Sermon 1025. A Visit to the Harvest Field
C. H. SPURGEON,
At the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington
"Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waited for the precious fruit of theearth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain. Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts:for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh."-James 5:7-8.
THE EARTH THAT YIELDS seed to the sower and bread to the eater has received its constitution from God; and it is governedthrough his wise providence by fixed laws that are infinitely reliable; and yet, at the same time, with such diversified conditionsand minute peculiarities as may well convince us that the Almighty intended the operations of nature to supply us with spiritualinstruction as well as with material good. He who ordained the seed time and the harvest meantto teach us by them. Nor has he left us in vague uncertainty as to the lessons we should learn! In metaphor and parablehe has interpreted them to us. The author of the Bible is also the architect of the universe. The book that is writ and thethings that are made alike bear witness to his eternal power and Godhead. He who shall study them both will see clearly theidioms of one author. In the two masterpieces the hand of the same great artist may be discerned. We are all so dependentupon thelabors of the field, that we ought at the season of harvest to remember how much we owe to the God of harvest. It is butcommon gratitude that we should go to the field awhile, and there hear what God the Lord may have to say to us among the wavingsheaves. No matter what our business may be, the wealth of the country must after all, to a large extent, depend upon thecrops that are produced, and the well being of the whole state has a greater dependence upon the harvest than many of youcouldprobably imagine. We will not forget the bounties of God. We will not fail at least to endeavor to learn the lesson whichthis bountiful season is intended to teach us. Our Lord Jesus often preached of the sowing and of the reaping. His were thebest of sermons and his the choicest of illustrations: therefore, we shall do well if are repair to the field, mark the scatteringof the corn, and the ingathering of it, to enforce the exhortation of the text.
Our subject, to-night, will involve three or four questions: How does the husbandman wait? What does he wait for? What is has encouragement? What are the benefits of his patient waiting? Our experience is similar to his. We are husbandmen, so we have to toil hard, and we have to wait long: then, the hope thatcheers, the fruit that buds and blossoms, and verily, too, the profit of that struggle of faith and fear incident to waitingwill all crop up as we proceed.
I. First, then, HOW DOES THE HUSBANDMAN WAIT? He waits with a reasonable hope for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it until he receive the early and latter rain. He expectsthe harvest because he has ploughed the fields and sown the grain. If he had not, he would not be an example for our imitation.Had he left his fields fallow, never stirred the clods, and never cast in among them the golden seed, he would be an idiotwere he expectingthe soil to produce a harvest. Thorns and thistles would it bring forth to him-nothing more. Out on the folly of those,who flatter their souls with a prospect of good things in time to come while they neglect the opportunity of sowing good thingsin the time present. They say they hope it will be well with them at the end; but, since it is not well with them now, whyshould they expect any change-much less a change contrary to the entire order of Providence? Is it not written "He thatsoweth to the flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption"? Do you expect to sow to the flesh and reap salvation? That isa blessing reserved for him who soweth to the spirit; for he that soweth to the spirit shall of the spirit reap life everlasting.As for the man who scatters nothing but the wild oats of sin, who simply lives to indulge his own passions, and determinatelyresolves to neglect the things that make for his peace,-he can but upbraid himself if he collect to reap anything good ofthe Lord. They that sow to the wind shall reap the whirlwind, they that sow nothing shall reap nothing, they that sowsparingly shall reap also sparingly. It is only those who by God's grace have been enabled to sow abundantly, though theyhave gone forth weeping, who shall afterwards come again rejoicing, bringing their sheaves with them. Patience by all means,but not that foolish patience which expects something good to turn up in spiritual things, as some fools do in business whenthey turnaside from legitimate trade to foster bubble schemes. Thou shalt have, my brother, after all according to what thou art,and to what thou art fairly going for. If thou art a believer, to thee shall be the promise-thou shalt share the victoriesand spoils of thy Lord. If thou art a careless, godless worldling, to thee shall be the fruit of thy deeds, and sad and bittershall be those grapes of Gomorrah that thou shalt have to eat. The husbandman waits with a reasonable hope; he does not lookfor grain where he has cast in garlic. Save then that thou art a fool, thou wilt like him count only on the fruit of thineown sowing.
While he waits with a patient hope, he is no doubt all the more patient of the issue, because his hope is so reasonable. Andnot only does he wait with patience, but some stress is put upon the length of it; "and hath long patience for the preciousfruit of the earth." Now, brethren in Christ, our waiting, if it be the work of the Holy Spirit, must have this long patiencein it. Are you a sufferer? There are sweet fruits to come from suffering! "Not for the present seemethit to be joyous but grievous, nevertheless, afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruits of righteousness unto them that are exercised thereby." Have long patience for those peaceable fruits. You shall be brought out of your trouble, deliverance will be found for you out of youraffliction when the discipline for which you were brought into it has been fulfilled. Have lot patience, however, for notthe first month does the husbandman find a harvest. If he has sown in the winter, hedoes not expect he will reap in the early spring: he does not go forth with his sickle in the month of May and expectto find golden sheaves. He waits. The moons wax and wane; suns rise and set; but the husbandman waits till the appointed timeis come. Wait thou, O sufferer, till the night be over. Watch after watch thou hast already passed through; the morning breaketh.Tarry thou a little longer, for if the vision tarry it shall come. "Thou shalt stand in thy lot in the end of the days." Erelong thou shalt have a happy exit out of thy present trials. Are you a worker? Then you need as much patience in workingas you do in suffering. We must not expect to see immediate results in all cases from the preaching of the Gospel, from theteaching of Scripture in our classes, from distributing religious literature, or from any other kind of effort. Immediateresults may come. Sometimes they do, and they greatly cheer the worker; but it is given to some to wait long, like the husbandman,ere the fruit reaches maturity. Truth, like the grain of mustard seed, does not wax into a tree tomorrow being sown to-day:it takes its leisure. Or, like the leaven in the measure, it doth not work in the next moment; it must have its time. If youhave some principle to teach that is now obnoxious, go on with it. Perhaps, you may never see it popular in your day. Do notmind the fickle winds or fret yourself because of the nipping frosts. Truth is mighty and it will prevail, though it may havea hard fight before it wins the victory. Souls may not be won to God the first time you pray for them, nor the first timeyou exhort them, nay, nor the twentieth time. If thou hast gone to a sinner once on Christ's errand and he has rejected thee,go again seven times; nay, go again seventy times seven; for if thou shouldst at last succeed by thy master's gracious help,it will well repay thee. The long, tedious winter of thy waiting will appear as a short span to look back upon when thou hastreaped the field of thy labor. The little patience that thou hadst to exert for a while will seem as nothing, like thetravail of the mother when the man-child is born into the world. Hush, then, your sad complaints, and still your petulantwailings.
"O dreary life! we cry, O dreary life!
And still the generations of the birds
Sing thro' our sighing; and the flocks and herds
Serenely live while we are keeping strife."
Be patient, O worker, for impatience sours the temper, chills the blood, sickens the heart, prostrates the vigor of one'sspirit, and spoils the enterprise of life before it is ripe for history. Wait thou, clothed with patience, like a championclad in steel. Wait with a sweet grace, as one who guards the faith and sets an example of humility. Wait in a right spirit,anxious, prayerful, earnest submissive to the ways of God, not doubtful of his will. Disciple of Jesus,"learn to labor and to wait."
With regard to the result of Christian obedience, the lesson is no less striking. The first thing that a farmer does by wayseeking gain on his farm is to make a sacrifice which could seem immediately to entail on him a loss. He has some good wheatin the granary, and he takes out sacks full of it and buries it. He is so much the poorer, is not he? At any rate, there isso much the less to make bread for his household. He cannot get it again; it is under the clod, andthere too it must die; for except it die, it bringeth not forth fruit. You must not expect as soon as you become a Christian,that you shall obtain all the gains of your religion, perhaps you may lose all that you have for Christ's sake. Some havelost their lives; they have sown their house and land, relatives, comfort, ease, and at last they have sown life itself inChrist's field, and they seemed for the time to be losers; but, verily I say unto you, this day, if you could see them intheirwhite robes before the throne of God, rejoicing, you would see how rich a harvest they have reaped, and how the sowingwhich seemed a loss at first has ended, through God's abundant grace, in the greatest eternal gain. Have patience, brother,have patience. That is a false religion that aims at present worldly advantage. He who becomes religious for the loaves andfishes, when he hath eaten his loaves and fishes, hath devoured his religion. There is nothing in such piety but pretension.If thoucanst be bought, thou canst be sold: if thou hast taken it up for gain, thou wilt lay it down for what promises thee abetter bargain. Be willing to be a loser for Christ, and so prove thou art his genuine follower. The husbandman, I say, doesnot expect immediate reward, but reckons upon being a loser for a while. He waits, waits with long patience, for the preciousfruit of the earth. It is a reasonable waiting on the outset, and not regretful when wearied and worried with delay.
And, while the husbandman waits, you observe in the text he waits with his eye upward, he waits until God shall send him theearly and the latter rain. He has wit enough for this; even if he be a worldly man he knows that the harvest depends not onlyon the seed he sows and on the soil he cultivates, but upon the rain which he cannot control; the rain that cometh at thebidding of the Almighty. If the skies be brass, the clods will be iron. Unless God shall speak to theclouds, and the clouds shall speak to the earth, the earth will not speak to the corn, and the corn will not make us speakthe words of rejoicing. Every husbandman is aware of this, and every Christian must remember it. "I am to wait," says a sufferer,"for God's help and for the graces that come by affliction, but I must wait with my eye upward, for all the ploughing of afflictionwill not profit me, and all the sowing of meditation will not speed me, unless God send his gracious Spirit likeshowers of heavenly rain. If I am a worker, I must work. When I wait, I must wait always looking upward." The keys ofthe rain-clouds which water the earth hang at the girdle of Jehovah. None but the eternal Father can send the Holy Spiritlike showers on the church. He can send the comforter, and my labor will prosper; it will not be in vain in the Lord; butif he deny, if he withold this covenant blessing, ah me! work is useless, patience is worthless, and all the cost is bootless:it is invain. In spiritual, as in temporal things, "it is vain to rise up early and sit up late, and eat the bread of carefulness.""Except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it." We must have the dew, O God, or else our seed shall rotunder the clod. We must wait, and wait with our eye upwards, or else our expectation will perish as a still-born child. Sowith regard to the comfort, and joy, and ultimate fruit of our faith, we must have our eye upward looking for the coming oftheLord from heaven, for the day of his appearing will be the day of our manifestation. Our life is hid with Christ now;when he shall appear we shall appear with him. When he shall be revealed in glory before the eyes of the assembled multitude,we shall be conspicuous in glory too. Not till then shall the fullness of the reward be bestowed, but the risen saints shallbe glorified in the glorification of their coming Lord. Oh, for more of this living with the eyes upward, less minding ofearthlythings, and more looking for and hasting unto the coming of the Son of God!
Note, however, that while the husbandman waits with his eye upward, he waits with his hands at work, engaged in restless toil.He sows, and it is a busy time. When he sees the green blade, what then? He has to work. Those weeds must not be sufferedto outgrow the wheat and choke it. Up and down the field the laborer must go, and the husbandman must be at the expense ofthis, and all along until the wheat is ripened there is sure to be something to do in this field, so hiseyes must be keen, his skill must be taxed, and no drudgery must be disdained. In all labor there is profit, but nothingis gained without pains. We look up to God. He will not accept the look of a sluggard. The eye that looks up to God must beattended with the hand that is ready for work. So if I suffer and expect the blessing for the suffering, I must spend solitaryhours in my chamber seeking and searching; to wit, seeking in prayer, and searching God's Word for the blessing. If I am aworker, I must look to God for the result, but then I must also use all the means. In fact, the Christian should workas if all depended upon him, and pray as if it all depended upon God. He should be always nothing in his own estimation; yethe should be one of those gloriously active nothings of which God makes great use, for he treats the things that are not asthough they were, and gets glory out of them. Yes, the husbandman waits. He cannot push on the months; he cannot hasten thetime ofthe harvest home; but he does not wait in silence; in sluggishness and negligence; he keeps to his work and waits too.So do you, O Christian men! wait for the coming of your Lord, but let it be with your lamps trimmed and your lights burning,as good servants attending to the duties of the house, until the master of the house returns to give you the reward.
The husbandman waits under changeful circumstances, and various contingences. At one time he sees the fair prospect of a goodcrop. The wheat has come up well. He has never seen more green springing from the ground; but, peradventure, it may be too-strong,and may need even to be put back. By-and-by, after long showers and cold nights, the wheat looks yellow, and he is half afraidabout it. Anon there comes, or he fancies there is a blight or a black smut. Nobody knowswhat may happen. Only a farmer knows how his hopes and fears alternate and fluctuate from time to time. It is too hot,too cold; it is too dry; it is too wet; it is hardly ever quite right, according to his judgment, or rather according to hisunbelief. He is full of changes in his mind because the season is full of changes. Yet he waits, he waits with patience. Ahdear friends, when we work for God, how often will this happen! I speak from no inconsiderable experience. There are alwayschangesin the field of Christian labor. At one time we see many conversions, and we bless God that there are so many seals toour testimony. But some of the converts after a while disappoint us. There was the blossom, but it produced no fruit. Thenthere will come a season when many appear to backslide. The love of many waxes cold. Perhaps we have found in the church theblack smut of heresy. Some deadly heresy creeps in, and the anxious husbandman fears there will be no harvest after all. Oh,patience, sir, patience. Ten thousand farmers' fears have been disappointed this year. Many a fretful expression and murmuringword need to be repented of, as the farmer has looked at last upon the well-filled ear, and the heavy wheat sheaf. So, too,mayhap, O evangelical worker, it will be with you. When God shall give you a rich return for all you have done for him, youwill blush to think you ever doubted; you will be ashamed to think you ever grew weary in his service. You shall have yourregard. Not to-morrow, so wait: not the next day perhaps, so be patient. You may be full of doubts one day, your joyssink low. It may be rough windy breather with you in your spirit. You may even doubt whether you are the Lord's, but if youhave rested in the name of Jesus, if by the grace of God you are what you are, if he is all your salvation, and all your desire,-havepatience; have patience, for the reward will surely come in God's good time. Now this is how the husbandman waits, andbecomes to us the model of patience.
II. Very briefly, in the second place, we have to ask, WHAT DOES THE HUSBANDMAN WAIT FOR? for we are in this respect likehim. He waits for results, for real results; right results; he hopes also rich results. And this is just what we are waitingfor-waiting as sufferers for the results of sanctified affliction. May those results be read; may they be right; may theybe rich. Oh that we might have every virtue strengthened, every grace refined, by passing through thefurnace. There are great blessings connected with patient endurance as in Job's case. He had a plenteous harvest, maywe have the same. And you workers, you must work for results, for, though conversion is the work of God, it is in many casesas clearly a product of the holy living, the devout teaching, and the fervent praying of his servants, as any collect canbe the result from a cause. Go on, go on, and may you have real conversions-not pretended conversions-not such as are sometimeschronicled in newspapers- "fifty-one conversions of an evening"-as if anybody knew! May there be real conversions, andripe fruits for Jesus, in the growth and advance of those who are converted, and may many of them turn out to be such fruit-bearingChristians when they are matured in, grace, that the richest result in the prosperity of the Church may come to you from allyour work. You are waiting for results. And you are, also, dear brethren, like the husbandman, waiting for a reward.All the while till the harvest comes, he has nothing but outlay. From the moment he sows, it is all outgoing until hesells his crops, and then, recovering at once the principal and the interest, he gets his reward. In this world, look notfor a recompense. You may have a grateful acknowledgment in the peace, and quiet, and contentment of your own spirit, butdo not expect even that from your fellow-men. The pure motive of any man who serves his generation well is generally misrepresented.As arule the lounger looks on at the laborer not to praise but to blame him: not to cheer him but to chide him. The less hedoes, the less he will be open to rebuke, and the more he does oftentimes, and the more vigorously, the more he shall be upbraided.Look not for your reward here. Suppose men praise you, what is their praise worth? It would not fill your nostrils if youwere about to die. The approbation of those who have neither skill nor taste-what pleasure can it afford the artist? Shouldone stoop for it, or, having it, lift his head the higher? Our reward is the approbation of God, which he will give ofhis abundant grace. He first gives us good works, as one observes, and then rewards us for those good works, as if they werealtogether our own. He gives rewards though they are not a debt, but altogether of grace. Look for the reward hereafter. Waita bit, man, wait a bit; your reward is not yet. Wait till the week is over, and then shall come the wage. Wait until the sunisgone down, and then there will be the penny for every laborer in the vineyard. Not yet, not yet, not yet. The husbandmanwaiteth for the precious fruit of the earth. This is what we wait for.
III. Thirdly, WHAT IS THE HUSBANDMAN'S ENCOURAGEMENT IN WAITING? Well, he has many.
The first is, that the fruit he waits for is precious. He waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth. It is worth waitingfor. Who that walks through a corn field, such corn fields as we have seen this year, where the crops are plentiful, but willsay, "Well, this was, after all, worth all the trouble and all the expense, and all the long patience of that winter whichis over and gone?" If the Lord should draw you near unto himself by your affliction, if he should makehis image in you more clear, it will be worth waiting for. And if, after your labors he should give you some soul foryour reward, oh, will it not repay you? Mother, if your dear child should after all be brought back from his sinful ways tolove his Saviour! Sunday-school teacher, if some of those little girls should love the name of Jesus, and you should liveto see them honored members of the Church of God, will it not be worth waiting for? It there worth while to preach every Sabbathfor amillion years, if but one soul were brought in at last. I remember Mr. Richard Knill saying, if there were one unconvertedperson, and he were in Siberia, and God had ordained that he should only be saved by all the Christians in all the world (andthat would be a vast number), all of them making a journey to Siberia to talk with him, it would be worth all the troubleif the soul were at length brought in. And so it would. We may wait, therefore, with patience, because the reward of our laborwill be precious. Above all, the reward of hearing the master say, "Well done, good and faithful servant," is worth waitingfor! Even now to get a word from him is quite enough to cheer us on, though he a soft, still voice that speaks it, but oh,the joy of that loud voice "Well done.
It were worth going through a thousand perils by land and by sea to come out and win that "Well done." We might count it worthwhile to face the lions of hell and do battle with Apollyon himself, to snatch but one poor lamb from between their jaws.It were worth while to do all that I say, if we might hear the Master say to us, "Well done," at the last. This then encouragesus, as well as the husbandman-the preciousness of the fruit.
A godly husbandman waits with patience, again, because he knows God's covenant. God has said "seed time and harvest, summerand winter, shall not cease," and the Christian farmer knowing, this is confident. But oh, what strong confidences have wewho have looked to Christ, and who are resting on the faithful word of a covenant God. He cannot fail us. It is not possiblethat he should suffer our faith to be confounded. "Heaven and earth may pass away," and theyshall, but his word shall not fail. They that sow in faith shall reap abundantly. The glory shall be theirs. And, brother workers,if we do not for a time see all the results we expect, yet the Lord has said, "Surely all flesh shall see the salvation ofGod." The day must come when the dwellers in the wilderness shall bow before him and lick the dust. "He has set his king uponhis holy hill of Zion," and they that said, "Let us break their bands asunder, and cast their cords from us,"will have to submit themselves and lick the dust at his feet. Have courage, therefore. The covenant stands good, the harvestmust come as surely as the seed time has come.
Moreover, every husbandman is encouraged by the fact, that he has seen other harvests. I suppose if the farmer had never heardof a harvest, and had never seen one, it would take some considerable persuasion to get him to sow his seed. But then he knowshis father sowed seed and his grandsire, and that the race of men in all generations have put their seed under the clods asan act of faith, and God has accepted their faith, and sent them a return. And, O brethren, havenot we multitudes of instances to confirm our confidence? Let us cheerfully resign ourselves to the Lord's will in suffering,for as others of his saints who went before us have reaped the blessing, So shall we. Let us work on for our Lord and Master,knowing that apostles and confessors, and a great cloud of witnesses who have gone before, have seen great results, and soshall we. Let us patiently tarry till the Lord come, for as in the first coming those that waited for him rejoiced, so shallthose who are found watching and waiting at his second advent. We have not only the promise of God, but that promise fulfilledto tens of thousands who have preceded us, therefore, we should be ashamed to be impatient, rather let us patiently wait andwork on, till the day breaketh, and the harvest cometh.
IV. And now, brethren, do you ask, WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF PATIENCE? To patiently wait God's appointed time is our business.I have shown you how we are to wait, but note this, whatever benefit there may be in patience, it is very clear there is nonein impatience. Suppose a man should be impatient under suffering. Will it diminish his suffering? Will it increase the probabilitiesof his restoration? We all know that the irritability of temper which is caused byimpatience, is one of the difficulties which the physician has to battle with. When the patient is calm there is a betterchance of his recovery. If we were near impatient till there was any good to be derived from our fretfulness, we should notbe impatient just yet. There is a story told of Mr. Hill being on board a vessel once. It is said he heard the mate swear,and afterwards he heard the captain use a profane oath. I think Mr. Hill interposed as the captain was about to swear again,andsaid, "No, no, let us be fair, let us have everything turn and turn about. Your mate has sworn, and you have had an oath.Now it is my turn-my turn to swear." The captain looked at him somewhat astonished, and could not but admit that there wasa degree of rightness and propriety in every man having his turn. However, Mr. Hill did not swear, and the captain said, "Isuppose, sir, you don't mean to take your turn, you don't mean to swear." "Oh, yes," said the good old man, "I mean to swearassoon as ever I can see the good of it." We might do the same by our impatience brethren. Let us be impatient as soon asever we can see the use it will serve. If the farmer should want rain just now, his impatience would not influence the cloudsand make them pour out their torrents. If your child happened to be very petulant, and have a very noisy tongue, and a mischievousdisposition, the mother's impatience would not calm the child, control its temper, still its fitful passion, or subdue itsstubborn humor. Whatever happens to you, there is nothing can happen to you worse than your being impatient, for of alltroubles in the world that one can be troubled with, an impatient spirit is about the worst. O that ye would endeavor to conquerimpatience. It cast Satan out of heaven, when he was impatient at the honor and dignity of the Son of God. He was impatientat being a servant to his Maker, and was driven from his high estate. Let us be rid of impatience which made Cain kill hisbrother, and which has done a thousand mischievous things since. May God grant us like the husbandman patiently to watchand wait.
But the benefits of patience are too many for me to hope to enumerate them. Suffice it to say, patience saves a man from greatdiscouragement. If I expect that God will bless my labors to a large extent the first month, and so strain every nerve andtoil with every sinew till my strength is ready to yield, and my spirit begins to flag; and the blessing does not come atthe time I looked for; I shall be disheartened. But, if I expect some result, a great result in God'sappointed week of harvest, even though I may not count on seeing it myself at once; I shall keep on renewing my labors,reviving my hopes, and encouraging myself in the Lord my God. Surely a farmer would give up his farm in sheer despair if heexpected a harvest in a month's time after sowing. He would be month after month in a very sad way, if waiting to see it werenot a condition for which he was thoroughly prepared. If you expect an interval during which your patience will be tried,youwill not grow discouraged, because it is absolutely requisite that you should wait. Expect to wait for the glory; expectto wait for the reward which God hath promised; and, while you are waiting on the Lord your bread shall be certain, and yourwater shall be sure: you shall often eat meat, thank God, and take courage. The short days and long nights shall not be allcharged with gloom, but full often they shall be tempered with good cheer. When we patience it keeps us in good heart forservice. A man to whom it is given to wait for a reward keeps up his courage, and when he has to wait, he says, "It isno more than I expected. I never reckoned that I was to slay my enemy at the first blow. I never imagined that I was to capturethe city as soon as ever I had digged the first trench; I reckoned upon waiting, and now that is come, I find that God givesme the grace to fight on and wrestle on, till the victory shall come." And patience saves a man from a great deal of hasteandfolly. A hasty man never is a wise man. He is wise that halts a little, and ponders his ways, especially when adversitycrosses his path. I have known brethren in the ministry get discouraged and leave their pulpits, and repent as long as everthey lived that they left a sphere of labor, where they ought to have toiled on. I have known Christian people get discouraged,and touchy, and angry, fall out with the church of which they were members, go out in the wilderness, and leave the fatpastures behind them. They have only had to regret all their lives, that they had not a little more patience with theirbrethren, and with the circus stances which surrounded them. Whenever you are about to do anything in a great hurry, pauseand pray. The hot fever in your own system ill fits you to act discreetly. While you tarry for a more healthy temperatureof your own feelings, there may be a great change in the thermometer outside as to the circumstances that influence you. Greathastemakes little speed. He that believeth shall not make haste; and as the promise runs, he shall never be confounded.
Above all, patience is to be commended to you because it glorifies God. The man that can wait, and wait calmly, astonishesthe worlding, for the worldling wants it now. You remember John Bunyan's pretty parable (as you all know it, I will only givethe outline)-of Passion and Patience. Passion would have all his best things first, and one came in, and lavished before himout of a bag all that the child could desire. Patience would have his best things last, and Patiencesat and waited, so when Passion had used up all his joy, and all he sought for, Patience came in for his portion, andas John Bunyan very well remarked, there is nothing to come after the last, and so the portion of Patience lasted for ever.Let me have my best things last, my Lord, and my worst things first. Be they what they may, they shall be over, and then mybest things shall last for ever and for ever. He that can wait has faith, and it is faith that marks the true Christian. Hethat canwait hath grace, and it is grace that marks the child of God. O that the Lord would grant to every one of you more andmore of this excellent grace of patience, to the praise and glory of his name.
I have well nigh done. Yet there is one other respect in which our case is like that of the husbandman. As the season advances,his anxieties are prone to increase rather than to abate. If he has had long need of patience while the seasons have succeededeach other, and while organic chances have been in course of development, surely there is a stronger denoted on his patienceas the crisis approaches when he shall reap the produce. How anxiously at this season will heobserve the skies, watch the clouds, and wait the opportune time to get in his crops and garner them in good condition!Is there no peril that haunts him lest, after all, the blast or the mildew should cheat his hopes; lest fierce winds shouldlay the full-grown stems prostrate on the ground; lest then the pelting showers of rain should drench the well-filled earsof corn? I might almost call this the husbandman's last fear, and yet the most nervous fear that agitates his mind. In likemanner,beloved, we have a closing scene in prospect which may, and will in all probability, involve a greater trial of faith,and a sterner call for patience, than any or all of the struggles through which we have already passed. Perhaps I can bestdescribe it to you by quoting two passages of Scripture, one specially addressed to workers, the other more particularly tosufferers. For the first of these texts; you will find it in Hebrews 10:35-36. "Cast not away therefore your confidence, whichhath great recompence of reward. For ye have need of patience, What, after ye have done the will of God, ye may receivethe promise." This is sweet counsel for thee, O pilgrim, to Zion's city bound. When thou wast young and strong, thou didst walk many aweary mile with that staff of promise. It helped thee over the ground. Don't throw it aside as useless, now that thou artold and infirm. Lean upon it. Rest upon that promise, in thy present weakness, which lightened thy labor in the daysof thy vigor. "Cast not away your confidence." But, brethren, there is something more. The Apostle says, "Ye have needof patience, after ye have done the will of God." But, why, you will say, is patience so indispensable at this juncture ofexperience? Doubtless you all know that we are never so subject to impatience as when there is nothing we can do. All thewhile the farmer is occupied with ploughing, harrowing, tilling, drilling, hoeing, and the like, he is too busy to be fretful.It iswhen the work is done, and there is nothing more to occupy his hands, that the very leisure he has to endure gives occasionto secret qualms and lurking cares. So it ever is with us. While "we are laborers together with God," our occupation is sopleasant that we little heed the toil and moil of hard service. But when it comes to a point where we have no province, forit is "God that giveth the increase," we are apt to be grievously distrustful; our unbelief finds full play. Hence it is,brethren, that after our fight is fought, after our race is run, after our allotted task is finished, there is so muchneed of patience, of such patience as waits only on God and watches unto prayer, that we may finish our course with joy andthe ministry we have received of the Lord Jesus. And what about the second text? Where is that to be found? It is in the earlypart of this epistle of James. Turn to James 1:4. "Let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire,wanting nothing." Oh, how indisposed we all of us are to take this advice! Methinks I see Paul retiring thrice to wrestle with God in prayer,that he would remove the thorn from his flesh. He felt the rankling, and he craved for relief. He had hardly thought of itas a seton that must irritate before it could relieve, or as a medicine that must gripe before it could head. But oh, patienceis then wrought up to its climax, when the soul so accepts the chastisement from the hand of God thatshe cannot, and will not, ask him to change his treatment or alter his discipline.
Seemeth it not as though patience were a virtue par excellence which puts the last polish on Christian chastity? We will hie us back to the cornfields again: I am afraid we were forgettingthem. But this time we will not talk so much with the farmer as with the crops. Knowest thou then what it is that gives thatbright yellow tinge of maturity to those blades which erst were green and growing? What, think you, imparts that golden hueto the wheat? How do you supposethe husbandman judges when it is time to thrust in the sickle? I will tell you. All the while the corn was growing, thosehollow stems served as ducts that drew up nourishment from the soil. At length the process of vegetation is fulfilled. Thefibres of the plant become rigid; they cease their office; down below there has been a failure of the vital power which isthe precursor of death. Henceforth the heavenly powers work quick and marvellous changes; the sun paints his superscriptionon theears of grain. They have reached the last stage: having fed on the riches of the soil long enough, they are only influencedfrom above. The time of their removal is at hand, when they shall be cut down, carried away in the team, and housed in thegarners. So, too, beloved in the Lord, it is with some of you. Do I speak as a prophet? Do I not rather echo a trite observation?"The fall of the year is most thickly strewn with the fall of human life." You have long been succoured with mercies thathave come up from mother-earth; you have been exposed to cold dews, chilling frosts, stormy blasts; you have had the trialof the vapory fog, the icy winter, the fickle spring, and the summer drought; but it is nearly all over now. You are readyto depart. Not yet for a brief space has the reaper come. "Ye have need of patience." Having suffered thus far, your totteringframe has learnt to bend. Patience, man-patience! A mighty transformation is about to be wrought on you in a short space.Wait on the Lord. Holiness shall now be legibly, more legibly than ever, inscribed on your forefront by the clear shiningof the Sun of Righteousness. The heavenly husbandman has you daily, hourly, in his eye, till he shall say to the angel ofhis presence, "Put in your sickle." Then, as we pronounce your obituary with the meed of praise due to one in whom God haswrought a perfect work, we shall record that you were patient under affliction, resigned to the will of the Lord, and readytodepart and to be with Christ, which is far better. Patience has had her perfect work: you lack nothing. God grant untoyou this gracious "nunc dimittis" when your time for ingathering has come!
Now, I have only spoken to believers, because as I have already said, the unbeliever cannot wait with patience, for he hasnothing to wait for. There is nothing for him but a fearful looking for of judgment. Oh, it must be an awful thing to go froma life of poverty, or of suffering, or of drudgery here, into the world where the wrath of God abideth for ever. It mattersnot what your position here may be, if at the end you enter into rest. Equally little does it matterwhat joys or wealth you have here, if after all you are driven from the Lord's presence. May you be led to believe inJesus. There lies safety. May you rest in his precious blood. There is pardon; there is salvation. God grant it, for Christ'ssake Amen.