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nature to curtail the duties of our religious state, and pare down the standard of the gospel to our own unholy measure ! Let it startle us to consider afresh what God hath committed to our trust, and, with a fixed conviction that it must be improved at the peril of our souls, let it strengthen us to cut off the right hand, to pluck out the right eye, of our selfish desires and unsanctified affections, putting our trust in God for the power to do what he requires of us! And let those who consume their time and lay out their means in the pursuit of pleasure and amusement in the fashionable follies and giddy unthinking vanities of the times who are altogether opposed to the wise restraints and salutary self-denials of the gospel, and ask, Where is the harm in a little innocent mirth and recreation ? as they term the round of folly ; let such look here and then answer their own question! Let them then say whether there is not a cause why the ministers of Christ should lift up their voices like a trumpet to show them their danger.
Fruitful as this particular parable is, in matter for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, and well as it would repay a wider and longer range of consideration, I must leave the further improvement of it in this way to your own sense of its importance. What I have said upon it will, I trust, be helpful to your private meditations. Remember that whatever you have or are, will be required at your hands with increase ; that the various talents of reason and understanding, of condition in life, of wealth and influence, are all gifts, improvable to the glory of God and the good of men; that your children and servants, your relations and neighbours, are not only in themselves talents committed specially to your care, but instruments for the improvement and application of reason, condition in life, wealth and influence, to the spread and advancement, the increase and establishment of religion in the world. Remember above all, that the precious talent of the gospel is yours ; the wisdom that cometh down from above, the hope that maketh not ashamed. Let each one of you, then, as a partaker of the manifold grace of God, apply this parable to himself. And herein will be your true wisdom, my friends, for it will most surely be applied to you, in that awful judgment, which the vanishing away of our passing days brings nearer and nearer to each one of us. O that this undoubted fact may lead us all to think more deeply of the great and comprehensive talent of time, that it neither waits nor returns, and that it ends in eternity.
Let me then exhort you, by the worth of your immortal souls, by the goodness of God, by the love of Christ, by all the mercies of your condition, by the strict account you must give of them, by the shortness and uncertainty of life, by the infinite disproportion between things temporal and eternal, yea, by the waste already committed in your trust estate ; let me beseech you to lay near your hearts the solemn truths now presented to you. To many of us, my brethren, the day is far spent, the night is at hand, the judge is at the door. O let these things speak to us of preparing to meet our God! Let us honestly examine our state. Of what possible advantage can it be for a rational creature to deceive himself in this great concern? What can compensate for the loss of our souls ? Let them speak in the same warning voice to those, who with greener years fairly look for a longer trial. The young have their talents also to improve, and their account to give in, and not unfrequently at a short notice. Now then, is the time to turn and escape for your lives, before the blinding, hardening influence of sin and folly have made escape difficult, if not impossible.
Let me exhort you in particular, against the prevailing delusion of your years—that you have time in store, that your LORD delayeth his coming. The parable, indeed, tells us, that it was after a long time, that the lord of those servants came and reckoned with them. But it tells us also, that he did come, and called for their accounts. To you also he will come, my younger hearers, and ye know neither the day nor the hour. Be ye therefore also ready, your loins girt about and your lights burning, that ye may go in with your LORD to the marriage ; for He that shall come will come and will not tarry; and behold, his reward is with him, to give to every one according as his work shall be. What that work must be, to receive his heart-cheering, life-giving well done, is set before us in the most familiar and convincing manner in ny text, and so plainly that he that runs may read.
Let me exhort you, then, no longer to turn a deaf ear to that
warning word, which is able to make you wise unto salvation, through faith which is in Christ Jesus; and let what you have heard teach you, that the religion of the gospel is not a set of abstract notions contained in the head, nor yet a system of doctrines entertained in the belief, neither does it consist in any outward name or profession among Christians, but in such a hearty reception of revealed truth as leads the heart to God, and draws out the life in obedience to his commandments; an active, living principle of accountable duty. As such, seek after and improve this and all your talents.
In the revolution of time, there is much of warning to a serious mind. In the close of one year and commencement of another, there is much for meditation to work profitably upon. To me it speaks loudly of the account I must ere long give in, not only for myself but for others ; for you, my brethren and hearers, it tells me, at a double peril, not to hide my Lord's talent in the earth ; not to be negligent in providing that ye may have these things, these practical things of religion, faithfully pressed upon you. It speaks to me of greater diligence and more earnestness in my calling ; it inquires of me, How many talents hast thou added to thy Lord's stock ! Alas! my brethren, what a small amount in the whole! How little in the past year! But praised be God that there is any! And though the improvement hitherto made in this portion of his vineyard is of small amount, let us put our trust in God for better times ; let us hope that those who are in darkness will get awake to the light of his marvellous truth, and arise and shake themselves from the dust; that Zion will, even here, yet put on her beautiful garments, and be a praise among men.
My brethren and hearers, may that merciful God who hath called us to the knowledge of his grace—that compassionate Saviour, who hath paid our ransom with his own blood—that enlightening, sanctifying Spirit whom he hath sent into the world to abide with his Church, guide, govern, and keep us, to the glory of his name on earth, and to the blessedness of his presence in heaven. Amen.
PARABLE OF THE SOWER.
Luke viii. 15.
“But that on the good ground are they, who in an honest and good heart, having
heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience."
The parable of the sower, my brethren, is exceedingly instructive, awakening, and profitable; inasmuch as it affords to every man the certain means of ascertaining what effect God's message of mercy to the world by his Son has had upon himself, and also to what cause its want of effect, should that be the case, is to be ascribed ; whether to careless, way-side hearing, to superficial consideration when heard and received, or to absorption in the cares and pleasures of the world. In presenting us, moreover, with a single test of religious condition, it simplifies the duty of self examination, and enables every individual, by attending to his growth in grace, to form a just estimate of his interest in the Christian salvation. This test is contained in the words of my text, and lays down this sure position, that improvement of Christian advantages is the only safe criterion of Christian hope, the only ground of a just and reasonable assurance in the momentous concerns of immortality. In this it runs parallel with the parable of the talents, and, in the union of their joint moral, establishes the practical doctrine, that the religion of the gospel is the active discharge of our duties to God and each other, from proper motives and with reasonable expectations.
It presents us, therefore, with a subject of profitable improvement, in considering,
First, the influence of natural disposition on the reception of divine truth.
Secondly, how far external conduct is to be relied upon as a proof of religion.
THIRDLY, what constitutes the sure test, upon which we may safely depend.
But that on the good ground are they, who in an honest and good heart having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience.
I. First, I am to consider the influence of natural disposition on the reception of divine truth.
That this will be in opposition, may be asserted without any fear of contradiction ; individual experience being the living witness of the fact. But of what character that opposition will be, whether of mere indifference, of careless neglect, of contrary pursuit, or of actual hostility, will depend on original difference of temperament, modified by the adventitious circumstances of early education and worldly occupation.
It is, indeed, of little consequence, as to the event, to what cause opposition to divine truth may be ascribed, provided it continues; but it is of great consequence to know, that some natural tempers, as well as some worldly pursuits and occupations, are more or less indisposed to those motives and arguments, which are calculated to counteract this tendency, and by the aid of divine grace to overcome it; because upon this must depend, both the exertion to be put forth by the individual, and the application of the necessary means by others.
While, however, we thus state, without any qualification, the averseness and opposition of our fallen and perverted natures to the things of God and religion, we do not mean to say, that it is an aversion and opposition which cannot be overcome, or which presents any extenuation of guilt. On the contrary, we present it to you, and press it upon you, to awaken and alarm you and to induce you to resort to those means, by which only this mortal malady can be arrested and cured. For there is provision made in the gospel of Christ against all the variety of this original taint and corruption of our nature, and let us hear it with the deepest impression—it is no where else to be found.
Hence we are able to account for that difference, both in kind and degree, of opposition to divine truth, which is observable among men. The natural man receiveth not the things of the SPIRIT OF God; he is simply indisposed to consider and entertain