And he said, So is the kingdom of God, as if a man should cast seed into the ground;…
The seed in the ground. The kingdom of God, or religion in the heart, is secret in its beginnings. This is suggested by the parable. A man casts seed into the ground, and then leaves it to Nature — that is, to God. Such is the silence and secrecy of the Divine life in the heart. We have the truth of God as seed. Compared with natural or scientific truth (which yet we would not disparage) it may well be called, as in one of the Psalms, "precious seed," and the sowers of it may well go forth "weeping" — i.e. with intensity of will, with all their sensibilities stirred to the sowing of it; and yet let them know — it is well for us all to know — that a sower can only sow. He cannot decompose the grain. He cannot vitalize the inward germ. He must leave the seed with God. Attempts are made, sometimes, in times of religious revival and excitement, to force the living process, and even to have essential power and action in it; to make it begin at certain times and in certain ways; but the success of these efforts is but small. Very often the result of such intrusive violence is simply this, that Nature is made to look like grace for a little while, only to sink back into Nature again. We are only sowers. We "cast the seed into the ground," we "sleep and rise night and day." We go about our customary avocations and know nothing for certain of what has become of the seed for a time. By and by we shall know by the appearing of the blade above the soil, by the growing and by the ripening; but at first we knew nothing. The blade. — Not only is there secrecy at the beginning, but even after life is begun the manifestations of it are very slender and even dubious. Life must appear in some way, else we cannot apprehend it. We know life, not in its very substance, but only in its attributes and fruits. The first appearance of life is therefore a time of great interest; we watch it as the farmer watches the blade when it first shows above the soil. It does not then look at all like the corn it ultimately becomes. "First the blade." Take it when it is just visible above the soil — tender, pale, hardly green as yet — and compare that with the treasures of the threshing floor. What a difference! and how wonderful it seems that those should come from that! Not only is the first appearance small and slender, but to the unskilled eye it is very dubious and uncertain. Even so! The springing of the precious seed of Divine truth out of the secret soul into the visible life, is known at first often by manifestations very slender and sensitive. The begun life is so feeble that you can hardly say "It is there." A flush on the cheek or a gleam of the eye betokens some unusual inward feeling. Something is done, or something is left undone, and that is all! A Bible is kept in the room, and sometimes read in the morning or the evening. A new walk is taken that a certain person may be met, or missed. A letter has a sentence or two with the slightest touch of a new tone in it. Or there is some other faint suggestion of a change of mind and view. And if one should come with a high standard and a strict measuring line he might, of course, say, "Is that all?" Do you expect that to endure the conflicts and tests of life, and overcome its difficulties? Do you look for golden harvest only out of that? And yet that young, tender, trembling soul will grow in grace, and will be at last as ripe and mellow and ready for the garner as the other. "Then the ear." — God's day of revelation. Everyone knows corn in the ear — all dubiety is over when we look on the ear of corn. In the spike that holds the grain, as in a protective loving embrace, we know, although we do not see it, that the corn is enfolded. And when the spike expands with the force of vegetation, and the seeds of corn appear, no one can deny or doubt their existence. So there is a revealing or declaring time in the spiritual life. Life, hidden beyond the proper time of manifestation, will die. The corn in the ear cannot be preserved; it must grow on, or perish. "The full corn in the ear." — The work of grace perfected. As the result of the growing comes the ripening, or what is here called "the full corn in the ear." How little there is of man! How much of God! Man throws the seed into the ground, as one might throw a handful of pebbles into the sea! and months afterwards he comes, and carries away, by reaping and harvesting, thirty fold or sixty fold. He throws in one and carries away thirty, as it were direct from the hand of God. It is God who has been working during all these silent months. He never leaves the field. Down beneath the red mould He has His laboratory. He kindles there ten thousand invisible fires. He carries on and completes in unreckonable instances that process of transmutation which is the most wonderful that takes place beneath the sun. He opens in every field ten thousand times ten thousand fountains of life, and out of these living fountains spring the visible forms, blade, and sheath, and ear, and ripened corn. And after God has been thus working, then again comes the man, with his baskets, with his empty garners, and God fills them. Now the chief lesson — the very teaching of the parable — is this: that the human agency is no more in proportion and degree within the "kingdom of God" than it is in the field of corn. "So is the kingdom of God." The spiritual life is as much and as constantly under God's care as, in the natural world, is the field of growing corn. Indeed, we may say the spiritual life has more of His care. For, while the man has the sowing and the reaping in the natural field, in the spiritual field he has the sowing but not the reaping. "The angels are the reapers." Souls ripened for heaven are not reaped by men on the earth. The practical uses of the great truth taught in the parable are such as these. It teaches us a lesson of diligence. We can only sow, therefore let us sow. A lesson of reverence. What wonders are being wrought very near to us in silence! The Spirit of God is striving with human spirits! A lesson of abstinence. Having sown the seed, leave it with God. Think — "It has passed now from my care into a more sacred department, and into far higher hands. With Him let me leave it." Finally, a lesson of trust.
(A. Raleigh, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And he said, So is the kingdom of God, as if a man should cast seed into the ground;