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cover not the sced afterwards, by meditation and prayer; if we give not a more earnest heed to the things which we have hearil, we are as the highway ground.
2. The stony ground. Some fell on stony ground (ver. 5), which represents the case of hearers that go farther than the former, who receive some good impressions of the word, but they are not lasting, ver. 16. It is possible we may be a great deal better than some others, and yet not be so good as we should be; may go beyond our neighbours, and yet come short of heaven. Concerning these hearers that are represented by the stony ground, observe, how far they went. Tter hear the word; they turn neither their backs upon it, nor a deaf ear to it. They receive it with gladness. There are many that are very glad to hear a good sermon, that yet do not profit by it; they may be pleased with the word, and yet not changed and ruled by it; the heart may melt under the word, and yet not be melted down by the word, much less into it, as into a mould. They endure for a time, like a violent motion, which continues as long as the impression of the force remains, but ceases when that has spent itself. Many endure for a while, that do not endure to the end and so come short of the happiness which is promised to them only that persevere ; they did run well, but something hindered them, Gal. v. 7.
The stony ground hearers fall away, so that no fruit is brought to perfection, and the reason is, they have no root in themselves, no settled, fixed principles in their judgments, no firm resolution in their wills, nor any rooted habits in their affections ; nothing firm that will be either the sap or the strength of their profession. Times of trial come, and then they come to nothing. When affliction and persecution ariseth for the word's sake, immediately they are offended, it is a stumbling-block in their way, which they cannot get over, and so fly off, and this is all their profession comes to After a fair gale of opportunity usually follows a storm of persecution, to try who have received the word in sincerity, and who have not. When the word of Christ's kingdom comes to be the word of Christ's patience (Rev. iii
. 10), then is the trial, who keeps it, and who does not (Rev. i. :). It is wisdom to prepare for such a day. When trying times come, those who have no root are soon offended; they first quarrel with their profession, and then quit it; first find fault with it, and then throw it off. Hence we read of the offence of the cross, Gal. v. 11. Persecution is represented in the parable by the scorching sun; the same sun which warms and cherishes that which was well rooted, withers and burns up that which wanted root. As the word of Christ, so the cross of Christ, is to some a savour of life unto life, to others a savour of death unto death; the same tribulation which drives some to apostasy and ruin, works for others a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory. Trials which shake some, confirm others.
3. The thorny ground, some fell among thorns and the thorns sprung up, which intimates that they did not appear, or but little, when the corn was sown, but afterwards they proved destructive to it, ver. 7. This seed went farther than the former, for it had root; and it represents the condition of those who do not quite cast off their profession, and yet come short of any saving benefit by it; the good they gain by the word, being insensibly overcome and overborne by the things of this world. Prosperity destroys the word in the heart, as much as persecution does; and more dangerously, because more silently: the stones spoiled the root, the thorns spoil the fruit.
The thorns represent the cares of this world. Care for another world would quicken the springing of this seed, but care for this world chokes it. Worldly cares are great hindrances to our profiting by the Word of God, and our proficiency in religion. They eat up that vigour of soul which should be spent in divine things; divert us from duty, distract us in duty, and do us most mischief of all afterwards ; quenching the sparks of good affections, and bursting the cords of good resolutions; those who are careful and cumbered about many things, commonly neglect the one thing needful.
The thorns also represent the deceitfulness of riches. Those who, by their care and industry, hare raised estates, though the danger that arises from care seems to be over, and they continue hearers of the word, yet are still in a snare (Jer. v. 4, 5); it is hard for them to enter into the kingdom of heaven: they are apt to promise themselves that in riches which is not in them; to rely upon them, and to take an inordinate complacency in them; and this chokes the word as much as care did. It is not so much riches, as the deceitfulness of riches, that does the mischief: now they cannot be said to be deceitful to us unless we put our confidence in them, and raise our expectations from them, and then it is that they choke the good seed.
4. The good ground (ver. 8); Other fell on good ground, and it is a pity but that good seed should always meet with good soil, and then there is no loss; such are good hearers of the word (ver. 20.) Though there are many that receive the grace of God, and the word of his
grace, in vain, yet God has a remnant by whom it is received to good purposes; for God's word shall not return empty. Isa. Iv. 10, 11.
Now that which distinguished this good ground from the rest, was, in one word, fruitfulness.
By this, true Christians are distinguished from hypocrites, that they bring forth the fruits of righteousness; so shall
my disciples, John xv. 8. He does not say that this good ground has no stones in it, or no thorns; but there were none that prevailed to hinder its fruitfulness. Saints in this world, are not perfectly free from the remains of sin ; but happily freed from the reign of it.
The hearers represented by the good ground are intelligent hearers; they hear the word and receive or understand it; they understand not only the sense and meaning of the word, but their own concern in it; they understand it as a man of business understands his business. God in his word deals with men as men, in a rational way, and gains possession of the will and affections by opening the understanding ; whereas Satan, who is a thief and a robber, comes not in by that door but climbeth up another way. They are fruitful hearers, which is an evidence of their good understanding: which also beareth fruit. Fruit is to every seed its own body, a substantial product in the heart and life, agreeable to the seed of the word received. We then bear fruit, when we practise according to the word; when the temper of our minds and the tenor of our lives are conformable to the gospel we have received, and we do as we are taught. They are not all alike fruitful; some hundred-fold, some sixty, some thirty. Among fruitful Christians, some are more fruitful than others : where there is true grace, yet there are degrees of it; some are of greater attainments in knowledge and holiness than others. We should aim at the highest degree, to bring forth a hundred-fold, abounding in the work of the Lord, John xv. 8: But if the ground be good, and the fruit right, the heart honest, and the life of a piece with it, those who bring forth but thirty-fold shall be graciously accepted of God, and it will be fruit abounding to their account, for we are under grace, and not under the law.
21 | 'And he said unto them, Is a candle orought to be put under a || bushel,
or under a bed ? and not to be set on a candlestick? 22 For there is nothing hid, which shall not be manifested ; neither was any thing kept secret, but that it should come abroad. 23 'lf any man hath ears to hear, let him hear. 24 And he said unto them, Take heed what ye hear: mwith what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you: and unto you that liear shall more be given. 25 "For he that hath, to him shall be given : and he that hath not, from him shall be taken even that which he hath. 26 | And he said, 'So is the kingdom of God, as if a man should cast seed into the ground; 27 And should sleep, and rise night and day, and the seed should spring and grow up, he knoweth not how. 28 For the earth bringeth forth fruit of herself; first the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear. 29 But when the fruit is || brought forth, immediately Phe putteth in the sickle, because the harvest is come. 30 4 And he said, "Whereunto shall we liken the kingdom of God? or with what comparison shall we compare it? 31 It is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when it is sown in the earth, is less than all the seeds that be in the earth : 32 But when it is sown, it groweth up, and becometh greater than all herbs, and shooteth out great branches : so that the fowls of the air may lodge under the shadow of it. 33 "And with many such parables spake he the word unto them, as they were able to hear it. 34 But without a parable spake he not unto them: and when they were alone, he expounded all things to his disciples.
i Matt. v. 15; Luke viii. 16; xi. 33. | The word in the original signifieth a less measure, as Matt. v. 15. k Matt. x. 26; Luke xii. 2. Matt. xi. 15; Ver. 9. m Matt. vii, 2; Luke vi, 38. n Matt. xiii. 12, xxv. 29; Luke viii. 18, xix. 26. o Matt. xiii. 24. 0r, ripe. p Rev. xiv. 15. 9 Matt. xiii. 31; Luke xiii. 18; Acts ii. 41, iv. 4, v. 14, xix. 20. r Matt. xiii, 34. John xvi, 12.
The lessons which our Saviour designs to teach us here by parables and figurative expressions are these :
1. That those who are good ought to consider the obligations they are under to do good; that is, as in the parable before, to bring forth fruit. God expects a grateful return of his gifts to us, and a useful improvement of his gifts in us; for (ver. 21), Is a candle brought to be put under a bushe! or under a bed ? No, but that it may be set on a candlestick. The apostles were ordained to receive the gospel, not for themselves only, but for the good of others, to communicate it to them. All Christians, as they have received the gift, must minister the same. Gifts and graces make a man as a candle ; the candle of the Lord (Prov. xx. 26), lighted by the Father of Tights; the most eminent are but candles, poor lights, compared with the Sun of righteousness. candle gives light but a little way, and but a little while, and is easily blown out, and continu) burning down and wasting.–Many who are lighted as candles, put themselves under a bed, or under a bushel; they do not manifest grace themselves, nor minister grace to others; they have estates, and do no good with them; have their limbs and senses, wit and learning perhaps, bus nobody is the better for them; they have spiritual gifts, but do not use them; like a taper in an urn, they burn to themselves.- Those who are lighted as candles, should set themselves on a candlestick; that is, should improve all opportunities of doing good, as those that were made for the glory of God, and the service of the communities they are members of; we are not born for ourselves.
The reason given for this, is, because there is nothing hid which shall not be manifested, (so it might better be read), ver. 22. There is no treasure of gifts and graces lodged in any but with design to be communicated; nor was the gospel made a secret to the apostles, to be concealed, but that it should come abroad, and be divulged to all the world. Though Christ expounded the parables to his disciples privately, yet it was with design to make them the more publicly useful; they were taught that they might teach; and it is a general rule, that the ministration of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal, not himself only, but others also.
II. It concerns those who hear the word of the gospel, to mark what they hear, and to rake a good use of it, because their weal or woe depends upon it; what he had said before, he saith again, If any man hath ears to hear, let him hear, ver. 23. Let him give the gospel of Christ a fair hearing; but that is not enough, it is added (ver. 24,) Take heed what ye hear, and give a due regard to that which ye do hear. What we hear doth us no good, unless we consider it; those especially tbat are to teach others, must themselves be very observant of the things of God; must take notice of the message they are to deliver that they may be exact. We must likewise take heed what we hear, by proving all things, that we may hold fast that which is good. We must be cautious, and stand upon our guard, lest we be imposed upon. To enforce this caution, consider that as we deal with God, God will deal with us, With what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to
yoll. be faithful servants to him, he will be a faithful Master to you: with the upright he will show himself upright.” As we improve the talents we are entrusted with, we shall increase them; if we make use of the knowledge we have, for the glory of God and the benefit of others, it shall sensibly grow, as stock in trade doth by being turned; Unto you that hear, shall more be given ; to you that have, it shall be given, ver. 25. If the disciples deliver that to the church, which they have received of the Lord, they shall be led more into the secret of the Lord. Gifts and graces multiply by being exercised; and God has promised to bless the hand of the diligent. If we do not use, we lose what we have; from him that hath not, that doeth no good with what he hath, and so bath it in vain, shall be taken even that which he hath. Burying a talent is the betraying of a trust, and amounts to a forfeiture; and gifts and graces rust for want of wearing.
III. The good seed of the gospel sown in the world, and sown in the heart, doth, by degrees, produce wonderful effects, but without noise (ver. 26, &c.); So is the kingdom of God; so is the gospel, when it is sown, and received as seed in good ground. 1. It will come up, though it seem lost and buried under the clods, it will find or make its way through them. The seed cast into the ground will spring. Let but the word of Christ have the place it ought to have in a soul, and it will show itself, as the wisdom from above doth in a good conversation. After a field is sown with corn, how soon is the surface of it altered! How gay and pleasant doth it look, when it is covered with green. 2. The husbandman cannot describe how it comes up; it is one of the mysteries of nature; It springs and grows up, he knows not how, ver. 27. He sees it has grown, but he cannot tell in what manner it grew, or what was the cause and method of its growth. Thus we know not how the Spirit by the word makes a change in the heart, any more than we can account for the blowing of the wind, which we hear the sound of, but cannot tell whence it comes, or whither it goes. Without controversy, great is the mystery of godliness; how God manifested in the flesh came to be believed on in the world, 1 Tim. iii. 16. 3. The husbandman, when he hath sown the seed, doth nothing toward the springing of it up; He sleeps and rises night and day; goes to sleep at night, gets up in the morning, and perhaps never so much as thinks of the corn he has sown, or ever looks upon it, but follows his pleasures or other business, and yet the earth brings forth
fruit of itself, according to the ordinary course of nature, and by the concurring power of the God of nature. Thus the word of grace, when it is received in faith, is in the heart a work of grace, and the preachers contribute nothing to it. The Spirit of God is carrying it on when they sleep, and can do no business, or when they rise to go about other business.
The prophets do not live for ever; but the word which they preached is doing its work when they are in their graves. Zech. i. 5, 6. The dew by which the seed is brought up tarrieth not for man, nor waiteth for the sons of men. Micah v. 7. 4. It grows gradually-first the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the car, ver. 28. When it is sprung up, it will go forward ; nature will have its course, and so will
grace. Christ's interest, both in the world and in the heart, is, and will be, a growing interest; and though the beginning be small, the latter end will greatly increase. Though thou sowest not that body that shall be, but bare grain, yet God will give to every seed its own body; though at first it is but a tender blade, which the frost may nip, or the foot may crush, yet it will increase to the ear, to the full corn in the ear. Nature does nothing abruptly. God carries on his work insensibly and without noise, but insuperably and without fail. 5. It comes to perfertion at last, ver. 29. When the fruit is brought forth, that is, when it is ripe, and ready to be delivered into the owner's hands, then he puts in the sickle. This intimates, that Christ now accepts the services which are done to him by an honest heart, from a good principle. From the fruit of the gospel taking place and working in the soul, Christ gathers in a harvest of honour to himself. See John iv. 35.-That he will reward them in eternal life. When those that receive the gospel aright have finished their course, the harvest comes, when they shall be gathered as wheat into God's barn (Matt. xiii. 30), as a shock of corn in his season.
IV. The work of grace is small in its beginnings, but comes to be great and considerable at last (vers. 30–32),—Whereunto shall I liken the kingdom of God, as now to be set up by the Messiah? How shall I make you to understand the designed method of it? Christ speaks as one considering and consulting with himself how to illustrate it with an apt similitude. With what comparison shall we compare it? Shall we fetch it from the motions of the sun, or the revolutions of the moon ? No; the comparison is borrowed from this earth—it is like a grain of mustard-seed. He had compared it before to seed sown, here to that seed; intending thereby to show,-1. That the beginnings of the gospel kingdom would be very small, like that which is one of the least of all seeds. When a Christian Church was sown in the earth for God, it was all contained in one room, and the number of the names was but one hundred and twenty (Acts i. 15), as the children of Israel, when they went down into Egypt, were but seventy souls. The work of grace in the soul is at first but the day of small things—a cloud no bigger than a man's hand. Never were there such great things undertaken by such an inconsiderable handful, as that of the discipling of the nations by the ministry of the apostles ; nor a work that was to end in such great glory as the work of
grace, raised from such weak and unlikely beginnings. Who hath begotten me these ? 2. That the perfection of it will be very great— When it grous, it becomes greater than all herbs. The gospel kingdom in the world shall increase and spread to the remotest nations of the earth, and shall continue to the latest ages of time. The Church hath shot out great branches—strong ones, spreading far, and fruitful. The work of grace in the soul has mighty products, now while it is in its growth; but what will it be when it is perfected in heaven ? The difference between a grain of inustardseed and a great tree, is nothing to that between a young convert on earth and a glorified saint in heaven. See John xü. 24.
After the parables thus specified, the historian concludes with this general account of Christ's preaching--that with many such parables he spoke the word unto them (ver. 33); probably designing to refer us to the larger account of the parables of this kind, which we had before. Matt. xiii. He spoke in parables, as they were able to hear them. He fetched his comparisons from those things that were familiar to them, and level to their capacity, and delivered them in plain expressions, in condescension to their capacity ; though he did not let them into the mystery of the parables, yet his manner of expression was easy, and such as they might hereafter recollect to their edification. But, for the present, without a parable spake he not unto them, ver. 34. The glory of the Lord was covered with a cloud, and God speaks to us in the language of the sons of men, that, though not at first, yet by degrees, we may understand his meaning: the disciples themselves understood those sayings of Christ afterward, which at first they did not rightly take the sense of. But these parables he expounded to them when they were alone. We cannot but wish we had had that exposition, as we had of the parable of the sower; but it was not so needful—because when the Church should be enlarged, that would expound these parables to us, without any more ado. 35 And the same day, when the even was come, he saith unto them, Let
* Matt. viii, 18, 23; Luke vili. 22.
us pass over unto the other side. 36 And when they had sent away the multitude, they took him even as he was in the ship. And there were also with him other little ships. 37 And there arose a great storm of wind, and the waves beat into the ship, so that it was now full
. 38 And he was in the hinder part of the ship, asleep on a pillow: and they awake him, and say unto him, Master, carest thou not that we perish ? 39 And he arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. 40 And he said unto them, Why are ye so fearful ? how is it that he have no faith? 41 And they feared exceedingly, and said one to another, What manner of man is this, that even the wind and the sea
obey him? This miracle which Christ wrought for the relief of his disciples, in stilling the storm, we had before (Matt. viii. 23, &c.); but it is here more fully related.
It was the same day that he had preached out of a ship, when the even was come, ver. 35. When he had been labouring in the word and doctrine all day, instead of reposing himself
, he exposeth himself, to teach us not to think of a constant remaining rest till we come to heaven. The end of a toil may perhaps be the beginning of a toss. But observe, the ship that Christ made his pulpit is taken under his special protection, and though in danger, cannot sink. What is used for Christ, he will take particular care of.
He himself proposed putting to sea at night, because he would lose no time,—Let us pass over to the other side ; for we shall find, in the next chapter, he has work to do there. Christ went about doing good, and no difficulties in his way should hinder him; thus industrious we should be in serving him, and our generation, according to his will.
They did not put to sea till they had sent away the multitude (ver. 36); that is, had given to each of them that which they came for, and answered all their requests; for he sent none home complaining that they had attended him in vain. Or, They sent them away with a solemn bless ing; for Christ came into the world, not only to pronounce, but to command and to give, the blessing.
The storm arose, and was so great that the ship was full of water (ver. 37), not by springing a leak, but perhaps partly with the shower—for the word here used signifies a tempest of wind with rain ; however, the ship being little, the waves beat into it, so that it was full. It is no new thing for that ship to be greatly hurried and endangered, in which Christ and his disciples
, Christ and his name and gospel, are embarked.
Christ was asleep in this storm. He had a pillow there—such a one as a fisherman's ship would furnish him with ; and he slept, to try the faith of his disciples, and to stir up prayer. Upon the trial, their faith appeared weak, and their prayers strong.–Sometimes when the Church is in a storm, Christ seems as if he were asleep, unconcerned in the troubles of his people, and regardless of their prayers, and doth not presently appear for their relief-verily, he is a God that hideth himself. Isa. xlv. 15. But as when he tarries he doth not tarry (Hab. ii. 3), so when he sleeps he doth not sleep; the Keeper of Israel doth not so much as slumber. Psal. cxxi. 3, 4.
His disciples encouraged themselves with their having his presence, and thought it the best way to improve that, and appeal to that, and ply the oar of prayer rather than the oars of the ship. Their confidence lay in this, that they had their Master with them; and the ship that has Christ in it, though it may be tossed, cannot sink ; the bush that has God in it, though it may burn, shall not consume. Cæsar encouraged the master of the ship that had him on board, with this
, " Thou hast Cæsar on board, and Cæsar's fortune.” They awoke Christ. Had not the necessity of the case called for it, they would not have stirred up or awoke their Master till he had pleased. When Christ seems as if he slept in a storm, he is awaked by the prayers of his people. When we know not what to do, our eye must be to him; we may be at our wits' end, but not at our faith’s end, while we have such a Saviour to go to. Their address to Christ is here expressed very emphatically,—Master, carest thou not that we perish? This sounds somewhat harsh. much wrong, who suspect him to be careless of his people in distress. The matter is not s0; is not willing that any should perish, much less any of his little ones. Matt. xviii. 14.
The word of command with which Christ rebuked the storm we have here (ver. 39), and had not in Matthew. He says, Peace, be still. Let not the wind any longer roar, nor the sea rage
They do Christ
. Thas he stills the noise of the sea—the noise of her waves. A particular emphasis is laid upon