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EXPOSITORY NOTES ON SCRIPTURE LESSONS.
JUNE 7TH.-THE PARABLE OF THE Sower.
For Repetition.-Matt. XIII. 5--8. Reading Lesson.-Matt. XIII. 1--23. In this parable the Saviour teaches the different kinds of reception given to his word. It applies to the preaching of the word, and the manner in which that preaching is attended to, and is equally applicable to Sunday school teaching, and to any other mode of making known the gospel.
First. THE Seed and the Sower.
By the seed is intended, ver. 19, the word of the kingdom-the gospel, which, like seed, is cast into all sorts of ground. It addresses the aged and the youthful with one and the same message. It finds all in a sinful, helpless condition, and makes known that which, by God's grace, delivers from sin, and secures everlasting life.
It is simple, adapted to the feeblest capacity. It is sufficient, making that provision which the condition of sinners renders necessary, an atonement of infinite value, pardon for all guilt, and grace to sanctify the heart. And it is free for any and all who feel their need of it, Rev. xxii. 17.
The entrance of Jesus Christ into the world was his going forth to sow the word of the kingdom. He employed his disciples to cast this seed abroad when he was going back to heaven, chap. xxviii. 19, 20. And he has commissioned faithful men in all ages since, to do the same work.
But the work is not restricted to ministers. Any who love Christ, and desire to do good, act under his authority in making known his word. They make known gospel truth. The husbandman is careful in selecting his seed; he is diligent and persevering in sowing it; so the sower of spiritual seed must take care what he casts abroad; he must earnestly ply his toil, and never be discouraged or turned off from it. His business is to sow. It belongs to God to render the sowing effectual.
Secondly. THE Field and the results.
It seems, from the parable, that the field consisted of ground of different sorts. There was the trodden path, on the hard surface of which the seed lay, so that birds could easily pick it up. There was the part of the field where only a very thin covering of mould was upon the hard rock, into which the seed could not penetrate; and there, quickly springing up, it as quickly died. There was
also the ground in which there were so many weeds and thorns that nothing else would grow. And there was the good ground, the part of the field where the soil was deep, and where, therefore, the previous preparation was not in vain.
Christ's explanation enables us to understand the different classes of hearers intended.
The first indicates careless hearers; those who, when they are being instructed, give no serious attention. They do not want to understand, nor to profit by what is set before them. The devil is ever at hand to make their carelessness effectual. They remain what they were, notwithstanding instructions; or they get worse, just as the path gets harder by being frequently trodden upon, and by exposure to the sun. It is an awful thing to get worse under what should make us better.
The second indicates fickle hearers. They like what is told them; they seem to receive and profit by it; but the surface only of their heart is reached. There will often be in such persons what will appear very promising attention, feeling, inquiry, seeming obedience. But all is hard within. They do not truly repent, nor believe in Christ. Their heart remains unchanged; and so, as soon as they meet with a little contempt or opposition on account of their beginning to appear religious, they give it all up. This also is a very dreadful state to be in ;* seeming to value truth, but not feeling its sanctifying power; appearing to receive the gospel, but hindered by a little difficulty.
The third indicates worldly, or covetous hearers; such as, wher they are being instructed, have their hearts full of other things. The thorns are explained in ver. 22, and in Luke viii. 14, as meaning cares, riches, and pleasures. Such hearers are either too busy, or too satisfied with what they possess, to care enough about God's truth. Those young persons are in this case who cannot find time for reading the Bible, or for secret prayer; who think they will attend to these things at some future time. This, again, is an awful condition; for the longer the mind is thus occupied, the less disposed it is to receive the word of God; and who can tell but that opportunity neglected now, may soon be lost for ever?
The fourth indicates humble, believing, obedient, hearers. There are some such. They are willing to listen; they try to understand; they pray for God's blessing on the instructions they receive. And that blessing is given, so that they are made intelligent, happy, and useful. Some are more useful than others; but all are happy in God's work; are accepted by Him, and enjoy His favour.
PRACTICAL.-Ask yourselves to which of these classes you belong.
Give serious attention to God's word. Seek to have your hearts impressed by it. Do not let contempt or opposition turn your thoughts away. Get rid of everything that would hinder your retaining the word of God in your hearts. Strive to have your hearts so prepared as to profit by God's truth.
JUNE 14TH.-THE POWER OF JESUS.
For Repetition.-Luke vIII. 23-25. Reading Lesson.-Luke VIII. 22-40. First. THE POWER OF CHRIST OVER THE STORM.
The disciples had put to sea towards night under the direction of their Master. He knew, no doubt, what would happen, and intended to give them the proofs of his power which the lesson records. Whatever danger might occur, the disciples were safe in acting at the Saviour's bidding. He, moreover, was with them, so that they might have felt that they were safe.
He was asleep, and the disciples imagined that he did not notice their peril. They were greatly alarmed. No strength of theirs, and no skill in managing their boat, could avail against the danger. They therefore awoke him with their cry.
He arose, and spoke to the wind and the waves. No mere man would have done this with effect. In storms, individuals exposed have called upon God. The mariners did so in the vessel in which Jonah sailed, Jonah i. 5, 6; but here was one, apparently in as much danger as those who sailed with him, who does not cry to God. He arose, and spoke to the wind as it roared, and to the waves as they dashed wildly against the ship.
And he spoke with power. In an instant all was calm. Immediately the wind ceased to rage, and the waves to roll. All was still and calm. And then, looking at the twelve, Jesus rebuked their fear, ver. 25. They should have believed that he could shield them. They had seen his power frequently displayed before, if not in this manner, still so as to show that they had no cause for alarm. His kindness, which they suspected, should not have been doubted; his power should have been trusted.
The disciples wondered. Had man ever displayed such power? Could he, whom the winds and the waves so readily obeyed, be merely a man? ver. 25. We see in this narrative,-That they who love Christ and serve him may be in trouble and danger. That then their prayer should be directed to the Saviour. That if even he do not seem at once to notice their peril, he is not really unmindful of it. That his power and kindness are sufficient for their protection and safety.
Secondly. THE POWER OF CHRist over the Devil.
The instance in the text was one in which the devil seems to have employed to the utmost his malignant influence. The man had been a long time in his hands. Possession by the devil was probably a malady peculiar to the time of our Lord's incarnation, to afford illustrations of his work as overcoming and ultimately destroying the power of the devil in the spiritual condition of men. persons afflicted with it were under the power of the devil, so that they could not act except as he guided them. For months, perhaps for years, in the case of this unhappy man, it had been impossible to appease his violence, or do anything to mitigate the paroxysms of his suffering. His clothes were torn and thrown away. Fetters and bands were equally useless to keep him from mischief. was the terror of the neighbourhood.
Melancholy was the place to which ordinarily the man betook himself. The desolate burying-places, the caves in which the dead were deposited, were his home. The demons who subjected the man to torture, were very numerous and powerful, Mark v. 3-5.
These demons seem, too, to have had a special rage against the Saviour, of whom, however, they were afraid, ver. 28. The man roared out as one in agony as the Saviour approached, thus showing most conclusively that there was not, as sometimes the foes of Jesus pretended to think, Matt. xii. 24, a concert between him and them.
But see how entirely these evil spirits were under the power and control of the Saviour. No matter how they delighted in mischief, and how, on that account, they had tortured this poor sufferer; when Christ spoke to them their malignity was controlled. He could have sent them at once into the deep, ver. 31, their own place, the region of darkness and punishment. They acknowledged his power over them by the request they made. They did his bidding in entering into the swine, thus chastising the disobedience of the Jewish people, who kept these animals.
Perhaps the devils, in making their request, thought to awaken hatred against the Saviour by the destruction of the swine. The people who saw what was done were filled with consternation. They did not know what to say. In what had happened they felt that a judgment was inflicted upon them, and probably apprehending something worse, they besought the Saviour to leave their neighbourhood.
It has sometimes been objected that it was unjust in the Saviour to destroy the swine. Yet those who had the greatest reason to complain of injustice, if anybody might, said nothing of the kind.
They were afraid of the heavier judgments most likely, because they felt that they were doing wrong in keeping these swine.
And see the change upon the man, ver. 35. Christ's power had entirely made a new man of him. And thus the Saviour showed how easily and how completely he can heal all moral and spiritual maladies. Notice in these facts-The malignity of the devil. He seeks the destruction of those over whom his power is exerted. He does now, by means of temptations to sin, what in the days of Christ he sought to effect by physical mischief. He wants to ruin the soul. Christ only can rescue us from the devil. If Christ have saved us we should serve and follow him,
JUNE 21ST.-THE FEAST IN LEVI'S HOUSE.
For Repetition.-Luke v. 27-29. Reading Lesson.-Luke v. 27-39. First. THE FEAST.
On leaving his former associates to become a follower of Jesus, it was natural that Matthew should collect his friends together, and give them an opportunity of knowing him whom he intended thence. forward to follow. He might wish to show them that in leaving his former employ for such a master, he was doing nothing absurd and improper. He might hope that the Saviour would say some. thing to those friends of his, or that he would work some miracle in their presence, which might attract their attention, and influence their hearts as his own was influenced.
Whatever was the reason, Matthew provided the feast, and procured the attendance of a large number of his friends. Jesus was there, and his disciples; for he was never gloomy, ascetic, and forbidding. He would go wherever he could do good. In the house of the Pharisee who did not love him; in that of the disciple who had been a despised publican; and in the abode of Lazarus at "Bethany, Jesus was equally ready to meet with any who were willing to listen to his instructions. And wherever the Saviour went, he sought to do good. If you have listened to the Saviour and been blessed, seek to bring others to listen to him too, that they also may be blessed. Try to be useful everywhere.
Secondly. THE COMPANY.
There were many at the feast in Matthew's house; they were not, however, of the class with whom the Pharisees thought Jesus would associate. He was a teacher of religion; and should not teachers, they were ready to ask, avoid the class of persons to whom Matthew and his former friends belonged?