"Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?" -- Matt. vii: 16.
"For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live." -- Romans viii: 13.
A Man Expects to Reap the Same Kind as He Sows.
If I should tell you that I sowed ten acres of wheat last year and that watermelons came up, or that I sowed cucumbers and gathered turnips, you wouldn't believe it. It is a fixed law that you reap the same kind of seed you sow. Plant wheat and you reap wheat, plant an acorn and there comes up an oak, plant a little elm and in time you have a big elm.
One day, the master of Lukman, an Eastern fabulist, said to him, "Go into such a field, and sow barley." Lukman sowed oats instead. At the time of harvest his master went to the place, and, seeing the green oats springing up, asked him:
"Did I not tell you to sow barley here? Why, then, have you sown oats?"
He answered, "I sowed oats in the hope that barley would grow up."
His master said, "What foolish idea is this? Have you ever heard of the like?"
Lukman replied, "You yourself are constantly sowing in the field of the world the seeds of evil, and yet expect to reap in the resurrection day the fruits of virtue. Therefore I thought, also, I might get barley by sowing oats."
The master was abashed at the reply and set Lukman free.
Like produces like in vegetation, and like produces like in labor. If a man has learnt the trade of a carpenter, he does not expect to excel as a watchmaker. If he has toiled hard to acquire a knowledge of the law, he does not expect to practice medicine for a livelihood. Men expect to reap in the same line as they have learned.
This law is just as true in God's kingdom as in man's kingdom; just as true in the spiritual world as in the natural world. If I sow tares, I am going to reap tares; if I sow a lie, I am going to reap lies; if I sow adultery. I am going to reap adulterers; if I sow whisky, I am going to reap drunkards. You cannot blot this law out, it is in force. No other truth in the Bible is more solemn.
Suppose that a neighbor, whom I don't want to see, comes to my house and I tell my son to tell him, if he asks for me, that I am out of town. He goes to the door and lies to my neighbor; it will not be six months before that boy will lie to me; I will reap that lie.
A man said to me some time ago, "Why is it that we can not get honest clerks now?"
I replied, "I don't know, but perhaps I can imagine a reason. When merchants teach clerks to say that goods are all wool when they are half cotton, and to adulterate groceries and say they are pure, when they grind up white marble and put it into pulverized sugar, and the clerk knows it, you will not have honest clerks."
As long as merchants teach their clerks to lie and to misrepresent, to put a French or an English tag on domestic goods and sell them for imported goods, so long they will have dishonest clerks. Dishonest merchants make dishonest clerks. I am not talking fiction, I am talking truth. It is not poetry, but solemn prose that a man must reap the same kind of seed that he sows.
This is a tremendous argument against selling liquor. Leaving out the temperance and religious aspects of the question, no man on earth can afford to sell strong drink. If I sell liquor to your son and make a drunkard of him, some man will sell liquor to my son and make a drunkard of him. Every man who sells liquor has a drunken son or a drunken brother or some drunken relative. Where are the sons of liquor dealers? To whom are their daughters married? Look around and see if you can find a man who has been in that business twenty years who has not a skeleton in his own family.
I threw that challenge down once, and a man said to me the next day, "I wasn't at your meeting last night, but I understand you made the astounding statement that no man had been in the liquor business twenty years who hadn't the curse in his own family."
"Yes," I said, "I did."
"It isn't true," he said, "and I want you to take it back. My father was a rumseller, and I am a rumseller, and the curse has never come into my father's family or into mine."
I said, "What! two generations selling that infernal stuff, and the curse has never come into the family! I will investigate it, and if I find I am wrong I will make the retraction just as publicly as I did the statement."
There were two prominent citizens of the town in the room, on whose faces I noticed a peculiar expression as the man was talking. After he left, one of them said:
"Do you know, Mr. Moody, that man's own brother was a drunkard and committed suicide a few weeks ago and left a widow with seven children; they are under his roof now! He was a terrible drunkard himself until the shock of his brother's suicide cured him."
I don't know how you can account for it unless he thought his brother wasn't a relative. Perhaps he was a sort of a Cainite, saying, "Am I my brother's keeper?"
When I was a pastor of a church in Chicago we were trying to get hold of the working-men. They used to say:
"Come down to the factory at dinner-time and we will give you a chance to speak."
I would ask them, "Why won't you come to the church?"
"Oh," they would say, "you have it all your own way there, and we can't answer back; but come to the factory and we will put a few questions to you."
So I went down, and they made it pretty hot for me sometimes. One of the favorite characters that they brought up was Jacob. Many a time I have had men say, "You think Jacob was a saint, don't you? He was a big rascal." Many have said they thought Jacob wasn't as good as Esau. Notice this fact. You read in the Bible, "I will punish Jacob according to his doings." This law of retribution runs through his Life; although he was a friend of God, a kinsman of Abraham, and was third in the line of the covenant, yet God made Jacob reap the same kind of seed he sowed. Some one has said that "Jacob's misfortunes were uniformly calculated to bring back to his recollection the picture as well as the punishment of his faults."
When Isaac in his old age wanted some venison, and sent Esau out to get it, Jacob slipped out and took a kid from his father's flock, and Rebekah, his mother, cooked it; he brought it to his old blind father and said he was Esau. The old man recognized his voice, but he had very cunningly put the skin of the kid on his hands and neck; so that the old man felt him and said;
"The voice is Jacob's voice, but the hands are the hands of Esau."
By this lie he got his brother's birthright blessing, but he paid ten thousand times more for it than it was worth. "Who steals my purse steals trash." A man who steals my pocketbook is the chief sufferer, not I. When Jacob had grown to be an old man, he lived in continual suspicion that his sons were deceiving him. The sin of deceiving his own father bore fruit.
Jacob was the great loser in this transaction. When Esau returned he had to flee for his life. Then God met him at Bethel. "And behold, the Lord stood above it and said, I am the Lord God of Abraham thy father, and the God of Isaac: the land whereon thou liest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed: and thy seed shall be as the dust of the earth: and thou shalt spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south, and in thee and in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed.
"And, behold, I am with thee, and will keep thee in all places whither thou goest, and will bring thee again unto this land, for I will not leave thee, until I have done that which I have spoken to thee of."
Men will read that far in the life of Jacob and say, "I don't want anything more to do with a God who will deal in grace with a man who had done so mean a thing." My friend, hold on. Follow him to Padanaram. He was there twenty years, and during that time his wages were changed ten times. He worked seven years for the lovely Rachel, and then had another woman put upon him. Jacob had by deception obtained the blessing of the first-born son, but Laban sarcastically reminded him, "It must not be so done in my country to give the younger before the first-born." He found that Laban could drive as sharp a bargain as he. Wherever you find a sharp, shrewd man, you will always find that he draws just such men around him, and that he who cheats will himself be cheated. "Birds of a feather flock together"; blasphemers get together, and sharp, shrewd men get together. Jacob found in Laban just such a man as himself. It was "diamond cut diamond."
Look a little further. Jacob had twelve sons, but he loved Joseph and Benjamin more than the others because they were the sons of his beloved Rachel. He was partial to Joseph, and had a coat made of many colors for him. Partiality will raise the old Adam in any family.
One morning Joseph, in the innocence of his heart, tells a dream in which his father and all his brothers had bowed down to him. Then his brothers began to plan to get him out of the way, and when his father sent him to find them when they were tending the flocks, they said:
"Now we have him; let us slay him and cast him into a pit, and say that some beast has devoured him."
Later they sold him, and took his coat of many colors and dipped it in the blood of a kid, and, taking it to their father, said: "This have we found; know now whether it be thy son's coat or no." And he knew it and said, "It is my son's coat; an evil beast hath devoured him."
Now notice: Jacob deceived his father with the skin of a kid, and his sons deceived him with the blood of a kid. Jacob lied to his father, and his sons lied to him. The lie came home. Every lie is bound to come back to you. You cannot dig a grave so deep but that it will have a resurrection. Tramp, tramp, your sins will all come back.
"Be sure your sin will find you out." You may think you are very shrewd and far-sighted, and can plan and cover up, but it is the decree of high heaven that no sin shall be covered; God will uncover it. You cannot deceive the Almighty. Jacob found that out. He had to reap what he sowed.
Again, look at David. A man said to me some years ago:
"Don't you think David fell as low as Saul?"
Yes, he fell lower, because God had lifted him higher. The difference is that when Saul fell there was no sign of repentance, but when David fell, a wail went up from his broken heart; there was true repentance. No man in all the Scripture record rose so high and fell so low as David. God took him from the sheepfold and placed him on the throne. He gave him riches and lands in abundance. He was on a pinnacle of glory, and was loved and honored among men. But one day, you remember, David was walking upon the roof of the king's house, and he saw Bathsheba, and lusted after her, and committed the awful sin of adultery; and then, to cover up that sin, he made Bathsheba's husband drunk, and had him murdered. The decree came: "I will raise up evil in thy family and the sword shall never leave thy house." Amnon, David's son, commits adultery with David's own daughter. Absalom makes a feast for Amnon and has him murdered. Not long after he comes with an army to drive David, his father, from the throne, and publicly commits adultery with David's concubines on the roof of the king's house; if God had not been overruling, he would have killed his father.
David sowed adultery and reaped it in his own family. He sowed murder and reaped it in his own family. I believe that what brought the bitter wail from that father's heart when he said, "Oh, my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! Would God I had died for thee," was the fact that these were the wages of his own sin. From the time he fell into that sin with Uriah's wife until he went down to his grave, it was one billow after another rolling over him.
If God did not spare David, do you think He will spare us if we fall into sin and do not confess and turn from our sins? If ever a man had an opportunity to cover his sins, David had. No judge or jury dared to pronounce judgment against him. The thing was done in the dark, but his sin found him out. Nathan was sent across his path, and, young man, Nathan will appear to you some day. Some messenger will smite you in the way if you do not repent and turn from your sins. My friend, why not call on God now as David did when he came to himself? make the same prayer -- how thankful we should be that we have the prayer! why not make it on your knees now?
David's Prayer for Forgiveness.
"Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy loving kindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions.
Wash me thoroughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my transgressions; and my sin is ever before me.
Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight; that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest.
Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.
Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward parts; and in the hidden part thou shalt make me to know wisdom.
Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
Make me to hear joy and gladness; that the bones which thou hast broken may rejoice.
Hide thy face from my sins, and blot out all mine iniquities.
Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.
Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy Holy Spirit from me.
Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free Spirit.
Then will I teach transgressors thy ways; and sinners shall be converted unto thee.
Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, thou God of my salvation; and my tongue shall sing aloud of thy righteousness.
O Lord, open thou my lips; and my mouth shall shew forth thy praise.
For thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it; thou delightest not in burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise."
Examples From History.
But you say you don't believe in the Bible. Then look at history, and see if this law is not true. Maxentine built a false bridge to drown Constantine, but was drowned himself. Bajazet was carried about by Tamerlane in an iron cage which he intended for Tamerlane. Maximinus put out the eyes of thousands of Christians; soon after a fearful disease of the eyes broke out among his people, of which he himself died in great agony. Valens caused about eighty Christians to be sent to sea in a ship and burnt alive: he was defeated by the Goths and fled to a cottage, where he was burnt alive.
Alexander VI. was poisoned by wine he had prepared for another. Henry III. of France was stabbed in the same chamber where he had helped to contrive the cruel massacre of French Protestants. Marie Antoinette, riding to Notre Dame Cathedral for her bridal, bade the soldiers command all beggars, cripples, and ragged people to leave the line of the procession. She could not endure the sight of these miserable ones. Soon after, bound in the executioner's cart, she was riding toward the place of execution amidst crowds who gazed on her with hearts as cold as ice and hard as granite. When Foulon was asked how the starving populace was to live, he said: "Let them eat grass." Afterward, the mob, maddened with rage, caught him in the streets of Paris, hung him, stuck his head upon a pike and filled his mouth with grass.