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'Into good ground.' The fertile and rich soil. In sowing, by far the largest proportion of seed will fall into the good soil; but Christ did not intend to teach that these proportions would be exactly the same among those who heard the gospel. Parables are designed to teach some general truth; and the circumstances should not be pressed too much in explaining them. 'An hundred fold,' &c. That is, a hundred, sixty, or thirty grains, for each one that was sowed.
9 Who hath ears to hear, let him hear.
See Matt. xi. 15.
10 And the disciples came, and said unto him, Why speakest thou unto them in parables? 11 He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given.
See also Mark iv. 10-12. Luke viii. 9, 10. The mysteries of the kingdom.' The word 'mystery,' in the bible, properly means a thing that is concealed, or that has been concealed. Thus the mysteries of the kingdom mean doctrines about the preaching of the gospel, and the establishment of the new kingdom of the Messiah which had not been understood, and which were as yet concealed from the great body of the Jews. See Rom. xvi. 25; xi. 25. Eph. iii. 3, 4, 9. Of this nature was the truth that the gospel was to be preached to the Gentiles, that the Jewish polity was to cease, that the Messiah was to die, &c. To the disciples it was given to know these truths. To the others it was not then given. They were too gross, too earthly; they had conceptions of the Messiah's kingdom too grovelling to understand these truths, even if presented. Hence our Saviour purposely employed a kind of teaching that they did not understand.
12 For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath.
'Whosoever hath,' &c. This is a proverbial mode of speaking. It means that a man who improves what light, grace, and opportunities he has, shall have them increased. From him that improves them not, it is proper that they should be taken away.
13 Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand.
'Because they seeing, see not.' Mark, iv. 12, and Luke, viii. 10, say, 'That seeing, they may not see,' &c. But there is no difference. Matthew simply states the fact, that though they saw the natural meaning of the story-though they literally understood
the parable-yet they did not understand its spiritual signi fication. Mark and Luke do not state the fact, but affirm that he spoke with this intention, implying that such was the result. He had truths to state which he wished his disciples particularly to understand. He stated the doctrines so that if their hearts had been right, and if they had not been malignant and blind, they might have understood them. By little and little, in this way, he prepared many even of the Jews to receive the truth.
14 And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Esaias, which saith, By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive: 15 For this people's heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them.
This place is quoted substantially from Isa. vi. 9, 10. The words of Isaiah were as well fitted to express the character of the people in the time of Christ, as in that of the prophet. In this sense they were fulfilled, or filled up, or a case occurred that corresponded to their meaning. The meaning in both places is, that the people were so gross, sensual, and prejudiced, that they would not see the truth, or understand any thing that was contrary to their grovelling opinions and sensual desires; a case by no means uncommon in the world. 'Waxed gross. Literally, has become fat. It is commonly applied to the body, but is also used to denote one who is stupid and foolish in mind. 'Lest they should see,' &c. Lest they should see their lost condition as sinners, and turn and live. The reason given here why they did not hear and understand the gospel is, that their heart was wrong. They would not attend to the things that make for their peace. 'I should heal them.' Should pardon, sanctify, and save them.
16 But blessed are your eyes, for they see: and your ears, for they hear.
'Blessed are your eyes,' &c. That is, you are happy, endued with the Divine favour, that you are permitted to see truth which they will not see. You are permitted to understand the spiritual meaning of the parables.
17 For verily I say unto you, That many prophets and righteous men have desired to see those things which ye see, and have not seen them; and to hear those things which ye hear, and have not heard them.
'Many prophets and righteous men,' &c. They wished to see
the times of the Messiah. They looked to it as a time when the nopes of the world should be fulfilled, and the just should be happy. See John viii. 56. See also Pet. i. 10-12. Heb. xi. 13. Rev. xix. 10. The object always dearest to the hearts of all righteous men is, to witness the coming and advancement of the kingdom of Christ.
18 Hear ye therefore the parable of the sower.
See also Mark iv. 13-20. Luke viii. 11-15. 'Hear ye therefore the parable of the sower.' That is, hear the explanation, or spiritual meaning, of the narrative given before. Mark adds, iv. 13, Know ye not this parable? And how then shall you know all parables? By which it seems that Jesus regarded this as one of the simplest and plainest of them, and gave an explanation of it that they might understand the general principles of interpreting them.
19 When any one heareth the word of the kingdom, and understandeth it not, then cometh the wicked one, and catcheth away that which was sown in his heart. This is he which received seed by the way side.
'When any one heareth,' &c. The seed represents the word of God, communicated in any manner to the minds of men, by the scriptures, or by preaching, or by acts of Providence, or by the direct influences of the Holy Spirit. Then cometh the wicked one. That is, Satan. Mark iv. 15, or the devil, Luke viii. 12; the one eminently wicked, the accuser, the tempter. The gospel is preached to men hardened in sin. It makes no impression. It lies like seed in the hard path; it is easily taken away, and never suffered to take root.
20 But he that received the seed into stony places, the same is he that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it; 21 Yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while: for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended.
"In stony places.' Jesus explains this as denoting those who hear the gospel, are caught with it as something new or pleasing, profess themselves greatly delighted with it, and are full of zeal for it. Yet they have no root in themselves. They are not true christians. Their hearts are not changed. Anon. Quickly, or readily. They do not look at it seriously, and as matter of principle. 'Is offended.' That is, stumbles and falls. He has not strength of principle enough, not confidence enough in God to carry him through.
22 He also that received seed among the thorns is he that heareth the word; and the care of this
world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful.
"The thorns. These represent cares, anxieties, and the deceitful lure of riches, or the way in which a desire to be rich deceives us. They take the time and attention. They do not leave opportunity to think and examine the state of the soul. They promise what they do not yield. The soul is not satisfied. There is the same desire to possess more wealth. And to this there is no end but death. Every evil passion is cherished by the love of gain; and it is no wonder that the word is choked, and every good feeling destroyed, by this execrable love of gold. See 1 Tim. vi. 7-11.
23 But he that received seed into the good ground is he that heareth the word, and understandeth it; which also beareth fruit, and bringeth forth, some an hundred fold, some sixty, some thirty.
'Into good ground.' Those whose hearts are prepared by grace to receive the word honestly, and to give it full opportunity to grow. In a rich and mellow soil, in a heart that submits itself to the full influence of truth, the gospel takes deep root, and grows; it has full room, and then and there only shows what it is.
24 Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man which sowed good seed in his field:
"The kingdom of heaven is likened,' &c. That is, the gospel resembles. The meaning of this parable is plain. The field represents the world in which the gospel is preached. The good seed, the truth preached by Christ and his apostles.
25 But while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way.
'While men slept, his enemy came,' &c. That is, in the night, when it could be done, without being seen, an enemy came and scattered bad seed on the new ploughed field, perhaps before the good seed had been harrowed in. Satan thus sows false doctrine in darkness. Sowed tares.' By 'tares' is probably meant a weed, growing in Palestine. In its growth and form it has a strong resemblance to genuine wheat. But it either produces no grain, or that of a very inferior and hurtful kind. It was extremely difficult to separate it from the genuine wheat, on account of its similarity while growing. Thus it aptly represented hypocrites in the church. Strongly resembling christians in their professions, and, in some respects, in their lives, and impossible to be known, by men, until the Searcher of hearts shall separate them at the day of judgment. An enemy-the devil-hath done it. And no where has he shown profounder cunning, or done
more to adulterate the purity of the gospel. There is something very expressive in this. he knew how the seed would take root, and to sow the seed, and let it alone. So Satan knows the soil in which he sows his doctrine. He knows that in the human heart it will take deep and rapid root. It needs but little culture.
And went his way.' He knew the soil; grow. He had only
26 But when the blade was sprung up, and brought forth fruit, then appeared the tares also.
'Then appeared the tares also.' That is, then were the tares first discovered. They had grown with the wheat, but so much like it as not to be noticed, till the wheat began to ripen. So true piety and false hopes are not known by professions, by 'blades,' and leaves, and flowers, but by the fruit.
27 So the servants of the householder came and said unto him, Sir, didst not thou sow good seed in thy field? from whence then hath it tares? 28 He said unto them, An enemy hath done this. The servants said unto him, Wilt thou then that we go and gather them up? 29 But he said, Nay; lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them.
'Ye root up also the wheat.' They so much resembled the true wheat, that it would be difficult to separate them. In the harvest it could be done without injury.
30 Let both grow together until the harvest and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them but gather the wheat into my barn.
Our Saviour teaches us here, that hypocrites must be expected in the church; that all hope of removing them entirely would be vain; that he will himself separate them at the proper time. There is no doubt that it is the duty of the church to cut off gross and manifest offenders. He refers to those who may be suspected of hypocrisy, but against whom it cannot be proved; to those who so successfully imitate christians as to make it difficult or impossible for man to distinguish them.
31 Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is like to a grain of mustard seed, which a man took, and sowed in his field: 32 Which indeed is the least of all seeds: but when it is grown, it is the greatest among herbs, and becometh a tree, so that the birds of the air come and lodge in the branches thereof.