Those who sow in tears will reap with shouts of joy.
Ezra 3:12), and the joy when it was complete (Ezra 6:16, 22). And keep in mind the strain and anxiety through which the first returned company of exiles had to pass.
I. SAD SOWING-TIMES OF SCARCITY. Such always followed on famine years, when the old corn stores were used up, and the harvest of the year allowed no proportion to be reserved for seed, and, if reserve was made, the quality guaranteed no good coming harvest. Then the spring seed-sowing was an anxious time. It involved a serious loss of what was immediately needed. And experience of past famine made the harvest from this seed-sowing seem unusually uncertain. It is thus in Christian work. "We have toiled all night, and taken nothing," and it is hard to put down the net again. When the Church is cold and dead, even preaching the gospel comes to be sad and heartless work. Yet it must not be given up. Weep we may, but sow we must. We never know Where God's showers of blessing fall.
II. SAD SOWING-TIMES OF INSECURITY. Travelers tell of seeing sowers in the East sowing with one hand, and holding a musket in the other, for the Bedouin will steal the seed-corn, as well as rush in and sweep away the harvest. How anxious the farmer will be until his precious seed is safely in the soil! This may suggest those circumstances which so often hinder the success of our Christian work; things beyond our control which render our work fruitless. Spite of them, we must persist in sowing, if it must be sowing in tears.
III. SOWING-TIMES OF ATMOSPHERIC PERIL. The weather is but seldom just to the farmer's mind, and in some seasons the sowing seems hopeless: what can the seed do but rot in the ground? This may suggest the dispositions both of the Christian workers, and of those among whom they work. These often make a sort of atmosphere, in which the seed-sowing seems hopeless. Nevertheless, we must go on sowing, even if it must be in tears. - R.T.
: — Consider the text in its application to —
They that sow in tears shall reap in joy.: — Painful work often finds pleasant reward. The way through the Red Sea and the howling wilderness leads to a fair and fruitful land flowing with milk and honey. Such is God's law of compensation, always and everywhere working out its infallible result in the experience of His chosen people. Trace this principle —
I. IN THOSE WHOM GOD ORDINARILY EMPLOYS IN EFFECTING THE GREATEST GOOD OF OTHERS. Those who gain liberty for a nation, who achieve great things in art or literature, who are the leaders of great movements. They did none of these things, nor are such things ever done, without great personal self-sacrifice. They have had to sew in tears ere they, or any whom they sought to help, could reap in joy. Did Moses, or Joshua, or Gideon, or any of the old prophets sow without tears? or, having sowed in tears, did they fail in due time to realize the joy of harvest? Did not Athens poison her greatest philosopher and expatriate her grandest orator? Was not the most eloquent advocate of the Roman cause that ever raised his voice in the Roman Forum banished by the authority of a Roman senate, and beheaded by the perfidy of a Roman triumvirate? Did not the Copernican system of the universe long hang trembling on the lips of hated and persecuted men before it dared to stand forth and speak boldly to the world? and was it not afterward in the person of Galileo imprisoned, and in his books made to pass through the fire to Ignorance? Did the great discovery of Harvey cost him no pain or weariness? or were the works of Bacon, Newton and Shakspeare fully appreciated while they lived? And the artists who live for ever in their productions — the painters, sculptors, architects, musicians, who have filled the world with the triumphs of their genius — did they not toil, for the most part, in disappointment, and poverty, and sorrow, little esteemed during life, to be almost deified after death? The pioneer settlers of this new continent sowed the wilderness with their tears, and the heroes of American independence fattened her soil with their blood.
II. IN THE SPHERE OF RELIGION AND MORALS. Whenever any great evil has been averted, or any signal triumph of truth and righteousness achieved, it has ever been at vast personal cost. See the Bible histories of all the heroes of the faith. Read St. Paul's account of his sufferings. And thus it was that Christianity, whose throne was a manger, whose diadem a thorn-wreath, whose victory the crucifixion of its Author, whoso triumphal pageant a funeral procession to a borrowed tomb, whose earliest champions a little band of despised and persecuted fishermen, is now filling the earth with its voices of jubilee, and peopling paradise with the subjects of its redemption. What painful sowing was there in the dark and dismal catacombs of Rome, in the gardens of Nero, and the Flavian amphitheatre. But the blood of the martyrs has ever been the seed of the Church. In the days of the great Reformation the life of Martin Luther was a perpetual conflict with error, but it filled all Continental Europe with God's blessed evangel, and on the same ground Dollinger and his noble compeers have lately renewed the good fight of faith. But look we higher. Who are these arrayed in white robes, with palms, and lutes, and starry diadems, and whence came they? "These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore are they before the throne," etc. They are all witnesses that the seed which your fathers scattered fell not all upon the rooks, among the thorns, and by the desert wayside. And this is your consolation — that however hard the toil, and however unpromising the seed-time, and however tardy the advent of the genial spring, an unweeping eye shall wash the field, and a celestial dew shall water the soil, and a creative power shall quicken the germ, and in due time the whitening grain shall summon the reaper's sickle, and the harvest of joy shall have come.
(J. Cross, D. D.)
I. SOME OF THE OCCASIONS ON WHICH WE ARE CALLED TO GO FORTH WEEPING.
1. Over our religious profession. There are many struggles between light and darkness; many battles between sin and holiness: nature and grace are at enmity one with another, and must be so till "this corruptible shall put on incorruption, and this mortal shall put on immortality."
2. In the discharge of our duty.
3. When under the marked displeasure of God.
II. THE PRECIOUS SEED WHICH WE ARE EXPECTED TO BEAR.
1. The seed of cheerful self-denial.
2. The seed of patient perseverance.
3. The seed of perfect submission to the will of God.
4. The seed of genuine holiness.
III. THE HAPPY RESULTS EXPERIENCED. Even here we taste the fruits of the Spirit, the fruits of Divine love, and we become partakers of that happiness which the world cannot give, and which it is not in the power of the world to take away. But however much we may gather here, and whatever be the satisfaction which we experience from the blessedness of the harvest of Christianity in this world, the day of judgment will be the great harvest when we shall reap the labours of all our sowing.
I. THE JEWS AS A NATION (Deuteronomy 32:3; Jeremiah 21:9; Leviticus 26:41, 42). When they are thus brought to "sow in tears," they shall undoubtedly "reap in joy." This seems to be the favourite theme of the prophets, especially of Isaiah (Isaiah 60:1; Isaiah 35:10). This is the event which the Jews themselves ardently long for; it is that for which they earnestly pray on the day of atonement; "O our Father and our King, discover Thy glorious majesty to us speedily; arise, and be exalted to the eyes of all living, and gather our dispersions from among the heathen, and assemble us that are scattered from the extreme parts of the earth, and conduct us to Zion Thy city with songs, and unto Jerusalem, the city of Thy sanctuary, with everlasting joy."
II. OURSELVES INDIVIDUALLY. Sorrow and suffering are the result of sin; and sin is interwoven with our very nature. But the Christian has not done with sorrow and tears, although through faith, which is of the operation of the Spirit of God, he has been led to trust in that Saviour who died for him, and the burden of transgression has been rolled from his oppressed spirit. Could the veil which now separates us from futurity be drawn aside, and those regions of everlasting happiness and sorrow which strike so faintly on the imagination be presented fully to our eyes, it would occasion, I doubt not, a sudden and strange revolution in our estimation of things. Many are the distresses, for which we now weep in suffering or in sympathy, that would awaken us to songs of thanksgiving; many the dispensations which now seem dreary and inexplicable, that would fill our adoring hearts with thanksgiving and joy.
III. THE MISSIONARY'S LABOUR AND REWARD. As the poor missionary stands on the boundary of the vast wilderness, or goes forth to its culture "bearing the precious seed," he must needs "weep" to think how little of the territory he can occupy. But though he weeps, yet shall he "rejoice." As surely as the grain sown in the earth shall vegetate and bring forth fruit in its proper season, so surely may we expect the principles of the Gospel to spring forth in rich luxuriance, proving incorruptible seed, and yielding fruit, some thirty, some sixty, and some a hundred fold.
(W. Carter, B. A.)
I. WE ARE OFTEN CALLED TO LABOUR IN WHICH WE HAVE LITTLE JOY.
1. The call to labour, for instance, may continue when those whom we hoped to gladden with our diligence and fidelity are gone.
2. All earnest labourers are liable to fits of despondency; Christian labourers certainly not less than others. Overwork, perhaps, is followed by reaction, or the too eager hope is disappointed because we see not any results for all our doing. We think that our fellow-labourers are not as earnest as we, that we alone are bearing the burden and heat of the day. Then there comes up the question, what is the use of all our toil?
3. We may be called to work in which we feel but little special interest; work which is to us perpetual self-denial. Our hopes may all tend to one sphere of effort; duty may sternly compel us to another.
4. We have often to work amidst ungracious men, with no hope at all that our labour shall be successful. There are other and happier labourers in other and more promising fields; why should we be hero toiling to no avail?
II. GOD REWARDS US ACCORDING TO OUR FIDELITY, AND NOT ACCORDING TO OUR GLADNESS.
1. Christ has never said, according to your gladness be it unto you; not even according to your hopefulness be it unto you; but according to your faith. And faith's triumph is seen in that it can live and labour when the light of joy is quenched; that it can call off the hopes that hover round an earthly brightness, and bear them up through darkness to the throne of the Invisible.
2. Our confusion of the reality of faith with the eagerness of feeling, our making so much of the cheerfulness of work instead of the work itself, shows that we are expecting the increase of ourselves rather than from God. The work is done; it leaves our hands, henceforth it is in His. The seed is sown; His seed is under His own care. He gives the dew of His benediction, the fruitful force is that of the ever-working Spirit. Not for nothing is it that God's great ceaseless call to us is to do the work which He has given us; for, indeed, this is all we can do. We can be faithful to His call of duty, He is faithful to His promise.
III. OUR TEXT SPEAKS NOT ONLY OF SHEAVES FOR THE SOWING, BUT ALSO OF REJOICING FOR THE TEARS. The very tears are a seed that shall have a joyful springing; the sorrow shall return again in joy. The sorrowful sowing is a testimony for God, and this shall bear its fruit in icy. There is a striking contrast between the taunt of those who carried the Jews away captive, "Sing us one of the songs of Zion"; and this saying among the heathen, "The Lord hath done great things for them." The patient labour of the exiles, the quiet toil of those who could not sing, won the heart of their oppressors. They were glad when the captives were restored, and sent them away with kindly gifts. Israel's patience was the patience of faith; and Israel's faith was a witness to the fidelity of Israel's God. The patience and faithful effort of sad but trusting souls, Christian faith abiding unshaken though joy has gone out of the life; here is a lesson which cannot fail of impressiveness. It reaches to the unbelieving, and constrains them to thought concerning the Gospel; it cheers the heart and strengthens the faith of all believers. Each new revelation of God's grace that comes on us as a surprise reproves us that we did not always rejoice as those who might be sure that all God's ways are love. But it is blessed to feel ourselves reproved that our God may be exalted; we welcome the humbling lesson about ourselves which makes us more fully know how good He is. The joyful reaping that follows a tearful sowing prepares us for new trials of our faith. There may come again to you a time of tears, a time of sorrowing toil; but you know whose hand will at length wipe away all tears; you know that there is no seed-time but will at length yield its rejoicing sheaves.
(A. Mackennal, D. D.)I. AN INSPIRED PROVERS. A proverb is often helpful; an inspired proverb ought to be to us an inspiration. Write it down at the head of all your difficulties and in the midst of all your struggles; it is one of God's own pithy sayings, a maxim He Himself has made — "They that sow in tears shall reap in joy."
II. A PERSONAL EXPERIENCE. It is as though one shouted of his success, and announced Jehovah's triumph. By this he would record his gratitude, and encourage his hearers. If the moss in the desert could stimulate the fainting traveller, if a flower outside the prison wall could speak comfortably to the prisoner in his dreary dungeon, if a solitary star shining through the blackness of the night could bring hope and guidance to the storm-tossed mariner, may I not believe that this experience of David, or whosoever the psalmist may have been, long years ago, will be as a ministering angel to such as are tempted to think that the seed is wasted, that the harvest can never be, that their hopes are dashed to the ground to rise no more for ever?
III. A PREVAILING PRINCIPLE.
1. In everyday life. Scientists and inventors have toiled, and moiled, and thought, and struggled for many a long year. They have, for the most part, received little help from others. One or two perhaps espoused their cause and helped them through, but the rest either jeered and sneered, or else looked on complacently as if to say, "We shall see what we shall see, but we do not think it will come to very much." It was a sowing season; aye, and if we had been behind the scenes we should have seen that it was a weeping-time as well. Some of these sowers died in obscurity. Many of them did not live to see their talent and their skill appreciated, but there was a harvest-time for all that, or if it has not yet arrived it is yet to be. On the other hand many of them did reap the reward of their talents; the proverb held good in most instances. So with philanthropists, and merchants, and discoverers; so indeed with all of every class. There are exceptions, of course, to this rule, but the exceptions proved the rule. Sometimes another reaps where one has sown, but for the most part the maxim holds good. Those who are honest, and earnest, and self-denying in their toil, those who wait awhile shall live to see success, and to reap reward,
2. In spiritual matters.(1) Was it not just so in the matter of our conversion? Oh, for more sorrow of a godly sort! Oh, for more of the repentance that needs not to be repented of! May the tears flow till Jesus dries our eyes!(2) The same is true of the matter of backsliding and restoration. If you have wandered, come back, but come with streaming eyes and wounded spirit, come with firm resolve that, God helping you, you will never do the like again.(3) Apply the same truth to Christian service.
4. And to suffering.
IV. The proverb, the experience, the principle is also A PRECIOUS PROMISE. We have here — they make my eyes to shine with gladness — two of God's "shalls." These are absolute affirmations from the lips of Jehovah, who speaks, and it stands fast.
(T. Spurgeon.)I. THE SOWER.
1. He recognizes a field of labour.
2. He employs his activities in the field.
3. He often toils with few co-operatives.
4. He mourns over his arduous work.
II. THE SEED-TIME.
1. It only lasts for a limited period.
2. It is often marked by adverse influences.
3. In anticipation of the seed-time the necessary seed must be secured.
III. THE HARVEST.
1. It is certain.
2. It may be sometimes late.
3. It is sometimes bountiful.
4. It is compensating.
(H. Peach, B. A.)
I. IN THE NATURE OF HIS OPERATION. The work of each is —
1. Necessary. The Creator does not do for the creature that which He has given the creature power to do for itself. The life of the world depends upon the work of the agriculturist. The work of the Christian reformer is equally necessary. If ignorance, error, and wrong are to be replaced by knowledge, truth, and right — if righteousness is to spring out of the earth — the Christian reformer must work.
4. Productive of wonderful results.
II. IN THE MODE OF HIS OPERATION.
1. Both have to disseminate a divine thing. The "seed" of the one is like the doctrine of the other; both are charged with life, and both are capable of indefinite expansion; both require suitable soil for their germination and development; both are perfect in themselves.
2. Both have to work in faith.
3. Both have to work under trial. The agriculturist sometimes "goeth forth weeping." This was often the ease with those oriental farmers who lived in neighbourhoods infested with those wandering herdsmen who neither so.wed nor reaped themselves, but obtained what they required by plundering the cultivators of the soil. Such farmers, therefore, often carried their seed from their houses with anxiety and fear, and very often they found it necessary to have armed men to protect them in their operation. The Christian reformer has trials in his work How much distress does he experience, not only from the opposition of the world, but from the apathy, narrowness, and inconsistency of its professors!
III. IN THE ISSUES OF HIS WORK.
1. The manner of their return. They shall come with all the fruits of their labour. The pious parent, the Sabbath-school teacher, the missionary, the minister, — all shall return with the fruit of their labours. It shall be found then that none ever laboured in vain.
2. The certainty of their return. The traveller who goes abroad in search of undiscovered lands, like Franklin, may return no more; the merchant who goes to foreign markets in quest of gain may return no more; the hero who goes out to chastise a foreign foe, like Raglan, may return no more; but the true Christian reformer shall return. His harvest must come. Yes; when the battles of the world shall be over; when the markets of the world shall be closed; when the governments of the world shall be dissolved; when the Gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world; when the purpose of mercy shall be fully realized; then, " doubtless," the men of every age and clime, who have wept, and toiled, and prayed for the spiritual cultivation of the world, shall return.
(Homilist)I. SOWING AS COMPARED WITH REAPING IS A VERY LABORIOUS PROCESS. The land must be cleared, the soil broken up, the stones and rubbish removed, etc. That which is reaped in a few hours has cost him in the sowing many long weeks of toil. It is so in the spiritual life. The hard labour is at the beginning. The fallow ground and the stubble are to be broken up. The agony is at the gate that opens into the narrow way of a religious life. All after experiences are comparatively facile and pliant.
II. SOWING AS COMPARED WITH REAPING IS A LONELY WORK. The reapers go in bands with shout and song; but the sower goes alone. And so in those spiritual processes connected with the new birth, each heart "knoweth its own bitterness." Over those inner furrows of the soul goes no sower but the man's own conscience in the sight of his God.
III. SOWING AS COMPARED WITH REAPING IS IN AN UNTOWARD SEASON. The sower must be out in the rough winds of March, under the dark, leaden sky, and upon the cold, clammy earth. It is so in spiritual things. The harvest is in revival periods of warmth and enthusiasm, but the sowing must be in times when the church is cold and everything looks discouraging and gloomy.
IV. SOWING AS COMPARED WITH REAPING IS A SELF-DENYING WORK. The farmer takes from his granary corn which he needs for his present supply, and scatters it that it may fall into the ground and die. The initial processes of religion involve self-denial. Man must be grown up. Many selfish aims and ambitions fall into the ground and die, that out of them may spring a higher and nobler life — the life that we live by the faith of the Son of God who loved us and gave Himself for us.
(T. D. Witherspoon, D. D.)
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