Some trifle with God by holding, practically, if not theoretically, that there will not be rewards for virtue, nor punishment for sin, that one end will come alike to all, that whatever the dignity or the degradation of character may be, we shall all go to the same place, and sleep there in oblivion, or that if there is any future life, it will be common to us all, and that, in fact, the whole question concerning the hereafter is a matter so utterly unimportant that we can afford to regard it with complete indifference. But dear friends, it is not so.
“Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.” –Galatians 6:7
I find, on reference to Luther’s Commentary on the epistle to the Galatians, and to Calvin’s Commentary on this passage, that both those learned expositors consider that this refers to the treatment of ministers by their people in the matter of their pecuniary support. They very properly point out the connection between the sixth verse and the seventh—“Let him that is taught in the word communicate unto him that teacheth in all good things. Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.”
I suppose that there was a need for such an injunction in Paul’s day, and there is a need for it now. There were some hearers of the Gospel, then, who contributed generously towards the maintenance of the preacher, and the apostle says that what they gave would be like sowing good seed, in return for which God would give to them an abundant harvest, but there were others who gave sparingly, and who would therefore have a proportionately small return.
But I feel sure that the apostle had a wider range than that, and that these words express a general principle, “Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.” So I begin my discourse by reminding you that our present lives are of the utmost possible importance, for on these winged hours hang eternal issues. Our present actions are not trifles, for they will decide our everlasting destiny. Everything we do is, to some extent, a sowing of which eternity will be the reaping.
I. So I pray you to notice, first, that our text tells as that GOD IS NOT TO BE TRIFLED WITH,
“Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.”
Some trifle with God by holding, practically, if not theoretically, that there will not be rewards for virtue, nor punishment for sin, that one end will come alike to all, that whatever the dignity or the degradation of character may be, we shall all go to the same place, and sleep there in oblivion, or that if there is any future life, it will be common to us all, and that, in fact, the whole question concerning the hereafter is a matter so utterly unimportant that we can afford to regard it with complete indifference.
But dear friends, it is not so. There is an omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent God, and He is the moral Governor of the universe. He will not see His laws broken with impunity, His name defied, His Gospel despised, His Son rejected. He is intensely sensitive to the actions of mankind, He is not a god of granite or of steel. He takes note of the acts, and words, and even of the thoughts of those whom He has created, and if they are finally impenitent, sooner or later He will say, as He did in Isaiah’s day, “I will ease me of mine adversaries, and avenge me of mine enemies.”
Others seem to suppose that, even if there be a future, an eternity of rewards and punishments—the reaping of which this life is the sowing—a bare profession will suffice to save them. They appear to imagine that if they only compliment their Maker with an occasional “Thank God!” and utter a few words of mere formal prayer, and are not grossly licentious, but live tolerably decent lives, that will satisfy God’s requirements. Nothing can be more mistaken than such an idea as that.
God in the highest heavens is Himself perfectly pure, His perfect law is like Himself, and it is not for Him to accommodate His righteous law to the wills of fallen man. Do not fancy that He will accept the mere external homage of your being. He must have your heart, and soul, and mind, and strength, or He will not be content. It is vain for anyone to attempt to mock God by supposing that anything will do for Him in place of that heart-surrender and heart-service that He demands.
There are others who seem to suppose that, if they make a profession of religion, that will suffice. They think that if they attend the parish church or the dissenting chapel, and subscribe regularly to religious and philanthropic societies, that is all that is required of them. That is how they mock God, that God who came to the top of Sinai, and there, amidst thunders and lightnings, gave the ten commandments, but He is not to be satisfied by a bare profession of religion.
To confess what we do not really feel, is but to increase our sin, and a hypocritical profession is a further aggravation of our sin. Does God accept your heartless sacrifices, your meaningless words and empty phrases? No, He is not to be mocked by mere outward religious forms and ceremonies.
Others imagine that God can be imposed upon by a formal compliment when they are near death. A man is dying, and immediately the cry is, “Send for a minister!” They often send for a dissenting minister, though they have never attended his ministry, and they appear to imagine that by some sort of magic, we can work wonders even for the poor creature who is probably unconscious before we get to him, and if he has not trusted in Christ before that time, no one can enable him to do it then. Yet his friends call us up in the middle of the night, thinking that we can do something for him.
I am not now speaking of you who regularly hear the Gospel, and who are, therefore, likely to know better, yet this opinion is very generally held, but I loathe the idea of having anything of priestly power imputed to me. I have not an atom more power than any of you, my brethren and sisters in Christ, have. I am only a preacher of the Gospel, and I would gladly hear the Gospel message from any one of you.
It is blasphemous to pretend that sacred unction can be imparted by a mortal man. You must yourselves repent, and turn to God, I cannot do this for you. It is your own sowing, in this respect, that must bring you a blessed reaping, not anything that you can get a so-called “priest” or even a minister of the Gospel to sow for you [See sermon #1250, The Priest Dispensed With].
II. Now, secondly, I want to remind you that GOD’S MORAL LAWS, AS WELL AS GOD HIMSELF, ARE NOT TO BE TRIFLED WITH,
“Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.”
First, it is so in nature. If it were possible for God not to observe what man does, yet what man does is, of itself, full of a power which will be to him what the harvest is to the soil, and just what he sows he will be sure to reap one of these days, or in eternity if not in time. If a man were to sow his field with garlic and expect to reap barley, he would be bitterly disappointed. If he were to sow tares, he might pray as long as he pleased for a crop of wheat, but he would not get it. God never so changes His laws as to make tares come up wheat, and He never will. The sowing always is, and always will be, the father of the reaping.
It is so, also, in providence. A man is idle and neglects his business, he sleeps in the morning when he ought to be at work, he is dilatory and careless about his affairs, so, as the inevitable consequence, he goes from bad to worse, and soon is a bankrupt. As he sows, so he reaps. Another indulges in the sins of the flesh, so, when you see him with a broken constitution, and his whole being the very incarnation of misery, you are not surprised. Another gambles, and wastes all his substance, and sooner or later, he comes to beggary. As he sows, so he reaps. If a man is a drunkard, the poison he swallows will take effect sooner or later, however strong a constitution he may have.
As it is in nature, and in providence, so it is in the general moral government of God. Does not a man’s own conscience tell him to expect that what he does will come home to him? And though a man strives to lull his conscience to sleep, yet now and then it wakes up, and shakes him with its thunders, and causes him to be ill at ease. How is it that graceless men cannot bear to be alone? It is because conscience shakes them, and makes them think of the future, and dread still grater misery than they at present endure.
Just suppose, for a moment, that this law could be reversed, and that I could now say to you, “You may sin as you like, and no evil consequences will follow.” Could you imagine any proclamation which would spread such alarm and terror? Why, the very fabric of society would be shattered in such a state of things. Suppose that I had to say, “There is nothing better in being generous and noble than there is in meanness and vice.” Why, it would be enough to put out the least spark of virtue that might be in existence anywhere.