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1. Let us consider the nature of the seed which we sow“precious seed"--and see if any light is cast thence upon the law of spiritual toil. Precious seed" we sow—seed which has cost us much-has cost Christ much ; how precious, is known only to ourselves and God. I am speaking of every one and to every one who has undertaken a work of ministry to a human body, mind, or soul, in its hours of need. Christ, the captain of our labour, came to till the seed-field and to cast His own life into its bosom, and its fruit is life everlasting in all the children of God. “ Through death he conquered him that had the power of death, that is, the devil, and delivered them who, through fear of death, were all their lifetime subject to bondage.' And I, if I be lifted up, will draw all men unto me." Even the husbandman casts in his subsistence—the bread of the body. Not otherwise is it with us, the disciples of the Lord Jesus. The seed we sow in human hearts is just the lifebread of our own souls. Living seeds alone can germinate. If we are to sow anywhere for God we must sow that which is living in us, and nothing lives in us but what has cost toil and pain. Husks—that is, doctrinal forms, if the life is gone out of them, terms, memories, repetitions—lie and rot on the souls on which we cast them, happy if they do not rot the souls. Because of the fearful proportion of husk and chaff in our public preachings, there is so much rottenness in the Church and so much scorn in the world. Words which are spirit and life they only can give who have courage to live from the depths of their nature—and they are not the many, alas ! yet. That which has been passed through the crucible of our own experience, refined by the fires and nourished by the stuff of our own spirits -truths which we have borne with us through floods and flames, and would grapple to us but the more closely were we about to plunge into some unknown abyss—“precious seed” we draw it out of the storehouse weeping. It is the mute
memorial of many a battle, many a spasm of agony of which Christ only knoweth, many a desolate hour when death, had he come to us, would have seemed like a beautiful angel, sent to unloose the overstrained spirit from its load. Do you want power in preaching, in teaching, in comforting ?-be willing to suffer more.
The teachers who wield the mightiest power have won it there. “ For I think that God hath set forth us the apostles last, as it were appointed to death: for we are made a spectacle unto the world, and to angels, and to men. fools for Christ's sake, but ye are wise in Christ; we are weak, but ye are strong; ye are honorable, but we are despised. Even unto this present hour we both hunger, and thirst, and are naked, and are buffeted, and have no certain dwelling-place; and labour, working with our own hands : being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we suffer it: being defamed, we intreat : we are made as the filth of the world, and are the offscouring of all things unto this day.” (1 Cor. iv, 9–13.) Doubtless. Why? “ Blessed be God even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted by God.” (2 Cor. i, 3, 4.) Talk goes but a little way; words which are from the life, which a man has lived in some deep hours, go home. God gave not stars, constellations, the jewels of the sky, when He would help His children; he gave His Son out of His heart, the word of His life; and He gave toil, tears, life-blood,
HE to sow effectually the seed field of the world. We sow in tears, because of the preciousness of the seed we are sowing. Every grain of it a trophy, and the memorial of a pain.
2. The conditions of the field which we cultivate.
Every soul is a veiled sanctuary, a shrine impenetrable, to every other soul. No will of ours can lift the curtain, or break the silence, or search the hidden depths. A soul is not like the submissive clods which the husbandman crushes. If we would work on souls-would sow the seed of principles, strengthen resolutions, and develop the higher life, just in proportion to our earnestness and intensity will the solemn and sad impression steal over us, that there is the sacredness of a personal will between us and the element we would work in; that our most striving efforts may spend themselves against it, like rain-drops on the rock of the wilderness, utterly, hopelessly in vain. What teacher would not like to have the seed-field exposed and submissive before bim like the fields of nature, that his will might have way, and accomplish with swift certainty its benignant work. But God will humble our will, and make us more dependent than even the husbandman on his co-working. How often, just in the midst of our most resolute efforts, and on the eve, as we hope, of some large success, are we made to feel, in bitterness and sadness of heart, that there is a shrine there which we may not enter, a depth there which we may not reach, a soul there which we have not force to conquer
not avail to save; and we weep as we work. Faith's visions come chiefly through the mist of tears.
3. The seed we sow in human hearts-like seed sowu on the waters-vanishes from sight and touch; precious as it was,
; it is gone
from us, our effort can help it no more. We have committed it to One who can watch it, but“ whose ways are not as our ways, whose thoughts are not as our thoughts.” Our sowing is but the prelude to long watching and waiting, tearful vigils, strenuous efforts, wrestling prayers to Him who can reach it and seems to withhold His hand. mothers who have wrestled for a blessing on the seed sown in your children's hearts, ye teachers who have striven with God for a blessing on your class, ye pastors who have been intercessors for your flocks, is it not like the pangs of the travailing,
Tell me, ye
the tears and the groans of one that bringeth forth a child to God, until we“ remember no more the anguish for joy that a man is born unto the world.”
4. The devil always besets the best works with the selectest difficulties and dangers, and makes—thus far his power reaches-speaking truth and doing good a harder and sadder thing than the labours of Hercules or the fabled lifting of a world. He beats the soil so hard by the constant passing up and down of worldly thoughts and habits, that it becomes almost impossible to break it, and, while the seed lies there, “then cometh the devil and catcheth away that which was sown on the heart." He makes those whom we are most purely desirous to bless, turn on us in bitterness as our most malignant foes. He exposes the tender shoot which has rooted and is growing there to the most searching trials, and surrounds the objects of our culture with scenes and influences which choke the word we have planted in their souls. You may have borne witness against blasphemy, anger, drunkenness, to your children, and you dread that the first thing which they will hear when they leave you will be an oath, while wrangling and drunkenness will be the chief experience in their homes. A preacher may have impressed on some young soul the vanity of earth, the value of heavenly things, and we know that on the morrow the world will offer its choicest baits to that soul to tempt it to let go its hold on Christ and heaven. That tender nursling of faith will have to endure a fire of temptation in which disciplined and hardened manhood could hardly guard its
The seed is sown in tears; we go forth weeping to cast our bread upon the waters; blessed be God we know that we shall find it again, though it may be after many days.
5. The most precious culture is that which we bestow on the seed-field of our own spirits, and every seed that
is planted must be wet with tears ere it germinates there.
You see the great ones of the world, the truly great, the great in this region of life ; the furrows seam the brow which was once smooth and broad; a veil dims the light which once flashed so gaily from the eye; a sad, yet serene, sense of the painfulness of life, which looks out so touchingly from all richly cultured and nobly fruitful spirits, tells the tale of the kind of seed-sowing which has been accomplished there. “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” None of us have fathomed the depth of that mystery; but some have looked into it, and found it strangely attract them as they gazed. The laurels gained in those dreadful conflicts with the devil, where as our own selves he haunts us, as the right hand or the right eye he tempts us ; when, like Abraham, we have to lay down the most precious jewel of our being; like Christ, to lay down life that we may take it again at the hand of God, are never worn before men. Christ keeps them, they are the trophies which adorn His temple, and they shall one day bind our brows, when He takes us, as He passed Himself, from the stress and agony of the conflict to the glory of the crown.
“ Cast thy bread upon the waters, thou shalt find it after many days."
III. The law ordains a tearful sowing. Let us lift our eyes now, and see how surely it ordains a joyful reaping on high. This compensation rests on the fact
1. That every word and work that comes forth from us, born of the inward life, has not only our life but God's life in it; a portion of the life which is eternal is in it; it cannot, it shall not die. Cast on the waters, lost to our warm interest and straining sight, it is as near to Him as ever, as dear. Life has wonderful tenacity; the corn buried