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THE PARABLE OF THE SOWER BY J. R. MILLER

Read Matthew XIII., 1-9; 18-23

Jesus was always teaching. On this particular day His pulpit was a fishing boat, from which- He spoke to the multitudes standing on the shore. Per-haps there was a sower somewhere in sight, walk-ing on his field, carrywalk-ing his bag of grain and slwalk-ing- sling-ing his seed broadcast. The sight suggested the parable.

Christ Himself is the great Sower, but we all are sowers — sowers of something. Not all who sow scatter good seed; there are sowers of evil as well as of good. We should take heed what we sow, for we shall gather the harvest into our own bosom at the last. "Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap" — that, and not something else. In the parable the seed is good — it is the word of God. The soil likewise is good — it is all alike, in the same field. The difference is in the condition of the soil.

The first thing that strikes us in reading the para-ble is the great amount of waste of good there seems to be in the world. On three parts of the soil noth-< 187

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waste there is in the Lord's work, in the precious seed of Divine truth which is scattered in the world. What comes of all the sermons, of all good teach-ing, of the wholesome words spoken in people's ears in conversation, of wise sayings in books? What waste of effort there is whenever men and women try to do good! Yet we must not be discouraged or hindered in our sowing. We should go on scat-tering the good seed everywhere, whether it all grows to ripeness or not. Even the seed that seems to fail may do good in some way other than we in-tended and thus not be altogether lost,

"What though the seed be cast by the wayside And the birds take it— yet the birds are fed." The wayside is too hard to take in the seed that falls upon it. There are many lives that are ren-dered incapable of fruitfulness in the same way. They are trodden down by passing feet. Too many people let their hearts become like an open common. They have no fence about them. They shut noth-ing out. They read all sorts of books, have all kinds of companions, and allow all manner of va-grant thoughts to troop over the fields. The result is that the hearts, once tender and sensitive to every good influence, become impervious to impressions. They feel nothing. They sit in church, and the hymns, the Scripture words and exhortations, the appeals and the prayers fall upon their ears, but are not even heard. Or, if they are heard, they are

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not taken into the mind or heart, but lie on the sur-face.

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sower, and when a seed lies within sight they pick it up. The wicked one "snatcheth away that which hath been sown." So nothing comes of the seed which falls on the trodden road.

The lesson at this point is very practical. It

teaches our responsibility for the receiving of the truth which touches our life, in whatever way it is brought to us. When we read or listen we should let the word into our heart. We should give atten-tion to it. We should see that it is fixed in our memory. "Thy word have I laid up in my heart," said an old psalm writer. "Give God a chance . . . His seed gets no fair opportunity in a life which is like a trafficking highroad."

The next kind of soil on which the seed fell was stony — only a thin layer over a hard rock. There is none of the fault of the trodden wayside here. The seed is readily received and at once begins to grow. But it never comes to anything. The soil is too shallow. The roots get no chance to strike down. The grain starts finely, but the hot sun burns up the tender growths because they lack depth of rooting.

There are many shallow lives. They are very im-pressionable. They attend a revival service and straightway they are moved emotionally and begin with great earnestness. But in a few days the

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feet is all worn off. Life is full of this impulsive zeal or piety which starts off with great glow but soon tires. Many people begin a book, read a few chapters and then drop it and turn to another. They are quick friends, loving at first, but it is soon

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over.

One of the pictures of the crucifixion represents the scene of Calvary after the body of Jesus had been taken down and laid away in the grave. The crowd is gone. Only the ghastly memorials of the terrible day remain. Off to one side of the picture is an ass nibbling at some withered palm branches. Thus the artist pictures the fickleness of human ap-plause. Only five days before, palms were waved in wild exultation as Jesus rode into the city. The goodness of too many people lacks root. The resolves of too many lack purpose. The intentions of too many lack life and energy. There are many shallow lives in which nothing good grows to ripe-ness. What this soil wants is the breaking up of the rock. What these shallow lives need is a thor-ough work of penitence, searching and heart-breaking, the deepening of the spiritual life.

The third piece of soil in which the seed fell was preoccupied by thorns whose roots never had been altogether extirpated. The soil was neither hard nor shallow, but it was too full. The seed began to grow, but other things were growing alongside of it, and these, being ranker than the wheat and grow-ing faster^ choked it out.

MATTHEW XIII., 1-9 ; 18-23 141

Jesus tells us what these thorns of the parable stand for. They are the cares, riches and pleasures of this world. Cares are worries, frets, distrac-tions. Many people seem almost to enjoy worry-ing. But worries are among the thorns which crowd out the good. Martha is an illustration of the danger of care. There are plenty of modern

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examples, however, and we scarcely need to recall such an ancient case as hers.

Eiches, too, are thorns which often choke out the good in people's lives. One may be rich and his heart yet remain tender and full of the sweetest and best things. But when the love of money gets into a heart it crowds out the love of God and the love of man and all beautiful things. Judas is a fear-ful example. The story of Demas also illustrates the same danger. A good man said to a friend: "If you ever see me beginning to get rich, pray for my soul."

The pleasures of the world are also thorns which crowd out the good. It is well to have amusements, but we must guard lest they come to possess our heart. We are not to live to have pleasures; we are to have pleasures rather only to help us to live. The fourth piece of soil was altogether good. It

was neither trodden down, nor shallow, nor thorny ; it was deep plowed and clean. Into it the seed fell and sank and grew without hindrance. By and by a great harvest waved on the field.

This is the ideal for all good farming. The

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farmer must have his field in condition to receive the seed and to give it a chance to grow. That is all the good seed wants. This is the ideal, too, for all hearing of the word of God. If only we give it a fair chance in our life it will yield rich blessing.

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