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went into a ship, and sat down, and taught the people out of the ship, while they stood on the shore to hear Him. On this occasion He taught
them many things by parables.
But to this parable which is first related, He called their particular attention. He said unto them, Hearken, Behold; which shows its special importance. As the Gospel for this day contains both the parable, and our Lord's own account of its explication, the two parts may be considered together. But it may be proper to observe in the first instance, that in this parable our Lord Jesus Christ represents the hearers of the word of God as being divided into four different classes, of which one class only derived permanent benefit from it. The subject before us is peculiarly important to those who are accustomed to hear the word of God. Let us then review the characters here described, in order to ascertain our own state before God; praying that the Holy Spirit would be pleased to apply His word to our hearts, that we may receive the blessing promised to them who are not hearers only, but also doers of the word.
Our blessed Saviour commenced by saying, A sower went out to sow his seed. And when His disciples asked Him, saying, What might this parable be? He said, Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God; the same thing which the Evangelist speaks of our Saviour as promul
gating, when he says in the beginning of this chapter, that Jesus went throughout every city and village, preaching and showing the glad tidings of the kingdom of God. And which the Apostle Peter describes as the word which God sent unto
the children of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ, the Lord of all.95 That word which, when it is believed with all the heart, brings glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, as it reveals the good will of God toward men. These glad tidings of the kingdom of God our blessed Saviour eminently declared, when He said to Nicodemus, As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.97 This is indeed good tidings of great joy to all people.96 For it announces to the sinful children of men the way in which their sins may be pardoned, and they may be reconciled to God, and made partakers of the richest blessings of His grace in this life, and of His glory hereafter. These glad tidings of the kingdom of God our blessed Saviour commanded His Apostles to make known, when He directed that repentance and
94 Luke viii. 1, 95 Acts x.36. 96 Luke ii. 14,10. 97 John iii, 14-16.
remission of sins should be preached in His name among all nations.98 And they declared these glad tidings when they said, Be it known unto you, men and brethren, that through Jesus Christ is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins: and by Him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses.99 This is the seed of the word of God which is to be scattered abroad in the field of the world, in order that at the time of harvest the fruits of it may be gathered into the heavenly garner.
But the parable informs us that when the sower went out to sow his seed; as he sowed, some fell by the way side, and it was trodden down, and the fowls of the air devoured it. Our Saviour's explanation is, Those by the way side are they that hear, then cometh the devil, and taketh away the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved. Here it appears that wherever the glad tidings of the kingdom of God are declared, Satan, the adversary of God and man, is, by himself, or by his angels, wicked spirits, the powers of darkness, actively engaged to hinder the good seed of the word of God from taking root in the hearts of them that hear it. As this is the first character mentioned of the hearers of the word of God, it seems to intimate to us
98 Luke xxiv. 47.
99 Acts xiii. 38, 39.
that it is a description of the greater number of those who attend on the means of grace. As a well trodden foot path is hardened by being a great thoroughfare, so are the hearts of many hearers of the word of God hardened, it is to be feared, by the deceitfulness of sin. The love of sin occupying the heart is the reason why the word of God can have no place in it. Conviction of sin must be produced in the mind, in order that the gospel of Christ may be cordially welcomed. Those who are compared to the trodden foot-path hear the word of God, but they hear it with an unhumbled mind. They come to church from habit or custom, without duly considering the purpose for which the ordinances of the house of God were instituted, or having the right object in view. They are destitute of a broken heart and contrite spirit, and therefore need no healing balm, no soothing medicine. They receive the word as a beaten foot-path in a field receives the seed. As the seed which the husbandman has scattered lies upon the surface of the foot-path, so the word of God does not sink into their minds. It may seem indeed in some instances to produce a momentary impression while they are hearing it, as seed may be trodden down in a foot-path; but it is not covered up, it does not take hold of their minds, it is not treasured up in their hearts, they
do not receive the truth in the love of it, their affections are not brought under its influence. And the consequence is, then cometh the devil and taketh away the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved. These are awful words. But they are the words of our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and therefore deserve our serious attention. He tells us that our adversary the devil constantly endeavours to prevent those who hear the word of God from being benefited by it. The minds of some he occupies with their worldly business, of others with the merest trifles, or with what is still worse, in order that he may hinder them from receiving the word of the truth of the gospel into their hearts. If we considered what is frequently the subject of our thoughts while we are in the house of God, we should find to our shame that Satan gets the advantage of us much more than we might otherwise suspect. He is a watchful adversary, and knows how to seize every opportunity which may offer of carrying on his malicious designs. We have reason to dread hardness of heart and indifference about the word of God. How many careless hearers are there : let us fear lest we should be numbered among them. Let us listen to the advice which our Saviour gives us on this subject, Take heed how ye hear. The reason why it becomes us to do so, is added. For whosoever hath to him shall be given; and