The Character of Inattentive Hearers Considered
Mark 4:4-15
And it came to pass, as he sowed, some fell by the way side, and the fowls of the air came and devoured it up.…

1. These persons hear the Word. They are not deaf, and so utterly incapable of hearing. Nor are they determined that they will not hear (Jeremiah 22:21).

2. They are only occasional hearers of the Word. They are, in regard of the assemblies where the gospel is preached, what the wayside is to the field where the seed is sown, ground without the inclosure, Or whereon the seed falls as it were accidentally or by chance. They come by constraint of conscience, or from curiosity.

3. They are not at all prepared for hearing the Word. The ground is beaten, and has received no cultivation.

4. That they hear in a heedless, desultory manner.

5. They remain grossly ignorant.

6. But some in this class do in a sense understand the Word, for the seed is said to be sown in their hearts. They understand speculatively.

7. It makes no abiding impression on the heart.

8. Our Lord's account of the manner in which these impressions are effaced — "the fowls of the air came," etc.

I. WHO IS THIS WICKED ONE AND WHY HE IS SO CALLED. From this short scriptural account of Satan it appears with what propriety he is here, and in many other passages, styled emphatically "the wicked one." He is wicked himself in the highest degree, for as be exceeds all others in subtilty and power, so also in impiety and sin; a spirit the most proud, false, envious, turbulent, and malignant among all the various orders of fallen spirits. He, too, is the author of all wickedness, the contriver and promoter of every species of iniquity. Whence, the infinitely numerous evils that prevail in our world are called "the works of the devil." Such is the character of this first apostate arch-angel, the grand, avowed enemy of God and man. And thus are we led to our second inquiry —

II. WHAT IS MEANT BY HIS "CATCHING AWAY THE SEED," AND HOW IS THIS DONE? For no more is meant by the influence which Satan is supposed in certain cases to exert over the mind, than what is similar to the influence which wicked men are acknowledged to have over others, to allure them by persuasions to sin, and to dissuade them by menaces from their duty. It cannot force them into sin against the consent of their will; or, in other words, so operate on their minds as to deprive them of that freedom which is necessary to constitute them accountable creatures. This mighty adversary watches his opportunity to prevent the salutary effect of the Word upon those that hear it. And considering what is the character of the sort of hearers we are here speaking of, it is not to be wondered at that he is permitted to catch away the seed sown in their hearts, or that he succeeds in the attempt. For if their motives in attending upon Divine service are base and unworthy, if they address themselves to the duties of religion without any previous preparation, how righteous is it in God to permit Satan to use every possible artifice to defeat the great and good ends to which religious instructions are directed!

1. Satan uses his utmost endeavours to divert men's attention from the Word while they are hearing it.

2. Satan uses every art to excite and inflame men's prejudices against the Word they hear.

3. Another artifice Satan uses to counteract the influence of God's Word on men's hearts is to prevent their recollecting is after they have heard it.

(S. Stennett, D. D.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: And it came to pass, as he sowed, some fell by the way side, and the fowls of the air came and devoured it up.

WEB: and it happened, as he sowed, some seed fell by the road, and the birds came and devoured it.

Human Hearts Tested by Truth
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