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Great Christian Works:     Natural Emblems Of Spiritual Life   By A. B. Simpson

A. B. Simpson

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Natural Emblems Of Spiritual Life
By A. B. Simpson

Divine Husbandry

"Doth the plowman plow all day to sow? Doth he open and break the clods of his ground? When he hath made plain the face thereof, doth he not cast abroad the fitches, and scatter the cummin, and cast in the principal wheat, and the appointed barley and the rye in their place? For this God doth instruct him to discretion, and doth teach him. For the fitches are not threshed with a threshing instrument, neither is a cartwheel turned about upon the cummin; but the fitches are beaten out with a staff, and the cummin with a rod. Bread corn is bruised; because he will not ever be threshing it, nor break it with the wheel of his cart, nor bruise it with his horsemen. This also cometh forth from the Lord of hosts, which is wonderful in counsel, and excellent in working."   Isaiah 28 : 24-29

THIS is another teaching of the spiritual world from natural emblems. It describes the divine husbandry. There is first the process of plowing the hard ground, then harrowing it, and preparing it for scattering the seed. Afterward there comes the threshing of the grain when it is ready, and grinding and bruising it, and making it into bread, and so preparing it for the food of man. It is a little unfamiliar, I suppose, to many of you, but it is a beautiful picture, and it is profitable sometimes to turn aside into these obscure passages of Scripture, and see the exquisite teaching they give of the hearts of God's children.


This passage tells us first of the plowing of the land. This is preparing the ground for divine seed. It is necessary to break up the clods, and plow deep furrows in the hard soil, and turn it over to the air, and sunshine and dew, so that when the seed is sown the tender roots and fibres of the plant may easily penetrate it, and find nourishment. The hard surface must be pulverized and made light and soft. So in the spiritual life, the plowshare must break up the indifferent heart, and make openings in it, and so give room for the Word to lodge. In the sinner's case this work is indispensable. God has to make a place for His truth in a heart that has become so hardened by long sin that there is no sensitiveness to thoughts of Him. And so He sends deep cuttings down into these lives, strong pressures of sorrow and pain that make them hearken, sudden blows that break them to pieces.

So also it is in Christian life, which is apt after a while to become monotonous and hard. It is very easy for Christians to fall into the habit of thinking that everything will ever be as it has been, and there never will be any great change. It is the secret of the conservatism in the church today. Everything has gone on as it is now going for many, many years, and there is no place for fresh seed to fall. There are many green, grassy plains, but there is no place for grain. So too in individual Christian lives. How many beautiful lives we see which resemble green lawns, but in which there is no fruit. They need summer fallowing. The grass ought to be turned up in midsummer, and the sub-soil exposed to the sun and rain, and so become broken and pulverized, and ready for the seed. Then, too, there are hearts that have become crystallized into certain fixed lines of thought.

All their ideas and views of God have taken on a hard form, at least a very set one, and the Lord has to break this all up, and so He lets darkness, and sorrow, and trial sweep over them until the heart is broken and crushed. Like the beautiful meadow it seems to be all torn, and rent, and destroyed, rather than improved by the husbandman. But before the year is over there are rich harvests to reward the labor. If God is thus plowing your heart, dear friends, be patient under it, even if it is a deep plowshare He uses, and He is turning up great furrows and double depths.

It sometimes happens that after a few harvests have been gathered the soil becomes exhausted, and refuses to yield much increase. I have known such farms to be sold for a mere song by old farmers who have not known the improved methods of treating their land, and not unfrequently they have been bought cheap by some intelligent person who has plowed them at once with a deep sub-soil plow, and brought up soil from beneath that had never been used before. He has turned over great layers of earth that had never seen the sunlight, and they have richly rewarded his labor.

Are there not some Christians who have kept along on the same slow average for twenty or thirty years until the soil is exhausted? They have used about six inches deep and no more. The truth that once was so fresh and sweet has come to have little meaning to them, Ah! there are depths within them they never thought of, and soil which can be brought to the surface, and which will prove a surprise to them, and all who know them. What they need is sub-soil plowing. This will touch depths within which they never dreamed were there, and will bring up to the surface stores of sympathy, and love, and power that will make altered beings of them. Don't shrink from this deep plowing, though it may be painful. It will bring a glorious recompense, and it will not last forever. You notice that the plowman does not plow all the time. "Doth the plowman plow all day to sow?"

You are not to stay at this work all your life, but must go on to something sweeter. Therefore, remember the advice of Peter, and be not discouraged though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness, for after that ye have suffered awhile the God of grace will surely stablish, strengthen and settle you. To Him be glory and dominion forever. The plowing will not last all the day. There is a season for resting. And so you will find it in Christian life.


The next process is that of harrowing. "When he hath made plain the face thereof" has reference to this. Plowing breaks the land up into clods and leaves great masses of hard earth which need to be pulverized, or else the seed will fall down a foot or two into the open spaces and never come up. So after plowing he makes plain the face of the land. He smoothes the surface of the soil, gently pulverizing it, until the rough field looks like a garden. The teeth of the harrow have crushed every clod, and the soft ground is as smooth as velvet. Then the farmer can scatter the small seed, and hope for a bounteous harvest. Do you know what this means, dear friends? You perhaps know all about the great breakings up of the soil by the pressure of heavy trial. Do you know of the little, fine self-crucifixions?

Be sure God will not rest while there is one little bit of hardness left in your nature. One proud, willful, selfish thought must not remain. You would be satisfied with the rough soil, but God says, "No, harrow it over." Some have been under this process for years. Long ago the rough, hard soil was broken up, and now it has long been lying in quiet submission. God has got it in such a state that seed cast into the ground will not be lost. It is not when the heart is all crushed with sorrow and fear that God casts in the seed. He lets it rest awhile. It is not time now for sermons or preaching to do much good.

It is gentle sympathy and quiet teaching that are most needed. And so God rests the bruised heart, and teaches it Himself. How wise, how gentle He is. Dear Christian friends, do you know this fine harrowing from God's hand? He takes such pains with every one of us. The little trials that come and irritate us so much never make Him impatient with us. But He lets the same little temptation come to us again and again and again, till it seems we shall never get through with it. These small testings are hard to bear, are they not? It is breaking up the little fragments, and it must be finished before the next work can be commenced.


Now comes the sowing of the seed. The soil has been broken up by the sharp plow, and then has been prepared by the little teeth of the harrow, and now the grain can be cast in. There are many kinds of seed to be sown, and the plants that come from them are not of the same value. The fitches and the cummin are scattered and cast abroad, but the wheat and rye are sown in rows. There are lots of different people in the world, and God has many different plants in His husbandry. They are not only the fruitful wheat and barley, but there are fitches and spelt also. They either describe different Christians, or different qualities in Christian life.

Many Christians are like the fitches and cummin, which seem to be a sort of blending of grass and grain. Some think they are savory plants used in preparing food, others think they are for cattle. It is not known exactly what they are, but they refer to two orders of some kind of plant. Then there is wheat, the most valuable grain, and barley, perhaps the most universally raised of any oriental grain, both for cattle and mankind. The spelt occupies a subordinate place; we do not know what it is exactly. So God's church is full of different people. There is a place for the humble ones, and there is a place for the highly gifted ones, too.

If only both are consecrated, they are alike useful. The church needs the higher graces of inspiration and power, but the simpler ones of love and faith are indispensable. They come down to the common-place of everything we do. There are also the savory plants of life. God has need of them all. He is training all for usefulness and neglecting none. The farmer does not neglect the timothy on which the cattle feed. It would be as bad as to neglect the wheat and barley. So God does not leave a single individual or a single virtue uncared for. Whatever there is in His people that is of value, He prunes and trims till it is fruitful. Dear friends, let God develop every part of your life till He makes you a full-rounded Christian to His own praise and glory.

The farmer, however, takes special care of the wheat. He plants it in rows and selects the soil with discriminating care. So God develops most that which will be of special value. The faith which will be blessed to thousands of souls, the love that delights to gather in the lost, and that makes the work and the people dear to you, these receive more careful training from the great Husbandman. This is why He is dealing with you as He is. The soil is being prepared and the seed being sown. Ten years hence, perhaps, there will be glorious work for you to do.


Having planted the seed, no one can train the growing plant aright but God. One plant wants pruning, another needs watering, and He takes constant care of all. "I the Lord do keep it; I will water it every moment, lest any hurt it. I will keep it night and day." So He is keeping you every moment of life. His jealous, watchful love is brooding over you every moment, cutting off each wayward shoot, pulling up each weed, sending the rain in invigorating streams, letting the clouds cover you, and the bright sunlight fall on you, sending deeper teaching where it is needed, digging around the roots and cultivating the soil, removing hindering things out of the way, and guarding always with watchful love. If you should have the care of a child for fifty years, you would think it a great charge. How wonderful is the love of God, shown as much in keeping us from evil as in dying for us on the cross. It is indeed a jealous love, guarding us lest we harm ourselves, or lest some evil thing touch us. Eternity will be all too short to utter the praise that is His due.


The next process is that of threshing. This is taking the seed out of the straw, and separating the valuable part from the light and worthless chaff. This process is different with the different grains. "The fitches are beaten out with a staff, and the cummin with a rod. Bread corn is bruised." He means that the fitches and cummin are so light that they do not need a cart-wheel to roll around upon them, or the feet of oxen to tread upon them in order to take the grain out of the chaff. The threshing was different in those times from what it is now. The barn floor was cleared and the sheaves spread out upon the ground, and then the oxen and heavy carts were driven in, and they trod the grain over and over and over; after that the straw was shaken and the heavy grain was found underneath it on the floor. It was not so with the fitches. They were too light for that.

They were held in the hand of the farmer and struck with a rod, and the fine seed would fall out of them; that was enough for them. But when he came to the wheat, a heavier process was needed, and so he used the cart-wheels and oxen. Do you not see a lesson for life here, dear friends? Is not God teaching you something from this? Have you not sometimes looked at Christians and marveled at the easy times they have? No cart-wheel seems to be turning over on them, and no oxen are trampling them down. No red blood is being pressed from their very heart, while you are having such a conflict and such a hard time.

Maybe they are only fitches and cummin, and are not worth the heavy blows you are getting. The farmer does not thresh timothy and blue grass, and break it with a heavy machine. But he takes great pains with the wheat. So God takes great pains with those who are to be of much use to Him. There is a nature in them that needs this discipline. Don't wonder if the bread corn is treated with the wise, discriminating care that will fit it for food. He knows the way He is taking, and there is infinite tenderness in the oversight He gives. He is watching the furnace you are in lest the heat shall be too intense. He wants it great enough to purify, and then it is withdrawn. He knoweth our frame. He will not let any temptation take us but such as is common to man, and He will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that we may be able to bear it.

Do you believe in this disciplining love of the Husbandman? and are you trusting Him with the leading and government of your life? Oh! that you would cease to envy or be disturbed by the people around you. Some day you will be glad for the training and blessing they have brought you. God will not be too hard on the wheat. He will not let the cart-wheel crush the grain. He will not let the oxen trample hard enough to tread out the precious life of the grain. This trial time will only be long enough to do its separating work, then the precious grain will be gathered into the granary. Afterward it is to be crushed between the mill-stones and made into bread. God lets not anything of it be lost.

The cart-wheels and the oxen and the mill-stones never injured the full grain at all. Sometimes you think, "Oh! I had such faith a month ago, but there came a severe trial to me and it is all gone." You have not lost a bit of real faith. Ah! no. God will not let anything that is real be lost. You did not have it when you thought you did, or you would not have lost it. He will not let a single corn of wheat fall and be lost. Nothing in your life which is of Him shall ever be separated from you, but it shall all be found at last unto praise and honor and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ.


Next comes the grinding of the corn and preparing bread. The threshing floor is not the place to make bread. God will not let the devil have any part in this work. The chaff has been separated by the oxen on the threshing floor, and the heavy cart-wheel has helped in this. He does sometimes use Satan in other people to get the original evil out of us, but He uses His own blessed hands to make us into bread. When the enemy is through with us, then He takes us alone, and, with the fire of the Holy Ghost and the pressure of His own hand He makes us into bread for other people. This is something that cannot be done anywhere else.

The enemy must be put entirely away, and alone with Himself the Holy Ghost must kindle the fire of God's love. He will put you upon the altar in the heavenly places, and begin to burn you till you go up as a cloud of incense - a sacrifice of a sweet-smelling savor. We no longer desire the world. God is consuming our own love of everything. He is taking our very soul and turning it into bread and giving it for others. We may be bread to satisfy His love for us, and we may be bread to satisfy the hunger of others. We may be enabled to strengthen and establish and teach even as He does.

Dear friends, every one of your hearts is just such a field as this, and in it He has been plowing up the hard soil, and harrowing and pulverizing the rough clods. He has been scattering some seed broadcast into it, and He has been sowing other kinds more carefully. The teaching of this whole passage is very simple, but it is very wonderful. The subject is very common-place, but I am sure the meaning is helpful. God perhaps is threshing you today, but He is doing it with care. He may be using a stick to take the refuse matter out of your still. The cart-wheel may be going over you. Let the chaff go. It is good for nothing but to be burned. Let go all that is perishable. Don't be afraid to trust Him. He will keep all that is precious.

He will prepare you with His own hands, and cause you to satisfy the needs of many around you, He has it in His heart to make you a blessing to the world for which He died, and in which He would have you live today like His own beloved Son. How thankful you ought to be! Beloved, are you trusting His love? Are you bringing others to know and love and enjoy Him as He has caused you to do?

Chapter 7  

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