Imatges de pàgina


Christ describes the thorns as doing,--choke the upspringing life. It is, as the word recalled by Luke indicates, a rocky soil, that perhaps every now and then protrudes through cornfields or through grassy slopes. It is a soil common in Palestine, and not unknown here, where a thin superficial layer of mould covers rock, and this underlying rock, so close to the very surface, completely prevents roots penetrating deeply enough to draw up supplies of nourishment. Because the sterile, resisting stone was so near, all the strength of the sprouting life would run into the stalk that grew upwards and away from the stone; but because it was thus almost rootless and so lacked moisture, the blaze of a fierce sun soon withered it away.

Christ is the Great Sower. Human hearts are the soil into which He, through the ages and in all lands, and here to-day, is casting the seed. That seed is the word of truth-a word, not only of instruction and enlightenment (that would be a philosophy not a religion), but a word of inspiration and salvation. Indeed Christ is Himself that Word; He gives Himself, His mind, His spirit. For He says about Himself, “Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone; but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.” So He is the precious seed-corn, to be sown in the soil. And, as this parable suggests, eventually the history of the seed becomes the history of the soil. The Word is identified with him who receives it. The destiny of Christ, who thus gives Himself to a man, is the destiny of that man. For if you have “ Christ in you," you shall be "crucified with” Christ, “die with ” Christ, “rise with” Christ, "reign with” Christ. Who are they whose dealings with this Word are like the reception the rocky soil gives the seed ? Whoever they are, we shall find they are not those who reject religion altogether. The worldling, the scorner, the profligate,

who give no lodgment even for a Sunday's hour to Christian themes, find their analogue in the trodden pathway of the cornfield--a pathway hard with the constant tramp of horse, and mule, and ass, and of human feet. Clearly the danger to which our text points, is not the refusal of Christianity, or utter callousness to its claims. It is not scepticism, not indifferentism, not rejection. It may ultimately end there. For, at last, when the sun's scorching has withered all away, this rock ground will be as barren as the hard pathway. But the peril described here is shallowness in religion. I. Let us look in the direction of ThoughT; for it is

'; certain in that region where there is “no depth,” there is a withering away.

It is trite to say that Christianity is a system of Thought, and for Thought. For it is quite as true that a man cannot be redeemed by it, without thinking, as that he cannot be redeemed by it, simply by thinking. What is the Divine lamentation about the pilgrim Jews,—“Oh that my people were wise, that they would consider,”but God deploring men's lack of thought ? What is the exhortation to the Romans, “to think of themselves soberly, as they ought to think,” or, to the Philippians, to “think on” whatever things are true, honest, just, pure, lovely, and of good report, but inspired pleadings for right thought? And what are the Saviour's oft-repeated questions to His disciples, “Thinkest thou?” and specially the question of questions, “What think ye of Christ ? " but His emphatic testimony to the place and power of thought in religion? Of course the Divine Spirit has avenues to the mind, and a work there, as well as to the heart; but looking at the human side of the great matter of personal religion, we must notice that our own thought has an unspeakably important function there.

(1) There must be Thought for our conviction of the reality

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and truth of Christianity. (a) There must be thought-a rich deep soil of thought, for us ever to know what we must know about God. In the Scriptures, in our own consciousness, as well as in creation, we must see God. “How do you know there is a God?” some one asked a Bedouin. Just as I know a traveller has been by, by His footprints in the sand." There clearly must be thought, to see the Divine footprints, and that not hasty, superficial thought. (B) There must be thought too for knowing Christ's life and character and work. Such thought that every detail of His wonderful biography rises and stands out in a perfect figure before you; and you gaze upon, not a Christ embedded in the pages of the Bible, not a Christ in the dim light of 2000 years ago, but the actual, living personal Christ of Bethlehem and Nazareth, and Jerusalem and Bethany, of the desert, the garden, and the cross. (w) There must be thought for the understanding of the Scriptures, to compare and to contrast the human characters portrayed there, to trace the fulfilment of prophecy, the elaboration of doctrine, the unfolding of duty. All this needs to be so thoroughly thought over and thought out, that the truth thus ascertained comes to be what axioms are to the mathematician, what harmony is to the musician, what principles of navigation are to the mariner, what maxims of law are to the judge, that which controls all that is to be thought

Now, whether Plato's definition of man as hunter of truth” is often literally realized or not, it is certain that in order to hold firmly such truths as we have mentioned, and others about the Spirit of God, and the destiny of man, there must be, in the process of making such truths your own, all the intensity, eagerness, and persistence of the chase. Coleridge says that a man who has never doubted, has only half believed. That may not always be true; but nevertheless, in convinc

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ing ourselves of the truth of supremest importance, there will be the travail of which Doubt is the abortion, and Faith the perfect birth. If our system of theology,-and every Christian always has a system more or less complete,-is not thus obtained by us, it will be but a fossil tradition, a dead orthodoxy. Because "it had no depth," it will be scorched and wither away.

(2) There must be Thought for our constant realization of the truths of Christianity. Our mind has not done for us all its needed work, when, by processes of logic, we have discovered and harmonized these truths. Argument is but a small and occasional use of our mental faculties. There must be meditation, not reverie about religion,—this is common, but it is an almost aimless drifting down the river of truth,-but such meditation as Paul enjoined on Timothy: "Meditate upon these things; give thyself wholly to them.” By

Ву this we understand eager, concentrated, protracted,

, fixing of the mind on them. The portrait that the sun photographs in a few seconds will soon fade, if other processes do not follow to fix it on the glass. So with the truths about God, and Christ, and duty, and heaven; they need, by the processes of earnest meditation, to be fixed upon our minds. The greatest Scottish metaphysician said, “Without the labour of attention, we shall never comprehend the grandeur of religion, the sanctity of morals, the littleness of all that is not God; the absurdity of the passions, and of all our internal miseries.Such attention must be oft-repeated, through every stage and every day of our life. This meditation, or continuous attention, has ever marked earnest souls. Alcibiades tells that in a military expedition which Socrates made with him, the great philosopher was seen by the Athenian army to stand for a whole day and night, until the breaking of the next morning, motionless, with a fixed gaze,



thus showing he was uninterruptedly engrossed with the consideration of a single subject. But this action of the mind is most forcibly taught in its religious bearings, on the page of the patriarch's life which records how he was left alone and wrestled all night with an angel till the breaking of the day. So Jacob rose to be a prince with God and with men. And it is ever, and only, by such long and agonizing communings with the unseen, that religion comes to have its full power over us. Only so do we find that it reaches our deepest needs, and reveals the God for whom our whole nature was made. Such a man has root in himself and in God, and neither scepticism nor superstition can ever rise with such burning heat upon his thoughts about God, that they are scorched. There is depth, and so they withered not away.

II. Let us look now in the direction of Love, for in that region, if there is no depth, there is a withering away. Religion is Love. Thought is only religious as it ministers to love. In the ideal of religion there is supreme love to God and unconquerable love to man. Of both of these Christ is at once the Pattern and the Inspirer. Is this twofold love in a shallow soil ? Then it is soon scorched and withers.

(1) Love to God. Wherever there is only the love to God that is a pietistic emotion, and that utters itself in occasional hymns, in more occasional tears, still more occasional sacraments, but in no devotion, no growing holiness, no joy in God, there is sure evidence that the seed has fallen on rocky soil, has much stalk and little root. The love must be supreme.

- Thou shalt love the Lord thy God, with all thy heart, with all thy mind, with all thy soul, with all thy strength.” What deep rich soil there must be there. Every stratum of the soul feeding the love.

(2) Love to man. Wherever there is merely the love

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