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we not suppose that either Christ or his apostles were common beggars, but it is probable there was a bag or common purse amongst them, which upon occasion supplied their necessities; and there were certain aStXpai, sisters, or christian women, as toe learned Dr. Hammond observes, who accompanied Christ and his apostles in their travels, and provided necessaries for them, when they went up and down, preaching the gospel. Note also, 2. The condescending grace and humility of Christ; he was not ashamed either of these women's following of him, or administering to him, because of their former vicious eourse of life; it is not what we formerly were, but what we now are, that Christ considers; it is a glory to him, to have great and notorious sinners brought to a closure and compliance with him. The reproach is not that they have been sinners, for Christ did not give himself for a people that were pure and holy, without spot or wrinkle, but to make them so by his word and Spirit, Eph. v. 26. Christ is only ashamed of those that eat of his bread, and hit up the heel against him.
4 And when much people 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 lie 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 an hundred-fold. And when he had said these things, he cried, He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.
The design and scope of this parable is to show, what are the causes of men's improving or not improving under the hearing of the word, and to let us know that there are three sorts of bad hearers, and but one good one. The careless and inconsiderate hearer, is like the highway ground, where the seed is trodden down and trampled upon. Hard-hearted sinners, whom the mollifying word doth not soften; these are
like stony ground, where the seed takes no root, the word makes no impression. Those whose heads and hearts are stuffed with the cares of the world, are like the thorny ground, in which the seed is choaked, which would fructify to an holy immortality: this is the scope of the parable. Now from the subject matter of it, learn, 1. That by the sower you are to understand Christ and his apostles, and their sue cessors, the ministers of the gospel. Christ the principal Sower, they the subordinate seedsmen. Christ sows his own field, they sow his held; he sows his own seed, they his seed. Woe unto us if we sow our own seed, and not Christ's. Learn, 2. The seed sown is the word of God: fabulous legends and unwritten traditions, which the seedsmen of the church of Rome sow, are not seed, but chatf; or if seed, (for they fructify loo fast in the minds of their people,) their own, not Christ's. Our Lord's fields must be all sown with his own seed, with no mixt grain. Learn thence, That the word preached is like the seed sown in the furrows of the fields. Seed is of a fructifying, growing, and increasing nature, has in it an active principle, and will spring up, if not killed by accidental injuries; such a quickening power has the word of God to regenerate and make alive dead souls, if we suffer it to take rooting in our hearts: yet is not this seed alike fruitful in every soil: all ground is not alike, neither doth the word fructify alike in the souls of men; there is a difference both from the nature of the soil, and the influence of the Spirit; for though no ground is naturally good, yet some is worse than other: nay, even the best ground doth not bring forth increase alike; some good ground brings forth an hundred-fold, others but sixty, and some but thirty. In like manner a christian may be a profitable hearer of the word, although he doth not bring forth so great a proportion of fruit as others, provided he bring forth as much as he can.
0 And his disoiples 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.
Here we have the disciples' question, and our Saviour's reply: their inquiry is con
eerning the sense and signification of the parable, they own their ignorance, and desire better information. It is no shame for the best of ministers, yea, for the best of men, to acknowledge their own ignorance of the mysteries of religion; and to attend upon the means of instruction, in order to their farther information. In our Saviour's answer, To you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God, &c. observe, 1. That the doctrines of the gospel are great mysteries. 2. That it is an invaluable privilege rightly to understand and know gospel-mysteries. 3. That this privilege all are not sharers in, and partakers of, but only those to whom it is given. 4. That it is a righteous thing with God to give such persons over to farther blindness and ignorance in spiritual things, who wilfully reject the truth, and shut their eyes against the evidence of it. The Pharisees had all along shut their eyes, and said, they would not see; and now Christ closes their eyes judicially, and says they shall not see.
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, aud 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.
Here our Saviour applies himself to interpret and explain the foregoing parable to his disciples; he tells them, The seed is the word; the sower is the preacher; the soil, or ground, is the heart and soul of man: some hearers he compares to the highway ground, in which the seed lies uncovered for want of the harrow of meditation ; others to stony ground, in which
the word has no root; no root in their understanding, no root in their memories, in their wills, or in their affections, but they are instantly offended, either at the depth and profoundness of the word, or at the sanctity and strictness of the word, or else at the plainness and simplicity of it. Again, some hearers our Lord compares to thorny ground. Worldly desires and inordinate cares for the things of this life choak the word, as thorns overshadow the com, draw away the heart of the earth from it, hinder the influence of the sun from cherishing it; the like ill effects have worldly affections and desires in the soul of miii, rendering the seed of the word unfruitful. But the good christian hears the word attentively, keeps it retentively, believes it stedfastly, applies it particularly, practises it universally, and brings forth fruit perseveringly. Learn hence, 1. That no bearers are in Christ's account good hearers of the word, but such as bring forth fruit answerable to their hearing. 2. That a person may be a good hearer of the word in Christ's account, if he bring forth the best fruit he can, though not in so great a proportion as others do; as some ground brings forth thirty, some sixty, some an hundred-fold: in like manner do all the sincere hearers of the word; they all brmg forth fruit, though not all alike; all in sincerity, though not all equally, and none to perfection. Learn, 3. That it is not sufficient that we do at present believe, approve, and practise the truth delivered to us, or that we are affected with the word, and receive it with some kind of joy, delight, and pleasure; unless we persist and persevere in obedience to all its precepts, and continue to bring forth fruit with patience.
16 No man, when he hath lighted a candle, covereth it with a vessel, or putteth it under a bed; but settcth it on a candlestick, that they which enter in may see the light. 17 For nothing is secret that shaM not be made manifest ; neither any thing hid that shall not be known and come abroad. 18 Take heed therefore how ye hear: for whosoever hath, to him shall be given; and whosoever hath not, from hiiu shall be taken even that which b« seenteth to have.
In these words Christ declares his end and design in revealing unto his disciples the foregoing parable, and why he communicated to them the light of scripture knowledge and gospel mysteries, namely, that they may communicate it to others, and not keep it close unto themselves; even as the candle in an house diffuses and disperses its light to alt that come within the reach of it. Such as are enlightened by God in any measure, with the knowledge and understanding of his word, ought not to conceal and hide this knowledge within themselves, but communicate it to others, and improve it for the good and benefit of others. Observe also, The argument which our Saviour makes use of to quicken his disciples to communicate their knowledge, and improve the grace they had received for the good and advantage of others. To him that hath shall be given, that is, such as improve their spiritual gifts, shall have them increased; such as improve them not shall have them blasted. Learn hence, That there is no such way to thrive in grace, and increase in gifts, as to exercise and improve them; he that hideth his talent, forfeits it, is in danger of losing it, and also of being punished for not improving it. Observe lastly, How our Lord shuts up this parable of the sower and the seed, with a cautionary direction to all his auditors, to take heed how they hear the word: Take heed therefore how ye hear. Such as would profit by hearing the word must diligently attend to the matter of the doctrine which they hear, and also to the manner how they hear. Such is the majesty and authority of the person who speaks to us in the word, such is the sublimity and spirituality of the matter, and so great is our danger if we miscarry under the word, that it nearly concerns us to take heed both what we hear, whom we hear, and how we hear.
10 Then came to him his mother and his brethren, and could not come at him for the press. 20 And it was told him by certain, which said, Thy mother and thy brethren stand without, desiring to see thee. 21 And he answered and said unto them, My mother and my brethren are these which hear the word of God, and do it.
Two things are here observable, 1. The
truth and verity of Christ's human nature: he had affinity and consanguinity with men, persons near in blood to him, by the mother's side, called here his kinsmen. Observe, 2. That Christ's spiritual kindred were much dearer to him than his natural. Alliance by faith is more valued by Christ, than alliance by blood: to bear Christ in the heart is greater honour than to carry him in the womb. Blessed be God, this great and gracious privilege is not denied us even now. Although we cannot see Christ, yet love him we may, his bodily presence cannot be enjoyed by us, but his spiritual presence is not denied to us. Though Christ be not ours in house, in arms, in affinity and consanguinity, yet in heart, in faith, in love, and service, he is or may be ours. Verily spiritual regeneration bringeth men into a more honourable relation to Christ, than natural generation ever did. O how dear are obedient christians to Christ! he prefers them in esteem before those of his own flesh and blood: My brethren are these which hear the word of God, and do it.
22 Now it came to pass, on a certain day, thut he went into a ship with his disciples: and he said unto them, Let us go over unto the other side of the lake. And they launched forth. 23 Rut as they sailed he fell asleep: and there came down a storm of wind on the lake, and they were filled with water, and were in jeopardy. 24 And they came to him, and awoke him, saying, Master, master, we perish! Then he arose, and rebuked the wind and the raging of the water: and they ceased, and there was a calm. 25 And he said unto them, Where is your faith? And they, being afraid, wondered, saying one to another, What manner of man is this! for he commandcth even the winds and water, and they obey him.
Here observe, 1. Our Saviour and his disciples no sooner put forth to sea, but difficulties attend them, and danger overtakes them; a tempest arose, and that ship was covered with waves that Christ himself was in with his disciples. Learn hence, That the presence of Christ itself doth uot exempt his disciples and followers from trouble and danger. Here was a great tempest about the disciples' ears, though Christ himself was in their company. Observe, 2. The posture our Saviour was in when this tempest arose: being weaned with the labours of the day, he was laid down to sleep j thereby showing himself to be truly and really man; and that he not only took upon him the human nature, but the infirmities of that nature also; he was subject to pain and weariness, to hunger and thirst. Observe, 3. The disciples' application made to Christ: they awake him with a sad outcry, Master, master, we perish; here was faith mixed with human frailty. They believed that he could save them, but being asleep, they concluded he must be awaked before he could save them ; whereas, though his human nature was asleep, yet his divine nature neither slumbered nor slept. Learn hence, That the prevalency of fear in a time of great and imminent danger, though it may evidence weakness of faith, yet it is no evidence of a total want of faith; in the midst of the disciples' fears, they believed Christ's power and ahility to save them: Master, save us, we perish. Observe, 4. A double rebuke given by our Saviour, 1. To the winds. 2. To the tears of his disciples. Christ rebuked the winds, and instantly they were calm: when the sea was as lurious as a mad-man, Christ with a single word calms it. Learn thence, That the most raging winds, and outrageous seas, cannot stand belore the rebukes of Christ; Christ as God lays a law upon the most lawless creatures, even when they seem to act most lawlessly. Observe farther, Christ rebukes his disciples' tears, and their want of faith: Why are you fearful * Where is yourfaith . * No sooner was the storm up, but their fears were up, and their faith was down. They forgot that the lord-high-admiral of the ocean was now on board their ship, and were as much overset with their boisterous passions, as the ship was wilh tempestuous winds; and accordingly, Christ rebukes the tempest within, before he calms the storm without; hist he quickens their faith, then he quiets the seas. Note from hence, That great faith in the hahit may appear but little in act and exercise. The disciples' faith, in forsaking all and following Christ, was great faith; but in this present act their taith was weak, through the prevalency of their fears. Oh the imperfect composition of the best of saints! Faith and fear will
take their turns, and act their several parts whilst we are here; ere long our fears will be vanquished, and our faith swallowed up in vision, our hopes in fruition. Tbea shall we obey with vigour, praise with cheerfulness, love without measure, fear without torment, trust without despondency. Lord, strengthen our faith in the belief of this desirable happiness, and set our souls a longing for the full fruition and final enjoyment of it .
26 And they arrived at the country of the Gadarenes, which is over against Galilee. 27 And when he went forth to land, there met him out of the city a certain man which had devils long time, and ware no clothes, neither abode in ant) house, but in the tombs. 28 When lie saw Jesus, he cried out, and fell down before him, and with a loud voice said, What have I to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of God most high? I beseech thee torment me not. 29 (For he had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man. For oftentimes it had caught him : and he was kept hound wilh chains and in fetters: and he brake the bands, and was driven of the devil into the wilderness.) 30 And Jesus asked him, savins, What is thy name? And he said, Legion: because many devils were entered into him. 31 And they besought him that he would not command them to go out into the deep. 32 And there was there an herd of many swine feeding on the mountain; and they besought him that he would sutler them to enter into them: and he suffered them. 33 Then went the devils out of the man, and entered into the swine: and the herd ran violently down a steep place into the lake, and WW choked. 34 When they that fed them saw what was done, they fled, and went and told it in the city a"1' in the country. 35 Then they «»' out to see what was done; and cam' to Jesus, and found the man, out of whom the devils were departed, sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed, and in his right mind: and they were afraid. 36 They also which saw it told them by what means he that was possessed of the devils was healed. 37 Then the whole multitude of the country of the Gadarenes round about besought him to depart from them; for they were taken with great fear: and he went up into the ship, and returned back again. 38 Now the man out of whom the devils were departed besought him that he might be with him: but Jesus sent him away, saying, 39 Return to thine own house, and shew how great things God hath done unto thee. And he went his way, and published throughout the whole city how great things Jesus had done unto him. 40 And it came to pass, that, when Jesus was returned, the people gladly received him: for they were all waiting for him.
This piece of history gives us a very sad relation of a person that was possessed of a legion of devils; we read of few, if any, in the Old Testament, that were thus possest, but of many in the New. Our Saviour came into the world to destroy the works of the devil; therefore he suffered Satan to enter some human bodies, to show his divine power in casting him out. Observe here, I. That the evil angels by their fall lost their purity, but not their power; for with God's permission they have power not only to enter men's bodies, and to possess them, but also to distemper their minds, and to drive them to frenzy and madness; such was the deplorable case here. Note, 2. That the reason why the evil angels do not oftener exert their power in doing mischief to the bodies and lives of men, is from the restraining power of God: the devil cannot do all the mischief he would, and he shall not do all he can. Observe, 3. The place where these evil spirits delighted to make their abode: amongst the tombs or graves, places desolate, forlorn, and solitary, which are apt to breed horror of mind, and to give advantage to temptation. From whence I gather, That it is very dangerous and unsafe for persons, especially in whom melancholy prevails, to give themselves too much to solitariness, to fre
quent desolate places, and to affect being much alone. for it gives advantage to Satan to set upon them with powerful temptations. It is much better to frequent human society, especially to delight in the communion of the saints, by means whereof we may lie more aud more strengthened against Satan's temptations. Observe, 4. How the devils own Christ to be the Son of God, and pay unwilling worship and homage to him, yielding subjection to him as his slaves and vassals, not a free and voluntary service: They cried out, and fell down before him, laying, What have we to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of God? Where, by calling him Jesus, they owned him to be a Saviour, but none of their Saviour: What have we to do with thee, Jesus? Oh! what an uncomfortable expression is this, to own Christ to be a Saviour, and at the same time to know and declare that he is none of our Saviour! 2uid est Deus, si non sit meus ?" What is God, if he be not my God f What comfort in a Saviour, if he be not my Saviour? Observe, 5. What a multitude of evil spirits do enter into one man. Oh the extreme malice and enmity of the devil against mankind, in that so many evil spirits should at once afflict and torment a single person, even a legion, many thousands of them! Note likewise, The unity and agreement which is amongst these evil spirits in doing mischief; though there was a multitude of them in this one person, yet they have all but one name. We see the very devils have a sort of unity amongst themselves, and in their malicious and mischievous designs against mankind they are as one. Oh how happy were it, if good men were as united in their designs and endeavours for the glory of God, and the good of one another, as devils conspire and contrive against them! Observe, 6. The request which the devils make to Christ: We beseech thee, torment us not. From whence we may gather, 1. That there are torments appointed to the spiritual nature of evil angels. 2. That the evil angels, or devils, are not so full of torment as they shall be, although they arc as full of sin and discontent as they can be; there will be a time when their torments shall be increased; therefore they pray, Torment us not before the time; that is, do not increase our torments before the appointed time of their increase. Observe, 7. The devil's request for permission and leave to go into the herd of swine. Where note,