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But though their profession is more specious, their end is not more happy They maintain a religious character to the end
[They do not disregard the word like the way-side hearers
Or cast away their profession like those of the stonyground
They maintain, for the most part, an uniform regard to the gospel
They associate with the people of God in preference to all others
They worship God in their closet and family, as well as in the public assembly
Nor do they live in any practices which are grossly inconsistent with their character-]
But the fruit which they produce is not of a “perfect” kind.
[They were never thoroughly purged from “ the thorns" which were natural to the soil
“ The cares or pleasures of this world” still continue to corrode their hearts
There is always “ something which they desire” more than real holiness
Thus the nutriment of the soil is withdrawn by noxious roots
And the influences of the air and sun“ obstructed” by surrounding branches
Hence their fruit is never properly matured and ripened
Their confessions want that tenderness of spirit that argues them sincere
Their prayers, that holy importunity, which alone insures
Their praises, that love and fervour, which alone can make them acceptable
The whole obedience of their lives is destitute of that divine energy, which results from the operation of God's Spirit-]
The seed however that is sown is not wholly unproductive IV. The good ground hearers
There is a most essential difference between these and the preceding characters-They receive the word with humility
[All the other characters have the soil itself depraved But these receive the word into “ honest and good hearts”
Not that their hearts are altogether free from human depravity
But they have an upright intention and desire to profit They neither cavil at the word, nor endeavour to pervert its meaning
They wish to be instructed by it, and to fulfil whatever it requires
In hearing it, they apply it as the word of God addressed to their souls
And they (which is not said respecting any of the others) 16 understand it”
They see its import, taste its sweetness, and embrace it as suited to their case-] They improve it with diligence
[They are careful to bring forth the fruits” of righte
“ Not” that all of them accomplish their wishes “ in an equal degree"
Splendid talents, extensive influence, or favourable occasions may enable some to distinguish themselves from others
On the other hand, poverty and seclusion may cause the light of others to be more obscured
Degrees of grace too, like a kindlier climate and a richer soil, make an abundant difference in degrees of fruitfulness
Some, like St. Paul, have no delight but in adoring and serving God
They burn with love, not towards their friends only, but their most cruel enemies,
And all their tempers, wishes, thoughts, are cast into the mould of the gospel
Others, though less eminent, are filled with zeal in their Master's cause
If they be not born as on seraphs' wings, they run eagerly as in a race--
And, though labouring under some infirmities, they bear much of their Saviour's image
Nor are they who are least fruitful satisfied with their attainment
They uniformly conflict with sin, and long to be holy as God is holy-] ADDRESS
[Let us“ hear this parable," not to judge others, but ourselves
Let us examine to which of the foregoing classes we belong
What has been the disposition with which we have heard the word?
What the benefits we have received from the preached gospel?
Have we laboured to treasure up the truth of God in our hearts?
Has it overpowered the corrupt desires which would obstruct its growth?
And are we rising daily beyond the form, to the life and power of godliness?
Surely neither Christ nor any faithful “ sower of the word” will account his toil repaid if he see not this fruit of his labours
Let us not then be satisfied with being “ almost” and not " altogether" Christians
If the word produce not its full effect, it will convey no benefit at all
If it destroy not the noxious weeds, the weeds will certainly destroy it
If it be not a savour of life unto life, it will be of death unto death”
Whatever profession men may make, none but the good ground hearers will be saved at last
Let us now then guard against the devices of our great enemy
Let us 'watch that he take not the seed out of our hearts-Let us harrow it in, as it were, by meditation and prayer
And, however fruitful we have been, let us labour to abound more and more]
a The observations made in this discourse being almost wholly confined to the parable itself, it may suffice to refer to that. See Matt. xiii. 3-8, 18-23. Mark iv. 3—8, 14-20. Luke viji. 4–15. The words marked with inverted commas allude particularly to the parable.
CCXXXIII. THE LIGHTED CANDLE. Luke viii. 16—18. No man when he hath lighted a candle,
covereth it with a vessel, or putteth it under a bed; but setteth in on a candlestick, that they which enter in may see the light. For nothing is secret that shall not be made manifest; neither any thing hid that shall not be known, and come abroad. Take heed therefore how ye hear: for whosoever hath, to him shall be given: and whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken, even that which he seemeth to have.
Among the antient philosophers there were some, who instilled into their more immediate followers, principles different from what they avowed to the public at largeBut there was no such insincerity in our divine teacher
He did indeed instruct his peculiar disciples more fully than others (for others were not capable of enduring the clear light of his gospel), but it was his design that, in due season, the whole truth shall be made known to the world; and of this his intention he advertised his disciples, at the very time that he was explaining to them his public discourses.
In the parable before us he suggests the duty I. Of those who preach the gospel The gospel is a light in the midst of a dark world
[The world lieth in utter darkness: nor has it any means of discovering the way of acceptance with God, but by the gospel of Christ-Something of God may be learned from the visible creation : and reason may discover many things that are proper to that relation which we bear to God and to each other: but nothing can be known of Christ, nor can any means of reconciliation with God be devised by unenlightened reason-It is in the gospel only that the Saviour is exhibited, and that all the things belonging to our peace are fully revealed-Hence the word of the gospel is represented as a light shining in a dark place, and as that light to which the whole world must be indebted for life and salvation!:-)
It is the duty of ministers to preach this gospel 1. With fidelity
[It is not sufficient to amuse the people with moral essays, or with dissertations that shall display our own learning-We must preach Christ crucified-We must “determine to know nothing else among our people" We must never omit any opportunity of setting before men that “light which God has sent into the world” –We may indeed, yea we must, use discretion in our method of dispensing the gospel, lest by an injudicious declaration of the truth we injure those whom it is our desire to benefit-But, in this, we must be actuated, not by worldly policy or the fear of man, but solely by a love to the souls of our fellow-creatures-When no such necessitv imposes a restraint, we must declare the whole counsel of Gode2. With perseverance
(As a man should not substitute any thing else in the place of the gospel, so neither should he withdraw from the engagements he has solemnly entered into to preach the gos
a 2 Pet. i. 10. blsui. lx. I-3.
ci Cor. ii. 2.
pelfmNeither political ambition, nor worldly care can ever justify a man in intermitting, much less in vacating, the paramount duties of the ministry Not even sickness itself is any excuse for neglecting to employ the strength we have in the service of our Godk_We do not say, that the education of youth is imcompatible with the ministry; but it should never be suffered to make void the superior obligations which we owe to God, and to the souls of men-It may be made subservient to the ministry; but must never supersede it-]
From the duty of those who preach the gospel,
(We should be extremely careful what we hear;i lest we be led astray by those, who profess to guide us into the way of peacek_We must also be duly attentive to the manner in which we hear-We must not be indulging a vain curiosity, or a disposition to cavil; but must receive the word humbly, as the word of God himself;' attentively, in order to retain it;m and obediently, with a view to practise all that it enjoins If, like those to whom this injunction was given, we be already in the ministry, or are preparing for it, our obligations to profit by the word, whether in the church or in the closet, are greatly increased)
An attention to this duty is of infinite importance
1. We shall invariably receive benefit in proportion as we do attend to it
[Who that has ever searched the holy scriptures in private, and waited diligently on the public ministration of the gospel, has not found that, together with increasing views of the truth, his faith, his hope, and all his graces have been strengthened and confirmed?'__-]
2. We shall assuredly suffer loss in proportion as we
[From whatever cause we are led to slight the ordinances of religion, or to decline from the study of the sacred oracles, we shall soon find occasion for regret and sorrow-We may ask of all who have experienced such declension, Have you not lost much of the light and liberty which you once enjoyed in your souls? have not your graces languished; your
f Lev. xxvii. 28. with Luke ix. 62. I Cor. ix. 16, 17.
g 2 Tim. ii. 3, 4. hi Tim. v 23. Paul does not say, Leave off preaching; but, Take care of your health. i Mark iv. 24.
* Prov. xix. 27. Il Thess. ii. 13. m Heb. ii. 1. n Jam. į 21, 22. • Acts xvii. 11, 12.