TEARFUL SOWI G A D JOYFUL REAPI G. BY MELA CTHO W. JACOBUS, D.D., LL.U.
"They that sow in tears, shall reap in joy. He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him." — PsALM cxxvi. 5-6. The Psalmist celebrates in this beautiful psalm the return of the church from captivity by help of her covenant God. How joyous was the day ! How bright and blessed was the deliverance ! It was morning after midnight. It was plenty after famine. It was rain after drought. And from such a glad and happy experience he deduces a great principle, applicable to all times and to the church, not only, but to the individual believer. "They that sow in tears, shall reap in joy." But this principle can not be of universal application. It is confined to the domain of Christian effort. Traced to the natural law, we could say that they who undertake and prosecute enterprises with anxious earnestness, such as often expresses itself in tears, do commonly meet with success, and obtain a joyous harvest of their anxious sowing. But this is, by no means, the universal experience. Every one sees that many sow in tears and reap in tears also. See the man of the world, early and late busy, carrying on the service of
TEARFUL SOWI G, JOYFUL REAPI G. 163 mammon with sweating toil worthy of a better cause ; wearied in body and mind, worried and ex-
hausted, sitting down at last to disappointment and despair. Oh ! How the masses who forget God and go in pursuit of worldly pleasure, or of mad ambition, sow in tears and reap in bitter weeping ! The service of Satan and of mammon is a hard service, drudging work and poor wages. Pity on the toiling laborers who have no rest, day nor night; no release from their bondage and no fruit of their labor, but shame and sorrow ; where they drudge on, and are only crushed and cursed for their pains by the hard master whom they serve. There is no service but the service of God, that guarantees a splendid success. Think of this, ye who give body and soul to the cares of life and to its pleasures, and find your reward so hard and cruel, with no promise of relief forever and ever. Listen to those cheering words of the text and inquire for this Master, who promises such joyous and blessed returns in his service. It may be fairly said, that there is no great result in life attained \\dthout hard labor. Men concede this every day in their worldly business. They are even willing to sow in tears at the prospect, however uncertain, of reaping, at length, in joy. There is ready sacrifice, daily self-denial, cheerful cross -bearing, patient bondage, to the work of mammon, in the bare hope of gaining, at length, an ample return. And yet, how hard it is, sometimes, for such to
164 TEARFUL SOWI G bear up under the blasted prospects and baffled ef-
forts in business, with no security that it will ever be otherwise. But here, in the service of God, the sower can well afford the tears; he can bear up cheerfully under the present burdens, knowing that there shall surely come an abundant harvest — that none of his patient, painstaking labor shall be lost, that he shall yet go forth to the reaping, however it be long delayed, and that, "Though seed lie buried long in dust, It sha'n't deceive the hope. The precious grain shall not be lost, For grace insures the crop." There are divine maxims that the world quotes for its encouragement, but they belong to the people of God, that — "The darkest hour is just before the day," and that "man's extremity is God's opportunity." The Scripture has it, as it was written in the history of Abraham. "In the mount the Lord shall be seen." The altar on which your Isaac is to be given up in tears to God, is the place where you shall behold marvels of God's mercy — where God shall graciously interpose, and all angels shall seem to be your bodyguard, and unimagined ways of deliverance shall appear to turn the weeping into joy. So it is written, on the basis of the same divine guarantees, and as a fruit of the same Christian experience : " Blessed is the man wliose strength is in thee ; in whose heart are the ways of them, who, passing through the valley of Baca, make it a well." I have seen stout men and tender women
A D JOYFUL REAPI G. 165 passing through the valley of Baca, and the vale
of weeping becomes to them a fountain of living waters, and God's gracious rains from heaven — all his showers of blessing — fill the pools which affliction has scooped out in their path. Let us look now at the text, as it sets before us the certain results of Christian effort — the sure success of labor in Christ's service, however toilsome, and however discouraging, or disappointing it may any time appear. Every man is in a sense a husbandman, whether he will or not. He is daily sowing seed that shall spring up to some harvest of honor and joy, or of shame and sorrow. But the Christian minister and every Christian laborer is likened, in the Scripture, to a sower — who goes forth to sow, whose business and office-work is this — to sow seed. The illustration is full of interest. Let us trace it out. The dissemination of God's truth is our great business — yours and mine, my brethren. And this divine truth, when brought to bear upon men, is compared, in Scripture, to a fire and a hammer, that breaks the flinty rock in pieces. This is its function — this is its office-work and aim — to break down the stoutest enmity of the heart. It is also likened to a sword that is to be wielded — to strike down the most violent opposer — the sword of the Spirit, which God, the Holy Ghost himself draws — and with which he cuts, even to the joints and marrow of the desperate foe. But in the hand of the Christian minister, and
166 TEARFUL SOWI G
Christian member, this truth of God is also seed. And thus it is called the good seed — the incorruptible seed, which liveth and abide th forever. Other seed may utterly rot in the ground, as it fairly ought; and some seed may germinate to corruption ; but this seed never rots, and where it springs up, at length, it is always to a pure and joyous harvest. Mark, then, the divine encouragement: "He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him." The sole condition of the success is, that the sower shall go forth to his work, hearing the precious seed, and then, he may go forth even weeping, for the present hardship or opposition or ill-success, but he shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, reaping his golden harvest. Look now at this truth of God as seed. Jesus spake a parable to this effect, and said, "The sower soweth the word." The seed is the word of God. You may notice how these divine truths are thrown out from the pulpit and the press and social conversation, as from the sower's hand. Is this to be the end of all this constant work of the preacher, just to pronounce formal sermons — just to work up thoughts into religious discourses, or to work out the high problems of divine revelation, for curious hearers, and to go on to-morrow as to-day, and next Sabbath as this Sabbath, looking for no further results? Ask: Is it
A D JOYFUL REAPI G. 167 the whole business of the husbandman to turn his mellow furrow and plant his field with grain — and so go on, with the same process, year after year, looking for no harvest ? Oh no ! This might be, if he sowed pebbles. But he has soAved seed. And, in its very nature, it is a germ — having life — and it is expected to be started into growth by all the system of influences into which it is cast by that act of the sower flinging it into the ground. Look at these truths of God. They are living germs — they are seed-grain. They are cast out into the minds of men in the hope of genial influences for expanding and maturing them to a harvest. Oh ! how one thought, flung into the active soul, has often germinated and expanded and come up with rank stalk and heavy crop in all the future life. And that is what we seek. And this is what God expressly promises: "As the rain cometh down and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, that it may give seed to the sower and bread to the eater; so shall my word be, that goeth forth out of my mouth. It shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please ; and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it, tliat instead of the thorn may come up the fir-tree, and instead of the brier the myrtle-tree, to be to the Lord for a name, for an everlasting sign which shall not be cut off'." This is the absolute guarantee of God. And this is the standing encouragement in disseminating this good word of God. So it ought
168 TEARFUL SOWI G
to result — so every sowing ought to have its crop, and will somehow and sometime have it, in benefit and blessing for all eternity. But observe the grand condition of this success is, that the seed sown shall be precious seed. Oh! how many hands are busy sowing worthless seed, that shall either not spring up or, what is worse, shall spring up to prolific harvests of corruption and perdition. How the new laborers, with seed in hand — bad seed — enter the service of Satan every day! And how hard it is to get men, in this blessed field of the Master, men who will be earnest and faithful in scattering the good seed of the kingdom, as they go along in life with a view to a harvest of souls ! But look at this seed, — how precious ! You can know it only from its fruits. You may take various seeds — some of most poisonous plants, and some of richest fruits — and you may not be able to distinguish them. But drop them into the ground, where they shall be subjected to the appropriate influences of soil, and you shall soon know them from the stalk and leaf even, but surely from the fruit. Take now one of these divine truths — the great fact of the Gospel — the faithful, credible saying, so worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. Have I need to prove to you how precious is this seedgrain of inspired truth? Have you not seen it where it has sprung up in a desolate field, where the heart was sad and the home was cheerless,
A D JOYFUL REAPI G. 169 and it has gladdened all around — comforted the sorrowing, and raised the degraded and debased — as when you have sown some gorgeous flowerseed in your garden, and it has bloomed all the season through, to delight and bless with its beauty every beholder ? I saw, for the first time, last summer, in this vicinity, the evening primrose. They who had the beauteous thing in bloom, near the door-w^ay of their dwelling, gathered the whole company of visitors around to see it so wondrously open its flowers at the instant of the sunsetting. We stood and watched the long yellow blossoms that had been folded up closely through the day — and strangely enough, as the sun went down, these blossoms on every stem seemed instinct w^ith life. The folded leaves began to stir, and first one and then another leaf gently unfolded, until, presently, it flung open all its beauty to the beholder. And not one of the blossoms failed to do the same, until a dozen on the same stalk stood forth in the glory of this twilight resurrection. A precious seed, I said, is that, and I must have the joy of such a planting and flowering. So I have seen it, in a circle of worshippers, or in the same household. What precious seed has the great Gospel truth of Jesus' advent for sinners' salvation proved to be ! What peace it has brought forth in the bosom! What solid principle ! What noble practice ! How it has burst forth in beauty on a whole circle of beholders — a garden of delights — like the most rare and fra-
170 TEARFUL SOWI G
grant blossoming of the tropics. How faith and hope and love and joy and peace and long-suffering and gentleness and goodness and meekness and temperance and truth have been gathered by a whole household, in richest clusters, as the crop from this one seed. And so there is another precious seed, the truth of a divine covenant with the believer through Jesus Christ covering all providence — controlling all issues and events — numbering the very hairs of the head — providing for the asking and the receiving, as by a law more fixed than that which moves the stars in their exactest courses. See how this seed, sown in the heart, springs up and yields a fruit of happy thoughts and rich consolations ! Then as nothing can happen unforeseen and unordered and unprovided for by my covenant God, is it not blessed at the worst ? Is it not part of my training for heaven, and part of my leading thither? And so, if the event cross my plans, do I want any thing for myself that my covenant God does not want me to have? Or do I know better than he what is best for me ? Is it not better for my own happiness and for my eternal salvation, that my poor, stumbling way be embarrassed than his eternal course of love ? Is it not better that my poor, blind will be disappointed, than his loving and glorious counsels? And so let the tribulation come, and it shall work patience, and the patience experience, and the experience hope. And so, finally, the truth of the resurrection and
A D JOYFUL REAPI G. 171
etenial life is a like precious seed. Springing np in the dreariest bosom, it sheds joy around; it is fragrant with perfume that fills the air. Yesterday, I buried an aged widow, w4io first received me into her hospitable home a quarter century before, when I went out a lad to do my first sowing of the Gospel seed. She w^as one of my earliest parishioners in a distant city. She came to her grave in a full age as a shock of corn Cometh in in his season. It was a seasonable death, calm and beautiful, at eighty-seven years of age. And her last words were — " Eternal life ! eternal life ! " That seed, planted in her mind — this truth of the "life eternal" — that single glorious truth let fall in her soul — was vitalized and expanded to a gracious maturity and developed in her all joy and triumph, in her long and happy life journey and in her victorious death. So you have seen it all through your society. And to see it spring up, in even a few instances, is an ample reward. But the text makes mention of the weeping, almost as if it were a condition of success. There are manifold occasions for tears in this sower's work. The promise is spoken for encouragement, under all possible disappointments and drawbacks. As Jesus himself portrayed the sowing in his beautiful parable, you remember, it was only in one condition out of four, that the seed, precious as it all was, came to a blessed harvest. And yet we might hope that more than a fourth of all the seed sprang forth to p&rfection — that
172 TEARFUL SOWI G most of all the seed sown was dropped into the good ground, and only here and there a few scattering seeds fell by the wayside or npon the rock or among the thorns. But the manifold hindrances to the growth of the word in the heart and life might make an angel weep. It is hard for a minister to see the loss of his labor, in case of the wayside hearers. Hard to see a thousand birds of ill-omen, flocking round, to pick up the precious seed which has received no lodgement on that hard trodden road. Hard to see men, so indurated by the rush and tramp of business or pleasure, that you can't get them so much as to think of the soul. These great truths, most solemn and momentous, scarcely dropped before they are gone! Men who come, and go as they came, from a thousand sermons, and no impression is received ! Oh ! it is that which brings the tears. And then it is hard, where the seed has even sprung up and blossomed, full of promise, to find, in a few short months, how it has revealed its rocky soil — no firm rooting — all going to stalk — nothing but leaves — the blossoms dropping off without any fruit — nothing matured and ripened to perfection — withered away! And then, too, to see the growing of the seed choked by thorns — by the cares of this world and by the deceitfulness of riches and by the lusts of other things. So much good seed falling on rich soil, but overrun by weeds and overtopped by thistles, till it can grow no more, but is buried under the rank mass of worldliness. Oh! this is matter for tears; these
A D JOYFUL REAPI G. 173
are sights, under our daily eye, to wring the sower's heart with anguish. You do not see the weeping. How the evil tempers and evil example of some in the church hinder the progress of young Christians, or hinder others from becoming Christians at all ! How we must weep over much inconsiderate conduct even in the best ; over mischievous principles broached by good men, where wrong is palliated by those who are set to be the promulgators and defenders of the right, and where all a pastor's efforts are paralyzed by men of standing in the church, who openly, in conduct or otherwise, advocate the wrong in daily practice. But we are bidden to go on sowing, even though we weep as we go. For first, the sowing is ours and the weeping may be ours, but not the germinating, nor the fruit-bearing of what we sow. " Paul planteth, Apollos watereth, but God giveth the increase." And this is just what God doeth and delights to do, as if it were by a system of natural law. The means are ours — the results are his. And yet, he will often so bless the means with the results, as that they shall seem to have produced them. So, he often honors the preaching of the word and the use of all Christian instrumentalities. But he has not required of us to make the seed grow, only to do the sowing faithfully, and even at self-sacrifice and with tearful efforts, that shall evince the earnestness and the fidelity. And he will ensure the gracious harvest.
174 TEARFUL SOWI G
But we are to consider, secondly, that God does not bind himself to times and seasons for this harvest. It is not in the church, as it is in nature, that we can tell of the harvest-time from the course of the sun in the sky or from the season of the year. He reserves to himself the time for the reaping. ay, it is often that one soweth and another reapeth. But God will have our patience tested and cultivated here. And then he will have it so arranged that he that soweth and he that reapeth may rejoice together. Oh I in the other world, we shall see the map of human influences and destinies spread out in our individual cases, and it mil appear whose sowing it was from which the harvest, in each case, was finally reaped. And many an one who had waited and wept long time for results in his ministry will be honored, at last, with bringing in the sheaves from his own sowing, however long ago past; and then, if not before, that eternity that shall disclose all actions and all issues and shall trace them to their respective sources shall put the honor upon those to whom it is due. And they who, years ago, went forth somng and toiled faithfully in the furrow and scattering the seed, but not knowing of the ultimate results, they shall come again, with rejoicing, and shout the harvest-home. Patience, Christian parents, pray and labor with your wayward children. "God giveth the increase." This is what he does^ God giveth the increase. Patience, Sabbath-school teacher, plant and water.
A D JOYFUL REAPI G. 175 And if this be so, then we remark, further, that
present success in this work is no criterion of fidelity or of God's favor. What if a man sits down in his field, discouraged because he does not see the seed spring up at once. Many will give up the work, if they have not the immediate returns. But the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and the latter rain. God's times are not ours, nor are his ways ours. And can we not afibrd to wait when the promise is absolute, as in the text? Yea, the farmer may sow the best seed and may wait in vain for the crop. ature has not supplied all the conditions of fertility and production. And hence he goes, mourning the barrenness and loss. But here, in Christ's service, no Christian labor shall ever lose its reward. It is only a question of time. The faithful sower shall, doubtless — doubtless — come again with rejoicing, with his arms and bosom full of the sheaves. There is a world beyond; and it is a world of wages and fruits and issues and results and recompenses. If the seed has not yet sprung up, there it is, in the furrow, we may hope. It is sown in the bosom, and it is incorruptible seed. And if it be longer a-coming, it may be only because it was deeper planted or because of the nature of the soil. The century plant blooms for those who did not plant the seed. Yes ! And so there were those who planted that precious seed in faith, though they knew it should open its gorgeous flower, not
176 TEARFUL SOWI G for their eyes, but for others — when their heads were laid low in the dust.
I met a former parishioner in the crowd of Broadway, last week. It had been nearly twenty years since I had seen him. He told me of his children — one dead, another in Europe, another at home. He grasped me by the hand as we parted and he said: "Ah, you will be remembered by your people in Brooklyn, long after your head is in the grave." Ah! that is wages: the like of which one may get every year, more or less, from the old field, while he gathers also from the new. The husbandman hath long patience for the precious fruit of the earth — long patience for it. And why not we for this more precious fruit of heaven, when we are assured that it shall certainly come? And, finally, we see it is not the ministry, alone, but the memhersMp, also, to whom this sowing belongs. They who have the seed are to scatter it. There is no monopoly of production. You may all be cultivators of this gracious crop. o matter what discouragement or what delay or doubt or opposition of men or hindrances of the world or of the devil — no matter though Satan plant tares over night among the wheat, which you have carefully sown and watered with your tears. It is God's to give the increase, even where Paul plants and Apollos waters. And therefore, every one who can cast a seed out into the field, is invited to this work. Here is the call for truth, in every form of dissemination, to be written, spoken, said,
A D JOYFUL REAPI G. 177 or sung — at home or by the way — to men and to children — in the church and the Sabbath-school
and the counting-room — at the table and in the social circle — by the formal teaching or the incidental remark — by the sober counsel or the tender rebuke or the word of invitation or admonition. Speak ! I pray you, my brother ; whatever of God's truth you have at hand that the occasion calls for — that you have the opportunity to dispense — speak out ! for that truth has life in it — spirit and life — and it can not be utterly tramped out of the bosom. The fowl of the air may pick it up from the way-side, but may drop it elsewhere — may even drop it into a fresh furrow. And it will grow, ages after it has passed from your hand. Just as the seed deposited in the mummy's coffin is found, after long ages, yet instinct with life and incorruptible. Oh! ye who are out in the field of life daily, amidst the open furrows, where some sowing is all the while going on, and you are busily sowing some seed, whether you know it or not, whether you will it or not, sow this good seed of the kingdom, I beseech you, wherever you can. Employ your talents for Christ. Use your opportunities for Christ. Undertake work for Christ. It is no time for shrinking and shirking the work of the Master. Have you not served Satan faithfully and the world and self; and will you beg ofi* from toil and denial in Christ's service ? Only think of the sheaves which you may bring home, at the great harvesting of the world! Even though you are
178 TEARFUL SOWI G obscure and without influential position in society, remember, God asks for the sowing and he will give the increase, whether it be your sowing or Paul's or Gabriel's or a child's or an idiot's.
**I say to thee, do thou repeat To the first man thou mayst meet, In lane, highway or open street. That he and we and all men move Under a canopy of love. As broad as the blue sky above." And then let no one say that this is work which is too hard. "A grain of com an infant's hand May plant upon an inch of land, Whence twenty stalks may spring and yield Enough to stock a little field. The harvest of that field might then Be multiplied to ten times ten, Which sown, thrice more, would famish bread Wherewith an army might be fed." And herein is the strong attraction of this blessed work. Who can trace out its interminable issues ? Who can tell the history of one of these seeds ! It is the infinite development that gives it a charm. It can never die out — can never utterly fail — can never cease to grow and multiply its happy results, forever and ever. It is not measured, in its blessed product, by the strength of the muscle that sows it, nor by the power of the intellect, nor by the age or size of the sower, nor by the experience in the sowing. You can do it daily, hourly, and not tire. All the conditions and influences requisite for the
A D JOYFUL REAPI G. 179 iiuiidred-fuld product are with God. And the absohite promise is ours. All that is asked is the earnest act, such as will express itself often, in the
tear-drop of anxiety that goes along with the seed into the ground; and then, be sure, all your labor shall be more than recompensed with the rich harvesting — and all the iveeping shall be more than repaid by the reaping. And, my brethren, work while the day lasts! The time is short. Jesus wept at the grave of Lazarus, perhaps because that faithful disciple was lost to the town of Bethany — because his labors of Christian love in that dear household and in that whole community were ended — because one of his few faithful followers had gone to the grave and the narrow house had closed upon all his influence in that day of weakness and darkness. Think how every day shortens your opportunities ! If you want the golden sheaves in your arms and bosom, you must sow the good seed. You shall reap what you sow. "And beyond the sowing and the reaping, Beyond the sighing and the weeping, We shall be soon."
1. 68 FREE BOOKS http://www.scribd.com/doc/21800308/Free-Christian-Books
2. ALL WRITI GS http://www.scribd.com/glennpease/documents?page=1000