« PrécédentContinuer »
blows, as will smite them out of their artificial guard, disorder all their Seneca and Epictetus, and all their own calm thoughts and high resolves. The approach of death, though they make a good mien, and set the best face on it, or if not, yet, some kind of terror, may seize on their spirits, which they are not able to shift off. But the soul trusting on God, is prepared for all, not only for the calamities of war, pestilence, famine, poverty, or death, but, when in the saddest apprehensions of soul, beyond hope, believes against hope; even in the darkest night, casts anchor in God, reposes on Him when he sees no light. Is. 1. 10. Yea, though He slay me, says Job, yet will I trust on Him,-not merely, though I die, but, though He slay me: when I see His hand lifted up to destroy me, yet, from that same hand will I look for salvation.
My brethren, my desire is, to stir up in your hearts an ambition after this blessed estate of the godly who fear the Lord, and trust in Him, and so fear no other thing. The common revolutions and changes of the world, and those which in these late times we ourselves have seen, and the likelihood of more and greater coming on, seem dreadful to weak minds. But let these persuade us the more to prize and seek this fixed, unaffrighted station: there is no fixing but here.
Oh! that you would be persuaded to break off from the vile ways of sin, which debase the soul and fill it full of terrors, and to disengage them from the vanities of this world, to take up in God, to live in Him wholly, to cleave to and depend on Him, to esteem nothing beside Him! Excellent was the answer of that holy man to the Emperor, on his first essaying him with large proffers of honour and riches to draw him from Christ: Offer these things (says he) to children, 1 regard them not. Then after he had tried to terrify him with threatening Threaten (says he) your effeminate courtiers, I fear none of these things.
Seek to have your hearts established on Him by the faith
of eternal life, and then it will be ashamed to distrust Him in any other thing. Yea, truly, you will not much regard, nor be careful for other things how they be. It will be all one, the better and the worse of this moment; the things of it, even the greatest, being both in themselves so little and worthless, and of so short continuance.
Well, choose you; but, all reckoned and examined, I had rather be the poorest believer than the greatest king on earth. How small a commotion, small in its beginning, may prove the overturning of the greatest kingdom! But the believer is heir to a kingdom that cannot be shaken. The mightiest and most victorious prince, who hath not only lost nothing, but hath been gaining new conquests all his days, is stopt by a small distemper in the middle of his course; he returns to his dust, and then his vast designs fall to nothing. In that very day his thoughts perish. But the believer, in that very day, is sent to the possession of his crown: that is his coronationday; all his thoughts are accomplished.
How can you affright him? Bring him word, that his estate is ruined. Yet, my inheritance is safe, says he. "Your wife, or child, or dear friend, is dead." Yet my Father lives. "You yourself must die." Well then, I go home to my Father, and to my inheritance.
For the public troubles of the Church, doubtless, it is both a pious and a generous temper, to be more deeply affected for these than for all our private ones; and to be alive to the common calamities of any people, but especially of God's own people, hath been the character of men near unto Him. Observe the pathetical strains of the prophet's bewailing, when they foretell the desolation even of foreign kingdoms, much more when foretelling that of the Lord's chosen people; they are still mindful of Sion, and mournful for her distresses. See Jer. ix. i, and the whole book of Lamentations. So the Psalmist: If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, &c. Psal. cxxxvii. Pious spirits are always public-spirited, as even brave Heathens were for the commonwealth. So he, in that passage
of Horace*: Little regarding himself, but much solicitous for the public. Yet even in this, with much compassion, there is a calm in a believer's mind. How these agree, none can tell, but they who feel it. He finds amidst all hard news, yet still, a fixed heart, trusting, satisfied in this, that deliverance shall come in due time, (Psal. cii. 13.) and that in those judgments that are inflicted, man shall be humbled and God exalted, (Isa. ii. 11; v. 16.) and that in all tumults, and changes, and subversions of states, still, His throne is fixed, and with that the believer's heart likewise. So Psal. xxix. 10: The Lord sitteth upon the flood: yea, the Lord sitteth king for ever. Or, sat in the flood, possibly referring to the general deluge; yet, then, God sat quiet, and still sitteth king for ever. He steered the ark, and still guides His Church through all. So Psalm xlvi., throughout that whole Psalm. In all commotions, the kingdom of Christ shall be spreading and growing, and the close of all shall be full victory on his side; and that is sufficient for the believer.
Of this, a singular example is in Job, who was not daunted with so many ill-hearings, but stood as an unmoved rock amidst the winds and waves: Ille velut rupes immota manebat.
In this condition there is so much sweetness, that if known, a man might suspect himself to be rather selfishly taken with it, than to be 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 either without or within a man is to be named with this trusting on His goodness, who is God, and on His faithfulness, who, giving His promise for thy warrant, commands thee to rely on Him. The holy soul still trusts under the darkest apprehensions. If it is suggested that 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 sepa
* Invenit insomni volventem publica curâ
Fata viruin, casusque urbis, cunctisque timentem,
rated 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 would 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 those 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 fortress of peace, as all the assaults in the world are not able to make a breach in. And 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, in 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 His 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, which damps all the joys, and defeats all the hopes of the most prosperous, proudest, and wisest worldlings. As Archimedes said, when shot, Avocústi ab optima demonstratione, so, 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. Psal. xxiii. 4.
MATT. xiii. 3.
And he spake many things unto them in parables, saying, Behold a sower went forth to sow.
THE rich bounty of God hath furnished our natural 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 down, but a great variety of instruction and consolation. of similitudes hath a notable light.
necessary truths once simply set doctrine for our more abundant Amongst the rest, this way commixture of profit and de
Parables not unfolded and understood, are a veil (as here) to the multitude, and in that view, they are a great judg ment; (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 dexterous 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 which is given here, is fitted to the occasion: multitudes were coming to hear him, and many were not a whit the better for it. 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, the seed, hath in it a productive virtue to bring