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which manifest themselves in our conduct towards each other, how universally are men blinded in their conduct towards God-While Christianity in general is allowed to be both good and necessary, there is scarcely any regard paid to its particular, and most distinguishing tenets-Its fundamental doctrines, such as original sin, justification by faith, regeneration by the holy Spirit, are discarded as erroneous; and its most essential precepts of holiness and self-denial are rediculed as preciseness and enthusiasm—Where the jaundiced eye receives such an impression respecting the most important truths, its light must be considered as no better than darkness-]
3. When, under a professed regard to it, we do what is in itself evil
[It is no uncommon thing to put “evil for good, and darkness for light,” and to engage earnestly in some evil conduct under the idea that we are doing what is right-Our Lord has taught us to expect that men would persecute and even “ kill his faithful followers, and imagine all the time that they were doing God service”-And Paul, in the midst of all his boasted morality, persecuted the Christians even unto death, and persuaded himself that he “ ought to do” so"-A similar conduct yet obtains in the world. There are thousands who yet think it their duty to oppose the progress of the gospel, and to repress by every means in their power its influence over their friends and relatives—The light of such persons surely is, not only dark, but darkness itself.]
It appears then that the caution is, not to neglect or violate the dictates of our conscience-Toimpress it the more deeply on our minds we shall consider II. The reason of it
The Jews had manifested a most astonishing perverseness in resisting all the evidences of our Lord's mission And he well knew how fatal it would prove to them, if they should persist in it any longer-Hence he gave them this solemn caution, which may for similar reasons be given also unto us
1. The evil, against which we are guarded, is a common evil
[Though there is much ignorance in the world, yet there are few, if any, whose practice does not fall very far short of what they know to be their duty—There certainly are different degrees of light in the minds of unconverted men; but all in some measure “resist the truth,” and “ imprison it in unrighteousness”d—When therefore this evil is so general, should we not be on our guard against it?-When all of us see how much it prevails in others, should we not suspect its influence over ourselves?-Let every one tremble for his own house, when he sees it standing in the midst of a general conflagation
c John xvi. 2. Acts xxvi. 9.,
b Isai. v. 20. VOL. III.
. 2. It is an evil to which we are prone.
[The heart is justly said to be “ deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked”-It is ready and ingenious in colouring over its own divices, and in justifying whatever tends to its own satisfaction-The world also presents to us ten thousand pleas that serve to confirm our delusions-And Satan, who beguiled our first parents in Paradise, doubtless lends his aid to lead us astray, and to keep us ignorant of our real state--Who is there amongst us that has not experienced this proneness to selfdeception—The very apostles on some occasions“ knew not what spirit they were of”—And who has not repeatedly found, that the things, which seemed right in his eyes at one time, have, in an hour of sober reflection, appeared to have been the extremest folly?-Surely then we never can be too watchful against the treachery of our own hearts-] . 3. It is an evil that greatly aggravates our guilt
[God has given us a conscience capable of “ accusing or excusing” us according to the true tenor of our actions - Now if we either warp it by vile affections, or silence it by continued opposition to its dictates, our sin is aggravated an hundred-fold—This is repeatedly declared both by Christ and his apostles-And can we suppose that our punishment also will not be proportionably enhanced?-Will not “ the servant who knew his Lord's will and did it not, be beaten with more stripes than he who transgressed through ignorance?”—Will not those, who improved a less degree of light, “ rise up in judgment against” those who enjoyed more ample means of instruction, and yet neglected to improve them?—No doubt, it were “ better never to have known the will of God at all, thàn, having known it,” to live in an allowed opposition to it 4. It is an evil, that involves us in the greatest danger
[If we will not receive the truth in the love of it, we have reason to fear that God will give us up to our own delusions, that we may believe a lie, and receive the condemnation due to our perverseness. He sometimes suffers the light itself to have no other effect than to blind our eyes!--And what a tre
d Rom. i. 18. kategóvtwy. A heathen felt this: “ Video meliora proboque; deteriora sequar.”
e Rom. ii. 15. f Jam. iv. 17. John xv. 22. and ix. 41. and iii. 19-21. 8 2 Thess. ii. ll, 12.
bi Isai vi. 9, 10.
mendous judgment would that be!-We should only wander farther and further from God, till we had “ filled up the measure of our iniquities” and be thus “ treasuring up for ourselves wrath against the day of wrath”-Should we ever be left to this state, “better were it for us that we had never been born”-]
Having thus explained the reasons of this caution, we shall conclude with a few words of ADVICE 1. Get your conscience truly enlightened
[It needs the illumination of God's word and Spirit, Without that it will be but a blind guide at best—God however has promised, for the comfort of those who seek him, that “ The meek he will guide in judgment, the meek he will teach his way”—] ... 2. Regard the dictates of conscience in little things
[Conscience must exercise an uncontrolled, unlimited sway-You must “ exercise yourself daily to keep it void of offence towards God and man”-If you violate its dictates in small things, you will soon cease to reverence it in greater matters—But listen to its voice on all occasions, and it will never suffer you to err materially-There shall always be a voice behind you, saying, “ This is the way, walk ye in it”-] 3. Guard against worldly and carnal lusts
[It is astonishing to what a degree even the most sensible men, as David and Solomon, may be blinded by “ foolish and hurtful lusts”—The love of money, of pleasure, or of honour, alas! how will they warp the judgment, how will they divert us from the path of duty-Love not the world if you have any wish to possess the love of God—The two attachments are inconsistent and incompatible with each otherk ]. 4. Set the Lord Jesus ever before you
[He is the light of the world; and if you will follow him, you shall never walk in darkness! If you can find what Christ would have done in your situation, do that resolutely and universally-]
i Isai. xxx. 21.
kl John ii. 15.
John viii. 12.
CCXXXII. THE SOWER. Matt. xiii. 18. Hear ye the parable of the sower, THE word of God, by whomsoever delivered, makes a different impression on different people
When our Lord himself preached, his discourses did not carry conviction to all
Nor did his apostles find that all would receive the truths declared by them- .
Thus, in this day, there is a great diversity of effect produced among the hearers of the gospel
Our Lord foretold that this would be the case in all ages of the church
He compared “ the word of his kingdom" to seed cast into different soils
And the fruits resulting from it, to the various produce of the different grounds
In unfolding the parable of the sower, we shall be led to notice 1. The way-side hearers
There are two things wherein careless hearers resemble seed fallen by the way-side
They “ hear the word without understanding”
[They attend upon the ordinances merely in a customary manner
They do not go to hear with a view to obtain benefit to their souls
Their minds are occupied about something they have seen or done
Or are meditating some new plans of business or pleasure
Thus though they hear the word, they scarcely give, it any attention
Or attend merely to the style of composition and manner of delivery
No wonder than that they obtain no solid views of divine truth ] They lose it without regret
[“ Satan” is more concerned with them that they are at all aware of- . .
Like “ the fowls of the air," he hovers round them to catch away the seed”
The word is no sooner uttered, than he turns their attention from it
Nor is it difficult for him, by suggesting other thoughts, to accomplish his purpose
He well knows, that, if they truly “believe the word, they will be saved” by it
And that, if they hear it with attention and candour, they cannot but believe it
Hence hé labours incessantly to divert their minds from it
If, after all, some scattered truths remain upon the mind, they are speedily " trodden down” by the incidental occurrences of the day-]
These, it is to be feared, are by far the most numerous class of hearers
But there are some to whom the word seems not to come in vain II. The stony-ground hearers
These, though equally hard as to their hearts, differ widely from the former
They “ embrace the word gladly”
[Their affections, like a thin coat of earth upon a rock, " receive the word”
The novelty of it, and their hope of an interest in it, delights their mind
They are moved at the sufferings of Christ, or the promises of the gospel, as they would be at any good news, or pathetic story
“Immediately” they begin to make a profession of religion
And seem to surpass many who have been longer instructed in the way-] But they “ renounce it again speedily”
[They neyer were deeply convinced of sin, nor felt their need of Christ
They embraced the gospel, without ever seriously counting the cost
Ere long, they find that they have to endure “persecution for the word's sake”
This, like “ the sun” in its brightness, penetrates through the surface of their affections
And burns up the seed, which was “never rooted” in their understanding and will
Then they renounce their profession as speedily as they had taken it up
And either “ secretly decline” from the society to which they were attached
Or “ openly proclaim the disgust,” with which their late pretensions have inspired them-]
Nor are these the only persons who disappoint the hopes of the sower III. The thorny-ground hearers
These are a class who more nearly resemble that of true Christians