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Matthew, xiii., 1-9. — The same day went Jesus out of the house, and sat by the seaside. And great multitudes were gathered together unto him, so that he went into a ship, and sat ; and the whole multitude stood on the shore. And he spake many things unto them in parables, saying, Behold, a sower went forth to sow : And when he sowed, some seeds fell by the wayside, and the fowls came and devoured them up. Some fell upon stony places, where they had not much earth ; and forthwith they sprung up, because they had no deepness of earth : And when the sun was up, they were scorched ; and because they had no root, they withered away. And some fell among thorns ; and the thorns sprung up, and choked them. But others fell into good ground, and brought forth fruit, some a hundred-fold, some sixty-fold, some thirty-fold. Who hath ears to hear, let him hear.
" The same day" — a Sabbath day — Jesus preached in the morning and wrought two miracles, from which we may conclude it probable that the events narrated in this chapter occurred in the afternoon. It would appear (from ch. xii., 17 B b
194 THE SOWER.
1) that he had not had time to eat bread.* " He sat by the seaside," a place of public resort. — Jesus always in the way* " He went into a ship, and sat ;" giving us an example in this also. — o pulpit unseasonable for him — not only do we find him in the Temple and synagogues on the Sabbath, but on mountains, in cities, in private houses ; by the wayside, seaside, and well's side. "He spake many things unto them in parables ;" a mode of teaching different from the Sermon on the Mount ; not, however, intended to conceal truth, but to excite inquiry. There is no little difficulty in expounding a parable ; to attempt it is almost darkening counsel by words — so simple, and yet so sublime. This is the first instance in which your speaker has attempted it, and he approaches it with a trembling hand. But, with the exposition of our Lord to guide us, we cannot greatly. err. " Behold !" — Wake up attention — you are concerned — " a sower went forth to sow." — The heart is the moral soil — though the same base in all, it produces different results ; yet, believing that God is no respecter of persons, we believe all are equally depraved. In some, a happier constitution, or education, or a more direct exposure to the moral sun, or fewer temptations, may cause a difference ; and hence many gain greater credit for piety and moral worth than they deserve. But, without attempting to determine the reason in every case — much mystery being involved — • the worst soil is capable of bringing forth some fruit. Where circumstances are dissimilar, the eye of the hus* bandman may see the man with thirty-fold in an equally favourable light with him who brings forth a hundred-fold in a more genial situation. The seed is the Word of God ; this is necessarily good, and the fruit must therefore be good. The husbandman who sows pure seed has not a better right to expect a good
* Example of Jesus for preaching twice a day.— icholas White, of England, was accused of heresy because he commended this in Luther. A bishop said he preached in the morning and prated in the afternoon. It was deemed puritanicaL Thank God, times are changed.
THE SOWER. 195 crop in his field than has the spiritual sower ; for they both equally depend on the blessing of Him who sendeth down the early and the latter rain, and who alone giveth the increase. Again, like him, the minister knows beforehand the kind of fruit to be produced from the character of the seed. If wheat, he expects not barley. If he has sown the threatenings, he knows there will be a moving with fear, such as oah felt when he prepared the ark. If promises, hope ; if eternal glory, holiness ; for " He who hath this hope purifieth himself, even as he is pure." Again, this seed is incorruptible : " Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world." He that receives it " hath everlasting life." The sower is the preacher. Preaching is a religious or* dinance. — The minister's business is to sow, not to "lord it over God's heritage." He is but a husbandman ! — your servants! ! — He sows beside all waters; "in the morning casts abroad his seed, and in the evening withholds not his hand." He is the bearer of the seed-basket ; he has nothing but what he has received. O ! to sow from one well filled, shaken together, running over ! It is hard work to preach without the heavenly seed. Many, for want of this, have filled the basket with chaff; and the people are hungering before him, and with anxious eye desiring to be fed ! — fills their belly with husks — and others, for want of seed, have filled their baskets with tares and darnel, and are desolating the garden of the Church with noxious
weeds ! O ! these scatter ers of firebrands, arrows, and death ! And yet how often is the faithful pastor after God's own heart seen to go forth weeping, though bearing precious seed \ How often to adopt the inscription on Fletcher's tombstone !* * The portion of the inscription alluded to is the following words : " While others constrained him to take up The lamentation of the prophet, * All the day long have I stretched out my hands Unto a disobedient and gainsaying people ; Yet surely my judgment is with the Lord, And my work with my God.' "
196 THE SOWER. How is this ! that with good seed and a faithful sower there is so great a disparity between the seed sown and the produce ? Our parable informs us that it arises from the different states of the hearers. We may divide these into four classes. I. Careless hearers, " Some seed fell by the wayside, and the fowls came and devoured it." However, they are "hearers" — so far it is good — better than they who never attend God's house. We do not tell you to stay away ; oh no ! we are sent to you, not to the righteous ; we want the sick in the hospital. But, 1. They are only occasional hearers — not regular in their attendance. Perhaps they are attracted by a new or favourite preacher, or they are in a strange place, and want to see the church as a public edifice ; to" see what manner of stones, and what buildings are there !" or they are at a friend's house, and they go out of courtesy to him.
2. Again, they are unprepared hearers — " by the wayside ." Their minds are unploughed thoroughfares ; thoughts pass up and down them all the time in quick succession, and they seldom hear a word, though the voice of the preacher still sounds in their ears. If aroused by an emphasis, they see not the reason of it ; and if the conclusion of an argument strike them, they cannot judge of its propriety, for they have not followed the train of reasoning. Satan, with his hellish host, hovers up and down like the fowls of the air, and picks up and devours the fallen seed. Thus the mind is the devil's thoroughfare ; he has ingress, egress, and progress as he pleases ; for whoever else may or may not be at church, Satan is there. When " the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, Satan came also among them." Luke says, " The devil cometh, and taketh away the word out of their heart, lest they should believe and be saved." This he does in two ways : First, by diverting their attention — they understand, they consider not ; like " the eyes of the fool, their thoughts are in the ends of the earth:" the least thing diverts their attention as a child from his task —the flitting of a bird— * # # # *
THE SOWER. 197 Secondly, by preventing their remembrance — -catching away what was sown on their hearts. When they leave the church, all is forgotten, even the text ; then they complain that they have bad memories ! * # # Every sermon is the savour of life or death. O hear, that your souls may live ! Come prepared, and be regular in your attendance. We will yet pray for you ; but "who hath bewitched you?" Do you believe that we are acting a part that we feel not ? or that we are honest men ? If so, are ye wise men ? Every sermon either softens or hardens. O that you would consider ! ( ewton's anec-
dote of the ungodly son.) II. Superficial hearers. These are much better than the former ; they have advanced considerably. 1. They are in general persons of good understandings ; they know how to appreciate the preacher's arrangement. It is pleasing to us to address such. To such we have no need to explain at every sentence. We feel that we are understood, and we go forward boldly. Meanwhile, their intellect is delighted, they are pleased and charmed with what they hear. Possessing fine sensibilities also, they are easily affected ; they weep under the word, and would fain join the daughters of Jerusalem. — But they would feel the same under a play, or at hearing a tale of fiction, &c, &c. But the conscience ! Ay, thai is untouched — there is no individual application to themselves. Talk of criminality, and they take up the ewgate Calendar.— (H. More.) ow these "withered away!" The reason of this was, 1. An inward defect — the rock was under, and had never been broken up. " They had no depth of earth," and thus they lacked moisture. 2. Outward circumstances were perhaps unfavourable. They had not the benefit of church communion, or of those who, like Jonah's gourd, might have screened their naked heads. The sun rose and " they were scorched :" temptation came, and they stumbled; the reproach of Christ. # # # # * # # # We admire your understandings, and if eternity
198 THE SOWER. were not connected with our discourses, we should be perfectly satisfied — our point would be gained. We admire
your sensibilities — we could weep with you. We have wept over you in secret, and oh ! how often have our expectations been raised when we have seen the effect produced upon you. But religion must enter your hearts deeper than this ! " Break up the fallow ground !" Cry unto God to do it for you.* III. Worldly -minded persons. " And some fell among thorns, and the thorns sprang up and choked them." These are superior to the two former classes. Perhaps they are the greater portion in the church of God, for the text gives us reason to infer their membership. This class is not confined to one grade in society. " The cares of this world" are not confined to the poor, nor the love of " riches" to the rich : and oh ! the danger of those that " will be rich !" — The seed has taken deep root ; we have seen the grace of God in you ! But the poor became " careful about many things," and others could not, bear prosperity, and thus these " thorns" have overtopped the good seed. It is now pale, yellow, jaundiced, sickly, and ready to perish, and bears no fruit to perfection ! # # # The love of God is a tender plant ! it must not be shut out from the sun. " Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world ; for all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof; but he that doeth the will of God [and he only] abideth forever." " Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God ?" (Fletcher.) — Oh ! what a blight has come over you — (Wolsey) — and that when he thinks his prospects are ripening. Oh ! how have we anticipated the ripe fruit in the ear ! — Vain ! — IV. Good and honest hearts. " But other fell into good ground, and brought forth fruit, some a hundred-fold, some sixty-fold, some thirty-fold."
Thank God, we have some reward then ! These are pre* Clarke, in loco.
CHRISTIA PERFECTIO . 199 pared, regular, fruitful — they are planted in the house of God, and hence fat and flourishing in old age — evergreens — bearing fruit every month. Application. — See that you make up the deficit of the ungodly — bear fruit, thirty-fold, sixty-fold, a hundred-fold ! While others blaspheme, do you hallow ; while they defame, do you entreat ; when they curse, do you bless : " Be filled with the fruits of righteousness." — The reapers, the angels, are at hand ! Finally. One reflection connected with the subject is truly awful, that three parts out of four of the seed goes to waste ! Good seed too ! the fault is not there. Is it in God ? " Lord, pardon me the question !" Is it in the sower ? " Lord, lay not this sin to my charge !" Is it in the hearers then ? Oh ! I am sick at heart ! That three out of four in this assembly may receive the seed in vain ! Oh ! fearful ! Let every man put the question to himself, " Lord, is it TV* But oh ! at the harvest, the end of the world ! Shall three out of four in this assembly perish ? Lord, who is it ? " Lord, are there few that be saved ?"
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