THE CREATION OF GRASS AND ITS LESSONS.
“And God said, Let the earth bring forth grass.”
THE reading of the first chapter of Genesis, on the present Sunday, can hardly fail to arrest the attention of a churchman. It tells him that another year is gone, and that another season of the church is again come round. It reminds him too, that the minister of his Church has turned back the leaves of the great Bible, and has begun it again, with the reading of its very first page. And then the solemn recital of the origin of our world, which no other book can tell us, is itself an interesting circumstance. What is more, it is impossible for a really thoughtful mind to hear that chapter annually read, without finding some new topic start up for contemplation.
But who, on hearing of the wonders of the creation-week, gives a thought about the production of so simple and so common a thing as grass ? And who thinks of making a sermon upon it ? Many a whispering heart is ready to reply, the grass we tread on is so common a thing, that nothing need be said about it ; or, if anything is said about it, it can amount to no more than what every child knows, and every rustic well understands.
But how unwise are such whisperings, and how prone are we to forget that the commonest things are often the most important, and the most instructive ! Were an angel to come down from heaven, and call around him a class of the cleverest natural philosophers in the world, how would they be astonished at the thousand things which he could tell them about a single blade of grass ! And, if he were to summon a conclave of the most learned theologians, and proceed to preach about that blade, what babes in divinity would they all appear !
Dear brethren, the mysteries of grace, and the practical truths which are represented by the grass which God made, are worthy of an angel’s teaching, and absolutely necessary for our learning. It is only our ignorance, or our iniquity, which makes us insensible to the instruction which God has attached to the commonest things around us. Our blessed Lord often took the text of his parables, or discourses, from those very things : he consequently preached about sparrows, ravens, lilies, grass. Let none then despise what such things, by the aid of the Bible, teach us. May the great Teacher help us, at this present, to understand and receive his own lessons upon grass. “And God said, Let the earth bring forth grass.”
Hence a series of observations.
I. Grass, as to its author, its variety, and its growth, is an emblem of divine grace.
1. Strange as it may sound, it is strictly true, the God of the grass is “the God of all grace.” He, who created the one, imparts the other. Both are utterly beyond the power of man to produce. Were all the philosophers and all the agriculturists in the world to meet together, they could not of themselves make one blade of grass. Neither could all the angels in heaven, or all the divines upon earth, bestow one particle of grace to a sinful soul. All is of God. He is jealous of his power, even with respect to the production of grass. Though men, under the name of science, talk arrogantly, or, through forgetfulness, speak flippantly, yet does God constantly assert his sovereignty with respect to the gift of grass. The creation of it is, in the chapter before us, as solemnly announced as the creation of light, or the formation of the sun and the moon, or of any of the grandest objects in our universe. In Deuteronomy 11:15, Jehovah says, “I will send grass in thy fields for thy cattle.” In Psalm 104:14, David says, “He causeth the grass to grow for cattle.” The like in Psalm 147:8, “Who maketh grass to grow upon the mountains.” And our Lord, in his sermon on a mountain, reminded his hearers that it was God who clothed the grass. Equally, too, is God the sole author of all grace. It requires the same power to produce a blade of grass as to create a soul and save it. This is what the Bible everywhere asserts, and what every saint feels. “Thou renewest the face of the earth,” says David : and who but the same God can renew the heart of sinful man ? “By the grace of God I am what I am,” is the grateful and adoring acknowledgment of every saved sinner. Let thoughtless ones also be reminded that, as grace is covenant grace, so also is grass covenant grass. The very verdure of our meadows can come round to us, in coming months, only by virtue of that covenant which God made with Noah. “ While the earth remaineth, seed time and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease.” (Genesis 8:22.) With what double, yea, more than double interest then, does the spiritual naturalist look upon the pleasant green of the springing grass, beyond anything that the mere natural naturalist can possibly feel !
2. As to the value of grass, who can estimate that ? Were God to destroy it, all the world over, what an upturn and overthrow would it make in all the essential departments of animal life. What then the earth would be without grass, the church must be without grace. Where grass has been withheld, there a desert has been formed ; and where grace has been stopped, there a moral wilderness has followed. What is a heathen land but a graceless country ? It is a desert in which grows no grass. Ah, and what are graceless hearts but dreary wastes of sin and evil imagination ? Grace is everything to us, much as we may slight it, and little as we may seek it. Grass is provender, and grace is our very life. If the cattle perish without grass, so do we die the second death, if destitute of saving grace.
3. Though grass is so common, and we speak of it as one and the same thing, yet are its varieties both numerous and wonderful. Botanists tell us of not merely scores of species, but hundreds of varieties ; and yet countless as are the blades of all those varieties, not two are alike. After the same manner, the grace of God is very diversified, both in itself and in its effects upon different persons.
When too all the sons and daughters of God shall be assembled in the last great day, and they shall be spread out like a beauteous field of grass which the Lord hath blessed and scented, not one will be found exactly like another. All indeed will resemble Christ, and be one with him, but each will bear a distinct and separate likeness : so wonderful will the wisdom and the power of our God be in the article of variety alone !
4. The growth of grass, like the growth of grace, is not only remarkable but mysterious. We often speak of seeing the grass grow. The process of its growth certainly is at times rapid ; still no human sight can perceive its actual gradations. Grass is remarkable as being a sort of universal vegetable. The earth everywhere produces it. It grows, more or less, in every clime and during every season. In like manner divine grace is subject to no restrictions of time or place. The Holy Spirit dispenses it “to every man severally as he will.” Hence the heathen wilderness and the christian city are alike capable of receiving its implantation and witnessing its growth. “ There shall be a handful of corn in the earth upon the top of the mountains ; the fruit thereof shall shake like Lebanon ; and they of the city shall flourish like grass of the earth.”—Psalm 72:16.
I. Far more mysteriously does divine grace advance its growth in the human heart. “It groweth up,” as our Lord said of the sower sowing grain, “he knoweth not how.” This however we all know, that Christians are to “ grow in grace ; ” that their growth in it will be perceptible, if not always to themselves, yet often to others ; and that some things hinder, and other things forward its growth.
Think for a moment of this last named fact ! The frost and the chilling wind check the growth of grass, while a rainless and scorching sky soon parch it up. On the other hand copious dews, warm rains, and genial suns promote its growth abundantly.
And does not sin and evil passion of every kind, from rampant lust to sordid covetousness, check, even to annihilation, the growth of grace in the soul ? Will not even pride and prejudice do much the same ? And, as to pleasure and prosperity, who has not beheld the seemingly fair and verdant professor gradually drained of all spiritual moisture by them, so as to become like scorched grass, useless for all the purposes for which it was destined ? If, dear brethren, we would grow as the grass, which rejoiceth the cattle and repayeth the husbandman, we must both pray for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon our souls, and cherish it carefully, when it has been vouchsafed to us.
II. Grass, in the beauty of its freshness, and the luxuriance of its tender springing, is an emblem of the Lord Jesus, and of the rich and pleasant provision which God makes, in the gospel, for his people. It is remarkable that the margin for our text, as the literal Hebrew, is “tender grass.”
1. When David was departing this life, he uttered one of the most beautiful of all his prophecies. The inspiring Spirit nerved and brightened him for speaking thus of the Messiah :—“ And he shall be as the light of the morning, when the sun riseth, even a morning without clouds ; as the tender grass springing out of the earth by clear shining after rain.” (2 Samuel 23:4.)
Rarely has the character of the Saviour for loveliness, gentleness, and tenderness, been so happily exhibited, as by this simile of “tender grass springing out of the earth, by clear shining after rain.” Who has not gazed upon the beauty of such grass, when such shining has freshened it up ? What an aspect of health does it put on ; and how is that health adorned with dewy gems of inimitable hue ; and how inviting to the pearly teeth of the suckling lamb, or promising in the thirsty scythe of the husbandman ! Who has not seen all this ? But, who has thought of him, who not only made it all, but has by it intended us to learn living lessons of himself ? Who thinks of that “tender grass” as an emblem of his tender frame and gentle nature, springing up from our vile earth, and presently to be trampled under foot of Jews and gentiles, or mown down with their rude and ruthless hands ? Who thinks of its sunny freshness, and spangled verdure, as types of his healthful grace and spiritual comeliness, which he sustains for his believing people ? Henceforth let us after this manner think of him, when returning spring presents David’s picture of him to our eyes.
2. In Psalm 23:2, the Psalmist shepherd-boy, comparing Jehovah to a shepherd, and himself to a sheep, says, “He maketh me to lie down in green pastures ;” which literally, and as translated in the margin, is “in pastures of tender grass.”
When therefore you see a field or plot of young, juicy, healthy shooting grass, you see an exhibition of the sweet food, and pleasant blessings which God has provided for the sheep of his pasture, for all true believers, in his holy Word, his holy ordinances, and especially in his holy gospel. O how rich are they, how wholesome, how palatable, how nutritious, how joyously pleasant ! And never we may truthfully say, does sheep or lamb luxuriate in green pastures of tender grass, half so much as the lively believer delights himself amid the wholesome verdure of a faithfully preached gospel. Let us now turn to another class of topics, which the Holy Ghost teaches us from God’s creation of grass.
III. Grass, in its over luxuriant and rank state, is an emblem of wicked men in prosperity. This is revealed to us in Psalm 92:7 : “When the ungodly are green as the grass, and when all the workers of wickedness do flourish, then shall they be destroyed forever.”
How fearful are these words, and yet how easy to be understood ! Every observer of a field or meadow knows that grass, in certain spots, grows so coarsely, and so rankly, and harbours so many weeds, that it is cut down for the dunghill. Thus sinners, who grow wild in sin, or rank in iniquity, are no better than the offal grass of the swamp, or of the boggy spot of a meadow. They are not only useless, but injurious. Like the grass now described, they occupy the place of better vegetation, and only spread mischief, so long as they remain in it. But then their end, what is that ? It is that they shall be cut down, and “be destroyed forever.”
O that all therefore, who hear these things, would take heed respecting them ! Let no sinners mistake their character or position, by falsely comparing themselves with other sinners. They may not be so gross, or so daring, or so hardened, as many whom they
know : but they are in the way to become such. A patch of rank and worthless grass is not composed of tufts of only one size, nor of only one sort. Many a tuft may be coarser and more towering than another ; and many a younger shoot, or milder blade may be found among them. But they all are bad together : they partake of the same root, grow in the same soil, and perpetuate the same mischief.
Let all sinners then remember that the great Husbandman may send his workman, Death, with his inevitable scythe, and cut them off in all the horrid freshness of their guilt. Their only safety is in repentance towards God, and faith in his dear Son.
IV. Grass, in its withered state, is an emblem of two things :
1. Of the sorrow and faintness of an afflicted heart. This is most pathetically and touchingly set forth in Psalm 102. That psalm is called “A prayer of the afflicted, when he is overwhelmed, and poureth out his complaint before the Lord.” After a lengthened description of his sorrowful state, and the use of many similes to illustrate it, among which is that of withered grass, the Psalmist closes the whole by repeating that one similitude, “My soul is withered like grass.” (Compare Psalm 102:1–12.) How many a sorrowful spirit realises all that is here described ! And how often have individuals, now present, had to say in secret, “ My heart is smitten, and withered like grass.” Their comforts seem dried up ; and that, which was once flourishing within them, appears sapless and parched. “Withered grass” is the very thing which represents the state in which they feel themselves to be. And no marvel, for it was the state of him who was the afflicted One, and whom Psalm 102 prophetically described. For us and for our consolation, was the tender heart of the Saviour “smitten and withered like grass.” The sharp blast of Almighty wrath fell upon him, and he was dried up like a potsherd, and withered like a tuft of tender grass which the lightning has scorched.
His spiritually minded people must expect similar tribulation. He often tries them as himself was tried, to constrain them to see that they have nothing in themselves, and that all grace, comfort, and help, must be sought from him. Other persons cannot understand these things. “They are foolishness unto them.” But they are truthful realities, and wise experiences with those who are destined to survive all witherings, and to flourish for ever in the field above.
2. Grass in its withered state is an emblem also of the frailty of human life, and the suddenness with which it is liable to be cut off. “The voice said, Cry. And he said, What shall I cry ? All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field.” “ The grass withereth, the flower fadeth : but the word of our God shall stand for ever.” (Isaiah 40:6, 8.) The picture here drawn is vivid and complete. Look on the pleasant meadow. See the health, strength, and beauty of its crop, as the wind gently waves its surface. But think how the next frost can nip it, or the next blast level it, or how certainly, if it reaches to ripeness, the mower will one day cut it down. And then bring away your eye from that scene, and let it gaze on the great company of mankind, on this city, this parish, this congregation, on yourselves. Like grass we perish, for “surely the people is grass.” Yes, let no one take refuge in generalities, but let each one say to himself or herself, “I am but as a blade of grass, and shall and must as certainly die, as all grass withereth, and every flower fadeth.” They and they alone, who have wisdom and faith to say this, and to act consistently therewith, will be prepared for the comfort of a closing thought or two.
1. Though the grass withereth, “the word of the Lord endureth for ever.” This was Isaiah’s consolation. St. Peter took it up, and by inspiration added to it, saying, “ And this is the word, which by the gospel is preached unto you.” Not one syllable of all that God stands pledged to perform shall fail or perish. His gospel is yours forever.
2. That which resembles grass, in the visible church, may be withered and cut down, but the living grass of the living church, “shall never perish.” “And there came out of the smoke locusts upon the earth : and unto them was given power, as the scorpions of the earth have power. And it was commanded them that they should not hurt the grass of the earth, neither any green thing, neither any tree, but only those men which have not the seal of God in their foreheads.” (Revelation 9:3, 4.)
In coming times, the Son of man will clear out of his field only that which offends. The false professor, as well as the profligate,—all who bear not the stamp of godliness, will be clean cut down. But, the godly, the green, the living grass of the true field, shall not be hurt : they shall abide forever.
3. The wonders of the world’s first week will never cease to be admired by those whom God creates anew in Christ Jesus. And, if grass be a wonder, how wonderful must that parent mind be, which saw, from the beginning, all that it was to teach us until the end ! Then let us say, “Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory, and honour, and power ; for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.” (Revelation 4:11.)
A Sermon by William Henry Havergal
(We do not praise for what we do not recognize!)