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mut daunted with so many ill-hearings, but stood as an unmoved rock amidst the winds and waves *.
In this condition there is so much sweetness, that if kuown, a man might suspect himself rather selfishly taken with it, than purely loving God. Such joy in believing, or at least, such peace, such a serene calmness, is in no other thing in this world. Nothing without or within a man to be named to this of trusting on his goodness, he is God, and on his faithfulness, giving his promise for thy warrant. He commands thee to rely on him. The holy soul still trusts in the darkest apprehensions. If it is suggested thou art a reprobate, yet will the soul say, " I will see the utmost, and hang by the hold I have, till I feel myself really cast off, and will not willingly fall off
. If I must be separated from him, he shall do it himself, he shall shake me off while I would cleave to him. Yea, to the utmost I will look for mercy, and will hope better; though I found him shaking me off, yet will I think he will not do it.” It is good to seek after all possible assurance, but not to fret at the want of it; for even without these assurances, which some christians hang too much upon, there is in simple trust and reliance on God, and in a desire to walk in his ways, such a fort of peace, as all the assaults in the world are not able to make a breach in. Aud to this add that unspeakable delight in walking in his fear, joined with this trust. The noble ambition of pleasing him, makes one careless of pleasing or displeasing all the world. Besides, the delight in his commandments, so pure, so just a law, holiness, victory over lusts, and temperance, hath a sweetness in it that presently pays itself, because it is agreeable to bis will.
It is the godly man alone, who by this fixed consideration in God, looks the grim visage of death in the face with an unappalled mind. It damps all the joys, and defeats all the hopes of
* Ille velut rupes immota manebat.
the most prosperous, proudest and wisest worldlings. As he said *, when shot, Avocásti ab optima lemonstratione. It spoils all their figures and fine devices. But to the righteous, there is hope in his death : He goes through it without fear, without Caligula's quò vadis. Though riches, honours, and all the glories of this world, are with a man, yet he fears, yea, he fears the more for these, because here they must end. . But the good man looks death out of countenance, in the words of David, Though I walk through the valley and shadow of death, yet will I fear no evil, for thou art with me.
MATT. xiii. 3.
And he spake many things unto them in Parables,
saying, Behold a sower went forth to sow, fc. T HE rich bounty of God hath furnished our na
tural life, not barely for strict necessity, but with great abundance, many kinds of beasts, and fowls, and fishes, and herbs, and fruits, has he
provided for the use of man. Thus our spiritual life likewise is supported with a variety; the word, the food of it, hath not only all necessary truths once simply set down, but a great variety of doctrine, for our more abundant instruction and consolation, Amongst the rest, this way of similitudes hath a notable commixture of profit and delight.
Parables, not unfolded and understood, are a veil (as here) to the multitude, and in that are å great judgment, as Isaiah vi. 9. cited here; but when cleared and made transparent, then they are a glass to behold divine things in, more commodiously and suitably to our way. All things are big with such resemblances, but they require the dextrous hand of an active spirit to bring them forth. This way, besides other advantages, is much graced, and commended by our Saviour's frequent use of it.
That here is fitted to the occasion; multitudes coming to hear him, and many not a whit the better: He instructs us in this point, the great difference between the different hearts of men; so that the same word hath very different success in them.
In this parable we shall consider these three things: (1.) The nature of the word in itself. (2.) The sameness and commonness of the dispensation. (3.) The difference of the operation and production.
The word seed hath in it a productive virtue to bring forth fruit according to its kind, that is, the fruit of a new life; not only a new habitude and fashion of life without, but a new nature, a new kind of life within, new thoughts, a new estimate of things, new delights and actions. When the word reveals God, his greatness and holiness, then it begets pious fear and reverence, and study of conformity to him: when it reveals his goodness and mercy, it works love and confidence: when it holds up in our view Christ crucified, it crucifies the soul to the world, and the world to it: when it represents these rich things laid up for us, that blest inheritance of the saints, then it makes all the lustre of this world vanish, shews how poor it is, weans and calls off the heart from them, raising it to these higher hopes, and sets it on the project of a crown: and so is a seed of noble thoughts, and of a suitable behaviour in a Christian, as in the exposition of this parable, it is called the word of the kingdom.
Seed, an immortal seed, as St. Peter calls it, springing up to no less than an eternal life.
This teaches us, 1. Highly to esteem the great goodness of God to these places and times, that were most blest with it. He sheweth his word unto Jacob, his statutes and his judgment unto Israel; he hath not dealt so with any nation, and as for his judgments they have not known thema.
2. That the same dispensation is to be preached indifferently to all where it comes, as far as the sound can reach. And thus it was very much extended in the first promulgating of the gospel; their sound went out through all the earth, as the apostle allusively applies that of the Psalmist.
3. This teaches also ministers liberally to sow this seed at all times, according to that, In the morning sow thy seed, and in the evening withhold not
a Psalm cxlvii. 19, 20.
thine hand", &c. praying earnestly to him, that is the Lord not only of the harvest, but of the seedtime, and of this seed to make it fruitful; this is his peculiar work. So the Apostle acknowledges, I have planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase
4. Hence we also learn the success to be very different. This is most evident in men: one cast into the mould and fashion of the word, and so moulded and fashioned by it; another no whit changed; one heart melting before it, another still hardened under it.
So then, this is not all, to have the word and hear it, as if that ould serve turn and save us, as we commonly fancy, Tie temple of the Lord, The temple of the Lord. Multitudes under the continual sound of the word, yet remain lifeless and fruitless, and die in their sins; therefore we must enquire and examine strictly, what becomes of it, how it works, what it brings forth; and for this very end this parable declares so many are fruitless. We need not press them, they are three to one here; yea that were too narrow, the odds is far greater, for these are but the kinds of unfruitful grounds, and under each of these huge multitudes of individuals, so that there may
be a hundred to one, and it is to be feared, in many congregations, it is more than so.
Whence is then the difference? Not from the seed that is the same to all; not from the sower neither, for though these be divers, and of different abilities, yet it hangs little or nothing on that. Indeed, he is the fittest to preach that is himself most like his message, and comes forth not only with a handful of this seed in his hand, but with store of it in his heart, the word dwelling richly in him; yet howsoever, the seed he sows, being this word of life, depends not on his qualifications in any kind, either of common gifts, or special grace. People mistake this much, and it is a carnal conceit to hang on the b Eccles. xi, 6.
C1 Cor. iji. 6.