The Church In God Is Not In Imitation Gathered: Lessons from a Successful Garden

The seeds planted in our gardens are our hope of harvest.

And the church in God, is not in imitation, gathered from the letter, nor is a high-flown people in their imaginations, but are they who are born again of the immortal seed, by the word of God, which lives and endures for ever, which the world knows not;…

There is a lot of work involved in planting. It begins in early winter with the arrival of seed catalogs. That is when we begin to get visions of what our harvest will be. So first comes the vision, the inspiration, that sustains us through all the hard work of preparing the soil and starting plants in pots that need an early start. All this is preparation for that brief period when the season and the weather coincide making it “time to plant.” Then, if we have done our work of preparing the soil, everything is put aside and we give our full attention to putting out plants and planting seeds directly into the soil.

This is God’s work within and among us preparing the soil for the time when He alone can sow the immortal seed. Though it is God’s work, we have a hand in how it proceeds. We can stubbornly hold onto the rocks and clods that hinder the preparation of a good seed bed, or we can yield to the work of reproof of the light of Christ within (plowing up the ground).

Not every plant that sprouts is desireable.

…for the word cuts asunder, hews down all wickedness, corruption, pride, and honour of men, that all the honour and glory may be given alone to God; he hews down the first birth, that he may establish the second, and raise up the second; and the word of the Lord is a fire, burns up all the corruptions, burns up all that is hewn down, and as an hammer to beat down, that nothing can stand it; and this is the word by which the saints are born again; you are born again by the immortal word, which lives and endures for ever, and feeding upon the milk of the word, which word is God, which word became flesh, and dwelt among us; so he (Christ) is the head of the church, and they are lively stones:…

Planting is only the beginning. This is a time of excitement and increasing anticipation. It also is a time of revelation of the job we did when planting. Seeds grow in the place we put them and don’t grow where we didn’t put them. If we planted sparingly, they will only emerge sparingly. If we planted thickly, there will be too many plants crowding into the allotted space. We may have to do some replanting and it is almost certain we will have to thin out some of the sprouted plants.

Again we have a role in this part of the process — yield to the light of Christ that enlightens you. In his epistle # 4 George Fox admonishes his readers to “mind that which is pure in you to guide you to God,” “mind the light of God…which will show you all deceit,” “mind your gift,” and “mind your calling.” (Works, Vol. VII, p. 18) These are not rules to live by, but admonitions to turn our attention to that work where the immortal seed of the kingdom of God is nourished and nurtured.

…but all you now who put the letter for the word, and have got it in your minds, and gather assemblies by it; this you cannot witness, and it is ignorance for you to say, the letter is the word; when the letter saith, God is the word; and it is a lie to speak and say, the steeple-house is the church; or to say, they that are gathered by the form of the letter, is the church of God; for the church is the pillar and ground of truth, gathered by the eternal power that was before letter was; and all who are in this church, as it is called of the world, and live in the comprehension of the letter, and the earthly part yet standing, there is devilishness in your minds, and earthliness, and pride, and filth; do but hearken to that light in thy conscience, and it will let thee see so: and while those are standing, such sacrifice God accepts not, and praises (while nature is standing) God accepts not, which is Cain’s, to which God has no respect, but to Abel’s. (Works of Fox, Vol. IV, p.18)

If you expect to have a good harvest, you must maintain an attitude of ruthless extermination against the weeds that would compete with or choke out the plants you planted. You can’t have an egalitarian sentiment such that “all plants are of equal value.”

These are the weeds that Fox has described. Now, the parable of the tares among the wheat is often cited (See Matt. 13:14-43) to say that we must put up with this mix of weeds and desirable plants as long as this world exists. After all Jesus explained the parable saying: “As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire; so shall it be in the end of this world. The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth.” (Matt. 13:40-42) But that word we so literally take as meaning the destruction of the world has more to do with the completion and fulfilment of the world. Thus Christ is the end of the world, the completion and fulfilment of all God began to do.

However, neither the hoe nor the sickle is in our hands. We can’t purge our own hearts nor that of others. As we wait in the light of Christ within us, we experience the end of the world come upon us: the reaper gathering and burning the tares, the threshing of the wheat out of the head, the winnowing of the grain from the chaff, and the joy and celebration of the grain placed in safe storage. We experience this personally and corporately.

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About Ellis Hein

I am a woodturner and the author of The Woodturner's Project Book. I have a life-long interest in the gospel preached by George Fox and the early Quakers. You can see some of my material on that subject at http://nffquaker.org/profiles/blog/list?user=1zw2th7nj9p89.
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