Lessons of Life
The Great Teacher brought His hearers in contact with nature, that
they might listen to the voice which speaks in all created things; and
as their hearts became tender and their minds receptive, He helped them
to interpret the spiritual teaching of the scenes upon which their eyes
rested. The parables, by means of which He loved to teach lessons of
truth, show how open His spirit was to the influences of nature and how
He delighted to gather the spiritual teaching from the surroundings of
The birds of the air, the lilies of the field, the sower and the
seed, the shepherd and the sheep--with these Christ illustrated immortal
truth. He drew illustrations also from the events of life, facts of
experience familiar to the hearers--the leaven, the hid treasure, the
pearl, the fishing net, the lost coin, the prodigal son, the houses on
the rock and the sand. In His lessons there was something to interest
every mind, to appeal to every heart. Thus the daily task, instead of
being a mere round of toil, bereft of higher thoughts, was brightened
and uplifted by constant reminders of the spiritual and the unseen.
So we should teach. Let the children learn to see in nature an
expression of the love and the wisdom of God; let the thought of Him be
linked with bird and flower and tree; let all things seen become to them
the interpreters of the unseen, and all the events of life be a means of
As they learn thus to study the lessons in all created things, and in
all life's experiences, show that the same laws which govern the things
of nature and the events of life are to control us; that they are given
for our good; and that only in obedience to them can we find true
happiness and success.
The Law of Ministry
All things both in heaven and in earth declare that the great law of
life is a law of service. The infinite Father ministers to the life of
every living thing. Christ came to the earth "as He that serveth."
Luke 22:27. The angels are "ministering spirits, sent forth to
minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation." Hebrews 1:14.
The same law of service is written upon all things in nature. The birds
of the air, the beasts of the field, the trees of the forest, the
leaves, the grass, and the flowers, the sun in the heavens and the stars
of light--all have their ministry. Lake and ocean, river and water
spring--each takes to give.
As each thing in nature ministers thus to the world's life, it also
secures its own. "Give, and it shall be given unto you" (Luke
6:38), is the lesson written no less surely in nature than in the pages
of Holy Writ.
As the hillsides and the plains open a channel for the mountain
stream to reach the sea, that which they give is repaid a hundredfold.
The stream that goes singing on its way leaves behind its gift of beauty
and fruitfulness. Through the fields, bare and brown under the summer's
heat, a line of verdure marks the river's course; every noble tree,
every bud, every blossom, a witness to the recompense God's grace
decrees to all who become its channels to the world.
Sowing in Faith
Of the almost innumerable lessons taught in the varied processes of
growth, some of the most precious are conveyed in the Saviour's parable
of the growing seed. It has lessons for old and young.
"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." Mark 4:26-28. -
The seed has in itself a germinating principle, a principle that God
Himself has implanted; yet if left to itself the seed would have no
power to spring up. Man has his part to act in promoting the growth of
the grain; but there is a point beyond which he can accomplish nothing.
He must depend upon One who has connected the sowing and the reaping by
wonderful links of His own omnipotent power.
There is life in the seed, there is power in the soil; but unless
infinite power is exercised day and night, the seed will yield no
return. The showers of rain must refresh the thirsty fields; the sun
must impart warmth; electricity must be conveyed to the buried seed. The
life which the Creator has implanted, He alone can call forth. Every
seed grows, every plant develops, by the power of God.
"The seed is the word of God." "As the earth bringeth
forth her bud, and as the garden causeth the things that are sown in it
to spring forth; so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise to
spring forth." Luke 8:11; Isaiah 61:11. As in the natural, so in
the spiritual sowing; the power that alone can produce life is from God.
The work of the sower is a work of faith. The mystery of the
germination and growth of the seed he cannot understand; but he has
confidence in the agencies by which God causes vegetation to flourish.
He casts away the seed, expecting to gather it manyfold in an abundant
harvest. So parents and teachers are to labour, expecting a harvest from
the seed they sow.
For a time the good seed may lie unnoticed in the heart, giving no
evidence that it has taken root; but afterward, as the Spirit of God
breathes on the soul, the hidden seed springs up, and at last brings
forth fruit. In our lifework we know not which shall prosper, this or
that. This question it is not for us to settle. "In the morning sow
thy seed, and in the evening withhold not thine hand." Ecclesiastes
11:6. God's great covenant declares that "while the earth remaineth,
seedtime and harvest . . .shall not cease." Genesis 8:22. In the
confidence of this promise the husbandman tills and sows. Not less
confidently are we, in the spiritual sowing, to labour, trusting His
assurance: "So shall My word be that goeth forth out of My mouth:
it shall not return unto Me void, but it shall accomplish that which I
please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it."
"He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall
doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with
him." Isaiah 55:11; Psalm 126:6.
The germination of the seed represents the beginning of spiritual
life, and the development of the plant is a figure of the development of
character. There can be no life without growth. The plant must either
grow or die. As its growth is silent and imperceptible, but continuous,
so is the growth of character. At every stage of development our life
may be perfect; yet if God's purpose for us is fulfilled, there will be
The plant grows by receiving that which God has provided to sustain
its life. So spiritual growth is attained through co-operation with
divine agencies. As the plant takes root in the soil, so we are to take
root in Christ. As the plant receives the sunshine, the dew, and the
rain, so are we to receive the Holy Spirit. If our hearts are stayed
upon Christ, He will come unto us "as the rain, as the latter and
former rain unto the earth." As the Sun of Righteousness, He will
arise upon us "with healing in His wings." We shall "grow
as the lily." We "shall revive as the corn, and grow as the
vine." Hosea 6:3; Malachi 4:2; Hosea 14:5, 7.
The wheat develops, "first the blade, then the ear, after that
the full corn in the ear." Mark 4:28. The object of the husbandman
in the sowing of the seed and the culture of the plant, is the
production of grain--bread for the hungry, and seed for future harvests.
So the divine Husbandman looks for a harvest. He is seeking to reproduce
Himself in the hearts and lives of His followers, that through them He
may be reproduced in other hearts and lives.
The gradual development of the plant from the seed is an object
lesson in child training. There is "first the blade, then the ear,
after that the full corn in the ear." Mark 4:28. He who gave this
parable created the tiny seed, gave it its vital properties, and
ordained the laws that govern its growth. And the truths taught by the
parable were made a reality in His own life. He, the Majesty of heaven,
the King of glory, became a babe in Bethlehem, and for a time
represented the helpless infant in its mother's care. In childhood He
spoke and acted as a child, honouring His parents, and carrying out
their wishes in helpful ways. But from the first dawning of intelligence
He was constantly growing in grace and in a knowledge of truth.
Parents and teachers should aim so to cultivate the tendencies of the
youth that at each stage of life they may represent the beauty
appropriate to that period, unfolding naturally, as do the plants in the
The little ones should be educated in childlike simplicity. They
should be trained to be content with the small, helpful duties and the
pleasures and experiences natural to their years. Childhood answers to
the blade in the parable, and the blade has a beauty peculiarly its own.
Children should not be forced into a precocious maturity, but as long as
possible should retain the freshness and grace of their early years. The
more quiet and simple the life of the child--the more free from
artificial excitement and the more in harmony with nature--the more
favourable it is to physical and mental vigour and to spiritual
In the Saviour's miracle of feeding the five thousand is illustrated
the working of God's power in the production of the harvest. Jesus draws
aside the veil from the world of nature and reveals the creative energy
that is constantly exercised for our good. In multiplying the seed cast
into the ground, He who multiplied the loaves is working a miracle every
day. It is by miracle that He constantly feeds millions from earth's
harvest fields. Men are called upon to co-operate with Him in the care
of the grain and the preparation of the loaf, and because of this they
lose sight of the divine agency. The working of His power is ascribed to
natural causes or to human instrumentality, and too often His gifts are
perverted to selfish uses and made a curse instead of a blessing. God is
seeking to change all this. He desires that our dull senses shall be
quickened to discern His merciful kindness, that His gifts may be to us
the blessing that He intended.
It is the word of God, the impartation of His life, that gives life
to the seed; and of that life, we, in eating the grain, become
partakers. This, God desires us to discern; He desires that even in
receiving our daily bread we may recognise His agency and may be brought
into closer fellowship with Him.
By the laws of God in nature, effect follows cause with unvarying
certainty. The reaping testifies to the sowing. Here no pretence is
tolerated. Men may deceive their fellow men and may receive praise and
compensation for service which they have not rendered. But in nature
there can be no deception. On the unfaithful husbandman the harvest
passes sentence of condemnation. And in the highest sense this is true
also in the spiritual realm. It is in appearance, not in reality, that
evil succeeds. The child who plays truant from school, the youth who is
slothful in his studies, the clerk or apprentice who fails of serving
the interests of his employer, the man in any business or profession who
is untrue to his highest responsibilities, may flatter himself that, so
long as the wrong is concealed, 109 he is gaining an advantage. But not
so; he is cheating himself. The harvest of life is character, and it is
this that determines destiny, both for this life and for the life to
The harvest is a reproduction of the seed sown. Every seed yields
fruit after its kind. So it is with the traits of character we cherish.
Selfishness, self-love, self-esteem, self-indulgence, reproduce
themselves, and the end is wretchedness and ruin. "He that soweth
to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to
the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting." Galatians
6:8. Love, sympathy, and kindness yield fruitage of blessing, a harvest
that is imperishable.
In the harvest the seed is multiplied. A single grain of wheat,
increased by repeated sowings, would cover a whole land with golden
sheaves. So widespread may be the influence of a single life, of even a
What deeds of love the memory of that alabaster box broken for
Christ's anointing has through the long centuries prompted! What
countless gifts that contribution, by a poor unnamed widow, of "two
mites, which make a farthing" (Mark 12:42), has brought to the
Life Through Death
The lesson of seed sowing teaches liberality. "He which soweth
sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully
shall reap also bountifully." 2 Corinthians 9:6.
The Lord says, "Blessed are ye that sow beside all waters."
Isaiah 32:20. To sow beside all waters means to give wherever our help
is needed. This will not tend to poverty. "He which soweth
bountifully shall reap also bountifully." By casting it away the
sower multiplies his seed. So by imparting we increase our blessings.
God's promise assures a sufficiency, that we may continue to give.
More than this: as we impart the blessings of this life, gratitude in
the recipient prepares the heart to receive spiritual truth, and a
harvest is produced unto life everlasting.
By the casting of grain into the earth, the Saviour represents His
sacrifice for us. "Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and
die." He says, "it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth
forth much fruit." John 12:24. Only through the sacrifice of
Christ, the Seed, could fruit be brought forth for the kingdom of God.
In accordance with the law of the vegetable kingdom, life is the result
of His death.
So with all who bring forth fruit as workers together with Christ:
self-love, self-interest, must perish; the life must be cast into the
furrow of the world's need. But the law of self-sacrifice is the law of
self-preservation. The husbandman preserves his grain by casting it
away. So the life that will be preserved is the life that is freely
given in service to God and man.
The seed dies, to spring forth into new life. In this we are taught
the lesson of the resurrection. Of the human body laid away to moulder
in the grave, God has said: "It is sown in corruption; it is raised
in incorruption: it is sown in dishonour; it is raised in glory: it is
sown in weakness; it is raised in power." 1 Corinthians 15:42, 43.
As parents and teachers try to teach these lessons, the work should
be made practical. Let the children themselves prepare the soil and sow
the seed. As they work, the parent or teacher can explain the garden of
the heart, with the good or bad seed sown there, and that as the garden
must be prepared for the natural seed, so the heart must be prepared for
the seed of truth. As the seed is cast into the ground, they can teach
the lesson of Christ's death; and as the blade springs up, the truth of
the resurrection. As the plant grows, the correspondence between the
natural and the spiritual sowing may be continued.
The youth should be instructed in a similar way. From the tilling of
the soil, lessons may constantly be learned. No one settles upon a raw
piece of land with the expectation that it will at once yield a harvest.
Diligent, persevering labour must be put forth in the preparation of the
soil, the sowing of the seed, and the culture of the crop. So it must be
in the spiritual sowing. The garden of the heart must be cultivated. The
soil must be broken up by repentance. The evil growths that choke the
good grain must be uprooted. As soil once overgrown with thorns can be
reclaimed only by diligent labour, so the evil tendencies of the heart
can be overcome only by earnest effort in the name and strength of
In the cultivation of the soil the thoughtful worker will find that
treasures little dreamed of are opening up before him. No one can
succeed in agriculture or gardening without attention to the laws
involved. The special needs of every variety of plant must be studied.
Different varieties require different soil and cultivation, and
compliance with the laws governing each is the condition of success. The
attention required in transplanting, that not even a root fibre shall be
crowded or misplaced, the care of the young plants, the pruning and
watering, the shielding from frost at night and sun by day, keeping out
weeds, disease, and insect pests, the training and arranging, not only
teach important lessons concerning the development of character, but the
work itself is a means of development. In cultivating carefulness,
patience, attention to detail, obedience to law, it imparts a most
essential training. The constant contact with the mystery of life and
the loveliness of nature, as well as the tenderness called forth in
ministering to these beautiful objects of God's creation, tends to
quicken the mind and refine and elevate the character; and the lessons
taught prepare the worker to deal more successfully with other minds.
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