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first-fruits which of old, were carried into the hallowed temple on Zion's hill; they are borne aloft by happy angels-happy in their state and employment-as the sample of your successes with your family; and the pledge that its other members, indulged with the like cultivation and care, shall be brought into the same garner.
O happy parent! As I pass by your domestic field, by your vineyard blessed with rich culture and the smile of heaven, I admire the fence rigidly maintained, I see the weeds rotted on the surface of the ground, and the corn already inviting the sickle of the reaper. Fair and beautiful prospects! I love the tents of Jacob. When my eyes are opened on such a scene, I involuntary exclaim, like the enraptured prophet-" How goodly are thy tents, O Jacob! and thy tabernacles, O "Israel! As the valleys are they spread forth, as gardens by the river's side, as the trees of lign"aloes which the Lord had planted, and as cedartrees beside the waters*."
* Numbers, xxiv. 5. 6.
MARK, IV. 29.
But when the fruit is brought forth, immediately he putteth in the sickle, because the harvest is come.
THE progression of real religion in the heart is certain, but gradual; so slow as to be almost imperceptible, but " sure to all the seed*;" therefore we may be confident that where the good work is begun, it will be carried on till the day of Christ Jesus. To confirm and illustrate this sentiment so stimulating to our activity, and so consolatory to our minds, is the obvious intention of our Lord, in the parable before us; wherein he says, "The
kingdom of God is 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. For the earth bringeth "forth fruit of herself; first the blade, then the
*Romans, iv. 16.
"ear, after that the full corn in the ear. But when the fruit is brought forth, immediately he "putteth in the sickle, because the harvest is come *."
By the expression," when the fruit is brought forth," we are to understand, when the grain is fully ripened, then immediately he putteth in the sickle for the harvest is come.
Of this maturity the husbandman is the best judge; guided in his decisions not only by the altered color of the ear, but by narrowly inspecting whether the root has begun to loosen and die, he finds that to postpone the labor of the reaper would be not only unnecessary, but pernicious.
Throughout the sacred volumes, promptitude in attending to known duties is enforced; it was the commendation of the man after God's heart, that " he made haste and delayed not to keep God's com"mandments;" and it is the sage advice of his wiser son-" whatsoever thou hast to do, do it with all "thy might;" and our text may be considered as a rule for human conduct in all secular affairs.
The term, harvest, is frequently employed in
*Mark, iv. 27, 28, 29.
scripture, to denote the seasonable and proper time for business; "He that sleepeth in harvest is
a son that causeth shame," that is, he that neglects or misimproves the proper seasons of doing or getting good, will disgrace himself, and entail confusion and misery on all with whom he is connected.
It would indeed be well, if in these times of extended occupation, persons professing to read and to be regulated by their bibles, would attend to these directions; considered indeed, by such as are most in need of such advice, of inferior importance, the mere tythe of anise and cummin; of which, however, he who spake as never man spake, said, "These things ye ought to have done, and not to "leave the others undone."
God dislikes robbery for a burnt offering; nor should we rob the duties which we owe to our families and fellow-creatures, of those seasonable opportunities which are granted us, under the idea that we render the time thus taken acceptable to our maker, if spent in religious services.
Real piety is a whole; duties enjoined by God, chime in with each other, rather than clash in their discharge. He that offendeth in any one point, is guilty of all. Then let our farmers, our artificers,
our servants, but above all, those whose toils are for the moral and spiritual advantage of others, attend promptly to their respective and appropriate obligations.
Our main business from the text, will be to illus trate the order of divine dispensation; Immediately when the corn is ripe the sickle will be put in and the harvest reaped.
In the most extended field of the world, where nations, empires, and kingdoms, are as the fruit that is matured, we see that threatened vengeance, or promised mercy are not delayed beyond the appointed time; if their crimes are like the ripened corn, his command will be-" Put ye in "the sickle; for the harvest is ripe: come get you "down; for the press is full, the fats overflow; for "their wickedness is great*." But if, on admonition, they repent and turn from their evil, "I will
repent, saith the Lord, of the evil I intended to "do to them." And "at what instant," this temper and conduct are exemplified, God who waits and watches that he may be gracious, will reap them in mercy that is, gather them to himself to enjoy his protection, as wheat is grasped and collected by the husbandman.
* Joel, iii. 13.