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light sprinkling of earth, it will spring up rapidly. The very shallowness of the soil, will ensure this rapidity of growth: having no room to strike root downward, the seed must throw a stem upward, but that stem will never reach its proper maturity from want of depth, from want of moisture, and from the parching heat of the sun, it will dry up, and wither away, long before the time, when, under more favourable circumstances, it might have been expected to yield an abundant produce.
And so it is with many who think themselves religious. They have hearts that are easily, and quickly, but not deeply, and solidly, affected. They receive, indeed, some religious impressions; but why do they receive them? Simply, because they are unable, either to comprehend, or to feel, the entire force, and extent of the truths, which are read from the Scriptures, or delivered from the pulpit. If they were aware, of all that religion calls upon them to part with, and of all that it enjoins them to do, they would not, then, be so forward in their profession. They hear the word with joy; they receive it with alacrity; perhaps, with serious feeling; but they have no root in themselves, no steadiness, no solidity; and what is the consequence? They believe, indeed, for a time; but, when tribulation, or persecution,
or temptation, ariseth, they fall away; they forsake their religion; they become as the showy, but unprofitable herbage, which is the quick growth of a rocky ground. With such persons, religion is a pleasant subject to talk about: but, when the hour of trial comes; when there is occasion for a religion, not of words, but of principles, of feelings, and of conduct, these fairweather Christians are altogether at a loss: they have no principle within, to guard the sacredness of duty; and the frown of a puny mortal, puts to flight the terrors of the invisible God. Is it a question, whether they shall suffer in worldly reputation, or violate the dictates of their conscience? The silly murmur of a day, will outweigh the applauses of eternity. Is it a question, whether they shall pardon an injury, or indulge their feelings of resentment? The world, and its maxims, will prevail, though Christ expressly tells them, that, if they forgive not their brother, neither will their heavenly Father forgive them. And thus it is, in every season of emergency. Religion, is, indeed, the plaything of their fancy; but the world is the serious arbiter of their lives.
My brethren, let us carefully examine, whether we, in any shape, belong to this class of hearers. Let us be mindful, that Christianity
did not come from heaven, to be the amusement of an idle hour; to be the food of mere imagination to be, "as a very lovely song, of one that hath a pleasant voice, and playeth well upon an instrument." No: it is intended to be the guide, the guardian, the companion, of all our hours; it is intended, to be the food of our immortal spirits; it is intended, to be the serious occupation of our whole existence. Religion should enter into every thing that we think, or feel, or speak, or do. (2) Each morning, we should reflect, that we are about to enter on a day, which is the gift of God; and which is wholly due to God; and of which, we must hereafter render account, at the judgment-seat of God and, having thus reflected, we should frequently, in the course of each day, recal these thoughts; and apply to God, for his allpowerful grace, that we may continually feel ourselves in his most holy presence, and conduct ourselves as exposed to his all-seeing eye. And each night we should examine ourselves, wherein we have offended, wherein we have omitted any duty, or committed any fault; we should humble ourselves for every such neglect, or offence, before the throne of grace; and we should entreat for strength, and power from on high, to amend our lives, and to proceed in all virtue,
and Godliness of conversation. And, conscious, that, though placed in God's empire, we are surrounded by hosts of darkness, we should never lie down to rest without fortifying our souls, by devout, and fervent prayer. The Devil will flee from him, who is shielded by this divine armour: if such a man be sleepless, he will have recourse to the best, and only sure fountain of consolation, and enjoyment: like David, like Silas, like Saint Paul, and like our blessed Lord himself, his prayers and praises will ascend at midnight unto God; and, amidst his quiet, and refreshing slumbers, that God, will shield him from all evil, and "make his very dreams devout 1."
III. But we have yet a more impressive warning, to be derived from the seed, which fell among thorns.
Here, there is no fault to be found, with the quality of the soil. It is not hard and impenetrable, like the way side; it is not light and shallow, like the rocky ground; its natural fertility is proved, by the natural growth of weeds and thorns. But, though the good seed may, here, take root downward, and throw stems upward, and flourish for a season, and bear fruit after
1 Bishop Ken. Midnight Hymn.
the briars, weeds, and thorns, are suffered to encroach upon its produce; and the grain is poor, and imperfect, and never thoroughly ripe.
The application is but too plain. There are many, who have thought upon religion; who have felt some serious interest in it; who have sought to guide their conversation, according to the precepts of the Gospel. The misfortune is, that they have not given their whole hearts to God; and, with less than the whole heart, God cannot be acceptably served. Their spiritual growth is stopped, their harvest kept from ripening, by those thoughts, anxieties, and appetites, which they suffer to increase upon them. The cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the desire of other things, choke the word; and they become unfruitful, and bring no fruit to perfection.
This is a melancholy picture; the more melancholy, because it is a picture from real life. For, in this world, there are multitudes, who thus think themselves religious, and deceive their own souls. They worship God, indeed; but they worship Mammon also. They profess to seek the kingdom of God; but they are desirous, also, to gain the world. They admit, that the pleathe best and highest plea
sures of religion, are