Hosea 10:12
The union of precept and promise in Scripture runs parallel with the union of work and blessing in life. The same mind and will is the source of both. Our text reminds us of the co-operation of the human and Divine as essential to the harvest of good. A true reformation is only accomplished by God indirectly, through the agency of man. Thus the coming of Christ Jesus was prepared for by the ministry of John, which roused men to thoughts of sin and of righteousness. In the graphic imagery of Isaiah, "crooked things were made straight, and rough places plain, and then the glory of the Lord was revealed." So in the establishment of the Christian Church: God wrought through the energies of men. The Holy Spirit was not poured down directly from heaven upon the nations, but upon a few men whose hearts were prepared, and through their ministry the conscience of the world was stirred. No farmer waits inactively in the spring-time, when the earth is made soft with showers, expecting a harvest to come, while his plough rusts in the shed and his seed rots in the granary; and no true Christian is satisfied to pray for the fulfillment of the promises while he does nothing of the work that lies to his hand. The message comes home to him, "Sow to yourselves," etc. Human responsibility and Divine recompense are the two factors in spiritual husbandry which demand consideration.

I. HUMAN RESPONSIBILITY lies in the direction of these activities.

1. Sowing the seed. "Sow to yourselves in righteousness." Show how deficient Israel was in righteousness, both in national affairs and in social and civil life, during Hosea's ministry.

(1) National righteousness is demanded. Honesty in diplomacy, equitable dealing with weaker peoples, fairness in commercial enterprise, choice of the right, and not of the profitable, etc.

(2) Church righteousness, which will not allow us to neglect the poor, or to be careless of the interests of Divine truth, or to restrain prayer heft,re God.

(3) Individual righteousness, which may be shown by every Christian in all the varied relations of life. Sowing to ourselves in righteousness is not always easy, and is not often immediately recompensed; but "in due season we shall reap, if we faint not."

2. Preparing the sod. "Break up your fallow ground." The work referred to is monotonous, hard, continuous. The ploughman does not see around him the glow of the golden harvest; he does not hear the merriment of those who are binding the sheaves; he has not the stimulus of the happy speed which the hope of finishing gives the reaper. Yet his work is as necessary. The reference is not to the cleaning from weeds of land already sown, but to the breaking up of virgin soil, i.e. of the parts of a field which were neglected before.

(1) Make application to the development of Christian character. There is generally a want of completeness about this. Sins of pleasure and indolence are gone; but if sins of pride, ambition, censoriousness, remain, these also must be turned up by the plough of resolution. We must not be content with saying, "This part of my character is fertile," while that part lies fallow. So with Christian graces. We may have courage without tenderness, patience without enterprise, and thus have fallow ground yet to be broken up.

(2) Make application to the advance of Christ's kingdom. Parts of the world sown with the good seed are fairly productive, other parts are moral wastes. This calls for missionary enterprise. Congregations comfortably worship, yet amongst the godless and ignorant "fallow ground" still lies around them. The world will become a paradise only when each does his own work in his own sphere. In the Western States, laud is not brought under cultivation by the expenditure of a millionaire; but each settler has his own allotment, effects his own clearing, builds his own log hut, adds field to field till his farm touches the next, and by this process the wilderness begins to rejoice and blossom like the rose.

3. Seeking the Lord. Hosea would have the people eagerly expecting Messiah, and ready to welcome him. Some of John's disciples were thus" seeking the Lord," and it was on these Christ rained righteousness, in the truths he taught and the Spirit he gave. Readiness for the second advent becomes the Christian still; and the Church is sighing for it. Meantime the Lord comes in holy thought, in right resolve, in chastened feeling. He comes down on weary hearts like "rain upon the mown grass, as showers that water the earth."

II. Divine RECOMPENSE.

1. It is generous. "Reap [not 'in,' but] according to mercy;" not in proportion to desert, or to justice, but to the boundless mercy of the Lord. Of all reaping that is true. When we sow our seed we give it over to the care of God. It would be something to receive it back again uninjured; but it is multiplied, "according to the mercy" of God, and harvest-fields come from a few bushels of seed. God gives "good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over." If we are thus requited in the natural, we shall be in the moral husbandry. Grace used brings more grace. The five talents employed become the ten talents. If we give, the habit of giving becomes a luxury. If we pray, prayer becomes easier, more refreshing, more essential. If ours are the tears of penitence, the light of God's love shines through them and creates the rainbow of peace. If, like the prodigal, we sow in righteous acknowledgment of sin, we reap peace and joy "according to God's mercy."

2. It is from above. "Until he come and rain righteousness upon you." When rain falls from heaven it blesses your garden, or your carefully tended plant, but it does not content itself with that. Fields you never saw are greener, limpid streams in distant counties are fuller, leaves and ferns and. unnoticed flowers are touched and blessed. All Churches need this outpouring from above. To do the right, to break up the fallow ground which has been unblessed before by enterprise, will all be useless unless he rains righteousness upon us. And for this great blessing a mural world, a weakened Church, a conscious yearning, say, "It is time to seek the Lord."

CONCLUSION. Beware lest, in the sight of the Searcher of hearts, your condition should be described by the words which follow our text. "Ye have ploughed wickedness, ye have reaped iniquity." "Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap." - A.R.







Sow to yourselves in righteousness, reap in mercy; break up your fallow ground.
There is not a more melancholy delusion than this, that in religious life the grand object may be secured without the use of the appointed means — that men may possess Christian privileges and realise Christian rewards, independently of those holy and strenuous endeavours so plainly required by our Divine Lord. In spiritual things there cannot be a cancelling of the rule which obtains in temporal things. The most unfading of crowns cannot be worn where there has been no running in the race. The most splendid of victories cannot be achieved where there has been no entrance into the battle. The most peaceful of havens cannot be reached where there has been no contending with the winds and the waves. The most glorious of harvests cannot be gathered in where there has been no labouring in the field.

I. "BREAK UP YOUR FALLOW GROUND." The image here presented may apply variously. It may be applied to our country; to the circle of our own families; to the state of our own heart. The words may apply to the sincere believers amongst us. For we are found barren of many attainable graces and perfections, We may always find some fallow ground that needs breaking up.

II. SOW YOUR SEED.

1. The character of the work. There will be a righteous and constant rule of the law of Christ. We must respect it alone. The motive must be righteous. Whatever be the rule, if the motive be unholy, the act will be unholy.

2. The exclusiveness of the work. "To yourselves." The application is individual and personal. Others cannot do it for us, nor we for others. In the singleness of his own responsible existence every man must stand before God.

III. REAP IN MERCY. The course of our spiritual husbandry bears an analogy with the natural. There is first the breaking up of the fallow ground, then the sowing of the seed, and then the reaping of the full corn in the ear: and as the strength is derived from God in the former two cases, the blessing in the third comes directly from Him as the Lord of the harvest.

(T. J. Judkin, M. A.)

Sketches of Four Hundred Sermons.
The Church is God's husbandry. We are called upon —

I. TO BREAK UP OUR FALLOW GROUND. The heart of man is represented —

1. As ground. Therefore expected to produce fruit that will benefit its owner.

2. As fallow ground. It is destitute of the fruit that it might produce. It is not only useless to its owner, it is prejudicial to neighbouring land that has good seed sown in it, in preventing the plants of righteousness from growing to perfection.

3. As our fallow ground. Because we all have ground committed to our cultivating care. And if it be not fallow now, there was a time when the term might have been applied to it with correctness and propriety.Breaking up our fallow ground implies a work —

1. Of labour; for which the Master of the land imparts strength.

2. Of sacrifice; for which the Proprietor communicates fortitude.

3. Of constancy and perseverance; for which the Lord of the soil supplies patience.

4. Of renovation; for which the Owner of the ground affords means. The soil in its present state is unfit to produce any useful plants; but when the weeds which now grow therein are destroyed, the ground shall be renewed, that it may bring forth the fruits of piety.

II. SOW TO YOURSELVES IN RIGHTEOUSNESS. We have here a representation of right principles, under the figure of seed; the propriety of which may be discerned, if we notice —

1. Right principles are not indigenous to the human heart. They must be sown there.

2. The value of right principles.

(1)Their author and giver — God.

(2)Their price — the blood of the covenant.

(3)Their result — plants of righteousness.

3. The care and attention they demand. How great is the solicitude of the husbandman in reference to his seed.

4. The vegetative power and productive quality. Right conduct is the offspring of these principles. "Sow to yourselves" means —(1) Allow these principles to sink deep into the heart; let all obstructions be removed out of the way.(2) Let every plant that grows in our heart be the result of this precious seed.(3) Though our anxiety should be principally on our own account, yet our conduct should be a union of piety and benevolence.

III. REAP IN MERCY. If we plough and sow as directed, the result shall surely be a harvest of mercy. We shall reap —

1. In pardoning mercy, that cancels our sins.

2. In restraining mercy, that prevents us from running into error.

3. In preserving mercy, that preserves the faithful.

4. In rewarding mercy. The mercy of God is, like Himself, infinite.The time of reward is represented as harvest, because —

1. The time of ploughing and sowing is for ever over.

2. Because at that period all the produce of the soil will be presented to the Lord of the harvest.

3. Because reaping time is a season of joy and festivity. Eternity shall declare the advantages of sowing in righteousness. Observe —(1) This is the time to break up your fallow ground.(2) How great is the mercy of our God, that He will assist our endeavours to sow in righteousness.(3) How audacious is the conduct of those that despise the offers of mercy thus held out in the Gospel.

(Sketches of Four Hundred Sermons.)

See what the Word of God teaches with reference to the necessity of a life of righteousness on our part, and as to the grounds on which a reward will be given to the righteous hereafter. The illustration here chosen from the works of nature is common to many other parts of Scripture. And the resemblance is so obvious between the progress of a seed from its first being committed to the soil, till the final harvest, with that of the gradual development of the principle of good in the soul of man, that I need not dwell upon it particularly. We are told to "sow in righteousness"; and what this injunction involves we may gather from a consideration of the state of those persons to whom it was originally addressed. There was required of apostate Israel, a thorough, unshrinking reformation, an unqualified turning from sin to God. And nothing short of this is required of us. Few of us have not continued, for a longer or a shorter space, in deliberate and wilful transgression: all have to bewail an interminable catalogue of negligences and ignorances: and all have the evidence within themselves of an inherited nature so corrupt, that from the sole of the foot unto the head there is no soundness in it. This fallow ground must be broken up. Our hearts must be brought into a state of religious cultivation. Vicious inclinations, sensual appetites, inordinate affections must be rooted up. The soil must beploughed; — that which lay below must be brought up to the surface and exposed to the light of day. Self-knowledge and self-discipline must do their work, and the whole field be made fit for the reception and growth of the seed of righteousness. If we do, the text leads us to hope that we shall reap in mercy; that is, we shall receive from the merciful hand of God our Father an abundant reward of unfading happiness and glory, eternal in the heavens.

1. We have no grounds on which to expect a harvest of mercy without a previous sowing time of righteousness. Without a holy life here, no man need expect or hope for a happy life hereafter.

2. The reward of our service is not to be looked for as of right, but as the gift of the free grace and mercy of God. Granting our seed-time of righteousness ever so perfect or so plenteous, how is God the better for it, that He should be constrained to pay us wages for it? Here then is the sum of the whole matter. We shall not be saved for our works, but we shall never be saved without them. Knowing this, let us pray and labour and strive that no day may pass over our heads without our having made some progress in the work of sowing unto righteousness.

(F. E. Paget, M. A.)

Let them "sow to themselves in righteousness"; let them return to the practice of good works, according to the rule of God, which is the rule of righteousness; let them abound in works of piety towards God, and in justice and charity towards one another. Every action is seed sown. Let them sow what they should sow, do what they should do, and they themselves shall have the benefit of it.

( Matthew Henry.)

? — The prophet joineth counsel with threatenings. Amendment is that he calleth them to as a means to save them. By this text God proclaims, not only to particular persons, but to nations, how desirable it is to Him to execute His goodness; and His extreme backwardness to avenge Himself on the most provoking kingdoms, unless they add impenitency under solemn warnings unto their rebellion.

I. THE WORDS CONTAIN SOME OF THE ESSENTIALS OF REPENTANCE, AND SUPPOSE THE REST.

1. He that will repent must deal with his indisposed heart. "Break up the fallow ground."

2. When the heart is thus prepared, we must proceed to proper acts of reformation. "Sow to yourselves in (or to) righteousness." Let the rule of righteousness be observed in your hearts and ways.

3. You must also "seek the Lord." Follow after Him: persist in your seeking.

II. THIS REPENTANCE IS URGED FROM A VARIETY OF ARGUMENTS. Principally from this, that national mercies would certainly follow national repentance. What repentance of national sins doth God require?

1. Resolve the case in general. Repentance ordinarily affords ground of our expectation of national mercies, notwithstanding national sins. But when this repentance is not in a nation, we cannot ordinarily expect national mercies. These things are supposed in the case as stated. What are national sins? Such gross sins as render a nation guilty, and expose it to national judgments, and forfeit national mercies. These sins are gross in their nature. Not sins of infirmity, or sins which ordinary care, labour, and watchfulness could not prevent. They are such as idolatry, perjury, breaking of covenant, blood, uncleanness, apostasy, oppression, profaneness. These sins must be national. And sins become national by all, or the generality of a people, being personally transgressors, as to those crimes; or when the governors, representatives, and influencing persons are transgressors; or by the generality of a nation making itself a partaker of other men's sins, though it do not actually commit them. These sins are such as expose to judgments and forfeit national mercies. More refined sins may expose one nation to judgments which may not expose another land. This depends on the variety of advantages some people are under above others. The provoking sins of one and the same nation may be made up by various kinds of offences, according to the different condition of offenders. The sins of magistrates are of one kind, and the sins of subjects another, according to their different talents and station. Usually the sins of a nation do not bring judgments or forfeit mercies by the simple commission of them, but as attended with some additional aggravations A land rarely is destroyed, unless sins are committed after warnings. Security and impenitence is added to rebellion before God proceeds against a people. What then are national mercies in the ease before us? Such blessings as truly and considerably affect the good of a community. They must be blessings in their nature, and national in their extent. These mercies regard our souls, or our bodies, or both. The pardon of past sins, and help against the like offences; the presence of God as effective of spiritual and temporal good; Gospel ordinances; love and peace among Churches; freedom from persecution and malignity; a godly magistracy; peace in our borders; justice in our courts; learning in the schools, etc. etc.

III. THE CASE STATED AND DISTINGUISHED FROM WHAT SEEMS LIKE IT. The question connects our repentance and warrantable expectations. The scope of it is, — what is the lowest sort or degree of repentance for national sins which is requisite to warrant, and ordinarily direct, our expectations of national mercies?

IV. THE DIFFICULTIES OF THE CASE.

1. Other nations are not under such express rules with respect to God's outward dealings as the Jewish nation was. There have been always great displays of sovereignty in God's dispensation of judgments and mercy toward nations. There are prophetic periods wherein national mercies shall not be obstructed by impenitence but repentance shall follow them. The desolation of a land is sometimes absolutely determined. God sometimes moderateth and refrains His judgments from other considerations besides repentance. It is not very easy, at all times, to judge of national judgments.

V. THE CASE RESOLVED. The rule by which we must determine this is hinted in the case itself, under those words, "What repentance doth God require?" Some expression of the Divine will must guide us; we must not judge by second causes, or by vain fancy, as we are apt to do.

1. A repentance short of that which is enjoined in order to eternal salvation will suffice to warrant our expectations of national mercies. Eternal issues are not determined by the same rules as temporal blessings. Uuregenerate persons may repent, so as to divert present judgments, and secure mercies. This is evident in Ahab and Nineveh.

2. The repentance which yields us ground to expect national mercies, must be for national sins. It includes clear convictions of the guilt and offences of a nation. Shame, fear, and deep humblings of soul under the sense of the wrath of God, as provoked by our sins. Such a compliance with God's warnings and rebukes, as to put men on seeking God's favour, and resolving to forsake the national pollutions. And there must be reformation. In proving the decision of the case, the described repentance doth ordinarily afford a people national mercies, notwithstanding national sins. And where this repentance obtains not, a people cannot justly expect national mercies. When a people is given up to impenitency, and God withholds a blessing from the methods that tend to their repentance, there is just cause to fear that judgments are determined against that land. Impenitence is not only a moral obstacle to good, but it is also a natural obstacle. The iniquity of a nation is even materially its ruin.

(Daniel Williams, D. D.)

Very often the prophet had to reprove and call the people to repent. Hosea is doing this in the passage before us.

I. THE PARTICULAR SORT OF CHARACTERS HERE INDICATED. They are figuratively indicated by the term, "fallow ground," or land lying fallow, producing nothing. The figure must not be taken quite literally, because there are some points in which it will not apply. The point in the figure is this. There is a human heart, producing nothing; there is a man, whose character has no religious fruitfulness, no religious excellence in relation to God. It is not verdant soil. It is not like the soil of the primitive forest, which never has produced any thing, for it has had its crops. That is the character here represented, — a nation, a Church, or an individual, that was fruitful, that was religious, but it has been neglected, and it is now lying barren, fallow, producing nothing. But the farm land is left fallow intentionally, and for a good purpose. In the fallow ground which is a man, and not a farm, there, is not one thing done with thought, delibera tion, purpose, or plan. Man's heart is left fallow by temptation, negligence, ignorance, sin, backsliding, and instead of being the better for it, its condition is an injury and a curse.

II. THE EXHORTATION. "It is time to seek the Lord." The Hebrews ought never to have needed a time for seeking the Lord. Heathen might feel after God, but Hebrews knew Him. The Hebrew child had to seek God for himself, but that is quite a different thing. Though, therefore, this exhortation ought not to have been needed, by the mercy of God it is given. It may be enforced in the sense in which the apostle uses an expression of the same sort, "It is high time to awake out of sleep." It may be used in the sense of a time being propitious. An accepted time. Observe what man is told to do. Four things are figuratively expressed in the text.

1. Repentance.

2. Reformation.

3. Prayer.

4. Perseverance.

III. THE RESULT. "Till God rain down righteousness upon you." God rains down, not righteousness absolutely, but that which will produce it.

IV. THE WHOLE IS IN MERCY. "Reap in mercy."

(T. Binney.)

If we "sow for righteousness," that is, if our efforts are directed to embodying it in our lives, "we shall reap according to mercy." That is true universally, whether it is taken to mean God's mercy to us, or ours to others. The aim after righteousness ever secures the Divine favour, and usually ensures the measure which we mete being measured to us again. But sowing is not all; thorns must be grubbed up. We must not only turn over a new leaf, but tear out the old one. The old man must be slain if the new man is to live. The call to amend finds its warrant in the assurance that there is still time to seek the Lord, and that for all His threatenings, He is ready to rain blessings upon the seekers. The unwearying patience of God, the possibility of the worst sinner's repentance, the conditional nature of the threatenings, the yet deeper thought that righteousness must come from above, are all condensed in this brief Gospel before the Gospel.

(A. Maclaren, D. D.)

Homilist.
Sowing and reaping are figures here used to denote the spiritual and moral conduct of this people. All human life consists of sowing and reaping. Every intelligent act embodies a moral principle, contains a seed that must germinate and grow.

I. A WRETCHED MORAL STATE. "Fallow ground," uncultivated earth. A state of —

1. Unloveliness. It is either an expanse of grey earth, or of weeds, thistles, and thorns.

2. Unfruitfulness. Unless the soil is cultivated there is no fruit, and the land is worthless.

3. Wastefulness. "On fallow ground the rain, dew, and sunshine fall, but all in vain. How much Divine grace is wasted on unregenerate men: sermons, books, Bibles, providences, means of grace, all wasted.

II. AN URGENT MORAL DUTY.

1. Moral ploughing. Think on two things. What God has been to us. What we have been to Him.

2. Moral sowing.

3. Moral reaping.

III. A SOLEMN MORAL SUGGESTION.

1. No time to lose.

2. Much has been lost.

3. It is only now the work can be effectively done.

IV. A GLORIOUS MORAL PROSPECT. "He will rain righteousness," or "teach you righteousness." Pursue this work of moral agriculture properly, and God Himself will come and teach you righteousness.

(Homilist.)

The characters represented by the term, "fallow ground," are to be found in every town and in every congregation.

I. WHO ARE THE CHARACTERS INDICATED? Those whose affections, habits, and thoughts were once bearing a rich harvest for God, but in whom this is all changed, and the heart is become barren. But not the backslider only; the description applies to all who are careless or hardened in their sins; all whose characters have no religious fruitfulness.

II. HOW MAY WE BREAK UP THE FALLOW GROUND? We must first satisfy ourselves that the ground is fallow; and in doing this prayerful meditation will greatly assist us. We may also have the guidance and assistance of the Holy Spirit.

III. WHY WE SHOULD BREAK UP THE FALLOW GROUND? The constraining motive is this, "it is time to seek the Lord." Time because you have already spent too much of your short life in the service of sin and Satan. Because you will never have a more suitable season than the present. You have sought to persuade yourself that, by and by, you would be more at leisure for seeking the Lord. You must not think a time of affliction will prove a more suitable time. The more happy we are, in the fulness of our strength, before the eye is dim, and before the intellect begins to fail — that is the time to think deeply upon the claims of God.

(R. K. Bailie, M. A.)

How shall we attain eternal life? The text declares that obedience shall not fail of its reward. And that the reward is of grace, and not of debt. We should understand that there is a vast difference between reward and merit. Merit is the right to receive a reward. Reward is a free testimony of approval. The text animates every one of us with the hope of reward; it abases each one of us by a denial of merit.

I. IF WE SOW, WE SHALL REAP. A man might as reasonably expect a crop in the autumn, though he had wasted the season of seed-time, as suppose that a life of indolence and sensuality would lead him to Paradise.

II. CONSIDER THE CAUTION, "REAP IN MERCY." The caution is against admitting any notion of merit. They claim most who have no ground of claim at all. If the notion of merit would be impiety in an angel, what must it be in man? And men have to regard not only the power of God, but also His holiness, which can carry no terror to sinless spirits. You shall reap "according to mercy." Be assured, then, that you cannot sow too freely for that harvest.

(M. Biggs, M. A.)

Activity is not only a sign of life, it is a necessary condition of its continuance. The illustrations of this common law of life are as abundant as life itself. That which is true of trees, of muscle, and of brain is equally true of spiritual powers. For them no condition is a surer augury of death than unuse. As a Divine call to religious activity, Hosea's words contain some points of perpetual importance. The call is —

1. Distinctly personal. "Sow for yourselves." Whether a man will or not, he is constantly a sower of seed. The bad man, the defective Christian, the dilatory, the prayerless, are all sowers. This Divine call does not deal so much with unconscious influences, as with purposed and determined work.

2. The call is specific and definite. You are not to sow anything that may come first to hand. You are to sow the right word, the right spirit, the right action. Every seed we scatter with our hands deliberately, every seed that is unconsciously permitted to wing its way from our whole demeanour, is to bear within it the germ of the true life.

3. The call is opportune. It is always timely to be doing good. There are, however, certain seasons when religious activity is the present duty.

4. The call is urgent. All the verbs axe in one mood; and this is not the conditional or subjunctive, but the imperative. God never gives men any call without making it possible for them to obey it.Our encouragement, to obedience is found in the —

1. Answer of a good conscience.

2. In certain success.

3. In full proofs of Divine mercy.

4. The success will be far spreading. The Christian worker is blessed in his deed. And —

5. The success will be abundant.Let the labour for God tax our utmost ability, our patience, our faith; still, be it ours to work on, confident of the result. The blessing is certain to come, even for ourselves, certain to have proofs of mercy in it, certain to reach further than we anticipated, certain also to be plenteous. Enlarge your faith, therefore, in the power and blessing of God. Your work of faith and labour of love shall not be forgotten; but shall be copiously and even abundantly blessed.

(J. Jackson Goadby.)

The prophet, bids them "seek diligently" (so the Hebrew) and perseveringly, "not leaving off or desisting," if they should not at once find, but continuing the search, quite up to the time when they should find. His words imply the need of perseverance and patience, which should stop short of nothing but God's own time for finding. The prophet, as is the way of the prophets, goes on to Christ, who was ever in the prophets' hearts and hopes. The words could only be understood improperly of God the Father. God does not come, for He is everywhere. He ever was among His people, nor did He will to be among them otherwise than heretofore. No coming of God, as God, was looked for to teach righteousness. But the coming of Christ, the partiarchs and holy men all along desired to see.

(E. B. Pusey, D. D.)

God has been pleased to give us instruction not only by His Word, but also by His works. Nature echoes Scripture to our sins, and if we would permit it, to our hearts. The ground we till is under the curse of God for man's sin; that its natural produce is only thistles, weeds, brambles. You have seen a piece of ground that has been left waste and uncultivated, and how it has become full of weeds, and rank with poisonous herbs, and infested with noisome creatures. Just such a place is man's heart. You have but to look at what man becomes when left to himself, without knowledge, without instruction, without the restraining and renewing grace of God, and you cannot doubt but that the inclination of his heart is not to good, that its imaginations are only evil continually. And out of that heart comes all manner of wickedness that is practised amongst mankind. Suppose any one of you had a garden overrun with weeds, how would he set about getting rid of them, so as to do it effectually? Would he take a scythe and cut off the tops, or a spade and dig them all up by the root? So if we were to tell men that they must put away this or that particular sin, we would do no more towards making them really holy, than a man would do towards clearing his garden if he should only break off the heads of the weeds growing in it. For both would be leaving the roots alive. Some may doubt whether their hearts are so bad as they have been represented to be. Then hear the Word of God (Jeremiah 17:9, etc.). The words of the text Bid us break up the fallow ground of our hearts, that it may be prepared to receive the good seed of eternal life.

I. THE THING TO BE DONE. The plough breaking up the soil, the harrow tearing to pieces the hard and cumbering clods, are a sign of what must be done in our own hearts. The foul, unprofitable soil of the carnal and natural heart must be broken up from the bottom. It will not do just to disturb the surface. Have you ever even suspected that your heart wants cleansing? Is not the deadly root of sin shooting up there in a thousand shapes? Is there not unbelief, like the poisonous nightshade? Is there not pride, as a towering plant that brooks none to overlook it? Does not selfishness twine its roots and strike them deep, ay, down to the very ground of the heart? Is there no foul and rotten heap of unclean desires? Are not the cares and pleasures of this world like thorns and briars within you, choking up the thought and the love of better things? But how can your hearts be broken up? Not of yourselves. It is the Spirit of God carrying home the word which, like a two-edged sword, pierceth even to the dividing asunder of the bones and marrow, — it is He alone that can break up the hard and stony soil of the sinner's heart. It is a joy to the angels to see the fallow ground of the sinner's heart broken up with godly sorrow, humbled into repentance before God. When the ploughshare of conviction has gone deep, when the heart is no longer hardened, the seed of everlasting life will have a chance of springing up. But it is the Spirit alone who can renew us unto repentance and holiness."

II. A REASON WHY IT MUST BE DONE. A stirring motive is given us all in breaking up our fallow ground. "It is time to seek the Lord." The farmer who should stand idling with folded arms when he ought to be sowing, and should let the seed-time slip away, could expect in harvest only weeds and thistles. Leave not, then, to the evening the proper work of the day. Opportunities lost cannot be recalled.

III. THE BLESSING PROMISED. We shall not seek in vain. He will "come and rain" righteousness "upon us." The Lord will "satiate" the weary soul, and replenish every sorrowful soul. Upon them that seek Him will the Lord rain righteousness, even all the sanctifying graces of His Holy Spirit. Then wait upon the Lord in prayer, wait upon Him till He come, and pour out of His Spirit upon you.

(E. Blencowe, M. A.)

Rather "Sow righteousness in the proportion of mercy." As God has been merciful to you, so be ye righteous to Him: keep pace for pace with the Divine mercy; be perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect; be ye holy as your Father in heaven is holy. This is the ideal; God would have human righteousness in proportion to Divine mercy. The standard is not arbitrary; it is gracious and tender and condescending, but who can attain unto it? It is not in man that liveth to keep pace with God.

(Joseph Parker, D. D.)

It is time to seek the Lord. —
I. WHOM ARE WE TO SEEK? "The Lord." Our Creator, Father, Redeemer, Lord, Judge.

II. HOW ARE WE TO SEEK HIM?

1. Earnestly. "Agonise to enter in."

2. Humbly, in view of our helplessness and sin; hence penitently.

3. Prayerfully.

4. Obediently. Israel had become profane, idolatrous covenant breakers.

III. WHY ARE WE TO SEEK HIM?

1. For God's sake.

2. For our neighbour's sake.

3. For our own sake.(1) Viewing the facts connected with our being as immortal sinners, we cannot be happy without salvation.(2) Seeking the Lord is preparation for the future.

IV. WHEN ARE WE TO SEEK HIM? Now —

1. The Scriptures often urge haste.

2. Delay itself is sin.

3. The great good derived from such a course.

4. The way to the throne is open.

5. The time is short.

(W. Veenschoten.)

I. THE DUTY ENJOINED. We should seek the Lord —

1. In the performance of His will.

2. In a dependence on His mercy.

3. In a due preparation of heart to receive His blessings.

II. THE ARGUMENTS BY WHICH IT IS ENFORCED.

1. The urgency of the duty.

2. The certainty of success in it.

(T. Hannam.)

I. WHOM ARE WE TO SEEK? "The Lord." This implies —

1. That man is removed from God by sin.

2. That man may get near to God by seeking.

3. That it is his duty to do so.

II. HOW ARE WE TO SEEK THE LORD?

1. By repentance.

(1)The heart broken for sin.

(2)The heart broken from sin.

(3)Reformation of life.

2. By faith.

(1)In God.

(2)In Christ.

III. WHEN ARE WE TO SEEK THE LORD? "Now."

1. To some of you these words contain a reproof.

2. For many of you these words contain a warning.(1) You will never have a better time. Facilities for seeking the Lord decrease with delay.(2) You may not have another opportunity. Many have waited for the convenient season which never came.

(E. D. Solomon.)

Helps for the Pulpit.
I. THE BEING WHOSE FAVOUR MEN ARE TO SEEK. "The Lord"; this is expressive of His greatness and power as the Proprietor of all things. "He is Lord over all." "The earth is the Lord's," etc. Think of His relation to us. Creator — Preserver — Benefactor — the God of grace. Think how able and willing He is to promote our happiness.

II. THE NATURE OF SEEKING THE LORD. It implies —

1. A knowledge of His character and a conviction of the importance and advantages of having Him for our portion.

2. A conviction that sin has deprived us of Him as our portion. "Your iniquities," etc. "All we like sheep," etc.

3. A knowledge of the way in which God may be sought. Through the Sacrifice of His Son, the Mediator, the Surety, mercy, pardon, and acceptance may be obtained.

4. Heartfelt repentance. Contrition; godly sorrow; confession of evil to God; cessation from sin, as an evidence of regeneration commencing. "Let the wicked," etc.

5. Faith in Christ. "Repent and believe the Gospel." "Believe in," etc. What is faith? It is the reliance of the sick and diseased one upon the skill and healing power of the Great Physician; it is the reliance of the debtor, of the prisoner, captive, etc. etc., upon Christ, whose work on the Cross is adapted to meet all those exigencies of the sinner.

6. With diligence and perseverance. "With the heart man believeth," etc. "Ye shall find Me when ye shall search for Me with all your heart"; "Cry out for the living God."

III. THE ADVANTAGES OF SEEKING THE LORD.

1. We avoid infinite evil; as the result of transgression. "The wages of sin is death."

2. We become possessed of infinite good. The benefit of all His attributes — of all His providence — of all the riches of His grace — of all the glories of HIS heaven — of His eternity.

3. We become auxiliaries to Christ in the glorious work of salvation — extending the boundaries of the mediatorial kingdom. This honour have all the saints!

4. By seeking the Lord, and finding Him, we do that which thousands in a dying hour, and at the judgment day, will regret that they have not done. "The harvest is past," etc.

5. Those who seek the Lord now will never lose Him in eternity.

IV. THE IMMEDIATE ATTENTION WHICH THIS DUTY DEMANDS.

1. It is time, according to the statements of Scripture. "To-day," etc. "Behold now," etc. "Seek ye the Lord while," etc.

2. It is time, on account of the great evil already perpetrated. "One sinner destroyeth much good."

3. The great good to be realised proves that it is time to seek the Lord. When the miser, the ambitious, etc., perceive an opportunity of gaining gold, honour, etc., how do they rush forward to seize the coveted good!

4. The frailty of human existence declares it is time.

5. It is time, because the facilities in seeking the Lord will gradually lessen.

(Helps for the Pulpit.)

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