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 Judea in plain language, but the Pharisees had blasphemed the Holy Spirit - the unpardonable sin - so now our Lord resorts to the parabolic mode of discourse.  As He went to the seashore the crowds thronged Him, so He entered into a boat, and taught the people.


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 Palestine to divide fields one from another, as we see in the book of Micah (7: 4).  The best of them is as a brier: the most upright is sharper than a thorn hedge.”  While the thorns were used as a hedge to shield the growing crops from the cattle and wild beasts, all was well.  Once the thorns grew where the growing corn ought to have been, it was difficult for the seeds to bring forth any fruit.  Each of these kinds of ground is responsible for the seed failing at various points between sowing and reaping, and so none of them delights the heart of the sower.  None of them brought forth fruit as it ought to have done, and in no case did the ground fulfil its true purpose.  In the case of the first kind of the soil the seed did not even germinate: in the case of the second, the seed germinated and appeared above the ground, but withered almost immediately: in the case of the third kind of soil, the seed germinated, and it did not wither immediately - it felt the warmth of the sun, but it never brought forth fruit, because it was choked before the ears were formed.  We must notice that in each case the results depended not upon the sower, or upon the seed, for it was the same kind of seed which came from the same basket: the result depended wholly upon the kind of ground in which the seed fell.


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 disciples.  When 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 Galilee in His early ministry.  “Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the Gospel of the kingdom and healing all manner of sickness” (Matt. 4: 23).  The seed is the word of the Kingdom, and not eternal life.  The word [or ‘message’ N.I.V.] of the Kingdom is the doctrine concerning Christ’s Millennial Kingdom, the rulers of its citizens, and the sins which exclude from it.


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 Kingdom of Heaven his whole energy must be directed into that channel.  The care of this world, the absorbing interest of ambition, and the accumulation of riches must be kept on one side.  If we keep the thorns at a distance from the seed, and let them act as a hedge, all will be well.  But if they grow where the seed is, then they are harmful.  Ambition within the will of God is in order.  Riches may increase but we are not to set our hearts on them.  Instead we are to use them for the work of Christ.  If care, ambition and riches are uppermost in our minds, then we shall produce little of the fruit of the Spirit.  First then, care of the world. We are told to be “anxious about nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication to let our requests be made known unto God.  We can be so occupied with domestic problems that we overlook the paramount importance of things of God.  Cares are well likened to thorns, for they came as the result of the same sin. Through sin came the curse and this brought sweat and care to man and thorns to the earth.


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 Bristol, amongst other notes I received to pray for individuals was this one.  A person earnestly desires the prayers of the congregation who is prospering in trade.’  ‘Ah’, said I, ‘here is a man who knows something of his own heart and who has read the Scripture to some purpose’”.‑ A desire to accumulate money can absorb all other interests.  Every thought concentrated on the world and the future age is almost forgotten.  There cannot be two master principles in the heart at the same time.  We cannot serve God and mammon.  Christians may seek the pleasures of this life but they cannot seek the Millerinial Kingdom at the same time.  No man can hope to win races at two goals where one is West and the other is East.  He must either choose one of them or will lose both.


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 kingdom of God” (Matt. 19: 23, 24).  Riches are well likened to thorns, for if we handle them carefully, and get rid of them as quickly as possible, we shall not be hurt by them.  But if we try to rest upon them we shall certainly suffer for it.  Knowing how sore a temptation the accumulation of riches can be, Paul advises his son Timothy to flee from any improper desire for money.  For the love of money is the (rather, a) root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through (a very appropriate phrase as our Lord has likened riches to thorns) with many sorrows" (1 Tim. 6: 10).  With none of these three kinds of soil can the Lord be pleased, for they have brought forth no fruit.  As there was no fruit, there can be no entrance into the Kingdom.


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!