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[For Sexagesima Sunday.]
ŁUKE viji. 15.
But 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.
HE Evangelist tells us, in the Gospel
“ were gathered together, and were come to "s him out of every city, he spake by a para« ble." The miracles of our blessed LORD which he performed, and the gracious words which he uttered; “ for he spake as man had . “ never spoken before," had now awakened general curiosity; and great multitudes flocked to him, whithersoever he went. To these crowds he preached the gospel of the kingdom, according to their different capacities and dispositions. When he saw that they were earnestly desirous of hearing the
truth, and followed him from the simple and honest desire of becoming wiser and better, he spoke to them with great freedom and plainness of speech: on the other hand, when he perceived that they attended him merely to gratify common curiosity; or with some worldly or hypocritical intention; or with a heart hardened by prejudices, and full of temporal views; he then spoke with more reserve, and taught them by parables, or short histories, which represented to them, under other persons or forms, the likeness of their own cases, and thus instru&ted them indirectly, by making them apply what he said of others, to themselves. In the parable before us, under the similitude of a sower, he points out himself as the teacher of the gospel; and under that of the seed, he represents the multitude to whom he was speaking ; and shews them the different effects it would produce on their hearts, at the present time, and on the world at large, in after times, according as it was received with sincerity, or heard with inattention.
“A sower went out to sow his seed; " and as he sowed, some fell by the way side, 6 and it was trodden down, and the fowls “ of the air devoured it." In like manner, Jesus Christ, and the ministers of his word, preach the holy gospel to all descrip
tions of people; some of whom are so hardened and inattentive, and are so completely given up to the lusts of the flesh, or the interests of the world, that the doctrines and precepts of the gospel make no impres. sion on them ; but they immediately forget what they hear, and return to their wick: edness. “ And some fell upon a rock, and
as soon as it was sprung up, it withered
away, because it lacked moisture.” Thus, some hearers of the word listen to it at first with some degree of attention, and appear to be awakened and moved by the representations which it gives of God's goodness in Jesus Christ, and of the promises of heaven, and threatenings of hell; but when the world, the flesh, and the devil, attack them with their temptations or trials, for want of a true love of God, and the as. sistance of his grace which they have never sought, they fall away.
" And some fell among thorns, and the " thorns sprung up with it, and choaked it.” In like manner, others hear the word of God, are convinced of their sin and danger, and determine to go to CHRisT with sincerity, to practise his commandments, and save their souls ; but, at the same time, being in love with the world, its pleasures, and its gains, this fatal affection gets the better of their
good feelings, they neglect to improve the means of edification, and bring forth no. fruits of righteousness, virtue, and charity.
“ And others fell on good ground, and sprang up, and bare fruit an hundred fold.” In like manner others to whom the word of God is preached, receive it, like Mary at the feet of Jesus, with joy and gladness ; take it to heart; meditate much upon it, adhere stedfastly to it; endeavour earnestly to obey it, and shew forth the effects of it, in a constant practice of what is holy, jast, and right, and by the best proof of sincere religion, a good and useful life.
Our blessed LORD concludes his speech to the multitude with this solemn admonition : “ He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.!! Let that man who is desirous of instruction, consider attentively what I have been saying; let him try to discover the meaning of the parable, and he will soon perceive its signi. fication and intention : he will see, that it is meant to apply to his own case ; to shew him what will be the fatal consequences of listening to the gospel without attention, without a desire of improvement, 'or with a heart occupied by the love of the world and its pursuits; and to point out the good effects that will follow his hearing the gospel with a sincere desire of believing and prac.
My brethren, it is your great happiness and advantage to hear the word of God preached to you plainly and intel. ligibly, without being shrouded in parables and allegories : you have no pretence, there. fore, for not understanding it, and no excuse for not obeying it. That you may see this in a clearer light, I will first explain to you with what dispositions you should hear the word of God, when you are assembled together in the church; and, in the second place, point out to you the necessity of your “ keeping" the word which you have heard, in your hearts; and shewing forth the good effects which it has had upon you, in your life and behaviour.
You are to hear the word, then, with reverence, because it is the inessage of God to inankind; and to hear your ministers with respect, because they are the 'ambassadors of CHRIST, who are commissioned to deliver this message to you. The word of God, or the everlasting gospel, my friends, contains the most important matter that ever was made known to mankind. It does not merely speak about the short and trifling concerns of this uncertain life, but of the weighty and durable affairs of eternity. It does not shew men how they may acquire the insignificant advantages of this world,