First the Blade, then the
This chapter is based on
the following verses:
THE parable of the sower excited much
questioning. Some of the hearers gathered from it that Christ was not to establish an
earthly kingdom, and many were curious and perplexed. Seeing their perplexity, Christ used
other illustrations, still seeking to turn their thoughts from the hope of a worldly
kingdom to the work of God's grace in the soul.
"And He said, So is the
kingdom of God, as if a man should cast seed into the ground; and should sleep, and rise
night and day, and the seed should spring and grow up, he knoweth not how. For the earth
bringeth forth fruit of herself; first the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn
in the ear. But when the fruit is brought forth, immediately he putteth in the sickle,
because the harvest is come."
The husbandman who
"putteth in the sickle, because the harvest is come," can be no other than
Christ. It is
He who at the last great day will reap the harvest of the earth. But the sower of the seed represents those who labor in Christ's stead. The seed is said to
"spring and grow up, he knoweth not how," and this is not true of the Son of
God. Christ does not sleep over His charge, but watches it day and night. He is not
ignorant of how the seed grows.
The parable of the seed
reveals that God is at work in nature. The seed has in itself a germinating principle, a
principle that God Himself has implanted; yet if left to itself the seed would have no
power to spring up. Man has his part to act in promoting the growth of the grain. He must
prepare and enrich the soil and cast in the seed. He must till the fields. But there is a
point beyond which he can accomplish nothing. No strength or wisdom of man can bring forth
from the seed the living plant. Let man put forth his efforts to the utmost limit, he must
still depend upon One who has connected the sowing and the reaping by wonderful links of
His own omnipotent power.
There is life in the seed,
there is power in the soil; but unless an infinite power is exercised day and night, the
seed will yield no returns. The showers of rain must be sent to give moisture to the
thirsty fields, the sun must impart heat, electricity must be conveyed to the buried seed.
The life which the Creator has implanted, He alone can call forth. Every seed grows, every
plant develops, by the power of God.
"As the earth bringeth
forth her bud, and as the garden causeth the things that are sown in it to spring forth,
so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise to spring forth." Isa. 61:11. As
in the natural, so in the spiritual sowing; the teacher of truth must seek to prepare the
soil of the heart; he must sow the seed; but the power that alone can produce life is from
God. There is a point beyond
which human effort is in vain. While we are to preach the
word, we can not impart the power that will quicken the soul, and cause righteousness and
praise to spring forth. In the preaching of the word there must be the working of an
agency beyond any human power. Only through the divine Spirit will the word be living and
powerful to renew the soul unto eternal life. This is what Christ tried to impress upon
His disciples. He taught that it was nothing they possessed in themselves which would give
success to their labors, but that it is the miracle-working power of God which gives
efficiency to His own word.
The work of the sower is a
work of faith. The mystery of the germination and growth of the seed he cannot understand.
But he has confidence in the agencies by which God causes vegetation to flourish. In
casting his seed into the ground, he is apparently throwing away the precious grain that
might furnish bread for his family. But
he is only giving up a present good for a larger
return. He casts the seed away, expecting to gather it manyfold in an abundant harvest. So
Christ's servants are to labor, expecting a harvest from the seed they sow.
The good seed may for a time
lie unnoticed in a cold, selfish, worldly heart, giving no evidence that it has taken
root; but afterward, as the Spirit of God breathes on the soul, the hidden seed springs
up, and at last bears fruit to the glory of God. In our lifework we know not which shall
prosper, this or that. This is not a question for us to settle. We are to do our work, and
leave the results with God. "In the morning sow thy seed, and in the evening withhold
not thine hand." Eccl. 11:6. God's great covenant declares that "while the earth
remaineth, seed-time and harvest . . . shall not cease." Gen. 8:22. In the confidence
of this promise the husbandman tills and sows. Not less confidently are we in the
spiritual sowing to labor, trusting His assurance, "So shall My word be that goeth
forth out of My mouth; it shall not return unto Me void, but it shall accomplish that
which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it." Isa. 55:11.
"He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again
with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him." Ps. 126:6.
The germination of the seed
represents the beginning of spiritual life, and the development of the plant is a
beautiful figure of Christian growth. As in nature, so in grace; there can be no life
without growth. The plant must either grow or die. As its growth is silent and
imperceptible, but continuous, so is the development of the Christian life. At every stage
of development our life may be perfect; yet if God's purpose for us is fulfilled, there
will be continual advancement. Sanctification is the work of a lifetime. As our
opportunities multiply, our experience will enlarge, and
our knowledge increase. We shall
become strong to bear responsibility, and our maturity will be in proportion to our
The plant grows by receiving
that which God has provided to sustain its life. It sends down its roots into the earth.
It drinks in the sunshine, the dew, and the rain. It receives the life-giving properties
from the air. So the
Christian is to grow by co-operating with the divine agencies.
Feeling our helplessness, we are to improve all the opportunities granted us to gain a
fuller experience. As the plant takes root in the soil, so we are to take deep root in
Christ. As the plant receives the sunshine, the dew, and the rain, we are to open our
hearts to the Holy Spirit. The work is to be done "not by might, nor by power, but by
My Spirit, saith the Lord of hosts." Zech. 4:6. If we keep our minds stayed upon
Christ, He will come unto us "as the rain, as the latter and former rain unto the
earth." Hosea 6:3. As the Sun of Righteousness, He will arise upon us "with
healing in His wings." Mal. 4:2. We shall "grow as the lily." We shall
"revive as the corn, and grow as the vine." Hosea 14:5, 7. By constantly relying
upon Christ as our personal Saviour, we shall grow up into Him in all things who is our
The wheat develops
"first the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear." The object
of the husbandman in the sowing of the seed and the culture of the growing plant is the
production of grain. He desires bread for the hungry, and seed for future harvests. So the
divine Husbandman looks for a harvest as the reward of His labor and sacrifice. Christ is
seeking to reproduce Himself in the hearts of men; and He does this through those who
believe in Him. The object of the Christian life is fruit bearing--the reproduction of
Christ's character in the believer, that it may be reproduced in others.
The plant does not germinate,
grow, or bring forth fruit for itself, but to "give seed to the sower, and bread to
the eater." Isa. 55:10. So no man is to live unto himself. The Christian is in the
world as a representative of Christ, for the salvation of other souls.
There can be no growth or
fruitfulness in the life that is centered in self. If you have accepted Christ as a
Saviour, you are to forget yourself, and try to help others. Talk of the love of
Christ, tell of His goodness. Do every duty that presents itself. Carry the burden of
souls upon your heart, and by every means in your power seek to save the lost. As you
receive the Spirit of Christ--the Spirit of unselfish love and labor for others--you will
grow and bring forth fruit. The graces of the Spirit will ripen in your character. Your
faith will increase, your convictions deepen, your love be made perfect. More and more you
will reflect the likeness of Christ in all that is pure, noble, and lovely.
"The fruit of the Spirit
is love, joy, peace, longsuffering,
gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness,
temperance." Gal. 5:22, 23. This fruit can never perish, but will produce after its
kind a harvest unto eternal life.
"When the fruit is
brought forth, immediately he putteth in the sickle, because the harvest is come."
Christ is waiting with longing desire for the manifestation of Himself in His church. When
the character of Christ shall be perfectly reproduced in His people, then He will come to
claim them as His own.
It is the privilege of every
Christian not only to look for but to hasten the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, (2 Peter
3:12, margin). Were all who profess His name bearing fruit to His glory, how quickly the
whole world would be sown with the seed of the gospel. Quickly the last great harvest
would be ripened, and Christ would come to gather the precious grain.