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to be in the church, we are then exposed to the malice of our foe; we wilfully put ourselves out of the protection of our Maker, and must expect to fall a sacrifice to that destroyer of our souls, who is ever on the watch to seize upon the unguarded and the careless.
Finally, my friends, we are taught, by the history before us, to maintain in all our conduct"a conscience void of offence" towards GOD and towards man. You are aware that vice and virtue are directly opposite in their nature; they spring from different fountains, and lead to different ends: the devil is the father of one, and God is the parent of the other; wickedness is the delight of the former, and holiness is beloved of the latter if, therefore, you endeavour to do your duty in the state of life in which GOD has placed you, you will give a mortal blow to Satan; he will flee from you, and can have no advantage over you; GOD will be your friend and protector, make you happy here, and bless you with eternal felicity hereafter. If, on the other hand, you neglect your duty, and despise the commandments of your GOD, the Devil will have dominion over you; he will employ you, as he did Ahab of old, to work wickedness in this world; and will seize you as his lawful prey, for perdition in the world to come.
[For the Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany]
MATTHEW Xiii. 24.
The kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man which sowed good seed in his field.
HE Gospel for the day contains the parable of the wheat and the tares; the particulars of which I shall consider separately, having first explained to you what a parable is. There are two ways of teaching, you know, by precept and by example; first, by telling you that a thing ought to be done, and giving you reasons why it should be done; and secondly, by shewing you, in the case of another person or thing, bow it is to be done, and the consequences of doing it. The latter manner of teaching is the parable; which relates a story, either
true or feigned, resembling the case of the person or persons to whom it is addressed; and is intended to be applied to their case, and to convey to them, in this indirect way, useful advice, instruction, or admonition. It was a method of teaching very common in the most ancient times, as well as in the days of our Saviour; and continues to be much in use, among the eastern nations of the world, to the present hour. Frequent examples of it are to be found in the gospels; some of them very affecting, most of them very beautiful, and all full of important truths and valuable instruction. The parable which will engage my attention at present begins thus: "The kingdom of heaven is "likened unto a man which sowed good "seed in his field; but while men slept, "his enemy came, and sowed tares among "the wheat, and went his way." Our blessed LORD, in the present case, points out the likeness between the particulars of the parable, and the things represented by it; he tells us, that the man sowing the seed is himself, the Son of Man;, that the field is the world; the good seed are the children of the kingdom; the tares, the children of the wicked one; the enemy, the devil; the harvest, the end of the world; and the reapers, the angels. Thus far, then, all is clear; but
it may be useful to be a little more particular in the illustration of the parable.
It was God's merciful intention, when He created mankind, that they should be all good and happy; but the Devil, envious of the blessed state of our first parents, tempted them to disobedience, and by that means introduced sin and misery into the world. In consequence of this fall of man, the whole of Adam's posterity became sinful; and the devil obtained a great influence over those whom he had ruined. Not that mankind are subject to his power against their own will; because GOD, in his goodness, has given to them reason to distinguish between right and wrong; conscience to tell them what they ought, and what they ought not to do; free-will, to choose between virtue and vice; the gospel of his Son, to point out the path to heaven, and the road to hell; and his Holy Spirit (which may always be obtained by sincere prayer) to assist them in overcoming the temptations of the Devil, and in performing the commandments of their Maker. But, though men are thus enabled by GoD's mercy to live as christians ought to live, if they have the inclination so to do; yet it is unhappily the case, that many men prefer the service of the devil to the service of GOD; they "love darkness
"better than light;" and, in spite of the calls which they are favoured with, to repentance and reformation, go on still in a mad course of folly or wickedness; live as it were "without GOD in the world;" and wilfully plunge themselves, when they die,. into 'everlasting perdition. These, then, are the tares," the children of the wicked one;" who, mixed with the rest of mankind in society, (like weeds in a field of grain,) only serve to spoil its appearance, and to disturb and injure all that is about them. On the other hand, there are many among mankind, who, sensible of their sin and its consequences, and anxious to escape from them, make use of all the " means of grace" which GOD has been pleased to offer to them for that purpose; they believe in the LORD JESUS CHRIST, and humbly strive to do as he commands; they are regular in frequenting the church, and attending the table of the LORD; they pray earnestly to GOD in public and in private; seek for the assistance of the Holy Spirit, by sincere supplication; and render their hearts a fit abiding place for him, by leading a pure and religious life christians who try, to the best of their ability, to do their duty to God, by piety and virtue; and to man, by industry, sobriety, and honesty, in the situation of life