"The harvest truly is great, but the labourers are few: pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he would send forth labourers into his harvest." Luke 10:2
For centuries before these words were spoken by our Lord, Moses in the law and the prophets had written concerning his coming in to the world, in the fulness of times, to be manifested in the flesh and suffer according to the will of God for the sins of his people, who had been chosen in him before the foundations of the earth were laid. "Harvest time is when the fruits of one's labors are reaped. It is the time of fulfillment of the plans and purposes of him who determined to do all that is necessary in order to bring about that which is so greatly desired. Some of our agriculturists know what is involved by way of hard and arduous labor in hewing down a forest, removing the stumps and stones, and preparing the soil for the seeds which are to be planted. There is also much work to be done by the husbandman by way of cultivation before he can rightly expect to be rewarded for his labors.
The purpose of the law was that it was to be a schoolmaster unto Christ, and in manifesting as it did all down through the ages the inability of the creature to meet its demands, the necessity of looking to another, even unto Christ to bring in that righteousness which is not of the law but of grace had now arrived. In the previous chapter Luke records the occasion of Jesus taking three witnesses (Peter James and John) up into a mountain with him and "behold there talked with him two men, which were Moses and Elias; who appeared in glory, and spake of his decease, which he should accomplish at Jerusalem." Peter suggested the making of three tabernacles in memory of the event: one for Jesus, one for Moses and one for Elias, but we are told that he knew not what he said, for the truth of the matter was Moses and Elias had filled up the measure of their days, and the time was at hand for him whom they had portrayed in type and shadow to appear, and he was to be preeminently above and beyond all others. They were overshadowed by a cloud and a voice came out of the cloud, saying, "This is my beloved Son: hear him:" And when the cloud was gone they saw no one but Jesus. Jesus had just said to his disciples, "there be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the kingdom of God." This showed how near at hand his harvest time was. He had already given his twelve disciples power and authority over all devils, and to cure diseases, and sent them forth to preach the kingdom of God, and to heal the sick, and he also gave them specific instructions regarding their travels. They were to "take nothing for your journey, neither staves, nor scrip, neither bread, neither money; neither have, two coats a piece," and they were told how to act towards those who received them, as well as those who received them not. They were so thoroughly instructed and supplied that they had to confess when they returned that they lacked nothing. He also manifested to them by a living example what takes place when the gospel is preached in demonstration of the Spirit and with power from heaven by taking the five loaves and two fishes and feeding about five thousand men, with a basket of fragments for each of the twelve tribes of Israel left over. Surely those who were fed must have realized the fulfillment of the law and feasted upon the things of the gospel which are prepared for those who love the Lord and keep his commandments. As further evidence of the fact that the time of his harvest was at hand, we read in verse one of chapter ten that he "appointed other seventy also, and sent them two and two before his face into every city and place, whither he himself would come." It would have been worse than foolish for them to have gone into places where Jesus was not to appear, but being the man of wisdom that he was who sat down in the counsels of eternity and figured out all of the cost of redeeming his people, he not only knew who his sheep were, but also knew that they would hear his voice and would follow him when he called unto them. "Therefore said he unto them, The harvest truly is great, but the labourers are few: pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he would send forth labourers into his harvest." We read that as many as about three thousand souls were added unto the church in one day. This showed conclusively that Jesus knew whereof he spake when he said, "The harvest truly is great." It is written in the Proverbs that "The preparations of the heart in man, and the answer of the tongue is from the Lord," and he who was able, to discern the thought of man and the intent of his heart had no need for any one to tell him when the time of his harvest would be. Had he not sent forth his word into the hearts of men which made them cry, "Abba, Father?" He knew they would be willing in the day of his power to forsake the way of unrighteousness and to enter into the gates of the city of the New Jerusalem. In that day and time, which was the beginning of the setting up of the gospel churches only a few labourers had been called, and the need for others was very apparent, but by way of emphasizing their sufficiency; of the labourers; he directed them to "pray ye therefore, the Lord, of the harvest, that he would send forth labourers into his harvest." It would not suffice for them to undertake this work on their own account, for the harvest is the Lord's and he must of necessity send forth the labourers into his harvest. We greatly fear that with the passing of nearly two thousand years and the modernistic trend of everything that the true significance of these things has grown dim in the estimation of those who are promulgating their own ideas about them. There are those who seem to feel they could have come into the vineyard earlier and by so doing reaped for themselves a much larger crop of good things, which they claim to have lost by not applying their lives to the Master's cause when they were young. God forbid that we should say anything to the disparagement of a single solitary soul, be they old or young in years, which would delay one moment their entering into the service or joy of their Lord, but we are writing at this time regarding the harvest and we would not be doing justice to our subject if we failed to warn against gathering in the crops before they are ripe. If the fruit or grain is not thoroughly ready for the harvest it not only is not as good as it otherwise would be, but it is more likely to spoil and do great damage to others in the process. We have just had occasion to travel through a section of the country where there were great fields of golden wheat. Some of it appeared to be bent over with age and to the inexperienced eye it might seem as though the farmer was neglecting his duty by not harvesting his wheat, but we are sure that his judgment is backed by many years of experience and that he is quite certain of the proper time to cast in his sickle. The labourers on the farm just do not go out into the wheat fields some bright morning and begin harvesting the wheat without instructions from the man in authority, and here we would like to emphasize the fact that our text specifically instructs those under consideration to pray the Lord of the harvest to send forth labourers. Men have absolutely no authority for taking this honor unto themselves by rushing into this harvest without being sent by the Lord of the harvest. Peter once thought that he was prepared to forsake all others and follow his Lord into prison and even unto death, but Jesus knew that he must needs learn by bitter experience his own weakness and utter depravity before he could feed the lambs and sheep of his fold. Therefore he said unto him, "Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat." Many of God's truly called servants have to be sifted as wheat before they are truly fit for their Master's use. It was good that Jesus told Peter he had prayed for him, that his faith fail not. Until he had sunk into the lowest hell, so to speak, where he was made to weep bitterly, did he realize that the compassion of his Lord never failed, and not until then was he told by Jesus to feed his sheep and feed his lambs. He was therefore taught that salvation in time was of the Lord, hence in addressing his general epistle to "the strangers scattered throughout" and the "Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ," concerning that inheritance which is incorrupt, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, that it was reserved in heaven for those "Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time." Jesus also said unto Peter following his denial of him, "Verily, verily, I say unto thee, When thou wast young, thou girdedst thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldest: but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not." John 21:18, Peter and all the elect of God must needs be taught the lesson of the prophet Jeremiah when he said: "O Lord, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walketh to direct his jsteps." Some of our modern day: ministers appear to be of the opinion that it, is within them to choose their times and seasons and that it is not at all necessary for them to go to Jonah's college in order to be qualified to preach, but we are persuaded that they will not preach "Salvation is of the Lord" until they have gone down into the belly of hell, where there is no eye to pity and no arm to save, or deliver, except that of God. Then and then only will they pay that which they will have been made to vow. The salvation or deliverance which Jonah experienced was in time and of the Lord, and altogether unconditional. It is claimed by some that "eternal salvation and common salvation must be dealt with separately because eternal is by grace and grace alone, and common is by works. In other words, eternal salvation is God's work, and common salvation is man's work." If this be true there is something radically wrong with us. We know by experience, we hope, that God is able to cause whomsoever he will to go down to the sea in ships, and do business in great waters, to see the works of the Lord, and, his wonders in the deep, but until he does deep will not call unto deep "at the noise of thy waterspouts" as "all thy waves and thy billows are gone over me." This is a way that no man will choose when left to himself, and it is in keeping with inspired testimony, for the Lord speaking by the mouth of the prophet Isaiah said, "I will bring the blind by a way that they knew not; I will lead them in paths that they have not known: I will make darkness light before them, and crooked things straight. These things will I do unto them, and not forsake them." This the true servant of God can witness to without reservation and is made to rejoice in it. We know enough about human nature however, to know that if, is susceptible to the reasoning of Satan, who is ever ready to sow tares among the wheat, and when this is done it will have to be allowed to grow until the time of harvest, when our Lord will come with his "fan in his hand and he will thoroughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire." We fear there are some among those known as primitive Baptists who feel they can be of assistance to the Lord in adding to the militant church 'such as he would own and have to be saved doctrinally, but we would humbly caution them to beware Jest they bring forth Ishmaelites who may plague the true Israel of our God for many years to come. It is much better to watch and pray to the Lord of harvest to carryon his world of grace in the heart of poor sinners to perfection. When the fruit or grain is truly ready for the harvest there is not much likelihood of its spoiling or bringing reproach and shame upon the cause of our Master.
Some of the foregoing lines were written while we sat looking out over the broad expanse of the Atlantic Ocean, watching the tide ebb and flow, and the thought occurred to us that there is a fixed time for the tide to go out and a fixed time for the tide to come in, which it does year in and year out, and without any assistance whatsoever from puny man, and neither can he hinder it, so there is a fixed time for everything under the sun. The Psalmist said, "Thou shalt, arise, and have mercy upon Zion: for the time to favor her, yea, the set time, is come." The preacher said "To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven," and there must, therefore, be a time to sow and a time to reap, all appointed by God, for it is written "In the morning sow thy seed, and in the evening withhold not thine hand: for thou knowest not whether shall prosper, either this or that, or whether they both shall be alike good." And according to the parable presented in the twentieth chapter of Matthew it would seem that the labourers who were hired and sent forth into the vineyard, all received no more than those who went in at the third, the sixth, the ninth and the eleventh hours of the day – they were paid the same – no more and no less. It is, therefore, all of grace, and not by works of righteousness which we can do, and the God of all grace shall have all the praise.
Signs of the Times
Volume 114, No. 8