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ECCLESIASTES XI. 1.

“CAST thy bread upon the waters: for thou shalt find it after many days.”

This Scripture is often quoted by the world to urge the giving of money for so-called charitable purposes, the giving of money to the missionary cause in order to facilitate the conversion of the heathen to christianity, and the giving of money for other kindred purposes. We feel that all such constructions placed upon the text are very wide of the truth and a violation of the Scripture. We have been told by Mr. Gadsby, and others who have traveled in Palestine, the land of Canaan, that there are rivers in that country that flow only through the rainy season, and that dry up during the dry season, that these rivers become a flood at certain seasons of the year and well-nigh disappear at other times. Upon these over-flows the fertility of the soil adjacent to the rivers depends. Were it not for these high waters, we are told, the land in those neighborhoods would be barren and desert. Travelers there have further brought home to us the information that the farmers sow their seed as the waters recede or diminish, thus often casting their seed literally into the waters, losing it apparently as it sinks beneath the stream, to see it no more until it comes back to them many days afterward at the harvest, when it returns to the husband-man many fold. From our own direct observation we cannot vouch for the correctness of the above information, but it appears to us likely that it is true. If so, then it beautifully illustrates the meaning of our text. As the husbandman would go forth to sow his seed upon the waters as they recede from the land, leaving behind them a rich alluvial deposit, so Christ sends forth the preachers of his gospel to cast their bread upon the waters of affliction, or upon the waters of adversity, or upon the waters of any woe or sorrow that may come within the line of their ministry. Isaiah says, “Blessed are ye that sow beside all waters,” and this applies, we believe, to the preachers of the gospel who are called and sent forth by the Spirit of God to declare his word and to comfort his people. These go forth to sow the seed beside all waters. In the journeyings to and fro of the ministry they come in contact with all sorts and conditions of men, they meet among the flock of God all sorts of afflictions, and an infinite variety of trials, sorrows, difficulties and burdens. They preach the gospel to all. In the congregations to whom they preach there may be, and often is, a variety of individuals, all believing in the same glorious truth of God as it is in Jesus, yet no two exactly alike, each one having his or her own life to live, and his or her own temptations and afflictions to endure. But no matter how varied the experience of the Lord’s people, the same gospel preached by the power of God reaches down into all their hearts, so that the seed is sown beside all waters, and the preacher, or sower, who is sent forth to sow the word, is not able to see what becomes of his message, often feels discouraged, and tempted to think his ministry is of no profit to the Lord’s people, often seriously questions whether he himself really adequately knows anything of the truth he is laboring to set forth. But no real gospel sermon is ever preached in vain; some one gets it, if only one person, and if even one of the Lord’s little ones has been fed the ministry has not been in vain. It may be days, and even months and years, before the pastor of a church can see any fruit of his labors. Sometimes a pastor dies, and is removed thus by death from the care of churches, and another man is sent of the Lord there to reap what the other had sown. In any case, preaching breath is never spent in vain. Whether the preacher ever or never sees any good come of his ministry the Lord sees it and knows it, and the labor is not in vain unto him. We have known and heard of churches declining in membership so as to appear as though they were becoming extinct, and then to take on new lease of life, new zeal and new spiritual energy, because of the fruitfulness of the ministry of some servant of God sent among them to declare God’s word, and to sow the seed beside all the waters that might be inundating the souls of the flock in that particular place. L.

Elder H. H. Lefferts

Signs of the Times
Volume 87, No. 7
April 1, 1919