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with his mighty angels in flaming fire, taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power a. Consider, O consider these things; and the Lord give you understanding.
It now remains that we make two or three reflections on the general subject of this discourse.
1. If Satan takes the measures you have heard to prevent the success of the gospel, and to confirm men in impenitence and unbelief, how truly is he denominated by our Saviour the wicked one, and how righteous is that sentence which will shortly be executed upon him,
Every step we have taken in our account of the methods by which he deludes that class of hearers we are discoursing of, establishes the evidence that has been deduced from Scripture of his malevolence. What can be more horridly cruel and malignant than to lay every possible snare to beguile the ignorant, and practise upon all the depraved passions of pride and pleasure to ruin the thoughtless; to throw every imaginable obstruction in the way of men's attending to their best interests, and excite in their breasts every unreasonable prejudice against the only means of salvation; and to pursue these measures uniformly in every age and country where the gospel is preached, flattering himself with the hope of alleviating his own misery by precipitating others into endless perdition! Yea, so determined is this miserable enemy upon carrying his infernal purposes into effect, that one of his machinations, and not the least, is, to persuade men that his existence is a mere chimera; or, however, if he does exist, that he has it not in his power to tempt them, and therefore is not chargeable with that guilt which entitles him to the denomination of the wicked one. What a monster of iniquity! If the character of a seducer among men is held in detestation, how much more detestable is the character of this archseducer! If it is the voice of all, that a murderer should not live, what tenfold vengeance is he deserving of who has been a murderer from the beginning, and has slain his thousands of thousands! Well, the day is coming when, the devil who thus
a 2 Thess. i. 7-9,
deceived the children of men shall be cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, and be tormented day and night for ever. And then shall be heard a great voice of much people in heaven, saying, Hallelujah, salvation, and glory, and honour, and power unto the Lord our God: for true and righteous are his judgments a.
2. How much is it to be lamented, that men will suffer themselves to be deceived and ruined by the devices of this great adversary!
Permit us, O ye thoughtless inconsiderate hearers of the word, to expostulate with you a moment. The compassionate Jesus, who came to seek and to save that which was lost, has deigned himself to apprize you of your danger, and at the same time taken care to let you know, that, subtle and powerful as this enemy is he cannot carry his point without your consent. Your danger is great, and the rather as your nature is depraved, and you are surrounded with a thousand snares, of which Satan knows how to make his advantage. But do not excuse yourselves of blame, by pleading your incompetence to resist so mighty an adversary. To be tempted is not your sin, but it is your sin to comply with the temptation. You may—you can -you ought to be on your guard. Indisposed as you are to attend to your best interests, you are capable of hearing us, and of considering the force of our reasonings.
Why, O why will ye thrust all these things from your minds? Should what we say prove to be true, what an addition will it be to your misery to reflect, in the great day of account, that your heart despised reproof, and that you would not incline your ear to them that instructed you! Realize that day. Be persuaded that it will come. It is, however, not yet come. Now, now is the accepted time, now is the day of salvation. The truths we preach may be painful to you, and to urge them upon you merely for the sake of giving you pain, would be cruel. But if the attentive consideration of them will be salutary to you, (and we firmly believe that such is their tendency) can you wonder that we are importunate with you? Make the trial. If you never before listened to a sermon, O be persuaded to listen to this! Carry it away with you; revolve it in your mind; examine what we have said by the tests of impartial reason and the sacred
a Rev. xix. 1, 2. xx. 10.
Scriptures. And, bowing your knee at the feet of the great God, earnestly beseech him, for Christ's sake, to assist you in your conflicts with this subtle adversary, and the deceitful reasonings of your own hearts. You have every imaginable encouragement so to do. And should you succeed, how glorious will your triumph be over sin and the powers of darkness!
3. And lastly, Let us admire and adore the grace of God which defeats the designs of Satan, and makes the word effectual upon the hearts of multitudes, notwithstanding all the opposition it meets with.
Many a one who has been induced to hear the gospel by motives of mere curiosity, has nevertheless received salutary and abiding impressions from it. He has entered the assembly with a thoughtless and dissipated mind, and has gone away with a heart deeply affected with his everlasting concerns. The providence of God in so disposing external circumstances as that such persons should hear the word, and the grace of God in setting it home with energy on their hearts, cannot be enough devoutly acknowledged and gratefully remembered. Nor is there an instance of any one savingly benefited by the instructions and invitations of the gospel, who will not readily admit the truth of what the apostle asserts, that as it is our duty to work out our salvation with fear and trembling, so it is God that worketh in us to will and to do of his good pleasure a. And how very pleasing to think, that, however in too many sad instances ministers have occasion to complain, Who hath believed our report, and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed b? the day is hastening on, when an infinite multitude shall acknowledge with hosannas of the loudest praise, that the word of the kingdom, though treated by many with indifference and contempt, was the power of God to their everlasting salvation!
a Phil. ii. 12, 13.
b Isa. liii. 1.
THE CHARACTER OF ENTHUSIASTIC HEARERS CONSIDERED.
MATT. XIII. 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 not root, they withered away.
OUR Saviour's view in this parable is, to lay open the principles, motives, and conduct of the various sorts of persons who hear the gospel. The characters he draws are four-the INATTENTIVE-the ENTHUSIASTIC-the WORLDLY-MINDED— the SINCERE.-The first of these we have considered, we proceed now,
SECONDLY to the ENTHUSIASTIC, or those upon whom to appearance the word has an instantaneous and mighty effect, but who yet reap no real advantage from it.
The temper and conduct of these persons are strikingly represented in the text, which our Saviour thus expounds: Ver. 20, 21. He that receiveth 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. Here are four things to be distinctly considered :
I. The character of these hearers previous to their hearing the word:
II. The effect it instantly produces on their minds;
III. Their failure afterwards: and,
IV. The cause of their apostacy. We begin,
I. With the character of these hearers previous to their hearing the word.
They are compared to stony or rocky ground a, which is unfavourable to cultivation; but yet has a little mould or earth cast
a Luke viii. 6,
over it, suited to receive seed, and in which it may lodge a while and disseminate itself. So that this ground is partly bad and partly good. And thus are very aptly described the miserably perverse and depraved state of the will, on the one hand, and the warmth and liveliness of the natural passions, on the other. These qualities often meet in one and the same person, and bear a different aspect to religion, the one being unfavourable and the other favourable to it.
1. It is true of these hearers that their will is wretchedly depraved.
Stone is a figure used in Scripture to signify the obstinate aversion of the mind to what is holy and good. So Ezekiel speaks of a stony heart, in opposition to a heart of flesh a; and Paul, of the living epistles of Christ being written not on tables of stone but fleshly tables of the heart b. There is in persons of this character a certain prejudice against serious religion, which perversely resists all reasonings, expostulations, and persuasions respecting it. Their carnal minds are enmity against God, for they are not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be c. Their words are stout against God d. They say, Who is the Lord that we should obey his voice e? What is the Almighty that we should serve him ƒ? We will not have God to reign over us g. We will walk after our own devices, and we will every one do the imagination of his evil heart h. Thus they make their faces harder than a rock i, and their hearts as an adamant stone, lest they should hear the law k. They are stiff-hearted, rebellious, and impudent l; not only alienated from the life of God, but, in some instances, past feeling m.
What a miserable state of the human mind is this! Hearts thus set on iniquity, and thus unyielding to the dictates of conscience, providence, and the Scriptures, may well be compared to stony, flinty, rocky ground. There are indeed degrees of depravity, and some men through sinful indulgence become more stupid than others; so that their consciences are said to be seared with a hot iron n. But it is true of all, while in a natural state,
a Ezek. xxxvi. 26.
d Mal. iii. 13.
g Luke xix. 14.
k Zech. vii. 12.
n 1 Tim. iv. 2.
b 2 Cor. iii. 3.
e Exod. v. 2.
h Jer. xviii. 12.
c Rom. viii. 7.
f Job xxi. 15.
i Jer. v. 3. m Eph. iv. 18, 19.