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"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." — Galatiaxs vi. 7, 8. He must be very perverse, and resolved at all hazard to harden his heart against the influence of divine truth, who will not yield assent to such doctrines as bear the stamp of ature's seal. To any reasonable man, therefore, it should be a sufficient voucher of the claims of any dogma professing to have a divine sanction, that it agrees well with the testimony of uniform experience. ow, we find the moral, as well as the physical constitution of things so ordered by the Creator, that his intelligent creatures reap just what they sow. In husbandry it is an obvious truth, all men know, and act upon this knowledge, that if they sow corn in their fields, they will reap corn. They would be very much surprised at any contradiction of their experience in a matter of such common observation. ow this is a general law of nature, which is the manifestation of God's providence in the outward creation, in which he always works by general laws. He has so provided, that the seed being sown in the earth, the hlade soon springs up, the ear is then formed, and the full grain is at length brought forth. In effecting this result, no interposition of divine power is visible. The successive processes and results are natural, uniform and necessary. If, now, we look closely at human life, we shall perceive that the moral constitution of man presents a similar aspect, so similar as to justify us in ascribing to the same all-ivise Providence, the uniform succession of cause and effect which it displays. We shall see good lyroducing good, and evil 'producing evil, each yield-
42 SERMO IV. ing fruit after its kind ; not, indeed, with such perfect uniformity as in the case of reproduction of seed from seed, but generally. God appears to have ordained, for the moral government of the -world, for instance, that the abuse of the good things bestowed upon man, shall bring upon him sujBTering and often disgrace and misery. How many proofs of this does the world afford ! How often do we see old age paying for the follies of youth, in, bodily pains, or mental anguish under the sense of guilt. The history of the world's experience tells us plainly that if a man indulges evil passions in his youth, and exhausts the strength of his constitution by frequent excesses, he will reap the fruit of his own planting in a shattered frame, trembling nerves or an imbecile mind. If prodigality and recklessness mark the early character, the condition of old age will commonly be that of want and poverty ; and, on the contrary, if honest diligence and prudent economy be exhibited in youth, a comfortable and respectable old age will generally follow. These are God's appointments under his system of moral government. There is sufficient uniformity to mark the results as a system, while there are exceptions enough to show that a future state of retribution may reasonably be expected. They show the 7iatural tendency of good to produce good, and of evil to produce evil. And this is the principle that we wish to illustrate. We have seen, then, that it is as true in morals, as in husbandry, that whatsoever a man sows, he will surely reap. And we might expect to find it equally true in religion. So that we are quite prepared for the application of this principle to spiritual matters, made by the apostle in the latter verse of our text. If reasonable beings, we should be ready to admit the truth of the language, though it were not that of divine inspiration. But having the sanction of the Holy Spirit, they are words of solemn import, which
should be deeply pondered by every one to whom the gospel must be "a savour of life unto life, or of death unto death." "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." Let us test this principle, so positively asserted by the Apostle, and see the closeness of its application. View it first, in refer-
SERMO IV. 43 ence to this life as a state of probation; and secondly, in regard to a future life of reward and punishment. It is a fixed principle in the constitution of man that the constant use of any faculty increases both the facility of using and the tendency to use it. This is as true in morals as in physics. The more frequently any action, whether good or bad, is performed, the more easily will a similar action at any time be done. Each act is therefore the seed of every future act, producing fruit after its kind. Let us trace these natural results of actions, first, in the course of sin and worldliness; or what St. Paul calls, "sowing to the flesh." On this head let it be observed, that conscience, (which is an inward check upon the evil propensities of our nature,) is weakened by every sinful act, and may be entirely stifled by a long course of resistance to its authority. If its admonitions be disregarded once, they will plead with far less power a second time. What was once regarded as evil, will cease to be so regarded, and hence sin will be more frequently committed. Thus by a habit of sinning, the heart becomes hardened in guilt, sin grows more and more reconcilable to the moral sense, and an abundant harvest of wickedness may confidently be expected.
ow the heart hardens itself all the while — there is no direct interposition of divine power in the case, any more than in the production of seed from seed. It is the natural result of evil indulgence. And when the scripture declares that God "hardens the heart" of a sinner, it is not to be understood to represent God as working evil, or as in the least degree interfering with the free agency of man. He only turns the wicked over to a reprobate mind. That is, he leaves the sinner to the natural consequences of his sinfulness. He withholds his hand from any interposition, and allows the evil propensity to bring forth the natural and necessary fruit of its free indulgence. We would have you entertain clear views on this subject, my hearers ; and therefore we are plain and positive. God must interpose his hand to save. He need not do so to destroy. Evil is in the heart of man ; and it will work evil continually. God did not put it there : and hence, if he permit it to bring forth its natural fruits, he is not to be held answerable for sin.
44 SERMO IV. Therefore, all expressions in the holy Scriptures, which seem to encourage the belief, that God interposes specially to harden the sinner, must be interpreted in such a way as to leave man's free agency unimpaired. And this is the true interpretation — that man will grow worse and worse, if he resist the admonitions of conscience, which is the voice of God within him, saying to his tumultuous passions, "Peace, be still." If a man will sow to the flesh, he must of the flesh, reap corruption. Let every one take heed, therefore, how and what he sows, for in due season he will reap accordingly. A reflection is here suggested which may not be very obvious, but which is vastly important. It relates to the danger of what are called small sins. You may count many little oifences perfectly venial, and therefore as calling for neither great vigilance nor deep repentanc'e. But you greatly err. Consider, that any sin, however small it may appear, inasmuch as it offends, yet
serves to stifle the conscience, opens the way for many larger sins, which, to your dismay and your ruin, will, by and by, come in like an overrunning flood. By sinning a little, you will increase the difiiculty of resisting temptation; and, hence, your first offence should rather be deemed the least pardonable of all, since it was committed while your conscience was yet tender, and was also the cause, so to speak, of all your subsequent sins; for what you then sowed sparingly, you afterwards reaped abundantly. Take heed, therefore, how you offend your conscience in the least degree ; for you know not what a vast amount of wickedness and misery may result from what you may regard as a single and inconsiderable sin. Resist the beginnings of evil, if you would be saved from complete subjection tn the power of the enemy that lies in wait for your souls. The principle of the text is equally true when applied to those who sow to the Spirit. These will grow in grace " continually, and will reap of the Spirit life everlasting." In the case of these, however, we cannot see the working of the principle so clearly ; for God does not leave them to themselves. It is by his grace that sinful men are, and must be, renovated. But when the principle of holiness is once implanted, every exercise of that principle gives it new strength — the way of right-
SERMO IV. 45 eousness becomes more and more readily attainable — the power of Satan is weakened by every successful resistance of bis tempting attacks, and all the rich fruits of the Spirit in time appear, the abundant harvest of holy things. Who does not know how much easier it is to resist the second time, any temptation which has been once successfully resisted? how easy self-denial becomes by the force of habit — and how much the frequency of doing good increases the power, as well as the desire to do it ? With reference
to any work that men may undertake, it is true that the more they do, the more they may do. In all labours, bodily and mental, in works of charity, in every exercise of virtuous principle, practice makes every thing easy, and hence induces the greater frequency of doing the same. Thus good produces good, as seed re-produces seed. " He who soweth to the Spirit, shall reap of the Spirit." This is a doctrine, the truth of which can be attested by the experience of many. The pious Christian of every age has had "the witness in himself" of the growth of that grace which he has been eager to cherish. For the dew of divine love falls heavily upon all who seek to water the root of holiness that God has planted in their souls. Each endeavour to promote their own salvation, is blessed with new assurances of continual help from him who is able to keep them from falling, and will finish the work which he has begun in them, to his own praise and glory. Every earnest effort to mount up to heaven on the wings of prayer, is sustained by the Spirit which "helpeth our infirmities, and maketh intercession for us." Thus they who "wait on the Lord continually," enjoy the fulfilment of the Scripture promise, for they "renew their strength as the eagles." The soul is drawn nearer and nearer unto God by each act of supplication — that which was at first a task, a duty reluctantly performed, soon becomes a pleasing exercise, and at last is necessary to the Christian's daily comfort. And, so with regard to all the devotional exercises — the more frequently they are engaged in with holy fervour, the more delight they afford, and the greater is the desire to engage in them. The constant communion with God, which is ultimately established, induces "that peace of mind which passes the understanding" of the careless worshipper, and begets that habit of religious meditation, which is literally "walking with God."
46 SERMO IV. Thus the pious Christian is constantly proving the truth of the assurance that whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. He reaps of the things of the Spirit throughout his life on earth,
and will finally attain, as a full harvest, the life everlasting, which is promised through Christ Jesus our Lord. Can we not safely and confidently appeal to the experience of some of you, my hearers, for testimony to the truth of what we say ? Yes ! Well do we know that the grace of God has given you, who have made a good profession of the Christian faith, the witness in yourselves of the faithfulness of pious purposes. You know the love of God in Christ Jesus — you have proved his faithfulness to redeem his pledges. And having tasted that the Lord is gracious, you may trust him for the future finishing of the good work which he has begun in you, to his own praise and glory. Follow on to know the Lord — being assured by the experience already gained, of final triumph, if you persevere unto the end. God grant that we may meet in bliss, after judgment, to sing the praise of Him who loved us, and gave himself for us. We have shown you, my hearers, in few words, the application of our text to this life of probation, and have seen that whatsoever a man soweth, whether good or evil, that shall he also reap. Equally true is it in regard to the life to come. And it is a truth so solemn and awful, that it demands the serious attention of every rational being, and especially of those to whom the Gospel of Jesus Christ is continually preached. This Gospel proclaims a way of salvation which Jesus has opened by the shedding of his blood. The way is so plain, and the making of it cost so much, that they who refuse to enter it, evince the most stubborn ingratitude and obstinacy, or the most guilty recklessness and indifference. ow it would seem to be a just retribution to condemn to everlasting misery, those who wilfully reject an eternal life of joy and peace. Even if this were not the alternative presented to mankind by Him who has wrought redemption for all who believe, we see not how any one who admits the right of an Almighty Creator to punish his rebellious creatures, could object to such a punishment. Yet many do object to it on the ground of God's mercy and love, alleging that it would be inconsistent with these his glorious attributes. But the objection is a very weak one — for the same authority which declares that eternal punishment awaits all who reject the Saviour,
SERMO IV. 47
and so die in their sins, also assures us that God has exercised his love to the utmost for the salvation of sinners, and offered them the abundance of his mercy, through the redemption wrought by his beloved Son. How, indeed, could God give any greater proof of his love for the sinner whom he condemns, than he has given in the very Gospel, for rejecting which the condemnation is pronounced ? The wisdom of man cannot tell — the imagination cannot conceive. But all God's attributes are equally perfect and glorious; and if we consider his justice and holiness, as well as his love and mercy, we must admit that it would be perfectly consistent with the character of God, to punish eternally, those who refused obedience to the Gospel, even if such punishment had not been annexed as the penalty of unbelief. But the alternative is plainly stated in the Gospel. The sinner is assured that if he will accept the salvation offered to him, he will be happy forever ; but that if he rejects it, he will be forever miserable. ow, we may be able to show, that man will punish himself throughout eternity, just as he hardens himself in this life ; and that in suffering the eternal retribution of wickedness, he is only reaping that which he has sown. If this can be shown, it will preclude any objection to future punishment as implying the special interposition of a vindictive God. For, it will be seen, that no such interposition is needed, since the punishment which follows a life of sin, must be regarded as only the natural and necessary consequence of such a life. The wicked will enter another world with the same passions which here kept them in a state of rebellion against God, and strife with their fellow-men — and these will continue to rage with increased violence. What a cage of unclean birds — a den of crawling vipers, is the prison of lost spirits ! What ravenous lust, seeking to devour all things — what raging hate ! — what revenge, thirsting for blood, reign there ! What pride, goaded to madness, and scorning submission to the will of God! What bitter envy, looking with malignant glare upon the scene of bliss which the redeemed enjoy! What fell remorse, gnawing the soul that has spurned the offer of such bliss, and steeped itself in endless wo ! Oh ! you might see in this picture, surveyed and analyzed minutely, the terrible harvest which they who sow
wickedness, will reap in another world ! If envy, and hate, and
48 SERMO IV. revenge have raged in the heart on earth, they will rage more fearfully in hell. If pride has rejected the Saviour, and refused to submit to the will of God in this life, it will rankle in the soul in the state of departed spirits. And as there can be no place for repentance after death, remorse will be an eternal scourge to all who shall be condemned. If men will nurse the evil passions all their days in the flesh, they must reap the fruits of their folly and wickedness throughout eternity. So the wicked do punish themselves ; for they reap in another world what they have sown in this. They cherish those feelings of hostility to God, of aversion to Christ, and to the holiness which he imparts, which, in a world of purity, where Christ's righteousness is the crown of glory, must necessarily make them miserable. We warn those therefore, who resist and oppose the claims of Christ, of the fearful consequences of their obstinacy and opposition. It is a dreadful thing to fight against God, who has made a sure provision for the salvation of his humble and penitent creatures. Christ is the only Saviour. Vain delusion to build a hope of divine favour on any other foundation than faith in the appointed Redeemer ! Fatal blindness if it lasts till death ! For the time will come when the delusion will be taken away. At the final judgment before Clu'ist's awful tribunal, they who have not been his disciples here on earth, will know that they have cast away the only appointed means of salvation. The Lord Avill reveal himself in judgment to those who would not receive his revelation of mercy. They who are now wilfully blind, will then be compelled to see — see themselves as condemned sinners — and the Lord, the rejected Saviour, now the avenging Judge. Here on earth, alas, men do not know themselves. Their consciences are blinded and stifled, and their own wickedness in God's sight is often shut out from their view. But it will not be
so in another world. There the soul will be quickened in its perception of evil, as well as of good, and the conscience, roused into new vigour, will convict the most moral persons of wickedness in the sight of God. The holiness of God will seem so pure, and the ofi'ence of transgression will appear so deep and dark, when viewed in the light of such holiness, that the soul of the unre-
SEllMO IV. 49 deemed man will ablior itself forever, although in this life it mayhave slept quietly, lulled by the whisperings of self-righteousness. The soul conscious of its identity, will be compelled to review the history of its probation, (when God's Spirit was striving with it for good,) while it surveys the blessedness of those who have the witness of that Spirit, that they are the accepted of God. Imagine its torture under the eternal conflict of emotions excited by this two-fold view. The keen perception of the joys which might have been its portion, and the vivid recollection of abused privileges and despised mercies, the alternate image of the bleeding, dying Saviour, stretching out his hands in pity and supplication to the sinner that he would save, and of the same enthroned and triumphant Saviour, receiving the homage of the heavenly hosts and condemning the sinner that has despised and rejected him. Oh! these are circumstances of judgment that must wring the soul with anguish. If you would avoid such self- wrought retribution, be careful, while you live, to " sow to the Spirit, that you may of the Spirit reap life everlasting." For the text may be applied with equal truth and adaptedness to the state of the redeemed, who will be crowned with glory in heaven. They who embrace the salvation which Christ has purchased and offered in the Gospel, who receive and cherish the precious influences of the Holy Spirit, grow in grace from day to day, and become more and more fitted for the state of holy rest which is reserved for the faithful. The more closely they walk with God, the more resolutely they fight against sin, the world, and the devil, — the more diligently they examine their hearts, and root out from them all pride, selfishness, and lust, — the more steadily they labour in the service of their Lord, so much the more are they qualified for the enjoyment of
the bliss of heaven. They breathe the element in which they will spend eternity, that of holiness and purity. If, indeed, the Christian enjoys the services of the sanctuary on earth, he will be ready to enter upon the service of that temple not made with hands, "eternal in the heavens." If he loves to contemplate the righteousness of his Saviour, and in view of his own depravity and unworthiness to "make mention of that righteousness alone," he w^ill be prepared to join in the anthem of ceaseless praise to "Him who hath washed us in His blood," the spotless Lamb of God. Thus by his whole life the pious Christian prepares himself for 4
50 SERMO IV. the eternal world; and wlien he is called to enter that world and to share in its glorious rewards, he presents a living, moving illustration of the truth of that saying of the Apostle, "Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap, for he that soweth to the Spirit, shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting." What a harvest is this for a soul that was once shut out from God's favour, through the curse of disobedience ! — and who would not be a reaper in that field whose fruits are so abundant and satisfying. Divine husbandry! Glorious gathering! ! Were there no joy in sowing to the Spirit — were there no encouragement but a bare hope of final recompense for patient toil, yet the cry of angels to the redeemed in heaven, "Put ye in the sickle, for the harvest is ripe," would wake the soul to joys that are cheaply bought with a life of trial and sorrow. But on the Christian's reward we cannot dwell. We have shown you the product of good and of evil seed, — the sure results of holy and of ungodly living. With these truths before you, my hearers, what should be your conduct? The voice of experience and observation, the deductions of reason in regard to a future state of reward and punishment, and the sure, sublime, startling revelations of God's word — all declare that as you here sow, you will hereafter reap. If you live "after the flesh," cherishing its corrupt affections and lusts, you will incur a fearful retribution.
But if you live "after the Spirit," you have the sure promise of everlasting life. Hesitate not, we pray you, to give unto God, through Christ Jesus, the whole seed-time of your existence, and obtain of Him an abundant harvest of eternal joy and felicity.
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