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in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Esaias, which saith, By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand: and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive: For this people's heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes,
and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them. But blessed are your eyes, for they see: and your ears, for they hear. For verily I say unto you, that many prophets and righteous men have desired to see those things which ye see, and have not seen them; and to hear those things which ye hear, and have not heard them.
Let us hear with fear and trembling these awful declara. tions from the lips of the compassionate Jesus himself. Here were crowds about Christ, who indulged such prejudices, and attended with such perverse dispositions, that in righteous judgment he took an obscurer method of preaching to them, and finally left many of them under darkness and impenitency to die in their sins.
Let us take heed lest the bounties of Divine providence should be thus abused by us, as a means of casting us into a stupid insensibility of the hand and voice of the blessed God: or we may otherwise have ground to fear lest he should leave us to our own delusions, and give us up to the lusts of our own hearts. And then the privilege of ordinances, and of the most awakening providential dispensations will be vain ; seeing we shall see, and not perceive : and hearing we shall hear, and not understand.
It is our peculiar happiness under the gospel that we see and hear what prophets and princes and saints of old, desired to see and hear, but were not favoured with it. Let us be thankful for our privilege, and improve it well ; lest a neglected gospel by the righteous judgment of God be taken away, and our abused seasons of grace, by one method of Divine displeasure or other, be brought to a speedy period. But if by grace it is given to us to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, let us learn a thankfulness in some measure proportionable to the corrupt prejudices which have been overborne, and the important blessings which are secured to us.
MATT. XIII. 24-43. ANOTHER parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man which sowed good seed in his field : But while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way. But when the blade was sprung up, and brought forth fruit, then appeared the tares also. So the servants of the household came and said unto him, Sir, didst thou not sow good seed in thy field ? from whence then hath it tares? He said unto them, An enemy hath done this. The servants said unto him, Wilt thou then that we go and gather them up? But he said, Nay; lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest; and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn.
And his disciples came unto him, saying, Declare unto us the parable of the tares of the field. He answered and said unto them, He that soweth the good seed is the Son of man; the field is the world; the good seed are the children of the kingdom ; but the tares are the children of the wicked one; the enemy that sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the world ; and the reapers are the angels. As therefore the tares are gathered and burnt in the fire; so shall it be in the end of this world. The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; and shall cast them into a furnace of fire : there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth. Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of the Father. Who hath ears to hear, let him hear.
Oh that these important instructions might, as it were, be ever sounding in our ears! It is a matter of great thankfulness that this earth, which might have been abandoned by God as a barren wilderness, is cultivated as his field, and that any good seed is to be found in it; but grievous to think how many tares are intermingled, so as almost to over-run the ground, and hide the wheat from being seen. Let not a forward zeal prompt us, like these over-officious servants, to think of rooting them out by violence; but let us wait our master's time and be patient till the day of the Lord.
The separation will at length be made; nor shall one precious grain perish. Awful important time! when the angels shall perform their great office with a sagacity too sharp to be eluded, and a power too strong to be resisted ! Gather not our souls, O Lord, with sinners ! but may they be bound up in the bundle of life! that when the day cometh, which shall burn as an oven, and when the wicked like chaff shall be thrown in to be consumed, we may survey the execution of the Divine judgment with awful triumph; being owned by God as his, while he is making up his jewels, and spared by him as his obedient children. (Mal. iii. 17, and iv. 1.) Then shall we not only be spared, but honoured and adorned, and shine forth like the sun in our father's kingdom ; for these vile bodies shall be fashioned like to the glorious body of our Redeemer (Phil. iii. 21), and our purified and perfected spirits shall be clothed with proportion. able lustre, and reflect the complete image of his holiness. Amen.
SECTION XXI. MATT. XIII. 31–35. MARK IV. 26–34. And he said, So is the kingdom of God, as if a man should cast seed into the ground; and should sleep and rise night and day, and the seed should spring and grow up, he knoweth not how. For the earth bringeth forth fruit of herself, first the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear. But when the fruit is brought forth, immediately he putteth in the sickle, because the harvest is come.
And he said, Whereunto shall we liken the kingdom of God? or with what comparison shall we compare it?
And another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is like to a grain of mustard seed, which a man took, and sowed in his field; which indeed is the least of all seeds that be in the earth. But when it is sown, it groweth up, and becometh greater than all herbs, and becometh a tree; and shooteth out great branches, so that the birds of the air come and lodge in the branches thereof, and under the shadow of it.
Another parable spake he unto them; The kingdom of heaven like unto leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened. And all these things spake Jesus unto the multitude in parables, and with many such parables spake he the word unto them, as they were able to hear it. But without a parable spake he not unto them: and when they were alone, he expounded all things to his disciples: That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying, I will open my mouth in parables ; I will utter things which have been kept secret from the foundation of the world,
Let us be concerned to gather up these fragments, that nothing may be lost; and to lay them up in our memories and our hearts, that, according to our respective stations in life, we may have them ready for use.
Let us remember that sometimes the growth of piety in the heart is like that of vegetables in the earth. The seed of the word may for a while seem lost; or when the fruit appears, it may advance and ripen but slowly. Let not minister's therefore too confidently conclude they have laboured in vain, and spent their strength for nought, because the fields are not immediately white to the harvest, but with believing hope and humble patience let them recommend the seed that they have sown to Him, who by the secret energy of his continued influences, can give at length a sure and plentiful increase.
When Jesus took to himself his great power, and reigned, the gospel, which had gained so little ground under his personal ministration, ran, and was greatly glorified in the hands of the apostles. The grain of mustard seed shot up and branched forth into a spreading tree, and birds of every wing took shelter there. (Oh that there had been none of the ravenous and the obscene kind !) Thus when the Lord shall please to hasten it in his time, a little one shall become a thousand, and a small one a strong nation. (Isa. lx. 22.)
Let us pray that the triumphant progress of his kingdom may come. In the mean time let it be our desire that the principles of the gospel may, like a sacred kind of leaven, diffuse themselves through our whole souls; that all our powers and faculties, that all our thoughts and passions, may be, as it were, impregnated and elevated by them.
SECTION XXII. Matt. XIII. 36, 18—23. MARK IV. 10—25, LUKE
VIII. 9—18. Then Jesus sent the multitude away, and went into the house, and when he was alone, they that were about him with the twelve asked him, saying, What might this parable be? And he said unto, them, Unto you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God, but unto them that are without all these things are done in parables. That seeing they might not see; and hearing they might hear, and not understand; lest at any time they should be converted, and their sins should be forgiven them. And he said unto them, Know ye not this parable ? And how then will ye know all parables? Hear ye then the parable of the sower. Now the parable is this. The seed is the word of God.
The sower soweth the word, and those by the way-side where the word is sown are they that hear the word of the kingdom and understand it not; but when they have heard Satan cometh immediately, and taketh away the word that was sown out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved. And these are they likewise which have received the seed into stony places, who, when they have heard the word, immediately receive it with joy; and these have no root in themselves, and so endure but for a time: which for a while believe; and in time of temptation, when tribulation, aMiction, or persecution ariseth for the word's sake, immediately they are offended, and fall away. And these are they which are sown among thorns: which, when they have heard the word, go