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THE CHRISTIAN HUSBANDMAN,
PSALM cxxvi. 5.
They that sow in tears shall reap in joy.
Well might the Apostle say, “ If in this life only we had hope, we were of all men most mise. rable." If this vexatious, tearful, sinful world were all we had to expect, we might well inquire, « Wherefore hast thou made all men in vain ?" If, after all our difficult and dangerous encounters in this religious war, there were no hopes of peace; if, after all our works of faith and labours of love, there were no hopes of rest; if, after all our darkness and gloon, there were no hopes of light; if, after all our pains and expence in sowing, there were no hopes of harvest; what a drudgery were human life! Who would wish to live long? especially, who would meddle with religion? who would submit to the hunibling, painful precepts of Christi, anity ? who would undertake to wrestle against flesh and blood, principalities and powers, and spiritual wickednesses in high places, if the king of terrors could rob them of the things which they had wrought, and deprive them at once of triumph and existence? If this were possible, what a gloom would it throw over the brightest scenes of life, and
what an additional horror would it give to the dark valley of the shadow of death! We should sorrow for them that are asleep, as those that have no hope. We should weep over their graves, and shudder at our own, as the dungeons wherein they and we shall perish in everlasting oblivion. But this is not possible. Life and immortality are brought to light by the Gospel ; and Christ himself is risen, the first fruits of thein that sleep; and by his resurrection hath conquered death), and him that had the power of death, and given a pattern and pledge of the resurrection of all his faithful followers : so that now we can look above, and beyond, the present state of tumult and labour, to a state of divine tranquillity and joy ; where they that mourn now, shall be comforted; where they shall have given them" Beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, and the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness ;” or, in the language of the text, where “ they that sow in tears shall reap in joy."
1. I shall endeavour to illustrate the propriety of the metaphor.
II. Show whence it is that many Christians sow in tears.
III. What connection there is between sowing in tears and reaping in joy.
IV. When this joyful harvest may be expected.
1. To illustrate the metaphor.
It is certainly a metaphor of which the Scriptures make frequent use; and, indeed, there are many circumstances in which the resemblance is strong and striking. The husbandman has a great variety of work before him; every season, and every day,
brings its proper business. Sometimes he must be in the field, ploughing, dressing, sowing, harrowing, weeding: sometimes in the orchard, planting, pruning, grafting: sometimes in the barn, threshing and winnowing: sometimes in the market, buying and selling : each of which, in its turn, is important and necessary. And so it is with the Christian : he has duties in the closet, duties in the family, duties in the church, duties in the world, duties peculiar to every condition and relation in life. It would carry us too far from our present purpose, to consider at large all the particulars in which the Christian and the husbandman resemble each other: our text confines us to that of sowing. And here also it were easy to strike out several instances, which, if we had time, it might be entertaining and useful to consider. For example: in order to sowing, the ground must be broken up and prepared : for should the husbandman scatter the most valuable grain upon the hard and unturned surface, it would be entirely lost: and so is every thing that sinners do, till they are renewed in the spirit of their minds ; till the Lord hath taken away the heart of stone, and given them an heart of flesh.
- Again : the best seed must be chosen ; because, as a man sows, so shall he also reap : if he sow tares, he cannot expect to reap wheat. So, in religion, “ he that soweth to the flesh, shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit, shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting."---Further: as the husbandman takes care, not only to cast good seed into his ground, but also sows as much as the ground will take: knowing that “ he that soweth sparingly, shall reap also sparingly;” and “ he that
soweth bountifully, shall reap also bountifully:" so the Christian must not be content with cultivating this or that particular grace, but must labour, and pray to be filled with the Spirit, and to be fruitful in every good work ---Again : sowing is ineffectual without seasonable weather. There may be the most fertile soil, the most promising seed, and the most skilful management; and yet, if the heavens be as brass, the earth will be as iron. So neither will our most vigorous efforts in religion be successful or saving, without divine influences.--- Add to all this, that, after the seed is sown, there must be patient waiting for the harvest.---In all these parti.culars the Christian life resembles the work of the husbandman; and the metaphor represents the necessity of deep conviction, great diligence, humble dependance, and unwearied perseverance ---It were easy to enlarge here ; but our text leads us to inquire,
II. Whence it is that many Christians sow in tears.
It is said of the wicked, that they know no changes, neither are they in trouble like other men ; and it is the lot of the righteous, that through much tribulation they must enter into the kingdom of God. Let us enquire into the reason why the Christian is dejected and sad, when the world around him is jocund and gay.
To help us in this inquiry, let us consider what it is that makes the husbandman sow in tears. Among many reasons, take the following :-
1. It may be owing to the badness of the soil.
When the first man sinned, the ground in general was cursed with barrenness as to good seeds,
and made to bring forth thorns and thistles; so as to require a more painful application to till and dress it: but there are some spots much worse than others, and which require more than ordinary cultivation before they be in any tolerable readiness for seed. A fit emblem this of the barrenness of human nature in respect of holy and spiritual actions, and the necessity of soine painful, searching work within ! • The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: they are foolishness to him: neither can he know them, for they are spiritually discerned.” There is so much stubbornness in the heart (naturally deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked,) that a Christian, who is concerned to have it established with grace, cannot but be grieved to find, that, after all his endeavours to root out sin, it will spring up again, in the very spot which he had laboured so hard to cleanse. No wonder if he sow in tears, and go forth weeping, bearing his precious seed. We may suppose him lamenting thus:--- What can I expect from such a heart! how can grace thrive, or live, among so many corruptions ! how can I hope to see love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, meekness, temperance, faith, and all the other ami. able and useful fruits of the Spirit, flourish in a mind so carnal ! I must acquit the all-gracious Dresser of the vineyard; for what could he have done more for me that he has not done? I have been long planted in the house of the Lord, and watered with the richest means: goodness and mercy have followed me all the days of my life; and I have been fed with the finest of the wheat. Alas! my leanness! my leanness! If my rocky heart is at any