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SAINT MATTHEW, xiii. 18.
HEAR YE, THEREFORE, THE PARABLE OF THE SOWER.
It is my purpose, in the following discourse, to bring before you a few plain observations on the parable of the Sower: which parable I shall first repeat, in the words of Saint Matthew the Evangelist.
"Behold a sower went forth to sow; and, when he sowed, some seeds fell by the way-side; and the fowls came, and devoured them up. Some fell upon stony places, where they had not much earth; and, forthwith, they sprung up, because they had no deepness of earth; and, when the sun was up, they were scorched; and, because they had no root, they withered away. And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprung up, and choked them. But other fell into good ground; and brought forth fruit, some an hundred
fold, some sixty-fold, some thirty-fold. Who hath ears to hear, let him hear."
This parable our blessed Lord himself was pleased to explain; and it shall be my effort, to follow his footsteps, at an humble distance.
The sower, is our Lord Jesus Christ; the seed, is the heavenly doctrine of Christianity; the soil, is the human heart; the different kinds of soil, and different degrees of produce, represent the various manners, in which, various dispositions will receive religious truth; the four varieties of soil, all partaking of the seed sown, represent four classes of men, all partakers of religious instruction. And here, it may be observed, that our Lord describes the very lowest class, as hearing the word; we may, therefore, conclude, that none deserve the name of Christians, who habitually neglect attending public worship. It is, also, worthy of attention, that none of them are accused of any decided profligacy, of any downright wickedness; we must therefore, at least, conceive them to be of decent, orderly conversation. Whatever instructions, therefore, are drawn from this parable, must be applicable, not to persons absolutely wicked and profane, but to regular and respectable people; who, whatever are their faults, would be shocked at the charge of disregarding their eternal slavation. Yet.
whether such hearers regard that salvation as they ought, we shall in some degree, be enabled to judge, as we proceed.
I. The first, and lowest class, is represented by
Suppose to yourselves a hard, and beaten footpath, in the midst of a prepared fallow. It is evident, that any seed which falls there, cannot penetrate the ground, on account of the hardness; it may, indeed, remain for a time on the surface; but it can find no entrance into the soil beneath; and the fowls of the air will soon come, and devour it up. And so it is, with multitudes who profess and call themselves Christians. They hear the word indeed; they attend public worship; they drag their bodies to the church, but they leave their hearts behind them. The prayers, which are offered up, in behalf of them, and of all God's people; the Scriptures, which are read from the reading-desk, and the communion table; the instructions, which God's ministers deliver from the pulpit, out of God's holy word,-strike upon their ears indeed, but never reach their hearts and minds; they can penetrate such hearts and minds, as little, as the seed, in the parable, can penetrate the highway. And what is the cause? It is because their hearts are hardened; it is because they
feel no interest in what is said; it is because they have never given themselves time to think, that religion is the present, instant, serious, business of their lives. The reading of the Scriptures,
they merely regard as part of the appointed service of the church; for they never consider, that it should be their great effort to hear those holy scriptures with meekness, and to receive them with pure affection, as God's own appointed means of saving their souls alive. The preaching of God's ministers, again, they consider a regular, and decent practice; but they never dream of listening to a sermon, as a matter in which they have any personal concern; much less, of treasuring it up, for the improvement of their hearts, and for the regulation of their future conduct. And what is the consequence? Their memories, indeed, may carry away some small portion of what they hear but what is any truth, however important, to him that careth not for it, that layeth it not to heart? Such truths cannot long remain, even on the surface: as the fowls of the air, devour up the seed scattered on the way side,so, the Devil, the prince of the power of the air, will catch away those words of truth, which may fall upon the memory of a careless hearer.
My brethren, are there any such hearers among you? Let me intreat you, ere it be too late, to
reflect upon the things which belong unto your peace. The time is short: it is now called today but the night soon cometh, in which no man may work. We must all lie down in our graves some of us, possibly, in a few months, in a few weeks, in a few days; nay, which of us is sure of a single hour? (1) But the present moment is our own; let us, then, give it unto God; let us give it unto God, with our whole hearts, and we shall be unspeakably rewarded. One well-spent moment, one thought affectionately devoted to our Maker, may be the commencement of a new life; and that life, the introduction to a happy eternity. May the good God open your hearts, to receive his own good seed. So shall that wicked one, not be permitted to catch it away. And, for yourselves, I would say, "To-day, if you will hear God's voice, harden not your hearts:" and then, your Almighty and most merciful Father, will "take away the heart of stone, and give you an heart of flesh."
II. But it is not enough to hear the word, with attention; or, even, with some degree of pleasure and enjoyment. And this will be manifest, from a consideration of the second class of hearers; of those, who receive the seed into stony places.
If seed falls upon a rock, covered with a thin,