The way children learn to walk, is by walking; the only way you can grow in strength and grace, and plow deeply and bring forth a harvest of the fruit that will please God on this road to heaven, is to use every gift that God has given you, and every power that you are blessed with, to His glory and for the upbuilding of His kingdom.
Here is an exposition of the Parable of the good seed, by the Rev. Simon Peter Long.
The Parable of the Good Seed – Luke 8:4-15
And when much people were gathered together, and were come to Him from out of every city, He spake by a parable: A sower went out to sow his seed, and as he sowed, some fell by the wayside; and it was trodden down, and the fowls of the air devoured it. And some fell upon a rock; And as soon as it was sprung up, it withered away, because it lacked moisture. And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprang up with it, and choked it. And other fell on good ground, and sprang up and bare fruit an hundredfold. And when He had said these things, He cried, ‘He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.’ And His disciples asked Him, saying, ‘What might this parable be?’ And He said: ‘Unto you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God: but to others in parables; that seeing they might not see, and hearing they might not understand. Now the parable is this: The seed is the Word of God. Those by the wayside are those that hear; then cometh the devil and taketh away the Word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved. They on the rock are they, which, when they hear, receive the Word with joy; and these have no root, which for a while believe, and in time of temptation fall away. And that which fell among thorns are they, which, when they have heard, go. forth, and are choked with cares and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to perfection. But that on the good ground are they, which in an honest and good heart, having heard the Word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience.”
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Sanctify us, O Lord, through Thy Truth; Thy Word is Truth. Amen.
Dear Hearers in Christ, and Especially Those Who today United with the Church by Confirmation and Baptism: –
We have before us a beautiful parable. The Lord taught by parables for a two-fold purpose. One was that He might make plain heavenly truths by comparing them with earthly truths, which people would understand; another reason for teaching in parables was that some people might hear and yet not hear, for if they would hear this Word of God and reject it, they would be guilty of a double damnation. In other words, the Savior said: “Unto you it is given to the know the mysteries of the kingdom of God: but to others in parables; that seeing they might not see, and hearing they might not understand.” Another evangelist tells us He spoke by parables lest some might be converted and be healed, and at first sight it looks as though He should have taught everybody that they might be converted and be healed, but the Lord God would rather see a man never saved than to be saved, and then lost; He would rather speak by parables that some people might hear and yet not hear, and see and yet not see, than to see and hear, and then reject salvation, and be lost forever, with a double damnation.
Just as the Lord Jesus Christ taught by parables to save immortal souls, and to save from double damnation, so as His servant I have been teaching you this long time that you might be saved and escape ruin. One year ago today I took the solemn vow in this Church to preach God’s eternal truth for the salvation of souls. That God’s rich blessing has been resting upon us is so evident that none but the purely stubborn could refuse to see the blessing. Let us today thank our God that He has done what has been done to His glory and for our eternal good. I have been instructing you in the pure Word of God that you might be saved, and it may be well today if I try to lead you in the path of right, not so much by showing you the narrow path that leads to heaven, as to call your attention to the wrong road in order that you may avoid it. We have in this beautiful parable today the workings of the devil who comes and picks up the seed of the Word of God and tries to rob you of it, in order that he may take you down the eternal path of ruin. I therefore, for your admonition, call your attention this morning to –
The Royal Road To Ruin.
It was Milton who made Satan say, in Paradise Lost: “Better to reign in hell than serve in heaven.” Satan wanted to be a king in heaven, and could not; therefore he chose rather to be a king in hell and reign there, than to be a servant in heaven, and for that reason I call this road to ruin the Royal Road to Ruin. There is a king of hell as well as a King of heaven, and in order that you may find and keep the road that leads to heaven, let me impress upon you the Royal Road to Ruin.
I. If you want to go to ruin the road is easily found.
Just keep the Word of God from your hearts forever. That is the first way to ruin. In the parable before us we have a large field, and the seed is sown. Some fell on the roadside, some fell on stony ground, some fell on thorny ground, some fell on good ground; but we can not fail to recognize that outside of this great field there is a field that is not sown at all. The first day of this month we read in our local papers of the finding of thirty men out in the desert of Nevada, who tried to cross but perished because they had no food to eat and no water to drink. Out in this world of sin there is a great desert, and in this desert there are people who do not hear the Word of God at all, and do not see the Word of God at all, and they are on the Royal Road to Ruin. Whenever you can show me a person who does not want to hear this Word of God, who would do anything to escape its hearing; whenever you can show me a person who does not want to look into a Bible, and does not want to read this Word, then I will show you one who is surely on the path to destruction. Jesus Christ cried out, in the words of this parable: “He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.” Did you ever stop to think what a great blessing your ears are? Suppose you could not hear? Oh, how you would then begin to appreciate those ears that God gave you. God did not give you those ears simply to hear the song of birds in the morning, in the woods, and the songs of men, but He gave you those ears, first of all, that you might hear the preaching of God’s Word, that you might receive the seed of His eternal Word into your hearts. If this seed is kept away from your hearts, either by neglecting to hear or by refusing to see, then you may rest assured that you are on the Royal Road to Ruin. But you have already heard God’s Word, so you do not belong to this first class of whom I have spoken.
II. There is another way to ruin, and that is to keep the Word of God out of the heart, not only away from it, but out of it.
“A sower went out to sow his seed, and as he sowed, some fell by the wayside; and it was trodden down, and the fowls of the air devoured it.” In explaining this Jesus said: “Those by the wayside are those that hear; then cometh the devil and taketh away the Word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved.” You know very well if the seed is sown in the roadway and people drive backward and forward over that seed, they soon crush it, and it never finds root, because it does not go into the ground. By keeping the seed out of the ground no harvest comes, and the Lord Jesus Christ tells us that is the way to go to ruin. If you hear the Word of God and then let the devil take it right away from you, and it never goes into the heart – into that stony and hardened heart – you can expect no harvest. How many people there are who go to the house of God Sunday after Sunday; they seem to sit there as if they were interested, and yet when they go home they do not know a single word that was said. They do not try to remember a single word of God; they do not try to let that message go down into their hearts at all; they have gone to church it may be nearly all their lives, and yet they do not remember a single impression; their hearts are as hard as the brick pavement; as hard as the trodden road. Never a single seed has gone down; it lies on the surface a few moments then the devil comes along and takes it off for fear it might take root, and the result is there is no harvest, and they have gone down the road to eternal ruin.
I tell you, you are responsible for the use of your ears in the house of God, and you are responsible for the impression this Word makes upon your hearts. Therefore, you belong now to this second class. I do not care how well you have been instructed to the present hour; I do not care how well you are hearing God’s Word today, if these words that I am speaking shall be forgotten tomorrow; if you go out into the world again and go and serve the devil and your own flesh in the world instead of keeping this good seed in your hearts, you are going to go the road to ruin.
III. There is still another way to go the Royal Road to Ruin, and that is to receive the Word of God on a stony heart.
“And some fell upon a rock, and as soon as it was sprung up, it withered away, because it lacked moisture.” In explanation Jesus Christ said: “They on the rock are they which, when they hear, receive the Word with joy; and these have no root, which for a while believe, and in the time of temptation fall away.”
1. We have in this picture a scene of what I might call a glad revival and a sad survival.
Let me, instead of calling it a glad revival, call it a shallow revival. Very much has been said for and against the revival. No true Christian will ever say a word against a true revival, but we are warned by the Lord Jesus Christ Himself to beware of the shallow revival. We have before us today the picture of a farmer going out into the field, scratching around on the top of the surface, hurriedly sowing his seed, harrowing it, and in a very short time you will see the field covered with wheat. It looks like the promise of a wonderful harvest, while the other man is plowing deeply and getting along slowly in the other field. It looks as if the first farmer were a prosperous farmer, as if he knew more than the other. But time passes on, and lo and behold, the first farmer’s field is covered with dying wheat. It never produced a harvest because it was shallow; the rock was under it, and when the sun beat down upon it, it withered and there was no harvest. There you have a picture of many a church which seems to think that the way to build up is to hurriedly create an excitement and bring all the people together and have such prayers as you never had before, and such excitement as you never had before, and such crowds as you never had before, and make Christians in fifteen or twenty minutes, while other churches use years and years. The result is that those churches instructing deeply in God’s Word are made to believe that they are behind the times; they are made to believe there is a better way; and lo and behold, as time passes on, where are the hundreds who were received in a short meeting of two or three weeks? Where are they? I remember when a boy going to a certain meeting one night; the snow was deep, the sleighing was good, the house was crowded. The minister, seeing the crowd in the church, and some not able to gain admittance cried out: “The Spirit of God has moved the people to come,” and the members there cried out “Amen.” It looked as though a great revival were in the neighborhood. Time passed on, and the rains fell and the snow melted, and lo and behold, a few people were sitting in the church. Where was the revival then? One man walked up to that minister and said: “It was not the Spirit of God as much as the snow that brought the people.” They did not come any more. It was shallow ground; it was shallow sowing, and the result every time is a sad harvest.
2. “They on the rock are they which, when they hear, receive the Word with joy; and these have no root, which for awhile believe, and in time of temptation fall away.”
The more I study the Word of God, and I have studied it all my life, the more I teach it, and I have taught it for eighteen years, the more I am convinced of the fact that there is nothing that will make people well grounded in God’s Word and in their faith, and able to resist trials and temptations and make them stand though the heavens fall, except a solid plowing in God’s Word, and a deep plowing, that means more than shallowness and joy for a moment. There is no trouble to get the showing and the promise of a harvest when the sun first shines and the spring rains fall, but what we want is a harvest that will stand when the hot sun of June and July is shining down upon it; what we want is a harvest that will bring forth grain, and good flour and bread. Therefore study deeply God’s Holy Word.
If you want to go to ruin, just be satisfied with what little you know now. Do not imagine for a single moment that you have learned all you need to know. We have simply been scratching around the surface of God’s Word; we have simply led you up to the hill of Calvary to find Jesus Christ, the only Savior; but there is plowing to be done in the future; there is deeper sowing to be done in the future, and if you stop where you are now and simply rest upon the joy and the pleasure of this day in coming to your Lord and your God, it will not be long until trials will come, and temptations will come, and you will be lost to the Church and lost to your God, and lost to heaven, on the sure and certain road to ruin.
IV. There is still another way to go down the road to ruin, and that is to receive the Word of God on a thorny heart.
You may say, “I do not know that my heart is thorny.” The chestnut does not know that it is thorny; the chestnut is a very smooth nut, but it rests inside of a covering of thorns. Your heart may be a very smooth heart, as smooth as the chestnut, but remember that you may have that heart surrounded with thorns that will bring you down to the road of ruin.
“And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprang up with it and choked it.” Explaining that, Jesus says: “And that which fell among thorns are they, which, when they have heard, go forth, and are choked with cares and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to perfection.”
Oh, how sad the farmer feels when his trees are covered with fruit, and it is almost ripe, and some morning he comes out and finds it has all fallen down before it was ripe – how discouraging! And how discouraged the good Lord must feel when He finds people who were taken into the Church and are almost ready for the eternal harvest, but now they are falling down – not ripe – falling down before they are prepared to meet their God! Beware of the thorny heart.
1. What makes the heart thorny?
We are told by the Savior that cares and riches and pleasures of this life – the desire for these fills the heart with thorns and it never brings fruit to perfection. What do we mean by cares? The Lord Jesus Christ explained that when He said, “What shall we eat, what shall we drink, and wherewith shall we be clothed?” There are the three questions that pertain to the cares of the world.
Dear hearers in Christ, you cannot have that heart of cares in you without throwing thorns out against God’s eternal Word. Why do you ask the question, “What shall we eat?” Is that not a thorn pricking the hand of God that has fed you all this time? Have you not been fed from your infancy until the present time? Are you going to ask the question in the future, “How can I be fed?” when God’s hand has always fed you? Stop pricking His hand with your thorns.
Shall we ask the question, “Wherewith shall I be clothed?” With what have you been clothed in the past? Whence came those garments on your back this morning? Did they not come from your God? Will not your God, who has clothed you in the past, who has fed you in the past, who has never permitted you to starve until this moment, care for you in the future? But if the question comes all the time, “Oh, what shall I do – what shall I do?” it is piercing the very love of God, it is piercing the very mercy of God, it is piercing the very Providence of God; it is throwing out your thorns against the seed of His Word, and you never can bring forth a harvest to perfection, but will be sure to go down the path of ruin. The Lord God knows how to take care of you the rest of your life; He knows the day that you will die, and the very moment when you will pass into eternity. He knows what you will have to endure between this hour and that, and the trials will be no heavier than you need, just as heavy as you need, and He will help you to bear them. Therefore, thank God every day, not only for your great blessings, but for your trials and troubles, which you may not understand, but He does.
2. Some, He says, are choked with the cares, and riches, and pleasures of this life.
Riches and pleasures! Some people are living for no other purpose than to accumulate wealth. Their one question is, “How can I make another dollar?” “How can I make a fortune – how may I get wealth?” and just as soon as you make that the prime object of your life, to become a wealthy man, just as soon as you set your heart on riches and are willing to make everything else subserve that principle of getting more and more of this world’s goods, just so sure you are making it as impossible for yourself to get to heaven as it is for a camel to go through a needle’s eye; just so sure you are going to forget God’s Word, the Holy Communion, the Sunday-school and family worship; just so sure you are going to take the good seed of God’s Word and crowd it out with your thorny life, and the result will be no harvest but the harvest of eternal ruin.
And that is just as true with regard to the pleasures of this life. People seem to think that we ministers of the Gospel are not as charitable as we ought to be when we talk about the pleasures of this world. They say, “Shall we not have pleasure?” Yes, of course, we should have pleasure. Dear friends, the greatest pleasure in the world is to do right; the greatest pleasure in the world is not only to do good, but to do the very best thing that can be done every moment. Show me a person who is living for no other purpose than to be entertained; a person always looking for some way to reach higher enjoyment of worldly character; show me a person willing to look out for a good time and make everything else subserve that purpose, and I will show you a heart so full of thorns that no good seed of the Word of God can take root there.
I notice in our large congregation how some people are always willing to be at the teachers’ meetings, at the Thursday evening services, always willing to be at divine services, provided there is no lecture, provided there is no entertainment, provided there is no show, provided there is no lodge meeting, provided there is not this or that going on; anything else first, and God’s Word last. You might just as well take a handful of thorns and thrust them into the face of your God as to live that kind of a thorny life. Therefore, if you are going to seek the pleasures of this ungodly world in preference to keeping a place in your hearts for the penetrating divine seed which God is planting, then you are on the sure road to ruin. And now that I have shown you the Royal Road to Ruin, I hope the Holy Spirit will help you to avoid it; and I direct your attention to the road that leads to heaven – the royal road above.
While there are four kinds of soil and only one kind of seed, there is only one part of that ground that brings forth a harvest; three of them never bring harvests at all; two of them receive the good seed but bring forth no harvest; the thorny ground has the good seed, but brings forth no harvest; the stony ground has the good seed, but brings forth no harvest; there is only one ground that brings forth a harvest.
V. The Ground that Brings Forth a Harvest
“And other fell on good ground, and sprang up and bare fruit an hundred fold. And when He had said these things He cried: ‘He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.“’ Explaining this, Jesus said: “But that on the good ground are they, which in an honest and good heart, having heard the Word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience.”
Now, dear friends, I will tell you what kind of revival I believe in. I believe in the kind of revival that Jesus Christ believed in; I believe in that kind of revival that Louis Harms, that great missionary of Hermansburg, believed in; I believe in a revival where the Word of God is sown in a mellow heart, in a deeply plowed heart, in a clean heart, and in a fruit-bearing heart.
1. Let the Word of God be sown into a mellow heart.
That seed was good, but the road was hard; it could not bring forth a harvest. If an angel of God were to preach to you today, if the Son of God, Himself, were to preach to you, if you are going to keep your hearts as hard as stone, if your hearts are never going to melt in mellowness, there is no chance for a harvest. Then pray God that He may give you the true spirit of repentance.
Repent of your sins today. It was your sins and mine that nailed Jesus Christ to the cross on Calvary. All your past life you have been sinning against a holy and righteous God; then repent of your sins, and open your hearts, that the seed of God’s eternal Word may go down and bring forth a harvest.
2. Furthermore, plow deeply.
It makes no difference if the seed is good, and if the seed is covered up with, ground, if below the shallow ground there is the hard rock, the burning sun will destroy the harvest. Therefore, let the Holy Word of God, which you have heard so often in the past, be before your eyes daily. Plow down deep into your hearts; go deeper and deeper into God’s Word, so that this seed may go down deeper, and deeper, and deeper, and surely you will be on the road to heaven instead of to ruin.
3. And then keep a clean heart.
You cannot any more expect to get a harvest with Satan, and the world, and the flesh ruling you than you could expect to reap a good harvest if you would sow the field with thorns. In other words, salvation means, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me”; it means that the thorns must be pulled out by the roots and not simply cut off at the top of the ground; it means if your past life has not been right, by the help of God now try to make it right. Not that you shall be as perfect as the angels of heaven – not yet – but all of us can more and more strive, by the grace of God, to live a clean life. If you are in bad company, get out. “Evil communications corrupt good manners.” If you are in the company of people who are trying to ruin you instead of trying to elevate you, get out of that kind of company; if you have temptations within you to overcome that are great and masterly, pray God for help; depend not upon your own strength; ask the guidance of God and wisdom from on high, and then go on, with a clean heart, every day asking His forgiveness, and living nearer and nearer to Him,
4. And then bring forth fruit to perfection.
In other words, do not be a tree standing out in the orchard never bearing any fruit. Begin to do something for God. Remember that Jesus said: “Go work today in my vineyard.” The reason some people never grow in Christianity is because they do not exercise themselves with the grace that God has given them. No man can do anything toward his own regeneration – it is a gift of the Holy Spirit. No man can save himself; it is the gift of God, lest we should boast; but when we are saved, then God gives us strength to go on and work in His vineyard, and therefore He says: “Work out your salvation with fear and trembling.” If I were to take this arm of mine and tie it in a sling for one year it would be helpless; its strength would be gone; the only way to keep strength in that arm is to use it; the way children learn to walk, is by walking; the only way you can grow in strength and grace, and plow deeply and bring forth a harvest of the fruit that will please God on this road to heaven, is to use every gift that God has given you, and every power that you are blessed with, to His glory and for the upbuilding of His kingdom. Then go into the Sunday-school at once and take part in God’s work there; come to divine services every chance you have, and have your soul fed on the bread of life; and when the Lord’s Supper is administered, come to the Holy Communion and partake of the body and blood, and make diligent use of the means of grace. Soon the end will come and then you will find it is a blessed thing to have avoided the royal road that leads to ruin, and to have found the narrow road that leads to life eternal. May God grant that you and I may find each other in His presence on that last great day. Amen.
– Long, S.P. The great gospel; an address to theological graduates, lectures on the gospels for the church year, and “that remarkable lodge sermon.” Lutheran Book Concern, Columbus, OH, 1904. Lutheran Library edition to be released in 2018.