ON THE REMAINING PART OF THE PARABLE OF THE SOWER
Consider first, that there remains a third kind of soil, which brings no fruit to maturity, viz., the thorny ground, which received indeed the seed of the divine word, but suffers it not to grow up and ripen, but overpowers it, and chokes it up with the thorns which are its natural produce, and which have taken a much stronger root therein. By which thorny ground are meant all they who hear the word of God, or are otherwise favoured with the visits of his graces and calls, but are so unhappy as to suffer all his heavenly seed to be overpowered and choked up with their carnal affections and lusts, or as our Saviour says, ‘with the cares, and riches, and pleasures of this life, and so yield no fruit.’ Luke viii. 14. O see, my soul, if this be not thy misfortune. Reflect how often thou hast been visited with graces from heaven? how often thou hast heard, or read the word of God? and what fruit has this divine seed hitherto produced in thee? It is well, if instead of the increase of a hundred-fold, it has not been rendered absolutely fruitless, if not pernicious to thee, by the thorns of thy disorderly affections to the things of this world, which thou has loved more than God.
Consider 2ndly, that thorny ground can never bring any fruit to perfection, except the thorns be first rooted up; for since they are much stronger than the corn, and have taken a deeper root in this unhappy soil, (in consequence of the curse laid upon our earth by occasion of sin, Gen iii. 17, 18,) as long as they are suffered to occupy the ground, they will of course overpower, and choke up the good grain. Wherefore, if we desire to bring forth fruit, that the seed of the word, and of the grace of God, should not be lost upon us, we must seriously apply our souls to the rooting out these thorns of our irregular affections to worldly toys and sensual pleasures, for as long as these are predominant In our souls, the seed of heaven will bring forth no fruit there. Now this rooting out of these thorns is the proper business of the virtue of self-denial, that is , of the daily mortifications of our passions and natural inclinations, which are ever prone to evil, and if not kept under, hurry the souls into all kinds of vice, and stifle all the graces and inspirations of heaven. This then must be the care of every Christian; this our daily labour, to keep these thorns under, that they may not overpower the seed of the word and of the grace of God in our souls. And whatever we affect of love, to the prejudice of the love of God, or of our duty to him, we must look upon as thorns, and discharge from our souls, as mortal enemies to the seed of heaven, and to our true welfare, either for time or eternity.
Consider 3rdly, that the Christian must endeavour to be the good ground in which the seed of God’s word yieldeth fruit a hundred-fold – that is, he must labour to be of the number of those who with a good and perfect heart hear the word, and keep it, and bring forth fruit in patience. He must hear it with a good heart, not out of idle curiosity, but for his own instruction and edification; not to carp at it, or criticize upon it, but to let it sink into his soul for the reformation of his life. He must hear it with a perfect heart, embracing it as the word and truth of God, brought to him from heaven by the Son of God, and designed to carry him to heaven. He must keep it, by laying it up carefully in his mind, and often meditating upon it; he must ever follow its light, and regulate all his steps by it. He must bring forth fruit with it, by exercising himself daily in those virtues which it recommends, and advancing continually by its direction in the love of God, and in the way of Christian perfection; and this fruit he must bring forth in patience – that is, with constancy and perseverance, notwithstanding all the difficulties and oppositions he will be sure to meet with from the world, the flesh, and the devil.
Conclude to rid thy soul of all the thorns that may hinder it from bringing forth fruit to God, that thou mayest be the good ground that may yield a hundred-fold.