Sowing In Tears

Sacramental Meditation XXVII

By John Willison, Practical Works (London: Blackie & Son, 1844), 282-4; minimally edited.


“They that sow in tears shall reap in joy” (Psalm 126:5).

The sowing time of God’s people is all here; their reaping time is but partly here, and far more fully hereafter.  Here they sow very much in tears; there is need for it. This seed-time is the most promising of any. Men love a dry seed-time, but God loves wet seed-times best: a wet sowing time promises a harvest of joy, whereas a dry one portends a harvest of sorrow. “Woe to them that laugh now, they shall weep.” If men do not begin with tears, they shall end with them; if they weep not now, they shall weep and wail, and gnash their teeth hereafter. Godly weeping is a good sign of spiritual life. If a child, when born, is heard to cry, it is reckoned a legal proof of its living; but if not, it is accounted stillborn or dead. Alas, the number of stillborn children in the church is great! Few are heard to cry or seen to weep, in a godly sort, if compared with those who do not. There be many who pour out tears on worldly occasions, but few on spiritual accounts. If a child dies, we can mourn and weep over him, but who mourns for Christ as for an only son? Who weeps for sin that pierced him? Oh, how little are we affected with the sufferings of our dear Redeemer! Our ears are so accustomed to the hearing of Christ’s love, His agonies, His wounds, His blood, His death, that they are become words of a common sound, and make little impression on us, though they be the most awful and moving things that ever the world heard of. Thou, Lord, art present at sacraments, thou observest our tears, and comest with thy bottle to receive and preserve them; but, oh, how empty is it of tears, for the most part, of gospel hearers! And how few are the tears which are dropped in it by communicants themselves!

Lord, I am ashamed of the hardness and unconcernedness of my heart, and the woeful dryness of my eves. Shall the rocks about Jerusalem rend sooner at Christ’s sufferings, than my rocky heart? Shall others weep and sow in tears, when Christ’s wounds and blood are set before them, and I continue stupid and hardened? Shall the history of Joseph in the pit, move my heart more than that of Christ upon the cross? Lord, look upon my stony heart with pity; give me such a look as thou gavest Peter when he denied thee; a look that may cause me to weep, and weep bitterly at the remembrance of my sins that pierced thee. If I have not openly denied my Saviour, surely I have shamefully forsaken Him in my heart. I have had a deep hand in all His sufferings. When my dear Lord was in the garden sweating blood, neither Jew nor Gentile, Judas nor Pilate, were there to cause it; but oh, my unbelief, my pride, my carnality, my hypocrisy, my sinful words and actions were there, and with their weight pressed Him to the ground, and brought that fearful agony and sweat upon Him. My dissimulation was the traitor’s kiss, my ambition the thorny crown, my drinking up iniquity like water, the portion of gall and vinegar; my want of tears caused him to shed both tears and blood; my forsaking God made him to be forsaken of God; my soul’s being exceeding guilty made his soul exceeding heavy! Oh, what means then the hardness of my heart, and dryness of my eyes, when these things are set before me! Is it that weeping is designed for me hereafter, where tears shall never be dried up? Lord, save me, for Christ’s sake, from hell’s tears, and give grace to prevent them by sowing tears now in the proper season.

So long as I am in the valley of tears, there are many reasons for sowing the seed of tears. I see many grounds for them, may a glance of them be a means of melting my heart, and filling my eyes with tears. Tears for my woeful apostasy from God in Adam, whereby I am banished from God, have lost His image and countenance, and am fallen under His wrath and curse. Tears for the woeful corruption of my nature, my enmity against God, and the manifold plagues of my heart, as atheism, ignorance, pride, unbelief, hardness, hypocrisy, formality, etc. Tears for the sins of my life, open and secret, of omission and commission, of light and ignorance, which are more in number than the hairs of my head, and many of them very heinous because of several aggravations. Tears upon the remembrance of Christ’s love, in suffering and dying in my room, to wash away my sins and save me from hell. Surely the thoughts of this love may inflame the coldest breast, melt the hardest heart, and make the driest constitution run down with tears. It was this that made Mary Magdalen’s eyes gush out so plentifully with tears of love and joy, as were enough to wash her Saviour’s feet. Tears for the abuse of God’s fatherly goodness, mercy, and patience towards me, a sinful, hell-deserving creature. This consideration melted the Prodigal’s heart, and made him cry, “Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son.” David’s undeserved kindness made even a hardhearted Saul to lift up his voice and weep, and will not God’s kindness, which is infinitely greater and freer, make me drop some silent tears at his holy table? Tears, because of the frowns of my heavenly Father, the tokens of his displeasure, his chastisements, and even His chiding, and shaking the rod at me. These will melt the heart of a child, whose nature is kindly and ingenuous, while the stubborn will stand it against many strokes. David, though a man of the greatest valour against his enemies, yet, when he saw God was angry with him in Absalom’s rebellion, wept like a child while going up Olivet (2 Sam 15:30), and seemed to have no courage at all. Again, I ought to sow in tears for the dishonours done to God by the sins of others, and especially when damnable heresies and blasphemies are vented against God. And likewise tears for the miseries and perishing condition of others. And especially tears of sympathy with God’s people in affliction. For I read of Christ himself, David, Hezekiah, Josiah, Jeremiah, and other saints sowing such tears. Well then may this world be called a valley of tears.

Besides all these, it is well pleasing to God when Christians sow tears of tenderness in renewing covenant with Him, in prayer, in hearing the Word, in commemorating the death and sufferings of Christ for their sins. This last is a special season for sowing tears, according to Zechariah 12: 10. Oh shall Christians be more sparing of their tears for Christ, than Christ was of His blood for them? We cry out against the Jews and Romans as hardhearted men for piercing Christ. But what softer are our hearts, if we can see our sins put him to death, and not be grieved nor weep? Lord, send thy Spirit to touch my heart, and then it will melt into tears for sin, that cursed thing that butchered the Lamb of God. Oh let this be my weeping time, and seed-time of tears, that hereafter I may reap in joy. Alas my seedtime is scrimp and insignificant. Oh let not my harvest be proportioned to it! Lord, though I have not tears enough with Mary to wash thy feet, yet thou hast blood enough to wash my feet, my heart, my hands, my tears, and all my duties, and to make me and them acceptable and savoury to God, so that I may reap in joy with His people above, and stand there as a monument of free grace forever.

Many, after sowing the precious seed of tears at communion seasons, have even had their reaping times here below, as an earnest and first-fruits of the full harvest above. Lord, make me acquainted both with the sowing and reaping of penitent believers in this world, that I may have good hope, through grace, of sharing in the harvest of glory hereafter, even the full enjoyment of God in heaven, eternal communion with the glorious Trinity, with the saints and holy angels. Let me know what it is, after a seed-time of tears, to reap even in ordinances here below, the clearing of my evidences of grace, and the evidences of my interest in Christ, and in the well-ordered covenant. Let me reap the lifting up of the light of thy countenance upon me, which will put more joy in my heart than worldlings have when they reap corn and wine in the greatest plenty. Let me see my name written in heaven before I go thither, that my passage may be joyful in the midst of tears. Let me reap even here new supplies of grace, strength to bear crosses, and resist temptations; give me gracious returns of prayer, and victory over my corruptions, that I may sing with the Psalmist: “In the day when I cried thou answeredst me, and strengthenedst me with strength in my soul” (Ps 138:3).Ω