Thoughts on the Similitudes of the Kingdom; Part 7

 •  10 min. read  •  grade level: 9
"SOME fell on good ground, &c." (v. 8.) We come now to the bright side of the scene, though not unmingled brightness. There are shadows yet of the old darkness, the effect of this bad ground which in the three former cases hindered all fruit, and which here brings a checkered result, "and brought forth fruit some an hundred-fold, some sixty-fold, some thirty-fold." Why if the ground be good is there such a varied crop?
In the first place, let us inquire what is meant by good ground, and without hesitation we answer that it does not mean that any heart is in itself good and capable of bringing forth fruit to God. Every child of Adam is without understanding, as Scripture declares, consequently can produce no good fruit, and must be placed in one of the three preceding classes. That is, wherever the word is preached, let it be the word of the kingdom as then, or the word of His grace as now, the hearer will be found in one of them. There is nothing in his nature which, in itself, can be compared to good ground. But our Lord says (v. 23), that He that receiveth the seed into the good ground is he that heareth the word and understandeth it and bringeth forth fruit. How clearly beside the sowing of the word by the Lord Jesus, there is another work by the Holy Spirit which is not at all alluded to here. Not because it is unimportant, yea, absolutely necessary, but because our Lord is simply giving facts and results which are manifest to all. That which is seen of men-not the internal operations of the Spirit. We have seen how the wicked one (Satan) operated in the first case, and the hindrances in the second and third. In the fourth, while there is no hindering power seen at work, neither is there visible on the other hand, one to aid in the production of good fruit. It is the external fact-the ground was good. Good seed was sown, and there was good fruit. So a man hears the word, understands it, and produces good fruit, he repents and believes, and lives a godly life. He is likened to good ground. But if we seek to know how a soul understands the word and bears fruit, Scripture is plain that it is only by the direct and inward operation of the Holy Spirit-where He acts, and there alone. is found the power to understand; and good fruit borne, without Him, whatever the appearance, there is no reality.
This fourth case is the contrast of the others. In the first the hearer does not understand, in this he does understand. In the second and third cases, while it is not said that the hearer does not understand, it is said that be is unfruitful, either dried up by the sun, or choked with thorns. Here he bringeth forth fruit. Even to understand the word without bearing fruit is as fatal as not to understand.
But whence arises the difference in the quantity of fruit borne I We know from the word of God that the heart remains evil to the last, and that kind of hindrance, which is seen in the three former cases respectively, exists in the -hearts of the "good ground" hearers, and if not thoroughly watched and judged, will manifest itself, and hence the varied results ever from the good ground. This proves that it is not the absence of an evil nature which here makes good ground. It is the Spirit who gives the will and the power to understand and to be fruitful. We can in our own souls, conscious of the irreclaimable nature of the soil of our own hearts, bear witness to the sovereign power which produced fruit to God. Yet, alas, it is just here where we can detect so much failure. Our poverty of understanding, our fleshliness, worldliness, are always working against, and hindering the word, and just so far as it is unjudged we fail in 'fruit-bearing.
This parable shows us that every one who hears the word, whether converted or not, is responsible for bearing fruit. What a solemn thought for those who think they have done their duty, if they attend once or twice a week to hear the gospel, but do not concern themselves about the obedience it requires. When the husbandman sows good seed, he has a right to expect a harvest. When God causes his word to be preached, He, too, has a right to expect and to demand that it be received and obeyed. Therefore we read (Acts 17) God now commandeth all men every where to repent, and on this account (or for this reason) He has appointed a day in which He will judge the world, and to all them who have heard of Christ, THE question will be how they received Him, how they obeyed Him. All who profess and call themselves Christians are outwardly as branches in the vine. (John 15) If there be no fruit they are cast forth to be burned. Solemn thoughts for all who bear the name of Christ. Are we bearing fruit? If we are not only by profession branches in the vine, but also members of the body of Christ, through faith in Him, then we have the gracious words of our Lord, so full of comfort to our souls-" I have chosen you and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain." If we sincerely desire to be fruitful, we know that the husbandman-the Father-will purge us that we may bring forth more fruit. More fruit. How full of meaning are these two words. God's desire, His complacency in the result of His own work. He prizes the fruit, it is sweet to His taste, and He wants more fruit. In my garden is a tree, where fruit is always scanty and never seems to ripen, I do not care about more fruit from such a tree as this; but there is another, which in its season bears more sweet and pleasant fruit, now about this one I do care, and therefore use all means to make it bring forth more fruit. So it is with the Father, He prizes the fruit we bear, and He purges us that we may be more fruitful. "Herein is my Father glorified that ye bear much fruit, so shall ye be—my disciples."
It is worthy of remark that while there are three cases in which there is no fruit, there is also in the fourth ease a threefold division of them who bear fruit. Is this diversity attributable to the three kinds of hindrance? Can it be said that be who brings forth only thirty-fold, is naturally of that dull stupid class portrayed in the first case, that he who brings forth sixty-fold is characterized by that which operated fatally in the second or third case? This I doubt; although it is certain that he who brings forth a hundred-fold is one who stands before the others, yet each one has the seeds of all evil within, and it is by the prevalence of one of the evils in the three first cases that he takes his place, for these unfruitful cases take in all men. Therefore the varied result is due to the want of diligence and watchfulness on the believer's part, against the peculiar tendency of his own bad nature. The Christian's failure in fruit-bearing will doubtless be characterized by this or that prevailing evil. But the true cause of the lack of fruit is owing to the want of a self-judging spirit, and prayerful dependence upon God. Where these are lacking, the door is open for the entrance of every kind of evil, whether of the flesh, or of the world.
Yet there is a divine order in the giving of the hindering powers, and the beauty of it would be marred if the order were changed. It seems to give in most souls the successive characters of the warfare we wage. For in the first case it is Satan opposing the life-giving word of the Son, in the second it is the flesh which is always opposed to the spirit, and in the third it is the love of the world which is incompatible with the love of the Father. When a soul is quickened there is life from the Son, but the flesh remains in him, and the spirit lusteth against the flesh: If we daily mortify the flesh, and strive to keep it under, still though there be no craving for ease, or for more than God has given in this world, there May be undue anxiety and fear concerning self; or one's family; cares engrossing too much of one's attention. Now this does really proceed from a love of the world which has unperceivedly hindered us from trusting to, and resting implicitly upon, the love of the Father, and consequently of loving Him fully. The love of the world is a thorn deeply rooted in our hearts. In many an unsuspected corner we find it ready to spring up. It is only the light of God's word that can make it manifest.
Among those who received the word of the Lord, no doubt this varied result was manifested. For we must remember that the Lord was describing His own work, as well as foreshowing the result of the preached word during the time of His absence; and accordingly we find those who followed and chive close to Him all through His ministry, sharing His shame and reproach; themselves also cast out and despised. Still they were with Him up to the hour when Jesus delivered Himself over to the power of the world and of darkness. Then indeed all forsook Him and fled. In that path where lay wrath, judgment, and death, He alone was, He alone could be; the most loving, the most faithful, could riot follow Him then. But He came for the very purpose of treading that path alone, and He went through it alone, as ova able to bear all the judgment clue to sin, and so to deliver His beloved ones from that which would have been, must have been, to them everlasting destruction. But up to this hour, in which He must be alone if. He would have companions in glory by and bye, amid all their falterings and failings, they loved and remained with Him. We can see and adore the grace which so estimates their faithfulness. But there were others whose love to Him was only seen at the end when they went to beg of Pilate the dead body of Jesus, who were prevented through fear of the Jews from publicly owning Him before. It may be that many received His word whose fruit was only seen when He had ascended to His Father. In the little assembly met together in Jerusalem on the clay of Pentecost there might have been seen the healed leper whose faith scarcely reached to the will of the Lord to heal him; the palsied man whose sins were forgiven; the woman who followed the Lord into the house of Simon the Pharisee, whose faith saved her; the man born blind who confessed Jesus to be the Son of God; the woman of Samaria, and others of whom we read, others too not mentioned, who perhaps loved the Lord in secret, but whose faith was not sufficiently strong to break through difficulties till the ascended Lord brought them out in spite of all reproach and persecution, and formed them into one body-, one Church, by the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven. But however weak and fearful, however little the faith, not one such but was known to and cared for by the Lord. If in many instances the return was only thirty-fold, it was good ground, and as such prized by Him.
May it be our earnest endeavor to render a full return to. Him who has caused us to receive His word, so that by bearing much fruit we may glorify the Father.-R. B.