The Duty of Expectation
James 5:7-8
Be patient therefore, brothers, to the coming of the Lord. Behold, the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth…

In the order of the phenomena which we call natural, everybody knows that time must be taken into account, and that the impatience of men has no effect whatever upon the regular progress of things. The harvest can be expected only after a regular number of months, and when fruit-trees or plants such as the vine are to be brought to maturity, years of patient waiting are required. It is front the habit of reckoning with nature that the peasant derives his proverbial patience and his unwearied tenacity. The artisan of our cities handles matter at his will, and his task is sooner completed; nevertheless, he also knows that nothing solid or good can be produced at a moment's notice. Thus it is as regards the culture of the intellect; it has its successive stages, which can neither be suppressed nor inter-vetted; the greatest of mathematicians must proceed step by step from the elements of arithmetic to integral calculus. Nothing can be absolutely improvised in this world, and, as the poet said, "Time soon destroys what has been done without its aid." We all accept this law: but when the Divine works are in question, it seems to us to be out of place. On this point our opinion partly rests upon the true idea that God is above time. Now we may draw a false inference from this principle which, however, is both true and necessary: we may imagine that whatever is Divine must needs be instantaneous. It is certain, however, that Jesus Christ never encouraged this tendency; He declared that prodigies in themselves might be an effect of the evil spirit, and it is upon the moral character of His natural or supernatural works that He always insists upon most strongly. Is it not this very prejudice which leads so many fervent souls to acknowledge the action of the .Holy Ghost only in those manifestations which are sudden and striking? Two equally fatal consequences follow from this conception: in the first place, disdain for the ordinary means of grace, for the regular ministry, for the institutions of the past, for the measures which assure and prepare the future. God, it is asserted, hath need of none of these. The other consequence is the impatient zeal which would hurry on the progress of souls, which exaggerates the results already obtained, sees conversions in factitious emotions, creates an over excitement which it takes for an evident effusion of the Holy Spirit, and passes the most uncharitable judgments upon those who have kept outside of this sacred contagion. Now the truth is this: It has pleased God, who Himself is above time, to act in time and by means of time. To convince yourselves of this, behold God at work, as revealed to us in Scripture; His actions will enable us to understand His purposes. God creates the world. It seems as though an instantaneous creation should have responded to an almighty will. But the Bible gives us a totally different account of our origin. In it time appears to us as the very condition of the existence of things. Everything is subject to the twofold law of succession and progress. What I say of creation may also be affirmed as regards the work of grace. If I seek the reason of the existence of all things, Scripture replies by this sublime expression: the reign of God. Everything tends towards this end, everything is subservient to it, and the entire universe knows no other. Nevertheless, despite this decisive reason which appears to us so completely self-evident, God's triumph is not immediate; there is a history of the reign of God. A history, that is to say, a beginning, then successive actions which prepare the final consummation; a history, that is to say, the secular, difficult, laborious development of a germ deposited in the depths of humanity. That is the substance of the teaching of Scripture; if you misapprehend it, the Word of God will be for you an eternally sealed book. God takes time into account when the destinies of His kingdom are in question. The history of Christianity is the visible realisation of this Divine plan. We must acknowledge, doubtless, that the sins, the indifference the apathy, the dissensions of Christians have manifestly contributed to this delay; but, even had the influence of these causes been null and void, the conversion of the world had not been the work of a day: the rains of the early and latter seasons must have fallen ere that magnificent harvest could be gathered in. What we say of the conquest of nations, we must also affirm of the salvation of individual souls. God might subdue them in a day; sudden and often striking conversions occur at all times to remind us of the sovereignty of grace; but these are exceptions, and in these very exceptions, a discerning eye easily detects a hidden and latent preparation. In the parable of the prodigal son, the gospel points to the successive phases of the sinner's estrangement, of the awakening of false independence, of selfishness, pride, rebellion, of the intoxicating delights of passion, of the final shame and degradation, and only in this supreme hour does the distinct remembrance of the Father's house spring up in that broken heart. For the salvation of a soul, as well as for the salvation of the world, we must learn to wait. Oh! I am not ignorant of the surprise, murmurs, and criticisms which these delays of the Divine action rouse in our hearts. Before us continually stands out that unsolvable contradiction between the notion of the Omnipotence of the good Being and the duration of evil which unceasingly braves His justice and goodness. God is patient, He tolerates the follies of human liberty until the day which He has Himself fixed upon. What He does, that must we also do. Ay, more than this; we are compelled to do this by our very position, for what is a Christian but a sinner, whom God bears with, towards whom He acts with an often extraordinary patience? I have reminded you of the duty of expectation. The expectation of faith is not inaction of the soul: it is its very opposite. We must act as though everything depended upon us, we must wait as if everything depended upon God — act, that is, accomplish the Father's will, day by day, faithful to the duty of the present hour, without impatience, without feverish ardour, without personal ambition; wait in the immovable assurance that in all things the final victory shall be on the Lord's side.

(E. Bersier, D. D.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain.

WEB: Be patient therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. Behold, the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient over it, until it receives the early and late rain.

The Coming of the Lord
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