PSALM “AND weepeth.” What means this word? As in the first words, “he that goeth forth,” we see the man’s mode of service, so here we note a little of the man himself. He goeth forth and weepeth. The man likely to be successful, is a man of like passions with ourselves, not an angel, but a man, for he weepeth. But then he is very much a man; he is a man of strong passions, weeping because he has a sensitive heart. The man who sleeps, the man who can be content to do nothing, and is satisfied with no result, is not the man to win sheaves. God chooses, usually, not men of great brain and vast mind, but men of true-hearted, deep natures, with souls that can desire, and pant, and long, and heave, and throb. It is a great thing that makes a genuine man weep. Tears do not lie quite so fleet with most of us; but the man who cannot weep cannot preach, — at least, if he never feels tears within, even if they do not show themselves without, he can scarcely be the man to handle such themes as those which God has committed to His people’s charge. If you would be useful you must cultivate the sacred passions; you must think much upon the divine realities, until they move and stir your souls; that men are dying, that Christ is dishonored, that souls are not converted, that the Holy Ghost is grieved, that the kingdom does not come to God, but that Satan rules and reigns, all this ought to be well considered; our heart ought to be stirred until like the prophet we say, “O that my head were waters, and mine eyes a fountain of tears.” The useful worker for Christ is a man of tenderness, not a Stoic; not one who does not care whether souls are saved or not; not one so wrapped up in the thought of divine sovereignty as to be absolutely petrified; but one who feels as if he died in the death of sinners and perished in their ruin, as though he could only be made happy in their happiness, or find a paradise in their being caught up to heaven. The weeping, then, shows you what kind of man it is whom the Lord of the harvest largely employs; he is a man in earnest, a man of tenderness, a man in love with souls, a man wrapped up in his calling, a man carried away with compassion, a man who feels for sinners — in a word, a Christ-like man; not a stone, but a man who is touched with a feeling of our infirmities, a man of heart, a man ready to weep because sinners will not weep. “Why does he weep?” however, asks someone — “he is on an honorable work, and he is to have a glorious reward!” He weepeth as he goeth forth because he feels his own insufficiency. He did not know what a weak creature he was until he came into contact with other men’s hearts. He often sighs within himself, “Who is sufficient for these things?” He fancied it was easy work to serve God, but now he is somewhat of Joshua’s mind, “Ye cannot serve the Lord.”
Every effort that he makes betrays to him his own want of natural strength.
Well may he weep. He never teaches in the Sunday-school class, he never prays at the sick bed, but what he feels ashamed when he has done his work that he did not do it better. He never takes a little child on his knee to talk to it of Jesus, but he wishes that he could have spoken more tenderly of the sweet gentleness of the Lover of little children. He is never satisfied with himself, for he forms a right estimate of himself, and he weeps to think that he is so poor an instrument for so good a Master.
Moreover, he weeps because of the hardness of men’s hearts. He thought, at first, he should only have to tell these great truths and men would leap for joy. Have you never seen fancy pictures at the head of our missionary magazines, of respectable gentlemen dressed in black suits, landing out of boats manned by devout sailors, carrying Bibles in their hands, and these well-to-do evangelists are surrounded by Turks and Chinese, black people and copper-colored people, who are running down to the sea-shore and taking these precious Bibles in their hands and looking as if they had found a priceless treasure? Ah, it is all in the picture, it is nowhere else — the thing does not occur, natives of barbarous isles and heathen kingdoms do not receive the gospel in that way. Heralds of the cross have to do a deal of rough work, and toil on; for the gospel, which ought to be welcomed is rejected; and as there was no room for Christ in the inn, when He became incarnate, so there is no room for the gospel in the hearts of mankind. Yes, and this makes us weep, since where there should be so much readiness to accept, there is so much obstinacy and rebellion.
The Christian worker weeps because, when he does see some signs of success, he is often disappointed. Blossoms come not to be fruit, or fruit half-ripe drops from the tree. He has to weep before God oftentimes, because he is afraid that these failures may be the result of his own want of tact or want of grace. I marvel not that any worker for Christ bedews the seed with his tears; the wonder is he does not lament far more than he does. Perhaps we should all weep more if we were more Christ-like, more what we should be; and perhaps our working would have about it diviner results if it came more out of our very soul, if we played less at soulsaving, and worked more at it; if we cast soul and strength, and every energy of our being into the work, mayhap God would reward us at a far greater rate. “Bearing precious seed.” Workers for God must tell out the gospel and keep to the gospel. You must continually dwell upon the real truth as it is in God’s Word, for nothing but this will win souls. Now, in order to do this, workers for Christ must know God’s truth. We must know it by an inward experience of its power as well as in the theory. We must know it as a precious truth. It must be precious seed to us, for which we should be prepared to die if it were necessary. We must understand it as being precious because it comes from God; precious because it tells to man the best of news; precious because sprinkled with the blood of Jesus; precious because Christ values it, and all holy men esteem it beyond all price. We must not deliver it with flippancy, not talk of solemn themes with levity, not tell out the gospel as though we were relating a mere tale from the Arabian Nights, a romance meant for amusement, or to beguile a passing hour. We who sow for God must sow in right good earnest, because the seed is more precious than we can ever estimate.
Work for God as those who know that the truth is a seed. Do not speak of it and forget it. Do not tell the gospel as though it were a stone, and would lie in the ground and never spring up. Tell out the truth with the firm conviction that there is life in it, and something will come of it. Be on the alert to see that something, and you will be the man who will have results.
Our estimate of the preciousness of the seed will have much to do with the result of the seed. If I do not esteem thoroughly and heartily the gospel which I teach, if I therefore do not teach it with all my heart, I cannot expect to see the sheaves; but if, valuing the gospel, I tell it out as being priceless beyond all cost, and tell it out therefore with due vivacity and with an earnestness that brings me to tears, I am the man who shall come again rejoicing, bringing my sheaves with me. “He shall come again.” What meaneth it but that he shall come again to his God? and this the worker should do after he has labored. You sought a blessing go and tell your God of what you have done, and if you have seen a blessing come, give Him thanks. Those men always come back to God with their sheaves who went from God with their seed. Some workers can see souls converted and take the honor to themselves, but never that man who sowed in tears; he has learned his own weakness in the school of bitterness; and now when he sees results, he comes back again, he comes back to God, for he feels that it is a great wonder that even a single soul should be convinced or converted under such poor words as his. “He shall doubtless come again.” Does not that mean in the longest and largest sense, He shall come again to heaven? He did as it were go forth from heaven. His body had not been there, but His soul had; He had communed with God. Heaven was His portion and His heritage, but it was expedient for Him a little while to tarry here for the sake of others, and so in a certain sense He leaves the heaven of His rest to go into the field of sorrow among the sons of men. But He shall come again. Ah! blessed be God, we are not banished by our service. We are kept outside the pearl gate for a little while — thanks be to God for the honor of being permitted thus to be absent from our joys for awhile; but we are not shut out, we are not banished, we shall doubtless come again. Here is your comfort: you go perhaps into the mission-field, you journey to the remotest parts of the earth to serve God, but you shall come again. There is a straight road to heaven from the most remote field of service, and in this you may rejoice. “He shall come again with rejoicing.” What will he rejoice in? I reckon that at the last, when Christian service shall be done, and Christian reward shall be rendered, the toils endured in serving God, the disappointment, and the racking of heart, will all make raw material for everlasting song. Oh, how we shall bless God to think that we were accounted worthy to do anything for Christ! Was I enlisted in the host that stood the shock of battle? Did the Master suffer me to have a hand upon the standard that waved so proudly aloft amidst the smoke of the battle? Did he suffer me to leap into the ditch, or scale the rampart of the wall amongst the forlorn hope; or did he even suffer me to watch by the baggage while the battle was raging afar off? Then am I thankful that he in any way whatever permitted me to have a share in the glory of that triumphant conflict. And then, as old soldiers show their scars, and as the warriors in many conflicts delight to tell of hair-breadth escapes in “the imminent breach,” and of dangers grim and ghastly, so shall we rejoice as we return to God to tell of our going forth, and of our weeping when we carried the precious seed.
Coming back rejoicing with sheaves. I do not suppose that the reaper is to bring home all his sheaves on his own back, but, as an old expositor says, he comes with the wains behind him, with the wagons at his heels, bringing his sheaves with him. Yes, they are his sheaves. “How so? All saved souls belong to Christ; they are God’s.” Yes, but for all that they belong to the worker. There is a kind of sacred property which exists, and which God acknowledges in the case of men and women who bring souls to Christ.
The true worker will be a reaper. I am afraid I have put this in the shape as though I were speaking to ministers, but I am not. If you are a true worker, you will be a reaper doubtless. Why? First, because the promise of God saith so. “My word shall not return to Me void: it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.” Secondly, God’s honor in the gospel requires it. If there be a failure, and you have preached the true gospel rightly, it will be the gospel that will fail, and then God’s attributes are all wrapped up in the gospel; it is His wisdom and His power; and shall God’s wisdom be nonplused, and God’s power be put back? Again you must reap, because the analogy of nature assures you of it. The poor peasant whose little stock of corn is all but spent, takes a little wheat, which is very precious to him, and with many tears he drops it into the soil in the wintry months. But God gives him a harvest. In due time, in the mellow autumn days, he gathers in the sheaves, which reward him for his self-denial. It shall be so with you.
God mocks not the husbandman; He appoints the seed-time, and He brings round the harvest.
Remember those who have gone before you in this service, who have proved this fact. Think of those you have known, who have not been unsuccessful; when, with hearts broken and bruised, they have spent their life-power in their Lord’s work. Remember Judson and the thousands of Karens that this day sing of the Savior whom he first taught to them. Think of Moffat in the kraals of the Bechuanas, not without glorious seals to his ministry. Think of our own missions in Jamaica, of the wonders and trophies of grace in the South Sea Islands, the multitudes that were turned to Christ during revival seasons in our own land, and in the United States, and you have proof that those that know how to reap and sow, and who go forth from God to the sowing, shall, beyond a doubt, come again rejoicing with their sheaves.