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Bible Commentaries

The Biblical Illustrator
Matthew 13

 

 

Other Authors
Verses 1-58

Verse 3

Matthew 13:3

And He spake many things unto them in parables.

Christ a moral, painter

Jesus did not confine Himself to the mere announcement or proof of a doctrine. But by means of words, He often presented to His hearers a moral picture-flashed upon the mind’s eye a whole scene of truth with such vividness and power that it could not be well perverted or forgotten. We should imitate His pointed, emotional preaching.

I. Some reasons for the use of moral painting in sermons.

1. It imitates the style of Christ’s painting, and is part of His gospel.

2. It meets a want in our nature. It appeals to man’s perceptive facilities. God has met this want in the natural world.

3. It adds point and force to the argument. Reasoning and illustration are both essential.

4. Men who have deeply moved the human heart have used it. Poets, advocates, orators, etc. And shall the children of this world be wiser, etc.? Inspiration is full of it.

II. The kind of moral painting to be used. Great condensation, is essential to a good picture of truth. Deep emotion. The vastness of our work is enough to make an angel weep. (W. W. Newell.)

The design of speaking in parable

1. To convey truth in a more interesting manner to the mind adding to the truth conveyed the beauty of a lively image or narrative.

2. To teach spiritual truth so as to arrest the attention of ignorant people, making an appeal to them through the senses.

3. To convey some offensive truth, some pointed personal rebuke, in such a way as to bring it home to the conscience (2 Samuel 12:1-7, and many of our Saviour’s parables addressed to the Jews).

4. To conceal from one part of His audience truths which He intended others should understand (Mark 4:33; Matthew 13:15-16.) (A. Barnes D. D.)

Similitude mentally stimulating

Christ’s habit, therefore, was not so much to tell what things were, as to draw pictures of them and mention some familiar thing they were like; as a boy really knows more about the earth when told that it is shaped like a big cricket-ball, than when taught to say that it is an oblate spheroid with a polar diameter of 8,000 miles. Thus Christ was continually telling, in an easy way, what this and that was like (drawing pictures). which is to say that He taught by parables. “and without a parable spake He not unto them.”… A truth felt is more than a truth stated. Christ was continually dropping hints that led His disciples forward into a new surmise; kept treading down their horizon; did not let their opinions go to seed. He knew how to talk with them in such a way as to make them feel that what He did not tell them was considerably more than what He did tell them. (C. H. Parkhurst, D. D.)

Why our Lord used parables

1. As a means of attracting attention.

2. To prevent His auditors from being repelled by a too sudden revelation, either of His purpose or of His message.

3. To stimulate inquiry.

4. To test the character of His hearers. (U. M. Taylor, D. D.)

Behold, a sower went forth to sow.-

The parable of the sower

Four kinds of soil:

1. The impenetrable.

2. The superficial.

3. The preoccupied.

4. The prepared.

Observation:

1. The seed is the same in every case; the difference is in the kinds of soils.

2. The parable is Christ’s answer to the objection, If the gospel be from God, why is it not more effective? The answer is, that, like any other remedy, much will depend on the way in which it is used. (The Clergyman’s Magazine.)

Parable of the sower

Where is the fault of failure?

1. It does not lie in God, the sower. God does not predestinate men to fail. He willeth not the death of a sinner.

2. The cause of failure is not in any impotency of truth. The old thinkers accounted for it by the depravity of matter. Once acknowledge freewill in man, and the origin of evil does not lie in God.

3. The fault might be solely in the soil of the heart.

I. The causes of failure.

1. The first of these is want of spiritual perception. There are persons whose religion is all outside, never penetrates beyond the intellect. Conceptions of religious life, which are only conceptions outward, having no lodgment in the heart, disappear. Fowls of the air devoured the seed. This is a picture of thought dissipated, and no man can tell when or how it went.

2. A second cause of failure is want of depth of character. This stony ground is the thin layer of earth upon a bed of rock. Shallow soft is like superficial character. There is easily-moved susceptibility. A pleasant, sunny religion would be the life to suit them. The superficial character is connected with the hard heart; beneath the thin surface lies the bed of rock. It is among those of light enjoyment we must look for stony heartlessness.

3. Once more impressions come to nothing when the mind is subjected to dissipating influences, and yieids to them-“Some fell among thorns.” Two classes of dissipating influences distract such minds. The cares of this world. Martha was “cumbered with much serving.” The deceitfulness of riches dissipate. Weeding work painful.

II. For the permanence of religious impressions this parable suggests three requirements.

1. An holiest and good heart. Earnest sincerity.

2. Meditation is a second requisite for perseverance. They keep the Word which they have heard. Must not confuse reverie with meditation. Truth is dwelt on till it receives innumerable applications; it is done in silence.

3. The third requisite is endurance-“They bring forth fruit with patience.” There is an active and passive endurance, bearing pain without complaining; and under persecution. It is also the opposite of that impatience which cannot wait. We are disappointed if the harvest does not come at once. (F. W. Robertson, M. A.)

The parable of the sower

1. The careless hearer.

2. The temporary hearer.

3. The worldly-minded hearer.

4. The sincere hearers of the Word.

The Christian’s unfaithful hearing of the Word not natural, but self-induced

1. The unlimited method of the sower’s work; the indiscriminate manner in which the seed is cast upon the ground. His care not limited to a single spot. The overflowing bounty, the merciful providence of God towards all classes.

2. The impediments to growth are to be found not in natural defects or incapacities, but in self-induced hindrances and wilful indisposition to listen to the truth.

In the gospel history these hearers are to be discovered:

1. The Sadducees, who denied the resurrection. Infidelity is a sad hardener of the heart.

2. Those of our Lord’s disciples of whom mention is made that they went back, and walked no more with Him. The varieties of soil does not describe varieties of heart as formed by nature, but the condition which the heart and mind assume, as men either neglect or employ the means of grace. They represent, not the physical but the moral condition of the human mind. Human and Christian society is divided into various classes of every variety of feeling and conduct; but the motive of good or ill is in the heart. (St. Paul’s Cathedral Sermons.)

The parable of the sower

I. The sower. Jesus Christ Himself; through all the dispensations of dreams, angels, prophets: at last He came Himself with the seed of the kingdom.

II. The seed.

1. Ordinary seed is covered with an outward coat. The life principle is hidden away from observation. So we find Christ in appearance like a man. The words you hear are but the outward covering; there is an inward life. There are those who split hairs about Christianity; they know the outward form, but not the vital principle. Others ignore the outward form, and say Christianity is wholly spiritual. Both necessary.

2. The life-giving property is not in the soil, but in the seed. You may enrich the soil as you will, but without seed you can have no life. Scientists have given up the idea of spontaneous generation. There is no salvation apart from the indwelling Christ.

3. Where life is there is power. Sow pebbles, but they have no power to reach a harvest. The Word powerful because living.

4. Every seed brings forth after its kind. You cannot sow wickedness and reap religion.

III. The soil.

1. The wayside hearer.

2. The stony-ground hearer. The emotional hearer.

3. Among the thorns-the double-minded hearer.

4. Good soil-the man who hears aright. (G. F. Pentecost.)

The parable of the sower

I. The sower.

1. Our Lord first of all means Himself. His work chiefly was sowing the seeds of Divine truth in the minds of men. The reaping began on the day of Pentecost.

2. Then by the sower is meant our Lord’s apostles and the seventy disciples whom He sent cut to preach the gospel, and all ministers of His Word.

3. All Christian people are sowers. By our words and actions we are sowing some kind of principle in the minds of others; we cannot help it.

II. The seed. God’s Word.

1. It is sometimes rather more the word of man than the Word of God-the Word of God mingled with the Word of man.

2. It may be one part of the Word of God to the exclusion of another, grace to the exclusion of works.

3. Christ is in an emphatic sense the Word of God; so we are to sow the Word concerning Christ.

III. The ground. What does the ground mean?-the heart rather than the head, the affections rather than the intellect. A cold, feelingless man cannot effect much as regards religious truth.

IV. The result of the sowing. (H. S. Brown.)

Bad soul-conditions not unalterable

Why, there was a time, I suppose, when the very fruitfullest fields of England were something like either the stony places or the thorny places in this parable. I have recently seen in the distant parts of these islands, and in one of the most rugged parts of the West of Scotland, ground which I saw four or five years ago, when the present proprietor came into possession of it; and that ground-well, I cannot say there was anything on it like a wayside, for there was not a wayside within miles of it-but still, it was chiefly stones, and gorse, and heather, and all sorts of stuff; but the application of culture, skill, some capital, and so on, has made it very decent land indeed, and it is yielding something now for the support of man and beast. There is nothing fatalistic in this parable, nothing to drive to despair the man who feels he is bad, and wishes to be a true Christian, and nothing to encourage in sin the man who has no desire after good things. God’s grace can do for the heart, be what it may, what man’s skill has done a thousand times for the land that he cultivates. (H. S. Brown.)

The parable of the sower opened

I. The agent. The hearts of men and women are Christ’s spiritual husbandry.

1. Christ is the principal sower, the master sower; ministers are His servants (2 Corinthians 6:1).

2. Christ sows His own by creation. Ministers have no seed of their own; their doctrine and word belong to Christ.

3. Christ is a most wise and skilful sower; He hath a perfect knowledge of all sorts of ground.

4. Christ is a universal sower.

5. Jesus Christ is an efficacious sower. He can cause the seed to take root; but so cannot a minister.

II. His action. Jesus Christ may be said to go forth in three ways:

1. In His own person.

2. In the ministry of His servants.

3. To sow His seed by the Spirit.

III. His design. (B. Keach.)

Ministers are Christ’s seedsmen

1. They, like seedsmen, must sow the seed in its proper season (2 Corinthians 6:2),

2. They must sow their seed, let it be what weather it will, a time of peace, or a time of persecution.

3. They must sow no seed of their own, but Christ’s doctrine (Deuteronomy 22:9).

4. They must sow all Christ’s seed.

5. Constantly, as long as seed-time lasteth (Ecclesiastes 11:6).

6. They sow, but the whole success is of God.

Why the Word is compared to seed

1. Seed springs not out of the ground naturally; it must first be sown. The heart must first have the seed of grace infused.

2. Seed, let it be of wheat or barley, is the choice, st of each sort respectively. True grace is of an excellent nature.

3. Until seed is sown there will be no increase. So the heart must take in the Word by faith.

4. Seed sometimes which is sown lies a considerable time in the ground before it springs up, or visibly appears; it must have time to take root.

5. Clods of earth, being not broken, oftentimes obstruct the springing up of the seed, or it is from thence it appears not to have taken root so soon as in some other ground; so likewise, through the power of Satan’s temptations and corruption of the heart, the Word is for a time hindered.

6. A husbandman observes the proper time and season of sowing his seed.

7. Men are not sparing in sowing their seed, but scatter it plentifully, though they expect not all to take root.

8. A husbandman soweth his seed on what ground he pleaseth; some he lets lie barren. There are nations to whom the gospel is not sent.

9. That the earlier seed is sown the better it is rooted; so with the Word sown in the hearts of young people. (B. Keach.)


Verse 4

Matthew 13:4; Matthew 19:1-30

Some seeds fell by the wayside, and the fowls came and devoured them up.
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Way seed devoured by birds

The birds devour the truth we neglect to cover. Let us study these birds:-

1. The first belongs to the heron species, having long legs, a long bill, broad strong wings, and an eye keen as an eagle’s, yet filmy at times, which causes serious mistakes. This is the bird of intellectual scepticism. It delays your acceptance of the truth with all kinds of questions.

2. There is another bird of dirty and ruffled feathers, a nondescript, but a hearty eater of the seed dropped by the wayside. It is evil associations. They neutralize the influences of the Spirit of God.

5. There is the muscular bird with curved beak that holds like a vice. It is a moth eater of the falcon order, and ravenous, evil habits, and belongs to a large family.

4. There is a bird of bad odour. Carrion drops from feather and from bill. It i; of the buzzard tribe. Let us call it the inconsistencies of Christian professors.

5. There is a dull and heavy bird, not easily seared away, of the booby order. It is religious indecision. All these hinder our salvation. (T. E. Brown, D. D.)

The seed by the wayside

The truth described as a “seed.” There are manifold facilities about the emblem on which we may dwell. The seed has a germinating power in itself that leads to endless reproduction. So has every true word. Then man is but the soil. If you are to get Divine desires in the human heart, they must be sown there: they are not products of the soil. Again, man’s part is accurately described as a simple reception, not passive, but a co-operation. Then these different kinds of soil are not unalterably different: it is an acquired disposition, not a natural characteristic that is spoken of.

I. The beaten path.

II. The lost seed.

I. Let us think about that type of character which is here set forth under the image of “the wayside.” It is a heart trodden down by the feet that have gone across it; and because trodden down, incapable of receiving the seed sown. The seed falls upon, not in it. Point out ways in which the heart is trodden down.

1. By custom and habit. The process of getting from childhood to manhood is a process of getting less impressible.

2. The heart is trodden down by sin. It is an effect of sin that it uniformly works in the direction of unfitting men to receive God’s love. Every transgression deprives us, in some degree, of power to receive God’s truth, and make it our own.

3. The heart is trodden down, so far as receiving the gospel is concerned, by the very feet of the sower. Every sermon an ungodly man hear, which leaves him ungodly, leaves him harder by the passage of the Word once more across his heart.

II. The lost seed. Satan’s chosen instruments are those light, swift-winged, apparently innocent flocks of flying thoughts, that come swooping across your souls, even whilst the message of God’s love is sounding in your ears. (A. Maclaren D. D.)

Hardened by sin

Every transgression deprives us, in some degree, of power to receive the Divine word of God’s truth, and making it our own. And these demons of worldliness, of selfishness, of carelessness, of pride, of sensuality, that go careering through your soul, my brother, are like the goblin horseman in the old legend; wherever that hoof-fall strikes, the ground is blasted, and no grass will grow upon it any more for ever! (A. Maclaren D. D.)

Hardened by habit

The best way of presenting before you what I mean will be to take a plain illustration. Suppose a little child, just beginning to open its eyes and unfold its faculties upon this wonderful world of ours. There you get the extreme of capacity for receiving impressions from without, the extreme of susceptibility to the influences that come upon it. Tell the little thin; some trifle that passes out of your mind; you forget all about it; but it comes out again m the child weeks and weeks afterwards, showing how deep a mark it has made. It is the law of the human nature that, when it is beginning to grow it shall be soft as wax to receive all kinds of impressions, and then that it shall gradually stiffen and become hard as adamant to retain them. The rock was once all fluid, and plastic, and gradually it cools down into hardness. If a finger-dint had been put upon it in the early time, it would have left a mark that all the forces of the world could not make nor can obliterate now. In our great museums you see stone slabs with the marks of rain that fell hundreds of years before Adam lived; and the footprint of some wild bird that passed across the beach in those old, old times. The passing shower and the light foot left their prints on the soft sediment; then ages went on, and it has hardened into stone; and there they remain and will remain for evermore. That is like a man’s spirit; in the childish days so soft, so susceptible to all impressions, so joyous to receive new ideas, treasuring them all up, gathering them all into itself, retaining them all for ever. And then, as years go on, habit, the growth of the soul into steadiness and power, and many other reasons beside, gradually make us less and less capable of being profoundly and permanently influenced by anything outside us; so that the process from childhood to manhood is a process getting less impressible. (A. Maclaren D. D. )

The seed sown on the wayside

I. What is the wayside?

1. The wayside hearers are such as are unploughed, unbroken up by the cutting energy of the law.

2. It is trampled upon by every passer by. The want of “understanding” lies in this: that they do not see their own connection with the Word.

II. What is the seed? No matter where the seed fell, in itself it was always good; that which fell on the wayside was the same ,us that which fell on good ground. Thus the blame of man’s condemnation is in himself. The seed is the Word of God.

III. What are the disadvantages; which prove fatal to its being received at all?

1. The hardness of the ground.

2. The active agents of evil which were near at hand snatched it away. You give no advantage to the devil which is not immediately seized by him. (P. B. Power, M. A.)

The seed and the husk

Christ is the living seed, and the Bible is the husk that holds it. The husk that holds the seed is the most precious thing in the world, next after the seed that it holds. (W. Arnot.)

The Word falling on the external senses

Falling only upon the external senses, they are swept off by the next current; as the solid grain thrown from the sower’s hand rattles on the smooth hard roadside, and lies on the surface till the fowls carry it away. (W. Arnot.)

Unskilful sowing fruitful

if the seed is good, and the ground well prepared, a very poor and awkward kind of sowing will suffice. Seed flung in anyn fashion into the soft ground will grow: whereas, if it fall on the wayside,it will bear no fruit, however artfully it may have been spread. My latimer was a practical and skilful agriculturist. I was wont, when very young, to follow his footsteps into the field, further and oftener than was convenient for him or comfortable for myself. Knowing well how much a child is gratified by being permitted to imitate a man’s work, he sometimes hung the seed-bag, with a few handfuls in it, upon nay shoulder, and sent me into the field to sow. I contrived in some way to throw the grain away, and it fell among the clods. But the seed that fell from an infant’s hands, when it fell in the right place, grew as well and ripened as fully as that which had been scattered by a strong and skilful man. In like manner, in the spiritual department, the skill of the sower, although important in its own place, is, in view of the final result, a subordinate thing. The cardinal points are the seed and the soil. In point of fact, throughout the history of the Church, while the Lord has abundantly honoured His own ordinance of a standing ministry, He has never ceased to show, by granting signal success to feeble instruments, that results in His work are not necessarily proportionate to the number of talents employed. (W. Arnot.)

The wayside hearer

The proposals made to the wayside hearer suggest nothing at all to him. His mind throws off Christ’s offers as a slated roof throws off hail. You might as well expect seed to grow on a tightly-braced drum-head as the Word to profit such a hearer; it dances on the hard surface, and the slightest motion shakes it off. (Marcus Dods.)

What can we do with the trodden path?

May it not be possible to do as the farmer would do, if he had some piece of field across which men and animals were constantly passing? May we not pray for ability to put some sort of hurdles across, to prevent the mere animal portion of our life, whether of pleasure or business, or of our own animal passions, from crushing the spiritual life, and prevent us from giving earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip. (Robert Barclay.)

No time for understanding

“How is it, my dear,” inquired a schoolmistress of a little girl, “that you do not understand this simple thing? … I do not know, indeed,” she answered, with a perplexed look; “ but I sometimes think I have so many things to learn that I have not the time to understand.” Alas! there may be much hearing, much reading, much attendance at public services, and very small result; and all because the Word was not the subject of thought, and was never embraced by the understanding. What is not understood is like meat undigested, more likely to be injurious than nourishing. (C. H. Spurgeon.)


Verse 5

Matthew 13:5; Matthew 13:20-21

Some fell upon stony places, where they had not much earth.
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Stony places

I. The nature of the ground.

1. Stony ground wants breaking up. These persons enter into a profession of religion before their hearts are thoroughly broken in the sense of sin.

2. Stony ground is cold; what colder than a stone? These persons are without spiritual warmth.

3. Their hearts may be compared to stony ground from the heaviness or lumpishness of their spirits. These hearts are heavy and not soon removed out of their evil course.

4. Stony ground doth not drink in the rain that falls from heaven.

5. All the hearts of men are naturally hard.

6. Stony ground seems to be the fruit of the curse for man’s sin. So these persons seem still to be under the curse.

7. Stony ground by reason of the little earth that is found there, never brings forth fruit to perfection. So these persons only bring forth the externals of religion.

8. Stony ground, when the sun rises high and begins to shine hot upon it, the scorching beams thereof soon causes the blade to wither away.

II. The success of the seed. Stony or hard hearted hearers may go a great way in the profession of religion.

1. They may hear the Word of God with diligence.

2. They may be zealous hearers.

3. They may receive the Word into their hearts.

4. They receive it with joy.

5. They believe for a while.

6. They may yield obedience to all external duties.

7. They may become members of a visible church.

8. They may leave all gross acts of sin.

9. They may have some inward joy as to the hopes they have of heaven.

Why they go so far?

1. From the common illuminations of God’s Word and Spirit.

2. Because a temporary faith is not wholly without product.

3. It may arise from regard for some ministers.

4. Self-respect and honour may cause them to go so far.

5. It may be self-profit.

6. It may arise from that seeming sweetness and satisfaction they meet with from within themselves whilst they continue in the profession of religion.

7. It may be from a natural desire of being saved.

8. It may be from the shame and reproach which are attached to open wickedness.

From whence it arises that these hearers go no further:

1. It may arise from the great ignorance that is in them.

2. It ariseth from the unsoundness of their hearts, the ground is not good.

3. It ariseth from the deceitfulness of their hearts.

4. They go no further because of their pride.

5. Because they had no vital but artificial principle ill them.

6. Because there is some secret sin hid in their hearts. (B. Keach.)

Withering is the fearful fate of all stony-ground hearers

I. As to the evil of the cause that produces such evil effects.

1. The principal cause is the stoniness of their hearts.

2. Privative cause.

II. The badness of those effects that proceed from such evil causes.

1. Barrenness.

2. Another effect that attends these professors is earthliness.

3. Lukewarmness in religious duties.

4. Pride.

5. Uncharitableness.

6. Contention.

7. Inconstancy.

8. Apostacy.

III. The danger and fearful condition of such that wither

1. They disappoint God of His expectation.

2. These persons are hateful to God, as they seem to declare to all the world that there is not that good to be found in God which the Word and ministers do affirm.

3. They bring scandal upon the Church.

4. In respect of the world these men’s sin and danger is also aggravated.

5. In respect to the sin itself, none is more odious and dangerous. Relapse more dangerous than the disease.

6. This sin of withering is generally punished with other sins,

7. How may it be known that a man is withering?

1. Self-confidence.

2. When he cannot bear a searching doctrine.

3. When his conscience is not so tender as it was.

4. When a man’s prayers are short.

5. When he cannot stand in the hour of temptation.

6. Deadness of spirit. (B. Keach.)

The temporary Christian

This man’s faith has five stages:

1. He knows the Word.

2. He assents to it.

3. He professes it.

4. He rejoices inwardly in it.

5. He brings forth some kind of fruit; and yet for all this, hath no more fruit in him than a faith that will fail in the end; because he wants the effectual application of the promise of the gospel, and is without all manner of sound conversation.

This faith is like corn on the housetop, which grows for a while; but, when the heat of summer comes, it withers. (W. Perkins)
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An easily-moved susceptibility

There is deep knowledge of human nature and exquisite fidelity to truth in the single touch by which the impression of religion on them is described. The seed sprang up quickly; and then withered away as quickly, because it had no depth of root. There is a quick, easily-moved susceptibility, that rapidly exhibits the slightest breath of those emotions which play upon the surface of the soul, and then as rapidly passes off. In such persons words are ever at command-voluble and impassioned words. Tears flow readily. The expressive features exhibit every passing shade of thought. Every thought and every feeling plays upon the surface-everything that is sown springs up at once with vehement vegetation. But slightness and inconstancy go together with violence. “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.” True; but also out of the emptiness of the heart the mouth can speak even more volubly. He who can always find the word which is appropriate and adequate to his emotion,, is not the man whose emotions are deepest’; warmth of feeling is one thing-permanence is another. (F. W. Robertson.)

Shallow soil like superficial character

You meet with such persons in life. There is nothing deep about them-all they do and all they have is on the surface. The superficial servant’s work is done: but lazily, partially-not thoroughly. The superficial workman’s labour will not bear looking into-but it bears a showy outside. The very dress of such persons betrays the slatternly, incomplete character of their minds. When religion comes in contact with persons of this stamp, it shares the fate of everything else. (F. W. Robertson.)

The superficial character connected with the hard heart

Beneath the light thin surface of easily stirred dust lies the bed of rock. The shallow ground was stony ground. And it is among the children of light enjoyment and unsettled life that we must look for stony heartlessness-not in the world of business-not among the poor, crushed to the earth by privation and suffering. These harden the character, but often leave the heart soft. If you wish to know what hollowness and heartlessness are, you must seek for them in the world of light, elegant, superficial Fashion-where frivolity has turned the heart into a rockbed of selfishness. Say what men will of the heartlessness of Trade, it is nothing compared with the heartlessness of Fashion. Say what they will of the atheism of Science, it is nothing to the atheism of that round of pleasure in which many a heart lives: dead while it lives. (F. W. Robertson)
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Warm affections easily moved

Among the affections, when they are warm and newly stirred, the seed speedily springs. (W. Arnot.)

Christ not to be on the surface

Do not keep Christ on the surface; let Him possess the centre, and thence direct all the circumference of your life. (W. Arnot.)

Hasty, but not lasting

The marked antithesis between the immediate reception and the immediate rejection is to be carefully observed. That which is hasty is not lasting. Grace, in almost every case, is slow and progressive; for, in the human heart, it has much to contend against; and God treats us as free agents, putting no force on any man’s will, (J. Ford,)


Verse 7

Matthew 13:7; Matthew 13:22

And some fell among thorns.

1. Thorns and thistles occupying the field suck in the sap which should go to nourish the good seed. The capability of the ground is limited.

2. Thorns and thistles favoured as indigenous plants by the suitability of soil and climate outgrow the grain. The thorns are at home, the wheat is an exotic.

3. Anxieties about work, clothes, etc., become the thorn plants, harmless in appearance at first, which in the end may choke the seed of grace in your heart.

4. Worldly cares nursed by indulgence into a dangerous strength are further like thorns growing in a corn field, in that they interpose a veil between the ace of Jesus and the opening, trustful look of a longing soul. The seed must be exposed to the sun.

5. As long as weeds live they grow. They must be cast out of the field.

6. The thorn is a prickly thing; it tears the husbandman’s flesh, as well as destroys the fruit of his field. (W. Arnot.)

The deceitfulness of riches

Greek mythology tells of one who, being offererd a valuable reward if successful in a race, resolved to outstrip all competitors. But, alas I she did not, and why? Because enemies ever and anon flung pieces of gold just before her. The temptation was too strong; as often as she saw the glittering coins she stopped to pick them up, and so lost the prize. A picture that of some who start on the spiritual course; they forfeit the recompense because they stop to pick up gold. “The deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it becometh unfruitful.”

The deceitfulness of riches

1. Riches are deceitful in the insidious growth which they promote of the desire for wealth, quite independent of what it is worth in its positive power.

2. In the transition from a normal desire for wealth to the fervour of avarice, there is great danger of deception among men.

3. Wealth is deceitful in taking the place of legitimate enjoyments in life.

4. The relative growth of the selfish over the generous.

5. In the gradual development of self-esteem and self-sufficiency.

6. In an entire perversion which takes place in the minds of men.

7. Wealth deceives men by promises. (H. W. Beecher.)

Worldliness

In gold there is a halter: in silver there is bird-lime; in the farm there is a bond; in the love of the world there is a chain. While we search for gold we are strangled; while for silver we stick fast; while we seize upon the farm, we are taken prisoners. (Ambrose.)

The soul has a limited capacity for growth

There is nutriment enough in the ground for thorns, and enough for wheat; but not enough, in any ground, for both wheat and thorns. The agriculturist thins his nursery-ground, and the farmer weeds his field, and the gardener removes the superfluous grapes, for that very reason: in order that the dissipated sap may be concentrated in a few plants vigorously. So in the same way, the heart has a certain power of loving. But love, dissipated on many objects, concentrates itself on none. God or the world-not both. “No man can serve two masters.” “If any man love the world, the love of the ]Father is not in him.” He that has learned many accomplishments or sciences, generally knows none thoroughly. Multifariousness of knowledge is commonly opposed to depth-variety of affections is generally not found with intensity. (F. W. Robertson.)

The word choked

A merchant of-, engaged in a lucrative trade, was convinced by the Spirit of God that he was an heir of hell, but might, by repentance and faith in Jesus Christ, become an heir of heaven. The god of this world tempted him with much earthly gain; and God, in the Person of the Holy Ghost, offered him durable riches and righteousness. He was fully convinced, as he said, that the riches of earth and the riches of heaven were set before him, and that he could not obtain both, but might take his choice. He glanced at heaven’s durable riches, and then settled his covetous gaze on earth’s glittering tinsel. He paused, feeling his choice was for eternity; but, at length, strangely, madly cried, “Give me my portion here.” His prayer was answered-his fiches were multiplied; “but,” said he, “I know that to gain the world, I have lost my soul.”

Deceitfulness of riches

Some years ago, when preaching at Bristol, amongst other notes I received to pray for individuals, one was this: “A person earnestly desires the prayers of the congregation, who is prospering in trade.” “Ah,” said I to myself, “here is a man who knows something of his own heart, and who has read the Scriptures to some purpose.” (W. Jay.)

Riches like thorns

Riches are like thorns: they may be touched, but not rested upon. Can’st thou set thy heart upon a thorn without piercing thyself through with many sorrows? (Venning.)


Verse 8

Matthew 13:8; Matthew 13:23

But other fell on good ground and brought forth fruit.
The fruit
thirty-fold seems to represent the case of those who fear; sixty-fold the ease of those who hope; the hundredfold those who love. (Hermann.)

As in the bad ground, the diversity was threefold-the wayside, the stony, and the thorny:-so in the good ground there is a like diversity-the fruit yielding some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. (Zeroing.)

Qualifications for the reception of God’s truth

1. Sensibility to religious impressions.

2. Thoughtfulness.

3. Unworldliness.

4. An honest and good heart.

Growth precious because perilous

In the soil of the heart is found all the nutriment of spiritual life, and all the nutriment of the weeds and poisons which destroy spiritual life. And it is this which makes Christian character, when complete, a thing so inestimably precious. There are things precious, not from the materials of which they are made, but from the risk and difficulty of bringing them to perfection. The speculum of the largest telescope foils the optician’s skill in casting. Too much or too little heat-the interposition of a grain of sand, a slight alteration in the temperature of the weather, and all goes to pieces-it must be recast. Therefore, when successfully finished, it is a matter for almost the congratulation of a country. Rarer, and more difficult still than the costliest part of the most delicate of instruments, is the completion of Christian character. Only let there come the heat of persecution-or the cold of human desertion-a little of the world’s dust-and the rare and costly thing is cracked, and becomes a failure. (F. W. Robertson.)

Good ground

1. A good and honest heart is a perfect and sincere heart.

2. It is an obedient heart.

3. It is a faithful heart.

4. It is a jealous heart.

5. It is a fruitful heart. (B. Keach.)


Verse 11-12

Matthew 13:11-12

Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven.

The preparation necessary for understanding the mysteries of the gospel

I. To explain what it is that we ought to have in order to attain an understanding of the mysteries of the gospel.

1. We ought to have an honest desire after light, and if we have this desire it will not remain unproductive. There is a connection announced in Scripture between desire and its accomplishment. The hungry are filled. Thousands are content that the Bible shall remain a sealed book-unto them it will not be given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven.

2. We ought to have a habit of prayer conjoined with a habit of inquiry; and to this more will be given. It is in the Bible and not out of the Bible, where this light is to be met with. It is by the Spirit of God shining upon the Word, that His truth is reflected with clearness upon the soul.

3. We ought to do all that we know to be God’s will, and to this habit of humble, earnest, desirous reformation, more will be given. Doing stands in the same relation to prayer that reading does. Without the one or the other it is the prayer either of presumption or hypocrisy. Christ is given to those who obey Him. Reading, prayer, and reformation are obvious things; and it is the neglect of these obvious things which involves guilt. It is for want of seeking if you do not find.

II. Explain how it is that the mysteries of the gospel are, in many cases, evolved upon the mind in a clear and convincing manifestation. The carnal mind is enmity against God; and Divine truth must be brought to man from above. (Dr. Chalmers.)

For whosoever hath, to him shall be given.-

Increase of gifts

God heaps upon His faithful and elect people (such as the apostles were) new graces and benefits day by day, so that they abound in virtue and holiness: but from the unbelieving, the ungrateful, and the unworthy, He gradually takes away His gifts, both of nature and of grace.

I. He who hath faith, to him shall be given the knowledge of the mysteries of God’s kingdom; for these cannot be known without faith.

II. They who have ears or hearing, who come to God with a pure desire to learn and to obey, to them shall be revealed celestial verities; but from those who have not this pure desire, and who indulge in their own lusts and errors, shall be taken away, by degrees, that little knowledge of Divine things which they possess.

III. He who hath doctrine-in the sense of using it-he who diligently preaches and communicates to others that which lie has received, shall never be at a loss for doctrine and words which he may speak and preach, for God will supply them to him. But if any one does not make use of doctrine, he will gradually forget it and lose it. (Lapide.)

More and more, or less and less

I. This principle as it is illustrated in the parable of the sower.

II. In reference to the experience of all gracious souls. Let us give instances:

1. When a man believes the gospel in its most elementary form, that man will soon be taught the higher truths. Use starlight and you shall have sunlight soon.

2. And as it is with faith so is it with the possession of any genuine grace, Faith, love, zeal, increase by use.

3. The way in which this promise is carried out by our gracious God is worthy of observation. God gives more by a process of growth, as in parable of the sower. The main point is, have we the living principle?

III. The other side of the truth as exemplified in the experience of the insincere. They who have heard the gospel from childhood, now give up hearing. No taste for it. Lost power to appreciate it. Others receive the grace of God, but not acting upon it, lose its power. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

The law of increase

In the world among men it is commonly observed that it never rains “but it pours. Where you see a sheep there is generally a flock. Money makes money. Poverty remains poor. Want of capital brings bankruptcy. A company starts on imaginary or borrowed capital: it makes a fuss and a noise, but it never prospers. By-and-by it breaks up, and all is lost, and yet it never had anything of its own to lose: thus it verifies to the letter the truth-“whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath.” Ordinarily, prosperity is a hen which likes to lay where there is a nest egg, and when one swallow of success conies others will follow it. Certainly we have found it so in the things of grace; where grace has been given more grace comes; spiritual capital well worked multiplies the stock, and spiritual wealth is realized where there is a solid basis to begin upon. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Increase gradual through effort

Why did not the Lord give us the largest measure of grace to begin with-why promise more abundance as an after result? I think it is because we value grace all the more when it comes to us by little and little. Again, it is to our good to be exercised to get more grace. A poor woman is allowed to go and glean in a field; your generosity might say, “Come, my good woman, I will give you the corn, and you shall not have the trouble of gleaning;” but this might not be so good a thing for her as to allow her to gather the wheat by her own efforts. It is often much better to enable the poor to help themselves than to help them without their own exertions. God is wise towards us; he means to give us the corn, but he decides that we shall glean it, and so exercise ourselves unto godliness. We are to become rich in grace, but it is to be by heavenly trading. Growth is gift, remember that. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Life before increase

A dead post which we saw in the ground twenty years ago is the same post still, no bigger, no smaller, and only altered by becoming rotten underground; but the tree which you saw twenty years ago, what a difference there is in it. It was then a sapling which you could bend, but now it has become as an iron pillar, and there is no moving it. So ought it to be with us, and we must aspire to have it so. (C. H. Spurgeon.)


Verse 13

Matthew 13:13; Matthew 13:17

But blessed are your eyes, for they see.

I. The two classes of persons here mentioned. Prophets-inspired men. Righteous men-saints. Every prophet was not a righteous man. To be a righteous man is more desirable than to be a prophet. Grace is a higher endowment than inspiration or genius.

II. These two classes of persons eagerly anticipated the Christian dispensation, Various dispensations-one religion, as one ocean. Every degree of experimental knowledge of the true religion awakens a desire for additional information. It satisfies, yet it stimulates. Moses, etc. The Divine revelation of the true religion has been progressive. The desires of the great and good are not always gratified according to their intensity. They must submit to the will of God.

III. Our privileges are far superior to those of these two classes of persons.

1. We should be grateful.

2. We should cherish a sense of responsibility.

3. We should strive to outstrip in attainment those whom we surpass in privilege. (Various.)

Divine illumination

I. To whom these words were addressed.

1. They were not addressed indiscriminately to the people.

2. They were addressed to His chosen disciples.

3. The same distinction must be observed when these words are applied to ourselves.

II. The spiritual import of these words when thus applied.

1. What the faithful disciples saw-“the Lord’s Christ.”

2. How it was the disciples saw those things in Him.

3. Unspeakably blessed are they who thus see. Are you in possession of these privileges? what do you know of them?


Verse 17

Matthew 13:13; Matthew 13:17

But blessed are your eyes, for they see.

I. The two classes of persons here mentioned. Prophets-inspired men. Righteous men-saints. Every prophet was not a righteous man. To be a righteous man is more desirable than to be a prophet. Grace is a higher endowment than inspiration or genius.

II. These two classes of persons eagerly anticipated the Christian dispensation, Various dispensations-one religion, as one ocean. Every degree of experimental knowledge of the true religion awakens a desire for additional information. It satisfies, yet it stimulates. Moses, etc. The Divine revelation of the true religion has been progressive. The desires of the great and good are not always gratified according to their intensity. They must submit to the will of God.

III. Our privileges are far superior to those of these two classes of persons.

1. We should be grateful.

2. We should cherish a sense of responsibility.

3. We should strive to outstrip in attainment those whom we surpass in privilege. (Various.)

Divine illumination

I. To whom these words were addressed.

1. They were not addressed indiscriminately to the people.

2. They were addressed to His chosen disciples.

3. The same distinction must be observed when these words are applied to ourselves.

II. The spiritual import of these words when thus applied.

1. What the faithful disciples saw-“the Lord’s Christ.”

2. How it was the disciples saw those things in Him.

3. Unspeakably blessed are they who thus see. Are you in possession of these privileges? what do you know of them?


Verse 20-21

Matthew 13:5; Matthew 13:20-21

Some fell upon stony places, where they had not much earth.
-

Stony places

I. The nature of the ground.

1. Stony ground wants breaking up. These persons enter into a profession of religion before their hearts are thoroughly broken in the sense of sin.

2. Stony ground is cold; what colder than a stone? These persons are without spiritual warmth.

3. Their hearts may be compared to stony ground from the heaviness or lumpishness of their spirits. These hearts are heavy and not soon removed out of their evil course.

4. Stony ground doth not drink in the rain that falls from heaven.

5. All the hearts of men are naturally hard.

6. Stony ground seems to be the fruit of the curse for man’s sin. So these persons seem still to be under the curse.

7. Stony ground by reason of the little earth that is found there, never brings forth fruit to perfection. So these persons only bring forth the externals of religion.

8. Stony ground, when the sun rises high and begins to shine hot upon it, the scorching beams thereof soon causes the blade to wither away.

II. The success of the seed. Stony or hard hearted hearers may go a great way in the profession of religion.

1. They may hear the Word of God with diligence.

2. They may be zealous hearers.

3. They may receive the Word into their hearts.

4. They receive it with joy.

5. They believe for a while.

6. They may yield obedience to all external duties.

7. They may become members of a visible church.

8. They may leave all gross acts of sin.

9. They may have some inward joy as to the hopes they have of heaven.

Why they go so far?

1. From the common illuminations of God’s Word and Spirit.

2. Because a temporary faith is not wholly without product.

3. It may arise from regard for some ministers.

4. Self-respect and honour may cause them to go so far.

5. It may be self-profit.

6. It may arise from that seeming sweetness and satisfaction they meet with from within themselves whilst they continue in the profession of religion.

7. It may be from a natural desire of being saved.

8. It may be from the shame and reproach which are attached to open wickedness.

From whence it arises that these hearers go no further:

1. It may arise from the great ignorance that is in them.

2. It ariseth from the unsoundness of their hearts, the ground is not good.

3. It ariseth from the deceitfulness of their hearts.

4. They go no further because of their pride.

5. Because they had no vital but artificial principle ill them.

6. Because there is some secret sin hid in their hearts. (B. Keach.)

Withering is the fearful fate of all stony-ground hearers

I. As to the evil of the cause that produces such evil effects.

1. The principal cause is the stoniness of their hearts.

2. Privative cause.

II. The badness of those effects that proceed from such evil causes.

1. Barrenness.

2. Another effect that attends these professors is earthliness.

3. Lukewarmness in religious duties.

4. Pride.

5. Uncharitableness.

6. Contention.

7. Inconstancy.

8. Apostacy.

III. The danger and fearful condition of such that wither

1. They disappoint God of His expectation.

2. These persons are hateful to God, as they seem to declare to all the world that there is not that good to be found in God which the Word and ministers do affirm.

3. They bring scandal upon the Church.

4. In respect of the world these men’s sin and danger is also aggravated.

5. In respect to the sin itself, none is more odious and dangerous. Relapse more dangerous than the disease.

6. This sin of withering is generally punished with other sins,

7. How may it be known that a man is withering?

1. Self-confidence.

2. When he cannot bear a searching doctrine.

3. When his conscience is not so tender as it was.

4. When a man’s prayers are short.

5. When he cannot stand in the hour of temptation.

6. Deadness of spirit. (B. Keach.)

The temporary Christian

This man’s faith has five stages:

1. He knows the Word.

2. He assents to it.

3. He professes it.

4. He rejoices inwardly in it.

5. He brings forth some kind of fruit; and yet for all this, hath no more fruit in him than a faith that will fail in the end; because he wants the effectual application of the promise of the gospel, and is without all manner of sound conversation.

This faith is like corn on the housetop, which grows for a while; but, when the heat of summer comes, it withers. (W. Perkins)
.

An easily-moved susceptibility

There is deep knowledge of human nature and exquisite fidelity to truth in the single touch by which the impression of religion on them is described. The seed sprang up quickly; and then withered away as quickly, because it had no depth of root. There is a quick, easily-moved susceptibility, that rapidly exhibits the slightest breath of those emotions which play upon the surface of the soul, and then as rapidly passes off. In such persons words are ever at command-voluble and impassioned words. Tears flow readily. The expressive features exhibit every passing shade of thought. Every thought and every feeling plays upon the surface-everything that is sown springs up at once with vehement vegetation. But slightness and inconstancy go together with violence. “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.” True; but also out of the emptiness of the heart the mouth can speak even more volubly. He who can always find the word which is appropriate and adequate to his emotion,, is not the man whose emotions are deepest’; warmth of feeling is one thing-permanence is another. (F. W. Robertson.)

Shallow soil like superficial character

You meet with such persons in life. There is nothing deep about them-all they do and all they have is on the surface. The superficial servant’s work is done: but lazily, partially-not thoroughly. The superficial workman’s labour will not bear looking into-but it bears a showy outside. The very dress of such persons betrays the slatternly, incomplete character of their minds. When religion comes in contact with persons of this stamp, it shares the fate of everything else. (F. W. Robertson.)

The superficial character connected with the hard heart

Beneath the light thin surface of easily stirred dust lies the bed of rock. The shallow ground was stony ground. And it is among the children of light enjoyment and unsettled life that we must look for stony heartlessness-not in the world of business-not among the poor, crushed to the earth by privation and suffering. These harden the character, but often leave the heart soft. If you wish to know what hollowness and heartlessness are, you must seek for them in the world of light, elegant, superficial Fashion-where frivolity has turned the heart into a rockbed of selfishness. Say what men will of the heartlessness of Trade, it is nothing compared with the heartlessness of Fashion. Say what they will of the atheism of Science, it is nothing to the atheism of that round of pleasure in which many a heart lives: dead while it lives. (F. W. Robertson)
.

Warm affections easily moved

Among the affections, when they are warm and newly stirred, the seed speedily springs. (W. Arnot.)

Christ not to be on the surface

Do not keep Christ on the surface; let Him possess the centre, and thence direct all the circumference of your life. (W. Arnot.)

Hasty, but not lasting

The marked antithesis between the immediate reception and the immediate rejection is to be carefully observed. That which is hasty is not lasting. Grace, in almost every case, is slow and progressive; for, in the human heart, it has much to contend against; and God treats us as free agents, putting no force on any man’s will, (J. Ford,)


Verse 22

Matthew 13:7; Matthew 13:22

And some fell among thorns.

1. Thorns and thistles occupying the field suck in the sap which should go to nourish the good seed. The capability of the ground is limited.

2. Thorns and thistles favoured as indigenous plants by the suitability of soil and climate outgrow the grain. The thorns are at home, the wheat is an exotic.

3. Anxieties about work, clothes, etc., become the thorn plants, harmless in appearance at first, which in the end may choke the seed of grace in your heart.

4. Worldly cares nursed by indulgence into a dangerous strength are further like thorns growing in a corn field, in that they interpose a veil between the ace of Jesus and the opening, trustful look of a longing soul. The seed must be exposed to the sun.

5. As long as weeds live they grow. They must be cast out of the field.

6. The thorn is a prickly thing; it tears the husbandman’s flesh, as well as destroys the fruit of his field. (W. Arnot.)

The deceitfulness of riches

Greek mythology tells of one who, being offererd a valuable reward if successful in a race, resolved to outstrip all competitors. But, alas I she did not, and why? Because enemies ever and anon flung pieces of gold just before her. The temptation was too strong; as often as she saw the glittering coins she stopped to pick them up, and so lost the prize. A picture that of some who start on the spiritual course; they forfeit the recompense because they stop to pick up gold. “The deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it becometh unfruitful.”

The deceitfulness of riches

1. Riches are deceitful in the insidious growth which they promote of the desire for wealth, quite independent of what it is worth in its positive power.

2. In the transition from a normal desire for wealth to the fervour of avarice, there is great danger of deception among men.

3. Wealth is deceitful in taking the place of legitimate enjoyments in life.

4. The relative growth of the selfish over the generous.

5. In the gradual development of self-esteem and self-sufficiency.

6. In an entire perversion which takes place in the minds of men.

7. Wealth deceives men by promises. (H. W. Beecher.)

Worldliness

In gold there is a halter: in silver there is bird-lime; in the farm there is a bond; in the love of the world there is a chain. While we search for gold we are strangled; while for silver we stick fast; while we seize upon the farm, we are taken prisoners. (Ambrose.)

The soul has a limited capacity for growth

There is nutriment enough in the ground for thorns, and enough for wheat; but not enough, in any ground, for both wheat and thorns. The agriculturist thins his nursery-ground, and the farmer weeds his field, and the gardener removes the superfluous grapes, for that very reason: in order that the dissipated sap may be concentrated in a few plants vigorously. So in the same way, the heart has a certain power of loving. But love, dissipated on many objects, concentrates itself on none. God or the world-not both. “No man can serve two masters.” “If any man love the world, the love of the ]Father is not in him.” He that has learned many accomplishments or sciences, generally knows none thoroughly. Multifariousness of knowledge is commonly opposed to depth-variety of affections is generally not found with intensity. (F. W. Robertson.)

The word choked

A merchant of-, engaged in a lucrative trade, was convinced by the Spirit of God that he was an heir of hell, but might, by repentance and faith in Jesus Christ, become an heir of heaven. The god of this world tempted him with much earthly gain; and God, in the Person of the Holy Ghost, offered him durable riches and righteousness. He was fully convinced, as he said, that the riches of earth and the riches of heaven were set before him, and that he could not obtain both, but might take his choice. He glanced at heaven’s durable riches, and then settled his covetous gaze on earth’s glittering tinsel. He paused, feeling his choice was for eternity; but, at length, strangely, madly cried, “Give me my portion here.” His prayer was answered-his fiches were multiplied; “but,” said he, “I know that to gain the world, I have lost my soul.”

Deceitfulness of riches

Some years ago, when preaching at Bristol, amongst other notes I received to pray for individuals, one was this: “A person earnestly desires the prayers of the congregation, who is prospering in trade.” “Ah,” said I to myself, “here is a man who knows something of his own heart, and who has read the Scriptures to some purpose.” (W. Jay.)

Riches like thorns

Riches are like thorns: they may be touched, but not rested upon. Can’st thou set thy heart upon a thorn without piercing thyself through with many sorrows? (Venning.)


Verse 23

Matthew 13:8; Matthew 13:23

But other fell on good ground and brought forth fruit.
The fruit
thirty-fold seems to represent the case of those who fear; sixty-fold the ease of those who hope; the hundredfold those who love. (Hermann.)

As in the bad ground, the diversity was threefold-the wayside, the stony, and the thorny:-so in the good ground there is a like diversity-the fruit yielding some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. (Zeroing.)

Qualifications for the reception of God’s truth

1. Sensibility to religious impressions.

2. Thoughtfulness.

3. Unworldliness.

4. An honest and good heart.

Growth precious because perilous

In the soil of the heart is found all the nutriment of spiritual life, and all the nutriment of the weeds and poisons which destroy spiritual life. And it is this which makes Christian character, when complete, a thing so inestimably precious. There are things precious, not from the materials of which they are made, but from the risk and difficulty of bringing them to perfection. The speculum of the largest telescope foils the optician’s skill in casting. Too much or too little heat-the interposition of a grain of sand, a slight alteration in the temperature of the weather, and all goes to pieces-it must be recast. Therefore, when successfully finished, it is a matter for almost the congratulation of a country. Rarer, and more difficult still than the costliest part of the most delicate of instruments, is the completion of Christian character. Only let there come the heat of persecution-or the cold of human desertion-a little of the world’s dust-and the rare and costly thing is cracked, and becomes a failure. (F. W. Robertson.)

Good ground

1. A good and honest heart is a perfect and sincere heart.

2. It is an obedient heart.

3. It is a faithful heart.

4. It is a jealous heart.

5. It is a fruitful heart. (B. Keach.)


Verse 31-32

Matthew 13:31-32

The kingdom of heaven is like to a grain of mustard seed,

The mustard seed

I.
The kingdom of heaven in the world is like a mustard seed sown in the ground, both in the smallness of its beginning and the greatness of its increase. The first promise given at the gate of Eden contained the gospel as a seed contains the tree. Never to human eye did the seed seem smaller than at the coming of Christ; the infant in a manger.

II. The kingdom of heaven Is A human heart is like a mustard seed, both in the smallness of its beginning and the greatness of its increase. In the design of God moral qualities hold the first place, physical magnitude is subordinate and instrumental. Origin imperceptible, result great, small on earth, it will be great in heaven. From the diminutive life of grace, the life of glory will grow. The kingdom of darkness also grows gradually from small to great; the first sin a small seed. (W. Arnot.)

A great growth from a small seed

The operation of the same law may be observed in later ages. In the Popish convent at Erfurt a studious young monk sits alone in his cell, earnestly examining an ancient record. The student is Luther, and the book the Bible. He has read many books before, but his reading has never made him wretched till now. In other books he saw other people; but in this book for the first time he saw himself. His own sin, when conscience was quickened and enlightened to discern it, became a burden heavier than he could bear. For a time he was in a horror of rent darkness; but when at last he found “the righteousness which is of God by faith,” he grew hopeful, happy, and strong. Here is a living seed, but it is very small: an awakened, exercised, conscientious, believing monk, is an imperceptible atom which superstitious multitudes, and despotic princes, and a persecuting priesthood will overlay and smother, as the heavy furrow covers the microscopic mustard-seed. But the living seed burst, and sprang, and pierced through all these coverings. How great it grew and how far it spread history tells to-day. We have cause to thank God for the greatness of the Reformation, and to rebuke ourselves for its smallness. (W. Arnot.)

The grain of mustard seed

I. We are taught by nature that small beginnings are, under God, productive of great ends.

II. We are taught it in the kingdom of providence.

III. We are taught it in the kingdom of grace. In the change produced upon the human heart. In the progress of the gospel (Psalms 72:16). (J. Campbell.)

The mustard seed

The kingdom of heaven.

I. Its present apparent insignificance.

II. Its vitality.

III. Its future grandeur. It might seem less likely to prevail and to become a universal benefit, than some other contemporary systems or influences. Christ, as a Jew belonged to the exclusive people. He was rejected by His own people. The few who were attached to Him misunderstood His teaching. After the resurrection His kingdom became slightly more visible. But our Lord was confident even under adverse conditions; His truth was of the nature of a seed. What is the vital element in Christianity but the wisdom and beauty of His teaching. Not the holiness of His life, or the love He showed, but the revelation of God in Him which draws men to Him; in His death our Lord points to the eventual greatness of His kingdom. It has indeed become a tree. To all disheartened in work; we must not measure work by size but by vitality. Have we joined the Church because it is large or because it is living. (M. Dods, D. D.)


Verse 33

Matthew 13:33

The kingdom of heaven is like unto leaven.

The parable of the leaven

I. The power which is to raise man must come from without.

“Took leaven.” It is assumed that man needs raising, and this is possible only through the introduction from without of an energy distinctly Divine. Humanity has no self-leavening power. I would ask those who imagine that we need no celestial leaven to raise us how long our moral elevation as a people would continue if the influences which come from the Bible could be shut off?

II. That the leaven must be lodged and work within. The leaven was hidden in the meal. This denotes that the mysterious element which possesses such penetrative powers is for a time concealed from sight. The chief mischief connected with man lies within. Many systems of reformation proceed on the supposition that the unhappy condition of man is external, not in himself, but in his circumstances. But vice is not confined to slums. The chief elements of man’s degradation are ignorance, selfishness, and misery; these are within a man, and can be counteracted only by that which shall work within.

III. The penetrative and diffusive power of this leaven. It spread till the whole was leavened. This it does because it is leaven, and works according to the law of its own essence. It was not leavened in an instant, but by gradual infection; an emblem of the spread of the gospel in the soul. Professors do not become perfect all at once. Religion operates from individual to individual. Where leaven is at work it will be felt. It works amidst seeming improbabilities. (E. Mellor, D. D.)

Leaven a hidden force

It was hidden; so hidden that those who will believe in nothing but what they see might doubt whether it was there at all. ]t was hidden but not lost; hidden that it might not be lost; hidden that its searching and diffusive energy might be tested and revealed. From this feature of the parable we not only do not shrink, but we give to it the utmost possible prominence. It holds strict analogy with the great fact that the mightiest forces in the world are all lodged, if I may so speak, out of sight, and work outwards, and upwards, and downwards from their deep home of mystery. The chief Worker-He without whom no one and nothing could work at all-“hideth Himself,” so that no eye hath seen Him, or can see Him. From His secret pavilion He sustains all the forces of the universe, whether they be mechanical or vital, and yet His Hand is never seen. The leaven of man himself-that leaven without which there would be no man-his soul, is hidden. How hidden, we know not; where hidden, we know not; but it is hidden, and, amid all the marvels of its working, is never seen. No eye hath seen man at any time, any more than it has seen God. (E. Mellor, D. D.)

Leaven a living force

The yeast used in making bread is by no means the dead, inoperative thing it seems. It is a plant as much alive as the snowdrop that has just burst its way through the soil, and foretold by its graceful bell the coming of the spring. It is a vegetable growth, of enormous energy for its size, multiplying itself at a rate incredible to any but the scientific mind; feeding its active life, as it grows from spot to spot, upon the material into which it has been introduced, until there is nothing left for it to feed upon and assimilate to itself. The change it effects in its progress is described by the chemist as a decomposition of the sugar contained in the dough, and a liberation of carbonic acid; but the principal fact revealed by the microscope is that you have a congregation of living cells, gathered about a living central nucleus, all charged to the full with that subtle and supreme force, which we, in our ignorance, call LIFE. Like that, says Christ, is the kingdom of heaven-the rule of a living presence, of a living God. The gospel is the power of God at work for the salvation of souls. Christianity is itself a living, breathing presence, not a mere dull, dead thing; a life. It is characteristic of leaven to show an almost insatiable greed of activity. It is a type of stupendous increase. With a rapidity that is marvellous, it passes on from particle to particle of the meal in which it is placed, until the last stroke of work is done. Give it an appropriate temperature, and favourable materials, and an express engine will stop sooner than it. In no point is the teacher’s simile better sustained by facts than in the unspeakable and irrepressible activity of the gospel. It is a living force: and action is essential to its life, as air is to the life of man. Only with tremendous difficulty can it be checked. (J. Clifford, M. A.)

Christianity, like leaven, works in a congenial and much assisting sphere

It is hid, according to Christ’s parable, in MEAL, not amongst stones on which it could have no effect, not amongst iron-filings where a magnet would be better placed, not in the earth where seeds would get better nourishment; but in meal; in that material which has an affinity for it, and upon which it is specially fitted to act. The leaven is placed where it is wanted, where it can work, and where it can work with success. Leaven is not better suited to work in meal than Christ in men’s hearts for their salvation. (J. Clifford, M. A.)

Leaven an assimilating force

The portion of dough taken as a ferment, and inserted within the three measures of meal, makes that meal like itself, subjugates it, and impresses its own character upon it, penetrating it totally, and assimilates its nature to its own. It is not simply that it touches particle after particle of the flour, as water might do-that would only make a paste; or comes into contact with the whole meal, as a hand might do-that would simply move it without altering it; but it really puts its own life into the meal and penetrates it with its living nature from centre to circumference. It is in the nature of leaven to make all the meal like itself; so it is in the nature of the gospel to Christianize those who receive it; i.e., Christ subjugates, penetrates, and assimilates the believer to Himself. He puts His life into each part of him;

The parable of the leaven

We learn-

I. God employs human agency for the conversion of the soul.

II. To outward appearance, the means are very unlikely and insignificant.

III. The change produced is radical, gradual, final, and manifest.

IV. Favourable circumstances are necessary for the leaven to work successfully. (A. Griffin.)

The law of “leaven” has signally characterized the entire history of the “kingdom of heaven” in the world

The leaven illustrates-

I. The history of God’s revelation to man.

II. The history of the christian church.

III. The history of opinions or doctrines.

IV. The history of individual conversions.

1. Donor despise the day of small things.

2. Infer hope for the world. (J. M. Sherwood.)

A symbol of Christianity

I. Christianity is really alive.

II. Christianity is at work as well as alive.

III. Christianity, like leaven, works in a congenial and much assisting sphere.

IV. The most distinguished feature is that it leavens the meal in the midst of which it is placed. So the most characteristic effect of Christianity is that it Christianizes men; it assimilates them to Christ by filling them with the life of Christ.

V. The leaven is hidden in the meal, and all the work it does, it does secretly. Christ’s best, most real, and most powerful work, is always unseen.

VI. But it advances victoriously and totally. (J. Cliffbrd, M. A. , LL. B. , B. Sc.)

This parable represents

I. The penetrating power of Divine grace. The grace of God is a vital and holy force.

II. The mysterious power of Divine grace. The grace of God is imparted to the soul. But is imperceptible in the soul.

III. The transforming power of Divine grace. The grace of God works slowly, successfully. (J. T. Woodhouse.)

Children to be educated, not only in the truth, but for its diffusion

This parable describes the progressive influence of the truth of God within the heart, and also without in the world. Leaven works strongly, so does the Word on the thoughts and feelings. It works silently; so does the gospel secretly diffuse its influence through the soul. Leaven works permanently, imparting qualities which remain fixed in the substance which it penetrates.

I. The bible states that the whole “world is to be “leavened by the truth of God (Psalms 22:27-28).

II. The bible which contains this heavenly truth is admirably fitted for universal diffusion.

1. It is a Divine authority.

2. It speaks to the heart of man.

3. It prescribes to man his duty in every possible station and relation in which he can be placed.

4. It is a bond of union.

5. It inspires and fills the heart with hope.

III. Little has yet been done for leavening the world with truth.

IV. Why has not more been done for the leavening of the world with truth.

V. How shall we prepare to do more than has yet been done for leavening the world with truth.

VI. Never will the church make successful effort for the leavening of the world with truth until every child under her care be educated with a view to this noble object. (W. B. Kirkpatrick.)

I. The elements which are here brought together.

1. The first of these may be considered as representing human nature. The parable represents the possibility of man’s restoration.

2. The second element used in this parable may be regarded as an emblem of the gospel. The gospel, when compared to the world, exhibits an amazing disproportion

II. The mode of operation by which this result ensues.

1. These elements must be brought into actual contact.

2. The operation is gradual.

3. It is invisible.

4. It is irresistible.

III. The final progress and triumph of the gospel.

1. That all analogy leads us to expect its universal progress.

2. This is the purpose of God.

3. This is the burden of prophecy.

4. The musings of holy men on the future glory of the Church point in this direction.

5. The prayers of the pious refer to this event.

6. This result is highly desirable.

7. The Spirit of God is fettered by no analogy, His influence may be signally exerted. (T. Smith.)

Christianity an impartation, not an evolution

The kingdom, then, is not an off-shoot from the world, but some sort of an importation into it: not an outgo, but an income. It is a new ingredient put into society. The woman put the yeast into the dough; the dough did not develop the yeast. Scripture is everywhere consistent with this representation. History did not produce Christ: He came into the world from beyond and above. The Law, too, came into the world; it was not a Mosaic transplant from Egypt, but entered the world at the point where Sinai and the sky meet. The whole series of communications from Eden to Patmos is consistently exhibited as so much importation. Our own experience, Zoo, has something to say in the same line. We are succumbing every day to influences that are not set down in the books, k world of unseen facts and forces lies against us as the sea lies against the shore. What we call conscience is no barren discernment between what is bad and what is good; it is the organ through which the unseen comes near to us and becomes within us both as a consciousness and a power. We are not left alone, or let alone. O God, Thy Kingdom comes! It does come, keep coming. An eye peeps in at the skylight. Impalpable fingers tap at the window and knock at the door. The sky mixes itself with the ground, the sea shimmers under the light of the stars, and the meal stirs and is made quick at the touch of the entering leaven. (C. H. Parkhurst, D. D.)

The work of Christianity will be complete

I do not know that anything exact is denoted by the three measures. It may refer to the totality of the race as represented by the three sons of Noah by whom the earth was peopled; or perhaps to the totality of the individual man as composed of body, mind, and spirit. At any rate, this threefoldness points, as usual, to entireness and completeness. The kingdom of heaven has come on earth to stay and to work a whole work. This irresistibleness is a ground of vast encouragement. To be sure this force is one that works stealthily. We do not see the processes. God constructs the machinery of event as we make clocks, with all the pinions and axles packed in behind the dial-plate. We see the pendulum swing, but we do not think of it as result, because we do not see the weight that, with cunning indirection, is all the time pulling at the pendulum … We must be careful not to underrate the influences that work without show or noise. The unseen and the unheard really make out a good deal more than half the universe … Christianity is not a matter of places and days, rites and observances; it is a matter of having the leaven of God to work in us that we shall be gentle and pure, unselfish and sympathetic as God is. And men have made at least a commencement towards becoming so. It is not natural for men to devote their time to others’ interests. But more and more time is being devoted in this way, and money too, which means that the kingdom of heaven is gaining a closer and closer grip upon us: the kingdom of heaven is coming. Men are sorry for the distressed, and try to relieve them. Why, that is Christianity. We know that we love God, because we love the brethren Not as though we were already perfect. There is knavery, selfishness, uncleanness of all sorts and degrees. Yet the leaven is certainly working, and such a review of the centuries as has been suggested makes it clear, to the point of demonstration, that the will of God is being increasingly done, and especially that the ideals of gentleness, mutual interest, reciprocal sympathy, with which the gospel is so thickly strewn, are being growingly realized. (C. H. Parkhurst, D. D.)

The religion which will save a man’s soul is a religion that goes into his whole being, and changes him into something quite different from what he was before, when in the service of the world. A great deal less than this will enable a man to live respected by his neighbours; a great deal less will, after a time, satisfy even his own conscience, and enable him to live contentedly in his present measure of strictness. For conscience soon lowers its demands when they have been made and rejected; and an evil heart of unbelief rests content at last, on a conscience seared as with a hot iron. (W. J. Irons, D. D.)

The Leaven

We may reduce the parable to three general heads.

I. What is compared? The matter compared is the kingdom of heaven.

II. To what is it compared? Leaven.

III. In what is it compared. Now the concurrence of these lies in the sequel-“which a woman took, and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened.” Wherein are remarkable

Need of leavening

No flesh that is putrefied, except it be first purified, shall be glorified. No man goes to heaven as by a leap, but by climbing. Now this sanctity is called the kingdom of heaven, (T. Adagios.)

Leaven sour but sweetening

Leaven hath a quality somewhat contrary to the meal, yet serves to make it fit for bread. The gospel is sour and harsh to the natural soul, yet works it to newness of life. It runs against the grain of our affections, and we think it troubles the peace of our Israel within us. It is leaven to Herod to part with his Herodias; to Naaman to be bound from bowing before Rimmon. Christ gives the young man a sour morsel when he bids him give his goods to the poor. You choke the usurer with leaven when you tell him that his sins shall not be forgiven till his unjust gains be restored. You may as well prescribe the epicure leaven instead of bread, as set him the voider of abstinence instead of his table of surfeits. This is leaven indeed, to tell the encloser that he enters commons with the devil, while he hinders the poor to enter common with him; or to tell the sacrilegious that Satan hath just possession of his soul, while he keeps unjust possession of the Church’s goods. When his leaven is held to carnal lips it will not go down, no, the very smell of it offends. The combat of faith, the task of repentance, the mercifulness of charity, this same rule of three is very hard to learn. To deny a man’s self, to cashier his family lusts, to lay down whole bags of crosses, and to take up one, the cross of Christ. Oh sour, sour leaven! (T. Adagios.)

Signs of leavening

He hath an unleavened hand, that is not charitable; an unleavened knee, that is not humble; an unleavened tongue, that blasphemes; an unleavened eye, that maliceth; an unleavened heart, that securely offendeth. The outward working shows the inward leavening, and the diffusion is an argument of the being. (T. Adagios.)

What leaven can do

The world begins with great promises; but could it give as much as ever the prince of it proffered to Christ, it cannot keep thy bones from the ague, thy flesh from worms, nor thy soul from hell. Behold, a little leaven shall sanctify thee throughout, the folly of preaching shall save thy soul, and raise thy body to eternal glory. (T. Adagios.)

The nature of leaven

It consists of myriads of the cells of the common green mould in an undeveloped state. If a fragment of the dough with the leaven in it be put aside in a shady place, the cells of the fungus in the leaven will vegetate, and cover the dough with a slight downy substance, which is just the plant in its complete form. The swelling of the dough, and the commotion which goes on in the leavened mass, are owing to the multiplication of the plant-cells, which takes place with astonishing rapidity. By this process of vegetation, the starch and sugar of the dough are converted into other chemical products. But it is only allowed to go a certain length, and then the principle of growth is checked by placing the dough in the oven, and baking it into bread. Leaven is thus a principle of destruction and construction-of decay and of growth-of death and of life. (Hugh Macmillan.)

The parable of the leaven hid in three measures of meal

The Word of God may be compared to leaven.

1. Leaven is of a diffusive quality. So the Word of God, through the Spirit, is of a diffusive nature, but in respect to every soul that receiveth it, and also in respect of people to whom it comes; for though at first but a few at Jerusalem and thereabouts received the gospel, yet how did it spread.

2. Leaven diffuses itself gradually. So the gospel spread and operated by degrees; as it diffuseth itself into every faculty of the soul at first, so it never ceaseth until the life and whole man is leavened therewith.

3. Leaven is of assimilating nature; makes all the meal that is leavened to be of one and the same lump. So the Word of God and the grace of God makes the whole soul like itself, or a whole family or nation where it is once in truth received, the very same people, both in doctrine and conversation.

4. Leaven is of a quickening and powerful nature; so the Word of God (Hebrews 4:12).

5. Leaven is hid in the meal which leaveneth; so the Word of God must be hid in the heart, both in the understanding, will, and affection, if the person he spiritually leavened with it (Psalms 119:11). It is not enough to receive it lute our mouths, or to have it in our Bibles, but we must receive it (in the love thereof) into our hearts, or else Satan will steal it away, or it will not, it cannot, work either upon our hearts or lives.

6. Leaven, it is observed, is of a softening nature; though the meal be crushed down hard, yet if the leaven be hid in it, it will make it soft and mellow. So the Word of God makes the hard heart soft and tender.

7. Leaven secretly and invisibly worketh and altereth the meal, and maketh a change of it, turning it into dough. So the workings and operations of the Word of God are secret and invisible.

8. A little leaven will leaven the whole lump; so a small quantity, or but a dram of grace, or one word set home upon the heart of three thousand souls, it will leaven them all (Acts 2:4).

9. Leaven answers a great design. It is to prepare the meal to be moulded into a loaf and so become the bread for the family. So this spiritual leaven, the Word, is by Jesus Christ appointed for a great design, viz., even to mould and fashion poor sinners for Himself, and so fit them for His own use, and that they may be meet and fit matter for His Church on earth, and for the Church triumphant in Heaven (1 Corinthians 10:17). (W. Keach.)

The leaven

I. Our Lord teaches that the change He meant to effect in the world was a change, not so much of the outward form, as of the spirit and character of all things.

II. The method by which the kingdom of heaven is to grow, or by which the world is to he Christianized. Religion spreads by contagion. There must be a mixing; contact between those that are Christians and those who are not. This mixing is provided for in various ways.

Leavened by character rather than by speech

It is rather the all-pervading and subtle extension of Christian principles than their declared and aggressive advocacy that is brought before the mind by the figure of leaven. It reminds us that men are most susceptible to the influence that flows from character. This influence sheds itself off in a thousand ways too subtle to be resisted, and in forms so fine as to insinuate themselves where words would find no entrance. A man is in many circumstances more likely to do good by acting in a Christian manner, than by drawing attention to the faults of others and exposing their iniquity. The less ostentatious, the less conscious the influence exercised upon us is, the more likely are we to admit it. (M. Dods, D. D.)


Verses 34-41

Matthew 13:34-41

But while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares.
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The tares and the wheat

This parable relates chiefly to the condition of the Church.

I. The mixed condition of His Church in our world.

II. The cause of this mixed condition of the Church. The existence of His people Christ traces to Himself. The tares traced to a spiritual author-stealthily. Satan does not show himself while doing his work.

III. The conduct of the Christian servants with respect to this mixture in the Church.

1. They notice it.

2. They wish to alter this state of things-to put an end to this mixture.

IV. The end which shall at last be put to this mixture in the church. (C. Bradley, M. A.)

The wheat and the tares

I. Who are the tares?

1. Those who outwardly profess religion, but inwardly reject it.

2. It is likeness to wheat which makes tares specially mischievous.

II. Why are there tares?

1. The servants of Christ, loving their Master, make His interests their own. They look anxiously to the crop.

2. The same question still disturbs us-“Why does God permit His crop to be marred?”

III. What to do with tares.

1. Zealous servants who grieve at spoilt crops would fain pull up.

2. Their zeal natural and creditable. Natural:

3. Yet mistaken.

4. The reason given.

5. It is sad to retain in Church impostors, more sad to cast out faithful. Better trust men too much than too little. (E. Gray, M. A.)

Fifth Sunday after Epiphany

I. The two planters-“He that soweth good seed is the Son of Man.” “The enemy that sowed them is the devil.”

1. The One is good and beneficent. He cultivates His own rightful possession. He acts as a gracious Benefactor. The other is only malignant, the common foe of all good.

2. The Planter of good is first; the planter of evil comes after. As Satan followed the planting in Eden, so he follows every holy planting.

3. The Planter of all good does His work openly, in the eyes of all. It is the nature of good and truth to be open; falsehood and sin are cowardly.

II. The two growths.

1. They are intermingled in the same field.

2. They are hard to distinguish.

3. They both grow.

III. The two policies.

1. That of the servants in natural, and seemingly founded on just zeal for what is good, but is unwise and hurtful. We are not able to judge rightly.

2. The policy of the Master, though more perplexing, is far better. It leaves things less satisfactory for the time, but accomplishes the greatest good in the end.

3. The policy of the Blaster will prevail, despite all efforts to the contrary, even to the end of the age.

IV. The ultimate consummation.

1. Note the reapers-not the “ servants.” Mightier strength and higher wisdom than theirs is needed.

2. Note the commands which they execute” Gather ye together,” etc.

3. Note the final result. (J. A. Seiss, D.D.)

The tares and the wheat

I. The difference between these two classes.

1. The first have solid spiritual excellence.

2. They are useful. The false disciples have neither-they are useless and noxious.

II. How they come to be thus associated. The good seed Divinely planted. Satan has a hand in the life of the wicked in this world. The tares are known.

III. His intention that believers and false professors should abide together until the harvest.

1. There is nothing so likely to convert false professors as seeing real Christians amongst them.

2. That the faith and patience of believers may be tested and manifested to the world.

IV. This association cannot last for ever.

1. The return to judgment-“Gather ye the tares.”

2. “The bundles.” Let the companions in sin be grouped in doom.

3. “To be burned”-punishment and pain.

4. We are also animated by hope” Gather the wheat into My barn.” (B. W. Noel.)

Tares and wheat

We are to understand mixture of good and bad in the Church. There are persons whose blind, intemperate zeal would bid fair to be injurious to the Church. Our Lord reserves the judgment to the end of the world. From this mixture of good and bad advantages result to both.

1. The persecutions which the righteous experience from the wicked are inconvenient, but become proper trials of virtue.

2. They give the good an opportunity of testifying their sincerity.

3. The good in their intercourse with the bad may reclaim them.

4. The good by dwelling amongst the wicked see the pernicious consequences of vice.

5. The good are a restraint upon the wickedness of the evil doers.

6. For the good of both God mercifully permits this mixture of the pious and the wicked. (The Pulpit.)

The two sowers

Why did this enemy thus go his way?

I. He did not wish to be seen. He did not care for the fame of doing the thing; all he cared for was that it should be done. How different from us i Satan does his work unknown, etc.

II. He had done his work. He needed but one sowing time.

III. He had confidence in the seed. It would not fail. It was the true seed of hell. What confidence does this exhibit in the vigour and vitality of error. Have we like confidence in the life and power of truth?

IV. He had confidence in the soil. The soil was evil-would not fail him-it would do its work.

V. He had confidence in the atmosphere. It is on the air as much as on the soil that the harvest depends. He trusts to the evil air and the evil seed suiting each other.

VI. He had other work to do. He does not abide in one place, he goes about to do work elsewhere. He is an incessant worker. What an enemy have we to fight with. “Resist,” etc. (H. Bonar, D. D.)

The conditions and limitations of moral growth

The good and the worthless.

I. These are externally alike, but vitally different.

II. As they grow their vital differences become more manifest.

III. The world-field in which they grow is the property of Christ. It is one of the mysteries of the Divine government that God should allow an enemy in the field at all.

IV. Though they are permitted to grow together for a time there is a destined period of separation. Many a sinner might have been worse than he is, but for restraining contact with Christians. We must not think that forbearance is equal to complacency of evil. A strong government can afford to tolerate its foes. (E. D. Green.)

Why God delays to punish the sins of men in this world, reassuring them to the judgment which shall be hereafter

I. As they regard the particular case in view, and account for the justice of god in suspending his judgments.

1. The sinners in the text are spared on account of the righteous that they may not be involved in the punishment due to the sins of others. But some sinners are spared out of mercy to themselves, in hope of their amendment. The interests of good and bad men are so united in this world that no signal calamity can befall the wicked but the righteous share it; hence, out of mercy to the righteous God spares the incorrigible sinners. This was Abraham’s plea for Sodom. But are there not many ways of punishing men without including others in the calamity? Could not these single out desperate sinners?

1. How do you know but that the wicked are often thus punished? God does exercise judgment on the wicked in silent manner.

2. But allow the objection that a great number of wicked men ripe for destruction are spared and allowed to flourish in the world, this is for the sake of the good. The wicked man has friends whose welfare depends upon his prosperity. All men are related to others. Are all these relatives as great sinners as the man himself, would you not turn innocent children into the streets! We cannot arraign the wisdom and goodness of God. The day is coming which will dissolve all these present relations between men, when every one shall stand singly.

I. But why does God permit sin? “The enemy sowed his tares.” Such is the condition of human nature that no care can prevent the growth of vice. Those who demand that God should prevent evil by irresistible power demand nothing less than that He should destroy all law and religion, and divest men of reason and understanding, their chief characteristic. Since offences must needs come, why are not men as certainly distinguished by rewards and punishments as by virtue or vice?

1. Reason fails for a due administration of rewards and punishments, as it does not know men’s hearts in this world.

2. This is inconsistent with the present condition of men, and the goodness of God. They are in a state of trial, and should have time to show themselves; and as to the goodness of God, it would ill become Him to destroy men as long as there were hopes of amendment.

3. Who has reason to complain?

II. AS furnishing us with a principle of reason and equity applicable to many cases. Because God spares the wicked who deserve punishment for the sake of the righteous, is it reasonable that men and magistrates should act in like manner? Temporal judgments are executed immediately, the law does not consider those related to the offender. Magistrates are not at liberty to suspend the execution of justice. The reason of the two cases is very different. The punishments of this world are not final, but the means to secure virtue; but this end can never be secured by allowing criminals to go unpunished. In a word, offences in this world must be discouraged by present punishment or else the world will be a scene of misery to the best men. Offences against God, though of a deeper dye, have not in them the same call for immediate vengeance. The ends of justice are best served by delay. (T. Sherlock, D. D.)

The parable of the tares

I. The sowing.

II. The growing.

III. The reaping. (J. C. Jones,)

Points in the parable

I. Inability to form perfect judgment of individuals now. Men are to be known by their fruits, but the fruits of a man’s life cannot be fairly judged until they are ripened and complete.

II. The duty of accepting profession now and leaving final judgment for God’s future.

III. The distinction between good and evil is vital, and there can be no real confusion between them.

IV. The distinction between good and bad persons will one day re clearly shown.

V. The temptation to use outward and physical forces to accomplish the aims of Christ’s church must be resisted. (Anon.)

The tares and wheat

We have-

I. A beneficent operation-“Sowed good seed.”

1. The man that sowed was Jesus. This was His special work during His public life on earth.

2. The good seed are the righteous. In the former parable the good seed is the Word of God.

3. The field is the world. Whether this is to be understood in its general and most comprehensive sense, or whether it signifies the Church in the world, it is not easy to determine.

II. A malicious deed “While men slept his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way.” Notice:

1. The agent.

2. The season-“while men slept.” It is said of the ungodly that “they love darkness rather than light, because their deeds are evil.” There is nothing they hate so much as the light, for there is nothing so contrary to their nature and so unfavourable to their designs. As John Bunyan says: “My Lord Understanding’s house was too light for the Prince of Darkness, and therefore he built a high wall to darken all the windows.”

3. The result.

III. A natural request. From attempting such a work we are debarred on account of-

1. Its difficulty. It seems that the apostles and early Christians were endowed with a peculiar gift called the “discerning of spirits,” so that for them to separate the precious from the vile might have been an easy matter. We do not know what degree of imitation is compatible with a total absence of true piety.

2. Its danger “Nay; lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them.”

IV. An important decision-“Let both grow together until the harvest; and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them; but gather the wheat into my barn.” But concerning this separation, notice-

1. The period when it will take place. It will be at “the time of harvest;” which harvest, we are told, is the end of the world.

2. The instruments to whom the work will be committed-“The reapers are the angels:” who are free from the manifold infirmities by which we are now encompassed-ignorance, selfishness, prejudice, impatience, partiality, animosity.

3. The manner in which it will be accomplished.

4. The final results which will follow-“to burn them:” “My barn.” (Expository Outlines.)

The parable of the wheat and the tares

This parable shows that persecution upon the account of religion is utterly unlawful, though men may hold grand errors:

1. Because the best men on earth are not infallible. They do not know but that what they call heresy may be a truth of Christ.

2. Because Jesus Christ is only the King and Sovereign of the conscience. None ought to impose upon the consciences of men in matters of religion.

3. Because it is directly contrary to that golden rule, or true moral precept, “Whatsoever ye would that men should do unto you, do ye the same unto them.”

4. Because such severities have no tendency to convince the conscience.

Believers are a choice people-choice grain

They appear to be a choice and precious people, and are so-

1. Because of the seed from whence they sprang; they are the seed of God, the seed of Christ (Isaiah 53:11).

2. In respect of that holy image which is stamped on them.

3. In respect to their union with Christ.

4. If we consider what an excellent spirit they are of, and how they walk with God every day, and have communion with the:Father and the Son, it shows they are a precious people in God’s esteem.

Why are the saints compared to wheat?

1. Wheat is the product of a rare and choice seed; they are the product of the Holy Ghost.

2. The seed of wheat must first be sown in the earth before it can produce increase, so must the seed of grace be first sown in men’s hearts before they can bear God’s image or bring forth fruits of holiness.

3. Wheat is a profitable sort of grain. So the saints and people of God are a profitable people to the world (Proverbs 10:21; 2 Co_6:19).

4. Wheat will abide and live in the sharpest winter, when some other grain will not. So true believers do abide, endeavour, and live in the times of sharpest trials, persecutions, tribulations, and temptations.

5. Wheat seems sometimes as if it were quite dead, you can in winter hardly see one green blade, so the saints seem sometimes to themselves as if they were almost dead (Psalms 88:15).

6. Wheat is sometimes, by reason of unseasonable weather in the spring, very sickly, the colour being changed. So in like manner, by reason of Satan’s temptations, and the corruptions of their hearts, and evils of the times, poor believers are very sickly and weak.

7. Yet when the sun shines sweetly upon wheat and God sends dry and seasonable weather, it wonderfully on a sudden revives (Hosea 14:7).

8. Wheat needs weeding, and if it be not it will soon be grown over with weeds (Matthew 13:22).

9. Full ears of wheat hang down their heads, being full of corn. So sincere believers are humble and lowly-minded.

10. Wheat is not ripe presently, but must have time to grow to maturity, and receive the former and latter rain before it is fit for the sickle.

11. Tares oft-times are found to grow amongst wheat, which tends greatly to mar its beauty.

12. Wheat, when it is fully ripe, is gathered into the barn. So when Christ sees a believer is ripe for heaven, He gathers it as a shock of corn fully ripe.

13. Sometimes a harvest seems much in bulk, but there is bug little corn. So the spiritual harvest may seem much in bulk-a mighty appearance of a great harvest, but there may be but few sincere believers amongst them.

14. Wheat dies first, before it rises. “Thou fool, that which thou sowest is not quickened, except it die.”

While men slept the devil sowed his evil seed

This may caution all ministers of Christ to take heed and watch, lest evil seed be sown amongst them, the seed of error and heresy.

1. Many may, under fair pretence of exalting Christ, sow pernicious and poisonous seed.

2. By way of council, beware of such men who are lifted up with pride, who to magnify themselves seem to despise others, perhaps more worthy than themselves.

3. Beware of such that effect novelty and strive to promote new notions in matters of religion.

4. Likewise have a watchful eye of such that cry up this and that man, and cry down others.

5. Moreover, watch such who are subject to wander from their own fold and pasturage, and such also that are ready on every small occasion to take offence.

I will show you how the wheat, or sincere Christians, ripen for the harvest

1. As the wheat after it is sown hath the ripening time, so have the saints and people of God.

2. Wheat ripens gradually, that it is hardly discerned; so the godly ripen gradually also, it is hardly discerned by themselves or others.

3. Wheat must have showers to ripen it. So must the saints have the showers of Divine and heavenly doctrine, or spiritual dew to ripen them (1 Corinthians 3:6).

4. Moreover, believers grow and ripen for the harvest by means of the shining and sweet fructifying influences of the “Sun of Righteousness.”

5. Some Christians are like wheat smitten or blasted in respect; of their hope, peace, and joy, and so seem to languish (Amos 4:9).

What should a believer do to ripen for the harvest

1. Improve all opportunities, all seasons of grace.

2. Observe well and cherish all those convictions of your consciences, and of the Holy Spirit, either in respect of sin or duty, lest ye sin them away.

3. Improve all the dispensations and providences of God, or those various trials, afflictions, and temptations you meet with.

4. Live much in the sense and thoughts of death and of the judgment day (Deuteronomy 32:29).

5. See that you gather day by day, get more strength against sin.

6. Labour to add to your faith virtue. (2 Peter 1:5-7).

7. The way to ripen for heaven is to strive against all those things that hinder or obstruct your growth, as thorns and briars (Matthew 13:22).

I shall show you how the tares, or the wicked, ripen for the harvest of sorrow

1. Mercies not improved, but slighted and neglected, ripen the wicked apace for harvest.

2. When conscience is disregarded, men turning a deaf ear to those checks and sharp rebukes they find in their own breasts, this tends to ripen them for ruin.

3. When the judgments of God, instead of softening, harden the sinner.

4. When the motions of the Spirit in His common operations (Genesis 6:3) are quenched. (Romans 9:22).

5. The tares, or wicked men, ripen for the harvest by letting lusts conceive in them.

6. Another gradation or progressive motion to ripening sinners is when lusts conceived break forth into acts, or the abominable commission thereof (James 1:15).

7. A third step is when sins, yea, great sins, are extenuated and rendered small.

8. When sin is delighted m; some men take pleasure in wickedness.

9. When they are told of their sins and hellish polution, and they plead excuses as if the fault was not theirs.

10. Such men are certainly ripe for harvest who are found glorying in their sin and shame (Philippians 3:19). Lastly, a hardened heart, a seared conscience, final unbelief and impenitence follows, and so they come to be fully ripe for the harvest.

I shall show you how fitly the end of the world may be compared to harvest

1. The harvest is the time that the husbandman longs for, and hath much patience until it cometh. So this spiritual harvest is the day which all the godly long for, and are exercised with patience under all their trials until it comes.

2. When the harvest is fully ripe then both the wheat and tares are severed one from another by the servants of the husbandman. So all sincere Christians and hypocrites shall, by the angels, be separated one from another.

3. When the harvest is fully ended there is no more wheat or tares growing, or to be found in the field. So when this world is ended there will be no people, either godly or wicked, to be found to live as they do together now in this world, any more.

4. Harvest is a time of great joy to an industrious husbandman, but the sluggard meets then with great disappointment, and is perplexed with grief and sorrow (Galatians 6:8).

How shall the tares be known from the wheat, or hypocrites be discerned from sincere believers at the end of the world?-

1. The tares shall be known by their contemptible bodies-their bodies shall not be glorious as the bodies of the saints, (Philippians 3:21).

2. The ungodly will be known by their company-the saints shall be attended by all the glorious angels,

3. The wicked will be blown by their cries and lamentations (Isaiah 65:14.)

4. The ungodly will that day be known by that signal act of our Lord Jesus Christ (Matthew 25:22).

5. Moreover, it will be known by the different placing of the one and the other-“and life shall, set the sheep on His right hand, the goats on His left.” (B. Keach.)

The tares

This parable does not forbid Church discipline:

1. Because Church discipline is enjoined by many plain passages of the New Testament, and that no interpretation of any parable may be put against that.

2. Discipline rightly understood is for the saving of a man to the Church, and not for the casting of him out of it.

3. What the parable here recommends is not so much the following of a certain course as the cultivation of a certain spirit.

I. Do as we will, we shall never get evil entirely out of the church-the ideal Church is in heaven (Revelation 21:2). This truth has a two-fold lesson.

1. It is well fitted to comfort those who are labouring in the ministry of the gospel, and to all who are tenderly solicitous for the honour of the Church.

2. It is calculated to correct the error of those who decline to enter into the membership of the Church because it is not absolutely pure.

II. The great lesson taught us is that the rash attempt to separate the good from the bad in the church may result in a state of things that is worse than that which is sought to be amended.

III. At the last judgment there will be an absolute separation between the good and the bad. (W. M. Taylor. D. D.)

A rash zeal for amendment injurious

The best all round is often lost by attempting to have the absolute best in any one department. In the organ, if every note be separately tuned up to the scale, discord will be the effect when one attempts to play upon it; for it is an imperfect instrument, and most of the fifths must be left somewhat fiat, and the few others made somewhat sharp, the octaves alone being put in perfect unison. So, if we attempt to bring up the music to the point of perfection, we shall most likely put the whole church out of tune. We must make the best of things as a whole, and be content sometimes with a little less in some departments, and a little more in others, in order that we may have harmony in all. Peace in a church is essential to progress. (W. M. Taylor. D. D.)

The mixed state society

1. It is apt to make the darnel think itself as good as the wheat.

2. The Urgency of the call to Christ is deadened by the fact that we are not treated differently at present.

3. The wheat is apt to think itself no better than the darnel. (Dr. M. Dods,)

Likeness of wheat and tares

If by tares is meant the bearded darnel of our English fields, then the tares and the wheat bear a strong resemblance to each other. They both belong to the tribe of grasses, and to the special group Trititicinoe, or wheat-like grasses. Their structure, mode, and conditions of growth are almost the same; when in the blade they present an appearance so very similar, that the Jewish farmer, who is careful in weeding his field, cannot distinguish between them, and it is only when the fruit is formed that the impostor is detected by its smaller and darker ear. (Hugh Macmillan.)

Mixture of tare and wheat

Adam’s family was the one, and the only one visible Church)’or a time. Therein there was a Cain, as well as an Abel; both sacrificed, though both were not sanctified. In Abraham’s family (a visible Church) there was an Ishmael, as well as an Isaac: in Isaac’s house an Esau as well as a Jacob. Among the patriarchs, Simeon and Levi, with Joseph and Benjamin. In Noah’s ark (a type of the Church). there was a Ham; among the apostles, a Judas; among the deacons, a Nicholas. (Bishop Thomas.)

The end of the world

The end is not a mere running down of the machinery that keeps the world going, it is not a mere exhaustion of the life time keeps us all alive, it is not a hap-hazard cutting of the thread; it is a conclusion coming as truly in its own fit day and order, as much in the fulness of time and because things are ripe for it, as the birth of Christ came. It is the time of the gathering up of all things to completion, when the few last finishing strokes are, given to the works that suddenly show the connection of things which seem widely separate, and reveal at once the purpose and meaning of the whole. Men will then understand, what now scarcely one can constantly believe, that it is God’s purpose that is silently being accomplished, and that it is usefulness to Him that is the final standard of value. (Marcus, Dods.)

Blending of wicked with godly,

Six reasons why in the kingdom of grace wicked men should be inseparably mingled with godly.

1. Because hypocrites can never be severed but by Him that can search the heart.

2. Because if men should make the separation weak Christians would be counted no Christians, and those who have a grain of grace under a load of imperfections would be accounted reprobates.

3. Because God’s vessels of honour for all eternity, not as yet appearing, but wallowing in sin, would be made castaways.

4. Because God, by the mixture of the wicked with the godly, will try the watchfulness and patience of His servants.

5. Because thereby He will bestow many favours on the wicked, to clear His justice and render them the more inexcusable.

6. Because the mixture of the wicked, grieving the godly, will make them the more heartily pray for the day of judgment. (A. Fuller.)

Separate bundles of tares

Sinners of the same sort will be bundled together in the great day: a bundle of atheists, a bundle of epicures, a bundle of persecutors, and a great bundle of hypocrites. Those who have been associated in sin will be so in shame and sorrow, and it will be an aggravation of their misery, as the society of glorified saints will add to their bliss. (Matthew Henry.)

Difficulty of right judgment in society

As we grow up in society together, one man is in the main very like another. Of two of your friends, it may be the one who makes least profession of religion that you would go to in a difficulty in which much generous help and toil are needed. Take a regiment of soldiers, or a ship’s crew, and you may find the ungodly as brave and self-sacrificing in action, as observant of discipline as the others. There may be little to show that there is a radical difference in character. (Marcus Dods.)

Separating tares from wheat

The most troublesome of the foreign seeds in wheat are the tares (the weed commonly called darnel, and in botany Lolium temertulum). Its kernels are somewhat smaller than those of wheat, and the usual way to separate them is that adopted by the women, who sit at home with the children around a pile of wheat and patiently pick out the tares one by one. (Van Lennep.)

Sowing tares in malice

Illustrating from Hindoo life, Roberts says, “This is still literally done in the East. See that lurking villain, watching for the time when his neighbour shall plough his field; he carefully marks the period when the work has been finished, and casts in what the natives call pandinellu, that is pig-paddy; this, being of rapid growth, springs up before the good seed, and scatters itself before the other can be reaped, so that the poor owner of the field will be years before he can get rid of this troublesome weed. But there is another noisome plant, called perum-pirandi, which is more destructive of vegetation than any other plant. Has a man purchased a field out of the hands of another? The offended says, ‘I will plant perum-pirandi in his grounds.’”


Verse 38

Matthew 13:38

The field is the world.

The moral dignity of the missionary enterprise

I. The grandeur of the object. Survey the field geographically. Estimate the miseries of the world. Consider these human beings as immortal, and candidates for an eternity of happiness or misery.

II. The missionary undertaking is arduous enough to call into action the noblest energies of man. This enterprise requires consummate wisdom, unwavering perseverance, undaunted courage, sublime faith.

III. The means by which this moral revolution is to be effected. By the preaching of Jesus Christ and Him crucified. Contemplate the simplicity, benevolence, and efficacy of this means. (F. Wayland, D. D.)

The gospel sphere

I. Its geographical and statistical extent.

II. Its moral condition.

III. Its redeemed condition.

IV. Its glorious destination. A destiny of universal knowledge, righteousness, peace, felicity.

V. His commanding claims upon us. (J. Burns, D. D.)

I. The field is the world, because the commission of Christ does not restrict the publication of the gospel to any one class or nation.

II. The world is the field in which the Church is to sow the seed of the Word, because the world has been given to Christ her Head.

III. Because, however wide it may be, ample means exist for its cultivation.

IV. That the field to be cultivated by the Church is the world, is shown by the example of the inspired apostles.

V. Follows from the fact that the gospel is suited alike to all the nations of the world.

VI. The very nature of moral principle in the heart, of man requires that the Church regard the world as the field.

VII. The composition of the congregation assembled in heaven proves that the field is the world.

1. Send the gospel to all.

2. Value souls.

3. Cultivate a lively sympathy with the glory of Christ.

4. Lay the foundation of all usefulness in personal godliness. (J. Stewart.)


Verse 43

Matthew 13:43

Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun

The glory of the righteous

I.
Its present concealment. The whole structure of the parable implies that the beauty of the righteous man is hidden in the present; tares and wheat scarcely distinguished. The glory has begun in men here, though veiled. The wheat had in it the germ of the golden grain. The sun shines forth from the clouds which had obscured his radiance. Reasons of this concealment:-

1. The first reason is the nature of the only true righteousness in man. Man becomes righteous by denying his own righteousness and accepting that of another; this why it is hidden now. Our faith is cradled in tears and made strong by storms.

2. We find a second reason for concealment in the discipline by which the righteous are perfected. Faith grows by trials, which conceal glory. The world’s eye sees little beauty in the crown of thorns.

II. Its future manifestation. The present concealment will pass away; the germ of faith will ripen unto eternal glory. By the silent growth of faith the image of the heavenly is being secretly formed within. Who can tell how the souls of the righteous will ripen in the sun-light of Christ’s smile,

III. Its mighty lessons. “Who hath ears to hear let him hear.” Hear it, slothful Christian. Hear it, earnest, struggling soul. Hear it, downcast spirit. Hear it, unbeliever. (E. L. Hull, B. A.)

Moral beauty manifested after death

Just as the flower bursts forth in beauty from its concealment in the seed, so shall it be with the righteous when the last temptation has been vanquished, and the body, so frail and weary, has been laid aside. We see it not in our dying friends. We see only the expiring animal nature. We see not how the Christlike grew within them during the hushed endurance of pain, and while their faith held on during that long horror of darkness. We see not this rising inner life. We see only their failing humanity. (E. L. Hull, B. A.)

The Divine tracery not seen at present

But we cannot see the glory which is behind. We cannot fully understand how the discipline of life is fitting the soul for the fruition of the future. At present we cannot read the Divine tracery inscribed by the hand of sorrow; it has all a heavenly compensation, infinitely greater than its present misery … The veil is over us; we do not see what royal souls are being formed by it here. But in the end it shall be seen that all the feelings of pain and weakness, solitude and weariness, have a corresponding weight of joy. (E. L. Hull, B. A.)

These words describe the happiness of the righteous

I. In its elements. “Like the sun”-visible, pure, active, glorious.

II. In its platform. It is “ in the kingdom of their Father.” This imports-

1. All the privileges and security of an organized society of the highest order.

2. For ever to dwell at home.

III. Its juncture. “Then”-day of judgment, when the righteous shall be publicly recognized as such.

IV. Its truth. On what do we ground these expectations? On the express declarations of God; the nature of the gospel, and the work of grace on the heart; and the witness of the Holy Spirit. Suggests-self-scrutiny and submission. (J. Hirst.)

I. The present concealment of the righteous. On account of-The nature of their excellence-not discerned or appreciated by the world; the sphere within which it is displayed-in the common walks of life; the imperfections, etc., with which it is often accompanied; the reserve by which it is sometimes hidden-unobtrusive, silent.

II. The future manifestation of the righteous. The time, place, splendour, duration. (Brooks.)

We hare here a description of the glorious state of believers, called the righteous

Believers have a twofold righteousness.

1. The righteousness of justification.

2. The righteousness of sanctification. What need shall the saints have to shine in Christ’s righteousness, when they shall be perfectly holy in themselves?

1. Because it was not their own inherent righteousness which was their title to heaven, but the righteousness of Christ alone; therefore they shall boast of and shine in the righteousness of Christ for ever.

2. Because their own inherent righteousness was imperfect and full of spots whilst they lived upon the earth, and it was made perfect only as an act of Christ’s purchase, or the fruits of His merits and obedience, to make them meet for that inheritance. The glory of believers is reserved to that time; now their life is a hidden life, and their glory is veiled (1 John 3:1-3).

When the end of the world comes, or at the day of the resurrection, the saints shall shine forth gloriously.

1. Because being God’s jewels, they are then all made up, or completed every way, and shall shine before wicked men and devils, to the shame and confusion for ever of these wretches.

2. Moreover, as heirs, they then come to a perfect age, and to possess the purchased inheritance, to the praise of God’s glory and grace.

3. Then the marriage of the Lamb will be celebrated, and the bride be adorned in all her marriage robes and rich attire (Revelation 19:7).

4. Because then the bodies and souls of all believers shall be reunited, both being made perfect: a curious piece of work, whether a jewel or clockwork, never appears so glorious until it is all joined together, and every way perfected. So the glory of the saints will then be every way full and perfect, both in respect of soul and body too.

5. Because Christ will then appear; “and when He appears, we shall appear with Him in glory” (Colossians 3:4; John 3:4).

6. Because then will be the time of the manifestation Of the sons of God” (Romans 8:19). Then they shall be crowned with glory. That will be the saints’ coronation day.

7. Then will be the time of the saints reaping, as now is their time for sowing, and “ they that sow in tears shall reap in joy” (Psalms 126:5). “Shine as the sun,” etc. This denotes the greatness of the glory of the saints. The glory, excellence, and splendour of believers in that day will be amazing.

Consider:

1. The sun is the greatest glory of this world, or far excels in glory all other things. So the saints shall shine forth in the greatest glory, beyond the glory of Solomon, or all earthly potentates whatsoever.

2. When the sun shines forth in his full strength, all dark clouds and mists are vanquished and driven away. So when the saints shall shine in their greatest glory, all dark mists of ignorance, and clouds of sin and corruption, shall be expelled from them for ever. No more dark days or unbelief for ever.

3. The sun is a singular light, and shines with a singular glory. There are many stars, but one sun. So the glory of the saints shall be a singular glory. No glory like that glory, or to be compared to it.

4. The sun is a pure, bright, and spotless creature, far brighter than the moon or stars, so the glory of the saints wall be a pure, bright, and spotless glory, not like “the glory of this world, nor like the glory which attends the saints while they are here in this mortal body.

5. The glory of the sun is an unchangeable glory; he alters not, changes not in his glory as the moon doth.

So the glory of the saints in that day will ever abide the same, and never change or be less, because they then shall arrive to a full perfection of glory; nay, it shall exceed that of the sun.

1. Because the sun sets, or goes out of our sight, but the saints’ sun shall never go down, their glory never sets (Isaiah 60:20).

2. The sun is sometimes clouded, its glory appears not, but the glory of the saints shall never be clouded any more as it was in this world.

3. The sun shall then be ashamed (Isaiah 24:23). That is, the glory of the saints shall so far excel the glory of the sun, that the sun shall, as it were, be ashamed (as such are said to be, when they are outshined), or outdone by others.

4. The sun is sometimes eclipsed by the gross body of the moon interposing betwixt us and it; but the glory of the saints shall by no dark body of sin, corruption, or of this world, be eclipsed any more for ever.

5. The sun is so glorious, that mortals cannot behold it, but their eyes will dazzle. So the glory of the saints will be too great for sinners to behold, it would even put out their eyes, or confound them. O happy believers! (B. Keach)


Verse 44

Matthew 13:44

Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto treasure hid in a field.

Treasure

1. The Holy Scriptures contain an inestimable treasure-wisdom, grace, comfort, joy.

2. Many not aware of this. They are like some landowners, who can watch with delight the growth of grass, corn, and flowers in their fields, but who lose sight of the precious ore beneath the surface. Can cull a bouquet of flowers-the poetry, history, and imagery-but lack the tools (repentance, faith, hope) for delving to the rich mineral beneath.

3. This treasure can only be discovered by careful search.

4. The greater our desire for the blessings of Divine grace, the greater will be our fear lest we should fall short of them.

5. The discovery of this hid treasure should fill the believer with gladness-the Ethiopian Eunuch “went on his way rejoicing.”

6. Having discovered the excellency of Divine things, we should be ready to renounce such pleasures and habits as hinder their attainment. Moses gave up the attractions of the Egyptian court, “choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God.” So now the true convert will give up worldly vanities, unfair dealing, uncharitableness, insincerity, and will learn to “crucify the flesh with its affections and lusts.” (Essex Remembrancer.)

The parables of the hid treasure and the pearl, or how men find Christ

I. There are certain estimates of the kingdom of God, and certain things that are done in relation to it, which both parables agree in representing.

1. The first and most prominent is that both parables represent the gospel as a very precious thing, and as commending itself to men as a very precious thing. A forgiven soul the highest good of man.

2. The parables further agree in representing the secret character of the spiritual blessings of the new kingdom. It is a secret life as well as a visible society. Its truths require the spiritual faculty to discern them.

3. The parables agree further in their representation of the earnestness and determination with which the precious treasure of the gospel is secured.

II. But now they broadly diverge and teach important lessons concerning the diversities of the Christian life.

1. The first point of difference is the way in which the riches of the kingdom are discovered. The treasure-finder stumbles upon his prize unexpectedly; the pearl-merchant finds his in earnest search. This is not the representation of a careless, unspiritual man, who does not so much find the gospel as he is found by it; but of a man whose desires and efforts are right, but who does not all at once find the thing that he wishes. The pearl-seeker seeks with determination. He has many pearls. It is one pearl amongst many that can satisfy him. Touching the law he was blameless, but what was gain he now counts loss for Christ.

2. But the different ways in which men meet God are also indicated in the contrasted emotions and conduct of the two finders of treasure; and these are in exquisite harmony with the character described. The man who unexpectedly finds treasure is impulsive in his joy; the other is joyous, but calm. The treasure-finder buys the entire field; this indicates the feverish, unintelligent way in which such characters realize their salvation. We must not think more of the field than of the treasure. The pearl-seeker buys only the pearl. He distinguishes the essential from the accidental. (H. Allen.)

The kingdom of heaven

Subject religion to the ordinary tests of value: there are four great tests of value.

I. The first is rarity. An old master who painted pictures many a hundred years ago, and sent down a worthy name and fame to posterity, is represented in these days by only two or three. One canvas is hung here, we will say in the National Gallery, and another in Vienna, and another somewhere else: all the rest are burned by fire or rusted and moulded away by the influence of time. The bare fact that there are only three specimens extant of that man’s master-pieces gives them a value that cannot be covered even though you cover that canvas with gold. According to their rarity is their value. For what is true religion? If there is anything in it at all, if it is not a gross deception, I will tell you what it is. It is holiness and happiness-rare things in the world, my masters, look for them where you will.

II. Let us take another test of value, one that you are all acquainted With more or less-I mean the verdict of a competent authority. If a child is playing at the mother’s door with what appears to be a piece of beautifully-coloured or transparent glass, it may flash so brightly that even the mother is curious enough to take it from the little palm of her child and hold it up to see how the sun rays dance around it; but she is content then to pass it back again as a thing of no more moment. But lo, a lapidary comes that way who, with keen and practised eye, catches the peculiar scintillations that rise from it, and he takes it in his hand, holds it between him and the sun, weighs it, judges of the comparative weight and measure, and then passes it into the mother’s hand, saying, “Madam, are you aware that that is a diamond, and not glass? “ In a moment the verdict of a competent authority has increased its value fifty thousand fold. So with a picture which has hung on a cottage wall for years, an unvalued heirloom, that hangs there simply because it is its accustomed place. There comes in one who knows, and he uses means to take away the canker and the rust of time, and unburies a patch of subtle colour that lies beneath, and he says in a moment, “Why that is a Rembrandt,” and in a moment the verdict of a competent authority gives it a value that it never possessed before. I want to rest religion on the same ground, the verdict of a competent authority. “Ah,” but I hear somebody there saying, “where will you find an authority that is sufficient for us? Where will you find one that we are bound to believe?” Brothers, on the principle that experience is the grandest teacher.

III. Not only rarity, not only the verdict of a competent authority, but durability is an important test of value. Why, you will scarcely give your child a sixpence to go and buy a toy without giving it a little wise motherly counsel at the same time not to buy something that will break almost before it gets home. That is true right along the whole of your business transactions. How long will it last? as old Humphreys says, is one of the wisest questions that a buyer can inquire after. Well, let us put that test to religion. You know beauty has a value, a wondrous value, as we have seen in the diamond already; but if you ask for the value of beauty alone, then I protest to you that I know nothing in this world that is more beautiful than a full-blown bubble rising from the lips of a schoolboy on a summer’s afternoon, floating out in a stately silence of its own, a beautiful crystal globe, dancing in the sunlight as though it loved its congeners. As it passes over field and tree and house and passer-by, is photographed in many colours upon its brilliant walls, and as it rises higher and higher in the sunlight, you are ready to say, “How beautiful!” And yet you say, “As worthless as a bubble.” Why? Because it will not last.

IV. Now, there is only one more that I know anything about myself, but I declare to you I think it is the most important of the four, and that is the test of adaptation. What is the use of a telescope that does not bring a thing nearer and magnify it to the eye? What say you of yonder sailor who is out on the seas shipwrecked; all his chance of life is his gripping power to a slippery, craggy rock that rises just above the surging seas; he can see nothing; no hope of life, blood starts from his fingers’ ends as he grips, lest he plunges in the deep. What is the most precious thing in the world to him? You won’t offer him a fortune, will you? Millions are of no use: the most precious thing to that man is a boat; it is adapted to his special necessity. (J. J. Wray.)

The particle of the treasure

I. THE excellency of the gospel is not generally understood by men. It is a hid treasure. Illustrate the fact:

1. In its nature. The reference under this metaphor is not designed to apply so much to the case of men to whom the gospel is not exhibited, as with the heathen. It applies to men who have the gospel; yet they will not estimate it.

2. In its source. The cause is the universal depravity of the heart.

II. The gospel does intrinsically possess vast and inestimable valve. It is a treasure. The value of the gospel will appear if you consider

III. The discovery of the actual value of the gospel must exert a master influence upon the principles and habits of those by whom it is acquired.

1. The discovery of the value of the gospel must arise from the influence of the Divine Spirit.

2. Then men practically abandon all that may interfere with their enjoyment of the blessings which the gospel exhibits.

3. This abandonment will never fail of procuring the desired result.

4. The treasure is offered to all freely and fully. (J. Parsons.)

Hid treasure

Says old Thomas Fuller, “Lord, this morning I read a chapter in the Bible, and therein observed a memorable passage whereof I never took notice before. Why now, and no sooner, did I see it? Formerly my eyes were as open, and the letters as legible. Is there not a thin veil laid over Thy Word, which is more rarified by reading, and at last wholly worn away?” The Word of God “is like unto treasure hid in a field.” Its best things are ever below the surface. Then shall ye seek them and find them, when ye shall search for them with all your heart.

Points in parable of hid treasures

I. Vital religion is an individual matter.

2. To the individual it must come in direct, personal relations.

3. A man must be prepared for effort and sacrifice to gain a personal interest in religion. (Anon.)

Hiding treasures

Owing to the insecurity of property in the East, from war and oppression, joined to the necessity of keeping valuable property in hand, for want of secure banks of deposit, the practice of hiding precious utensils and ornaments, money and jewels, has always been common. Often these are built up into the walls of the owner’s house, often buried in fields and gardens. (Kitto.)

Jewish law of things found

According to Jewish law, if man found treasure in loose coins among the corn, it would certainly be his, if he bought the corn. If he had found it on the ground, or in the soil, it would equally certainly belong to him, if he could claim ownership of the soil. (Edersheim.)

The parable of treasure hid in a field

There is a twofold hiding of this treasure.

I. An evil hiding which is not intended here. When a man hath received light and knowledge of Christ and Divine truth, and he (through Satan’s temptations and the evil of his own heart) strives to smother it in his own breast, or conceals what he knows, this is an evil hiding. Now the reason why some do this I shall show.

1. Because truth is only discovered to his understanding. They may be much enlightened, but his will consents not, subjects not to the power of it. Nor is he in love with it, his affections being not changed, or as the apostle says, “Such do not receive the truth in the love of it.”

2. It may be occasioned through shame. He s ashamed of Christ and His word; the visible profession of religion exposeth much to reproach and contempt.

3. It may be through idleness he is not willing to be at further pains, nor at the charge to sell all that he hath to buy this field, or publicly to receive Christ.

4. Moreover, fear may be one cause of the sinful hiding of this treasure. He knows not what the losses may be he may meet withal, or what he may suffer for Christ’s sake, if he visibly confesseth Him.

5. An evil hiding imports a non-improving of their light and knowledge (Matthew 25:18).

II. There may be a good hiding of this treasure, which may denote-

1. Such endeavour to the uttermost, whatsoever it may cost them, to make it their own, and will not wickedly conceal what Christ hath done for them (Psalms 66:16).

2. They make use of all means to secure it, and in prayer crying to God continually to help them to persevere and keep this treasure against all attempts of enemies whatsoever.

Why Christ is called treasure

1. Rich treasure is counted an excellent thing, and therefore it is much desired; the hearts of mankind naturally run after riches and earthly treasure; Christ may upon this account be compared to treasure.

2. This spiritual treasure makes all that find it very rich (Revelation 3:18).

3. Much earthly treasure makes men to be envied and hated by many persons, and are in danger to be robbed by thieves. So a believer is hated and envied by the devil and wicked men. Satan, like a cunning thief, strives to rob them of their treasure.

4. Such who have much riches, or store of earthly treasure, live high; they feed or fare not as the poor do; also they are more richly clothed, and delivered from the care and fears which the poor are vexed with continually.

5. A man that hath much earthly treasure can do more good to his neighbour than multitudes of others are able to do. So believers, rich in faith, rich in promise, rich in experience, can do more good to others-they can give better counsel, more and better comfort (Proverbs 10:21).

6. He that hath much earthly treasure values himself accordingly, rich and honourable are his companions, and with them he communes every day. So he that hath much spiritual treasure values himself upon the best grounds; he is a child of God; he hath God for his portion; he is allowed communion with God; he is assured he shall never want any good thing (Psalms 119:63).

7. Hid treasure is not found without much pains and diligent searching, no more is this spiritual treasure (Proverbs 2:2; Proverbs 2:5).

8. He that hath much earthly treasure, commonly sets his heart upon it, and it is his chiefest delight; so he that hath found this treasure, sets his heart upon it. God and Christ are his chiefest delight (Matthew 6:21).

9. Such who find great treasure rejoice; so he that finds Christ, this spiritual treasure, rejoiceth; he selleth for joy all he hath to buy that field. A believer has cause of joy, he is happy for ever.

I shall now show you the nature of this treasure

1. It is heavenly, not earthly, treasure; as far as heaven excels the earth, so far heavenly treasure excels all the riches and treasures of this world.

2. It being heavenly and spiritual treasure, it followeth that it must be incorruptible treasure.

3. It is soul-satisfying treasure, the treasures of this world can never satisfy the immortal soul of man.

4. It is durable and everlasting treasure, not uncertain riches, which are compared to vapour (Proverbs 23:5).

I shall show you how this treasure is hid

Christ is like hidden treasure.

1. He was long hid in God, or covered and out of sight of men. The salvation by Jesus Christ was hid from the Jews who believed not under the law, under dark shadows and beggarly elements, so that they could not find this treasure.

2. Christ and His benefits are hid in the dispensation of the gospel, so that very few can find this rich treasure. They have the field, viz., word and administration of the gospel, but carnal men see not the mysteries of the gospel.

3. This treasure was hid (and is still); dark, parabolical, symbolical, or tropical expressions uttered by our blessed Lord. Many had the field; the parables and similitudes were spoken to multitudes, but the treasure in them few saw. It is evident that the treasure is still hid from most in our days.

4. This treasure is hid by the Lord from multitudes, as an act of His Sovereign will and pleasure (Romans 9:18; Matthew 21:25-26).

5. That may be said to be hid which mankind cannot find without God reveals it to them in a supernatural way. Now the knowledge of Jesus Christ and the mysteries of the gospel mankind naturally cannot know.

6. That which needeth many gradations to unfold it is a hidden thing, but the knowledge of Christ the Redeemer, and mysteries of salvation, needed many gradations to unfold it. To our first parents it was made known by the promise, “The seed of the woman shall break the serpent’s head.” Then to Abraham God gave a further discovery thereof (Genesis 22:18). Afterwards it was revealed by types, ceremonies, and sacrifices of the law, and then we come to the gospel dispensation.

7. That which requires our uttermost skill, wisdom, and diligence to search and find out is a hidden thing, but the true knowledge of Jesus Christ requires our uttermost skill, wisdom, and diligence in searching to find out, and therefore it is a hidden thing (Proverbs 2:1-5). As men know not the price thereof, so many know not the place thereof where it is hid. It is hid from many by the devil (2 Corinthians 4:3-4).

I shall now show why he rejoices that finds this treasure

He that finds this treasure, finds the Lord Jesus Christ, the Pearl of great price, which far exceeds all hid treasure and mountains of prey. Therefore it is from the worth of this treasure that a believer that finds it cloth rejoice. It may be from the great use of this treasure to him. He was poor before, this treasure enricheth him; he was naked, he is gloriously clothed; he was forced to feed on husks, now he is fed with rare food, the Bread of Life. This treasure mainly consisteth in the saving knowledge of God and Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 4:7. It is an experimental, not a mere speculative knowledge. It is a practical knowledge (Job 22:21-22; 1 John if. 4). It is an enlivening knowledge (Colossians 3:10). It is a translating and transforming knowledge (Romans 6:3-4; Romans 6:6). It is a progressive knowledge (2 Corinthians 3:18). He that finds this treasure makes the field his own, he secures the field. (B. Keach.)

The hidden treasures, and the pearl of great price

I. These parables do not teach that the blessing of salvation is cofined to any one particular enclosure.

1. It is not confined to the Church.

2. The field is not confined to the Bible. Many are saved who do not know the Bible: In whatsoever connection it is that a man first discovers Christ, that to him is the field.

II. These parables are not to be construed as teaching that salavation is a Thing which a man can buy. It is not a commodity outside of the man which he can transfer by purchase; it is a nature within him that can be imparted only by God.

III. These parables do not counsel concealment in the matter of our salvation. Men hide that of which they are ashamed; none need be ashamed of Jesus and His salvation. Men hide that which they are afraid of losing, or of having stolen from them; but who can deprive of that which is within us. No man has any exclusive property in salvation. The new life will make itself felt. (W. M. Taylor, D. D.)


Verse 45-46

Matthew 13:45-46

Seeking goodly pearls.

Parable of the pearl

I. The soul seeking good.

II. The soul seeking good will always want a better.

III. The soul, seeking good, wants a better until it finds Christ the best. (Anon.)

The priceless pearl

Salvation is the pearl.

I. This pearl cost a vast amount to procure it for the children of men.

II. It is of great price in that it is of inestimable value.

III. It is of great price because it loses none of its brightness and beauty by length of time or constancy of use.

IV. Its great price is proved by the efforts the mere chant made to secure it.

V. This pearl costs heavily the one who procures it.

VI. This pearl costs the surrender of all sin. (T. T. Eaton, D. D.)

Goodly pearls

I. Christ may be compared to a pearl because He is hidden, and to be sought after.

II. Christ may be compared to a pearl because of its durability and its unchangeableness. Time does not rust a pearl.

III. Christ may be compared to a pearl because lie is such an adornment to the soul that seeks him.

IV. Christ may be compared to a pearl because of its value. (Dr. Talmage.)

Sham pearls

The fact is they would rather have a sham pearl than a genuine pearl. The factories of Bohemia and Nuremburg are full of activity making artificial pearls. With alabaster, and scales, and glue, and wax, they manufacture something which is a sham pearl, and substitute it for the real pearl. And so the whole world now is full of attempts to manufacture a new salvation, a new pearl of great price. They take a few grains of good works and a few grains of fine poetic sentiment, and they put them together, and they call it a pearl. But it will not wear; it will crumble to pieces at the last in the fires which shall be kindled around about our world. In Brazil, when a slave finds a diamond beyond a certain value, he gets his deliverance. He may have searched for days and months and years for a diamond, but finding it of a certain size, he hastens home to his master, shouting, “Free! free!” And if to-night you would only find this pearl of great price, it would insure you eternal emancipation. Oh l plunge this hour into the deep ocean of God’s mercy, and though you may be submerged for a while in darkness and doubt and convictions, your soul will come up after a while enriched and sparkling with an immortal brilliant. (Dr. Talmage.)

Pearls durable

Time does not rust a pearl. It passes down from one royal family to another, from one generation to another, the same beautiful, exquisite thing-worth as much now as it was ever worth-always to be valuable, and a type of Him who is the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever. Other gems may be split or ground, but this pearl of great price is unbroken of the wheel, and it is uninjured of fire. Paul wore it through imprisonment, and darkness, and shipwreck, and martyrdom. Howard wore it through the plague in festering lazarettos. It heaved on the dying heart of Robert South and of Jeremy Taylor. Shadrach carried that gem through the furnace seven times heated. It is always bright. It is always beautiful. Rutherford, in his dying moments, caught a glimpse of it, and was filled with infinite exultation, and there are multitudes of the suffering who, after all other staffs were broken, and all other lights were extinguished, and all other strength was exhausted, cried out, “Pearl of great price, comfort me!” The sapphire, and the topaz, and the emerald, and the diamond shall perish; but this pearl of great price shall go uninjured long after the globe has been tossed, a miserable hulk, charred, dismasted, and shipwrecked, amid the howling blasts of the judgment gale. (Dr. Talmage.)

Pearls an adornment

Again, I remark that Christ may be compared to a pearl, because He is such an adornment and decoration to the soul that seeks Him. I have no sympathy with the Puritanic notion that God despises jewellery. I think if God despised jewellery He would not make so much of it. Instead of the variegated seasons, the earth would have had the same colour all the year round; the tree would have yielded its fruit without leaf or blossom; Niagara would let down its water without thunder or winged spray; the clouds would have drawn their black bodies through the skies where now they resemble silvery skiffs with angelic crew, sailing through the archipelago of stars. If God had despised beauty and adornment, He would not have made the caverns of the ocean great gardens of coral, and sponge, and seaweed, and pearls. No. God loves adornment from the fact that He has made it, and allows Jesus Christ to be compared to a pearl. I know there are some people who suppose that religion distorts one; that religion damages a man’s nature; that religion cows him down; that religion takes all the spirit out of him; that it turns a man into a snuffling bigot; that it puts handcuffs on the wrists and hopples on the ankles, and that, like a retreating army, it poisons all the wells along where it goes. No, no. It is a decoration; it is an embellishment; it is a pearl. Why, my friends, as an adornment religion was mere than philosophy to Bacon, more than prowess to Havelock, more than geology to Silliman, more than science to Agassiz, more than music to Mozart. Religion! It has sung the sweetest songs, and it has built the highest monuments, and it has lifted the noblest arches, and it has painted the finest pictures, and it has worked the richest embroideries, and it has composed the sublimest tragedy. (Dr. Talmage.)

Pearls valuable

Again, I remark; Christ may be compared to a pearl because of its value. It does not take a very large pearl to be worth thousands of dollars. The King of Persia paid six hundred thousand livres for one pearl; Cleopatra had a pearl worth three hundred and seventy-five thousand dollars, and she dissolved it at a feast, and then drank it to the health of Marc Antony; the King of Portugal had a pearl of almost indescribable value-so that the pearl most appropriately becomes a symbol of the Lord Jesus Christ, who is of infinite value. I come to u soul that has just awakened out of sin and been pardoned, and I say: “O! soul, what is Christ worth to you?” and the soul responds, “All in all to me is Christ.”

The parable of the pearl of great price

I. I shall show you why Christ is compared to a pearl-to the richest pearl. Pearls, naturalists tell us, have a strange birth and original.

II. Some pearls are of great worth. Our Lord Jesus Christ no doubt is compared to a pearl of great price upon this account chiefly-He is of inestimable value (Isaiah 43:4).

III. Pearls have a hidden virtue in them, though but small in bigness, yet great in efficacy. Jesus Christ had a hidden virtue in Him-though little in the eyes of carnal persons, yet such as receive Him in faith, find wonderful virtue in Him (Luke 8:46). Such is the hidden virtue of Jesus Christ, of this Pearl, that when a man finds it, and partakes thereof inwardly-it fills him with joy and earthly comfort.

IV. Pearls are of a splendid and oriental brightness-both without and within. Jesus Christ may be compared to a pearl on this account (Hebrews 1:3).

V. Pearls-nay, one pearl of great price, enriches him that finds it. So they that find the pearl of great price, Jesus Christ, and lay hold on Him, are greatly enriched, they are spiritually rich, eternally rich (Ephesians 3:5).

VI. Some men, when they have found a pearl of great price, they know not the worth of it. They perhaps think some other pearls are of equal value, or as rich us that which they have found. So some, when they have found Christ, know not the worth, the riches of Him, but are ready to esteem other pearls equally with Christ.

VII. This being so, it followeth hence, that it behoveth him that finds a pearl of great price to know it well what it is, and also its just value, Jest he be cheated and part with it for pearls of little value in comparison of that.

VIII. Pearls, rich pearls of great price, are commonly kept in the possession of noble persons, who are adorned with them, and are known to be noble persons. So the saints, born of God, are the most excellent in all the earth, and these only are adorned with goodly pearls (Ezekiel 16:11). (B. Keach.)

The parable of the pearl

As to the place where you should seek Jesus Christ, the Pearl of great price. Pearls must be sought where they are to be found.

I. You must seek Him in the depths of God’s eternal councils, there you may find Him-for He lay there from everlasting.

II. You must seek Him in the depths of eternal wisdom.

III. You must seek Him in the covenant of grace, and of redemption, as the head and great representative of God’s elect.

IV. You must seek Him in the depths of God’s eternal love.

V. You must seek this pearl in the revelation of God’s council, in the types and sacrifices under the Law. You must seek Him in the revelation God made of Him in the prophecies of the prophets. And more especially you must seek Him in the glorious gospel.

VI. You must seek this pearl by faith.

VII. You must seek this pearl in the promises of God, in the promises of the New Covenant, or of the Gospels.

VIII. You must seek Christ in the way of your duty, in reading, meditation, and prayer, as well as hearing the

Word. Now I shall show when you should seek Him.

I. Early (Proverbs 8:17).

II. To seek Him early is to seek the Lord while He may be found (Isaiah 4:6).

III. When we have a full gale of the Spirit, when we have a strong operation of the Word and Spirit upon our hearts.

IV. Seek Him to-day (Hebrews 3:7).

V. Seek Him before it is too late.

How must the pearl of great price be sought?

I. Diligently.

II. With skill and divine wisdom.

III. With full purpose and resolution of heart and soul.

IV. As one that knows the great want, need, and necessity of Christ.

V. As one who is convinced of the great worth and excellence of Christ.

VI. Believingly, not doubting.

VII. With longings after Him.

VIII. With a heart touched with the loadstone of His love (Proverbs 2:1-4).

IX. Constantly, unweariedly; never cease till thou hast found Him.

X. Sincerely, not for the loaves, nor for applause, not simply to be saved, but for His own sake (John 6:26). (B. Keach.)

The parable of the pearl of great price

Why He must be sought, Why sinners should seek Him.

I. Sinners should seek Christ, the Pearl of great price, because He came to seek them.

II. Sinners should seek Christ because seeking and finding Him are coupled together (Jeremiah 29:13).

III. Because the promise runs to them that seek (Matthew 7:7).

IV. Sinners should seek Him, because they are commanded to do so (Isaiah 5:6).

V. Because salvation is only in Jesus Christ. All that seek justification and eternal life, and do not seek Him, shall certainly perish (Acts 4:12).

VI. Sinners should seek Christ because by nature they are without Him (Ephesians 2:12). How will sinners lament their folly in seeking other things more than Christ; nay, have utterly neglected Him. Those who have got Christ, who have found this pearl, are the most happy people in the world.

I shall now show you what may be meant by selling all he had

Selling all, signifies no more than parting with whatsoever his heart was inordinately set upon before he found this pearl.

I. With all his sins and horrid lusts; all that find Christ, part willingly with every evil habit, and with every evil act of sin; and by the spirit and grace of Christ, he is enabled to do this.

II. All his old company with whom he took delight, and among whom he dishonoured God.

III. All his former hopes of heaven, and the foundations he built those hopes upon.

IV. All his own external privileges.

V. All His own good works-and inherent righteousness-in point of justification he sold all.

He bought it

I. He that buys a pearl, must know where it is to be had, and seek it. A sinner must know where to find Christ.

II. They that buy must know the market-day, and repair thither to buy. So must a sinner attend on the word and ministry that would have Jesus Christ.

III. Buyers commonly ask the price of what they buy. So sinners must learn the terms on which they can have Christ, that is without money, and without price.

IV. Some come only to cheapen-to ask the price, that is all. So do some here-they think there is time to buy hereafter.

V. Some who come, like not the terms-they are full of money and scorn to receive freely. They are proud.

VI. Some come too late, the market day is over.

VII. In buying, some things are parted with. Such as would have Christ-must part with all that is gain to them.

VIII. Some refuse to buy at the proper season and afterwards cry out against their own folly. (B. Keach.)

The parable of the pearl of great price

I shall show, in what respects a man, in seeking after heavenly things, may be compared to an earthly merchant.

I. A merchant is one that trades or deals for the good things of this world, and he makes it his chief business. So a man that seeks after heavenly firings, trades or deals in spiritual commodities, and he makes religion his chief business. Hence saith Paul to Timothy, “Meditate upon these things, give thyself wholly to them, that thy profiting may appear to all men.” (1 Timothy 4:15).

II. A merchant sometimes trades and deals in things of great worth, as here in this parable is expressed, viz., goodly pearl. What is more valued than gold, silver, precious stones, and goodly pearl?

III. A merchant sets his heart, his mind, and chiefest thoughts upon his merchandize; I mean he prefers these things, and in good earnest pursues after them above all things upon the earth. So a spiritual merchant or Christian sets his heart and chiefest thoughts upon heavenly things; he sets his affection on things above, and not on things that are upon the earth.

IV. A merchant sometimes ventures to sea, and runs many dangers (in seeking goodly pearls, and after rich merchandize both by storms, rocks, sands, and pirates also. So a true Christian is exposed to great difficulties, and runs many dangers, who ventures out into a visible profession of religion; on the sea of this world, what storm’s of reproaches, temptations and persecutions, is he oft exposed unto?

V. A merchant at first hath not that skill in trading as he attains or gets afterwards. Old dealers have more judgment and greater experience than such who have newly begun to trade. So a man when he first begins to seek after God, or to mind heavenly things, he hath not that understanding, that knowledge and judgment in religion, as an old Christian.

VI. A merchant ought to know the nature and value of those commodities he deals in, and the whole mystery of merchandizing. So a true Christian or spiritual merchant labours to know the transcendent worth, nature and value of all spiritual things, and the whole mystery of godliness; indeed, this knowledge is not easy to attain unto.

VII. A merchant is very careful of his business, when he hath met with loss, lest he run out and waste his substance, and so at last be undone. So a spiritual merchant is very thoughtful, and full of trouble, and takes the more care, when he sees he goes backward rather than forward, or decays in zeal, love, faith, etc.

VIII. A merchant, if he know not what pearls be, may soon be easily cheated by false and counterfeit pearls. So many a spiritual merchant, if he know not what the person of Christ is, may easily be cheated of the true Christ, and believe in a false Christ.

IX. A merchant trades to foreign parts, they fetch their treasure from afar. So a spiritual merchant trades to heaven, a far country.

X. A merchant has his correspondent in those far countries to which he trades, who receives his merchandize, and makes returns. So all true Christians have their Blessed Correspondent in heaven, who manageth all their concerns; viz., the Lord Jesus.

XI. A merchant is very careful to attend the exchange, or place where merchants meet together, and where they hear, and learn how their affairs go abroad, and these have opportunities to sell or buy more goods. Moreover, if they neglect or are remiss in their attendance, it gives cause of suspicion that they may soon break, and cease to be merchants. So spiritual merchants are very careful to attend solemn meetings of the saints, where they hear of and from Jesus Christ, and as they there receive from Him, so they make returns of praise to Him.

XII. Merchants take great care to keep their books or accounts well, they are oft in their counting-house-that they may know whether they gain or lose; that they may see a good end of their affairs, and that they are not wronged.

And thus also do the saints, they labour to cast up their accounts, viz., examine and try their hearts. Secondly: I shall show you these are the best and chiefest merchandize in the world, or no merchandize like spiritual merchandize.

I. Because the nature of these things these merchants trade in, far excel all the things in the world. All other things are of little worth to the grace of God, the love of God, union and communion with God, to trade in gold tried in the fire (Revelation 2:3-18).

II. “All things of the world are vanity” (Ecclesiastes 1:2). But there is real substance in these merchandize.

III. These merchandize are best because incorruptible, neither moth nor rust can corrupt, fire consume, or thieves steal these goodly pearls.

IV. The rareness or scarcity of these merchandize, show their most excellent nature. Things are not only esteemed for their worth, but for their rarity. Now these things that spiritual merchants seek, are exceeding rare; hardly one man in a thousand finds these goodly pearls, the pearl of great price.

V. These merchandize were bought with a great price, by the Son of God. He first laid down the full sum that Divine justice demanded, and got them into His own hand for His elect.

VI. They are soul treasures such that suit with and answer all the wants of the precious and immortal soul of man.

VII. These merchandize are the best, because of their duration; all the things of this world are but momentary, sometimes gone in a moment-the world passeth away; but spiritual things, which are not seen, are eternal.

VIII. Their correspondent, with whom these merchants trade, that manages all their concernments, and is engaged to make them sun- and safe, returns from afar. Now, as Jesus Christ is their correspondent, so he if such an undertaker that they need not fear anything can miscarry, which is in His hand.

IX. These merchandizes are the best merchandizes, and these merchants the wisest merchants doth appear in respect of the terms on which they trade. They are the best merchandize because their commodities are freely given, “without’ money, without price.” It cannot indeed stand consistent with the design of redemptive grace, which is to advance the glory of God in His goodness, and to cut off all boasting, and cause of boasting, to admit of anything of the creature that looks like money, to procure a right to these things.

X. These are the best merchandize-this the best trade-because of the returns these merchants have from Jesus Christ. They have quick returns (Isaiah 65:24). It is the best trade-they only trade for things of inestimable worth. The returns are certain-sure of growing eternally rich. Not only rich, but great and noble. These merchants are advanced to mighty honour (Proverbs 12:26). (B. Keach.)

What shall we buy

When the pilgrims were in Vanity Fair, one chanced mockingly to say to them. “What will ye buy? “ But they, looking gravely on him, said, “We buy the truth.” At that there was occasion taken to despite them the more; some mocking, some taunting, and some calling upon others to smite them. Nevertheless, in spite of all the abuse, these good pilgrims would only buy the truth; and when they bought it, not for any price would they sell it again. Usually, in ordinary merchandize, what we buy we are at liberty to sell; but it is not so here, for the command is express, “Buy the truth, and sell it not.” And a most merciful provision it is; for, as one says, “Those who sell the truth sell their own souls with it.” (Robert Macdonald.)

The Pearl

The true lessons of the parable, as I understand them, are briefly these:-

I. It represents the experience, not of a careless or a profane man, who stumbles suddenly upon the gospel when he was in search of other things, but of one who is awakened, and has begun to seek the true religion, endeavouring to add attainment to attainment sincerely, according to his light. His conscience is uneasy. There is truth in the man, though not wisdom. He is honestly seeking the way, and the Lord leads him. He is seeking; he shall find.

II. It represents the unparalleled, inconceivable richness of God’s mercy in Christ, taking away all a sinner’s sin, and bestowing on him freely the peace and privileges of a dear child.

III. It represents that these riches lie, not in an accumulation of goodly attainments, such as men are wont to traffic in, but in one undivided, indivisible, hitherto unknown and unimagined treasure.

IV. It represents that the inquirer, the instant he discovers that this one incomparable, all-comprehending treasure exists and is offered to him, cheerfully, eagerly, unhesitatingly gives away all that he possesses, in order to acquire it. That is, he gives all for Christ, and then enjoys all in Christ. (W. Arnot.)

Christ the pearl of great price

I. Those who would find pearls must search diligently for them and encounter many dangers by diving, etc.

II. Pearls are very valuable.

III. Pearls possess a splendid brightness. Their beauty is as much within as without.

IV. Pearls are so firm, strong, and compact, that fire cannot consume them, nor ordinary strength break them.

V. Pearls are a rich ornament, and those who wear them are accounted the honourable of mankind.

VI. Yet many are ignorant of them, and many esteem them no more than pebbles. (Pulpit Helps.)

How visibly the providence of God appears to favour honest perseverance in our worldly callings. Man seeks for the chief good-He seeks for this pearl in the mines of learning, business, ambition, pleasure. The true pearl lies not in these. (E. Scobell, M. A.)

The pearl of great price

No gem, in the estimation of the ancients, surpassed the pearl in value. The old writers speak of it as altogether wonderful, and to be honoured above all jewels that the eyes of man have beheld. Nothing else was so pure, so rare, so exquisite. As for its origin, they thought it was at first a drop of dew from heaven, condensed within the sea-shell, and doubling there its native perfections. They thought, moreover, that though born beneath the waves, it retained some unknown connection with its home in the sky, taking its beauty from the aspect of the heavens, and drawing virtue from them, limpid and clear when they were serene, turbid and cloudy when they were overcast. Its irridescence seemed the result of sympathy with the seven colours of the sunbeam: even the -hell which enclosed it partook of its silver beauty and many-hued reflections; while it was accounted the very queen of gems, as that to which no graver’s tools nor implement of man can add a charm. (Morgan Dix, D. D.)

The pearl seeker

This merchantman is no lover of the degraded and the base: no profligate, no sensualist; the pearl is not the type of the delights by which such men are attracted. Rather is he one of those who follow after things worthy of immortals; who, though in error as to what our real good is, and where it is to be found, are true, notwithstanding, to pure and honest ideals; who wish to do right, whose hearts are the home of high and worthy thoughts, who love and honour virtue and righteousness, and, like the scribe of old, are not far from the kingdom of God The quest for pearls had been the aim of this man’s life: he was not prompted by sordid views of gain, but simply by the desire for the loveliest, purest, and best that can be found in this troubled world. And when at length he discovered what outshone all he had ever seen or imagined, his resolve was instant-to give up all he had for that one thing, knowing that having it he was rich indeed, though everything else was gone from his hands for ever This is no fancy sketch: it is a picture of what happens day after day; is occurs as often as any noble soul, long astray, finds at last his rest in God. He only who guides them into that rest can tell how many such there be; yet even we suspect the number to be considerable, and have seen such instances ourselves. We have seen men who have long sought for true joys, without finding them; who have had in possession many excellent gifts, yet not the highest; who, after much experience, felt sure that there must be somewhere a better thing, which fadeth not away. At length, perhaps late in life, they find it; whereupon their former thoughts are replaced by another mind-the wisdom of this world is given up, pride of soul suppressed; trust in self also goes, with the confidence which once was felt in earthly things. A man, in a spiritual and metaphorical sense, may be said to sell all he has, to become poor in spirit, and lowly of heart, because he has found the pearl of great price, after travelling many years through waste places, and because self-renunciation is the price for which that treasure is to be bought. (Morgan Dix, D. D)

Persevere in quest of pearl

He who seeks what is honest and good is journeying in the right direction; it does not follow that all such men will find at last what the Lord promises. He who can be content without that pearl of great price, will never find it. The danger is that we may rest content with some lower forms of good, without discerning how much is beyond them, and how poor they are in comparison. When we go about this world, buying whatsoever of rare and precious we can lay our hands on, for our own satisfaction, or for a name among men as possessors of things which many covet, or to adorn our persons, our life, or those whom we love; when self is thus at the bottom of the pursuits to which we give our years away; when the pearls which we thus collect are gathered only for our own delectation, as if to deck our garments now, and light up our houses, or perchance to be inwoven with our winding-sheets or strewed about our coffins; when this search for what is good has reference to time only, to the pride of the eyes, and to the greater glory of this fading life-then all that we gather shall be vain and without profit, nor shall we see those Divine things in which there is no spot now and no fading hereafter. But, when a man hears the voice of God speaking to him of riches that cannot be taken from him, and of something worth more than the world, which he ought to possess and may have if he will at the price fixed for the same; and when, at such tidings, he feels that he must arise and go to his Father, taking his possessions to give in exchange for that best thing: then is the parable fulfilled. (Morgan Dix, D. D.)

One pearl

In these days of safety, easy transport, and credit, the bulk of any object of desire makes comparatively little difference to its worth. But in the former ages of insecurity, difficult conveyance, limited commercial transactions, when there were no railways, banks, or paper money-one of the great recommendations of precious stones was the ease and safety with which they could be transported from one place to another … The merchant might have to pass through districts torn with wars, or infested by robbers; if he attempted to take his gold and silver and precious wares with him, he was more than likely to be relieved of them all before he got far, and to lose his own life as well; what was he to do then? This-he might sell all he had, and invest it all in one gem of surpassing value! this he might safely hide about his person; then, clothing himself in mean attire, and taking his staff in his hand, he might set forth on foot, and travel as a pilgrim or a beggar towards his destination. Then, when the perils of the way were past, and he had reached the city to which he was bound, he had but to show his pearl, and its immense value would at once be recognized. This is a parable of ourselves. We have a journey to go, to a far city. It is useless for us to attempt to take our wealth with us: those old thieves, sin and death and hell, beset the road; they have robbed all who have passed their way and how can we escape? Besides, a thousand enemies lay wait to make us afraid-flood, drought, fire, the dishonesty of some, the incompetence of others-all these are ready to deprive us of our wealth. Even our loved ones we cannot take with us. Lonely we came into this world, lonely we must go out of it; no human companion can go down with us to the grave. Is there then nothing, no treasure, which we may take in safety with us, and keep securely by us? Yes, there is one; even the pearl of great price, Jesus Christ. No one can deprive us of that treasure; it is beyond the reach of any enemy or thief. And when we reach the end of our journey, with Him for our Saviour and Friend, then shall we find ourselves passing rich, although we have nothing at all beside, where Jesus is Lord of all, and where everything takes its value only from Him, there is He Himself the one possession which includes in itself the possession of everything worth having. (R. Winterbotham, M. A.)

The pearl of great price

I. This pearl may be appropriately regarded as a representation of the Lord Jesus Christ.

1. The rarity of a gem greatly enhances its value.

2. i gem that is entirely free from flaws is regarded as highly precious. He was holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners.

3. The value of a gem materially depends upon the size of it. To measure Him, not physically, but morally and spiritually, is far beyond our power.

II. Before we can feel a real desire to possess Christ, his inestimable value must be in some measure apprehended.

1. Of this truth the case of the Jews affords a convincing demonstration.

2. To reveal Jesus in His matchless worth is the special office of the Holy Spirit.

III. Those who have been brought to see and feel the Saviour’s worth will regard no sacrifice too great in order to be made partakers of him.

1. We must be willing to part with our own righteousness.

2. With the favour of our dearest friends, should their claims clash with His.

3. With every known sin, however agreeable or profitable. (Expository Outlines.)

A great bargain

The merchantman:-

I. Watch him while he is seeking.

1. He has his mind aroused and engaged. His heart is in his business.

2. He has a fixed definite object. He has given himself to pearl hunting.

3. He had an object which was not at all commonplace. Other people might go for stones, he for pearls.

4. He sought them with diligence.

5. He used discrimination at the same time.

6. He went into the business with moderate expectations.

II. His finding.

1. This find was a remarkable one.

2. He found all in one.

3. He was resolved that he would have it.

III. His selling out.

1. Sell out old prejudices.

2. Self-righteousness.

3. Sinful pleasures.

IV. The buying.

1. An immediate purchase.

2. A joyful one.

3. An enriching one.

4. A final purchase.

5. A- purchase he never regretted. (C. H. Spurgeon.)


Verses 47-50

Matthew 13:47-50

The kingdom of heaven is like unto a net that was cast into the sea.

The drawnet

1. We of this generation, a miscellaneous multitude of old and young, good and evil, move about at liberty in the wide expanse of life, as fishes move about in the deep broad sea; but certain mysterious, invisible lines, have been let down into the water, and are silently, slowly creeping near, and winding round us.

2. Good and bad alike are drawn in company towards the shore, but the good and bad are separated when they reach it. (W. Arnot.)

Separating good and bad

There is a machine in the Bank of England which receives sovereigns, as a mill receives grain, for the purpose of determining wholesale whether all are of full weight. As they pass through, the machinery, by unerring laws, throws all that axe light to one side, and all that are of full weight to another. That process is a silent but solemn parable for me. Founded as it is upon the laws of nature, it affords the most vivid similitude of the certainty which characterizes the judgment of the great day. (W. Arnot.)

The net

Here the mixture of good and bad is not attributed to an enemy, but is exhibited as resulting from the nature of the case. In fishing no selection is possible. We are here reminded that we are all advancing through life towards its final issue. This suggests-

1. Enclosure.

2. Enlargement. But the main points of the parable are-

I. The truth that the net gathers “of every kind.” The Church embraces every variety. This mixture arises from the manner in which the kingdom of heaven is proclaimed among men; publicly to all. But this mixture is at length to give place. On the shore a real and final distinction will be made and acted on. The test will be our value to God. (M. Dods, D. D.)

The drag-net

I. The occupation implied. Ministers of the gospel are set forth under various similitudes.

II. The result declared. “The kingdom of heaven is like unto a net that … gathered of every kind;” so the Christian Church is at present in a mixed condition. There are two important uses to which this truth may be applied.

1. To refute a common objection. When religious professors bring scandal on the cause with which they are identified, the enemies of Christianity should remember that in this respect things turn out just as the great Founder of our religion foretold.

2. Inasmuch as the visible Church is thus mixed, all who name the name of Christ should be jealous over themselves with a godly jealousy, and not rest without seeking to ascertain what is their true character.

III. The explanation given-“So shall it be at the end of the world.” Notice.

1. The period when the separation will take place.

2. The agents by whom it will be accomplished.

3. The solemn issue in which it will terminate. (Expository Outlines.)

The parable of the net cast into the sea

The gospel preached may fully be compared to a net.

1. A net is a proper engine or instrument to catch or gather fish; so the gospel, or the Word of God preached, is a proper instrument to gather sinners out of the world into the Church, both visible and invisible (1 Corinthians 1:2).

2. A net is cast into the river or sea before it can take fish, so the word of the gospel must be preached that sinners may be converted.

3. A net takes fish (when they are caught) out of their proper element, and they die immediately; so those sinners who are indeed taken, or spiritually and savingly wrought upon by preaching the Word, are taken out of that element where they lived, and loved to live before-i.e., out of a course of sin and wickedness; and such die presently to sin and to all the vanities of the sea of this world.

4. A net must be cast into the sea or river with judgment by a skilful fisherman; it requires wisdom to use it to answer the end appointed. So ministers, Christ’s spiritual fishermen, ought to be men of great skill, knowledge, wisdom, and experience (2 Corinthians 12:16).

5. A net is cast where a fisherman hath ground to hope he may take store of fish; so a minister should preach where multitudes of people are gathered together, when an opportunity doth present; thus did our Lord (Matthew 5:1).

6. Sometimes fishermen labour all night (as Peter and John did) and take nothing; it is God that blesses their labour when they succeed well.

7. A net takes fish of every kind, some great ones, some small ones; some good, and some bad. So the gospel net gathers of every sort, some rich, some poor, some great ones (but not many of that kind), some little ones, who are despised in the eyes of the world.

8. A fisherman’s work is very hard, and he is exposed oftentimes to be tossed on the tempestuous sea; so is the work of Christ’s ministers. (B. Keach.)


Verse 51

Matthew 13:51

Have ye understood all these things?

A clear understanding

I fear there are hundreds of religionists in this country who never think of understanding that which they attend to under the name of religion. It can never be a sanctifying word to any except so far as they receive it into their understanding. To realize by experience a doctrine is the only way of knowing it. Those men never forget a truth who have had it burned into them as with a hot iron.

I. Let us consider this searching question, “Have ye understood all these things?” as spoken to those who can humbly, but yet confidently, say, “yes, i have understood these things.” We can say, “One thing I know; whereas I was blind, now I see.” If we have understood these things, what then?

1. Let us be thankful to God, for this understanding of Divine truth is not due to any natural intelligence we possess.

2. If you have been led to understand these things, ought not this to encourage you to seek to understand more?

3. You should not be backward to tell them to others. We are to be pupil teachers; pupils always, but teachers too.

II. But some who think they understand all these things do not understand them. Is your life in accordance with what you know? It is a solemn thing to have an understanding of Divine truth, but not to be affected by it to repent of sin. Many professors with big heads and small hearts.

III. Are there not some who would hardly know how to answer this question? They understand, and yet they do not: theoretically but not spiritually. You know Jesus Christ; but have you accepted Him? (C. H. Spurgeon.)

God will perfect the knowledge of the humble believer

If I find myself growing in God’s garden, though I be the tiniest plant in all the bed, yet it is such a mercy to be in the garden at all-I who was a wild rank weed out in the wilderness before-that I will not doubt but what He will water me when I need it, and that He will tend and care for me till I shall come to perfection. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Knowledge to be communicated to others

Let other candles be lit from thy candle, and thy candle shall burn none the less brightly; but the rather in this it may be said, that to enrich yourselves in all knowledge you must enrich others with the knowledge that you have. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

The responsibility of knowledge

I charge thee, knowing professor, to remember thy solemn responsibility. I beseech thee, as thou lovest thine own soul, not to make a downy bed out of thy knowledge, for it shall be a thorn in thy dying pillow. I charge thee, man, not to make hell hotter to thyself than it need be by taking all this knowledge in, and punting after more, while you forget that to obey is better than sacrifice, to trust is better than to boast, to love is better than to rival, and to serve out of simple affection is better than to prate, and to discuss, and to criticize, and to censure. (C. H. Spurgeon.)


Verse 52

Matthew 13:52

Out of his treasure things new and old.

Things new and old

I. The preacher should bring forth out of his treasure “things new.” His teaching should be living, and therefore have the characteristics of life, newness, and freshness.

II. The preacher should not forget to bring forth out of his treasure “things old.” Many have gone to as great an extreme in the direction of the old, as others in the direction of the new. It is not a trimming between the old and new that is expected. The old facts of the gospel must be brought out. The oldest truths of the gospel; God’s great love. (D. Longwill, M. A.)

Teaching that is new

No tree can long survive the period when it ceases to unfold fresh shoots, and make new growth. And no teaching, with however great ability it be maintained, can long survive the period when it shall cease to give fresh stimulus or furnish information that is new. (D. Longwill, M. A.)

A ready scribe

I. The subject of his study.

II. His proficiency in divine knowledge.

1. Correct.

2. Comprehending.

III. The means of his proficiency.

1. Diligent research.

2. Daily meditation.

3. Devout breathings.

IV. The usefulness of his life.

V. The benefits of remembering the life and labours of one who was a scribe instructed unto the kingdom of heaven.

1. To admire the dealings of God with His servant.

2. To exercise the spirit of patient continuance in well doing. (S. Eldridge.)

The parable of the scribe instructed unto the kingdom of heaven

Ministers are but stewards or deputy-householders.

1. They may be called householders in this sense, because as a deputy-householder chosen by his Lord to that office. So is every true and faithful minister or pastor of a Church chosen and called by the Lord to that holy office.

2. They may be called householders in respect of that great charge and trust which is committed to them.

3. A minister or pastor of a Church of Christ may be compared to a steward or deputyhouseholder, in respect of that faithfulness that he ought to manifest in the discharge of his great trust and office (1 Corinthians 4:2).

I showed you why they ought to be well stored.

1. They ought to be well provided, because Jesus Christ hath made plenteous provision for His spiritual family, which blessed food He hath committed to them to distribute.

2. Because their Master is a great King, and all His children are nobly descended.

3. Because the preciousness of the souls which they are to feed. (B. Keach.)

The instructed scribe

We should not account him a good and generous housekeeper who should not have always something of standing provision by him, so as never to be surprised, but that he should still be found able to treat his friend, at least, though perhaps not always presently to feast him. So the scribe here spoken of should have an inward lasting fulness and sufficiency to support and bear him up, especially when present performance urges, and actual preparation can be but short. Thus it is net the oil in the wick, but in the vessel, which must feed the lamp. The former, indeed, may form a present blaze, but it is the latter which must give a lasting blaze. It is not the spending money a man has in his pocket, but his hoards in the chest or in the bank, which must make him rich. A dying man has his breath in his nostrils, but to have it in the lungs is that which must preserve life. Nor will it suffice to have raked up a few notions here and there, or to rally all one’s little utmost into one discourse, which can constitute a divine, or give a man stock enough to set up with, any more than a soldier who has filled his knapsack should thereupon set up for keeping house. No, a man would then quickly be drained; his short stock would serve but for one meeting in ordinary converse, and he would be in danger of meeting the same company twice. And therefore there must be a store, plenty, and a treasure, lest he turn broker in divinity, and, having run the round of a beaten, exhausted commonplace, be forced to stand still or go the same round over again, pretending to his auditors that it is profitable for them to hear the same truths often inculcated to them though I humbly conceive that to inculcate the same truths is not of necessity to report the same words. And therefore to avoid such beggarly pretences, there must be habitual preparation to the work we are now speaking of. (R. South, D. D.)

Things new and old

The new life cannot perform its functions without the presence and aid of that which has lived, but is alive no longer. The old furnishes the mould in which the new is fashioned: the support on which the new rests while it is coming into being. Apply this law to the spiritual life.

1. On its intellectual side. A creed that is not growing steadily is a dead creed, and ought to be buried. The old is not to be banished altogether, or all at once; the new must be grafted on to it.

2. On the side of conduct. The great elements of manhood are no novelties. Faith, hope, love, obedience, patience, fidelity, are all old-fashioned virtues; but nothing better has been invented yet. We have got to give new life and meaning to them by bringing them to bear upon our altered conditions. (Washington Gladden.)

Old and new in the formation of character

That which is old in our experience is that part of our life Which has become habitual. That ought to be the largest part of our moral and religious life. The formation of good habits-habits of devotion-such as church-going, Bible study, private meditation, secret prayer; habits of just and considerate and kindly speech; habits of careful and discriminating thought; habits of activity in all good work, and of fidelity in the discharge of every obligation we assume; habits of benevolence in giving and in serving; habits of courtesy and temperance, and manly dignity and womanly grace-this is a most important element in moral and religious culture … Yet the character thus formed needs to be continually reformed. New light, new truths, new relations new powers, call for new adjustments of our thoughts and new departures in our conduct. A religious life that is summed up in its habits; that is wholly formed and never renewed; into which no new motives, no new inspirations, no new endeavours enter, is a poor and barren life … While therefore the Christian character needs those elements of permanence and solidity which are furnished by good habits, it needs also fresh thinking, resolution, and endeavour every day. It thrives only upon the wise combination of things new and old. It joins the stead fastness and strength of new habits with the freshness and joy of daily inspirations. (Washington Gladden.)


Verse 55

Matthew 13:55

Is not this the carpenter’s son?

The Divine rejected in the common

Thus the spiritual gem was dishonoured because of its earthly setting, and Christ was rejected on account of that which should have secured His acceptance. A small amount of thought would have sufficed to say, “Out of the soil of our common life has arisen a plant, of uncommon flower and fruit, without any special training.” What cannot be explained by ordinary laws must be sought for in the extraordinary, and that which He could not have derived from men must have been given Him by God! There were probably many feelings expressed in the words.

1. Perhaps there was envy. Theft did not like to think that one of themselves should be so much above them.

2. There was a prejudice against Christ because of the worldly circumstances of His family. Poverty has always been a sore hindrance to acceptance.

3. There was certainly a feeling in the Jews against Christ from the absence of any apparent means of His attaining uncommon eminence. “Whence hath this man.”

4. A stronger feeling against Christ arose in their minds from the commonness and familiarity of His associations. The effect of His teaching was lost through the nearness of His lower life. Had He come from far, had He been shrouded in mystery, then they might have received His claims. They had not spirituality enough to counteract the suggestions and influences of His carnal relations. Men are still backward to recognize the Divine in connection with the common; earthly genealogy disproves the heavenly descent. Illustrations of this fact:

I. The first shall be taken from Christ himself. Christ is God manifest in the flesh: we have felt that the great God might have chosen some other and higher mode of display; have clothed Himself with light.

II. The same may be said of Christianity. None can fail to recognize the thoroughly human character of the records of the New Testament. It has been objected that they are common and insignificant, that they mention trifling matters. Men want a more stately book-but then it had lost its charm. The human is Divine.

III. A third illustration we will take from the operation in nature. We are prevented from recognizing the Divine power by the commonness of daily operations.

IV. A fourth illustration is taken from divine providence. Men seem only to recognize the Divine working in extraordinary events.

V. The last illustration is taken from our common life. There is a great craving for extraordinary positions; had we more splendid conditions how we could display the energy of our faith. All life is Divine. The Divine man makes the Divine life; seek to detect the spiritual and Divine everywhere. (A. J. Morris.)

The carpenter’s son

When the Emperor Julian was about to wage war against the Persians and had threatened, when the war should be over, bitterly to persecute the Christians, insolently mocking the carpenter’s son as one quite unable to succour them, Didymas, an ecclesiastic, pronounced this sentence upon him: “This carpenter’s son is even now making a wooden coffin for Julian!”“ The Emperor went into the battle, and was suddenly struck in the breast with an arrow. He pulled it out, and, finding the wound inflicted by it to be deadly, he cursed the Lord; then, taking some of the blood from the wound, he threw it up into the air, exclaiming, “Thou hast conquered, O Galilean.” The son of the, carpenter:-Christ was, indeed, the son of a workman; but of Him who made the frame of the universe, not by a hammer, but by His command; who disposed the composition of the elements, not by skill, but by His Word; who kindled the sun, not by earthly fire, but by His supreme heat; who made all things out of nothing, and made them, O man, for thee-that thou mightest reflect on the Artificer by considering His work, (Crysologus.)


Verse 58

Matthew 13:58

Because of their unbelief.

Unbelief

An empty vessel capable of holding water, if tightly corked, none can enter it, though water is poured upon it in great abundance; nay, it may be thrown into the sea, and still remain empty. So it is with our hearts; unbelief closes them, so that the water of life cannot fill them, however abundantly it may be poured upon and around us. Could not do many mighty works, etc. Unbelief hinders grace. This sin not only locks up the heart of a sinner, but also binds up the hands of a Saviour. (Burkitt.)

The imperfection of the religion of modern society has its root in the obscure perception of Divine truth. If is only a clear-sighted faith which can grasp the truths of revealed religion, and show to us the relation in which we stand to God. If it does not bring into clear view the obligations and duties which it imposes, and the privileges and graces which it imparts, the life of holiness and devotion will not be seen … . We may trace our imperfect Christian characters, our defective morality, and our almost godless civilization, to a want of faith in our Lord’s doctrines and in His view of life, and our relations to Him and to eternity. It is faith primarily, which will alone bring us into union with Himself, and enable us to see and realize our relations to God as our Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier. (R. B. Fairbairn, D. D.)

 


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Bibliography Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Matthew 13:4". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tbi/matthew-13.html. 1905-1909. New York.

Lectionary Calendar
Monday, September 16th, 2019
the Week of Proper 19 / Ordinary 24
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