THE PARABLE OF THE SOWER
"On another occasion Jesus began to teach by the lake. The crowd that gathered around him was so large that he got into a boat and sat in it out on the lake, while all the people were along the shore at the water's edge. 2He taught them many things by parables, and in his teaching said: 3"Listen! A farmer went out to sow his seed. 4As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. 5Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. 6But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. 7Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants, so that they did not bear grain. 8Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up, grew and produced a crop, multiplying thirty, sixty, or even" a hundred times." 'Then Jesus said, "He who has ears to hear, let him hear." ,0When he was alone, the Twelve and the others around him asked him about the parables. nHe told them, "The secret of the kingdom of God has been given to you. But to those on the outside everything is said in parables so that,"They my be ever seeing but never perceiving and ever hearing but never understanding; otherwise they might turn and be forgiven and be forgiven"(Isaiah 6:9,10). 3
Then Jesus said to them, "Don't you understand this parable? How then will you understand any parable? 14The farmer sows the word. 15Some people are like seed along the path, where the word is sown. As soon as they hear it, Satan comes and takes away the word that was sown in them. "Others, like seed sown in rocky places, hear the word and at once receive it with jov. But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. 18Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; 19but the worries of this life, the deceitful-ness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful. 20Others, like seed sown on good soil, hear the word, accept it, and produce a crop—thirty, sixty or even a hundred times what was sown. (Mark 4:1-20). This instructive parable explains the various states and circumstances of men who hear the Word of God; and assigns the reasons why it does not always produce the fruits of righteousness. The sower may be skillful, and the seed may be good; but when the soil is not duly prepared, the harvest fails. Hearers whose hearts are hardened by sin, resemble the way-side, or the beaten path, which does not receive the seed. Superficial hearers, of warm and lively passions, are like stony ground, which has no depth of earth to nourish the seed. Worldly-minded hearers are compared to thorny ground, where the seed is choked as it grows up. But sincere and pious hearers are like good ground, in a state of high cultivation, where the seed takes deep root, grows up, and bears much fruit. Such were the hearers of Christ; such were the hearers of the Apostles; and such are the hearers of the present day.Jesus Christ was a sower; his Apostles went forth to sow; and all Christian Ministers are sowers. The seed is plain evangelical truth. That which Jesus scattered abroad was pure and perfect; and that which was scattered by the Apostles was prepared by their Divine Master. But where do pious Ministers now obtain their seed? Not from the inventions of a fertile imagination, nor from the schools of human learning; but from the Word of God. And while they preach the Word, the seed which they scatter is of the same quality as that which was sown by Christ and his Apostles. But if they follow their own imaginations, or the mere dictates of human learning, they sow the seed of error, and produce a plentiful harvest of noxious weeds. Human learning is useful when it is placed under the government and guidance of Divine wisdom; but whether Ministers are deeply or superficially learned, they have no good seedbut that which is furnished by the Word of God. We shall now consider the four classes of hearers, whose characters are distinctly marked out under the emblems of these widely different soils.
. THE WAY-SIDE HEARERS
Under this class of hearers, we include those who attend the preaching of the word occasionally , either out of vain curiosity, or from some other improper motive. Perhaps some accidental, occurrence brings them under the word, or they are persuaded to attend by some well-disposed friend. But they are not planted in the house of the Lord And we may also include many formal hearers in this class, who sit under the word because they were educated by pious parents; or because they deem it decent and reputable to attend divine worship. But they do not come to be instructed. It is quite enough, in their opinion, to hear a sermon at certain stated seasons. But their hearts are like the way-side, or the beaten path, which is a bad soil for the seed. There it cannot enter; and there it cannot grow. The word of God falls on their ears; but it does not make any good impression on their hearts. And when they leave the house of God, they are exactly what they were before they went.
These hearers may be known by the following marks: they are not prepared to hear the word ; they are careless and trifling; their hearts are hard; they pay no attention to the-word; they do not believe it; and they feel no interest in the truth of God. Some of them are confirmed infidels; others are daring sinners; and all are without God in the world. But these way-side hearers are. under the influence of die devil, whose vigilant malignity leads him to hover over them when they hear the word, that he may pick up and devour the good seed, lest they should believe and be saved"( Luke 8:12). This he does three ways: first, by diverting their attention from the word; secondly by raising prejudices in their hearts against it; and thirdly by preventing their recollection of it, when they go away.How awful is the state of these hearers! They hear without profiting; and the word is to them the savor of death unto death. Yet they are accountable to God for every sermon which they hear and will have an awful account to give in the day of the Lord. Let Ministers endeavor to break up this ground, by assuring them of the terror of the Lord, and the judgments of our God.
II. The STONY-GROUND HEARERS
The mental state of these hearers is correctly represented under the figure of stony places, or a rock, as it is expressed by another Evangelist. Luke viii 6. They hear the word with joy; but they have no root in themselves, and they endure for a time,a but when triublation arises they fall away. i
They receive the word with joy;
allow its truth and importance; and rejoice in the good news of salvation by Jesus Christ. They are persons of warm and lively passions; are easily wrought upon by what they hear; and when their feelings are wrought up to a high pitch, they hear the word with ecstasy. But they have no root
in themselves. They have slight convictions; but are not deeply awakened to a sense of sin. Their knowledge and experience are superficial, and there is a hardness in their hearts, under all their rapturous feelings, which resembles a rock under a fine thin mould, where there is neither depth of earth nor moisture to support theseed.
In this mould the seed of the word springs up, and promises a vast increase. Its growth is so rapid, that those persons who are ignorant of the soil, hope for a speedy harvest; and these half-awakened hearers imagine that they are going on to perfection, when they are just about to fall away. Presently, tribulation
arises, because of the word. The sun rises in his strength, and the rising corn, having no root, is scorched. . This is the hour of temptation, and the time of trial, to superficial hearers. Many persecutions arose, in the primitive days of Christianity, which swept away a multitude of empty professors; and other things arise in our day, which produce the same effect on these characters. They are soon offended.
Any little imaginary slight, any opposition to their unsubdued wills, drives them from the church. For a time they talked loudly, and professed uncommon zeal for God and truth ; but they passed away, and sunk into the shades of night. Let us devoutly pray that God would take away the heart of stone, and give us hearts of flesh ; recollecting that a sound conversion makes a good soil for the seed of the word.
III. THE THORNY-GROUND HEARERS
Here we find a good soil, but it is covered with thorns, which choke the word. Under r this figure our Lord represents those hearers whose hearts are influenced by the cares of the world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the pleasures of this life. Luke 8:14. They receive the seed. This implies that they hear the word; that they believe it; and that it makes some impression on their hearts. But they go forth, and give way to those unnecessary cares of the world, which strike at the root of every good principle. It is right, both in the sight of God and man, to take care of our temporal affairs; but when this degenerates into perplexing anxieties, we do not profit by the word.Riches are deceitful. They promise a world of happiness; but they prove empty and vain. At a distance, they appear to be substantia] blessings ; but the possession often proves a dreadful curse. We hope to feed the hungry, and to clothe the naked, by the acquisition of wealth; but when we gain it, we sink into covetousness, and lose the heart to do good. And it is to be lamented, that, when professors rise in the world, they generally fall from grace. It is not difficult to account for this on scriptural principles, for "they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition." I I Timothy 6:9. When rich men indulge themselves in the unsanctified pleasures of this life, they counteract the influences of the word, and bring forth no fruit unto perfection. How can the seed grow in that heart which is divided between God and the world! To-day, these sons of pleasure are in the house of God; to-morrow they will be found in the unhallowed feast. To-day, they hear the word; to-morrow they will hear the profane song. They feed themselves without fear; they fall into hurtful lusts; they forget God; and they are unfruitful. Thus the corruptions, which are natural to the unrenewed heart, spring up like thorns, and choke the word. These hearers form fine plans of general usefulness, which, on some occasions, are partly executed, but the world steps in, and their purposes are broken off by its seducing charms. But they must be told that they cannot serve two masters; and that this preponderating influence of the world will end in everlasting ruin, unless it be checked by timely repentance.
. IV. THE HEARERS WHO ARE COMPARED TO GOOD GROUND
These hearers are prepared, like a well-cultivated field, to receive the seed of the word. They see the importance of truth, the evil of sin, and the beauty of holiness; and the fallow-ground of their hearts has been broken up by true repentance. Here there is depth of soil; the baneful weeds of sin are plucked up; the field is secured by a sacred enclosure and the prudent culture of the skillful husbandman appears. These hearers are attentive; they understand the word; they hide it in their hearts; and they pray for the vivifying influences of the Sun of Righteousness, and the refreshing showers of Divine grace. These hearers obey the word; and obedience is the fruit of their hearing. This may be illustrated in a few particulars: Does the word require them to give up their sins? they instantly renounce them all. Does the word require repentance? they repent in dust and ashes. Does the word require faith in the Lord Jesus Christ ? they believe with the heart unto righteousness. Does the word require them to love God and men ? they love the Lord their God with all their hearts, and their neighbors as themselves. Does the word require practical religion? they are careful to maintain good works. Thus they bring forth much fruit to the glory of God. But there are .various degrees of fruitfulness among good men. One brings forth thirty-fold, another sixty, and another an hundred. It is not difficult to account for this inequality in the fruitfulness of Christians. One is rich, another is in easy circumstances, and another is poor. The rich man, when his heart is open, gives much ; the man who is in easy circumstances, but not affluent, gives a little; but the poor man can give nothing, because he has nothing to give. And yet the poor man may be as pious as his wealthy brother; but he cannot abound in the fruit of charity. The same may be said of other fruits. One enjoys Christian ministry; and when the sight of man is cleared by these invaluable helps, he sees the truth as it is in Jesus. When he is enlightened, he sees- his own real state; he discovers the duties and privileges of pure and undefiled religion; and he understands the saving remedy which is provided for man in Christ Jesus the Lord. And when that is the case, the loftiness of man is bowed down, the haughtiness of men is made low, and the Lord alone is exalted( Isaiah 2:17}. To conclude: we learn by this passage, that those who fall into the most awful and degraded state, may be recovered by Christ; but that they must, to this end, believe his word, and follow his counsel. Without this they cannot be saved: for all who reject the counsel of Divine wisdom, shall eat the fruit of their own way, and be filled with their own devices. Proverbse(1:24—31). . Our Lord rebukes and chastens backsliders in love. If we have fallen into lukewarmness and sin, may we be zealous and repent, that we may be restored to the Divine favour, and be made happy for ever! Amen.
This message is a reproduction of a sermon of Jonathan Edmmondson who preached in England in the 1800's. This is an excellent treatment of The Parable of the Sower, and I recommend it highly to you.--Lonnie Branam