And he began again to teach by the sea side: and there was gathered to him a great multitude, so that he entered into a ship…
He who taught by every act of his life, and who had already given many most important lessons with his lips, now, after the interruptions just recorded, "began to teach" more formally. It was "by the seaside," the multitude standing "by the sea on the land," and he "entered into a boat, and sat in the sea." "He taught them many things in parables." The first of these and one of the chief of the parables and the chiefest of all on the subject of "the Word," is, with its explanation, the key to many others. The lesson of the whole is summed up in the words of Ver. 24, "Heed what ye hear." It was not without purpose that he spoke of hearing. All depends upon it. Noah, Moses, Paul, Jesus himself, will preach in vain if men hear not with care. The parable teaches -
I. THE ESPECIAL, EVILS AGAINST WHICH MEN GUARD IN HEARING THE WORD.
1. The first evil is losing the Word before faith has made it fruitful. "The parable is this: the seed is the Word of God." The kingdom of heaven grows from this seed only. By it alone is conviction of sin wrought; by it is faith begotten; by it Christ is revealed; by it regeneration is effects; by it the way of life is defined; by it are men sanctified; by it hope, and patience, and charity, and all graces are strengthened. This great lesson is, by both preachers and hearers, to be pondered. But the Word, by whomsoever sown, may be lost before it is fruitful. It may be taken out of the heart, out of the memory, from the understanding. "When they have heard, straightway cometh Satan, and taketh away the Word which hath been sown in them."
2. A second danger is from a mere temporary faith. There is "no deepness of earth," "no root in themselves." They "endure for a while." A little thing turns them away from that which they received "straightway with joy," but without counting the cost.
3. A third evil is the fruitlessness of the Word through the "cares of the world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things," especially "the pleasures of this life." The ground is good; the seed is good; it is well received and kept in the heart; yet is it choked. Yea, even God's good Word sown in the heart by Christ's own hand may be choked. This is a danger to which every believer is exposed. It is allowing other growths to sap this, other things to take up the time and attention, to absorb the interest, to steal the affections. The poor are in danger from "the cares of the world;" the rich from "the deceitfulness of riches." The parable teaches -
II. THE REWARD OF FAITHFUL HEARING. "He that hath, to him shall be given." To him that hath as the fruit of his diligence, not simply what was given to him - all had this - to him shall be added the Lord's increase, over and above the natural consequences of his carefulness. He who so uses Divine truth as to be the better for it is in more favorable circumstances to receive and understand. Such know the truth, for "the mystery of the kingdom of God is given" to them. Every step in the ascent makes the next step possible. Truth grows to its perfection (that is to say, the character which is the product of truth) when it is "heard" and held fast in "an honest and good heart;" a heart inwardly good and outwardly honest; a heart honestly desiring the Word and acting honestly by it. To such there is "fruit, thirtyfold, and sixtyfold, and a hundredfold." This is the truly prepared ground - ploughed, as could not be said of "the wayside" or the "stony ground." The parable further teaches -
III. THE CONDEMNATION OF HIM WHO HEARETH NOT TO PROFIT.
1. " He that hath not," i.e. hath not any fruit of his careful hearing, hath nothing more than was first given to him; "even that which he hath" - that which was given to him - "shall be taken away." Disregarded truth becomes disliked truth, and by him who does not use his understanding about it, it is naturally forgotten. So the condemnation takes the form of a removal of the truth.
2. In carelessness he puts the truth away from him. His measure is small, so he metes it to himself.
3. To hear is a duty; to neglect brings God's condemnation.
4. He who does not so receive God's truth as to become a true subject of the kingdom of heaven, is in the kingdom of evil, and continued disobedience leaves the man further and further from God.
5. So truth assumes the form of a parable to him. His eye is dimmed. He sees only the outward word; of the inward meaning, which is experimental, he knows nothing. Even Christ, his work and his gospel, may be to men a mere parable. They know not "the things" which are spoken. Thus is to be seen:
(1) The terrible and to-be-dreaded consequence of not heeding the Word. It becomes a parable, a dark saying, a riddle. "If they hear not Moses," etc.
(2) The mercifulness of him who would hide truth in a beautiful parable, to tempt the careless to inquire that they may be roused to effort and be saved.
(3) The great lesson, "to hear the Word," "to read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest the same, that by patience and comfort of the Scriptures we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which is given to us in our Saviour Jesus Christ." - G.
Parallel VersesKJV: And he began again to teach by the sea side: and there was gathered unto him a great multitude, so that he entered into a ship, and sat in the sea; and the whole multitude was by the sea on the land.