IT was good stories like this in His sermons that made the common people begin to hear Him so gladly. There was not a carpenter's shop, nor a village market-place, in all Galilee where such stories of treasure-trove were not continually told. Stories of the same kind are not altogether unknown in our own land. But in the East, and to this day, such great finds as this man made are not at all uncommon. In times of commotion timid men will hide their treasures sometimes in the walls or under the floors of their houses, and sometimes they will bury them in their gardens and in their fields. And it will sometimes happen that the owner will die and will leave his secret treasure wholly undisclosed. And then some lucky man will come on that buried treasure some day in the most unexpected and accidental way; like this lucky man. He was ploughing one day in his master's field; or, was he digging deep with his spade and his mattock? When, suddenly, he reeled with joy at the sight of the glittering heard that his ploughshare had laid bare. In one moment his resolve was made. Carefully covering up the shining spot, before the sun had time to set, he had already sold all that he possessed, and had made such an offer for the field that it was handed over to him, with all that it contained, before he slept. All the old books of the ancient world are full of such intoxicating stories as this. Perhaps the most famous of all those stories is that which Tacitus tells us about Nero. How a bold imposter hoaxed the emperor about an immense mine, full of all kinds of precious treasure, that was to be found in a distant part of his dominions. And Nero believed the wild tale till he became the laughing-stock of the whole world. But this was no hoax, this true find in that field of Galilee. Our Lord would seem to have known the fortunate ploughman, and to have had his happy story from his own delighted lips. But the barest outline of the rich story is all that Matthew's pen has here preserved to us. We would far rather have had the whole sermon that our Lord preached from that fortunate man's find than we would have had all his furrow full of gold and silver. For the word of our Lord's mouth is becoming more and better to us than thousands of gold and silver. But it has seemed good to the Holy Ghost to have this man's story told to us in the shortest possible way, and then to leave us to find out all its heavenly likenesses for ourselves.
Well, the first and foundation likeness between this parable and the kingdom of heaven is surely this. Just as our Lord is the Sower in another parable, and just as He is the Planter of the mustard seed in another, and the Good Shepherd in another, and the Good Samaritan in another, so He is the happy ploughing Man in this parable. And as the field was the world in a former parable, so is it here. And the kingdom of heaven, says our Lord, is like treasure hid in the field of this world. And the first man who found the treasure that lay hid in the field of this world was the Son of man. All the world knows that though He was rich, yet for our sakes He became poor. All the world knows how that being in the form of God, He humbled Himself, and made Himself of no reputation, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. All of which, taken together, was the price He paid for this field, and for the treasure hid in this field. Our Lord bought this world, so to say, for the sake of the elect souls that lay hidden in it, till He was able to say,-"As thou, Father, hast given thy Son power over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given Him."
Incomparable Thomas Goodwin,-incomparable to me, at any rate,-says that Paul will be the second man in heaven, the Man Christ Jesus being the first man. And every one here will already have thought of Paul as soon as this fine little parable was read out to him. For, if ever any man could be said to have had every letter of this fine little parable fulfilled both in him and by him, that man was Paul. If ever any man, after the Man Christ Jesus, sold all that he had that he might buy the field, that man was the Apostle. Which field, in his case, was nothing less than Jesus Christ Himself. Jesus Christ Himself, with His justifying righteousness, held in Himself like hid treasure. This so fortunate ploughman in our Lord's sermon sold his little cottage in Capernaum, with its little garden full of fruits and flowers, and with all its vines and fig trees, under which he was used to sit after his hard day's work was done. He determined to sell all those dear possessions and delights of his for the sake of the treasure his eyes had once got sight of in that enriching and entrancing field. And Paul, in like manner, was ploughing at his daily task, when, lo, his horse's foot suddenly sank out of sight into such a wealth of unsearchable riches, that he straightway counted all things but loss in order to buy that field. Yes, truly. If Jesus Christ was the first ploughing man of this parable, then, surely, Paul was the second.
But the kingdom of heaven is such a rich and various kingdom that there are many other fields with hid treasure in them, lying all around the central field. And in some of those adjoining fields there is no little treasure still lying hid and waiting for the first fortunate ploughman to lay it open and to make it his own. You are not ministers. But you cannot fail to see what a rich field, and full of what treasure, every evangelical pulpit is, with its pastorate of the same character spreading out all around it. Only, here again, that minister who would possess himself of the hid treasure of his pulpit and his pastorate must sell all he has in order to buy up those two gold-filled fields. "At his first coming to his little village, Ouranius felt it as disagreeable to him as a prison, and every day seemed too tedious to be endured in so retired a place. He thought his parish was too full of poor and mean people that were none of them fit for the conversation of a gentleman. This put him upon a close application to his studies. He consequently kept much at home, writ notes upon Homer and Plautus, and sometimes thought it hard to be called to pray by any poor body's bedside when he was just in the midst of one of Homer's battles." "Mr. Kinchin," says George Whitefield, "was minister of Dummer in Hampshire, and being likely to be chosen Dean of Corpus Christi College, he desired me to take his place and officiate for him till that affair should be decided. By the advice of friends I went, and he came to supply my place in Oxford. His parish consisting chiefly of poor and illiterate people, my proud heart at first could not well brook it. I would have given all the world to be back in my beloved Oxford. But upon giving up myself to prayer, and reading Mr. Law's excellent Character of Ouranius, my mind became reconciled to such conversation as the place afforded me. I prosecuted Mr. Kinchin's plan, and generally divided the day into three parts; eight hours for study and meditation, eight hours for sleep and meals, and eight hours for reading prayers, catechising and visiting the parish. The profit I reaped by these exercises was unspeakable. I soon began to be as much delighted with their artless conversation as I had previously been with my Oxford friends, and I frequently learned as much by an afternoon's visit as in a week's study. I remained at Dummer till a letter came from Mr. John Wesley in which were these words: 'Do you ask what you shall have in Georgia? Food to eat, and raiment to put on, and a house to lay your head in, such as your Lord had not. And a crown of glory that fadeth not away.' Upon reading this, my heart leaped within me, and as it were echoed to the call."
As I was saying, a minister who would dig up the hidden treasure out of his pulpit and pastoral fields must sell all his time and all his tastes; all his thoughts by day and all his dreams by night. He must spend and be spent. He must be the servant of all men. He must become all things to all men. He must not strive. He must have no mind of his own, but the mind of Christ only. Both his books, and his table, and his bed, must all go to the hammer. But then, by that time, he will begin to have a people about him of whom he will be able to say-"What is my hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Are not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at His coming?" And then that all-surrendered minister will be summoned forward at the coming of his Lord, not any more to shame and everlasting contempt, but his Lord will say to him on that day when He makes up His jewels-'That jewel is yours,' his Lord will say: 'for that soul and that would have been lost to Me, but for your self-denying ministry.' And then, on that day, the poorest parish in all Scotland, and the meanest mission-field in all the world, will be seen to yield up treasures that will dazzle the eyes of men and angels to see them. Then they that be wise in time shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever.
And on the other hand, such a minister's ministry is the all-enriching field of his understanding and discerning people. A scholarly, studious, able, evangelical, experimental, preacher every Sabbath day; and then all the week an assiduous, unwearied, ever-mindful, all-loving, pastor,-what a field, and full of what treasure to his people, is such a minister and such a ministry! What treasures of grace and truth lie hid there for the proper people. Ay, and lie hid, sometimes, even from his very best people. For how can any one know, or even guess at, what God has done so as to enrich them and their children in His fitting up and furnishing of their minister's whole life and experience? Ten thousand personal and ministerial providences and experiences have all befallen him for their sake. As also his ever sleepless labours for their understanding and edification. The half of which could not be told, and would neither be believed nor understood, even if it were to be told. Only, sometimes you will hear of one man in a thousand; sometimes you will meet with one rare and remarkable man who has sold not a little, in order to become possessed of that minister and his ministry. The multitude in every congregation stumble about lucklessly and unprofitably even among the richest of fields. But, here and there, and now and then, another manner of man will sometimes be met with. One happy man in a thousand runs his ploughshare down into the treasure-trove of that pulpit, and then takes action accordingly. An old office-bearer of this very congregation told me long ago, how he had lately summoned a conference of his whole household in order to make a great family choice and decision. He put it to his wife, and to his sons, and to his daughters, whether he would build a house for them away out of Edinburgh, with a park and a garden and stables, and all that. Or whether he would buy a house in a west-end Crescent so as to be still near this church, and so as to let him remain in the session, and so as to let his family continue to sit under Dr. Candlish's ministry. And the eyes of that happy ploughman of Capernaum did not glisten with tears of greater joy than did that old elder's eyes when he told me that he had determined on a house within reach of the pulpit to which he owed his own soul, and his children's souls. And his wife had been in Dr. Candlish's ladies' class. Things like that do not happen every day. But that is, largely, because there are not pulpits every day like Dr. Candlish's pulpit of those days.
And, then, all the more because you are not ministers, you have the gold-filled field of your Bible always before you. If you had been ministers you would have had a constant temptation in connection with your Bible that, as it is, you have clean escaped. If you had been preachers you would have been tempted to read your Bible almost solely with an eye to good texts. And, better not read your Bible at all, than just to make sermons out of it. What a promise! you say as you read alone, and you read no more that night. What a consolation! you say. What a psalm! and you say and sing it all that week after, and at all times and in all places. What a name for you is the Name of your God! you say. And, like Moses on the Mount, you make haste and bow your head and worship, and say,-Pardon our iniquity and our sin, and take us for thine inheritance. Moses did not say-What a text for next Sabbath! And you have no temptation to say that either. There is nothing of that kind to come in between you and your immediate application of the rich grace of God's word to the needs of your own soul. Yes. What a field of fields to the right reader is the word of God! What a grace-laden field is the Psalms. And again, the Gospels. And again, the Epistles. What solid gold lies hidden in all these several spots of this rich field. Happy ploughmen! O, my brethren, search deep in the Scriptures. For they are they which testify to you both of yourselves and of your Saviour.
And then the field of prayer. O, the milk and honey of which every rig and furrow of that field is full! He maketh me to lie down in the green pastures of it. He leadeth me beside the still waters of it. And then, the treasure hid in it. And then, the enterprise of prayer, the exploration of it, the ventures in it, the sure successes of it. Surely this is the field in which there is a vein for the silver, and a place for the fine gold. Iron is here taken out of the earth, and brass is molten out of the stone. The very stones of it are the place of sapphires, and it hath its dust of gold. It cannot be gotten for gold, neither shall silver be weighed for the price of it. This is a field that cannot be valued with the gold of Ophir, with the precious onyx or the sapphire. The gold and the crystal cannot equal it; and the exchange of it cannot be for jewels of fine gold. No mention shall be made of coral or of pearls; for the price of prayer is above rubies. The topaz of Ethiopia shall not equal it. Neither shall it be valued with pure gold. Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, He will give it you. Hitherto ye have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full.