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ver. 2.0.20.11.26
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Whyte's Dictionary of Bible Characters

the Sower Who Went Forth to Sow


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NOT only in Jerusalem, and at the passover, but in Nazareth, and on days of release from labour, we may well believe that something like this would sometimes take place. "Son, why hast thou thus dealt with us? Behold, thy father and I have sought Thee sorrowing." But He would answer to His mother,-"How is it that ye sought Me? Wist ye not that I must be about My Father's business?" So would His mother say to Him, and so would He answer her, as often as she sought for Him among their kinsfolk and acquaintance; while, all the time, He was out in the fields; now with the ploughman, and now with the sower, and now with the reaper, and now with the husbandman who had his fan in his hand with which he was thoroughly purging his floor. And as He walked and talked with the ploughman, and with the sower, and with the reaper, the Spirit of all truth would descend into His heart and would say to Him that all that husbandry He had been observing so closely was in all its processes and operations, not unlike the Kingdom of Heaven in all its processes, and in all its operations, and in all its experiences. Till, as He walked about and meditated, He would draw out to Himself the manifold likenesses between nature and grace; between the husbandry of the farm and the husbandry of the pulpit; when He would lay up all His meditations in His mind and in His heart, till we see and hear it all coming out of His mind and out of His heart in the teaching and the preaching of the text.

And, accordingly, nothing is more likely than that He had led His disciples to the sea-side that day along a way that was well known to Him. A way He had often walked as He went to watch the operations of the husbandman to whom that field belonged. And it being now the seed-time of the year, as the sower that day sowed, some of the seed fell under the feet of the twelve disciples, while flocks of hungry birds swooped down and devoured whole basketfuls of the sower's best sowing. And thus it was that no sooner had our Lord sat down by the sea-side than He forthwith pointed His disciples back to the field they had just passed through. And not only did He recall to their thoughts what they themselves had just seen, but He told them also all that He Himself had seen going on in that same field, year in and year out, for many spring days and many harvest days, when His mother could not make out where He was, or what He was doing. But all those observations and meditations of His now bore their hundredfold fruit in this great sermon so full of all kinds of instruction and illustration, and all taken from the field they had just left behind them. And then, at the petition of His disciples, our Lord expounded His homely riddle about the sower and his seed, till we have both that riddle and its exposition in our hands tonight in this far-off island of the sea.

"The seed is the Word of God," says our Lord. That is to say, every true preacher sows the Word of God with both his hands, and he sows nothing else but the Word of God. The true preacher must put nothing else into his seed-basket every Sabbath morning, but the pure and unadulterated Word of God. The Christian pulpit is not set up for any service but one: and that one and sovereign service is the sowing of the seed of God in the minds and in the hearts and in the lives of men. The platform and the press are set up in God's providence for the sowing broadcast of His mind and will also: but the evangelical pulpit has an exclusiveness and a sanctification about it altogether peculiar to itself. Six days shalt thou read and write history, and biography, and philosophy, and poetry, and newspapers, and novels, but this is the Day the Lord has made. And He has made this Day, and has specially sanctified and hedged round this Day, for the sowing of that intellectual and spiritual seed which springs up, and which alone springs up, to everlasting life.

"And as he sowed, some seeds fell by the wayside. This is he that heareth the Word of the Kingdom, and understandeth it not." Our Lord was a man of understanding Himself, and He laboured continually to make His disciples to be men of understanding like Himself. And all His ministers, to this day, who are to be of any real and abiding benefit to their people, must labour first to make themselves men of understanding, and then to make their people the same. And if the people are void of understanding their ministers are largely to blame for that. There are people, indeed, in every congregation that our Lord Himself could not make men of understanding: at the same time, it is the ministers who are mostly at fault if their people remain stupid in their intellects and dark in their hearts. "Understandest thou what thou readest?" said Philip the once deacon, and now the evangelist, to the dark treasurer of Queen Candace. "How can I?" answered that wise man from the East. And Philip went up into the chariot and sowed the seed of the Kingdom of Heaven in the understanding and in the heart of that black but comely convert to the cross of Christ. And the first duty of every minister is to make his pulpit like that chariot of Ethiopia. The first duty of every occupant of a pulpit is to sow the Word of God and the Word of God only, and his second duty is to see that the people understand what they read and hear. "And Ezra the scribe stood upon a pulpit of wood, which they had made for the purpose. And Ezra opened the book in the sight of the people: for he was above the people: and when he opened it all the people stood up. And he read in the book in the law of God distinctly, and gave the sense, and caused the people to understand the reading,"-till his reading was so distinct, and so full of understanding, that it brought forth fruit in some of his hearers an hundredfold. One of the last things that Sir Thomas Grainger Stewart said to me on his death-bed was this:-"Sometimes make them understand the psalm before you invite them to sing it, for we have often sung it in my time not knowing what it meant." It was a wise counsel and given in a solemn hour. But, then, there is no pulpit duty more difficult than just to say the right word of understanding at the right moment, and not a word too much or too little. Dr. Davidson of Aberdeen was the best at that one single word of explanation and direction of any minister I ever sat under. He said just one weighty word, in his own weighty way, and then we all sang in the West Church, as Paul made them sing in the Corinthian Church, with the understanding, and with the spirit also.

"And understandeth it not. Then cometh the wicked one and catcheth away the seed that has just been sown." There is a house I am sometimes in at the hour of family worship. In that house, after the psalm and the scripture and the prayer, the head of the house remains on his knees for, say, five or six seconds after he utters the Amen. And then he rises off his knees, slowly and reverently, as if he were still in the King's presence, with his eyes and his whole appearance full of holy fear and holy love. And I notice that all his children have learned to do like their father. And I have repeatedly heard his guests remark on that reverential habit of his, and I have heard them confess that they went home rebuked, as I have often gone home rebuked and instructed myself. There is another house I am in sometimes, which is the very opposite of that. They have family worship also, but before he has said Amen the head of the house is up off his knees and has begun to give his orders about this and that to his servants. He has been meditating the order, evidently, all the time of the prayer. It must have been in such a house or in such a synagogue as that in which our Lord saw the wicked one coming and catching away the seed that was sown in the worshippers' hearts. I think I have told you before about a Sabbath night I once spent long ago in a farm-house up among the Grampians. Before family worship the old farmer had been reading to me out of a book of notes he had taken of Dr. John Duncan's sermons when they were both young men. After worship I got up and spoke first and said-"Let us have some more of those delightful notes." "Excuse me," said my friend, "but we all take our candles immediately after worship." The wicked one was prevented and outwitted every night in that house, and he has been prevented and outwitted in the houses of all the children who were brought up in that rare old farm-house up among the Grampians.

And, then, the stony places is he that heareth the word with joy, yet hath no root in himself. I do not know any congregation, anywhere, that hears the Word of God with such joy as this congregation. As for instance. All last summer, every Monday, I got letters full of joy over the preaching that had been provided in this pulpit. And then when I came home, in every house and on every street I was met with salutations of joy over Dr. George Adam Smith's last sermon. The Professor's text was this,-"Lord, teach us to pray." Now, that is three weeks ago, and the seed has had plenty of time to take root. And I am sent here tonight to ask you whether that so joyful hearing that Sabbath night has come, in your case, to any fruit. Have you prayed more these last three weeks? Have you been oftener, and longer at a time, on your knees? Have you been like Halyburton's mother-have you prayed more, both with and for your son, these three weeks? I did not hear the sermon, and I could not get anybody to tell me very much about it, beyond-O the eloquence and the delight of it! But some of you heard it, and God's demand of you tonight is,-with what result on your heart, on your temper, on your walk and conversation, on your character? Or, is it written in heaven about you since that Sabbath night,-'This is he who hears sermons with such applause, but has never had any root in himself. This is he who thinks that sermons are provided by God and man for him to praise or blame as suits his fancy.' And, then, to keep His ministers from being puffed up with such idle praise as yours, God says to them-"Thou son of man, the children of thy people are still talking of thee by the walls and in the doors of their houses. And they come to hear thy words, but they will not do them. Lo, thou art unto them as one that has a pleasant voice, and can play well on an instrument. For they hear thy words, and show much love, but they do them not. But the day will come when they shall give an account of all that they have heard, and then shall they know that a prophet of mine has been among them."

And then he that receiveth the seed among thorns is he in whom the Word of God is simply choked, till he becometh unfruitful. There is only so much room and sap and strength in any field; and unless the ground is cleared of all other things, the sap and the strength that should go to grow the corn will be all drunk up by thorns and briars. You understand, my brethren? You have only so much time, and strength, and mind, and heart, and feeling, and passion, and emotion, and if you expend all these, or the greater part of all these, on other things, you will have all that the less corn, even if you have any corn at all. The thorns in the fields of your hearts are such things as contentions, and controversies, and debates, and quarrels. All these are so many beds of thorns that not only starve your soul, but tear it to pieces as you wade about among them. And not thorns only, but even good things in their own places, if they are allowed in your corn-field, they will leave you little bread for yourself and for your children, and little seed corn for next spring. Rose-bushes even, and gooseberry-bushes, beds of all sweet-tasting, and sweet-smelling herbs, are all in their own place in your garden; but you must have corn in your field. Corn is the staff of your life. And after corn, then flowers and fruits; but not before. After your soul is well on the way to salvation, then other things; but salvation first. Lest the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lust of other things, entering in, choke your soul, till it is starved and lost: your soul and you.

We are indebted to Luke for many things that we would not have had but for his peculiar care, and industry, and exactness, as a sacred writer. And he reports to us one otherwise unreported word of our Lord's about the good ground that has its own lessons for us all tonight. "That on the good ground are they, which is an honest and good heart, having heard the Word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience." An honest heart. Now, there are honest, and there are dishonest, hearts in every congregation. The honest heart is the heart of the hearer who has come up here tonight with a right intention. His motive in being here is an honest motive. This is God's house, and that honest hearer has come to hear what God will say to him tonight. His eye is single, and this whole house has been full of light to him tonight. Already, tonight, he has heard words that he intends to keep tomorrow: to lay them up in his heart and to practise them in his life. He is an honest man, and God will deal honestly by him. But there are others, it is to be feared, in every congregation. They were in our Lord's congregations, and they are in ours. Hearers of the Word, with hearts that are not honest. They are in God's house, but they are not here to meet with God, or to understand, and lay up, and keep, His Word. They are here to see and to be seen. They are here to meet with some one who is to be met with here. They love music, and they are here because the music is good. Or they have some still more material motive; their office or their shop brings them here. Now, when God's Spirit says, Thou art the man! Admit it. Confess it where you sit. Receive this word into a good and honest heart, and say, Surely the Lord is in this place; and I knew it not. Say, this is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven. Say that God has been found of one man, at any rate, who did not come here tonight to seek Him. And come up here henceforth with that same good and honest heart that you have had created within you tonight, and you also will yet live to bring forth fruit thirty-fold, perhaps sixty-fold, and even an hundred-fold.


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Bibliography Information
Whyte, Alexander. Entry for 'the Sower Who Went Forth to Sow'. Alexander Whyte's Dictionary of Bible Characters. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/wbc/t/the-sower-who-went-forth-to-sow.html. 1901.

Lectionary Calendar
Thursday, November 26th, 2020
the Week of Christ the King / Proper 29 / Ordinary 34
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