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he kindly accepts, and is exceedingly well pleased with. He imputes Barrenness to no Man, but upon such Defects, as are not of Nature's, but of his own making. The honest and good Heart is what he requires, and what we are principally concerned to look After. He hath promised expresly, upon
very Occasion, that our becoming fruitful shall in great measure depend upon our selves : that They, who do their own Endeavours faithfully, shall be by his Grace strengthened to do
And he declares, that They who neglect their own Improvement, shall fall from Bad to Worse, lose their own Powers, amd forfeit His Afistances. Take heed (says he) therefore how ye hear, for whosoever bath,
to him shall be given ; and whosoever hath
not, from bim shall be taken away, even that, which he seemeth to have.
6. The Last and Principal Thing, that calls for our Attention, is the different Character of the Good and Bad Ground, which, by comparing them together, will be found to consist in the Three following Particulars. 1. They that are signified by the Good Ground keep
the Word, and thus are opposed to those Ver. 12, & 15.
by the Way-side, who immediately lost it. 2. They on the Good Ground keep it in an honest and
good heart, and in this are contrary to Ver. 14, & 15.
them among Thorns, with whom the Cares, and Riches, and Pleasures of this Life choke the Word, so that they bring no Fruit to perfe&tion. 3. They on the Good Ground bring forth Fruit with pa
tience, and herein differ from the Stony Ver. 13, & 15.
Ground, which represents them, who receive the Word with joy, but have no Root ; who for a while believe, and in time of Temptation fall away.
1. The First Qualification then observable in the Good Ground is, that the Persons signified by it keep the
Matth. xiii. 19.
Mark iv. 15
Matt. xiii. 4.
Word: and thus are opposed to the failing of them by the Way-fade. These, (as the Applications of this Parable, when compared together, acquaint us) do not understand, or consider the Word, but Satan cometh immediately, and taketh it away out of their Hearts. Which last Words in the Exposition answer to those in the Figure, that the Seed was trodden down, and the Fowls of the Air came and devoured it.
Hereby no doubt are meant the Careless and Unthinking Hearers. Such as frequent Religious Assemblies, to save their Credit, or comply with Custom; to gratify a Curiosity, or perhaps to expose and start new Cavils out of what we hear; but without any care to answer the true Purposes of Hearing. And therefore, they either attend not, or recollect not, or apply not to their own Conscience and Condition. But, like the common Way, have their Hearts open to every fresh Comer, and suffer the next trifling or wicked Imagination to take place, and utterly to deface the former Impressions.
Such vain Thoughts, I conceive, are intended by the Fowls of the Air in the Parable. For it is not by any visible or violent means, but by suggesting idle Fancies, and dissipating better and more serious Considerations, that Satan catches away the good Seed. And we greatly mistake the matter, if we suppose, that Religious Truths convey themselves to our Understandings, or influence our Affections, in a manner different from others. It is by serious Application of Thought, careful Remembrance, and frequent Reflection, that we must fasten these Things also upon us. And God, who gave us reasoning Faculties, expects they hould be employed in matters of this nature, at least as much as in any other. Where the Sower hath cast in the Grain, his business, as a
Sower, is at an end : But the covering up and cherishing what we have received, must be every man's own work.
That then, which we are principally concern'd for in this regard, is, To come to God's publick Worship, and all other Reading and Hearing of his blesfed Word, with due Reverence and earnest Attenti
To consider These as the means, ordinarily necessary, for bringing us to himself; Consequently, that this Word was never designed purely for our Entertainment or Diversion, to be nicely distinguish'd, learnedly disputed, eloquently enlarged upon, but to influence all our Powers, and put forth into Action: That it is therefore called Seed, because the first and common Principle, whence all our Virtue springs: That the End of it therefore is never answer'd, but by bringing forth Fruit, and that Fruit is no other, than a good Conversation. These are Considerations, which every Man should be possess’d with perpetually, but especially at all Seasons of Devotion and publick Instruction. And, if We were so, these would check all our loose Wandrings, awaken all our Faculties, fix what we hear in our hearts, and so effectually convince us of the vast Importance of the Duty we are about ; that we could scarce continue to be Men, and not get above the negligent and fickle Disposition of those Hearers by the wayfide.
2. The Next Qualification I took notice of, is, that the Persons represented by the good ground, keep the word in an honest and good heart. This seems more
particularly opposite to them, which fell among Thorns ; of whom it is observed,
that the Cares of the World, and the DeMark iv. 18,19. ceitfulness of Riches, and the Pleasures of this life choak the Word, so that they bring no fruit to perfection. These are supposed to have made a better
Progress than the Former ; to hear, and perhaps to consider and apply very seriously. But when they come to Action, the Business and Diversions, the Interests and Intanglements of the World interfere, and will not let them be good Christians. Thus they do, and thus they will do, wherever these Briars are suffered to get a Head. For which reason our Lord, very appositely to this present Subject, takes particu: lar notice of the Deceitfulness of Riches. For Deceitful they are, not only as they cheat Men in the Happiness and Satisfaction they fondly expect from them ; but upon a yet more fatal Account, as they perpetually push them on to fresh Pursuits, daily kindle new and more vehement Desires, and defeat theit repeated Resolutions, of ridding their hands of all Incumbrances, and seeking the Kingdom of God and bis Righteousness. And thus they egg Men on to old Age, and the approach of Death ; till they learn too late, at their last Hour, that it is to no manner of purpose, that we hope to compound the Matter between God and Mammon; but that He, who will tleave to the one, muft of necessity despise and forsake the other,
What must be done to cure this unhappy Disposition? The properest Method I can advise, is to attend to the Advantage, and the Neceflity, of being truly Religious ; To over-balance the Allurements of this present World, by the prospect of an Eternal Glory to come ; To convince our selves throughly, how very childish and filly a Bargain a Man would make, though we should suppose him able to do that, which no Man ever will be able to do, that is, though he could gain the whole World, if at the same time he must lose his own Soul ; and that there is not, cannot be, any valuable Compensation given in exchange for the Soul. This Sense would bring Men to receive the Word impartially and fairly, without any Mixture of
Prejudice or Passion; This would render us diligent in our Callings, but without Distraction; careful for our Families, but without Anxiety ; inflexible to sinful, and moderate in our most lawful Pleasures and Enjoyments. And in such a clear and free Disposition of Soul, which is ready to submit to the Whole of Religion ; which closes with its Duty, though it be unpalatable, and counter to the Affections of a sensual and worldly Mind; not cleaving to One Commandment, because it may be reconciled with our present Profit or Delight; and taking Distaste at another, because it checks us in, or debars us from them ; In this candid, open, dispassionate Temper of Mind, I take the Honest and good Heart, mentioned here, principally to confiit. 3. The Last Difference observable here, is, that the
Persons resembled by the Good Ground Ver. 13, & 15.
bring forth Fruit with Patience, whereas they on the Stony Ground receive the Word indeed with Joy, but have no Root, and therefore though for a while they believe, yet in time of Temptation they fall away. These Men we may suppose to be Proof against common Cares and Accidents; But if some unforeseen Difficulty, or trying A Miction assault them, those undermine the unfaithful Foundation quite, and wash the Building off from its sandy Bottom. The Mark then of an Honest and Good Heart, in this respect, is Patience, A firm and steady Piety, (like that of St. Paul in the Epistle for this Day) not to be shaken with Hardshipsand Sufferings for the Truth. And, though the giving Ground in such Cafes be what we are apt rather to pity than condemn, because it looks like the Effect of Human Infirmity ; yet our Saviour here makes those Yieldings an Argument, that such Men have no Root; that is, they were not well principled at the bottom. And indeed the Similitude in this Parable proves this evidently. For the same Heat of