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THE SEED WHICH FELL ON THE SOIL OF A GOOD AND HONEST HEART, AND BROUGHT FORTH ABUNDANTLY.
LUKE viii. 8, 15. And other fell on good ground, and sprang up, and bare fruit an hundred fold.—But that on the good ground are they, which, in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience.
THE remarks which we made in our Introductory Lecture concerning the theology of nature, do sufficiently explain the necessity of parables and symbols, in order to express spiritual things : and they also explain the necessity of poetical imagery, in order to express the invisible working of the mind and heart of man. Forasmuch as they shew that the elemental, the vegetable, the animal, the mental world, are all forms of the same redemption from death by the sacrifice of Christ, and exemplifications of the laws, and functions, and properties of the spiritual life. The propaga. tions of natural life, the preservations of life, its beautiful forms and appearance; its healthy glows and sickly hues; its buddings, and shootings, and luxuriant unfoldings; and again, its droopings, decayings, diseases, and death; with all other, the various conditions in which it is found, are alike as to their principle of operation, which is the redemption of Christ Jesus; and more or less distinct illustrations of the grace, and goodness, and righteousness, and judgment, and other attributes which are in him: and therefore they are all illustrative of one another, beginning from the lowest, and ascending to the highest. And this is an idea as important, as I believe it to be true, which leadeth us to recognize the work of Christ in 'every thing; and to see that all things created, wicked though they be, that the very wickedness in them, and Satan the lord of the wickedness, are yet forced to labour for the glory of God, and to testify of their own approaching end, and of the renovation of the state in which they now exist; which teacheth us how to hallow the creature, and to use it to the honour of God the Creator; which sheweth us that every creature of God is good; and that all things are working together for good to them who love God, and are the called according to his purpose. It taketh the mystery off the present condition of things: and unsloughs, if I may so speak, their condition which is yet to be, and shews us how, even at present, under the veils of sense and time, all things are still under man; that the spiritual man is the lord, even now; and that the law which governs the animal, the vegetable, and the elemental worlds, is for the end of making them most dutiful servants and faithful interpreters of the spiritual world, to the children of the Spirit for whose sake they exist.
But, though these be all-important lessons of Christian theology, and very instructive of the restraining grace and coming redemption of God, I would not have spent so much pains, or occupied 80 much time upon them, in the Introductory Lecture, had it not been for the direct end of explaining the fourth part of this parable, whereof we would first examine the doctrine. To preserve any meaning in this part of the parable, we must admit that the soil into which the seed of the word is cast hath essentially to do with the fruitfulness of the seed. For if it hath a large and chief influence in the fruitlessness of it, as we have set forth at large in our three former Lectures, so as to bring these three classes into the condition of apostates, and make them obnoxious to all judgment—as it is written; “ For the earth which drinketh in the rain that cometh oft upon it, and bringeth forth herbs meet for them by whom it is dressed, receiveth blessing from God: but that which beareth thorns and briers, is rejected, and nigh unto cursing ; whose end is to be burned”. then also to the fructifying of the seed ought the soil to bring an essential influence, otherwise the parable is good for nothing but to lead astray. But what influence can the nature of man have of a favourable and predisposing kind? for is it not “ evil, and that continually?” Or what can this good and honest heart be, which is apt to bear the fruits of righteousness? for is not the heart of man “ deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked ?”—as it is written, of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, blasphemies.” All this I heartily agree to, and teach continually, that nature is cursed in her four corners, fallen in all her places, and wicked, desperately wicked, in the very bent of her will and the disposition of her being. And what, then, is this soil of “a good and honest heart,” which must co-operate with the seed in
order to bring forth the fruits of righteousness; which not in one case, but in every case, must co-operate with it; yea, which must be there before it?
Is it what the world calls a good natural disposition, with which some men are born? This it cannot be; for if that were a preliminary requisite, then the Gospel would only be for a part of men, and the children of the kingdom would be born of flesh and blood, and the law of the flesh would not be contrary to the law of the Spirit. This notion we utterly reject; for it is the very essence of the Arminian heresy, which gives a certain cooperative power unto the creature, and so filcheth all the glory from God. If then, this cooperative, yea, and precedent principle, be not in the person of man, is it in his education? or is it in civilization? or, in general, is it to be found in his outward circumstances ? This I reject, because I have rejected the former; being well assured, that, if the quality of pure and essential goodness be not found in any one man, it will not be found in any two men, nor in any combination of men, nor in any of the works of men. For if good dispositions could in any way of nature be produced in us, then the children of God were born of the will of men: or if good works before God that is, fruits of righteousness-could by any combination of means, discovered or discoverable, be brought to light, then what need were there for the regeneration of the Holy Ghost ? Besides, it is such a preposterous thing to put man's circumstances before man! As if the circumstantial things--the climate of the heavens, or the qualities of the ground, or the secret and subtle
influences of the stars, or the mechanical arts, or any other conditional things-were made to' rule over man, and man were not made to rule over them. As if he might be fallen from all blessedness, and lost to all good, and they not be so, but still retain some secret fire of Heaven in them, and subtle prize of Divine virtue, to those moral alchymists who can work it out of them by co-operative societies, and mechanic schools, and infidel universities, and other mysteries of these adepts in moral alchymy, or jugglers in the service of Satan.
But still the stone lies at the foot of the hill, and how is it to be rolled up or taken away? The question resteth unresolved, But what is this soil of “a good and honest heart," which must be already in existence before the Sower of seed--that is, the Son of Man, who preacheth the Gospel of the kingdom-can receive any fruits into his garner? Can it, saith a third, more orthodoxly and religiously disposed, be this outward visible church, and the ordinances of religion, which we all know must be observed and diligently kept before any fruit of righteousness will be produced ? But this will do no better than the others. For, first, I take it that the chief of the ordinances of religion-the ministry of the word and the sacraments are nothing but the sowing of the seed : and the church visible doth now the office which the Son of Man did while on earth, who sent his Apostles, and they their successors, and so on until our times, into all the world, to preach the Gospel, and establish a church for the preaching and full setting of the Gospel. The “good and honest heart,” therefore, ought to be something different from these, as