Isaiah 32:20
Blessed are ye that sow beside all waters. "There will he widespread desolation," says the prophet; "the fields will be untilled, the land will he covered with briars and thorns; but a glorious change shall come over the scene' - the 'wilderness shall become a fruitful field' (ver. 15), the happy scenes of industry will again be witnessed, the arts and industries of agriculture will revive and flourish in all their former fullness. Happy will be the land that shall put forth its whole strength in the field; 'blessed are they that sow beside all waters.' 'Two general truths spring from this passage.

I. THAT THEY ARE BLESSED WHO PUT FORTH ALL THE POWERS WITH WHICH THEY ARE ENDOWED. It should be the happiness of Israel in its time of restoration to leave no soil uncultivated that would yield produce; they would sow beside all waters. All its inhabitants, with all their agricultural implements, would be busy in the open fields; no strength left unexercised in the homes; no weapons left unused in the storehouses. Unhappy indeed is

(1) the country whose population is doomed to enforced idleness, whose looms are still, whose ploughs are rusting in the homestead;

(2) the family where sons and daughters are letting their various faculties lie idle, when they might be put forth to their own great advantage and for the good of others;

(3) the man whose individual powers are slumbering in his soul, unspent and undeveloped. Blessed are they who expend all the resources they possess, who cultivate all their skill of hand, who develop all their strength of mind, who so put out all their talents that the whole energies of their spiritual nature will be employed, increased, perfected. By sowing beside all waters is meant sowing seed in well-watered, and therefore fruitful, soil. The expression consequently contains the idea -

II. THAT THEY ABE BLESSED WHO ARE ENGAGED IN REMUNERATIVE LABOR. This is peculiarly true of the Christian workman.

1. He had the very best seed to sow: truth, which God took centuries to prepare, which is the purchase of a Savior's tears and blood, which is exquisitely adapted to the soil for which it is intended.

2. He has well-watered, i.e. fertile, responsive soil in which to place it. He has, amongst others:

(1) The virgin soil of youth. Youth may often be inattentive, frivolous, unstable; nevertheless it is docile, affectionate, trustful, tender-hearted.

(2) The prepared soil of affliction. When God has chastened the soul with his fatherly hand, there is a softness of spirit, an impressionableness of heart which makes words of comfort, of exhortation, of warning peculiarly welcome.

(3) The productive soil of poverty. From the days when "the common people heard Jesus gladly," and when it was said "to the poor the gospel is preached," to these times in which we live, the poor have been comparatively rich in faith and hope. By those to whom the riches and enjoyments of earth are denied, the treasures of truth and the blessedness of the kingdom of God are likely to be prized and gained (see 1 or i 26 28 Blessed are the who sow such fertile soils, for theirs is not only the blessing which comes to all faithful laborers - the approval of Christ and their own spiritual advancement - but the great "joy of harvest," the joy which fills the husbandman's heart when he "comes again" from the "heavy-fruited" fields, "bringing his sheaves with him." - C.







Blessed are ye that sow beside all waters.
The war is now over; Asher has been crushed like a serpent, and this sweet voice is heard when the enemy has been driven out of the land. Understand that times of peace are to be times of cultivation. We are not to be great only in war.

(Jos. Parker, D. D.)

The allusion in this verse is supposed by some to be to pasturage, by others to tillage. Lowth follows Chardin in applying the words to the practice of treading the ground by the feet of cattle before planting rice; Henderson to the act of setting them at liberty from the rope with which they were tied by the foot. Knobel understands the verse as contrasting the condition of those who lived at liberty, on the seaside or by rivers, with theirs who were pent up and besieged in cities. Hitzig supposes a particular allusion to the case of those who had escaped with their possessions from Jerusalem. Hendewerk applies the verse to the happy external condition of the people in the days of the Messiah. Henderson says it beautifully exhibits the free and unrestrained exertions of the apostles and other missionaries in sowing the seed of the kingdom in every part of the world. Ewald explains it exclusively of moral cultivation, as implying that none can expect to reap good without diligently sowing it. Of all these explanations the last may be considered as approaching nearest to the truth, because it requires least to be supplied by the imagination. Taking the whole connection into view, the meaning of this last verse seems to be, that as great revolutions are to be expected, arising wholly or in part from moral causes, they alone are safe, for the present and the future, who with patient assiduity perform what is required; and provide, by the discharge of actual duty, for contingencies which can neither be escaped, nor provided for in any other manner.

(J. A. Alexander.)

It has been granted to Isaiah to look into the future, and he foresaw the call of the Gentiles and the Christian dispensation. There he beheld the messengers of the Lord receiving their commission, "Go ye and teach all nations"; and he. pronounced them to be blessed as compared with himself, sent to a single people, rebellious and gainsaying. This he expresses in metaphorical language, and by reference to a process of husbandry, or to the manner of sowing grain, particularly rice, which still prevails in Eastern countries, and with which the Israelites were familiar. The mode of proceeding is thus described: — The sowers cast their seed upon the waters, when, by the swelling of the river, the waters cover the land. Beasts of burden are employed to tread down the mud or slime, to render it capable of receiving the seed as it sinks.

(W. F. Hook, D. D.)

There is spiritual seed to be sown. It is to be sown by the side of all waters. It is, however, sown in vain, unless the moral soil be cultivated in which it is designed to take root.

I. THE NATURE OF THE SEED WE HAVE TO SOW. Our Lord and Master, when explaining the parable of the Sower and the seed to His disciples, saith, the seed is the Word o God.

1. The ministers of Christ are the sowers of the seed.

2. But they are not so exclusively. To sow the seed is in some measure the duty of all who name the name of Christ; of the parent especially to his child, and of every Christian in his daily conversation and walk.

II. THE IMPORTANCE OF WATCHING THE TIMES, AND OF AVAILING OURSELVES OF THE OPPORTUNITIES PROVIDENTIALLY OPENED TO US, FOR SOWING THE SEED. In every nation, and in every clime, it is indeed as much the farmer's duty to watch the seasons as it is to sow the seed. And in spiritual husbandry, this it is that distinguishes the sober-minded Christian from the mere fanatic. But this is not the only lesson that we are to deduce from our text. We are to sow beside all waters.

III. THE CONDITIONS UNDER WHICH THE SOWING OF IT RESULTS IN A MORAL, SPIRITUAL, AND HEAVENLY HARVEST. God requires the spiritual seed to be sown; He requires the spiritual seed to take root in the heart, before the harvest of grace can be realised, or the fruit be produced. It is by meditation that we tread down the seed into the heart and soul.

(W. F. Hook, D. D.)

I. Blessed are they in this work; for in acting thus THEY ARE INSTRUMENTS OF GOD'S MERCY TO MEN.

II. Blessed are they, IN REFERENCE TO THE STATE OF RELIGION WITHIN THEMSELVES.

III. May we not add, as another ground of blessedness, THE PRAYERS OF THOSE WHO ARE BROUGHT TO THE KNOWLEDGE OF THE SAVIOUR BY MISSIONARY EFFORTS?

(H. Raikes, M. A.)

Homilist.
I. It is a SOWING WORK. Of all mere human works, this is —

1. The most Divine. The seed, the soil, are all of God.

2. The most righteous. Statesmen, merchants, warriors, may question the rectitude of their work, but the agriculturist has no reason to doubt.

3. The most useful. The farmer feeds the world.

4. The most believing. The man who commits the precious grain to the earth has strong faith in the laws of nature.

II. It is a BLESSED WORK. "Blessed is he."

1. He is blessed by the gratitude of society. All are indebted to his services.

2. He is blessed with the approval of his own conscience. He feels that in sowing he is doing his duty.

3. He is blessed by the smiles of his God.

III. It is an UNRESTRICTED WORK. "All waters." The meaning is, all well-watered places. The word "beside" would be better translated "upon." Scatter seed upon all suitable spots. The evangel has unlimited scope for his operations. His field of labour is the world, and he is commanded to be instant in season and out of season.

(Homilist.)

I. They who wish to be useful should never forget the many favourable opportunities for sowing good seed on THE CLEAR AND UNRUFFLED WATERS OF CHILDHOOD.

II. Another opportunity for scattering precious seed is on THE TROUBLED WATERS OF STRIFE.

III. Another opportunity is upon THE STAGNANT AND MUDDY WATERS OF DOUBT AND UNBELIEF.

IV. If we are really anxious to do good in our day and generation, there will be times when WORDS OF COMFORT MAY BE SPOKEN TO BEWILDERED SOULS ABOUT TO EMBARK UPON "THE NARROW SEA" WHICH DIVIDES THIS WORLD FROM THE NEXT.

(J. N. Norton.)

1. Here is an assertion of that universal law that operates in the whole domain of human life — the law of consequent following precedent, of effect being the child of cause, of our sowing determining our reaping, of our character and conduct evolving our destiny.

2. "Blessed are ye that sow beside all waters." Why? Not because the sowing is itself an absolute benediction. Oftentimes it is attended with a great deal of pain, and labour, and anxiety, and sacrifice. It is the casting away of that which is in itself of great value. The sowing is blessed because it is a prophecy of the increase of that which we sow, the promise of the reward of our labour and our sacrifice.

3. We are very apt to say, "I shall attain this and that, acquire this and that by the goodness of God." We do well to say this. But we must not forget that the mercy and goodness of God alone will do nothing for us. It is God's mercy and goodness, plus our own will, energy, and conduct, that will determine our destiny, and evolve our circumstances, and ripen our harvests.

4. The skill of the farmer lies in his knowledge of the relation of his seed to the soil, to the season, and the atmosphere, and the conditions of the growth and development of the seed. The highest wisdom of life is the knowledge of the relation of conduct to character, and of character to destroy: the perception of the conditions under which h e s highest elements are perfected and its fruit-bearing qualities ripened. That is the mystic meaning Of the benediction of my text: there is the secret of the blessedness of every Sower.

5. Do we know what God's purpose in our life is? Along what lines would He have us develop? What does He wish human life to be? I would answer these questions first, and then show how the working of the human with the Divine fulfils the purposes and plans of God. I do not think that He wants us to go hungry or poorly clad in the biting cold; I do not think that we are fulfilling His purpose when we sigh over accidents that are traceable to human causes. It is anything but piety to sit down in poverty, rags, and dirt, and say, "The will of the Lord be done." His will is our wellbeing — body, soul, and spirit. I want to point out what lines of conduct will contribute to the forming of such a Character and the developing of such circumstances as God approves.

I. I would speak of ACTIVITY as fruit-bearing seed that ripens into a harvest of blessedness. I do not mean busyness in any realm of life that may present itself. What I mean is activity in righteous pursuits, in holy ambitions, in legitimate callings; activity in things that pertain to human improvement, human comfort and well-being; things that belong to the many phases of life's wondrous economy; things that tend to the uplifting of human lives, to the amelioration of human woes, to the lightening of human burdens, to the redeeming of human souls from tyranny, falsehood, and wrong.

II. The next fruit-bearing quality of which I would speak is LEARNING. There is a trite old saying, "Never too late- to learn," which in most lives has little or no practical application. Do not let learning end at the schoolroom, net yourself some task to learn that shall explain some of the mysteries of life to you. Go apart from the "madding crowd's ignoble strife," and there open the windows of your mind, till that "light which never was on sea or land" shall flood it and make it luminous as with the sunshine of God. Every task you set yourself to learn, and learn it; every mystery that you make plain to yourself by processes of reasoning and study; every new fact that you gain by search and research in the domain of knowledge will not only make you wiser, but better; and, perhaps, after much pain and labour, you shall find the task ripening into a harvest that shall make the autumn of life golden.

III. I would mention also THE PRESERVATION OF HEALTH as that which will bear abundant fruitage in our happiness and well-being. "A sound mind in a sound body" is doubtless God's will concerning us. And towards attaining that we can do more for ourselves than all the physicians in the world can do for us. Blessed is every man that sows his life's seeds in fertile places; he is promoting the Divine economy, he is carrying out the purposes of God on earth.

(W. J. Hocking.)

I. THE CHARACTERS HERE DESCRIBED. Sowers. A sower implies seed. There is only one granary in which the living seed of the kingdom is treasured, namely, the Bible.

1. The true spiritual sower, having first of all received himself the seed, will manifest a real love for the work. He will go forth willingly, conscientiously, and lovingly, to scatter broadcast the precious treasure, not merely on well-cultivated patches of human soil, but "beside all waters," finding very often his chiefest joy in sowing the unlikeliest patches.

2. The true, spiritual sower will also have faith in his work.

3. He will not only have faith in the seed, but also in the soil. The farmer who does not believe the soil capable of producing fruit will certainly not waste time in its cultivation. If we did not believe that between every human heart and the Gospel seed there was such affinity that it could not help taking root therein, we should most certainly give up our toil.

4. The true, spiritual sower will often encounter difficulties in his work.

5. The spiritual sower is earth's truest philanthropist.

II. OUR SPHERE OF OPERATION. "Beside all waters." Wherever there is a solitary spot capable of receiving the good and living seed — whether at home or abroad, in dens of squalor or palaces of luxury and ease, in the crowded city or the rural village — we are commanded to go and plant it there.

III. THE BENEDICTION HERE PRONOUNCED. "Blessed are they that sow beside all waters."

1. The work itself is its own reward.

2. The spiritual sower enjoys the benediction of others.

3. He has the smile and benediction of Him in whose service he is engaged.

(J. W. Atkinson.)

Isaiah ever had an eye to the golden age. In view of the successful issue of the coming struggle, he intimates the wisdom of going on with seed sowing. They are blessed who are not hindered by fear. May we not learn the wisdom of hopefulness? The man who believes in Divine faithfulness has every reason to be an optimist. This subject is capable of application in various ways. The optimism of Isaiah, Christ, Paul, and John needs cultivation.

1. Those who give any thought to the social problems of the age are met by many difficulties and discouragements. So much want to be relieved, so many wrongs to be righted. Pessimism says, "Society is going to the dogs; let it go." Optimism says, "I'll save it if I can." Present social inequalities and woes should not make us hopeless. Jehovah was more mighty than Sennacherib. He is more mighty than all the forces arrayed against true liberty. Having faith in God we may sow the seeds of social reform.

2. In evangelistic and missionary work a spirit of optimism is essential. With Divine promises of power and blessing we may hopefully sow. Concerning foreign missions, Pessimism says, "It is a waste of life, money, energy"; but the man whose faith in God is strong, points to the golden age when all shall know the Lord.

3. Considering our own life and experience this same hopefulness is essential. Is life worth living? Yes, if for no other reason because in it we may sow for a golden harvest.

(T. S. Williams, M. A.)

Christian Endeavour.
Some one tells of a physician, who, at the beginning of his career, made a resolution that he would undertake no cases but those with which he was certain he could succeed. While this would mean the loss of a good deal of money, he shrewdly calculated on getting it back a hundredfold in the reputation of skill which such a course would bring him. The idea is wholly selfish. He preferred to let men, whom he might possibly have saved, die, rather than run the risk of having the brightness of his reputation dimmed.

(Christian Endeavour.)

Is there a word in our language which expresses more than that? What images of the good, the devoted, and the self-sacrificing does it not bring up vividly before us! We see Thomas Cranfield, the tailor, labouring among the bricklayers in the cause of Sunday schools; John Pounds, the cobbler, who founded ragged schools; Sarah Martin, the dressmaker of Yarmouth, the devoted visitor to the workhouse and the jail; and Thomas Dakin, the Greenwich pensioner and distributor of tracts. Among these, in the higher walks of life, we recognise Howard, the philanthropist, over whose grave, in Russia, was engraved the motto which kings might envy, "He lived for others"; Clarkson, Wilberforce, and a host of honoured statesmen; the Thorntons, and a multitude of other merchant princes; Washington and Wellington, and Havelock and Scott, who, while they were leaders in the armies of this world, were proud to be humble privates in the armies of the Lord of hosts.

(J. N. Norton.)

"Beside all waters." Some waters are clear and sparkling, and the murmur of their ripple gladdens the ear, sow there, of course. But there are turbid, angry waters, fouled and polluted, sow beside them also. Into the bright, sunny, prattling lives of the little ones cast the precious seed, but also, all the more lovingly and skifully, when the swollen torrents of sin rush past. God is able to make it grow and take root there; and also beside the stagnant pools of stolid atheism. "Thou canst not tell whether shall prosper, either this or that."

(G. Soltau.)

Many striking incidents are related of good "Father Nash," one of the early heralds of the Cross in the more destitute and neglected regions of the "Diocese of New York," who has been made to figure with such effect in Fenimore Cooper's famous romance, The Pioneers. On a certain occasion, when a number of clergymen were assembled for some purpose, and conversation began to flag, one of them, who was almost too diligent a farmer for the good of the Church, entertained the company with an account of his agricultural operations, and, among other things, of his successful management of sheep. Father Nash, whose whole heart was devoted to his Heavenly Master's work, felt little interest in all this, and when the enthusiastic farmer-pastor turned to him and asked, "What do you feed your lambs with?" the worthy missionary could not resist the temptation of administering a mild rebuke, and answered — "With Catechism!"

(J. N. Norton.)

Dr. Bushnell's Life.
A young friend was invited to spend the evening with Dr. and Mrs. Horace Bushnell. She was a girl of fine intelligence and character, but not at that time religious. When, therefore, she was invited to tea by Mrs. Bushnell, she accepted with considerable misgiving, lest the evening should be made the occasion of such exhortations as were then too commonly the only subject of ministerial intercourse with the unconverted. To her great relief, however, the time was spent in the pleasantest social intercourse, free from all remarks of a personal nature. Dr. B., of course, saw her safely home when the evening was over, and as the night was one of brilliant starlight, the talk on the way was naturally of astronomy, and of the law-abiding order of the universe. He spoke eloquently of the great harmony of the spheres, and of the perfect manner in which each little star fulfilled its destiny, and swung in the Divine order of its orbit. "Sarah," he said, turning to her with a winning smile, "I want to see you in your place." No other word turned the suggestion into a homily, and her quick intelligence was thrilled and won by a thought which seemed in that quiet hour to have dropped upon her from the skies. He had simply let the occasion speak its own thought.

(Dr. Bushnell's Life.).

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