The Sower Went Forth to Sow
This chapter is based on
the following verses:
Matt. 13:1-9, 18-23; Mark 4:1-20; Luke 8:4-15
BY the parable of the sower, Christ
illustrates the things of the kingdom of heaven, and the work of the great Husbandman for
His people. Like a sower in the field, He came to scatter the heavenly grain of truth. And
His parable teaching itself was the seed with which the most precious truths of His grace
were sown. Because of its simplicity the parable of the sower has not been valued as it
should be. From the natural seed cast into the soil, Christ desires to lead our minds to
the gospel seed, the sowing of which results in bringing man back to his loyalty to God.
He who gave the parable of the tiny seed is the Sovereign of heaven, and the same laws
that govern earthly seed sowing govern the sowing of the seeds of truth.
By the Sea of Galilee a
company had gathered to see and hear Jesus--an eager, expectant throng. The sick were
there, lying on their mats, waiting to present their
cases before Him. It was Christ's
God-given right to heal the woes of a sinful race, and He now rebuked disease, and
diffused around Him life and health and peace.
As the crowd continued to
increase, the people pressed close about Christ until there was no room to receive them.
Then, speaking a word to the men in their fishing boats, He stepped into the boat that was
waiting to take Him across the lake, and bidding His disciples push off a little from the
land, He spoke to the multitude upon the shore.
Beside the sea lay the
beautiful plain of Gennesaret, beyond rose the hills, and upon hillside and plain both
sowers and reapers were busy, the one casting seed and the other harvesting the early
grain. Looking upon the scene, Christ said--
"Behold, the sower went
forth to sow; and as he sowed, some seeds fell by the wayside, and the birds came and
devoured them" (R.V.); "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 other fell into good
ground, and brought forth fruit, some an hundredfold, some sixtyfold, some
Christ's mission was not
understood by the people of His time. The manner of His coming was not in accordance with
their expectations. The Lord Jesus was the foundation of the whole Jewish economy. Its
imposing services were of divine appointment. They were designed to teach the people that
at the time appointed One would come to whom those ceremonies pointed. But the Jews had
exalted the forms and ceremonies and had lost sight of their object. The traditions,
maxims, and enactments of men hid from them the lessons which God intended to
These maxims and traditions became an obstacle to their understanding and practice of true
religion. And when the Reality came, in the person of Christ, they did not recognize in
Him the fulfillment of all their types, the substance of all their shadows. They rejected
the antitype, and clung to their types and useless ceremonies. The Son of God had come,
but they continued to ask for a sign. The message, "Repent ye; for the kingdom of
heaven is at hand," they answered by demands for a miracle. Matt. 3:2. The gospel of
Christ was a stumbling block to them because they demanded signs instead of a Saviour.
They expected the Messiah to prove His claims by mighty deeds of conquest, to establish
His empire on the ruins of earthly kingdoms. This expectation Christ answered in the
parable of the sower. Not by force of arms, not by violent interpositions, was the kingdom
of God to prevail, but by the implanting of a new principle in the hearts of men.
"He that soweth the good
seed is the Son of man." Matt. 13:37. Christ had come, not as a king, but as a sower;
not for the overthrow of kingdoms, but for the scattering of seed; not to point His
followers to earthly triumphs and national greatness, but to a harvest to be gathered
after patient toil and through losses and disappointments.
The Pharisees perceived the
meaning of Christ's parable, but to them its lesson was unwelcome. They affected not to
understand it. To the multitude it involved in still greater mystery the purpose of the
new teacher, whose words had so strangely moved their hearts and so bitterly disappointed
their ambitions. The disciples themselves had not understood the parable, but their
interest was awakened. They came to Jesus privately and asked for an explanation.
This was the desire which
Christ wished to arouse, that He might give them more definite instruction. He
the parable to them, as He will make plain His word to all who seek Him in sincerity of
heart. Those who study the word of God with hearts open to the enlightenment of the Holy
Spirit, will not remain in darkness as to the meaning of the word. "If any man willeth to do His will," Christ said, "he shall know of the teaching whether it
be of God, or whether I speak from Myself." John 7:17, R.V. All who come to Christ
for a clearer knowledge of the truth will receive it. He will unfold to them the mysteries
of the kingdom of heaven, and these mysteries will be understood by the heart that longs
to know the truth. A heavenly light will shine into the soul temple, and will be revealed
to others as the bright shining of a lamp on a dark path.
"The sower went forth to
sow" (R.V.). In the East the state of affairs was so unsettled, and there was so
great danger from violence that the people dwelt chiefly in walled towns, and the
husbandmen went forth daily to their labor outside the walls. So Christ, the heavenly
Sower, went forth to sow. He left His home of security and peace, left the glory that He
had with the Father before the world was, left His position upon the throne of the
universe. He went forth, a suffering, tempted man; went forth in solitude, to sow in
tears, to water with His blood, the seed of life for a world lost.
His servants in like manner
must go forth to sow. When called to become a sower of the seed of truth, Abraham was
bidden, "Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's
house, unto a land that I will show thee." Gen. 12:1. "And he went out, not
knowing whither he went." Heb. 11:8. So to the apostle Paul, praying in the temple at
Jerusalem, came the message from God, "Depart; for I will send thee far hence unto
the Gentiles." Acts 22:21. So those who are called
to unite with Christ must leave
all, in order to follow Him. Old associations must be broken up, plans of life
relinquished, earthly hopes surrendered. In toil and tears, in solitude, and through
sacrifice, must the seed be sown.
"The sower soweth the
word." Christ came to sow the world with truth. Ever since the fall of man, Satan has
been sowing the seeds of error. It was by a lie that he first gained control over men, and
thus he still works to overthrow God's kingdom in the earth and to bring men
power. A sower from a higher world, Christ came to sow the seeds of truth. He who had
stood in the councils of God, who had dwelt in the innermost sanctuary of the Eternal,
could bring to men the pure principles of truth. Ever since the fall of man, Christ had
been the Revealer of truth to the world. By Him the incorruptible seed, "the word of
God, which liveth and abideth forever," is communicated to men. 1 Peter 1:23. In that
first promise spoken to our fallen race in Eden, Christ was sowing the gospel seed. But it
is to His personal ministry among men and to the work which He thus established that the
parable of the sower especially applies.
The word of God is the seed.
Every seed has in itself a germinating principle. In it the life of the plant is enfolded.
So there is life in God's word. Christ says, "The words that I speak unto you, they
are Spirit, and they are life." John 6:63. "He that heareth My word, and
believeth on Him that sent Me, hath everlasting life." John 5:24. In every command
and in every promise of the word of God is the power, the very life of God, by which the
command may be fulfilled and the promise realized. He who by faith receives the word is
receiving the very life and character of God.
Every seed brings forth fruit
after its kind. Sow the seed under right conditions, and it will develop its own life in
the plant. Receive into the soul by faith the incorruptible seed of the word, and it will
bring forth a character and a life after the similitude of the character and the life of
The teachers of Israel were
not sowing the seed of the word of God. Christ's work as a teacher of truth was in marked
contrast to that of the rabbis of His time. They dwelt upon traditions, upon human
theories and speculations. Often that which man had taught and written about
they put in place of the word itself. Their teaching had no power to quicken the soul. The
subject of Christ's teaching and preaching was the word of God. He met questioners with a
plain, "It is written." "What saith the Scriptures?" "How readest
thou?" At every opportunity, when an interest was awakened by either friend or foe,
He sowed the seed of the word. He who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, Himself the
living Word, points to the Scriptures, saying, "They are they which testify of
Me." And "beginning at Moses and all the prophets," He opened to His
disciples "in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself." John 5:39; Luke
Christ's servants are to do
the same work. In our day, as of old, the vital truths of God's word are set aside for
human theories and speculations. Many professed ministers of the gospel do not accept the
whole Bible as the inspired word. One wise man rejects one portion; another questions
another part. They set up their judgment as superior to the word; and the Scripture which
they do teach rests upon their own authority. Its divine authenticity is destroyed. Thus
the seeds of infidelity are sown broadcast; for the people become confused and know not
what to believe. There are many beliefs that the mind has no right to entertain. In the
days of Christ the rabbis put a forced, mystical construction upon many portions of
Scripture. Because the plain teaching of God's word condemned their practices, they tried
to destroy its force. The same thing is done today. The word of God is made to appear
mysterious and obscure in order to excuse transgression of His law. Christ rebuked these
practices in His day. He taught that the word of God was to be understood by all. He
pointed to the Scriptures as of unquestionable authority, and we should do the same. The
Bible is to be presented as the word of the infinite God, as
the end of all controversy
and the foundation of all faith.
The Bible has been robbed of
its power, and the results are seen in a lowering of the tone of spiritual life. In the
sermons from many pulpits of today there is not that divine manifestation which awakens
the conscience and brings life to the soul. The hearers can not say, "Did not our
heart burn within us, while He talked with us by the way, and while He opened to us the
Scriptures?" Luke 24:32. There are many who are crying out for the living God,
longing for the divine presence. Philosophical theories or literary essays, however
brilliant, cannot satisfy the heart. The assertions and inventions of men are of no value.
Let the word of God speak to the people. Let those who have heard only traditions and
human theories and maxims hear the voice of Him whose word can renew the soul unto
Christ's favorite theme was
the paternal tenderness and abundant grace of God; He dwelt much upon the holiness of His
character and His law; He presented Himself to the people as the Way, the Truth, and the
Life. Let these be the themes of Christ's ministers. Present the truth as it is in Jesus.
Make plain the requirements of the law and the gospel. Tell the people of Christ's life of
self-denial and sacrifice; of His humiliation and death; of His resurrection and
ascension; or His intercession for them in the courts of God; of His promise, "I will
come again, and receive you unto Myself." John 14:3.
Instead of discussing
erroneous theories, or seeking to combat the opponents of the gospel, follow the example
of Christ. Let fresh truths from God's treasure house flash into life. "Preach the
word." "Sow beside all waters." "Be instant in season, out of
season." "He that hath My word, let him speak My word faithfully. What is the
to the wheat? saith the Lord." "Every word of God is pure. . . . Add thou
not unto His words, lest He reprove thee, and thou be found a liar." 2 Tim. 4:2; Isa.
32:20; Jer. 23:28; Prov. 30:5, 6.
"The sower soweth the
word." Here is presented the great principle which should underlie all educational
work. "The seed is the word of God." But in too many schools of our day God's
word is set aside. Other subjects occupy the mind. The study of infidel authors holds a
large place in the educational system. Skeptical sentiments are interwoven in the matter
placed in school books. Scientific research becomes misleading, because its discoveries
are misinterpreted and perverted. The word of God is compared with the supposed teachings
of science, and is made to appear uncertain and untrustworthy. Thus the seeds of doubt are
planted in the minds of the youth, and in time of temptation they spring up. When faith in
God's word is lost, the soul has no guide, no safeguard. The youth are drawn into paths
which lead away from God and from everlasting life.
To this cause may in great
degree be attributed the widespread iniquity in our world today. When the word of God is
set aside, its power to restrain the evil passions of the natural heart is rejected. Men
sow to the flesh, and of the flesh they reap corruption.
And here, too, is the great
cause of mental weakness and inefficiency. In turning from God's word to feed on the
writings of uninspired men, the mind becomes dwarfed and cheapened. It is not brought in
contact with deep, broad principles of eternal truth. The understanding adapts itself to
the comprehension of the things with which it is familiar, and in this devotion to finite
things it is weakened, its power is contracted, and after a time it becomes unable to
All this is false education.
The work of every teacher
should be to fasten the mind of the youth upon the grand truths
of the word of Inspiration. This is the education essential for this life and for the life
And let it not be thought
that this will prevent the study of the sciences, or cause a lower standard in education.
The knowledge of God is as high as heaven and as broad as the universe. There is nothing
so ennobling and invigorating as a study of the great themes which concern our eternal
life. Let the youth seek to grasp these God-given truths, and their minds will expand and
grow strong in the effort. It will bring every student who is a doer of the word into a
broader field of thought, and secure for him a wealth of knowledge that is imperishable.
The education to be secured
by searching the Scriptures is an experimental knowledge of the plan of salvation.
education will restore the image of God in the soul. It will strengthen and fortify the
mind against temptation, and fit the learner to become a co-worker with Christ in His
mission of mercy to the world. It will make him a member of the heavenly family; and
prepare him to share the inheritance of the saints in light.
But the teacher of sacred
truth can impart only that which he himself knows by experience. "The sower sowed his
seed." Christ taught the truth because He was the truth. His own thought, His
character, His life-experience, were embodied in His teaching. So with His servants: those
who would teach the word are to make it their own by a personal experience. They must know
what it is to have Christ made unto them wisdom and righteousness and sanctification and
redemption. In presenting the word of God to others, they are not to make it a suppose-so
or a may-be. They should declare with the apostle Peter, "We have not followed
cunningly devised fables when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord
Jesus Christ, but were eye-witnesses of His majesty." 2 Peter 1:16. Every minister of
Christ and every teacher should be able to say with the beloved John, "The life was
manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and show unto you that eternal life
which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us." 1 John 1:2.
Soil--by the Wayside
That with which the parable
of the sower chiefly deals is the effect produced on the growth of the seed by the soil
into which it is cast. By this parable Christ was virtually saying to His hearers, It is
not safe for you to stand as critics of My work, or to indulge disappointment because it
does not meet your ideas. The question of
greatest importance to you is, How do you treat
My message? Upon your reception or rejection of it your eternal destiny depends.
Explaining the seed that fell
by the wayside, He said, "When any one heareth the word of the kingdom, and
understandeth it not, then cometh the wicked one, and catcheth away that which was sown in
his heart. This is he which received seed by the wayside."
The seed sown by the wayside
represents the word of God as it falls upon the heart of an inattentive hearer. Like the
hard-beaten path, trodden down by the feet of men and beasts, is the heart that becomes a
highway for the world's traffic, its pleasures and sins. Absorbed in selfish aims and
sinful indulgences, the soul is "hardened through the deceitfulness of sin."
Heb. 3:13. The spiritual faculties are paralyzed. Men hear the word, but understand it
not. They do not discern that it applies to themselves. They do not realize their need or
their danger. They do not perceive the love of Christ, and they pass by the message of His
grace as something that does not concern them.
As the birds are ready to
catch up the seed from the wayside, so Satan is ready to catch away the seeds of divine
truth from the soul. He fears that the word of God may awaken the careless, and take
effect upon the hardened heart. Satan and his angels are in the assemblies where the
gospel is preached. While angels of heaven endeavor to impress hearts with the word of
God, the enemy is on the alert to make the word of no effect. With an earnestness equaled
only by his malice, he tries to thwart the work of the Spirit of God. While Christ is
drawing the soul by His love, Satan tries to turn away the attention of the one who is
moved to seek the Saviour. He engages the mind with worldly schemes. He excites
or insinuates doubt and unbelief. The speaker's choice of language or his manner may not
please the hearers, and they dwell upon these defects. Thus the truth they need, and which
God has graciously sent them, makes no lasting impression.
Satan has many helpers. Many
who profess to be Christians are aiding the tempter to catch away the seeds of truth from
other hearts. Many who listen to the preaching of the word of God make it the subject of
criticism at home. They sit in judgment on the sermon as they would on the words of a
lecturer or a political speaker. The message that should be regarded as the word of the
Lord to them is dwelt upon with trifling or sarcastic comment. The minister's character,
motives, and actions, and the conduct of fellow members of the church, are freely
discussed. Severe judgment is pronounced, gossip or slander repeated, and this in the
hearing of the unconverted. Often these things are spoken by parents
in the hearing of
their own children. Thus are destroyed respect for God's messengers, and reverence for
their message. And many are taught to regard lightly God's word itself.
Thus in the homes of
professed Christians many youth are educated to be infidels. And the parents question why
their children are so little interested in the gospel, and so ready to doubt the truth of
the Bible. They wonder that it is so difficult to reach them with moral and religious
influences. They do not see that their own example has hardened the hearts of their
children. The good seed finds no place to take root, and Satan catches it away.
"He that receiveth the
seed into stony places, the same is he that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth
it; yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while; for when tribulation or
persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended."
The seed sown upon stony
ground finds little depth of soil. The plant springs up quickly, but the root cannot
penetrate the rock to find nutriment to sustain its growth, and it soon perishes. Many who
make a profession of religion are stony-ground hearers. Like the rock underlying the layer
of earth, the selfishness of the natural heart underlies the soil of their good desires
and aspirations. The love of self is not subdued. They have not seen the exceeding
sinfulness of sin, and the heart has not been humbled under a sense of its guilt. This
class may be easily convinced, and appear to be bright converts, but they have only a
It is not because men receive
the word immediately, nor because they rejoice in it, that they fall away. As soon
Matthew heard the Saviour's call, immediately he rose up, left all, and followed Him. As
soon as the divine word comes to our hearts, God desires us to receive it; and it is right
to accept it with joy. "Joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth."
Luke 15:7. And there is joy in the soul that believes on Christ. But those who in the
parable are said to receive the word immediately, do not count the cost. They do not
consider what the word of God requires of them. They do not bring it face to face with all
their habits of life, and yield themselves fully to its control.
The roots of the plant strike
down deep into the soil, and hidden from sight nourish the life of the plant. So with the
Christian; it is by the invisible union of the soul with Christ, through faith, that the
spiritual life is nourished. But the stony-ground hearers depend upon self instead of
Christ. They trust in their good works and good impulses, and are strong in their own
righteousness. They are not strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might. Such a one
"hath not root in himself"; for he is not connected with Christ.
The hot summer sun, that
strengthens and ripens the hardy grain, destroys that which has no depth of root. So he
who "hath not root in himself," "dureth for a while"; but "when
tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended."
Many receive the gospel as a way of escape from suffering, rather than as a deliverance
from sin. They rejoice for a season, for they think that religion will free them from
difficulty and trial. While life moves smoothly with them, they may appear to be
consistent Christians. But they faint beneath the fiery test of temptation. They cannot
bear reproach for Christ's sake. When the word of God points out some cherished sin, or
requires self-denial or sacrifice, they are offended. It
would cost them too much effort
to make a radical change in their life. They look at the present inconvenience and trial,
and forget the eternal realities. Like the disciples who left Jesus, they are ready to
say, "This is an hard saying; who can hear it?" John 6:60.
There are very many who claim
to serve God, but who have no experimental knowledge of Him. Their desire to do His will
is based upon their own inclination, not upon the deep conviction of the Holy Spirit.
Their conduct is not brought into harmony with the law of God. They profess to accept
Christ as their Saviour, but they do not believe that He will give them power to overcome
their sins. They have not a personal relation with a living Saviour, and their characters
reveal defects both hereditary and cultivated.
It is one thing to assent in
a general way to the agency of the Holy Spirit, and another thing to accept His work as a
reprover calling to repentance. Many feel a sense of estrangement from God, a realization
of their bondage to self and sin; they make efforts for reform; but they do not crucify
self. They do not give themselves entirely into the hands of Christ, seeking for divine
power to do His will. They are not willing to be molded after the divine similitude. In a
general way they acknowledge their imperfections, but they do not give up their particular
sins. With each wrong act the old selfish nature is gaining strength.
The only hope for these souls
is to realize in themselves the truth of Christ's words to Nicodemus, "Ye must be
born again." "Except a man be born from above, he can not see the kingdom of
God." John 3:7, 3, margin.
True holiness is wholeness in
the service of God. This is the condition of true Christian living. Christ asks for an
unreserved consecration, for undivided service. He demands the heart, the mind, the soul,
the strength. Self is not to be cherished. He who lives to himself is not a Christian.
Love must be the principle of
action. Love is the underlying principle of God's government in heaven and earth, and it
must be the foundation of the Christian's character. This alone can make and keep him
steadfast. This alone can enable him to withstand trial and temptation.
And love will be revealed in
sacrifice. The plan of redemption was laid in sacrifice--a sacrifice so broad and deep and
high that it is immeasurable. Christ gave all for us, and those who receive Christ will be
ready to sacrifice all for the sake of their Redeemer. The thought of His honor and glory
will come before anything else.
If we love Jesus, we shall
love to live for Him, to present our thank offerings to Him, to labor for Him. The very
labor will be light. For His sake we shall covet
pain and toil and sacrifice. We shall
sympathize with His longing for the salvation of men. We shall feel the same tender
craving for souls that He has felt.
This is the religion of
Christ. Anything short of it is a deception. No mere theory of truth or profession of
discipleship will save any soul. We do not belong to Christ unless we are His wholly. It
is by halfheartedness in the Christian life that men become feeble in purpose and
changeable in desire. The effort to serve both self and Christ makes one a stony-ground
hearer, and he will not endure when the test comes upon him.
"He also that received
seed among the thorns is he that heareth the word; and the care of this world, and the
deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful."
The gospel seed often falls
among thorns and noxious weeds; and if there is not a moral transformation in the human
heart, if old habits and practices and the former life of sin are not left behind, if the
attributes of Satan are not expelled from the soul, the wheat crop will be choked. The
thorns will come to be the crop, and will kill out the wheat.
Grace can thrive only in the
heart that is being constantly prepared for the precious seeds of truth. The thorns of sin
will grow in any soil; they need no cultivation; but grace must be carefully cultivated.
The briers and thorns are always ready to spring up, and the work of purification must
advance continually. If the heart is not kept under the control of God, if the Holy Spirit
does not work unceasingly to refine and ennoble the character, the old habits will reveal
themselves in the life. Men may profess to believe the gospel; but unless they are
by the gospel their profession is of no avail. If they do not gain the victory
over sin, then sin is gaining the victory over them. The thorns that have been cut off but
not uprooted grow apace, until the soul is overspread with them.
Christ specified the things
that are dangerous to the soul. As recorded by Mark He mentions the cares of this world,
the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things. Luke specifies the cares,
riches, and pleasures of this life. These are what choke the word, the growing spiritual
seed. The soul ceases to draw nourishment from Christ, and spirituality dies out of the
"The cares of this
world." No class is free from the temptation to worldly care. To the poor, toil and
deprivation and the fear of want bring perplexities and burdens. To the rich come fear of
loss and a multitude of anxious cares. Many of Christ's followers forget the lesson He has
bidden us learn from the flowers of the field. They do not trust to His constant care.
Christ cannot carry their burden, because they do not cast it upon Him. Therefore the
cares of life, which should drive them to the Saviour for help and comfort, separate them
Many who might be fruitful in
God's service become bent on acquiring wealth. Their whole energy is absorbed in business
enterprises, and they feel obliged to neglect things of a spiritual nature. Thus they
separate themselves from God. We are enjoined in the Scriptures to be "not slothful
in business." Rom. 12:11. We are to labor that we may impart to him who needs.
Christians must work, they must engage in business, and they can do this without
committing sin. But many become so absorbed in business that they have no time for prayer,
no time for the study of the Bible, no time to seek and serve God. At times the longings
of the soul go out for holiness and heaven; but there
is no time to turn aside from the
din of the world to listen to the majestic and authoritative utterances of the Spirit of
God. The things of eternity are made subordinate, the things of the world supreme. It is
impossible for the seed of the word to bring forth fruit; for the life of the soul is
given to nourish the thorns of worldliness.
And many who are working with
a very different purpose, fall into a like error. They are working for others' good; their
duties are pressing, their responsibilities are many, and they allow their labor to crowd
out devotion. Communion with God through prayer and a study of His word is neglected. They
forget that Christ has said, "Without Me ye can do nothing." John 15:5. They
walk apart from Christ, their life is not pervaded by His grace, and the characteristics
of self are revealed. Their service is marred by desire for supremacy, and the harsh,
unlovely traits of the unsubdued heart. Here is one of the chief secrets of failure in
Christian work. This is why its results are often so meager.
"The deceitfulness of
riches." The love of riches has an infatuating, deceptive power. Too often those who
possess worldly treasure forget that it is God who gives them power to get wealth. They
say, "My power and the might of mine hand hath gotten me this wealth." Deut.
8:17. Their riches, instead of awakening gratitude to God, lead to the exaltation of self.
They lose the sense of their dependence upon God and their obligation to their fellow men.
Instead of regarding wealth as a talent to be employed for the glory of God and the
uplifting of humanity, they look upon it as a means of serving themselves. Instead of
developing in man the attributes of God, riches thus used are developing in him the
attributes of Satan. The seed of the word is choked with thorns.
"And pleasures of this
life." There is danger in amusement that is sought merely for self-gratification. All
habits of indulgence that weaken the physical powers, that becloud the mind, or that
benumb the spiritual perceptions, are "fleshly lusts, which war against the
soul." 1 Peter 2:11.
"And the lusts of other
things." These are not necessarily things sinful in themselves, but something that is
made first instead of the kingdom of God. Whatever attracts the mind from God, whatever
draws the affections away from Christ, is an enemy to the soul.
When the mind is youthful and
vigorous and susceptible of rapid development, there is great temptation to be ambitious
for self, to serve self. If worldly schemes are successful, there is an inclination to
continue in a line that deadens conscience, and prevents a correct estimate as to what
constitutes real excellence of character. When circumstances favor this development,
growth will be seen in a direction prohibited by the word of God.
In this formative period of
their children's life, the responsibility of parents is very great. It should be their
study to surround the youth with right influences, influences that will give them correct
views of life and its true success. Instead of this, how many parents make it their first
object to secure for their children worldly prosperity. All their associations are chosen
with reference to this object. Many parents make their home in some large city, and
introduce their children into fashionable society. They surround them with influences that
encourage worldliness and pride. In this atmosphere the mind and soul are dwarfed. The
high and noble aims of life are lost sight of. The privilege of being sons of God, heirs
of eternity, is bartered for worldly gain.
Many parents seek to promote
the happiness of their children by gratifying their love of amusement. They allow them to
engage in sports, and to attend parties of pleasure, and provide them with money to use
freely in display and self-gratification. The more the desire for pleasure is indulged,
the stronger it becomes. The interest of these youth is more and more absorbed in
amusement, until they come to look upon it as the great object of life. They form habits
of idleness and self-indulgence that make it almost impossible for them ever to become
Even the church, which should
be the pillar and ground of the truth, is found encouraging the selfish love of pleasure.
When money is to be raised for religious purposes, to what means do many churches resort?
To bazaars, suppers, fancy fairs, even to lotteries, and like devices. Often the place set
apart for God's worship is desecrated by feasting and drinking, buying, selling, and
merrymaking. Respect for the house of God and reverence for His worship are lessened in
the minds of the youth. The barriers of self-restraint are weakened. Selfishness,
appetite, the love of display, are appealed to, and they strengthen as they are indulged.
The pursuit of pleasure and
amusement centers in the cities. Many parents who choose a city home for their children,
thinking to give them greater advantages, meet with disappointment, and too late repent
their terrible mistake. The cities of today are fast becoming like Sodom and Gomorrah. The
many holidays encourage idleness. The exciting sports--theatergoing, horse racing,
gambling, liquor-drinking, and reveling--stimulate every passion to intense activity. The
youth are swept away by the popular current. Those who learn to love amusement for its own
sake open the door to a flood of temptations. They give themselves up to social gaiety and
thoughtless mirth, and their intercourse with pleasure lovers has an intoxicating effect
upon the mind. They are led on from one form of dissipation to another, until they lose
both the desire and the capacity for a life of usefulness. Their religious aspirations are
chilled; their spiritual life is darkened. All the nobler faculties of the soul, all that
link man with the spiritual world, are debased.
It is true that some may see
their folly and repent. God may pardon them. But they have wounded their own souls, and
brought upon themselves a lifelong peril. The power of discernment, which ought ever to be
kept keen and sensitive to distinguish between right and wrong, is in a great measure
destroyed. They are not quick to recognize the guiding voice of the Holy Spirit, or to
discern the devices of Satan. Too often in time of danger they fall under temptation, and
are led away from God. The end of their pleasure-loving life is ruin for this world and
for the world to come.
Cares, riches, pleasures, all
are used by Satan in playing the game of life for the human soul. The warning is given,
"Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the
world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the
flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of
the world." 1 John 2:15, 16. He who reads the hearts of men as an open book says,
"Take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting
and drunkenness and cares of this life." Luke 21:34. And the apostle Paul by the Holy
Spirit writes, "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. For the love
of money is the root of all evil; which, while some coveted after, they have erred from
the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows." 1 Tim. 6:9, 10.
of the Soil
Throughout the parable of the
sower, Christ represents the different results of the sowing as depending upon the soil.
In every case the sower and the seed are the same. Thus He teaches that if the word of God
fails of accomplishing its work in our hearts and lives, the reason is to be found in
ourselves. But the result is not beyond our control. True, we cannot change ourselves; but
the power of choice is ours, and it rests with us to determine what we will become. The
wayside, the stony-ground, the thorny-ground hearers need not remain such. The Spirit of
God is ever seeking to break the spell of infatuation that holds men absorbed in worldly
things, and to awaken a desire for the imperishable treasure. It is by resisting the
Spirit that men become inattentive to or neglectful of God's word. They are themselves
responsible for the hardness of heart that prevents the good seed from taking root, and
for the evil growths that check its development.
The garden of the heart must
be cultivated. The soil must be broken up by deep repentance for sin. Poisonous, Satanic
plants must be uprooted. The soil once overgrown by thorns can be reclaimed only by
diligent labor. So the evil tendencies of the natural heart can be overcome only by
earnest effort in the name and strength of Jesus. The Lord bids us by His prophet,
"Break up your fallow ground, and sow not among thorns." "Sow to yourselves
in righteousness; reap in mercy." Jer. 4:3; Hosea 10:12. This work He desires to
accomplish for us, and He asks us to co-operate with Him.
The sowers of the seed have a
work to do in preparing hearts to receive the gospel. In the ministry of the word there is
too much sermonizing, and too little of real heart-to-heart work. There is need of
personal labor for the souls of the lost. In Christlike sympathy we should come close to
men individually, and seek to awaken their interest in the great things of eternal life.
Their hearts may be as hard as the beaten highway, and apparently it may be a useless
effort to present the Saviour to them; but while logic may fail to move, and argument be
powerless to convince, the love of Christ, revealed in personal ministry, may soften the
stony heart, so that the seed of truth can take root.
So the sowers have something
to do that the seed may not be choked with thorns or perish because of shallowness of
soil. At the very outset of the Christian life every
believer should be taught its
foundation principles. He should be taught that he is not merely to be saved by Christ's
sacrifice, but that he is to make the life of Christ his life and the character of Christ
his character. Let all be taught that they are to bear burdens and to deny natural
inclination. Let them learn the blessedness of working for Christ, following Him in
self-denial, and enduring hardness as good soldiers. Let them learn to trust His love and
to cast on Him their cares. Let them taste the joy of winning souls for Him. In their love
and interest for the lost, they will lose sight of self. The pleasures of the world will
lose their power to attract and its burdens to dishearten. The plowshare of truth will do
its work. It will break up the fallow ground. It will not merely cut off the tops of the
thorns, but will take them out by the roots.
The sower is not always to
meet with disappointment. Of the seed that fell into good ground the Saviour said, This
"is he that heareth the word, and understandeth it; which also beareth fruit, and
bringeth forth, some an hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty." "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."
The "honest and good
heart" of which the parable speaks, is not a heart without sin; for the gospel is to
be preached to the lost. Christ said, "I came not to call the righteous, but sinners
to repentance." Mark 2:17. He has an honest heart who yields to the conviction of the
Holy Spirit. He confesses his guilt, and feels his need of the mercy and love of God. He
has a sincere desire to know the truth, that he may obey it. The good heart is a believing
heart, one that has faith in the word of God. Without faith it is impossible to receive
the word. "He that cometh to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder
of them that diligently seek Him." Heb. 11:6.
This "is he that heareth
the word, and understandeth it." The Pharisees of Christ's day closed their eyes lest
they should see, and their ears lest they should hear; therefore the truth could not reach
their hearts. They were to suffer retribution for their willful ignorance and self-imposed
blindness. But Christ taught His disciples that they were to open their minds to
instruction, and be ready to believe. He pronounced a blessing upon them because they saw
and heard with eyes and ears that believed.
The good-ground hearer
receives the word "not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of
God." 1 Thess. 2:13. Only he who receives the Scriptures as the voice of God speaking
to himself is a true learner. He trembles at the word; for to him it is a living reality.
He opens his understanding and his heart to receive it. Such hearers were Cornelius and
his friends, who said to the apostle Peter, "Now therefore are we all here present
before God, to hear all things that are commanded thee of God." Acts 10:33.
A knowledge of the truth
depends not so much upon strength of intellect as upon pureness of purpose, the simplicity
of an earnest, dependent faith. To those who in humility of heart seek for divine
guidance, angels of God draw near. The Holy Spirit is given to open to them the rich
treasures of the truth.
The good-ground hearers,
having heard the word, keep it. Satan with all his agencies of evil is not able to catch
Merely to hear or to read the
word is not enough. He who desires to be profited by the Scriptures must meditate
truth that has been presented to him. By earnest attention and prayerful thought he must
learn the meaning of the words of truth, and drink deep of the spirit of the holy oracles.
God bids us fill the mind
with great thoughts, pure thoughts. He desires us to meditate upon His love and mercy, to
study His wonderful work in the great plan of redemption. Then clearer and still clearer
will be our perception of truth, higher, holier, our desire for purity of heart and
clearness of thought. The soul dwelling in the pure atmosphere of holy thought will be
transformed by communion with God through the study of Scriptures.
"And bring forth
fruit." Those who, having heard the word, keep it, will bring forth fruit in
obedience. The word of God, received into the soul, will be manifest in good works. Its
results will be seen in a Christlike character and life. Christ said of Himself, "I
delight to do Thy will, O My God; yea, Thy law is within My heart." Ps. 40:8. "I
seek not Mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent Me." John 5:30.
And the Scripture says, "He that saith he abideth in Him ought himself also so to
walk, even as He walked." 1 John 2:6.
The word of God often comes
in collision with man's hereditary and cultivated traits of character and his habits of
life. But the good-ground hearer, in receiving the word, accepts all its conditions and
requirements. His habits, customs, and practices are brought into submission to God's
word. In his view the commands of finite, erring man sink into insignificance beside the
word of the infinite God. With the whole heart, with undivided purpose, he is seeking the
life eternal, and at the cost of loss, persecution, or death itself, he will obey the
And he brings forth fruit
"with patience." None who receive God's word are exempt from difficulty and
when affliction comes, the true Christian does not become restless,
distrustful, or despondent. Though we can not see the definite outcome of affairs, or
discern the purpose of God's providences, we are not to cast away our confidence.
Remembering the tender mercies of the Lord, we should cast our care upon Him, and with
patience wait for His salvation.
Through conflict the
spiritual life is strengthened. Trials well borne will develop steadfastness of character
and precious spiritual graces. The perfect fruit of faith, meekness, and love often
matures best amid storm clouds and darkness.
"The husbandman waiteth
for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the
early and latter rain." James 5:7. So the Christian is to wait with patience for the
fruition in his life of the word of God. Often when we pray for the graces of the Spirit,
God works to answer our prayers by placing us in circumstances to develop these fruits;
but we do not understand His purpose, and wonder, and are dismayed. Yet none can develop
these graces except through the process of growth and fruit bearing. Our part is to
receive God's word and to hold it fast, yielding ourselves fully to its control, and its
purpose in us will be accomplished.
"If a man love Me,"
Christ said, "he will keep My words; and My Father will love him, and we will come
unto him, and make our abode with him." John 14:23. The spell of a stronger, a
perfect mind will be over us; for we have a living connection with the source of
all-enduring strength. In our divine life we shall be brought into captivity to Jesus
Christ. We shall no longer live the common life of selfishness, but Christ will live in
us. His character will be reproduced in our nature. Thus shall we bring forth the fruits
of the Holy Spirit--"some thirty, and some sixty, and some an hundred."