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from its self-denial and sacrifices. They want a religion without trouble, reproach, and suffering; and not finding this, they fall away. They are determined to run no risk, as they think, for the truth's sake. The excitement of the passions from the novelty of the subject Their zeal evaporates. Some new object engrosses their attention-His goodness is as the morning cloud, and passeth away as the early dew. As it quickly rose, so it quickly withers. Unexpected sorrows and privations occur. They looked for applause, and honour, and cannot bear reproach and obloquy. They looked for ease and respectability, and meet with toil and contempt. Thus, unless the special mercy of God interferes, they wholly fall away. If we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation which shall devour the adversary.
We see several instances of this falling away in the word of God. Multitudes followed our Saviour for the loaves and fishes; but few adhered to him to the end. When he came to the self-denying part of religion, they said--This is a hard saying, who can hear it! and they walked no more with him. preached at Nazareth, while he spoke on the blessings of the Gospel, they wondered at the gracious words that proceeded out of his mouth; but no sooner did he begin to apply the truth to them, and refuse to gratify them according to their own notions, than they endeavoured to throw him headlong from the brow of their hill. These things are full of practical instruction to us. Let us remember that religion is a serious concern. It is not a thing merely to amuse us, or to gratify our present feelings. It is a business of life or death. It calls
for patient and persevering application. endureth to the end, the same shall be saved.
Christians are, however, sometimes in danger of being too much discouraged by trials, instead of being excited and quickened. They sometimes groundlessly write hard things against themselves, and without just cause infer that their religion is false, unsound, or hypocritical. But, Christian reader, if God has given you sorrow for sin, a dread of falling, an endeavour to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, real dependence on divine grace, and a true desire to be holy-all these things distinguish you from the temporary hearer, and should shew you that he who has begun a good work in you will perform it to the day of Christ. Only let your fears lead you to much prayer, and you shall obtain such abundant grace as will in time remove every doubt.*
SECT. III. The Thorny Ground.
Our Lord now pourtrays by another similitude the heart of the worldly hearer. There is an advance beyond the other cases. The seed is not devoured as soon as scattered by the way side, nor does it wither away as soon as it springs up, as in the stony ground; but it continues to grow for a time, and yet ultimately, like the two former, it brings no fruit to perfection.
It is true, that the hearers thus compared hear the
* Quesnel has the following prayer in his remarks on this part of the parable: "Seigneur, Mon ame est devant vous comme une terre sans eau: que la pluie de votre grace tombe sur elle, et y fasse naitre cette source de larmes de la vraie penitence. (Luke viii, 6.). Ah Seigneur! que ce ne soit pas pour un tems que je vous ecoute, que je goute votre parole, que. je sois a vous, inais pour tonjours, pour l'eternite! (Matt.)
word and receive it. It is not heard without effect; there is a visible result, an outward profession of religion, and probably a considerable knowledge of it. Such
may be considered by the world as steady, and sober, and judicious Christians, free from all enthusiasm, who have attained the happy art of joining the world and religion together. Many external good actions may be done by such hearers; they bear the appearance of fruit, but as it is asserted in St. Luke, bring no fruit to perfection; there is not the right motive, nor the right temper and disposition. Such a hearer fails in that which God mainly regards-the state of the heart, and the inward graces of the real Christian. He goes forth, striving to proceed in a course of joining religion and the world together, hoping to get riches, honours, and the pleasures of this life, and yet not to lose heaven. Our Lord mentions in this case three things as hindering the success of the word. Let us notice them more particularly.
1. The cares of the world. It is necessary indeed to think of, and labour for our subsistence in that station of life in which God has placed us, and to make a limited provision for our families. This, so far from being sinful, is a Christian duty, which we could not neglect without sin. We are not to be slothful in business. But observe the expression, the cares of this world—all undue anxiety and solicitude about worldly good, whether in rich or poor, will eat out the life of religion. When the things of this world occupy our constant thoughts, and our whole mind is engaged about them, we cannot profit by hearing the word. A poor man is in danger of this, who, knowing not from day to day how his family shall be provided for, forgets what our Saviour has saidTake no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what
ye shall drink, nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. A man in business is in danger of falling into the >cares of this world, especially when he undertakes more than he can get through, and so his mind is perpetually distracted by the multitude of earthly cares. Nay, in the commonest affairs of life, we may be led away by these cares. Martha was cumbered with much serving, even when Christ himself was the visitor and the preacher, and met with that reproof-Martha, Martha, thou art troubled about many things, but one thing is needful, and Mary hath chosen that good part which shall not be taken from her.
2. The deceitfulness of riches also hinders the success of the word. Riches, it is true, have their value, and are among the gifts and talents which God bestows, and when rightly used, are profitable to the possessor and others. But here is their deceitfulness. We over
rate their value, and we rest in them as capable of procuring happiness. We fancy them good in themselves. We imagine that we can obtain them by our own skill and prudence. We use them as though they were our own. When the mind is engaged in the pursuit of heaping up riches, it is in peculiar dauger of self-deception. Diligently seeking worldly property is a sober, respectable, and approved sort of thing, and may in a certain way be pursued without a man's losing his religious character in the church. It does not, like the sins of the flesh, openly condemn a man to others. But the word of God speaks decisively; If any mun love the world, the love of the Father is not in him—they that will be rich, fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. Christian reader, watch against this subtle snare of the tempter. There is some
thing infinitely better, worthy of our whole desire and eager pursuit, even durable riches and righteousness, the favour of God, and the inheritance incorruptible, undefiled, and that fadeth not away.
3. The lust of other things entering in, is the last hinderance which our Lord mentions. He does not on the one hand design to forbid the grateful enjoyment of the blessings which he has bestowed, but the irregular and inordinate desire and abuse of them; nor does he, on the other hand, merely guard us against pleasures absolutely sinful in themselves, as gluttony, drunkenness, and the like, which are totally at variance with any reception of the sacred word; but he especially guards against those pleasures that are in themselves innocent, but which become sinful when we make them the chief object of our anxiety and pursuit. Thus ease, comfort, and pleasure, are the great desire of many; and to obtain these, all other things are sacrificed. The term entering in, describes the way in which the temptation comes; not by breaking through, nor by assailing and forcing the way; but by insinuating, and familiar, and unsuspected means, gaining access to, and possession of the heart. Such persons are lovers of pleasure, more than lovers of God. They cannot bear those self-denying duties which interfere with, or thwart their spirit of self-indulgence and self-gratification. O reader, a single, momentary sinful pleasure may cost your soul more than you can regain all your life. The expression, the lust of other things, apart from the desire of the sincere milk of the word, shews how the minds of men are led astray. They see some worldly object, they fancy that there is a real and superior good in it, a desire after it is indulged, it enters their mind, it fills their hearts, and so the word is