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borders a thick mist lies, which no eye can penetrate, and where, for ought you know, the next wave may break over you and
sweep the whole away." We observe :
IV. THAT THE SOWING PROCESS IMPLIES SKILL AND FAITH.
First : It implies skill. To sow well is one of the agriculturist's highest attainments. The farmer, who has a hundred or more acres to sow, entrusts this business to his most accomplished hand. An indifferent sower would take a much larger quantity of seed, than one who is skilled in that art; and after all there would be a much worse crop.
To a mere looker-on, sowing appears to be a very simple process; but it is far otherwise. Pliny shows how necessary it was that the hand of the sower should keep time with his stride, so as to scatter the seed with perfect uniformity. I was lately told by a proficient sower, that it cost him many years of great attention, and practice, before he could scatter the seed evenly over the soil. And when the wind is contrary, the “broad cast” mode must be adopted; the accustomed sower passing over the field with a measured step, and bringing round his grainladen hand with a regular sweep.
It is only some who are sowers in the agricultural sense ; but all are sowers in the moral sense. Some, however, are not skilful sowers; and what an abundance of seed they destroy! They have great privileges, high immunities, overtopping, and transcendently overtowering, those of their fellow men; and yet it is to be feared they will reap but a
But it is delightful to know, that others, with few privileges, and comparatively with few opportunities, are sowing in their own minds, and the minds of others, the seeds of truth ; and by their skilful sowing will reap a great harvest of future glory. May the spirit of God teach us all to be wise and skilled sowers !
Secondly: It implies faith. The farmer goes forth; scatters the seed upon the soil, and covers it over.
immediate advantage arises therefrom. But the husbandman has faith, he believes that God will give him a harvest.
So if man would sow to the spirit, that he may of the spirit reap life everlasting, he must have faith. “Without faith it is impossible to please God.” “Whatsoever is not of faith is of sin.” “They that sow in tears shall reap in joy." " He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him.”
ALEX, GRAY, M.A.
SUBJECT :-Paul's Conversion, an Example of Divine
“ Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might shew forth all longsuffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting.” 1 Tim. i. 16.
Jnalysis of Homily the Four Hundred and Twenty-third.
In this verse
are referred to the preceding announcement, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. The apostle rejoiced to repeat it. It was life to him. In view of it the acknowledgment of his long and fearful life of rebellion was made with unfeigned humility.
More than once, he places the picture of his past life before those he addressed. In large letters he wrote his character the chief of sinners.” This was to exalt Christ by his own abasement, setting forth Jesus as the great and willing Saviour.
Thus we are to connect the 16th with the 15th verse, to see the reason why the apostle obtained mercy.
- For this cause,” that is, because “Christ came to save sinners : "480 that the verse reads, “ Because Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, I obtained mercy,” &c. The meaning of the whole
passage evidently is, that Paul's conversion affords a perfect representation of that mercy upon which all future believers might rely for salvation. This we propose to illustrate and enforce.
Paul's conversion is a great fact, standing out distinctly on the pages of scriptural history.
There are two particulars we must notice in regard to it :
First: It was the triumph of grace over the most rebellious heart. His previous life shows the state of his heart. It was filled with religious pride—with a phariseeism—which prevented the simple beauty of the Gospel arresting his attention. He had intense hatred to Jesus. He was transported with rage at the mention of His name. So that there were hatred and bigotry under the cover of religious zeal. Such a heart is the most difficult to reach, yet it was reached. Not, however, by learning, or the refinements of life, nor by any earthly means,—but by the grace of God. This conquered when nothing else could. So it ever is. A Divine Power is needed to subdue poor, rebellious man. Such was the signal triumph
Secondly : It was an event involving a thorough change. His life proves this. He was always what he professed to be. He could not be a hypocrite. He must be either a thorough sinner or saint. All knew that he was once against Christ, now all were to know that he was for Him.
He was a new creature.” His burning love, intense desires for the salvation of men, his unwearied activity, his life-long labors, and his calm, holy death, all proclaim the change to be complete mind, heart, soul, and body were all influenced by God's grace. It bears the mark of genuineness. In the whole Bible we have not a conversion recorded more genuine, or so striking. But his conversion was not necessarily an example in its suddenness. We know that souls are converted suddenly. There is nothing to prevent us believing this. The Holy spirit can certainly bring conviction to the heart in a moment. The history of revivals in the Church declares this. It is a fact in which we rejoice, that souls can be converted thus suddenly, and effectually ; but these are not examples, that all will be converted in this way. Nor is it an example in its accompanying circumstances.
Many are disposed to imagine that they cannot be converted unless it is done terribly;—with pangs, and throes, in tears and blood. Sometimes it is so. But generally it is brought about gradually and silently. God is not confined either to the one or the other. The manner of accomplishment must be left with him. He will not allow the slightest dictation here. It is His undoubted and glorious prerogative to convert when and how He please. We are to be concerned about conversion itself, and leave the rest with Him. We must not suppose that we are all to be converted as Paul was ;—by the visible and overpowering manifestations of the glorified Saviour. But his is note-worthy, as exhibiting the unparalleled longsuffering, or patience, of Jesus towards sinners.
We remark :
NECESSARY TO THE EXERCISE OF
I. THAT SUFFERING IS
Jesus suffers at the hands of sinners; He is “crucified afresh, and put to an open shame.” That which wounds Him the most is repeatedly inflicted. His love is questioned and rejected, His melting pity despised, His goodness misunderstood, and His offers of pardon treated with contempt. His tender loving heart must feel this, for that work which cost His blood is rejected and trampled upon. Amazing patience that can endure such rejection ! Jesus applied to Himself what Paul had done. “Why persecutest thou me ?” “I am Jesus, whom thou persecutest.” This is true of every sinner. The Church does not merely suffer, but the Saviour also; not simply the members, but the Head. Think then, O sinner! of thy sin, how it pierces the heart of Jesus. Yet He is longsuffering ; "not willing that any should perish, but that all may come to repentance.”
Thus rebellion and contempt, the open enmity and active hatred of men, are borne. The consuming fire is not poured down, the avenging sword does not fall. The threatenings are
repeated, yet are not executed. The sentence goes forth, and the executioners are ready; but the mediator intercedes, and obtains a respite. Thus He spares ; His forbearance is unutterable, greater than that of the tenderest parent. But for this, how would the apostle have escaped ? Man would have condemned him ; angels would have wearied in their compassion, and turning from him, would have left him to his doom. But Jesus did not; He bears, and forbears. “ His compassions fail not, therefore we are not consumed.” If it was not so, death would soon visit us, the shriek of despair would soon be uttered, and hope would be blotted out for ever. We remark :
ACTIVE AND INCESSANT GOODNESS AND LOVE.
He spares to save; he delays that he may win. He silences the thunders of His wrath, that He may secure the soul's confidence, and draw it to himself. When He is sparing He is working. He enlightens, instructs, urges, and draws, that the sinner may see his danger, and fly to the refuge. Thus means are employed for the sinner's salvation ; thus the Saviour is not only passive but active, in bestowing blessings, that “the goodness of God may lead man to repentance.” Such is the longsuffering of the Lord Jesus Christ.
The case is in harmony with others mentioned in the Word. The Antediluvians, Sodom, the Jews, &c. God spared them long, but at length His patience was exhausted. Such examples have done much to instruct, and influence, sinners of every class. We learn from this subject :
(1) That there is hope for the greatest sinner. If Paul could be saved, so may I. The same grace that reached him, can reach me ; the same love that was over him, is over me; God is as willing to save me as He was to save Paul. Sinner ! there is hope for thee, though thy sins have been like the great mountains. Look up and be saved !
(2) It was intended to act as a stimulus and encouragement to good and not as an inducement to continue in sin.