Thoughts on the Similitudes of the Kingdom; Part 6: As Presented in the Parables of the Gospel of Matthew

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WE have seen how important a thing it is that the soul should judge itself in the presence of God. It is a serious question for each of us. "Have I been there? Have I been face to face with God about my sins-about my -sin 4" Sooner or later, this question must be settled with God, Some go through the question at once, at the beginning of their course, and it is settled once for all in Christ and by 'Christ; and the consequence is that having so effectually done with self, and being so completely cast upon Jesus, nothing can ever after disturb their peace, or Move them from the rock on which they have been so firmly grounded. Others find a measure of peace before getting to the bottom of this question,-and it is sometimes years; sometimes not till the end of their Christian life that it is settled. But solid and lasting peace cannot be enjoyed till this question of sin is settled with God in our own souls.—For the lost the settlement comes at the judgment. To them it is destruction.
We come now (v. 7, 22) to the third class. It is not said that there was a ready reception of the word as in the stony ground hearer. Nor was there the stupid indifference which marked the first case. Here the word did touch the heart, (I do not say the conscience). We cannot infer from the parable that there was no feeling; perhaps there were even some anxious thoughts, yes, although it was not a stony ground, it was so full of evil roots, that the good seed was choked "and he becometh unfruitful." Here it is a soul preferring the world to the Word of God. Doubtless there were some such among them who listened to our Lord. To give up all for the sake of a rejected Messiah, and to follow Him who had not where to lay His head, was beyond the power of nature, even though the word was accompanied by miracles, demonstrating the presence amt power of God. Had Jesus then taken the kingdom, had He overturned the Roman empire and sat upon the throne of David, there would not, there could not have been any conflict between His word and the cares and riches of the word I. For we know when He takes the kingdom, the power and the glory which are His, those who are with Him, (that is, His subjects on earth) enter into the. full possession of them. No care, no anxiety will disturb those who will at that time, be tie first nation in the world. Riches and power will be a blessing, and as such they will have them. Put now it is quite a different thing. The Messiah was rejected and this favored nation, and the whole world besides, was found in antagonism: hence these things good in themselves, became evil through circumstances, and they are found to be only thorns which oppose the word, and in this case eventually choke it.
Here, for ourselves, we find an answer to the question which often rises in our heart, what harm in this, in going that, or going there, or seeking possession of the things of this life? Tile care and avoid them-they are thorns-they choke the word. There is harm in everything that is not of Christ. And when Christians care for this world, their Christianity becomes worldly, and soon, unless God interferes, will be a thing of the world, and then is just fit, as indeed it is at this very moment, to be made one of the "exhibits" at the great vanity fair yonder.
But to return to our parable-to be in such a kingdom, when the King Himself was a scorned and rejected Man was too ranch fur man. The desire to stand well with the leaders in Jerusalem, to avoid the cross, and the shame of following Jesus, was stronger than any feeling they had from the word. The young ruler was a sad example of this. He hid heard the word of Jesus, and it had produced a certain effect upon him, and he came to know what he must do to have eternal life. Beautiful as his natural character was, he could not stand the test Jesus applied, to give his riches to the poor, to furs die all and follow Christ. His riches choked the word. The desire of eternal life which he wanted to earn, though accompanied with treasure in heaven, was not strong enough to overcome the love of present wealth, and in sorrow he went away from Jesus. Such it was when our Lord was preaching the word of the kingdom. But there is the same opposition now to the word of His grace; for the same abnegation of the word is as necessary now as then, and the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches are as much thorns now as then. And mark, it is not the vice and corruption that is here the opposing power. It is the cares, perhaps the necessary cares which hinder the word from taking root. What then? are we to be quite careless as to providing things honest for ourselves and those dependent on us? Nay, we are enjoined to do more 'than this-not only to provide for our own wants, but to meet the necessities of others, to lay by as the Lord prospers us to this end. Such a care as this, so far from being a thorn to choke the word, is a display of its power, and shows that the good seed has taken root and bears fruit. The secret is that the care is for the Lord, and not for self. Nothing for its own sake is desired. When anything becomes the. object before the soul, and thus displacing Christ, it immediately becomes a thorn, and the better the thing is in itself, so much the worse does it become. On the other hand, no matter what the trial, or bitterness, or even the riches may be if Christ be the one solo object. These things become the opportunities for God to show out His unfailing and trans- forming grace.
The king that provided the wedding feast, sent to the invited more than once, to say that all things were ready,-and to come to the feast. What hindered their 'coming? The most legitimate things possible.. But these things were in opposition to the word, and they were only thorns. What a malignant influence is that of sin when even a wife, one of the first gifts of God to innocent man, becomes a hindrance to the word taking root. True it is Luke, not Matthew who gives us the particular hindrance, and from him we learn that one has bought ground, another oxen, a third has married a wife. How came these things to be thorns? Because they were the first things in the heart, had the highest place, they became the objects before the soul to the exclusion of the King, the feast and all. They made light of the Word, and would not come to the feast.
Many a soul now makes the same excuse. There is no active opposition to the word of God's grace, no manifestation of a persecuting spirit; but alas, that which is semis equally fatal. Through the power of Satan, who acts upon the natural feelings, the present time with all its cares and anxieties engross the whole attention. The family, the business require that the land should lie viewed, that the oxen should be proved. The message of God's love cannot now be attended to. A more convenient season is waited for, which alas, sometimes never conies. There is nothing more dangerous than these very necessary cares, and Satan well knows how to manipulate them for the soul's eternal ruin. The present is made to swell into so much importance that the future is hidden. Suppose all the land, all the oxen, everything were lost,-nay, suppose the closest ties to be sundered through giving heed to the word of God, what matter? Of what account will any of these things be when we pass away from the present scene? Dear reader, all that is of this world is a hindrance, and if it be true of necessary cases and duties, how much more of the ambition, the covetousness, the pleasure seeking so rife in the present day. These are the means -the thorns -by which means a soul is lost. But even in the soul that is saved, wherever these things are allowed in ever so small a degree it effects injuriously the growth and vigor of the word. Hence the reason of the weakness, and the stunted growth of souls who are real children of God. -The principles which rule the world, viz., lust of the flesh, lust of the eye, and pride of life, influence them and though they do bring forth fruit, according with the gracious counsel of our Lord,(John 15.) yet it is little fruit, and as for testimony, it is almost worthless.
Let us beware of excusing ourselves in anything. All the pleas put forth are but the disguise assumed by these evil principles.
It is the old enmity of the heart showing itself in allowing other things to have a share of the affection which belongs only to Jesus.
The same enemy who directly, and without agency picked up the good see] in the first instance, here works indirectly as indeed he did in the second case, that of the stony ground hearer.
But they are all fatal; very dissimilar, but like different radii of the same circle, they converge to the same point. The dull, stupid, brutal person, the holy imagination, the intellectual who receive the Word joyfully, and make great show, but have no repentance 'toward God; and the serious, grave and thoughtful, who have right thoughts about the Word to a certain extent, but who, nevertheless are so occupied with the anxieties or the pleasures of this life, that the Word is choked, all these meet together in one common point-one and the same result through different means is produced-they are unsaved.
If an unconverted, unsaved soul is reading this, let me ask such a one in all love, what is the hindrance? Under which of these heads are you? Oh! lay it to heart, the doom of each is the same.
If it be a fellow Christian, my prayer for him, for myself, for all saints, is that all that be found influencing our ways here below other-than the Word of God, may be put away, that we may be able to glorify Him, and bring forts fruit to the praise of His name.