Say not you, There are yet four months, and then comes harvest? behold, I say to you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields…
Our Lord teaches the ripeness of the world for the highest blessing.
1. Men everywhere have a certain religiousness of nature: religious ideas, capacities, instincts, aspirations; in some instances starved, degraded, dulled, but still there — the sense of infinity, dependence, duty, accountability, futurity. So far, then, they are ready for the gospel — able to comprehend its works, to receive its grace, to realize its blessings.
2. Not only so, but there is in all men a felt need for the truth, grace, hope of the gospel. They are feeling after God. Not equally vivid, understood and expressed, are their longings, but they are everywhere existent.
3. But whilst we believe all this we do not believe in the immediate readiness of mankind. We feel that much must be done first There must be a sowing and ripening before the reaping. It is this spirit of doubtfulness and postponement that our Lord rebukes. "The sowing and ripening has taken place; put in your sickles." Let us observe the cases in which our Lord's rebuke applies.
I. Take the conversion of the YOUNG.
1. You do not expect this. The children must wait. "First the blade," etc. So we instruct, encourage, discipline them, but should be much surprised by anything like a religious experience, and should look upon it as on premature bloomings and blossomings in garden and orchard. But what is that doctrine of yours of prevenient grace? That God gives a secret light, light, strength, bias to the soul, and as soon as we awake to consciousness we find within us the sense of law and grace.
2. Have we not been astonished at the spiritual capacity of children? They cannot ungerstand theology, but they can religion. They cannot understand entomology, botany, optics, but they admire a butterfly, love the flowers, leap with joy at the rainbow. Go to them at once with a spiritual appeal and expect the effect. Don't talk about their wanting experience. If a chrysalis be placed in an ice-house, its development may be retarded for years, but take it into a hothouse, and it flutters a thing of beauty in a few days. So with our children.
II. Take the conversion of the MASSES.
(1) Such as are ignorant. What do they want? Education, say many. But on trial it comes out that they discover a spiritual faculty most acute. It was on this ground that the Royal Reaper gathered many noble sheaves. So it was when Wycliffe appealed to the serfs of Leicestershire, Luther to the peasantry of Germany, Wesley to the colliers of Kingswood. Without knowing arithmetic they feel the worth of the soul; without skill in languages they know the voice of God; without aesthetics they admire the beauty of holiness.
(2) Such as are worldly. They appear immersed in the material, but under that thick clay the Spirit of God is at work. There seems no life in a garden in early spring; but under the surface the seeds are swelling, the roots full of ferment. All that is wanted is rain and sunshine.
(3) Such as are vicious. What do these want? Reformation, say the wise of this world. No; with crimson sins they are white unto harvest. How readily Christ found the missing chord in publican and harlot! In this very Samaritan Christ wished His Church to learn that the guiltiest are able to apprehend the sublimest truths, truths which convict and save.
III. Take the conversion of the SCEPTICAL, What do they want? Argumentation, say many. No; men cannot get rid of their religion so easily as some think. The atheist has eyes to see this wondrous universe, spiritual longings, thoughts, arguments within himself not to he.suppressed, and is compelled to doubt his doubts. Go to him, and speak not so much to the sceptic as to the man.
IV. Take the conversion of the SAVAGE. portion of our race. What do they want? Civilization — nature never leaps. Indeed! Is there not a leap from the caterpillar through the pupa lute the butterfly? "No," says the man of science, "it only seems a leap." Very good; we won't argue. There is the penitent thief; it was not a real leap — the Spirit of God had worked the intermediate stages in silence and darkness — it only seemed a leap. Fiji, fifty years ago, was cannibal, to-day it is Christian. God is in all other dark places. "The isles wait for His law."
V. The conversion of THE WORLD AT LARGE. This seems a long way off to the carnal eye. But it is only waiting. The sowing is done.
1. Christ is the Sower. He moves with His Spirit among the million.
2. His ripening forces have long been at work (John 1:4, 9). The Light of the World acts when He does not manifestly shine. Go and expect fruit. You are not waiting for God; He is waiting for you.
(W. L. Walkinson.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest.