Matthew 13:5


The object of this parable is to explain the causes of the failure and success of the gospel. It might have been supposed enough to proclaim the kingdom. Why does this fail? It fails, says our Lord, because of the nature of the soil. This soil is often impervious, often shallow, often dirty.

I. "SOME SEEDS FELL BY THE WAYSIDE, AND THE FOWLS CAME AND DEVOURED THEM." The spiritual analogue is said to be in him "who heareth the Word, but understandeth it not. The beaten footpath and the cart track have their uses, but they grow no corn. The seed may be of the best quality, but for all purposes of sowing you might as well sprinkle pebbles or shot. So there is a hearing which keeps the Word entirely outside. It does not even enter the understanding. It rouses no inquiry, provokes no contradiction. You have occasion sometimes to mention a fact to a friend which should alter all his purpose, but you find he has not taken it in. So, says our Lord, there are hearers who do not take in what is said; their understanding is impervious, impenetrable. They hear because this has come to be one of the many employments with which they fill up their time, but they have never considered why they should do so, or what result they should look for. Or there may be a slowness and cold frostiness of nature which prevents the seed from fructifying. The proposals made suggest nothing to the wayside hearer. In some cases the seed apparently lost for years is quickened and brings forth fruit, but in this case never.

II. THE SECOND FAULT IS SHALLOWNESS. The sprinkling of soil on the surface of the rock, where the seed quickly springs, and for the same reason quickly decays. There is not depth of soil for any time to be spent in rooting. The shallow hearer is distinguished by two characteristics - he straightway receives the Word, and he receives it with joy. The man of deeper character receives it with seriousness, reverence, trembling, foreseeing the trials he will be subjected to. But while these are pondering the vastness of the revelation and the majesty of the hope, and striving to forecast all the results in and upon them, hesitating because they would receive the Word for eternity or not at all, the superficial man has settled the whole matter out of hand, and he who yesterday was known as a scoffer is today a loud-voiced child of the kingdom. These men are almost certainly taken to be the most earnest; you cannot see the root, and what is seen is shown in greatest luxuriance by them. But the same nature which made them susceptible to the gospel and quickly responsive makes them susceptible to pain, suffering, hardship, and easily defeated. When consequences have to be faced they give way. The question of how these shallow natures can be saved hardly falls within the parable, but it may be right to say a man's nature may be deepened by the relationships and conflicts of life. Much deepening of character is effected in passing through life.

III. THE THIRD FAULT IS WHAT IS TECHNICALLY KNOWN AS DIRT. The soil can only support a certain amount of vegetation, and every living weed means a choked blade of corn. This is a picture of the preoccupied heart, the rich vigorous nature occupied with so many other interests that only a small part is available for giving effect to Christ's ideas. Their interest is real, but there are so many other cares and desires that the result is scarcely discernible. The good crop is not the one with the greatest density of vegetation, but where all is wheat. Most soils have a kind of weed congenial, and the weeds here specified are the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches," the former being merely the poor man's species of the latter Among rich and poor alike you will find many who would be left without any subject of thought and any guiding principle in action, if you took from them anxiety about their own position in life. It is not enough to put aside distracting thoughts. Cutting down the thorns won't do; still less holding them aside till the seed be sown. It is vain to hope for the only right harvest of a human life if your heart is sown with worldly ambitions, a greedy hasting to be rich, an undue love of comfort, a true earthliness of spirit. One seed only must be sown in you, and it will produce all needed diligence in business as well as all fervour of spirit. There is one important distinction between material and moral sowing. Man is possessed of free will, the power of checking to some extent natural consequences. Therefore the gospel is to be preached to every creature, and we may be expected to bring to the hearing of it a soft, deep, clean soil of heart - what Luke calls "an honest and good heart." There will be differences of crop even among those who bring good hearts, but wherever the Word is held fast and patiently cared for, there the life wilt produce all that God cares to have from it. But even the honest heart is not enough unless we keep the Word. The sower must be at pains to cover in the seed and watch that it be not taken away. So the hearer loses his labour unless his mind goes back on what he has heard, and he sees that he has really got hold of it. We have all heard all that is necessary for life and godliness; it remains that we make it our own, that it secures a living root in us and in our life. We must bear it in mind, so that all that comes before us may throw new light on it and give it further hold on us. - D.







I. THE NATURE OF THE GROUND.

1. Stony ground wants breaking up. These persons enter into a profession of religion before their hearts are thoroughly broken in the sense of sin.

2. Stony ground is cold; what colder than a stone? These persons are without spiritual warmth.

3. Their hearts may be compared to stony ground from the heaviness or lumpishness of their spirits. These hearts are heavy and not soon removed out of their evil course.

4. Stony ground doth not drink in the rain that falls from heaven.

5. All the hearts of men are naturally hard.

6. Stony ground seems to be the fruit of the curse for man's sin. So these persons seem still to be under the curse.

7. Stony ground by reason of the little earth that is found there, never brings forth fruit to perfection. So these persons only bring forth the externals of religion.

8. Stony ground, when the sun rises high and begins to shine hot upon it, the scorching beams thereof soon causes the blade to wither away.

II. THE SUCCESS OF THE SEED. Stony or hard hearted hearers may go a great way in the profession of religion.

1. They may hear the Word of God with diligence.

2. They may be zealous hearers.

3. They may receive the Word into their hearts.

4. They receive it with joy.

5. They believe for a while.

6. They may yield obedience to all external duties.

7. They may become members of a visible church.

8. They may leave all gross acts of sin.

9. They may have some inward joy as to the hopes they have of heaven.Why they go so far?

1. From the common illuminations of God's Word and Spirit.

2. Because a temporary faith is not wholly without product.

3. It may arise from regard for some ministers.

4. Self-respect and honour may cause them to go so far.

5. It may be self-profit.

6. It may arise from that seeming sweetness and satisfaction they meet with from within themselves whilst they continue in the profession of religion.

7. It may be from a natural desire of being saved.

8. It may be from the shame and reproach which are attached to open wickedness.From whence it arises that these hearers go no further:

1. It may arise from the great ignorance that is in them.

2. It ariseth from the unsoundness of their hearts, the ground is not good.

3. It ariseth from the deceitfulness of their hearts.

4. They go no further because of their pride.

5. Because they had no vital but artificial principle ill them.

6. Because there is some secret sin hid in their hearts.

(B. Keach.)

I. As TO THE EVIL OF THE CAUSE THAT PRODUCES SUCH EVIL EFFECTS.

1. The principal cause is the stoniness of their hearts.

2. Privative cause.

(1)Want of moisture.

(2)Want of earth.

(3)Want of taking root.

II. THE BADNESS OF THOSE EFFECTS THAT PROCEED FROM SUCH EVIL CAUSES.

1. Barrenness.

2. Another effect that attends these professors is earthliness.

3. Lukewarmness in religious duties.

4. Pride.

5. Uncharitableness.

6. Contention.

7. Inconstancy.

8. Apostacy.

(1)In judgment.

(2)In affection.

(3)In practice.

(4)In respect of means.

III. THE DANGER AND FEARFUL CONDITION OF SUCH THAT WITHER

1. They disappoint God of His expectation.

2. These persons are hateful to God, as they seem to declare to all the world that there is not that good to be found in God which the Word and ministers do affirm.

3. They bring scandal upon the Church.

4. In respect of the world these men's sin and danger is also aggravated.

5. In respect to the sin itself, none is more odious and dangerous. Relapse more dangerous than the disease.

6. This sin of withering is generally punished with other sins,

(1)with blindness of mind;

(2)with judicial hardness of heart;

(3)with a seared conscience;

(4)with final impenitence.

7. How may it be known that a man is withering?

1. Self-confidence.

2. When he cannot bear a searching doctrine.

3. When his conscience is not so tender as it was.

4. When a man's prayers are short.

5. When he cannot stand in the hour of temptation.

6. Deadness of spirit.

(B. Keach.)

This man's faith has five stages:

1. He knows the Word.

2. He assents to it.

3. He professes it.

4. He rejoices inwardly in it.

5. He brings forth some kind of fruit; and yet. for all this, hath no more fruit in him than a faith that will fail in the end; because he wants the effectual application of the promise of the gospel, and is without all manner of sound conversation.This faith is like corn on the housetop, which grows for a while; but, when the heat of summer comes, it withers.

(W. Perkins).

There is deep knowledge of human nature and exquisite fidelity to truth in the single touch by which the impression of religion on them is described. The seed sprang up quickly; and then withered away as quickly, because it had no depth of root. There is a quick, easily-moved susceptibility, that rapidly exhibits the slightest breath of those emotions which play upon the surface of the soul, and then as rapidly passes off. In such persons words are ever at command — voluble and impassioned words. Tears flow readily. The expressive features exhibit every passing shade of thought. Every thought and every feeling plays upon the surface — everything that is sown springs up at once with vehement vegetation. But slightness and inconstancy go together with violence. "Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh." True; but also out of the emptiness of the heart the mouth can speak even more volubly. He who can always find the word which is appropriate and adequate to his emotion,, is not the man whose emotions are deepest'; warmth of feeling is one thing — permanence is another.

(F. W. Robertson.)

You meet with such persons in life. There is nothing deep about them — all they do and all they have is on the surface. The superficial servant's work is done: but lazily, partially — not thoroughly. The superficial workman's labour will not bear looking into — but it bears a showy outside. The very dress of such persons betrays the slatternly, incomplete character of their minds. When religion comes in contact with persons of this stamp, it shares the fate of everything else.

(F. W. Robertson.)

Beneath the light thin surface of easily stirred dust lies the bed of rock. The shallow ground was stony ground. And it is among the children of light enjoyment and unsettled life that we must look for stony heartlessness — not in the world of business — not among the poor, crushed to the earth by privation and suffering. These harden the character, but often leave the heart soft. If you wish to know what hollowness and heartlessness are, you must seek for them in the world of light, elegant, superficial Fashion — where frivolity has turned the heart into a rockbed of selfishness. Say what men will of the heartlessness of Trade, it is nothing compared with the heartlessness of Fashion. Say what they will of the atheism of Science, it is nothing to the atheism of that round of pleasure in which many a heart lives: dead while it lives.

(F. W. Robertson).

Among the affections, when they are warm and newly stirred, the seed speedily springs.

(W. Arnot.)

Do not keep Christ on the surface; let Him possess the centre, and thence direct all the circumference of your life.

(W. Arnot.)

The marked antithesis between the immediate reception and the immediate rejection is to be carefully observed. That which is hasty is not lasting. Grace, in almost every case, is slow and progressive; for, in the human heart, it has much to contend against; and God treats us as free agents, putting no force on any man's will,

(J. Ford,)

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