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“ Behold a so'wer went forth to sow ; And, when he sowed, some seeds fell by the way-side, 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 not 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 a hundred-fold, some sixty-fold, some thirty-fold.”—Matt. xiji. 3—8.
At the commencement of the 13th chapter of Matthew, we read that " Jesus sat by the seaside;" and in consequence of the great multitudes that gathered to hear hiin," he went into a ship and sat; and the whole multitude stood on the shore." It was the custon of the Jewish instructors to stand up, as a mark of reverence, when they recited portions of the word of God, but they expounded sitting. Jesus adopted the same practice. Compare Luke iv. 16 with 20. See also Matt. v. 1. xxiii. 2. Jessis drew the parable before us, as he did many others, from the pastoral occupations of the Jews. It may appear unatural to some, that he should represent the seed which sell into good ground as bringing forth fr it even to a "hundred fold;" but on ihe rich lauds of Palestine, crops as large as this were sonetimes obtained. See Gen. xxvi. 12.
The great object of Jesus in uttering the parable of the Sower, was to shew the different ways in
which the truth wonld be received by different orders of men. The explanation, as given by our Lord himself, will be found in vers. 18— 23. The seed was sown in four different ways, and, in the explanation, Jesus showed that there were four different kinds of hearers of the word.
1. There were those who heard the word, but did not understand it. Ver. 19. The word preached to them was the seed which fell by the way side, and which the fowls of the air came and devoured. Hence it is said, that when the word is preached to a man who did not understand it, then cometh the wicked,' and catcheth away that which was sown
in his heart. It was not difficult for the wicked I enemies of Jesus, to take away the word of the
gospel, from the hearts of those who did not understand it. Their great object was to prevent men from embracing the religion of the blessed Redeemer.' They took away the key of knowledge from the people,-they shut up the kingdom of heaven against men, neither entering themselves, nor suffering those who would enter to go in ; and they were represented by the fowls who came and devoured the seed.
2. There were those who heard the word, and received it with joy ; but they were men of instability, and endured only for a while ; for when tribulation or persecution arose on account of the word they had professed, they became offended
it up. This was a class of men to whom the word was preached, which, when preached to them, was represented by the seed which fell upon stony places, where there was but little earth. It sprang quickly up, as seed does when slightly covered, and having but little root, it could not endure 1 The word one, being supplied by the translators, I omit.
the scorching rays of the sun, and, of course, withered away. This certainly was a beautiful figure by which to represent those who, to use the apostle's expression, were not “rooted and grounded” in the faith. Eph. iii. 17: Col. ii. 7.
3. There were those who heard the word, and who became unfruitful because the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choked it, and prevented its growth in their minds. When preached to them, it was represented by the seed sown among thorns, which the thorns sprung up and choked.
4. There were those who heard the word, and understood it, in whose hearts it bore fruit, to some in a greater, to others in a less proportion. The word to them was like seed sown in good ground, which brought forth fruit, some a hundred fold, some sixty fold, some thirty fold.”
In drawing moral instruction from this parable, it should be remarked, that we here perceive the way in which the truth is received by different classes of men, and the reasons by which some men are induced to renounce and abandon the truth. All the seed that was sown, was represented as being good seed. That which was sown by the way side did not germinate, because it was caught away by the fowls; that which fell in stony places sprang up, and withered only for want of soil ; that which fell among thorns, was good seed, and would have borne fruit, had it not been choked; while that which fell into good ground was no better seed, but it bore fruit, even to an hundred fold, on account of the soil into which it was received. The word of truth met with all these different kinds of reception ; and it may be remarked, that the truth meets with the same reception now, as the experience of every true preacher of the gospel will enable him to testify.
In the first place, there are at the present day, the way side' hearers—those who do not understand what they hear. No lasting impression can be made on such persons. If they profess to have received the truth, they never can defend it; they cannot give a reason of the hope that is in them; and they are continually liable to abandon the cause they may have espoused. The enemies of the truth will find them fit subjects for deceptiou, and they will artfully catch away from their hearts what little of truth they may have in remembrance, as the fowls caught away the seed from the way side.
There are those again who hear the word, and receive it with great joy and zeal at first; but they do not understand it; the root of the matter is not in them; and they endure only for a while. Opposition causes them to tremble. Not having the love of truth in their hearts, they know not how to suffer any thing in its defence; and “when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word," they are offended, and they abandon the cause which they at first embraced with so great joy, And here it should be remarked, that these people will never acknowledge the real reasons why they profess to renounce the truth; they will not say that it is on account of the opposition with which they meet, and that they are offended because tribulation and persecution ariseth. No, they will say they have ascertained that what they professed to believe, is a dangerous error, ruinous to the souls of men, and they will profess to have renounced it on that account. But Jesus makes manifest the real reason, why such renounce the truth-they have not sufficient magnanimity and courage, and devotion to truth to endure tribulation and persecution.
In the third place, there are those who hear the word, but in whom the love of the world predominates: - The care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful.” Are there not many such at the present time—men who cannot defend the truth, because it interferes with their worldly interest, and their money making concerns ? Such may at first receive the word, but their love of the world, and the power that riches have over them, choke it, and they abandon it. This is no disgrace to the truth itself, and never should weaken our confidence in it. Such men would be as likely to renounce the truth as any thing else, if it interfered with their mere worldly interests. Gain is the only god they worship, and any thing that deprives them of this they cannot eudure.
Lastly, we find those in this age of the world, who hear the word, and understand it. The word in them is the seed sown in good ground. They understand it well, they know the evidences on which it is founder!, they can see the fallacy of the objectious bro!ight agajust it, and they cannot be persuaded to give up the word. The opposers of the truth cannot uproot it from their hearts ; they are willing to suffer stiame, tribulation and persecution for the name of Christ; and as they love the truth above everything else, so no worldly consideration can induce them to abandon it. It bears fruit in their hearts, "some a hundred fold, some sixty, some thirty.” And it is worthy of ; remark here, that the fruit which the word brings forth is always like itself. “Men do not gather grapes of thorus, nor figs of thistles.” A