“Is today not the wheat harvest?”
1 Samuel 12:17
I SHALL not notice the connection, but I shall simply take these words as a slogan and my sermon will be founded upon a harvest field. I shall rather use the harvest for my text than any passage that I find here. “Is today not the wheat harvest?” I suppose the dwellers in cities think less of times and seasons than dwellers in the country. Men who were born, trained up, nourished and nurtured among cornfields, harvests, sowing and reaping, are more likely to notice such things than you who are always engaged in mercantile pursuits and think less of these things than rustics do. But I suppose if it is almost necessary that you should regard the harvest less than others, it ought not to be carried to too great an extreme. Let us not be forgetful of times and seasons. There is much to be learned from them and I would refresh your memories by a harvest field.
What a wondrous temple this world is, for in truth it is a temple of God’s building wherein men ought to worship Him. What a wondrous temple it is to a mind spiritually enlightened which can bring to bear upon it the resources of intellect and the illuminations of God’s Holy Spirit! There is not a single flower in it that does not teach us a lesson. There is not a single wave, or blast of thunder that has not some lesson to teach us, the sons of men. This world is a great temple and as if you walk in an Egyptian temple, you know that every mark and every figure in the temple has a meaning–so when you walk this world, everything about you has a meaning! It is no fanciful idea that there are “sermons in stones,” for there really are sermons in stones and this world is intended to teach us by everything that we see. Happy is the man who not only has the mind, but has the spirit to get these lessons from Nature! Flowers, what are they? They are but the thoughts of God solidified–God’s beautiful thoughts put into shape. Storms, what are they? They are God’s terrible thoughts written out that we may read them. Thunders, what are they? They are God’s powerful emotions just opened that men may hear them. The world is the materializing of God’s thoughts, for the world is a thought in God’s eyes. He made it first from a thought that came from His own mighty mind and everything in the majestic temple that He has made has a meaning!
In this temple there are four evangelists. As we have four great evangelists in the Bible, so there are four evangelists in Nature–and these are the four evangelists of the seasons–spring, summer, autumn, winter.
First comes spring and what does it say? We look and we behold that by the magic touch of spring, insects which seemed to be dead begin to awaken and seeds that were buried in the dust begin to lift up their radiant forms. What does spring say? It utters its voice, it says to man, “Though you sleep, you shall rise again. There is a world in which, in a more glorious state, you shall exist. You are but a seed, now, and you shall be buried in the dust and in a little while you shall arise.” Spring utters that part of its evangel. Then comes summer. Summer says to man, “Behold the goodness of a merciful Creator–‘He makes His sun to shine on the evil and on the good’–He sprinkles the earth with flowers, He adorns it with those gems of creation, He makes it blossom like Eden and bring forth like the Garden of the Lord.” Summer utters that. Then comes autumn. We shall hear its message. It passes and winter comes forth crowned with a coronal of ice and it tells us that there are times of trouble for man. It points to the fruits that we have stored up in autumn, and it says to us, “Man, take heed that you store up something for yourself–something against the day of wrath. Lay up for yourself the fruits of autumn, that you may be able to feed on them in winter.” And when the old year expires, its death knell tells us that man must die. And when the year has finished its evangelistic mission, there comes another to preach the same lesson again.
We are about to let autumn preach. One of these four evangelists comes forth and it says, “Is today not the wheat harvest?” We are about to take the harvest into consideration in order to learn something from it. May God’s most blessed Spirit help His feeble dust and ashes to preach the unsearchable riches of God to your souls' profit!
We shall talk of three joyful harvests and of three sorrowful harvests.
- First, we shall speak of THREE JOYFUL HARVESTS that there will be.
The first joyful harvest that I will mention is the harvest of the field which Samuel alluded to when he said, “Is todaynot the wheat harvest?” We cannot forget the harvest of the field. It is not right that these things should be forgotten. We ought not to let the fields be covered with corn, have their treasures stored away in the barns and all the while to remain forgetful of God’s mercy. Ingratitude, that worst of evils, is one of the vipers which make their nest in the heart of man–and the creature cannot be slain until Divine Grace comes and sprinkles the blood of the Cross upon man’s heart. Such vipers die when the blood of Christ is upon them. Let me just lead you for a moment to a harvest field. You shall see there a most luxuriant harvest, the heavy ears bending down almost to touch the ground, as much as to say, “From the ground I came. I owe myself to the ground–to that I bow my head”–just as the good Christian does when he is full of years. He holds his head down the more fruit he has upon him. You see the stalks with their heads hanging down because they are ripe. And it is goodly and precious to see these things!
Now just suppose the opposite. If this year the ears had been blighted and withered. If they had been like the second ears that Pharaoh saw–very lean and very scanty–what would have become of us? In peace, we might have depended on large supplies from Russia to make up the deficiency. Now, in times of war, referring to the war in the Crimea, when nothing can come, what would become of us? We may conjecture, we may imagine, but I do not know that we are able to come to the truth. We can only say, “Blessed be God, we have not yet to reckon on what would have been. But He, seeingone door closed, has opened another.” Seeing that we might not get supplies from those rich fields in the South of Russia, He has opened another door in our own land. “You are My own favored island,” He says, “I have loved you, England, with a special love. You are My favored one and the enemy shall not crush you. And lest you should starve because provisions are cut off, I will give you full barns at home and your fields shall be covered, that you may laugh your enemy to scorn and say to him, ‘You thought you could starve us and make us perish, but He who feeds the ravens has fed His people and has not deserted His favored land.’”
There is not one person who is uninterested in this matter! Some say the poor ought to be thankful that there is abundance of bread. So ought the rich! There is nothing which happens to one member of society which does not affect all. The ranks lean upon one another–if there is scarcity in the lower ranks, it falls upon the next and the next–and even the Queen upon her throne feels in some degree the scarcity when God is pleased to send it. It affects all men. Let none say, “Whatever the price of corn may be, I can live,” but rather bless God who has given you more than enough! Your prayer ought to be, “Give us this day our daily bread,” and remember that whatever wealth you have, you must attribute your daily mercies as much to God as if you lived from hand to mouth. And sometimes that is a blessed way of living–when God gives His children the hand-basket portion instead of sending it in a mass. Bless God that He has sent an abundant harvest! O fearful ones, lift up your heads! And you discontented ones, be you abashed and let your discontent no more be known! The Jews used to observe the feast of tabernacles when the harvest time came. In the country they always have a “harvest home” and why should not we? I want you all to have one. Rejoice! Rejoice! Rejoice! For the harvest is come–“Is today not the wheat harvest?"Poor desponding Soul, let all your doubts and fears be gone. "Your bread shall be given you and your waters shall be sure.” That is one joyful harvest!
Now, the second joyful harvest is the harvest of every Christian. In one sense, the Christian is a seed. In another, he isa sower. In one sense, he is a seed sown by God which is to grow, ripen and germinate till the great harvest time. In another sense every Christian is a sower sent into the world to sow good seed and to sow good seed only. I do not say that Christian men never sow any other seed than good seed. Sometimes, in unguarded moments, they take garlic into their hands instead of wheat–and we may sow tares instead of corn. Christians sometimes make mistakes and God sometimes allows His people to fall so that they sow sins–but the Christian never reaps his sins–Christ reaps them for him. He often has to have a concoction made of the bitter leaves of sin, but he never reaps the fruit of it. Christ has borne the punishment! Yet bear in mind, if you and I sin against God, God will take our sin and He will get an essence from it that will be bitter to our taste! Though He does not make us eat the fruits, yet He will still make us grieve and sorrow over our sins. But the Christian, as I have said, should be employed in sowing good seed and, doing so, he shall have a glorious harvest!
In some sense or other, the Christian must be sowing seed. If God calls him to the ministry, he is a seed sower. If God calls him to the Sabbath school, he is a seed sower. Whatever his office, he is a sower of seed. I sow seed broadcast all over this immense field–I cannot tell where my seed goes. Some are like barren ground and they refuse to receive the seed that I sow. I cannot help it if any man should do so. I am only responsible to God, whose servant I am. There are others and my seed falls upon them and brings forth a little fruit, but, by-and-by, when the sun is up, because of persecution, they wither away and they die. But I hope there are many who are like the good ground that God has prepared–and when I scatter the seed abroad, it falls on good ground and brings forth fruit to an abundant harvest! Ah, the minister has a joyful harvest, even in this world, when he sees souls converted! I have had a harvest time when I have led the sheep down to the washing of Baptism, when I have seen God’s people coming out from the mass of the world and telling what the Lord has done for their souls! When God’s children are edified and built up, it is worth living for and worth dying ten thousand deaths for to be the means of saving one soul! What a joyful harvest it is when God gives us converted ones by tens and hundreds–and adds to His Church abundantly such as shall be saved!
Now I am like a farmer just at this season of the year. I have got a good deal of wheat down and I want to get it into the barn for fear the rain comes and spoils it. I believe I have got a great many, but they will persist in standing out in the field. I want to get them into the barns. They are good people, but they do not like to make a profession and join the Church. I want to get them into my Master’s granary and to see Christians added to the Church. I see some holding down their heads and saying, “He means us.” So I do. You ought to have joined Christ’s Church before this and unless you are fit to be gathered into Christ’s little garner here on earth, you have no right to anticipate being gathered into that great garner which is in Heaven!
Every Christian has his harvest. The Sabbath school teacher has his harvest. He goes and toils and often he plows very stony ground, but he shall have his harvest. Oh, poor laboring Sabbath school teacher, have you seen no fruit yet? Do you say, “Who has believed our report, and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?” Cheer up, you do labor in a good cause–there must be some to do your work. Have you seen no children converted? Fear not–
“Though seed lies buried long in dust,
It shan’t deceive your hope.
The precious grain can never be lost,
For God insures the crop.”
Go on sowing and you shall have a harvest when you shall see children converted! I have known some Sabbath school teachers who could count a dozen, or twenty, or thirty children who have, one after another, come to know the Lord Jesus Christ and to join the Church. But if you should not live to see it on earth, remember, you are only accountable for your labor–not for your success! Sow still, toil on! “Cast your bread upon the waters: for you shall find it after many days.” God will not allow His Word to be wasted–it shall not return to Him void, but shall accomplish that which He pleases. There may be a poor mother who has often been sad. She has a son and a daughter and she has been praying that God might convert their souls. Mother, your son is still an ungainly boy. He grieves your heart. The hot tears still scald your cheeks on account of him. And you, Father, you have reproved him often. He is a wayward son and he is still run
There was a boy once, a very sinful child who listened not to the counsel of his parents. But his mother prayed for him and now he stands to preach to this congregation every Sabbath. And when his mother thinks of her first-born preaching the Gospel, she reaps a glorious harvest that makes her a glad woman! Now, Fathers and Mothers, such may be your case. However bad your children are at present, still press toward the Throne of Grace and you shall have a harvest. What do you think, Mother, would you not rejoice to see your son a minister of the Gospel, your daughter teaching and assisting in the cause of God? God will not allow you to pray and your prayers be unheeded!
Young man, your mother has been wrestling for you a long time and she has not won your soul yet. What do you think? You cheat your mother of her harvest! If she had a little patch of ground, hard by her cottage, where she had sown some wheat, would you go and burn it? If she had a choice flower in her garden would you go and trample it under foot? But by going on in the ways of the reprobate, you are cheating your father and your mother of their harvest! Perhaps there are some parents who are weeping over their sons and daughters who are hardened and unconverted. O God, turn their hearts! Bitter is the doom of that man who goes to Hell over the road that is washed by his mother’s tears, stumbles over his father’s reproofs and tramples on those things which God has put in his way–his mother’s prayers and his father’s sighs! God help that man who dares to do such a thing as that! And it is wondrous Grace if He does help him.
You shall have a harvest, whatever you are doing. I trust you are all doing something. If I cannot mention what yourpeculiar engagement is, I trust you are all serving God in some way–and you shall assuredly have a harvest wherever you are scattering your seed. But suppose the worst–if you should never live to see the harvest in this world, you shall have a harvest when you get to Heaven! If you live and die a disappointed man in this world, you shall not be disappointed in the next! I think how surprised some of God’s people will be when they get to Heaven. They will see their Master and He will give them a crown, “Lord, what is that crown for?” “That crown is because you gave a cup of cold water to one of My disciples.” “What? A crown for a cup of cold water?” “Yes,” says the Master, “that is how I pay My servants. First I give them Grace to give the cup of water and then, having given them Grace, I give them a crown.” “Wonders of Grace belong to God!” He that sows liberally shall reap liberally and he that sows grudgingly shall reap sparingly.
Ah, if there could be grief in Heaven, I think it would be the grief of some Christians who had sown so very little. After all, how little the most of us ever sow! I know I sow but very little compared with what I might. How little any of you sow! Just add up how much you give to God in the year. I am afraid it would not come to a farthing per cent. Remember, you reap according to what you sow. O my Friends, what surprise some of you will feel when God pays you for sowing one single grain! The soil of Heaven is rich in the extreme. If a farmer had such ground as there is in Heaven, he would say, “I must sow a great many acres of land.” And so let us strive, for the more we sow, the more shall we reap in Heaven. Yet remember it is all of Grace and not of debt!
Now, Beloved, I must very hastily mention the third joyful harvest. We have had the harvest of the field and the harvest of the Christian. We are now to have another–and that is the harvest of Christ.
Christ had His sowing times. What bitter sowing times they were! Christ was One who went out bearing precious seed. Oh, I picture Christ sowing the world! He sowed it with tears. He sowed it with drops of blood. He sowed it with sighs. He sowed it with agony of heart and, at last He sowed Himself in the ground, to be the seed of a glorious crop!What a sowing time His was! He sowed in tears, in poverty, in sympathy, in grief, in agony, in woes, in suffering and in death. He shall have a harvest, too. Blessings on His name, Jehovah swears it! The everlasting predestination of the Almighty has settled that Christ shall have a harvest! He has sown and He shall reap! He has scattered and He shall gather in. “He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days; and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in His hands.” My Friends, Christ has begun to reap His harvest! Yes, every soul that is converted is part of His reward! Everyone who comes to the Lord is a part of it. Every soul that is brought out of the miry clay and set on the King’s Highway is a part of Christ’s crop. But He is going to reap more! There is another harvest coming, in the latter day, when He shall reap armfuls at a time and gather the sheaves into His garner. Now men come to Christ in ones and twos and threes–but then they shall come in flocks, so that the Church shall say, “Who are these that come in as doves to their windows?”
There shall be a greater harvest when time shall be no more. Turn to the 14 th thverse–“And I heard a voice from Heaven saying unto me, Write, Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: yes, says the Spirit that they may rest from their labors; and their works do follow them.” They do not go beforethem and win them Heaven. “And I looked, and behold a white cloud, and upon the cloud One sat like unto the Son ofMan, having on His head a golden crown, and in His hand a sharp sickle. And another angel came out of the temple, crying with a loud voice to Him that sat on the cloud, Thrust in Your sickle, and reap: for the time is come for You to reap; for the harvest of the earth is ripe. And He that sat on the cloud thrust in His sickle on the earth; and the earth was reaped.” That was Christ’s harvest. Observe but one particular. When Christ comes to reap His field, He comes with a crown on His head. There are the nations gathered together before that crowned Reaper!–
“They come, they come–the exiled bands!
Wherever they rest or roam
They heard His voice in distant lands,
And hastened to their home.”
There they stand, one great army before God. Then comes the crowned Reaper from His Throne. He takes His sharp sickle–see Him reap sheaf after sheaf–and He carries them up to the heavenly garner. Let us ask the question of ourselves, whether we shall be among the reaped ones–the wheat of the Lord?
Notice again, that there was first a harvest, and then a vintage. The harvest is the righteous–the vintage is the wicked. When the wicked are gathered, an angel gathers them. But Christ will not trust an angel to reap the righteous. “He that sat on the cloud thrust in His sickle.” O my Soul, when you come to die, Christ will, Himself, come for you–when you are to be cut down, He that sits upon the Throne will cut you down with a very sharp sickle in order that He may do it as easily as possible. He will be the Reaper, Himself–no reaper will be allowed to gather Christ’s saints in, but Christ, the King of saints! Oh, will it not be a joyful harvest when all the chosen race, every one of them, shall be gathered in? There is a little shriveled grain of wheat that has been growing somewhere on the headland and that will be there. There are a great many who have been hanging down their heads, heavy with grain, and they will be there, too. They will all be gathered in–
“His honor is engaged to save
The meanest of His sheep!
All that His heavenly Father gave,
His hands securely keep!”
II. But now we are obliged to turn to THE THREE SAD HARVESTS. Alas! Alas! The world was once like an Eolian harp–every wind that blew upon it gave forth melody. Now the strings are all unstrung and they are full of discord so that when we have a strain of joy, we must have the deep bass of grief to come after it.
The first sad harvest is the harvest of death. We are all living, and what for? For the grave. I have sometimes satdown and had a reverie like this. I have thought–Man, what is he? He grows and grows till he comes to his prime. And when he is forty-five, if God spares him, perhaps he has then gained the prime of life. What does he do then? He continues where he is a little while and then he goes down the hill. And if he keeps on living, what is it for? To die. But there are many chances to one, as the world has it, that he will not live to be seventy. He may die very early. Do we not all live to die? But none shall die till they are ripe. Death never reaps his corn green, he never cuts his corn till it is ripe. The wicked die, but they are always ripe for Hell when they die. The righteous die, but they are always ripe for Heaven when they die. That poor thief there, who had not believed in Jesus–perhaps an hour before he died he was as ripe as a 70 years saint. The saint is always ready for glory whenever Death, the reaper, comes, and the wicked are always ripe for Hell whenever God pleases to send for them.
Oh, that great reaper! He sweeps through the earth and mows his hundreds and thousands down! It is all still–Death makes no noise about his movements and he treads with velvet footsteps over the earth. That ceaseless mower, none can resist him! He is irresistible and he mows, and mows, and cuts them down! Sometimes he stops and whets his scythe–he dips his scythe in blood and then he mows us down with war. Then he takes his whetstone of cholera and mows down more than ever. Still he cries, “More! More! More!” Ceaselessly that work keeps on! Wondrous mower! Wondrous reaper! Oh, when you come to reap me, I cannot resist you, for I must fall like others–when you come, I shall have nothing to say to you. Like a blade of corn I must stand motionless and you must cut me down! But, oh, may I be prepared for your scythe! May the Lord stand by me and comfort me and cheer me–and may I find that Death is an angel of life–that death is the portal of Heaven, the vestibule of Glory!
There is a second sad harvest and that is the harvest that the wicked man has to reap. Thus says the voice of Inspiration, “Whatever a man sows, that shall he also reap.” Now there is a harvest that every wicked man has to reap in this world. No man ever sins against
his body without reaping a harvest for it. The young man says, “I have sinned with im
punity.“ Stop, young man! Go to that hospital and see sufferers writhing in their agony. See that staggering, bloated wretch and I tell you, stop your sinning lest you become like he! Wisdom bids you stop, for your steps lead down to Hell. If you enter into the house of the strange woman, you shall reap a harvest. There is a harvest that every man reaps if he sins against his fellows. The man who sins against his fellow creature shall reap a harvest. Some men walk through theworld like knights with spurs on their heels and think they may tread on whom they please–but they shall find their mistake. He who sins against others, sins against himself–that is Nature. It is a law in Nature that a man cannot hurt his fellows without hurting himself.
Now, you who cause grief to others minds, do not think the grief will end there. You will have to reap a harvest even here. Again, a man cannot sin against his estate without reaping the effects of it. The miserly wretch who hoards up his gold, sins against his gold. It becomes cankered and from those golden sovereigns he will have to reap a harvest. Yes, that miserly wretch, sitting up at night and straining his weary eyes to count his gold–that man reaps his harvest. And so does the young spendthrift. He will reap his harvest when all his treasure is exhausted. It is said of the prodigal, that “no man gave to him”–none of those that he used to entertain–and so the prodigal shall find it. No man shall give anything to him. Ah, but the worst harvest will be that of those who sin against the Church of Christ. I would not that aman should sin against his bodyI would not that a man should sinagainst his fellows, but, most of all, I would not have him touch Christ’s Church! He that touches one of God’s people,touches the apple of His eye.
When I have read of some people finding fault with the servants of the Lord, I have thought within myself, “I would not do so.” It is the greatest insult to a man to speak ill of his children. You speak ill of God’s children and you will berewarded for it in everlasting punishment! There is not a single one of God’s family whom God does not love–and if you touch one of them, He will have vengeance on you. Nothing puts a man on his mettle like touching his children and if you touch God’s Church, you will have the direst vengeance of all! The hottest flames of Hell are for those who touch God’s children! Go on, Sinner, laugh at religion if you please, but know that it is the blackest sin in the whole catalog of crime. God will forgive anything sooner than that–and though that is not unpardonable, yet, if not repented of, it will meet the greatest punishment. God cannot bear that His elect should be touched. And if you do so, it is the greatest crime you can commit.
The third sad harvest is the harvest of almighty wrath, when the wicked at last are gathered in. In the 14th Chapter ofRevelation, you will see that the vine of the earth was cast into the winepress of the wrath of God and, after that, the winepress was trodden outside the city and blood came out up to the horses' bridles–an amazing figure to express the wrath of God! Suppose, then, some great winepress in which our bodies are put like grapes. And suppose some mighty giant comes and treads us all under foot? That is the idea–that the wicked shall be cast together and be trodden underfoot until the blood runs out up to the horses' bridles! May God grant, of His Sovereign Mercy, that you and I may never be reaped in that fearful harvest–but that rather we may be written among the saints of the Lord!
You shall have a harvest in due season if you faint not. Sow on, Brother! Sow on, Sister! And in due time you shall reap an abundant harvest. Let me tell you one thing if the seed you have sown a long while, has never come up. I was told once, “When you sow seeds in your garden, put them in a little water overnight–they will grow all the better for it.” So, if you have been sowing your seed, put it into tears and it will make your seed germinate better. “They that sow in tears shall reap in joy.” Steep your seed in tears and then put it into the ground–and you shall reap in joy. No bird can devour that seed! No bird can hold it in its mouth! No worm can eat it, for worms never eat seeds that are sown in tears.
Go your way and when you weep most, then it is that you sow best. When most cast down, you are doing best. If you come to the Prayer Meeting and have not a word to say, keep on praying! Do not give it up, for you often pray best when you think you pray worst. Go on, and in due season, by God’s mighty Grace, you shall reap if you faint not.