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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."
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.
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.
secure all the glory to Himself. This is worthy of special notice: for the missionaries, at the time the work commenced, were driven away from the island of Tahiti by war, and cut off from all communication with it. Two native servants, formerly in the families of the missionaries, had received, unknown to them, some favourable impressions, and had united together for prayer. To these a number of persons had attached themselves, so that on the return of the missionaries to Tahiti at the termination of the war, they found a number of praying people; and they had little else to do but to help forward the work which God had so wonderfully and unexpectedly begun."
What is this, but the seed springing up and growing, the husbandman knows not how!
And then, when the fruit is brought forth, immediately he putteth in the sickle, because the harvest is come. There is a fit time, when He who caused the seed to be sown, and the blade to grow up and flourish, gathers in the ripened grain. If we speak of an individual Christian, at the season when He sees fit, the heavenly husbandman will take him to his rest. And also when the fulness of time arrives, He will put in His sickle, and reap the great harvest of the world. "The Son of man shall come in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him," and "gather the wheat into His garner."
One remark remains. In order that there
" Williams' Enterprises in the South Sea, i. 16.
may be the full corn in the ear, there must be, first, the blade. There must be spiritual life. The seed must not be lying idle and inactive, so that no one could perceive whether any had been sown. The Lord must not have cause to
say, what He said of the Israelites of old, "What could have been done more to my field, that I have not done in it? Wherefore, when I looked that it should bring forth fruit," is there no ear, no full corn in the ear? 4
THE KINGDOM OF GOD COMPARED TO A GRAIN OF
MARK iv. 30-34.
(Matt. xiii. 31-33.)
30. "And He said, Whereunto shall we liken the kingdom of God? or with what comparison shall we compare it?
31. "It is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when it is sown in the earth, is less than all the seeds that be in the earth."
THERE could be no more exact comparison of the state of the gospel, at the time when our Lord was speaking. It was indeed the least of all seeds that ever grew up into a stately tree.
4 See Isa. v. 4.
The seed was sown in the earth, when, in fulfilment of prophecy, John the Baptist went throughout the country of Judea, saying,
Repent ye, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." The seed was sown, when Jesus declared His divine commission, the purpose for which He was "made man." "So God loved
the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him might not perish, but have everlasting life." The seed was sown, when He sent out His disciples through the land, and issued His invitation, "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." But who "believed the report," and to whom was the "arm of the Lord revealed?"4 He was "called a Nazarene :" and shall "Christ come out of Galilee ?" "We know not this man, whence He is," said the chief priest and elders, they who influenced the opinions of the people: and asked contemptuously, "Have any of the rulers or of the Pharisees believed in Him?” 5
So that whoever then heard the Lord Jesus discoursing on heavenly things;-saw those who stood around Him and listened to Him, "the common people,”-saw His company formed of men who were lately casting their nets into the sea of Galilee ;-saw those who worshipped Him, a man who had been born blind, or a leper who had been cleansed, or a woman of
'Matt. iii. 2. 2 John iii. 6. As foretold by Isaiah, liii. 1.
3 Matt. xi. 28. See John vii. 41-53.