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wilt thou be grieved ? But who can withhold from speaking? Behold, thou hast instructed many and thou hast strengthened the weak hands: thy words have upholden him that was falling and thou hast strengthened the feeble knees. But now it is come upon thee and thou faintest: it troubleth thee and thou art troubled. Is not this thy fear, thy confidence, thy hope, and the uprightness of thy ways ? Remember, I pray thee, whoever perisheth being innocent, or where were the righteous cut off ? Even as I have seen, they that plow iniquity, and sow wickedness, reap the same. By the blast of God they perish, and by the breath of His nostrils are they consumed.” In this language he means to tell the pious Job that, notwithstanding all his good instructions, his preaching to others, and his supporting the feeble steps of those who were seeking to walk uprightly, yet that he must have plowed iniquity and sown wickedness, or he would not have now reaped the fruits thereof in the deplorable condition that he then was.
The words in themselves are good and applicable enough to those who really do plow iuiquity and sow wickedness; but we are not to suppose that every person who is afflicted in this life, as Job was, is to have this text thrown into their teeth as it was by Eliphaz the Temanite at his friend Job. Every man who is born in sin is subject to affliction ; but it is the mercy of God when he is not cut off in his iniquities and is spared to see his salvation. We shall see that Job justifies himself from these scandalous imputations upon his integrity in the sight of man, though he finds, indeed, that he is a deplorable sinner before God. I would, however, apply the
words of Eliphaz in their general signification ; and if, by the power of God, I can only make one sinner see the error of his way and induce him to turn his thoughts toward his heart, my happiness and joy will be hereafter increased in the good that may
be done. Like every other mortal who ever lived before us, we must endure many afflictions in this life before we can willingly leave it.
Most men would gladly find it a place of joy ; and, whatever men say to the contrary, all-yes, all here present-are counting of some earthly happiness. All, however, find disappointments and unsatisfactoriness in every earthly thing, save in those of faith and good works, and, whether they live to a hundred years or only one hundred months, they come to the same conclusion in the end--that all things here below are but vanity and vexation of spirit, and that to fear God and keep His commandment is the whole duty of
« They that plow iniquity, and sow wickedness, reap the same." Three terms are here made use of very familiar to us all, and contain a great portion of our employment throughout the year, plowing, sowing, and reaping; but we seldom employ them to anything else than the soil we trample on. I shall this day, with God's help, apply them in the spiritual sense in which they are used in the book of Job, in the Gospel of God, and in the apostle's doctrine. We all know what it is to plow the land we live on, but few of us know what it is to plow the heart. Many of you could tell me what it is to do the former, and know much more of the best method of so doing than I do, and in such sense might be my teachers; but, as to the latter plowing
of the heart with which alone I have to do, judge, my friends, whether, by this address, God does not give me the power to explain the best method of so doing for your future benefit. I see you, my brethren, constantly turning over the soil in its proper season, and exposing it to the influence of the sun and the rain. You tear up, as it were, the bosom of the earth, break the thick clods thereof, exposing them to the weather, that the noxious weeds may be killed, and the land be fit to receive the good seed to be sown upon it. It is my province frequently to think of your hearts and souls, and to explain to you, as I shall do in this address, that, “if it be necessary to tear up the bosom of the earth in order to force it to produce fruit, so is it equally the human heart to give it fertility in wisdom and virtue.”
The heart of a man is represented by the divine teacher as much more obdurate, hard, and difficult to be broken up than the surface of the earth. It is represented as “deceitful above all things and desperately wicked"-as requiring to have its stony
? fabric broken and a heart of flesh substituted. " A broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.” Now, the earth is broken and contrite that is plowed and harrowed to receive the seed; and until your hearts are so, the good seed—the word of God—will take no root therein; and this brings me to the practical point-the plowing of the heart. How many hearts are there, some like a wild waste, producing nothing but the natural produce, just what may chance to grow upon them !
The soil may be good; but, for the want of culture, they produce no good fruit. Others are fertile enough
in the production of evil-rich, luxurious, and flourishing: they have had the seeds of the world sown upon them; and, to the eyes of men, they bring forth an abundant crop—but what are the fruits ? Alas! they have been plowed by iniquity, wickedness has been sown upon them, and they have reaped abomination. They “that plow iniquity, and sow wickedness, reap the same." To plow the human heart properly is to put in the plow of righteousness, and keep a steady hand upon it. The eye must be fixed upon the kingdom of God and the hand must hold the word of God fast: a man must go straight forward, turning over the thoughts of his heart continually and breaking up the soil thereof, taking out all evil motives and leaving them on the surface, that they may be burnt up and not take root again. To plow the heart, as it ought to be done, is to prepare it well for the good seed to be sown upon it: the stones must be picked out: every hard thought, every unholy desire, every evil thing which militates against the law of God, must be rooted out; for, with the heart man believeth unto righteousness, and the preparation of the heart is of the Lord. “ Make me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” To plow the heart is to break it up: a broken heart is said never to be despised of God, and this is what I mean by plowing the heart.
We must have broken and contrite hearts. If you have never seen what a hard heart you have towards God-how little disposed it is to be softened, how unwilling to be converted, how it resists the plow, and how very unkind it is—I fear the words I sow upon it this day will have little effect
will never spring up and produce fruit. O, that the grace of God, the showers of His mercy, the dews of heaven, may be shed upon your hearts from on high, that the plowers may not despair, but that they may make deep furrows and remember their Saviour's words—“ No man having put his hand to the plow and looking back is fit for the kingdom of God" (Luke ix. 62).
To plow iniquity is to stir up wicked and corrupt hearts to works of passion—to dwell upon evil thoughts--to give way to passion, anger, malice, and revenge—to give your hearts to the world—to prepare them only for present enjoyment; and never to let the word of God rule therein, through Jesus Christ. May God grant that you may none of you plow iniquity, for the fruits thereof are death! Oh, that you may see the horrors of a sinful heart and have it broken before God, that His word may be sown upon it and root out wickedness !
To sow wickedness is to scatter the seeds of discord, strife, malice, evil speaking, lying, and slandering—to plant endless fables and genealogies—to let the words of the mouth betray the hardness of the heart-and to endeavour to undermine the peace, happiness, and reputation of others under the idea of your own righteousness. How many sow the seeds of wickedness upon the hearts of the young, deceiving and being deceived ? But God is not mocked : be not deceived that which a man sows that shall he also reap! Yes, as you
have sown in life, so shall you reap in the life to come.
There is a harvest approaching in which the reapers will be commanded to gather up the good sheaves and bear them unto heaven, and leave the