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of him, who apprehends himself passing out of time into eternity.
Go then, Christian, to the cross of Christ, fix your eye on the suffering Saviour, contemplate his character, and well consider the infinitely benevolent intent of what he endured : and sure I am you will cry out in the language of the great apostle, God forbid that I should glory save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world a. It is not imaginable how the thorns and briers of worldly cares and pleasures, should get ground in a heart where the word of the kingdom thus takes deep root, spreads on every side, and gains new strength and vigour every day. The reasonings of mere philosophy will have little effect to combat the stubborn propensities of the heart to the world, and to elevate the soul to God. But the sublime truths of Christianity, accompanied with a divine energy, will not fail to compass these great objects.
Let me then beseech you, Christians, beseech all that hear me, to listen to the voice of divine wisdom, to hang attentively on her lips, to receive her doctrine, and accept her gracious invitations. She bids us to an entertainment the most free, expensive, and delicious; entertainment that will not fail to please our taste, cheer our spirits, and strengthen our hearts.
Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters; and he that hath no money, come ye, buy and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk, without money and without price. Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread ? and your labour for that which satisfieth not? hearken diligently unto me, and eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness. Incline your ear, and come unto me: hear, and
your soul shall live, and I will make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David 6.'
4. And lastly, Look to God for his blessing.
• Paul may plant, and Apollos water; but it is God that giveth the increase c.' We may hear, read, meditate, reflect, watch, and use many good endeavours; but if no regard be had to a superior influence, all will be vain. The world hath so many ways of insinuating itself into our affections, the great
b Isa. lv. 1-3.
c] Cor. iij. 6,
a Gal. vi. 14.
enemy of mankind is so insidious and malevolent, and our hearts are so vain and treacherous, that if God be not with us, we shall be quickly foiled and overcome.
Trust not then, Christian, your own sagacity, resolution, and strength. Many have done so, and been made ashamed. Prayer is your refuge. O! pray without ceasing. Implore the gracious influences of the Holy Spirit; weep and make supplication, as did Jacob, to the angel of the covenant; resolve with him, that you will not leave him except he bless you. Such importunity, accompanied as it always is with circumspèction and obedience, will succeed; and how glorious the success! He is faithful that hath promised. My grace is sufficient for thee a.' . The youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall. But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength: they shall mount up with wings as eagles, they shall run and not be weary, and they shall walk and not faint b.' • Those that be planted in the house of the Lord, shall flourish in the courts of our God. They shall still bring forth fruit in old age: they shall be fat and flourishing: to shew that the Lord is upright: he is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him c.'
THE CHARACTER OF SINCERE HEARERS CONSIDERED.
MATT. XII. 8.—But other (seeds] fell into good ground, and
brought forth fruit ; some an hundred-fold, some sixty-fold,
some thirty-fold. It is one, among many other striking proofs of the divinity of our Saviour's mission, that the treatment his gospel meets with in the world, exactly corresponds with his own predictions. In the parable under our consideration he tells his apostles, that some would pay little or no attention to it; that others, receiving it a 2 Cor. xii. 9.. b Isa. xl. 30, 31.
c Psal. xcii. 13-15,
with great appearance of zeal, would, after a while, upon some offence taken, renounce it; and that a third sort of persons, having more dispassionately professed the Christian name, would in a course of time, through a too intimate connection with the world, grow indifferent to their profession, and fail of attaining the great object of it-eternal life.
These three distinct characters we have considered under the several denominations of the INATTENTIVE—the ENTHUSIASTIC
-the WORLDLY-MINDED. And I presume the view we have taken of the disingenuous temper, criminal conduct, and final punishment of these unhappy persons, hath deeply affected our hearts. But a scene of a different kind now opens to our view. Although the ministers of this gospel are a savour of death unto death to multitudes who hear it, yet they are to many others a savour of life unto life a. And we may depend upon it, that God will not forget his gracious promise : My word that goeth forth out of my mouth, shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it b.
Many there are then who hear the word of the kingdom, and are thereby made wise unto salvation. The character of these happy persons we are now to consider, and shall style them, by way
of distinction from the former, the SINCERE, that is, genuine Christians. The text says, Other (seeds] fell into good ground, and brought forth fruit, some an hundred-fold, some sixty-fold, some thirty-fold.
Ground within an enclosure, and properly manured, is better fitted to receive seed than that on the way-side, in stony places or in the hedges. Seed sown here at the proper season, and by a skilful hand, will be likely to mingle with the soil, and, under the genial influence of the sun and the falling dew and rain, to spring up and bring forth fruit. But the produce, through a variety of circumstances too numerous to be mentioned, will, on some lands, and in some countries, be more considerable than others. Such is the figure in our text.
Our Saviour's exposition of this part of the parable, you have in the 23d verse—He that received seed into the good ground, is he that heareth the word, and understandeth it, which also a 2 Cor. ii, 16.
b Isa. ly. Il
beareth fruit, and bringeth forth some an hundred-fold, some sixty, some thirty.' Luke expresses it somewhat differently a,
That on the good ground are they which, in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience.'
The first thing that strikes us here is,
1. That these hearers have honest and good hearts. The ground must be properly manured and prepared, before the seed can so mingle with it as to produce fruit. In like manner, the powers of the soul must be renewed by divine grace, before the instructions of God's word can so incorporate with them as to become fruitful. The heart which was prone to deceive, flatter, and impose upon itself, must be made sincere and honest. And the heart which was hard, conceited, and self-willed, must become soft, humble, and teachable. Now, the metaphor thus explained, gives us a two-fold view of the word of God, as the mean or instrument of men's conversion, and as the seed implanted in their hearts from whence the fruits of obedience proceed. And this account of the matter very well
with what we meet with in other passages of Scripture, as particularly in the Epistle of James b, where God is said of his own will to beget us with the word of truth ;' and in a few verses afterwards, we are represented as receiving with meekness the ingrafted word, which is able to save our souls.' And it agrees too with the fact; for it frequently so happens, that men who come to the house of God unprepared, and with hearts neither honest nor good, are yet, by the preaching of the word, accompanied with a divine energy, convinced and converted. Their understanding is illuminated, and a new bent is given to their will. So,
2. They hear the word after a different manner, and to a very different purpose from what others do, and from what they themselves formerly did. They hear it with attention, candour, meekness, and simplicity ;—and then, to go on with our Saviour's account of these hearers, they“.
3. Understand the word.
This is not expressly said, as I remember, of either of the former characters. They indeed who are destitute of the grace a Chap. viii. 15.
6 Chap. i. 18.
of God, may have a speculative acquaintance with the gospel; but mingling their own vain conceits with it, and not being sensible of its importance, nor imbibing its true spirit, they are to all valuable purposes ignorant of it. This however is not the case with real Christians. They have a right understanding of the gospel. It is in their idea the most simple, and at the same time the most interesting thing in the world; easy to be apprehended, and yet full of infinite majesty and glory. Their knowledge is, in short, experimental and practical.
4. They keep the word. The seed once lodged in the heart remains there. It is not caught away by the wicked one, it is not destroyed by the scorching beams of persecution, nor is it choked by the thorns of worldly cares and pleasures. It is laid up in the understanding, memory, and affections, and guarded with attention and care, as the most invaluable treasure. And indeed how is it imaginable that the man who has received the truth in the love of it, has ventured his everlasting all on it, and has no other ground of hope whatever, should be willing to part with this good word of the grace of God! Sooner would he renounce his dearest temporal enjoyments, yea, even life itself. Nor does our Saviour by keeping the word, mean only, an attachment to the leading truths of Christianity, and which may therefore with emphasis be called the word; he intends also a due regard to all the instructions and precepts of the Bible, the whole revealed will of God.
O that my ways, says David a, were directed to keep thy statutes ! And our Lord frequently exhorts his disciples to express their love to him, by keeping his commandments, and observing his sayings b.Again,
5. They bring forth fruit. The seed springs up, looks green, and promises a fair harvest. They profess the Christian name, and live answerable to it. Their external conduct is sober, useful, and honourable; and their temper is pious, benevolent, and holy. The fruit they bear is of the same nature with the seed whence it springs. Their obedience is regulated by the word of God, as its rule; and flows from divine principles, such as faith, hope, and love, implanted in their hearts. But of these things we shall treat more largely hereafter. a Psal. cxix. 5.
6 John xiv. 15, 25.