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the word in their affections, while it is plain it hath no place in their understanding.
This is a character directly opposed to the former. The affection which these men express for religion, not being the fruit of divine illumination, cannot be genuine. It is no other than mere passion, excited by causes purely mechanical, and of which they can themselves give no intelligible account. Allowance doubtless is to be made for the weakness of men's understandings : and many a sincere Christian there is, whose heart is warmed by those divine truths which he has not talents clearly to state and defend. But I am speaking of those who are grossly ignorant, yet clamorously zealous. Their character our Lord has drawn to the life in the parable of the sower, wherein he compares them to stony ground covered with a thin bed of earth, from whence the seed instantly upon its being sown springs up, but having no root quickly withers and dies away. In these men there is no alliance, scarce any connection, between the understanding and the heart. Their zeal is without knowledge, and the devotion of which they boast is the offspring of ignorance.
To you, Sirs, I am at a loss how to address myself. Permit me however to say, if the word of God is justly described as a light shining in a dark place a, if it be an emanation from supreme Wisdom, if it be the perfection of reason; surely it is not imaginable that it was meant to operate on the human heart, without communicating any information to the mind. Can you think that mere agitation of the passions, the elevation of the voice, the violent distortion of the limbs, or any active service whatever, performed without any assignable reason, mor tive, or cause but that of fancy or imagination; can be acceptable to God or profitable to man? Be åssured, the service God demands is a reasonable service b; the doctrines which the Bible teaches are words of truth and soberness c;' and the influence exerted over the mind in the great concern of religion, extends as well to the understanding and conscience, as the will and affections. Beware then how you mistake enthusiasm for substantial godliness. a 2 Pet. i, 19.
Rom. xii. 1.
c Acts xxvi. 25.
(4.) The last character to be addressed, is that of the happy men, who have the word of God both in their understandings and their hearts.
Be thankful to God, my brethren, for so ordering external events as thereby to lead you into an acquaintance with the Scriptures. It was his providence that cast your lot in a country, where the light of divine truth shines; and in an age wherein it is not accounted a crime, as it once was, to read the Bible.—Was it your happiness to derive from parents who brought you up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, so that from a child you knew the Scriptures? While you recollect their tears, prayers, and unwearied endeavours for your spiritual good; how thankful should you be to God, who caused you to spring from such parents, and who thus disposed them to their duty !-Did you become acquainted with this blessed book by hearing it daily read in the family with whom you happened to live, and in whose lives you saw its sacred truths exemplified ? Acknowledge the hand of God in casting your lot in that family.-Was it by the seasonable counsel of some friend that you were first induced to read your Bible, and seriously weigh its contents ? Recollect with gratitude to Heaven the circumstances which led you into an intimacy with that friend, and which gave occasion to such salutary discourse.Did the public preaching of the word rouse you from the slumbers of sin, and put you upon searching the Scriptures ? Forget not the providence that guided you to that place of worship, and engaged your attention to those seasonable expostulations.-Or was you driven to your Bible by worldly trouble, and the failure of relief and comfort in every other quarter ? Observe the kind hand that thus chastised
to recover you to your duty.
But there is something more than all this which demands your recollection and most grateful acknowledgment. I mean the influence of divine grace exerted on your minds, as well as that of providence on your external affairs. External events might have been arranged in the manner just represented, and yet no salutary effect resulted thence. If then the Bible has become yours, in the most important sense, by enlightening your understanding, and mingling itself with the practical powers of your soul; you must, you will own that it is of God. This is the doctrine of that book which you have received as of divine original. It was God that opened your eyes to behold wondrous things out of his law a. His grace fixed your attention to it, assisted your faculties in the study of it, held back the veil of prejudice which had concealed its truths, and impressed them with efficacy on your hearts. His grace relieved
your discouraging doubts and fears, comforted you with the hopes of pardon and eternal life, and animated you to your duty by the transcendant love of Christ, in your redemption. By the grace of God, said the apostle, I am what I am b. Adopt the same language, Christians, with sincere and cordial devotion, and let your lives speak it with an energy that exceeds the warmest professions of the lips.
THE DUTY WHICH CHRISTIANS OWE TO THE HOLY
Col. ur. 16.—Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in
By the word of Christ I have shewn you we are here to understand the whole Bible, for the doctrine of Christ is the grand subject of which it treats, and the Holy Spirit who inspired it is emphatically styled The Spirit of Christ c. Now the apostle exhorts us in the text to pay the most sacred regard to the Scriptures. And the amount of the exhortation is this-To make the Bible our own-On no consideration to part with it—And to apply it to its proper use. a Psal. cxix. 18. b1 Cor. xv. 10,
cl Pet. i. 11. .
The first of these particulars was the subject of the former discourse. The word of God is ours (or in us as the text expresses it) if it be in our understanding and in our hearts. We have therefore laid down certain rules to assist us in collecting the sense of Scripture-and shewn you what measures are to be taken in order to our entering into the spirit of its sacred truths.--And we now proceed,
II. To shew that the Bible, thus become ours, ought on no account to be parted with. Let the word of Christ DWELL IN YOU.
This heavenly guest once admitted should no more be suffered to go out: such entertainment should be given it as may secure its constant residence in our hearts. At its approach, struck with the condescension and benignity of the blessed God, did we with astonishment cry out, Lift up your heads, O ye gates, and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors, that the King of glory may come in a?' how solemnly should we charge all the powers of our souls to watch against every expression of disrespect which may provoke him to depart! For if he depart, whát have we to apprehend but shame and misery? If, to use the language of the prophet on another occasion, the Lord cast off his altar, and abhor his sanctuary; if the gates of Zion are sunk into the ground, and her bars are destroyed and broken; if the law is no more, and there be no more vision from the Lord, how will they that pass by clap their hands and say, Is this the temple of the living God, the perfection of beauty, the joy of the whole earth 6 ?' Let the word of Christ then, which is to us what the ark and the Shechinah were to Israel of old, take up its constant abode in our hearts.
Our Saviour, in the parable of the sower c, gives a striking description of the treatment the word meets with from various kinds of hearers. A general view of their several characters will explain what is meant by his words dwelling in us, and direct us to the measures proper to be taken to that end.
Some seed fell by the way-side, and was immediately trodden under foot, or devoured by the fowls of the air. Some fell on stony ground, quickly sprung up, and promised a fair and a Psal. xxiv, 7.
b Lam. ii. 7-9, 15.
c Matt. xiii. 3-9.
plentiful harvest: but there being no depth of earth sufficient for it to take root, the scorching beams of the sun soop consumed it. Again, other seed was thrown into the hedge, where it had more earth to receive and nourish it: but when it began to shoot out of the ground, the briars and thorns sprung up with it and choked it, so that it yielded no fruit. The rest fell on good ground, where it took deep root, and so receiving due nourishment and support, grew to its full height: the ears filled, and at the proper season produced a rich crop, some thirty, some sixty, and some an hundred fold.
By these figures our Lord meant to describe, as we learn from what followed a, four different characters. In neither of the three first does the word abide in the sense of our text. Yet the effect of it upon the second class of hearers, is more considerable than on the first; and on the third still more than on either of the former.
Of inattentive hearers, the first character in the parable, it can scarce be said that the word is in them at all. It makes only a transient impression on their minds. Not being understood, it is not laid up in their memory; and treated with neglect, it leaves them destitute of the necessary means to guard them against the wiles of Satan and his emissaries.
Enthusiastic hearers do indeed manifest greater attention and earnestness. The word mingles with the natural passions, significd by the fine mould that covered the rocky ground: it is received with joy, and professed with zeal. But then it is not in the understanding, nor does it so lay hold on the heart as to become a principle of action. And of consequence, when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, they are offended; and having no root in themselves, angrily renounce that profession, which in the heat of unmeaning zeal they were so forward to make.
The third character is more promising. In the enclosure there is greater depth of earth, and more moisture than on the barren rock. The man of this description is better instructed, and for a while more cautions and steady in his profession than
a Matt. xiii. 1823.