The Parable of the Sower.
4 And when much people were gathered together, and were come to him
out of every city, he spake by a parable: 5 A sower went out to sow his
seed: and as he sowed, some fell by the way side; and it was trodden down,
and the fowls of the air devoured it. 6 And some fell upon a rock; and
as soon as it was sprung up, it withered away, because it lacked moisture.
7 And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprang up with it, and choked
it. 8 And other fell on good ground, and sprang up, and bare fruit a hundredfold.
And when he had said these things, he cried, He that hath ears to hear,
let him hear. 9 And his disciples asked him, saying, What might this parable
be? 10 And he said, Unto you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom
of God: but to others in parables; that seeing they might not see, and
hearing they might not understand. 11 Now the parable is this: The seed
is the word of God. 12 Those by the way side are they that hear; then cometh
the devil, and taketh away the word out of their hearts, lest they should
believe and be saved. 13 They on the rock are they, which, when they hear,
receive the word with joy; and these have no root, which for a while believe,
and in time of temptation fall away. 14 And that which fell among thorns
are they, which, when they have heard, go forth, and are choked with cares
and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to perfection.
15 But that on the good ground are they, which in an honest and good heart,
having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience.
The former paragraph began with an account of Christ's industry in preaching
(v. 1); this begins with an account of the people's industry in hearing,
v. 4. He went into every city, to preach; so they, one would think, should
have contented themselves to hear him when he came to their own city (we
know those that would); but there were those here that came to him out
of every city, would not stay till he came to them, nor think that they
had enough when he left them, but met him when he was coming towards them,
and followed him when he was going from them. Nor did he excuse himself
from going to the cities with this, that there were some from the cities
that came to him; for, though there were, yet the most had not zeal enough
to bring them to him, and therefore such is his wonderful condescension
that he will go to them; for he is found of those that sought him not,
Isa. lxv. 1.
Here was, it seems, a vast concourse, much people were gathered together,
abundance of fish to cast their net among; and he was as ready and willing
to teach as they were to be taught. Now in these verses we have,
I. Necessary and excellent rules and cautions for hearing the word,
in the parable of the sower and the explanation and application of it,
all which we had twice before more largely. When Christ had put forth this
parable, 1. The disciples were inquisitive concerning the meaning of it,
v. 9. They asked him, What might this parable be? Note, We should covet
earnestly to know the true intent, and full extent, of the word we hear,
that we may be neither mistaken nor defective in our knowledge. 2. Christ
made them sensible of what great advantage it was to them that they had
opportunity of acquainting themselves with the mystery and meaning of his
word, which others had not: Unto you it is given, v. 10. Note, Those who
would receive instruction from Christ must know and consider what a privilege
it is to be instructed by him, what a distinguishing privilege to be led
into the light, such a light, when others are left in darkness, such a
darkness. Happy are we, and for ever indebted to free grace, if the same
thing that is a parable to others, with which they are only amused, is
a plain truth to us, by which we are enlightened and governed, and into
the mould of which we are delivered.
Now from the parable itself, and the explication of it, observe,
(1.) The heart of man is as soil to the seed of God's word; it is capable
of receiving it, and bringing forth the fruits of it; but, unless that
seed be sown in it, it will bring forth nothing valuable. Or care therefore
must be to bring the seed and the soil together. To what purpose have we
the seed in the scripture, if it be not sown? And to what purpose have
we the soil in our own hearts, if it be not sown with that seed?
(2.) The success of the seeding is very much according to the nature
and temper of the soil, and as that is, or is not, disposed to receive
the seed. The word of God is to us, as we are, a savour of life unto life,
or of death unto death.
(3.) The devil is a subtle and spiteful enemy, that makes it his business
to hinder our profiting by the word of God. He takes the word out of the
hearts of careless hearers, lest they should believe and be saved, v. 12.
This is added here to teach us, [1.] That we cannot be saved unless we
believe. The word of the gospel will not be a saving word to us, unless
it be mixed with faith. [2.] That therefore the devil does all he can to
keep us from believing, to make us not believe the word when we read and
hear it; or, if we heed it for the present, to make us forget it again,
and let it slip (Heb. ii. 1); or, if we remember it, to create prejudices
in our minds against it, or divert our minds from it to something else;
and all is lest we should believe and be saved, lest we should believe
and rejoice, while he believes and trembles.
(4.) Where the word of God is heard carelessly there is commonly a contempt
put upon it too. It is added here in the parable that the seed which fell
by the way-side was trodden down, v. 5. They that wilfully shut their ears
against the word do in effect trample it under their feet; they despise
the commandment of the Lord.
(5.) Those on whom the word makes some impressions, but they are not
deep and durable ones, will show their hypocrisy in a time of trial; as
the seed sown upon the rock, where it gains no root, v. 13. These for awhile
believe a little while; their profession promises something, but in time
of temptation they fall away from their good beginnings. Whether the temptation
arises from the smiles or the frowns, of the world, they are easily overcome
(6.) The pleasures of this life are as dangerous and mischievous thorns
to choke the good seed of the word as any other. This is added here (v.
14), which was not in the other evangelists. Those that are not entangled
in the cares of this life, nor inveigled with the deceitfulness of riches,
but boast that they are dead to them, may yet be kept from heaven by an
affected indolence, and the love of ease and pleasure. The delights of
sense may ruin the soul, even lawful delights, indulged, and too much delighted
(7.) It is not enough that the fruit be brought forth, but it must be
brought to perfection, it must be fully ripened. If it be not, it is as
if there was no fruit at all brought forth; for that which in Matthew and
Mark is said to be unfruitful is the same that here is said to bring forth
none to perfection. For factum non dicitur quod non perseverat--perseverance
is necessary to the perfection of a work.
(8.) The good ground, which brings forth good fruit, is an honest and
good heart, well disposed to receive instruction and commandment (v. 15);
a heart free from sinful pollutions, and firmly fixed for God and duty,
an upright heart, a tender heart, and a heart that trembles at the word,
is an honest and good heart, which, having heard the word, understands
it (so it is in Matthew), receives it (so it is in Mark), and keeps it
(so it is here), as the soil not only receives, but keeps, the seed; and
the stomach not only receives, but keeps, the food or physic.
(9.) Where the word is well kept there is fruit brought forth with patience.
This also is added here. There must be both bearing patience and waiting
patience; patience to suffer the tribulation and persecution which may
arise because of the word; patience to continue to the end in well-doing.
(10.) In consideration of all this, we ought to take heed how we hear
(v. 18); take heed of those things that will hinder our profiting by the
word we hear, watch over our hearts in hearing, and take heed lest they
betray us; take heed lest we hear carelessly and slightly, lest, upon any
account, we entertain prejudice against the word we hear; and take heed
to the frame of our spirits after we have heard the word, lest we lose
what we have gained.
II. Needful instructions given to those that are appointed to preach
the word, and to those also that have heard it. 1. Those that have received
the gift must minister the same. Ministers that have the dispensing of
the gospel committed to them, people that have profited by the word and
are thereby qualified to profit others, must look upon themselves as lighted
candles: ministers must in solemn authoritative preaching, and people in
brotherly familiar discourse, diffuse their light, for a candle must not
be covered with a vessel nor put under a bed, v. 16. Ministers and Christians
are to be lights in the world, holding forth the word of life. Their light
must shine before men; they must not only be good, but do good. 2. We must
expect that what is now done in secret, and from unseen springs, will shortly
be manifested and made known, v. 17. What is committed to you in secret
should be made manifest by you; for your Master did not give you talents
to be buried, but to be traded with. Let that which is now hid be made
known; for, if it be not manifested by you, it will be manifested against
you, will be produced in evidence of your treachery. 3. The gifts we have
will either be continued to us, or taken from us, according as we do, or
do not, make use of them for the glory of God and the edification of our
brethren: Whosoever hath, to him shall be given, v. 18. He that hath gifts,
and does good with them, shall have more; he that buries his talent shall
lose it. From him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he
hath, so it is in Mark; that which he seemeth to have, so it is in Luke.
Note, The grace that is lost was but seeming grace, was never true. Men
do but seem to have what they do not use, and shows of religion will be
lost and forfeited. They went out from us, because they were not of us,
1 John ii. 19. Let us see to it that we have grace in sincerity, the root
of the matter found in us; that is a good part which shall never be taken
away from those that have it.
III. Great encouragement given to those that prove themselves faithful
hearers of the word, by being doers of the work, in a particular instance
of Christ's respect to his disciples, in preferring them even before his
nearest relations (v. 19-21), which passage of story we had twice before.
Observe, 1. What crowding there was after Christ. There was no coming near
for the throng of people that attended him, who, though they were crowded
very so much, would not be crowded out from his congregation. 2. Some of
his nearest kindred were least solicitous to hear him preach. Instead of
getting within, as they might easily have done if they had come in time,
desiring to hear him, they stood without, desiring to see him; and, probably,
out of a foolish fear, lest he should spend himself with too much speaking,
designing nothing but to interrupt him, and oblige him to break off. 3.
Jesus Christ would rather be busy at his work than conversing with his
friends. He would not leave his preaching, to speak with his mother and
his brethren, for it was his meat and drink to be so employed. 4. Christ
is pleased to own those as his nearest and dearest relations that hear
the word of God and do it; they are to him more than his mother and brethren.