C. E. Hocking, Cardiff
All quotations are from the Revised Version
The apostle Paul could say 'Brethren, be ye imitators together of me, and mark them which so walk even as ye have us for an en-sample', Phil. 3. 17. Those whom God has raised to do the work of overseers are exhorted to discharge their duties as 'ensamples of the flock', 1 Pet. 5. 3. In another place we are all encouraged to live so 'that no man put a stumbling-block in his brother's way, or an occasion of falling', Rom. 14. 13. The mutual influence of saint upon saint for good or ill is tremendous and 'none of us liveth to himself.
However, our sphere of influence is much wider than this. Christian wives are to live the gospel in their pagan homes, that the husbands 'may without the word be gained by the behaviour of their wives', 1 Pet. 3. 1. How disheartening this aspect of witness may prove to be. Physical and mental persecution often result, and in many cases the fruit so long awaited is even despaired of. ceding parable the seed is the Word of God and the field is the human heart; in the parable of the tares the good seed represents the testimony and influence of the lives of the followers of Christ in the world. Thus, in a single view of the seed as represented in both these parables, the saints of God are identified with the word of truth which they proclaim. The seed is not only sown by them, it is sown through them. Thus, the apostle speaks of the word of the truth of the gospel bearing fruit and increasing in the saints, and thereby in the world, Col. 1. 5-6. The world is a field, not a garden, not a paradise of mere enjoyment. It is a place into which the Lord sends labourers, a scene of diligent and difficult toil, not of ease and luxury. Nor was it intended that some parts of the field should be crowded with workers while others are vacant. How grievously have we failed to apprehend the simple meaning of the words, 'Go ye into all the world', Mark 16. 15.
The Plan and the Purpose Our Master had a plan, and His was the sole right to have it. He still has the same plan, and from it He has never swerved. According to this plan each of those who own His Lordship has his work assigned below, and thereby will receive his reward above. The plan is that all the world might have the Gospel. Have we viewed the plan? How far have we shared His view as made known in His own words? We know that part of His plan was that we ourselves should be saved, and therein we rejoice and praise His name. But that was not all; there was as we have seen, the still further purpose that we should be sown in the field and bear fruit, that we should have our part in the carrying out of His designs of grace toward the rest of the world. Had we our view broadened to be commensurate with His, not one of us could rest content for a day that parts of the world should be lying in dark ignorance of the salvation we are enjoying, and that parts of the field should be without a son of the kingdom. Oh, for a heart to share His sympathies!
The Need and the Remedy
Everywhere our Lord went He was deeply stirred by the needs of the people. Matthew tells us that 'when he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion for them, because they were distressed and scattered, as sheep not having a shepherd. Then saith he unto his disciples, The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few. Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he send forth labourers into his harvest', Matt. 9. 36-38. If a sense of our own needs drives us to prayer, equally so should the sense of the needs of others. We are surely in the mind of the Lord when we thus pray for labourers. He Himself answered this prayer in the case of these disciples, and those whom He taught to pray were the ones He chose to send. He called them unto Him, gave them authority, and sent them forth. How solemn it is that His 'Pray ye' and His 'Go ye' were uttered nearly two thousand years ago and yet there are still places in the harvest field without a labourer! Two-thirds of the people in the world remain in ignorance about the Christ who died for them, and are still under the sway of him from whose bondage He came to deliver them. We must think, not only of the unreached regions, but of the scarcity of labourers in many districts where Gospel work has been and is being carried on. In many a place there are workers for whom the growing responsibilities consequent upon the development of the work are proving too taxing. We speak sometimes of the inadvisability of a missionary undertaking more than his strength will permit. But when we remember how extremely difficult it is for one, who in devotion to Christ, has a passion for souls, and who sees around him abounding opportunities, we shall do well to consider whether we have fulfilled our responsibilities, whether we have fervently prayed the Lord of the harvest to send forth labourers to co-operate with these tried and tired servants in the field. Intelligent and constant prayer concerning the needs of the harvest field is sure to lead to exercise of heart as to how we may share in the work in other ways. Were it not that there is One who is equal to the task, we might be tempted to despair. But Christ is in the place of authority; to Him all power is given. Yet has He committed to His saints the solution of the difficulty under the ready guidance of the Holy Spirit. The voice that bade the disciples to 'look on the fields', John 4. 35, still speaks to us. This is one great step in the solution, a careful contemplation of the condition of the field; 'Pray ye' is another step. There arc others, but which of us shall say the one for the other what he or she is to do in addition? How to follow up the contemplation and the prayer, lies in the realm of the individual conscience and its exercise in the presence of the Master who has a definite part for each one of us to take. We can certainly say, 'The night is far spent, and the day is at hand', Rom. 13. 12; the day when sower and reaper shall rejoice together and all that was done for the Lord of the harvest will receive its eternal reward.