The King’s Mowings

Charles Haddon Spurgeon January 28, 1909 Scripture: Amos 8:1 From: Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Volume 55

No. 3129
A Sermon Published on Thursday, January 28th, 1909,
Delivered by C.H. Spurgeon,
At The Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington, Early in the Year, 1872

“The king’s mowings.” — Amos 8:1.

CERTAIN lands belonged to the king so far, that he always took the first cut of grass for himself, and left any aftermath to those who worked upon the land. Now, our great King has his mowings too. His Church is the field which he has enclosed and blessed. At set seasons, the King takes his mowings. Lately, beyond any other time in my life that I remember, the King has been taking his mowings in and around the church of which he has made me overseer. One has spent many hours at the bedsides of the dying, and in trying to console the bereaved. Our loss, if I may venture to call it, a loss, as a church, at the opening of this year was extremely heavy. The King has been taking his mowings among us, and has cut down here one and there another. When churches commence with a great many young members, there would naturally not be so many deaths at first; but, as we all grow old together, there must be a large proportion of removals from this world into the land above. I purpose to speak a little upon that subject, and I shall do so in a threefold way, — first, by way of consolation; then, by way of admonition; and, then, by way of anticipation.

I. First, by way of CONSOLATION. It is a sorrowful matter that our beloved brethren and sisters should be taken from us. We were not more but less than men if we did not sorrow. Jesus wept, and by that act he sanctified our tears. It is not wrong, it is not unmanly, much less is it sinful, for us to drop the tear of sorrow over the departed; yet let us help to wipe those tears away with a handkerchief of sacred consolations.

First, seeing that “all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass,” dost thou lament that the King has been mowing? Then let this thought chide thee. The King himself has done it! There is no such abstract thing as death, an unloosed monster devouring the saints at will, “Drinking the blood of men, and grinding their bones between his iron teeth.” This is a poet’s raving. No destroying angel is sent forth to slay the Israel of God. There is a destroying angel, it is true; but he comes not near those who bear the blood-mark. It is not in the power of disease, or accident, to kill the children of God except as instruments in the divine hand. No saint dieth otherwise than by the act of God. It is ever according to the King’s own will; it is the King’s own doing. Every ripe ear in his field is gathered by his own hand, cut down by his own golden sickle, and by none other. Every full-blown flower of grace is taken away by him, not Smitten with blight, or cut down by the tempest, or devoured by some evil beast.

When mortal man resigns his breath,
‘Tis God directs the stroke of death;
Casual howe’er the stroke appear,
He sends the fatal messenger.
The keys are in that hand divine;
That hand must first the warrant sign,
And arm the death, and wing the dart
Which doth his message to our heart.”

The Lord has done it, in every case, and knowing this, we must not even think of complaining. What the King doeth his servants delight in; for he is such a King, that, let him do what seemeth him good, and we will still bless him; we are of the mind of him who said, “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him.”

Again, those who have been mown down and taken away are with the King. They are the King’s mowings; they are gathered into his stores. They are not in purgatory; they are not in the limbus patran, much less are they in hell. They are not wandering in dreary pathways amidst the stars to find a lodging-place. Jesus prayed, “Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me: for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world,” and this prayer has fixed the saints’ abode. We shall enter into no question now about whether heaven is a place, and where it is, or whether it be merely a state; it is enough for us that where Jesus is there his people are, — not some of them on lower seats, or in lower rooms, or sitting outside, but they are all where he is. That will certainly content me; and if there be any degrees in glory, you who want the high ones may have them. The lowest degree that I can perceive in Scripture is, “that they may be with me where I am, that they may behold my glory;” and that lowest degree is as high as my most vivid imagination can carry me. Here is enough to fill our souls even to the brim. And now do you sorrow for those who are with Christ where he is? Do you not almost blame your tears when you learn that your beloved ones are promoted to such blissful scenes? Why, mother, did you ever wish for your child a higher place than that it should be where Jesus is? Husband, by the love you bore your wife, you cannot grudge her the glory into which she has entered. Wife, by the deep devotion of your heart to him who has been taken from you, you could not wish to have detained him a moment from the joy in which his soul now triumphs with his Lord. If he were gone to some unknown land, if you could stand on life’s brink, and hear the roaring billows of a dread mysterious ocean, and say, “My dear one has gone, I know not whither, to be tossed like a waif or stray upon yonder tempestuous sea,” oh, then you might mix your own tears with the brine of that ocean. But you know where they are, you know with whom they are, and you can form some idea, by the joy of Christ’s presence here on earth, what must be their bliss above.

“Sounds of sweet melody fall on my ear;
Harps of the blessed, your music I hear!
Rings with the harmony heaven’s high dome,
Joyfully, joyfully bring the saints home.”

It is a sweet reflection, too, that although our dear friends have been cut down like flowers by the scythe, yet their lot is better than ours, though we are standing and blooming to-day. Life seems better than death, and the living dog is better than the dead lion; but take into account the everlasting state, and who will dare to say that the state of the blessed is worse than ours? Will not all assert that it is infinitely superior? We are suffering still, but they shall smart no more. We are weak and tottering here, but they have regained the dew of their youth. We know what want means, and wipe the sweat of toil from off our face, but they rest in abundance for ever. The worst of all is, that we still sin, and have to wrestle hard with doubts and fears; Satan still besets us, the world is around us, and corruptions fester within us. But they are where not a wave of trouble can ever break the serenity of their spirit, beyond the barkings of the hell-dogs, and beyond the arrows of hell’s quiver, though there be archers who would shoot their darts into heaven itself if they could. The ingathered ones are supremely blest; they are far beyond what we are in joy, and knowledge, and holiness; therefore, if we love them, how can we mourn that they have gone from the worse to the better, and from the lower to the higher room?

And, moreover, brethren, although some of you sorrow very bitterly, because God has taken away the desire of your eyes with a stroke, let me remind you that you might have had a worse sorrow than this concerning them. Ah, the mother who hath to mourn over a grown-up son who has become a profligate, has a bitterer pang a thousand times over than she has who sees her infant carried to the grave. The father, who knows that his sons or daughters have become a dishonor to his name, may well wish that he had long ago seen them laid in the silent tomb; and I have known men, in the church, whom I would sooner have buried a thousand times over than have lived to see what I have afterwards seen in them. For years, they stood as honorable professors; but they lived to dishonor the church, to blaspheme their Lord, to go back into perdition, and prove that the root of the matter was never in them. Oh, ye need not weep for those in heaven; weep not for the dead, neither bewail them; but weep for the spiritually dead; weep for the apostate and backslider; weep for the false professor and the hypocrite, “the wandering stars,” “to whom is reserved the blackness of darkness for ever.” If ye have tears, go and shed them there; but for those who have fought the fight, and won the victory, for those who have stemmed the stream, and safely landed on the other side, let us have no tears; nay, put away the sackbut, and bring forth the clarion, let the trumpet ring out jubilantly the note of victory. It is to them the day of jubilee; why should it be for us the hour of sorrow? They put on the crown, and bear the palm branch in their hands; wherefore should we don the funeral weeds? There is infinitely more to rejoice in than there is to sorrow for; therefore, let our hearts be glad. The Lord hath said to them, “Well done,” and rewarded them according to his grace, and this is infinitely better than that they should have lived to slip and slide.

“But this is poor comfort,” you will say, and therefore let me come back to the text, and say that the King has taken his mowings. Sorrowful as we may be, it is not the worst sorrow that we must have; but, whether or no, we must not grudge the King any whom he takes from us. All the friends we have are lent us. The old proverb says, “A loan should go laughing home;” that is, we should never be unwilling to return a loan, but cheerfully give it back to the lender. Our dear ones were lent to us, and what a blessing they have been to us! The lamps of our house, have they been the joy of our day! The Master says, “I want them back again;” and do we clutch at them, and say, “No, Master, thou shalt not have them”? Oh, it must not be so. Our dear ones were never half as much ours as they were Christ’s. We did not make them, but he did; we never bought them with our blood, but he did; we never sweat a bloody sweat for them, not had our hands and feet pierced for them, but he did. They were lent us, but they belonged to him. Your prayer was, “Father, let them be with me where I am,” but Christ’s prayer was, “Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am.” Your prayer pulled one way, and Christ’s pulled another. Be not envious that Christ won the suit. If I ever enter into the Lord’s Court of Chancery, if I find that Christ is on the other side, my Lord, I will not plead. Thou shalt have thy will, for I and thou and thou and I are one; and if it be thy plea that all I love may be with thee, so be it, for I shall be with thee too, ere long, and I would not quarrel with thy wish. The King has let out this church like a pasture to us, and he says, “I must take my mowings sometimes.” Well, he has so watered us, and given us the smell of a field that the Lord God hath blessed, that, when he comes and takes his rent, we may not stand at the gate and forbid him, but say, “Good Master, come and take which thou wilt. Take thy quit-rent, for the field is all thine own. Thou hast dearly purchased it, and thou hast tilled it with much diligence; take what thou wilt, for it is thine.”

And, let me add, to increase our comfort, that the King took his mowings at the right time. Out of those whom he has taken away from us, I think we must all confess that the Lord took them when they should be taken. In one case, a venerable sister, who, if she had lasted longer, would have been the prey of weakness and of pain; ‘twas well she fell asleep. In another case, a dear young friend was pining under that fell disease, consumption; her throat was scarcely able to receive nourishment; I think those who loved her best must have felt relieved when at last she fell asleep. Two brethren rise before my mind’s eye; the one struggled through life, and wandered often that he did not sink before, for he was like a ship unfit for sea, which every wave threatens to engulf; it is a wonder that he survived so long as he did He served his Lord up to the last; and when all was over, it was well. Another, whom I saw with an afflicting disease about him that had brought him very low, had led so gracious a life: that he did not need to utter any dying testimony. Brethren beloved, also, who were once with us in the College have fallen asleep, having finished their course and kept the faith.

I may add that, not only did the King take his mowings at the right time, but in every case I have now before my mind, he took them in the easiest way. He took them gently. Some have a hard fight for it at the last, but in these cases, though there were pains and dying strife, yet at the last their souls were kissed away by the dear lips of him who named them by their names, and said they were his. They fell asleep, some of them so sweetly that those who looked on scarcely knew whether it was the sleep of life or the deeper sleep of eternity. They were gone; they were gone at once to their Lord and their God. Putting all these things together, reflecting that the King has done it, that those he has taken away he has taken to be with himself, that their present lot is an infinitely better one than anything beneath the moon; considering, too, that we must never grudge the King the heritage which he has so dearly bought, and that he took his mowings at the right time, and took them in the happiest manner, we will no longer repine, but we will bless the Lord.

II. And now, brethren, suffer me for a few minutes to use the subject by way of ADMONITION.

I hardly know whether, under this head, I have grouped together thoughts that are quite admonitory. The first one is to be very joyous. It is this, that as we belong to the King, our hope is that we shall be mown too. We are sitting on the banks of Jordan, especially some of us who are of riper years, waiting for a summons to the court of the Eternal King. It grows a wonder sometimes, with aged Christians, why they stay here so long. John Newton, methinks, used to marvel at his own age, and Rowland Hill used to say that he half imagined they had forgotten him, and hoped they would soon recollect him, and send for him. Well, we have not quite got that length, — we who are young, — but still we entertain the hope that, some fair evening, calm and bright, the angel reaper will come with the scythe. Then shall we, having fulfilled, like the hireling, our day, lay down our tools of labor, and take our rest. Then shall we put down our sword, and take off our breastplate, and unloose the shoes of iron and brass, for we shall fight no more, but take the palm, and claim the victory before the throne. Never let us look forward to this with dread. It is wondrous that we should do so, and we could not if our faith were stronger. When faith vividly realizes the rest that remaineth for the people of God, we are tempted to long to be up and away. Then why should we wish to linger here? What is there in this old musty worn-out world, worm-eaten and full of holes, with its very gold and silver cankered, that can satisfy an immortal spirit? Let us away to the hills of spices and to the mountains of frankincense, where the King in his beauty stands with “helmed cherubim and sworded seraphim “and all the hosts that serve him day and night, to behold his face, and evermore adore him. Let us anticipate cheerfully the time when the King’s mowings shall include us also.

Brethren, the admonition that arises out of all this, is, let us be ready. Should not every Christian man live every day as if he were going to die that day. Should we not always live as if we knew our last hour to be at the door. If a man, in his right state were informed on a sudden, “You will die tonight!” he ought not to have to alter his mode of life one atom, he should be so living that he had nothing more to do but to continue his course. It is remarked of Bengel, the great critic, that “he did not wish to die in spiritual parade, but in the ordinary way; like a person called out to the street door from the midst of business: so much so that he was occupied with the collection of his proof-sheets at his dying season, as at other times.” To me, it seems to be the very highest kind of death to die in harness, concluding life without suspending service. Alas, many are unready, and would be sadly put about if the midnight cry were suddenly heard. Oh, let us see that everything is in order! Both for this world and the next nothing should be left to be hurried over in the last few hours’. Christian man, is your will made? Are your business affairs all straight. They ought to be, everything ought to be as nearly as you can keep it in perfect order, so that you are ready to go at any minute. Mr. George Whitefield used so to live in anticipation of death that he said, “I never go to sleep at night with even a pair of gloves out of place.” Oh, that we would be habitually ready and in order, especially in higher matters, walking before the Lord, as preparing to meet him!

Then, dear friends, this departure of many of our fellow-workers, while it admonishes us to be going, at the same time teaches us to do twice as much while we are here, seeing that our number are being so constantly thinned. A brave soldier, in the day of battle, if he hears that a regiment has been exterminated by the enemies shot and shell, says, “Then those of us that survive must fight all the more bravely. There is no room for us to play at fighting. If they have slain so many, we must be more desperately valiant.” And so, today, if one here or there is gone, a useful worker from the Sabbath-schools, or from the street-preaching, then it is time our broken ranks were repaired. O you young men, I pray you, fill up the gap; and you young women who love the Savior, if a Sabbath-school teacher is gone, and you are teaching, teach better, or if you are not teaching, come and fill the place. My dear brethren, I pray for recruits; I stand like a commander in the midst of my little army, and see some of the best smitten down, here one and there one, and what can I do, but as my Master bids me, lead you on, and say, “Brethren and sisters, step into their places; fill the gaps in the ranks.” Do not let death gain upon us; but even as one goes into the golden city, let another cry, “Here am I; ask me also to my reward.” As for us who are, at work, we must labor more zealously than ever, we must pray more fervently than ever. When a certain great man suddenly died in the ministry, I remember, in my young days, an old preacher saying, “I must, preach better than ever I did now that Mr. Soand- so is gone.” And you, Christian, whenever a saint is removed, say, “I must live the better to make up to the Church the loss which it has sustained.”

One other thought, by way of admonition. If the King has been, taking his mowings, then the King’s eye is upon his Church. He has not forgotten this field, for he has been mowing it. We have been praying lately that he would visit us. He has come, he has come! Not quite as we expected him, but he has come, he has come! Oh yes, and as he has walked these aisles, and looked on this congregation, he has taken first one and then another. He has not, taken me, for I was not ready; and he has not taken you, for you are not quite ripe; but he has taken away some that, were ripe and ready, and they have gone in to be with him where he is. Well, then, he has not, forgotten us, and this ought to stimulate us in prayer. He will hear us, his eye is upon us; this ought to stimulate us to self-examination. Let us purge out everything that will grieve him. He is evidently watching us. Let us seek to live as in his presence, that nothing may vex his Spirit, and cause, him to withdraw from us.

Beloved, these are the words of admonition.

III. And, now, a few more words by way of ANTICIPATION. I hardly know under what head to place them. What anticipations are there that come out of the mowing?

Why, these. There is to be an after-growth. After the Kings mowings, there came another upspringing of fresh grass, which belonged to the King’s tenants. So we expect, now that the King has been mowing, that we shall have a fresh crop of grass. Is there not a promise, “They shall spring up as among the grass, as willows by the water courses?” Fresh converts will come, and who will they be? Well, I look around, and I will not say, with Samuel, as I look at some young man in the gallery, “Surely the Lord hath chosen him;” neither will I look down to someone in the area, and say, “Surely the Lord hath chosen him,” but I will bless God that I know he has chosen some, and that he means to make this fresh grass spring up to fill up the waste caused by the King’s mowings.

Do you know who I should like to come if I might have my preference? Well, where the daughter has died, how glad I should be if the father came, or the brother came, and where the father has died, how would I be rejoiced if the son should come; and where, a good woman has been taken away, how glad would I be if her husband filled up the place! It seems to me as if it were natural to wish that those who loved them best should occupy their position, and discharge their work for them. But if that cannot be, I stand here tonight as a recruiting sergeant. My King in his wars has lost some of his men, and the regiment wants making up. Who will come? I put the colors in my hat; to-night, but I will not stand here, and tempt you with lies about the ease of the service, for it is hard service; yet I assure you that we have a blessed Leader, a glorious conflict, and a grand reward. Who will come, Who will come to fill up the gaps in the ranks? Who will be baptized for the dead, to stand in their place of Christian service, and take up the torch which they have dropped? I will pass the question round, and I hope that many a heart will say, “Oh, that the Lord would have me! Oh, that he would blot out my sins, and receive me!” He delighteth in contrite hearts; he saveth such as be of a contrite spirit. He will save whom he will have, but the way to be enlisted is plain. “Oh!” say you, “what must I give to be Christ’s soldier?” To be the queen’s soldier, you do not give anything; you receive a shilling. You take, in order to be a soldier of the queen, and so, to be Christ’s soldier, you must take Christ to be your Allin- all, holding out your empty hand, and receiving of his blood and righteousness to be your hope and your salvation. Oh, that his good Spirit would sweetly incline your wills, that one after another might be made willing in the day of his power! May he thus do, and our hearts will greatly rejoice.

As I read the passage in Amos, from which I have taken my text, I noticed something about caterpillars. (The marginal reading calls them “green worms.”) It is said that, after the King’s mowings, there came the caterpillars to eat up the aftergrowth. Oh, those caterpillars! When the poor Eastern husbandman sees the caterpillars, his heart is ready to break, for he knows that they will eat up every green thing. And I can see the caterpillars here tonight. There is the great green caterpillar that eats up all before him; I wish I could crush him. He is called the caterpillar of procrastination. There are many, many other worms and locusts which eat up much, but this worm of procrastination is the worst, for just as the green blade is beginning to spring up, this caterpillar begins to eat. I can hear him gnawing, “Wait, wait, wait; tomorrow, tomorrow; a little more sleep, a little more sleep, a little more sleep.” And so this caterpillar devours our hopes. Lord, destroy the caterpillar, and grant that, instead of the fathers, may be the children; instead of the King’s mowings, may there come up the after-growth which shall be a rich reward to the husbandman, and bring glory to the Owner of the soil!

We have reason to pray that the Lord would send the dew and the rain to bring forth the outer-growth. “He shall come down like rain upon the mown grass.” Now this congregation is like mown grass. God has mown it, — a rich mowing has the King taken from us. Now, my brethren, we have the promise; let us plead it before the throne. All the preaching in the world cannot save a soul, not all the efforts of men; but God’s Spirit can do everything; oh that he would come down like rain upon the mown grass now! Then shall we see the handful of corn in the earth upon the top of the mountains multiply till its fruit shall shake like Lebanon, and they of the city shall flourish like grass of the earth. The Lord send it, the Lord send it now!

If any would be saved, here is the way of salvation: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.” To believe is to trust. What you have to trust in is this, — that Jesus is God, that he became man, that he suffered in the sinner’s place, and that whosoever believes in him shall be forgiven because God has punished Christ instead of believers. Christ bore God’s wrath instead of every sinner that ever did or ever shall believe in him; and if thou believest in him, thou wast redeemed from among men. His substitution was for thee, and it will save thee; but if thou believest not, thou hast no part or lot in this matter. Oh, that thou wert brought to put thy trust in Jesus! This would be the pledge of thy sure salvation tonight and for evermore. God bless you, for Christ’s sake! Amen.