Pittsburgh Gazette'August 29, 1904


Pastor C T Russell was with his home congregation yesterday, and hopes to be with them next Sunday also. As usual he had a crowded house, with extra seatings in the aisles. He said: My text on this occasion is from the Lord's parable of the sower sowing good seed. "Some fell among thorns and the thorns grew up and choked them." -Matt. 13:7.

Attending to some business some time since in Washington city, I found myself detained over night, and while passing the Young Men's Christian Association building I noticed their bulletin board announcing for that evening a Bible study, based upon the words of my text, the thorns among the wheat. I attended and heard several who seemed to be principal men of the association address the meeting on the subject. They all interpreted this text in the same manner that the thorns that choked the wheat are theaters, saloons, brothels, gambling houses, etc., and on this interpretation they exhorted one another and the audience to beware of all such traps and snares of the adversary.

The last of the speakers, after expressing himself in the same strain as the others, indicated a little doubt in his own mind as to having a proper application of the scripture, remarking, "How we wish that we had our Lord with us this evening to expound this parable to us!" As the meeting was an open one, I improved the opportunity to call attention to the fact that our Lord was present representatively through His word and that he had already explained the parable. I then called attention to the explanation of the particular feature of the parable under discussion, found in the 22nd verse, where our Lord says: "He also that receiveth the seed among thorns is he that heareth the word, and the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful." Briefly, I indorsed the general sentiment that Christians should not be entrapped by the sins and snares which the brethren had mentioned, but pointed out that the real snares, the real thorns to which our Lord referred, are far more subtle than gambling, etc. Our Lord's parable, therefore, was meant to be far more heart-searching than the friends had supposed. Thousands of Christians, and worldly people, too, have too much principle, too much character, to be led astray by the grosser traps and snares of the adversary, who, nevertheless, are in great danger of being caught by the "thorns" which our Lord here mentions. Indeed, we believe that Christians of the present time are exposed to no greater danger from any quarter than from the thorns to which our Lord refers.


When we come to see that "the cares of this life and the deceitfulness of riches" are the thorns, we immediately perceive that the most earnest, the most upright, the most sincere, the most loyal of the Lord's people are in danger on this score, and this is in full accord with the general sentiment of the parable, for thorns flourish best in good soil.

We live in a time when luxuries have become almost necessities of life, a time when everyone is more or less looked down upon unless he lives in good style and this generally means in a style which is fully up to and perhaps beyond what his income justifies. We live in a time when riches are more generally possessed, a time when there are more rich, well-to-do, prosperous people than ever before. We live in a time when everyone feels more or less of the general push and strain, if not to get rich, at least to attain competence, and its advantages of respect and esteem amongst one's neighbors and friends. As a result, the world is rushing madly after riches as never before, and time and health and influence all is spent for the attainment of wealth and the luxuries which accompany it.

We need not count amongst these thorns temptations to swindle, to promote financial claptraps, to receive bribes, graft, etc. ; because we assume that all represented in this parable as good ground, "hearers of the Lord's word," would not under any circumstances yield to dishonesty. The thorny ground of the parable was "good ground," which would have brought forth abundant fruitage except for the choking of the thorns. We could not think that our Lord would consider boodlers, grafters, swindlers, gamblers, and such like, as good-ground hearers in any sense of the word. Our thought would be that the good seed would find no lodging whatever in the hearts of such people.

This brings the matter very close home to us. We trust that our hearts are "good soil," into which the seed of the word of God has been well received. We trust that our hearts are in that condition in which they are ready for that message of the Lord, and in which they would bring forth much fruitage to His praise. To all such this parable especially appeals. Shall we or shall we not allow the thorns to which our Lord refers to choke the seed of truth, to stunt it, to hinder its development and thus make it unfruitful in our hearts and lives to thus prevent us from bringing forth much fruit, as we should like to do, to the Master's praise?

It is difficult to draw the line, and if our Master did not draw it neither need we. We may suggest, however, that a desire to live in good style among his neighbors might so engross the husband in his business as to prevent the taking of the necessary time for the study of the truth, for the nourishment of his own heart, for communion with the Lord, and for fellowship with the brethren, for mutual upbuilding in the knowledge of the Lord and in the graces of the Spirit. This would come under "the cares of this life." They are multiplied if the ambitions and ideals of the world become our ambitions and ideals. Or the matter might go further, and the desire to become rich in this world's goods may invade the heart; and if so, every time of prosperity is an increased danger that is sapping the life and thought and energy which should be going to produce "much fruit" in the heart and in all the activities of life in spiritual things.

The Christian wife who has received the word of the Lord gladly into a good and honest heart, and who has made a [HGL237] full consecration of all of her time, talent and influence to the Lord, may find herself in danger along the same line in danger from the thorns. She may or she may not have as much love for the earthly riches as her husband, but she will surely have many little thorns, "cares of life," to beset her way. The children, the home, the housekeeping, the garden there is a constant tendency to become so absorbed in these that the main duty of life, the duty toward the Lord, may be neglected, perhaps in time may be almost forgotten. In other words, with the heart fully desirous of being in accord with the Lord and of "bringing forth much fruit" to His praise, the best of the Lord's people are in danger from the insidious spirit of the world, the pride of life, love of the beautiful, desire to appear well before others, desire to get along in the world, desire to keep up good appearance, or possible a desire to be rich. Of the latter craving, so common in our day, the apostle gave special admonition, saying, "But they that will to be rich fall into a temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition." 1 Tim. 6:9.


We are far from suggesting that the Lord's people should be slothful and indolent, careless either in respect to their per sons, their children, their homes or their business. The apostle sums up the proper attitude of a true Christian as "not slothful in business, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord." The point is that with the Christian business, pleasure, luxury, name, fame, all are subordinate to the one thing to which he has consecrated his life. That one thing is to do the will of his Father in heaven to walk in the footsteps of his Master to cultivate in himself the fruits of the Spirit, the graces of the Spirit the divine character.

No fixed rule can be laid down on this subject; each of the Lord's people must decide for himself, must choose his own course, must determine whether he will be one of those who will bring forth much fruit to the Master's glory, or one of those who, because of the admixture of the spirit of the world, because of the permission of thorns, "cares of this life," "deceitfulness of riches," etc., will fail to bring forth proper fruitage. Some are prone to one extreme, and some to another. Occasionally I have met those who apparently were the Lord's true people and influenced by the spirit of the truth to a considerable degree, whose carelessness of personal appearance, of the home, of their children, of their business, spoke loudly against them, and, to a considerable degree, reflected unfavorably against the Lord's cause with which they were associated. These, however, we believe, are much less numerous than those who are being "choked" spiritually by the worldly ambition, pride of life and desire for riches and honor amongst men. Neither is it merely the rich that are in this danger. The apostle, as we have already quoted him, declares that it is those "who will to be rich" that are in the greatest danger. The strife after riches on the part of thousands upon thousands who never attain them constitute the thorns of our Lord's parable.

The parable does not relate to the world, but merely to those who have received the good seed. The world, with no interest in this seed and little knowledge of it, are not condemned by our text. The world needs ambition to spur it along, to keep it out of greater depths of degradation and sin; to the world, therefore, the cares of this life and endeavors to become rich may sometimes be advantageous rather than otherwise. These things may fill their hearts and time to such an extent as to more or less preserve them from degradation and beastiality, which are sure to beset those who have no ambitions, no cares those who are mere idlers, for "Satan finds some mischief still for idle hands to do," and the idle mind is specially apt to become corrupt.

The hearts of the Lord's people, represented in the "good ground" in which the "good seed" has been sown, have a special business, a special ambition, a special motive put before them in life, which, according to the Lord's will, is to so absorb their time, their interests, their talents, their affections, that the "thorns," the "cares of this life" will be killed. The apostle, addressing the Lord's people along this line, says, "Set your affections upon things above, and not on things on the earth." Our Lord on another occasion speaks from the same standpoint, saying, "Where your treasure is there will your heart be also."


The Lord's proposition to His people, therefore, is that their treasure, their ambitions, their riches, their cares shall be in respect to the heavenly things, and that to such an extent that all earthly matters and considerations, pleasures and sorrows, will be as nothing in comparison with these heavenly obligations, joys, hopes, ambitions. If our affections are set upon the heavenly things, if the heavenly things are our real treasures, our lives will show it. However much we may love, the beautiful, the aesthetic, the sublime, we realize by faith that all these desires of our hearts will be fully, completely, absolutely realized when we shall gain the glorious things to which God has called us through His word. And this word, therefore, in the parable is represented by the good seed which brings forth the fruitage which the Lord approves and is seeking for at this present time.

Another thought in this connection: A great many nice people, of refined sentiments and of good hearts, have difficulty because they have not had the right kind of "seed" planted in their hearts. The seed that is generally sown today is, to a considerable degree, "tare" seed instead of true "wheat." There is nothing of substance in the "tare" doctrines to satisfy our hearts or to fix them; and with those who have nothing better to fill their affections and ambitions, we do not wonder that the thorns and cares of this life flourish in their hearts. An intelligent person must have something upon which to center his interest, his affections; he must have some ambition in life in order to make any success of it, in any direction. The tare seed presents no real attraction to the intelligent mind; its hopes are intangible, indefinable, unsatisfactory. How important, then, that the good hearts should be sown with the good seed the kind which the Master sowed as represented in this parable.

Notice what is said respecting this good seed, that it was of a particular kind. Verse 19 tells us that the seed is the message or "Word of the Kingdom." Ah, yes! we remember that throughout all our Master's discourses He was [HGL238] continually telling His followers about the kingdom, the kingdom. He told them to pray for the kingdom, "Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is done in heaven." He told them that He was to be king of that kingdom, and in one parable He relates that as a young nobleman He would go to the far country, even heaven itself, to receive the investiture of the kingdom authority, and would return and establish that kingdom of righteousness amongst men. He told His followers that if they were faithful to him, when His kingdom would be established they should be His associates in it should sit with him in His throne. In His parables He continually referred to the kingdom, and told us that in the present time, in this present age, the kingdom class would be in process of selection from the world, and that at the close of this age they would "shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their father."

In numerous parables our Lord showed that the kingdom of heaven during this gospel age would have various vicissitudes during the period when the Lord would be calling, testing and proving those invited to be heirs of the kingdom, joint-heirs with His Son. He told them plainly that in this present time the kingdom of heaven would suffer violence that all of the kingdom class, all faithful to Him and to the principles of righteousness which He voiced, would be misunderstood by the world, persecuted, slandered, disesteemed as he was; but that rightly received all these experiences would be so many blessings, which would fit and prepare them for the honors, privileges and opportunities of the kingdom which would come in due time.


The parable of which our text is a part represents this message of the kingdom, the good news that God is to have a kingdom which will take control of the world, overthrow the power of Satan and sin and bless and instruct mankind. It shows that the Lord is not expecting everybody to receive this message of the kingdom as it is now going forth, even amongst those who would come in contact with it. He illustrates the different kinds of hearts, and how many will fail to profit by the message. He shows, nevertheless, that there will be some seed that will bring forth fruitage, there will be some who will bear the gospel of the kingdom, in whom it will become indeed "the power of God unto salvation" in whom the ambition to please God and to inherit the glorious things which He is pleased to give to those who love Him better than they love houses, or lands, parents or children or any other creature, yea, better than they love themselves, will predominate and control.

Our Master clearly tells us that we are not to expect many to be thus exercised by the message of the kingdom. His words are, "not many great, not many mighty, not many learned, not many wise according to the course of this world, not many rich hath God chosen, but (chiefly) the poor of this world, rich in faith, to be heirs of the kingdom." And this company, He tells us, will be altogether a "little flock." His words are, "Fear not, little flock; it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom."

Dear friends, I trust that you all like myself have heard something respecting the Lord's kingdom. I trust that the good word, the good message respecting it, the call to be members of that kingdom, has entered your hearts. I trust that your hearts are "good ground," honest, sincere, in accord with righteousness. I trust that the "good seed" is bringing forth much fruit in your hearts, in your daily lives, in your character that you are growing in grace, in knowledge, in love, in all the fruits of the Spirit, and bringing forth also in service to Him, to His praise. I trust that although you realize the tendency of "thorns" cares of this life, deceitfulness of riches, ambitions, the spirit of the world to encroach upon you, nevertheless by the Lord's grace, you are determined that it shall not be so; that your hearts shall be so loyal to him, so filled with the hope of the better things that He has promised, that earthly ambitions shall be thoroughly crowded out and that thus the "thorns" shall fail to flourish.

It is but a little time until the great Messiah who already has redeemed the world shall stand forth clothed in the plenitude of power, to bring to all mankind the blessings, the privileges, the opportunities, secured by His ransom-sacrifice finished at Calvary. The waiting time is nearly over. The dawn of the millennial morning may already be seen from the standpoint of the Lord's word, and is very encouraging to those who do see it. The long interim of delay, from the time the Master went until His return in kingdom glory, has been an opportunity for the good seed of the kingdom to flourish in the hearts of those who are really sincere, and to bring forth fruit to His praise.

The parable does not include the world, but only the church; it does not include those who have never heard the gospel of the kingdom, but those only who have heard it. The wayside and thorny-ground and stony-ground hearers of the message constitute the great mass of Christendom while the good ground hearers who bring forth much fruitage are the true "household of faith." The last only shall inherit the kingdom all the others will "suffer loss" the loss of all those heavenly things promised to the faithful. Thank God they will not be eternally tortured, however. No, no, the sufferer loses enough in the present, as well as in the future loses a share in the kingdom.

Very soon the harvest will be gathered in the elect of the Lord will be changed to His likeness; not a member will be missing, neither a member superfluous. As joint-heirs with our Lord in His kingdom they shall be associated with Him, even as He declared in His last great message. "To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with Me in My throne, even as I overcame and am set down with my Father in His throne." Let us be of good courage. Greater is he that is for us than all they that be against us. He has promised us grace and help in every time of need; He has promised to guide us with His eye and afterward to receive us to glory. But He is waiting to see whether we love Him and the principles for which He stands and the glorious things which He has promised us, or whether we love more the things of this present life.


The Lord does not say either here or elsewhere that those good hearts which are now choked with the thorny cares of this life and the deceitfulness of riches will be punished with eternal torture. Their punishment will be the loss of [HGL239] joint-heirship in the kingdom the loss of a share with the Lord and all the saints in the spiritual, heavenly glories of the kingdom class which, during the millennial age, will "bless all the families of the earth."

Let us see to it that we keep constantly before our minds the gracious message of the kingdom and the glories and favors and privileges identified with it, that this may be a protection to us against the insidious, sapping influences of the cares of this life and the deceitfulness of riches. Whoever does not clearly see and appreciate the kingdom, and keep it continually before his mind will certainly be apt to be overrun with the thorns and bring little or no fruitage to maturity. As we look over Christendom today how evident it is that the great mass of both "wheat" and "tares" are sadly overcharged with this world's ambitions and cares and hopes and fears. Let us not only seek to be faithful ourselves, but to lend a helping hand to as many as are within our reach.

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