The workings of grace in the heart in like manner, are utterly mysterious and unsearchable.

J.C. Ryle comments on “The Parable of the Seed Growing” in Mark 4:26-28

And he said, “The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground. He sleeps and rises night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows; he knows not how. The earth produces by itself, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear.”

as in the growth of grain, so in the work of grace, there is much that is beyond man’s comprehension and control.

The wisest farmer on earth can never explain all that takes place in a grain of wheat, when he has sown it. He knows the broad fact that unless he puts it into the soil, and covers it up, there will not be an ear of corn in time of harvest. But he cannot command the prosperity of each grain. He cannot explain why some grains come up and others die. He cannot specify the hour or the minute when life shall begin to show itself. He cannot define what that life is. These are matters he must leave alone. He sows his seed, and leaves the growth to God. “God gives the increase.” (1 Cor. 3:7.)

The workings of grace in the heart in like manner, are utterly mysterious and unsearchable. We cannot explain why the word produces effects on one person in a congregation, and not upon another. We cannot explain why, in some cases–with every possible advantage, and in spite of every entreaty–people reject the word, and continue dead in trespasses and sins. We cannot explain why in other cases–with every possible difficulty, and with no encouragement–people are born again, and become decided Christians. We cannot define the manner in which the Spirit of God conveys life to a soul, and the exact process by which a believer receives a new nature. All these are hidden things to us. We see certain results, but we can go no further. “The wind blows where it wills, and you hear the sound thereof, but can not tell whence it comes, and where it goes–so is every one that is born of the Spirit.” (John 3:8.)

Let us mark this truth also, for it is deeply instructive. It is humbling no doubt to ministers, and teachers of others. The highest abilities, the most powerful preaching, the most diligent working, cannot command success. God alone can give spiritual life. But it is a truth at the same time, which supplies an admirable antidote to over-anxiety and despondency. Our principal work is to sow the seed. That done, we may wait with faith and patience for the result. “We may sleep, and rise night and day,” and leave our work with the Lord. He alone can, and, if He thinks fit, He will give success.


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