Posted by: rcottrill | May 22, 2017

The Sower Went Forth Sowing

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Words: William St. Hill Bourne (b. Aug. 24, 1846; d. Mar. 22, 1929)
Music: St. Beatrice, by John Frederick Bridge (b. Dec. 5, 1844; d. Mar. 18, 1924)

Wordwise Hymns (none)
The Cyber Hymnal

Note: William Bourne was a pastor and author who wrote a few hymns. This one, picturing the Lord as the master Sower, was written for his church’s Harvest Festival (our Thanksgiving) in 1874.

It’s a proverbial saying that goes back over six centuries: “Great oaks from little acorns grow.” A variation of it is found in a work by Geoffrey Chaucer (1343-1400): “An ook cometh of a litel spyr [a little sapling].” It’s a way of saying that great things can come from small beginnings. That is certainly true of seeds.

Seeds are a marvel of the Creator’s handiwork. Each is a tiny embryo, genetically ready to produce a particular result. When we plant carrot seeds, we don’t expect a tomato plant to spring up. And carrots don’t look or taste anything like tomatoes. Built into the vast variety of seeds is the information to create hundreds of thousands of unique grasses, herbs, flowers, vines, shrubs and trees.

These living wonders differ greatly in size. The largest seed is that of a particular palm tree native to the Seychelles Archipelago. It’s about twelve inches (30 cm) long, and weigh up to forty pounds (18 kg). The tiniest seed in the world, small as dust, comes from a kind of orchid, and is too small to be seen clearly with the naked eye.

When the Lord Jesus calls mustard seeds “the least of all the seeds,” some have taken issue with Him, because, small though they are, they’re larger than the ones just mentioned. However, the Lord was speaking of the seeds “which a man took and sowed in his field” (Matt. 13:31-32), and mustard seeds were indeed the smallest sown by a first century farmer.

Recorded in three of the Gospels is a parable told by Christ about a sower sowing seed. The seed is meant to picture the Word of God (Matt. 13:19; cf. Lk. 8:11), and the Sower is the Lord Himself–though today He enlists believers to do this on His behalf (cf. I Cor. 3:6). What we’re meant to ponder in particular is the four kinds of soil on which the seed falls (Matt. 13:3-9, 18-23).

Picture a farmer walking across a section of his field. Hanging from his neck is a bag of seed. As he walks along, he dips both hands into the seed bag and casts (literally broadcasts) seed on both sides of him. Given the presence of a breeze, and the nature of this method, not all of the seed will fall where he intends it to, but much certainly will.

¤ Some seed will land on the wayside, the trodden down, hardened path next to the field, where it’s quickly picked up by birds (Matt. 13:4), picturing a person who hears the Bible preached or taught, but doesn’t understand it, and the devil comes and snatches away the truth (vs. 19).

¤ Then there are some seeds landing on stony places without much earth (vs. 5-6). (Ancient farmers piled stones taken from the ground in the middle of the field.) This portrays those who enjoy hearing the Scriptures, but the truth doesn’t take root to do the person lasting good (vs. 20-21).

¤ Some seed will fall among the weeds (“thorns”) that spring up and choke the sprouting plants (vs. 7), portraying the Word of God being choked in a person’s life by “the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches” (vs.22).

¤ But finally there is the “good ground” (vs. 8), picturing those who receive the Word with understanding and it produces fruit in their lives, the fruit of godly character and faithful service for God (vs. 23).

In the first stanza below, Bourne pictures the seeds planted that brought the crops and the harvest they were celebrating. In the second, he turns to the symbolic use of the seed, as in Jesus’ parable. I do take issue with the idea in line 5 that the seed is scattered “in His church,” as I believe the application is much broader than that, and includes (at least with reference to the gospel) the whole unbelieving world.

CH-1) The sower went forth sowing,
The seed in secret slept
Through weeks of faith and patience,
Till out the green blade crept;
And warmed by golden sunshine,
And fed by silver rain,
At last the fields were whitened
To harvest once again.
O praise the heavenly Sower,
Who gave the fruitful seed,
And watched and watered duly,
And ripened for our need.

CH-2) Behold! the heavenly Sower
Goes forth with better seed,
The Word of sure salvation,
With feet and hands that bleed;
Here in His church ’tis scattered,
Our spirits are the soil;
Then let an ample fruitage
Repay His pain and toil.
Oh, beauteous is the harvest,
Wherein all goodness thrives,
And this the true thanksgiving,
The first fruits of our lives.

1) What kind of soil were you, the last time you heard God’s Word preached or taught?

2) What things can Christians do, by God’s grace, to prepare soil (the hearts and minds of others) to be more ready to receive God’s Word?

Wordwise Hymns (none)
The Cyber Hymnal


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