Spontaneous Growth

[Mark 4:26-29].---'And he said, So is the kingdom of God, as if a man should cast seed into the ground ; and should sleep, and rise night and day, and the seed should spring and grow up, he knoweth not how. For the earth bringeth forth fruit of herself ; first the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear. But when the fruit is brought forth, immediately he putteth in the sickle, because the harvest is come.'

In the eyes of our Lord the Kingdom of Nature was one great miracle of the Kingdom of Grace, and the means by which in the providence of God man was provided with food for the body told also of the means by which human lives came to their spiritual harvest. The sower is in alliance with the silent, cryptic forces of life. He casts in the seed, and by and by he gathers the harvest ; but in the meantime he trusts that which no man has ever explained---the mystery of life. Behind all his effort there lies that which he cannot do, and cannot even understand. He knows enough to teach him a quiet hope through many signless days. He is wise enough to read the meaning of the first faint film of green softly drawn over the brown earth. He moves with hope and confidence in his kingdom because, having done his small but essential duty, he knows how vast and sure are those silent forces with which that duty has linked him. So, said the Master, is it with the Kingdom of God.

As our Lord compares the Kingdom to a corn of wheat which is cast into the ground, we will see how that seed grows.

In the first place, it does grow. Its nature is to grow ; and though bad weather may keep it back for a while, it will grow if it gets into the soil, and that silently and steadily. The farmer sleeps, and does his day's work, and sleeps again ; but the seed is growing all the while. How it grows he cannot tell, for life is a mystery, and science has not found out the secret even of a grass like that.

The seed is not foreign to the soil, it is akin to it : the one is preordained, preadapted, to the other. Till the seed is planted it is a mere inert possibility ; even if it germinates it can come to nothing. Till it receives the seed the soil, too, is, for purposes of growth, nothing better than a possibility : its forces lie dormant, its potencies are hidden, they cannot assert themselves. But bring the two together, under proper conditions, and with due preparation, and a miracle takes place---as true a miracle as though one should rise from the grave. The dead earth lives ; the sleeping seed quickens ; the two react on each other, and need each other, and cannot come to anything except in twinship with each other ; and behold, in due time the golden grain 'full in the ear.'

In the next place, the order of growth is fixed. Everything in its own time and order. The seed is buried in the earth, and who knows whether it will survive or nor? Gradually, however, the first green shoot makes its way through the hindering soil ; then the ear, and then the full grain. Unhurried yet certain, the hidden vitality evolves through its full round of development.

Then, again, the seed grows by taking into itself particles of matter. It feeds on the earth below, and drinks the water of the rain of heaven from above ; and without that water it could take up nothing from the soil. Earth and heaven join to feed it ; but the power of life which turns the soil and the rain into leaves and stem and fruit baffles all our efforts to discover it.

There is yet another point, which our Lord does not mention here, though He does elsewhere. Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone : but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit. And St. Paul : 'That which thou sawest is not quickened, except it die' ; and then he reminds us that what rises from the earth is not the seed we sow, but a plant whose glory we could not have discovered from the seed. Such a body God has given it, according to its kind.

To this growth our Lord likens the Kingdom of Heaven. Let us trace the growth, then, of the Kingdom in the world.

First, it does grow. It is like the flowing tide : a wave or two may not tell you much, but presently you will see it washing higher up the rocks. If the world is far enough yet from being genuinely Christian, it has without question grown more so from age to age. There is more good in it now, and generally good of a higher tone and with a greater influence.

Then, again, it grows in order ; first the commands of a law, then the freedom of a gospel ; first crude religious ideas, then the wider and worthier thoughts we learn by comparing texts with each other, with the general drift of Scripture, and with God's other words in science and history, in life and conscience.

Again, the Kingdom grows silently, like the corn. It comes not in the noise of war and strife, as if the wrath of man could work the righteousness of God ; nor in the debates of parliaments and Church councils, in the drawing up of laws and creeds and ordering of rites and ceremonies, as if it were a work of human wisdom. It comes---it is ever coming---whenever God gives us a loftier view of truth, a worthier idea of duty, a nobler work of service to our fellow-men. It comes, but no man knoweth how it comes, for life is always a mystery.

And again, it grows like the corn by feeding on things of the earth. It is the Kingdom, not the visible Church, which takes into itself the kingdoms of men, their laws and societies, and grows by transforming them : yet it would have no power to transform them if it were not also drinking water of that rain of heaven which makes the wilderness to rejoice, and its desert places to flourish like the garden of the Lord.

'The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh and wither it goeth : so is every one that is born of the Spirit.' Again, the Kingdom of God in our own hearts is like the corn.

It grows. Its nature is to grow, and grow it will in every good and faithful heart. But all things in order, like the corn. The warfare of life must come before the crown of victory, the bitterness of repentance before the joys of love Divine, the childlike enthusiasms of the new believer before the graces of the ripened man of God. Our Leader learned obedience from things He suffered, and we must let patience have her perfect work before we can enter into the royal rest of God.

Again, the Kingdom grows in silence. It comes not in the heroic moments of life, but in the weary times of patient work and waiting ; not in the rioting of spiritual excess, but in the quiet round of common duties, for these are the sacrifices with which God is well pleased. We sleep, and rise night and day, and the seed grows up, we know not how. The unbidden thought of God which stir our hearts come to us like strangers from another world. The life within us is no conquest of our own, but the gift of God in Jesus Chris our Lord. How it grows is more than we know : all that we can do is to cherish it with reverent and loving care.

Yet again, the Kingdom grows by taking up the things of earth---our relations and friends, our business and amusements, and the hopes and fears, and cares and joys that come from them. The richer our earthly life in these things, the richer the material for our heavenly life to feed upon.

In Christ, timothy.


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