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The parable of the sower, and the meaning thereof. We must communicate the light of our knowledge to others. The parable of the seed growing secretly, and of the mustard-seed. Christ stilleth the tempest on the sea.
Anno Domini 30.
Mark 4:4. Fowls— Or, Birds. The words του ουρανου, of the air, are not in most manuscripts.
Mark 4:5. Stony ground,— Or, Rocky ground.
Mark 4:10. And when he was alone,— Many writers of harmonies, thinking this inconsistent with the acknowledged circumstances of the history, havesupposed, that the interpretation of the parable was not given now, but on some other occasion, though, for the sake of perspicuity, it is related together with the parable; yet the nature of the thing, as well as the testimony of St. Matthew, Mat 13:10 prove sufficiently, that the question which occasioned this interpretation was put immediately after the parable was delivered; for the question took its rise from the concluding words of the parable, He that hath ears to hear, let him hear; which were no sooner pronounced, than the disciples came from their several stations in the vessel, and asked the reason why he spake in parables, since he desired his hearers to understand what he said? To remove this difficulty, therefore, we may suppose, that in addressing Jesus the disciples spake with such a tone of voice as they used in conversation, and that Jesus answered in the same key; so that the people on the shore not hearing distinctly what passed, Jesus and his disciples were to all intents and purposes alone; or after finishing the parable he might, as on former occasions of this kind, (see Luke 5:1-3.) order his disciples, to thrust out a little further from the land, that the people might have time to consider what they had heard; and the disciples, embracing this opportunity, might speak to him in private concerning the manner of his preaching. Either of these suppositions seems fully to come up to the import of St. Mark's phrase; which, however, some would render, and when he was in private, they that were about him, or his disciples, with the twelve, &c. See Luke 9:18.
Mark 4:11-12. Unto them that were without— Τοις εξω, the people out of the vessel,—the multitude on the shore. See εξω, used in a similar sense in the history of Peter's denial of his Master, Matthew 26:69. The following words at first sight seem to import, that Jesus spoke to the people obscurely, in parables, on purpose that they might not understand what he said, for fear they should have been converted and pardoned. Nevertheless it is evident from St. Mark himself, that this was not our Lord's meaning; for at the conclusion of the whole he says expressly, with many such parables spake he the word unto them, as they were able to hear it; but if Jesus spake to the people in parables as they were able to hear, his answer to the disciples, here recorded by St. Mark, who makes this observation on his preaching, cannot reasonably be understood in any sense inconsistent therewith. The true interpretation of the passage depends on a just view of St. Mark's scope, which our translators seem to have missed; for, remembering that in the parallel passage, Mat 13:14 the words of Isa 6:9-10 are quoted, and finding some of the phrases of that prophesy in St. Mark, they never doubted but Isaiah was cited there likewise, and interpreted the passage accordingly; for they gave the Greek μηποτε the signification of the Hebrew פן pen, in the prophesy, supposing it to be the corresponding word; and by that means made St. Mark contradict what he himself has told us in Mark 4:33. Nevertheless, if it shall be found that there is no citation here, properly speaking, but only an allusion to a citation which our Lord made in the beginning of his discourse, and which a preceding historian had recorded, we may allow, that though פן pen in the prophesy signifies lest, yet μηποτε, in our Lord's answer recorded by St. Mark, may have a different, but equally natural, signification; viz. If it be so,—if peradventure, agreeably to its use in other passages. (See Luke 3:15. 2 Timothy 2:25.) That Isaiah is not cited in the branch of Christ's answer recorded by St. Mark, is evident, because there is not the least hint of any citation. Besides, the slightest comparison of the passages themselves will shew them to bedifferent. In the prophesy, God orders Isaiah to declare concerning the Jews in after-times, that they would hear the Messiah preach, but not understand him; and see his miracles, but not conceive a just idea of the power whereby they were performed; and to prophesy of them, that they would harden their hearts, and deafen their ears, and close their eyes, lest they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears,and understand with their hearts, and be converted and healed. In St. Matthew, our Lord assigns the completion of that prophesy as the reason why he spake to the people in parables. They were become so stupid and wicked, that they could not endure to hear the doctrines of the Gospel plainly preached to them. In St. Mark he added, that because this was the state of their minds, he wrapped up his doctrine in parables, with an intention that they might see as much of it as they were able to receive, but not perceive the offensive particulars, which would have made them reject both him and his doctrines; and that they might hear as much as they were able to hear, but not understand any thing to irritate them against him; and all with a design to promote their conversion and salvation. From our Lord's using two or three of the prophet's phrases in these verses, we cannot conclude that he cited him, or even that he used those phrases in the prophet's sense of them. He had cited him in the beginning of his discourse, and therefore, though he affixed a different sense to his words, he might use them by way of allusion, to insinuate that it was the wickedness of the Jews, predicted by Isaiah, which had rendered this kind of teaching the only probable method of converting them. Upon the whole, the expressions ascribed to Jesus in St. Mark's Gospel are by no means the same with those found in St. Matthew; but they contain an additional sentiment on the same subject, by way of further illustration. It is true, Christ's teaching the Gospel by parables, placed in this light, appears to have been a favour, rather than a judicial stroke; notwithstanding it appears from our Lord's own words, that it was of the latter kind; but the answer is, that this manner of teaching, withoutdoubt,impliedthehighestblameintheJews, whose wickedness had rendered it necessary, and conveyed an idea of punishment on the part of Christ, who for their wickedness deprived them of better means of instruction; so that it was really a punishment: at the same time it was a favour likewise, as it was a less punishment than theydeserved, and a punishment in order to reclaim them. I acknowledge, that if our Lord had not spoken in answer to the disciples, who desired to know the reason of his conduct, what he said on this occasion might have been compared with other texts; in which, according to the genius of the Hebrew language, the words lead us to think of the intention of the agent, while in the mean time nothing but the effect of his action is described. See Matthew 10:34-35. Nevertheless, the circumstances of the passage under consideration forbid this method of interpretation. To conclude, this sense appears to me for another reason much the most probable, because when our Lord taught men, he never did it but with a view to instruct them, and to promote their salvation; so far was he from forming his discourses darkly, on purpose to keep them in ignorance, and hinder their conversion. For it is beyond the power of the most captious disputant to deny, that the great end of all Christ's labours was the illumination, conversion, and salvation of mankind. Instead of done in parables, we may read, delivered in parables.
Mark 4:21-22. Is a candle brought, &c. candlestick?— Is a lamp, &c.—stand. Campbell. When Jesus had ended his interpretation of the parable of the sower, he did not direct his discourse to the people, but continued speaking to the apostles, shewing them, by the similitude of a lighted lamp, the use that they were to make of this, and ofall the instructions which he should give them. As lamps are kindled to give light unto those who are in a house; so the understandings of the apostles were illuminated, that they might fill the world with the light of truth. He told them further, that though some of the doctrinesof the Gospel were then concealed from the people, on account of their prejudices, he had revealed them to his apostles, that they might all in due time be preached openly and plainly through the world; for which reason it became his apostles, to whom God had given both a capacity and an opportunity of hearing these doctrines, to listen to them with attention.
Mark 4:24. With what measure, &c.— The sense is, "God will proportion his lights to the measure of our docility:" a momentous truth! to which we can never sufficiently attend.
Mark 4:26-29. So is the kingdom of God,— In this parable we are informed, that as the husbandman does not, by any efficacy of his own, cause the seed to grow, but leaves it to be nourished by the soil and sun; so Jesus and his apostles, having taught men the doctrines of true religion, were not by any miraculous force to constrain their wills; far less were they by the terrors of fire and sword to interpose visibly for the furthering thereof; but would suffer it to spread by the secret influences of the Spirit, till at length it should obtain its full effect in faithful souls. Moreover, as the husbandman cannot, by the most diligent observation, perceive the corn in his field extending its dimensions as it grows, so the ministers of Christ cannot see the operations of the Gospel upon the minds of men. The effects, however, of its operation, when these are produced, they can discern just as the husbandman can discern when the corn is fully grown, and fit for reaping. In the mean time, the design of the parable, is not tolead the ministers of Christ, to imagine that religion will flourish without due pains taken about it. It was formed to teach the Jews in particular, that neither the Messiah nor his servants would subdue men by the force of arms, as they supposed he would have done; and also to prevent the apostles from being dispirited, when they did not see immediate success following their labours. See Dr. Watts's Philosophical Essays, Numbers 9:0 sect. 2. Instead of when the fruit is brought forth, Mar 4:29 we may read, as soon as the grain is ripe. See Campbell.
Mark 4:32. Greater than all herbs,— The original means, Larger than other plants of the pulse kind.
Mark 4:38. In the hinder part of the ship,— Or, At the stern.
Mark 4:39. He arose, and rebuked the wind,— Nothing can be more grand and striking than the present miracle. "Amidst all the distress and confusion of the storm, the divine Master appears (according to Mr. Hervey's description) sedately rising from a gentle slumber; he sees the perplexity and horror of his companions without the least emotion or alarm. What composure in his mien! what dignity in his attitude! what majesty, sweetened with compassion, in his aspect! such as could arise from no other cause, than a conscious and undoubted certainty that not a soul of the crew should be lost, not a hair of their heads should perish, and that all this mighty uproar of nature should end in a demonstration of his mightier power, and a confirmation of his disciples' faith. He looks abroad into the mutinous sky, and the turbulent deep: he waves, with an authoritative air, his sacred hand, and adds the great commanding words, Peace! be still!
Confusion heard his voice, and wild uproar Stood rul'd.—
The consternation of his disciples is turned into wonder, and their pangs of fear into exstacies of joy. They acknowledge the omnipotence, and adore the goodness of Jesus. No one can help observing what majesty there is in our Lord's command, Σιωπα, πεφιμωτο . 'Tis admirable! 'tis inimitable! 'tis worthy of God! I think we may observe a peculiarly proper word addressed and adapted to each element; the first enjoining a cessation of the winds, the second a quiescence of the waves; silence in all that roared, composure in all that raged; as though (to give a short paraphrase on the grand injunction) it had been said, Winds, be hushed! waves, be calm!" The effect on the disciples is described with "all the force of imagination, and all the energy of diction. Torepresent in colours what the evangelical historian has left upon record, would be a subject fit for the immortal Raphael, and perhaps not to be equalled by his masterly pencil." Compare the parallel passages, particularly ch. Mark 6:51.
Inferences from the parable of the sower.—When we consider that the seed in this parable signifies the word of God, according to our Saviour's explanation, (Mark 4:14.) it may seem strange that any particle of such divine seed should prove fruitless. The word of God is the seed of universal nature; the seed whence all things sprung into existence: it made the world, and it supports it; and when this divine word, in itself so efficacious, is addressed to rational beings, it is so much their interest, as well as their duty, to comply with it, that it is at first sight astonishing how they can refuse obedience.
But here was the great misfortune; that freedom of will, which originally constituted our dignity above other parts of the creation, became, by our fall, our disgrace and our bane. That generous, voluntary obedience to which we were ordained, implying necessarily a possibility of disobedience, that fatal possibility proved our ruin: but though by mere nature we are now dead in trespasses and sins, God has in infinite love given his Son to die for us, and his Spirit to restore us to that divine image in which we were at first created, if we will yield to be saved by grace.
God now speaks to men by various ways; a principal one is that of preaching. God has given power and commandment to his ministers to declare his will, to publish his laws: they are intrusted with the divine seed of his word; and woe be to them, if they use it deceitfully; woe be to them if they mingle it with the tares of human traditions, or prostitute it to any worldly purposes! Such profanation of it may indeed sometimes be committed by ignorant or designing men; but the sacred Scriptures are happily in the hands of the laity, and it should be their care to search those Scriptures, and try if the doctrine that they hear be agreeable thereto; whether it be of God, or whether men speak of themselves.
While ministers faithfully do their duty, God speaks by their mouths. They are the sowers sent into the field, to scatter the good seed of his word: this is their part; that of the people is, to receive it through his grace, which is offered to all, with the proper dispositions, which can be judged of only by the fruit that it brings forth. The people will all find themselves described in this parable, which represents four sorts of hearers; and each man is concerned to judge himself to what class he belongs.
The first sort are compared to the way-side, the common road, upon which when the seed fell, the birds came, and devoured it. Our Lord interprets this of those, who, hearing the word, understand it not; see Mat 13:10 by which he means not that they are ignorant of the sense, but that they do not exercise their understanding about it. They do not mind; they do not consider it as the rule of their conduct. Their heads are like a highway, or common thoroughfare, in which nothing rests, but all passes out as it entered; they persevere in a wilful, stubborn ignorance, and all the tremendous truths of religion make no impression on them; like Gallio they care for none of these things, as if they had no part or concern in them.
Why then do they come to the places of divine worship? To what purpose do they enter those schools of wisdom?—Merely to comply with the custom, to follow the multitude, to pass away an hour or two, which would be burdensome at home; or perhaps to criticize on what they hear, and remark the preacher's faults, instead of their own. If I should add, that many come to places of worship to shew themselves, to make a wanton ostentation of their person and dress, to take out new lessons of vanity, to learn fashions and practise them; if I should say this, is it not true? and if it be true, is it not abominable? But fools make a mock at sin, and turn just rebukes into a jest. The preacher must be very cautious upon these subjects, who does not incur their ridicule. But this is a very serious matter, and we must renounce the name of Christians if we do not lay it to heart. Our Master, Christ, who was mildness itself, most dove-like mildness, changed his wonted indulgence into severity and indignation against those who profaned his temple. Though his general demeanor to transgressors was so meek and gentle, so condescending and familiar, that his adversaries reproached him as the friend of publicans and sinners; yet, when he found sinners polluting the holy place, his just zeal so far transported him, that he made a scourge of small cords, and drove them all out of the temple.
This uncommon indignation of Christ argues, that it is no small crime to abuse the house of God to any purposes different from, and, as they often prove, opposite to, those of its institution. It is the house of prayer; wherein we are to humble ourselves before God, to implore his mercy, and acknowledge his goodness; to learn his will, and celebrate his sacraments: and if any come thither for other ends, let them be warned by this admonition, and not presume for the future to approach God in his places of public worship but with such modesty, sobriety, and devout recollection of mind, as become the holy offices performed there.
The second sort of hearers are compared to stony places, (Mark 4:5.) of whom our Lord says, These are they who hear the word, and immediately receive it with gladness; but have no root in themselves, &c. (Mark 4:17.) Such are the second sort: they receive, they relish the word; they delight in it; they partly apply it to themselves, and partly reduce it to practice: but all proves superficial, and consequently vain; for they are as stony ground, in which the seed cannot take root. By this metaphor of stones, we may here understand bosom-sins, habitual vices, in which they indulge themselves; such as covetousness, or uncleanness, or sloth, or rank ill-nature, or some other reigning vice, which they will not do themselves the violence to surmount. Of this we find a remarkable instance in Herod; of whom it is said, that, "he revered John, knowing him to be a just and holy man; having reformed many things upon his remonstrances, which he used to receive very graciously." This seemed a hopeful circumstance; for a prince, bred in the pride and luxury of courts, to become attentive to the austere Baptist, to hear gladly his mortifying lessons of penitence; and not only to hear, but begin to put them in practice,—for it is said that he did many things,—this was very promising, and one might expect from it some extraordinary reformation. But he had still a stony place in his heart: Herodias was there; and the good seed could not take root in it.—You know the sad event. So fallacious is that gladness which is often felt upon hearing the word; many are pleased with it, who never profit by it!
For as the soul of man was made for truth, it naturally takes delight in it; and while the truth does not directly oppose our favourite errors, we receive it with joy; we let it sprout and put forth leaves, and make a shew of reformation; but when it reaches the bosom-sin, the darling vice, which we will not part with, then it meets a rock; then it can make no farther progress; we shut our eyes against the light; we choose darkness and falsehood, because our deeds are evil. And therefore they deceive themselves, who, when they are touched and affected by a sermon, think that all is done, and that they have discharged their duty. Quite the contrary; nothing is done, if they stop here.
The thorns are the third obstacle mentioned, to the fertility of the good seed. This is explained at Mark 4:18-19. When we speak of the cares of this world as sinful, there presently occur many objections to what is offered: "No man," it is said, "can live without care; and if any should, he would be justly blamed for his negligence: Six days shalt thou labour, saith God; and labour there relates in the mind, as well as the body; and the most general labour of the mind is carefulness. Wherein then does its sinfulness consist? or how can any man discharge the office of his calling without it?" To this we answer, that care to please God, and work out our salvation in the state to which he hath called us,—that is, to do the business which God hath appointed us, as the business God hath appointed us,—is an indispensible duty; and it is not care in the general, but the care of this world, that is criminal; that is, care merely for the sake of this world, and exclusive of our regard to God; care, whereof worldly goods are the sole motive and end: such care, as we should not engage in, but for the temporal profit which we expect from it.
Morality consists not in the more outward action, but in the motive to it; that is, the reason why we do it; the end for which we perform it. The servant of God, and the servant of Mammon, may appear both alike careful and industrious; but from very different principles: the one fulfils the desires of his covetousness, while the other obeys the commands of God. As our motives, or principles of action, are of a secret nature, and commonly lie hid in the intricacies of the human heart, men very frequently deceive themselves in this matter, and mistake their worldly-mindedness for Christian industry. The frequency of this self-deceit is, as I suppose, the reason why our Lord adds to the cares of this world,—the deceitfulness of riches; and in other places warns us so earnestly, with a double caution, that we should take heed and beware of covetousness, because the temptation to it commonly solicits men under the disguise of duty, of frugality, of providing for their families, and fulfilling their vocation.
That we may not be deceived by worldly care, in this disguise of a virtuous diligence, our Lord has given us this character whereby to know it; that it chokes the good seed of the word, stops its influence, and hinders the due effect which it would have upon our lives. For instance, the word saith, Love your neighbour as yourself, and deal by him as you yourself would be dealt by: if this through divine grace take root in our hearts, it will produce a most amiable integrity, disinterestedness, and generosity in our dealings; but worldly cares come, and stifle this good seed, making men selfish, griping, disingenuous, and over-reaching. The word again commands, that we seek the kingdom of God and his righteousness in the first place, and depend securely upon divine Providence for our support. Hence the Christian industry is full of faith in God; sedulous to please him, and only him.—So intent upon duty, that it is indifferent to all beside; so confiding in the divine protection, that it is void of all care for itself; and rests in a perpetual inward peace, by reason of its habitual resignation to all the orders of Providence. A care of this world, on the contrary, is disquieting and vexatious; it seeks the world in the first place, as its principal affair; and where it predominates, true religion must be excluded; for true religion can never be an inferior or secondary pursuit: it must be the first, or none: it must root out the thorns, or be choked by them.
The last kind of soil on which the seed is said to have fallen, is good ground; which is interpreted to represent those, who with an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience. See Luke 8:15. To these happy auditors are assigned three properties, worthy of our notice and imitation: they receive the word with an honest heart;—they keep the word which they have heard; and—they bring forth fruit with patience: they are sincere in hearing, faithful in retaining, and patient in practising their duty inwardly and outwardly.
The first part of this character, namely, sincerity in receiving the word, is well exemplified and expressed by Cornelius, who was directed by a heavenly vision to send for St. Peter; and after having got together a small congregation of his friends and relations, he at their head thus addressed himself to the apostle for instruction: Now are we all here present before God, to hear all things that are commanded thee of God. So spoke that honest heart, which was rightly prepared to receive the word;—we are here present before God. A devout sense of the divine presence dispels all secular cares, recollects the attention, stills every faculty of the mind, and composes it into a religious silence. Such should be our disposition when we read the word of God in the Scriptures, or hear it faithfully dispensed by his ministers. We shall then feel its efficacy; for it will make a great impression on us; it will sink deep into our hearts; and taking root there, and being warmly cherished through divine grace by successive meditations, it will spring forth in holy purposes, with incessant desires to accomplish them; and, above all, in ardent longings to have the love of God shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost given unto us.
This is what we are to understand by the second property before mentioned of an honest heart, or good ground, namely, that it keeps the word. It suffers not itself to be dissipated in pleasures, distracted with cares, or engrossed by any sensual affection; but, attentive to the truth received, retains it as a sacred deposit, cultivates it (as was said) with assiduous meditation, and puts forth all its force to co-operate with it through grace in the production of holiness and virtue. Those who have their hearts thus disposed, are Christ's favourite auditors, and he has pronounced upon them a memorable benediction. See Luke 11:28.
The third and most essential quality of an honest heart, is, that it brings forth fruit with patience. This is the completion of its character, the perfection of its goodness and felicity. If, says our Lord, ye continue in my word,—then are ye my disciples indeed; and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free: then through the blood of the covenant you become the children of God, and endeared to Christ by every kind of relation. So he himself assures us, in those ever memorable words wherewith the third chapter of this Evangelist is closed: Whosoever shall do the will of my Father who is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother. Blessed therefore, eternally blessed, are all they that hear the word of God, and keep it, and perseveringly bring forth fruit with patience.
REFLECTIONS.—1st, For the convenience of being heard by the vast multitudes who attended him, our Lord again returned to the sea-shore; and, entering into a boat, sat down and taught a great and attentive congregation, preaching to them the doctrines of truth under parables drawn from familiar objects. We have,
1. The parable of the sower, which represents the different effects of the gospel-word upon the hearts of men. Matthew 13:3., &c. He demands attention; for all who would understand must give diligence, and well consider what they hear. The parable itself was plain, but even the twelve were dull of apprehension, and understood it not; but when they were retired with the rest of the disciples, they desired of Jesus the explanation of it: to which he graciously condescends, yet as it were wondering withal at their wanting an explanation of what was so plain. Note; (1.) The human understanding is strangely dark in spiritual concerns: the plainest truths of God's word to the natural man are utterly unintelligible. (2.) The more we are acquainted with our own stupid ignorance in the things of God, till illuminated, the more thankful shall we be for divine teaching.
2. The explication that Christ gives is this: The seed is the word of God: himself, and all his faithful labourers, are the sowers. The hearers are the soil: many of them the word preached does not profit, not being mixed with faith. Some are careless and inattentive; the seed sown does not at all abide upon their hearts; Satan, by some vanity, amusement, or avocation, instantly snatches it away. Others for a moment hear it with joy, their passions are affected, but their hearts are unchanged; therefore, no sooner is the impression worn off, than they are like blasted corn which withers away. Some are so engrossed with the riches and cares of the world, the eager pursuits of its honours, pleasures, or esteem, that these, by degrees, eat out the life of their profession, carnalize their souls, and make them earthly, sensual. Thus, for the perishing trifles of time, they lose all the glories of eternity. But there are those, who, amid the general apostacy, with patient perseverance endure, and bring forth in their measure the gracious fruits of faith and holiness.
2nd, Our Lord proceeds to teach them under other parabolic representations.
1. By the use that we make of a candle when lighted up, Christ informs them what he justly expected of them, even to shine as lights in the world; communicating to others the truths which they in secret learned of him, and keeping back nothing of the whole counsel of God. Whatever gifts of nature or grace we enjoy, they are to be employed for God's glory and the good of mankind; and not, through love of ease, or false shame, concealed or neglected. It is not enough that we walk in the light ourselves, we must let our light also shine before men.
2. He warns them of the danger of negligence in improving the means and mercies which they enjoyed. They are called upon to hear, and to take heed what they hear; that the word may not be ineffective, nor they be deluded; but by a careful use of their measure of the gift of grace to increase their store, God being ready to communicate more abundant knowledge to such attentive hearers, and to give farther assistances of spiritual light and strength to those who employ aright in the service of Christ and immortal souls the portion which they have received; while he punishes the negligent and inattentive, by withdrawing from them the privileges wherewith he had favoured them.
3. He describes the progress of his Gospel in the world, and of the seed of divine grace in the heart, by the growth of corn, which, though unseen for a while, and covered with earth, shoots up, increases insensibly till the harvest, and then produces the ripe ear. Thus the ministry of Jesus at first was scarcely perceived, but the seed; that he sowed afterwards sprang up, continues through his word and spirit still to grow, and shall shortly fill the face of the whole world with fruit. And so also in many a heart, where the seed of eternal life is sown by any minister of God, it grows without his care, when perhaps he is removed far away, or sleeps in death; it is watered with the dew of heavenly influences; and though the manner of the spirit's operation in the divine change that is wrought, is mysterious as the manner in which the corn vegetates, yet the effects are visible; the soul is renewed day by day; the seed of grace, in souls which perseveringly cleave to Jesus, from small beginnings, shoots upwards till the time of harvest, when the ripe corn is gathered in, and the faithful saints of God, matured for glory, enter their eternal rest. Lord, quicken the seed sown in our souls day by day!
4. Much to the same purpose as the former, is the parable of the grain of mustard-seed, and represents, (1.) The progress of the Gospel; which, from the smallest beginnings of the ministry of a few poor fishermen, has spread through the earth, and shall in due time reach from pole to pole, when all the kingdoms of the world shall become the kingdoms of the Lord and his Christ. (2.) The work of grace upon the hearts of persevering believers. At first, like a grain of mustard-seed, it is scarcely perceptible; but, increasing with the increase of God, the herb grows into a tree meet to be transplanted among the cedars of glorified saints in the paradise of God.
5. He added many other like parables, that by line upon line, in this familiar manner, he might communicate spiritual truths under material objects; and without a parable spake he not unto them. They who desired to understand, might easily do it; and where difficulties arose, he was always ready, when in private, to explain them to the disciples; while those who superficially heard, neglected and forgot the word preached, were justly left in their native blindness and ignorance.
3rdly, No sooner had Christ finished his discourse, and dismissed the people, than he bids the disciples cross the lake, having work that calls him to the other side. Jesus was never weary of well-doing, neither should we.
1. The disciples, without hesitation, obey; ready to follow their Master wherever he led them; and accordingly they set sail in the same vessel which had been his pulpit, and a number of other boats accompanied them. For though the multitude departed, those whose hearts were affected by what they had heard, chose to cleave to the Lord, and follow him whithersoever he went, by land or by water. Note; (1.) They who continue Christ's disciples indeed, will not leave or forsake him, whatever dangers may threaten. (2.) If Christ be with us, we may boldly launch forth; his presence and blessing will be our support and comfort.
2. A dreadful and sudden storm brought them into the most imminent danger; and, covered with waves, and full almost of water, the boat was ready to founder. Note; The church, and every faithful saint in it, have at times been brought into perilous circumstances: nothing has kept either from sinking but this, that Christ was there.
3. He slept securely in the stern on a pillow, tired with the labours of the day the storm, which drove the disciples to almost utter despair, seemed but to rock him faster to repose. Note; When we are in our deepest distresses, Christ sometimes appears to disregard our danger, as if he slept, inattentive to our cries; but he sees, he hears, and will be found to his faithful people a very present help in the time of trouble.
4. The disciples in a fright awake him with their cries; Master, carest thou not that we perish? art thou indifferent about our danger; and wilt thou suffer us to be drowned? Their application to him bespoke their faith; but their address breathed the language of impatience and dishonourable fear.
5. The Lord, whom winds and waves obey, arose; and at his commanding word, Peace, be still, the billows in a moment ceased to roar, the swelling sea subsided, the winds were hushed, not a breath of air dimpled the ocean, not a whisper broke the solemn silence. When the unruly passions are like the troubled sea which cannot rest, the voice of Jesus, heard by faith, subdues their violence, and calms their rage.—Under deep afflictions and temptations, when we are ready to abandon ourselves to despair, he silences our fears, and stills our griefs; speaking that inward peace to the conscience, which in the midst of sorrows can make us rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory.
6. He rebukes their unbelieving fears. Why are ye so fearful? so unneccessarily, so inordinately fearful? How is it that ye have no faith? not in exercise at least; though they had faith in him in general, in this particular their fears prevailed. How often do too many of us under our trials deserve the same rebuke?
7. The miracle filled the mariners with most reverential fear of the majesty in which Jesus now appeared; and with amazement they observed to each other, that he must be surely more than man whom stormy winds and raging waves so instantaneously obey.
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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Mark 4". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Sunday after Epiphany