Christ's Object Lessons
by Ellen G. White
Chapter 2: "The Sower Went Forth to Sow"
Based on Matt. 13:1-9, 18-23; Mark 4:1-20; Luke 8:4-15
The Sower and the Seed
By the parable of the sower, Christ illustrates the
things of the kingdom of heaven, and the work of the great
Husbandman for His people. Like a sower in the field,
He came to scatter the heavenly grain of truth. And His
parable teaching itself was the seed with which the most
precious truths of His grace were sown. Because of its
simplicity the parable of the sower has not been valued
as it should be. From the natural seed cast into the soil,
Christ desires to lead our minds to the gospel seed, the
sowing of which results in bringing man back to his loyalty
to God. He who gave the parable of the tiny seed is the
Sovereign of heaven, and the same laws that govern earthly
seed sowing govern the sowing of the seeds of truth.
|The Sower and the Seed.—Davis Collection.|
By the Sea of Galilee a company had gathered to see
and hear Jesus—an eager, expectant throng. The sick
were there, lying on their mats, waiting to present their [p. 34] cases before Him. It was Christ's God-given right to heal
the woes of a sinful race, and He now rebuked disease,
and diffused around Him life and health and peace.
As the crowd continued to increase, the people pressed
close about Christ until there was no room to receive them.
Then, speaking a word to the men in their fishing boats,
He stepped into the boat that was waiting to take Him
across the lake, and bidding His disciples push off a little
from the land, He spoke to the multitude upon the shore.
Beside the sea lay the beautiful plain of Gennesaret,
beyond rose the hills, and upon hillside and plain both
sowers and reapers were busy, the one casting seed and
the other harvesting the early grain. Looking upon the
scene, Christ said—
"Behold, the sower went forth to sow; and as he sowed,
some seeds fell by the wayside, and the birds came and
devoured them" (R.V.); "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."
Christ's mission was not understood by the people of
His time. The manner of His coming was not in accordance
with their expectations. The Lord Jesus was the
foundation of the whole Jewish economy. Its imposing
services were of divine appointment. They were designed
to teach the people that at the time appointed One would
come to whom those ceremonies pointed. But the Jews
had exalted the forms and ceremonies and had lost sight
of their object. The traditions, maxims, and enactments of
men hid from them the lessons which God intended to [p. 35] convey. These maxims and traditions became an obstacle
to their understanding and practice of true religion. And
when the Reality came, in the person of Christ, they did
not recognize in Him the fulfillment of all their types, the
substance of all their shadows. They rejected the antitype,
and clung to their types and useless ceremonies. The Son of
God had come, but they continued to ask for a sign. The
message, "Repent ye; for the kingdom of heaven is at
hand," they answered by demands for a miracle. Matt. 3:2.
The gospel of Christ was a stumbling block to them
because they demanded signs instead of a Saviour. They
expected the Messiah to prove His claims by mighty deeds
of conquest, to establish His empire on the ruins of earthly
kingdoms. This expectation Christ answered in the parable
of the sower. Not by force of arms, not by violent
interpositions, was the kingdom of God to prevail, but by the
implanting of a new principle in the hearts of men.
"He that soweth the good seed is the Son of man."
Matt. 13:37. Christ had come, not as a king, but as a
sower; not for the overthrow of kingdoms, but for the
scattering of seed; not to point His followers to earthly
triumphs and national greatness, but to a harvest to be
gathered after patient toil and through losses and
The Pharisees perceived the meaning of Christ's parable,
but to them its lesson was unwelcome. They affected
not to understand it. To the multitude it involved in still
greater mystery the purpose of the new teacher, whose
words had so strangely moved their hearts and so bitterly
disappointed their ambitions. The disciples themselves had
not understood the parable, but their interest was awakened.
They came to Jesus privately and asked for an explanation.
This was the desire which Christ wished to arouse,
that He might give them more definite instruction. He [p. 36] explained the parable to them, as He will make plain His
word to all who seek Him in sincerity of heart. Those
who study the word of God with hearts open to the
enlightenment of the Holy Spirit, will not remain in darkness as
to the meaning of the word. "If any man willeth to do His
will," Christ said, "he shall know of the teaching whether
it be of God, or whether I speak from Myself." John 7:17,
R.V. All who come to Christ for a clearer knowledge of
the truth will receive it. He will unfold to them the
mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, and these mysteries
will be understood by the heart that longs to know the
truth. A heavenly light will shine into the soul temple, and
will be revealed to others as the bright shining of a lamp
on a dark path.
"The sower went forth to sow" (R.V.). In the East
the state of affairs was so unsettled, and there was so great
danger from violence that the people dwelt chiefly in
walled towns, and the husbandmen went forth daily to their
labor outside the walls. So Christ, the heavenly Sower,
went forth to sow. He left His home of security and peace,
left the glory that He had with the Father before the world
was, left His position upon the throne of the universe.
He went forth, a suffering, tempted man; went forth in
solitude, to sow in tears, to water with His blood, the seed
of life for a world lost.
His servants in like manner must go forth to sow.
When called to become a sower of the seed of truth, Abraham
was bidden, "Get thee out of thy country, and from
thy kindred, and from thy father's house, unto a land that
I will show thee." Gen. 12:1. "And he went out, not
knowing whither he went." Heb. 11:8. So to the apostle
Paul, praying in the temple at Jerusalem, came the
message from God, "Depart; for I will send thee far hence
unto the Gentiles." Acts 22:21. So those who are called [p. 37] to unite with Christ must leave all, in order to follow Him.
Old associations must be broken up, plans of life
relinquished, earthly hopes surrendered. In toil and tears, in
solitude, and through sacrifice, must the seed be sown.
"The sower soweth the word." Christ came to sow
the world with truth. Ever since the fall of man, Satan
has been sowing the seeds of error. It was by a lie that
he first gained control over men, and thus he still works to
overthrow God's kingdom in the earth and to bring men [p. 38] under his power. A sower from a higher world, Christ
came to sow the seeds of truth. He who had stood in the
councils of God, who had dwelt in the innermost sanctuary
of the Eternal, could bring to men the pure principles of
truth. Ever since the fall of man, Christ had been the
Revealer of truth to the world. By Him the incorruptible
seed, "the word of God, which liveth and abideth forever,"
is communicated to men. 1 Peter 1:23. In that first promise
spoken to our fallen race in Eden, Christ was sowing
the gospel seed. But it is to His personal ministry among
men and to the work which He thus established that the
parable of the sower especially applies.
The word of God is the seed. Every seed has in itself
a germinating principle. In it the life of the plant is
enfolded. So there is life in God's word. Christ says,
"The words that I speak unto you, they are Spirit, and
they are life." John 6:63. "He that heareth My word, and
believeth on Him that sent Me, hath everlasting life."
John 5:24. In every command and in every promise of
the word of God is the power, the very life of God, by
which the command may be fulfilled and the promise
realized. He who by faith receives the word is receiving
the very life and character of God.
Every seed brings forth fruit after its kind. Sow the
seed under right conditions, and it will develop its own
life in the plant. Receive into the soul by faith the
incorruptible seed of the word, and it will bring forth a
character and a life after the similitude of the character
and the life of God.
The teachers of Israel were not sowing the seed of the
word of God. Christ's work as a teacher of truth was in
marked contrast to that of the rabbis of His time. They
dwelt upon traditions, upon human theories and speculations.
Often that which man had taught and written about [p. 39] the word, they put in place of the word itself. Their
teaching had no power to quicken the soul. The subject
of Christ's teaching and preaching was the word of God.
He met questioners with a plain, "It is written." "What
saith the Scriptures?" "How readest thou?" At every
opportunity, when an interest was awakened by either friend
or foe, He sowed the seed of the word. He who is the
Way, the Truth, and the Life, Himself the living Word,
points to the Scriptures, saying, "They are they which
testify of Me." And "beginning at Moses and all the
prophets," He opened to His disciples "in all the Scriptures
the things concerning Himself." John 5:39; Luke 24:27.
Christ's servants are to do the same work. In our day,
as of old, the vital truths of God's word are set aside for
human theories and speculations. Many professed ministers
of the gospel do not accept the whole Bible as the
inspired word. One wise man rejects one portion; another
questions another part. They set up their judgment as
superior to the word; and the Scripture which they do
teach rests upon their own authority. Its divine authenticity
is destroyed. Thus the seeds of infidelity are sown
broadcast; for the people become confused and know not
what to believe. There are many beliefs that the mind has
no right to entertain. In the days of Christ the rabbis
put a forced, mystical construction upon many portions
of Scripture. Because the plain teaching of God's word
condemned their practices, they tried to destroy its force.
The same thing is done today. The word of God is
made to appear mysterious and obscure in order to excuse
transgression of His law. Christ rebuked these practices
in His day. He taught that the word of God was to be
understood by all. He pointed to the Scriptures as of
unquestionable authority, and we should do the same. The
Bible is to be presented as the word of the infinite God, as [p. 40] the end of all controversy and the foundation of all faith.
The Bible has been robbed of its power, and the results
are seen in a lowering of the tone of spiritual life. In the
sermons from many pulpits of today there is not that divine
manifestation which awakens the conscience and brings
life to the soul. The hearers can not say, "Did not our
heart burn within us, while He talked with us by the way,
and while He opened to us the Scriptures?" Luke 24:32.
There are many who are crying out for the living God,
longing for the divine presence. Philosophical theories or
literary essays, however brilliant, cannot satisfy the heart.
The assertions and inventions of men are of no value.
Let the word of God speak to the people. Let those who
have heard only traditions and human theories and maxims
hear the voice of Him whose word can renew the
soul unto everlasting life.
Christ's favorite theme was the paternal tenderness and
abundant grace of God; He dwelt much upon the holiness
of His character and His law; He presented Himself to
the people as the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Let these
be the themes of Christ's ministers. Present the truth
as it is in Jesus. Make plain the requirements of the law
and the gospel. Tell the people of Christ's life of
self-denial and sacrifice; of His humiliation and death; of His
resurrection and ascension; or His intercession for them
in the courts of God; of His promise, "I will come again,
and receive you unto Myself." John 14:3.
Instead of discussing erroneous theories, or seeking to
combat the opponents of the gospel, follow the example of
Christ. Let fresh truths from God's treasure house flash
into life. "Preach the word." "Sow beside all waters."
"Be instant in season, out of season." "He that hath My
word, let him speak My word faithfully. What is the chaff [p. 41] to the wheat? saith the Lord." "Every word of God is
pure. . . . Add thou not unto His words, lest He reprove
thee, and thou be found a liar." 2 Tim. 4:2; Isa. 32:20;
Jer. 23:28; Prov. 30:5, 6.
"The sower soweth the word." Here is presented the
great principle which should underlie all educational work.
"The seed is the word of God." But in too many schools
of our day God's word is set aside. Other subjects occupy
the mind. The study of infidel authors holds a large place
in the educational system. Skeptical sentiments are
interwoven in the matter placed in school books. Scientific
research becomes misleading, because its discoveries are
misinterpreted and perverted. The word of God is
compared with the supposed teachings of science, and is made
to appear uncertain and untrustworthy. Thus the seeds of
doubt are planted in the minds of the youth, and in time
of temptation they spring up. When faith in God's word
is lost, the soul has no guide, no safeguard. The youth
are drawn into paths which lead away from God and from
To this cause may in great degree be attributed the
widespread iniquity in our world today. When the word
of God is set aside, its power to restrain the evil passions of
the natural heart is rejected. Men sow to the flesh, and
of the flesh they reap corruption.
And here, too, is the great cause of mental weakness
and inefficiency. In turning from God's word to feed on the
writings of uninspired men, the mind becomes dwarfed and
cheapened. It is not brought in contact with deep, broad
principles of eternal truth. The understanding adapts itself
to the comprehension of the things with which it is familiar,
and in this devotion to finite things it is weakened, its power
is contracted, and after a time it becomes unable to expand.
All this is false education. The work of every teacher [p. 42] should be to fasten the mind of the youth upon the grand
truths of the word of Inspiration. This is the education
essential for this life and for the life to come.
And let it not be thought that this will prevent the
study of the sciences, or cause a lower standard in
education. The knowledge of God is as high as heaven and
as broad as the universe. There is nothing so ennobling
and invigorating as a study of the great themes which
concern our eternal life. Let the youth seek to grasp these
God-given truths, and their minds will expand and grow
strong in the effort. It will bring every student who is a
doer of the word into a broader field of thought, and
secure for him a wealth of knowledge that is imperishable.
The education to be secured by searching the Scriptures
is an experimental knowledge of the plan of salvation. [p. 43] Such an education will restore the image of God in the
soul. It will strengthen and fortify the mind against
temptation, and fit the learner to become a co-worker with Christ
in His mission of mercy to the world. It will make him a
member of the heavenly family; and prepare him to share
the inheritance of the saints in light.
But the teacher of sacred truth can impart only that
which he himself knows by experience. "The sower sowed
his seed." Christ taught the truth because He was the
truth. His own thought, His character, His life-experience,
were embodied in His teaching. So with His servants:
those who would teach the word are to make it their own
by a personal experience. They must know what it is to
have Christ made unto them wisdom and righteousness and
sanctification and redemption. In presenting the word of
God to others, they are not to make it a suppose-so or a
may-be. They should declare with the apostle Peter, "We
have not followed cunningly devised fables when we made
known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus
Christ, but were eye-witnesses of His majesty." 2 Peter
1:16. Every minister of Christ and every teacher should
be able to say with the beloved John, "The life was
manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and show
unto you that eternal life which was with the Father, and
was manifested unto us." 1 John 1:2.
The Soil—by the Wayside
That with which the parable of the sower chiefly deals
is the effect produced on the growth of the seed by the
soil into which it is cast. By this parable Christ was
virtually saying to His hearers, It is not safe for you to
stand as critics of My work, or to indulge disappointment
because it does not meet your ideas. The question of [p. 44] greatest importance to you is, How do you treat My
message? Upon your reception or rejection of it your
eternal destiny depends.
Explaining the seed that fell by the wayside, He said,
"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 wayside."
The seed sown by the wayside represents the word of
God as it falls upon the heart of an inattentive hearer.
Like the hard-beaten path, trodden down by the feet of
men and beasts, is the heart that becomes a highway for
the world's traffic, its pleasures and sins. Absorbed in
selfish aims and sinful indulgences, the soul is "hardened
through the deceitfulness of sin." Heb. 3:13. The spiritual
faculties are paralyzed. Men hear the word, but understand
it not. They do not discern that it applies to themselves.
They do not realize their need or their danger.
They do not perceive the love of Christ, and they pass by
the message of His grace as something that does not
As the birds are ready to catch up the seed from the
wayside, so Satan is ready to catch away the seeds of
divine truth from the soul. He fears that the word of
God may awaken the careless, and take effect upon the
hardened heart. Satan and his angels are in the assemblies
where the gospel is preached. While angels of heaven
endeavor to impress hearts with the word of God, the
enemy is on the alert to make the word of no effect.
With an earnestness equaled only by his malice, he tries
to thwart the work of the Spirit of God. While Christ is
drawing the soul by His love, Satan tries to turn away
the attention of the one who is moved to seek the Saviour.
He engages the mind with worldly schemes. He excites [p. 45] criticism, or insinuates doubt and unbelief. The speaker's
choice of language or his manner may not please the
hearers, and they dwell upon these defects. Thus the truth
they need, and which God has graciously sent them,
makes no lasting impression.
Satan has many helpers. Many who profess to be
Christians are aiding the tempter to catch away the seeds
of truth from other hearts. Many who listen to the preaching
of the word of God make it the subject of criticism
at home. They sit in judgment on the sermon as they
would on the words of a lecturer or a political speaker.
The message that should be regarded as the word of the
Lord to them is dwelt upon with trifling or sarcastic comment.
The minister's character, motives, and actions, and
the conduct of fellow members of the church, are freely
discussed. Severe judgment is pronounced, gossip
or slander repeated, and this in the hearing of the
unconverted. Often these things are spoken by parents [p. 46] in the hearing of their own children. Thus are destroyed
respect for God's messengers, and reverence for their
message. And many are taught to regard lightly God's
Thus in the homes of professed Christians many youth
are educated to be infidels. And the parents question why
their children are so little interested in the gospel, and so
ready to doubt the truth of the Bible. They wonder that
it is so difficult to reach them with moral and religious
influences. They do not see that their own example has
hardened the hearts of their children. The good seed
finds no place to take root, and Satan catches it away.
|The four kinds of soil.—Davis Collection.|
In Stony Places
"He that receiveth 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."
The seed sown upon stony ground finds little depth of
soil. The plant springs up quickly, but the root cannot
penetrate the rock to find nutriment to sustain its growth,
and it soon perishes. Many who make a profession of
religion are stony-ground hearers. Like the rock underlying
the layer of earth, the selfishness of the natural heart
underlies the soil of their good desires and aspirations.
The love of self is not subdued. They have not seen the
exceeding sinfulness of sin, and the heart has not been
humbled under a sense of its guilt. This class may be
easily convinced, and appear to be bright converts, but they
have only a superficial religion.
It is not because men receive the word immediately, nor
because they rejoice in it, that they fall away. As soon [p. 47] as Matthew heard the Saviour's call, immediately he rose
up, left all, and followed Him. As soon as the divine word
comes to our hearts, God desires us to receive it; and it is
right to accept it with joy. "Joy shall be in heaven over
one sinner that repenteth." Luke 15:7. And there is joy
in the soul that believes on Christ. But those who in the
parable are said to receive the word immediately, do not
count the cost. They do not consider what the word of
God requires of them. They do not bring it face to face
with all their habits of life, and yield themselves fully to
The roots of the plant strike down deep into the soil,
and hidden from sight nourish the life of the plant. So
with the Christian; it is by the invisible union of the soul
with Christ, through faith, that the spiritual life is
nourished. But the stony-ground hearers depend upon self
instead of Christ. They trust in their good works and good
impulses, and are strong in their own righteousness. They
are not strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might.
Such a one "hath not root in himself"; for he is not
connected with Christ.
The hot summer sun, that strengthens and ripens the
hardy grain, destroys that which has no depth of root. So
he who "hath not root in himself," "dureth for a while";
but "when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the
word, by and by he is offended." Many receive the gospel
as a way of escape from suffering, rather than as a deliverance
from sin. They rejoice for a season, for they think
that religion will free them from difficulty and trial. While
life moves smoothly with them, they may appear to be consistent
Christians. But they faint beneath the fiery test
of temptation. They cannot bear reproach for Christ's
sake. When the word of God points out some cherished
sin, or requires self-denial or sacrifice, they are offended. It [p. 48] would cost them too much effort to make a radical change
in their life. They look at the present inconvenience and
trial, and forget the eternal realities. Like the disciples who
left Jesus, they are ready to say, "This is an hard saying;
who can hear it?" John 6:60.
There are very many who claim to serve God, but who
have no experimental knowledge of Him. Their desire to
do His will is based upon their own inclination, not upon
the deep conviction of the Holy Spirit. Their conduct is
not brought into harmony with the law of God. They
profess to accept Christ as their Saviour, but they do not
believe that He will give them power to overcome their
sins. They have not a personal relation with a living
Saviour, and their characters reveal defects both hereditary
It is one thing to assent in a general way to the agency
of the Holy Spirit, and another thing to accept His work
as a reprover calling to repentance. Many feel a sense of
estrangement from God, a realization of their bondage to
self and sin; they make efforts for reform; but they do not
crucify self. They do not give themselves entirely into
the hands of Christ, seeking for divine power to do His
will. They are not willing to be molded after the divine
similitude. In a general way they acknowledge their
imperfections, but they do not give up their particular sins.
With each wrong act the old selfish nature is gaining
The only hope for these souls is to realize in themselves
the truth of Christ's words to Nicodemus, "Ye must be
born again." "Except a man be born from above, he can
not see the kingdom of God." John 3:7, 3, margin.
True holiness is wholeness in the service of God. This
is the condition of true Christian living. Christ asks for an [p. 49] unreserved consecration, for undivided service. He demands
the heart, the mind, the soul, the strength. Self
is not to be cherished. He who lives to himself is not a
Love must be the principle of action. Love is the
underlying principle of God's government in heaven and
earth, and it must be the foundation of the Christian's
character. This alone can make and keep him steadfast.
This alone can enable him to withstand trial and temptation.
And love will be revealed in sacrifice. The plan of
redemption was laid in sacrifice—a sacrifice so broad and
deep and high that it is immeasurable. Christ gave all for
us, and those who receive Christ will be ready to sacrifice
all for the sake of their Redeemer. The thought of His
honor and glory will come before anything else.
If we love Jesus, we shall love to live for Him, to
present our thank offerings to Him, to labor for Him. The
very labor will be light. For His sake we shall covet [p. 50] pain and toil and sacrifice. We shall sympathize with His
longing for the salvation of men. We shall feel the same
tender craving for souls that He has felt.
This is the religion of Christ. Anything short of it is
a deception. No mere theory of truth or profession of
discipleship will save any soul. We do not belong to
Christ unless we are His wholly. It is by halfheartedness
in the Christian life that men become feeble in purpose and
changeable in desire. The effort to serve both self and
Christ makes one a stony-ground hearer, and he will not
endure when the test comes upon him.
"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
The gospel seed often falls among thorns and noxious
weeds; and if there is not a moral transformation in the
human heart, if old habits and practices and the former life
of sin are not left behind, if the attributes of Satan are not
expelled from the soul, the wheat crop will be choked. The
thorns will come to be the crop, and will kill out the wheat.
Grace can thrive only in the heart that is being
constantly prepared for the precious seeds of truth. The
thorns of sin will grow in any soil; they need no cultivation;
but grace must be carefully cultivated. The briers and
thorns are always ready to spring up, and the work of
purification must advance continually. If the heart is not
kept under the control of God, if the Holy Spirit does not
work unceasingly to refine and ennoble the character, the
old habits will reveal themselves in the life. Men may
profess to believe the gospel; but unless they are sanctified [p. 51] by the gospel their profession is of no avail. If they do
not gain the victory over sin, then sin is gaining the victory
over them. The thorns that have been cut off but not
uprooted grow apace, until the soul is overspread with them.
Christ specified the things that are dangerous to the
soul. As recorded by Mark He mentions the cares of
this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other
things. Luke specifies the cares, riches, and pleasures of
this life. These are what choke the word, the growing
spiritual seed. The soul ceases to draw nourishment from
Christ, and spirituality dies out of the heart.
"The cares of this world." No class is free from the
temptation to worldly care. To the poor, toil and deprivation
and the fear of want bring perplexities and burdens.
To the rich come fear of loss and a multitude of anxious
cares. Many of Christ's followers forget the lesson He
has bidden us learn from the flowers of the field. They
do not trust to His constant care. Christ cannot carry
their burden, because they do not cast it upon Him.
Therefore the cares of life, which should drive them to the
Saviour for help and comfort, separate them from Him.
Many who might be fruitful in God's service become
bent on acquiring wealth. Their whole energy is absorbed
in business enterprises, and they feel obliged to neglect
things of a spiritual nature. Thus they separate themselves
from God. We are enjoined in the Scriptures to be "not
slothful in business." Rom. 12:11. We are to labor that we
may impart to him who needs. Christians must work, they
must engage in business, and they can do this without
committing sin. But many become so absorbed in business
that they have no time for prayer, no time for the study of
the Bible, no time to seek and serve God. At times the longings
of the soul go out for holiness and heaven; but there [p. 52] is no time to turn aside from the din of the world to listen
to the majestic and authoritative utterances of the Spirit
of God. The things of eternity are made subordinate, the
things of the world supreme. It is impossible for the seed
of the word to bring forth fruit; for the life of the soul
is given to nourish the thorns of worldliness.
And many who are working with a very different
purpose, fall into a like error. They are working for others'
good; their duties are pressing, their responsibilities are
many, and they allow their labor to crowd out devotion.
Communion with God through prayer and a study of His
word is neglected. They forget that Christ has said, "Without
Me ye can do nothing." John 15:5. They walk apart
from Christ, their life is not pervaded by His grace, and the
characteristics of self are revealed. Their service is marred
by desire for supremacy, and the harsh, unlovely traits of
the unsubdued heart. Here is one of the chief secrets of
failure in Christian work. This is why its results are often
"The deceitfulness of riches." The love of riches has
an infatuating, deceptive power. Too often those who
possess worldly treasure forget that it is God who gives them
power to get wealth. They say, "My power and the
might of mine hand hath gotten me this wealth." Deut.
8:17. Their riches, instead of awakening gratitude to God,
lead to the exaltation of self. They lose the sense of their
dependence upon God and their obligation to their fellow
men. Instead of regarding wealth as a talent to be
employed for the glory of God and the uplifting of humanity,
they look upon it as a means of serving themselves. Instead
of developing in man the attributes of God, riches thus used
are developing in him the attributes of Satan. The seed
of the word is choked with thorns. [p. 53]
"And pleasures of this life." There is danger in amusement
that is sought merely for self-gratification. All habits
of indulgence that weaken the physical powers, that becloud
the mind, or that benumb the spiritual perceptions, are
"fleshly lusts, which war against the soul." 1 Peter 2:11.
"And the lusts of other things." These are not necessarily
things sinful in themselves, but something that is
made first instead of the kingdom of God. Whatever
attracts the mind from God, whatever draws the affections
away from Christ, is an enemy to the soul.
When the mind is youthful and vigorous and susceptible
of rapid development, there is great temptation to be
ambitious for self, to serve self. If worldly schemes are
successful, there is an inclination to continue in a line that
deadens conscience, and prevents a correct estimate as to
what constitutes real excellence of character. When
circumstances favor this development, growth will be seen
in a direction prohibited by the word of God.
In this formative period of their children's life, the
responsibility of parents is very great. It should be their
study to surround the youth with right influences, influences
that will give them correct views of life and its true success.
Instead of this, how many parents make it their first object
to secure for their children worldly prosperity. All their
associations are chosen with reference to this object. Many
parents make their home in some large city, and introduce
their children into fashionable society. They surround them
with influences that encourage worldliness and pride. In
this atmosphere the mind and soul are dwarfed. The high
and noble aims of life are lost sight of. The privilege of
being sons of God, heirs of eternity, is bartered for worldly
gain. [p. 54]
Many parents seek to promote the happiness of their
children by gratifying their love of amusement. They
allow them to engage in sports, and to attend parties of
pleasure, and provide them with money to use freely in
display and self-gratification. The more the desire for
pleasure is indulged, the stronger it becomes. The interest
of these youth is more and more absorbed in amusement,
until they come to look upon it as the great object of life.
They form habits of idleness and self-indulgence that make
it almost impossible for them ever to become steadfast
Even the church, which should be the pillar and ground
of the truth, is found encouraging the selfish love of
pleasure. When money is to be raised for religious
purposes, to what means do many churches resort? To bazaars,
suppers, fancy fairs, even to lotteries, and like devices.
Often the place set apart for God's worship is desecrated
by feasting and drinking, buying, selling, and merrymaking.
Respect for the house of God and reverence for His
worship are lessened in the minds of the youth. The barriers
of self-restraint are weakened. Selfishness, appetite, the
love of display, are appealed to, and they strengthen as
they are indulged.
The pursuit of pleasure and amusement centers in the
cities. Many parents who choose a city home for their
children, thinking to give them greater advantages, meet
with disappointment, and too late repent their terrible
mistake. The cities of today are fast becoming like Sodom
and Gomorrah. The many holidays encourage idleness.
The exciting sports—theatergoing, horse racing, gambling,
liquor-drinking, and reveling—stimulate every passion to
intense activity. The youth are swept away by the popular
current. Those who learn to love amusement for its own [p. 55] sake open the door to a flood of temptations. They give
themselves up to social gaiety and thoughtless mirth, and
their intercourse with pleasure lovers has an intoxicating
effect upon the mind. They are led on from one form of
dissipation to another, until they lose both the desire and
the capacity for a life of usefulness. Their religious
aspirations are chilled; their spiritual life is darkened. All
the nobler faculties of the soul, all that link man with the
spiritual world, are debased.
It is true that some may see their folly and repent.
God may pardon them. But they have wounded their own
souls, and brought upon themselves a lifelong peril. The
power of discernment, which ought ever to be kept keen
and sensitive to distinguish between right and wrong, is in a
great measure destroyed. They are not quick to recognize
the guiding voice of the Holy Spirit, or to discern the
devices of Satan. Too often in time of danger they fall
under temptation, and are led away from God. The end
of their pleasure-loving life is ruin for this world and for
the world to come.
Cares, riches, pleasures, all are used by Satan in playing
the game of life for the human soul. The warning is
given, "Love not the world, neither the things that are in
the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father
is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the
flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is
not of the Father, but is of the world." 1 John 2:15, 16.
He who reads the hearts of men as an open book says,
"Take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be
overcharged with surfeiting and drunkenness and cares of
this life." Luke 21:34. And the apostle Paul by the Holy
Spirit writes, "They that will be rich fall into temptation
and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which [p. 56] drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of
money is the root of all evil; which, while some coveted
after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced
themselves through with many sorrows." 1 Tim. 6:9, 10.
Preparation of the Soil
Throughout the parable of the sower, Christ represents
the different results of the sowing as depending upon the
soil. In every case the sower and the seed are the same.
Thus He teaches that if the word of God fails of accomplishing
its work in our hearts and lives, the reason is to
be found in ourselves. But the result is not beyond our
control. True, we cannot change ourselves; but the power
of choice is ours, and it rests with us to determine what we
will become. The wayside, the stony-ground, the thorny-ground
hearers need not remain such. The Spirit of God
is ever seeking to break the spell of infatuation that holds
men absorbed in worldly things, and to awaken a desire for
the imperishable treasure. It is by resisting the Spirit that
men become inattentive to or neglectful of God's word.
They are themselves responsible for the hardness of heart
that prevents the good seed from taking root, and for the
evil growths that check its development.
The garden of the heart must be cultivated. The soil
must be broken up by deep repentance for sin. Poisonous,
Satanic plants must be uprooted. The soil once overgrown
by thorns can be reclaimed only by diligent labor. So the
evil tendencies of the natural heart can be overcome only
by earnest effort in the name and strength of Jesus. The
Lord bids us by His prophet, "Break up your fallow ground,
and sow not among thorns." "Sow to yourselves in
righteousness; reap in mercy." Jer. 4:3; Hosea 10:12.
This work He desires to accomplish for us, and He asks us
to co-operate with Him. [p. 57]
The sowers of the seed have a work to do in preparing
hearts to receive the gospel. In the ministry of the word
there is too much sermonizing, and too little of real
heart-to-heart work. There is need of personal labor for the
souls of the lost. In Christlike sympathy we should come
close to men individually, and seek to awaken their interest
in the great things of eternal life. Their hearts may be
as hard as the beaten highway, and apparently it may be
a useless effort to present the Saviour to them; but while
logic may fail to move, and argument be powerless to
convince, the love of Christ, revealed in personal ministry,
may soften the stony heart, so that the seed of truth can
So the sowers have something to do that the seed may
not be choked with thorns or perish because of shallowness
of soil. At the very outset of the Christian life every [p. 58] believer should be taught its foundation principles. He should
be taught that he is not merely to be saved by Christ's
sacrifice, but that he is to make the life of Christ his
life and the character of Christ his character. Let all be
taught that they are to bear burdens and to deny natural
inclination. Let them learn the blessedness of working for
Christ, following Him in self-denial, and enduring hardness
as good soldiers. Let them learn to trust His love and to
cast on Him their cares. Let them taste the joy of winning
souls for Him. In their love and interest for the lost, they
will lose sight of self. The pleasures of the world will lose
their power to attract and its burdens to dishearten. The
plowshare of truth will do its work. It will break up the
fallow ground. It will not merely cut off the tops of the
thorns, but will take them out by the roots.
In Good Ground
The sower is not always to meet with disappointment.
Of the seed that fell into good ground the Saviour said,
This "is he that heareth the word, and understandeth it;
which also beareth fruit, and bringeth forth, some an
hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty." "That on the
good ground are they, which, in an honest and good heart,
having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with
The "honest and good heart" of which the parable
speaks, is not a heart without sin; for the gospel is to be
preached to the lost. Christ said, "I came not to call the
righteous, but sinners to repentance." Mark 2:17. He has
an honest heart who yields to the conviction of the Holy
Spirit. He confesses his guilt, and feels his need of the
mercy and love of God. He has a sincere desire to know
the truth, that he may obey it. The good heart is a believing [p. 59] heart, one that has faith in the word of God. Without
faith it is impossible to receive the word. "He that
cometh to God must believe that He is, and that He is a
rewarder of them that diligently seek Him." Heb. 11:6.
This "is he that heareth the word, and understandeth
it." The Pharisees of Christ's day closed their eyes lest
they should see, and their ears lest they should hear;
therefore the truth could not reach their hearts. They
were to suffer retribution for their willful ignorance and
self-imposed blindness. But Christ taught His disciples
that they were to open their minds to instruction, and be
ready to believe. He pronounced a blessing upon them
because they saw and heard with eyes and ears that
The good-ground hearer receives the word "not as the
word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God."
1 Thess. 2:13. Only he who receives the Scriptures as
the voice of God speaking to himself is a true learner. He
trembles at the word; for to him it is a living reality. He
opens his understanding and his heart to receive it. Such
hearers were Cornelius and his friends, who said to the
apostle Peter, "Now therefore are we all here present before
God, to hear all things that are commanded thee of God."
A knowledge of the truth depends not so much upon
strength of intellect as upon pureness of purpose, the
simplicity of an earnest, dependent faith. To those who in
humility of heart seek for divine guidance, angels of God
draw near. The Holy Spirit is given to open to them the
rich treasures of the truth.
The good-ground hearers, having heard the word, keep
it. Satan with all his agencies of evil is not able to catch
Merely to hear or to read the word is not enough. He
who desires to be profited by the Scriptures must meditate [p. 60] upon the truth that has been presented to him. By earnest
attention and prayerful thought he must learn the meaning
of the words of truth, and drink deep of the spirit of the
God bids us fill the mind with great thoughts, pure
thoughts. He desires us to meditate upon His love and
mercy, to study His wonderful work in the great plan of
redemption. Then clearer and still clearer will be our
perception of truth, higher, holier, our desire for purity of
heart and clearness of thought. The soul dwelling in the
pure atmosphere of holy thought will be transformed by
communion with God through the study of Scriptures.
"And bring forth fruit." Those who, having heard the
word, keep it, will bring forth fruit in obedience. The word
of God, received into the soul, will be manifest in good
works. Its results will be seen in a Christlike character and
life. Christ said of Himself, "I delight to do Thy will,
O My God; yea, Thy law is within My heart." Ps. 40:8.
"I seek not Mine own will, but the will of the Father which
hath sent Me." John 5:30. And the Scripture says, "He
that saith he abideth in Him ought himself also so to walk,
even as He walked." 1 John 2:6.
The word of God often comes in collision with man's
hereditary and cultivated traits of character and his habits
of life. But the good-ground hearer, in receiving the word,
accepts all its conditions and requirements. His habits,
customs, and practices are brought into submission to God's
word. In his view the commands of finite, erring man
sink into insignificance beside the word of the infinite God.
With the whole heart, with undivided purpose, he is seeking
the life eternal, and at the cost of loss, persecution, or death
itself, he will obey the truth.
And he brings forth fruit "with patience." None who
receive God's word are exempt from difficulty and trial; but [p. 61] when affliction comes, the true Christian does not become
restless, distrustful, or despondent. Though we can not see
the definite outcome of affairs, or discern the purpose of
God's providences, we are not to cast away our confidence.
Remembering the tender mercies of the Lord, we should
cast our care upon Him, and with patience wait for His
Through conflict the spiritual life is strengthened.
Trials well borne will develop steadfastness of character
and precious spiritual graces. The perfect fruit of faith,
meekness, and love often matures best amid storm clouds
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copy of this enlightening book about the parables of Christ.
"The husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the
earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the
early and latter rain." James 5:7. So the Christian is to
wait with patience for the fruition in his life of the word
of God. Often when we pray for the graces of the Spirit,
God works to answer our prayers by placing us in
circumstances to develop these fruits; but we do not understand
His purpose, and wonder, and are dismayed. Yet none can
develop these graces except through the process of growth
and fruit bearing. Our part is to receive God's word and
to hold it fast, yielding ourselves fully to its control, and
its purpose in us will be accomplished.
"If a man love Me," Christ said, "he will keep My
words; and My Father will love him, and we will come
unto him, and make our abode with him." John 14:23.
The spell of a stronger, a perfect mind will be over us;
for we have a living connection with the source of
all-enduring strength. In our divine life we shall be brought
into captivity to Jesus Christ. We shall no longer live the
common life of selfishness, but Christ will live in us. His
character will be reproduced in our nature. Thus shall we
bring forth the fruits of the Holy Spirit—"some thirty,
and some sixty, and some an hundred."
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"First the Blade, Then the Ear"