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they could ; that Others, who live within the Pale of Christ's Flock, and have opportunities, but will not use them when they may; that these several sorts of People, I say, should continue unfruitful, is nothing strange. But that Many, who have them, and do use them, nay, and use them gladly too ; that They, who come to the publick Assemblies for Religious Worship, as God's People cometh, and sit before his Prophets as God's People sitteth, and attend to the Preacher with Eagerness and a sensible Delight ; that These, after all, should prove barren and unprofitable, is Matter to be sure of great Grief, and must be allowed to carry somewhat of Difficulty, and of Wonder in it. And yet that so it is ; that the Ministers of Christ often sow where they never reap, but lose the desired Effect of their Pious Intentions and most Zealous Endeavours ; our Blessed Saviour acquaints us in this Scripture, and our own daily Experience does but too visibly confirm the Truth of it. So that it concerns every Christian, diligently to examine into the Causes of such lamentable Disappointments. Which, that we may know, and effectually prevent, our Lord hath laid them down at large, in the Parable and Application now before us. Of which in order to make the best profit we can, it will be proper to observe the following Particulars.

1. First, That this Parable was spoken before a mixt and numerous Auditory, When much People were gathered together, and were come to him out of every City, The other Evangelists inform us, shat Jesus had no Tooner left his Retirement, but the Multitudes, who had flocked in from the adjacent Towns, pursued him down to the Seaside ; that at this very time he taught them out of a Ship; that, scarce cortent

Mark iv. I, to allow him leisure for the cominon Re

36. freshments of Nature, they pursued him

Ver. 4.

Matt. xiii. I.

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still; and, when he put to Sea, procured other Vefsels, for attending him in his Voyage. Circumstances, all these, of great Significance and Use. Since these so forward, lo insatiable Learners, were not in all Points what they ought to have been : Since even to Men, who exprest then a Zeal so eager, as is scarce any where to be met with now, this Lecture of profiting by what they heard, was nevertheless highly seasonable and necessary. So far were They at that time from having done all that became them ; So vain an Imagination is it at any time, for Christians to suppose, that frequenting the Church, and being diligent to hear God's Word, will save their Souls at laft; without producing afterwards the suitable Fruits of Piety and Virtue, in their Minds and Conversations.

(2.) 'Tis fit we take good Notice, in the Next Place, how great a Loss this Parable describes : Which, out of Four parts cast into the Ground, tells us but of One, that turn'd to account. No better did Matters go in our Saviour's Time, and with the Hearers of Him, who spoke as never man spoke. Yet would not They, who confess’d thus much, and could never convince him of Sin, or of Error, be either persuaded by the Power of his Eloquence, or won over by the Perfection of his Example. And, though the miscarrying of Three Parts in Four, may seem an astonishing Proportion under Any Circumstances ; there is but too just Reason to fear, that, as the Frailties and Infirmities of our Preachers now are infinite, and will not allow any Comparison between the Best of Them, and their Great, their Divine Master: So the Numbers of those that fail under their Ministry, are infinite also ; and the truly faithful Hearers, but few, but very few, and far below the Proportion in this Parable.

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Ver. II.

3. This however, Thirdly, is not the Sower's fault. His Business is only to scatter the Grain, in due Season, and with a liberal Hand.

Mark iv. 140 Now that Seed, according to our Lord's

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Matt. xiii. 37 own Method of explaining himself, is The Word of God; and He that soweth it is the Son of Man. This Master of the Field went out to low, came down from the Throne of his Glory, and, at the fulness of Time, conversed with Mankind in Flesh, accommodated himself to their Capacities and Wants, that no possible Means might be wanting, to render his Gospel acceptable and effectual. This Word he hath scattered upon all Countries and Kingdoms ; first by the extraordinary Influences of his Spirit and Power ; then by the Establishment of a perpetual Succession and Order of Ministers, and the faithful Records of his most Holy Religion. If they, who are now made Sowers of this Word, should be fo unhappy, as to mistake it through Ignorance; Or so perverse, as to corrupt it through Malice and Design ; Or so profligate, as to disgrace it by scandalously wicked Lives ; Yet still our Bibles are our own. These give it us pure and plain, and command us not to judge our Brethren, or live by Their Patterns; but to approve our selves to God, by governing our Actions according to His Laws. The Sins or the Weakness of others, in which we take no part, shall never be imputed to us. Had the Errors, or the Vices of our Pastors been any real and natural Cause of the Inefficacy of the Word, any, which might endanger the Hearers Salvation by receiving Instruction from Men of polluted Lips, it would not surely have been omitted here. For the very Design of this Parable is to put Men upon their Guard, by giving all necessary Intimations, whence that Barrenness proceeds in their Hearts, which brings their Souls into any manner of Hazard. Since then the Seed is certainly good in its kind ; and since all due Methods have been taken for the distribution of it ; if He, who bath suwn plentifully, reap but very Sparingly, the Blame caft upon the Sower, can be no better than Mistake or mere Pretence. And, if we will be just, we must acknowledge His Bounty and his Care, and are to seek for the fault somewhere else.

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4. Now, Fourthly, This is farther of very great moment, that, although there be many Accidents, as Floods, or Drought, or Frosts, or Blafts, which frequently spoil the Corn, after it is in the Ground; Yet none are taxed with unfruitfulness in this Parable, except such only, as are Defects peculiar to the Ground it self. Thus, in proportion, many Things there are, not at our own disposal, which must contribute to our Spiritual Growth, and yet no mention is made of them in this Parable. Very wisely, this. For, had such been insisted on, we might have had some reason to conclude, that Men sometimes difcharge Their part, but God does not bless them with Increase: That he denies them necessary Grace; and so curses and condemns theni to Barrenness, by checking those Improvements, which They are well disposed and labour hard to make, but cannot with their utmost Pains effect it. But now, as the Case is represented to us, the Ground alone is accused in the Figure; And consequently the Heart of Man, which answers to that Ground, in the Application. And it is but a fond Abuse, that Men are guilty of to themselves, when they look abroad for some frivolous Excuse, to which the Scriptures give not the least Colour ; when they would shift off their

own unprofitableness upon the Ministers of the Gospel ; or, which is yet more impious, upon the partial and too sparing Communications of God himself. Whereas it is the plain Intention of our Blessed Master, and the true Scope of this whole Passage, to charge the

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unsuccessful Preaching of God's Word, wholly and solely upon the Defects and Indispositions of them that hear it.

5. Nay, which is more, and brings the Matter home, I beg it may be considered, in the Fifth place, that those very Défects and Indispositions seem to be only such, as are owing entirely to Ill-husbandry and Neglect of the Tillers themselves. Suffering Path-ways to be made over their ground, and their Lands and Furrows to be trodden down. Not gathering out the Stones, and rooting up the Briars and Thorns : Thele are alligned for the Causes of this Barrenness, and not any Leanness, or Natural Poverty, in the Soil it self. Accordingly we find that Ground commended for Good, whose Product is answerable to the Quality of its Soil. For the Other Gospels express that Goodness, by bringing forth fruit, some an hundred, some sixty, and Some thirty fold.

The plain meaning whereof is, That, where God hath endowed Men with greater Abilities, he expects a greater Increase ; and where he hath dealt them more sparingly, he is very well satisfied with lefs. But though he does not, in this sense, gather where he hath not strewed, nor reap where he hath not sown ; yet he always expects an Harvest agreeable to what he hath sown. The Man therefore, who brings forth thirty-fold, and was not in a Con lition of doing more, is Good Ground ; But He, who brings Thirty only, when he was in a Capacity of bringing Sixty or an hundred-fold, must never hope to be elicemed Good Ground. As God then requires an Account of our Abilities and Opportunities : so he makes gracious Allowances for our Weakness and Want of them. He does not regard the Quantity, so much as the Difposition ; but allows mean Attainments to consist very well with bringing forth Fruit: Such, and so much, as

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