And he said, So is the kingdom of God, as if a man should cast seed into the ground;…
We must dwell a moment longer upon this; it is a matter full of interest and instruction. It seems often, as we have said, to excite surprise both in the sufferer himself and in others, when a Christian, who has long been eminent for piety, and whose faith had been conspicuous in his works, lingers for months, perhaps even years, in wearisome sickness, as though, notwithstanding the preparation of a righteous life, he needed protracted trial to fit him for the presence of God. But there is, we believe, altogether a mistake in the view which is commonly taken of old age and lingering sickness. Because a man is confined to his room or his bed, the idea seems to be that he is altogether useless. In the ordinary phrase, he is "quite laid by," as though he had no duties to perform when he could no longer perform those of more active life. Was there ever a greater mistake? The sick room, the sick bed, has its special, its appropriate duties, duties to the full as difficult, as honourable, as remunerative, as any which devolve on the Christian whilst yet in his unbroken strength. They are not precisely the same duties as belong to him in health, but they differ only by such difference as a change in outward circumstances and position will always introduce. The piety which he has to cultivate, the resignation which he has to exhibit, the faith which he has to exercise, the example which he has to set — oh, talk not of the sick man as of a man laid by! Harder duties, it may be, ay, deeds of more extensive usefulness, are required from him who lingers on the couch, than from the man of health in the highest and most laborious of Christian undertakings. Is there, then, any cause for surprise if a Christian be left to linger in sickness, to wear away tedious months in racking pain and slow decay? Is it at all in contradiction to the saying that "so soon as the fruit is ripe, immediately he putteth in the sickle"? Not so! The fruit is not necessarily ripe; the man's work is not necessarily done, because he is what you call "laid by," and can take no part in the weightier bustle of life. It is they who turn many to righteousness that are "to shine as stars in the firmament;" and is there no sermon from the sick bed? Has the sick bed nothing to do with publishing and adorning the gospel? Yea, I think, then, an awful and perilous trust is committed to the sick Christian — friends, children, neighbours, the church at large, look to him for some practical exhibition of the worth of Christianity. If he be fretful, or impatient, or full of doubts and fears, they will say — Is this all that the gospel can do for a man in a season of extremity? If, on the other hand, he be meek and resigned, and able to testify to God's faithfulness to his word, they will be taught — and nothing teaches like example — that Christianity can make good its pretensions; that it is a sustaining, an elevating, a death-conquering religion. And who shall calculate what may be wrought through such practical exhibitions of the power and preciousness of the gospel? I, for one, will not dare to affirm that more is done towards converting the careless, confirming the wavering, and comforting the desponding, by the bold champions who labour publicly in the making Christ known; than by many a worn-down invalid, who preaches to a household or a neighbourhood by simple unquestioning dependence on God: I, for one, can believe that he who dies the death of trial, passing almost visibly, whilst yet in the exercise of every energy, from a high post of usefulness to the kingdom of glory, may have fewer at the judgment to witness to the success of his labours, than many a bedridden Christian, who, by a beautiful submission, waited, year after year, his summons to depart.
Parallel VersesKJV: And he said, So is the kingdom of God, as if a man should cast seed into the ground;