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which : require the watchfulness of the , husbandman; so is the seed of the word of God, sown by the ministers of the Gospel, not independent upon you, the hearers thereof, in the bringing forth of fruit. Wherefore give heed how you hear; for there be many, very many causes that may hinder it from bringing forth the fruit of everlasting life. These are by the Lord disposed into these three classes, which we barely mention at present, with short delineations, leaving the full illustration and close application of them to future lectures.
First. “Those by the way-side are they that hear: then cometh the devil and taketh away the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved." This first class I judge to be those who have surrendered themselves to unbelief, the express and especial work of Satan; because it is said, “ lest they should believe and be saved :” such as, being lifted up with the pride of intellect and knowledge, have fallen into the snare of the devil; upon whom Satan hardly permitteth the seed of the word to rest for a moment, snatching it away by some of his evil angels, who stand ready to suggest some proud objection as to the goodness of the reasoning, or the truth of the matter; perhaps some witticism, foolish fancy, or, critical censure of the manner of the minister; whereby the word that hath entered by the ear sinketh no deeper than the understanding, whence it is flung forth again with disdain. But besides these infidel scorners, the Sadducees of every åge, we must include here also another class, who, receiving the letter of the truth, do reject its spirit and substance; which is as if these birds of the air,
after taking out the seed of corn, should leave upon the field the husk in which it was enclosed. Of which class I may safely say the great multitude of the visible church doth now consist; who take up religion as a reputable profession, and will consent to do many things which their preacher teacheth them—in the way of alms, good neighbourhood, religious observances, church-dues, and such-like easy acts, whereby they please themselves with thinking that they are earning heaven: and they rejoice in the prospect of another world, as good, and even better, than the present; and reverence the name of Christ, as the Messenger, and in some way the Procurer, thereof. But when they are called upon to mortify the flesh, with its corruptions and lusts; to deny themselves to worldly indulgences; to forego all trust in their own merits and to put their trust wholly in the righteousness of Christ, yea, to hate and abhor themselves in dust and ashes; they kick against the truth and withstand its ministers; and fall into the snare of the devil. If any, hearing me, feel conscious to themselves of such indifference and disrespect to the word of God, let them know that they are under Satan's mastery, who hath stirred them up to refuse the grace and mercy of the God of heaven, in order that he may have them wholly and for ever unto himself. And, oh! it is no less than a Satanic influence which can make the soul contemptuous of the word of God, which is peace on earth, and good-will to the children of men. You would think it a mad inspiration of hell, if one of your children were to turn his father's tenderness into ridicule, and mock the affectionate words of his mother : and still more, if that child, having rebelled, and being in misery, should refuse your offer of forgiveness and parental grace. Then indeed a man is well said to be possessed of Satán, when his stark and violent pride tramples upon every tender relation, and chooses solitary misery and sullen scorn, in preference to peace, concord, society, and love. Such, and worse, are they who hear the word of God with scoffs and mockeries; being possessed of Satan, and by Satan furnished with triple pride, to cast back unto God the overtures of grace and mercy which the minister of the Gospel bringeth from our offended and reconciled Father. To whom I can but give this short warning of their true condition, and proceed to the second class of unprofitable hearers.
Secondly. “That on the rock are they, which, when they hear, receive the word with joy: and these have no root; which for a while believe, and in time of temptation fall away.” This class includeth those in whom Satan hath not been able to excite animosities against the word of God, which they hear with joy, because of the mercy and love and blessedness whereof it bringeth them the assurance; thinking to enter at once into the joy of the Lord ; not counting the cost, nor humbling themselves to bear the cross, but expecting it as so much clear gain and additional advantage to the worldly goods they are endowed withal. These are they who would leap at once into the open arms of Jesus; who cry for assurance and enjoyment from the beginning of their Christian life, and will not hear of the processes of the Spirit to root and ground in the faith, of the husbandry of the Father to prune and dress, nor
of the office of Christ to withhold or to bestow, to lead into temptation and to deliver from it. I have not time to designate them more particularly, but my eye is distinctly upon them as they flutter about in the sun-beam. How many have I known who have received the very truth in the love of it, and in the faith of the true Gospel joined themselves to the church of Christ, who, when the novelty of the first impression hath passed away, and Satan hath arrayed to them some form of enticement, have fallen into it, even without any formal persecution or real trouble because of their faith! Which kind of converts I think this city is wondrously fitted to produce. Whether it be owing to the lust of novelty and excitement, or the unstable character and infirm resolutions of the people, 1 know not, but certain it is, that I find this class of transient believers and fair-weather Christians of too frequent occurrence amongst professors of the truth.
The third class, which is figured by the seed that fell among thorns, is composed of those “who, when they have heard, go forth, and are choked with cares, and riches, and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to perfection.” This needeth no explanation, but is manifest unto every one who readeth. And how large a class it includeth of our most able and judicious and gifted men, it is most lamentable to reckon up! They hear the word; they believe it; they know it to be true, and believe it to be the one thing needful; and it hath a root in them, and groweth up : but it cometh not to fruit-bearing in the various offices and duties of life, where it is met by cares, occupations of trade, and pleasures of society, which occupy all the ground and draw off the vigour of the soil, so that such believers arrive at no degree in the church of Christ. Oh, if the Lord give me grace to be faithful, what a great number of my beloved people will I be called upon to admonish, and earnestly to warn, from this head of discourse!
Lastly. “ That on the good ground are they, which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience :” Not having rejected it by the suggestions of Satanic pride, like the first class; nor heard it with itching ears, like the second; but received it into the heart, and that an honest and good heart;---sincere in its purposes; not self-deceiving, but honest and true: good, moreover; that is, well-affected towards that which is good, and therefore receiving the word because it tasteth it to be good. Which having received, it doth not cast forth again, like a thin soil; neither is impatient of delay and trial; nor suffereth worldly interests to intervene; but with patience bringeth forth fruit, believing that “ in due time we shall reap if we faint not.” This class includeth all true believers, and presenteth us, if I may so speak, with the natural history of true faith, the soil in which it taketh root, and the patient culture under which it beareth fruit; as we shall shew at length hereafter.
Such is the introduction to a large, pregnant, and most profitable subject of discourse; on which we shall bestow our pains, and by which, under the blessing of God, we shall seek to instruct you in the right use of the preaching of the word as a means of grace, following the fourfold division of the Lord : first, the rejectors; secondly, the