Gateway to the Classics: St. Mark by J. Paterson Smyth
St. Mark by  J. Paterson Smyth


The Mysteries of the Kingdom of God

St. Mark IV. to v.  25.

"If any man willeth to do His will,
he shall know of the teaching."

C LOSE your eyes, and make this picture in your minds. A great mass of people, in their bright Eastern dress, crowded at the quiet lakeside—a fishing-boat lying at anchor a few yards away—and One sitting in the fishing-boat speaking to the crowd. He and they together are watching with interest a scene upon the hillside behind. And yet it is a very ordinary scene. Bring it into your picture. A large field upon the hill-slopes, with the rich, brown earth freshly turned up by the plough—a pathway running across it to the farmer's house—the grey rocks here and there peeping up through the earth—the bunches of thorn pulled up in the near corner, leaving many of their roots in the soil behind them; and above it all, the chattering and fluttering of wild birds over the head of a sower, as he scatters far and wide his golden corn seed.

Together they watch this scene, and then suddenly from the boat the Lord calls to them: Hearken! listen! Immediately they are all attention, wondering what He will say or do. "See that sower sowing his seed? See where the seed is falling, and what happens to it?" Again they turn to look at the sower in the field. Now what do they see? Where do they see the seed falling? How many different sorts of soil? Name them. Yes. 1st, on the pathway going up to the farmer's house, trampled hard through many years of trampling. 2nd, on stony  ground? No; little stones in ground would not destroy growth—but rocky,i.e.,  where the grey rock, rising through the earth, shows how shallow the soil is there. 3rd, on thorny, where thorns had been grubbed up, leaving some of roots behind. 4th, on the good ground.

Now keep your eye still on the field. What became of seed on pathway? On rocky ground? On thorny? On good ground? Notice the first did not grow at all. The second grew for a while, and then died. The third kept on struggling in a half-withered, useless state. The fourth grew well, and bore good fruit.

Now we may turn away from the field and the seed. The Lord wanted to teach by means of these of another field and another seed. This sort of teaching is called? Parable? What is a parable? Yes. Or it is a something in the outside natural world that is very like something in the inside spiritual world. Why are they so like? Because both worlds are of God, and He works much in the same way in both.

Some of Christ's hearers did not care about the spiritual world, and did not want to know anything of it. But some had earnest hearts, and were anxious to learn. How? (v.  10). "To you," He said who come with simple heart and honest desire to know, I will teach the secrets of the Kingdom of God." So He begins:

(1) The seed is? (v.  14), the Word—the Word of God. What sowing of it had just been going on? Yes; He thought of Himself like the sower in the field, scattering the good seed over that crowd of people—they were the field. Did the corn seed succeed equally well all over the field? Does the seed of the Word? What is wrong when it does not succeed? Is it the seed? No; the soil. Seed is all good. Both the wheat seed and the Word seed. God has given both a miraculous power—to live, to grow, to bear fruit. But the seed is tender, delicate, can be lost and spoiled by neglect, bad soil, etc.

Does anybody else act as sower? Clergy, teachers, friends, who speak to each other about holy things. Look round Sunday School now. See all the sowers in all the classes scattering the seed. Think of preacher in pulpit to-day, scattering seed through the church. Is it not solemn to think of the picture which our Lord gave of the hearts on whom it is sown? How many sorts? Like what sorts of ground?

(a)  Now take the first. When the Great Sower sows, by the Bible, or the preacher, or teacher, some falls on the pathway. Think of this class—this school—and say solemnly to yourself: "Some falls on the pathway." Meaning? Yes. That some—let us hope they will be very few—will let it fall unheeded off the hard, trampled surface—"in at one ear, out at the other." Children in school, men and women in church, who will listen without a single sin brought to remembrance—without one resolve for a better life; without one wish breathed up to God for strength to do that duty brought before them in the message to-day. What an awful waste.  Think of the poor heathen wanting it, and not getting it, and we so shamefully wasting it. But that is not the worst. The hard hearts will get harder by it, like the pathway on which the sower often walks. Next Sunday the surface will be a little harder on account of the neglected seed and sowing to-day. And who is watching to snatch it away (v.  15). Did you ever feel him do it? Well, watch out next time. When some whisper of God comes in sermon or lesson, or in friend's advice, or in conscience rousing you to resist meanness, or lying, or ill-temper—if you refuse to receive it or let it grow, it will not be there to grow at some future time. Then cometh the devil, like the fowls of the air, to snatch it away. Sometimes you don't feel him; sometimes you do. Sometimes the sharp end of the seed seems to stick in soil, to get a chance of growing, and you feel conscience pricking you to do something or resist something; but you refuse. You can almost feel the devil snatching away the good seed that was trying to get hold.

Why does any heart become like pathway? Whose fault? Is it God's? Whose? Yes. When Christ has warned us that heart is in danger of getting harder, the seed of being snatched by the angels of Satan ever watching us, then it is our own fault if we do not watch and pray and be earnest. Suggest to form the habit of silent prayer for preacher and people when sermon begins. If much done, would greatly improve both preaching and hearing.

(b)  Next sort of soil? Rocky,  not stony  remember the distinction. How did it grow? Fast, because of warm rock below, warmed by the sun. But then what happened? Now, what sort of people meant? Better or worse than stony? Better, received the word, thought it very lovely to be a Christian, touched to tears by thought of Christ's love. Very gushing, emotional sort of people, greatly moved at Confirmation or such times. But no root—no holding on. The important thing in religion is not warm feeling,  but earnest doing—eager clinging to Christ. In the little acts at home, in the little temptations at school, always trying to be loyal. Some people can't feel very deep emotion about Christ's love; they feel almost cold-hearted. But they say—Never mind. In spite of coldness of heart—in spite of discouragement of trying to do right and failing—I will cry to the Blessed Lord, who is so good and so loving. I'd rather bear anything than be disloyal to Him! Blessed is he that endureth!

(c)  Third sort—Thorny ground. Seed sown where thorn roots remain, and both spring up together. These are still better than the last soil. They keep on caring to be good, but only in a half-hearted way. They are uneasy about religion, and give half the heart to God, and half to the cares and anxieties of the world. And so they have just enough religion to worry them; not enough to make them happy. But what are they to do? Must have cares about work and home and support and getting on in the world. Yes, but remember our Lord's advice: Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you." Settle first of all to give your heart to God, and then, as His child, work hard and hopefully at all worldly things. Put God first. Bring all else to Him that He may help and bless you, and then struggle and work will not sadden or harm you.

(d)  And last of all we have the good ground. They who hear the word, and accept it, and bear fruit thirtyfold, sixtyfold, and a hundredfold. No time to talk further of this. Take away solemn thoughts about this sowing of God's seed. Pray to the Great Sower that we may not disappoint Him. Pray to Him especially for the teaching in this class and in this school, that in the harvest of life there may be fruit of our sowing:

"Lord of Harvest, grant that we

Wholesome grain and pure may be."

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