Bare Grain
1 Corinthians 15:36-40
You fool, that which you sow is not quickened, except it die:…

During the last week we have had a second edition of our summer, which seemed almost gone — a second edition, abridged, condensed into a few days, but charming, because unexpected. No wonder the poor Indian, with untutored mind, lonely in his narrow thought, feeling after God, if haply he might find Him, dreamed that he saw in the haze illumined sky of October some glimpse of the happy hunting-fields where his fathers roamed. Work-people in Europe, besides their regular wages, expect some little extra gift, which they call, in Italian, buono-mano. And they seem to take more pleasure in their buono-mano than in their regular wages. These warm days in September are Nature's buono-mano. God has left this margin of the unexpected, the casual, around all the majestic machinery of law, in order to give us the joy of feeling the gift, to give Himself the joy of being loved as the Giver. Let us be thankful that there are some surprises in the world, some things which elude mathematics, some Indian summer days which come when no one has predicted them, to warm the heart through and through; because being unlooked for, they seem more like a direct gift from God. This return of summer in the form of Indian summer has suggested to me the subject of returning events, of recurrence in human affairs, of the circular and spiral movement in history and life. Things come back, but when they come back they are seldom exactly what they were before. Summer returns as Indian summer; history is always repeating itself, but on a higher plane. The difference between two men, one having Christian faith and the other not having it, is this: both commit the same faults, and repeat the same experience, but the one repeats it always high up. He has more faith, more hope, more love to God and man. Thus he takes the past with him, as precious seed of a better future. His youth departs, with its golden summer days, but returns again an Indian summer with mellower warmth, and a more enchanting peace. The Christian army marches ever to the east, with the dawn shining on its white shields of expectation. But just in proportion as this faith is wanting, life goes round and round, in a mere mill-horse circle of routine. If we look only at this, life grows very tiresome. The despair of the Book of Ecclesiastes comes over us, and we say, "What profit has a man of all his labour that he takes under the sun?" For all "things return, according to their circuit." But the New Testament teaches another lesson than the Book of Ecclesiastes. It is a proof of the Divine origin of these gospels and epistles — that they are full, through and through, of the spirit of hope. Throughout they cry to us: "The life we sow to-day is seed of something better to come to-morrow. We do not plant that which is to be, but only its seed. Our present life, which we are leading now, compared to that which is to come to us, is only as naked seed is to the green and graceful plant which springs from it." The Old World of Pagan religion and philosophy was very much ennuyed. It expected nothing, it had little hope left in its heart. Now, the new life of Christianity consisted very much in giving hope to the world. As when a glacier pours its enormous river of ice through Alpine ravines, descending into the valleys, it wastes away imperceptibly, and turns to moist vapours, filling the valley with masses of foliage — so this glacier of despair melted in the warm breath of the new Christian life. The letters of Paul and Peter are full of expectation of Christ's coming to reign on earth. That great expectation of Christ's coming was the seed that the New Testament planted in civilisation; and it has borne its fruits in all human progress. The one thing needful, the only essential in Christianity, is to have Christ formed within us, the hope of glory; hope of glory here, in all forms of growing goodness, generosity, honour; and of glory, honour, immortality hereafter. Christ Himself was the seed planted in Palestine, which has come up in Christianity in that new body which pleased God. When in the world Jesus worked outward, physical miracles. He works miracles still, but in a new way. "The blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the deaf hear, the dead are raised," but not now by a mere touch or word. We have blind asylums, and deaf and dumb asylums, and sanitary associations. These all proceed from the Christian spirit of humanity, and so come from the seed which Christ's miracles planted. Those miracles were bare grain, to which God gave the body which pleased Him. Visitors to Rome, looking out from its lofty walls over the Campagna, see with delight the long line of arches which cross the plain, converging towards the city from the distant mountains. They are the remains of the ancient aqueducts, which formerly brought supplies of water to the immense population of ancient Rome. Visitors to Chicago are carried down to see a tunnel running two miles under the lake, which brings pure water in inexhaustible supplies to that new-born metropolis of the prairies. The methods differ, the water is the same. Forms change, but the needs of men remain. So the soul of man needs always to drink the same living water of faith and hope. The water is the same, whether it is drawn up from Jacob's spring, or brought through a Roman aqueduct, or spouts from an artesian well, or is pumped up through a Chicago tunnel. So, if we have love to God and man, and have faith in the great and blessed future, if we believe good stronger than evil, and life more permanent than death, it is no matter by what Jewish or Roman aqueduct or modern creed that pure water comes. God gives it the body which has pleased Him, and to every seed its own body.

(James Freeman Clarke.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: Thou fool, that which thou sowest is not quickened, except it die:

WEB: You foolish one, that which you yourself sow is not made alive unless it dies.

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