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before he will come to the point, and all the while your poor heart is boiling over because you feel such an interest in the main point. But he is as cool as possible; you think you are asking counsel of a block of marble. No doubt his advice will come out all right at last, and it is pretty certain it will be good for you, but it is not hearty. He does not enter into the sympathies of the matter with you. What is it to him whether you succeed or not-whether the object of your heart shall be accomplished or not. It is but a professional interest he takes. Now, Solomon says, " As ointment for perfume, so is hearty counsel.” When a man throws his own soul into your case, and says, “My dear friend, I'll do anything I can to help you; let me look at it,” and he takes as deep an interest in it as you do yourself. “If I were in your position," he says, “ I should do so-and-so; by-the-bye, there is a word wrong there.” Perhaps he tells you so, but he only tells you because he is anxious to have it all right; and you can see that his drift is always towards the same end you are seeking, and that he is only anxious for your good. Oh! for a Counsellor that could tie your heart into unison with his own! Now Christ is such a Counsellor as that. He is a hearty Counsellor. His interests and your interests are bound up together, and he is hearty with you.
But there is another kind of counsel still. David says of one, who afterwards became his enemy, “We took sweet counsel together." Christian, do you know what sweet counsel is ? You have gone to your Master in the day of trouble, and in the secret of your chamber you have poured out your heart before him. You have laid your case before him, with all its difficulties, as Hezekiah did Rabshakeh's letter, and you have felt, that though Christ was not there in flesh and blood, yet he was there in spirit, and he counselled you. You felt that his was counsel that came from the very heart. But he was something better than that. There was such a sweetness coming with his counsel, such a radiance of love, such a fulness of fellowship, that you said, “Oh that I were in trouble every day, if I might have such sweet counsel as this!" Christ is the Counsellor whom I desire to consult every hour, and I would that I could sit in his secret chamber all day and all night long, because to counsel with him is to have sweet counsel, hearty counsel, and wise counsel, all at the same time. Why, you may have a friend that talks very sweetly with you, and you will say, Well, he is a kind, good soul, but I really cannot trust his judgment." You have another friend, who has a good deal of judgment, and yet you say of him, “Certainly, he is a man of prudence above a great many, but I cannot find out his sympathy; I never get at his heart; if he were ever so rough and untutored, I would sooner have his heart without his prudence, than his prudence without his heart. But we go to Christ, and we get wisdom; we get love, we get sympathy, we get everything that can possibly be wanted in a Counsellor. And now we must close by noticing that Christ has
special counsels for each of us this morning, and what are they? Tried child of God, your daughter is sick; your gold has melted in the fire; you are sick yourself, and your heart is sad, Christ counsels you, and he says, “Čast thy burden upon the Lord, he will sustain you; he will never suffer the righteous to be moved." Young man, you that are seekiug to be great in this world, Christ counsels you this morning. "Seekest thou great things for thyself? seek them not." I shall never forget Midsummer
I was ambitious; I was seeking to go to college, to leave my poor people in the wilderness that I might become something great; and as I was walking there that text came with power to my heart—" Seekest thou great things for thyself? seek them not." I suppose about forty pounds a year was the sum total of my income, and I was thinking how I should make both ends meet, and whether it would not be a great deal better for me to resign my charge and seek something for the bettering of myself, and so forth. But this text ran in my ears, “Seekest thou great things for thyself? seek them not.” “Lord,” said I, “I will follow thy counsel and not my own devices;" and I have never had cause to regret it. Always take the Lord for thy guide, and thou shalt never go amiss. Backslider! thou that last a name to live, and art dead, or nearly dead, Christ gives thee counsel. “I counsel thee to buy of me, gold tried in the fire and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed." And sinner! thou that art far from God, Christ gives thee counsel. “Come unto me, all ye that are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest," Depend on it, it is loving counsel.' Take it. Go home and cast yourself upon your knees. Seek Clarist; obey his counsel, and you shall have to rejoice that you ever listened to his voice, and heard it, and lived.
THE PARABLE OF THE SOWER.
BY THE REV. HENRY MELVILL, B.D.,
IN THE CATHEDRAL CHURCH OF ST. PAUL, LONDON.
“ And he said unto them, Know ye not this parable? and how then will ye know all parables ?"-Mark iv, 13.
It is of the parable of the sower who went out to sow his seed that our blessed Lord speaks, in addressing these reproachful questions to his disciples. We call them reproachful, because they evidently imply that the parable of the sower was one which ought to have been understood by the disciples ; that if through prejudice or inattention they missed its meaning, no parable could be constructed which would not be above their comprehension. We shall endeavour, on the present occasion, so to treat the parable as to bring out the force and fitness of these questions; but as introductory to this we have some remarks to make upon preaching; for preaching, as you all know, is what the parable describes by sowing seed. Preaching is the great engine which God ordinarily uses in turning sinners from the error of their ways.
“ It pleased God,” says St. Paul, “by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe" - '-an expression which not only informs us of the employment of the instrumentality of preaching, but also proves that the effectiveness of preaching is not inherent in itself, but is wholly derived from God's accompanying it with his blessing. It is by the foolishness of preaching that a great moral result is effected ; so that we are not to ascribe the success to the persuasiveness of the preaching, whatever it may be thought that displays; for it cannot be in these that its " foolishness” lies; but we must ascribe it altogether to the energy of the Holy Spirit, clothing with might some few unadorned and apparently weak words, so that they sink into the heart and undermine the dominion of sin. The more, however, we thus magnify preaching, and declare it the appointed means through which the Spirit acts upon the conscience, the more cause of surprise does there seem that it should with rare exceptions produce no effect. It is not to be denied that on the great mass of our congregations the most faithful preaching of the Gospel falls
without power. Our churches may be thronged; a mute and rivetted attestion may seem to prove that the assembly takes interest in what flows from the lips of the speaker; and it is a fine spectacle, one whose moral beauty is hardly to be rivalled, that of a crowded sanctuary where, amid the silence of ! hundreds of his fellow-men, the minister of Christ expatiates on the apostaes and redemption of human kind. We say there is a moral beauty in this spectacle which does not exist where, amid a yet denser throng, and perhaps deeper silence, the statesman expounds plans for strengthening the commarwealth, or the patriot tells the story of a country's wrong. The moral beauty is not in the enchaining power of the oratory, nor in the furnished proof how thoughts fresh from an active mind make their way into others, and occups and delight; it lies simply in the fact, that the gathering to the house of prayer, and the listening eagerly to the word, may be taken as proofs that met feel themselves immortal, and long to learn how heaven may he gained. It is this which gives a dignified and imposing aspect to a crowded church, even that the assembled multitude, heirs as they are of death and corraption, witness by their appearance in the sanctuary, and their attention to the message which is delivered, that they know the grave to be but a resting-place, and that their real life time is eternity. But when we come to infer the amount of actual conversion from conduct in the week, and not from deportment in the church, the conviction is forced upon us, that for hundreds who listen with apparent earnestness to the preached word, there is not perhaps one who receives it into his heart, and when we seek an explanation of this melancholy fact, the parable of the sower comes to our assistance, for it sketches with wonderful fidelity the different classes under which the hearers of the Gospel may be ranged. The parable is a very simple one, one we may suppose, with which you are all well acquainted. A sower goes forth to sow, and the seed which he scatters falls on different kinds of ground. The way side receives some, the beaten path into which the grain could not sink, and the fowls of the air devour this portion. Some again falls upon stony places, where there is only a slight covering of the vegetable soil. Here the seeds quickly germinate, and send up shoots which promise to requite the industry of the husbandman; but the soil is too superficial to allow of a firm root, and when, therefore, the sun rises, the shoots are scorched and wither away, Other seed falls among thorns. The blade appears, but the thorns grow with it and choke it, so that no fruit is produced. But a portion of the seed there is which falls into good ground, where there is depth of earth, and where no thorns grow, and this yields fruit, some a hundred-fold, some sixty-fold, some thirty-fold. Such is the parable; and as its meaning did not commend itself to his disciples, Christ himself condescended to add the interpretation. He informed them that by the seed was meant “the word of the kingdom;" so that the design of the parable was to exhibit the reception that would be met with by the Gospel as published in different ages by Christ and his apostles. The seed by the way side represents men who hear the word but understand it not; from whose hearts it is quickly caught away by the devil, eter watchful for his prey. The seed sown in stony places is figurative of the Gospel as heard by men who receive it with alaerity, but who, having no root in themselves, endure only for a while, and in time of persecution and tribulation presently apostatise. But some seed fell among thorns--and this is the
Gospel entering into hearts distracted with worldly cares and anxieties. These cares and anxieties choke the word and it becometh unfruitful. There is, however, after all this waste and disappointment, a portion of seed received into good ground. And here we have the word of the kingdom sinking into an honest and good heart, where it takes deep root, and sends forth fruit abundantly in the life and conversation. And it is evident, in the upshoot of all this figurative representation, that there must be a spiritual husbandry as well as a natural; that as it would be lost labour in the sower if he scattered his seed upon unprepared ground, so is it lost labour in the preacher if he publish his word to unprepared hearts; and that as the ploughshare and mattock must do their part in the field ere it can be of any use to cover it with seeds, so must some mighty agency be brought to bear upon the soul ere good results can be looked for from plying it with God's word. We must, however, examine separately and minutely the several cases here presented, and we begin with the seed that falls by the way side; the fullest Christian charity not allowing us to doubt that this delineates the gospel as heard at least by some in the present assembly. We dare not question, though gladly would we be convicted of forming a wrong judgment-we dare not question that there are those of you who bring to God's house a hardened and indifferent spirit, who are given up to the love of the world, without a purpose, without even a wish of breaking loose from the bondage in which you are held. What can be said of such, hardened by the practice of sin, the conscience seared, and the sensibilities blunted through long resistance to the teachings of God's Spirit? What can be said, but that they are just the trodden and unploughed track into which it is impossible that the gospel should penetrate-the beaten path, over which what is earthly and sensual has been so long used to pass that the surface is like stone, where it is vain to cast the word? You hear the gospel; there is a pause in your career of indifference and worldly-mindedness, for we have, it may be, your eager attention, while now, in the name of the God of the whole earth, we tell you of your deathlessness, and of the tribulation and wrath which shall overtake all who remain impenitent; but we have no moral hold upon you; you have not come hither with the least desire of profiting by the ordinance of preaching ; you have brought, it may be, into God's house, your frivolity, your love of the objects of sense, your determination to take part with the world, your dislike to a religion of holiness and self-denial; and now, if for a moment, we have prevailed to the winning you to seriousness, we dare ascribe it to nothing but the power of an honest and straightforward appeal which can compel the ear to listen, but not the heart to feel. It is true that you hear the gospel ; yea, in the language of the parable, ye so far "receive the word” as to admit it into the chambers of the mind; but then there is no wish, and therefore no endeavour that it may sink down and gain a permanent lodgement. There is no prayer to Almighty God that he will fix the word upon the conscience, and remove those opposing causes which hinder its efficiency; and enable you, in the language of the prophet, to break up your fallow ground; and, therefore, we may preach, and the seed may be liberally scattered, but all we can sow lies only on the surface, and at the conclusion of a sermon, which has dealt largely with most solemn and glorious truths, into which have been gathered the magnificent things of redemption, which has dilated on the perils of a moment's neglect, because, on that moment eternity may hang, we can have no belief in regard of the most of our way side hearers, but that just on what we may call the outWard coatings of their hearts, there is deposited much precious seed, and that in a few moments, or at most, a few hours, will all be swept away. We speak of the removal of the seed as certain to take place, because there is an ever watchful adversary setting himself to counteract the spiritual hus. bandman. The parable, as expounded by our blessed Saviour, speaks of that wicked one, the devil, as coming and taking away the word lest the hearer should believe and be saved : and this is among the most startling representations which the parable furnishes. We learn, on authority which admits no dispute, that in these our solemn assemblings there are present those evil spirits who, shut out from happiness themselves, long to bring on men the same fearful exclusion. Yes, while the preacher is plying his fellow-men with the truth of revelation, and you might infer from the aspect of the listening assembly that he is prevailing on numbers to take Joshua's resolve for their own—"As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord,” fallen angels intently watch the effect of his discourse, ready, when they see any symptoms of yielding to his persuasion, to minister to the support of the dominion of sin. If, by the urgency of his appeal, the preacher cause misgivings of conscience; if, delineating with a bold hand the final ruin of impenitent sinners, he stir the fears of any of his audience ; or if, changing his theme and expatiating on heavenly glory, he awaken a desire for a share in the magnificent portion, then will these malignant spirits, hovering invisibly around us, observant of all that passes in the minds recesses, throw in suggestions to allay the anxieties and deaden the sensibilities, and thus to bring back the thoughts and feelings into channels which for the moment were for saken. Thus, the whole work of the preacher is effectually counteracted, and those over whom for a moment he seemed to have gained a great moral advantage, who were, to all appearance on the point of yielding to remonstrance, and giving themselves up to providing for eternity, depart as hardened and indifferent as they came; and all because there has been no endeavour to prepare themselves for the operation of the sower; they presented the trodden path, and not the ploughed field. What then is to be expected seeing that malignant spirits are hovering around, but that as fast as scattered, the grain will be devoured ?
Oh, if I could induce you, those among you, we mean, who come to church with no solemnity of thought, with no remembrance of the end for which public worship has been instituted, with no prayer to God, that he would bless you in the act of entering more immediately into his presence-if we could induce you to prepare yourselves for listening to the word, to attach a sacredness to these our assemblies, and to come here with the desire and hope of obtaining instruction for the soul, we should be persuaded that the work of the spiritual husbandman would not be in vain, and that the seed would sink, ere evil angels could snatch it away. But if you will come up in indifference and worldly-mindedness, as though the church were a common building, and preaching were common speaking, oh! we feel that the preacher, anxious for your salvation, might traverse assiduously the moral deserts of your heart, sowing good seed, and watering it even with tears, but the spirits of darkness will be sure to prevail against all this energy and