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WHAT WE MAY DO TOWARDS
Sow to yourselves in righteousness, reap in mercy; break up your fallow ground; for it is time to seek the Lord, till He come and rain righteousness upon you.-HOSEA X. 12.
HAT we can do anything towards our salvation has often been denied. Some contend that seekers after redemption have nothing to do with the means of grace, that they ought not to search the Scriptures, and that they must not even use private prayer; they ought to be still until the Spirit of God gifts them with living faith and blesses them with the consciousness of salvation. Others who are not thus extreme are nevertheless suspicious of anything done with a view to a new nature and a new life. Certainly this attitude of passivity is contrary to the law of our natural life. Everything we possess, or can hope to possess, of worldly blessing is the free gift of God, but as a rule it is imparted only to the diligent seeker.
The forest trees
Do they fall round us into builded homes
We know the usual fate of the passive people in society, of those who wait for "something to turn up." Things do not turn up, they turn down, and every day finds the idle dreamer involved in deeper embarrassment and misery. The analogy is complete with the higher life. The supreme gifts-a pure heart, a peaceful conscience, a righteous character, a glorious immortality-do not come unsought; they are vouchsafed only to those who seek the Lord with their whole heart.
What, then, may we do with a view to our salvation? "Sow to yourselves in righteousness; break up your fallow ground." What is implied in this instruction?
An interior preparation for the blessing is necessary. We may not expect it without a suitable attitude of mind and heart. Indeed, any kind of discovery whatever is impossible without mental sympathy and expectation in the seeker. The fallen apple would never have become historic if Newton's genius had not been mathematical, and his mind occupied with natural problems; the swinging lamp in the cathedral at Pisa. would have oscillated for ages without shedding other illumination than that of oil, if Galileo had not sympathetically pondered the mysteries of matter and motion; America would have been mistaken for a cloud on the horizon, if faith and desire had not sharpened the vision of Columbus; the primrose by the river's brim would have perished as nothing more than a primrose, if reflection and sensibility had not prepared Darwin to see in it the revelation of an unknown law.
A distinguished writer has shown that in all research and experiment the use of the imagination is essential; that without sympathetic predisposition and alertness the secrets of nature remain impenetrable. It is the same with the great saving truths of religion; they can be apprehended only by seriously seeking souls. In the temper of criticism, in the attitude of antagonism, in the mood of indifference, it is impossible to discern the truth to the saving of the soul. "They shall ask the way to Zion with their faces thitherward, saying, Come, and let us join ourselves to the Lord in a perpetual covenant that shall not be forgotten." "With their faces thitherward;" here is depicted the true attitude of the inquirer and seeker after God, and without it we miss the goal. As Dean Church puts it: "The way and direction we choose to look make a great difference as to what we see and what we do not see." Surely there is enough to justify our quest of these higher things, and we can hope to find them only as in the right spirit we follow on to know them. Our "desire must be to the remembrance of His name." By reading, meditation, and earnest prayer we make to ourselves a new heart; bring ourselves into such an expectant, responsive mood that we are able to see, feel, and grasp the things freely given us of God. In the early morning plants are wet with the dew, whilst stones are dry; thus the grace of God distils on prepared hearts, whilst the stony and unreceptive remain unvisited and unblessed.
A preparation of the life is also essential. Throughout God's holy Word it is insisted that in seeking for the great salvation we "break off" our
"sins." Cries Isaiah: "Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before Mine eyes; cease to do evil; learn to do well." Jeremiah makes the same demand: "If thou wilt return, O Israel, saith the Lord, return unto Me: and if thou wilt put away thine abominations out of My sight, then shalt thou not remove. For thus saith the Lord to the men of Judah and Jerusalem, Break up your fallow ground, and sow not among thorns." It is useless to sow among thorns, they choke every good impulse and resolve; in other words, to continue in sin quenches the Spirit and renders abortive all prayers and tears. Hosea points the same moral: "Their doings will not suffer them to turn unto their God: for the spirit of whoredoms is in the midst of them, and they have not known the Lord." The teaching of the New Testament is invariably to this effect. One known sin deliberately retained means the forfeiture of every blessing of the covenant. Do any object?
Just as I am, and waiting not
To rid my soul of one dark blot,
To Thee, whose blood can cleanse each spot,
Yes, even so; but our contention remains in full force. The prodigal came to his father's house just as he was; nevertheless he forsook the far country, the harlots, and the swine. Christian could not cleanse his filthy rags nor free his burden; yet he turned his back upon the guilty companionships and pleasures of the City of Destruction. If we would enjoy the
great salvation Christ came to secure, we must remember the Baptist's exhortation to "bring forth fruits meet for repentance."
Finally, plant yourself in the appointed paths of blessing. In the "King's highway" wait the passing of the Royal Presence. "Thus saith the Lord, Stand ye in the ways and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls." It has been said: "It is not enough to be ready to go where duty calls. A man should stay around where he can hear the call." Stay around, listening with a keen ear where God is most likely to speak; watching with eager vision where He has promised to reveal Himself. Frequent the place where prayer is wont to be made; search the Scriptures; listen to pious counsels. With your feet on holy ground, with the right book in your hand, with the right people about you, with your eyes uplifted and expectant, wait for the light and joy that may be delayed, but which cannot be denied.
The Lord shall to His temple come,
Think of the unprofitable years of the past! "The fallow ground." Our great nature unworked; the great possibilities of life unrealized. No fruits of light; no sweet-smelling flowers of grace and purity; no golden sheaves of noble service. But fallow ground will produce something, a something that is worthless and mischievous; and it is ever thus with the unregenerate, unconsecrated life. Roots of bitterness have poisoned our days; hemlock growths made us a curse