In The Hay Field
No. 757-13:349. A Sermon Delivered On Sunday Morning, June 23, 1867, By C. H. Spurgeon, At The Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington.
He causes the grass to grow for the cattle. (Psalms 104:14)
1. We who are condemned to live in this great wilderness of brick are very likely to forget the seasons altogether; and our friends who live out in the green country, and see the changing seasons, are quite as apt to hear the voices of the seasons with their ears only, but not to learn the inward meaning with their hearts. Spring, summer, autumn, and winter, are God’s four evangelists whom he sends into this world to teach those who are willing to be taught; but most men are far too intent upon the problem of how they may be fed, to care for spiritual instruction. “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” As for others, in whom the god of this world is reigning, they will not hear, though heaven, and earth, and hell, should mingle their voices into one great thunder clap. Just now all the world is busy with gathering in the hay, and you could scarcely ride for a few minutes in the country without enjoying the delicious fragrance of the hay field, and hearing the sharpening of the mower’s scythe. I believe there is a gospel in the hay field, and that gospel we intend this morning to expound as we may be enabled.
2. Our text conducts us at once to the place, and we shall therefore need no preface. “He causes the grass to grow for the cattle”—we shall notice three things; first, that grass is in itself instructive; secondly, that grass is far more so when God is seen in it; and thirdly, that by the growth of grass for the cattle, the ways of grace may be illustrated.
3. I. First then, “He causes the grass to grow for the cattle.” Here we have something WHICH IS IN ITSELF INSTRUCTIVE. There is scarcely any object, with the exception of water and light, which you will find more frequently used by inspiration than the grass of the field.
In the first place, the grass may be instructively looked upon as the
symbol of our mortality, “All flesh is grass.” The whole history
of man may be seen in the meadow. He springs up green and tender,
subject to the frosts of infancy which imperil his young life; he
grows, he comes to maturity, he puts on beauty even as the grass is
adorned with flowers, and the meadows are decked out with varied
hues; but after awhile his strength departs, and his beauty is
wrinkled even as the grass withers, and is followed by a new
generation, which withers in its turn. Like ourselves, the grass only
ripens to decay. The sons of men come to maturity in due time, and
then decline and wither as the green herb. Some of the grass is not
left to come to maturity at all, but the mower’s scythe suddenly
removes it, even as swift footed death overtakes the careless
children of Adam. “In the morning it flourishes, and grows up; in the
evening it is cut down and withers. For we are consumed by your
anger, and we are troubled by your wrath.” “As for man, his days are
as grass: as a flower of the field, so he flourishes. For the wind
passes over it, and it is gone; and its place shall know it no more.”
This is very humbling for us to remember, but we frequently need to
be reminded of it, or we dream of immortality beneath the stars. We
are and we are not: we are not substance but shadow, our years are as
a shadow which declines; and, as for our age, it is gone as a
weaver’s shuttle; we pass away like the swift ships; we fly as the
eagle; we burst as the bubble; we sink back into the wave of time
that bears us as the foam dissolves into the sea.
Great God, how infinite art thou!
What worthless worms are we!
We ought never to tread upon the grass without remembering that whereas the green sod covers our graves, it also reminds us of them, and preaches with every blade it has, a sermon to us concerning our mortality, of which the text is, “all flesh is grass, and all its goodliness is as the flower of the field.”
5. In the second place, grass is frequently used in Scripture as a symbol of the wicked. David tells us from his own experience that the heart of a righteous man is apt to grow envious of the wicked when he sees the prosperity of the ungodly. We have seen them spreading themselves like green bay trees, and apparently fixed and rooted in their places; and when we have smarted under our own troubles, and felt that all the day long we were scourged, and chastened every morning, we have been apt to say, “How is this just? How can this be consistent with the moral government of God?” but we are reminded that in a short time we shall pass by the place of the wicked, and lo, it shall not be; we shall diligently consider his place, and lo, it shall not be, for he is soon cut down as the grass, and withers as the green herb. The grass withers, its flower fades away, and even so shall pass away for ever the glory and excellence of those who build upon the estate of time, and dig for lasting comfort in the mines of earth. It is true, the kings of the earth are most often on the side of evil, and the great ones with their pompous state are usually against the Most High; but do not let God’s people mourn, though waters of a full cup are wrung out to them, for the portion of the wicked is not for ever; they shall have their day, and then shall come their endless night. They are set in lofty places, but they also stand in slippery places; they shall be brought to destruction as in a moment, “As a dream when one awakes; so, oh Lord, when you awake, you shall despise their image.” Oh you who do not know the Lord, and do not rest in the atonement of the Lord Jesus, see to what an end you shall come—your end shall be the oven! As the Eastern farmer gathers up the green herb, and despite its former beauty, casts it into the furnace, such must be your lot. Oh vainglorious sinners! thus will the judge command his angels, “Bind them up in bundles to burn.” Where now is your merriment? Where now is your confidence? Where now is your pride and your pomp? Where now is your boastings and your loud mouthed blasphemies? They are silenced for ever, for, as the thorns crackle under the pot, but are speedily consumed, and leave nothing except a handful of white ashes, so it shall be with the wicked; they shall pass away in the fire of God’s wrath, and their flame shall utterly consume them.
6. It is more pleasing to remember that the grass is used in Scripture as a picture of the elect of God. The wicked are comparable to the dragons of the wilderness, but God’s own people shall spring up in their place, for it is written, “In the habitation of dragons, where each lay, shall be grass with reeds and rushes”; the desert of sin shall yet be verdant with grace. The elect are compared to grass, because of their number as they shall be in the latter days, and because of the rapidity of their growth. You remember the passage, “There shall be a handful of grain in the earth upon the top of the mountains; its fruit shall shake like Lebanon, and they of the city shall flourish like grass of the earth.” Oh that the long expected day might soon come, when God’s people should no longer be a little flock, but when a multitude shall come to Christ, and the Redeemer shall see the travail of his soul and be satisfied. It is said of Zion’s children, “They shall spring up as among the grass, as willows by the watercourses”—two of the fastest growing things we know of—so shall a nation be born in a day; so shall crowds be converted at once; for when the Spirit of God shall be mightily at work in the midst of the church, men shall fly to Christ as doves fly to their windows, so that the astonished church shall cry, “These, where had they been?” Oh that we might live to see the age of gold, the time which prophets have foretold and longed for, when the company of God’s people shall be as innumerable as the blades of grass in the meadows, and grace and truth shall flourish where once everything was barrenness.
7. How like the grass are God’s people for this reason, that they are absolutely dependent upon the influences of heaven! Our fields are parched if vernal showers and gentle dews are withheld, and what are our souls without the gracious visitations of the Spirit? Sometimes through severe trials our wounded hearts are like the mown grass, and then we have the promise, “He shall come down like rain upon the mown grass: as showers that water the earth.” Our sharp troubles have taken away our beauty, and lo, the Lord visits us, and we revive again. Thank God for that old saying, which is a gracious doctrine as well as a true proverb, “Each blade of grass has its own drop of dew.” God is pleased to give his own particular mercies to each one of his own people. “Your blessing is upon your people.” The river of God, which is full of water, waters the church, which is a vineyard, in which every vine is so dependent upon God that he must be its heavenly dew, or it will dry up at once. As you look at the fields of grass, think of them as being comparable to the great company of the redeemed whom God shall make to grow upon the face of the earth.
8. Once again, grass is comparable to the food by which the Lord supplies the needs of his chosen ones. Take the twenty-third Psalm, and you have the metaphor worked out in the sweetest form of pastoral song, “He makes me to lie down in green pastures: he leads me beside the still waters.” Just as the sheep has nourishment according to its nature, and this nourishment is abundantly found for it by its shepherd, so that it not only feeds, but then lies down in the midst of the fodder, satiated with plenty, and perfectly content and at ease; even so are the people of God when Jesus Christ leads them into the pastures of the covenant, and opens up for them the precious truths upon which their souls shall be fed. Beloved, have we not proved that promise true in this house of prayer, “In this mountain shall the Lord of Hosts make to all people a feast of fat things, a feast of wines on the lees, of fat things full of marrow, of wines on the lees well refined?” Why, my soul has sometimes fed upon Christ until I have felt as if I could receive no more, and then I have laid down in the bounty of my God to take my rest, satisfied with favour, and full of the goodness of the Lord. Whenever you see the sheep at noontime, resting in the rich pasture, beneath the spreading oak, think of that enquiry of Solomon when he said, “Tell me where you feed, where you make your flock to rest at noon”; and when you see the herds with all their needs supplied, both in summer and in winter, then sing with the Psalmist, “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not lack.”
9. Thus you see the grass itself is not without instruction for those who will incline their ear. It is a memorial of our mortality, and of the passing away of the wicked; it is a picture of the elect of God when watered with the dew of heaven, and a symbol of the spiritual food with which God will satisfy the sheep of his pasture.
10. II. In the second place, GOD IS SEEN IN THE GROWING OF THE GRASS. He is seen first as a worker, “He causes the grass to grow”; he is seen secondly as a caretaker, he causes the grass to grow for the cattle.
11. 1. First, as a worker, God is to be seen in every blade of grass, if we only have eyes to recognise him. This blind world which always talks about “natural laws,” and “the effects of natural causes,” but forgets that laws cannot operate by themselves, and that natural causes, so called, are not causes at all unless the First Cause shall set them in motion. The old Romans used to say, “God thundered”; “God rained.” We say, “It thunders”; “it rains.” What “it?” All those expressions are subterfuges to escape from the thought of God. We commonly say, “How wonderful are the works of nature!” What is “nature?” Do you know what nature is? I remember a lecturer in the street, an infidel, speaking about nature, and he was asked by a Christian man standing by whether he would tell him what nature was. “Walk in the fields, and see nature”—“nature did this and nature did that”—these are common phrases, but is there any meaning in them? Is that not an old heathenish way of talking? If we see properly, we see God working everywhere. We frequently talk as if we were trying to thrust our God into the distance. Our good old forefathers, the Puritans, when they needed rain, used to pray that God would unstop the bottles of heaven; at another time that he would be pleased to bind up the clouds, so that there might not be too much rain; we run to the barometer, or grumble at the bad weather. They referred all natural phenomena to the Most High, and were accustomed to see him at work in all the events of life; we have grown so wise nowadays that we find a thousand second causes interposing between the world and its Maker. Unhappy is the wisdom whose boasted discoveries would gladly push us away from our heavenly Father into a wild sea of laws and second causes. To my mind, it would be even better if we could get back to the untutored mind of the Indian, who sees God in every cloud and hears him in the wind. We need our God—we are like orphans without him; and it is well to be reminded, in the simple language of the text, that he is very near to us, for he makes the grass to grow for the cattle. The simple production of grass is not the result of natural law apart from the actual work of God; mere law would be inoperative unless the great Master himself sent a surge of power through the matter which is regulated by the law—unless, like the steam engine, which puts force into all the spinning jennies and wheels of a cotton mill, God himself is the motive power to make every wheel revolve. How I could fall down, and find rest on the grass as on a royal couch, now that I know that my God is there at work for his creatures!
12. Having asked you to see God as a worker, I want you to make use of this—therefore I ask you to see God in common things. He makes the grass to grow—grass is a common thing. You see it every day everywhere, yet there is God in it. Dissect it and pull it to pieces. There are the attributes of God illustrated in every single flower of the field, and in every green leaf. Come, my friends, see God in your common matters, your daily afflictions, your common joys, your every day mercies. Do not say, “I must see a miracle before I see God.” In truth, everything is a miracle, everything wonderful, everything teeming with marvel. See God in the food on the table and the water in your cup. It will be the happiest way of living if you can say in each providential circumstance, “My Father has done all this.” See him in common things, I say, and see him in little things. The little things of life are the greatest troubles. A man will hear that his house is burned down more quietly than he will bear to see an undercooked joint of meat upon his table, when he counted upon its being done to perfection. It is the little stone which gets into the shoe and makes the pilgrim limp. Oh! but to see God in little things, to believe that there is as much the presence of God in a sere leaf falling from the elm as in the avalanche which crushes a village; to believe that the guidance of every drop of spray, when the wave breaks on the rock, is as much under the hand of God as the guidance of the mightiest planet when steered in its courses; to see God in the little as well as in the great is true wisdom.
13. Think, too, of God working in the solitary things, for the grass does not merely grow around our populous cities, and where men take care of it, but up there on the side of the bleak Alp, where no traveller has ever passed. Where only the eye of the wild bird has beheld their lonely verdure, the moss and the grass come to perfection, and display all their beauty, for God’s works are fair to other eyes than those of mortals. And you, solitary child of God, dwelling far away from any friend, unknown and obscure, in a remote hamlet; or you in the midst of London, hiding away in your little attic, unknown to fame, and forsaken by friendship, you are not forgotten by the love of heaven. He makes the grass to grow all alone, and shall he not make you flourish in loneliness? He can bring forth your graces and educate you for the skies in solitude and neglect. The grass, you know, is a thing we tread upon—no one thinks of grass—men pass over it and have no compassion for the stems which bend beneath their weight, and yet God makes it grow. Perhaps you are oppressed and downtrodden, but do not let this depress your spirit, for God executes righteousness for all those who are oppressed—he makes the grass to grow, and he can make your heart to flourish under all the oppressions and afflictions of life, so that you shall still be happy and holy though all the world marches over you; still living in the immortal life which God himself bestows upon you though hell itself sets its heel upon you. Poor and needy one, unknown, unobserved, oppressed and downtrodden, God makes the grass to grow, and he will take care of you.
14. As I turned over this text in my mind, to catch the various gleams of light which glance from it as from a prism, I thought, “How many are those blades of grass!” Set a child to count them even in one acre, and how long the task will occupy; and yet each one of those blades God makes to grow as much as if there were not another in all the field. So with all the myriads of God’s people—he preserves each child as if he had no other; he loves as much every single one of all the blood bought seed as if it were the only object of divine grace, the only one who should sing within the pearly gates. Be of good comfort, then, the God who abounds in mercy towards the grass of the field will not forget you.
15. 2. But I said we should see in the text God also as a great caretaker. “He causes the grass to grow for the cattle.” Does God, then, care for oxen, or does he say it altogether for our sakes? “You shall not muzzle the mouth of the ox that treads out the grain,” shows that God has a care for the beasts of the field; but it shows much more than that, namely, that he would have those who work for him feed as they work. God cares for the beasts, and makes grass to grow for them. Then, my soul, though sometimes you have said with David, “I was so foolish and ignorant: I was as a beast before you,” yet God cares for me. You remember our sermon upon “The Ravens’ Cry”—“He gives to the beast his food, and to the young ravens which cry”—there you have an instance of his care for birds, and here we have his care for beasts; (See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 672, “The Raven’s Cry” 663) and though you, my hearer, may seem to yourself to be as black and defiled as a raven, and as far from anything spiritually good as the beasts, yet take comfort from this text; he gives to beasts their food, and he will give to you, though you think yourself to be beast-like, what your spirit needs from his hands.
Observe, he cares for these beasts who are helpless in caring for
themselves. The cattle could not plant the grass, nor cause it to
grow. Though they can do nothing in the matter, yet he does it all
for them; he causes the grass to grow. You who are as helpless as
oxen to help yourselves, who can only stand and moan out your misery,
but do not know what to do, God can anticipate your needs in his
lovingkindness, and favour you in his tenderness. Now let the
bleatings of your prayer go up to heaven, let the moanings of your
desires go up to him, poor guilty ones, and help shall come to you
although you cannot help yourselves. We generally say beasts are
dumb and speechless things, yet God makes the grass grow for
them. Will he hear those that cannot speak, and will he not hear
those who can? The beasts shed no tears of penitence, and pour forth
no sobs and sighs of fervent prayer, and yet their needs are
supplied: will God let that poor young man over there continue month
after month seeking him, and will he not be found by him? Shall that
poor woman’s briny tears all fall in vain, that poor broken heart cry
out in bitterness, and receive no response? Shall the Lord of mercy
answer the beasts, and not hear men who are made in his own image?
Since our God views with kind consideration the cattle in the field,
he will surely have compassion upon his own sons and daughters when
they desire to seek his face. How often the cattle are oppressed by
man! I am sure it is painful to see them driven through these
streets, bruised and faint, with their poor tongues hanging out of
their thirsty mouths. I wish the authorities would provide suitable
drinking troughs for them, for at present their sufferings are a
disgrace to our city. It is frequently so sickening a sight to see
poor tortured cattle in our thoroughfares, that it makes one long to
flee from such brutality, and cry—
Oh for a lodge in some vast wilderness,
Some boundless contiguity of shade,
Where sights of cruel men and maddened beasts
Might never reach us more.
Yet the great God looks after those poor dumb cattle whom men despise. This is a comforting thought for some of you who are of the meekest and lowliest spirit. You despise yourselves, and others despise you, but he who causes the grass to grow for the cattle, has an eye on you. Man may have nothing for you but strokes from the rod, thoughtless, heartless man may goad and vex your spirit, and drive you through the streets of this busy world, without so much as a drop of comfort to cool your burning tongue and fevered brain, when you are fainting with many cares and fears, but God thinks of you, God still cares for you. When your father and your mother forsake you, then the Lord will take you up. The cattle, forlorn as they are have God to think of them, and so have you; shall they be silently trustful, and will you be noisily complaining?
17. There is this also to be said, God not only thinks of the cattle, taking care of them, but the food which he provides for them is suitable food—he causes grass to grow for the cattle, just the kind of food which ruminants require. Even so the Lord God provides suitable sustenance for his people. Depend upon him by faith and wait upon him in prayer, and you shall have food suitable for you. You shall find in God’s mercy just what your nature desires, suitable supplies for your grievous needs.
18. The Lord takes care to reserve this convenient food for the cattle, for no one eats the cattle’s food but the cattle. There is grass for them, and no one else cares for it, and thus it is kept for them; even so God has a special food for his own people—he knows how to preserve it, too, and keep it for them and them only. “The secret of the Lord is with those who fear him, and he will show them his covenant.” Although the grass is free to all men who choose to eat it, yet no creature cares for it except the cattle for whom it is prepared; and though the grace of God is free to all men, yet no man cares for it except the elect of God, for whom he prepared it, and whom he prepares to receive it. There is as much of a reserve of the grass for the cattle as if there were walls around it—no one else eats it—no one else cares for it; and so, though the grace of God is free, and there is no bound set all around it, yet it is as much reserved as if it were restricted, and no one might receive it except the elect of God.
19. God is seen in the grass as the worker and the caretaker: then let us see his hand in providence at all times. Let us see it and lean upon it, not only when we have abundance, but even when we have nothing; for the grass is preparing for the cattle even in the depth of winter. God is preparing and breaking the soil; he is sending the nutrients into the roots, giving the roots a little rest for awhile so that they may afterwards bring forth abundance. And you, you sons of sorrow, in your trials and troubles, are still cared for by God; he has a purpose to serve in all your grief’s and miseries; he will accomplish his own divinely gracious purpose in you: only be still and see the salvation of God. Every winter’s night has a direct connection with the joyous days of mowing and reaping, and each time of grief is linked to future joy.
20. III. Our third point is most interesting. GOD’S WORKING IN THE GRASS FOR THE CATTLE GIVES US ILLUSTRATIONS CONCERNING GRACE.
21. I ask every Christian here to give me his earnest attention for a few minutes, and I think he may hear something which may cheer him. I will suppose that I am soliloquising, and I will say to myself as I read the text, “He causes the grass to grow for the cattle. Here I perceive a satisfying provision for that form of creature. Now, I am also a creature, but I am a nobler creature than the cattle. I cannot imagine for a moment that God will provide all that the cattle needs and not provide for me. But naturally I feel uneasy: I cannot find in this world what I need—if I were to win all its riches I should still be discontented; and when I have all that heart could wish of time’s treasures, yet still my heart feels as if it were empty. There must be somewhere or other something that will satisfy me as a man with an immortal soul. God altogether satisfies the ox; he must therefore have something or other that would altogether satisfy me if I could get it. There is the grass, the cattle get it, and when they have eaten their share, they lie down and seem perfectly contented; now, all I have ever found, as an unconverted man, has never satisfied me so that I could lie down and be content; there must be, then, something somewhere that would satisfy me if I could get at it.” Is that not good reasoning? I ask both the Christian and the unbeliever, to go with me so far; but then let us proceed another step: “The cattle do get what they need—not only is the grass provided, but they get it. Well, then, why should I not obtain what I need? I find my soul hungering and thirsting after something more than I can see with my eyes or hear with my ears: there must be something to satisfy my soul, why should I not find it? The cattle find what satisfies them: why should I not obtain what would satisfy me? There must be such a thing: I cannot suppose that my heavenly Father made me as a creature without making something also that could satisfy my largest desires. There is such a thing; and surely if the cattle get what they need, I shall not be left unsupplied.” Then, I begin to ask in prayer, “What is this which you, oh God, have provided to satisfy my soul?” And while I am praying, I also meditate and think, “Well, God has given to the cattle something which is consistent with their nature: they are nothing but flesh, and flesh is grass, there is therefore grass for their flesh. But, then, though I am flesh, I am something else besides, I am spirit. Then, if I am to get something to satisfy me, it must be spiritual—a spiritual food. Where is it?” When I turn to God’s word, I find there that although the grass withers, the word of the Lord endures for ever; and the word which God speaks to us is spirit and life. “Oh! then,” I say, “here is something spiritual for my spiritual nature, something suitable for me as an immortal being.” Oh may God help me to know what that spiritual food is, and enable me to lay hold upon it, for I perceive that although God provides the grass for the cattle, the cattle must eat it themselves. They are not fed if they lie down and refuse to come and eat. Then what must I do? I must imitate the cattle, and eat what God provides for me! What do I find provided in Scripture? I find the Lord Jesus Christ laid down as the food of my soul. I am told that he came into this world to suffer, and bleed, and die, instead of me, and that if I trust in him I shall be saved; and, being saved, the thoughts of his love will give solace and joy to me and be my strength, the strength of my life and my portion for ever. I do not find the cattle bringing any purchase money to the pasture, but they enter it and receive their portion—they open their mouths and receive what they need. Even so I do the same by an act of faith in Jesus. Lord, give me grace to feed upon Christ; make me hungry and thirsty after him; give me the faith by which I may be a receiver of him, so that I may be satisfied with favour, and full of the goodness of the Lord.
22. I think my text, although it looked small, begins to grow and swell as we meditate upon it. Now, I want to introduce you to a few more thoughts on this matter as illustrations of grace. Anticipatory grace may be seen here in a symbol. Before the cattle were made, in this world there was grass. We find in the first chapter of Genesis, God provided the grass before he created the cattle. And what a mercy that there were covenant supplies for God’s people before they were in the world! He had given his Son Jesus Christ to die, to be the sponsor and surety of the elect, before Adam was made in the garden; long before sin came into the world, the everlasting mercy of God foresaw the damages of sin, and provided a refuge for every elect soul. Oh! what a mercy it is for me, that, before I hunger, God has prepared for my hunger; that before I thirst, God has opened the rock in the wilderness to leap forth with crystal streams to satisfy the thirst of my soul! See what sovereign grace can do! Before the cattle come to the pasture, the grass is grown for them, and before I feel my need of divine mercy, that mercy is provided for me. Then I perceive an illustration of free grace, for wherever the ox comes into the field, he brings no money with him. There is the food ready for him, but he brings nothing with which to purchase it. So I, poor needy sinner, having nothing, come, and receive Christ without money and without price. He makes the grass to grow for the cattle, and so he provides grace for my needy soul, although I have now no money, no virtue, no excellence of my own. And why is it, my friends, why is it that God gives the cattle the grass? You will be perhaps surprised when I say to you that the reason is, because they belong to him. Here is a text to prove it. “The silver and the gold are mine, and the cattle upon a thousand hills.” That is why he provides grass for them, because they are his own property. How is it that Christ is provided for God’s people? Because “the Lord’s portion is his people; Jacob is the lot of his inheritance.” For every herd of cattle in the world, God could say, “They are mine.” Long before the farmer put his brand on them, God had set his creating mark upon them. They are God’s making, preserving, and feeding altogether. So, before the stamp of Adam’s fall was set upon our brow, the stamp of electing love was set there. “In your book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them.” (Psalms 139:16)
23. Another thing may, perhaps, surprise you still more, God feeds the cattle because he has entered into a covenant with them to do so. “What! a covenant with the cattle!” someone says. Indeed! truly so, for when God spoke to his servant Noah, in that day when all the cattle came out of the ark, we find him, saying, “I establish my covenant with you, and with your seed after you; and with every living creature that is with you, of the fowl, of the cattle, and of every beast of the earth with you.” So there was a covenant, you see, made with the cattle, and that covenant was that seedtime and harvest should not fail; therefore the earth brings forth for them, and the Lord causes the grass to grow. Does Jehovah keep his covenant with cattle, and will he not keep his covenant with his own beloved? Ah! it is because his chosen people are his covenanted ones in the person of the Lord Jesus, that he provides for them all that they shall need in time and in eternity, and satisfies them out of the fulness of his everlasting love.
24. Once again, God feeds the cattle and then the cattle praise him. We find David saying, “Praise the Lord…you beasts and all cattle.” (Psalms 148:7-10) They have their music for God. The Lord feeds his people in order that they may praise him, to the end that their glory may sing praise to him and not be silent. While other creatures give glory to God, let the redeemed of the Lord especially say so, whom he has delivered out of the hand of the enemy.
25. Nor even yet is our text quite exhausted. Turning one moment from the cattle, I want you to notice the grass. It is said of the grass, “He causes the grass to grow”—here is a mighty blow to free will, because, if the grass does not grow without God’s causing it to grow, how is it that grace should be found in the human heart apart from divine operations? Surely grace is a much more wonderful product of divine wisdom, and more complicated than the grass can be! and if grass does not grow without a divine cause, depend upon it grace does not dwell in us without a divine implantation; and if I have so much as one blade of grace growing within me, I must trace it all to God’s divine will. Just as the grass all depends upon God’s causing it to grow, so the grace we have depends upon God’s constant kindness and tender loving mercy to make it ripen to perfection. You are a babe as yet in grace, and that you are alive to God at all is due to God’s quickening power; but if you are ever to attain to the stature of a perfect man in Christ Jesus, that must be due to the continuous outpouring of the divine energy; there is no having grace, and no growing in grace, unless God gives us both the one and the other—for if he causes grass to grow, how much more must grace come from him.
26. Again, if God thinks it is worth his while to make grass, and takes care of it, and makes it grow, how much more will he think it is for his honour to cause his grace to grow in my heart. If the great invisible Spirit, whose thoughts are high and lofty, condescends to look after that humble thing which grows by the hedge, surely he will condescend to watch over his own nature, which he calls the incorruptible seed, which lives and abides for ever! Mungo Park, in the deserts of Africa, was much comforted when he took up a little piece of moss, and saw the wisdom and power of God in that lonely piece of verdant loveliness. So when I introduce you today to the fields ripe and ready for the mower, how your hearts ought to leap for joy to see how God has produced the grass, caring for it all through the weary months of the long delayed spring, and the rigorous cold of a suddenly perpetuated winter, until at last he sent the genial rain and sunshine, and brought the fields to their proper condition. And so, my soul, although you may have many a frost and biting winter, and much to bear with, yet he causes the grass to grow, and he will cause you to grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
27. Once again, you perceive that the grass does not grow without a purpose—the grass grows for the cattle; and then you know what the cattle grow for, they grow for man; so the whole business comes to a point. But, then, what does man grow for? That is the next question. Then, my soul, if there is any good thing growing in you, it is for a purpose; and you yourself, if you are favoured with the divine presence, are blessed for a purpose; and, just as the grass does not refuse to be fed upon by the cattle, so take care that you do not refuse to yield yourself to God; and, just as the cattle do not refuse to give themselves up to labour and slaughter, so bow yourself, and render yourself to God, for God has a purpose in sparing and blessing you, and preserving you, and strewing your path with kindnesses. Take care that you do not miss this end, for to gain it will be your happiness as well as God’s glory. It should be your chief end on earth to serve him, and to glorify him for ever above.
I draw to a close when I have noticed that the existence of the
grass is needful to complete the chain of nature. There would be no
cattle if there were no grass; and no cattle, no something else—so
the whole chain would go to pieces. So the lowliest child of God is
necessary to the family. They in heaven without us cannot be made
perfect: the little ones are as needful to God’s family as the great
ones. The Lord cannot, will not, put you away from it, my desponding
friends, because, although you cannot see it, you are one stone in the
building; and if you are taken away, what becomes of the next, and
the next! Perhaps every heir of heaven is necessary to complete the
purpose of God. I said “perhaps,” we know it to be so, for we are
told by Paul, that we are the fulness of Christ. The church is his
body, the fulness of him who fills all in all. Nature would be
incomplete without the trembling grass blade; and the economy of
grace would be incomplete without you, Mr. Fearing, and you, Mrs.
Much-Afraid: you are necessary to complete the divine purpose, in
order to let it be seen, world without end, that God is not defeated;
that since Christ loved his own, he loved them to the end; so that he
could say, “Of all whom he has given me, I have lost no one.” Oh, how
blessed it is to think of this! Since we are all so necessary, if
saved by grace, let us begin this morning to bless and to praise the
God of providence and grace. While the grass, with its verdure,
serves God by beautifying the earth, and while the cattle take their
place also in the economy of creation, let each Christian say to
himself, “Lord, what would you have me to do?” and having found it,
whatever our hand finds to do, let us do it with our might. May the
Lord bless these remarks to you, and make them profitable to your
souls, for Jesus Christ’s sake. Amen.
[Portion of Scripture Read Before Sermon—Psalms 104]
(See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 3564, “Publications” 3566 @@ "Gleanings Among The Sheaves")