THE SEED AND THE SOIL
By GORDON CHILVERS
By comparing men’s hearts with four kinds of soil (Matt. 13: 1-23) our Lord gave a complete summary
of all men’s reaction to His word. He
had been preaching to, and teaching the people of
The sower takes the handful of corn from the bag he carries in front of him, and with a sweeping movement of the hand allows corn to fall to the ground. As a result, some falls on the hard ground. This was a foot-path trodden-down, and hardened by those who passed over it. The seed could not penetrate this soil, so it lies exposed on the top of the soil, but not for long. The birds had been watching the sower, and at the earliest moment they sweep down, and carry away the seed with them. So the result of one sowing had proved to be fruitless - except to the birds of heaven that devoured the seed.
“Some fell upon stony places, where they had not much earth”, (verse 5). These stony places were not loose stones lying together in various parts of the field, but large rocks with just a thin covering of soil over the top. This ground, then, was only a thin layer of soil covering a barren rock. “And forthwith they sprung up, because they had no deepness of earth.” The seed is easily able to send roots through the thin layer of earth, but there they must stop, for they cannot penetrate the hard rock. “And when the sun was up, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away.” They had not gone down deep, so they could not remain up for long. They had no root, so they could get no moisture, and soon they showed the effect by being completely withered.
“And some fell among thorns.” The seeds of the thorns were already in the
ground. The seed came up with the
thorns, but as the thorns were the stronger of the two they ousted the seed. Thorns were regularly used in
There was one other kind of soil, and this rejoiced the heart of both sower and reaper alike. “Others fell upon the good ground, and brought forth fruit, some an hundred fold, some sixty fold, some thirty fold.” Contrasted with the first, the ground had been broken up by the plough: contrasted with the second, it was deep, rich earth: contrasted with the third, it was clean soil, and not filled with thorn seeds. In other words, it was ideal ground for the seed. It received the same seed from the same sower as the other ground, but what a difference in the results! While such a high yield as a hundred fold was indeed high and unusual, it was by no means unknown. “Then Isaac sowed in that land (that is, the land of the Phillistines), and received in the same year an hundred fold: and the Lord blessed him” (Gen. 26: 12).
Such was our Lord’s paxable. The disciples did not understand why He should
speak to the people in parables. They go to Christ with their difficulties, and
He in response gives them the explanation of the parable. How thankful we are for the disciples’
question, for it brought forth from Christ the Divine explanation. “Hear ye therefore
the parable of the sower.” Our
Lord Himself called for the earnest, careful, and undivided attention of His
anyone heareth the word of the kingdom, and understandeth it not, then cometh
the wicked one, and catcheth away that which was in his heart.” Christ Himself was the first sower of the
seed. He sowed the seed in
The doctrine is not understood by the first class of hearers, though Christ’s reign is not more difficult to understand than the reign of any other monarch. As the word is not understood, the soil is hardened against its reception, and so the words of Christ make no impression upon the soul. Even though the soul is regenerate, the heart can be hardened through pride. The Kingdom is denied as being only an earthly kingdom, and therefore not to be sought after by Christians. Or, the heart may be hardened through prejudice. Many of God’s people refuse the Kingdom because they think it to be Jewish. Although our Lord has bidden his disciples strive that they may enter the Kingdom, they refuse their Lord’s word and say, “No, it is for Jews only.” Some go to the other extreme and assert that if Christ is in this kingdom, they will certainly have a place in it as they are bound to be where Christ is. It is our Lord Himself who says so distinctly,- “Except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5: 20). They say, “Oh no, we shall all be there.” They then who hear the word of the Kingdom with such prejudice, refuse it and so make the word of God of none effect by their tradition. It may be that sin comes between the believer and his Lord. We cannot close our eyes to the fact that Christians. do sin, and sin wilfully after they have received the knowledge of the truth; and to them Christ Himself shuts the door of the Kingdom. They are blinded to the higher truths of Scripture and will not seek for any prize. They simply rest on the fact that they have eternal life and nothing can take it away from them. Satan, who is the embodiment of all evil, then gladly takes away the seed that was sown. All sin is headed up to him, and so, by one device or another, Satan is able to take the seed from the ground. It is a very striking and solemn thought - the ground retains the seed no longer. It is gone, never to return. If we refuse the light God has given us, He will give no further light, and that which we refuse will be taken away. So Paul says to the Hebrew Christians, “Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God. But exhort one another daily while it is called Today; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin” (Heb. 3: 12, 13).
“But he that received the seed into stony places, the same is he that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it.” Our Lord’s birth was to bring joy to mankind. “Behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2: 10, 11). There is no message on earth like it.
This Gospel [good news] of the Kingdom is accepted by heart and mind. There is a great desire to participate in the benefits of this kingdom, but the enthusiasm does not last. There appear to be prospects for these people, but they did not count the cost. They are equally quick in receiving and in letting it slip, “Yet,” our Lord continues, “hath he no root in himself, but duieth for a while: for when tribulation comes” (this word is connected in its root meaning with the threshing roller - something which crushes exceedingly small). We remember the words of our Lord to Peter on the very night of his trial, “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat” (Luke 22: 31). That is what disturbs these hearers. “Or persecution arises because of the word, by and by he is offended.” There is receptiveness but nothing more, for their acceptance of truth is short lived.
They found there was opposition from the world, the flesh, and the Devil, and even (sad to say) from their fellow believers. They find to their horror that the doctrine is not fashionable. This is the time to suffer loss for Christ, but they are not prepared to pay the price, and they are amongst those who fall away. So once there is difficulty over the truth they have accepted, they let it go just as quickly as they received it. They are like sponges which absorb any liquid without the slightest difficulty, but immediately you start squeezing the sponge it lets out the liquid even more quickly. Believers can be without depth of spiritual kowledge or experience. They cannot stand the heat of persecution and trial. In that case their spiritual life will soon wither. These Christians are like weather-cocks, they agree with the doctrine that is fashionable at the time and which is accepted by those in whose company they find themselves. If their associates accept the Word of the Kingdom, then so do they. If the others do not accept it, then nor do they. They have never taken heed to the exhortation of the Apostle Paul that we “be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; but; but speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ” (Eph. 4: 14, 15). It is always difficulty and hardship that cause the people to go back. When Jesus said He was the bread of life which came down from heaven, “many of his disciples, when they heard this, said, This is an hard saying; who can hear it?” (John 6: 60). “From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him” (John 6: 66). How very sad this must have been to the first Sower of the seed - Christ. He gave this parable just before these people went back! What a warning they had, yet it was depised.
“He also that received seed
among the thorns is he that heareth the word; and the cares of this world, and
the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it becometh unfruitful.”
There is a divided heart and so the
fruit was not perfect. The trouble was
that the seed could get no sun. When a
believer loses touch with the Sun of Righteousness his Christian life will soon
be clouded, and he will bring forth no fruit to perfection. If any man is to seek first the
Secondly - ambition. If ambition controls a man’s life there are many things he will be tempted to do which are not agreeable with the Christian character. He may be called upon to compromise in certain ways if he wishes to attain to the highest that this world has to offer. There is too the possibility of the unequal yoke. There may be attendance at social functions when it is not popular to be too exact in speech or conduct. There is the possibility of having to keep on good terms with a senior and this may bring disastrous effects. Wm. Taylor speaking of ambition says:- “If the office seeks him he may be safe and may keep himself in the line of spiritual growth; but if he seeks the office with overmastering ambition let him beware, for if he persist in such a course he will choke out his Christian life.”
Thirdly, there are riches - the deceitfulness of
riches. The great Puritan preacher Jay says:- “Some
years ago when preaching at
Our Lord looked on a young man and loved him. The young man had said that he had kept all
God’s commandments from his youth up. “Jesus said unto him - If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that
thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and
come and follow me. But when the young
man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions”
(Matt. 19: 21, 22). The young man can say nothing - his riches
completely barred his road to the Kingdom. Christ then turns to His disciples and says, -
“Verily I say unto you, That a rich man shall hardly
enter into the kingdom of heaven. And
again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle,
than for a rich man to enter into the
So, the Devil takes the first seed, and flesh takes the second seed and the world takes the third seed, leaving only one to delight the heart of the Lord. “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 hundred fold, some sixty, and some thirty.” They were regenerate like the others but they were not content with anything less than a life lived wholly for God. In the words of Luke, those “on the good ground are they, which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it” (Luke 8: 15). (That is, “holds it so that it doesn’t run away,” (D. M. Panton). Here was not a prejudice against the word, but the willing reception of it for Christ’s sake. As a result they bring forth a magnificent yield of the fruit of the Spirit which is, “Love, joy,peace,longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance” (Gal. 5 : 22, 23). There was a difference in the yield even when the seed fell on good ground (possibly because there were differences in the gifts dispensed by Christ), but even the last brought forth thirty fold. This class of hearers fully understood the teaching and its consequences and give it their whole-hearted allegiance, and it becomes the only ambition of their life. Their heart is honest. That is, they look the matter straight in the face and accept God’s word at its face value. They hold fast the truth and practise all they know to be right. This is the only class to bring forth fruit. Persecution, cares, and losses come, but still they go on. There are differences in fruit now; there will be differences in glory in the day to come. There was no defect in the seed, for it was all the same; nor in the Sower, for He was the same in each case. The difference was in the soil alone, that is, the hearer. The way may be tedious, but we are pressing on to a goodly land. Take heed how you hear!