The same day went Jesus out of the house, and sat by the sea side.
The Parable of the Sower.
In the parable of the sower there is nothing at all novel. Our Saviour did not affect novelty in His illustrations of what He had to say to men about Divine truth; and however new and however strange might be some of the doctrines which He preached, His illustrations of those doctrines were such as all people could very well comprehend.
I. "A sower went forth to sow." (1) By the sower our Lord fist of all means Himself. And that was His work chiefly—sowing the seeds of Divine truth in the minds of men. As to the reaping, the reaping began, we may say, on the day of Pentecost, when our Lord reaped a sheaf of first-fruits in the conversion of five thousand souls; and the reaping resulting from our Lord's sowing has been going on ever since. (2) But meaning Himself first of all, He surely by this sower that goes forth to sow meant His apostles and the seventy disciples whom He sent out to preach the Gospel.
II. Then, in the next place, as to the seed. The sower is the Son of God, as we have seen, and all Christ's people engaged in this very work of sowing. The seed is the Word of God. And as the seed is the Word of God, let us recognize the importance of being truly, thoroughly, honestly scriptural.
III. The ground represents the heart, such as the heart may be—the heart rather than the head, the affections rather than the intellect. There is nothing fatalistic in the parable, nothing to drive to despair the man who feels he is bad and wishes to be a true Christian, and nothing to encourage in sin the man who has no desire after good things. God's grace can do for the heart, be it what it may, what man's skill has done a thousand times for the land that he cultivates. There are some who know that their hearts were once as hard as a turnpike road, and are now as soft as a newly-ploughed and harrowed field where waves the autumn corn. There are some whose hearts, like the stony ground, are full of thorns, but now the good seed is bearing fruit there; and if any man feels his heart is like the wayside, or the stony place, or the thorny ground, let him cry to God for His grace, and He will subdue all these evils and make his heart into the honest and the good heart, that shall yield fruit to His own glory and to the man's comfort.
H. Stowell Brown, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xvi., p. 376.
Matthew 13:1-9, Matthew 13:18-23The Parable of the Sower.
Notice the various obstacles which successively meet the seed and mar its fruitfulness.
I. The wayside. There is a condition of heart which corresponds to the smoothness, hardness, and wholeness of a frequented footpath that skirts or crosses a ploughed field. The spiritual hardness is like the natural in its cause as well as in its character. The place is a thoroughfare; a mixed multitude of this world's affairs tread over it from day to day, and from year to year. The soil, trodden by all comers, is never broken up and softened by a thorough self-searching. Owing to its hardness, it does not take the seed into its bosom.
II. The stony ground. A human heart, the soil on which the sower casts his seed, is in itself and from the first hard both above and below; but by a little easy culture, such as most people in this land enjoy, some measure of softness is produced on the surface. Among the affections, when they are warm and newly stirred, the seed speedily springs. Many young hearts, subjected to the religious appliances which abound in our time, take hold of Christ and let Him go again. In the rich young man the seed sprang hopefully, but it withered soon; he did not lightly part with Christ, but he parted; he was very sorrowful, but he went away.
III. The thorns. In the application of the lesson this term must be understood not specifically, but generically. In the natural object it indicates any species of useless weed that occupies the ground and injures the growing crop; in the spiritual application it points to the worldly cares, whether they spring from poverty or wealth, which usurp in a human heart the place due to Christ and His saving truth. (1) Thorns and thistles occupying the field suck in the sap which should go to nourish the good seed, and leave it a living skeleton. (2) Thorns and thistles, favoured as indigenous plants by the suitableness of soil and climate, outgrow the grain both in breadth and height.
IV. The good ground. While all the ground that was broken, deep and clean in spring and summer, bears fruit in harvest, some portions produce a larger return than others. While all believers are safe in Christ, each should covet the best gifts.
W. Arnot, The Parables of our Lord, p. 43.
References: Matthew 13:1.—H. W. Beecher, Christian World Pulpit, vol. x., p. 395. Matthew 13:1-3.—Expository Outlines on the New Testament, p. 32. Matthew 13:1-8.—Clergyman's Magazine, vol. i., p. 24. Matthew 13:1-23.—Parker, Inner Life of Christ, vol. ii., p. 225; A. B. Bruce, Parabolic Teaching of Christ, p. 14. Matthew 13:1-52.—Ibid., The Training of the Twelve, p. 44.
Matthew 13:3-4I. The beaten path. Let us think about that type of character which is here set forth under the image of the wayside. It is a heart trodden down by the feet that have gone across it; and because trodden down, a heart incapable of receiving the seed sown. The seed falls upon it, not in it. Notice two or three ways by which the heart becomes trodden down. (1) The heart is trodden down by custom and habit. There is a process going on which makes it absolutely certain that, the further you advance in life, the less you will be capable of being influenced even by the divinest truths of God's Word. (2) The heart is trodden down by sin. It is not the least sad and awful of the widespread consequences of sin, that it uniformly works in the direction of unfitting men to receive God's love. The more we need it the less we are able to lay hold of it. (3) The heart is trodden down by the very feet of the sower. Every sermon that an ungodly man hears which leaves him ungodly, leaves him, not as it found him, but harder by the passage of the Word once more across his heart, harder by the rejection once more of God's grace.
II. The lost seed. Sown on the surface of a hardened heart, it lies there for a little while and does nothing. But only for a little while; it is soon carried off. He who sows tares roots up growing wheat, and does not neglect to sweep away the seed. His chosen instruments are those light, swift-winged, apparently innocent flocks of flying thoughts, that come swooping across your souls even whilst the message of God's love is sounding in your ears. With most men it is the constant succession of petty cares, the constant occupation of heart and mind with trivial subjects and passing good, much rather than any conscious fixed resolve to shut their souls against Christ and His love, that steals away the Word from their memories and thoughts. "We ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we be drifted past them."
A. Maclaren, Sermons preached in Manchester, 2nd series, p. 280.
References: Matthew 13:3.—Homiletic Quarterly, vol. iv., p. 429. Matthew 13:3-8.—R. Winterbotham, Sermons and Expositions, p. 119; J. R. Macduff, Parables of the Lake, p. 49. Matthew 13:3-9.—Homiletic Quarterly, vol. ii., p. 50; G. Salmon, Non-Miraculous Christianity, p. 135. Matthew 13:3-23.—S. Cox, An Expositor's Notebook, p. 213.
Matthew 13:3-50The Parables of the Kingdom.
I. Taking these seven parables all together, notice, first, the fact that our Lord, in describing the kingdom of heaven, did deliberately use many parables, and those strikingly different from one another. The kingdom of heaven is a many-sided thing, and there are many ways of looking at it, all of which may be true ways, though differing very greatly.
II. The kingdom of heaven, as Christ expounded it, is the Gospel, the word of salvation, everywhere preached, yet most variously received—as in the first parable; it is the Gospel, true and pure and genuine in its beginning, but rapidly intermingled in its upgrowth with spurious and baleful imitations—as in the second parable.
III. But if it be evidently the Gospel, it is as evidently the Church, the outward and visible form, which waxes from less to more, which embodies before the eyes of men the principle of life which animates it, which testifies by its rapid growth to the wondrous vigour of that hidden principle—as in the third parable, of the mustard seed.
IV. But the kingdom of heaven is also a moral force—the force of moral and social principles. It is a leaven ever working outwards as long as there is any human society left to work upon; a leaven working far beyond the visible pale of the Church, though producing everywhere but a partial change—as in the fourth parable, of the hidden leaven.
V. But, lastly, the kingdom of Christ is Christ Himself, the real treasure, the great object of desire; for whose sake alone any outward acquisition is valuable; yet for whose sake the loss of all things were indeed gain. It is Christ Himself, the personal Saviour, found and appropriated at any cost—as in the fifth and sixth of our parables.
VI. The sevenfold arrangement intimates that we are to look for a certain unity of plan and completeness of execution about these parables. It means that they represent among them all the possible aspects of Christianity; and they also represent in their order and arrangement the historical development of Christianity from first to last. Poets and philosophers have written of the seven ages of man. I believe that we may speak with much more certainty of the seven stages through which the kingdom of heaven passes towards its final state.
R. Winterbotham, Sermons and Expositions, p. 108.
References: Matthew 13:4.—Preacher's Monthly, vol. iv., p. 62; G. Matheson, Moments on the Mount, p. 149.
Matthew 13:10-17The Parables of Christ.
I. "Whosoever hath, to him shall be given," etc, Here a universal law is announced as the explanation of the gift to the disciples of understanding mysteries, and of the difference between them and others. Whosoever hath, whosoever hath not. Is it not assumed in that universal statement—is it not affirmed—that every man has received certain things which the Bestower will increase if he hold them fast, but which he may let go and be left utterly bare? And what are these things? If there is the least connection between this verse and that which precedes it, they are mysteries of the kingdom of heaven. These are the treasures—not lying far from any man—to which these fishermen had not foregone their claim, and which no one can relinquish without abandoning his rights, without renouncing his manhood.
II. For thus He goes on: "Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand." Seeing, hearing, understanding—these are admitted powers of human beings. To be without them is a fearful penalty, the exception to a rule. Is it not intimated to us that there is something exactly corresponding to these organs of sense in the spirit of man; that an eye is there which may be opened or may be closed; an ear is there which may be awake to take in a voice that is speaking to it or may be stopped; a capacity for profiting by the vision, for yielding to the voice, which may be continually expanded, or may continually become more contracted? If there is this correspondence between the organs of the spirit and the organs of sense, does not that explain to us the meaning and power of the parables? May not all sensible things, by a necessity of their nature, be testifying to us of that which is nearest to us, of that which it most concerns us to know, of the mysteries of our own life and of God's relation to us? May it not be impossible for us to escape from these witnesses? They may become insignificant to us from our very familiarity with them; nay, we may utterly forget that there is any wonder in them. The universe may become actually "as is a landscape to a dead man's eye;" all the business in which we are ourselves engaged, a routine which must be got through in some way or another, that we may have leisure to eat, drink, and sleep. Can any language describe this state so accurately and vividly as that of our Lord in the text? Seeing we see, and do not perceive; hearing we hear, and do not understand.
F. D. Maurice, Sermons, vol. v., p. 165.
Matthew 13:12To Him that hath shall be given—a law of the Christian Sabbath.
Let us illustrate this doctrine by a reference:
I. To nations. If there were any land in which the higher uses of the Sabbath were universally understood and enjoyed, we should be able to show there, in their full measure, the temporal benefits with which it is charged; but, alas! such an example cannot be found on earth. In Popish countries generally, and in some that are nominally Protestant, you may see the operation of the law in its threatening aspect. From those who have not kept the Sabbath holy the weekly rest has been taken away. In the medley of sounds which constitutes the hum of Paris on the Lord's Day, a Christian distinguishes with sadness the clatter of the mechanic's tool. The nation that gives up the day to pleasure does not retain the day for rest.
II. Classes. Those classes in a great city who most fully employ the Sabbath for its higher ends must fully enjoy its subordinate benefits; those who renounce the spiritual lose the temporal too.
III. Persons. The law holds good in the experience of individuals as well as in that of communities and classes. Those who do not value the higher uses of the Sabbath will fail to attain the lower. The only way of keeping the world out of our Sabbath is to keep Christ in. If from want of taste for it we abandon spiritual communion with the Lord on His own day, the material benefit of bodily rest will slip from our hands. The evil spirits hovering round press like air upon the privilege; the moment they find the room empty they rush in. The weekly Sabbath, where its spiritual uses are lost, becomes a loathsome thing. When the Lord is banished from His day, the adversary takes possession of it, and makes it the period of heaviest drudgery to his slaves.
W. Arnot, Roots and Fruits of the Christian Life, p. 388.
Reference: Matthew 13:12.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxv., No. 1488.
Matthew 13:13Christ here touches upon a common fact of our human nature—spiritual insensibility; that state in which spiritual things pass before a man, and instead of being beautiful and blessed realities they are meaningless to him. Nor is there anything strange or fanciful in this representation. Men come in contact with nature, art, charity, and yet are insensible to them; and, similarly, they may come, and often do come, in contact with that which is infinitely more important,—the truth as it is in Jesus,—and yet fail to discern its significance and reality. Now, what are some of the steps by which this gross, callous, insensitive state is reached?
I. It is induced by all kinds of depravity. This is one of the penalties of wrongdoing, that the moral nature is deteriorated and made unresponsive to spiritual things. Sin does not merely plunge a man into an external darkness; it fills his inward being with darkness. It does not merely shut him out of an external heaven; it deprives him of the capacity to perceive and enjoy the heavenly.
II. Insensibility to spiritual things frequently grows in a man through the mastery of worldly pursuits. Diligence in all lawful, heaven-appointed callings is a part of every man's Christian duty. But it is possible to be enslaved even of that which is lawful and God-ordained. These duties may so engross a man's thought and energies that, in the course of time, he becomes indifferent to everything else. The many worlds which lie outside of his own little world are as though they did not exist.
III. The habit of cherishing doubt is another circumstance which tends to weaken spiritual vision and understanding. While the man hesitates, full of timidity and unfaith, there is a secret, silent deterioration of spiritual capacity going on. He is receding further and further into darkness. The powers of the world to come are gradually becoming mere shadows and images, flitting before his vision. This is one of the inevitable penalties of indecision. In this way, in many instances, that state is reached in which men seeing do not see; hearing they do not hear, neither do they understand.
T. Hammond, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xiv., p. 163.
Reference: Matthew 13:14, Matthew 13:15.—G. Huntington, Sermons for Holy Seasons, p. 187.
Matthew 13:17I. The words of the text have often struck the ears of us all, and few of us, perhaps, have stopped to ask ourselves how far we really could agree with them. Many prophets and righteous men have desired to see the things which Christ's disciples saw and have not seen them. It seems all very natural that they should have desired it. But can we honestly say that we should have desired the same thing if we had been in their places? There is a very easy and plain way of finding out how we should have felt then, by observing what we feel now. We may guess how much we should have longed for a thing before we had got it, by seeing how much we value it now that we have got it. If we find that we do not care about it when it is put in our way, we may be very sure that we should never have missed it before we had it, and that we should never have gone out of our way to obtain it.
II. The means of grace to the soul are like the means of health and strength to the body, and at such a rate would a true Christian value them. We are ever taking thought about what we shall eat and what we shall drink and wherewithal we shall be clothed. But the wants of the soul do not so easily win our attention; the love of our spiritual life, the love of life eternal, is not half so strong within us as the love of our natural life. Our souls are, by nature, far weaker and more sickly than our bodies, and therefore they require much greater care. Therefore every means of grace that we have we should make the most of; and not the best man alive is furnished with one more than is needful for him. But though the best of us cannot afford to spare any of the means which God has given us, yet the worst of us will find that they have enough, if they will but carefully improve them. Every one of us has the means of grace put within his reach sufficient to save his soul if he will. He can learn the way of salvation; he can know those things which many prophets and kings desired to know, and never had their desire fulfilled.
T. Arnold, Sermons, vol. i., p. 37.
References: Matthew 13:21.—F. W. Farrar, In the Days of Thy Youth, p. 80. Matthew 13:25.— T. M. Herbert, Sketches of Sermons, p. 127; E. R. Conder, Expositor, 3rd series, vol. iii., p. 428.
Matthew 13:24-30I. It was "while men slept" that the enemy sowed his tares among the wheat. The phrase is equivalent to "at night," and must not be further urged. This enemy seized his opportunity when all eyes were closed in sleep, and wrought the secret mischief upon which he was intent, and, having wrought it undetected, withdrew.
II. The enemy that sowed them is the devil. We behold Satan here, not as he works beyond the limits of the Church, deceiving the world, but in his far deeper malignity, as he at once mimics and counterworks the work of Christ.
III. The mischief done, the enemy "went his way," and thus the work did not evidently at once appear to be his. How often, in the Church, the beginnings of evil have been scarcely discernible, and that which bore the worst fruit in the end will have shown at first like a higher form of good.
IV. In the question, "Wilt thou then that we go and gather them up?" the temptation to use violent means for the suppression of error—a temptation which the Church itself has sometimes failed to resist—finds its voice and utterance. But they who thus speak are unfit to be trusted in the matter. Our Lord's answer, "Nay," does not imply that the tares shall never be plucked up, but only that this is not the time, and they not the doers. "Let both grow together until the harvest,"—pregnant words, which tell us that evil is not, as many dream, gradually to wane and disappear before good, the world to find itself in the Church, but each to unfold itself more fully out of its own root, till at last they stand face to face, each in its highest manifestation, in the persons of Christ and of Antichrist—on the one hand an incarnate God, on the other the man in whom the fulness of all Satanic power will dwell bodily. Both must grow until the harvest—till they are ripe, one for destruction, and the other for full salvation.
R. C. Trench, Notes on the Parables, p. 80.
References: Matthew 13:24.—A. P. Stanley, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xix., p. 81. Matthew 13:24, Matthew 13:25.—C. Girdlestone, A Course of Sermons, vol. i., p. 175. Matthew 13:24-30.—R. Winterbotham, Sermons and Expositions, p. 122; R. Calderwood, The Parables of our Lord, p. 199; Homiletic Quarterly, vol. i., p. 470; M. Lucas, Ibid., vol. xv., p. 355; Clergyman's Magazine, vol. ii., p. 80; J. C. Jones, Studies in St. Matthew, p. 199; J. Sherman, Thursday Penny Pulpit, vol. iii., p. 163; A. B. Bruce, Parabolic Teaching of Christ, p. 38; C. Kingsley, Discipline and other Sermons, p. 274. Matthew 13:24-43.—Parker, Inner Life of Christ, vol. ii., p. 235; J. R. Macduff, Parables of the Lake, p. 72.
Matthew 13:25-26In the text, three things are hinted at by Christ with respect to the presence of evil among the good.
I. Here, first, is the secrecy, the undiscernibleness of its beginnings—"while men slept;" words which could hardly have been meant to indicate negligence or inattention on the part of those who should have been alert and watchful, and whose vigilance might have prevented the hostile sowing, since the servants, who later on ejaculate their astonishment and disappointment at what is found among the corn, are in nowise charged with having contributed to it by omission of duty. The words were intended, doubtless, as an equivalent for during the night, during the interval when men are naturally wrapt in slumber and cannot perceive what is done. The Speaker would be suggesting thus, with a passing touch, how hidden and unobserved are the beginnings of evil; how, in regard to its first startings and earlier motions, we are like them that sleep.
II. But here, again, is the facility with which it grows, its independence of fostering care or aid. "He went his way." Was not that a stroke of the artist, with which He meant to intimate the little that is needed to insure the progress and spread of evil? The enemy just sowed and went his way. What he had sown was safe to grow. Noxious weeds want no watering. Good habits have to be formed with stern endeavour and in the sweat of your brow; bad habits form themselves as we stand idly by.
III. Here is the inevitable following of evil in the wake of good; the inevitableness of its accompaniment and concurrence for a season wherever good is sown. This is what Christ prognosticated would happen—that His sowing of wheat would involve a sowing of tares. And has it not been so? With all the devotion and consecration, with the splendid courages, zeals, and self-sacrifices, which He has inspired, what bitterness and uncharitableness, what dissensions and animosities, what sourness and meanness have mingled! What Christ forebodes here are the evils incident to the very spirit of Christianity.
S. A. Tipple, Sunday Mornings at Norwood, p. 339.
I. what is the cause of all the evil which we see in the world and the Church. "An enemy hath done this." In so far as we are striving against that enemy, we gain courage to do the work of One who is greater than he. As there are times when man must sleep and leave an opportunity for an enemy to come in so, our Lord means to tell us there are times and circumstances in which the utmost vigilance of man cannot keep out the enemy of man. Or, in other words, his power for evil is greater than ours for good; and while the present system lasts he will still have opportunities for evil. "While men slept"—for they are but men; and ceaseless vigilance and successful continual watching is beyond the reach of man. Understand that we must not expect perfect success for work we do for God. "While men slept;" ay, even when they are doing their very best, the enemy will interfere to hinder.
II. There is a sleep man may avoid, a failure he may prevent—a sleep of carelessness and sloth; and how much has the enemy had the opportunity to sow while men slept such a sleep as this! How often should the watcher have watched while the enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat! There are lessons of warning and encouragement in those two sentences. An enemy is sowing and we are sleeping; yet how much more constantly and frequently might we wake and watch. The lesson of the text forbids our being too sanguine or having too exalted expectations in any work we engage in for God; and yet it teaches us, on the other hand, not to give up in despair. It is a lesson which forbids presumption or despondency; a lesson which warns us to more strenuous vigilance; a lesson of the loving Saviour, which teaches us, if at times, being but men, we slumber, and the enemy seizes his opportunity, perseverance, faith, courage, anything but despondency, anything but carelessness, when we are doing a work for God and for Christ.
Bishop Magee, Christian World Pulpit, vol. i., p. 305.
Matthew 13:29-30The comparison here and elsewhere set forth between the great mixed community of man and the vegetable kingdom presents many points of striking and obvious parallel. Sowing the seed—growing until the harvest—the unsparing universality of the reaping—the final separation.
I. This present life is a time of intermixture. Take a family—a household—and see what diversity of character it presents. So complete is the intermixture, that of the larger part it would be impossible to decide whether they belong to the class indicated as wheat or tares. And we are not called upon to do so. "Let both grow together until the harvest." And nothing is more arrogant and presumptuous, nothing can be less in harmony with the Spirit of Christ, than the gratuitous and peremptory manner in which some people pronounce upon this matter—anticipating the verdict of the Almighty, and drawing a line of demarcation which as yet exists nowhere else than in the mind of God.
II. But neither does this growing together continue long, nor does this incapacity to discriminate extend to the Searcher of Hearts. "The Lord knoweth them that are His." He arranges the most complex circumstances that influence our lives. He at once unravels all the intricacies of our mixed, imperfect, and entangled motives; and at once detects whether they are to be assigned to selfishness and self-aggrandisement, or to the generous principles of love, honour, and integrity which Christ has taught. And as even now with an unerring eye He distinguishes His loyal subjects from others, so hereafter with unerring hand He shall wave aside the chaff from the wheat. And this is the great harvest which is the end of the world.
III. The great practical lesson to be connected with this contemplation of the great harvest is this: That if our last hour may be compared to the gathering in of the wheat, whether it be good or bad, so the present hour is for every one of us a time for growing and ripening.
W. H. Brookfield, Sermons, p. 239.
References: Matthew 13:30.—Preacher's Monthly, vol. vi., p. 189; R. D. B. Rawnsley, Village Sermons, 3rd series, p. 43.
Matthew 13:31-32The Grain of Mustard Seed.
There are very few of our Lord's parables that can be illustrated so fully, few that get so clear a confirmation from all experience, as this. And yet to accept the principle and really live by it requires the very faith of which the parable speaks.
I. Look at history, and see how true the doctrine is, not only of the kingdom of heaven, but of every other power that has really held sway among men. In almost all cases the great, the permanent work has been done, not by those who seemed to do very much, but by those who seemed to do very little. Our Lord's founding of the Church was but the most striking instance of a universal rule.
II. There are two ways in which great men rule other men: they either sway the masses of men by an irresistible influence; or they impress on a few, either by personal intercourse or by writings, the stamp of their own character, their own thoughts. Some men have worked in both ways. But our Lord chose only one, and that the one that would seem the most obscure, the most uncertain. He taught the multitudes; but His chief aim was certainly not to impress them. His work was to stamp the truth upon a few; but to stamp it so deep that nothing could afterwards efface it. When He did this, what was He doing? He was sowing the seed; the seed whose fruit was not yet, whose perfect fruit was not to be gathered for many centuries; the seed which seemed small and perishable, but was certain to grow into a great tree. And so too has all the greatest work been done both before and after, not often by producing immediate results, but by sowing seeds. So have sciences all grown, not from brilliant declarations to the world, but from patient labour and quiet thought, and language addressed to the few who think. So has all growth in politics always begun in the secret thoughts of men who have found the truth, and have committed it to books or to chosen learners. The true powers of human life are contained in those seeds, out of which alone comes any real and permanent good.
Bishop Temple, Rugby Sermons, 2nd series, p. 138.
The Fitness of Christianity for Mankind.
Its extraordinary power of easy expansion, its power of adapting itself to the most diverse forms of thought, is one strong proof of the eternal fitness of Christianity for mankind. This is our subject.
I. It has these powers, first, because of its want of system. Christ gave ideas, but not their forms. We have one connected discourse of His, and there is not a vestige of systematic theology in it. It seems as if Christ distinctly chose indefinite-ness in certain parts of His teaching, in order to shut out the possibility of any rigid system of Christian thought. The original want of system in Christ's teaching ensures its power of expansion, and that fits it for the use of the race, now and hereafter.
II. But if this were all, it would prove nothing. There must be a quality in a religion destined to be of eternal fitness to men which directly appeals to all men, or else its want of system will only minister to its ruin. And if that quality exist, it must be one which we cannot conceive as ever failing to interest men, and therefore as expanding with the progress of man. We find this in the identification of Christianity with the life of a perfect man. What is Christianity? Christianity is Christ—the whole of human nature made at one with God. Is it possible to leave that behind as the race advances? On the contrary, the very idea supposes that the religion which has it at its root has always an ideal to present to men, and therefore always an interest for men. So the ideal manhood which is at the root of Christianity ensures to it a power of expanding with the growth of the race; and this power is one proof at least of the eternal fitness of Christ's teaching for mankind.
III. The third quality in it which ensures its expansiveness is that it has directly to do with the subjects which have always stirred the greatest curiosity, awakened the profoundest thought, and produced the highest poetry in man. And these are the subjects which are insoluble by logical analysis, unknowable by the understanding: What is God and His relation to us? Whence have we come? Whither are we going? What is evil, and why is it here? Do we die or live for ever? It is because Christianity as taught by Christ acknowledges these questions as necessarily human; it is because it promises that those who follow the method of Christ and live His life shall solve them; that Christianity belongs to men, is calculated to expand, to suit men in every age.
S. A. Brooke, Christ in Modern Life, p. 1.
The Mustard Seed.
I. The kingdom of heaven in the world is like a mustard seed sown in the ground, both in the smallness of its beginning and the greatness of its increase.
II. The kingdom of heaven in the human heart is like a mustard seed in the smallness of its beginning and the greatness of its increase.
W. Arnot, The Parables of our Lord, p. 101.
Matthew 13:31-32(with Mark 4:30-32; Luke 13:18-19)
The Mustard Seed.
I. Not Christ's doctrine merely, nor yet even the Church which He planted upon earth, is this grain of mustard seed in its central meaning. He is Himself at once the mustard seed and the man that sowed it. He is the mustard seed; for the Church was originally enclosed in Him, and unfolded itself from Him, having as much oneness of life with Him as the tree with the seed in which its rudiments were all enclosed, and out of which it grew; and the Sower, in that by a free act of His own, He gave Himself to that death whereby He became the author of life unto many.
II. This seed, when cast into the ground, is "the least of all seeds"—words which have often perplexed interpreters, many seeds, as of poppy or rue, being smaller. Yet difficulties of this kind are not worth making; it is sufficient to know that "small as a grain of mustard seed" was a proverbial expression among the Jews for something exceedingly minute. The Lord, in His popular teaching, adhered to the popular language. And as the mustard seed so has been His kingdom. Herein it differs from the great schemes of this world; these last have a proud beginning, a shameful and miserable end; towers as of Babel, which threaten at first to be as high as heaven, but end a deserted, misshapen heap of slime and bricks; while the works of God, and most of all His chief work the Church, have a slight and unobserved beginning, with gradual increase and a glorious consummation. So is it with His kingdom in the world, a kingdom which came not with observation; so is it with His kingdom in any single heart; there, too, the word of Christ falls like a slight mustard seed, seeming to promise little, but effecting, if allowed to grow, mighty and marvellous results.
III. There is prophecy, too, in these words. Christ's kingdom shall attract multitudes by the shelter and protection which it offers,—shelter, as it has often proved, from worldly oppression, shelter from the great power of the devil. Itself a tree of life whose leaves are for medicine and whose fruit for food, all who need the satisfying of their soul's hunger, all who need the healing of their soul's hearts, shall betake themselves to it.
R. C. Trench, Notes on the Parables, p. 107.
References: Matthew 13:31, Matthew 13:32.—R. Winterbotham, Sermons and Expositions, p. 128; S. A. Brooke, Christ in Modern Life, pp. 1, 17; A. B. Bruce, Parabolic Teaching of Christ, p. 90; J. R. Macduff, Parables of the Lake, p. 102.
Matthew 13:31-33The Kingdom of God.
I. Look first at the external progress of the kingdom as illustrated by the growth of the mustard seed. It is ever important to remember that Christianity, at first like a small grain of seed, spread throughout the world, until the nations of the earth came to flock like birds to its protecting shelter, by no aid except its own inherent spiritual power. There was nothing to help it in the character of its early teachers. There was nothing to make its progress easy in the conditions of the Jewish and Gentile worlds. People say sometimes that they find it hard to believe the miracles on which Christianity is based—surely the grandest, greatest miracle is the existence of Christianity itself. If, then, there was nothing in the outside world to which it appealed, nothing in the natural hearts of men which it came to satisfy, how are we to account for the spread of Christ's kingdom except by attributing to it some spiritual power of its own? Does not the second parable, that of the leaven, come in here to explain to us the secret of those earlier teachers' spiritual power? The grain of leaven, put into their hearts, when first the Master called them, gradually permeated and transfused their entire nature. The whole man was leavened. The early teachers of Christianity used to describe this leaven by the word "faith." To us faith has become too much merely the cry of a party, the shibboleth of a sect. To an apostle it meant everything. It meant an intensely personal love for Christ. It meant the entire absorption of all the heart's deepest feelings in devotion to Him. This it was—this burning love flaming in their hearts, this principle of enthusiasm transforming their lives—which made these weak men strong. The outward kingdom grew and increased, because the invisible kingdom so wrought in the hearts of disciples that their whole nature was leavened by it.
T. T. Shore, Some Difficulties of Belief, p. 189.
References: Matthew 13:31-33.—Christian World Pulpit, vol. v., p. 167. Matthew 13:32, Matthew 13:33.—H. W. Beecher, Ibid., vol. xxix., p. 73.
Matthew 13:33In the mustard seed we saw the kingdom growing great by its inherent vitality; in the leaven we see it growing great by a contagious influence. There the increase was obtained by development from within; here, by acquisitions from without. The kingdom grows great by permeating in secret through the masses, changing them gradually into its own nature, and appropriating them to itself.
I. Christ, the Son of God, became man and dwelt among us. Behold the piece of leaven that has been plunged into the dead mass of the world. The whole is not leavened yet, but the germ has been introduced.
II. Converted men, women, and children are let into openings of corrupt humanity and hidden in its heart. There they cannot lie still; they stir and effervesce, and inoculate the portions with which they are in closest contact. In this respect the lesson is the same with that which is taught in those of the short parables of Jesus: "Ye are the light of the world. Ye are the salt of the earth."
III. The light of faith, when it is hidden in the heart, spreads like leaven through the man, occupying and assimilating all the faculties of his nature and all the course of his life. The whole lump of" the individual must be leavened, as well as the whole lump of the world. Christ will not be satisfied until He gets every man in the world for His own and every part of each. In the new creature, as in the new world, "dwelleth righteousness." That which is now laid on the consciences of Christians as a law will yet emerge from their life as a fact: "Whether, therefore, ye eat or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God."
W. Arnot, The Parables of our Lord, p. 111.
We may understand our Lord as describing in this parable either the influence of the Gospel on the world and its final universal manifestation, or the influence and operation of Divine grace on those in whose hearts the Spirit of God has lodged it. The parable may be applied either way, but we prefer the latter.
I. The woman takes the leaven to lay it not on, but in, the meal, where, working from within outwards, it changes the whole substance from the centre to the surface. It is through a corresponding change that the man goes to whom the Spirit of God communicates His grace. It is hidden in the heart. The change begins there; the outward reformation not preparing the way for regeneration, but springing from it, growing out of it as a tree grows out of its seed, or a stream flows out of its spring.
II. Suppose that the woman, taking, instead of leaven, a stone, a piece of granite, a common pebble, or even a precious jewel, any metal such as gold or silver, or any like inert and inactive substance, had placed that in the heart of the meal, the meal had remained the same, changing neither to stone nor metal. But so soon as leaven is embedded in its substance, a change immediately ensues, a process of fermentation is set agoing, and, extending from within outwards, goes on till, by a law of nature, the whole lump is leavened. Neither art nor nature could supply a better simile of the grace of God than this. An active element, so soon as it is lodged in the heart it begins to work; nor ceases to extend its holy influence over the affections and habits, the inward and outward character, till it has moved and changed the whole man.
III. It is said of the meal in which the woman hid the leaven, that "the whole," not a portion of it, large or small, "was leavened." The apostle bring out the same diffusive character of this element when he says, "A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump." Even so, teaching us not to despise the day of small things, a little grace lodged in the heart spreads till it sanctifies the whole man. These three characters of grace form three excellent tests of character and of the genuineness of our religion.
T. Guthrie, The Parables read in the Light of the Present Day, p. 12.
I. The power which is to raise man must come from without.
II. The leaven must be lodged and work within.
III. The leaven has a penetrative and diffusive power.
E. Mellor, The Hem of Christ's Garment, p. 152.
Matthew 13:33(with Luke 13:20-21)
This parable, like that of the mustard seed, relates to the marvellous increase of the kingdom of God; but while the last sets forth its outward visible manifestation, this declares its hidden working, its mysterious influence on that world which on all sides it touches.
I. By the leaven we are to understand the word of the kingdom, which word, in its highest sense, Christ Himself was. As the mustard seed, out of which a mighty tree should unfold itself, was the least of all seeds, so, too, the leaven is something apparently of slight account, but at the same time mighty in operation.
II. The leaven which is mingled with the lump, which acts on and coalesces with it, is at the same time different from it, for the woman took it from elsewhere to mingle it therein; and even such is the Gospel—a kingdom not of this world, not the unfolding of any powers which already existed therein, a kingdom not rising, as the secular kingdoms out "of the earth" (Daniel 7:17), but a new power brought into the world from above; not a philosophy, which men have imagined, but a revelation which God has revealed. The Gospel of Christ was a new and quickening power, cast into the midst of an old and dying world; a centre of life, round which all the moral energies which still survived, and all which itself should awaken, might form and gather, by the help of which the world might constitute itself anew. This leaven is not merely mingled with, but hidden in, the mass which it renewed. For the true renovation, that which God effects, is ever from the inward to the outward; it begins in the inner spiritual world, though it does not end there; for it fails not to bring about, in good time, a mighty change also in the outward and visible world.
III. The promise of the parable has hitherto been realized only in a very imperfect measure; nor can we consider these words, "till the whole was leavened," as less than a prophecy of the final complete triumph of the Gospel, that it will diffuse itself through all nations and purify and ennoble all life.
R. C. Trench, Notes on the Parables, p. 114.
References: Matthew 13:33.—H. W. Beecher, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxvi., p. 340; A. W. Hare, The Alton Sermons, p. 64; J. R. Macduff, Parables of the Lake, p. 121; R. Winterbotham, Sermons and Expositions, p. 133; Parker, Inner Life of Christ, vol. ii., p. 264. Matthew 13:38.—H. Allon, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxiv., p. 227.
Matthew 13:43The Glory of the Righteous.
I. Its present concealment. (1) We find the first reason for this concealment in the nature of the only true righteousness in man. Our faith is as yet only the germ of a new creation, and often it is cradled in tears and made strong by storms. Slowly, very slowly, through struggle and through storm, are we changed by faith into righteous men; and who then can marvel if, amid that life long conflict, our glory is but dimly seen? (2) We find a second reason for this concealment in the discipline by which the righteous are perfected. The necessary discipline of their faith inevitably conceals their glory. The world's eye sees little beauty in the crown of thorns, and is unable to perceive the grandeur of the faith that accepts the sorrow of the heaviest cross for the sake of the Christ it cannot see.
II. Its future manifestation. The present concealment will pass away; the germ of faith will ripen into eternal glory The veil is over us; we do not see what royal souls are being formed by sorrow here. But in the end it shall be seen that all feelings of pain and weakness, solitude and weariness, have a corresponding weight of joy.
III. Its mighty lessons. "Who hath ears to hear, let him hear." (1) Hear it, slothful, dreaming, forgetful Christian. You, whose heart is growing cold and whose prayer is still, hear it, and awake from your sleep, that "Christ may give you light." (2) Hear it, earnest, struggling, determined soul. Struggle onwards still. The morning is breaking, the day is at hand, when thou shalt shine like the sun in the kingdom of thy Father. (3) Hear it, unbeliever. There is a righteousness for thee. Renounce thine own works and thy self-will, receive the righteousness of Christ, and thou too shalt shine as the sun in the kingdom of the Father.
E. L. Hull, Sermons, 1st series, p. 327.
Matthew 13:44The Treasure Twice Hidden.
I. How tender, how intelligent, how considerate, is Jesus Christ! How mercifully He recognizes what some, speaking in His name, make so light of—the difficulty of believing! He says the treasure of treasures is a hid treasure. It has been for ages buried in that common-looking field which is the world—whatever the world be for each of us; the world of circumstance, and the world of business, and the world of chance and change, and the world of thought and feeling and passion and longing. Under all that crust and surface of ordinary living there lies, deeply buried, utterly hidden, its very existence unguessed and unsuspected, this treasure of treasures—a Gospel of life and immortality. Christ says it is hidden; and the history of eighteen centuries, honestly written, honestly read, says so too.
II. The treasure is hid, and the man who finds it hides it again. Suppose that by one of His unsearchable influences God has brought a man to what Scripture calls "the obedience of faith." This is the critical moment at which man may say, "Publish," but at which Christ says, "Hide." (1) The man in the parable hides till he has purchased. And you—can you be quite sure that the treasure is yours? Hide at least till you have sold all and bought the field. This must take time. (2) Do not, by word or sign, imply anything more than that you, as you trust, have got a truer and more real conviction than you once had of the meaning of your Christian standing and profession. Do not for a moment assume that your brother who has not said the same thing is not equally and alike a Christian. (3) Say nothing publicly about your new experience. Be only ashamed that you had it not earlier. Hide the treasure, first of all, in your heart. This hiding will be another word for the best possible kind of showing. The light that shines through is the true light. Let the law of charity, and the law of purity, and the law of reverence reign in you everywhere.
C. J. Vaughan, Temple Sermons, p. 268.
I. The blessings of the Gospel are compared to a treasure. Lifting the "poor from the dust, and the needy from the dunghill to set him with princes," they introduce him to the presence of the Divine Majesty and the palace of the Great King; to the society of angels and the communion of saints; to the general assembly of those high-born and first-born, compared with whom, in point of worth or dignity or lofty and enduring glory, your kings are but worms of the dust.
II. The blessings of the Gospel are compared to a hid treasure. Within the two boards of the poor man's Bible is a greater wealth of happiness, of honour, of pleasure, of true peace, than Australia hides in the gold of all her mines. That could not buy the pardon of any of the thousand criminals whom a country, weary of their crimes, once cast upon her distant shores; but here is what satisfies a justice stricter than man's, and procures the forgiveness of sins which the stoutest heart may tremble to think of.
III. The treasure was found without being sought. Even so, while some after a long search for happiness and their soul's good, in fulfilment of the promise, "Seek, and ye shall find," get in Jesus Christ the treasure of this parable and the pearl of the next, others find a Saviour without seeking Him. They burst at once into a state of grace; they stumble on salvation, if I may say so, as this man on the treasure hid in the field. They are converted, and it is a great surprise to them, what neither they nor any one else expected.
IV. Note the conduct of the finder. (1) He hid the treasure. In hiding the treasure till he had made himself owner of the field, he took the surest way of making it his own, and expressed, better than any words could do, its value in his eyes. By this parable the Saviour calls men to leave no stone unturned, no pains untaken, no anxiety unfelt, no prayer unsaid, to make His treasures theirs. (2) He parts with all for this treasure. "Ye cannot serve God and mammon." "Let him that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity."
T. Guthrie, The Parables read in the Light of the Present Day, p. 198.
The Treasure Hid in a Field.
This parable is one which sets forth not so much the manner of the growth of the kingdom of heaven, as the extreme value to mankind of the knowledge of that kingdom. Two things our Saviour asserts concerning His Gospel: (1) that it is a treasure; (2) that it is a treasure in some sense hidden.
I. Note the effect stated in the parable to be produced upon the mind of the man who has discovered the Gospel treasure. He goes and sells all that he has and buys the field—conduct which shows that he has no doubt of being repaid for all that he spends in buying the field; he sells all that he has, not that he may become a beggar, but because he feels sure that he will get back his property tenfold—conduct which shows faith too, because the treasure for which he barters all that he has is still hidden; he has not seen it all, but he is sure from what he has seen that infinite treasure is there; and moreover it shows energy, because as soon as the man becomes aware of the existence of the treasure he appears to leave no effort untried, even to the selling of all his substance, to make himself master of the treasure.
II. But does the Lord intend to describe merely what ought to take place with reference to His Gospel, or to describe what usually does take place? I think that if we look into the history of what the Gospel has done, either in ancient or in modern times, we shall perceive that though in many cases it has fallen upon deaf ears, and so has remained for ever a hidden treasure, yet there is quite enough to support the description of its character which Christ gives in the text; there is enough to show that Christ was describing, not merely an imaginary picture which would never be realized on account of the blindness and obstinacy of men, but a picture of which very many admirable copies may be found in all ages of the Church. Examples may be found (1) in the case of St. Paul; (2) in the history of the early converts to Christianity; (3) even in the extravagances to which the profession of the Christian faith soon gave rise. Let us remember that a too enthusiastic view in a matter of this kind is a safer, wiser, healthier view than one which is too indifferent and cold. The kingdom of heaven is treasure,—treasure which may be found if we seek for it, and which, if it be worth seeking for at all, is worth all the labour and sacrifice and cost which any of us can spend in the search.
Bishop Harvey Goodwin, Parish Sermons, 3rd series p. 227.
The Hid Treasure.
The kingdom of God is not merely a general, it is also an individual and personal thing. It is not merely a tree overshadowing the earth, or leaven leavening the world, but each man must have it for himself, and make it his own by a distinct act of his own will. He cannot be a Christian without knowing it. There will be a personal appropriation of the benefit; and we have the history of this in the two parables which follow.
I. The circumstance which supplies the groundwork of this first parable—namely, the finding of a concealed treasure—is of much more frequent occurrence in an insecure state of society, such as in almost all ages has prevailed in the East, than happily it is with us. Often a man, abandoning the regular pursuits of industry, will devote himself to treasure-seeking, in the hope of growing, through some happy chance, rich of a sudden. The contrast, however, between this parable and the following will not allow us to assume the finder here to have been in search of the treasure; he rather stumbles upon it, strikes it with plough or spade, unawares, and thinking of no such thing, probably while engaged as a hireling in cultivating the field of another.
II. The field represents the outer visible Church, as distinguished from the inward spiritual, with which the treasure will then agree.
III. The treasure which a man hath found he hideth. This cannot mean that he who has discovered the treasures of wisdom and knowledge hidden in Jesus Christ will desire to keep his knowledge to himself, since rather he will feel himself, as he never did before, a debtor to all men, to make all partakers of the benefit. If he hide the treasure, this hiding will be, not lest another should find, but lest he himself should lose it. In the first moments that the truth is revealed to a soul, there may well be a tremulous fear lest the blessing found should, by some means or other, escape again. The anxiety that it may not do so, the jealous precautions for this end taken, would seem to be the truth signified by this re-concealment of the found treasure.
R. C. Trench, Notes on the Parables, p. 122.
I. There is a treasure placed within our reach in this world.
II. The treasure is hidden. It is near and yet out of sight.
III. The hidden treasure is at last found.
IV. The finder parts with all in order that he may acquire the treasure.
V. Joy is an essential element in the case.
W. Arnot, The Parables of the Lord, p. 128.
References: Matthew 13:44.—H. Melvill, Penny Pulpit, No. 2,074; R. Winterbotham, Sermons and Expositions, p. 139; A. B. Bruce, Parabolic Teaching of Christ, p. 68; J. Keble, Sermons for Sundays after Trinity, Part II., p. 396.
Matthew 13:44-46It appears to me that there are four great tests of value.
I. The first test of value is rarity. A thing is valuable according to its scarceness. Apply this test to religion. It is holiness and happiness—rare things in this world, look for them where you will. The most unique and precious thing under heaven is the religion which will make you holy and happy, which, as John Bunyan says, is only to be had at one storehouse, and if you apply there you can get it without either money or price.
II. Take another test of value—the verdict of a competent authority. A picture has hung on a cottage wall for years, an unvalued heirloom, that hangs there simply because it is its accustomed place. There comes in one who knows, and he uses means to take away the canker and the rust of time, and unburies a patch of subtle colour that lies beneath, and he says in a moment, "Why, that is a Rembrandt," and in a moment the verdict of a competent authority gives it a value that it never possessed before. True religion can stand the test of the verdict of a competent authority.
III. Not only rarity, not only the verdict of a competent authority, but durability, is an important test of value. I need not tell you how long religion will last. Let the white-haired patriarch get up and preach; let the man who has tried it for half a century get up and tell us how he finds his Lord, and His faithfulness to cheer him as he passes along the lanes of life. Religion will stand the test, you may depend upon it, of durability.
IV. There is the test of adaptation. Does it perfectly meet my need? What do I want—I who am a poor sinner, I who have grieved my God, I who know of an eternal doom to the transgressor, I who am overpowered and oppressed by the cares and trials and tribulations of my life and cannot dry a single tear that falls, I who have an eternity of destiny of some sort—what do I want? Sin-stained, condemned as I am, God knows I want a Saviour most of all. Thank God, He is found, and He hangs upon the cross, and because He died I shall live. He is adapted to my highest and deepest and grandest emergency.
J. Jackson Wray, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xvi., p. 360.
References: Matthew 13:44-46.—Christian World Pulpit, vol. v., p. 167; M. Dods, Contemporary Pulpit, vol. iv., p. 35; Parker, Inner Life of Christ, vol. ii., p. 256; J. R. Macduff, Parables of the Lake, p. 139.
Matthew 13:45-46The true lessons of this parable are briefly these:—
I. It represents the experience, not of a careless or a profane man, who stumbles suddenly upon the Gospel when he was in in search of other things, but of one who is awakened, and has begun to seek the true religion, endeavouring to add attainment to attainment sincerely, according to his light. His conscience is uneasy. He has tried the old specific, "All these have I kept from my youth up;" but it no longer avails to soothe his spirit. "What lack I yet?" burst from his breast in broken sighs. There is truth in the man, though not wisdom. He is honestly seeking the way, and the Lord leads him. He is seeking, he shall find.
II. It represents the unparalleled, inconceivable richness of God's mercy in Christ, taking away all a sinner's sin, and bestowing on him freely the place and privileges of a dear child.
III. It represents that these riches lie, not in an accumulation of goodly attainments, such as men are wont to traffic in, but in one undivided, indivisible, hitherto unknown and unimagined treasure.
IV. It represents that the inquirer, the instant he discovers that this one incomparable, all-comprehending treasure exists and is offered to him, cheerfully, eagerly, unhesitatingly gives away all that he possesses in order to acquire it. That is, he gives all for Christ, and then enjoys all in Christ.
W. Arnot, The Parables of our Lord, p. 144.
The Pearl of Great Price.
I. The persons represented by this merchant. Different characters, different classes of sinners, are represented as being saved in the two parables of the hid treasure and the pearl of great price. For examples of these, let me select two remarkable men—Colonel Gardiner and John Bunyan. Gardiner's was a sudden and remarkable conversion. In salvation he found as much as the man in the treasure which his ploughshare brought to light, what he never sought nor expected. Bunyan, on the other hand, seeking the pardon of sin, a purer life, and a holier heart, had been a merchant seeking "goodly pearls;" and, in his case, the seeker became the finder.
II. The pearl of great price. As all which the merchant sought in acquiring many goodly pearls was found in one—one precious, peerless gem—Jesus teaches us that the soul finds in Himself all it feels the want of and has been seeking in other ways—peace with God and peace of conscience, a clean heart and a renewed mind, hope in death and a heaven of glory after it.
III. How this pearl was obtained. It was not bestowed as a gift. On the contrary, the merchantman, trading in goodly pearls, bought it at the price of all he had. Though we cannot, in the ordinary sense of the term, buy salvation, no man is saved but he who gives up his sins for Christ, takes up his cross, and, denying himself daily, follows Jesus.
IV. Some lessons taught by this figure of a merchant. (1) It teaches us to make religion our chief pursuit. (2) It teaches us to guard against deception. (3) It teaches us to examine our accounts with God.
T. Guthrie, The Parables read in the Light of the Present Day, p. 229.
References: Matthew 13:45, Matthew 13:46.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxiv., No. 1424; R. Winterbotham, Sermons and Expositions, p. 142; R. C. Trench, Notes on the Parables, p. 133; M. Dix, Sermons Doctrinal and Practical, p. 208; H. Melvill, Penny Pulpit, No. 1,749. Matthew 13:46.—Preacher's Monthly, vol. x., p. 123; C. J. Vaughan, Three Hundred Outlines on the New Testament, p. 21. Matthew 13:47, Matthew 13:48.—R. Winterbotham, Sermons and Expositions, p. 157. Matthew 13:47-50.—Christian World Pulpit, vol. v., p. 179; W. Arnot, Parables of our Lord, p. 160; J. R. Macduff, Parables of the Lake, p. 180.
Matthew 13:51-52I. The comparison is between the householder and the disciples. If they understood these few and seemingly simple analogies which He had unfolded to them, they were instructed unto the kingdom of heaven. Reflect first on the importance to us of this declaration. Jesus had given these men no creeds, in systematic shape. He had not given them doctrines, in holding which they should be models of Christian orthodoxy. He had told them a few stories taken from every-day life and the familiar occupations of the husbandman and the fisherman. All that we have learned of any worth has been by the simplest of analogies—by parable, that is to say—and by the same path as the simplest and least learned of our kind. Our Lord Himself tells us that the instructed scribe is he who has mastered these few parables. These disciples, understanding and living upon the truth, were in the position of owners of treasure. But why of things new and old?
II. In the first place, all truth is of necessity old as well as new. The truths Christ taught were only new truths, because men from sin and neglect had overlooked them.
III. Again, as things new are in reality old, so things old—the things of the Spirit of God—never become obsolete, take new life, and are seen in new developments day by day.
IV. Every man's experience is a treasure-house of old and new things, by which it is allowed him to profit. The past is a precious possession of every one of us. There is a wisdom of the past which we are apt to underrate because it is old, forgetting that truth is neither old nor new. There have been truth and falsehood in antagonism from the beginning. Every day and hour they wrestle in our souls as they contended in our first parents, and we pass our lives, now conquering, now being defeated; and our help is in the truth which does not roll round in earth's diurnal course, and is unaffected by earthly change.
A. Ainger, Sermons in the Temple Church, p. 254.
References: Matthew 13:51-58.—Parker, Inner Life of Christ, vol. ii., p. 272. Matthew 13:52.—H. W. Beecher, Christian World Pulpit, vol. i., p. 184; Ibid., vol. xxv., p. 177; R. Thomas, Ibid., vol. ix., p. 193; W. Gladden, Preacher's Monthly, vol. ix., p. 15; Thursday Penny Pulpit, vol. ii., p. 97; R. Lee, Sermons, p. 451. Matthew 13:54.—H. Wonnacott, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xiv., p. 46.
Matthew 13:58The heathen conception of God is that of an irresistible force, directed by an irresponsible will. And if we examine our own feelings regarding God and the spirit which pervades our prayers, we shall perhaps find that some such thoughts of God's nature linger dimly and undefined in our own ideas; also many well-sounding phrases about "the future being entirely in God's hands," are used too frequently, not only as an expression of humble dependence upon our Father, but as mildly suggesting a certain amount of irresponsibility and of almost absolute impotence upon our part. Because the omnipotent God could act independently of the will and energy of man, we are too apt, practically, to conclude that He does so. Now everything alike in the works of God which we call nature, and in the teaching of the Scriptures, shows us that God does not do so; and hence arises the solemn fact of man's responsibility.
I. Everywhere the Divine principle of co-operation meets us. Take, for example, in the kingdom of nature, the various processes of agriculture. In these our direct dependence upon matters entirely beyond our own control is brought before us with a vividness and distinctness which cannot fail to impress us. Yet beyond our control as are the actual results, from another point of view the produce of the earth is entirely dependent upon man's labour. The rain may descend in full and genial blessing, the sun may shine in quickening and ripening power, and no blade shoot above the earth nor ear ripen into golden glory, if man has not ploughed the earth and scattered the seed.
II. Pass from the world of matter to the higher world of mind, and here the same principle meets us. God has not forced knowledge upon mankind; man's persistent devotion and untiring energy are necessary to its gradual attainment. And so in religion,—transcendently important as it is in mankind, God has not bestowed upon religious truth an irresistible power; her progress results from man's zeal and devotion in her service. It is a solemn fact that the spread of the Gospel is, in a large measure, dependent upon us.
III. And in the higher sphere of individual spiritual life this same principle holds true. God does not force men into faith. Religion is a Divine and spiritual force, but not irresistible—or rather, not independently operative. The faithful, trustful, loving spirit in us is needful still to the performance of her mighty works in ourselves and in others.
T. T. Shore, The Life of the World to Come, p. 71.
References: Matthew 13:58.—Parker, Inner Life of Christ, vol. i., p. 324.
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 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 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 thirtyfold.
Who hath ears to hear, let him hear.
And the disciples came, and said unto him, Why speakest thou unto them in parables?
He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given.
For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath.
Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand.
And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Esaias, which saith, By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive:
For this people's heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them.
But blessed are your eyes, for they see: and your ears, for they hear.
For verily I say unto you, That many prophets and righteous men have desired to see those things which ye see, and have not seen them; and to hear those things which ye hear, and have not heard them.
Hear ye therefore the parable of the sower.
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 way side.
But he that received 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.
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.
But he that received seed into the good ground is he that heareth the word, and understandeth it; which also beareth fruit, and bringeth forth, some an hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.
Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man which sowed good seed in his field:
But while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way.
But when the blade was sprung up, and brought forth fruit, then appeared the tares also.
So the servants of the householder came and said unto him, Sir, didst not thou sow good seed in thy field? from whence then hath it tares?
He said unto them, An enemy hath done this. The servants said unto him, Wilt thou then that we go and gather them up?
But he said, Nay; lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them.
Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn.
Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is like to a grain of mustard seed, which a man took, and sowed in his field:
Which indeed is the least of all seeds: but when it is grown, it is the greatest among herbs, and becometh a tree, so that the birds of the air come and lodge in the branches thereof.
Another parable spake he unto them; The kingdom of heaven is like unto leaven, which a woman took, and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened.
All these things spake Jesus unto the multitude in parables; and without a parable spake he not unto them:
That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying, I will open my mouth in parables; I will utter things which have been kept secret from the foundation of the world.
Then Jesus sent the multitude away, and went into the house: and his disciples came unto him, saying, Declare unto us the parable of the tares of the field.
He answered and said unto them, He that soweth the good seed is the Son of man;
The field is the world; the good seed are the children of the kingdom; but the tares are the children of the wicked one;
The enemy that sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the world; and the reapers are the angels.
As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire; so shall it be in the end of this world.
The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity;
And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth.
Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Who hath ears to hear, let him hear.
Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto treasure hid in a field; the which when a man hath found, he hideth, and for joy thereof goeth and selleth all that he hath, and buyeth that field.
Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchant man, seeking goodly pearls:
Who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it.
Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a net, that was cast into the sea, and gathered of every kind:
Which, when it was full, they drew to shore, and sat down, and gathered the good into vessels, but cast the bad away.
So shall it be at the end of the world: the angels shall come forth, and sever the wicked from among the just,
And shall cast them into the furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth.
Jesus saith unto them, Have ye understood all these things? They say unto him, Yea, Lord.
Then said he unto them, Therefore every scribe which is instructed unto the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is an householder, which bringeth forth out of his treasure things new and old.
And it came to pass, that when Jesus had finished these parables, he departed thence.
And when he was come into his own country, he taught them in their synagogue, insomuch that they were astonished, and said, Whence hath this man this wisdom, and these mighty works?
Is not this the carpenter's son? is not his mother called Mary? and his brethren, James, and Joses, and Simon, and Judas?
And his sisters, are they not all with us? Whence then hath this man all these things?
And they were offended in him. But Jesus said unto them, A prophet is not without honour, save in his own country, and in his own house.
And he did not many mighty works there because of their unbelief.