Upon First Fruits and Gleanings
What the apostle says of the heavenly bodies, that one start differs from another star in glory (1 Cor. 15:40-41) is also true of the heavenly laws and commands of God, as well ceremonial as moral, that they differ from each other in their weight and worth. Some of which set forth the greater things, and others the less, as may be easily seen in this double command of first fruits and gleanings. One of which is far greater than the other though the last is not to be neglected, because it is a stream that flows from the same fountain, the sovereign will an appointment of God.
But that we may the better take up the dimension of this law of first fruits, Let us View it by the help of some considerations, as astronomers by instruments judge of the altitude and magnitude of a star. We may first see it in the extent of those things and the offering of which God would be honored and acknowledged. He required the first slings of man in cattle the first fruits of the trees and of the earth, in the sheath and in the threshing floor, in the dough and in the loaves. It did reach to all their substance and increase, which without this service was but a polluted and an uncleaned heap. (Lev. 23:39, 27:26; Dt. 18:4).
Secondly, in the solemn manner of the offering of them on to God, which was to be done with a humble confession of their fathers’ poverty, A Syrian ready to perish was my Father, (Dt. 26:5), up the hard bondage in Egypt sustained by them, and with the acknowledgment of God’s gracious looking up on their affliction, labor, and oppression, bringing them also forth with a mighty hand an outstretched arm, with great terribleness, and with signs and wonders, I’m giving them a land that flows with milk and honey.
Thirdly, and the expressed command for the speedy payment of them [the first ruits] , they were not to be delayed, much less withheld. To keep them back was a robbery, to do for them was disobedience, and renders them rather to be of the gleanings and corners of the field which God had appointed to be reserved for the poor. It was an injury to the moral duty which they did teach of consecrating to God the first and prime of their years and abilities, which is to him far more acceptable than all the offerings and sacrifices what ever.
For how could it be, that he was careless of the rite and ceremony, which typified his duty to him, should ever be mindful of doing that which was the marrow and substance of it. And now when I think that the first fruits only where the shadow of our early honoring God, and remembering him in the day of our youth, when all the faculties both the soul and body are in their vigor and strength. (Eccl. 12:1). I cannot but wonder as well as mourn to see that under the doctrine of the gospel, which teaches men to deny all ungodliness and worldly lusts (Titus 2:11-12), that thereby they might become a kind of first fruits onto God and the Lamb.
So few make religion the work of the morning of their age, and so many of the evening. What else’s this, but to give the first fruits to Satan and the gleanings to God. To him (Satan, you give) the finest of the flower, and to God the bran.
But tell me, O ye deferrers of holiness, who make it both the least and last work of your lives, is it only necessary to die to God and not to live to him? Or is it reasonable to say is that young man did to his companion, When he saw Ambrose dying, I would live with you and die with Ambrose? this to Mark God, whom yet you would have to save you? And to minister matter of trying up to the god of this world whose captors you have been, that though the God of heaven pay your wages, yet you would have done wholly his work?
Unto you, therefore, O men I call and my voice is unto the Sons of Men, be not deceived, God is not mocked: It is not the owning of him when you serve 90 yourselves nor your last any longer that will be acceptable on to him: it is not a few bedridden prayers that arise those ears of corn which the Pharaoh’s dream (Gen. 41:23), withered, thin, and blasted with the east wind, that will expiate those black crimes with which your ill-spent life is over spread. Can an offering of gleanings, which is made up of robbery and disobedience, of wrongdoing the poor, and violating the command of God, ever hallow the whole harvest? No more can such duties be availing to reconcile you to God, Who requires that you should seek him early (Ps. 63:1).
Yea, has he not cursed the deceiver, which has in his flock on male and sacrifices onto the Lord a corrupt thing (Malachi 1:14), and what are you but deceivers? Who weighs the lamp of the time that God has given you to work by in this sinful Delites of the flesh and alienate the chief of your strength and parts from him that should have been honored, both with the first and best of your abilities and in your age have nothing to offer him but a large bed role of heinous enormities which may justly bring down your gray hairs with sorrow onto the grave (Gen. 42:38)? How blessed are thing is it then from then to give God the first fruits of their youth, that he may not give them bitter after fruits and cause them to feel more smart of their sins and their old age than ever they found pleasure or delight in them in their youth?
And what better persuasions can I suggest than to consider
That early piety gives both to the person and to a service a peculiar preeminence in dignity above all others. The naturalist observes that the pearls that are bread of the morning dew are far more bright in clear than those which are bred of the evening dew. And so are those duties of a greater worth and beauty which are the fruits of the morning and not an evening godliness.
It is the commendation of Hezekiah’s reformation, Above all others of the kings of Judah that in the first year of his reign in the first month he open the doors of the house of the Lord (2 Chron. 29:3). It is that which makes Josiahs memory to be as a box of precious nard, that while he was yet young he began to seek after the God of David his father (2 Chron. 34:3). It is an honorable testimony which Paul gives to Epaenetus, that he was the first fruits of Achaea unto Christ (Rom. 16:5). And the like is that which he gives onto Andronicus and Junia, that there in Christ before him. (Rom. 16:7). To have a precedency what glory can be greater, then to be a Jeremiah sanctified from the womb, or Timothy nourished up in the words of the faith? (Jer. 1:5; 2 Tim. 1:5).
Secondly, the comfort of age is a well spent life. When a man comes to the grave as a shock of corn in its season, and not as a bundle of tares to the fire; when the bones are full, not of the sins of youth but of the services that were then done to God. When a man can say is dying Hezekiah, Remember O Lord I beseech thee see how I have walked before thee in truth and with a perfect heart and have done that which is good in thy sight. (2 Kings. 20:3).
It is sad when the sins of youth become the burden of age. If the grasshopper then via weight to the body, what a pressure will heaps of mountains of sins be to the soul? Age at the best has sufficient griefs, it is of itself as sickness, and a neighbor to death, and needs not the bad provisions of youthful follies to make it worse.
Let then the counsel of wise Solomon be acceptable unto to you who are yet in the flower of your age, To remember your creator in the days of your youth. (Eccl. 12:1).
And then if death make you pale,
Before age make you gray,
You will have this comfort,
That you are old in hours, though not in years;
And have lived much, though not long;
As having lost no time in sowing seed unto the flesh,
as most do,
making seed-time a mourning age;
and old age a bitter harvest to a foolish youth.
Or if your almond tree shall flourish,
And that a more gracious old age shall succeed a gracious youth,
Old age itself shall be followed with a crown of endless glory.