colours. Rally to his banner, gather to his trumpet call, and then stand up, stand up for Jesus. If there is any manhood in you, this great cause calls for it all; exhibit it, and may the Spirit of God help you so to do. IV. Fourthly, the husbandman grows the principal wheat with the principal care. Some critics say that the proper translation is that the husbandman plants his wheat in rows. It is said that the large crops in Palestine in olden time were due to the fact that they planted the wheat. They set it in lines, so that it was not checked or suffocated by its being too thick in one place, neither was there any fear of its being too thin in another. The wheat was planted, and then streams of water were turned by the foot to each particular plant. No wonder, therefore, that the land brought forth abundantly. We should give our principal care to the principal thing. Our godliness should be carried out with discretion and care. Brethren, are we careful enough as to our religious walk? Have you ever searched to the bottom of your profession? Why do you happen to be members of a certain church? Your mother was so. Well, there is some good in that reason, but not enough to justify you in the sight of God. I pray you judge your standing. If any Christian minister is afraid to urge you to this duty I stand in doubt of him I am not at all afraid. I beg you to examine all that I teach you, for I would not like to be responsible for another man’s creed. Like the Bereans, search and see whether these things be according to Scripture or not. One of the greatest blessings that could come upon the church would be a searching spirit which would refer everything to the Holy Scriptures. If they speak not according to this word it is because there is no light in them. Do your service to God as carefully as the eastern farmer planted his wheat, when he set it in rows with great orderliness and exactness. You serve a precise God, therefore serve him precisely. He is a jealous God, therefore be jealous of the least taint of error or will-worship. Take care, also, that you water every part of your religion, as the farmer watered each plant. Pray for grace from on high that you may never be parched and dried up. Perform to your faith, to your hope, to your love, and to all the plants that are in your soul every other service which the husbandman renders to his wheat. Give grace your principal care, for it deserves it. V. With this I close. Do this, because from this you may expect your principal crop. If religion be the principal thing, you may look to religion for your principal reward. The harvest will come to you in various ways. You will make the greatest success in this life if you wholly live to the glory of God. Success or failure must much depend upon the fitness of our object. It is of no use my attempting to sing, for I shall never be able to conduct a choir. I could not succeed in that, but if I preach, I may succeed, for that is my work. Now you, Christian man, if you try to live to the world you will not prosper, for you are not fitted for it. Grace has spoiled you for sin. If you live to God with all your heart you will succeed in it, for God has made you on purpose for it. As he made the fish for the water, and the birds for the air, so he made the believer for holiness, and for the service of God; and you will be out of your element, a fish out of water, or a bird in the stream, if you leave the service of God. The Eastern farmer’s prosperity hinges on his wheat, and yours upon your devotion to God. It is to Godliness that you must look for your joy. Is there any bliss like the bliss of knowing that you are in Christ, and are the beloved of the Lord? It is to your religion that you must look for comfort on a sick and dying bed, and you may be there very soon. In the world to come what a crop, what a harvest will come of serving the Lord! What will come out of all else? What but mere smoke? A man has made a million of money, and he is dead. What has he got by his wealth? A man’s fame rings throughout the earth as a great and successful warrior, and he is dead. What has he as the result of all his honours? To live to the world is like playing with boys in the street for halfpence, or with babes for bits of platter and oyster shells. Life for God is real and substantial, but all else is waste. Let us think so, and gird up our loins to serve the Lord. May the divine Spirit help us to sow "the principal wheat," and to live in joyful expectation of reaping a happy harvest according to the promise, "They that sow in tears shall reap in joy." Spurgeon, C. H. (1882). Farm Sermons. New York: Passmore and Alabaster. (Public Domain) Comments are closed.