And some fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up, and choked it, and it yielded no fruit.
1. The treatment the Word meets with from these persons. They hear and receive it.
2. How this salutary operation on his heart is obstructed and defeated.
3. What is the event? These thorns choke the Word.
I. WHAT THESE THINGS ARE WHICH OBSTRUCT THE DUE OPERATION OF GOD'S WORD ON THE HEARTS OF THESE MEN?
1. The cares of the world. By the cares of the world He means criminal anxieties about secular concerns.
(1) They relate to subsistence. By this we mean the necessaries of life; man cannot be indifferent to these, but must not distrust the providence of God.
(2) They relate to competence. This is a relative term, and has respect to capacity and desire. But such as is suited to desires not regulated by religion and reason, is an equivocal competence; all care about it is criminal. A prince requires more than his subject; desires directed to this object are commendable. But even though the object be right, the care about it may exceed, and unduly engross our attention and time.
(5) They relate to affluence. This also right; but pride, ambition, and the gratification of vain passions must be offensive to God. Thus these cares, like thorns in the soil, will stifle every generous sentiment.
2. The deceitfulness of riches. Men are prone to reason mistakenly about riches. Riches are, in a sense, themselves deceitful. They assume an appearance different from their real nature and use, and so the unwary observer is imposed upon. Consider the false reasonings of a depraved heart:(1) As to wealth itself. Riches may be a blessing. The value of them is chiefly to be estimated by their use. Here men mistake it. Money will purchase delicate food, fine mansions, but will it set him beyond the reach of pain, contempt?
(2) Of the mode of acquiring wealth men reason very mistakenly. They too often ignore the providence of God, so He blasts their schemes.
(3) Men reason deceitfully concerning the term of enjoying the wealth they acquire.
3. The pleasures of this life, or "the lusts of other things." Here we need not be very particular, for as riches are the means of procuring pleasures, and most generally coveted with that view, the same folly and criminality we have charged to the account of the avaricious is, with a little variation of circumstances, to be imputed likewise to the sensualist. Pleasure indeed, abstractedly considered, is a real good; the desire of it is congenial with our nature, and cannot be eradicated without the destruction of our very existence. This is not therefore what our Lord condemns. He well knew that there ale passions and appetites proper to men as men, that the moderate gratification of them is necessary to their happiness, and of consequence that the desire of such gratification is not sinful. But the pleasure He prohibits is that which results from the indulgence of irregular desires, I mean such as are directed to wrong objects, and such as are excessive in their degree.
II. TO SHOW HOW THEY OBSTRUCT THE DUE OPERATION OF GOD'S WORD ON THE HEART.
1. As to these of the first description, the careful. It involves distrust of the faithfulness and goodness of Divine providence.
2. As to the avaricious. How vain such desires, expectations, and exertions. Will you suffer such noxious weeds to grow in your heart? Wisdom will give you riches and honour.
3. As to the voluptuous. It precipitates into extravagances which often prove fatal to character. There is no profiting by the Word we hear, without duly weighing and considering it.There are three things necessary to this:
1. Leisure. Ground choked with briers and thorns affords not room for the seed cast upon it to expand and grow. In like manner, he whose attention is wholly taken up with secular affairs has not leisure for consideration. Say, you who are oppressed with the cares, or absorbed in the pleasures of life, whether this is not the fact? What is it first catches your imagination when you awake in the morning? What is it engrosses your attention all the day? What is it goes with you to your bed, and follows you through the restless hours of night? What is it you are constantly thinking of at home, abroad, and in the house of God? It is the world. Oh sad! not a day, not an hour, scarce a moment in reserve, for a meditation on God, your soul, and an eternal world! And can religion exist where it is never thought of, or gain ground in a heart where it is but now and then adverted to? As well might a man expect to live without sustenance, or get strong without digesting his food. That then, which deprives men of time for consideration, is essentially injurious to religion.
2. Composure. By composure, I mean that calmness or self-possession, whereby we are enabled to attend soberly and without interruption to the business we are about. Consideration implies this in it; for how is it possible that a man should duly consider a subject, whether civil or religious, coolly reason upon it, and thoroughly enter into the spirit of it, if his mind is all the while occupied with a thousand other things, foreign to the matter before him? In order, therefore, to our doing justice to any question of importance, we must rid our minds of all impertinent thoughts, be self-collected, and fix our attention steadily to the point. How difficult this is I need not say. Studious people feel the difficulty; and in regard of religion, the best of men are sensible of their weakness in this respect, and deeply lament it. But where the world gains the ascendant, this difficulty is increased, and, in some instances, becomes almost insuperable. Let me here describe to you, in a few words, the almost incessant hurry and confusion of their minds, who answer to the three characters in our text of the careful, the covetous, and the voluptuous.So you will clearly see, how impossible it is for persons thus circumstanced to pay the attention to religious subjects which is necessary in order to their being profited by them.
1. The case of him who is swallowed up with the anxious cares of life is truly lamentable. It is not riches the unhappy man aims at, but a competence, or perhaps a mere subsistence. The dread of being reduced, with his family, to extreme poverty, harrows up his very soul. The horrid spectres of contempt, famine, and a prison, haunt his imagination. And how incapable is a man, thus circumstanced, of coolly thinking on the great things of religion! Does he attempt in his retirement to fix his attention to some Divine subject? he instantly fails in the attempt, cares like a wild deluge rush in upon his soul, and break all the measures he had taken to obtain a little respite from his trouble.
2. The like effect hath an eager desire after riches to disqualify men for consideration. When on his knees he is still in the world: when he is worshipping God in his family he is still pursuing his gain. His closet is an accounting house and his church an exchange.
3. How an eager attention to worldly pleasures must have the like effect, to render the mind incapable of serious consideration. Scenes of splendour and sensual delight are before the eyes of men of this character. How is it possible for a mind thus hurried, dissipated, intoxicated with vain amusements, to cultivate religion? They not only deprive men of time, composure for serious consideration —
3. But of all inclination to it. But what I mean, is to show that an eager attention to the things of this life confirms the habit of inconsideration, and tends, where there is an aptitude to meditation, to weaken and deprave it. A mind wholly occupied with the objects of sense, is not only estranged from the great realities of religion, but averse to them. As it has neither leisure nor calmness for sublime contemplations, so it has no taste or relish for them. "The carnal mind is enmity against God." And the more carnal it grows by incessant commerce with the world, the more does that prejudice and enmity increase. What violence are such men obliged to put upon themselves, if at any time, by some extraordinary circumstance, they are prevailed on to think of the concerns of their souls! The business is not only awkward, as they are unaccustomed to it, but it is exceeding irksome and painful. Now if a hearty inclination to any business is necessary to capacity to pursue it with success, whatever tends to abate that inclination, or to confirm the opposite aversion, is essentially injurious to such business. In like manner, cares, riches, and pleasures of the world choke the Word.
III. THE BAD EVENT OF SUCH UNDUE COMMERCE WITH THE WORLD. The unhappy man not having leisure, calmness, or inclination to attend to the Word.
1. He understands not the Word of the kingdom. He has a speculative acquaintance with the truths of religion; it cannot be experimental.
2. He does not believe it. He who believes the gospel to the salvation of his soul must enter into the spirit of it. But how can this be the case with a man whose heart is possessed by the god of this world?
3. Not rightly understanding or believing the Word of the kingdom, he is not obedient to it.
4. What is the final issue of all? Why, the man himself, as well as the seed, is choked (Luke 8:14).Exhortation:
1. Let the professors of religion have no more to do with the world than duty clearly requires. "Be not conformed to this world; but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind." "Come out from among them, and be ye separate, and touch not the unclean thing." "Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness."
2. If thorns before we are aware get in, let us instantly root them out. Exert all the power of Christian resolution.
3. Receive the good seed. It is not enough that the ground is cleared of noxious weeds, if it be not sown with the proper grain. Neither is it sufficient to guard against the corrupt maxims, customs, and manners of the world, if our hearts are not impregnated with Divine truth.
4. And lastly, look to God for His blessing. "Paul may plant, and Apollos water; but it is God that giveth the increase." We may hear, read, meditate, reflect, watch, and use many good endeavours; but if no regard be had to a superior influence, all will be vain.
(S. Stennett, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And some fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up, and choked it, and it yielded no fruit.