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This good ground, which may be expected to bring forth an hundred-fold, must be carefully kept from the inroads of beasts, otherwise the crop will be much injured, if not wholly destroyed. But how shall this field be preserved from such ravages ? for I perceive it hath no sufficient fence around it. No doubt the husbandman will take care of it, and tend it with his herdsmen from such intrusions. So the field of the heart must be carefully kept from the inroads of sin and Satan, else these worse than beasts of prey will soon destroy the crop of
grace, and leave nothing against the harvest but a heap in the day of grief, and of desperate sorrow. Isa. xvii. 11.
But how must this field of the heart be kept from such destruction ? for the fence thereof was quite broken down in paradise, by Adam's going over it to eat the forbidden fruit. The hedge of original righteousness being now no more round this field, how shall it be preserved? But difficult as the task is, nay, though altogether out of our power, we are commanded to do it, and that with all diligence, Prov. iv. 23, for the fence was entirely of man's own breaking down, and he thereby put it out of his power to keep it, though bound thereto in the covenant of works. But although he lost his ability to obey, God did not lose his right to command whatsoever he was bound to, and endowed with ability for, before the fall.
But the question still recurs, How shall the field of the heart be kept ? The answer is, By giving it into the care of the great Husbandman, who hath said, “My son, give “me thine heart,” Prov. xxiii. 26. If this field then be given to his protection, it shall be kept indeed, lest any hurt it ; he will keep it night and day. Isa. xxvii. 3.
When this field is well advanced towards the harvest, and every stalk in it loaden with full ears, tinged with yellow, forming a delightful prospect of a luxuriant crop; perhaps the clouds, tremendous clouds, will gather, and burst forth in alarming falls of rain, with boisterous winds, which shall lay it down along the surface of the earth : then will it look solitary; but as it holds fast by the roots, when the rains are over, the sky clear, and the sun broken forth with his radiant beams, it will begin to change its sad appearance, and in time resume its former gaiety, look up and stand erect, waving its head in the sunny beams as before. So the believer, when he is growing up as the planting of the Lord, bringing forth the fruits of grace and holiness, a comfort to himself and all around him, concluding, with the Psalmist, that his mountain standeth strong, and he shall not be moved, Psalm xxx. 6, 7, perhaps for wise ends the Lord seeth best to darken his sky, and shower down upon him heavy crosses, which, with adverse providences blowing full in his face, will lay him low in humility and self-abasement: then will he mourn, saying with Job, “O! that I were as in months past, when the candle of the Lord shined
mine “head !” Job, xxix. 2, 3; but as he holdeth fast by the foundation, being rooted and grounded in Christ, though he be thus laid low, his sky will again clear, and his mourning be turned into joy; the Sun of righteousness shall again break forth, and arise to him with healing in his wings, Mal. iv. 2. and he shall resume his former comfort, and grow up and flourish in the courts of the Lord. Psalm xcii. 13.
Dark weather impregnates the ears as well as sunshine, though it be not so good for whitening them over for harvest. In like manner, spiritual darkness impregnateth the believer with stronger desires after the light of God's countenance, clearer views of his interest in Christ, and faith in lively exercise; so that he maketh, if I may use the expression, desperate efforts to believe ; , saying with Job, “ Though he slay me, I will trust “in him,” Job, xiii. 15, wrestling, like Jacob, till the dawning of the day, saying, “ I will “not let thee go, except thou bless me,” Gen. xxxii. 24, 26, praying, with David, that the Lord would make his face to shine upon him, Psal. xxxi. 16. The strength of the mariner's anchor is best proved in a storm : so is the strength of faith in time of desertion. Many an anchor that will hold the ship in calm weather, becomes as useless for that purpose as a straw in time of a heavy gale.
The young man in the gospel, who had his anchor fixed to a rope of his own making, thought it sufficient to hold his vessel against wind ånd tide, when he was for setting out to sail after our Lord, when lo! it went all to pieces at the very appearance of a tempest, and we never hear that he undertook the voyage any more. Matt. xix. 16.-.-22.
Even Peter's, too, held very fast about the edges of the brook Kedron, but dragged shamefully, and had almost gone in pieces in the high priest's hall.' So we see the best way of knowing the weakness or strength of the anchor of faith, is not by examining how it holdeth in still weather, but in a tempest.
But how have I made this sudden excursion, from the land to the ocean! Let me return again a while longer to contemplate this field, which in a few months will be loaden with full ears, white over for harvest, inviting the husbandman to thrust in his sickle, and reap it for himself: With joy then will he do so, and, after he has left the sheaves a little to deaden in the field, with gladness will