James Smith, 1858
It is a beautiful morning, God is shining upon us in nature, and blessing us as the God of providence. The sun shines, the lark sings, and everything seems to say, "Be happy. Be thankful." The fields have been covered with golden grain, the reaper has gone forth with his sickle, part of the grain is carried off — and now the fields are thrown open to the poor. What a merry group are just going into the field to glean. It is early — but they are ready for their toil. They spread over the entire field. They stoop to pick up every sheaf. They carefully collect the stray ears in their hand, now they bind them together, in order that they may more conveniently carry them home. There they beat out the grain, and separate it from the chaff, send it to the mill to be ground into flour — then they make it into bread, and it becomes food for them and their households.
How pleasant it must be to the mother, to cut up the loaf made from wheat gathered by her own hand! And how pleasant to the children too, to feed on bread made from the grain they helped to collect. As I stood looking at the gleaners, and these thoughts passed through my mind, I could not help saying, "Here's a lesson for me." Well, let me learn it, and having done so, reduce it to practice. For unless our lessons influence and improve our conduct — they do us but little good.
God's Word may be compared to a good field of grain, here is to be found the finest of the wheat; wheat that will make food fit for angels. This field is thrown open for me to glean in. It was shut up, being found only in a dead language — but our venerable translators unlocked the gate; yes, took it off its hinges, and placed it on one side, so that now anyone may enter the field, and everyone who is willing to learn to read can.
The gleaners were at their work early — so let me every morning, while it is early, enter into the Lord's field, and glean a few golden ears of this grain of the kingdom. The gleaners appeared full of spirits, and each one was intent on his work. Hope brought them to the field, and inspired them with energy. To work they went in good earnest, each one bent on collecting as many ears as possible. So may I go to God's Word with spirit, read it in hope of finding something suited to my case, and collect from it as much as I can — for doctrine, reproof, correction, and comfort; that I may be well informed in spiritual things, be reproved whenever I do, or go wrong, receive necessary correction, and be comforted in all my tribulations.
The gleaners had to stoop for every sheaf, and so must I, for it is written, "The meek will he guide in judgment, and the meek will he teach his way." If we walk erect through the field, we see little, and gather nothing; we must look closely into the Word, if we would see its meaning, we must stoop if we would collect its precious food. In reading God's Word, the eye should be intently fixed on the page, while the heart ascends in prayer to God. We must stoop, for except we receive the kingdom of God, as a little child, we shall never enter therein. Many say they cannot see this in God's Word, others cannot see that — the reason is they do not stoop low enough. You may pass over every part of the field, and there may be much grain left scattered over it — but if you walk erect, and do not stoop to look among the stubble — you will not find it. So you may read a great part of God's Word — but without child-like humility, you will never discover many glorious doctrines, precious promises, sweet precepts, and delightful views of Jesus.
The gleaners before me, carefully collect every sheaf. Just so should I read every book, and every chapter in God's Word. I should take up and examine every verse. All the parts are not alike plain — but as all Scripture is given by inspiration of God, all scripture is profitable; and the humble soul often finds much food and refreshment, where others can find nothing. The eye of a practiced gleaner often discovers some good ears, in parts of the field which others have passed over, so those who habitually read God's Word with prayer, and in dependence on the teaching of the Holy Spirit, discover precious things, where others can see nothing.
The gleaners bind together what they collect, that they may carry it home with ease and without waste. So should we, not only collect from God's Word by reading — but endeavor prayerfully to impress it upon our memories, that so we may carry it away, and make use of it, as our circumstances may demand. Hence, says the Apostle, "Let the Word of God dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns, and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord." Bind up the grain you glean in God's field, that you may easily carry it about with you, and use it as occasion offers, for your own benefit, and the good of others.
At the close of the day, or when the whole field was clear, the gleaners carried home what they had gathered — some more and some less. Just so, when we read the Word, or hear the gospel — we should carry home what we glean. Our households should be the better, the happier, for our attention to the Word of God. "Go home to your friends," said Jesus, "and tell them what great things the Lord has done for you, and has had compassion on you." Every child, every servant, should receive some of the bread, made from the grain we have gleaned. Hence Moses said to Israel of old, "These words shall be in your heart, and you shall teach them diligently unto your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise up." Let us then always carry home what we glean, and let others see it, taste it, and be the better for it.
Having taken the grain home, the gleaners beat it out, and separate it from the straw and husks. So should we meditate upon what we hear and read, separating what is intended for our use, from what is purely Jewish, or only applicable to particular people, under special circumstances. There is no chaff in God's Word — but the rare grain is often inclosed in what appears like husks, intended to protect it, and preserve it for our use. Jewish ordinances and observances, ancient types and shadows, like the husk, contain hidden in them precious food. Jesus is hidden in the type of a bird or beast; regeneration is hidden in circumcision; and the rest of the gospel, in the land of Canaan. As the clean beasts ruminated in the field, as the gleaners beat out their grain at home, so should we devoutly meditate, and endeavor to understand the meaning of God's holy word, in order that we may profit thereby.
The clean grain is then sent to the mill, and prepared for food for the household. Just so, should what we gather be prepared for our own use, and the use of others by meditation and prayer. The parent does not set grains of wheat before his children — but bread from those grains; and we should set truth before our offspring and dependents, in plain words, striking appeals, and affectionate exhortations; illustrating, and enforcing the same, by the most simple and impressive illustrations.
Let us endeavor to understand God's Word ourselves; let us seek to experience it in its sweetness and power; let us aim to practice it in our everyday life, that so we may place it before them in the form of bread, and so each one will see its suitability, excellency, and adaption to themselves, and we may hope be led by God's grace to partake of it.
Our gleaners eat and enjoy the bread made from their own wheat. They always speak highly of it, and frequently send as a present, a cake of it to their friends. So must we, not merely read, remember, and talk of God's Word — but feed upon it, and enjoy it. "Your word was found," says the prophet, "and I ate it, and it was to me the joy and rejoicing of my heart." And the patriarch Job could say, "I have esteemed the Words of your mouth, more than my necessary food." Let us not merely collect for others — but for ourselves; nor eat our morsel alone — but let others partake with us.
God's Word is intended to make us happy — that we may make others happy; and to make us holy — that we may make others holy. No Christian should keep his good things to himself, nor should any professor be satisfied with a religion that does not feed his soul, and make him joyful. Let the kind letter convey a cake of the bread made from wheat of our own gleaning, to your friends at a distance.
Reader, are you a gleaner? Do you glean in the fruitful field of God's Word? Do you glean in the field of the gospel ministry? These are fruitful fields, and the Lord, like Boaz of old — often tells the reapers to let fall some handfuls, for poor, honest, hard working Ruths. If we do not glean much, it is not because there is not much there — but either because our sight is dim, our hands unpracticed, or we do not stoop low enough.
Let me exhort you to imitate the gleaners, who have led me to make these remarks; be in the field early — stoop for every ear — carefully collect all you can — bind together what you collect — carry home what you bind together — beat out what you carry home — prepare what you carry to be food for your household — and then eat with them and enjoy the fruits of your labor.
The literal gleaners are confined to a few days during harvest; but you may glean all the year round. They have only a few fields in which they are allowed to enter — but you are welcome to many. They may not glean until the grain is carried away — but you may glean among the sheaves, while all the shocks are in the field. They have often a long way to go in order to glean, and a long way to carry the grain when they have gleaned it; but the Word of God is near you, even in your mouth and in your heart.
Glean then in health — that you may have it to feed upon in sickness. Bind up in youth — that you may have it at hand to enjoy in old age, when memory fails you. Carry home much to your household — that as in the house of the Father of the prodigal, there may be "bread enough and to spare." Teach all your dependents to glean for themselves, for in the field on which I have been looking, I saw mothers with two, three, or four children, gleaning with them, and helping them. Teach your little ones to glean, take them into the field while they are yet young, instruct them to stoop and pick up the full ears, and so help to supply the needs of the household. In a word, and without a figure: Be thoroughly consistent Christians yourselves, and endeavor to make your household to be so too.