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is opened,-.for we have discoursed at length to the two former,-is a yet lower, though a more numerous, class than the others, consisting of the labourers and workmen, rich and poor; the burdenbearers, and office-holders of that worldly society, in the favour and good opinion of which the former class delighted,—the men who labour the earth for its food, who prepare in a thousand forms its nourishment, who consult its taste, and provide the materials for gratifying it, and who become so engrossed with their several pursuits, and so consumed by the anxieties of profit and of loss, so taken with the ingenuities of their various crafts, and, in short, so lost in the turmoil of active business, that their souls have not the time, nor the elevation, and at length lose even the capacity for spiritual subjects. The farmer being taken up with his ploughs and yokes of oxen, the merchant with his merchandize, and the mechanic with his tools, and the labourer with his sorrowful labour; the poor with providing daily bread; and the prosperous with building storehouses wherein to bestow his goods; it happeneth through all the varieties of the busy world, that the messenger of God calleth, but they answer not. He charmeth ; but their ear, like the deaf adder's, is shut to the voice of his charming, charm he never so wisely: they are bidden to the marriage supper and feast which the king hath made in honour of his son's espousals; but they are all otherwise engaged and cannot come: they are bidden the second time; but still they cannot come, until, at an hour when they expect not, fire cometh at length from the outworn patience of God and consumeth them, and their cities, and their works of art, and their good of merchandize, and their painted pictures, and their stately buildings, and all the beauty, and all the fruitfulness, and all the wealth with which the cunning and busy hand of man doth cover the face of the earth.
To this third class is devoted the third part of the parable, and that truly which concerneth us the most, wherein, under the similitude of thorns, are set forth the cares and riches and pleasures of this life; and under the similitude of seed falling amongst those thorns, is set forth the preaching of the Gospel unto the men who are all occupied by these worldly charges; and under the similitude of the choking of that precious seed by these thorns, so that not one particle thereof brought fruit to perfection, is set forth the fatal result which I and all ministers of the Gospel so constantly lament, and which you and all honest hearers of the Gospel do also lament; namely, that though you know and allow the truth of what we preach, and will not justify yourselves for the neglect of it, but are, on the other hand, continually sighing and longing, and looking for fruit, yet fruit bear you little or none, and at the end of the month, and at the end of the year, yea and after many years, and at the end of life itself, you find yourselves as barren and fruitless as at the beginning; or, if in any thing you differ from your outset, more helpless and hopeless with respect to that harvest which the sower, when he cometh as a harvest-man or reaper, will require of every field, that is, of every spirit, in which the seed of his precious word was sown. And it is now my high office, dearly beloved brethren, and very weighty commission from the Lord, to teach
you this night the causes of that barrenness of soul, which we lament in common, and whereof our Lord has graciously instructed us in the third part of this parable, which is now the subject of our discourse. And
may the Lord, who spoke this parable unto his disciples, and likewise unto the multitude, of whom neither the one nor the other at first understood it, and who graciously interpreted the same to his disciples, that they might after his decease interpret it unto his church,—may that gracious Lord, whose servant I am, and minister to this people, grant unto me the same revelation in this mystery of the kingdom, which he granted unto them from his own ever blessed lips, and the same Holy Spirit of interpretation which he poured out upon them on the day of Pentecost, and hath ever since continued in his church, that we may at this time, and at all times, but especially at this time, prevail to warn you busy and careful men of the snares and temptations and effectual hindrances of the Gospel, whereby your spirits are taken captive, deluded, and chained, and cannot be enlarged until some minister of grace be strengthened of the Holy Ghost to shew you your perilous condition, and move you to desire the enlargement and liberty of the sons of God.
And now, that we may take up this part of our subject also in order, and treat it with a fulness of detail requisite to its own importance and its necessity to the spiritual well-being of a congregation of busy men, let us attend carefully to the very words of our Lord, as they are three times recorded in the Gospel, and endeavour to comprehend the substance of this temptation against which he warneth his church. Ver.7: “And some fell among thorns, and the thorns sprang up with it, and choked it.” Verse 14: “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 forth no fruit unto perfection.” And in Matt. xiii. 7: “And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprung up and choked them.” Verse 22; “He also that received seed among the thorns, is he that heareth the word; and the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful.” In Mark: “ And the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things entering in, choke the word, and it becometh unfruitful.” Our Lord presenteth to us three distinct things; “the cares of this life,” “the deceitfulness of riches,” and the “ pleasures of this life," which are related to one another, as the root and the branches and the fruits of one great tree of worldliness ;-the root being in “ the cares of this life,” or, according to Matthew, “ the care of this world;" or, according to Mark, "the cares of this world;" by which, I understand in general, that anxiety of mind, with which every man is beset concerning the means of life, what he shall eat, what he shall drink, and wherewithal he shall be clothed; and likewise the higher and nobler anxieties of fathers and mothers, and children, and relations and friends, towards the various objects of their affection and care; with whatever else within the compass of the visible world is desired and longed after by the nature of man from the cradle to the grave. Out of this universal and common attribute of our fallen soul, here called “ the care of this world," there arise and shoot forth various desires after worldly things, that we might possess them, and, by possessing them, secure ourselves, as we fondly dream, against the gnawings of care; of which the chief, and, as it were, the representative of all the rest, is the desire of the “ riches of this life;" or, as it is in Matthew and Mark, “the deceitfulness of riches :" by which I understand the Lord to warn men, not only against the evil effects of riches possessed, but also the evil effects of riches desired and pursued : and it doth thus include a very large portion of mankind, especially in this age and in this city, where methinks the desire to be rich, though the basest and most ignoble of all our passions, hath fairly won the rule and mastery of our life, and is preparing for us such a bed of thorns, both as individuals and as a nation, as few men do dream of, as hardly any man will believe; for the proverb by which we steer our course, is no longer that of Solomon,
Righteousness exalteth a nation,” but that of our political economists, Wealth exalteth a nation.' And when I look into this city, and see the earnest and vehement pursuit of gain, and read the word of our Lord, “it is as impossible for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle as for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of heaven;" and when I look into the daily writings upon which the mind of this people feedeth, and see how the spirit of gain, and the means of gain, and the history of gain and of loss, are the chief topics therein treated of; when I hear the same echoed in every man's discourse, the burden of senatorial debates, the great theme of popular outcry and grievance, yea, and the great desire of nations, and, im