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Do not act against
Do not stifle your
worldly course against the checks of your own convictions; cultivate a tender conscience. the sober judgment of your mind. convictions, by plunging into carnal pleasures, and sensual indulgences. Do not listen to infidel or irreligious principles. Grieve not the Spirit of God. Quench not his holy and blessed influence on your mind. Meditate on what you hear. Compare it with the word of God in private. Pray over it, and examine yourselves by it, Come to the house of God, continue there, and return from it in the spirit of prayer. Above all, seek. constantly the gracious gift of the Holy Ghost. He softens the hardest heart. He produces convictions of sin. He shall remove all your doubts. He will convince you of the weakness and sinfulness of all worldly objections. He shall enlighten the eyes of your understanding, to know what is the hope of his calling and the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints. He sanctifies by the truth; and in the very hearing attracts, wins, and purifies your soul. O look for his teaching, and live under his influence, and you will find the hearing of the word powerful and efficacious to your soul's eternal good and then, so far from objecting to practical obedience, you will say with David, O how I love thy law! or, with a greater than David, I delight to do thy will, O my God.
But, O blessed Spirit, in vain do we address the understanding and the heart, and make it palpably plain that the service of God is the only path of wisdom; thy grace is alone sufficient to make men walk in that path: unless thou thyself teach the heart, we prevail nothing: descend thon upon the writer, and upon the reader; and then indeed we shall be wise unto salvation!
Observations on the Parable of the Sower.
parable so directly regards the subject of this Treatise, and is so full of the most important instruction, that it may be desirable to discuss it, distinctly and particularly. We will first give the account we have in the three Gospels of this parable,' (Matt. xiii, Mark iv, and Luke viii.) in the way of harmony.*
Hearken! behold, there went out a sower to sow his seed. And it came to pass, as he sowed, some fell by the way side; and it was trodden down, and the fowls of the air came and devoured it: and some fell on stony ground, upon a rock, where it had not much earth, and immediately it sprang up, because it had no depth of earth. But when the sun was up it was scorched, and as soon as it was sprung up, because it had no root, and lacked moisture, it withered away. And some fell among thorns, and the thorns sprung up with it, and choked it, and it yielded no fruit. And others fell on good ground, and did yield fruit, that sprang and increased, and brought forth; some thirty, and some sixty, and some an hundred-fold.
And, when he had said these things, he cried, and said unto them, He that hath ears to hear, let him hear. Hear ye, therefore, the parable of the sower. The seed
* The author refers the reader to Muir and Stennett on this parable. He has taken several thoughts from those writers.
which the sower soweth is the word of God. And these are they by the way side, where the word is sown; but when any one heareth the word of the kingdom, and understandeth it not, then Satan, the wicked one, cometh immediately, and taketh away the word which was sown in his heart, lest they should believe and be saved. This is he which receiveth seed by the way side. And these are they likewise which received the seed on stony ground, on the rock: who, when they have heard the word, immediately receive it, with gladness; and have no rost in themselves, and so believe, and endure but for a time, and afterwards, in time of temptation, when affliction, or persecution ariseth for the word's sake, immediately they are offended, and fall away. And these are they which received seed among thorns: such as hear the word, and when they have heard, go forth, and the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and pleasures of this life, and the lusts of other things entering in, choke the word, and it becometh unfruitful; yea, they are choked, and bring no fruit to perfection. And these are they which received the seed into good ground, such as hear the word, aud understand, and receive, and keep it in an honest and good heart, and bring forth fruit with patience, some thirty-fold, some sixty, and some an hundred.
Our Lord's explanation of this parable makes its general design obvious to all. By the sower, is intended the ministers of his word; by the seed, his word; and by the ground, the heart of man. The reader will observe the seed was all sown at the same time, by the same person, and was all of equal goodness. The whole difference was in the state of the ground. We will then consider separately the particulars noticed with reference to the different kinds of ground, on which the seed was sown.
SECT. I.-The Way-side.
This description points out to us the heart of the careless hearer. Seed sown by the way-side is scattered on ground that is grown hard, by being frequently trodden upon, and so is quite unfit to receive it; and it is soon either destroyed by the feet of passengers, or devoured by the birds of the air.
What a picture is this of the state of a careless hearer! Such a person hears the word as others do. He is not among those who despise and neglect it altogether. He does not fly from sermons, but listens to them; and yet it is only occasionally that he hears. The seed is sown as it were accidentally: from some worldly motive or other, he has been led to hear, but he is not at all prepared to receive what is spoken in a right spirit. His mind has never been broken up, and cultivated by penitence and prayer, by thoughtfulness and reflection. While he hears, it is in a heedless and desultory manner; little regarding what is said, and in no way anxious to retain, remember, and improve it. In St. Mathew it is said, such a one heareth the word of the kingdom, and understandeth it not. Though he hears, he takes no pains truly to comprehend what is said, and to be edified by it. It makes no abiding impression. What is scattered is trodden down; some fresh event, or other, puts it out of his thoughts; divine instruction is treated by such persons with indifference, if not with a degree of contempt. Their minds are occupied with something else; and instead of reflecting on what they hear, they are thinking of "something which they have seen or done, or are meditating on some new plans, some fresh pursuit, some scheme of business, or pleasure, and thus scarcely give the word any attention, or attend
only to the manner of its delivery.”
No wonder, then. that such obtain no solid views of divine truth, and are unimpressed, and not benefited even by a revelation from God himself.
But the consequences of hearing in this way are most ruinous! the Devil cometh, and taketh away the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved. When worldly men ridicule the notion of an apostate malignant spirit, mighty to tempt and injure the soul, they directly oppose the word of God. The Bible clearly reveals this truth, and expressly asserts it. Our Lord spoke the words to which we have just referred, in the explanation of the parable, and therefore without á figure. Our great enemy can hardly desire a higher advantage over us, than that he should succeed in leading us to disbelieve his existence. The most certain mode of conquest is to persuade my enemy to undervalue my strength, and to ridicule my ability to injure him. A knowledge of the existence and power, the skill and resources of the enemy, will make us watchful against him. This subtle, and wicked, and powerful spirit has access to our hearts; and though he cannot injure us without God's permission, and caunot force us to sin; yet is he ever watchful to seize advantages against us, and to prevent the due effect of the word. Careless hearers abundantly give him such advantages. Little do they think, while they are sitting unconcerned about the solemn truths of the Gospel, that Satan rejoices in their indifference, and improves it to the utmost. That great adversary is ready to inject into our minds innumerable vain and foolish thoughts, in order to keep us from attending to the one thing needful. He diverts our mind from the word when preached, or prevents our recollecting it afterwards.