A. The good seed of the gospel sown in the world, and sown in the heart, doth by degrees produce wonderful effects, but without noise (v. 26, etc.); So is the kingdom of God; so is the gospel, when it is sown, and received, as seed in good ground.
III. The good seed of the gospel sown in the world, and sown in the heart, doth by degrees produce wonderful effects, but without noise (v. 26, etc.); So is the kingdom of God; so is the gospel, when it is sown, and received, as seed in good ground.
1. It will come up; though it seem lost and buried under the clods, it will find or make its way through them. The seed cast into the ground will spring. Let but the word of Christ have the place it ought to have in a soul, and it will show itself, as the wisdom from above doth in a good conversation. After a field is sown with corn, how soon is the surface of it altered! How gay and pleasant doth it look, when it is covered with green!
2. The husbandman cannot describe how it comes up; it is one of the mysteries of nature; It springs and grows up, he knows not how, v. 27. He sees it has grown, but he cannot tell in what manner it grew, or what was the cause and method of its growth. Thus we know not how the Spirit by the word makes a change in the heart, any more than we can account for the blowing of the wind, which we hear the sound of, but cannot tell whence it comes, or whither it goes. Without controversy, great is the mystery of godliness; how God manifested in the flesh came to be believed on in the world, .
3. The husbandman, when he hath sown the seed, doth nothing toward the springing of it up; He sleeps, and rises, night and day; goes to sleep at night, gets up in the morning, and perhaps never so much as thinks of the corn he hath sown, or ever looks upon it, but follows his pleasures or other business, and yet the earth brings forth fruit of itself, according to the ordinary course of nature, and by the concurring power of the God of nature. Thus the word of grace, when it is received in faith, is in the heart a work of grace, and the preachers contribute nothing to it. The Spirit of God is carrying it on when they sleep, and can do no business (, ), or when they rise to go about other business. The prophets do not live for ever; but the word which they preached, is doing its work, when they are in their graves, , . The dew by which the seed is brought up tarrieth not for man, nor waiteth for the sons of men, .
4. It grows gradually; first the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear, v. 28. When it is sprung up, it will go forward; nature will have its course, and so will grace. Christ’s interest, both in the world and in the heart, is, and will be, a growing interest; and though the beginning be small, the latter end will greatly increase. Though thou sowest not that body that shall be, but bare grain, yet God will give to every seed its own body; though at first it is but a tender blade, which the frost may nip, or the foot may crush, yet it will increase to the ear, to the full corn in the ear. Natura nil facit per saltum—Nature does nothing abruptly. God carries on his work insensibly and without noise, but insuperably and without fail.
5. It comes to perfection at last (v. 29); When the fruit is brought forth, that is, when it is ripe, and ready to be delivered into the owner’s hand; then he puts in the sickle. This intimates, (1.) That Christ now accepts the services which are done to him by an honest heart from a good principle; from the fruit of the gospel taking place and working in the soul, Christ gathers in a harvest of honour to himself. See . (2.) That he will reward them in eternal life. When those that receive the gospel aright, have finished their course, the harvest comes, when they shall be gathered as wheat into God’s barn (), as a shock of corn in his season.
B. The work of grace is small in its beginnings, but comes to be great and considerable at last (v. 30–32); “Whereunto shall I liken the kingdom of God, as now to be set up by the Messiah? How shall I make you to understand the designed method of it?” Christ speaks as one considering and consulting with himself, how to illustrate it with an apt similitude; With what comparison shall we compare it? Shall we fetch it from the motions of the sun, or the revolutions of the moon? No, the comparison is borrowed from this earth, it is like a grain of mustard-seed; he had compared it before to seed sown, here to that seed, intending thereby to show,
1. That the beginnings of the gospel kingdom would be very small, like that which is one of the least of all seeds. When a Christian church was sown in the earth for God, it was all contained in one room, and the number of the names was but one hundred and twenty (), as the children of Israel, when they went down into Egypt, were but seventy souls. The work of grace in the soul, is, at first, but the day of small things; a cloud no bigger than a man’s hand. Never were there such great things undertaken by such an inconsiderable handful, as that of the discipling of the nations by the ministry of the apostles; nor a work that was to end in such great glory, as the work of grace raised from such weak and unlikely beginnings. Who hath begotten me these?
2. That the perfection of it will be very great; When it grows up, it becomes greater than all herbs. The gospel kingdom in the world, shall increase and spread to the remotest nations of the earth, and shall continue to the latest ages of time. The church hath shot out great branches, strong ones, spreading far, and fruitful. The work of grace in the soul has mighty products, now while it is in its growth; but what will it be, when it is perfected in heaven? The difference between a grain of mustard seed and a great tree, is nothing to that between a young convert on earth and a glorified saint in heaven. See .
After the parables thus specified the historian concludes with this general account of Christ’s preaching—that with many such parables he spoke the word unto them (v. 33); probably designing to refer us to the larger account of the parables of this kind, which we had before, . He spoke in parables, as they were able to hear them; he fetched his comparisons from those things that were familiar to them, and level to their capacity, and delivered them in plain expressions, in condescension to their capacity; though he did not let them into the mystery of the parables, yet his manner of expression was easy, and such as they might hereafter recollect to their edification. But, for the present, without a parable spoke he not unto them, v. 34. The glory of the Lord was covered with a cloud, and God speaks to us in the language of the sons of men, that, though not at first, yet by degrees, we may understand his meaning; the disciples themselves understood those sayings of Christ afterward, which at first they did not rightly take the sense of. But these parables he expounded to them, when they were alone. We cannot but wish we had had that exposition, as we had of the parable of the sower; but it was not so needful; because, when the church should be enlarged, that would expound these parables to us, without any more ado.