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pressly describes himself as speaking to the Jews in parables, that seeing they might not see, and hearing they might not perceive; I answer, that this want of perception arose, not from any unfitness in the method of instruction, but from their own indisposition to receive instruction. The Scribes and Pharisees, those hearers whom Christ seems chiefly in this expression to have in view, were in the highest degree prejudiced both against his person and his doctrine, and came to hear him, not with a design of profiting by his divine lessons, but of catching some unguarded expression, on which they might ground an accusation against him. It is not, therefore, surprising, that it should not be given to such perverse and captious hearers to know what was delivered in parables; since they were too much blinded with wickedness to see those which were plain and obvious, and too proud to condescend to be instructed more fully in those, which contained the sublimer mysteries of the kingdom of heaven.
With regard to the parable now before us, our divine Master has furnished us with an explanation of its design and tendency, and therefore we are not at liberty to seek for any other. His explanation, however, is full and comprehensive, and will therefore leave us sufficient room to enlarge upon it in our own thoughts and reflections,
without deviating from its original scope and intention; which is, to justify the christian religion, and to clear it from those objections, which might seem to arise against it, on account of the little effect it had on the minds of those, by whom it was publicly professed.
The seed, says our Saviour, is the word of God. Those by the way-side are they that hear: then cometh the devil, and taketh away the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved.
· They on the rock are they, which, when they hear, receive the word with joy; but having no root, believe only for a while, and in time of temptation fall away.
· And that which fell among thorns are they, which, when they have heard, go forth, and are choaked with cares, and riches, and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to perfection.
You have here then a compendious view of those causes, which obstructed in the time of our Saviour, and ever will continue, I fear, to obstruct, the natural energy and fruitfulness of God's word,
The seed sown by the way-side, represents those careless and nominal Christians, who hear indeed, but do not consider the weighty truths of religion. Of this sort are all the thoughtless crowds of the busy world, who are born indeed in a christian land, and have been baptized into, the name of Christ, but have no other claim to the honourable name of Christians, by which they are, improperly, called. They have indeed the glorious light of the Gospel shining round about them, but their hearts are impervious to its rays. They are never at leisure to entertain any serious thoughts of God and religion. They are too deeply engaged in providing for the present life to have any time to consider what they shall do to inherit eternal life. They are, in fact, just as much unenlightened and unregenerate, as if they had lived in the midst of heathen darkness and idolatry. And accordipgly, our Saviour justly represents them in the parable, as being equally with the heathens, under the power and influence of the devil, who cometh and taketh away the word out of their hearts, lest they should be saved.
It is a melancholy thaught to, consider the greatest part of a christian pation as living in this dangerous and unchristian way ; but it is a thought too well established on the basis of truth,
to be either doubted or denied. It is no wonder, therefore, that our preaching is vain, when their faith is so vain and void of all foundation. Thousands and ten thousands, I speak not of those miserable wretches, who are sunk in brutal ignorance and corruption, -I speak of our nobles, our senators, our most distinguished characters in knowledge, in eloquence, in rank and fortune, hardly ever approach the house and altar of God. And if to these we add the many thousands more, who approach them with unfeeling hearts and pre-occupied thoughts, from motives of idleness, custom, or curiosity, , we shall not much wonder, thạt the word of God, though quick and powerful, should produce so little effect in the world. The arguments for the truth of the Gospel are indeed strong and convincing, and the motives to the practice of its duties cogent and irresistible: but these arguments and motives cannot force their way into ears, which şefuse to hear them, or into hearts barred against their reception by wilful ignorance and opposition. Let them, however, know, and let every one, who has reason to suspect himself to be in the number of these careless and inconsiderate hearers, know, that it is high tiine to awake to a right understanding, to a thorough consideration, and a lively sense of that religion, which they now, in name only, profess. Let them be
assured, that the truths of it are too important to be disregarded, and its promises and threatenings too serious to be trifled with :- for we cannot neglect, or be únacquainted with, its saving truths, but at the expence of our immortal souls. A second sort of unprofitable hearers are those, who do indeed superficially consider the truths of religion, but not enough to fix them deeply in their minds, or to prevent their falling away in time of temptation : they are, therefore, aptly compared by our Saviour to stony ground, which receives the seed, but wants depth of earth sufficient to bring it to perfection. The guilt of the former sort of unprofitable hearers consisted in their liearing the truths of religion, without considering them; but these, not only consider them, but also receive them with joy; they have a real value for religion, they are convinced of its certainty, they admire its excellency, and rejoice in its privileges, But their unhappiness is, that this good frame and temper of mind is not lasting; in the elegant language of the Prophet, it is like a morning cloud, or as the early dew that passeth away. As long, therefore, as religion turns its bright side towards them they rejoice in its light, and walk in the brightness thereof: but as soon as clouds and storms appear, as soon as dangers, difficulties, and temp. tations arise, they are then discouraged from