The Sower, The Seed, and Harvest

"He that goes forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing His sheaves with him" (Psalm 126:6).

In view of the increasing indifference to the Ward of God in Christendom, I want to speak tonight on the absolute necessity of it, not only for the blessing of men, but for that which is of greater importance, the fulfilment of the purposes of God. The parable of the sower ought to teach its lesson to us without any explanation, and it is evident from the Lord's own words that if we do not understand the meaning of it we do not understand any divine truth at all, for He said to His disciples, "Know ye not this parable, then how shall ye know all parables?" (Mark 4:13). That which is taught in the parable of the sower is elementary, it is introductory, it lies at the threshold of all divine knowledge

What, then, is it that the parable would teach us? Plainly that there can be no harvest for God apart from the Word of God. It means that apart from the intervention of God by His own life-giving gospel there can be nothing for God in the lives of any people, nor blessing for them.

It is of intense interest that the Lord propounded the parable of the sower in the Gospels when it was plain that the people would not receive Him as their Messiah. He must begin anew if He was to have any harvest at all. All appeals to men on the ground of what they ought to be are in vain. They neither can nor will yield to God His due. The soil of the heart can bring forth no fruit for God unless there is cast into it the Word of God. It is just as well to be clear as to that, and as there are some here who preach to the people, let me press this home: that which alone can bring forth fruit for God is the Word of God, the truth of the gospel, and apart from that there can be no fruit. In the popular preaching in Christendom it is increasingly left out; the Word of God is set aside. The Higher Critics and Modernists have other plans, other schemes. They do not love the gospel and have little use for it. They imagine that all that man needs is a system of ethics, a little cultivation. Raise the standard of living, educate him, give him a right environment, then he will be all that he can desire to be and all that God can reasonably expect him to be. That is their idea. The ritualist brings in his forms and ceremonies, and hopes by an outward cloak of religion to improve and uplift man.

What a delusion is this! It is not the environment or the circumstances that make men what they are, nor can dead externals change them; the man himself is wrong, and that is the question that we have to face. In preaching the gospel the more truly we understand that, the more successfully shall we preach it. Let me illustrate. Here is a farmer — he is one of the up-to-date sort. As to sowing wheat in the field, well, of course, his father did that before him and his grandfather, and right away back to Adam — that is how they got their harvests, and some of them were very good harvests; but he is not so old-fashioned as to tread in their steps. He has got an up-to-date plan. His plan is to see that the ground is properly nourished and beautified, he will plant rose bushes round his field, and if it does not rain he will irrigate the land. He won't sow the wheat, oh, no! he is too scientific, that is the old-fashioned way! When that farmer's neighbours rejoice in a plenteous harvest, will he have a harvest? Yes, he will; but it will be a harvest of weeds and thorns, for the earth yields crops of that sort without sowing, but he will have no golden grain with which to fill his barns. There never was such a fool, you say, but I tell you that those men who hope to reap a right harvest from men without the good seed of the Word are just such fools, only a hundredfold more so. This leaving out the Word of God and going in for the culture of man apart from it will yield its own harvest, but it will be a harvest of thorns and thistles; misery for man now and damnation hereafter. We who preach must have greater confidence than ever in the Word of God.

Let us understand what is meant really by the Word of God. The seed is the Word of God, and the Sower the one who sows the seed. It is interesting to see that in the three Gospels in which we have this parable given, there is emphasized in each of them, each of the three things necessary for a harvest. In LUKE it is the Word of God. He says, The seed is the Word of God. In MARK it is the sower. He says, The sower sows the seed. In MATTHEW it is the soil. He says, When one hears the Word. You have the seed, the sower and the soil. I want specially to speak of the Sower and the seed. Indeed, I cannot separate the two. The Lord Himself is the One who has sown the seed, and that beautiful passage in Psalm 126 has reference to Him. It says, "He that goes forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing His sheaves with him." whom could that possibly refer but the Lord Himself? Was He not the One who came forth weeping, bearing precious seed, and is He not the One who will come again with rejoicing bringing His sheaves with Him! The seed that He sowed is the Word of God. He brought into this world the full revelation of God. He came to make known what God is. In the midst of the darkness He came with the light. He brought into a dead world the living Seed. He came bringing with Him the full knowledge of God's love — so the seed that He sowed was the full knowledge of God. My friends, it is most edifying, most blessed for us who are saved, and who preach the Word, to consider that blessed Sower. Consider Him coming into this world from Godhead's fullest glory. His life was one of suffering. He was the Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. His sacred cheeks were often wet with tears. He could not have sown the seed apart from sorrow, for He sowed it in the midst of men who did not want God. He sowed the seed in the midst of a devil-oppressed and sin-blighted world. We see sin, stark and naked and loathsome, and we shrink from it, but what must it have been to our Lord Jesus Christ? He was absolutely holy. He knew what sin was in all its hideousness in the sight of God, and all its dire consequences to men. One sin would be more terrible in His sight than ten thousand in ours. What must it have been to Him to have been in the midst of this world that reeks with moral putrefaction and heaves perpetually beneath its weight of sorrow? His eye saw every sin, and every sigh that rose from every broken heart entered His ear. No wonder that He was the Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. Yet He fulfilled His mission, undeterred and undismayed, and by His words and ways amongst men He declared what God is, the only remedy for all the woe.

The people took notice of His works and words. They said, "He has done all things well," and, "No man spake like this Man." There was something wonderfully attractive about His words and works. But in them all He was sowing the seed, heavenly, divine seed, making known to men what God is, for His words were the Father's words and the works were the Father's works. See Him gather children into His arms, and by the way He did it make known the deep tenderness of the heart of God. Hear Him when, with heart moved with compassion, He says "weep not" to the broken-hearted mother, and in those words learn how compassionate God is. Stand by and behold Him make the five thousand sit down upon the green grass, and then take the bread and fishes and make them sufficient to satisfy the hunger of that multitude, and learn how God cares for His creatures here below. Hear Him, as the world's misery rolls in wave upon wave before Him, saying, "Come to Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest," and learn in those wonderful words God's desire to bring every creature into blessing. So through all His works and in all His words see Him bringing into manifestation what God is, He that has seen Him has seen the Father. But if He had only lived His life and returned to heaven we should not have benefited. We might have been filled with amazement, but we should not have been saved. It was necessary for this same blessed Person to go into death. He who wept must also bleed, and in nothing was the heart of God so fully declared as in the death of our Lord Jesus Christ. Oh, Christian, consider Him! See Him in John 19. It is recorded: "They led Him forth." In that their sin came to its climax. That is one side of the story. We also read, "Jesus bearing His cross went forth." In that His love rose higher than their sin. They led Him forth. That is their side. That was the revelation of their sin; but He went forth in all the holy dignity of absolute subjection to the will of God. That was God's side; and in that we see coming into full revelation the love of God. The sin of men and the love of God met at the cross. His sacred brow was crowned with thorns, and from His spear-rent side there poured forth the precious blood. There He hung — the great evidence to the world of God's wondrous love. "For God commends His love to us, it that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us." There we see the whole revelation of what God is, and this is the seed in all its blessedness — the full revelation of what God is — and the gospel preacher just passes it on — he tells again the story of God's great love to men. It is the truth of what God is that transforms the life, that takes root in the heart and brings forth a harvest for the glory of God, and by no other means can any harvest be secured. The seed of good in every man, only needing cultivation, is a figment of human pride; the gospel of the grace of God is an absolute necessity.

There may be some in my audience still unconverted; I would address myself to such. How is it that you are not converted? You have heard the gospel before, it may be many times you have sat under the sound of it, and you are not saved yet. Why is that? The Lord Jesus Christ said, "When one hears the word, then comes the devil and takes the word out of the heart lest they should believe and be saved." If you have been under the sound of the gospel and are not saved, it means that the devil has taken the word out of your heart, and the extraordinary thing is you were glad to have it so. You are in fellowship with the devil in this matter and not with God. You are a wayside hearer. You have given the devil the right of way in your heart and he has hardened it against the Word, and you have kept God and His Word out of your heart, and that is the reason why you sit here tonight unsaved.

"He that goes forth weeping, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again rejoicing, bringing His sheaves with Him." The first half of our text may be covered by the words of the Apostle Peter, "The sufferings of Christ." But he also spoke of "the glory that should follow." The great Sower shall doubtless come again rejoicing, bringing His sheaves with Him, in the great harvest home.

In the three Gospels a different result of the sowing in each of them is given. In Luke's Gospel we read the word of God brings forth one hundred fold. In Matthew some one hundred, some sixty, and some thirty. In Mark we are told it brings forth thirty, sixty and one hundred fold. We may be sure that it is the wisdom of the Spirit of God that brings out these different results and that there is no discrepancy here, and it is for us to understand what is meant by these different measures. In Luke's Gospel we have presented the grace of God going out to the Gentiles. The Gospel was written by a Gentile and written to a Gentile. Luke is the one who records the ministry of Paul the Apostle, for he also wrote the Acts. The truth of the church was Paul's ministry. The moral foundations of it are in Luke's Gospel. The church is reared upon the grace of God. So that I believe that the hundred fold in Luke's Gospel is the church. The great result from the sowing of the word in this present dispensation is the church, the body of Christ, soon to be the bride, the Lamb's wife. In the assembly God will find His hundred fold. It is in the assembly that Christ sees of the travail of His soul and is satisfied. It is through the assembly that God will get glory through Christ Jesus throughout all the ages (Eph. 3), throughout all eternity. We ought to be deeply thankful to God that we have been born in this period of time. Every saved person has a more wonderful position than that of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. We form part of God's assembly, that in which He is to find a full answer to the sowing of the seed by His beloved Son on earth. Think of that moment when out of heaven Christ shall come to meet the church and to present it to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing. Then in eternity she is to be as a bride adorned for her husband — that means the church will fully satisfy the heart of Christ. He will find in the church a full answer to all His sufferings. She will be for Him alone. She will receive His love into her heart without measure and will respond to it without reserve. There will be no rival to Him in her affections. She will never leave her first love, and for ever the Lord will have the hundred fold of His sowing in His church. Thank God we are to have our part in that. Souls saved by the gospel in this present period of time form that which will yield throughout eternity one hundred fold of joy to Christ and glory to God.

Matthew's Gospel is the Gospel of the Kingdom. There the Lord is presented to Israel as her King. You remember that the wise men from the East came asking, "Where is He that is born King of the Jews?" And upon His cross, this accusation was written, "This is Jesus, the King of the Jews." When He takes up His great power and sits on the throne of His father David, His church will come with Him, for she is to share His glory. The vast inheritance that is His He shares with her. All His glory He is going to share with His church. So the church will be with Him when He comes. But He will have Israel also. He loves Israel. It is of Israel He said, "I have loved thee with an everlasting love and with loving-kindness have I drawn thee." He said, "Thou art graven on the palms of My hands," and over her He wept in the days of His flesh, and for her He bled. And all Israel shall be saved. Then shall be fulfilled the word, "The Lord thy God is in the midst of thee; He will save, He will rejoice over thee with joy; He will rest in His love; He will joy over thee with singing" (Zeph. 3:17). In Israel the Lord will find the sixty fold. But in that day of His glory He shall sway a universal sceptre. All nations shall adore Him, all peoples sing His praise. The nations that are saved and blessed as we find in Matthew 25, will rejoice in Him as their Lord and King. They will get great blessing under the beneficent sway of our Lord, but they will not be as near as Israel, nor will the Lord get the same glory through them; they will be the thirty fold. Imagine three concentric circles — first, Christ and His assembly, then Israel, and then the nations of the earth. Christ, the centre of all the glory and the church with Him, nearer to Him than all beside, the hundred fold; Israel in the second circle, the sixty fold; and the nations in the great outer circle, the thirty fold. What a wonderful day that will be when the One who was rejected by man, crucified as the malefactor, the One in whose face men spat in their contempt of Him, sits upon His universal throne, and when to the utmost bounds of His Kingdom joy and blessing will radiate from Himself, the centre. What a day that will be when every tongue confesses Him, when every knee bends before Him, then will He see of the travail of His soul and be satisfied. Then will He reap the harvest of His sowing, the hundred fold, the sixty fold, and the thirty fold.

In Mark's Gospel we have an entirely different line of truth, and we must view the truth from Mark's standpoint. Here Christ is the servant. Not the King coming to command, but the servant coming to obey. In Mark's Gospel the seed yields some thirty, some sixty, and some one hundred fold. Do we remember those poignant words of the Lord Jesus in the prophetic Scripture, "I have spent My strength for nought and in vain"? So it seemed. He wended His way to Calvary's hill with a cross on His shoulders and without a single follower who loved Him. All His work apparently in vain. Crucified and cast out. Israel was not redeemed, His followers forsook Him and fled. That was the end of the Servant's path. It was the end as far as men could see. But was that the end really? Oh, no! The resurrection morning was the beginning of a new day, the tomb was empty, and our Lord had risen from the dead. Then He ascended into heaven, and when the day of Pentecost was fully come a hundred and twenty of His disciples gathered in the upper room, a very few out of a million and a half of Jews then in Jerusalem. Upon that hundred and twenty there came down the Holy Ghost, and those Spirit-filled men went out to preach the Word, and three thousand were converted; but that was not very many in comparison with the multitude that remained indifferent to the Word. And to this day the saved are but a little flock. The small minority are on the Lord's side. And they are weak and insignificant, for not many wise men, not many mighty, not many noble are called. This is the period of the thirty fold. The work of the true Servant does not seem to be affecting men much. The seed does not appear to be yielding a big harvest. Why, men say, the gospel is a failure. They do not understand what the gospel has come into the world for. They ask, Hasn't the gospel come into the world to convert the world? No word in the sacred pages of Scripture would lead you to such a conclusion. The gospel has come into the world to take out of it a people to His name (Acts 15), and the world goes on as if the gospel had never come at all. This is the day of the thirty fold viewed from this side of the truth. When we come to the millennial reign of Christ, then we shall see the sixty fold, for the millennium will not be a perfect state. There will be sinners in that reign and they will die immediately they sin. It will be a time of great blessing undoubtedly, but it will not be a perfect condition of things, because the Lord will go on subduing evil until every enemy is subdued, and then He will give up His Kingdom to His Father in heaven. Righteousness will reign and not rest in that Kingdom, and though sin will be punished the instant it shows itself, yet it will be there. At the end of that reign Satan is to be released from his prison and he will go out amongst the people and lead a host beyond count against God (Rev. 20), showing very clearly that the state will not be a perfect one. More widespread will the glory of Christ be than in this present time; it will be the sixty fold.

In Revelation 21 we read, "There shall be a new heaven and a new earth, and God shall dwell amongst men and be their God, and they shall be His people." The time is coming when the prayer we have prayed to often, the prayer that the saints of God have prayed throughout the centuries, "Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven," will be fulfilled. When God will find joy in dwelling on the earth in the midst of men. "And He shall wipe away all tears from their eyes, and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain; for the former things are passed away."

That glorious and eternal state will be founded in all its blessedness upon the sacrifice which Jesus made upon the cross of Calvary. There shall be a redeemed earth, and in that redeemed earth God shall find His everlasting pleasure and He shall be all in all, and that will be the result of the coming of Jesus here and of the sowing of the seed that He sowed. That which will fill that vast universe of bliss will be that which was revealed when He was here. Every word and act of His will be seen then in its imperishable beauty. All shall come out in its full blessedness — the joy of every heart in that vast universe. That will be the hundred fold. We look back and see Him in that short space of thirty-three and a half years, He a poor man in the eyes of men, with not a place to lay His head. But what He was and did then will fill eternity. What praise will be His in that day! God the Father will owe all the glory and rest to Him, and every thrill of joy in our renewed beings we shall owe to Him. We shall have communion full and blessed with the Father, for the Son will be the subject of it. We shall have oneness of thought with one another, for every knee will gladly bow to Jesus.

Let us get into the inside of the parable of the sower, let our ears be open to hear its teaching, and to know that everything for God and all the blessing for men depend upon the life and death of our Lord Jesus Christ. Everything depends upon that, and while we dwell upon it and make it our theme we shall be yielding more fruit now for the glory of God. We shall be bringing forth the fruit now that He will gather in the glad harvest-home. We have to spread the story. We have to make it known, the only story that can meet the world's deep need. Think of the misery and sin of this world surging darkly around us. How are weary and broken hearts to be blest! How can sinners be set free from Satan's thraldom? Only through this story that we can tell, the old, old story of Jesus and His love; and we have been privileged greatly, for we have been entrusted with this story, to go and make it known while we wait for His coming again.

Gospel preachers, we have our work to do and do not let us shirk it; we must cry, though the message may not be palatable, All flesh is as the grass, transient and withering, and all the glory of man is as the flower of the grass; the best is no better than the worst, for at the great test of the cross we plainly see that there is no difference, for the princes of this world crucified the Lord of glory. This we must proclaim, but hopeless would be our work and words if they ended there; thank God we have something else to tell. The word of God lives, it throbs with life, and abides for ever, it is imperishable. And that word is about Christ, for the gospel of God is concerning Jesus Christ, our Lord; and, thank God, our labour is not in vain in the Lord.

May we all be divinely instructed in our service for the Lord in the gospel.