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“Be not deceived; God is not mocked : for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall be also reap." His argument in the passage is, that every man must answer for himself and his own doings to God. The shadow of responsibility is never away from us—not even in the clearest sunshine of the Divine love. The fact that every thing we do bears its natural consequence is not at all touched by the higher evangelical fact, so often elsewhere expressed by him, that it is “not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us.” * Give all force to this higher fact. If it were not for the Divine mercy, we should not only be, but remain, miserable sinners, “without God and without hope in the world.” But the other fact is not the less true—not the less universal; and for the present we will do well to follow his line of thought in this respect.
The spiritual or evangelical tone of mind is apt at times to overlook the sterner side of human life. It delights itself with the great possibilities of Divine grace, and the immense changes from evil to good which are not beyond its scope. But the Divine order is nevertheless a fact, and it is highly important that we should not de
* Titus, iii. 5.
and Life. ceive ourselves regarding it. Should we deceive ourselves, God is not mocked. His laws are not altered by our self-deception. They work out their issues with undeviating certainty. Every man is only what he is really before God, and his life is all along only what he makes it, with or without God's grace and help in doing som “ for every man shall bear his own burden.” * No one can share with another the moral realities of his life, whatever these are. Our cares and sorrows—such accidents of trouble as come to us from without, and at times weigh heavily upon us—others may share and help us to bear.t But we must bear alone the results of our own conduct. We must reap the harvest which we have sown, and eat the fruit of our own doing. The issues of our free will are our own and no other's; and we need never try to shift this burden, if it prove a burden, upon another. We must stand before God carrying the freight of our own deeds, and receive according to these deeds done in the body, whether they be good or evil.
* Galatians, vi. 5.
+ Ibid. vi. 2: “Bear ye one another's burdens." The apostle indicates the distinction of the two cases by a distinctive expression. His expression in verse 2 is Bápn ; in the 5th verse φορτίον.
The language of the text plainly looks at this sterner side of human life as something which needs emphasis. We are apt to overlook or underestimate it; and therefore the apostle takes care that it shall be brought clearly into sight, and that we shall be under no mistake about it. The harvest is always after its kind. “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.”* “Let every man prove his own work.” + The law tells with equal force on both sides. That which is sown to the Spirit is spiritual, and the harvest thereof is everlasting life. The good seed brings forth good fruit. The lives of the good teem with an ever-accumulating wealth of goodness, and the golden grain hangs more heavily in the late autumn of their years. But this side of the divine law needs not so much to be enforced as the darker side. Men readily believe that if they do well, God will deal well with them. Or if there is a strange spirit of distrust sometimes on this score—as with the man who hid his talent in the parable—yet such a temper is less frequent than the dearth of spiritual insight altogether. It is far more common for men to think * Galatians, vi. 8.
+ Ibid. vi. 4.
of God as likely to overlook sin than to fail in rewarding good. The latter state of mind may not be uncommon amongst serious people. From the very depth of devout awe there springs. sometimes a strange distrust of God as a hard taskmaster, reaping where He has not sown, and gathering where He has not strawed. But even this worst type of a perverted Calvinism is better—as it is certainly less frequent—upon the whole, than spiritual deadness, or that natural Epicureanism which takes its chance of good or evil, and thinks that the Divine order is not so unbending, after all—that life is not so grave as religion would make it, or moral punishment so sure as God threatens.
In our time there is but little fear that men will sink into a superstitious dread of God. The spirit of awe is not a prevailing spirit in our modern life and literature. Men and women alike are sufficiently alive to their rights; and the talent, instead of being hid away in a napkin, in fear of what the Lord will say, is used in the face of all, with a free audacity which plainly means that we know what we are doing, and that we are not afraid of God's reckoning with us in the end as to the use of our gifts and opportunities. The modern spirit, if it has not
lost the old reverence for God for there may be a true reverence beneath much freedom-has yet ceased to be afraid of Him. It looks to Him with a sure and bright confidence that honest service of every kind will not fail of its reward. It is only too self-confident; and its dangers are all on the side of self-confidence. Is there, after all, a Divine order ? it is apt to say. Is wrongdoing, after all, of so much consequence? Is it in the largest sense wrongdoing to yield free indulgence to my pleasure-loving instincts—to gratify, in such way as appears to me good, my natural desires and appetites? Why should I not do as I please and live as I will? This is the tendency of modern life; and it is against this tendency that the text, and many texts, warn us.
It is very natural for men in high health and fulness of strength to think that they may do as they please, and give free rein to the power of natural passion or the gratification of worldly instinct. But let them not be deceived. There is a Divine order, although men may ignore it or fail to recognise it; and no misconception of theirs can alter or reverse it. Against this order all life which is not right must break and go to ruin. If we yield ourselves to fleshly indulgence,