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SERMON XVI.

THE SEED GROWING SECRETLY.

PREACHED AT HARVEST-TIME.

St. Mark, iv. 29.

But when the fruit is brought forth, immediately he pulteth

in the sickle, because the harvest is come.

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These are the concluding words of one of our Blessed Lord's parables—a parable recorded by St. Mark only—the parable of the seed growing secretly.

It is a most beautiful and instructive parable, and one which, at all times, affords matter for our meditation ; but we read it with especial interest at this season. For now again are we arrived at that moment, when we see fulfilled to the letter the words that are before us. Now again the fruit of the earth is brought forth; and the husbandman putteth in the sickle, because the harvest is come!

At such a time, those parts of Holy Scripture naturally take our attention which deal with the harvest, whether it be the harvest in the literal sense of the word—the harvest of the earth's fruits; or the spiritual harvest — the harvest of souls: the gathering into God's garner of such as shall be saved, which the earthly harvest typifies and represents.

Now the parable whence my text is taken bears upon both these harvests : both the natural harvest of the earth's fruits, and the spiritual harvest of human souls. Rather, I should say, it uses the one as an illustration of the other; shows us, by the example of the earthly harvest, by the manner in which it is produced, and gathered, an exact image of those fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ unto the glory and praise of God!

And He said, So is the kingdom of God, as if a man should cast seed into the ground, and should sleep, and rise night and day, and the seed should spring and grow up, he knoweth not how. Here we have a striking picture of the silent growth of God's word, whether in the individual, or in the church at large. So is the kingdom of God: not different, but exactly similar in its development to the process by which food is brought out of the earth. The word of God, the Gospel of the kingdom, is like the seed sown in the prepared furrow. It is sown, and then left by the sower to itself. The sower does not meddle with the

seed when once it is in the ground. He does not,

. after a week or a month, go to the field and take up the seed, and look if it be growing. No; but he leaves it there, confident that it has a quickening power in itself, and that in due time it will break through the clods, and spring up, and bear fruit.

And this should teach us to have faith in the power of God's word, which we, as His ministers, sow in the hearts of our hearers. If it once gets there, if it be once received in an honest and true heart, we need feel no anxiety about the results. It will grow of itself, secretly, silently ; it will take root downward, and bear fruit upward, in some thirty, in some sixty, and in some an hundredfold !

That, surely, is one lesson we ought to learn from the parable of the seed growing secretly. It should teach us patience; it should teach us to wait in faith, till the word we sow has had time; it should increase our faith in the power of the word to grow of itself, when once it has been received.

And this power of growing of itself is further set forth in the words that follow,—For the earth bringeth forth fruit of herself: first the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear.

This is what we see in outward nature. You cannot hurry the growth of a seed of corn. You

case.

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We

cannot make it spring at once, from the tiny blade just out of the ground, into the full ear of corn. It must have time, and its own time. It must go through the several stages of its appointed growth. First the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear. Nor is it otherwise with the seed sown in our hearts, the word of God, the Gospel, the teaching of Jesus Christ. There is no use in hurrying here, more than in the other

We must wait. We must not expect to see in a child the character of an older age. must not look for a religious growth in the young beyond their years. All attempts to anticipate that growth, to make a child prematurely a ripe Christian, end, I believe, in failure. They are against, and not in accordance with, the wise teaching of God in nature. Even our Blessed Lord went through stages of spiritual, as well as bodily growth. He increased in wisdom and stature.

. He did not reach the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ all at once. And so must it be with the young always. There must be a growth in grace, a gradual going forwards. We must not expect to see in them a wisdom, and a goodness which belong only to a riper age. Enough if they are wise, and good, according to their years. Enough if they give token of having true life in themselves by a continual progress. Enough if

See that your

they grow like the seed sown in the ground, orderly, and by degrees - First the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear !

Bear this in mind, brethren. See how God teaches us by this parable to have faith in the power of His word, when once it has been sown in the heart. Take care, in the first instance, to have that divine word so sown. children be taught, and as soon as they can learn, the truth as it is in Jesus Christ. Be at pains to cultivate their young hearts — to prepare the soil for the word. But this done, having provided for their Christian teaching to the best of your ability, leave the result with God. Have faith— I repeat it-have faith in the power of the Gospel, and of its great Author, Jesus Christ. Believe that the seed sown will, in due time, work its way to maturity. Believe that God's word has in it a principle of life; that of itself it can and will spring up, and produce a harvest for God-fruit for His garner-fruit unto life eternal!

And this brings me to the concluding verse of the parable,—But when the fruit is brought forth, immediately he putteth in the sickle, because the harvest is come. Here we are shown that, when souls are ripe for God, they are gathered. Here we may be allowed to see, perhaps, some explanation of early deaths — early deaths, I

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