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And what I have spoken to my own people I speak to the whole church of Christ, that they should be looking to their armour, which these times of peaceful 'flattery have rusted; and try its several pieces and burnish them for the battle, and close the rivets in their armour up; above all, looking to their shield of faith, whether it be arrow-proof, proof against the fiery darts of the devil. For I greatly err if they will not find the rust of formality, and the eating rust of expediency, to have consumed the massy pieces with which heretofore the Reformers of this land were clothed for battle in the times of old. There are no tests of the true men from the false. The soul-searching discourse hath ceased, experimental religion is a thing dug for amongst the sermons of a former age: preaching is itself a taste, a pleasure, an entertainment, a relish of doctrine; not a meal of meat to the hungry, or a slaking draught to the thirsty. There is no discussion, there is no handling of the matter, there is a dearth of things old, and a want of things new. The old wine contained in the bottles of our standards is diluted with a thousand measures of water, until its very taste and colour, and surely all its strength, are gone; and the new wine of the kingdom to come is entertained only by a few, and disgusts the taste of the many; and the church is a miserable gathering of meagre men, the best of whom is but as the shadow of the warriors which have been in the days of old.

515

LECTURE III.

THE SEED WHICH FELL AMONG THORNS, AND WAS

CHOKED BEFORE IT COULD BRING FORTH FRUIT.

LUKE viii. 7, 14. And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprang up

with it, and choked it. And that which fell among thorns are they, which, when they have heard, go forth, and are choked with cares and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to perfection.

HAVING, in our former discourses upon this parable, been led to study it carefully, we have been mightily impressed with the deep wisdom which is contained in it, concerning the threefold varieties of human character and human temptation, and the exact correspondence of the effects which the history of preaching in every age of the church hath revealed; namely, first, the proud and high-minded, who reject it hastily, through their much communion with Satan, that prince of all knowledge where God is not known, of all power where God is not acknowledged, and bright archangel of the natural man; who is now revealing himself in his angelic glories of natural knowledge, natural beauty, natural wisdom, natural freedom, and natural humanity, and mightily prevailing in these lands and in this city against us the ministers of the poor and humbled Jesus; whom, methinks, we should likewise array in his superangelic glory about to be revealed of King of kings, and Lord of lords, in order to expel Satan from this mundane sphere; and proclaim him, in the teeth of the usurpation, as the Sun of Righteousness, about to arise and eclipse that Lucifer son of the morning : for we be ministers not only of the Son of Man, but of the Son of God; not only of the Word which was made flesh, but of the Word of God, which shall yet issue out of heaven, accompanied with all the heavenly host, inscribed on his vesture and on his thigh with " these words, “ King of kings, and Lord of lords ;' and thus, by taking to ourselves all the weapons of our warfare, we might have some chance of defeating the enemy under that brilliant and potent disguise of radiant knowledge, which in these latter times he hath assumed, and might obtain some audience, if not some root for the seed of the word of the Gospel of Christ, amongst that numerous class of learned men who now trample it under foot, as the precious grains of wheat are trodden on the highway, or suffer it to be borne away by the soaring ambitions of the natural spirit, as the seed scattered by the way-side is carried away by the fowls of heaven.

Secondly. The vain, outward, showy, and changeful members of this world's society, whose idol is not in the invisible mind, or its fallen yet stately grandeur, but in the visible world, that is, in the fellowship and friendship and approbation of human society; who are political with the politicians of this world's kingdoms, delighting in its courtly flatteries, ambitious of its placeș, vain of its distinctions, proud of its ornaments, and, in one word, satisfied with the sufficiency of its

portion; which is an inferior sphere of man to the former: for in that we commune with thoughts and ideas, and desires, which have no outward similitude or form, but exist in the spirit, and for the spirit, and out of which heretofore was constructed the temple of contemplation, and meditation, and other Sabbath occupations, where the soul once did see and feel the present Word and Spirit of God, but where now she findeth only Satan and his angels to be present, until she be redeemed and ransomed into the bright hope and opening possession of her unfallen blessedness. Whereas this second class of natural men be content with just so many of those thoughts and ideas of the mind as can be realized in human life, and made visible in human society, which are so few, so coarse, and little equal to the dignity of human nature, that the sages and philosophers, and poets and moralists, of all ages and countries, have rather retired from their degradation than courted their

possession: but, alas! they are the heaven of the multitude, who know no higher philosophy than usefulness and comfort; no diviner law than expediency and advantage; no finer strain of poetry than the description of the tossing passions or gentle affections of the mind, of the rugged, or sublime, or beautiful forms of nature; who know no deeper morality than prudence and convenience, so that to them the coarse machine of human life, with all its confusion, suffering, disease, and death, this threescore-and-ten years' lease of existence, this daily, hourly, uncertainty of being is enough-base spirits !-is enough to content that soul which was made in the image of God, and, as it were, the mirror of his various excellency. These worldly spirits cannot arise into the Divine purities of the spiritual life revealed in the Gospel, cannot comprehend the holiness, the righteousness, and the goodness of the law of God; nor receive the light and liberty, and wisdom and knowledge, of the Gospel of Christ ; nor admire the love and peace, and joy and forgiveness, and meekness of the Holy Ghost; nor can they forsake the worldly kingdom, for the kingdom to come; nor be content as pilgrims and strangers to wait for their citizenship from heaven : and this spirit of worldly society cannot enter into the mystery of the communion of saints, and fellowship of the holy catholic church; neither, when these mysteries are propounded to them, do they utterly reject them as the former; but because human society, which they admire as their heaven, containeth a somewhat rude resemblance of that heavenly society which we present to them, they do give us ear, but not being able to enter into the sublimity and purity of our doctrine, from their cleaving to the worldly spirit, they debase the doctrine to the measure of their own capacity, stand with it so long as it will stand with them, and go with it so far as it will go with them. But when persecution ariseth on account of the faith; that is, when it requireth of them any sacrifice of that worldly society wherein they have their pleasure; then straightway they are offended and fall away, because they had no root in themselves, neither were rooted in the great vine of spiritual life, but were branches of that corrupt tree which bringeth forth corrupt fruit—that vine of the earth to whose root the axe is ready to be applied, and whose clusters are now ripe for the wine-press of Almighty God.

The third class, to whom our commission now

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