« AnteriorContinua »
are choaked up and withered by their pernici . ous influence: but if the tender blade which springeth up from the good feed is not choaked up and over-whelmed by the cares and riches of this life, its growth is quickly and effectually stopped by the still more destructive pleasures of it. If interest and ambition are with propriety stiled thorns and briars, the pleasures of this world
may with equal justice and propriety be compared to those gaudy flowers which we so often fee intermingled with the standing corn; however their variegated beauties may. delight the eye of the traveller, the husband. man considers them but as so many baneful and pernicious weeds, which draw away the moisture of the earth, and choak the progress of his rising harvest. And thus it is also with the vices and follies, the amusements and gaieties of life; they enliven the face of nature, they gild our days with a false and specious luftre, but at the same time loosen the bands of piety, and undermine the foundations of virtue. Pleasure is indeed the most dangerous enemy which the faith of Christ hath to con- ; tend with. Cares and riches alienate and ingross, but pleasure corrupts and enslaves the mind. The ambitious man sometimes m may
be either reclaimed by. reason, or reformed by disappointment, may turn his thoughts from the search after honours and preferments, towards the acquisition of the one thing needful: the covetous man may learn, by long experi. ence, the vanity of riches; may be convinced that it is not in their power to bestow that
happiness which they had promised; even he may leave his beloved treasures to search after the riches of Christ's love, and to enjoy the ineftimable treasures of his bountiful Redeemer. But when the lover of pleasure, by a continual indulgence in fensual gratifications, has corrupted and depraved his appetite, he treads for ever in the same dirty path, swallows the intoxicating draught even to the last dregs, and feldom quits his vices till he is no longer able to pursue them. Those, in short, who in these our days, as well as those of our blessed Saviour, are choaked with the cares, the riches, or the pleasures of life, very feldom, if ever, bring fruit to perfection. The foil, we know, in which the feed is sown, may be, to all outward appearance, fair and fertile, the blade may spring up, and the field look
gay and lux. uriant, and yet perhaps, in a short time, weeds may over-run, the storm may blast, or the canker-worm destroy all the promising hopes of the impatient husbandman. How often, and in like manner, do we see those who have beeu bleft with a virtuous and liberal education, who have listened to the word of God, and received it with joy, yet in time of temptation have fallen away; who have lived to deny tha God whom they worshipped, and to reject that faith which they professed; who have been so choaked with the cares, so betrayed by the pleasures, or so enslaved by the riches of this world, as to despise the ordinances, and trample on the commandments of their Creator, and to act in direct opposition to his will;
who, whatever might be their fpecious pretences to honour and virtue, never proved their regard for them by their conduct and behaviqur, never abounded in good works, or brought their fruit to perfection.
The Fourth and last species of hearers mentioned in the parable, are they, who in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience. By these our Saviour, no doubt, meant to distinguish those illustrious few, who, unawed by power, and uninfluenced by example, followed the dictates of their own conscience; who not only listened to the words of righteousness and truth, but shewed their belief by their actions, and the fincerity of their professions by the uniformity of their practice: they brought forth fruit with patience. Though we do not, in the present luke warm and degenerate age, meet with that zeal and alacrity in the cause of Christ and his religion, which shonę forth amongst the primitive saints and martyrs, thanks be to God there are stiļl fome feeds which have fallen into good ground, and spring up and bear fruit amongst us: there are some who oppose the stream of vice, and stem the torrent of impiety, some who, fuperior to fashion, prejudice, and example, support the mouldering pillars of our faith, and prop the decaying fabric of Christianity, Whạt then, upon the whole, is the moral use we are to draw from this parable? This the beautiful allegory doth itself sufficiently point out unto us. The good husbandman will, by labour and assiduity, me.
liorate and fertilize every foil: if the ground be hard and rocky, he will soften; if it be poor and barren, he will cultivate and enrich it; if it be by the way.side, and lies open to the injuries of travellers, he will endeavour to fence, to inclose and secure it, left the feed be trodden down, or the fowls of the air devour it: if the thorns and briars spring up, and choak his rising harvest, he will root up and destroy them. And in like manner, we also muft act with our own minds; if they are of so obdurate a nature, that religious truths make but little, or very flight impreffions on them; if when we hear the word of God, we do not attend seriously unto it, but suffer our minds to wander after other objects, we should endeavour, hy every means in our power, to foften and fubdue them; to open and enlarge them, so as to render them capable of receiv. ing the good feeds of holiness and perfection. If we find them fluetuating and inconftant, Mhifting with every wind of doctrine, we must exert all our strength to fix and establish them. If, by long acquaintance with our own treache, rous hearts, we discover that they are oppreffed by the cares of this world, attached to the riches, or intoxicated by the pleasures of it, we should then make it our constant business to alienate our affections from such unworthy pursuits, to employ them in cares that might be profitable, in the search of riches that would Þe lafting, and pleasures that would be unfad. ing and immortal,
But lastly, and above all, we must remember the great fountain and foundation of all truth and righteousness, an honest and good heart; be careful that in all religious matters we carry with us a mind open to conviction; this will remove every obstacle, and lessen every difficulty: if the precepts of Christianity have any thing harsh or severe in them, this will render them smooth, easy, and practica, ble; if they are obscure, this will enlighten; and if they are rigid, it will foften them: this animating and invigorating principle will vegetate the seeds of truth, ripen faith into practice, and bring forth fruit unto salvation. Let us then, my brethren, put up our prayers to the great husbandman who lowed the feeds of the Gospel, even Jesus Christ the righteous, that he will himself graciously condefcend to affist us in our labours, to cultivate and improve the barren and unprofitable foil of our obdurate hearts, water them with the heavenly dew of his divine mercy, strengthen and fertilize them with his enlivening grace, that so they may shoot forth into a fair and plenteous harvest of piety and goodness, and bear fruit, some thirty, some fifty, and some an hundred fold,