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contend with it, and gather out of it those whom it may have pleased God to preserve from its pollutions, or whom it may please him to deliver. But I would have no encouragement to go thither from the hope of converts, for I would have more hope of barbarous people than of them.
This, therefore, is the sum of the matter: That the whole of this lower creation, with man at its head, has, since the fall, through the virtue of the eternal sacrifice of Christ, been saved from the dispensation of death, and brought under the dispensation of the promise of the Christ; being now constituted in such sort 'as through all its chambers, from the invisible and indivisible reason of man, to the outmost bound of creation, to prophecy of a Redeemer, and a redemption about to come. That this testimony is made by man in the natural condition, before yet he hath partaken of the Holy Ghost, by the honest occupation of the talents which God hath given him, after the pursuits of truth and uprightness, in defiance of the deceits and falsehoods of Satan. Which honesty and truth are not without great denial of flesh and blood, and opposition of the world, to be pursued; but, being pursued, are to be regarded as the denial of Satan, and the preaching of God in that sphere of the unrenewed man. And this is a work of God: it is not the work of God; but it is a work of God, which he worketh in the soul of those whom he purposeth unto life eternal; in whom he beginneth to work, not at their conversion, but from the very womb. And there is a system in his work before conversion, which is to create honesty and truth, as after conversion it is to work faith. The one wrought according to God's sovereign decree, and the other according to the same full and sovereign decree. And as it is wrong for any man to date the dealings of God with his soul from conversion, but to consider them from the womb, and especially from baptism; so judge I it to be wrong 'to date God's dealings with any nation, or with the world, from the day of the preaching of the Gospel therein, but from a higher origin, even from its beginning to become a nation. And I may generalise the matter still more, and say, that it is wrong to date God's dealings with the world from the time of the preaching of the Gospel, but from the day of the fall; and to consider all things as working together, as having been ordered of the Father and working together, for the glory of the personal and the mystical Christ, for Christ the Head, and for the church the members. Nay, and we may go higher still, and declare, that from the day of creation, before the fall, and before the entering in of sin, the end of the world was a work of grace, it was all to testify the grace of God, the free and sovereign grace of God, and thereby to bear witness unto God himself, as the only King and Potentate, the King of kings, and the Lord of lords ;-against whose high prerogative, if I have spoken any thing in this discourse, as who can speak of these things aright? then may he forgive me, and hinder it from giving any offence, or doing any evil to the least of his children. But if I have spoken righteously, and with a regard to the truth, then know I for certain, it will not return unto him void, but will accomplish the thing which he intendeth, and prosper in the thing whereto he hath sent it.
THE IMPROVEMENT OF THE DOCTRINE TAUGHT IN THIS,
AND THE PRECEDING LECTURES, CONCERNING A SOIL IN MAN PREPARED FOR THE WORD.
LUKE viii. 5-8. A sower went out to sow his seed: and as he sowed,
some fell by the way-side ; and it was trodden down, and the fowls of the air devoured it. And some fell upon a rock ; and as soon as it was sprung up, it withered away, because it lacked moisture. And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprang up with it and choked it. And other fell on good ground, and sprang up, and bare fruit an hundred-fold. And when he had said these things, he cried, He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.
IT seemeth to me that any one attentively considering the parable, so far as we have proceeded in it, if asked what improvement is to be made of it, would answer at once; The use of the whole is to shew forth unto men that there are certain conditions of human nature, or forms of character, in which the seed of the word will not bear fruit ; and that there is another condition in which it will bring forth very abundantly: and therefore the improvement of the whole ought to be a demonstration of those means over which a man hath power, and which he ought to take, for this very end of preparing himself in view of the Divine operation of spiritual husbandry. For though it is not in our power, either to procure that seed, or to water it, or to dress the plant; yet ours it is, to have ourselves in readiness for the supernatural work ; if it should please the supernatural Workman to undertake it.' There is indeed another form of improvemeut which suggesteth itself: namely, That we should take heed how we hear the preached word, and how we patiently entertain it in our hearts. But this belongs to a more advanced part of the parable, and is indeed the conclusion of the whole. Wherefore I do the rather choose to reserve what I have to say upon this part of the subject till we arrive at that point, and shall now address myself to explain what are the means which are made effectual by God, unto the production of a soil apt for the spiritual husbandry. This will form the improvement of the first part of the parable; and instruction upon the subject of hearing will form the proper improvement of that which follows. I am therefore, in dependence upon the Divine blessing, to search out, and to set forth in order, that education and discipline of man which God requireth towards the reception and retention and fructification of Divine truth : what is that husbandry of a natural order, and those fruits of a natural kind, which prepare the soul for bearing the fruits of everlasting life ; what, in short, is the practical application and improvement of all that hath been set forth in the four former Lectures concerning the high-way, the stony soil, and weedy ground; and of the doctrine taught in this, concerning the good soil of an honest heart.
plementary Lecture seems naturally to suggest itself, from what hath been set forth above, concerning the preparatory work of the outward Spirit in the conscience of man, and in the laws of all life downwards, from man to the elemental world. For if the soil of “ an honest and good heart” be produced by the right honest intercourse and traffic of human life with the living and existent creatures around us—as I have argued above that it is—then is it clear that the whole of our attention should be directed to open and explain to you the way in which
in which you should occupy yourselves with possessing and enjoying the advantages which are bestowed upon us by the Creator over all the things which are around us, whether they be our fellow-men, who are our companions; or the lower creatures, the fruits of the earth, and the elements, which are our servants, the instruments of our industry and the means of our support. For, as I have said, I believe that the soil of “an honest and good heart” is produced from the wise and temperate use of all these, which I call means unto grace, though not means of grace; that is, means to this
very end, and no further, of producing in us a soil proper to receive the seed and bear the fruits of the word of God. And of these means unto grace, which are anterior to, and preparatory for, the work of the Divine Seedsman, I perceive every thing rightly used to be a part; and the whole to consist in a life completely ordered according to the rule of right reason, and honest upright behaviour. So that the field is one of the utmost breadth, requiring both great comprehensiveness, exact order, and due subordi nation in respect of extent. It were a pleasant