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Upon the Harvest-Seafon.
CHEN the fields are white to harvest, then husbandmen walk
through them, rub the ears ; and finding the grain full and folid, they presently prepare their fcythes and fickles ; lend for their harvest-men, who quickly reap and mow them down ; and after these follow the binders, who tie it up; from the field where it grew, it is carried to the barn, where it is threshed out; the good grain gathered into an heap, the chaff separated and burnt, or thrown to the dunghill. How bare and naked do the fields look after harvest, which before were pleasant to behold ? When the harvest-men enter into the field, it is to allude to that, Joel ii. 3.) before them, like the garden of Eden, and behind them a desolate wilderness; and, in some places, it is usual to set fire to the dry stubble when the corn is houfed; which rages furiously, and covers it all with aihes.
APPLICATION, THE application of this, I find made to my hands by Christ himself, in Mat. xiii.
38, 39. “ good feed are the children of the kingdom; the tares are the "children of the wicked one; the enemy that fowed them is the "devil; the harvest is the end of the world; the reapers are the “ angels.”
The field is the world; there both the godly and ungodly live and grow together, until they be both ripe; and then they ihall both be reaped down by death : death is the tickle that reaps down both. I will open this aliegory in the following particulars :
1. In a catching harvest, when the bulbandman sees the clouds begin to gather and grow black, he hurries in his corn with all postible hafte, and houses it day and night.
So doth Guit, the great Hubbanuman; he hurries the faints into their graves when judgments are coming upon the world ; Isa. lvii. 1. “The righteous perish, and no man layeth it to heart ; and mer“ciful men are taken away, none considering that the righteous is “ is taken away from the evil to come.” Methuselah died the year before the flood; Augustine a little before the facking of Hippo ; Pareus juit before the taking of Heidelburg; Luther a little before the wars broke out in Germany. But what fpeak I of single faints ? Sometimes the Lord houses great numbers together, before some fweeping judgment comes. How many bright and glorious stars did set almost together within the compass of a few years, to the astonish
harm's way. •
ment of many wife and tender hearts in England ? I find some of them thus ranked in a funeral elegy:
The learned Twille went first, it was his right) Then holy Palmer, Burroughs, Love, Gouge, White, Hill, Whitaker, grave Gataker and Strong, Perne, Maríhal, Robinson, all gone along. I have not nam’d them half; their only (trife Hath been (of late) who should first part with life. These few who yet survive, fick of this age, Long to have done their parts, and leave the stage. The Lord fees it better for them to be under-ground, than aboveground; and therefore, by a merciful providence, fets them out of
2; Neither the corn nor tares can posibly resist the sharp and keen fickle, when it is applied to them by the reaper's hand; neither can the godly or ungodly resist the stroke of death wlien God inficts it; Eccl. viü. 8. « No man can keep alive his own soul in the day " of death; and there is no discharge in that war.” The frail body of man is as unable to withstand that firoke, as the weak reeds or feeble stalks of the corn are to resist the keen scythe and tharp
3. The reapers receive the wheat which they cut down into their arms and bofom. Hence that expreffion, by way of imprecation upon the wicked, Psal. cxxix. 6,7 « Let them be as the grass upon the house
top, which withers before it grows up; wherewith the mower fill"eth not his hand, nor he that bindeth theaves, his bosom.” Such withered grass are the wicked, wlao are never taken into the reaper's bolom; but as soon as faints are cut down by death, they fall into the hands and bosoms of the angels of God, who bear them in their arms and botoms to God their father, Luke xvi. 22. For look, as these bletsed spirits did exceedingly rejoice at their conversion, Luke xv. 10. and thought it no dithonour to minister to them, whilst they stood in the field, Heb. i. 14. So when they are cut down by death, they will rejoice to be their convoy to heaven.
4. When the corn and weeds are reaped and mowed down, they fhall never grow any more in that field; neither shall we ever return to live an animal life any more after death, Job vii. 9, 10. “ As the “cloud is consumed, and vanilheth away; so he that goeth down to " the grave, thall come up no more; he shall return no more to his " house, neither thall his place know him any more.”
Laitly, (to come home to the particular subject of this chapter) the reapers are never fent to cut down the harvest until it be fully ripe ; neither will God reap down faints or finners until they be come to a maturity of grace or wickedness. Saints are not reaped down until their grace is ripe, Job v. 26. “ Thou shalt come to thy grave " in a full age, as a ihock of corn cometh in its season." "Not that every godly man dies in such a full old age, (faith Mr Caryl on that
place) but yet, in one sense, it is an universal truth, and ever ful« filled; for whensoever they die, they die in a good age ; yea, • though they die in the spring and flower of their youth, they die • in a good old age; i. e. they are ripe for death whenever they die. " Whenever a godly man dies, it is harvest-time with him, though • in a natural capacity he be cut down while he is green, and crop
ped in the bud or blossom ; yet in his spiritual capacity he never • dies before he be ripe. God ripens him fpeedily, when he intends
to take him out of the world speevily; he can let out such warm rays and beams of his Spirit upon him, as thall foon maturate the seeds of grace into a preparedness for glory.'
The wicked also have their ripening-time for hell and judgment; God doth with much long-luffering endure the vessels of wrath prepared for destruction. Of their ripenels for judgment the Scriprure often fpeaks, Gen. xv. 16. “ The fin of the Amorites is not yet 5 full.” And of Babylon it is said, Jer. li. 13. "Othou that dwel« left upon many waters ! tbine end is come, and the meafure of “thy covetousness."
It is worth remarking, that the measure of the fin, and the end of the finner, come together. So Joel iii. 13. “ Put ye in the fickle, " for the harvest of the earth is ripe ; for the press is full, the fats « overflow; for their wickedness is great.” Where, note, finners are not cut down till they be ripe and ready. Indeed, they are never ripe for death, nor ready for the grave; that is, fit to die ; yet they are always ripe for wrath, and ready for bell before they die. Now, as husbandmen judge of the ripeness of their harvest, by the colour and hardness of the grain ; fo may we judge of the ripeness both of faints and finners, for heaven or hell, by these following signs.
Three signs of the maturity of grace.
lower than when it was green. When the people of God are near ripe for heaven, they grow incre humble and self-denying, than in the days of their first profeflion. The longer a faint grows in the world, the better he is fill acquainted with his own heart,
and his obligations to God; both which are very humbling things. Paul had one foot in heaven, whey he called himself the chiefest of finners, and least of faints, 1 Tim. i. 15. Eph. iii. 8. A Christian in the progress of his knowledge and grace, is like a vessel cast into the sea, the more it fills, the deeper it links. Those that went to study at Athens (faith Plutarch) at first coming seemed to themselves to be wile men; aiterwards only lovers of wisdom, and after that, only rhetoricians, such as could speak of wisdom, but knew little of it, and laft of all, ideots in their own apprehensions ; ftill, with the increase of learning, laying aside their pride and arrogancy.
2. When barvest is nigh, the grain is more solid and pithy than erer it was before ; green corn is soft and spungy, but ripe corn is
fubftantial and weighty : So it is with Christians; the affections of a young Christian, perhaps are more feverous and sprightly; but those of a grown Christian are more judicious and folid; their love to Chrift abounds more and more in all julgments, Phil. i. 9. The limbs of a child are more active and pliable: but as he grows up to a perfect state, the parts are more consolidated and Sirmly knit. The fingers of an old musician are not so nimble; but he hath a more judicious ear in music than in his youth.
3. When corn is dead ripe, it is apt to fall of its own accord to the ground, and there shed; whereby it doth, as it were, anticipate the harvest-man, and calls upon him to put in the fickle. Not unlike to which are the lookings and longings, the groanings and hastenings of ready Christians to their expected glory; they hatten to the coming of the Lord, or, as Montanus more fitly renders it, they haften the coming of the Lord; (i. e.) they are urgent and instant in their defires and cries to hasten his coming; their desires sally forth to meet the Lord; they willingly take death by the hand; as the corn bends to the earth, fo doth these fouls to heaven: This shows their harvest to be near.
Six jigns of the maturity of sin.
upon them; or by these, at least, you may conclude those souls not to be far from wrath, upon whom they appear.
1. When conscience is wasted, and grown past tecling, having no remorse for fin; when it ceases to check, reprove, and smite for fin any more, the day of that finner is at hand, his harvest is even come. The greatest violation of conscience is the greateit of lins; this was the case of the forlorn Gentiles, among whòm Satan had such a plentiful harvest; the patience of God fuffered them to grow till their consciences were grown feared, and pait feelings, Eph. iv. 19. When a member is so mortified, that if you lance and cut it never fo much, no fresh blood, or quick flesh appears, nor doth the man feel any pain in all this, then it is time to cut it of
2. When men give themselves over to the fatisfaction of their lufts, to comınit in with greediness, then are they grown to a maturity of fin; when men have flipped the reins of conscience, and rulh headlong into all impiety, then the last sands of God's patience are running down. Thus Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities about them, in like manner gave themselves over to wickedness and strange fins; and then justice quickly gave them up for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.
3. That man is even ripe for hell, that is become a contriver of fin, a defigner, a student in wickedness. One would think it strange, that any man Thould fet his invention on work upon such a subject as fin is, that any should study to become a dexterous artist this way! and yet the scripture frequently speaks of such, “ whose bellies pre
“ pare deceit,” Job xv. 35. “who travail in pain to bring forth” this deformed birth, ver. 20. “ who wink with their eyes," whilft plodding wickedness, as men used to do when they are most intent upon the study of any knotty problem, Prov. vi. 13. These have fo much of hell already in them, that they are more than half in hell already.
4. He that of a forward profeffor is turned a bitter persecutor, is also within a few rounds of the top of the ladder ; the contempt of their light the Lord hath already punished upon them, in their obduracy and madness against the light. Reader, if thou be gone thus far, thou art almost gone beyond all hope of recovery. Towards other finners God usually exercises more patience, but with such he makes short work. When Judas turns traitor to his Lord, he is quickly fent to his own place. Such as are again intangled and overcome of those lufts they once seemed to have clean escaped, these bring upon themselves swift damnation, and their judgment lingers not, 2 Pet. ii. 3, 20.
He that can endure no reproof or controul in the way of his sin, but derides all counsel, and, like a strong current, rages at, and sweeps away all obstacles in bis way, will quickly fall into the dead lake, Prov. xxix. 1. “He that being often reproved, hardeneth his “ neck, thall suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy." This is a death-spot, a hell-Spot, wherever it appears. From this very symptom the prophet plainly predicted the approaching ruin of Amazia, 2 Chron. xxv. 16. “I know that God hath determined to « destroy thee, because thou bait done this, and haft not hearkened “ to my voice.” He that will not be timely counselled, shall be quickly destroyed.
Lally, When a man comes to g’ory in his fin, and boast of his wickedness, then it is time to cut him down, “ whose end is de“ fruction, whose glory is in their shame;" Phil. iii. 19. This is a braving, a daring of God to his face; and with whomfoever he bears long, to be sure these are none of them,
You fee now what are the signs of a full ripe finner ; and when it comes to this, either with a nation, or with a single person, then ruin is near, Joel iii. 13. Gen. xv. 16. It is in the filling up of the measure of fin, as in the filling up of a vessel cast into the sea which rolls from fide to side, taking in the water by little and little till it be full, and then down it links to the bottom. Mean while, admirable is Divine patience, which bears with these vefrels of wrath, whilst fitting for dettruction!
REFLECTION. The reflection of a 1. Cheer thyself, O my soul! with the heartgrowing Chriflian. strengthening bread of this Divine meditation.
Let faith turn every drop of this truth into a foul-reviving cordial. God hath fown the precious feed of grace up