What a joy it was to read this book! Without a doubt this was one of the most challenging books I have ever read.
This book is a collection of 19 full-length sermons by Charles Spurgeon all based upon Scripture texts that have to do with farming. Since Spurgeon lived over 100 years ago, some may find his language a bit strange at times; however, the “down-to-earth” nature of Spurgeon’s preaching easily makes up for any words or phrases with which the reader may not be familiar.
Spurgeon is extremely adept at examining a brief text from all possible angles, and he employs colorful and descriptive imagery to drive each point home. His well-thought and logical explanations are thought provoking, and his intense passion for both the saved and the lost comes through clearly in each sermon. Let me highlight a few of my favorite sermons in this book.
The Sluggard’s Field
The first two sermons are both based on Proverbs 24:30-32, “I went by the field of the slothful….” In the first sermon, “The Sluggard’s Field”, he gives an impassioned plea not to be slothful concerning the various fields that God has given to us to cultivate. One need not read far into the sermon to see Spurgeon’s wit.
Solomon says, a sluggard is “a man void of understanding.” The slothful does not think so; he puts his hands in his pockets, and you would think from his important air that he had all the Bank of England at his disposal. You can see that he is a very wise man in his own esteem, for he gives himself airs which are meant to impress you with a sense of his superior abilities. How he has come by his wisdom it would be hard to say. He has never taken the trouble to think, and yet I dare not say that he jumps at his conclusions, because he never does such a thing as jump, he lies down and rolls into a conclusion.
After preaching for a while on the sluggard himself, Spurgeon then moves on and begins to examine the sluggard’s land. He very skillfully makes the point that the land will produce something. If it is not cultivated for good, it will be overcome with thorns and nettles, but it will not remain an empty lot. One of the fields of which he speaks is our homes and our families.
You were afraid to prejudice your boy in the right way, but the devil had no such qualms; he has prejudiced him the other way, and pretty strongly too. It is our duty to prejudice our field in favour of corn, or it will soon be covered with thistles. Cultivate a child’s heart for good, or it will go wrong of itself, for it is already depraved by nature. O that we were wise enough to think of this, and leave no little one to become a prey to the destroyer.
The Broken Fence
In the second message, “The Broken Fence”, Spurgeon stays in Proverbs 24, but changes his focus to the wall of protection around the sluggard’s field, which had come into a sad state of disrepair. In this message he brings up numerous stone walls that men permit to be broken down when they backslide. Here are his first three (of nine) stone walls
1. Sound principles, which were instilled in our youth
“Take care, you who have had Christian training, that you do not trifle with it.”
2. Solid doctrine
We are not bigots, but we should be none the worse if we so lived that men called us so. I met a man the other day who was accused of bigotry and I said, ‘Give me your hand, old fellow. I like to meet with bigots now and then, for the fine old creatures are getting scarce…’ The faith once delivered to the saints is now all the more attractive to me because it is called narrow, for I am weary of that breadth which comes of broken hedges. There are fixed points of truth, and definite certainties of creed, and woe to you if you allow these stone walls to crumble down. I fear me that the slothful are a numerous band, and that ages to come may have to deplore the laxity which has been applauded by this negligent generation.
3. Private prayer
To look into the face of man without having first seen the face of God is very dangerous: to go out into the world without locking up the heart and giving God the key is to leave it open to all sorts of spiritual vagrants. At night, again, to go to your rest as the swine roll into their sty, without thanking God for the mercies of the day, is shameful.
The sermon entitled “The Ploughman” had perhaps the simplest outline I have ever seen, and yet it was very effective. Spurgeon’s text was a question taken from Isaiah 28:24, “Doth the ploughman plough all day?” Point #1: yes. In his first point, Spurgeon gave a very eloquent call for perseverance in trying to reach others with the Gospel. Point #2: no. In his second point, Spurgeon calls on preachers and soulwinners to not forget to move from plowing to sowing.
You cannot get a harvest if you are afraid of disturbing the soil, nor can you save souls if you never warn them of hell fire. We must tell the sinner what God has revealed about sin, righteousness, and judgment to come. Still, brethren, we must not plough all day. No, no, the preaching of the law is only preparatory to the preaching of the gospel. The stress of our business lies in proclaiming glad tidings. We are not followers of John the Baptist, but of Jesus Christ; we are not rugged prophets of woe, but joyful heralds of grace.
The Loaded Wagon
I expected this sermon to be something about bringing in a great harvest for God, or some other such positive and uplifting topic. It was nothing of the sort. This sermon was taken from Amos 2:13, “Behold, I am pressed under you, as a cart is pressed, that is full of sheaves.” Spurgeon likens man’s life to a heavy cart which, when piled high with sin, presses down as a great weight upon God. This message paints sin as very grievous as Spurgeon describes what sin is and what sin does as it relates to God Himself. Near the end of the sermon, the point is made that although the cart is heavy and burdensome, God can bear it. But for those who reject Him, this heavy cart will crush them eternally. This is a powerful message that will give a greater understanding of God, man, sin, and salvation to any reader.
Wheat in the Barn
The final sermon in the book is one of the best. It is taken from Matthew 13:30, “…but gather the wheat into my barn.” This is a great sermon about true salvation, and the eternal destiny of both the saved and the lost. I love the outline.
I. “But”—a word of separation
This one word separates the tares from the wheat. Spurgeon gives a very heartfelt call to sinners in this portion of the sermon.
II. “Gather”—a word of congregation
III. “The wheat”—a word of designation
IV. “Into my barn”—a word of destination
I would strongly recommend this book to any Christian, but especially to preachers of the Gospel. In addition to the treasure trove of Biblical wisdom and application that is found in its pages, we can also learn much about the zeal and passion with which we should seek to persuade men. This book is available as a free download here.