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USE THE BIBLE.
LUKE viii. 11.
The seed is the word of God.
NEVER were there so many Bibles in the world, as within the last few years. Here in England there are at least five times as many as there were fifty years ago. Our first feeling on hearing this ought to be thankfulness to God, for having sown the seed of eternal life in this favoured land so plentifully. But this brings the parable of the sower into our thoughts. One cannot help remembering the sad lesson it teaches, that a great deal of seed may be sown to very little purpose; and that, if we are not careful how
we hear and read, the mere reading and hearing can do us no good. Thus we are led to look a little closer into the matter, and to ask ourselves such questions as these. Has the increase of godliness amongst us kept pace with the increase of our Bibles? Are we as much better as we ought to be with our more abundant means? Has the fresh seed scattered over the land produced a proportionate increase in the harvest? These are very important questions: for, if the Lord of the farm, if the great Sower does not see the promise of a crop in some measure answering to the good seed he has bestowed on the land, he will be sure to ask, "Why is this? Why is this? Did I not sow good seed in the fields of England? How then come they to be so full of tares? so full of thistles? so full of poppies? How is it that in some parts of the farm I even see the foxglove and the deadly nightshade? Useless weeds, gaudy weeds, weeds that overrun the ground, even poisonous weeds I see in it. But I see not that plenty of good wheat which I ought to find, and which alone can be stored in my barn. Why has the crop failed so shamefully ?"
The failure of a crop must be owing to one or more of these four causes. Either the seed must be bad; or the season must be bad; or the land must be bad; or the tillage must be bad. Now the
failure of a crop of holiness, if the crop has failed, in England, cannot be owing to the first of these causes. For the seed is as good as ever: the Bible has not grown worse, or lost any of its virtue. It is the same book it always was; and is just as able now, as it can ever have been of yore, to make men wise unto salvation. Nor is the failure of the crop owing to any peculiarly bad season. The influence of the Holy Ghost still falls, like mild showers, gently and plentifully on men's hearts, to soften and fit them for receiving the word of God. Sun of Righteousness still shines and reigns in heaven; and from his golden throne, when the good wheat has sprung up and come to ear, he down warmth enough to ripen it and bring it to perfection. Nor again is the failure of the crop owing to the badness of the soil. Bad enough it is to be sure naturally: but we know how much the very worst soil may be bettered by care and labour. At any rate it is not worse now, man's heart is not worse now, than it was formerly. If it brought forth fruit formerly,—nay, if in thousands and thousands of cases it is made to bring forth good fruit now, fruit that we can see and judge of, in the holiness, the uprightness, the meekness, the patience, the humble faith of sincerely good Christians,-then it clearly cannot be the badness of the land that causes the failure