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The Life Of Duty A Years Plain Sermons V 2 by H. J. Wilmot-Buxton


(Harvest Thanksgiving.)

PSALM lxv.9.

|Thou preparest them corn.|

|Come, ye thankful people, come,| and let us thank God for another harvest. Once more the Father, the Feeder, has given bread to strengthen man's heart, and we turn from the corn stored in the garner, to God's own garner the Church, where He has stored up food for our souls.

And first of all, my brothers, let us be honest with ourselves. Are we quite sure that we are thankful to God for the harvest? We have decorated God's House with the first-fruits of the year, we have met together now to celebrate our Harvest Festival; but is there real meaning in all this? Are we thankful to God? if not our Festival is a mockery. Let me give you a few thoughts which may help you to be thankful. The first thought is this: the harvest is God's harvest, not yours. |Thou preparest them corn,| is spoken of God, not of man. Corn is unlike any other kind of food, it is the direct gift of God to man in fully-developed state. Other fruits of the earth are given to man in a wild state, and he must improve them by care and cultivation, till the wild vine is turned into the rich wine-producing plant of the vineyard, and the sour crab into the delicious apple. It is not the case with corn. No one, says a writer, whose thoughts I am following, has ever discovered wild corn. Ages ago, when the Pharaohs reigned in Egypt, and the Pyramids were a'building, men sowed just the same corn that you sow to-day. Corns of wheat like our own have been found in the hands of Egyptian mummies which have been dead for thousands of years. The grain which Joseph stored in Pharaoh's granaries, and with which he fed his brethren, was precisely similar to the produce of your own fields. Geologists tell us that there is no trace of corn to be found in the earth before the creation of man. When God made man He created corn to supply him with food. The old Greeks and Romans had a dim perception of this when they thought that corn was the gift of the goddess Ceres. You know we call all varieties of corn cereals, after that same goddess. In these days there is, with some, less religion than ever the old heathen possessed. They would shut God out of the world of Nature, and see in a harvest-field only man's cleverness and energy. Let us rather humble ourselves before God, and see that it is His Hand which sendeth the springs into the rivers which run among the hills, where all the beasts of the field drink thereof, and the wild asses quench their thirst; beside them shall the fowls of the air have their habitation, and sing among the branches. Let us believe that it is God who watereth the hills from above, so that the earth is filled with the fruits of His works; that it is God who bringeth forth grass for the cattle, and green herb for the service of men, that He may bring food out of the earth, and wine that maketh glad the heart of man, and oil to make him a cheerful countenance, and bread to strengthen man's heart. Whilst the unbeliever, blinded by his self-conceit, is worshipping his own little stock of knowledge, and neglecting God, let us be singing our Te Deum -- |We praise Thee, O God, we acknowledge Thee to be the Lord.|

Here is another thought which will help you to recognise corn as being specially the gift of God to man. It grows all over the world. Wherever man can live, corn of one kind or another flourishes. |From the bleak inhospitable wastes of Lapland to the burning plains of Central India, from the muddy swamps of China to the billowy prairies of America, from the level of the sea-shore to the lofty valleys and table-lands of the Andes and the Himalayas, it is successfully cultivated. The emigrant clears the primaeval forest of Canada, or the fern-brakes of New Zealand, and there the corn seed sown will spring up as luxuriantly as on the old loved fields of home.| All this should teach us to see in the harvest the result, not of our skill and cleverness, but of the good God's lovingkindness. Ask yourselves now, my brothers, whether you are truly thankful to God for this harvest: is your presence here to-day a real act of thanksgiving, or only an idle form?

Among the many curious relics of the past which were dug up in the buried city of Pompeii were some loaves of bread, looking just as they did when they came out of the oven. Think of those loaves baked eighteen hundred years ago, and still preserved as witnesses against that wicked city. God was good to those people in Pompeii, and prepared their corn, and bread to strengthen their heart, just as He does for us. And they went on thankless and careless in their sin, till the fiery stream overtook them, and that same fire which destroyed them preserved the bread, as a sign of God's goodness and man's ingratitude.

There is yet another thought about the corn, which ought to make us feel how dependent we are upon God for our daily bread. Unlike the grass which is permanent as a food for cattle, or certain trees which bring forth fruit season by season, corn must be sown annually. Man depends upon the result of each year's sowing for the staff of life. And we are told that as a fact there is only as much corn in the world in each year as the world can consume in that time. |It is not probable that there was ever a year and a half's supply of the first necessary of life at one time in the world.| Thus, as every harvest-time comes round, we are almost looking famine in the face, and then God opens His Hand and filleth all things living with plenteousness. Rightly indeed do we pray, |Give us day by day our daily bread.|

And now let us look at the spiritual meaning of all this. As corn is the special gift of God to man, so is the gift of grace and pardon. God gives us what we cannot obtain for ourselves, does for us what we are powerless to do. As He feeds our bodies with the bread of corn, He feeds our souls with the Bread of Heaven. His Holy Catholic Church all over the world is a great granary stored with precious food. Just as corn grows wherever man lives, so wherever two or three are gathered together in Christ's Name there is He in the midst of them, feeding their souls. The exile in a foreign land can sow his corn seed, and gather the same food as in the fields of home. The same exile can find beneath other skies the same holy teachings, the same blessed Sacraments, the same prayers, as in the Church of his childhood. The bread of earth and the Bread of Heaven are God's two universal gifts to man. The penitent sinner can kneel at the Feet of Jesus, and find the grace of pardon beneath the skies of England, and India, and New Zealand, alike. The faithful Churchman can come to the Altar and receive the Body and Blood of his Saviour, even the Heavenly Bread to strengthen man's heart, all over the Christian world. As God gives us everywhere light and food, without which we cannot live, so does He give light and food for our soul. As says a Saint of old (S. Thomas a Kempis), |I feel that two things are most especially necessary to me in this life; prisoned in the dungeon of the body, I acknowledge that I need two things, food and light. Therefore Thou hast given me, a sick man, Thy Body for the refreshment of my soul and body, and hast made Thy Word a lantern unto my feet. Without these two I cannot live well; for the Word of God is the light of my soul, and Thy Sacrament is the Bread of Life.|

My brothers, whilst we thank God for giving us this harvest of corn, let us still more thank Him for the harvest of spiritual blessing, for the precious grace and mercy which make glad the hearts of hardened sinners, for the anointing of the Holy Spirit which makes our faces shine with joy and gladness, for the Bread which came down from Heaven, and which strengthens our hearts to be Christ's faithful soldiers and servants.

One last word. The return of seed time and harvest teaches us that we are all sowers, and that the harvest is the end of the world. We seldom reap here the full results of our acts whether they be good or evil. |The evil that men do lives after them,| yes, and the good too. It may seem to some of us who are trying to do our duty, trying to live as God's servants, that there is no harvest for us. We seem destined to labour in the weary field of the world, and to see no fruit of our labours. Ah! brothers, the harvest is not yet, but it will come, the harvest of the good and of the evil, since --

|We are sowers, and full seldom reapers,
For life's harvest ripens when we die,
'Tis in death alone God gives His sleepers
All for which they sigh.

Cast thy bread upon the waters: after
Many mornings, when thy head is low,
Men shall gather it with songs and laughter,
Though thou mayest not know.|

Hugh Macmillan's Bible Teachings in Nature, to which work I am indebted for the structure of this Sermon.

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