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Verse 22

Sown Among Thorns

August 19th, 1888




"And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprung

up, and choked them"-- Matthew 13:7 .

"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 unfruitful-- Matthew 13:22 .

Then that which comes of his sowing is unfruitful, the

sower's work is wasted: he has spent his strength for

nothing. Without fruit the sower's work would even seem

to be insane, for he takes good wheat, throws it away,

and loses it in the ground. Preaching is the most idle

of occupations if the Word is not adapted to enter the

heart, and produce good results. O my hearers, if you

are not converted, I waste time and energy in standing

here! People might well think it madness that one whole

day in the week should be given up to hearing speeches-

madness, indeed, it would be if nothing came of it to

conscience and heart. If you do not bring forth fruit

to holiness, and the end is not everlasting life, I

would be better employed in breaking stones on the road-

side than in preaching to you.

Fruit-bearing made the difference appear in the various

soils upon which the sower scattered seed. You would

not so certainly have known the quality if you had not

seen the failure or success of the seed. We do not know

your hearts until we see your bearing toward the

Gospel. If it produces in you holiness and love to God

and humanity, then we know that there is good soil in

you; but if you are merely promising people, but not

performing people, then we know that the ground of your

heart is hard, or stony, or thorny. The Word of the

Lord tries the hearts of the children of men, and in

this it is as the fire which distinguishes between

metal and dross. 0 my dear hearers, you undergo a test

today! Peradventure you will be judging the preacher,

but a greater than the preacher will be judging you,

for the Word itself shall judge you. You sit here as a

jury upon yourselves; your own condition will be

brought clearly out by the way in which you receive or

refuse the Gospel of God. If you bring forth fruit to

the praise of God's grace, well; but if not, however

you may seem to hear with attention and may retain what

you hear in your memories, if no saving effect is

produced upon your souls we shall know that the soil of

your heart has not been prepared of the Lord and

remains in its native barrenness.

What fruit have you born hitherto from all your

hearing? May I venture to put the question to each one

of you very pointedly'? Some of you have been hearers

from your childhood--are you any the better? What long

lists of sermons you must have heard by now! Count over

your Sundays; how many they have been! Think of the

good men now in heaven to whom you once listened!

Remember the tears that were drawn from you by their

discourses! If you are not saved yet, will you ever be

saved? If you are not holy yet, will you ever be holy?

Why has the Lord spent so much on one who makes no

return? To what purpose is this waste? Surely you will

have much to answer for in that great day when the

servants of God shall give in their accounts, and you

shall have no joy when they come to mention you. How

will you excuse yourselves before God for having

occasioned Him so much disappointment?

At this time I will only deal with one class of you. I

will not speak to those of you who hear the Word, and

retain none of it because of the hardness of your

hearts; such are the wayside hearers. Neither will I

address myself to those who receive the truth with

sudden enthusiasm, and as readily quit it when trial

befalls them; such are the rocky-ground hearers. But I

will deal with those of you who hear the Word

attentively, and, in a sense, receive it into your

hearts and understandings so that the seed grows in

you, though its fruit never comes to perfection. You

are religious persons, and to all appearance you are

under the influence of godliness. You exhibit plenty of

leaf, but there is no corn in the ear, no substance in

your Christianity. I cannot speak with any degree of

physical vigor to you by reason of the infirmity under

which I struggle, but what I do say to you is steeped

in earnest desire that the Lord may bless it to you. An

eloquent congregation will make any preacher eloquent:

help me then this morning. If you will give me your

ear, you will make up for my deficiency of tongue:

especially if you give to God your hearts, He will

bless His truth, however feebly I may utter it.

First, I desire to talk to you a little about the seed

which you have received; secondly about the thorns;

thirdly about the result.

I. First a little about THE SEED. Remember, first, that

it was the same seed in every case. Yonder it has

brought forth thirty-fold; it was the same seed which

was lost upon you. In a still better case, the seed has

brought forth a hundred-fold; it was precisely the same

corn with which your field has been sown. The sower

went to his master's granary for all his seed; how is

it that in your case it is all lost? If there were two

Gospels, we might expect two results without fault in

the soil which failed. But with many of you to whom I

speak there has been only one Gospel throughout the

whole of your lives. You have been attending in this

house of prayer where we have never changed our seed,

but have gone on sowing the one eternal truth of God.

Many have brought forth fruit a hundred-fold from the

seed which has been scattered broadcast from this

platform. They heard no more than you have heard, but

how much better they treated it than you have done! I

want you to consider this. How covered with briars and

thorns must your mind be that the Gospel which

converted your sister or friend never touched you!

Though you may be nominally a believer in the Word of

God, it has never so affected you as to make you

gracious and holy. You are still a hearer only. How is

this? The fault is not in the seed, for it is the same

which has been so useful to others.

You have heard the Gospel with pleasure. "Heard it!"

You say, "I heard it when a little child." Your mother

brought you to the house of God in her arms. You have

heard it and still hear it, though it is rather like an

old song to you: but is this to be all? I am very

grateful that you do hear the Gospel, for I hope that

one of these days God may cause it to grow in you and

yield fruit. But still a grave responsibility is upon

you. Think how favored you have been! How will you

answer for this privilege if it is neglected and

rendered useless by that neglect? Dear hearers, if we

lived in the heart of Africa and we died without

believing in a Christ of whom we had not heard, we

could not be blamed for that. But here we are in the

heart of London where the Gospel is preached in all our

streets, and our blood will be on our own heads if we

perish. Do you mean to go down to hell? Are you so

desperate that you will go there wearing the garb of

Christians? If you do persist ruining your souls, my

eyes shall follow you with tears; and when I cannot

warn you any longer, I will weep in secret places

because of your perversity.

Those described in my text were not only hearers, but

in a measure they accepted the good Word. The seed fell

not only on this ground, but into it, so that it began

to grow. Of you it is true that you do not refuse the

Gospel, or raise disputes concerning it. I am glad that

you have no difficulties about the inspiration of

Scripture, or the deity of our Lord, or the fact of His

atonement. You do not befog yourselves with "modern

thought," but you avow your belief in the old, old

Gospel. So far so good; but what shall I make of the

strange fact that your acceptance of the truth has no

effect upon you? It is a very lamentable case, is it

not, that a person should believe the Gospel to be

true, and yet should live as if it were a lie? If it is

the truth, why do you not yield obedience to it? The

person knows that there is an atonement for sin, but he

has never confessed his sin and accepted the great

sacrifice. Those great truths, which circle about the

Cross like a coronet of stars, he has seen their beauty

and enjoyed their brilliance, but he has never allowed

their light to enter his heart and find a reflection in

his moral character. This is evil, only evil. If you

believe the truth, what do you more than the Devil? No,

you are behind him, for he believes, and trembles, and

you have not gone so far as the trembling. It should be

so that every great truth which is believed should

influence the mind, sway the thoughts, and mold the

life. This is the natural fruitage of great spiritual

truth. The doctrine of grace, when it takes possession

of the mind and governs the heart, produces the purest

results; but if it is held in unrighteousness, it is a

curse rather than a blessing to have a head knowledge.

Is it not a dreadful thing to believe God's revelation

without receiving God's Spirit? This is to accept a

well, but never to drink of the water; to accept corn

in the barn, and yet to die of hunger. God have mercy

upon the possessors of a dead faith!

The seed sown among thorns lived and continued to grow.

And in many people's minds the Gospel of divine truth

is growing after a fashion: they understand it better,

can defend it more valorously, and speak of it more

fluently. Moreover, it does influence them in some form

and degree, for gross vices are forsaken. They are

decent imitations of believers; you can see the shape

of an ear: the stalk has struggled up through the

thorns until you can see its head, and you are led to

expect corn. But go to that apparent wheat-ear, and

feel it: there are the sheaths but there is nothing in

them; you have all the makings of an ear of wheat, but

it will yield no grain. I would speak to those before

me who, perhaps, have been baptized and are members of

the church; I want to ask of them a question or two. Do

you not think that there is a great deal of empty

profession nowadays? Do you not think that many have a

name to live and are dead? "Yes," say you, "I know a

neighbor whom I judge to be in that condition." May not

another neighbor judge the same of you? Would it not be

well to raise the question about yourself? Have you

really believed in the Lord Jesus? Are you truly

converted from sin and self? Turn that sharp eye of

yours homeward for a while. Examine your own actions,

and judge your condition by them. Put yourself into the

crucible. O my God, what if I should be a preacher to

others, and should be myself a castaway! Will not every

deacon and elder, and every individual church member,

speak to himself after the same fashion. You will go to

your Sunday school class this afternoon; will you be

teaching the children what you do not know? You mean to

go to a meeting this evening and talk to others about

conversion. Will you be exhorting them to that which

you have never yourself experienced? Will it be so? You

do not need fine preaching, but you do need probing in

the conscience. A thorough examination will do the

healthy no harm, and it may bless the sick. "Lord, let

me know the worst of my case," is one of my frequent

prayers, and I suggest it to you.

So much then about the seed: it was good seed, it was

sown, it was received by the soil, it grew and promised

well, but yet in the end it was unfruitful. No doubt

multitudes who receive Christianity become regular

attendants at our place of worship and are honest in

their moral character; but Christ is not all in all to

them. He holds a very secondary place in their

affections. Their wheat is overshadowed with a thicket

of thorns, and is so choked that it comes to nothing.

Their religion is buried beneath their worldliness. Sad

will their end be. God in mercy save us from such a


II. But now, secondly, I would speak a little about THE

THORNS. They are by Matthew described as "the care of

this world, and the deceitfulness of riches." Luke

adds, "and pleasures of this life," and Mark still

further mentions, "the lusts of other things." I

suppose that the sower did not see any thorns when he

threw the handful of corn; they had all been cut down

level with the surface. He probably hoped that it was

all good ground, and therefore he sowed it little

suspecting that the thorns were in possession.

Note well that thorns are natural to the soil. Since

the fall these are the firstborn children of the

ground. Any evil which hinders religion is not at all

an extraordinary thing--it is what we ought to expect

among fallen human beings. Grace is an exotic; thorns

are indigenous. Sin is very much at home in the human

heart and, like an ill weed, it grows apace. If you

wish to go to heaven, I might take a little time to

show you the way, and I would need to stir you up to

diligence; but if you must go to hell--well, "easy is

the way to destruction"--it is only a little matter of

neglect. "How shall we escape if we neglect so great

salvation?" Evil things are easy things: for they are

natural to our fallen nature. Right things are rare

flowers that need cultivation. If any of you are being

injured by the cares of the world and the deceitfulness

of riches, I am not astonished; it is natural that it

should be so. Therefore, be on your guard against these

mischiefs. I pray you say to yourself, "Come, there is

something in this man's talk. He is very slow and dull,

but still there is something in what he says. I may,

after all, be tolerating those thorns in my heart which

will kill the good seed, for I am of like passions and

infirmities with other people." I beseech you look to

yourselves that you be not deceived at the last.

The thorns were already established in the soil. They

were not only the natural inhabitants of the soil, but

they were rooted and fixed in it. Our sins within us

claim the freehold of our faculties and they will not

give it up if they can help it. They will not give way

to the Holy Spirit, or to the new life, or to the

influences of divine grace without a desperate

struggle. The roots of sin run through and through our

nature, grasp it with wonderful force, and keep up

their grasp with marvelous tenacity. O my dear hearer,

whoever you may be, you are a fallen creature! If you

were the pope himself, or the president of the United

States, or the queen of England, 'It would be true of

you that you were born in sin and shapen in iniquity,

and your unregenerate heart is deceitful above all

things and desperately wicked. The established church

of the town of Mansoul has the Devil for its

archbishop. Sin has enclasped our nature as a boa

constrictor encircles its victim, and when it has

maintained its hold for twenty, forty, or sixty years,

I hope you are not so foolish as to think that holy

things will easily get the mastery. Our evil nature is

radically conservative, and it will endeavor to crush

out every attempt at a revolution by which the grace of

God should reign through righteousness. Wherefore,

watch and pray, lest temptation choke that which is

good in you. Watch earnestly, for grace is a tender

plant in a foreign soil, in an uncongenial clime, while

sin is in its own element, and is strongly rooted in

the soil.

Do you know why so many professing Christians are like

the thorny ground? It is because processes have been

omitted which would have gone far to alter the

condition of things. It was the husbandman's business

to uproot the thorns, or burn them on the spot. Years

ago when people were converted, there used to be such a

thing as conviction of sin. The great subsoil plow of

soul-anguish was used to tear deep into the soul. Fire

also burned in the mind with exceeding heat: as people

saw sin and felt its dreadful results, the love of it

was burned out of them. But now we are dinned with

braggings about rapid salvations. As for myself, I

believe in instantaneous conversions, and I am glad to

see them; but I am still more glad when I see a

thorough work of grace, a deep sense of sin, and an

effectual wounding by the law. We shall never get rid

of thorns with plows that scratch the surface. Those

fields grow the best corn which are best plowed.

Converts are likely to endure when the thorns cannot

spring up because they have been plowed up. Dear

hearer, are you undergoing today a very severe

conviction of sin? Thank God for it. Are you in awful

trouble and anguish? Do not think that a calamity has

happened to you. May God Himself continue to plow you,

and then sow you, and make sure work in you for years

to come! So you see these thorns were natives, and old-

established natives, and it would have been well had

they been cut up.

The thorns were bound to grow. There is an awful

vitality in evil. First the thorns sent up a few tiny

shoots. These shoots branched out, and more and more

came to keep them company, until the wheat stood as a

lonely thing in a thicket of briars, and was more and

more overtopped and shadowed by them. The thorns

aspired to the mastery, and they soon obtained it; that

done, they set to work to destroy the wheat. They

blocked it up, crowded it out, and some of the thorn

shoots twisted around it, and held the wheat by the

neck until it was choked.

The thorns sucked away all the nutriment from the

wheat, and it was starved, for there is only a certain

quantity of nourishment in the soil, and if the thorns

have it, the wheat must go without it. There is only a

certain amount of thought and energy in a person; and

if the world gets it, Christ cannot have it. If our

thoughts run upon care and pleasure, they cannot be

eager about true religion: is not that clear? That is

the way in which those thorns served the wheat; they

starved it by devouring its food, and they choked it by

keeping off the air and sun; the poor thing became

shriveled and weak, and quite unable to produce the

grain which the sower expected of it. So it is with

many professing Christians. They are at first worldly,

but not so very worldly. They are fairly religious,

though by no means too zealous. They seek the pleasures

of the world, but by no means quite so much as others

we could name. But very soon the thorns grow, and it

becomes doubtful which will win, sin or grace, the

world or Christ. Two masters there cannot be, and in

this case it is especially impossible since neither of

the contending powers will brook a rival. Sin has

sprung from a royal though evil stock, and if it be in

the heart, it will struggle for the throne. So it came

to pass that the tares, being tolerated, choked the

good seed.

Let me describe these thorns a little. Putting together

Matthew, Mark, and Luke, we find that there were four

sorts of thorns. The first is called "the care of this

world." This assuredly comes to the poor; they are apt

to grow anxious and mistrustful about temporal things.

"What shall we eat? What shall we drink? Wherewithal

shall we be clothed?" This trinity of doleful questions

much afflicts many. But anxiety comes to rich people

also. Care dwells with wealth as well as with poverty.

"How shall I get more? How shall I lay it up? How shall

I still increase it?"--and so on. It is "the care of

the age" which we are most warned against. Each age has

its own special fret. It is not a care for God--that is

not the care of any age; but the care of the age is

some vanity or another, and as a standing thing it is

the ambition to keep up with your fellows, to be

respectable, and to keep up appearances. This is the

care which eats as does a canker in the case of many.

Grim care turns many a black hair white, and furrows

many a brow. If you let care grow in your soul, it will

choke up your religion: you cannot care for God and for

mammon too. "We must have care," says one. There is a

care which is proper, and there is an anxiety which is

improper. That is proper care which you can cast upon

God--"Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for

you." That is an improper care which you dare not take

to God but have to bear yourself. Take heed of anxiety,

it will eat the heart out of your religion.

There were others who felt "the deceitfulness of

riches." Our Lord does not say "riches," but "the

deceitfulness of riches." The two things grow together:

riches are evermore deceitful. They deceive people in

the getting of them, for people judge matters very

unfairly when a prospect of gain is before them. The

jingle of the charming guinea, or of "the almighty

dollar," makes a world of difference to the ear when it

is hearing a case. People cannot afford to lose by

integrity and so they take the doubtful way, and either

sail near the wind or speculate until it amounts to

gambling. They would not endure the idea of such

conduct were it not that the hope of gain deceives

them. Our line of conduct ought never to be ruled by

gain or loss. Do right if the heavens fall. Do no

wrong, even though a kingdom should be its reward.

People turn to Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations, a

wonderful book, and there they find certain laws which

I believe to be as fixed and unalterable as the laws of

gravitation; led on by the deceitfulness of riches,

people make these laws into an excuse for grinding the

faces of the poor. They might as well take people to

the top of a rock, fling them down, and dash them to

pieces, and then cry out, "This is the natural result

of the law of gravitation." Of course, the law of

gravitation operates remorselessly, and so will the law

of supply and demand. We must not use either of these

laws as a cover for cruelty to the poor and needy, yet

many do so through "the deceitfulness of riches."

Riches are very deceitful when they are gained, for

they breed in men and women many vices which they do

not themselves suspect. One man is purse-proud, but he

thinks he is humble. He is a self-made man and worships

him that made him. Is it not natural that a person

should worship his maker? In his heart he thinks: "I am

somebody. I came up to London with half-a-crown in my

pocket, and now I could buy a whole street!" People

ought to respect someone of that kind, ought they not,

even though he may have made his money by very queer

practices? It little matters how you make money

nowadays; only get it, and you will have plenty of

admirers and the deceitfulness of riches will enable

you to admire yourself. With pride comes a desire for

wealthy society and vain company, and thus again

religion receives severe injury. There is apt to grow

up in the mind an idolatry of this world and its

treasures. "I don't love money," says one. "You know it

is not money that is the root of all evil, but the love

of it." Just so; but are you sure that you do not love

it? Your thoughts run a good deal after it. You hug it

rather closely and you find it hard to part with it. I

will not accuse you, but I would have you awake to the

fact that riches worm themselves into a person's heart

before he is well aware of it.

You may perceive the deceitfulness of riches if you

note the excuses which people make for getting so much

and withholding it from the cause of God. "They intend

to do a great deal of good with it." Did you hear the

Devil laugh? I am not speaking of many dear people in

this place who are doing a great deal of good with

their means, but I am speaking of those who are simply

living to accumulate wealth, and who say that they will

one day do a great deal of good with it. They say so.

Will it ever be more than saying? I fear that in this

thing many rich people deceive themselves. They go on

accumulating the means but never using them; making

bricks, but never building. All they will get with It

be a corner in The Illustrated London News to say that

they died worth so much. O sirs, how can you be content

thus to have your good things choked? Wherever this

deceitfulness of riches is allowed the upper hand, it

chokes the good seed. A person cannot be eager to get,

and eager to keep, and eager to increase, and eager to

become a millionaire, and at the same time be a true

servant of the Lord Jesus. As the body grows rich, the

soul grows poor.

Luke tells us of another kind of weed, namely, "the

pleasures of this life." I am sure that these thorns

play a dreadful part nowadays. I have nothing to say

against recreation in its proper place. Certain forms

of recreation are needful and useful; but it is a

wretched thing when amusement becomes a vocation.

Amusement should be used to do us good "like a

medicine"; it must never be used as the food of the

individual. From early morning until late at night some

spend their time in a round of frivolities, or else

their very work is simply carried on to furnish them

funds for their pleasures. This is vicious. Many have

had all holy thoughts and gracious resolutions stamped

out by perpetual trifling. Pleasure, so called, is the

murderer of thought. This is the age of excessive

amusement. Everybody craves for it, like a babe for its

rattle. In the more sober years of our fathers, men and

women had something better to live for than silly

sports. The thorns are choking the age.

Mark adds, "and the lusts of other things." I will not

enumerate all those other things, but all things except

the things of Christ and of the Father are "other

things." If anybody spends his life on any object,

however good, short of the glory of God, the good seed

is choked by the inferior object. One person is

eminently scientific, and he will do well if his

science is used for holy purposes, but it can be used

to choke the seed. Another person is a great proficient

in the arts, and he does well if the arts are used as a

mule for Christ to ride upon, but if art is to ride

upon Christ, then it is ill enough. I met with a

clergyman many years ago who was going a long distance

to find a new beetle. He was a great entomologist, and

I did not blame him for it, for to a thoughtful person

entomology may yield many profitable lessons. But if he

neglected his preaching to catch insects, then I do not

wonder that a parishioner would wish that the beetles

would nibble his old sermons, for they were very stale.

I call it choking the seed when any inferior pursuit

becomes the master of our minds, and the cause of God

and truth takes a secondary place. The seed is choked

in our souls whenever Christ is not our all in all. You

see my drift: be it what it may--gain, glory, study,

pleasure--all these may be briers that will choke the


Mr. Jay was never more pleased than when at Bristol he

had a note sent up to him which ran as follows: "A

young man, who is prospering in business, begs the

prayers of God's people that prosperity may not be a

snare to him." Take care that you look thus upon your

prosperity. My dear friend Dr. Taylor, of New York,

speaks of some Christians nowadays as having a

"butterfly Christianity." When time, and strength, and

thought, and talent are all spent upon mere amusement,

what else are men and women but mere butterflies?

"Society" is just a mass of idle people keeping each

other in countenance. O dear hearers, surely we did not

come into this world to play away our days! I do not

think we came into this world either to slave ourselves

to death, or to rust away in laziness. We have come

here as a man enters into the porch that he may

afterward enter the house. This life is the doorway to

the palace of heaven. Pass through it in such style

that you may enter before the King with holy joy. If

you give your minds and thoughts to these passing

things, be they what they may, you will ruin your

souls, for the good seed cannot grow.

III. So I close in the last place by noticing THE

RESULT. The seed was unfruitful.

These briers and thorns could not pull the seed up, or

throw it away. It remained where it was, but they

choked it. So it may be that your business, your cares,

your pleasures have not torn up your religion by the

roots--it is there still, such as it is. But these

things suffocate your better feelings. Someone that is

choked is not good for much. If a thief gets into his

house, and he desires to defend his property, what can

he do while he is choked? He must wait until he gets

his breath again. What an amount of choked religion we

have around us! It may be alive. I do not know whether

it is or not; but it looks very black in the face. God

save you from having your religion choked!

I have already told you it was drained of all its

sustenance. Look at many Christians; I call them

Christians for they call themselves so. A boy in the

streets, selling mince pies, kept crying, "Hot mince

pies!" A person bought one of them, and found it quite

cold. "Boy," said he, why did you call these pies hot?"

"That's the name they go by, sir," said the boy. So

there are plenty of people that are called Christians,

but they are not Christians--that's the name they go

by; but all the substance is drained out of them by

other matters. You see the shape of a Christian, the

make of a Christian, and some of the talk of a

Christian, but the fruit of a Christian is not there.

That is the result of the choking by the thorns of

care, riches, pleasure, and worldliness in general.

What life there was in the wheat was very sickly. Let

me remind certain persons that their spiritual lives

are growing weak at this time. Morning prayer this

morning, how long did it take? Do not grow red in the

face. I will say no more about it. You are not coming

out tonight, are you? Half a Sunday is enough worship

for you. Would you not like to live in some country

place where you did not need to go out to a place of

worship even once? Bible reading, how much do you do of

that? Family prayer, is that a delight to you? Why,

numbers of so-called Christians have given up family

religion altogether. How about week-day services? You

are not often at a prayer-meeting. No, the distance is

too great! Thursday night service? "Well, well, you see

I might come, but there happens to be a lawn tennis

party that night." Will you come in the winter'? "Yes,

I would, but then a friend drops in, and we have an

evening at bagatelle." How many there are in this

condition! I am not going to judge them, but I remember

that an eminent minister used to say, "When weekday

services are forsaken, farewell to the life of

godliness. Such people never seem to bathe in their

religion, but they give themselves a wetting with the

end of the towel; thus they try to look decent, but

they are not inwardly cleansed.

As to confessing Christ before men and women, many fall

altogether. If you were pushed into a corner, and were

asked if you are a Christian, you would say, "Well, I

do go to a place of worship," but you are by no means

anxious to own the soft impeachment. Our Salvation Army

friends are not ashamed of their religion; why should

you be? Our Quaker friends used to wear broad brims,

but they are very properly giving up their peculiar

garb. I hope it is not to be to you an indication that

you may conceal your religion and be as much as

possible like the world. Do you hope to be soldiers and

yet never wear your regimentals? This is one of the

marks of feeble religion.

When it comes to defending the Gospel, where do you see

it in this age? I hoped that many would be found among

Baptists who would care for the truth; but now I come

to the conclusion that it is with many, as with the

showman when asked which was Wellington, and which was

Bonaparte: "Whichever you please, my little dears. Pay

your money, and take your choice!" Free will or free

grace, human merit or Christ's atonement, it does not

matter now. New theology or old theology, human

speculation or divine revelation--who minds? What do

they care whether God's truth stands or the Devil's

lies? I am weary of these drivellers! The thorns have

choked the seed in the pulpits and in the churches as

well as in private individuals. Oh, that God would

return! Oh, that His Spirit would raise up among us

people who believe indeed, and prove the power of their


The fruit of much modern piety is nil. I sat down one

day with three or four old Christian men. We had no

sooner met than we began to speak of the providential

dealings of God with His people. We related instances

of answers to prayer, and we spoke of the sovereign

grace of God, and His faithfulness to His saints. When

we had gone a little forward in the conversation, one

remarked how he had enjoyed the talk. "Alas!" said he,

"nobody talks about God now. His providence and His

readiness to hear prayer are seldom mentioned now. The

talk is all about the markets, and the weather, and

Home Rule, and Mr. Gladstone, and Disestablishment, but

little enough about the Lord Jesus Christ." That

witness was true. In old times the Lord's people spoke

often one to another, and the Lord stood at the window

and listened:--"The Lord hearkened, and heard it." He

liked their talk so well that He said He would print it-

-"A book of remembrance was written before him for them

that feared the Lord, and that thought upon his name."

Where do you get experimental Christian talk now'? The

thorns choke holy communion upon the best things.

Fervent prayer! Mighty prayer! Where do you meet with

it? Thank God, we have some brothers and sisters here

whose prayers could unlock the windows of heaven, or

shut them up; but it is not so with many. Go to the

prayer-meetings of most of the churches. What poor

things! Of course I find in country places that many

drop the prayer-meeting during hay-time and harvest. In

London they do not drop the prayer-meetings in summer

because they are too small to need dropping. They take

up the fragment of a prayer-meeting and mend with it

the worn-out lecture, so that it becomes neither

lecture nor prayer meeting. How can we expect a

blessing when we are too lazy to ask for it? Is it not

evidence of a dying religion when, to cover their

carelessness about meeting for prayer, we even hear

ministers doubting the value of prayer-meetings and

calling them "religious expedients"?

Where do you meet with intense enjoyment of the things

of God? The spiritual life is low when there is little

delight in holy service. Oh, for the old Methodistic

fire! Oh, to feel our hearts dance at the sound of

Jesus' name! Oh, to flame up like beacon fires, and

blaze toward heaven with holy ecstasy! It is a

sorrowful day when religion goes abroad without wearing

her ornaments of joy. When an army has left its flag

behind, it has evidently given up all idea of victory.

If there is a declension in spiritual life, we cannot

expect to see deeds of holy consecration. Oh, for men

and women who bring their alabaster boxes to Jesus! I

am glad when I hear this kind of lamentation. "My dear

sir, I have not done for the Lord what I ought to have

done. I have been a believer now for many years, but I

have not given to His cause what I ought to have given;

tell me what I can do." There are hopeful signs in such

inquiries and therefore they are well, but it would be

better to begin early and avoid such regrets.

I would put it to you, my dear hearer, have you been

fruitful? Have you been fruitful with your wealth? Have

you been fruitful with your talent? Have you been

fruitful with your time? What are you doing for Jesus

now? Salvation is not by doings, you are saved by

grace, but if you are so saved, prove it by your

devoted life. Consecrate yourself anew this day wholly

to your Master's service. You are not your own, but

bought with a price, and if you would not be like these

thorn-choked seeds, live while you live, with all-

consuming zeal.

"Well," says one, but there are the thorns." I know

there are. They were here when our blessed Lord came

among us, and they made Him a cruel crown. Are you

going to grow more of them? May I urge you to give up

cultivating thorns'? They are useless; they come to no

good. Whatever the pursuit is, short of the glory of

God, it is a thorn and there is no use in it. It will

in the end be painful to you as it was to your Lord. A

thorn will tear your flesh, aye, tear your heart.

Especially when you come to die will these thorns be in

your pillow. Even if you die in the Lord, it will

grieve your heart to think you did not live more to

Jesus. If you live for these things, you will rue the

day, for they are like thorns, painful in the getting,

painful in the keeping, and painful in the extraction.

You who have had a thorn in your hand know what I mean.

Worldly cares come with pain, they stay with pain, and

they go with pain.

Still, there is a use for thorns. What is that use?

First, if you have thorns about you today, make a

child's use of them. What does a child do? If he gets a

thorn in his finger, he looks at it, and cries. How it

smarts! Then he runs off to his mother. That is one of

the sweet uses of his adversity, it admits him to his

mother at once. She might say, "What are you coming in

for? Run about the garden." But he cries, "Please,

mother, I've got a thorn in my finger." This is quite

enough argument to secure him the best attention of the

queen of the house. See how tenderly she takes out the

little dagger! Let your cares drive you to God. I shall

not mind if you have many of them if each one leads you

to prayer. If every fret makes you lean more on the

Beloved, it will be a benefit. Thus make good use of

the thorns.

Another service to which thorns may be put is to make a

hedge of them, to keep the goats of worldly pleasure

from eating the young shoots of your graces. Let the

sorrows of life keep off temptations which else might

do you serious mischief.

May we meet in heaven! Oh, may we all meet in heaven!

What a congregation I have addressed this morning! I

feel overawed as I look at you. From the ends of the

earth have many of you come. The Lord bless you!

Strangers are here in vast numbers, for the most of our

regular hearers are at the seaside. I may never see you

again on earth. May we all meet in heaven, where thorns

will never grow! May we be gathered by the angels in

that day when the Lord shall say, "Gather the wheat

into my barn"! Amen. So let it be.

Bibliographical Information
Spurgeon, Charle Haddon. "Commentary on Matthew 13". "Spurgeon's Verse Expositions of the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/spe/matthew-13.html. 2011.
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