Under Grace TV

Monday, November 12, 2007

All Men Are Born Evil. (Paul Washer)

Settled in the Faith By: Thomas Watson

"If ye continue in the faith grounded and settled."-Col 1:23.

Intending next Lord's day to enter upon the work of catechising, it will not be amiss to give you a preliminary discourse, to show you how needful it is for Christians to be well instructed in the grounds of religion. "If ye continue in the faith grounded and settled."
First. It is the duty of Christians to be settled in the doctrine of faith.
Second. The best way for Christians to be settled is to be well grounded.
First. It is the duty of Christians to be settled in the doctrine of faith. It is the apostle's prayer, 1 Pet. 5:10, "The God of all grace establish, strengthen, settle you." That is, that they might not be meteors in the air, but fixed stars. The apostle Jude speaks of "wandering stars" in verse 13. They are called wandering stars, because, as Aristotle says, "They do leap up and down, and wander into several parts of the heaven; air being but dry exhalations, not made of that pure celestial matter as the fixed stars are, they often fall to the earth." Now, such as are not settled in religion, will, at one time or other, prove wandering stars; they will lose their former steadfastness, and wander from one opinion to another. Such as are unsettled are of the tribe of Reuben, "unstable as water," Gen. 49:4; like a ship without ballast, overturned with every wind of doctrine. Beza writes of one Belfectius, that his religion changed as the moon. The Arians had every year a new faith. These are not pillars in the temple of God, but reeds shaken every way. The apostle calls them "damnable heresies." 2 Pet. 2:1. A man may go to hell as well for heresy as adultery. To be unsettled in religion argues want of judgment. If their heads were not giddy, men would not reel so fast from one opinion to another. It argues lightness. As feathers will be blown every way, so will feathery Christians. Triticum non rapit ventus inanes palae jactantur. [Wheat that is not gathered, the wind blows into chaff.] Cyprian. Therefore such are compared to children. Eph. 4:14, "That we be no more children, tossed to and fro." Children are fickle, sometimes of one mind, sometimes of another, nothing pleases them long; so unsettled Christians are childish; the truths they embrace at one time, they reject at another; sometimes they like the Protestant religion, and soon after they have a good mind to turn Papists.
1. It is the great end of the word preached, to bring us to a settlement in religion. Eph. 4:11, 12, 14, "And he gave some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the edifying of the body of Christ; that we henceforth be no more children." The word is called a hammer. Jer. 23:29. Every blow of the hammer is to fasten the nails of the building; so the preacher's words are to fasten you firmly to Christ; they weaken themselves to strengthen and settle you. This is the grand design of preaching, not only for the enlightening, but for the establishing of souls; not only to guide them in the right way, but to keep them in it. Now, if you be not settled, you do not answer God's end in giving you the ministry.
2. To be settled in religion is both a Christian's excellence and honour. It is his excellence. When the milk is settled it turns to cream; now he will be zealous for the truth, and walk in close communion with God. It is his honour. Prov. 16:31. "The hoary head is a crown of glory, if it be found in the way of righteousness." It is one of the best sights to see an old disciple; to see silver hairs adorned with golden virtues.
3. Such as are not settled in the faith can never suffer for it. Sceptics in religion hardly ever prove martyrs. They that are not settled hang in suspense; when they think of the joys of heaven they will espouse the gospel, but when they think of persecution they desert it. Unsettled Christians do not consult what is best, but what is safest. "The apostate (says Tertullian) seems to put God and Satan in balance, and having weighed both their services prefers the devil's service, and proclaims him to be the best master: and, in this sense, may be said to put Christ to open shame." Heb. 6:6. He will never suffer for the truth, but be as a soldier that leaves his colours, and runs over to the enemy's side; he will fight on the devil's side for pay.
4. Not to be settled in the faith is provoking to God. To espouse the truth, and then to fall away, brings an ill report upon the gospel, which will not go unpunished. Psalm 78:57, 59, "they turned back, and dealt unfaithfully. When God heard this, he was wroth, and greatly abhorred Israel." The apostate drops as a wind-fall into the devil's mouth.
5. If you are not settled in religion, you will never grow. We are commanded "to grow up into the head, even Christ." Eph. 4:15. But if we are unsettled there is no growing: "the plant which is continually removing never thrives." He can no more grow in godliness, who is unsettled, than a bone can grow in the body that is out of joint.
6. There is great need to be settled, because there are so many things to unsettle us. Seducers are abroad, whose work is to draw away people from the principles of religion. 1 John 2:26, "These things have I written unto you concerning them that seduce you." Seducers are the devil's agents; they are of all others the greatest felons that would rob you of the truth. Seducers have silver tongues, that can put off suspicions; they have a sleight to deceive, Eph. 4:14. The Greek word there is taken from those that can throw a dice, and cast it for the best advantage. So seducers are impostors, they can throw a dice; they can so dissemble and subtly twist the truth, that they can deceive others. Seducers deceive,
1. By wisdom of words. Rom. 16:18: "By good words and fair speeches they deceive the hearts of the simple." They have fine elegant phrases, flattering language, whereby they work on the weaker sort.
2. Another sleight is a presence of extraordinary piety, so that people may admire them, and suck in their doctrine. They seem to be men of zeal and sanctity, and to be divinely inspired, and pretend to new revelations.
3. A third cheat of seducers is labouring to vilify and nullify sound orthodox teachers. They would eclipse those that bring the truth, like black vapours that darken the light of heaven; they would defame others, that they themselves may be more admired. Thus the false teachers cried down Paul, that they might be received, Gal. 4:17.
4. The fourth cheat of seducers is, to preach the doctrine of liberty; as though men are freed from the moral law, the rule as well as the curse, and Christ has done all for them, and they need to do nothing. Thus they make the doctrine of free grace a key to open the door to all licentiousness.
5. Another means is to unsettle Christians by persecution, 2 Tim. 2:12. The gospel is a rose that cannot be plucked without prickles. The legacy Christ has bequeathed is the CROSS. While there is a devil and a wicked man in the world, never expect a charter of exemption from trouble. How many fall away in an hour of persecution! Rev. 12:4, "There appeared a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns; and his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven." The red dragon, by his power and subtlety, drew away stars, or eminent professors, that seemed to shine as stars in the firmament of the church.
6. To be unsettled in good is the sin of the devils, Jude 6. They are called, "morning stars," Job 38:7, but also "falling stars." They were holy, but mutable. As the vessel is overturned with the sail, so their sails being swelled with pride, they were overturned, I Tim. 3:6. By unsettledness, men imitate lapsed angels. The devil was the first apostate. The sons of Zion should be like mount Zion, which cannot be removed.
Second. The second proposition is that the way for Christians to be settled is to be well grounded. "If you continue grounded and settled." The Greek word for grounded is a metaphor which alludes to a building that has the foundation well laid. So Christians should be grounded in the essential points of religion, and have their foundation well laid.
Here let me speak to two things: 1. That we should be grounded in the knowledge of fundamentals. 2. That this grounding is the best way to being settled.
1. That we should be grounded in the knowledge of fundamentals. The apostle speaks of "the first principles of the oracles of God." Heb. 5:12. In all arts and sciences, logic, physics, mathematics, there are some rules and principles that must necessarily be known for the practice of those arts; so, in divinity, there must be the first principles laid down. The knowledge of the grounds and principles of religion is exceedingly useful.
(1.) Else we cannot serve God aright. We can never worship God acceptably, unless we worship him regularly; and how can we do that, if we are ignorant of the rules and elements of religion? We are to give God a "reasonable service." Rom. 12:1. If we understand not the grounds of religion, how can it be a reasonable service?
(2.) Knowledge of the grounds of religion much enriches the mind. It is a lamp to our feet; it directs us in the whole course of Christianity, as the eye directs the body. Knowledge of fundamentals is the golden key that opens the chief mysteries of religion; it gives us a whole system and body of divinity, exactly drawn in all its lineaments and lively colours; it helps us to understand many of those difficult things which occur in the reading of the word; it helps to untie many Scripture knots.
(3.) It furnishes us with armour of proof; weapons to fight against the adversaries of the truth.
(4.) It is the holy seed of which grace is formed. It is semen fidei, the seed of faith, Psalm 9:10. It is radix amoris, the root of love. Eph. 3:17. "Being rooted and grounded in love." The knowledge of principles conduces to the making of a complete Christian.
2. This grounding is the best way to becoming settled: "grounded and settled." A tree, that it may be well settled, must be well rooted; so, if you would be well settled in religion, you must be rooted in its principles. We read in Plutarch of one who set up a dead man, and he would not stand. "Oh," said he, "there should be something within." So that we may stand in shaking times, there must be a principle of knowledge within; first grounded, and then settled. That the ship may be kept from overturning, it must have its anchor fastened. Knowledge of principles is to the soul as the anchor to the ship, that holds it steady in the midst of the rolling waves of error, or the violent winds of persecution. First grounded and then settled.
USE 1. See the reason so many people are unsettled, ready to embrace every novel opinion, and dress themselves in as many religions as fashions; it is because they are ungrounded. See how the apostle joins these two together, "unlearned and unstable." 2 Pet. 3:16. Such as are unlearned in the main points of divinity are unstable. As the body cannot be strong that has the sinews shrunk; so neither can that Christian be strong in religion who wants the grounds of knowledge, which are the sinews to strengthen and stablish him.
USE 2. See what great necessity there is of laying down the main grounds of religion in a way of catechising, that the weakest judgment may be instructed in the knowledge of the truth, and strengthened in the love of it. Catechising is the best expedient for the grounding and settling of people. I fear one reason there has been no more good done by preaching, has been because the chief heads and articles in religion have not been explained in a catechistical way. Catechising is laying the foundation, Heb. 6:1. To preach and not to catechise is to build without a foundation. This way of catechising is not novel, it is apostolic. The primitive church had their forms of catechism, as those phrases imply, a "form of sound words," 2 Tim. i. 13, and "the first principles of the oracles of God," Heb. 6:1. The church had its catechumenoi, as Grotius and Erasmus observe. Many of the ancient fathers have written for it, as Fulgentius, Austin, Theodoret, Lactantius, and others. God has given great success to it. By thus laying down the grounds of religion catechistically, Christians have been clearly instructed and wondrously built up in the Christian faith, insomuch that Julian the apostate, seeing the great success of catechising, put down all schools and places of public literature, and instructing of youth. It is my design, therefore (with the blessing of God), to begin this work of catechising the next Sabbath day; and I intend every other Sabbath, in the afternoon, to make it my whole work to lay down the grounds and fundamentals of religion in a catechistical way. If I am hindered in this work by men, or taken away by death, I hope God will raise up some other labourer in the vineyard among you, that may perfect the work which I am now beginning.

Grace and Justification By: Robert Trail (A personal favorite)

"I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain."-Gal. 2:21.

The scope of the apostle Paul in this epistle, is to reprove the church that he writes to, for a great and sudden apostacy from that faith of the gospel that they were planted in. The apostle Paul himself was one of the main planters amongst them; and quickly after his removal from them false brethren crept in amongst them, and perverted them from the simplicity that was in Christ: their great error lay here, in mixing the works of the law with the righteousness of Christ, in the grand point of the justification of a sinner before God. Throughout this epistle the apostle argues strongly against this error: they had not renounced the doctrine of Christ; they did not deny justification by faith in him; but they thought that the works of the law were to be added to their faith in Christ, in order to their justification.
I shall only take notice briefly of a few of his arguments against this error, as they lie in the context, to lead you to the words that I have read, and mean to speak to.
The former part of the chapter is historical, telling them what he had done, and what had befallen him some years ago; how he was entertained and received by the great servants of Christ at Jerusalem, Peter, James, and John, that seemed to be pillars, and were indeed so: see the first ten verses. The next thing that he breaks forth into, in point of arguing with them, is upon the account of Peter's dissimulation, and Paul's reproof of him. The point seemed to be very small: Peter had made use of his Christian liberty in free converse with the believing Gentiles; but when some of the brethren of the Jews came from Jerusalem, he withdrew himself, and separated from them, fearing them of the circumcision; fearing that they would take it ill: a weak kind of fear it was, and upon this small thing the apostle set himself against him with great zeal. "I withstood him," saith he, "to the face, because he was to be blamed," (ver. 11). By this withdrawing the use of his Christian liberty, he hardened the Jews, and he weakened the hands of the weaker Jewish converts, that thought the wall of partition between the Jews and Gentiles was not yet taken away.
1st, His first argument against mingling the works of the law with faith in justification, is taken from the practice of the believing Jews. What way did they take to be justified? "We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles, knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ; even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified," (ver. 15, 16).
2dly, His next argument is taken from the bad effect and sad consequence of seeking righteousness by the law, (ver. 17), which, because it is something hard to understand, I would explain it a little in a few words: "But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves are also found sinners, is therefore Christ the minister of sin? God forbid." This is to say, "If so be we that have sought righteousness in Jesus Christ, if we have yet any dealings with the law in point of righteousness, we are found sinners still; and if a justified man be found a sinner, why then Jesus Christ, instead of delivering us from the bondage of the law, is found a minister of sin."
3dly, His third argument is yet strongest of all, and some way the hardest, (ver. 20), "For I through the law am dead unto the law, that I might live unto God." As if he should have said, "For my part, all the use that I got of the law, the more I was acquainted with it, it slew me the more, and I died the more to it, that I might live to God; all that the law can do to me in point of justification, is only to condemn me, and it can do no more." And whensoever the law enters into a man's conscience it always doth this; "When the commandment came, sin revived, and I died: the commandment slew me," (Rom. 7:9,11).
4thly, His next argument is taken from the nature of the new life that he led, (ver. 20), "I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me." Words of extraordinary form, but of more extraordinary matter: words that one would think seem to be some way opposed to one another: but yet they set forth gloriously that gracious life that through Christ Jesus is imparted to justified believers. "Christ died for me, and I am crucified with Christ; and yet I live, but it is Christ that lives in me, and Christ lives in me only by faith."
My text contains two arguments more, drawn from a common natural head of arguing against error, by the absurdities that necessarily flow from it; and they are two the greatest that can be, "Frustrating the grace of God," — and "making the death of Christ to be in vain." And greater sins are not to be committed by men: the greater sin, the unpardonable sin, is expressed in words very like to this, (Heb. 10:29): "Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God; and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite to the Spirit of grace?" And how near to one another are frustrating the grace of God, and doing despite to the Spirit of grace, and making Christ's death to be in vain, and counting the blood of the covenant an unholy thing!
There are two words to be explained before we go any further: 1st, What is the grace of God? 2dly, What is it to frustrate the grace of God?
First, What is the grace of God? The grace of God hath two common noted acceptations in the scripture.
1. It is taken and used in the scripture for the doctrine of the grace of God, and so it is frequently used; the gospel itself is called the grace of God, (Tit. 2:11): "The grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared unto all men:" that is, the gospel; for it is the teaching grace of God that is there spoken of, called by the apostle "the gospel of his grace." And this grace of God may be received in vain. Many may have this grace of God and go to hell. Pray that ye receive not the grace of God in vain.
2. By the grace of God in the word is understood the blessing itself; and this is never frustrated: that grace that called Paul, that grace that wrought mightily with him, that was not given him in vain: "The grace that was bestowed was not in vain, for I laboured more abundantly than they all; yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me." The gospel of the grace of God is frequently frustrated, but the grace itself is never so.
Secondly, What is it to frustrate this grace of God? The word that I remember in the original is used, (Mark 7:9): "Ye make void (or reject) the commandments of God." It is the same word with that in my text: to frustrate the grace of God, is to defeat it of its end, to miss the end of it. Luke 7:30, it is said the Pharisees and Lawyers frustrated the grace of God against themselves; or, as we read it there, "they rejected the counsel of God against themselves." The true grace of God itself can never be frustrated; it always reaches its end, for it is almighty: but the doctrine of the grace of God is many times rejected; and the apostle here in the text speaks of it as a sin that they are guilty of that speak of righteousness by the works of the law. There is one thing that I would observe in general from the scope of the apostle, viz. that in the great matter of justification the apostle argues from his own experience: the true way to get sound light in the main point of the justification of a sinner before God, is to study it in thy own personal concern; if it be bandied about by men as a notion only, as a point of truth, discoursing wantonly about it, it is all one in God's sight whether men be sound or unsound about it; they are unsound in heart how sound soever they are in head about it. The great way to know the right mind of God about the justification of a poor sinner, is for all to try it with respect to themselves. Would the apostle say, "I know how I am justified, and all the world shall never persuade me to join the righteousness of the law with the righteousness of Christ."
There are four points of doctrine that I would raise, and observe from the first part of these words:
1. That the grace of God shines gloriously in the justifying of a sinner through the righteousness of Christ.
2. It is a horrible sin to frustrate the grace of God.
3. All that seek righteousness by the law do frustrate the grace of God in the gospel.
4. That no sound believer can be guilty of this sin.
I would speak to the first of these at this time: That the grace of God shines gloriously in the justifying of a sinner by the righteousness of Christ alone. When the apostle speaks of it, how frequently is this term "grace" added? "Being justified freely by his grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus," (Rom. 3:24). "That being justified by his grace, we might be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life."
There are four things to be explained here, that will make our way plain to the proof of this point. What is justification? Who is it that doth justify? Who are justified? And upon what account?
1st, What is justification? We read much of it in our Bible, and the doctrine of it is reckoned one of the fundamental points of the true Christian religion, and so indeed it is. This grand doctrine, the fountain of our peace, and comfort, and salvation, was woefully darkened in the Popish kingdom; and the first light of the Reformation, that God was pleased to break up in our forefathers' days, was mainly about this great doctrine. Justification is not barely the pardon of sin; it is indeed always inseparable from it; the pardon of sin is a fruit of it, or a part of it. Justification is God's acquitting a man, and freeing him from all condemnation; it is God's taking off the condemnation that the broken law of God lays upon every sinner. "Who is he that shall condemn? It is God that justifies," (Rom. 8:33). Justification and condemnation are opposites; every one is under condemnation that is not justified, and every justified man is freed from condemnation. Justification is not sanctification; it is an old Popish error, sown in the hearts of a great many Protestants, to think that justification and sanctification are the same. Justification and sanctification are as far different as these two:— There is a man condemned for high treason against the king by the judge, and the same man is sick of a mortal disease; and if he dies not by the hands of the hangman today, he may die of his disease to-morrow: it is the work of the physician to cure the disease, but it is an act of mercy from the king that must save him from the condemnation. Justification is the acquitting and repealing the law-sentence of condemnation; sanctification is the healing of the disease of sin, that will be our bane except Christ be our physician.
Justification and sanctification are always inseparable, but they are wonderfully distinct. Justification is an act of God's free grace; sanctification is a work of God's Spirit: sanctification is a work wrought within us; justification is something done about us, and therefore justification is everywhere spoken of in the word in the terms of a legal act.
2dly, Who is he that justifies? I answer, God only: "Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifies," (Rom. 8:33). Who shall condemn? He only can justify that gives the law: he only can justify that condemns for sin: he only can justify that is wronged by sin, (Mark 2:7). The Pharisees blasphemed, it was in their darkness; but yet the truth that they spake was good, though the application of it was quite naught: "Why doth this man speak blasphemies? who can forgive sin, but God only?" In the case of the man sick of the palsy, whose sins Christ first forgave before he healed him of the palsy — so that the forgiveness of his sins was his justification, and the healing of his disease was as if it were the type of his sanctification — their application was wrong, in that they did not know that Christ was God, and that he had power on earth to forgive sins: but the truth itself was sound — "none can forgive sins but God only."
Justification is an act of the judge; it is only the judge and lawgiver that can pronounce it: and "there is but one lawgiver," saith James, "that can both save and destroy," (chap. 4:12). None properly offended by sin but God, and nothing violated by sin so immediately as the law of God.
3dly, Who is justified? Every one is not justified. What sort of a man is he that is justified? Justification is the acquitting of a man from all condemnation, and it is God's doing alone; but what sort of a man is it that is justified? Is it a holy man? A man newly come from heaven? Is it a new sort of a creature, rarely made and framed? No: it is a sinner: it is an ungodly man: "God justifies the ungodly."
The man is not made godly before he is justified, nor is he left ungodly after be is justified; he is not made godly a moment before he is justified, but he is justified from his ungodliness by the sentence of justification: when he is dead in sins and trespasses, quickening comes, and life comes, (Eph. 2:1).
4thly, Upon what account is all this done? And this is the hardest of all. You have heard that justification is the freeing of a man from all charge, and that it is done by God alone, and given to a man before he can do any thing of good — for no man can do any thing that is good till he be sanctified, and no man is sanctified till he is justified; but the grand question is, "How can God justly do this?" saith the apostle, (Rom. 3:26). "That he might be just, and the justifier of him that believeth in Jesus." How can God be just, and yet justify an ungodly man? "To justify the wicked, and to condemn the righteous, are both an abomination in the sight of God," when practised by man, Prov. 17:15. How then can God justify the ungodly? The grand account of this is, God justifies the ungodly for the sake of nothing in himself, but solely upon the account of this righteousness of Christ, that the apostle is here arguing upon: "Being justified freely by his grace, through the redemption that is in Jesus Christ, whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood," (Rom. 3:24, 25). When God justifies a man, the righteousness of Christ is reckoned to him, and God deals with him as a man in Christ; and therefore his transgressions are covered, and the man is made the righteousness of God in Christ, because Christ is made of God unto him righteousness, (1 Cor. 1:30), "Of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us righteousness." Where is the poor man's righteousness that is justified? It is in Christ Jesus. For, (2 Cor. 5:21), "He hath made him to be sin for us who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him." And to be made the righteousness of God, is nothing else but to be made righteous before God in and through Jesus Christ.
These things considered, the proof of this point is very easy — That the grace of God shines gloriously in the way of justifying a sinner by the righteousness of Jesus Christ: I shall therefore add but a few things more in the proof of it.
First, In this way all is of God, and nothing of the creature's procuring, and therefore it is of grace. Grace always shines most brightly where man appears least; every thing that tends to advance the power and efficacy of man's working, always hinders the shining forth of the glory of the grace of God; but in this way of justifying us through the righteousness of Christ, grace shines forth most gloriously, because it is all of God: we do nothing in it. To instance in a few things here,
1. The finding out of this righteousness by which we are justified is of God alone. If the question had been put to all the angels in heaven, and to many worlds of men, if this one question had been put, How can a just and holy God justify a sinner? No created understanding could ever have been able to find out how it could be done; it was the infinite wisdom of God alone that found out this way. He will send his own Son to be a sinless man, that shall sustain the persons, and bear the sins, and take away the sins of all that shall be justified. The natural understanding of all mankind is this: when we know any thing of God, we know that it stands with his nature to condemn sin, and hate the sinner; but how it can stand with his justice to acquit a sinner, it is God only that could find out that.
2. As the finding out of the way of our justification is of God alone, so the working out of it is Christ's alone. There was no creature of God's counsel in finding out the way, so there was no creature Christ's helper in making the way. All the great work of fulfilling the righteousness of the law was done by Christ alone; none could offer to help in the great work of bearing the weight of his Father's wrath, and bearing the burden of the justice of God, for the sins of his church. Our Lord was the alone bearer of this; he alone brought in everlasting righteousness, and "put away sin by the sacrifice of himself," (Heb. 9:26).
3. The applying of this righteousness is only of God also. It is the work of the Holy Spirit to bring it close unto the sinner by faith; and here we have as little to do as in the former. There was none of God's everlasting counsel in the finding out this way, nor had Christ any helper in the work of redemption; and we help the Spirit of God as little in his work of applying this: for till the grace of God prevails upon the heart, there is a constant struggling against it. There are many poor sinners that have struggled with the Spirit of God seeking to save them, more than many believers have ever strove with Satan seeking to destroy them. All unbelievers are led more tamely to hell by the devil, than believers are led quietly to heaven by the Spirit of God.
4. The securing all this by the everlasting covenant is of God only. We seal God's covenant by our faith for the benefit of it; but it is Christ's great seal that is its security, even the seal of his own blood: "This is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many, for the remission of sins," (Matt. 26:28). And so much for this first thing: The grace of God shines gloriously in the way of justifying a sinner by the righteousness of Christ; because it is altogether of God, the sinner hath no hand in it.
Secondly, This will further appear, if we consider what vile creatures the receivers of it are; they have nothing to procure it, nothing to deserve it, but a great deal to deserve the contrary, In that, Rom. 5, they have three names: Ver. 6, we are called "ungodly," — " In due time Christ died for the ungodly." Ver. 8, we are called "sinners," — "Whilst we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." Ver. 10, we are called "enemies," — " When we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son." Here are three names: Ungodly! Sinners! Enemies! the highest words whereby ill-deserving can be well expressed; and it is the usual way of the Spirit of God to lay open the worst in a poor sinner, when God is about to give the best; and all they that receive it receive this grace under these names. "God be merciful to me a sinner," saith the poor publican; and "this man," saith our Lord, "went down to his house justified," (Luke 18:13, 14). "Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief," saith Paul, (1 Tim. 1:15).
And not only is it so that they are undeserving and unworthy, but they are also very proud and vain, and have a great opinion of themselves; and must it not be great grace then to justify such men? "Thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing," saith our Lord to the church of Laodicea;" and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked:" even when Christ is courting them to buy of him his gold and white garment, (Rev. 3:17, 18).
Thirdly, The grace of God in justifying a sinner through the righteousness of Christ appears to be very glorious, even in the very naming of it: it is the grace of God; it must be great grace, for it is the grace of God; it is the grace of a holy God; it is the grace of a just God; it is the grace of a powerful God; it is the grace of that God that can do every thing: every name that exalts the glory of God, doth also raise the value of this grace: it is the grace of God towards vile sinners, and that makes it great indeed. Let us consider this grace of God a little.
This grace of God is dear to God, and therefore it is the more grace. The grace of God in justifying us is dear to God; it cost the Father dear to part with his own Son; it cost the Son dear to part with his own life to bring in this righteousness; and, if I may so say, it cost the Holy Ghost dear to work the faith of this righteousness in the heart of a poor sinner. When we consider how all things else that God did were easily done but this. When the world was to be made, no more is to be done but "Let it be;" but when the world was to be redeemed, "Let it be" will not do; a body must be prepared for the Son, and that body must be sacrificed for sin, and be slain, and sustain the wrath of God, and the curse of the law; and all this to bring in an everlasting righteousness.
Again, this grace that was so dear to God comes to us good cheap, we give nothing for it: the Lord will take nothing for it, we have nothing to give: the apostle doth not think it enough to say, "being justified by his grace;" but he adds, "being justified FREELY by his grace," (Rom. 3:24), "Whosoever will, let him take of the water of life FREELY ," (Rev. 22:17). Taking implies some freedom in it, but taking freely is a redoubling of the expression. This grace of God that is so dear to God, comes good cheap to us, it cost us nothing.
Again, this grace of God is everlasting; it is the eternal garment of all believers, even of them that are in heaven. Saith the apostle, Rom. 5:21, "Grace reigns through righteousness unto eternal life, through Jesus Christ our Lord." Observe, neither grace, nor righteousness, nor eternal life, nor Jesus our Lord, cease in heaven; they are all there together; Christ as the author of eternal life, and worker of righteousness; and the believer as the possessor of eternal life, and the enjoyer of this life; and grace as the high spring of all: grace is in heaven; the reign of grace is only in heaven. That of Rev. 19:8. is by most understood to relate to the other world; and it is said there, that "unto the Lamb's wife it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white;" and that fine linen is the righteousness of Christ, in which the saints stand everlastingly accepted before God. "Behold I and the children that thou hast given me!" saith our Lord, (Heb. 2:13), and their glory in heaven is to behold the glory that he had with the Father, as their head, before the world began, (John 17:24).
Again, it is grace, because it is very abundant: it is an usual thing in the Old Testament to call great things by the name of God, as the trees of God, the city of God, the river of God; now this grace of God is so called because it is great, exceedingly abundant: saith the apostle Paul concerning it, "The grace of our Lord Jesus was exceeding abundant towards me," (1 Tim. 1:14). Did ever any of you know how many sins you had? Yet you must have a great deal more grace, or you can never be saved; there must be more grace than sin, or you cannot be saved, (Rom. 5:20): "The law entered that sin might abound; but where sin abounded, grace did much more abound." I do not say, no man can be saved unless he hath more inherent grace than he hath inherent corruption in him; but, unless there be a greater abundance of the grace of God for covering of sin, than there is of sin to be covered, no man can be saved: the apostle adds a much more abundance to it. One would think there was enough of sin and guilt in the disobedience of the first Adam; and so there was; but, saith the apostle, the matter is far greater here: "And not as it was by one that sinned, so is the gift; for the judgment was by one to condemnation, but the free gift is of many offences unto justification: for if by one man's offence death reigned by one, much more they which receive abundance of grace, and of the gift of righteousness, shall reign in life by one, Christ Jesus," (ver. 16, 17, of that 5th chapter of the Romans). There is abundance of grace, and of the gift of righteousness through Jesus Christ, needful to save any sinner. When the Lord makes this matter to balance in the eyes of his people, and there are great discoveries made to them of the aggravations and of the multitude of their sins; this is a common wicked thought arising in their awakened consciences, Can God forgive? Can God pass by so many and so great transgressions? It is a sinful thought; the plain meaning of it is, "Is there more grace in God than there is sin and guilt with me?" We were all undone if it was not so; if Christ's righteousness was not more able to justify than the first Adam's sin was to condemn, no man could be saved. The grace of God shines in this way of the justification of a sinner by the righteousness of Christ, in that there is an abundance of it imparted to all them that partake of it.
APPLICATION. — You have heard that the grace of God shines gloriously in the justification of a sinner by the righteousness of Christ: in all your dealings, then, with God, think much of grace: they that never had an errand to God for the blessing of justification, they may possibly be saved; but they are not yet in the way to salvation that were never yet concerned about this question, How shall a man be acquitted before God? Or that never treated with God about justification. In all your dealings with God still remember grace: when you come for justification, plead for it as grace: when you receive it, receive it as grace: and when you praise for it, praise for it as grace; and thus will you behave as the people of God have done. When you plead for it, plead for it as grace; bring nothing with you in your hand, offer nothing to God for your justification; it is a free gift: if God be pleased to give it, in his great bounty, you shall be saved. You have no reason to quarrel if God doth not give it: you have no reason to fear but God will give it. Though you do not deserve it, yet he hath promised it. As there is a fulness of righteousness in Christ to procure grace, so there is a fulness of grace in the tender of the gospel; and you are to believe that Christ is willing to make all this over to sinners.
When you receive justification, receive it as grace: sometimes we beg it as an alms, and sometimes in the gospel the Lord offers it as a gift, and we are to receive it as such. If the Lord tenders you the gift of righteousness through Jesus Christ, do not say you cannot receive it; do not say you are not meet for it. The question is, Are you in need of it? Are you not guilty? and is not a pardon suitable for the guilty? Receive it as a grace. The true reason why so many neglect right dealing with God for justification, and slight God's dealing with them about receiving it, is because their hearts stand at a distance from, and they have a sort of a quarrel with mere grace. As it is certain that nothing but grace can save the sinner, so it is as certain there is nothing more unpleasing to the sinner than grace; than that good, which when received he must always own the bounty of the Giver, and never to eternity be able to say, "My own hand hath made me rich:" Christ will bring none to heaven that are in that mind. He that will not be rich in Christ, must be poor and condemned still in the first Adam. "Know ye not," saith the apostle, "the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, who, though he was rich, yet he became poor, that we through his poverty might be made rich," (2 Cor. 8:9). The riches of a believer stands in the poverty of Christ; and every true believer counts Christ's poverty his riches.

How We Ought to Think about God's Providence By: Thomas Boston

1. Beware of drawing an excuse for your sin from the providence of God; for it is most holy, and is in no way any cause of any sin you commit. Every sin is an act of rebellion against God; a breach of his holy law, and deserves his wrath and curse; and therefore cannot be authorised by an infinitely-holy God, who is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity without detestation and abhorrence. Though he has by a permissive decree allowed moral evil to be in the world, yet that has no influence on the sinner to commit it. For it is not the fulfilling of God's decree, which is an absolute secret to every mortal, but the gratification of their own lusts and perverse inclinations, that men intend and mind in the commission of sin.
2. Beware of murmuring and fretting under any dispensations of providence that you meet with; remembering that nothing falls out without a wise and holy providence, which knows best what is fit and proper for you. And in all cases, even in the middle of the most afflicting incidents that happen to you, learn submission to the will of God, as Job did, when he said upon the end of a series of the heaviest calamities that happened to him, "The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away, blessed be the name of the Lord," Job, i. 21. In the most distressing case, say with the disciples, "The will of the Lord be done," Acts, 21:14.
3. Beware of anxious cares and fearfulness about your material well-being in the world. This our Lord has cautioned his followers against, Matt. 6:31. "Take no thought, (that is, anxious and perplexing thought,) saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?" Never let the fear of man stop you from duty, Matt. 10:28, 29; but let your souls learn to trust in God, who guides and superintends all the events and administrations of providence, by whatever hands they are performed.
4. Do not think little of means, seeing God works by them; and he that has appointed the end, orders the means necessary for gaining the end. Do not rely upon means, for they can do nothing without God, Matt. 4:4. Do not despair if there be no means, for God can work without them, as well as with them; Hosea 1:7. "I will save them by the Lord their God, and will not save them by bow, nor by sword, nor by battle, by horses, nor by horsemen." If the means be unlikely, he can work above them, Rom. 4:19. "He considered not his own body now dead, neither yet the deadness of Sarah's womb." If the means be contrary, he can work by contrary means, as he saved Jonah by the whale that devoured him. That fish swallowed up the prophet, but by the direction of providence, it vomited him out upon dry land.
Lastly, Happy is the people whose God is the Lord: for all things shall work together for their good. They may sit secure in exercising faith upon God, come what will. They have good reason for prayer; for God is a prayer-hearing God, and will be enquired of by his people as to all their concerns in the world. And they have ground for the greatest encouragement and comfort in the middle of all the events of providence, seeing they are managed by their covenant God and gracious friend, who will never neglect or overlook his dear people, and whatever concerns them. For he has said, "I will never leave you, nor forsake you," Heb. 13:5.

God Alone Created the World By: Thomas Boston

This will be evident from the following considerations:
1. The world could not make itself; for that would imply a horrible contradiction, namely, that the world was before it was; for the cause must always be before its effect. That which is not in being, can have no production; for nothing can act before it exists. As nothing has no existence, so it have no operation. There must therefore be something which has existence in itself, to give a being to those things that are; and every second cause must be an effect of some other before it be a cause. To be and not to be at the same time, is a manifest contradiction, which would infallibly take place if any thing made itself. That which makes is always before that which is made, as is obvious to the most illiterate peasant. If the world were a creator, it must be before itself as a created thing.
2. The production of the world could not be by chance. It was indeed the extravagant fancy of some ancient philosophers, that the original of the world was from a fortuitous concourse of atoms, which were in perpetual motion in an immense space, till at last a sufficient number of them met in such a happy conjunction as formed the universe in the beautiful order in which we now behold it. But it is amazingly strange how such a wild opinion, which can never be reconciled with reason, could ever find any entertainment in a human mind. Can any man rationally conceive, that a confused jumble of atoms, of diverse natures and forms, and some so far distant from others, should ever meet in such a fortunate manner, as to form an entire world, so vast in extent, so distinct in the order, so united in the diversities of natures, so regular in the variety of changes, and so beautiful in the whole composure? Such an extravagant fancy as this can only possess the thoughts of a disordered brain.
3. God created all things, the world, and all the creatures that belong to it. He attributes this work to himself, as one of the particular glories of his Deity, exclusive of all the creatures. So we read, Isa 44:24, "I am the LORD, who makes all things, who stretches out the heavens all alone, who spreads abroad the earth by myself." Chapter 45:12, "I have made the earth, And created man on it. I; My hands; stretched out the heavens, And all their host I have commanded." Chapter 40:12,13, "Who has measured the waters in the hollow of His hand, Measured heaven with a span And calculated the dust of the earth in a measure? Weighed the mountains in scales And the hills in a balance? Who has directed the Spirit of the LORD, or as his counselor has taught him?" Job 9:8, "He alone spreads out the heavens, and treads on the waves of the sea." These are magnificent descriptions of the creating power of God, and exceed every thing of the kind that has been attempted by the pens of the greatest sages of antiquity. By this operation God is distinguished from all the false gods and fictitious deities which the blinded nations adored, and shows himself to be the true God. Jer 10:11 "Thus you shall say to them: "The gods that have not made the heavens and the earth shall perish from the earth and from under these heavens. He has made the earth by His power, He has established the world by His wisdom, And has stretched out the heavens at His discretion." Psalm 96:5, " All the gods of the nations are idols: but the Lord made the heavens." Isa 37:16, "You are God, You alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth. You have made heaven and earth." None could make the world but God, because creation is a work of infinite power, and could not be produced by any finite cause: For the distance between being and not being is truly infinite, which could not be removed by any finite agent, or the activity of all finite agents united.
This work of creation is common to all the three persons in the adorable Trinity. The Father is described in Scripture as the Creator, 1 Cor. 7:6, "The Father, of whom are all things." The same claim belongs to the Son, John 1:3, "All things were made by him," [that is to say-] the Word, the Son; John 1:3 "All things were made through Him, and without him was not any thing made that was made." The same honour belongs to the Holy Spirit, as Job 26:13, "By His Spirit He adorned the heavens." Job 33:4 "The Spirit of God has made me," says Elihu, "and the breath of the Almighty gives me life." All the three persons are one God; God is the Creator; and therefore all the external works and acts of the one God must be common to the three persons. Hence, when the work of creation is ascribed to the Father, neither the Son nor the Holy Spirit are excluded; but because as the Father is the fountain of the Deity, so he is the fountain of divine works. The Father created from himself by the Son and the Spirit; the Son from the Father by the Spirit; and the Spirit from the Father and the Son; the manner or order of their working being according to the order of their subsisting. The matter may be considered in this way: All the three persons being one God, possessed of the same infinite perfections; the Father, the first in subsistence, willed the work of creation to be done by his authority: "He spoke, and it was done; he commanded, and it stood fast."-In respect of immediate operation, it peculiarly belonged to the Son. For, "the Father created all things by Jesus Christ," Eph. 3:9. And we are told, that "all things were made through him," John 1:3. This work in regard of settlement and ornament, particularly belongs to the Holy Ghost. So it is said, Gen 1:2, "and the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters," to embellish and adorn the world, after the matter of it was formed. This is why it is also said, Job 26:13 "By His Spirit He adorned the heavens."

The Parable of the Sower By: C. H. Spurgeon

"And when much people were gathered together, and were come to him out of every city, he spake by a parable: 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, because it lacked moisture. And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprang up with it, and choked it. And other fell on good ground, and sprang up, and bare fruit an hundredfold. And when he had said these things, he cried, He that hath ears to hear, let him hear."—Luke 8:4-8.

In our country, when a sower goes forth to his work, he generally enters into an enclosed field, and scatters the seed from his basket along every ridge and furrow; but in the East, the corn-growing country, hard by a small town, is usually an open area. It is divided into different properties, but there are no visible divisions, except the ancient landmarks, or perhaps ridges of stones. Through these open lands there are footpaths, the most frequented being called the highways. You must not imagine these highways to be like our macadamized roads; they are merely paths, trodden tolerably hard. Here and there you notice bye-ways, along which travellers who wish to avoid the public road may journey with a little more safety when the main road is infested with robbers: hasty travellers also strike out short cuts for themselves, and so open fresh tracks for others. When the sower goes forth to sow he finds a plot of round scratched over with the primitive Eastern plough; he aims at scattering his seed there most plentifully; but a path runs through the centre of his field, and unless he is willing to leave a broad headland, he must throw a handful upon it. Yonder, a rock crops out in the midst of the ploughed land, and the seed falls on its shallow soil. Here is a corner full of the roots of nettles and thistles, and he flings a little here; the corn and the nettles come up together, and the thorns being the stronger soon choke the seed, so that it brings forth no fruit unto perfection. The recollection that the Bible was written in the East, and that its metaphors and allusions must be explained to us by Eastern travellers, will often help us to understand a passage far better than if we think of English customs.The preacher of the gospel is like the sower. He does not make his seed; it is given him by his divine Master. No man could create the smallest grain that ever grew upon the earth, much less the celestial seed of eternal life. The minister goes to his Master in secret, and asks him to teach him his gospel, and thus he fills his basket with the good seed of the kingdom. He then goes forth in his Master's name and scatters precious truth. If he knew where the best soil was to be found, perhaps he might limit himself to that which had been prepared by the plough of conviction; but not knowing men's hearts, it is his business to preach the gospel to every creature—to throw a handful on the hardened heart, and another on the mind which is overgrown with the cares and pleasures of the world. He has to leave the seed in the care of the Lord who gave it to him, for he is not responsible for the harvest, he is only accountable for the care and industry with which he does his work. If no single ear should ever make glad the reaper, the sower will be rewarded by His Master if he had planted the right seed with careful hand. If it were not for this fact with what despairing agony should we utter the cry of Esaias, "Who hath believed our report? And to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?"Our duty is not measured by the character of our hearers, but by the command of our God. We are bound to preach the gospel, whether men will hear, or whether they will forbear. It is ours to sow beside all waters. Let men's hearts be what they may the minister must preach the gospel to them; he must sow the seed on the rock as well as in the furrow, on the highway as well as in the ploughed field.I shall now address myself to the four classes of hearers mentioned in our Lord's parable. We have, first of all, those who are represented by the way-side, those who are "hearers only"; then those represented by the stony-ground; these are transiently impressed, but the word produces no lasting fruit; then, those among thorns, on whom a good impression is produced, but the cares of this life, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the pleasures of the world choke the seed; and lastly, that small class—God be pleased to multiply it exceedingly—that small class of good-ground hearers, in whom the Word brings forth abundant fruit.I. First of all, I address myself to those hearts which are like the WAY-SIDE—"Some fell by the wayside; and it was trodden down, and the fowls of the air devoured it." Many of you do not go to the place of worship desiring a blessing. You do not intend to worship God, or to be affected by anything that you hear. You are like the highway, which was never intended to be a cornfield. If a single grain of truth should fall into your heart and grow it would be as great a wonder as for corn to grow up in the street. If the seed shall be dexterously scattered, some of it will fall upon you, and rest for a while upon your thoughts. 'Tis true you will not understand it; but, nevertheless, if it be placed before you in an interesting style, you will talk about it till some more congenial entertainment shall attract you. Even this slender benefit is brief, for in a little season you will forget all that you have heard. Would to God we could hope that our words would tarry with you, but we cannot hope it, for the soil of your heart is so hard beaten by continual traffic, that there is no hope of the seed finding a living root-hold. Satan is constantly passing over your heart with his company of blasphemies, lusts, lies, and vanities. The chariots of pride roll along it, and the feet of greedy mammon tread it till it is hard as adamant. Alas! For the good seed, it finds not a moment's respite; crowds pass and repass; in fact, your soul is an exchange, across which continually hurry the busy feet of those who make merchandise of the souls of men. You are buying and selling, but you little think that you are selling the truth, and that you are buying your soul's destruction. You have no time, you say, to think of religion. No, the road of your heart is such a crowded thoroughfare, that there is no room for the wheat to spring up. If it did begin to germinate, some rough foot would crush the green blade ere it could come to perfection. The seed has occasionally lain long enough to begin to sprout, but just then a new place of amusement has been opened, and you have entered there, and as with an iron heel, the germ of life that was in the seed was crushed out. Corn could not grow in Cornhill or Cheapside, however excellent the seed might be: your heart is just like those crowded thoroughfares; for so many cares and sins throng it, and so many proud, vain, evil, rebellious thoughts against God pass through it, that the seed of truth cannot grow.We have looked at this hard road-side, let us now describe what becomes of the good word, when it falls upon such a heart. It would have grown if it had fallen on right soil, but it has dropped into the wrong place, and it remains as dry as when it fell from the sower's hand. The word of the gospel lies upon the surface of such a heart, but never enters it. Like the snow, which sometimes falls upon our streets, drops upon the wet pavement, melts, and is gone at once, so is it with this man. The word has not time to quicken in his soul: it lies there an instant, but it never strikes root, or takes the slightest effect.Why do men come to hear if the word never enters their hearts? That has often puzzled us. Some hearers would not be absent on the Sunday on any account; they are delighted to come up with us to worship, but yet the tear never trickles down their cheek, their soul never mounts up to heaven on the wings of praise, nor do they truly join in our confessions of sin. They do not think of the wrath to come, nor of the future state of their souls. Their heart is as iron; the minister might as well speak to a heap of stones as preach to them. What brings these senseless sinners here? Surely we are as hopeful of converting lions and leopards as these untamed, insensible hearts. Oh feeling! Thou art fled to brutish beasts, and men have lost their reason! Do these people come to our assemblies because it is respectable to attend a place of worship? Or is it that their coming helps to make them comfortable in their sins? If they stopped away conscience would prick them; but they come hither that they may flatter themselves with the notion that they are religious. Oh! My hearers, your case is one that might make an angel weep! How sad to have the sun of the gospel shining on your faces, and yet to have blind eyes that never see the light. The music of heaven is lost upon you, for you have no ears to hear. You can catch the turn of a phrase, you can appreciate the poetry of an illustration, but the hidden meaning, the divine life you do not perceive. You sit at the marriage-feast, but you eat not of the dainties; the bells of heaven ring with joy over ransomed spirits, but you live unransomed, without God, and without Christ. Though we plead with you, and pray for you, and weep over you, you still remain as hardened, as careless, and as thoughtless as ever you were. May God have mercy on you, and break up your hard hearts, that his word may abide in you.We have not, however, completed the picture. The passage tells us that the fowls of the air devoured the seed. Is there here a way-side hearer? Perhaps he did not mean to hear this sermon, and when he has heard it he will be asked by one of the wicked to come into company. He will go with the tempter, and the good seed will be devoured by the fowls of the air. Plenty of evil ones are ready to take away the gospel from the heart. The devil himself, that prince of the air, is eager at any time to snatch away a good thought. And then the devil is not alone—he has legions of helpers. He can set a man's wife, children, friends, enemies, customers, or creditors, to eat up the good seed, and they will do it effectually. Oh, sorrow upon sorrow, that heavenly seed should become devil's meat; that God's corn should feed foul birds!O my hearers, if you have heard the gospel from your youth, what waggon-loads of sermons have been wasted on you! In your younger days, you heard old Dr. So-and-so, and the dear old man was wont to pray for his hearers till his eyes were red with tears! Do you recollect those many Sundays when you said to yourself, "Let me go to my chamber and fall on my knees and pray"? But you did not: the fowls of the air ate up the seed, and you went on to sin as you had sinned before. Since then, by some strange impulse, you are very rarely absent from God's house; but now the seed of the gospel falls into your soul as if it dropped upon an iron floor, and nothing comes of it. The law may be thundered at you; you do not sneer at it, but it never affects you. Jesus Christ may be lifted up; his dear wounds may be exhibited; his streaming blood may flow before your very eyes, and you may be bidden with all earnestness to look to him and live; but it is as if one should sow the sea-shore. What shall I do for you? Shall I stand here and rain tears upon this hard highway? Alas! My tears will not break it up; it is trodden too hard for that. Shall I bring the gospel plough? Alas! The ploughshare will not enter ground so solid. What shall we do? O God, thou knowest how to melt the hardest heart with the precious blood of Jesus. Do it now, we beseech thee, and thus magnify thy grace, by causing the good seed to live, and to produce a heavenly harvest.II. I shall now turn to the second class of hearers:—"And some fell upon a ROCK; and as soon as it was sprung up, it withered away, because it lacked moisture." You can easily picture to yourselves that piece of rock in the midst of the field thinly veiled with soil; and of course the seed falls there as it does everywhere else. It springs up, it hastens to grow, it withers, it dies. None but those who love the souls of men can tell what hopes, what joys, and what bitter disappointments these stony places have caused us. We have a class of hearers whose hearts are hard, and yet they are apparently the softest and most impressible of men. While other men see nothing in the sermon, these men weep. Whether you preach the terrors of the law or the love of Calvary, they are alike stirred in their souls, and the liveliest impressions are apparently produced. Such may be listening now. They have resolved, but they have procrastinated. They are not the sturdy enemies of God who clothe themselves in steel, but they seem to bare their breasts, and lay them open to the minister. Rejoiced in heart, we shoot our arrows there, and they appear to penetrate; but, alas, a secret armour blunts every dart, and no wound is felt. The parable speaks of this character thus—"Some fell upon stony places, where they had not much earth: and forthwith they sprung up, because they had no deepness of earth." Or as another passage explains it: "And these are they likewise which are sown on stony ground; who, when they have heard the word, immediately receive it with gladness; 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." Have we not thousands of hearers who receive the word with joy? They have no deep convictions, but they leap into Christ on a sudden, and profess an instantaneous faith in him, and that faith has all the appearance of being genuine. When we look at it, the seed has really sprouted. There is a kind of life in it, there is apparently a green blade. We thank God that a sinner is brought back, a soul is born to God. But our joy is premature: they sprang up on a sudden, and received the word with joy, because they had no depth of earth, and the self-same cause which hastened their reception of the seed also causes them, when the sun is risen with his fervent heat, to wither away. These men we see every day in the week. They come to join the church; they tell us a story of how they heard us preach on such-and-such an occasion, and, oh, the word was so blessed to them, they never felt so happy in their lives! "Oh sir, I thought I must leap from my seat when I heard about a precious Christ, and I believed on him there and then; I am sure I did." We question them as to whether they were ever convinced of sin. They think they were; but one thing they know, they feel a great pleasure in religion. We put it to them, "Do you think you will hold on?" They are confident that they shall. They hate the things they once loved, they are sure they do. Everything has become new to them. And all this is on a sudden. We enquire when the good work began. We find it began when it ended, that is to say, there was no previous work, no ploughing of the soil, but on a sudden they sprang from death to life, as if a field should be covered with wheat by magic. Perhaps we receive them into the church; but in a week or two they are not so regular as they used to be. We gently reprove them, and they explain that they meet with such opposition in religion, that they are obliged to yield a little. Another month and we lose them altogether. The reason is that they have been laughed at or exposed to a little opposition, and they have gone back. And what, think you, are the feelings of the minister? He is like the husbandman, who sees his field all green and flourishing, but at night a frost nips every shoot, and his hoped-for gains are gone. The minister goes to his chamber, and casts himself on his face before God, and cries, "I have been deceived; my converts are fickle, their religion has withered as the green herb." In the ancient story Orpheus is said to have had such skill upon the lyre, that he made the oaks and stones to dance around him. It is a poetical fiction, and yet hath it sometimes happened to the minister, that not only have the godly rejoiced, but men, like oaks and stones, have danced from their places. Alas! They have been oaks and stones still. Hushed is the lyre. The oak returns to its rooting-place, and the stone casts itself heavily to the earth. The sinner, who, like Saul, was among the prophets, goes back to plan mischief against the Most High.If it is bad to be a wayside hearer, I cannot think it is much better to be like the rock. This second class of hearers certainly gives us more joy than the first. A certain company always comes round a new minister; and I have often thought it is an act of God's kindness that he allows these people to gather at the first, while the minister is young, and has but few to stand by him: these persons are easily moved, and if the minister preaches earnestly they feel it, and they love him, and rally round him, much to his comfort. But time, that proves all things, proves them. They seemed to be made of true metal; but when they are put into the fire to be tested, they are consumed in the furnace. Some of the shallow kind are here now. I have looked at you when I have been preaching, and I have often thought, "That man one of these days will come out from the world, I am sure he will." I have thanked God for him. Alas, he is the same as ever. Years and years have we sowed him in vain, and it is to be feared it will be so to the end, for he is without depth, and without the moisture of the Spirit. Shall it be so? Must I stand over the mouth of your open sepulchre, and thin, "Here lies a shoot which never became an ear, a man in whom grace struggled but never reigned, who gave some hopeful spasms of life and then subsided into eternal death"? God save you! Oh! May the Spirit deal with you effectually, and may you, even you, yet bring forth fruit unto God, that Jesus may have a reward for his sufferings.III. I shall briefly treat of the third class, and may the Spirit of God assist me to deal faithfully with you. "And some fell among THORNS; and the thorns sprang up with it, and choked it." Now, this was good soil. The two first characters were bad: the wayside was not the proper place, the rock was not a congenial situation for the growth of any plant; but this is good soil, for it grows thorns. Wherever a thistle will spring up and flourish, there would wheat flourish too. This was fat, fertile soil; it was no marvel therefore that the husbandman dealt largely there, and threw handful after handful upon that corner of the field. See how happy he is when in a month or two he visits the spot. The seed has sprung up. True, there's a suspicious little plant down there of about the same size as the wheat. "Oh!" he thinks, "that's not much, the corn will out-grow that. When it is stronger it will choke these few thistles that have unfortunately mixed with it." Ay, Mr. Husbandman, you do not understand the force of evil, or you would not thus dream! He comes again, and the seed has grown, there is even the corn in the ear; but the thistles, the thorns, and the briars have become intertwisted with one another, and the poor wheat can hardly get a ray of sunshine. It is so choked with thorns every way, that it looks quite yellow: the plant is starved. Still it perseveres in growing, and it does seem as if it would bring forth a little fruit. Alas, it never comes to anything. With it the reaper never fills his arm.We have this class very largely among us. These hear the word and understand what they hear. They take the truth home; they think it over; they even go the length of making a profession of religion. The wheat seems to spring and ear; it will soon come to perfection. Be in no hurry, these men and women have a great deal to see after; they have the cares of a large concern; their establishment employs so many hundred hands; do not be deceived as to their godliness—they have no time for it. They will tell you that they must live; that they cannot neglect this world; that they must anyhow look out for the present, and as for the future, they will render it all due attention by-and-by. They continue to attend gospel-preaching, and the poor little stunted blade of religion keeps on growing after a fashion. Meanwhile they have grown rich, they come to the place of worship in a carriage, they have all that heart can wish. Ah! Now the seed will grow, will it not? No, no. They have no cares now; the shop is given up, they live in the country; they have not to ask, "Where shall the money come from to meet the next bill?" or "how shall they be able to provide for an increasing family." Now they have too much instead of too little, for they have riches, and they are too wealthy to be gracious. "But," says one, "they might spend their riches for God." Certainly they might, but they do not, for riches are deceitful. They have to entertain much company, and chime in with the world, and so Christ and his church are left in the lurch.Yes, but they begin to spend their riches, and they have surely got over that difficulty, for they give largely to the cause of Christ, and they are munificent in charity; the little blade will grow, will it not? No, for now behold the thorns of pleasure. Their liberality to others involves liberality to themselves; their pleasures, amusements, and vanities choke the wheat of true religion: the good grains of gospel truth cannot grow because they have to attend that musical party, that ball, and that soiree, and so they cannot think of the things of God. I know several specimens of this class. I knew one, high in court circles, who has confessed to me that he wished he were poor, for then he might enter the kingdom of heaven. He has said to me, "Ah! Sir, these politics, these politics, I wish I were rid of them, they are eating the life out of my heart; I cannot serve God as I would." I know of another, overloaded with riches, who has said to me, "Ah! Sir, it is an awful thing to be rich; one cannot keep close to the Saviour with all this earth about him."Ah! My dear readers, I will not ask for you that God may lay you on a bed of sickness, that he may strip you of all your wealth, and bring you to beggary; but, oh, if he were to do it, and you were to save your souls, it would be the best bargain you could ever make. If those mighty ones who now complain that the thorns choke the seed could give up all their riches and pleasures, if they that fare sumptuously every day could take the place of Lazarus at the gate, it were a happy change for them if their souls might be saved. A man may be honourable and rich, and yet go to heaven; but it will be hard work, for "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of heaven." God does make some rich men enter the kingdom of heaven, but hard is their struggle. Steady, young man, steady! Hurry not to climb to wealth! It is a place where many heads are turned. Do not ask God to make you popular; they that have popularity are wearied by it. Cry with Agur—"Give me neither poverty nor riches." God give me to tread the golden mean, and may I ever have in my heart that good seed, which shall bring forth fruit a hundredfold to his own glory.IV. I now close with the last character, namely, the GOOD GROUND. Of the good soil, as you will mark, we have but one in four. Will one in four of our hearers, with well-prepared heart, receive the Word?The ground is described as "good": not that it was good by nature, but it had been made good by grace. God had ploughed it; he had stirred it up with the plough of conviction, and there it lay in ridge and furrow as it should lie. When the gospel was preached, the heart received it, for the man said, "That is just the blessing I want. Mercy is what a needy sinner requires." So that the preaching of the gospel was THE thing to give comfort to this disturbed and ploughed soil. Down fell the seed to take good root. In some cases it produced fervency of love, largeness of heart, devotedness of purpose of a noble kind, like seed which produces a hundredfold. The man became a mighty servant for God, he spent himself and was spent. He took his place in the vanguard of Christ's army, stood in the hottest of the battle, and did deeds of daring which few could accomplish—the seed produced a hundredfold. It fell into another heart of like character;—the man could not do the most, but still he did much. He gave himself to God, and in his business he had a word to say for his Lord; in his daily walk he quietly adorned the doctrine of God his Saviour,—he brought forth sixty-fold. Then it fell on another, whose abilities and talents were but small; he could not be a star, but he would be a glow-worm; he could not do as the greatest, but he was content to do something, however humble. The seed had brought forth in him tenfold, perhaps twentyfold. How many are there of this sort here? Is there one who prays within himself, "God be merciful to me a sinner"? The seed has fallen in the right spot. Soul, thy prayer shall be heard. God never sets a man longing for mercy without intending to give it. Does another whisper, "Oh that I might be saved"? Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou, even thou, shalt be saved. Hast thou been the chief of sinners? Trust Christ, and thy enormous sins shall vanish as the millstone sinks beneath the flood. Is there no one here that will trust the Saviour? Can it be possible that the Spirit is entirely absent? That he is not moving in one soul? Not begetting life in one spirit? We will pray that he may now descend, that the word may not be in vain.


A Christian's Battle with the Flesh: Im-Mortal Kombat