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Whyte's Dictionary of Bible Characters

the Man Who Cast Seed Into the Round And it Grew up he Knew Not How

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DR. BRUCE is by far the best expositor of this exquisite little parable. Dr. Bruce is always himself. That is to say, he is always autobiographical, always experimental, always scientific, always masculine, always full of bone and blood, always strength itself, always satisfying. "A man's capacity," he says, "to expound particular portions of Scripture depends largely on his religious experiences. For here it holds good, as in other spheres, that we only find what we ourselves bring. The case is the writer's own. And therefore the parable to be studied has been to him for many years a favourite subject of thought, and a fruitful source of comfort. Viewed as a repetition in parabolic form of the Psalmist's counsel,-Wait, I say, on the Lord." Dr. Bruce's book on the Parables is, to my taste, his best book. And then the exquisite little parable now open before us, shows Dr. Bruce, as I think, at his very best. So much so, that if there is to be anything of the nature of harvest to you tonight, let it be well understood that Dr. Bruce was the man who first cast the seed into the ground, but who fell asleep before the seed had sprung up in you and in me.

At the same time, the originality, and the freshness, and the force, of Dr. Bruce's exposition, is all to be traced back to the originality, and the freshness, and the force, of the parable which he so excellently expounds. You sometimes say to me that you do not know what style is. You have never been taught, you complain, to recognise style when you see it. And you ask me never to pass a piece of what I would call real style without stopping and calling your attention to it. Well, learn this little parable by heart, and say it to yourselves, till you feel the full taste of it in your mouth, and till you instinctively spue out of your mouth everything of a written kind that is not natural, and fresh, and forceful: everything that is not noble, and beautiful, and full of grace and truth, like this parable. "For the earth bringeth fruit of herself: first the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear." A little child might have said it. And He who did say it makes us all to feel like little children, with the naturalness, and the simplicity, and the truth, both to nature and to grace, of His exquisite words. The style is the man.

If we only had the eyes to see it, there is not a little of our Lord's teaching and preaching that is autobiographical, and experimental, and is consequently of the nature of a personal testimony. For, in all He went through, He went through it all because He was ordained to be the Firstborn among many brethren. He was in all points put to school, and taught, and trained, from less to more, like as we are. He was Himself so led as to be made in due time the Leader and the Forerunner of the whole body of believers. Till He is able at every new step in His heavenward way to turn round and say to us,-"Follow Me. He that followeth Me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the Light of life." I like to look for our Lord's own footprints in every sermon of His, and what I look for I almost always find. As here. For, as it is in so many of His sermons, and as it is in so many of His parables that illustrate His sermons, this fine parable has, as I think, its first fulfilment in our Lord Himself. The seed of the kingdom was cast into the good ground of His own mind and heart also, and that from a child. And the seed that Mary, and Joseph, and the doctors in the temple, and the elders in the synagogue, all cast into that good ground sprang up, they knew not how. Till, when the sickle was put in for the first time, there was already such a harvest of grace and truth that they knew not what to make of it. Yes. It was so in Himself also: there was first the blade. For did He not grow up before them as a tender plant? And was He not subject to them as a little Child in the Lord? And was it not so that the Spirit of the Lord rested upon Him, they knew not how, till He began to be about thirty years of age? Matthew Henry sees our Lord Himself in this parable, and I am glad to have that great commentator's countenance in dwelling, as I so much love to dwell, on this delightful side of this delightful scripture.

And what was true of the Holy Child Jesus, will be true, in their measure, of your children and of mine. And if God the Father submitted His Son to His own divine law of gradual growth, and slow increase, and an imperceptible ripening, then we must not grudge to submit both ourselves and our children to the same divine ordinance. We must not torment ourselves with too much solicitude and anxiety about our children. We must not look for old heads on young shoulders. We must not thrust in the sickle on the same day as we sow the seed. We must not expect our sons to come all at once to the stature of perfect men, any more than we did ourselves. We were not perfect patterns at their age any more than they are. We were not by any means so deep in the divine life when we were young men as we now are. With ourselves also it was first the blade, then the ear, and only a long time after that, the full corn in the ear. We really must not embitter our own lives, and our children's lives, because they are not as yet run into all our mould, and are not shaped as yet into all our form of doctrine and manner of life. We must not demand of them that they shall sit up at night to read our favourite authors. They are still young, and they have their own favourite authors. Enough, if, say thirty or forty years after this, they are come to their full intellectual and spiritual manhood. Enough, if, when we are no longer here to enjoy such masterpieces with them, they are by that time discovering the hid treasure, say, of Rutherford's Letters, and Guthrie's Saving Interest, and Baxter's Saint's Rest, and Marshall's Gospel Mystery, and William Law's immortal treatises, and are winding up every night with Bishop Andrewes's Private Devotions. By the time that we are done with those great guide-books of ours, and are distributing our choicest treasures to our children, we will write their names under our own names in our favourite copies, and will leave it to God to see that they write their children's names one day on the same revered pages. It was only after He was more than thirty years of age that we come on the Son of God Himself giving up whole nights at a time to secret prayer. Be you patient, therefore, brethren. Behold the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and the latter rain. Be ye also patient, stablish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh. Be you very thankful for the smallest signs of grace in your children. Despise not the day of small things. Look at that green blade in the spring field stealing its way so timidly round the obstructing clods and stones, and lifting up its hands towards the sunshine and the rain. And look for the same thing in your own house, and be thankful. For, in your house also, there will be first the blade, then the ear, and after that the full corn in the ear. You may not live to see it. You will most likely have fallen asleep before you see it. But you will be awakened to see it. And you will see no sweeter sight that sweet morning than the seed you sowed on earth at last come to its full ear in heaven. Yes, so is the kingdom of God. For when the fruit is brought forth, immediately He putteth in the sickle, because the harvest is come.

And, then, what a heart-upholding parable this is for all over-anxious ministers. It should be called the parable for all impatient parents and pastors; pastors especially. Our Lord is so bent upon consoling and comforting His ministers that He almost staggers us with what He here says about the unbroken peace of mind that every minister of His ought to possess. At all hazards, our Lord will, once for all, pluck up all over-anxiety, and all impatience with their people, out of the hearts of His ministers. So much so, that He startles us with the state of security, and almost of absolute obliviousness in sleep, that He would have all His ministers to enjoy. What a courageous comforter of His over-anxious ministers is Jesus Christ! Cast in the seed, He says, and take no more trouble about it. Sow the seed, and be secure of the harvest. Look at this wise sower how he sleeps, says our Lord to us. Imitate him. For so is the kingdom of heaven. It is as if our Lord came into this house and said:-So is this congregation. It is as if the ministers should preach, and hold their prayer-meetings, and teach their classes, and visit their sick, and should then wait in confidence till the seed should spring up, they know not how. And so it is as a matter of fact. We cast the seed of God's word into the earth, and the earth takes it, that is to say, God takes it, and it springs up, no man knoweth how, and the sowers of the seed least of all. Comfort My ministers, saith your God. Speak ye comfortably to My ministers, and say to them that the earth bringeth forth her fruit of herself, first the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear. There is another side, of course, to supplement all that; but one side is enough for one sermon of His, in our Lord's manner of preaching the kingdom.

I chanced upon this in my reading only last night. "Nothing great," says Epictetus, "is produced suddenly, not even a grape or a fig. If you say to me that you want a grape or a fig now, I will answer you that you cannot have it; a grape takes time. Let it flower first, then it will put forth its fruit, and then ripen. And would you have the fruit of a man's life and character all in a moment? Do not expect it." And again, "Fruit grows in this way, and in this way only. If the seed produces the fruit before the jointed stem, it is a product of the garden of Adonis. That is to say, the thing is for show only; it has no root in itself. You have shot up too soon, my man. You have snatched at fame before your season. You think you are something, but you will come to nothing. Let the root grow, then the first joint, then the second, and then the third, and then the fruit will come forth of itself." So Epictetus taught the young men in his Greek lecture-room. God never leaving Himself without a witness.

When a sinner first sets out on his sanctification, he begins already to sharpen his sickle, and to bind and stack his sheaves. He confidently promises himself and other people both sweet and strengthening bread to eat immediately out of his harvest. But both he, and all who have to do with him, soon find out that that is not at all the way of the kingdom of heaven. Not at all. In the kingdom of heaven, and in the sanctification of its subjects, it is first the blade here also, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear. And sometimes, indeed, it threatens as if it were to be all blade in this field and no ear at all. Ay, and far worse than that: the very blade, with all its promise in it, will sometimes seem wholly to wither and absolutely to die. Why is it that I am so slow in growing any better? Why is my heart as wicked as ever it was, and sometimes much more so? You pray, in a way. You watch unto prayer, now and then. You study all the great authorities on sanctification that you can hear about, or can lay your hands on. But as soon as your secretly besetting sin is again suddenly let loose upon you, that moment you are down again in all your old agony of guilt and shame. Ah, my brethren, the kingdom of heaven is a very different experience from what you had at one time supposed it was. In our Lord's experimental words about it, the sanctification of the soul is first in the blade, then in the ear, and it is never, in this world, any more: it is never in this world the full corn in the ear. Whereas, poor soul, you thought that it was going to be the full ear with you all at once.

A great and a genuine sanctification, you must know, is the slowest work in all the world. There is nothing in heaven or earth so slow. The thing is sure, indeed, but the time is long. It would need to be sure, for oh, yes, sirs, it is long, long. And it is as sore, and as sickening, as it is long. There is a true description of it in our great Catechism. It is described there as "dying daily." And so it is. That is your case, is it not? It is dying by inches, is it not? It is having the two-edged sword driven daily into your heart, and never in this life healed out of your heart. Death is a process of pain, and shame, and ignominy. All possible pain, and suffering, and all manner of humiliation to mortal man, is collected up into the idea of death. But our everyday death is not true death at all, compared with the pain, and shame, and ignominy of death unto sin. And it all seems such a stagnation of sin, sometimes, and to some men. As, for instance, to the man who expostulated thus-"O my God, the more I do, the worse I am!" And to the man who first sang thus-

And they that fain would serve Thee best,
Are conscious most of wrong within.

Till, you may depend upon it, our Lord had His eye and His heart on His saints who are undergoing a great spiritual sanctification when He spake this many-sided and most comforting parable. He spake it first of Himself, and of His own growth in strength of spirit, and in wisdom, as well as in all manner of Messianic perfection. And then He spake it of parents and their children, and then of ministers and their people. But above all, He spake it of all those elect souls who are being kept for all their days under a slow but sure sanctification. There is first the blade of true holiness, He said, after that the ear, and then the full corn in the ear. But when the fruit is brought forth, immediately He putteth in the sickle, because the harvest is come.

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These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Whyte, Alexander. Entry for 'the Man Who Cast Seed Into the Round And it Grew up he Knew Not How'. Alexander Whyte's Dictionary of Bible Characters. 1901.

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Tuesday, December 1st, 2020
the First Week of Advent
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