Sowing and Reaping – J. Wilbur Chapman (historic sermon 1859-1917)
I am bringing to you what I think is a very solemn subject. I have no apology for speaking on solemn themes, for we are living in a day when many people seem to be turning to light and trifling things. We have reached a time when men regard God lightly. In fact, many seem to have put Him out of their thoughts. It used to be, in olden days, that men were afraid when they sinned. When they transgressed God’s law they thought of judgment, and their minds went forward to the thought of final punishment. Now men sin with impunity. They brush God aside. They appear to think that if there be a God at all, they can escape His judgment. They are clever and rich. They are too important for judgment. So I bring you tonight a message which I hope and pray may help us all to think. It is a comparatively easy matter to lead people to Christ if they will only think.
The text is in Galatians 6:7— “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.” Do you not see how this fits in with my preliminary statement? Stop a minute and think about God. He is infinite. He is eternal. He is omnipotent. And if you resist Him to the end, His power must be against you. He is omniscient. He knows what we are thinking about and what we are doing. What we say and do is written, and one day the books will be opened. He is omnipresent. He is everywhere. He is here tonight as I magnify Jesus Christ. He was in your room last night when you sinned against Him. He was in the drug store when you slipped in and bought drink against the law. He sees you in the darkness of the night and in the brightness of the noonday. He is always about you. Think of His greatness. He holds the winds in the hollow of His hands. He speaks and it is done.
Now come back to the text again — Be not deceived. God is not mocked. For whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. What does this mean? I will tell you exactly. It means that God is not to be ignored. Many of us have actually done this in our actions, if not in our thoughts. The revelation contained in the Bible counts for nothing. The gift of His Son Jesus Christ — you are not bothering about it. The love of God — you have no use for it. You have turned your back upon God.
But the text says: Be not deceived. God is not to be mocked. You may think you can mock Him, but some day you will face Him. Oh, it is well enough to think that you can get along without God when you are well and your family circle is unbroken and your friends are many. But some day, with a broken heart, and broken health, and a broken family circle, and friends forsaking you, where will you be when you have reached the end?
You remember the old story of the stage driver who was so profane that the people who traveled with him marveled at his profanity when he led such a hazardous life. They wondered that he would risk blasphemy. They talked of Christ, only to hear His name blasphemed. People who came to like him urged him to become a Christian, but he resisted all pleas. At last he came to the end. He was dying. They thought that he had gone, when suddenly they saw one foot moving and they heard him say in a whisper: “I am on the down grade and I can’t find the brake.” Some day, some day, men and women who have resisted God, spurned His love, and trampled it beneath their feet, will come to their end and they will not be able to find the brake. Be not deceived. God is not mocked. For whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.
There is a general principle of judgment which runs all through God’s book. If you start in Genesis and go through to Revelation, you will find the thought mentioned many times. But I should like to speak particularly of two judgments. Watch very carefully, if you please. Revelation 20:11— “And I saw a great white throne, and Him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them.” Can you stand a judgment like that? If there has been a record made of your life to the present time, all your profanity, your intemperance, your impurity, — answer me, could you stand that? It goes on to say, “and the books were opened.” Down South the colored people have a song that they always sing in the minor key. It runs like this: “He sees all we do. He hears all we say. My God’s a writing all the time.” We, too, are writing our own record. I am writing, and so are you. That sin of yours last night that your mother does not know about, — it is written down. That sin that your wife does not know about, — it has made its record. That sin you committed in Pittsburgh, in London, that sin of yours in Chicago, that sin committed in New York. I was saying this in Scotland, and Mr. Alexander said I went far afield to say, “that sin committed in New York,” for the people in Scotland had never seen New York. At the close of the service three men came forward, and one of them said: “You have uncovered a sin I have tried to hide for years. I went to New York for five days, and was so far away from home that I thought I might give way. I sinned, and I have covered it over all my life. I thought no one would know it.” The surest thing about sin is that it makes its mark. The books, God’s books and your book, shall be opened. Hear the text again — Be not deceived. God is not mocked, for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.
Not a very great while ago, on Long Island, not many miles from my home, a young woman turned away from her husband. He was a man of wealth and position. No one ever knew why she left him. She went away with another man very much her social inferior. Her husband’s heart was broken. He did everything he could. He wrote and sent messages to her. He sent his father after her. She would not return. There was only one thing to do to protect his name and household, because her sin was so very great, and that was to divorce her. He was forced to do it. She married her companion in sin and all seemed to go well, but one day, the New York papers contained an announcement that she and her companion were dead. They had died in a New York hotel together. She left this letter: “My friends, Fred and I have been young and heedless and cynical, living in this great wicked city of New York. We have often laughed at what the preachers say. We have often sneered at the words: ‘Whatsoever a man soweth that shall he also reap,’ and ‘The wages of sin is death.’ People say it is old fogyism. Fred and I know better. We are reaping the harvest and we cannot stand it.”
It seems to me as I stand here this evening, that I am preaching to some person who needs my message. It may be that God has sent you here to listen to what I am saying. The time has come when someone must speak for God to you and say: Be not deceived. God is not mocked. If you sow you will reap. Of course, if you have accepted Jesus Christ as your Savior, you have nothing to do with the “great white throne of judgment.” I was a Christian for years before I knew this. I had thought that I should have to stand face to face with God and hear His “depart” or “welcome,” but there is nothing like this in the Bible. If I have accepted Jesus Christ as my personal Savior, I have already appeared in judgment in his person, and I shall never stand in judgment again. But unless I take Him, unless I yield to Him, and in sincere and honest repentance turn from sin, then judgment is awaiting me.
So many young men seem to think that they can sow their wild oats with impunity. I have heard men say that wild oats must be sown, but hear me when I say, if you sow your wild oats you will reap the same harvest, the same harvest! Just so surely as God lives and you do not repent, hear me, one day the reaping time will come. I am greatly concerned about men who do not come to Christ. I have come to feel in these days as if I were preaching to my own people. I have come to know you well. I have been in intimate touch with many of the students. I have lost all thought of a promiscuous audience. It seems to me as if I were standing here pleading for my own. Hear me then, my friends, as I say: Be not deceived. God is not mocked. For whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. It is written plainly in God’s Word. It is proved by experience. We shall reap if we sow. Sow a thought and you reap an act. Sow an act and you reap a habit. Sow a habit and you reap a character. Sow a character and you reap a destiny. It is written in God’s Word that we shall reap what we sow.
A well-dressed man came to me in one of the meetings in Ohio and slipped a letter into my hand. It said: “My name is so and so. My telephone number is so and so. You may call me if you wish. I lived a wicked life before my marriage. I was false to everything that stood for manhood. I thought that I was too clever to be trapped. I married. My wife was beautiful. There came to our home a little child. I thought sunshine had come at last. I loved the child devotedly. I used to take her in my arms and fondle her, covering her face with my kisses. One day I noticed something wrong with the child and I took her to a great specialist. He came to my home and called a conference of other doctors. They went over my little baby, studying every part of her body. They came to my library, for I am a man of position and means, and they said: ‘Sir, what was your life before marriage?’ My God! I had to tell them that my life before marriage was in open rebellion of God’s laws. Then the doctor led me over to the side of the room and put his hand on my shoulder, and said: ‘Sir, this is your harvest. Your baby will go through life, if she lives, with a twisted spine and shut eyes.”‘ — Be not deceived. God is not mocked. For whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.
When we were going around the world we stopped one day at Thursday Island, and there I heard a sorrowful tale. There is much leprosy on the other side of the world, especially in the tropics. One day, not far from Thursday Island, it was found that a little boy and girl belonging to a good home were lepers. The laws are very strict, and while the wealth of the father of the children was great, it was decided that the family should live alone on another island. The mother stole away with the children and was lost in Sidney for two years, until, strange to say, her children were admitted to the schools. Then the law found them again and they were taken back to the vicinity of Thursday Island, and the law began its operation. The children were separated from the family and sent to the leper island. But how did they become lepers? How? The mother, with her love of social position, thought the cares of motherhood too heavy, so she had a South Sea Island woman to care for her children, and she was leprous. This was the story, and when I heard it and saw what a harvest had come to that woman for the seeds she had sown, I could not withhold my tears. It is hard to sin when sin hurts yourself and tosses you on your bed so that you cannot sleep, and you say: Will the morning never come? But it is harder still to sin and to hurt one’s wife and children, or other dear ones. Be not deceived. God is not mocked. For whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.
I have come to the close of my appeal. I do not need to preach longer. In the light of my text tonight, I say to all of you that we reap the harvest of what we have sown. The harvest may be an impaired will, a ruined character, injury and sorrow to others. Hear me again, — be not deceived. God is not mocked. For whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. My heart grieves for any sinner who stays away from the Savior. I have a mind to give my place on the platform to someone else, so that I might go back through the building to this one and that one, and say: Turn ye! Turn ye! For why will you die? I have a mind to lay hold upon you and compel you to come, for there is only one way in all this world to escape the law of which I am speaking. That way is this: Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved. If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thy heart that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. Can I say any more than this? God help you! Some of you are sitting there and saying to yourselves: “I am too timid.” Come down when the crowd rises. Some of you are saying: “I can settle it here.” It would be worth everything for you to come out in the open and walk down this aisle. Come forward and let me take your hand, and let me hear you say: “God being my helper, I am going to turn to Christ tonight.” Now is the time.