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save or to destroy! But I tell thee it will not save thee against thy will; and that thou canst, as till now, contend with it and baffle it. Think not such unworthy thoughts, as that God will take thee by constraint, or overcome thee by force. It is upon thy will that he doth operate by his word; and if thy will be to give thy heart unto thy farm or thy merchandise, it is token enough that his word will not quicken in thee. But if with good and honest hearts ye will receive these words which I now deliver to you, of salvation by the free grace of God in Christ Jesus, through the teaching and operation of the Holy Spirit, then it shall bring forth fruit unto the glory of God; and shall contend with evil in your hearts, and with doubt and disbelief and error, until at length you be brought into the clear and manifest conviction of those great truths of the spiritual church, whereof I discoursed to you in the morning, your election of God in Christ Jesus, your union to him in the covenant of redemption, your actual redemption from the power of original sin, and your regeneration in the midst of a sinful body and an evil world. Which stedfast and unremoved assurances of faith are not otherwise to be reached unto or attained but by the diligent hearing, marking, believing, and inwardly digesting of the truth preached unto you in the Holy Scriptures. To which perfect condition of the saints may the Lord bring you all in Christ Jesus, to the praise and glory of his great name!
And thus, dearly beloved brethren, have I wrestled in this Lecture with the four most popular and common artifices of Satan, whereby in this great city he doth succeed in diverting men from the hearing of the word, or destroying the fruitfulness of the word in those who hear it. And though there be many listening to me who are not under the thorough and masterful influence of these his arts, yet there is no one born in this
generation, and living in this place, who is not affected less or more by their evil influence, somewhat perverted in his spirit, and hindered of the full fruitfulness of the word of God. Wherefore I do entreat you all, as your only protection, to seek earnestly the blessing of the Holy Spirit upon the preaching of the word; and to regard it with much reverence, as Christ's ordinance for the salvation of souls—“by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.” And let me entreat you to pray continually for the ministers of the word, who have in this city a terrible contest to wage against Satan's troops of materialists, formalists, sectarians, and heretics. And for me, brethren, pray continually, that my spirit may be delivered from those very arts of Satan; and that I may be able, with truth and sincerity, and much earnestness, to declare the word of the Gospel to all who are drawn hither; and that the word of God may prevail against the artifices of Satan, in every ingenious form which he may assume for men's deceiving and destruction. And may the Lord grant to every one of you increasing wisdom and knowledge in the word of God, and abundance of the fruits of the Spirit, to your establishment in all assurance and blessedness, through Jesus Christ; to whom, with the Father and blessed Spirit, be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen.
THE SEED ON THE ROCK, WHICH WAS BURNT UP OF
LUKE viii. 6, 13. And some fell upon a rock; and as soon as it was sprung
up it withered away, because it lacked moisture. They on the rock are they, which, when they hear, receive the word with joy: and these have no root ; which for a while believe, and in time of temptation fall away.
THE first impediment to the fruitfulness of the word, concerning which we have discoursed at length, ariseth from Satan's artful malignity in plucking it away so soon as it is sown in the heart : but this against which we are now, by God's help, to warn you, ariseth from something in the hearer; likened in the parable to thinness of soil, and explained in the interpretation by his not having root in himself. Another characteristic of this class is given in their “hearing the word gladly:" which also has its correspondence in the emblem; for it is well known to the husbandman, that the seed which falls upon a sharp, thin soil, or upon a dry, rocky, and stony part of the field, is the soonest to spring up and ripen; but, being ripened, is good for little, either in respect to straw or seed. And, to destroy any thing that might possibly come of it, the sun is represented as rising with a powerful heat and scorching it: which again hath its correspondency, thus given in the interpretation;“When tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and bye he is offended.” Which very descriptive traits enable me to embody a very distinct idea in my own mind of this class of hearers, which I shall, by the blessing of God, endeavour first to make you comprehend.
They “ have no root in themselves”-that is, nothing takes root in them, but every thing springs up hastily and runs to seed. The impression you make upon them endureth“ for a while," and only for a while; can stand no trial, and resist no temptation; but occupies the empty head and vacant heart, until another ask for admission, which it easily finds, and another and another, until vanity and voidness become the very character of their life. Upon whom the seed of the word falling, may with gladness be accepted, and with promptness carry a certain head; but soon it droops and dies, and disappoints the husbandman. And what they bear is but the chaff, which every wind drives to and fro; or the refuse and hungry grain, which must be winnowed out from the rest before you lay it up in the garner.
I reckon, therefore, that this part of the rable instructeth you who hear, and us who teach, that there are in the constitution and discipline of the mind pre-requisites to the right entertainment and fructification of Divine truth, which are to be carefully taken into the account by parents and teachers, and all concerned in the education of youth: and which being carefully besought of God, and diligently craved, do give
an easy inclination unto and ready reception of the word, and constitute the good soil of an honest heart: which being neglected, and the contrary allowed or encouraged, do cause a disinclination to, or ready rejection of, the word, and constitute the rocky, stony, or thin soil, mentioned in this part of the parable. This doctrine doth establish an intimate connection between all those natural causes which go to form natural character, and that Divine word which alone can form spiritual character; and teaches us that every thing in providence is connected with every thing in grace, and that from our very childhood we are either preparing ourselves for the reception or the rejection of a preached Gospel ;-a doctrine little thought of in these times, when the all-in-all of the Divine work is placed in conversion, and the conversion is thought to be so much the better according to the unpropitiousness of the conditions. And certainly it is not my purpose to deny that the work of God is the more to be remarked in the extreme cases of conversion which he worketh, (though I reckon the appetite for such is but a bastard Popery ;) nor is it my purpose to deny that there is no fructifying of the seed of the word but by the supernatural water of the Spirit; while at the same time I maintain, that our Lord instructs us, by two parts of this parable, that there are minds which, by nature and education, are disposed, and others which are by the same causes indisposed, to the receiving and retaining of Divine truth. I am not here stationed by the church to accommodate my Lord's words to any system, either in my own mind or in yours, but to interpret them faithfully: and I perceive that