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I must be careful, therefore, what I do. I cannot reap different from what I sow. Let me not so deceive myself. Let me not so trifle with God as to indulge any such expectation. I must be attentive to the nature of the seed I sow. It must be precious seed. If a quantity of grain is converted into flour, made into bread, and eaten, there is an end of it. But what if it be sown in a fertile field, that is but the beginning of it. We are not consuming. Weare sowing. We shall never have done with our conduct.
2. The seed we sow consists not merely of overt aets, but comprehends whatever goes to constitute or to manifest character. For every idle word a man shall give account to God; much more then for every profane, false, slanderous, uncharitable, lascivious word. And God will bring every work into judgment with every secret thing. If every secret thing, then every thought, every feeling, each exercise of mind and heart. Why not? If every secret thing, then the temper, disposition, spirit; the state of the affections; our aims, our motives, those most secret things, that lie lowest and most latent in the soul. “All a man's ways are right in his own eyes, but the Lord pondereth the hearts; weigheth the spirits.” It is said of one, “ He did that which was right in the sight of the Lord, but not with a perfect heart.”
If this doctrine be correct, then attention is requisite to much more than our overt actions. We must beware of our words. We must take heed to our spirits. We must keep our hearts with all diligence. We must not only consider what we are doing, but from what motive, and with what aim we are doing it.
3. How much seed every man sows even in a short life, seed of some sort or other ! How many acts, words, thoughts, and feelings enter into the record of every day, and each is a productive seed! Now let these be multiplied by the days of the life of man, and what an aggregate they make! What an abundant harvest of good or evil each of us is destined to reap, and that not merely because we sow a great deal of seed, but because,
4. Nothing which is sown is so productive as human conduct; nothing so fertile in its consequences; so abundant in results. For the truth of this remark, I need only appeal to your observation and experience. Just think of the consequences which often follow from one wrong act, one misstep, one deviation. ; how lasting, how melancholy; what long remorse; what abiding infamy; what irretrievable adversity; what bitter, protracted regrets; what floods of tears ! How much of pain and woe even here, in this state which is not retributive, from one evil seed !
Thistles, thorns, and tares are not so productive as sins. Oh! who can estimate the produce of one sin only ? Ah! what then must be the reaping from a whole busy life of disobedience to God? Ah! what must be the eternal hereafter of the man who passes in impenitence through the days and years of life? and especially if his course is under the bright light of the Gospel, and he is attended on his way, perhaps annoyed, by the calls and warnings of God, the
sweet invitations of the Saviour, and the winning whispers of the Spirit.
5. The season of sowing precedes that of reaping. Yes, my friends, be not deceived. It does.
It does. You may wonder that I so gravely assert this. The reason is, that some deny it. They make sowing and reaping, probation and retribution, contemporaneous. They say we reap while we sow. Every farmer knows better ; and every sinner ought to know better. They say there is no reaping ; no retribution hereafter. There is a consequence of that doctrine which I suspect its abettors have never contemplated. It is this. If men receive all their punishment here, it must follow that they receive all their reward here. If they receive their evil in this life, why not also their good. If, from sowing to the flesh, they reap the entire harvest here, why not also from sowing to the Spirit. If the consequences of evil conduct do not reach beyond the grave, how shall it be shown, with what consistency can it be maintained, that the consequences of good conduct transcend those limits? This doctrine cannot be sustained.
It is at war with all analogy. There is the sowing; then an interval longer or shorter, and then the reaping. That is the order. It is truie in some cases, retribution commences here. Some men's sins anticipate the judgment. Sin often finds out its perpetrator very soon after the offence is committed. But this is not the general fact. Ordinarily, it takes a sin a good while to find out the offender. The consequences are long and late in developing themselves. Then how contrary to Scripture this doctrine is.
“Sentence against an evil work, is not speedily executed,” it declares. And the wicked know it; and it is on this account that their hearts are fully set in them to do evil. There is such a long interval between sowing and reaping, that they are emboldened to believe there never will be a reaping. "Where is the promise of his coming ?” theysay. I would ask when, according to the Scriptures, we are to receive the things done in the body. While in the body?
“We must all appear before the judgment seat, that every one may receive then the things done in the body.” “It is appointed unto men once to die;" and after that, the judgment; not before, but after.
6. Ás it regards the duration of the reaping, we have nothing to rely on but the declaration of holy writ. Christ says, " these shall go away into everlasting punishment; where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.” He speaks of the dividing gulf as not only great, but impassable. If any one chooses to take an appeal from this decision of Jesus Christ, he can do so.
We may learn some things from this subject,
1. Some suppose that, if a man is only sincere, all will be well with him, however erroneous his views may be, and however wrong his conduct. Bụt can sincerity arrest and alter the tendencies of conduct? If a man verily thinking he is sowing wheat, sow tares,
will he reap wheat? We must take the consequences of our conduct. If we make mistakes, we must suffer the evil which results from them. We are under no such necessity of error and mistake as
The mistake of infidelity is not necessary. Men voluntarily fall into it. No man need be an infidel. It is the error of his heart, propagating itself to his intellect. Many an infidel has acknowledged that he never read the book which he disbelieves. The mistake of fundamental heresy is unnecessary. He who errs in regard to the way of salvation, errs unnecessarily, voluntarily.
That we are saved by grace, through faith in the atonement of the divine Jesus, and through sanctification of the Spirit, how, as with a sun-beam, in large letters of light is it written on the pages of inspiration !
2. We may learn the importance of beginning right; that the first seeds we sow should be good, because they are the first; they sink deepest. And the first may be the only seeds we shall sow. If you begin not early to sow to the Spirit, you may never sow to it.
How reasonable then, how wise early repentance and religion ! How absurd for a man to say, " I will first sow of bad seed; and then afterwards of good.” And yet many think children and young persons may very well pass a few years in thoughtlessness, and the neglect of God and religion. He judged not so who said, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness."
We have all sown to the flesh, and therefore all deserve to reap corruption. We have sinned, and death is the wages of sin. And we have naturally no disposition to sow except to the flesh; and never such an inclination, an inclination to sow to the Spirit, exists in us, unless the Lord put it there.