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of Solomon—“A garden enclosed is my sister, my spouse.” I presume that this garden is the Church of God. Now, I have set up no wall round about the Church, but the Lord Himself has done it, and He has done it from everlasting too, and so well has He done it that it lasts yet, and will remain though all hell assail it. The devil himself is obliged to confess this as in the case of Job—“Hast Thou not made a hedge about him ?” The Lord is the wall round about His husbandry. Now, I think you will see the parallel to some extent in the hedging, fencing, walling, and separating work on the part of the husbandman. Now, having separated this choice piece of ground, there is another thing that a wise and skilful husbandman would do. I think he would dig in it, or run the plough through it, as the case might be, and so prepare it for the reception of the seed. Now, I think we shall see a parallel in God's work. When God runs the plough of His word through the fallow ground of a sinner's heart, you may depend upon it He makes sad work there. Now, the word of God is the plough, and the Person that handles it is the Holy Spirit. He is the Person that directs it for the honour and glory of the Husbandman. But, now, having ploughed up the fallow ground in us,—and we know that nothing can be done, brethren, in the sinner's heart without the ploughing, - the plough must go through it,—the heart must be broken up. I often think of the 16th chapter of St. John, and the 8th verse, And when He (the Holy Ghost) is come, He will convince* the world of sin.” That word for convince is 'to cut open,' as applied to victims which were cut open before they were offered in sacrifice. So the Lord cuts open the sinner (this is a scriptural idea)—He cuts open,--there may be many groans and sighs as the consequence.
What is it all for? It is to
prepare the soil for the seed,—the good seed of eternal life which God Himself sows in the heart. There are four different sorts of ground mentioned in the 13th chapter of St. Matthew's Gospel. Three of them are bad and one only is good. It is spoken of thus—Other fell into good ground and brought forth fruit. Now, if I understand it aright, it is the good ground which God Himself prepares, and which He Himself sows with seed. Now, you see, that when God Himself had prepared ground, and He Himself had sown it with good seed, it brought forth fruit abundantly, some thirty-fold, some sixty-fold, and some a hundred-fold. This was good ground, this was the Lord's little orchard of which we are speaking But now, a little more on this point. Some of you, perhaps, will say, inferring from what has been said, “So far we are all right, but how about the weeds which remain ?” I wish you to understand, my brethren, that although the heavenly seed has been sown in our hearts yet we shall find something else growing up within. This is often set out in the Scriptures. St. Paul knew it from his own experience. See the 7th of Romans and the 5th of Galatians. We shall there find that he knew what it was to have weeds growing as well as the heavenly seed. Hence, we perceive, that it is necessary for the husbandman to pay certain visits to this ground, to chop down and kill
* cut open-reprove.
these noxious weeds. Do you think that you are able to pull up the weeds ? No, brethren, you will rather foster them, and get an excuse for their growth.
But the Husbandman by the sword of His Spirit aims a blow at the weeds, cutting and killing them, while, at the same time, He waters the good seed by the grace of His Spirit, and so it springs up and brings forth fruit abundantly. Then again He pays visits to this separated ground. Well, He has a right to do so, to see how it is getting on. This He does again and again. And I will tell you one thing that He does in connection with it,--He takes care of it, that no one shall run away with the ground, nor with the good seed that is sown in it. Read the 27th chapter of Isaiah, these words—“In that day sing ye unto her a vineyard of red wine.” (This is one of the three figures thus used of the Church of God.) “I the Lord do keep it.” Now, some there are who do not believe this, but tell me sometimes that they will be all right if they keep themselves, and badly kept indeed they will be ; but look here, “I the Lord do keep it;" then it will be well kept. will water it every moment; " this is the husbandman's work.
6 Lest any hurt it ;”—lest the devil, or any of those in alliance with him,“ Lest any hurt it.” What then? “I will keep it night and day.” The whole posse of hell will fail to hurt it, because the flusbandman is there. He will keep this little parcel of ground for Himself; He will keep the seed which has been sown therein. If it be a vineyard He will take care of it; if it be an orchard He will look after it; if it be a cultivated field His eye will be upon it. “), the Lord do keep it." But perhaps the Lord will do what some other husbandmen have done, He may go to sleep. Will He? I look into the 121st Psalm, and I find there—“He that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep."
This is just such a husbandman as I need; He suits me exactly. I am often dull and careless, and asleep, and muddled ; dare any
make such a confession as this? I dare, because my God has taught me that I am not my own keeper, but that the Lord is the keeper of His Israel. Now, these few words must suffice on the first point,—God as the Husbandman.
The second figure is this. It is in our text-"YE are God's husbandry.” “YE are." “Ye are.” I like those texts which are personal.
6. But don't be personal in your sermons, whatever you do." Indeed, then they are nothing worth. But
know there are different persons in congregations. Now, I like that which is personal, it comes home. And what is more, I like that which is spiritual. We shall try to be both personal and spiritual. Now, with regard to this husbandry. What state was it in when God took possession of it? Now, mind, I am not speaking of deeper things, such as were laid up before the foundation of the world ; I am not about to approach such this evening. But in what state was this husbandry when God took possession of it ? It was as a lost, waste field, an uncultivated orchard, a vineyard run wild. This is the state in which it was when God began with it. We speak of those persons who are in a spiritually unculti
66 Ye are
vated state, and as St. Paul does, so that if we are wrong we are in good company. Now, St. Paul speaks in the 6th chapter of this very epistle of those persons who were formerly in an uncultivated state. In the 9th and 10th verses, he says—“Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God ?" Then they are described—“Be not deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God, and such were some of you, but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.” You have a black list here and this was the state of this uncultivated field when God took it in hand. You have the very worst of characters. It makes one pale to speak of them; and such were some of you. We might go into other epistles, like that to the Galatians; and what a picture we have in the 3rd chapter of Romans, as to both Jews and Gentiles? Yet God had mercy on them, though they were a lost uncultivated field, a ruined orchard, a vineyard trodden down, a waste howling wilderness. But now mark the contrast—“But yE are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the spirit of our God.” Now read the text—" Ye are God's tillage,” “ Ye are God's cultivated field,” — or,
God's cultivated vineyard,” or, “ Ye are God's cultivated orchard.” But how do we know that God has been at work ? What are the marks of this cultivated field ? Well, God has not left us without marks.
But ye are washed in the blood of Jesus, you are justified in Jesus, you are sanctified in Jesus completely. What becomes of progressive sanctification if a man be perfectly washed, and perfectly sanctified, and perfectly justified, in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the spirit or our God ? Now that the field is separated and cultivated by the Lord for Himself, let us look at the fruits; they are spoken of occasionally as the fruits of righteousness and of the Spirit. Consider these fruits as presented to us in the 3rd chapter of Colossians ; read with me the few following verses. The 11th and 12th verses6 Christ is all and in all. Put on therefore as the elect of God.” This is the garden the cultivated field. “Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels
. of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, long suffering; forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.” Oh ! what beautiful flowers. Oh ! what glorious fruits. “ And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness. And let the
peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him." Show me a more beautiful field than this if you can, or a more beautiful
orchard. But you cannot. It is impossible. This is God's cultivated field, yielding - The fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God.” “ The fruits of the Spirit,” which are “ love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance, against which there is no law.” These fruits show that the Husbandman has been at work in the field,—that the seed has been sown, and grown up:
God thus separates and beautities the Church for Himself, and for His own glory. This shall serve upon our second head.
I want now to speak in the third place, somewhat more explicitly, if it be possible for me to do so, of the different seasons to which this husbandry is exposed. It is exposed, you know, to the cutting east winds and to the severe winter frosts. I shall take the different seasons of the year as my guide, because they will be easy for you to remember. You know that winter, spring, summer, and autumn have to do with husbandry.
Well, now, with regard to the winter of the Christian. Ah! the winter season.
suppose you will not see many green fields in the winter. You will not see much fruit then in the orchards. Well, a Christian man has his winter, and you know that in the winter season we have frequently frost and snow, and storms and tempests. After all, this winter season seems as necessary as the finest days in summer. I will tell you what I was thinking when I was coming up this afternoon, that the winter is the time when a great many insects are killed, -and, again, the winter is the time when the trees strike their roots deeper, and though the snows and frosts should come, why, they will do more good than harm in killing the vermin. Now, Job felt that he had his winter season. In the nineteenth chapter of his book, we find that God got him into His net. He said that he had been broken in pieces. “How long will ye vex my soul, and break me in pieces with words ? These ten times have ye reproached me : ye are not ashamed that ye make yourselves strange to me. And be it indeed that I have erred, mine error remaineth with myself. If indeed ye will magnify yourselves against me, and plead against me my reproach: Know that God hath overthrown me, and hath compassed me with His net." God overthrew him and got him into His net, which was not a bad thing. When God gets anyone into His net, depend upon it He will keep him in it. He stripped Job of his glory, and took the crown from his head. God alone must wear the crown and glory of a sinner's salvation. We said that during the winter season we have frequently frosts, and snow, and storms, and tempests. It seems that Job speaks of the same thing in bis 23rd chapter. God seemed lost to him, he was in a trying state.
Behold, I go forward, but He is not there ; and backward, but I cannot perceive Him : On the left hand, where He doth work, but I cannot behold Him : He hideth Himself on the right hand, that I cannot see Him." Well, but Job revives notwithstanding all this,
* When He hath tried me,” when I have passed through the storms, and tempests, and darkness of winter, “I shall come forth as gold." Now, did he come forth as gold? What
for he says,
example have we in the whole of God's book like Job's for patience ? St. James v. 11, speaks of this grace of patience, and how it was brought out in the life and character of Job during the trying time of his wintry experience. The Psalmist had his wintry season, he speaks of being cast down. He says—“Why art thou cast down, O my soul ? and why art thou disquieted within me?” (Psalm xlii. 5.) Now, this was a wintry stormy time. It was a trying season. But was all hope gone ? No! He addresses himself: “O my soul, hope thou in God, for I shall yet praise Him for the help of His countenance." He then goes on in the 7th verse to say—“ Deep calleth unto deep at the noise of thy waterspouts ; all thy waves and thy billows are gone
Yet the Lord will command His lovingkindness in the daytime, and in the night His song shall be with me, and my prayer unto the God of
my life.”. It will be spring-time bye-and-bye. The storms and the tempests will be past, the sun will shine once more, God “will command His loving-kindness in the day time,”—then my soul shall be filled with joy and gladness.
There is one thing I wish to observe, that during the winter season a Christian man's soul is benefited. Perhaps some of you have never had a winter. Allow me to tell you this, that during the winter season a Christian man gains an experience. This is one thing secured to him. He learns that the storms and tempests are not allowed to destroy him. Our Lord brings out this in His sermon on the mount. “ The rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat upon that house."
The rain and the floods and the winds of temptation, the rain and the floods and the winds of Satan, the rain and the floods and the winds of a wicked world, -all beat upon that house, and yet it did not go down. And why? Because it was founded upon a rock. But, now, I beg to remark that the winter season cannot be borne by some—mere professors. The next part of the parable shows the result of the wild hopes of those who built upon the sand.
6. The rain descended and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat upon
that house, and it fell; and great-was the fall of it. Down it goes crash. Why? Because it was built upon the sand. Built upon the sand of one's own doing, perhaps upon church and chapel going. Here I may state what I heard a person say the other day,—“ all that rubbish must go down, it won't stand the storms." But, on the other hand, though the faith of God's child be but as a grain of mustard seed, it shall stand all seasons and all storms. Depend upon it the spring time of the soul will come. It will not always be winter. I think if you read that 85th Psalm you will find that David felt something of this sort. “O Lord, revive me," he says. Now I like revivals, but I like
, them to be from the Lord. Lord, Thou hast been favourable unto Thy land; Thou hast brought back the captivity of Jacob.” “Wilt thou not revive us again that Thy people may rejoice in Thee.”
Now, in the Song of Solomon I read about the spring season. In the 2nd chapter and the 10th verse we find these words—“My beloved spake and said unto me, rise up, my love, my fair one,