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The Doctrine of the Seed.

The Doctrine of the Seed.

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Published by GLENN DALE PEASE
By R. N. SLEDD,


" And He said, ' So is the kingdom of God, as if a man should cast seed
into the ground; and should sleep, and should rise night and day, and the seed
should spring and grow up, He knoweth not how. For the earth bringeth forth
fruit of herself; first the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear.
But when the fruit is brought forth, immediately he putteth in the sickle, because
the harvest is come.' " — Mark iv, 26-29.
By R. N. SLEDD,


" And He said, ' So is the kingdom of God, as if a man should cast seed
into the ground; and should sleep, and should rise night and day, and the seed
should spring and grow up, He knoweth not how. For the earth bringeth forth
fruit of herself; first the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear.
But when the fruit is brought forth, immediately he putteth in the sickle, because
the harvest is come.' " — Mark iv, 26-29.

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The Doctrine of the Seed.

By R. . SLEDD,
" And He said, ' So is the kingdom of God, as if a man should cast seed
into the ground; and should sleep, and should rise night and day, and the seed
should spring and grow up, He knoweth not how. For the earth bringeth forth
fruit of herself; first the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear.
But when the fruit is brought forth, immediately he putteth in the sickle, because
the harvest is come.' " — Mark iv, 26-29.
The gospel of Christ is represented in this parable
under the figure of seed; and its method or order of
procedure in the salvation of men under the figure
of the process of nature in the germination of the
seed, and the development of the future plant and
its fruit.
I. There is in the seed an inherent vital principle
or force.
It is this mysterious life-power that organizes and
holds in combination the elements that make up the
seed, and that prevents its dissolution and decom-
position.
What this principle is as to its essence we do not
know. We may magnify the seed to the highest pos-
sible degree; we may dissect it with the most delicate
instruments that science can invent; but we will find
ourselves wholly unable to detect that wherein its
life consists. It has eluded every effort to detect it
and to subject it to analysis and definition. But the
[129]
i jo True Heroism and Other Sermons.
fact that there is such a power in the seed, out of
which the whole future life of the plant is evolved,
no man will question for a moment.
In the gospel of Christ is a secret invisible energy —
a principle of life — spiritual and eternal life. It is
called " the incorruptible seed of the word of God
which liveth and abideth forever." It is not a dead
letter. As a history of a divine-human person and
his work, as a system of doctrine, and as a code of
morals it is instinct with life. It is both vital and
vitalizing. Wrapped up in it is the life of the church,
and of every individual believer; and that life is
vigorous and healthful, not according to outward and
temporal conditions, but in proportion to the nutri-
ment which it receives from the word.
It has sometimes happened that seeds have been
preserved through a long period of time; but when
planted they have germinated and reproduced them-
selves as readily and as perfectly as if they were the
product of the last harvest. So the lapse of ages has
not impaired in the least the vital force of the gospel.
It is as quick and as powerful to-day as when first
proclaimed by the newly inspired apostles on the
streets of Jerusalem. The trees of the Lord are as
green and flourishing, their blossoms are as beautiful
and fragrant, and their fruits as abundant and perfect
now, as were those that grew under the personal
care and culture of the Master himself.
The seed reproduces itself. It brings forth fruit
True Heroism and Other Sermons. iji
after its own and not after another kind. There is no
such thing in the kingdom of nature as the transmu-
tation of species. Each, while it may be improved,
or may deteriorate, preserves its own essential char-
acteristics to the end of its existence. And whatever
the varieties of the soil in which the seed may be
planted, or whatever the varieties of climate and
atmospheric influences, the product, though per-
haps in some respects modified, is essentially the
same.
The gospel of Christ, itself unchangeable, pro-
duces the same results in all ages, among all men.
There are endless varieties of character and condition
among men — differences of capacity and acquire-
ment, of modes of thought and habits of life, of dis-
position and taste. The influences that operate on
them are as varied as their circumstances and asso-
ciations. Yet everywhere the result is the same.
While the gospel does not destroy the distinctive
peculiarities of men, or exact from every one pre-
cisely the same exhibition of Christian character and
life, its fruitage is everywhere identical. It is every-
where, " love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness,
goodness, faith, meekness, and temperance." And
in the production of these fruits it reproduces itself.
Every Christian man's life is an evangel, a procla-
mation and illustration of the truth and power of the
gospel, and has in it a reproductive energy; so that
it were possible for the gospel to perpetuate itself,
132 True Heroism and Other Sermons.
work out its results, and achieve its triumphs in the
world independently of these written records.
While the life-power in the seed is to us inscru-
table, we can be at no loss in determining the source
and secret of the vital force of the gospel. It presents
those views of the divine character that naturally
tend to re-awaken the soul's confidence and love.
It is the medium through which a divine influence
is imparted to quicken the soul, to enlighten the un-
derstanding, awaken the conscience, renew the will
and the affections, to reconcile us to God and bring
us into a blessed fellowship with Him. To receive
the gospel is to receive Christ : in its saving applica-
tion it is " Christ in you the hope of glory " — Christ,
not personally and locally, but in the fulness and
richness of the gifts and graces of his Spirit which
dwelleth in you.
II. The life of the seed is developed according to
certain conditions or laws.
1. The law of fitness or adaptation. It will not
germinate in a bank of snow, or of arid sand. It
must be placed in a soil properly prepared and en-
riched, and withal naturally adapted to its growth.
It must have the air, the sunshine and showers, in
order to the evolution of its life-principle. So the
word of God must be received and kept in a good and
honest heart. The heart is its soil, and the only soil
in which it will germinate and bring forth its fruit.
" That on good ground are they, which in an honest
True Heroism and Other Sermons. ijj
and good heart, having* heard the word, keep it, and
bring forth fruit with patience."
2. The law of progress. " First the blade, then
the ear, after that the full corn in the ear." There
is a gradual unfolding of the spiritual life from its
first pulsations in conviction to maturity in entire
sanctification. There is a moment when the tender
shoot first bursts through the soil into the sunlight;
a moment when the blossom opens and sheds its
pollen; a moment when the corn is ripe. So there
is an instant of time when the soul first feels the
quickening power of the Holy Ghost; an instant
when it emerges from the darkness and sorrow of
conscious guilt and penitence into the light and joy
of conscious pardon and peace with God; an instant
when with absoluteness of consecration and trust it
comes into the experience of " the fulness of the bless-
ing of the gospel of peace." But as in the process
of nature, so in the work of grace, however it may
appear to outward observation, there are no sudden
abrupt leaps from a lower to a higher state. The
blade cannot at once become full corn; the little
leaven cannot instantly leave the whole lump; the
babe in Christ cannot at once become the full-grown
strong man. There is a gradual advancement from
one state to another — the soul as certainly passing
through every state in its progress as the infant must
pass through childhood and youth to reach manhood.
While the work of God in the soul is progressive,
IJ4 True Heroism and Other Sermons.
at every stage of its progress it is perfect. Is a man
regenerated? In that moment he is a perfect babe in
Christ — but nothing more than a babe, nor do we
know of any scriptural doctrine, precept or promise,
that justifies us in expecting him to be anything
more at that time. Is that work sufficient for his
salvation? If he were to die, the next moment after
regeneration would he go to heaven? Beyond all
question. He is as truly a child of God as he ever
will be, and has as sure a title to the inheritance as
he ever can have. There may be children of widely
different ages, and different degrees of intelligence
and usefulness in the household; but there is no dif-
ference in their relationship to the parents, nor in
their claims to a share in the parental estate. The
heavenly Father will give a crown and a kingdom to
the feeblest of His children no less certainly than
to the strongest.
But must not some additional work be accom-
plished in the soul? Is it made meet for the inheri-
tance of the saints in light by regeneration only?
So we have believed from the time we first gave the
subject serious consideration; so we will continue to
believe until we find something to the contrary in
God's word. We are not ignorant of human theories
on the subject. We know that there is a very com-
mon notion that in the article of death there is an
additional unconditional work of the Spirit complet-
ing the soul's transformation into the image of God.
True Heroism and Other Sermons. ij^
But if God can work such a change unconditionally
in one, He can do the same in all; and if in any re-
spect, then in every respect and to any extent. The
logical outcome of such a theory is the abolition of
hell and universal final restoration. It is enough
that we find no intimation of any such work of the
Spirit in the hour of death anywhere in the sacred
Scriptures — no intimation that the grace imparted
in regeneration is insufficient for salvation. We hope
never to find any such intimation. The discovery
would be a sad blow to our faith in the gospel.
But the man does not die as soon as regenerated —
what then? The blade does not perish as soon as
it reaches the sunlight — what then? Do we look
for the full corn the next day, or the next? o; we
are to protect and nourish the plant, let it have the
light and warmth of the sun, the dews and showers,
and careful culture, and in due season the ripe corn
will be our reward. So the new-born child of God
must have the nursing care of the church, the means
of grace, and the sweet influences of the Spirit, that
he may grow thereby into a mature Christian man-
hood. Under such fostering care and in the use of
these means, he will k ' come unto a perfect man,
unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of
Christ," as certainly as the plant under favoring con-
ditions will be developed into a healthful maturity.
But what of sanctification? Is it not a grace
distinct from regeneration — " a second blessing " —
ij6 True Heroism and Other Sermons.
" or higher life " — to be attained and enjoyed at some
point between the two states denoted by the blade
and the full corn? We have not so read the Scrip-
tures. We do not doubt that there is many a precious
baptism of the Spirit between these stages of the
spiritual life just as there is many a refreshing shower
and many a day of sunshine between the bursting
forth of the blade and the ripening of the corn. But
our view of the matter is that the child of God enjoys
the blessing of sanctification from the moment of his
regeneration on through life until he is glorified in
heaven; not the blessing in all its fulness; and yet
the blessing in its fulness as measured by his ability
to receive and enjoy it. The state of the soul when
born anew is one of consecration to Christ, of trust
in Him, and love for Him,' proportioned to the clear-
ness of its view of its own need and of His sufficiency.
Its conception of its need is constantly enlarged and
intensified by the discipline of life and its increasing
knowledge of itself, while the study of the word and
the experience of the heart are ever giving it deeper
and more comprehensive views of the unsearchable
riches of Christ. With its growth in knowledge of
itself and of Christ, and a corresponding appropria-
tion by faith of His atoning merit, there is growth
in purity, love, joy, peace, and all the graces and
fruits of the Spirit. Through this entire process the
soul is in a state of salvation, sanctification, holiness,
according to the degree of its light arid the measure
True Heroism and Other Sermons. 137
of its present capacity. The life, therefore, from its
beginning to its culmination in glory is one — and
one forever — a new and " higher life " as compared
with the old life of sin, it is true, but not in the sense
that it is essentially different from itself at different
stages of its progress.
This view may help to explain a not uncommon
fact in the history of individual Christian life. We
know persons who, years ago, professed entire sancti-
fication, but who do not profess it now. Why not?
Have they fallen away? o; they are as devoted,
earnest, faithful now as they were then. They will
perhaps say that they have lost that blessing. We
think differently. Instead of losing it they have
outgrown it as then enjoyed. They are on a higher
plane of knowledge and have broader and more com-
prehensive views. What filled the soul then cannot
fill it now. The joy of childhood and youth is wholly
insufficient for their manhood. If, instead of mourn-
ing over it as lost, they will trustingly appropriate
Christ's saving and sanctifying merit up to the
measure of their present knowledge, the vessel,
however capacious, will be filled again, and to over-
flowing.
Is this Methodist doctrine? We believe it to be
Bible doctrine. We believe, too, that we have not
advanced an idea that is not involved in the often
quoted saying of Mr. Wesley that " regeneration is
sanctification begun." All the elements of a com-
9
ij8 True Heroism and Other Sermons.
pleted sanctification are in regeneration; and while
a man may profess entire sanctification to-day and
claim that it has all been done for him and in him
by the Holy Spirit in an instant, Mr. Wesley says:
" You are mistaken; it was begun in you ten, twenty,
forty years ago, when you were regenerated." What-
ever else Methodism may teach, it emphasizes the
doctrine of growth in spiritual life. It affixes no
limit to this growth. It sets no time at which a man
may say, " I have ' already attained ' and am ' already
perfect,' " but exhorts every man to be ever " follow-
ing after, if that he may apprehend that for which
also he is apprehended of Christ Jesus."
1. Many a plant springing from a good seed never
reaches maturity. It is destroyed by the worm,
nipped by the frost, or choked by the weeds. So
little sins, great sins, worldliness, lust, pride, ambi-
tion, often dwarf and disfigure the spiritual life, arrest
its progress, and ultimately destroy it. " He that
hath ears to hear, let him hear."
2. Unlike the seeds of nature, the seed of the word
of God is incorruptible. It " liveth and abideth for-
ever." In it is the power of an endless life. Its
fruits are perennial. The saints in glory are forever
moving onward and upward to a higher and grander
perfection.
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