SOWING AND REAPING
D. L. MOODY.
'Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.'
Gal. vi: 7.
Chicago: New York: Toronto
Fleming H. Revell Company
Publishers of Evangelical Literature
Copyright 1896 by
Fleming H. Revell Company.
I. Sowing and Reaping
II. Be Not Deceived: God Is Not Mocked
III. When a Man Sows, He Expects to Reap
IV. A Man Reaps the Same Kind as He Sows
V. A Man Reaps More than He Sows
VI. Ignorance of the Seed Makes No Difference
VII. Forgiveness and Retribution
SOWING AND REAPING
SOWING AND REAPING.
"Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting." Galatians vi: 7, 8.
I think this passage contains truths that no infidel or sceptic will dare to deny. There are some passages in the Word of God that need no other proof than that which we can easily find in our daily experience. This is one of them. If the Bible were to be blotted out of existence, the words I have quoted would be abundantly verified by what is constantly happening around us. We have only to take up the daily papers to see them being fulfilled before our eyes.
I remember giving out this text once when a man stood right up in the audience and said:
"I don't believe it."
I said, "My friend, that doesn't change the fact. Truth is truth whether you believe it or not, and a lie is a lie whether you believe it or not."
He didn't want to believe it. When the meeting broke up, an officer was at the door to arrest him. He was tried and sent to the penitentiary for twelve months for stealing. I really believe that when he got into his cell, he believed that he had to reap what he sowed.
We might as well try to blot the sun out of the heavens as to blot this truth out of the Word of God. It is heaven's eternal decree. The law has been enforced for six thousand years. Did not God make Adam reap even before he left Eden? Had not Cain to reap outside of Eden? A king on the throne, like David, or a priest behind the altar, like Eli; priest and prophet, preacher and hearer, every man must reap what he sows. I believed it ten years ago, but I believe it a hundred times more to-day.
My text applies to the individual, whether he be saint or sinner or hypocrite who thinks he is a saint; it applies to the family; it applies to society; it applies to nations. I say the law that the result of actions must be reaped is as true for nations as for individuals; indeed, some one has said that as nations have no future existence, the present world is the only place to punish them as nations. See how God has dealt with them. See if they have not reaped what they sowed. Take Amalek: "Remember what Amalek did unto thee by the way, when ye were come forth out of Egypt; how he met thee, by the way, and smote the hindmost of thee, even all that were feeble behind thee, when thou wast faint and weary; and he feared not God." What was to be the result of this attack? Was it to go unpunished? God ordained that Amalek should reap as they sowed, and the nation was all but wiped out of existence under King Saul.
What has become of the monarchies and empires of the world? What brought ruin on Babylon? Her king and people would not obey God, and ruin came upon them. What has become of Greece and all her power? She once ruled the world. What has become of Rome and all her greatness? When their cup of iniquity was full, it was dashed to the ground. What has become of the Jews? They rejected salvation, persecuted God's messengers, and crucified their Redeemer; and we find that eleven hundred thousand of them perished at one time. Look at the history of this country. With an open Bible, our forefathers planted slavery; but judgment came at last. There was not a family North or South that had not to mourn over some one taken from them. Take the case of France. It is said that a century ago men were spending millions every year in France in the publication and distribution of infidel literature. What has been the harvest? Has France not reaped? Mark the result: "The Bible was suppressed. God was denied. Hell broke loose. Half the children born in Paris were bastards. More than a million of persons were beheaded, shot, drowned, outraged, and done to death between September, 1792, and December, 1795. Since that time France has had thirteen revolutions in eighty years; and in the republic there has been an overturn on an average once in nine months. One-third of the births in Paris are illegitimate; ten thousand new-born infants have been fished out at the outlet of the city sewers in a single year; the native population of France is decreasing; the percentage of suicides is greater in Paris than in any city in Christendom; and since the French Revolution there have been enough French men and women slaughtered in the streets of Paris in the various insurrections, to average more than two thousand five hundred each year!"
The principle was not new in Scripture or in history when Paul enunciated it in his letter to the Galatians. Paul clothes it in language derived from the farm, but in other dress the Law of Sowing and Reaping may be seen in the Law of Cause and Effect, the Law of Retribution or Retaliation, the Law of Compensation. It is not to my purpose to enter now into a philosophical discussion of the law as it appears under any of these names. We see that it exists. It is beyond reasonable dispute. Whatever else sceptics may carp at and criticise in the Bible, they must acknowledge the truth of this. It does not depend upon revelation for its support; philosophers are agreed upon it as much as they are agreed upon any thing.
The Supremacy of Law.
The objection may be made, however, that while its application may be admitted in the physical world, it is not so certain in the spiritual sphere. It is just here that modern research steps in. The laws of the spiritual world have been largely identified as the same laws that exist in the natural world. Indeed, it is claimed that the spiritual existed first, that the natural came after, and that when God proceeded to frame the universe, He went upon lines already laid down. In short, that God projected the higher laws downward, so that the natural world became "an incarnation, a visible representation, a working model of the supernatural." "In the spiritual world the same wheels work—without the iron."
Our whole life is thus bounded and governed by laws ordained and established by God, and that a man reaps what he sows is a law that can be easily observed and verified, whether we regard sowing to the flesh or sowing to the Spirit. The evil harvest of sin and the good harvest of righteousness are as sure to follow the sowing as the harvest of wheat and barley. "Life is not casual, but causal."
We shall see, as we proceed, that the working of the law is evident in the earliest periods of Bible history. Job's three friends reasoned that he must be a great sinner, because they took it for granted that the calamities that overtook him must be the results of his wickedness. "Remember, I pray thee," said one of them, "who ever perished, being innocent? or where were the righteous cut off? Even as I have seen, they that plough iniquity, and sow wickedness, reap the same."
In the book of Proverbs we find it written: "The wicked worketh a deceitful work: but to him that soweth righteousness shall be a sure reward." And again: "He that soweth iniquity shall reap vanity."
In Isaiah we find these words: "Say ye to the righteous that it shall be well with him; for they shall eat the fruit of their doings. Woe unto the wicked! it shall be ill with him: for the reward of his hands shall be given him."
Hosea prophesied regarding Israel: "They have sown the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind." "Sow to yourselves in righteousness," he advised them, "reap in mercy."
Teaching from Analogy.
The Bible is full of analogies drawn from nature. When Christ was on earth, it was His favorite mode of teaching to convey heavenly truths in earthly dress. "Truths came forth from His lips," wrote one, "not stated simply on authority, but based on the analogy of the universe. His human mind, in perfect harmony with the Divine mind with which it was united, discerned the connection of things, and read the eternal will in the simplest laws of nature. For instance, if it were a question whether God would give His Spirit to them that asked, it was not replied to by a truth revealed on His authority: the answer was derived from facts lying open to all men's observation. 'Behold the fowls of the air'; 'behold the lilies of the field'—learn from them the answer to your question. A principle was there. God supplies the wants He has created. He feeds the ravens—He clothes the lilies—He will feed with His Spirit the craving spirits of His children."
This is the style of teaching that Paul adopts in the text. He takes the simple process of sowing and reaping, a process familiar to all, and reads in it a deeply spiritual and moral meaning. It is as if he said that every man as he journeys through life is scattering seed at every step. The seed consists of his thoughts, his words, his actions. They pass from him, and by and by (it may be sooner or later), they spring up and bear fruit, and the reaping time comes.
Life a Seed-Time.
The analogy contains some solemn lessons. Life is to be regarded as a seed-time. Every one has his field to sow, to cultivate, and finally, to reap. By our habits, by our intercourse with friends and companions, by exposing ourselves to good or bad influences, we are cultivating the seed for the coming harvest. We cannot see the seed as it grows and develops, but time will reveal it.
Just as the full-grown harvest is potentially contained in the seed, so the full results of sin or holiness are potentially contained in the sinful or holy deed. "When lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin, and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death."
Just as we cannot reap a good harvest unless we have sown good seed, so we cannot reap eternal life unless we have sown to the Spirit. Weeds are easy to grow. They grow without the planting. And sin springs up naturally in the human heart. Ever since our first parents broke away from God, the human heart has of itself been thoroughly vile, and all its fruits have been evil. "The heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil." Do you doubt it? If you do, ask yourself what would become of a child if it was left to itself—no training, no guidance, no education. In spite of all that is done for children, the evil too often gets the upper hand. The good seed must be planted and cared for, often with toil and trouble: but the harvest will be sure.
Do we desire the love of our fellows in our seasons of trial? Then we must love them when they need its cheering influence most. Do we long for sympathy in our sorrow and pain? Then we shall have it if we have also wept with those who weep. Are we hoping to reap eternal life? Then we must not sow to the flesh, or we shall reap corruption, but to the Spirit, then the promise is that we shall reap its immortal fruits.
Dr. Chalmers has drawn attention to the difference between the act of sowing and the act of reaping. "Let it be observed," he says, "that the act of indulging in the desires of the flesh is one thing and the act of providing for the indulgence of them is another. When a man, on the impulse of sudden provocation, wreaks his resentful feelings upon the neighbor who has offended him, he is not at that time preparing for the indulgence of a carnal feeling, but actually indulging it. He is not at that time sowing, but reaping (such as it is) a harvest of gratification. This distinction may serve to assist our judgment in estimating the ungodliness of certain characters. The rambling voluptuary who is carried along by every impulse, and all whose powers of mental discipline are so enfeebled that he has become the slave of every propensity, lives in the perpetual harvest of criminal gratification. A daughter whose sole delight is in her rapid transitions from one scene of expensive brilliancy to another, who dissipates every care and fills every hour among the frivolities and fascinations of her volatile society,—she leads a life than which nothing can be imagined more opposite to a life of preparation for the coming judgment or the coming eternity. Yet she reaps rather than sows. It lies with another to gather the money which purchaseth all things, and with her to taste the fruits of the purchase. It is the father who sows. It is he who sits in busy and brooding anxiety over his speculations, wrinkled, perhaps, by care, and sobered by years into an utter distaste for the splendors and insignificancies of fashionable life." The father sows, and he reaps in his daughter's life.
"Painting for Eternity."
A famous painter was well known for the careful manner in which he went about his work. When some one asked him why he took such pains, he replied:
"Because I am painting for eternity."
It is a solemn thing to think that the future will be the harvest of the present—that my condition in my dying hour may depend upon my actions to-day! Belief in a future life and in a coming judgment magnifies the importance of the present. Eternal issues depend upon it. The opportunity for sowing will not last forever; it is slipping through our fingers moment by moment; and the future can only reveal the harvest of the seed sown now.
A sculptor once showed a visitor his studio. It was full of statues of gods. One was very curious. The face was concealed by being covered with hair, and there were wings on each foot.
"What is his name?" said the visitor.
"Opportunity," was the reply.
"Why is his face hidden?"
"Because men seldom know him when he comes to them."
"Why has he wings on his feet?"
"Because he is soon gone, and once gone can never be overtaken."
It becomes us, then, to make the most of the opportunities God has given us. It depends a good deal on ourselves what our future shall be. We can sow for a good harvest, or we can do like the Sioux Indians, who once, when the United States Commissioner of Indian Affairs sent them a supply of grain for sowing, ate it up. Men are constantly sacrificing their eternal future to the passing enjoyment of the present moment; they fail or neglect to recognize the dependence of the future upon the present.
From this we may learn that there is no such thing as a trifle on earth. When we realize that every thought and word and act has an eternal influence, and will come back to us in the same way as the seed returns in the harvest, we must perceive their responsibility, however trifling they may seem. We are apt to overlook the results that hinge on small things. The law of gravitation was suggested by the fall of an apple. It is said that some years ago a Harvard professor brought some gypsy-moths to this country in the hope that they could with advantage be crossed with silkworms. The moths accidentally got away, and multiplied so enormously that the Commonwealth of Massachusetts has had to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars trying to exterminate them.
When H. M. Stanley was pressing his way through the forests of Darkest Africa, the most formidable foes that he encountered, those that caused most loss of life to his caravan and came the nearest to entirely defeating his expedition, were the little Wambutti dwarfs. So annoying were they that very slow progress could be made through their dwelling places.
These little men had only little bows and little arrows that looked like children's playthings, but upon these tiny arrows there was a small drop of poison which would kill an elephant or a man as quickly and as surely as a Winchester rifle. Their defense was by means of poison and traps. They would steal through the darkness of the forest and, waiting in ambush, let fly their deadly arrows before they could be discovered. They dug ditches and carefully covered them over with leaves. They fixed spikes in the ground and tipped them with the most deadly poison, and then covered them. Into these ditches and on these spikes man and beast would fall or step to their death.
A lady once writing to a young man in the navy who was almost a stranger, thought "Shall I close this as anybody would, or shall I say a word for my Master?" and, lifting up her heart for a moment, she wrote, telling him that his constant change of scene and place was an apt illustration of the word, "Here we have no continuing city," and asked if he could say: "I seek one to come." Tremblingly she folded it and sent it off.
Back came the answer. "Thank you so much for those kind words! I am an orphan, and no one has spoken to me like that since my mother died, long years ago." The arrow shot at venture hit home, and the young man shortly after rejoiced in the fulness of the blessing of the gospel of peace.
An obscure man preached one Sunday to a few persons in a Methodist chapel in the South of England. A boy of fifteen years of age was in the audience, driven into the chapel by a snowstorm. The man took as his text the words, "Look unto me and be ye saved," and as he stumbled along as best he could, the light of heaven flashed into that boy's heart. He went out of the chapel saved, and soon became known as C. H. Spurgeon, the boy-preacher.
The parsonage at Epworth, England, caught fire one night, and all the inmates were rescued except one son. The boy came to a window, and was brought safely to the ground by two farm-hands, one standing on the shoulder of the other. The boy was John Wesley. If you would realize the responsibility of that incident, if you would measure the consequences of that rescue, ask the millions of Methodists who look back to John Wesley as the founder of their denomination.
BE NOT DECEIVED; GOD IS NOT MOCKED.
"Let no man deceive you."—Eph. v: 6.
"As one man mocketh another, do ye so mock Him?"—Job xiii: 9.
Be Not Deceived: God Is Not Mocked.
We have all lived long enough to know what it is to be deceived. We have been deceived by our friends, by our enemies, our neighbors, our relatives. Ungodly companions have deceived us. At every turn of life we have been imposed upon in one way or another.
False teachers have crossed our path, and under pretence of doing us good, have poisoned our mind with error. They have held out hopes to us that have proved false; apples of Sodom, fair without, but full of ashes within. They have told us that there is no God, no future life, no judgment to come; or they have said that all men will be saved, that there is ample time to repent, that we may be saved by doing the best we can.
Sin has deceived us. Every sinner is under a delusion. Sin meets him smilingly, and holds out to him pleasures and delights that are not pure and lasting.
During our meetings in Boston a young man came into the Tabernacle. He looked around, and he thought to himself the people that came there were great fools—those who had business, and comfortable homes, and good clothes. He had nothing in the world—he was a tramp, and went in there to keep himself warm. But to think that people who had homes would come and spend their time in listening to such stuff as I preached was more than he could understand.
One night after he had been coming there for two weeks, I happened to point right down where he was sitting, and I said, "Young man, be not deceived!" God used that as an arrow. He began to think about himself. His mind went back to the time when he had a good situation in Boston; when he was a young man getting a good salary; when he was in good society, and had a great many friends.
Then he looked at his present condition. His friends were all gone, his clothes were gone, his money was gone; and there he was, an outcast in that city. He said to himself, "I have been deceived," and that very hour God waked him. He wanted to get friends to pray for him; but as he was not able to buy a piece of paper, or pay for a postage stamp, he got an old piece of soiled paper, stood up in the street, and wrote a request to be read in the Tabernacle, that if God would save a poor, lost man like him, he wanted to be saved. That prayer was answered. As in the case of Nebuchadnezzar, his friends gathered around him again, and the Lord restored him to position and to society. His eyes were opened to see how he had been deceived.
How many men all over the world are being deceived by the god of this world! It has been asserted that during the late Franco-German war, German drummers and trumpeters used to give the French beats and calls in order to deceive their enemies. The command to "halt," or "cease firing," was often given by the Germans, it has been said, and the French soldiers were thus placed in positions where they could be shot down like cattle.
Satan is the arch-enemy of our souls, and he has often blinded our reason and deceived our conscience by his falsehoods. He has often come as an angel of light, concealing his hideousness under a borrowed cloak. He says to a young man: "Sow your wild oats. Time enough to be religious when you grow old." The young man yields himself to a life of extravagance and excess, under the false hope that he will obtain solid satisfaction; and it is well if he awakens to the deception before his appetites become tyrants, dragging him down into depths of want and woe. Satan promises great things to his victims in the indulgence of their lusts, but they never realize the promises. The promised pleasure turns out to be pain, the promised heaven a hell.
Beware lest Satan deceive you as he deceived Eve in the beginning. "There is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own, for he is a liar, and the father of it."
But we have been deceived by our own heart most of all. Who has not proved the truth of the Scripture: "The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked; who can know it?" How many times we have said that we never would do a certain thing again, and then have done it within twenty-four hours! A man may think he has fathomed its depths, but he finds there are further depths he has not reached. What gross self-deception is due to it! "He that trusteth in his own heart is a fool," said Solomon. Luther once said he feared his own heart more than the Pope and all the cardinals.
Many a weeping wife has come to me about her husband, saying: "He is good at heart." The truth is—that is the worst spot in him. If the heart was good, all else would be right. Out of the heart are the issues of life. Christ said: "From within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness." That is Christ's own statement regarding the unregenerate heart.
Some years ago a remarkable picture was exhibited in London. As you looked at it from a distance, you seemed to see a monk engaged in prayer, his hands clasped, his head bowed. As you came nearer, however, and examined the painting more closely, you saw that in reality he was squeezing a lemon into a punchbowl!
What a picture that is of the human heart! Superficially examined, it is thought to be the seat of all that is good and noble and pleasing in a man; whereas in reality, until regenerated by the Holy Ghost, it is the seat of all corruption. "This is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light."
A Jewish rabbi once asked his scholars what was the best thing a man could have in order to keep him in the straight path. One said a good disposition; another, a good companion; another said wisdom was the best thing he could desire. At last a scholar replied that he thought a good heart was best of all.
"True," said the rabbi, "you have comprehended all that the others have said. For he that hath a good heart will be of a good disposition, and a good companion, and a wise man. Let every one, therefore, cultivate a sincerity and uprightness of heart at all times, and it will save him an abundance of sorrow." We need to make the prayer of David—"Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me!"
God Is Not Mocked.
Bear in mind, the God of the Bible has never deceived anyone, and never can, and never will; that is the difference between the God of the Bible and the god of this world. He beholds the ways of men; He looks into their hearts; He knows their secret ways; they need not tell Him or try to conceal anything from Him.
However successfully we may deceive or be deceived by ourselves or others, we cannot deceive Him. Adam and Eve tried it in Eden when they hid themselves from the presence of Jehovah amongst the trees of the garden. Saul tried it when he spared the best of the sheep and oxen of the Amalekites under the pretence of sacrificing them to God. Ananias and Sapphira tried it when they kept back part of the price of the land they sold. "Why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie unto (deceive) the Holy Ghost? * * * Thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God."
Men try it every day. They have got it into their heads that God can be mocked. Because they can deceive their pastor, and their employer, and their friends, they think they can deceive God. They put on false appearances, they use empty words, they perform unreal service, they make idle excuses, they indulge in all kinds of hypocrisy. But it is of no avail. God cannot be imposed upon. He sees the corruption inside the whited sepulchre.
Warning to Christians.
It is worth noticing that this warning was given by Paul to Christian men—converts in the Galatian church. After all, a man is not all the time deceived about the grosser sins. The drunkard realizes in his sober moments what must be the end of a course of intemperance. Loss of self-respect and of the esteem of friends, the marks he soon begins to bear in his body—unsteady hands and discolored features—these things are the quick harvest of drunkenness, and may easily be detected as they ripen. The licentious man, also, reaps the early fruit of his sin in diseases of the body, which are often effective warnings against continuing in such a dangerous path. But with "respectable" sins it is different. A man may be sowing for years, and not even realize it himself.
You remember that in the parable of the sower some seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns sprung up and choked them. Our Master, expounding this parable, said: "He that received seed among the thorns is he that heareth the word: but the care of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful." Who would have expected this result of the world or of riches? But it has been said that Christ never spoke of riches except in words of warning. We are not apt to regard them in that light to-day. Men are trampling each other down in the pursuit of wealth. "Be not deceived." He who sets his heart upon money is sowing to the flesh, and shall of the flesh reap corruption. "Adversity hath slain her thousands, but prosperity her tens of thousands."
"What is the value of this estate?" said a gentleman to another, as they passed a fine mansion surrounded by fair and fertile fields.
"I don't know what it is valued at; I know what it cost its late possessor."
An English clergyman was called to the death-bed of a wealthy parishioner. Kneeling beside the dying man the pastor asked him to take his hand as he prayed for his upholding in that solemn hour, but he declined to give it. After the end had come, and they turned down the coverlet, the rigid hands were found holding the safe-key in their death-grip. Heart and hand, to the last, clinging to his possessions, but he could not take them with him.
A man may be proud, and his very sin reckoned a virtue. Hear what the Word of God says: "Haughtiness of eyes and a proud heart is sin"; "every one that is proud in heart is an abomination to the Lord."
These are the mistakes men make. They are leading respectable lives, and they think that all is well. They do not recognize the taint of corruption upon many of the most cherished objects of their hearts. Christian professors, most of all, need to beware lest they are being deceived.
How watchful men should be of their thoughts, their practices, their feelings! The reason of deception is, for the most part, neglect. Men do not stop to examine themselves, to lay their hearts and minds bare as in the sight of God, and judge themselves by His most holy will. A man need not shoot himself in order to commit suicide: he need only neglect the proper means of sustenance, and he will soon die. Where an enemy is strong and aggressive, an army is doomed to sure defeat and capture unless a sharp look-out is kept, every man wide awake at his post of duty.
It has been noticed that there are more accidents in Switzerland in fine seasons than in stormy ones. People are apt to undertake expeditions that they would not take under less favorable conditions, and they are less careful in their conduct. And so it is that moral and spiritual disaster usually overtakes men when they are off their guard, careless against temptation. They become proud and self-reliant in seasons of prosperity, whereas adversity drives them to the living God for guidance and comfort.
Dr. Johnson once said that it is more from carelessness regarding the truth than from intentional lying that there is so much falsehood in the world.
Hence the necessity of continual watchfulness. The Persians had an annual festival when they slew all the serpents and venomous creatures they could find; but they allowed them to swarm as fast and freely as ever until the festival came round once more. It was poor policy. Sins, like serpents, breed quickly, and need to be constantly watched.
And we ought to watch on every side. Many a man has fallen at the very point where he thought he was safest. The meekness of Moses has passed into a proverb. Yet he lost the Promised Land, because he allowed the children of Israel to provoke him, and "he spake unadvisedly with his lips." Peter was the most zealous and defiant of the disciples, bold and outspoken; yet he degenerated for a short time into a lying, swearing, sneaking coward, afraid of a maid.
There is an old fable that a doe that had but one eye used to graze near the sea; and in order to be safe, she kept her blind eye toward the water, from which side she expected no danger, while with the good eye she watched the country. Some men, perceiving this, took a boat and came upon her from the sea and shot her. With her dying breath, she said:
"Oh! hard fate! that I should receive my death-wound from that side whence I expected no harm, and be safe in the part where I looked for most danger."
Let danger and need drive you closer to God. He never slumbers or sleeps, and in His keeping you will be safe. Seize hold of Him in prayer. "Watch and pray."
Christianity Not Responsible.
Christianity is not responsible for the deception that exists among its professing disciples. The illustration has been used before that you might just as reasonably hold the Cunard company responsible for the suicide of a passenger who jumps overboard one of their vessels at sea. Had the person remained on the vessel, he would have been safe; and had the disciple remained true to his principles, he would never have turned out a hypocrite. Was anybody ever more severe in denouncing hypocrisy than Christ? Do you want to know the reason why, every now and then, the church is scandalized by the exposure of some leading church member or Sabbath school superintendent? It is not his Christianity, but his lack of it. Some secret sin has been eating at the heart of the tree, and in a critical moment it is blown down and its rottenness revealed.
The Deception Can Not Last Forever.
It is impossible for the deception to last forever. Lincoln had a saying that you may be able to deceive all the people some of the time, and some of the people all of the time, but you will not be able to deceive all the people all of the time. Death will uncover the deception, if it has not been detected sooner; and the unfortunate victim will stand, undeceived, in the presence of a God who cannot be mocked.
WHEN A MAN SOWS, HE EXPECTS TO REAP.
"Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain."—James v: 7.
When a Man Sows, He Expects to Reap.
Notice these four things about sowing and reaping: A man expects to reap when he sows; he expects to reap the same kind of seed that he sows; he expects to reap more; and ignorance of the kind of seed makes no difference.
First: When a man sows, he expects to reap.
If a farmer went on sowing, spring after spring, and never reaping in the autumn, you would say he was a fit subject for the lunatic asylum. No; he is always looking forward to the time when he will reap the reward of his toil. He never expects that the seed he has sown will be lost.
A young man serves a long apprenticeship to some trade or profession; but he expects by and by to reap the fruit of all those years of patient industry. Ask an engineer why he works so hard for five, six, or seven years in the endeavor to learn his profession. He replies that he is looking forward to the reaping time, when his fortune and reputation will be made. The lawyer studies long and hard; but he, too, anticipates the time when his clients will be numerous, and he will be repaid for his toil. A great many medical students have a hard time trying to support themselves while they are at college. As soon as they get their diploma and become doctors they expect that the reaping time is coming; that is what they have been working for.
Some harvests ripen almost immediately, but as a rule we find it true in the natural world that there is delay before the seed comes to maturity. It is growing all the time, however; first the little green shoot breaking through the soil, then the blade, then the ear, then the full corn in the ear. The farmer is not disappointed because all his crops do not spring up in a night like mushrooms. He looks forward with patience, knowing that the reaping time will come in due season.
So with the harvest of our actions. Few men, if any, would indulge in sin unless they expected pleasure out of it. A drunkard does not drink for the mere sake of drinking, but in the hope of present enjoyment. A thief does not steal for the mere sake of stealing, but for the sake of gain. And similarly with the good man. He does not make sacrifices merely for the sake of sacrifice, but because thereby he hopes and expects to do good, and help others. All these things are means to ends: there is always expectation of a harvest.
The Certainty of the Reaping.
The text bids us look forward to the certainty of the reaping: "Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap."
We know what it is to have a failure of the crops, but in the spiritual world no such failure is possible. Wet soil may rot the seed, or frost may nip the early buds, or the weather may prove too wet or too dry to bring the crops to maturity, but none of these things occur to prevent the harvest of one's actions. The Bible tells us that God will render to every man according to his deeds. "To them who by patient continuance in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life: but unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish upon every soul of man that doeth evil." How careful we should be of our actions in all departments of our being, physical, moral, intellectual! The deeds we do, the words we speak, the thoughts we harbor, are all recorded, and shall meet their just reward, for God is no respecter of persons.
And it must not be overlooked that the harvest comes as a necessary consequence of the sowing. It has been said that God is not a sort of a moral despot, as He is so frequently regarded. He does not sit on a throne, attaching penalties to particular actions as they come up for judgment. He has laid down certain laws, of which the law of sowing and reaping is one, and punishment is the natural outcome of sin. There is no escape. It must be borne; and though others may have to reap with you, no one can reap for you.
The text teaches, further, that the harvest is one or other of two kinds. There are two, and only two, directions in which the law leads: Sowing to the flesh, and a harvest of corruption—sowing to the Spirit, and a harvest of everlasting life.
Sowing to the Flesh.
"Sowing to the flesh" does not mean simply taking due care of the body. The body was made in the image of God, and the body of a believer is a temple of the Holy Ghost, and we may be sure that due care for the image is well-pleasing to God. The expression refers rather to pandering to the lusts of the body, pampering it, providing gratification for its unlawful desires at the expense of the higher part of a man, indulging the animal propensities which in their excess are sinful. "Sowing to the flesh" is scattering the seeds of selfishness, which always must yield a harvest of corruption.
"When we were in the flesh, the motions of sins did work in our members to bring forth fruit unto death." And what does Paul say are the works of the flesh? "Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like."
I was at the Paris exhibition in 1867, and I noticed there a little oil painting, only about a foot square, and the face was the most hideous I have ever seen. On the paper attached to the painting were the words "Sowing the tares," and the face looked more like a demon's than a man's. As he sowed these tares, up came serpents and reptiles, and they were crawling up on his body, and all around were woods with wolves and animals prowling in them. I have seen that picture many times since. Ah! the reaping time is coming. If you sow to the flesh you must reap the flesh. If you sow to the wind you must reap the whirlwind.
And yet it must not be thought that indulgence in the grosser vices is the only way of sowing to the flesh. Every desire, every action that has not God for its end and object is seed sown to the flesh. If a man is sowing for a harvest of money or ambition, he is sowing to the flesh, and will reap corruption, just as surely as the liar and adulterer. No matter how "polite" and "refined" and "respectable" the seed may be, no matter how closely it resembles the good seed, its true nature will out, the blight of corruption will be upon it.
How foolish are the strivings of men in view of this judgment! Many a man will sacrifice time, health—even his character—for money. What does he gain? Corruption; something that is not eternal, that has not the qualities of "everlasting life." John said, "The world passeth away, and the lust thereof." Peter said, "All flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away." None of these fleshly things have their roots in the eternal. You may even outlive them in your own short life.
No Bridge Between.
Now, men make this mistake—they sow to the flesh, and they think they will reap the harvest of the spirit; and on the other hand, they sow to the spirit and are disappointed when they do not reap a temporal harvest.
A teacher had been relating to his class the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, and he asked:
"Now, which would you rather be, boys, the rich man or Lazarus?"
One boy answered, "I would rather be the rich man while I live, and Lazarus when I die."
That cannot be: it is flesh and corruption, or, Spirit and everlasting life. There is no bridge from one to the other.
"Seed which is sown for a spiritual harvest has no tendency whatever to procure temporal well-being. Christ declared, 'Blessed are the pure in heart; for they shall see God; blessed are they that hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled' (with righteousness); 'blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted.' You observe the beatific vision of the Almighty—fulness of righteousness—divine comfort. There is nothing earthly here, it is spiritual results for spiritual labor. It is not said that the pure in heart shall be made rich; or that they who hunger and thirst after righteousness shall be filled with bread, or that they who mourn shall rise in life, and obtain distinction. Each department has its own appropriate harvest, reserved exclusively to its own method of sowing.
"Everything reaps its own harvest, every act has its own reward. And before you covet the enjoyment which another possesses, you must first calculate the cost at which it was procured.
"For instance, the religious tradesman complains that his honesty is a hindrance to his success; that the tide of custom pours into the doors of his less scrupulous neighbor in the same street, while he himself waits for hours idle. My brother, do you think that God is going to reward honor, integrity, high-mindedness, with this world's coin? Do you fancy that He will pay spiritual excellence with plenty of custom? Now consider the price that man has paid for his success. Perhaps mental degradation and inward dishonor. His advertisements are all deceptive, his treatment of his workmen tyrannical, his cheap prices made possible by inferior articles. Sow that man's seed, and you will reap that man's harvest. Cheat, lie, be unscrupulous in your assertions, and custom will come to you. But if the price be too high, let him have his harvest, and you take yours —a clear conscience, a pure mind, rectitude within and without. Will you part with that for his harvest?"
Sowing to the Spirit.
"Sowing to the Spirit" implies self-denial, resistance of evil, obedience to the Spirit, walking in the Spirit, living in the Spirit, guidance by the Spirit. We sow to the Spirit when we use our abilities and means to advance Spiritual things; when we support and encourage those who are extending the influence of the Spirit. We sow to the Spirit when we crucify the flesh and all its lusts, when we yield ourselves to Him as we once yielded ourselves to the flesh. A Jewish rabbi once said: "There are in every man two impulses, good and evil. He who offers God his evil impulses offers the best sacrifice."
The fruit of such sowing is "love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance."
In this world the harvest is growth of character, deeper respect, increasing usefulness to others; in the next world, acceptance with God, everlasting life.
Among the last recorded words of Henry Lloyd Garrison in his public speeches in England were these "I began my advocacy of the anti -slavery cause in the Northern States of America, in the midst of brickbats and rotten eggs; and I ended it on the soil of South Carolina almost literally buried beneath the wreaths of flowers which were heaped upon me by her liberated bondmen."
A young man was employed by a large commission firm in New York City during the late civil war, to negotiate with a certain party for a lot of damaged beans. The beans were purchased, delivered, and spread out upon the upper floor of the building occupied by the firm.
Men were employed to turn them over and over, and to sprinkle them with a solution of soda, so as to improve their appearance and render them more salable. A large lot of the first quality of beans was then purchased; some of the good beans were first put into barrels, then the barrels were nearly filled with the poor ones; after this the good ones were again put on the top and the barrels headed up for sale.
The employer marked the barrels, "Beans—A 1." The clerk seeing this, said: "Do you think, sir, that it is right to mark those beans A 1?"
The employer retorted sharply: "Are you head of the firm?"
The clerk said no more. The barreling and heading went on. When all was ready, the beans (many hundreds of barrels) were put on the market for sale. Specimens of the best quality were shown in the office to buyers.
At length a shrewd purchaser came in (no man is so sharp in business but he will often meet his equal), examined the samples in the office, inquired the price, and then wished to see the stock in bulk. The clerk was ordered to go with the buyer to the upper loft and show him the stock. An open barrel was shown apparently of the same quality of the sample. The buyer then said to the clerk:
"Young man, the samples of beans shown me are of the first quality, and it is impossible to purchase beans anywhere in the market for the price at which you offer them; there is something wrong here. Tell me, are these beans the same quality throughout the entire barrel as they appear on the top?"
The clerk now found himself in a strange position. He thought, "Shall I lie for my employer, as he undoubtedly means I shall; or shall I tell the truth, come what will?" He decided for the truth, and said:
"No, sir, they are not."
"Then," said the customer. "I do not want them"; and he left.
The clerk enterers the office. The employer said to him: "Did you sell that man those beans?"
He said, "No, sir."
"Well, sir, the man asked me if those beans were of the same quality through the entire barrel as they appeared on the top. I told him they were not. He then said: 'I do not want them,' and left."
"Go to the cashier," said the employer, "and get your wages; we want you no longer."
He received his pay and left the office, rejoicing that he had not lied for the purposes of abetting a sordid avariciousness, and benefiting an unprincipled employer.
Three weeks after this the firm sent after the young clerk, entreated him to come back again into their employ, and offered him three hundred dollars salary more per year than they had ever before given him.
And thus was his honesty and truthfulness rewarded. The firm knew and felt that the man was right, although apparently they had lost largely by his honesty. They wished to have him again in their employ, because they knew that they could trust him, and never suffer through fraud and deception. They knew that their financial interests would be safe in his custody. They respected and honored that young man.
The Lesson of Patience.
Let us learn the lesson of patience. "Behold the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain." Delay does not mean denial. Too often one generation sows and another has to reap. God is a jealous God, "visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate Him."
In the early years of Israel's existence as a separate people, God commanded them to give the land of Canaan rest every seventh year.
"Six years thou shalt sow thy land, and shalt gather in the fruits thereof: but the seventh year thou shalt let it rest and lie still; that the poor of thy people may eat, and what they leave the beasts of the field shall eat. In like manner thou shalt deal with thy vineyard, and with thy olive yard." From the anointing of Saul to be king this law was not observed. After four hundred and ninety years God gave the nation into captivity for seventy years. During this period the land had rest; seventy sabbath years to compensate for the sabbath years of which it had been deprived. Those Israelites sowed the bitter seed of disobedience, and their descendants had to reap the harvest in exile and captivity.
A leading surgeon performed a critical operation before his class one day. The operation was successful, as far as his part was concerned. But he turned to the class and said: "Six years ago a wise way of living might have prevented this disease. Two years ago a safe and simple operation might have cured it. We have done our best to-day as the case now stands, but Nature will have her word to say. She does not always repeal her capital sentences." Next day the patient died, reaping the fruit of his excesses.
Paul says: "Let us not be weary in well-doing; in due season we shall reap if we faint not."
In a recent chat with an interviewer, Mr. Edison quite unconsciously preached a most powerful sermon on perseverance and patience.
He described his repeated efforts to make the phonograph reproduce the aspirated sound, and added: "From eighteen to twenty hours a day for the last seven months I have worked on this single word 'specia.' I said into the phonograph, 'specia, specia, specia,' but the instrument responded, 'pecia, pecia, pecia.' It was enough to drive one mad! But I held firm, and I have succeeded."
An insurance case was brought to Daniel Webster when he was a young lawyer in Portsmouth. Only a small amount was involved, and a twenty-dollar fee was all that was promised. He saw that to do his client full justice, a journey to Boston would be desirable, in order to consult the law library. He would be out of pocket by the expedition, and for the time he would receive no adequate compensation. But he determined to do his best, cost what it might. He accordingly went to Boston and looked up the authorities, and gained the case.
Years after, Webster, who had meanwhile become famous, was passing through New York. An important insurance case was to be tried that day, and one of the counsel had suddenly been taken ill. Money was no object, and Webster was begged to name his terms and conduct the case.
"I told them," said Mr. Webster, "that it was preposterous to expect me to prepare a legal argument at a few hours notice. They insisted, however, that I should look at the papers; and this I finally consented to do. It was my old twenty-dollar case over again; and as I never forget anything, I had all the authorities at my fingers' ends. The court knew that I had no time to prepare, and were astonished at the range of my acquirements. So you see, I was handsomely repaid both in fame and money for that journey to Boston; and the moral is that good work is rewarded in the end."
Two men were digging in California for gold. They worked a good deal and got nothing. At last one of them threw down his tools and said:
"I will leave here before we starve"; and he left.
The next day his comrade's patience was rewarded by finding a nugget that supported him until he made a fortune.
"Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil. Though a sinner do evil an hundred times, and his days be prolonged, yet surely I know that it shall be well with them that fear God, which fear before Him; but it shall not be well with the wicked, neither shall he prolong his days, which are as a shadow; because he feareth not before God."
The idea that because a person does a thing in the dark it will never be brought to light, is fatal—God says it shall be brought to light. It is folly for a man who has covered his sins to think there shall be no resurrection of them and no final adjudication. Look at the sons of Jacob. They sold Joseph and deceived their father. Twenty long years rolled away, and away down to Egypt their sin followed them; for they said: "We are guilty of the blood of our brother." The reaping time had come at last, for those ten boys who sold their brother.
I was once preaching in Chicago, and a woman who was nearly out of her mind came to me. You know there are some people who mock at religions meetings, and say that religion drives people mad. It is sin that drives people mad. It is the want of Christ that sinks people into despair. This was the woman's story: She had a family of children. One of her neighbors had died, and her husband had brought home a little child. She said, "I don't want the child," but her husband said, "You must take it and look after it." She said she had enough to do with her own, and she told her husband to take that child away. But he would not. She confessed that she tried to starve the child; but it lingered on. One night it cried all night; I suppose it wanted food. At last she took the clothes and threw them over the child, and smothered it. No one saw her; no one knew anything about it. The child was buried. Years had passed away; and she said, "I hear the voice of that child day and night. It has driven me nearly mad." No one saw the act; but God had seen it, and this retribution followed it. History is full of these things. You need not go to the Bible to find it out.
A MAN EXPECTS TO REAP THE SAME KIND AS HE SOWS.
"Herb yielding seed after his kind, and the tree yielding fruit . . . after his kind."—Gen. i: 12.
"Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?"—Matt. vii: 16.
"For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live." —Romans viii: 13.
A Man Expects to Reap the Same Kind as He Sows.
If I should tell you that I sowed ten acres of wheat last year and that watermelons came up, or that I sowed cucumbers and gathered turnips, you wouldn't believe it. It is a fixed law that you reap the same kind of seed you sow. Plant wheat and you reap wheat, plant an acorn and there comes up an oak, plant a little elm and in time you have a big elm.
One day, the master of Lukman, an Eastern fabulist, said to him, "Go into such a field, and sow barley." Lukman sowed oats instead. At the time of harvest his master went to the place, and, seeing the green oats springing up, asked him:
"Did I not tell you to sow barley here? Why, then, have you sown oats?"
He answered, "I sowed oats in the hope that barley would grow up."
His master said, "What foolish idea is this? Have you ever heard of the like?"
Lukman replied, "You yourself are constantly sowing in the field of the world the seeds of evil, and yet expect to reap in the resurrection day the fruits of virtue. Therefore I thought, also, I might get barley by sowing oats."
The master was abashed at the reply and set Lukman free.
Like produces like in vegetation, and like produces like in labor. If a man has learnt the trade of a carpenter, he does not expect to excel as a watchmaker. If he has toiled hard to acquire a knowledge of the law, he does not expect to practice medicine for a livelihood. Men expect to reap in the same line as they have learned.
This law is just as true in God's kingdom as in man's kingdom; just as true in the spiritual world as in the natural world. If I sow tares, I am going to reap tares; if I sow a lie, I am going to reap lies; if I sow adultery. I am going to reap adulterers; if I sow whisky, I am going to reap drunkards. You cannot blot this law out, it is in force. No other truth in the Bible is more solemn.
Suppose that a neighbor, whom I don't want to see, comes to my house and I tell my son to tell him, if he asks for me, that I am out of town. He goes to the door and lies to my neighbor; it will not be six months before that boy will lie to me; I will reap that lie.
A man said to me some time ago, "Why is it that we can not get honest clerks now?"
I replied, "I don't know, but perhaps I can imagine a reason. When merchants teach clerks to say that goods are all wool when they are half cotton, and to adulterate groceries and say they are pure, when they grind up white marble and put it into pulverized sugar, and the clerk knows it, you will not have honest clerks."
As long as merchants teach their clerks to lie and to misrepresent, to put a French or an English tag on domestic goods and sell them for imported goods, so long they will have dishonest clerks. Dishonest merchants make dishonest clerks. I am not talking fiction, I am talking truth. It is not poetry, but solemn prose that a man must reap the same kind of seed that he sows.
This is a tremendous argument against selling liquor. Leaving out the temperance and religious aspects of the question, no man on earth can afford to sell strong drink. If I sell liquor to your son and make a drunkard of him, some man will sell liquor to my son and make a drunkard of him. Every man who sells liquor has a drunken son or a drunken brother or some drunken relative. Where are the sons of liquor dealers? To whom are their daughters married? Look around and see if you can find a man who has been in that business twenty years who has not a skeleton in his own family.
I threw that challenge down once, and a man said to me the next day, "I wasn't at your meeting last night, but I understand you made the astounding statement that no man had been in the liquor business twenty years who hadn't the curse in his own family."
"Yes," I said, "I did."
"It isn't true," he said, "and I want you to take it back. My father was a rumseller, and I am a rumseller, and the curse has never come into my father's family or into mine."
I said, "What! two generations selling that infernal stuff, and the curse has never come into the family! I will investigate it, and if I find I am wrong I will make the retraction just as publicly as I did the statement."
There were two prominent citizens of the town in the room, on whose faces I noticed a peculiar expression as the man was talking. After he left, one of them said:
"Do you know, Mr. Moody, that man's own brother was a drunkard and committed suicide a few weeks ago and left a widow with seven children; they are under his roof now! He was a terrible drunkard himself until the shock of his brother's suicide cured him."
I don't know how you can account for it unless he thought his brother wasn't a relative. Perhaps he was a sort of a Cainite, saying, "Am I my brother's keeper?"
When I was a pastor of a church in Chicago we were trying to get hold of the working-men. They used to say:
"Come down to the factory at dinner-time and we will give you a chance to speak."
I would ask them, "Why won't you come to the church?"
"Oh," they would say, "you have it all your own way there, and we can't answer back; but come to the factory and we will put a few questions to you."
So I went down, and they made it pretty hot for me sometimes. One of the favorite characters that they brought up was Jacob. Many a time I have had men say, "You think Jacob was a saint, don't you? He was a big rascal." Many have said they thought Jacob wasn't as good as Esau. Notice this fact. You read in the Bible, "I will punish Jacob according to his doings." This law of retribution runs through his Life; although he was a friend of God, a kinsman of Abraham, and was third in the line of the covenant, yet God made Jacob reap the same kind of seed he sowed. Some one has said that "Jacob's misfortunes were uniformly calculated to bring back to his recollection the picture as well as the punishment of his faults."
When Isaac in his old age wanted some venison, and sent Esau out to get it, Jacob slipped out and took a kid from his father's flock, and Rebekah, his mother, cooked it; he brought it to his old blind father and said he was Esau. The old man recognized his voice, but he had very cunningly put the skin of the kid on his hands and neck; so that the old man felt him and said;
"The voice is Jacob's voice, but the hands are the hands of Esau."
By this lie he got his brother's birthright blessing, but he paid ten thousand times more for it than it was worth. "Who steals my purse steals trash." A man who steals my pocketbook is the chief sufferer, not I. When Jacob had grown to be an old man, he lived in continual suspicion that his sons were deceiving him. The sin of deceiving his own father bore fruit.
Jacob was the great loser in this transaction. When Esau returned he had to flee for his life. Then God met him at Bethel. "And behold, the Lord stood above it and said, I am the Lord God of Abraham thy father, and the God of Isaac: the land whereon thou liest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed: and thy seed shall be as the dust of the earth: and thou shalt spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south, and in thee and in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed.
"And, behold, I am with thee, and will keep thee in all places whither thou goest, and will bring thee again unto this land, for I will not leave thee, until I have done that which I have spoken to thee of."
Men will read that far in the life of Jacob and say, "I don't want anything more to do with a God who will deal in grace with a man who had done so mean a thing." My friend, hold on. Follow him to Padanaram. He was there twenty years, and during that time his wages were changed ten times. He worked seven years for the lovely Rachel, and then had another woman put upon him. Jacob had by deception obtained the blessing of the first-born son, but Laban sarcastically reminded him, "It must not be so done in my country to give the younger before the first-born." He found that Laban could drive as sharp a bargain as he. Wherever you find a sharp, shrewd man, you will always find that he draws just such men around him, and that he who cheats will himself be cheated. "Birds of a feather flock together"; blasphemers get together, and sharp, shrewd men get together. Jacob found in Laban just such a man as himself. It was "diamond cut diamond."
Look a little further. Jacob had twelve sons, but he loved Joseph and Benjamin more than the others because they were the sons of his beloved Rachel. He was partial to Joseph, and had a coat made of many colors for him. Partiality will raise the old Adam in any family.
One morning Joseph, in the innocence of his heart, tells a dream in which his father and all his brothers had bowed down to him. Then his brothers began to plan to get him out of the way, and when his father sent him to find them when they were tending the flocks, they said:
"Now we have him; let us slay him and cast him into a pit, and say that some beast has devoured him."
Later they sold him, and took his coat of many colors and dipped it in the blood of a kid, and, taking it to their father, said: "This have we found; know now whether it be thy son's coat or no." And he knew it and said, "It is my son's coat; an evil beast hath devoured him."
Now notice: Jacob deceived his father with the skin of a kid, and his sons deceived him with the blood of a kid. Jacob lied to his father, and his sons lied to him. The lie came home. Every lie is bound to come back to you. You cannot dig a grave so deep but that it will have a resurrection. Tramp, tramp, your sins will all come back.
"Be sure your sin will find you out." You may think you are very shrewd and far-sighted, and can plan and cover up, but it is the decree of high heaven that no sin shall be covered; God will uncover it. You cannot deceive the Almighty. Jacob found that out. He had to reap what he sowed.
Again, look at David. A man said to me some years ago:
"Don't you think David fell as low as Saul?"
Yes, he fell lower, because God had lifted him higher. The difference is that when Saul fell there was no sign of repentance, but when David fell, a wail went up from his broken heart; there was true repentance. No man in all the Scripture record rose so high and fell so low as David. God took him from the sheepfold and placed him on the throne. He gave him riches and lands in abundance. He was on a pinnacle of glory, and was loved and honored among men. But one day, you remember, David was walking upon the roof of the king's house, and he saw Bathsheba, and lusted after her, and committed the awful sin of adultery; and then, to cover up that sin, he made Bathsheba's husband drunk, and had him murdered. The decree came: "I will raise up evil in thy family and the sword shall never leave thy house." Amnon, David's son, commits adultery with David's own daughter. Absalom makes a feast for Amnon and has him murdered. Not long after he comes with an army to drive David, his father, from the throne, and publicly commits adultery with David's concubines on the roof of the king's house; if God had not been overruling, he would have killed his father.
David sowed adultery and reaped it in his own family. He sowed murder and reaped it in his own family. I believe that what brought the bitter wail from that father's heart when he said, "Oh, my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! Would God I had died for thee," was the fact that these were the wages of his own sin. From the time he fell into that sin with Uriah's wife until he went down to his grave, it was one billow after another rolling over him.
If God did not spare David, do you think He will spare us if we fall into sin and do not confess and turn from our sins? If ever a man had an opportunity to cover his sins, David had. No judge or jury dared to pronounce judgment against him. The thing was done in the dark, but his sin found him out. Nathan was sent across his path, and, young man, Nathan will appear to you some day. Some messenger will smite you in the way if you do not repent and turn from your sins. My friend, why not call on God now as David did when he came to himself? make the same prayer—how thankful we should be that we have the prayer! why not make it on your knees now?
David's Prayer for Forgiveness.
"Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy loving kindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions.
Wash me thoroughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my transgressions; and my sin is ever before me.
Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight; that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest.
Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.
Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward parts; and in the hidden part thou shalt make me to know wisdom.
Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
Make me to hear joy and gladness; that the bones which thou hast broken may rejoice.
Hide thy face from my sins, and blot out all mine iniquities.
Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.
Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy Holy Spirit from me.
Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free Spirit.
Then will I teach transgressors thy ways; and sinners shall be converted unto thee.
Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, thou God of my salvation; and my tongue shall sing aloud of thy righteousness.
O Lord, open thou my lips; and my mouth shall shew forth thy praise.
For thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it; thou delightest not in burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise."
Examples From History.
But you say you don't believe in the Bible. Then look at history, and see if this law is not true. Maxentine built a false bridge to drown Constantine, but was drowned himself. Bajazet was carried about by Tamerlane in an iron cage which he intended for Tamerlane. Maximinus put out the eyes of thousands of Christians; soon after a fearful disease of the eyes broke out among his people, of which he himself died in great agony. Valens caused about eighty Christians to be sent to sea in a ship and burnt alive: he was defeated by the Goths and fled to a cottage, where he was burnt alive.
Alexander VI. was poisoned by wine he had prepared for another. Henry III. of France was stabbed in the same chamber where he had helped to contrive the cruel massacre of French Protestants. Marie Antoinette, riding to Notre Dame Cathedral for her bridal, bade the soldiers command all beggars, cripples, and ragged people to leave the line of the procession. She could not endure the sight of these miserable ones. Soon after, bound in the executioner's cart, she was riding toward the place of execution amidst crowds who gazed on her with hearts as cold as ice and hard as granite. When Foulon was asked how the starving populace was to live, he said: "Let them eat grass." Afterward, the mob, maddened with rage, caught him in the streets of Paris, hung him, stuck his head upon a pike and filled his mouth with grass.
A MAN REAPS MORE THAN HE SOWS.
"But other fell into good ground, and brought forth fruit, some a hundredfold, some sixtyfold, some thirtyfold."—Matt. xiii: 8.
A Man Reaps More Than He Sows.
If I sow a bushel, I expect to reap ten or twenty bushels. I can sow in one day what will take ten men to reap. The Spaniards have this proverb: "Sow a thought and reap an act. Sow an act, and reap a habit. Sow a habit, and reap a character. Sow a character and reap a destiny." And it takes a longer time to reap than to sow. I have heard of a certain kind of bean that reproduces itself a thousand fold. One thistle-down which blew from the deck of a vessel is said to have covered with thistles the entire surface of a South Sea island. The oak springs from an acorn, the mighty Mississippi from a little spring.
One glass of whisky may lead to a drunkard's death. One lie may ruin a man's career. One error in youth may follow a man all through life. Some one has said that many a Christian spends half his time trying to keep down the sprouts of seed sown in his young days. Unless it is held in check, the desire to "have a drink" will become a consuming thirst; the desire to "play a game of cards" an irresistible gambler's passion.
Abraham gave up his only son at God's bidding, and as the fruit of that act of obedience God gave him seed as numerous as the stars of the heaven and as the sands upon the seashore.
Jacob told one lie, and his ten sons came back with his lie multiplied tenfold. For twenty years Jacob mourned for Joseph, supposing that he was dead. I have no doubt that night after night he wept for Joseph, and in his dreams saw the boy torn to pieces, and heard his cries for help. It took him a long time to reap the harvest.
Israel murmured against God because of the report of the land of Canaan brought back by the spies. Had they not to reap a multiplied harvest? Listen: "After the number of the days in which ye searched the land, even forty days, each day for a year, shall ye bear your iniquities, even forty years, and ye shall know my breach of promise."
When I made the remark in a meeting once that a man had to reap more than he sowed, a man in front of me dropped his head and sobbed aloud. After the meeting, a friend stepped up to him and said:
"What is your trouble?"
Pointing to me he said, "Every word that man has been saying is true. Four years ago I was the confidential clerk of a firm in this city. I have reason to believe that if I had continued as I began, I should have been in the firm now. But one night in a saloon under the influence of drink I committed a crime, and I was sent to the penitentiary, where I repented in sackcloth and ashes. To-day I came back for the first time, and went to the old house, and they ordered me out. I went to other business-houses I was acquainted with, and received the same treatment. I met men on the street whom I once knew, who had held inferior places to me, and I lifted my hat, but no one returned the bow."
The man wrung his hands in agony and said, "It is all true, it takes a longer time to reap than to sow."
Do you not believe it? Ask your neighbor who has drank up his character and reputation and home, and has brought a blight on his family. It takes a long time to build up a character, but you can blast it in a single hour.
A man died in the Columbus penitentiary some years ago who had spent over thirty years in his cell. He was one of the millionaires of Ohio. Fifty years ago when they were trying to get a trunk road from Chicago to New York, they wanted to lay the line through his farm near Cleveland. He did not want his farm divided by the railroad, so the case went into court, where commissioners were appointed to pay the damages and to allow the road to be built. One dark night after the tracks were laid, a train was thrown off the track, and several were killed. This man was suspected, was tried and found guilty, and was sent to the penitentiary for life. The farm was soon cut up into city lots, and the man became a millionaire, but he got no benefit from it. Before he died, the chaplain told me that he became a child of God. It may not have taken him more than an hour to lay the obstruction on the railroad, but he was over thirty years reaping the result of that one act!
In the history of France we read that a certain king wanted some new instrument to torture his prisoners with. One of his favorites suggested that he should build a cage, not long enough to lie down in, and not high enough to stand up in. The king accepted the suggestion; but the first one put into the cage was the very man who suggested it, and he was kept in it for fourteen years. It did not take him more than a few minutes, perhaps, to suggest that cruel device; but he was fourteen long years reaping the fruit of what he had sown.
If a man could do his reaping alone, it would not be so hard; but it is terrible when he has to make that godly father, and that mother who loves him, or that wife and family, reap along with him. Does not the drunkard make his wife and children reap a bitter harvest? Does not the gambler make his relatives reap? Does not the harlot make her parents reap agony and shame? What a bitter enemy is sin! May God help each one of us to turn from it at once!
Whenever I hear a young man talking in a flippant way about sowing his wild oats, I don't laugh. I feel more like crying, because I know he is going to make his gray-haired mother reap in tears; he is going to make his wife reap in shame; he is going to make his old father and his innocent children reap with him. Only ten or fifteen or twenty years will pass before he will have to reap his wild oats; no man has ever sowed them without having to reap them. Sow the wind and you reap the whirlwind.
We cannot control our influence. If I plant thistles in my field, the wind will take the thistle-down when it is ready, and blow it away beyond the fence; and my neighbors will have to reap with me. So my example may be copied by my children or my neighbors, and my actions reproduced indefinitely through them, whether for good or evil. How many have gone to ruin because of the sins of such men as Jacob and David and Lot!
Nothing But Leaves.
Nothing but leaves! The Spirit grieves O'er years of wasted life! O'er sins indulged while conscience slept, O'er vows and promises unkept, And reap from years of strife— Nothing but leaves! Nothing but leaves!
Nothing but leaves! No gathered sheaves Of life's fair ripening grain; We sow our seeds; lo! tares and weeds— Words, idle words, for earnest deeds— Then reap, with toil and pain, Nothing but leaves! Nothing but leaves!
Nothing but leaves! Sad memory weaves No veil to hide the past; And as we trace our weary way, And count each lost and misspent day, We sadly find at last— Nothing but leaves! Nothing but leaves!
Ah, who shall thus the Master meet, And bring but withered leaves? Ah, who shall, at the Saviour's feet, Before the awful judgment-seat, Lay down, for golden sheaves, Nothing but leaves! Nothing but leaves?
—L. E. Ackerman.
IGNORANCE OF THE SEED MAKES NO DIFFERENCE.
"Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth, they that have done good; unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation."—John v: 28, 29.
Ignorance of the Seed Makes no Difference.
Now, notice again: Ignorance of the kind of seed makes no difference. If I think I am sowing good seed and it happens to be bad, I shall have a bad harvest; therefore, it becomes me to see what kind of seed I am sowing.
Suppose I meet a man who is sowing seed, and say: "Hello, stranger, what are you sowing?"
"What kind of seed?"
"I don't know."
"Don't you know whether it is good or bad?"
"No, I can't tell; but it is seed, that is all I want to know, and I am sowing it."
You would say that he was a first-class lunatic, wouldn't you? But he wouldn't be half so mad as the man who goes on sowing for time and eternity, and never asks himself what he is sowing or what the harvest will be.
Father, what seed are you sowing in your family? Are you setting your children a good or a bad example? Do you spend your time at the saloon or the club, until you have become almost a stranger to them? or are you training them for God and righteousness?
The story is told that a man once said he would not talk to his son about religion; the boy should make his own choice when he grew up, unprejudiced by him. The boy broke his arm, and when the doctor was setting it, he cursed and swore the whole time.
"Ah," said the doctor, "you were afraid to prejudice the boy in the right way, but the devil had no such prejudice. He has led your son the other way." The idea that a father is to let his children run wild! Nature alone never brings forth anything but weeds.
One of Coleridge's friends once objected to prejudicing the minds of the young by selecting the things they should be taught. The philosopher-poet invited him to take a look at his garden, and took him to where a luxuriant growth of ugly and infragrant weeds spread themselves over beds and walks alike.
"You don't call that a garden!" said his friend.
"What!" said Coleridge, "would you have me prejudice the ground in favor of roses and lilies?"
Have you never noticed the same thing about the mind and the heart? Let a child be idle, and Satan will soon lead him into mischief. He must be looked after. Those things that will help to develop character must be selected for him, and hurtful things must be kept out, just as industriously as the farmer cultivates the useful products of the soil, but wages continual war on weeds and all unwholesome growths.
A murderer was to suffer the penalty of his crime. Speaking of his reckless career, he said:
"How could it be otherwise, when I had such bad training? I was taught these things from my youth. When only four years old my mother poured whisky down my throat to see how I would act."
On the morning of his execution, the wretched mother bade good-bye to the son whom her influence had helped to that shameful end.
A father started for his office early one morning, after a light fall of snow. Turning, he saw his two year-old boy endeavoring to put his tiny feet in his own great footprints. The little fellow shouted: "Go on, I'se comin', papa, I'se comin' right in ure tracks."
He caught the boy in his arms and carried him to his mother, and started again for his office.
His habit had been to stop on the way at a saloon for a glass of liquor. As he stood upon the threshold that morning he seemed to hear a sweet voice say: "Go on, I'se comin', papa, I'se comin' right in ure tracks."
He stopped, he hesitated, he looked the future squarely in the face.
"I cannot afford to make any tracks I would be ashamed or sorry to have my boy walk in," he said decidedly, and turned away.
Father, mother, neighbor, are your tracks true? Are they straight? Can you turn to any walking behind you and say: "Follow me as I follow Christ?" Are you leading the little ones safe to the Great Shepherd?
The best time to sow the good seed is before Satan has scattered the tares. God has given numerous warnings and instructions to do it. "Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness." "Train up a child in the way he should go." "Provoke not your children to wrath, but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord." If a farmer neglects to plant in the spring-time, he can never recover the lost opportunity: no more can you, if you neglect yours. Youth is a seed-time, and if it is allowed to pass without good seed being sowed, weeds will spring up and choke the soil. It will take bitter toil to uproot them.
An old divine said that when a good farmer sees a weed in his field he has it pulled up. If it is taken early enough, the blank is soon filled in, and the crop waves over the whole field. But if allowed to run too late, the bald patch remains. It would have been better if the weed had never been allowed to get root.
Young man, are you letting some secret sin get the mastery over you, binding you hand and foot? It is growing. Every sin grows. When I was speaking to five thousand children in Glasgow some years ago, I took a spool of thread and said to one of the largest boys:
"Do you believe I can bind you with that thread?"
He laughed at the idea. I wound the thread around him a few times, and he broke it with a single jerk. Then I wound the thread around and around, and by and by I said:
"Now get free if you can."
He couldn't move hand or foot. If you are slave to some vile habit, you must either slay that habit or it will slay you.
My friend, what kind of seed are you sowing? Let your mind sweep over your record for the past year. Have you been living a double life? Have you been making a profession without possessing what you profess? If there is anything you detest it is hypocrisy. Do you tell me God doesn't detest it also? If it is a right eye that offends, make up your mind that you will pluck it out; or if it is a right hand or a right foot, cut it off. Whatever the sin is, make up your mind that you will gain the victory over it without further delay.
What kind of seed are you sowing, my friend, good seed or bad seed? There will be a harvest, and you are bound to reap, whether you want to or not. Tell me, how do you spend your spare time? Telling vile stories, polluting the minds of others, while your own mind is also polluted? Do you read any literature that makes your thoughts impure? How do you spend the Sabbath? Boating, fishing, hunting, or on excursions? Do you think ministers are old fogies—that the Bible belongs to the dark ages? Tell me bow you treat your parents, and I will tell you how your children will treat you. A man was making preparations to send his old father to the poorhouse, when his little child came up and said:
"Papa, when you are old shall I have to take you to the poorhouse?"
Do you never write home to your parents? They clothed you and educated you, and now do you spend your nights in gambling? You say to your godless companions that your father crammed religion down your throat when you were a boy. I have a great contempt for a man who says that of his father or mother. They may have made a mistake; but it was of the head, not of the heart. If a telegram was sent to them that you were down with smallpox, they would take the first train to come to you. They would willingly take the disease into their own bodies and die for you. If you scoff and sneer at your father and mother you will have a hard harvest; you will reap in agony. It is only a question of time. There is a saying—
"The mills of God grind slowly, But they grind exceeding small."
The Lord Jesus said, "With what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again."
A man told me when I was last in London that England had the advantage of America in one respect. I asked how. He said:
"We have more respect for our laws in England than you do in America. You don't hang half your murderers, but all our murderers are hanged if they can be proved guilty."
I said: "Neither country hangs its worst murderers. If my son wants to murder me, I would rather have him kill me outright than to take five years to do it. A young man who goes home late night after night, and when his mother remonstrates, curses her gray hairs, and kills her by inches, is the worst sort of a murderer."
That is being done all over the country. You may not be guilty of a sin as black and as foul as this, but I tell you, every sin grows, and if you have sin in your heart you cannot tell where it will land you. Nothing separates a son from his mother or a man from his wife like sin. The grace of God binds men together, but sin tears them apart and separates them.
Come, my friend, what kind of seed are you sowing? What will the harvest be? Will it be a black harvest, or are you going to have a joyful harvest? If you think that, when you have sown tares, wheat will come up, you are greatly mistaken. If you think you can give a loose rein to your passions and lusts, and yet have eternal life, you are being deceived. For God says, "He that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting."
I beg of you to choose carefully your path. The farmer is careful in the choice of seed. He does not want bad seed or inferior seed, because he knows that such will give a poor crop. He looks for the best seed he can buy. If you choose to sow to the flesh, you will have a corrupted harvest. If you commit a sinful deed, it may land you into a dishonored grave.
Choice is a solemn thing. You can make this moment a turning-point in your life. Once during the conquest of Peru, Pizzaro's followers threatened to desert him. They gathered on the shore to embark for home. Drawing his sword, he traced a line with it in the sand from east to west. Then turning toward the south he said: