Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Take Heed How You Hear

“The parable of the sower is preeminently a parable of caution, and caution about a most important subject,—the way of hearing the word of God.

It was meant to be a warning to the apostles, not to expect too much from hearers.

It was meant to be a warning to all ministers of the Gospel, not to look for too great results from sermons.



It was meant, not least, to be a warning to hearers, to take heed how they hear.

Preaching is an ordinance of which the value can never be overrated in the Church of Christ. But it should never be forgotten, that there must not only be good preaching, but good hearing.”

“The second caution that we learn from the parable of the sower, is to beware of resting on mere temporary impressions when we have heard the word. Our Lord tells us that the hearts of some hearers are like rocky ground.

The seed of the word springs up immediately, as soon as they hear it, and bears a crop of joyful impressions, and pleasurable emotions. But these impressions, unhappily, are only on the surface. There is no deep and abiding work done in their souls.

And hence, so soon as the scorching heat of temptation or persecution begins to be felt, the little bit of religion which they seemed to have attained, withers and vanishes away.

Feelings, no doubt, fill a most important office in our personal Christianity. Without them there can be no saving religion. Hope, and joy, and peace, and confidence, and resignation, and love, and fear, are things which must be felt, if they really exist.

But it must never be forgotten that there are religious affections, which are spurious and false, and spring from nothing better than animal excitement. It is quite possible to feel great pleasure, or deep alarm, under the preaching of the Gospel, and yet to be utterly destitute of the grace of God.

The tears of some hearers of sermons, and the extravagant delight of others, are no certain marks of conversion. We may be warm admirers of favorite preachers, and yet remain nothing better than stony-ground hearers.

Nothing should content us but a deep, humbling, self-mortifying work of the Holy Ghost, and a heart-union with Christ.”

“The third caution contained in the parable of the sower is to beware of the cares of this world. Our Lord tells us that the hearts of many hearers of the word are like thorny ground. The seed of the word, when sown upon them, is choked by the multitude of other things, by which their affections are occupied.

They have no objection to the doctrines and requirements of the Gospel. They even wish to believe and obey them. But they allow the things of earth to get such hold upon their minds, that they leave no room for the word of God to do its work.

And hence it follows that however many sermons they hear, they seem nothing bettered by them. A weekly process of truth-stifling goes on within. They bring no fruit to perfection.

The things of this life form one of the greatest dangers which beset a Christian’s path. The money, the pleasures, the daily business of the world, are so many traps to catch souls.

Thousands of things, which in themselves are innocent, become, when followed to excess, little better than soul-poisons, and helps to hell. Open sin is not the only thing that ruins souls.

In the midst of our families, and in the pursuit of our lawful callings, we have need to be on our guard. Except we watch and pray, these temporal things may rob us of heaven, and smother every sermon we hear. We may live and die thorny-ground hearers.”


–J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on Luke (New York: Robert Carter & Brothers, 1879), 1: 250. Ryle is commenting on Luke 8:4-15.

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