Sermon 2027. The Sluggard's Farm
INTENDED FOR READING ON LORD'S DAY, JUNE 3, 1888,
BY C. H. SPURGEON,
AT THE METROPOLITAN TABERNACLE, NEWINGTON.
"I went by the field of the slothful and by the vineyard of the man void of understanding. And, lo, it was all grown overwith thorns, and nettles had covered the face thereof and the stone wall thereof was broken down. Then I saw and consideredit well: I looked upon it and received instruction." Proverbs 24:30-32.
NO DOUBT Solomon was sometimes glad to lay aside the robes of State, escape from the forms of court and go through the countryunknown. On one occasion, when he was doing so, he looked over the broken wall of a little estate which belonged to a farmerof his country. This estate consisted of a piece of plowed land and a vineyard. One glance showed him that it was owned bya sluggard who neglected it, for the weeds had grown right plentifully and covered all the face of the ground. From this Solomongathered instruction.
Men generally learn wisdom if they have wisdom. The artist's eye sees the beauty of the landscape because he has beauty inhis mind. "To him that has shall be given" and he shall have abundance, for he shall reap a harvest even from a field thatis covered with thorns and nettles. There is a great difference between one man and another in the use of the mind's eye.I have a book entitled, "The Harvest of a Quiet Eye," and a good book it is-the harvest of a quiet eye can be gathered froma sluggard's land as well as from a well-managed farm. When we were boys we were taught a little poem, called "Eyes and noEyes." There was much truth in it for some people have eyes and see not, which is much the same as having no eyes-while othershave quick eyes for spying out instruction.
Some look only at the surface, while others see not only the outside shell but the living kernel of truth which is hiddenin all outward things. We may find instruction everywhere. To a spiritual mind nettles have their use and weeds have theirdoctrine. Are not all thorns and thistles meant to be teachers to sinful men? Are they not brought forth of the earth on purposethat they may show us what sin has done and the kind of produce that will come when we sow the seed of rebellion against God?
"I went by the field of the slothful and by the vineyard of the man void of understanding," says Solomon. "I saw and consideredit well: I looked upon it and received instruction." Whatever you see, take care to consider it well and you will not seeit in vain. You shall find books and sermons everywhere-in the land and in the sea, in the earth and in the skies-and youshall learn from every living beast and bird and fish and insect and from every useful or useless plant that springs out ofthe ground. We may also gather rare lessons from things that we do not like. I am sure that Solomon did not in the least degreeadmire the thorns and the nettles that covered the face of the vineyard. But he nevertheless found instruction in them.
Many are stung by nettles but few are taught by them. Some men are hurt by briars but here is one who was improved by them.Wisdom has a way of gathering grapes from thorns and figs from nettles and she distills good from herbs which in themselvesare noisome and evil. Do not fret, therefore, over thorns but get good out of them. Do not begin stinging yourself with nettles-gripthem firmly and then use them for your soul's health. Trials and troubles, worries and turmoil, little frets and little disappointmentsmay all help you, if you will.
Like Solomon, see and consider them well-look upon them and receive instruction. As for us, we will now, first, consider Solomon'sdescription of a sluggard-he is "a man void of understanding." Secondly, we shall notice his description of the sluggard'sland-"it was all grown over with thorns and nettles had covered the face thereof." When we have attended to these two matterswe will close by endeavoring to gather the instruction which this piece of waste ground may yield us.
First think of SOLOMON'S DESCRIPTION OF A SLOTHFUL MAN. Solomon was a man whom none of us would contradict for he knew asmuch as all of us put together. And besides that, he was under Divine inspiration when he wrote this Book of Proverbs. Solomonsays a sluggard is "a man void of understanding." The slothful does not think so. He puts his hands in his pockets and youwould think from his important air that he had all the Bank of England at his disposal. You can
see that he is a very wise man in his own esteem for he gives himself airs which are meant to impress you with a sense ofhis superior abilities.
How he has come by his wisdom it would be hard to say. He has never taken the trouble to think, and yet I dare not say thathe jumps to his conclusions because he never does such a thing as jump-he lies down and rolls into a conclusion. Yet he knowseverything and has settled all points-meditation is too hard work for him and learning he never could endure. But to be cleverby nature is his delight. He does not want to know more than he knows, for he knows enough already and yet he knows nothing.The Proverb is not complimentary to him and I am certain that Solomon was right when he called him, "a man void of understanding."
Solomon was rather rude according to the dainty manners of the present times because this gentleman had a field and a vineyardand as Poor Richard says, "When I have a horse and a cow every man bids me good morrow." How can a man be void of understandingwho has a field and a vineyard? Is it not generally understood that you must measure a man's understanding by the amount ofhis ready cash? At all events you shall soon be flattered for your attainments if you have attained unto wealth. Such is theway of the world-but such is not the way of Scripture. Whether he has a field and a vineyard or not, says Solomon, if he isa sluggard he is a fool-or if you would like to see his name written out a little larger-he is a man empty of understanding.
Not only does he not understand anything but he has no understanding to understand with. He is empty-headed if he is a sluggard.He may be called a gentleman, he may be a landed proprietor, he may have a vineyard and a field. But he is none the betterfor what he has-no, he is so much the worse-because he is a man void of understanding. and is, therefore, unable to make useof his property.
I am glad to be told by Solomon so plainly that a slothful man is void of understanding for it is useful information. I havemet with persons who thought they perfectly understood the Doctrines of Grace, who could accurately set forth the electionof the saints, the predestination of God, the firmness of the Divine decree, the necessity of the Spirit's work and all theglorious Doctrines of Grace which build up the fabric of our faith. But these gentlemen have inferred from these doctrinesthat they have to do nothing and thus they have become sluggards. Do-nothing-ism is their creed. They will not even urge otherpeople to labor for the Lord, because, say they, "God will do His own work. Salvation is all of grace!"
The notion of these sluggards is that a man is to wait and do nothing. He is to sit still and let the grass grow up to hisankles in the hope of heavenly help. To arouse himself would be an interference with the eternal purpose which he regardsas altogether unwarrantable. I have known him to look sour, shake his aged head and say hard things against earnest peoplewho were trying to win souls. I have known him to run down young people and like a great steam ram, sink them to the bottomby calling them unsound and ignorant. How shall we survive the censures of this dogmatic person? How shall we escape fromthis very knowing and very captious sluggard?
Solomon hastens to the rescue and extinguishes this gentleman by informing us that he is void of understanding. Why, he isthe standard of orthodoxy, and he judges everybody! Yet Solomon applies another standard to him and says he is void of understanding!He may know the doctrine but he does not understand it. Or else he would know that the Doctrines of Grace lead us to seekthe Divine Grace of the doctrines. And he would know that when we see God at work we learn that He works in us, not to makeus go to sleep but to will and to do of His good pleasure. God's predestination of a people is in His ordaining them untogood works that they may show forth His praise. So, if you or I shall, from any doctrines, however true, draw the inferencethat we are warranted in being idle and indifferent about the things of God, we are void of understanding.
We are acting like fools. We are misusing the Gospel. We are taking what was meant for meat and turning it into poison. Thesluggard, whether he is sluggish about his business or about his soul, is a man void of understanding. As a rule we may measurea man's understanding by his useful activities. This is what the wise man very plainly tells us. Certain persons call themselves"cultured," and yet they cultivate nothing. Modern thought, as far as I have seen anything of its actual working, is a bottleof smoke out of which comes nothing solid. Yet we know men who can distinguish and divide, debate and discuss, refine andrefute and all the while the hemlock is growing in the furrow and the plow is rusting.
Friend, if your knowledge, if your culture, if your education does not lead you practically to serve God in your day and generation,you have not learned what Solomon calls wisdom and you are not like the Blessed One, who was incarnate Wisdom, of whom weread that, "He went about doing good." A lazy man is not like our Savior, who said, "My Father works up to now and I work."True wisdom is practical-boastful culture vapors and theorizes. Wisdom plows its field, wisdom hoes its vineyard, wisdom looksto its crops, wisdom tries to make the best of everything. And he who does not do so, whatever may be his knowledge of this,of that, or of the other-is a man void of understanding.
Why is he void of understanding? Is it not because he has opportunities which he does not use? His day has come, his day isgoing and he lets the hours glide by to no purpose. Let me not press too harshly upon anyone but let me ask you all to pressas harshly as you can upon yourselves while you enquire each one of himself-"Am I employing the minutes as they fly?" Thisman had a vineyard but he did not cultivate it. He had a field but he did not till it. Do you, Brethren, use all your opportunities?I know we each one have some power to serve God-do we use it? If we are His children He has not put one of us where we areof necessity, useless.
Somewhere we may shine by the light which He has given us, though that light be only a farthing candle. Are we thus shining?Do we sow beside all waters? Do we in the morning sow our seed and in the evening still stretch out our hand? If not, we arerebuked by the sweeping censure of Solomon, who says that the slothful man is a "man void of understanding." Having opportunitieshe did not use them and being bound to the performance of certain duties he did not fulfill them. When God appointed thatevery Israelite should have a piece of land under that admirable system which made every Israelite a landowner, He meant thateach man should possess his plot-not to let it go to waste-but to cultivate it.
When God put Adam in the garden of Eden it was not that he should walk through the glades and watch the spontaneous luxurianceof the unfallen earth, but that he might dress it and keep it. And He had the same end in view when He allotted each Jew hispiece of land. He meant that the holy soil should reach the utmost point of fertility through the labor of those who ownedit. Thus the possession of a field and a vineyard involved responsibilities upon the sluggard which he never fulfilled andtherefore he was void of understanding. What is your position, dear Friend? A father? A master? A servant? A minister? A teacher?Well, you have your farms and your vineyards in those particular spheres.
If you do not use those positions aright you will be void of understanding because you neglect the end of your existence.You miss the high calling which your Maker has set before you. The slothful farmer was unwise in these two respects and inanother also. For he had capacities which he did not employ. He could have tilled the field and cultivated the vineyard ifhe had chosen to do so. He was not a sickly man who was forced to keep to his bed but he was a lazybones who was there ofchoice. You are not asked to do in the service of God that which is utterly beyond you-it is expected of us according to whatwe have-not according to what we have not.
The man of two talents is not required to bring in the interest of five but he is expected to bring in the interest of two.Solomon's slothful man was too idle to attempt tasks which were quite within his power. Many have a number of dormant facultiesof which they are scarcely aware and many more have abilities which they are using for themselves and not for Him who createdthem. Dear Friends, if God has given us any power to do good, let us do it, for this is a wicked, weary world. We should noteven cover a glow-worm's light in such a darkness as this. We should not keep back a syllable of Divine Truth in a world thatis full of falsehood and error.
However feeble our voices, let us lift them up for the cause of the Truth of God and righteousness. Do not let us be voidof understanding because we have opportunities that we do not use, obligations that we do not fulfill and capacities whichwe do not exercise. As for a sluggard in soul matters, he is indeed void of understanding, for he trifles with matters whichdemand his most earnest heed. Man, have you ever cultivated your heart? Has the plowshare ever broken up the clods of yoursoul? Has the seed of the Word ever been sown in you? Or has it taken no root? Have you ever watered the young plants of desire?Have you ever sought to pull up the weeds of sin that grow in your heart?
Are you still a piece of the bare common or wild hearth? Poor Soul! You can trim your body and spend many a minute at theglass-do you not care for your soul? How long you take to decorate your poor flesh which is but worm's meat, or would be ina minute if God took away your breath! And yet all the while your soul is uncombed, unwashed, unclad-a poor neglected thing!Oh, it should not be so! You take care of the worse part and leave the better to perish through neglect. This is the heightof folly! He that is a sluggard as to the vineyard of his heart is a man void of understanding. If I must be idle, let itbe seen in my field and my garden, but not in my soul.
Are you a Christian? Are you really saved and are you negligent in the Lord's work? Then, indeed, whatever you may be, I cannothelp saying you have too little understanding. For surely, when a man is himself saved, and understands the danger of othermen's souls, he must be in earnest in trying to pluck the firebrands from the flame. A Christian sluggard! Is there such abeing? A Christian man on half-time? A Christian man working not all for his Lord-how shall I speak of him? Time does nottarry, DEATH does not tarry, HELL does not tarry. Satan is not lazy, all the powers of darkness are busy-how is it that youand I can be sluggish, if the Master has put us into His vineyard? Surely we must be void of understanding if, after beingsaved by the infinite love of God, we do not spend and are not spent in His service. The eternal fitness of things demandsthat a saved man should be an earnest man.
The Christian who is slothful in his Master's service has no idea what he is losing. For the very cream of religion lies inholy consecration to God. Some people have just enough religion to make it questionable whether they have any or not. Theyhave enough godliness to make them uneasy in their ungodliness. They have washed enough of their face to show the dirt uponthe rest of it. "I am glad," said a servant, "that my mistress takes the sacrament, for otherwise I should not know she hadany religion at all." You smile and well you may. It is ridiculous that some people should have no goods in their shop andyet advertise their business in all the papers-should make a show of religion and yet have none of the Spirit of God.
I wish some professors would do Christ the justice to say, "No, I am not one of His disciples. Do not think so badly of Himas to imagine that I can be one of them." We ought to be reflections of Christ. But I fear many are reflections upon Christ.When we see a lot of lazy servants we are apt to think that their master must be a very idle person himself, or he would neverput up with them. He who employs sluggards and is satisfied with their snail-like pace cannot be a very active man himself.O, let not the world think that Christ is indifferent to human woe, that Christ has lost His zeal, that Christ has lost Hisenergy- yet I fear they will say it or think it if they see those who profess to be laborers in the vineyard of Christ notbetter than mere sluggards.
The slothful man, then, is a man void of understanding. He loses the honor and pleasure which he would find in serving hisMaster. He is a dishonor to the cause which he professes to venerate and he is storing up thorns for his dying pillow. Letthat stand as settled-the slothful man, whether he is a minister, deacon, or private Christian-is a man void of understanding.
Now, secondly, LET US LOOK AT THE SLUGGARD'S LAND-"I went by the field of the slothful and by the vineyard of the man voidof understanding. And lo, it was all grown over with thorns, and nettles had covered the face thereof." Note, first, thatland will produce something. Soil which is good enough to be made into a field and a vineyard must and will yield some fruitor other. And so you and I, in our hearts and in the sphere God gives us to occupy, will be sure to produce something. Wecannot live in this world as entire blanks. We shall either do good or do evil, as sure as we are alive. If you are idle inChrist's work, you are active in the devil's work.
The sluggard, by sleeping, was doing more for the cultivation of thorns and nettles than he could have done by any other means.As a garden will either yield flowers or weeds, fruits or thistles, so something either good or evil will come out of ourhousehold, our class, or our congregation. If we do not produce a harvest of good by laboring for Christ, we shall grow taresto be bound up in bundles for the last dread burning. Note again that if it is not farmed for God, the soul will yield itsnatural produce. And what is the natural produce of land if left to itself? What but thorns and nettles, or some other uselessweeds?
What is the natural produce of your heart and mine? What but sin and misery? What is the natural produce of your childrenif you leave them untrained for God? What but unholiness and vice? What is the natural produce of this great city if we leaveits streets and lanes and alleys without the Gospel? What but crime and infamy? There will be harvests and the sheaves willbe the natural produce of the soil, which is sin, death and corruption. If we are slothful, the natural produce of our heartand of our sphere will be most inconvenient and unpleasant to ourselves.
Nobody can sleep on thorns, or make a pillow of nettles. No rest can come out of an idleness which lets ill alone and doesnot by God's Spirit strive to uproot evil. While you are sleeping, Satan will be sowing. If you withhold the seed of good,Satan will be lavish with the seed of evil and from that evil will come anguish and regret for time-and it may be for eternity.O Man, the garden put into your charge, if you waste your time in slumber, will reward you with all that is noisome and painful."Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to you."
In many instances there will be a great deal of this evil produce. For a field and a vineyard will yield more thistles andnettles than a piece of ground that has never been reclaimed. If the land is good enough for a garden it will present itsowner with a fine crop of weeds if he only stays his hand. A choice bit of land fit for a vineyard of red wine will rendersuch a profusion of nettles to the slothful man that he shall rub his eyes with surprise. The man who might do most for God,if he were renewed, will bring forth most for Satan if he is let alone. The very region which would have glorified God mostif the Grace of God were there to convert its inhabitants will be that out of which the vilest enemies of the Gospel willarise.
Rest assured of that. The best will become the worse if we neglect it. Neglect is all that is needed to produce evil. If youwant to know the way of salvation I must take some pains to tell you. But if you want to know the way to be lost, my replyis easy. For it is only a matter of negligence-"How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation?" If you desire tobring forth a harvest unto God, I may need long to instruct you in plowing, sowing and watering. But if you wish your mindto be covered with Satan's hemlock, you have only to leave the furrows of your nature to themselves. The slothful man asksfor "a
little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep"-and the thorns and thistles multiply beyond all numberingand prepare for him many a sting.
While we look upon the lazy man's vineyard let us also peep into the ungodly sluggard's heart. He does not care about repentanceand faith. To think about his soul, to be in earnest about eternity, is too much for him. He wants to take things easy andhave a little more folding of the arms to sleep. What is growing in his mind and character? In some of these spiritual sluggardsyou can see drunkenness, uncleanness, covetousness, anger and pride and all sorts of thistles and nettles. Or where theseranker weeds do not appear, by reason of the restraint of pious connections, you find other sorts of sin. The heart cannotpossess it.
My dear Friend, if you are not decided for God you cannot be neutral. In this war every man is for God or for His enemy. Youcannot remain like a sheet of blank paper. The legible handwriting of Satan is upon you-can you not see the blots? UnlessChrist has written across the page His own sweet name, the autograph of Satan is visible. You may say, "I do not go into opensin. I am moral," and so forth. Ah, if you would but look and consider and search into your heart you would see that enmityto God and to His ways and hatred of purity are there. You do not love God's Law nor love His Son, nor love His Gospel. Youare alienated in your heart and there is in you all manner of evil desires and vain thoughts and these will flourish and increaseso long as you are a spiritual sluggard and leave your heart uncultivated.
O, may the Spirit of God arouse you! May you be stirred to anxious, earnest thoughts, and then you will see that these rankgrowths must be uprooted. Then you will see that your heart must be turned up by the plow of conviction and sown with thegood seed of the Gospel-till a harvest rewards the great Husbandman.
Friend, if you believe in Christ, I want to peep over the hedge into your heart, also-if you are a sluggish Christian. ForI fear that nettles and thistles are a threat to you, also. Did I not hear you sing the other day-"It is a point I long toknow"? That point will often be raised, for doubt is a seed which is sure to grow in lazy men's minds. I do not remember readingin Mr. Wesley's diary a question about his own salvation. He was so busy in the harvest of the Master that it did not occurto him to distrust his God.
Some Christians have little faith in consequence of their having never sown the grain of mustard seed which they have received.If you do not sow your faith by using it, how can it grow? When a man lives by faith in Christ Jesus and his faith exercisesitself actively in the service of his Lord, it takes root, grows upward and becomes strong till it chokes his doubts. Somehave sadly morbid forebodings. They are discontented, fretful, selfish, murmuring-and all because they are idle. These arethe weeds that grow in sluggards' gardens. I have known the slothful become so peevish that nothing could please them.
The most earnest Christian could not do right for them. The most loving Christians could not be affectionate enough. The mostactive Church could not be energetic enough. They detected all sorts of wrong where God Himself saw much of the fruit of HisSpirit. This censoriousness, this contention, this perpetual complaining is one of the nettles that are quite sure to growin men's gardens when they fold their arms in sinful ease. If your heart does not yield fruit to God it will certainly bringforth that which is mischievous in itself-painful to you and injurious to your fellow men. Often the thorns choke the goodseed. But it is a very blessed thing when the good seed comes up so thick and fast that it chokes the thorns.
God enables certain Christians to become so fruitful in Christ that their graces and works stand thick together and when Satanthrows in the tares they cannot grow because there is not room for them. The Holy Spirit by His power makes evil to becomeweak in the heart so that it no longer keeps the upper hand. If you are slothful, Friend, look over the field of your heartand weep at the sight. May I next ask you to look into your own house and home? It is a dreadful thing when a man does notcultivate the field of his own family.
I recollect in my early days a man who used to walk out with me into the villages when I was preaching. I was glad of hiscompany till I found out certain facts and then I shook him off and I believe he hooked on to somebody else, for he must needsbe gadding abroad every evening of the week. He had many children and these grew up to be wicked young men and women and thereason was that the father, while he would be at this meeting and that, never tried to bring his own children to the Savior.What is the use of zeal abroad if there is neglect at home? How sad to say, "My own vineyard have I not kept."
Have you ever heard of one who said he did not teach his children the ways of God because he thought they were so young thatit was very wrong to prejudice them and he had rather leave them to choose their own religion when they grew older? One ofhis boys broke his arm and while the surgeon was setting it the boy was swearing all the time. "Ah," said the good doctor,"I told you what would happen. You were afraid to prejudice your boy in the right way but the devil had no such qualms. Hehas prejudiced him the other way and pretty strongly, too."
It is our duty to prejudice our field in favor of corn, or it will soon be covered with thistles. Cultivate a child's heartfor good-or it will go wrong of itself-for it is already depraved by nature. O that we were wise enough to think of this andleave no little one to become a prey to the Destroyer. As it is with homes, so it is with schools. A gentleman who joinedthis Church some time ago had been an atheist for years and in conversing with him I found that he had been educated at oneof our great public schools and to that fact he traced his infidelity.
He said that the boys were stowed away on Sunday in a lofty gallery at the far end of a Church, where they could scarcelyhear a word that the clergyman said but simply sat imprisoned in a place where it was dreadfully hot in summer and cold inwinter. On Sundays there were prayers and prayers and prayers but nothing that ever touched his heart until he was so sickof prayers that he vowed if he once got out of the school he would have done with religion. This is a sad result, but a frequentone. You Sunday school teachers can make your classes so tiresome to the children that they will hate Sunday. You can fritteraway the time in school without bringing the lads and lasses to Christ and so you may do more hurt than good.
I have known Christian fathers who by their severity and want of tenderness have sown their family field with the thorns andthistles of hatred to religion instead of scattering the good seed of love to it. O that we may so but love our Father whois in Heaven. May fathers and mothers set such an example of cheerful piety that sons and daughters shall say, "Let us treadin our father's footsteps, for he was a happy and a holy man. Let us follow our mother's ways, for she was sweetness itself."If piety does not rule in your house, when we pass by your home we shall see disorder, disobedience, pride of dress, follyand the beginnings of vice.
Let not your home be a sluggard's field, or you will have to rue it in years to come. Let every deacon, every class leaderand also every minister enquire diligently into the state of the field he has to cultivate. You see, Brothers and Sisters,if you and I are set over any department of our Lord's work and we are not diligent in it we shall be like barren trees plantedin an orchard. They are a loss altogether because they occupy the places of other trees which might have brought forth fruitunto their owners. We shall cumber the ground and do damage to our Lord unless we render Him actual service.
Will you think about this? If you could be put down as a mere cipher in the accounts of Christ, that would be very sad. But,Brothers and Sisters, it cannot be so-you will cause a deficit unless you create a gain. Oh that through the Grace of Godwe may be profitable to our Lord and Master. Who among us can look upon His life-work without some sorrow? If anything hasbeen done aright we ascribe it all to the Grace of God. But how much there is to weep over! How much that we would wish toamend! Let us not spend time in idle regrets but pray for the Spirit of God that in the future we may not be void of understandingbut may know what we ought to do and where the strength must come from with which to do it. And then pray for Divine Graceto give ourselves up to the doing of it.
I beg you, once more, to look at the great field of the world. Do you see how it is overgrown with thorns and nettles? Ifan angel could take a survey of the whole race, what tears he would shed, if angels could weep! What a tangled mass of weedsthe whole earth is! Yonder the field is scarlet with the poppy of popery and over the hedge it is yellow with the wild mustardof Mohammedanism. Vast regions are smothered with the thistles of infidelity and idolatry. The world is full of cruelty, oppression,drunkenness, rebellion, uncleanness, misery. What the moon sees! What God's sun sees! What scenes of horror! How far is allthis to be attributed to a neglectful Church?
Nearly nineteen hundred years are gone and the sluggard's vineyard is but little improved! England has been touched with thespade but I cannot say that it has been thoroughly weeded or plowed yet. Across the ocean another field equally favored knowswell the Plowman and yet the weeds are rank. Here and there a little good work has been done but the vast mass of the worldstill lies a moorland never broken up, a waste, a howling wilderness. What has the Church been doing all these years? Sheceased after a few centuries to be a missionary Church and from that hour she almost ceased to be a living Church. Whenevera Church does not labor for the reclaiming of the desert it becomes itself a waste.
You shall not find on the roll of history that for a length of time any Christian community has flourished after it has becomenegligent of the outside world. I believe that if we are put into the Master's vineyard and will not take away the weeds,neither shall the vine flourish nor shall the corn yield its increase. However, instead of asking what the Church has beendoing for this nineteen hundred years, let us ask ourselves, What are we going to do now? Are the missions of the Churchesof Great Britain always to be such poor, feeble things as they are? Are the best of our Christian young men always going tostay at home?
We go on plowing the home field a hundred times over, while millions of acres abroad are left to the thorn and nettle. Shallit always be so? God send us more spiritual life and wake us up from our sluggishness, or else when the holy watcher givesin His report, He will say, "I went by the field of the sluggish Church, and it was all grown over with thorns and nettles
and the stone wall was broken down, so that one could scarcely tell which was the Church and which was the world, yet stillshe slept and slept and slept and nothing could waken her."
I conclude by remarking that THERE MUST BE SOME LESSON IN ALL THIS. I cannot teach it as I would like. I want to learn itmyself. I will speak it as though I were talking to myself. The first lesson is that unaided nature always will produce thornsand nettles and nothing else. My Soul, if it were not for Divine Grace, this is all you would have produced. Beloved, areyou producing anything else? Then it is not nature but the Grace of God that makes you produce it. Those lips that now mostcharmingly sing the praises of God would have been delighted with an idle ballad if the Grace of God had not sanctified them.
Your heart, that now clings to Christ would have continued to cling to your idols-you know what they were-if it had not beenfor Divine Grace. And why should Divine Grace have visited you or me-why? Echo answers, Why? What answer can we give? "Itis even so, Father, for so it seemed good in Your sight." Let the remembrance of what Divine Grace has done move us to manifestthe result of that Grace in our lives. Come, Brothers and Sisters, inasmuch as we were aforetime rich enough in the soil ofour nature to produce so much of nettle and thistle-and God only knows how much we did produce- let us now pray that our livesmay yield as much of good corn for the great Husbandman.
Will you serve Christ less than you served your lusts? Will you make less sacrifice for Christ than you did for your sins?Some of you were whole-hearted enough when in the service of the Evil One. Will you be half-hearted in the service of God?Shall the Holy Spirit produce less fruit in you than that which you yielded under the spirit of evil? God grant that we maynot be left to prove what nature will produce if left to itself.
We see here, next, the little value of natural good intentions. This man who left his field and vineyard to be overgrown alwaysmeant to work hard one of these fine days. To do him justice we must admit that he did not mean to sleep much longer, forhe said-"Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep." Only a little doze and then he wouldtuck up his sleeves and show his muscle. Probably the worst people in the world are those who have the best intentions butnever carry them out. In that way Satan lulls many to sleep. They hear an earnest sermon. But they do not arise and go totheir Father. They only get as far as saying, "Yes, yes, the far country is not a fit place for me. I will not stay here long.I mean to go home by-and-by."
They said that forty years ago but nothing came of it. When they were quite youths they had serious impressions. They werealmost persuaded to be Christians and yet they are not Christians even now. They have been slumbering forty years! Surelythat is a liberal share of sleep! They never intended to dream so long, and now they do not mean to lie in bed much longer.They will not turn to Christ at once but they are resolved to do so one day. When are you going to do it, Friend? "BeforeI die." Going to put it off to the last hour or two, are you? And so, when unconscious and drugged to relieve your pain, youwill begin to think of your soul? Is this wise?
Surely you are void of understanding. Perhaps you will die in an hour. Did you not hear the other day of the alderman whodied in his carriage? Little must he have dreamed of that. How would it have fared with you had you also been smitten whileriding at your ease? Have you not heard of persons who fall dead at their work? What is to hinder your dying with a spadein your hand? I am often startled when I am told in the week that one whom I saw on Sunday is dead-gone from the shop to theJudgment Seat.
It is not a very long time ago since one went out at the doorway of the Tabernacle and fell dead on the threshold. We havehad deaths in the House of God, unexpected deaths. And sometimes people are hurried away unprepared who never meant to havedied unconverted-who always had from their youth up some kind of desire to be ready, only still they wanted a little moresleep. Oh, my Hearers, take heed of little delays and short pauses. You have wasted time enough already-come to the pointat once before the clock strikes again. May God the Holy Spirit bring you to decision.
"Surely you do not object to my having a little more sleep?" says the sluggard. "You have waked me so soon. I only ask anotherlittle nap." "My dear man, it is far into the morning." He answers, "It is rather late, I know, but it will not be much laterif I take just another doze." You wake him again and tell him it is noon. He says, "It is the hottest part of the day-I daresayif I had been up I should have gone to the sofa and taken a little rest from the hot sun." You knock at his door when it isalmost evening and then he cries, "It is of no use to get up now, for the day is almost over." You remind him of his overgrownfield and weedy vineyard and he answers, "Yes, I must get up, I know." He shakes himself and says, "I do not think it willmatter much if I wait till the clock strikes. I will rest another minute or two."
He is glued to his bed, dead while he lives, buried in his laziness. If he could sleep forever he would, but he cannot, forthe Judgment Day will rouse him. It is written, "And in Hell he lift up his eyes, being in torment." God grant that you spiritualsluggards may wake before that. But you will not unless you bestir yourselves, for "now is the accepted time." And it maybe
now or never. Tomorrow is only to be found in the calendar of fools. Today is the time of the wise man, the chosen seasonof our gracious God.
Oh that the Holy Spirit may lead you to seize the present hour, that you may at once give yourselves to the Lord by faithin Christ Jesus! And then from His vineyard-"Quickly uproot the noisome weeds, that without profit suck the soil's fertilityfrom wholesome plants."