Published on Thursday, August 11th, 1904,
C. H. SPURGEON,
At New Park Street Chapel, Southwark,
In August, 1854.
"Is it not wheat harvest to-day?"1 Samuel 12:17.
SHALL not notice the connection; but I shall simply take these words as a motto; 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 it not wheat harvest to-day?" 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 corn-fields, harvests, sowings, and reapings, 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 less regard the harvest than others, it ought not to be carried to too great an extent. 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 to 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 only has the mind, and 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 out that men may hear them. The world is just the materializing of God's thoughts; for the world is a thought in God's eye. 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.
It shan't deceive your hope,
The precious grain can ne'er be lost,
For God insures the crop."
Go on sowing still, and thou shalt have a harvest when thou shalt 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, and not for your success. Sow still, toil on! "Cast thy bread upon the waters: for thou shalt find it after many days." God will not allow his Word to be wasted; it shall not return unto him void, but shall accomplish that which he pleases. There may to a poor mother, who has often been sad. She has a son and a daughter, and she has been always praying that God might convert their souls. Mother, thy son is an ungainly boy still; he grieves thy heart; still the hot tears scald thy cheeks on account of him. And thou, father, thou hast reproved him often; he is a wayward son, and he is still running the downward road. Cease not to pray! O my brethren and sisters, who are parents, you shall have a harvest!
There was a boy once, a very sinful child, who hearkened 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 throng of grace, and you shall have a harvest. What thinkest thou, mother, wouldst thou not rejoice to see thy son a minister of the gospel; thy daughter teaching and assisting in the cause of God? God will not suffer thee to pray, and thy prayers be unheeded.
Young man, thy mother has been wrestling for thee a long time, and she has not won thy soul yet. What thinkest thou? Thou defraudest thy mother of her harvest! If she had a little patch of ground, hard by her cottage, where she had sown some wheat, wouldst thou go and burn it? If she had a choice flower in her garden wouldst thou go and trample it under foot? But by going on in the ways of the reprobate, thou art defrauding thy father and thy 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! for 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 your peculiar 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 thou didst give 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 that cup of water, and then, having given them grace, I give them a crown." "Wonders of grace to God belong." He that soweth liberally shall reap liberally; and he that soweth 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 over 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 were they! 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. Yea, every soul that is converted is part of his reward; every one 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 yet. 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 11th chapter of Revelation, and the 13th verse: "And I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Write, Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit that they may rest from their labors; and their works do follow them." They do not go before them, and win them heaven. "And I looked, and behold a white cloud, and upon the cloud one sat like unto the Son of man, 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 thy sickle, and reap: for the time is come for thee 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. There are the nations gathered together before that crowned Reaper!
Where'er 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, and 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 to 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 thou comest to die, Christ will himself come after thee; when thou art to be cut down he that site upon the throne will cut thee 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 shrivelled grain of wheat, there, 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.
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 blow 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 sat me down, 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 spare 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 seventy 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 footfall 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 thou comest to reap me, I cannot resist thee; for I must fall like others;when thou comest, I shall have nothing to say to thee. Like a blade of corn I must stand motionless; and thou must cut me down! But, oh! may I be prepared for thy 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 saith the voice of inspiration, "Whatsoever a man soweth, 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 impunity." Stay, thou young man! go there to that hospital, and see sufferers writhing in their agony. See that staggering, bloated wretch, and I tell thee, stay thy hand! lest thou become like him. Wisdom bids thee stop; for thy steps lead down to hell. If thou enterest into the house of the strange woman, thou shalt reap a harvest. There is a harvest that every man reaps if he sins against his fellows. The man who sins against his fellowcreature shall reap a harvest. Some men walk through the world 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 unto him,"none of those that he used to entertain,and so the prodigal shall find it. No man shall give anything unto him. Ah! but the worst harvest will be that of those who sin against the Church of Christ. I would not that a man should sin against his body; I would not that a man should sin against his estate; I would not that a man should sin against 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 road 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 be rewarded 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 thou pleasest; but know that it is the blackest sin in the whole catalogue 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 of Revelation, you will see that the vine of the earth was caste into the winepress of the wrath of God; and, after that, the winepress was trodden without the city, and blood came out, up to the horses' bridles;a wonderful 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 under foot 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 amongst 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 thou shalt reap an abundant harvest. Let me tell you one thing, if the seed thou hast 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 over-night, they will grow all the better for it." So, if thou hast been sowing thy seed, put it into tears, and it will make thy seed germinate the 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 thy way, and when thou weepest most, then it is that thou sowest best. When most cast down, thou are doing best. If thou comest to the prayer-meeting, and has not a word to say, keep on praying; do not give it up, for thou often prayest best when thou thinkest thou prayest worst. Go on, and in due season, by God's mighty grace, you shall reap if you faint not.
1 SAMUEL 12.
In Samuel's old age, the people desired to have a king; and though it went much against the grain, yet, by the Lord's advice, Samuel consented to it. Here he makes his last protest.
Verse 1. And Samuel said unto all Israel, Behold, I have hearkened unto your voice in all that ye said unto me, and have made a king over you.
"I have not stood in your way. I have not sought mine own honor. I have at once frankly resigned my office among you."
2. And now, behold, the king walketh before you: and I am old and grayheaded; and behold, my sons are with you and I have walked before you from my childhood unto this day.
"My sons come here to-day, not as my successors, but as fellow-subjects with you of your newly-chosen king; they are not in opposition to him any more than I am."
Like an old servant who is about to be dismissed, Samuel asks them to bear witness to his character; and this he does, partly as a lesson to the king who had taken his place, and partly as a clearance of himself in rendering up his charge.
3. Behold, here I am: witness against me before the LORD, and before his anointed whose ox have I taken? or whose ass have I taken? or whom have I defrauded a whom I have oppressed? or of whose hand have I received any bribe to blind mine eyes therewith? and I will restore it you.
It is so usual a thing, among Oriental judges and rulers, to expect bribes, that you cannot, in those countries, take a single step in a court of law without bribery. It was therefore a very unusual circumstance that Samuel should be able to challenge anybody to say that he had ever wrongfully taken so much as a single farthing. And the great rulers, in those countries, are accustomed to enrich themselves by levying heavy taxes upon the people. But Samuel affirmed that his services had been perfectly gratuitous, so that all he had done for the people had cost them nothing. If they had any fault to find with his government, it could only be because it had been so just and also so cheap; his yoke had indeed been easy to their necks. What a fine sight it is to see an old man able thus to challenge all who had known him, throughout a long life, to testify that he had not led a selfish life, or studied his own interests even in the least degree!
4, 5. And they said, Thou hast not defrauded us, nor oppressed us, neither hast thou taken ought of any man's hand. And he said unto them, The LORD is witness against you, and his anointed is witness this day, that ye have not found ought in my hand. And they answered, He is witness.
In the most solemn way, they cleared him; when he rendered to them the account of his stewardship, they all bore witness that everything had been done, not merely according to strict rectitude, but in the most generous spirit of self-consecration. May all of us be enabled so to live that, when our sun goes down, it shall be as cloudless a sunset as was that of Samuel!
6-8. And Samuel said unto the people, It is the LORD that advanced Moses and Aaron, and that brought your Fathers up out of the land of Egypt. Now therefore stand still, that I may reason with you before the Lord of all the righteous acts of the LORD, which he did to you and to your fathers. When Jacob was come into Egypt, and your fathers cried unto the LORD, then the LORD sent Moses and Aaron, which brought forth your fathers out of Egypt, and made them dwell in this place.
A remembrance of past mercies is very profitable to us. National mercies ought not to be forgotten, and personal favors should always be fresh in our memory. Alas! the old proverb is only too true, "Bread that is eaten is soon forgotten." So is it even with the bread which God gives us; we eat it, yet soon forget the hand that fed us. Let it not be so with us.
9-11. And when they forgat the LORD their God, he sold them into the hand of Sisera, captain of the host of Hazor, and into the hand of the Philistines, and into the hand of the King of Moab, and they fought against them. And they cried unto the Lord, and said, we have sinned, because we have forsaken the LORD, and have served Baalim and Ashtaroth: but now deliver us out of the hand of our enemies, and we will serve thee. And the LORD sent Jerubbaal, and Bedan, and Jephtah, and Samuel, and delivered you out of the hand of your enemies on every side, and ye dwelled safe.
They oft transgressed, and were as often afflicted; but whenever they returned to the Lord with their confession of sin, and again sought his mercy, he was always quick to deliver them. Let us profit by their experience. Have we brought ourselves into trouble through sin? Have we wandered and backslidden, and are our hearts therefore heavy? Let us return unto the Lord, and confess our sin, for he hath not cast us away, He will turn against the voice of our cry; he will forgive us, and graciously receive us unto himself again.
12, 13. And when ye saw that Nahash the king of the children of Ammon came against you, ye said unto me, Nay, but a king shall reign over us: when the LORD your God was your king. Now therefore behold the king whom ye have chosen, and whom ye have desired! and, behold, the LORD hath set a king over you.
"He has consented to your request, though it was a foolish one." Remember, brethren, it is not every answer to prayer that is a token of God's favor. If our prayers are very foolish, and even if there is sin in them, God may sometimes give us what we ask in order to show us our folly, and make us smart for having offered such a prayer. Though, under God's government, they had been most highly privileged, they must needs have a king, like the nations which were not so favored. "So now," says Samuel, "God has given you this king, so do your best with him." Samuel had a hopeful spirit; and he hoped that, though the circumstances were not as he would have wished them to be, yet that the people might do well after all.
14-17. If ye will fear the LORD, and serve him, and obey his voice, and not rebel against the commandment of the LORD, then shall both ye and also the king that reigneth over you continue following the LORD your God. But if ye will not obey the voice of the LORD, but rebel against the commandment of the LORD, then shall the hand of the LORD be against you, as it was against your fathers. Now therefore stand and see this great thing, which the LORD will do before your eyes. Is it not wheat harvest today? I will call unto the LORD, and he shall send thunder and rain; that ye may perceive and see that your wickedness is great, which ye have done in the sight of the LORD, in asking you a king.
This was to be a token to them that Samuel was God's prophet. On a previous occasion, in answer to his prayer, God had thundered against the Philistines but, this time, his thunder was his voice against Israel.
In reading the Bible, we must always remember that it was not written in England but in Palestine. Wheat harvest there takes place about the month of May, when the weather is usually settled, and such things as thunder and rain are almost unknown. It was extraordinary, therefore, as we speak of "a bolt out of the blue."
18, 19. So Samuel called unto the LORD; and the LORD sent thunder a and rain that day: and all the people greatly feared the LORD and Samuel. And all the people said unto Samuel, Pray for thy servants unto the LORD thy God, that we die not: for we have added unto all our sins this evil, to ask us a king.
That thunderstorm was a powerful preacher to them, and the rain drops, that fell so copiously, brought the tear drops into their eyes. The phenomena of nature frequently impress men with a sense of God's power, and prostrate them before him.
20-22. And Samuel said unto the people, Fear not: ye have done all this wickedness: yet turn not aside from following the LORD, but serve the LORD with all your heart, and turn ye not aside: for then should ye go after vain things, which cannot profit nor deliver; for they are vain. For the LORD will not forsake his people for his great name's sake: because it hath pleased the LORD to make you his people.
How gently the old prophet speaks! What a change from the pealing thunder to this gracious voice! It seems like the clear shining after rain.
23-25. Moreover as for me, God forbid that I should sin against the LORD in ceasing to pray for you: but I will teach you the good and the right way: Only fear the LORD, and serve him in truth with all your heart: for consider how great things he hath done for you. But if ye shall still do wickedly, ye shall be consumed both ye and your king.