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LECTURE XXXI.

THE KINGDOM OF GOD COMPARED TO THE GROWTH
OF GRAIN.

MARK iv. 26-29.

26. "So is the kingdom of God, as if a man should cast seed into the ground;

27. "And should sleep, and rise night and day, and the seed should spring and grow up, he knoweth not how. 28. "For the earth bringeth forth fruit of herself: first the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear. 29. "But when the fruit is brought forth, immediately he putteth in the sickle, because the harvest is come."

THIS parable describes the manner in which the gospel should grow secretly and make its gradual way, both in the world at large, and in the hearts of individuals. So is the kingdom of God as if a man should cast seed into the ground. Our Lord Himself was now that man: He was eradicating the errors of the Jewish people, and sowing eternal truth in their stead: He was declaring the real nature of God's heavenly kingdom, and revealing the way which leads to it: He was opening to mankind the secrets of their own corrupt hearts, and the renewing change which they required; He was explaining what is, and what is not, "true and undefiled religion." Thus He cast seed into the ground, which should long remain. It was to remain in the memories of those who received

it, till called forth by the command of the Holy Spirit; and disclosed by a gradual development," to the Jew first, and afterward to the Gentile." It was to be transmitted slowly, and by degrees, from city to town, and from town to village from province to province, from country to country. And thus would

spring up first the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear. First, the number of the names together would be about an hundred and twenty. Not long after would be added unto them about three thousand souls. By degrees the word of the Lord would increase, and the number of the disciples multiply in Jerusalem greatly, both of men and women, and "a great company of the priests would be obedient to the faith. Then the gift of the Holy Ghost would be poured out upon the Gentiles also: multitudes would so "learn Christ" as to turn from their idolatrous "vanities to serve the living God;" to "be renewed in the spirit of their minds:" and to "put on the new man, which, after God, is created in righteousness and true holiness."

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All this, and much more, was foreseen by our Lord when He uttered this parable. He knew that the seed which He came to sow, should spring and grow up, man knoweth not how.

And what Christ, the chief husbandman, was then doing in person, has been carried on since, and is constantly carrying on, by those who

believe His word. The sowers who cast the seed are of various orders. They are the ministers, to whom a field is entrusted that they should dress and keep it; they are the parents, whose duty is to imbue the infant mind with the Scriptures from its youth; they are the masters of families, who, like faithful Abraham, "command their houshold that they keep the way of the Lord;" they are the missionaries, who cause the heathen to hear, every man in his own tongue, the wonderful works of God;" they are the zealous Christians, who, in whatever station or circumstances, use their means and opportunities to drop the fructifying word into the ground of the human heart.

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And these act like the husbandman who casts his seed into the furrow. He knows that it will lie there through a long and dreary period, before it springs up and repays his labour. Still, in the appointment of Providence, he may expect first the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear.

So is it with the Christian, who, in whatever circumstances, may cast the gospel seed. To the fears of the minister, it may often seem to be thrown away upon hopeless ignorance. The parent may discover no depth of earth to receive it. With the master, it may appear choked among the cares of the world, and the desire of other things. In other cases, it is trampled under foot, or devoured by the fowls of the air.

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Yet it may happen, under the most unpromising circumstances, that while we sleep and rise, night and day, the seed shall spring up, and the earth bring forth fruit. The early season may be unfavourable, and there shall be no sign of vegetation. But seasons vary: and in the course of God's providence a more hopeful time may come. "In the morning sow thy seed, and in the evening withhold not thine hand for thou knowest not whether shall per, either this or that, or whether they both shall be alike good."1 The changes which occur in life from health to sickness, from prosperity to adversity, may be like the change of the seasons from cold to heat, or from drought to moisture; and the long dormant seed may at last show signs of growth. First appears a seriousness unknown before, a sense of the value of the soul, an apprehension of eternity. Then a movement of the heart towards Him, who invites all who have ears to hear: and at last, a true scriptural faith, attended by "works meet for repentance;" proving, that though man knows not how the growth takes place, the Spirit has wrought it. For repentance, "and works meet for repentance," are fruits of the Spirit. As we know that there has fallen the genial rain, and the ripening sun has shone, when we see a golden harvest repaying the husbandman for his toil and patience: so when we see love, and peace, and gentleness, and

1 Eccl. xi. 6.

piety abounding, we know the work of the Spirit of God. "It is the Lord's doing, and it

is marvellous in our eyes."

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This late reward of labour is seen in the conversion of nations, as well as of individuals. The missionary who carries into a heathen country the knowledge of God, and of Jesus Christ whom He hath sent, is often obliged to sit down for years, and see no springing blade. Nothing can support him but the spirit of faith: of faith in Him who has pronounced that His word "shall not return unto Him void, but shall accomplish the thing whereto He sends it." But after patient waiting he is commonly permitted to see symptoms of spiritual life; the blade of Christian faith, and hope, and charity shines forth among the rank weeds of heathenism, and rewards his persevering toil.

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So it proved in the islands of the Pacific, where in late years the power of the gospel has been remarkably displayed. "For sixteen years, notwithstanding the untiring zeal, the incessant journeys, the faithful exhortations of several devoted men, no spirit of interest or inquiry appeared: no instance of conversion took place: the wars of the natives continued frequent and desolating, and their idolatries abominable and cruel. The heavens above seemed to be as brass, and the earth as iron. At length the set time came, and God was pleased to commence the work of conversion in such a manner as to

2 Isa. lv. 11.

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