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SERMON XXIII.

THE PARABLE OF THE SOWER.

Luke viii. 8.

And other fell upon good ground, and sprang

up, and bare fruit an bundred fold.

These words are the conclusion of the sERM. parable of the sower who went out to sow his seed. The whole of it is thus related by St. Luke." A sower went out to sow " his seed, and as he sowed, some fell by “ the way side, and it was trodden down, " and the fowls of the air devoured it; and “ some fell upon a rock, and as soon as it " was sprung up it withered away, be“ cause it lacked moisture. And some

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SERM. “ fell among thorns, and the thorns sprang XXIII.

“ up with it and choked it. And other fell “ upon good ground, and sprang up, and “ bare fruit an hundred fold.”

This parable was spoken by Jesus Christ to the people at large, and, at their request, explained afterwards to his disciples in private. The different ways in which the gospel would be received at its first publi. cation, is, per haps, the chief object of it, but it certainly applies, very naturally and exactly, to mankind in every subsequent period. By the word of God is meant, religion, and you have here the behaviour of four different sorts of persons, on having it proposed to them. ,

First, you have those, into whose heart any pious instruction falls, like seed sown by the way side; it makes perhaps none, or perhaps only a momentary impression; for as the birds instantly pick up the seed, so the devil comes immediately and removes the impression of the word of God, SERM. if any at all be made; and they, who have no heard it, profit nothing by it.

How many are there, who, on receiving any pious advice from their parents, their graver friends, or their minister, or perhaps on accidentally meeting with it in any good book, are filled with disbelief and con. tempt, ridicule it as the product of bigotry and superstition, or, if by chance it gain a momentary reception with them (as even with the most abandoned, so irresistible is truth, it sometimes will do) they suffer the great enemy of their salvation, the very next instant, to drive it from their minds. There are but too many of this first class, but they bear no proportion to those of the two next, which are described by our Saviour.

For, secondly, we have the seed sown on the rock, by which those are depictured who receive religious instruction with joy; for

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SERM. a while believe, but, having no root, in no time of temptation fall away...

Now people of this description are much more common than absolute unbelivers; religion carries with it so much authority, and is so congenial to the nature of man, that the generality, at one time or other of their lives, listen to its dictates with pleasure-confess in their hearts, the source of comfort which might be derived from it ---resolve, perhaps faintly, to act in compliance with its commands,--but in time of temptation (when some circumstance hap pens, in which their temporal and eternal interest is at variance, in which their inclination points one way, and their duty another; when they are required to make some great sacrifice, of their life perhaps, or their character, or their friends, or their property), they fall away, they prefer earth to heaven, they shew clearly, that with whatever delight they at first ap

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peared to receive religion, it took no root SERM.

XXIII. in their hearts, since they basely and poorly sacrifice it sometimes even to the slightest considerations.

The persons chiefly aimed at by our Saviour here were, I believe, those early Chris. tians, whom he foresaw would renounce their faith on the persecutions that would be carried on against them. These persecutions were very dreadful; they extended not only to imprisonment, bonds, stripes, but to death also, and that frequently in the most terrible torments. We of this day can scarce wonder, much less ought we too harshly to censure, if flesh and blood, in some instances, were not able to stand out against such formidable assaults; and yet there were multitudes of every age and sex who resisted unto blood, who willingly, nay joyfully, laid down their lives, rather than abandon the good part which they had chosen.

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