Congregational Church, Perry, Iowa -- June 3, 1894

This sermon was preached at the Congregational Church in Perry, Iowa June 3, 1894 by Rev. Edwin More, Jr., visiting pastor from the Congregational Church in Clinton, Iowa.

Congregational Church, Perry, IA

Rev. Edwin More, Jr.

    Congregational Church, Perry, Iowa


Sermon is from Volume 8 of Rev. More Jr.’s sermons from the turn of the 20th Century transcribed &  provided by Dorene Paterson 

John IV:35

“Four Months Then Cometh Harvest”

John IV:35 "Say not ye, there are yet four months, and then cometh harvest?  Behold I say unto you, lift up your eyes and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest.

Christ had finished his sermon that He preached to one woman at the well of Samaria. She had gone back to the city to tell those whom she knew of the wonderful man who had told her all things that she ever did.  The disciples meantime had returned with food for which they had gone to the city, and Christ had refused to partake, saying, that He had meat that they knew not of: that His meat was to do with will Him that sent Him.  then, as though to emphasis the difference between them: his disciples who were always thinking about natural and material, and Himself, whose work and purpose lay in the spiritual realm - He pointed them to the multitudes who were flocking out of the city following the woman, and said - "You look about you on these fields of corn and say yet four months and then cometh the harvest: I am looking on these fields of men and women: ye need not wait four months, nor any time for them: now, the ever present, is the time of harvest for the ingathering of such: the fields are white to harvest."

That is the fact which I want to bring to your minds this morning: viz: that now is the time.  I want, however, not so much to bring it to the thought of those whom Christ has commissioned to be harvesters in His fields, or laborers in His vineyard, as to those who are themselves the harvest, to the men and women who are ready to come into the kingdom of Christ, who are ready for the harvest, but who, for one reason or another, are putting it off, and saying somewhat as did these disciples. - "There are yet four months then cometh harvest."

I say to the mean and women who are ready to come into the kingdom of Christ.  I mean by that, who are ready in all ways except the bringing in of their own wills to the point of confessing Christ and entering His visible Church upon earth.  They give many reasons to themselves, and possibly to others, why they do not take this step; but in ninety nine cases out of a hundred, if the truth were known, the true reason is only their own stubborn wills, while they seek to deceive themselves by setting up the other, rather than to admit even to themselves that there is nothing but their own wills.

With the grain in the field there is no will, and if the grain by lost the fault lies only with the harvesters.  With men and women, while, if they come not in, there may be blame with Christ's servants, yet they have wills, and Christ said whosoever will may come.

The first thing to which I would call your attention, is something that is suggested by the first clause of the test - "There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest."

I.  A putting off till some more convenient season.

There is with the growing of the ripening grain a very considerable portion of the time when, while man is not entirely inactive, for he must have prepared the ground, and sown the seed, yet all the work of development is the work of God.  Even as man by thought cannot add one cubit to His stature, neither can he by the anxious thought or the most persistent labor make the grain to grow or ripen.  True he can do that which fails to the lot of the good husbandman to do, as God has taught him, yet with all that he can do there are no results save as God brings them to pass according to the laws of growth and development which He has provided.  But there comes a time when God, through to the operation of these same laws, has brought the grain to the point of harvest: it is ready to be gathered into barns; then God does not do a thing.  You will not misunderstand me.  He does keep the life in the farmer He does teach him that if he would save it, he must get the crop in.  By motives of love of home and wife and children, and of duty to this fellow men.  He does stir him up to action; but God does not take the scythe, nor mount the reaper, nor load the wagons, nor stack nor thresh nor store away.  He brings the grain to the time of harvest and He says to man - LIfe up your eyes and look on the fields, for they are white and already to harvest.

In other words, there comes a time when the field is ripe for harvest.  Then is the time for man to act.  If he does not act then something else happens: but of that later.  It won't do for him to put it off.  If will not do for him to say that beyond the present there is any time.  Now I do not mean to say that it is always a question of one day or a week, possible, in gathering in a crop of wheat, but I do mean to say that it may be.  You [1] may leave your [2] crop and go off for a weeks vacation, and come back and find everything in as good condition as when you [3] left, and go on and get in your [4] crop and feel happy.  You [5] may come back and find that driving winds and beating hail have been playing havoc with it, so that if you get [6] any, it is but a half a crop.  A prairie fire may have swept over and every trace be gone.  It is not safe for you [7]  to say that there is any time for the gathering, beyond the present.  There may not be four months, nor one month nor a day.

Carter Harrison, the elder, stood that fatal Saturday in the meeting of the Mayors of the United States, and said that he was going to live for fifty years yet, and see the time when New York would say, Let us go to the metropolis of America; and London would by trembling lest Chicago should surpass her.  That day was his last on earth.  When his time of harvest comes the reaper Death never waits.

Up to a certain point God leads men on their way.  His power it is that keeps them alive; under His laws they develop into manhood.  They too have much to do with this growth.  They needs must keep themselves under the laws which He has provided, else they will not grow at all, but remain dwarfed.  This in mental and Spiritual as well as in material growth.  There comes a point, however, where God's action ceases; where man must do alone.  Again do not mistake me.  God moves on man; every inducement possible is presented by God to induce him to right action; everything consistent with that freedom of will which God has given man; but at that point God stops.  Man, and man alone, must for himself will to do; then comes the time of harvest.

That time is now.  It may be that you have not already given yourselves to Christ may have a week, or a month, or a year: we can never be sure of it.  (Waldron) The time is now: there is no question about the present: beyond that, however, all is conjecture.  It may be that after lives of fruitless pleasure seeking you may in after years give to God the remnant of a wasted life: it may be that to night's sunset will be the last that you or I will ever look upon.  Now is the time of harvest.

II.  There is a second thought here, and that is that when the harvest is ready, it must be gathered or it is lost.

Just as truly as it was in accordance with the laws of God that the grain should, from the planted seed, grow and ripen to the time of harvest, so also is it the inevitable law of God, that if it be not gathered it is lost.  It maters not that the grain might seed for another, even a more bountiful harvest, the harvest that was to be is gone and the grain is lost to use.  So it matters not what you and I may think, or whether we think alike, on the question of what comes after death.  I may think that there is to be for the wicked, or for those who come not into way of salvation which God has provided, an endless period of conscious suffering.  You may think that only the righteous shall have eternal life, while all others shall pass into oblivion.  In other words, whether the soul shall or shall not waken into some other and future life, the fact is, that there is pointed out to us in the word of God a way and a time when that soul may be gathered into the kingdom of God.  When that time comes, and it is not gathered in, and the goes by, then, whatever be after death the condition of that soul is fixed.  If it is to endless punishment, then it is as the harvest that may spring up from the grain which was left ungathered in the field.  It may be greater than would have been the first, but it is the kind of grain that was so sowed.  If that which was sowed was alienation from God, increasing alienation from God must be that which develops from it.  If it be simply oblivion, then that might might have lived lives not.  Not all seed that goes into the ground comes up again into new life: God giveth it a body as it pleaseth Him.

However we look at it, if the time of harvest passeth by and the harvest be not gathered, whatever may come after it, for what it might have been, it is lost.  I say if the time of harvest passes I don't know that it has passed, you don't' know but that it has passed; but the work of Christ says, "Come and let him the heareth come."  Now in this present, you do hear it, and now is the time; don't let it pass and the harvest be lost.

III.  I want to speak to you, in the third place, about some of the reasons that are given for putting off this harvest, and some of the answers to them.  Most of them are old and you have heard them before.  As to such I can only say that I hope they may come to you today with more of the power of the spirit of God in the answers, than has been the case with you before.  One, at least, that has occurred to me is one that I have never heard given by any one, or anticipated by those whose business it is to meet and seek to answer these objections to confessing Christ.  As to this, if it shall meet the case of any here, I would pray for power to put it forcefully before your minds and hearts.

One of the commonest of the many objections which are made to confessing Christ, is that one which has been already brought up and answered, viz: that it is all right; you are going to do it sometime, but not just now; you will have plenty of time for that later.  No one has any assurance of a moment beyond the present.

Another and very common one is that I am not good enough.  If you were good enough, you would not need to do it.  Had the world been filled with righteous men, Christ would have never laid down His life to save the world.  It would not have been necessary for Him to do so.  Were men all following God, there would have been no necessity for one to come to reconcile men until God.  It was because it was not so; because men were not following God; because men were alienated from God, that Christ came.  He came not to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.  He came to seek and to save that which was lot.  The well need not a physician, but they that are sick.  Further more you are not the only one that is not good enough.  I personally know of at least one other, and that is myself.  John Newton, seeing a poor wretch staggering through the street said, "there, but for the grace of God, goes John Newton."  The Bible says "all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.:"  It isn't you and me alone; it is all mankind that is not good enough to come into the kingdom of heaven.  If men waited until they were good enough before they came into the kingdom, they would never come in, they would be there.

That is one way of looking at it, but there is another.  Who is to settle the time of harvest; the grain or the harvester.  Just think of a field of wheat, as the farmer lets down the bars preparatory to driving in with his binder, crying out - "Hold on there, I aint good enough; aint ripe enough; aint filed out enough yet to be gathered in you want to wait till the frost has nipped me, and I have fallen down and lie rotting on the ground."

I said that the field of grain had  no will, while man has.  It is possibly a fortunate thing that is has not, at least a controlling will, else lots of good wheat that is now filling our elevators and storehouses might have been lost to the world.  The grain has neither will nor judgment: man has both, and, unfortunately, his judgment is often bad and his will stubborn.  "Your thoughts are not my thoughts, nor your ways my ways saith the Lord."  It is pretty sure if there be a disagreement between God and man, that God is right.

God is represented to us in the Bible, not once but many times as husbandman, the ingatherer, the farmer, if you please.  "I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman."  "I have planed, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase for we are laborers together with God; ye are God's husbandry" or, as it should be translated, God's tillage or tilled land.

Now if you in the exercise of your own will offer yourself to God, and you are not ripe enough, He won't take you.  I don't believe that is possible for anyone to come to God and offer himself until he is ripe enough, but if such a thing were possible, you need have no fear that you will embarrass God by coming into His storehouse in an unripe or dangerous condition.  He will not take you, and that would be all there was of it.  But don't make the mistake of supposing for an instant that you are at all qualified to judge of the question as to whether or not you are ready.  No one is so poor a judge of a man as a man himself, even about the matters of our everyday life and work.  The modest man undervalues himself the conceited man does the opposite.  When you come to think of yourself in connection with the kingdom of heaven, about which we know so much and so little, do not attempt to measure yourself up to it at all.  Now is the time.  Just come, saying "Here am I - Just as I am without one plea" - and if you are ready God will take you, and that question He and He only will determine.  Yet at the risk of upsetting all that I have said about man's capacity of judging, or right to judge, I will venture to say that if you honestly do that, you are ready, and God will gather you into His fold.  Now is the time.

There is one other old excuse that I want to speak of.  It is one with which I have little patience, and is "I am afraid that if I start in the Christian life I shan't be able to live up to it."

What business have you to think so?  What right have you to trust Christ with one breath and deny Him with the next?  If you are honest and hold on to Christ there is no question about it.  I have no doubt but that you will do every day things that you are ashamed of; I do; but I feel every day that I am stronger than I was the day before and things that tempted me last year don't phase me now.  If you hold on to Christ so will it be with you.

Suppose it would be possible for you to honestly to hold fast to Christ, and yet go eternally down, as it is not possible, what of it?  Oh the pitiable egotism of us all.  Is the kingdom of God so miserable and weak a thing that our turning out bad is going to harm us?  Surely that is the only thing that can be in the mind of one who refuses to go in for fear that he can't stay in.  It is a good thing: he admits that.  Then go in, it will do you good while you are in, and if you don't stay (to suppose) you won't smash things when you drop out.

The last thing of which I wish to speak, and I have left myself scant time, is the new thing to me, and is that men look on confessing Christ as a preparation for death, and therefore shun it.  You may never have had it come to your thoughts in express terms before, but isn't it the fact?  Possibly I had better explain a little what I have in mind it comes to me as a relic from my law practice.  You know how many times men who are the most methodical and orderly in the management of their property and business affairs, die without making a will; leaving their property to go as the law sends it, rather than themselves directing its disposal.  Sometimes a man deliberately says the law send it just where I would have it go, so I will not bother about a will.  Others will make a will sending their property just where it would have by law without a will, preferring to do themselves rather than have the law do for them.  I say that some deliberately die intestate; but I believe that nine out of ten who have property to leave, but do not make a will, do not because they are afraid that is may shorten their lives.  You may think this a rash statement and ridiculous, but I have no question about it.  Man is very superstitious.  It is not only true that what man has done can do, but also that what man does men do.  Not once only, but many times in my experience, where after long delay a man has finally brought himself to the point of making a will, has he said to me in substance - Well it is done, and I don't suppose that I will really die any sooner for have done it.  The revealed the long carried fear.  It was a preparation for the future, and there was a feeling that so long as had not made preparation for the future, the future would not come.  That is the way is worked with other things.  If he did not make preparations to meet a note, the note was not paid.  If he made no preparations to build a house, no house was built.  It may strike you as absurd, but that is the way it had been working in their minds.

Now I believe that, consciously or unconsciously, that same thought is working in men's minds in regard to confessing Christ and joining the church.  It is, or seems to them to be a preparation for the future, a preparation for death, and while they recognize it as something thought ought to be done, they dread the doing of it lest by so doing they may hasten the time of their departure.

Now this is very foolish.  I do not mean to be so superstitious; that is always foolish; but to consider the acknowledging of Christ and joining the Church, as a preparation for death, it isn't.  It is a preparation for life.  The only things that are preparations for death are acts that have relation to material things; as disposing of your property by will or otherwise; securing a place for the body to rest, etc. etc., and possibly, doing such as lies in your power to nerve yourself for the final end, that you may die bravely.  All else that men do is rather a preparation to avoid death than for death.  We strive so to live, or ought to do so, as to prolong the life of the body, and we ought so to live that we shall live forever.  It is for that rather than as a preparation for death; that coming to Christ and joining His church contributes.

Christ said - "I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly."  And again, "Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on Him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come unto condemnation; but is passed from death unto life." that is, until he comes to Christ for life, he is dead; just as we say of a man who has been wounded in a vital spot, with no chance of recovery, though still breathing, "He is a dead man."  "Verily, verily, I say, unto you, the hour is coming and now is, when dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live."  That is what confessing Christ, coming to Christ does.  Not a preparation for death; a coming into life.

But in another and far reaching sense is it, instead of a preparation for death, a preparation for life.

Life is a relative and well as an absolute term.  An oyster lives as truly as does a man; but who would ever think of putting them on a par?  There is a scale to life, and he most lives, who reaches nearest to the point of the perfect life.  Unattainable in this life, as I believe, yet we can draw nearer and nearer to it.  I do  not mean simply a religious life, as men speak of it, but the best life for men: the life that calls into play their best faculties, their best nature, which makes the manliest men.  I said that coming to Christ does this.  Christ was the manliest man that ever lived.  There is no question about that.  Historian, Poet, Statesman all agree on that point.  Coming to Him then, even if it be simply as a pattern to follow, would tend to make a man, did he follow His example, a better and truer an.  But coming to Him in the fuller sense, by which we surrender our lives to Him, and become a part of His life, then by the power of His spirit are we enable to live ever increasing to the perfect life.  We become gentle-men in the true sense of the word; careful for others, thoughtful for others, self-sacrificing for others, loving others, and grow into that peace and joy which cometh and cometh only when one hath the consciousness that so far as lies in his power, has he lived up toward the divine standard which the heavenly Father has laid down for us to come to.

This is not a preparation for death, but for life.  Life here and life hereafter.  It is to that that coming to Christ brings you; and now is the time.

John IV:35 – Four months – then harvest.
Clinton Nov 12, 1893
Perry IA. June 3, 1894
Shabbona Aug 5th 1894
Clinton Aug 12th 1894 Union Pres. Ch.
            Re-typed for Princeton
Princeton . June 6th 1897
Hancock Feb 25, 1900

[1] Changed to “the farmer”
[2] changed to “his”
[3] changed to “he”
[4] changed to “his”
[5] changed to “He”
[6] you get changed to “he gets”
[7] changed to “him”

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