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Parable of The Sower

MATTHEW 13:1-23

 On the same day Jesus went out of the house and sat by the sea.  And great multitudes were gathered together to Him, so that He got into a boat and sat; and the whole multitude stood on the shore.  Then He spoke many things to them in parables, saying: "Behold, a sower went out to sow.  And as he sowed, some seed fell by the wayside; and the birds came and devoured them.  Some fell on stony places, where they did not have much earth; and they immediately sprang up because they had no depth of earth.  But when the sun was up they were scorched, and because they had no root they withered away.  And some fell among thorns, and the thorns sprang up and choked them.  But others fell on good ground and yielded a crop: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.  He who has ears to hear, let him hear!"  And the disciples came and said to Him, "Why do You speak to them in parables?"  He answered and said to them, "Because it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given.  For whoever has, to him more will be given, and he will have abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him.  Therefore I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand.  And in them the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled, which says: 'Hearing you will hear and shall not understand, And seeing you will see and not perceive;  For the hearts of this people have grown dull. Their ears are hard of hearing, And their eyes they have closed, Lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, Lest they should understand with their hearts and turn, So that I should heal them.'  "But blessed are your eyes for they see, and your ears for they hear;  for assuredly, I say to you that many prophets and righteous men desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.  "Therefore hear the parable of the sower:  When anyone hears the word of the kingdom, and does not understand it, then the wicked one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is he who received seed by the wayside.  But he who received the seed on stony places, this is he who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy;  yet he has no root in himself, but endures only for a while. For when tribulation or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he stumbles.  Now he who received seed among the thorns is he who hears the word, and the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and he becomes unfruitful.  But he who received seed on the good ground is he who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and produces: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty." Matthew 13:1-23

 

The chapter which these verses begin is remarkable for the number of parables which it contains. Seven striking illustrations of spiritual truth are here drawn by the great Head of the Church from the book of nature. By so doing He shows us that religious teaching may draw helps from everything in creation. Those that would "find out acceptable words," should not forget this. (Eccles. 12:10.)

The parable of the sower, which begins this chapter, is one of those parables which admit of a very wide application. It is being continually verified under our own eyes. Wherever the word of God is preached or expounded, and people are assembled to hear it, the sayings of our Lord in this parable are found to be true. It describes what goes on, as a general rule, in all congregations.

Let us learn, in the first place, from this parable, that the work of the preacher resembles that of the sower. Like the sower, the preacher must SOW GOOD SEED, if he wants to see fruit. He must sow the pure word of God, and not the traditions of the church, or the doctrines of men. Without this his labor will be in vain. He may go to and fro, and seem to say much, and to work much in his weekly round of ministerial duty. But there will be no harvest of souls for heaven, no living results, and no conversions.

Like the sower, the preacher must be DILIGENT. He must spare no pains. He must use every possible means to make his work prosper. He must patiently "sow beside all waters," and "sow in hope." He must be "instant in season and out of season." He must not be deterred by difficulties and discouragements. "He that observes the wind shall not sow." No doubt his success does not entirely depend upon his labor and diligence. But without labor and diligence success will seldom be obtained. (Isaiah. 32:20. 2 Tim. 4:2. Eccles. 11:4.)

Like the sower, the preacher CANNOT GIVE LIFE. He can scatter the seed committed to his charge, but cannot command it to grow. He may offer the word of truth to a people, but he cannot make them receive it and bear fruit. To give life is God's sovereign prerogative. "It is the Spirit who gives life." God alone can "give the increase." (John 6:63. 1 Cor. 3:7.)

Let these things sink down into our hearts. It is no light thing to be a real minister of God's Word. To be an idle, formal workman in the Church is an easy business. To be a faithful sower is very hard. Preachers ought to be specially remembered in our prayers.

In the next place, let us learn from this passage, that there are various ways of hearing the word of God without benefit. We may listen to a sermon with a heart like the hard "wayside," — careless, thoughtless, and unconcerned. Christ crucified may be affectionately set before us, and we may hear of His sufferings with utter indifference, as a subject in which we have no interest. Fast as the words fall on our ears, the devil may pluck them away, and we may go home as if we had not heard a sermon at all. Alas! there are many such hearers! It is as true of them as of the idols of old, "eyes have they, but they see not; they have ears, but they hear not." (Psalm. 135:16,17.) Truth seems to have no more effect on their hearts than water on a stone.

We may listen to a sermon with pleasure, while the impression produced on us is only temporary and short-lived. Our hearts, like the "stony ground," may yield a plentiful crop of warm feelings and good resolutions. But all this time there may be no deeply-rooted work in our souls, and the first cold blast of opposition or temptation may cause our seeming religion to wither away. Alas! there are many such hearers! The mere love of sermons is no sign of grace. Thousands of baptized people are like the Jews of Ezekiel's day, "You are to them as a very lovely song of one who has a pleasant voice, and can play well on an instrument: for they hear your words, but they don't do them." (Ezek. 33:32.)

We may listen to a sermon, and approve of every word it contains, and yet get no good from it, in consequence of the absorbing influence of this world. Our hearts, like the "thorny ground," may be choked with a noxious crop of cares, pleasures, and worldly plans. We may really like the Gospel, and wish to obey it, and yet insensibly give it no chance of bearing fruit, by allowing other things to fill a place in our affections, and insensibly to fill our whole hearts. Alas! there are many such hearers! They know the truth well. They hope one day to be decided Christians. But they never come to the point of giving up all for Christ's sake. They never make up their minds to "seek first the kingdom of God," — and so die in their sins.

These are points that we ought to weigh well. We should never forget that there are more ways than one of hearing the word without profit. It is not enough that we come to hear. We may come, and be careless. It is not enough that we are not careless hearers. Our impressions may be only temporary, and ready to perish. It is not enough that our impressions are not merely temporary. But they may be continually yielding no result, in consequence of our obstinate cleaving to the world. Truly "the heart is deceitful above all things, and it is exceedingly corrupt — who can know it?" (Jerem. 17:9.)

In the last place, let us learn from this parable, that there is only one evidence of hearing the word rightly. That evidence is to BEAR FRUIT. The fruit here spoken of is the fruit of the Spirit. Repentance towards God, faith towards the Lord Jesus Christ, holiness of life and character, prayerfulness, humility, charity, spiritual-mindedness — these are the only satisfactory proofs that the seed of God's word is doing its proper work in our souls. Without such proofs, our religion is vain, however high our profession. It is no better than sounding brass and a tinkling cymbal. Christ has said, "I have chosen you, and appointed you, that you should go and bear fruit." (John 15:16.)

There is no part of the whole parable more important than this. We must never be content with a barren orthodoxy, and a cold maintenance of correct theological views. We must not be satisfied with clear knowledge, warm feelings, and a decent profession. We must see to it that the Gospel we profess to love, produces positive "fruit" in our hearts and lives. This is real Christianity. Those words of James should often ring in our ears, "Be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deluding your own selves." (James 1:22.)

Let us not leave these verses without putting to ourselves the important question, "How do WE hear?" We live in a Christian country. We go to a place of worship Sunday after Sunday, and hear sermons. In what spirit do we hear them? What effect have they upon our characters? Can we point to anything that deserves the name of "fruit?"

We may rest assured that to reach heaven at last, it needs something more than to go to Church regularly on Sundays, and listen to preachers. The word of God must be received into our hearts, and become the mainspring of our conduct. It must produce practical impressions on our inward man, that shall appear in our outward behavior. If it does not do this, it will only add to our condemnation in the day of judgment.

 

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