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the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience.
It is worthy of our observation to remark, that though our blessed Saviour thus interpreted and explained the pleasing allegory, we do not find that he drew any inference or conclusions from it, but, as in the rest of his parables, leaves his hearers to the suggestions of their own minds, and those reflections which would naturally occur to them from the consideration of it. His disciples, we may reasonably imagine, fully perceived the scope and intent of it, made the proper use of every part, and applied the whole to those moral purposes, which it was designed by the divine Orator to promote. But these things, my brethren, were doubt. less written for our learning also; our Saviour in this, as in almost every other discourse, addresses himself not to his disciples only, but to all mankind: it will become us, therefore, to meditate on the words of our blessed Redeemer, and seriously to enquire whether this simple narrative, plain and unadorned as it is, doth not contain some falutary truths, and useful instructions, which may be of service to us in our future conduct: and to this end it may not be anils, in the following discourse, to take a view of the four kinds of hearers, as described to us in the parable; to assign tlie several causes of their different conduct, and to mark what lessons of moral duty may arise to us from the confideration of them.
And first, then, Those, says our Saviour, by - the way side, are they that hear: then cometh the
devil, and taketh the word out of their hearts. In all nations, and at all times, there hath ever been a set of men, who are totally void of religious principles, who never concern themselves about any thing but the common affairs of life in which they are immediately employed, who have no motive to raise their attention but curiosity : these are properly compared to the way-side, the common path for travellers, without any depth of earth to receive the seed, which must consequently be trodden down by every passenger, and lie open to all the birds of the air who devour it. Such were those, who, on our Saviour's first appearance on earth, were merely casual and accidental hearers of his word, who were attracted by the novelty of his doctrines, and the extraordinary circumstances attending on his miracles; but at the same time had no attachment to his cause, or zeal for his service; and of course were easily drawn aside, by any temptation, to forsake and defert him. Too many such hearers of Christ's word there are amongst us, even unto this day; men, who, immersed, in their pursuits of business or pleasure, never think of religious concerns, but when they chance to be totally difengaged from every other; never enter into a church, but when they are, as it were, insenbly drawn thither by the novelty of a popular preacher, the pressing instance of a particular friend, or some accidental circumstance, utterly independent on true piety and devotion. By these men the doctrines of Christianity are received with the greatest coldness and indif
ference, or perhaps make a light and momentary impression on the mind, which is quickly effaced by the very next object that presents itself. Into such hearts, Satan always finds an easy entrance, and with little difficulty taketh away that word which they are not folicitous to withhold from him:
The second fort of hearers mentioned in the parable, are they, which receive the word with joy, but having no root, in time of temptation or persecution fall away. By these, our Saviour undoubtedly meant to point out those amongst his disciples and followers, who were caught by the novelty of his tenets, dazzled by the fplendor of his miracles, or perhaps allured by his promises of eternal happiness: these received his word with joy, listened with rapture to his eloquence, were astonished at his intrepidity, and looked up with admiration to his exalted character: his manners were so engag. ing, his conversation so affable, his conduct fo disinterested, his behaviour so mild and gentle, that it attracted universal attention, and commanded universal applause. Even those, there. fore, who had but little real concern for the interests of religion, felt the truth of his doctrines; and though they had at the same time but little inclination to comply with them, they revered that preceptor whom they would not obey, and admired at least those virtues, which they wanted strength and resolution to practise. These men, as the apostle informs us, endured for a while, but when tribulation and persecution arose, because of the word, they were quickly offended; they had a great
love for Christ and his doctrines, but a much greater for themselves; and tho' they thought with him, did not therefore think themselves obliged to suffer for him, but in time of temptation or persecution fell away. Amongst these followers of our Saviour, was, most probably, the young man recorded in the gospel, who, we are told, asked of Christ, what he should do that he might have eternal life; and Jesus faid unto hịm, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give ta the poor, and thou Malt have treasure in heaven, and come and follow
But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great polJessions. He was one of those, who, as the parable says, received the word with joy, but have no root, which for a while believe, and in time of temptation fall away. Of such as these we have but too many even unto this day.
Nothing is more easy than the mere profeffion of Christianity; whilft the external compliance with its precepts, and the verbal assent to its doctrines, is attended with no pain or trouble; as long as it coincides with our world, ly views and interests, without any interruption of our ease, or any
upon our pleasures, so long perhaps we may continue Christians; but if it clashes with our several views and ina tereits, if it enjoins duties which we are loth to practise, and commands us to abstain from our sensual gratifications; if it subjects us to the ridicule of the scoffer, the contempt of the proud, and the oppression of the powerful, then our zeal abates, and our faith decays, and the frail fabric of qur religion begins to show
the weakness of its foundation. But, above all, when tribulation and persecution arise, such men are quickly offended: they may talk, perhaps, like Peter, of going with Christ to prison and to death; but when, like him, they begin to think themselves in danger of accompany. ing him thither, then, they know not the man.
But Thirdly, And fome fell among thorns, and the thorns sprang up with it, and choaked it. And that which fell among thorns, and they which, when they have heard, go forth, and are choaked with cares, and riches, and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to perfection. In this short sentence are comprehended all the oppositions that were ever made, and all the obstructions that were ever raised against the progress of religion and virtue. . Christ forefaw and foretold the power and success of those enemies which he had to contend with, and takes every opportunity of warning us against them. It is not the arguers, the reasoners, the disputers of this world, but the cares, the riches, and the pleasures of it, which shake the foundations of Christianity. The cares and riches of this world, like those thorns and briars to which they are compared, are for the most part inseparable; they naturally bring forth and multiply each other: like them they blend and twine together, not only to stop our progress in the paths of truth and happiness, but with their starp points goad and torment us; their roses, if they have any, are not to be smelt without danger, or plucked without pain. The beautiful plants which spring up around them,