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1: (Mk 4:1,Lu 8:4).
2: He went into the vessel - Which constantly waited upon
him, while he was on the sea coast.
3: In parables - The word is here taken in its proper sense, for
apt similes or comparisons. This way of speaking, extremely
common in the eastern countries, drew and fixed the attention
of many, and occasioned the truths delivered to sink the deeper
into humble and serious hearers. At the same time, by an awful
mixture of justice and mercy, it hid them from the proud and
In this chapter our Lord delivers seven parables; directing the
four former (as being of general concern) to all the people; the
three latter to his disciples.
Behold the sower - How exquisitely proper is this parable to be
an introduction to all the rest! In this our Lord answers a very
obvious and a very important question. The same sower, Christ,
and the same preachers sent by him, always sow the same seed: why
has it not always the same effect? He that hath ears to hear,
let him hear!
4: And while he sowed, some seeds fell by the highway side,
and the birds came and devoured them - It is observable, that our
Lord points out the grand hinderances of our bearing fruit, in
the same order as they occur. The first danger is, that the
birds will devour the seed. If it escape this, there is then
another danger, namely, lest it be scorched, and wither away.
It is long after this that the thorns spring up and choke the
A vast majority of those who hear the word of God, receive the
seed as by the highway side. Of those who do not lose it by the
birds, yet many receive it as on stony places. Many of them who
receive it in a better soil, yet suffer the thorns to grow up,
and choke it: so that few even of these endure to the end, and
bear fruit unto perfection: yet in all these cases, it is not the
will of God that hinders, but their own voluntary perverseness.
8: Good ground - Soft, not like that by the highway side; deep,
not like the stony ground; purged, not full of thorns.
11: To you, who have, it is given to know the mysteries of the
kingdom of heaven - The deep things which flesh and blood cannot
reveal, pertaining to the inward, present kingdom of heaven.
But to them who have not, it is not given - Therefore speak I in
parables, that ye may understand, while they do not understand.
12: Whosoever hath - That is, improves what he hath, uses the grace
given according to the design of the giver; to him shall be given
- More and more, in proportion to that improvement. But whosoever
hath not - Improves it not, from him shall be taken even what he
hath - Here is the grand rule of God's dealing with the children of
men: a rule fixed as the pillars of heaven. This is the key to
all his providential dispensations; as will appear to men and
angels in that day. (Mt 25:29,Mk 4:25,Lu 8:18,19:26).
13: Therefore I speak to them in parables, because seeing, they
see not - In pursuance of this general rule, I do not give more
knowledge to this people, be. cause they use not that which
they have already: having all the means of seeing, hearing, and
understanding, they use none of them: they do not effectually
see, or hear, or understand any thing.
14: Hearing ye will hear, but in nowise understand - That is,
Ye will surely hear. All possible means will be given you: yet
they will profit you nothing; because your heart is sensual,
stupid, and insensible; your spiritual senses are shut up; yea,
you have closed your eyes against the light; as being unwilling
to understand the things of God, and afraid, not desirous that
he should heal you.(Isa 6:9,Joh 12:40,Ac 28:26).
16: But blessed are your eyes - For you both see and understand.
You know how to prize the light which is given you.(Lu 10:23).
19: When any one heareth the word, and considereth it not - The
first and most general cause of unfruitfulness. The wicked one
cometh - Either inwardly; filling the mind with thoughts of other
things; or by his agent. Such are all they that introduce other
subjects, when men should be considering what they have heard.
20: The seed sown on stony places, therefore sprang up soon,
because it did not sink deep, (Mt 13:5).
He receiveth it with joy - Perhaps with transport, with ecstacy:
struck with the beauty of truth, and drawn by the preventing
grace of God.
21: Yet hath he not root in himself - No deep work of grace:
no change in the ground of his heart. Nay, he has no deep
conviction; and without this, good desires soon wither away.
He is offended - He finds a thousand plausible pretences for
leaving so narrow and rugged a way.
22: He that received the seed among the thorns, is he that
heareth the word and considereth it - In spite of Satan and his
agents: yea, hath root in himself is deeply convinced, and in
a great measure inwardly changed; so that he will not draw back,
even when tribulation or persecution ariseth. And yet even in
him, together with the good seed, the thorns spring up, (Mt 13:7).
(perhaps unperceived at first) till they gradually choke
it, destroy all its life and power, and it becometh unfruitful.
Cares are thorns to the poor: wealth to the rich; the desire
of other things to all. The deceitfulness of riches - Deceitful
indeed! for they smile, and betray: kiss, and smite into hell.
They put out the eyes, harden the heart, steal away all the life
of God; fill the soul with pride, anger, love of the world; make
men enemies to the whole cross of Christ! And all the while
are eagerly desired, and vehemently pursued, even by those who
believe there is a God!
23: Some a hundred fold, some sixty, some thirty - That is, in
various proportions; some abundantly more than others.
24: He proposed another parable - in which he farther explains the
case of unfruitful hearers. The kingdom of heaven (as has been
observed before) sometimes signifies eternal glory: sometimes
the way to it, inward religion; sometimes, as here, the Gospel
dispensation: the phrase is likewise used for a person or thing
relating to any one of those: so in this place it means, Christ
preaching the Gospel, who is like a man sowing good seed - The
expression, is like, both here and in several other places,
only means, that the thing spoken of may be illustrated by the
following similitude. Who sowed good seed in his field - God
sowed nothing but good in his whole creation. Christ sowed only
the good seed of truth in his Church.
25: But while men slept - They ought to have watched: the Lord of
the field sleepeth not. His enemy came and sowed darnel - This
is very like wheat, and commonly grows among wheat rather than
among other grain: but tares or vetches are of the pulse kind,
and bear no resemblance to wheat.
26: When the blade was sprung up, then appeared the darnel - It
was not discerned before: it seldom appears, as soon as the good
seed is sown: all at first appears to be peace, and love, and joy.
27: Didst not thou sow good seed in thy field? Whence then
hath it darnel? - Not from the parent of good. Even the
heathen could say,
"No evil can from thee proceed:
'Tis only suffer'd, not decreed:
As darkness is not from the sun,
Nor mount the shades, till he is gone."
28: He said, An enemy hath done this - A plain answer to the great
question concerning the origin of evil. God made men (as he did
angels) intelligent creatures, and consequently free either to
choose good or evil: but he implanted no evil in the human soul:
An enemy (with man's concurrence) hath done this.
Darnel, in the Church, is properly outside Christians, such as
have the form of godliness, without the power. Open sinners,
such as have neither the form nor the power, are not so properly
darnel, as thistles and brambles: these ought to be rooted up
without delay, and not suffered in the Christian community.
Whereas should fallible men attempt to gather up the darnel,
they would often root up the wheat with them.
31: He proposed to them another parable - The former parables
relate chiefly to unfruitful hearers; these that follow, to
those who bear good fruit. The kingdom of heaven - Both the Gospel
dispensation, and the inward kingdom. (Mk 4:30,Lu 13:18).
32: The least - That is, one of the least: a way of speaking
extremely common among the Jews. It becometh a tree - In those
countries it grows exceeding large and high. So will the
Christian doctrine spread in the world, and the life of Christ
in the soul.
33: Three measures - This was the quantity which they usually
baked at once: till the whole was leavened - Thus will the Gospel
leaven the world and grace the Christian. (Lu 13:20).
34: Without a parable spake he not unto them - That is, not at that
time; at other times he did.
35: (Ps 78:2).
38: The good seed are the children of the kingdom - That is, the
children of God, the righteous.
41: They shall gather all things that offend - Whatever had
hindered or grieved the children of God; whatever things or
persons had hindered the good seed which Christ had sown from
taking root or bearing fruit. The Greek word is, All scandals.
44: The three following parables are proposed, not to the
multitude, but peculiarly to the apostles: the two former of
them relate to those who receive the Gospel; the third, both to
those who receive, and those who preach it. The kingdom of
heaven is like treasure hid in a field - The kingdom of God within
us is a treasure indeed, but a treasure hid from the world, and
from the most wise and prudent in it. He that finds this
treasure, (perhaps when he thought it far from him,) hides it
deep in his heart, and gives up all other happiness for it.
45: The kingdom of heaven - That is, one who earnestly seeks for
it: in verse (Mt 13:47 it means), the Gospel preached,
which is like a net gathering of every kind: just so the Gospel,
wherever it is preached, gathers at first both good and bad, who
are for a season full of approbation and warm with good desires.
But Christian discipline, and strong, close exhortation, begin
that separation in this world, which shall be accomplished by
the angels of God in the world to come.
52: Every scribe instructed unto the kingdom of heaven - That
is, every duly prepared preacher of the Gospel has a treasure
of Divine knowledge, out of which he is able to bring forth
all sorts of instructions. The word treasure signifies any
collection of things whatsoever, and the places where such
collections are kept.
53: He departed thence - He crossed the lake from Capernaum: and
came once more into his own country - Nazareth: but with no
better success than he had had there before.
54: Whence hath HE - Many texts are not understood, for want
of knowing the proper emphasis; and others are utterly
misunderstood, by placing the emphasis wrong. To prevent
this in some measure, the emphatical words are here printed
in capital letters. (Mk 6:1,Lu 4:16,22).
55: The carpenter's son - The Greek, word means, one that works
either in wood, iron, or stone. His brethren - Our kinsmen. They
were the sons of Mary, sister to the virgin, and wife of Cleophas
or Alpheus. James - Styled by St. Paul also, the Lord's brother,(Ga 1:19).
Simon - Surnamed the Canaanite.
57: They were offended at him - They looked on him as a mean,
ignoble man, not worthy to be regarded.(Joh 4:44,Lu 7:23).
58: He wrought not many mighty works, because of their unbelief
- And the reason why many mighty works are not wrought now,
is not, that the faith is not every where planted; but, that
unbelief every where prevails.