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pens that they who have the weakest and most distempered frames, by means of an exact regimen and an unshaken perseverance in rule and method, outlive those of a robuster make and more Inxuriant health ; so there are abundant instances where men of the most perverse dispositions and most depraved turn of mind, by keeping a steady guard upon their weak parts, and gradually, but continually, correcting their defects, applying earnestly for assistance from above, going on from strength to strength, and from one degree of perfection to another, have at length arrived at a higher pitch of virtue than those for whom nature had done much more, and who would therefore do but little for themselves.
Let us then never despair. If we have not from constitution that honest and good heart which is necessary for receiving the good seed, and bringing forth fruit with patience, we may by degrees, and by the blessing of God, gradually acquire it. If the soil is not originally good, it may be made so by labour and cultivation ; but above all, by imploring our heavenly Father to shower down upon it the plen
tiful effusions of his grace, which he has pros mised to all that devoutly and fervently and constantly pray for it. This dew from heaven, “ shed abroad in our hearts *,” will refresh and invigorate and purify our souls; will correct the very worst disposition ; will soften and subdue the hardest and most ungrateful soil, will make it clean and pure and moist, fit for the reception of the good seed ; and notwithstanding its original poverty and barrenness, will enrich it with strength and vigour sufficient to bring forth fruit to perfection.
I have now finished these Lectures for the present year, and must, on this occasion, again entreat you to let those truths, to which
you have listened with so much patience and perseverance, take entire possession of your hearts. They are not vain, they are not trivial things, they are the words of eternal life; they relate to the most important of all human concerns, to the most essential interests and comfort of the present life, and to the destiny, the eternal destiny of happiness or misery that awaits you in the next.
You have just heard the parable of the sower explained, and it beloves you to consider in which of the four classes of men there described you can fairly rank yourselves. Are you
in the number of those that receive the seed by the way-side, on hearts as impenetrable and inaccessible to conviction as the hard beaten high road? or of those that receive the seed on a little loose earth scattered on a rock, where it quickly springs up, and as quickly withers away? or of those in whom the seed is choked with thorns, with the occupations and pleasures of this life? or, lastly, of those who receive the seed on good ground, on an honest and good heart, and bring forth fruit, some a hundred fold, some sixty, some thirty ? It becomes every one of you to ask yourselves this question very seriously, and to answer it very honestly; for on that depends the whole colour of
future condition here and hereafter.
There are none 1 trust here present, there are few I believe in this country, who fall under the first description of professed and hardened unbelievers; and amidst many painful circumstances of these awful and anxious times
it is some consolation to us to reflect, that the incredible pains which have been taken in a multitude of vile publications to induce the people of this country to apostatize from their religion, have not made that general and
permanent impression on their minds which might naturally have been expected from such malignant and reiterated efforts to shake their principles and subvert their faith. But there are other instruments of perversion and carruption, much more formidable and more powerful than these. There are rank and noxious weeds and thorns, which grow up with the good seed and choke it, and prevent it from coming to maturity. These are, as the parable tells us, the cares, the riches, and the pleasures of this world, which in our passage through life lay hold upon our hearts, and are more dangerous obstructions to the Gospel than all the speculative arguments and specious sophistry of all its adversaries put together. It is but seldom, I believe, comparatively speaking, that men are fairly reasoned out of their religion.
But they are very frequently seduced, both from the
practice and the belief of it, by treacherous passions within and violent temptations from without, by “the lust of the flesh, the lust of the
eye, and the pride of life.” These are in fact the most common, the most powerful enemies of our faith. These are the weeds and the thorns that twist themselves round
every fibre of our hearts, which impede the growth and destroy the fruitfulness of every good principle that has been implanted there, and form that third and most numerous class of hearers described in the parable of the sower, who, though not professed infidels, are yet practical unbelievers, and who, though they retain the form, have lost all the substance, all the
power, all the life and soul of religion. It is then against these most dangerous corruptors of our fidelity and allegiance to our heavenly Master, that we must principally be upon our guard ; it is against these we must arm and prepare our souls, by summoning all our fortitude and resolution, and calling in to our aid all those spiritual succours which the power of prayer can draw down upon us from above. It was to assist us in this arduous conflict that the compilers of our liturgy apVol. I.