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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

The Husbandman's Faith

"So is the Kingdom of God, as if a man should cast seed into the ground; And should sleep, and should rise night and day, and the seed should spring and rise up, he knoweth not how. For the earth bringeth forth fruit of herself; first the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear. But when the fruit is brought forth, immediately He putteth in the sickle, because the harvest is come."   Mark 4:26 29

THIS is the only distinctive parable of this Gospel; that is, it is the only one which is contained in Mark alone. It is the pearl of all the parables from nature.

I.

The first lesson we learn from this exquisite little sample of natural philosophy, for it is full of natural as well as spiritual wisdom, is that there is implanted a principle or germ of life in our soul. "So is the kingdom of God, as if a man should cast seed into the ground." The wisdom of the ages is trying hard to produce life and growth without seed. But all the teaching of Scripture and of nature on this point is that there can be no life without previous life to germinate and reproduce it from itself. All the experiments of science prove that nature left to itself in a passive condition will produce no life unless there is planted first a seed germ. Vessels of corn have been hermetically sealed up so that no air could reach them, and have been left for many years without any movement of life; but when they have been opened for one instant to the air, the germs of life have been immediately quickened.

Spiritual life does not start of itself but is planted from above in the heart of the sinner. God drops into us in some form, that which grows up into real life; that is the meaning of regeneration. It is the divine life principle put in the heart. The beauty of flowers and of trees goes for nothing; their object in the economy of nature is to produce seed. The delicacy of the apple and the peach is valuable, not for their flavor but for the seed that is produced. In all these natural objects the seed is clothed with pulp to protect it until the time of germination comes.

So the life of God is planted as a seed in the heart and must be truly quickened there before it will grow. It is a fact in nature that seed must be quickened by some other life before it will grow. It is a beautiful study in botany to notice the two sides of plants. The seed of one must be fertilized by the pollen of the other; there must be the blending of the two to produce fruit, and this is true also in the spiritual world. In Italy there was at one time a tree growing which had been for years unfruitful. The leaves fell off year after year, but there was no result in fruit. But the fact was observed that one year the wind, blowing in a certain direction, blew the fine pollen from a tree thirty or forty miles away, which fell over the leaves of this tree, and that year there was fruit. So it is in spiritual things.

We are dead as husks until the life of God comes to us - perhaps through some verse in the Bible which we never saw before - and the power of it suddenly kindles our whole being into a glow. We have received the principle of life, and the lifeless germ within us suddenly becomes fruitful, and develops into the embryo of spiritual life. So, in conversion and in sanctification, and all the higher forms of Christian life. The breath of God blows the life of the Holy Spirit upon us, and the seed of life eternal in the heart develops into fruitfulness.

II.

We have given here, not only the principle of life in the seed, but also the act of faith in casting the seed into the ground. The sowing of the seed is the definite starting point, but the seed should be steeped in the Holy Spirit before it is planted, and then comes a time of rest. We must remember, too, the seed is cast by man. Humanity has a ministry in this. God uses our hands to do this work. So, perhaps, today the seed is being cast into your heart; it may be by some one else, it may be by yourself. This is done in our own life when we take some promise from God's Word for some special need. We, perhaps, have to take it in simple faith, and then go on.

It has been a definite word from a real person, and we anchor our souls to it and rest. This is a definite act of faith. It is sowing seed in the heart. It is something we can depend on and live by, because it will grow. I have known many people to become anchored to verses in this way. Perhaps it has been some promise they have heard. I remember one dear soul who heard the word given: "Be careful for nothing; but in every thing, by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus." Her faith took hold of it and she said afterward she believed it saved her from insanity.

If you can commit yourself to some such word as this: "God is able to make all grace abound toward you," or "My God shall supply all you need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus," you will find it will be made real to you whether your need is for physical healing, or for mental or spiritual trouble. There is any quantity of this seed in the Bible which has not been planted in your life yet. Just as there is plenty of seed in the barn as good as that which has been sown. If it is a planted seed you must see in it something you never saw there before, and very soon its life will become apparent, It will send its roots down and its branches up, and soon the fruit will appear. But the most important thing is: Has the seed been planted? Have you settled this thing - whatever it is that troubles you - definitely with God? If you have you will see results. You will see what God tells us will follow the committal of faith, although as yet nothing has been done but planting the seed.

2. Next comes the rest of faith. This is as necessary as the committal. After the seed was planted the man slept and rose night and day. He was not troubled about it. So, if you have fully committed your case to God, you must expect it to come out right, and must have no anxiety or care about it. The seed may not come up on the second, or the third, or the fourth, or the tenth night. Perhaps it will be the twenty-first night before it sprouts. Yet, through all these nights, the man is sleeping, with no anxiety. If you have taken the step of faith, you must leave the rest to God. This is as necessary as the first step of taking the word with a firm grasp. Now you must lie down in peace, and, no matter what comes, trust in God. This man did not lose an hour of sleep. We are often so afraid the seed will not sprout that we dig it up to see, and so kill it by our anxiety. We give it no chance for restful growth. There is no abiding assurance; no rest in Him about it, and so it comes to naught.

3. This man not only sleeps at night, but he arises day by day and goes ahead with other work as if the first were all over. He can turn to his other duties with no care about the past work. His sleep is not disturbed, neither is his labor by day. Suppose he should spend his time watching to see if this seed had sprouted; then what about the other field? He must do the same in that as he has in this; and so he goes on to another and another. It is an act of faith. Dear ones, when you planted the seed of faith in one part of your life, shall yon then stop and see if it is prospered of God? No! Go on and plant another. You must rise as well as rest, and leave the result of the work to God. It is very simple, but I don't know any faith so great as that which throws away the seed in the grave of the soil, and, without any evidence, knows it is all right. How? By experience and confidence.

So we are sure of things in spiritual life, because we have confidence in Him. There are, then, these three stages. First, commit the matter to God, then rest about it, and then go ahead with the rest of your life-work; especially don't stop to see if the seed is growing. Apply this thought to your own life. Have you taken God for this trouble? Are you resting about it? Are yon going on with other things? This is as true for Physical life as it is for spiritual healing, or for answers to prayer in your Christian life. You are to act, then rest, then go on to other work. Are you living this out in practical life?

III.

It is the great law of spiritual life and growth that when the seed is planted it is out of the hands of the sower. "The earth bringeth forth fruit of herself; first the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear." That is nature's part in the ordinary economy of creation, and it is a type of God's work in the economy of grace.

1. We see first the ignorance of man. The seed springs up he knows not how. It is not in any sense a matter of his knowledge. He is in a state of simple, child-like ignorance and trust. He knows that God takes care; but the process by which the growth comes, the several stages of development, he does not understand. I was reading, the other day, the stages of development in that new system they call mind cure - the most arrogant piece of folly that was ever known, and I have no wonder it has been used to confound thought. The question was asked some of the leaders in this system why the answers to prayer in Divine healing were more instantaneous than in this way. The answer was: "They act by faith, we act by knowledge.

Faith is lower than knowledge. We are on a higher plane than blind faith. Faith doesn't know. We reason things out, which is a slower process, but we come to results in a more intelligent way." Praise the Lord for the other way! It is a simple way. To say: "We know not how," is better than to flounder along through a mass of metaphysics, and then find out our own ignorance after all. "Canst thou by searching find out God?" We can't do it, any more in the nineteenth century than Job could nearly two thousand years ago. "He knoweth the way He taketh," but the farmer don't know how the seed that he planted grows. He knows enough to sow it, and he knows enough to trust the afterwork to nature and to nature's God. The same thing is true in the purifying of the soul and the healing of the body. We cannot trace Him.

If we look to find His working in some one as we found it in another, we shall be disappointed. You probably found Him in conversion on just as different a way as possible from that which you expected. You, perhaps, woke up to the thought that you were a Christian, and yet hardly dared to believe it was real until you saw from God's Word that it was so. So the deeper work in your heart has been so different from the way you looked for Him to work. You expected Him from the north and He came from the south. There is no place for our knowledge. We only know it is His word, and so we go on and grow on in the simplicity of little children.

2. The next thought is that the earth bringeth forth of itself. From this independence of nature we learn something of the sovereignty of God in His working in the life of grace. Nature works without help. So you have a part to do, and God has a part to do. If you are faithful in your part, He will be faithful in His. The earth bringeth forth of itself. All your anxious care about it will not hasten the time when the seed shall burst through the soil. It will rather hinder the work. Let God alone. In silence and in obscurity the mighty work is going on, and soon the blade will appear in sight. Man is ignorant about it. God is independent in it. Leave Him alone to do the work, and trust Him for the result. Faith keeps her eyes off all our devices, and says: "He knoweth the way He taketh."

3. Then follows the law of life, which is by gradual development. There are stages of growth. First the blade, then the ear, then the full corn in the ear. There is a science of evolution taught in the world today which is not the Divine law of development. Science has gone so far as to pretend to trace all the stages of Divine working. But there is great danger in this, that a man should attempt to go through both worlds and put himself in the place of God. It leads to atheism and sympathy with all the modern forms of infidelity. But there is a growth in the Divine life. You will find it back in the simpler forms as well as in the higher.

It all starts in the seed, and evolution is left out, which is an endeavor to create a world out of nothing. It is like reading this parable, and leaving out the first verse. We owe much to this lesson of the seed. In an acorn you will find the whole oak, and the only quality that it needs is growth. So, the soul may be very small and weak, but it can grow. Jesus came to earth as a babe in Bethlehem, but He grew from that to be the perfect God-man. There is development in spiritual life, but there must be something to grow from, and there can be no growth until there is first some starting point. No man can grow into religion. He must be born into it, and then advance to the full stature of a man in Christ Jesus.

That is the principle of growth laid down here, and so we can well afford to be patient with ourselves. God is full of infinite, everlasting patience. He will not quench the smoking flax; He will not fear nor be discouraged. And He would have us learn to be content with the stage of development we are in if we have real life, and are ever to press on to something higher. The meaning of the stages of development is this: The blade typifies the incipient early growth of regeneration in the heart; the ear means the beginning of Christian service; and the full corn in the ear the maturity of Christian life and work. Then comes the harvest; ripe and ready for the next stage, the highest one of all.

IV.

Then comes the culminating act of faith. "He putteth in the sickle, because the harvest is come." He enters upon service immediately, in prompt obedience to the call of God's providence." Immediately he putteth in the sickle." "We pass now from the inner to the outer side of this teaching. The Christian is now mature. He is fully ripe. He has got the grace of God, and he must turn it to account. This is the aim and outcome of all Christian life. The result of it is to be found in fruit, in service, in lasting results for God. The harvest is that which is being gathered, and in it we have ourselves opportunities of service. We are not merely to grow up in Him by steps of faith, committing ourselves wholly to Him for His grace and helping. There are to be active steps taken also. We are to do things which call for the same decision of spirit as when we put in the seed. The harvest is found in this natural life, in this every-day world. We learn three things about it:

1. It is the harvest of life, when the results of all that we have gathered will be seen. The meaning of our whole life will be made plain to us, and its outcome be made sure. As in America the time comes when the harvest of the year is either gained or lost - perhaps in a month from now every farmer in the land will be either lost or secured for a year. The amount of security will depend upon the fruit of his toil, and he needs to see that no part of it comes in too late, but that all the work is done promptly. So we need to preach most of all to ourselves today, that the outcome of all our labor shall be saved, and nothing lost.

God is ready for the harvest, and you must be ready, too. The immediately of the text has come, and there is no time for dallying. Every hour is needed to gather in the result of our life-work. We are to watch for these crisis hours of life. We shall know them if we do. They have a solemn meaning. There is a great deal in this hour to be got through with. It would crush one's heart if we had to bear it alone. Have we got all He means us to have in it? How wise, how wide awake, how intelligent we need to be to understand His plan for our heart and life, we do not know; God knows. It is the harvest of life. God has called us to it, and we must come now or lose the fruit. Our consecration demands a bold stand from us, and we must take it or lose greatly.

It may wound the finest sensibilities of our nature - never mind. The days may be hot and long, and the work unpleasant - never mind. Immediately he putteth in the sickle. We must give respect to the call when it comes. Then is the time to take Him in consecration, and to go out in faith to work for others. The decisive stand must be taken, and from this we must never go back. There is a time in the lives of every man and woman when this thing is to be done. I have sat down beside them sometimes, and, as I felt that everything depended on that hour, such a feeling of sadness and sorrow has come over me, such a spirit of tears as I thought of the glorious possibilities that lay before them. I felt the harvest time had come, and was troubled lest my brother should not meet the Lord when He called him.

We so often let some little irritation, some annoyance, some stumbling-block hinder us in the great work of our lives. God wants you to be illustrious in your simple work; He wants you to be like the woman of Samaria, with a water-pot on your head, or a cruise of water in your hands; He wants you to be one of His glorious messengers. Then you shall shine as the stars forever and ever among those that turn many to righteousness.

2. It is the harvest of the Church. Every season has its harvest time in which we can gather great results if we are quick to catch the meaning of the time. If your souls rise up to great ideas of faith, we shall be able to look back afterwards on great results. This summer there are multitudes of souls to be redeemed, and our plans and purposes for them mean so much, if we do not allow them to dwindle into insignificance through indolence or weakness of faith. God grant that we may have understanding of the times, that we may see when the hour of harvest comes, and be ready to put in the sickle.

3. I do not know whether I can make you fully understand this; but there is also a harvest of the world. It is not only for individuals and for the Church, but it comes for the world also. There is coming a time - a last time - a crisis hour, when every land shall be open, as it never has been opened before, to every influence of the Gospel. I have every reason to believe that there are coming grand opportunities, such as the world has never seen before, for successful work in missionary countries. I think the next ten or fifteen years will see a grand harvest of the world. I have studied a good deal of the history of the last thousand years, and I have found it intensely interesting. I do not know a time in which I should so wish to have been born as the last half of the nineteenth century.

I think the next fifty years of this age are the years just before the end. I believe they are just before the time when He will come to take our work out of our hands Himself. Oh, that we could be wakened out of our dream! Oh, that we could be aroused to see what idolatry and rationalism are doing in the world, and yet how little Christianity, with all its marvelous vitality, is doing to oppose them. There are awful forces at work among us, and yet there is an amazing effort for good as well as for evil. It is necessary to make a new map of the different countries almost every six months. You would hardly know Japan today. There is no land that has been rushing on as that has been since it has had Christianity. It has been doubling its communicants every few years.

God is waking up every land, and opening every door upon earth. The world has room for ten thousand missionaries of the cross today. If the Church were to give one cent on every dollar they owned, we should have a hundred million of dollars instead of five millions, to send the Gospel to the heathen world. Within nine months twenty-two hundred young ministers in the seminaries of our land have volunteered to go to the foreign field. It is an army that would crowd this church in every corner. A few years ago you would have expected these young men to be looking for positions of easy work anywhere in our land. Now they are willing to go to Congo or the South Sea Islands. They have no choice. And yet they are the very men that five years ago were the least likely to become consecrated to this kind of work.

But, from being full of pride and high ambition, they have come today to desire this very service. I think the brethren who are already there may be standing on the shores and beckoning to our land, asking for helpers. These young men are determined to go somehow, and they have laid the responsibility on the Church to send them. They stand up before us, a body of stalwart Christians, and say: "Here we are; what are you going to do with us?" And yet the Christian Church is not able to send them out. It is the harvest of the world. God is moving as we have seldom seen Him before. Let the Church arise to take her true place in this work. This land, today, is spending $600,000 in cigars; $100,000 for education; and $900,000 on whiskey, and a little driblet on the army of the Lord.

We can only speak of it in broken accents of amazement. It bewilders me and makes me wonder whether I am doing all that I can. What are we to do about it? What we do must be done quickly. The heathen will not wait. There will be a hundred thousand of them dead by tomorrow morning, and if they were to walk by you in procession they would not pass your door by that time. There would be fifty thousand children among them, and souls as sensitive as yours walking out in their winding sheets, saying: "No man careth for my soul." I never look at this picture steadily, but it seems to me that everything else must go.

I want to strengthen the hand of every brother who goes out upon this work; I want to strengthen the hands of every society that sends them forth. May God use us to do more than ever in this great work, and may He keep ever before our mind the fact that it is harvest time in our life, in the Church and in the world.

Chapter 13  

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