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Lastly; let us consider the very happy state of all such as are dead in peace, and in the favour of God; and let the constant expectation of that happy day that shall let us into paradise, and a faith and hope full of immortality, sweeten all the troubles of this mortal life, and raise our sense and value for the joys of heaven so high, that we may no longer doat upon the short appearances of happiness we meet with here.
O Thou, who hast redeemed us with thy precious blood, make us so to behave ourselves here, that we may be numbered with thy faints in glory everlasting!
Now to God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, be all honour and glory, world without end. Amen.
THE GREAT DUTY OF INSTRUCTING THE
MARK iv, 28.
THE EARTH BRINGETH FORTH FRUIT OF HERSELF, FIRST THE BLADE, THEN THE EAR, AFTER THAT THE FULL CORN IN THE EAR.
HOUGH this parable is not particularly
explained, and applied by Christ himself, as many of his parables are; yet we easily gather what the design of it is, from other places of scripture: He that soweth the feed is the son of Man: the ground is the world: the barvefi is the end of the world: the reapers are the angels. Thus much is plain from St. Matthew xii
. Therefore the meaning of these words is this:
The Son of man, who is also the Son of God, having planted the gospel in the world, and declared it to be the way of salvation; having caused it to increase, and established it by ways extraordinary, and far exceeding the powers of art, or nature, or any power
but that of God; he did afterwards leave it to subfift, to increase, to prosper, to come to perfection, by the ordinary means he had appointed,
and by the ordinary assistance of his grace and providence. For so did the husbandman in the parable:--After he had manured and wrought his ground; after he had sown it, and done his part, he leaves it in the hand of Providence, not doubting but he shall (in God's good time) see the fruit of his labour, In the mean time, he follows his other business, he sleeps and rises night and day, and still he observes an orderly increase; first the blade, then the ear, then the full corn in the
year, It is true, all this is done he knows not how; but done he finds it to his comfort. And though weeds and tases in abundance spring up amongst the corn, to his great trouble and discouragement, yet when the harvest shall ccme, it will be found that his labour was not in vain.
Now this parable, thus explained, furnisheth us with several useful observations suitable to the occasion for which I have chosen them. Sach are these following:
ist. That the promoting the kingdom of God, of the setting forward the desgn of the gospel, is very confistent with the ordinary business of life. When the husbandman has cast his feed into the ground, he finds himself obliged to take care of a great many things besides; and yet his crop prospers as much as if he minded nothing else but that.
2dly. That in promoting the kingdom of God, we ought to be satisfied with the ordinances of
Christ, Christ, and not be ever and anon looking for and depending upon extraordinary appear ances in our favour. When the corn is fown, it is left to the ordinary providence and blessing of God, who gives an increase according to the goodness of the ground, and the means made use of to improve it.
3dly. That such as are any way engaged in promoting the kingdom of God, ought not to be discouraged because they do not immediately see the fruit of their labours.--The seed springs and grows up we know not how; and so does the kingdom of God.
Lastly; A time will come, when we shall certainly reap where we have fown. There will be an harvest, and then we shall find that our labour has not been in vain in the Lord.
I. To begin with the first of these observations ;—That the promoting the kingdom of God is very consistent with the ordinary business of life.
A man may, besides the ordinary duties of christianity, do a great deal towards promoting the glory of God, and the salvation of men, and yet his worldly affairs need not fuffer by his being so employed.
There are two great mistakes, which people are apt to run into, and which ought to be rectified.
Some are ready to conclude, that all the time which is not spent in devotion (though to the hindrance of their necessary worldly concerns) is in a manner loft. It is this which
fills the monasteries in the church of Rome; people vainly imagining, that it is more meritorious to spend the greatest part of their time in holy exercises, of prayers and praises to God, than to labour for and to relieve the poor; to strive with, and to overcome the temptations of an evil world, (which is one great part of our business in it:)-And yet our blessed Lord assures us, that the sentence at the last day will, in a more especial manner, proceed upon such questions as these: Whom have you visited in their affliction? Whom have you fed, and clothed, and comforted? How they that retire out of the world, and get out of the sight of these miserable objects
- how they can answer such questions to their comfort, cannot well be imagined.
But there are others who run into a quite contrary mistake; who fancy, that religion, and special acts of piety, belong to the Clergy only; that it would be the very ruin of people of business, to be exact in their devotions, to be folicitous for the wants and neceffities of the poor, to be concerned to have the ignorant instructed, or the wicked reclaimed.
Now, both these are much in the wrong.
All people are plainly under an obligation to pray to God, and to praise him for his mercies; all people are bound, by their religion, to be helpful to their fellow-creatures that are in want, or misery; and lastly, all people are bound in duty to provide for themselves and families.