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you find out the worth of Christ, in the deep conviction of your own worthlessness? I do not desire to bring you to the test of your conviction; but I ask you, What is Christ to you? What do you want him for? What do you think of his righteousness? The converse of that is manifestly this-What do you think of your own? For just as you have found out the worthlessness of your own, in that state, and in that degree alone, can the value of Christ's righteousness be found in your souls. What think ye of Christ? What do you know of a crucified Immanuel-of an Incarnate God? O, do not trifle with your souls I will not. It is a light matter to come and hear; but, remember, you must listen to the trumpet of the archangel. There are few things (I say it not to pain the mind of any)—there are few things in this world that I lay less stress upon than the opinion of man concerning the state of my soul. Though I am thankful when the people of God speak well, and think well of me-though I am thankful to be approved of those whom God approves-yet I always think of what a brother, now in heaven, once said, "If all the ministers of Christ were to come to me at my death-bed, and tell me I was a child of God, I would say, No one can bring that to my conscience but God the Eternal Spirit himself." We are thankful if our outward life brings no disgrace on our calling; we are thankful if our outward life does not make God's saints to hang their heads on our behalf. But take not the thing for granted; O, make sure work of salvation. The dying moment will come; that moment when you shall think as little of your families and those around you-when you shall think as little of the gratitude of your fellow-men, as if they had had no existence. What do you know of conversion work? What do you know of being born again? What do you know of having the Eternal Spirit dwelling in your heart? What do you know of a broken and contrite spirit, that mourneth for sin before the cross of the Son of God? Perhaps these words of mine may be as God's arrows within the joints of your harness; and you may have been sent here for a blessing, and I may have been sent here to be made a blessing unto you. It is an awful thought, that that which some think to be correction, may be God's vengeance. I think of the storm; I think of that moment when the world will fade away like a dream; and all I can say is this-Rely not upon separation with any; rely not upon union with any; rely not upon any ordinances; rely not upon a sense of obligation; rely not upon outward things; but may God give you grace to make sure work of your soul's salvation before the throne of God. Remember God's work will be tried; and what there is of good in it will be proved to be of God.
It is a mercy there is no wrath in the corrections of our God: they all come from a Father's heart, and they all come through the cross of the Son of God. If we could but unravel the mystery, we should need another vocabulary to that which some are ready to make for us. We sometimes hear from the lips of God's saints, "How favoured is that man's situation; every thing seems to smile on him he has health, he has strength, he has friends; his circumstances are easy, and all seem to bless him on all sides." If I were to call on him I would say, "Is any merry, let him sing Psalms." But if he is one of God's children, and thou livest long enough to see him, vou shall find, that the Lord has his net for him; that the Lord has trials for him; that the Lord has changes for him. And then ask of his heart the effect of all this, and he will answer thus:
"My brother, I tell thee, the most favoured period of my life was that when I was brought to the lowest dust before God; and while I know I ought to have thanked God for providential mercies more than I did, yet I now see, that the greatest trials were amongst the chiefest of my blessings." And why? Because the chastisement of uoi peace was upon Him. 'There was no wrath in the cross, because it was a correcting hand; and a correcting hand, because there was a needs-be for it.
How needful it is to live by faith, to live above the exercise of our minds, to be more exercised thereby! How needful for us to live above ourselves! How little able you and I are to see the issue of what the Lord will bring out of the present emergency! And when, perhaps, by our bedsides we wrestle hard with God for a prayer-not wrestle in prayer, but wrestle, in a sense, that we may pray; when perhaps our knees are so feeble we can hardly stand upright; when our hands hang down, and we cannot lift them up as we ought to do in prayer, praise, and thanksgiving; when every thing seems to droop, and all things seem to sink and yet what is the mystery the Lord is teaching thee? Live out of yourself; live upon Christ; live upon his fulness, as the blood of the atonement, as the "much incense," rising up, now that thou art brought to the lowest dust. "What now?" says unbelief. "Yes, now," says faith; "taking God at his word, and resting upon the unchangeable and unchanging Immanuel."
May our great concern be-what seems to be the great purpose of God in all his dealings with us-that we may "yield forth the peaceable fruit of righteousness." I love that word-" yield forth!" Not like a still, that forceth the drops; but like a fountain that floweth freely: not driven by necessity; not compelled by terror; not under dread and alarm; but under the drawings of God's mercy. May the Lord vouchsafe, as you go to your homes to-day. some sweet sense of his mercy, some sweet taste of his love, some realizing of his truth in your hearts by the power of the Holy Spirit! Then you shall say, "Welcome cross; welcome trial! I go home to my domestic affliction, but ! have brought Christ with me; I find that Christ enough for me; I find his arm sufficient; and I do not look at it as I looked at it this morning: it seems another cross." It is the same; but through grace you see the arm of Jesus beneath you.
May God condescend to bless his word to your souls and my soul! May be make the word (in the fullest sense) a word in season to us, in drawing v nearer to Him, filling our hearts with adoring gratitude and praise!
TAE PAHAKLR OF THE SOWER.
REV. J. WILLIAMS, A.M.
ST. ANNE'S CHURCH, LIMEHOUSE, FEBRUARY 22, 1835.
" Ar when he had said these things, he cried, He that hath ears to hear, let him hear."
LUKE, viii. 8.
Man, by nature, is under a double condemnation. The curse of a violated law rests upon his head: for it is written, “The soul that sinneth it shall die ;": and “ The wages of sin is death.” He is like a debtor, confined within the dreary cells of a prison, who owes ten thousand talents, and has nothing to pay. But besides this, there is a deep, inveterate, and deadly malady, eating like a canker within him. Not only has sin subjected him to pérdition and woe, from which he is utterly unable to free his own soul; but it has poisoned his heart, blinded his understanding, alienated his affections, perverted his will. So totally depraved and corrupt is he, that from the sole of the foot even to the crown of the head, there is no soundness in him, but wounds and bruises and putrefying sores: every imagination of the thought of his heart is evil, and that continually.
Now, if such be the double condemnation of every descendant of fallen Adam, you will perceive, brethren, that in order to a complete recovery, he stands in need of a two-fold remedy: there must be pardon and renewal; there must be justiñcation and sanctification: neither one could do without the other. If pardon alone were afforded, if he were to restore to health only, the relief woula de but partial; but if he be both forgiven and healed, the relief will be complete.
Now the Gospel of Jesus Christ amply provides for both. The Son of God deseenda tron his throne of glory, and, clothed in human nature, he paid the “rigid satisfaction, death for death." He has borne away the curse of the law; he has quenched the flame of the sword of justice in his own precious blood; he has paid the debt, even to the uttermost farthing: “ Look unto me," he cries, “ and be saved. Ye have destroyed yourselves, but in me is your help: I am your refuge, your rock, your foundation laid in Zion. Come, believe on me; and ye shall be justified from all things."
Being thus rescued from the bitter pains of death eternal, the Gospel proposes a remedy effectual to heal the spiritual diseases with which the whole inner man is infected. That remedy, brethren, is the grace of the Holy Spirit of God, purifying the corrupt heart; softening its hardness, illuminating its darkness, rectifying its perverseness, subduing its rebellion, and bringing every thought
into the obedience of Christ. Then this world becomes to the pardoned sinner a school of discipline; and the Bible, the book whence he derives bis only food and comfort, his nourishment, his living brook in a thirsty land: and it is by means of reading, meditating upon, and praying over that book, that the Holy Spirit gradually accomplishes the cure of the sin-stricken soul, and raises it up to glory, honour, immortality, and eternal life. I say gradually, because there is this important distinction between the work of Christ for us, and the work of the Spirit within us. Redemption is the complete finished work of divine grace, wrought out by Jesus Christ; and upon our repentance there is forgiveness and justification. But sanctification by the Spirit is progressive, like the processes of vegetation, consisting of several distinct acts: and these are generally advanced or retarded just in proportion as we improve or neglect the nieans of grace.
These means are the word of God. It is a seed (as you heard in the Gospel of to-day) which, when sown and received into the heart, by the power of God, brings forth a hundred fold. In this view, how important is the hearing of that word! Eternal consequences are at stake: the ininistry of the Gospel is either a savour of life unto life, or of death unto death, to all who listen to it. This self-inquiry 1 desire to urge upon each of you, while I examine briefly “ the Parable of the Sower."
The Sower is Jesus Christ, and those ministers whom he has called by his grace, and appointed by his providence, to preach the glad tidings of salvation. What are those tidings ? Hear them: “ This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.” Or in the words of the Saviour himself: “God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” This is the heavenly seed, which when mixed with faith in your heart, will grow up into holiness here, and will bloom in unfading blessedness hereafter.
But all have not this faith: here in this parable, out of the four classifications of hearers mentioned by our Saviour, only one is represented as bringing forth to perfection: the rest were hearers only, deceiving themselves.
The first which are here enumerated are those by the way side : “Those by the way side are they that hear; then cometh the devil, and taketh away the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved.” When the sons of God come to present themselves before the Lord, Satan still comes
That accursed spirit is far too visible here, and far too successful among all who come to the house of God; turning the thoughts to some worldly object; blinding the understanding of some, and prejudicing the minds of others against the truth. What need, then, have we for watchfulness and mental prayer, that Satan may neither hinder the work of God, nor take away the word out of our hearts !
These way-side hearers are mentioned first, because they constitute the greatest number of those who attend the means of grace. Their heart is hardened througn being wrought upon
their heart hardened through the
deceitfulness of sin. They are unmindful; they come to church from mert custom; never entering into the spiritual meaning of our truly scriptural and beautiful liturgy; nor yet even the sermon, except indeed it please their fancy: so that the very things which should be for their health, become unto them as a hane.
brethren, see you not these characters exemplined in every-uay leic; persons who are seldom absent from public worship, yet are so little influenced by wna: they hear, that there is no change of heart, of conversation, of practice; but the world, its pleasures, and its pursuits, are still their grand objects? See you not this I say, and can you doubt the existence of way-side hearers in the world, or among yourselves?
And what is the cause of this? There is no preparation of heart for public ordinances. The Sabbath morning is not occupied in hallowed engagements. There
may be a withdrawment from the business of the world; but there is no withdrawment from worldly thoughts. There is no earnest prayer, that the life-giving energy of the Holy Spirit may accompany the revealed word; and there is no prayer heartily ascending, that the seed sown may be watered by the blessing of heaven : but, on the contrary, there is trifling conversation, idle gossip, or that abomination of our age-that engine which is diffusing its mischief, its poison, to every corner of this professedly Christian country—the Sunday newspaper. No wonder that to such, who merely attend the house of God out of form, and are absorbed in thoughts about the world, it should be an empty, fruitless, worthless engagement.
But there are some who pay a degree of attention to what they hear, who reflect upon it, and perhaps approve of it; but still they derive no permanent benefit from it. These are the characters which are next described by our Lord; those on the rock. " They on the rock are they which, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, which for a while believe, and in time of temptation fall away.” Many unprejudiced minds, many warm imaginations, many affectionate hearts are here. They seem to promise fairly ; but, alas! the flower withers in the bud. Those who come to this house merely for form and fashion's sake, but have no pleasure in it, “receive the word,” as our Saviour says, “ with joy." What can there be to hinder its growth? Hear it from Him who knew what was in man: “ These have no root in thein." Let the youthful professor especially attend to this. The root of all real religion is self-knowledge, self-abasement, self-renunciation. You must sink low under the conviction of your own sinfulness, or you will never rise in the experience of Christian holiness. You must be rooted and grounded in Christ, become the living branches of this spiritual vine, or the seed will die ere it is grown up.
The present is an age peculiarly fertile in stony-ground hearers. Religion, to a certain extent-religious profession, at least, to a certain extent-has become faslıionable: it is no longer the despised enthusiasm of a few; but it is the firm conviction of the most intelligent and best informed among all classes of society. It is spreading (blessed be God) in all its hallowed realities, especially among the young. We must ever expect, that when there is so much blossom con