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e may suppose that the thoughtless “ lover of this world” has heard the word which asks him, “ What shall it profit a man, if he should gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” The voice of the Preacher has addressed
Rejoice, O young man, in thy youth, and walk in the ways of thy heart and in the sight of thine eyes: but know thou, that for all this, God will call thee into judgment.”. He is arrested for a while. Conscience whispers, “It is appointed unto all men once to die, and after that the judgment.”? “ Wherewith shall I appear before the Lord,” or “how abide the day of His coming ?”? A struggle within pronipts him to “ arise and call upon his God;” to awake from the death of sin in which he is lying, that “ Christ may give him light.” 3 Thoughtfulness creeps over him, and perhaps he has almost prayed that God would write his laws upon his heart, and make him a new man.
Soon, however, he is joined by companions whose thoughts are running in another and a different channel. They assail him with light and frivolous conversation, in which, whatever else there may be, there is nothing of God, or of Christ, or of “the wrath to come:” the world and the things that are in the world are the only things spoken of, because the only things thought of.
Or perhaps, instead of company, it may be business that awaits him; some worldly affairs 9 Eccl. xi. 9. 1 Heb. ix. 27. 2 See Mal. iii. 2.
Eph. v. 14.
are to be settled, even though the day is “ holy of the Lord and honourable;” devoted to the concerns of the soul, and not to the perishing affairs of earthly life.
By these and such like ways will Satan endeavour to efface the impression which the word had made; to prevent the effect which it was beginning to produce upon the heart. Companions in frivolity, or companions in business, according to each man's taste and disposition, will be as the fowls of the air to devour the seed sown ; and the man remains as thoughtless, as sinful, as worldly as before: like the way side on which seed has fallen, but no blade has grown.
Satan, however, has no power, unless we yield it to him. He cannot injure those who are on their guard against him, and resist him in the strength of the Lord. No hearts need be like the way side. If the way side had been ploughed and broken up, the seed would have entered in and grown, « first the blade, and then the ear, and afterwards the full corn in the ear." Therefore imitate the prudent husbandman, and prepare the soil to receive the seed : and hear the word with feelings like those of Cornelius and his friends, who said to Peter, “ Now are we all here present before God, to hear the things commanded thee of God.” 4
Again, is there danger lest the fowls of the air devour the seed ? Once more take example from the husbandman, and drive the enemy
• Acts x. 33.
away. Refuse to listen to the scoffers, who would persuade you that “ all things come alike to all.”
Refuse to listen to the worldling, who would persuade you to take your chance with others, or to wait for “a more convenient season” before you look into your account with God.
When the heart is thus guarded and prepared, guarded against evil, and prepared for good, Satan finds it no season for his malice to act, or his arts to prevail : and it may prove with the hearer of the word, as it proved with the Lord Jesus Himself in the wilderness: " the devil leaveth Him, and behold, angels come and minister unto Him." 5
SEED SOWN ON STONY GROUND.
Mark iv. 16, 17.
16. “ And these are they likewise which are sown on stony
ground; who, when they have heard the word, im
mediately receive it with gladness; 17. “And have no root in themselves, and so endure but
for a time : afterward, when affliction or persecution
ariseth for the word's sake, immediately they are offended.” This is a different case, from that of seed which falls by the way side, and never springs up at all. The word does enter and lodge in the
5 Matt. iv. 11.
hearts now described. On the surface of a rock .
a or stony ground there is often a layer of earth, sufficient to receive the seed, and cause it to vegetate: a tender blade is seen: but the root cannot so penetrate as to sustain the summer's heat, or winter's storm. The blast sweeps over it to-day; to-morrow it is dried up and withered. So it is with those hearts, which when affliction or persecution ariseth because of the word, immediately are offended, and “fall away.”
What we should observe of these, is, first, when they have heard the word, immediately they receive it with gladness.
The word which they hear, is the great and wonderful truth ;--so simple, that it is “revealed to babes,” yet so profound that “angels look into it” with astonishment;—“God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him might not perish, but have everlasting life.”? These are justly called “ tidings of great joy,” and may well be received with gladness
. They are often so received by the young, when their understandings open to comprehend the truths acknowledged in their names at their baptism, and repeated by them in their creed. The heart is then tender, not yet hardened by intercourse with a corrupt world : the conscience is not seared by wilful transgressions of the divine law; and the mercy of God, who offers an inheritance in heaven, and the compassion of '1 Pet. i. 12.
8 John iii. 16.
Christ who died to purchase it, affect their minds with a natural emotion, and they think within theinselves that they can never offend against goodness so great, or forfeit so precious an inheritance. Their friends, their teachers hope the same; and delight to see the blade of Christian faith appearing, as the husbandman rejoices at the sight of his blooming orchards or well-covered fields in spring.
There is also another season, when the word is often received with gladness: the season of sickness or of sorrow. One who has never thought seriously before, will think seriously then : death and judgment, heaven and hell, which have hitherto been kept out of sight, or seemed too distant to be viewed, now stand up close before him, like a mountain when the mists are cleared away: and he asks himself, “Wherewith shall I appear before the Lord ?” How shall I “abide his coming ?” He can no longer be like the way side, hard and impenetrable, when the word is sown: it will enter and lodge within. And it is a word to which he may gladly open his heart. “God willeth not
. “ the death of a sinner, but rather that he be converted and live.” The blood of Christ was shed “ to save sinners :" has “made a full, perfect, and sufficient satisfaction” for all who repent and turn to God. “If any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and he is the propitiation for our sins." This is balm to the wounded spirit: is