Stony Ground

But he that received the seed into stony places, the same is he that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it; Yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while: for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended. They on the rock are they, which, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, which for a while believe, and in time of temptation fall away.
~ Matthew 13:20-21, Luke 8:13

Shall horses run upon the rock? will one plow there with oxen? for ye have turned judgment into gall, and the fruit of righteousness into hemlock:
~ Amos 6:12

Yea, they made their hearts as an adamant stone, lest they should hear the law, and the words which the LORD of hosts hath sent in his spirit by the former prophets: therefore came a great wrath from the LORD of hosts.
~ Zechariah 7:12

For the sun is no sooner risen with a burning heat, but it withereth the grass, and the flower thereof falleth, and the grace of the fashion of it perisheth: so also shall the rich man fade away in his ways. Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him. For the earth which drinketh in the rain that cometh oft upon it, and bringeth forth herbs meet for them by whom it is dressed, receiveth blessing from God: But that which beareth thorns and briers is rejected, and is nigh unto cursing; whose end is to be burned.
~ James 1:11-12, Hebrews 6:7-8

And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.
~ Matthew 3:10

And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it.
~ Matthew 7:26-27

A Sermon on Matthew 13:5-6, by Jonathan Edwards. The following is an excerpt from his work, Sermons On the Matthean Parables, Volume II, Divine Husbandmen, On the Parable of the Sower and the Seed.

(Doctrine Resumed.)

Matthew 13:5-6. Some fell upon stony places, where they had not much earth: and forthwith they sprung up, because they had no deepness of earth: and when the sun was up, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away.

We have already considered one of those sorts of ground that the seed, that the Saviour sowed, fell upon, viz., the wayside, and what became of the seed that fell there.

I am now (come) to the second sort of ground mentioned in the parable, which is spoken of in the two verses that have been now read. And therefore, in these words may be observed:

I. The description of the ground. ‘Tis said to be stony ground or stony places, where there is not much earth; i.e., the ground was nothing but a rock, excepting a thin covering of earth, which is one degree beyond the former sort of ground that the seed fell upon, viz., the wayside, which was hard both above and beneath, like a path that had been trodden upon so long that the very surface was become exceeding hard. But the ground spoken of here is a little different. ‘Tis as hard as that, but the hardness is not on top; but underneath there is a thin covering or sprinkling of earth here upon the rock, so that just at the top of the ground it is not so hard, though underneath it is a mere rock.

(II.) We may observe how the seed grows, that is sown in such ground. It sprung up forthwith, because it had not deepness of earth, “and when the sun was up, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away.”

III. What becomes of that growth at last.

I would insist on each of these in their order, insist on the description of the ground. And from this, first, I would raise this Proposition, viz., that the hearts of some of the hearers of the Word preached, are like a rock with a thin covering of earth.

That which here in Matthew is expressed “stony places,” is in Luke called “a rock” Luke 8:6, “And some fell upon a rock; and as soon as it was sprung up, it withered, because it lacked moisture.”

There are many of the hearers of the Word preached, whose hearts are like a rock with a very thin covering of earth. Because, however they have some superficial impressions made upon them and the hardness of their hearts are as it were hid, yet their hearts indeed remain as hard as a rock. And therefore in speaking to this proposition, I would observe,

First. How the minds of such hearers may be impressed and affected.

Second. That the impressions are superficial, and not deep so as to reach the bottom of the heart.

Third. That notwithstanding those impressions, their hearts still remain as hard as a rock.

Fourth. How their hardness of heart is covered and hidden from observation.
First. I would observe how the minds of such hearers may be impressed and affected.

1. They may have a sort of belief of the things that they hear. ‘Tis said in Christ’s explanation of this parable, that they receive the Word, they hear the Word, and even will say, “I receive it?’ They do in some sort receive the Word as true in the explanation of the same parable in the 8th chapter of Luke. ‘Tis said, “they believe for a while.” There are three sorts of belief that men have of the truth of the things they hear in the Word: two of them false, and one true.

(1) There is that assent that men give to the doctrines of the Word of God as true, merely from education or tradition from their forefathers, not from any proper conviction, or because they see the evidence of the truth of those doctrines. But they are told by their parents that they are true, and they are told so by ministers, and that is the voice of all about them. And that is what they have heard ever since they can remember and therefore, they assent to it; they never look into it to see whether it be so or no, but customarily allow it—

(2) There is a further degree of assent that persons may give to the truth of the Word, from the natural force of arguments and persuasions set before them. They may hear the Word powerfully preached with strong arguments, set forth in a very forcible manner that may naturally prevail upon them to assent to the things that are spoken as true. And,

(3) There is a conviction of the truth of the things of the Word arising from a spiritual understanding of them in their divine authority and excellency, which is a saving belief.

‘Tis the second of these three kinds of belief that is ascribed to the stony-ground hearers, of whom Christ says, “they believe for a while.” The wayside hearers may have the first sort, viz., that assent or belief of the truth of the gospel which men have merely by tradition or education. But the stony-ground hearers have a belief that is something beyond, that there is something set before them in the preaching of the Word that gains their assent a degree beyond what they yielded from education. It may be the preacher makes use of very plentiful arguments, he seems to reason very strongly, and his arguments are set forth in a very earnest and forcible manner, so that they are overpowered for the present and can’t but say, “These things must be true.” And sometimes the air of sincerity and fervency that is in the preacher, his positiveness and the authority with which he seems to speak, overcomes them, and makes them think that these things that he speaks are not mere fables and fancies. This man, that speaks with such positiveness and fervency, sees and knows them to be true.16
16. This paragraph, and the following two pages, apparently describe Whitefield’s effects on his audiences.

There were many such kind of believers in Christ’s time. When they heard Christ preach with such authority and see his miracles, they could not but confess that the things he spake were true, and yet, never were true believers. John 2:23–24, “Now when he was in Jerusalem at the Passover, in the feast day, many believed in his name, when they saw the miracles which he did. But Jesus did not commit himself unto them, because he knew all men, and needed not that any should testify of man: for he knew what was in man.”

Oftentimes there is a degree of the common influence of the Spirit of God assisting men’s natural reason, to impress a common conviction of the truth of the great things of religion with the greater power upon the mind. And the consequence of such a common conviction? Oftentimes, the hearers’ being awakened and made considerably sensible of their sin and misery. The awakenings that persons have, before their conversions, are always attended with this sort of belief of the truth of the doctrine of the Word of God.

2. They may have joy in the hearing of the Word preached. This is the other thing that Christ mentions in his explication of the parable. They hear the Word, and even with joy receive it. They may have rejoicing of two sorts:

(1) They may be greatly pleased and delighted with the preaching, and yet have no joy in the things preached. They may be taken with the manner of preaching. They may admire the clearness of illustration; it may be very pleasing to them to have things well cleared up, that before were matters of difficulty to them. They may be greatly taken with the clear interpretation of Scripture, to hear difficult and obscure passages of Scripture plainly opened to their understanding, and to hear a satisfying interpretation given.

They may be greatly pleased with the strength of reason; they may admire the clear way of arguing that is used.

They may be exceedingly taken with the eloquence of the preacher, and may be ready to cry out concerning him, “Never man spake like this man!” They may be pleased with the aptness of expression, and with the fervency, and liveliness, and beautiful gestures of the preacher and his becoming manner of address; they may be very greatly taken with those things, especially when they are new. A preacher may be to them, on these accounts, as an excellent musician, one that is an admirable singer with a sweet, melodious voice, or an excellent player on an instrument.

So of old, the Jews were taken with Ezekiel’s preaching. Ezek. 33:32, “And, lo, thou art unto them as a very lovely song of one that hath a pleasant voice, and can play well on an instrument: for they hear thy words, but they do them not.”

This sort of hearers we are speaking of, may be greatly affected with the manner of preaching and may shed many tears. They may be filled with admiration, and may be elevated almost beyond themselves, may never have enough of commending the preacher, may be almost ready to follow the preacher to the ends of the earth, and to come and say, as some of Christ’s hearers did, “Master, I will follow thee whithersoever thou goest” (Luke 9:52).

Men may admire excellent preaching, as they may admire excellent handwriting or the work of an excellent carpenter or joiner, and yet, one be as much the mere working of nature as the other.

(2) They may have a sort of joy in the things preached. They may have, from mere natural principles, a kind of delight in many things that we are instructed in the Word of God. It can as easily be explained how a natural man shall be affected and moved with the wonderful account of Christ’s sufferings, and in having his wonderful love to sinners in it livelily set forth, as it can be explained how a man should be moved and much pleased with an affecting romance. Men may be pleased and delighted to hear many things that do concern the glory of heaven. Men may be very much raised with joy in things that they hear preached from a mistaken notion they have, that they have an interest in them. A man that thinks that he is dear to God may be very much raised with joy, when he hears preaching about the wonderful love of God to his saints. A man that thinks that Christ died for him may be elevated with hearing of the dying love of Christ, and may in hearing those things have a of affectionate gratitude or love stirred up in them towards God and Christ. We see that natural men sometimes are really much affected with the kindness that other men show to them. And it can as easily be explained how they may, only from the principles of nature, be affected with the kindness that they think God or Christ have shown to them. If there be any men of mean condition, that is much taken notice of by some great man that is much above him, and he looks on that great man as his entire friend, this will wonderfully tend to win the heart of the mean man. And so, if a man thinks that the great God loves him and that Christ has died for him, his heart may be much affected with gratitude and a kind of love. The Pharisees of old that had that thought, that they were very dear to God, had a great zeal for God in their way. The Galatians were ready to cry out when they heard Paul preach, “O, what a blessedness is it,” and were so moved that they could e’en be willing to pluck out eyes, etc. “Where is then the blessedness ye spake of? for I bear you record, that, if it had been possible, ye would have plucked out your own eyes, and have given them to me.” Gal. 4:15. And yet, the Apostle was after that in doubt concerning them, v. 11. Men may be in a kind of rapture, and find great inclination to praise God, and yet (it may be the mere workings of nature). And so we read of the Jews, “when the multitude saw it, they glorified God.” Matt. 9:8 and Mark 2:12. Thus the minds of those hearers spoken of in the text, may be impressed and affected in hearing the Word.

Second. But those impressions are superficial and don’t reach the bottom of the heart. As the seed that was sown in the stony ground, sunk in but a very little way, before it came to a rock, that it could go no further. Though it was not just there, as it was with the seed that fell by the wayside, or on the hard path, where it made no impression at all; yet here, the seed lay very near the surface. The wayside hearers ben’t affected at all by what they hear. The stony-ground hearers are affected, but their affections are only as it were in the surface of their hearts and don’t reach the bottom of the heart, and therefore are really hypocritical affections. Like Saul’s affections towards David, when (he) seemed to be so much moved with David’s kindness in sparing his life, when he had a fair opportunity to kill him, and cried and lift up his voice, and wept out, “Is this thy voice, my son David?” (1 Sam. 24:16). Saul was really affected, but yet it was an hypocritical affection, for it was superficial. There were not only affectionate words, calling him his son, but many tears with his words. The affection was not deep, for it did not at all remove the old leaven of hatred that was in Saul’s heart against David; that remained whole in him. Still the wound was not cured, it was only palliated and skinned over, and therefore it soon broke out again, and Saul was soon after seeking David’s life again.

So the affections that natural men have in hearing the Word, are only as it were on the outside of the heart; they don’t penetrate it very far to remove the old and rooted enmity against God, the pride, the carnality that they brought into the world with them. Natural men sometimes are in a tender frame: they are apt to be affected with what they hear in preaching, and they are apt to be affected too with what they hear in private conversation about the things of religion; and they are apt to be affected in their secret prayers, and tears flow very easy. This looks as if they had a very soft heart, and as though the ground was mellow. But the yieldableness of the ground is on the surface only; if you pierce it, you presently come to a hard rock.

The faith or holiness of such hearers of the Word is superficial. They seem for the present to give a free assent to the things that they hear, that they are true. They can’t but acknowledge that they are true, but yet they have no belief that is to be depended on; they ben’t thoroughly convinced of their truth, they don’t believe with all their hearts, and so their joy and their gratitude, and admiration and their tears, are all flashy outside things that (are) not arising from the innermost parts of the heart.

Third. Notwithstanding those superficial impressions, their hearts still remain as hard as a rock. They come into the world with hearts of stone, and those impressions are far from turning their hearts of stone into hearts of flesh. A man’s being much affected, is no certain sign that his heart is broken; men’s hearts are oftentimes like a rock in the midst of tears. Their hearts remain as a rock with respect to the following things:

1. They are so as to any spiritual sense of divine things. Notwithstanding all their affections, they are destitute of any spiritual knowledge of God, any real insight into the glorious nature of the things of the gospel, as a stone that perceives nothing at all. They hear of the excellency and glory of God’s holiness, but they see no glory or beauty in it. They hear of the glorious way of salvation by Christ that abases man, and exalts free grace, but they see no glory in it. Though the excellency of Christ be so exceeding great to ravish (the soul), yet they know not what it means. They see no form or comeliness or beauty, wherefore they {should desire him (Is. 53:2}}. They perceive nothing of (the) sweet and excellent savour of divine things, whereby they are as the most refreshing and nourishing, strengthening food to the gracious soul. They have no taste to relish that sweetness, any more than an image of stone could taste honey. If you should put it into its mouth, it perceives nothing (of) that fragrant odour of the sweet ointments of Christ Jesus, anymore than images of stone that have noses and smell not.

They perceive no more of that divine lustre that is in the gospel of Christ, than an image with artificial eyes of glass would perceive the sun’s brightness if you should bring it and sit it in the sunshine.

2. The heart still remains hard as to any true love to God. The hearts of the saints are sometimes filled with the love of God, as with an inward divine flame that causes them to burn within them. And this holy flame does as it were dissolve and melt the heart. The heart at sometimes as it were melts with complacence and delight in God, and is drawn forth in love to him.

But the hearts of this sort of hearers are not dissolved and drawn; they are as cold as a stone as to any true love, and remain obstinate in their enmity against God.

3. They are hard as to any godly sorrow and mourning. They may have tears of a kind of sorrow for sin, but they ben’t with any true brokenness of heart and poverty of spirit. They see nothing of the great evil of sin as committed against God, and their hearts are as hard as a rock as to any mourning for it upon that account.

4. Their hearts remain as hard as a rock in their pride and self-exaltation. They are stiff-necked, and will not bow and humble themselves before God; though they have affections, yet they exalt themselves in these affections, and make a righteousness of them. They are self-sufficient and self-dependent, and will not abase themselves at God’s feet as they ought to do.

5. Their hearts remain as a rock with respect (to) the unsuitedness of their wills to God’s will: and that both with respect to submission to God’s disposing will, and obedience to his commanding will. They are far from being brought to a disposition to deny and renounce themselves for God, and to yield themselves entirely to God. They stiffly oppose the sovereignty of God; they can’t find a heart to yield, that God should be the sovereign disposer of all things, to do with all according to his own good pleasure. It is a lesson that they can’t learn; it can’t be beat into them, anymore than into a stone, that ’tis man’s reasonable duty in everything to submit to God, nor can they be induced to embrace God’s whole law without exception of any one command.

I come now to the —

Fourth thing, viz., that though the hearts of such hearers remain thus hard, yet their hardness of heart is commonly inward and hid. As the rock in the parable that we are upon was not seen because it was skinned over with earth, so this temporary faith and those superficial affections that have been spoken of do commonly hide the hardness of men’s hearts.

1. They hide them from themselves, so that they can’t see the hardness of their own hearts. When they have no affections at all, then, it may be, they will allow that their hearts are hard. But when they seem to be in a tender frame and can shed tears, they don’t see how their hearts can be said to be so hard. They are pleased and taken then, that their hearts are melted and dissolved. Their superficial affections in hearing the Word, and their tears in private duty, do dreadfully blind and make them have a wrong thought of themselves. It looks to them that others that they see, that seem not to be at all affected, are very hard-hearted, and they are ready to wonder how they can be so: but they have quite other thoughts of themselves. They can look back and remember when they were unaffected, and are ready to wonder at their former hardness; but now it seems to them they are much mended, and that they have better hearts than they used to have. Their affections are as it were the skin with which their wound is skinned over and makes them think it is cured, or at least that it is in a much better state than it used to be.

They make a righteousness of their affections. They are the fig leaves with which they hide their nakedness from themselves, though they can’t hide them from God. And so their hearts, instead of being broken and melted with those superficial affections, are prevented from being broken, for the hardness of their hearts is hid by it. It is needful in order to the hardness of heart’s being removed, that it should first be known: the disease must be perceived before it is cured. This outside softness, this thin layer of earth, does defend the rock and deadens the stroke of the hammer of God’s law, which otherwise might break the rock in pieces.

And if oftentimes persons are deceived by those superficial affections, and think them true grace, and go away with that opinion of themselves that they are saints, and their condition is safe, then they dreadfully harden the heart, and above all things make it unyieldable to the force of the hammer that should break it.

2. These affections oftentimes hide men’s hardness of heart from others. When men see others that seem to be wholly unaffected with the great things they hear in the preaching of the Word, they are ready to call them poor, hard-hearted wretches. But when we see (them) affected from time to time, we are ready to have an high opinion of them.

Some, with their temporary faith and their superficial affections, make a shining profession. They go forth with the wise virgins with a shining lamp to meet the Bridegroom, and others mistake them for real saints, and sometimes for eminent saints; and it may be are never discovered till the midnight cry is heard, till the great Judge comes, whose eyes are a flame of fire, who can’t be deceived, and will search the heart and will see not only its outside but search it to the bottom, and will know the ground, whether it be earth or rock, and will see through all false coverings, and will strip off the fig leaves and will bring to light the innermost recesses of his soul, and show what every man is indeed in the sight of all angels and men.’?


Use I

Of Self-Examination.

Let what you have heard under this proposition put you upon examining yourselves as to the following particulars.

First. Let it put you upon examining your belief of the doctrine of the gospel. We all know that men can’t be saved unless they are believers, and that in order to that, they must believe that the gospel is true. They must believe that the Scriptures are the Word of God, and they must believe that Christ is the Son of God, and that the accounts that we have of his incarnation, death, resurrection and ascension in heaven are true.

Second. Let this put you upon examining the joy you have in the hearing of the Word. There are many of you, I doubt not, but have had joy in the hearing the Word preached. You have felt well under the preaching of it, and it may be sometimes have been so moved that the tears have flowed freely.

Examine and try whether or no your joy has only been that sort of joy that is in stony-ground hearers. Has it not been more a delight in the manner of preaching, than a rejoicing in the thing preached? Was the pleasure you had principally in the eloquence and aptness, fervency and becoming delivery of the speaker, more than in the divine excellency
17. This is the end of the first preaching unit of sermon booklet no. III.
18. This is the beginning of the second preaching unit of the sermon. JE summarizes the text and major points covered thus far, which is omitted:
Math. 13. 5. 6.
1 How affected
2. are superficial
3. are dead as a Rock
4. Covered

of the things that were spoken. Some men when they hear preaching concerning God and Christ are filled with affections and admiration. But it is a preacher, not God that it terminates upon. They’re filled with admiration of the minister, but are not filled with admiration of joy in Christ. If there will be a religious joy in them, it is a joy in a minister more than rejoice in a god.

And then if you have had some joy in the things preached, strictly examine what kind of joy it is. And particularly examine your joy in the thing is preached into particulars —

First, whether you joy, be the joy of faith. In other words, whether you rejoice in the greater things of the gospel that you hear is being convinced of the truth of them. Then they have a great deal of pleasure in reading or hearing a pleasant fable and yet think of a fable at the same time. And many have a great deal of affection and hearing the gospel preached and yet have no sound conviction of the certain truth and reality of what he hears. Such joy is very flashy and superficial, and very different from that joy that a person has and hearing the word when it is mixed with faith in the hearing—when he sees the truth of what he hears.