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of the word of God. We have seen that carelessness, inconstancy, and worldly-mindedness prevent the hearers of the word of God from receiving the blessing connected with attendance on the means of grace, and which it should convey to the soul. We have need then to pray before hearing, for a willing mind to receive the instruction of heavenly wisdom; to pray while we hear, that the word of God may be ingrafted in our hearts by the operation of the Holy Spirit; and to pray after hearing, that we may be fruitful in every good work, and increase in the knowledge of God; or that the word preached may profit us, being mixed with faith in our hearts, that we may believe it to the saving of our souls.
This is the end to be attained by hearing the word of God; as it appears from the last character described by our Saviour in this parable ; of which it is said, Other seed fell on good ground, and sprang up, and bare fruit a hundred fold. Which is thus explained, That on the good ground, are they, which having heard the word, keep it in an honest and good heart, and bring forth fruit with patience. This was the only ground which repaid the sower for his trouble. Those who thus receive the word of God, are the only persons of whom the ministers of Christ can truly say, Ye are our glory and joy. They hear the word of God and keep it in or with an honest and good heart, that is, with affectionate simplicity, and godly sincerity. The Apostle Paul speaks of the Thessalonians as being such hearers of the word, when he says to them, Ye received the word of God, which ye heard of us, not as the word of men, but as it is in truth the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe. For our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance.? The good ground was not fit to receive the seed, until it liad been dug up, and prepared by culture. The heart of man is not naturally honest and good ; but on the contrary, it is said, in our ninth Article, to be of its own nature inclined to evil. And the record of the unerring word of God is, The heart of man is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked. It is this evil heart within us which prevents men from hearing the word of God with attention, and from keeping it, or treasuring it up in the memory, that it may be as a lamp to the feet, and a light to the path. But man in his natural state usually imagines that he has a good heart; and whatever fault may be found with his conduct, he looks upon his heart with self-complacency, satisfied that all is right there. Until the Spirit of God has humbled him by showing him his depravity, and has given him a broken and contrite heart, he sets no value upon the gospel of Christ, he regards it with indifference, or it may be even with dislike.
But when the Spirit of God shows a man the holiness of God and of His law, and convinces him of his own sinfulness, and his danger as a transgressor of the holy law of God; then he views the gospel of Christ in a different aspect from what he ever did before. He hears the word of God as a matter in which he is personally interested, as if he were the only person in the world to whom it related; and he keeps it by the grace of the Holy Spirit,10 he treasures it up in his heart and mind, that he may live in obedience to it. But how disagreeable is it to our natural feelings to be brought to think worse of ourselves, than any person can speak of us. Yet such is the case with the soul that is truly humbled before God. This is the consequence of a new heart having been given from above. Where this new and contrite heart is given, the High and Lofty One that inhabiteth eternity condescends to come and take up His abode in it, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones. It is made the habitation of God through the Spirit," and by His grace the word of God is kept in it. And it does not lie dormant. But
10 2 Timothy i. 14.
11 Isaiah lvii. 15.
12 Ephesians ii. 22.
as seed, after it has taken root, springs up; so the word of God is manifested to contain a principle of life, and therefore the fruit of the Spirit, which is in all goodness, and righteousness, and truth,13 appears in the conduct.
They bring forth fruit with patience. This is very different from the sudden and flaming profession of the inconstant hearer, in whom the seed sprang up before it had time to take root. It is very different also from the worldly-minded hearer, in whom the seed was choked by thorns and briers springing up along with it, and growing with its growth ; and which being more congenial to the soil produce a more luxuriant crop. . Here the seed has depth of earth, in which to strike its roots. And when it appears above ground, it makes progress to maturity gradually and uniformly, first the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear.1 Thus beautiful is the workmanship of God both in nature and in grace. The wonders of Providence illustrate the wonders of Revelation, and help to unfold to our view the mystery of redemption.
The seed which fell on good ground, bare fruit a hundred fold. Thus great was the benefit which the husbandman derived from it. Our Saviour said to His disciples in reference to their duty in consequence of the advantages which they enjoyed, Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit ; so shall ye be evidently My disciples. May we be enabled to give this evidence that we do not hear the word of God in vain. Our advantages may not improperly be compared with theirs. He said to them, Unto you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God; but to others in parables. To us the mystery of redemption is revealed ; to wit, that God wus in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; but as having made Him, who knew no sin, to be sin for us ; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him. This wonderful revelation of Divine
13 Ephesians v. 9.
14 Mark iv, 28.
mercy in Christ Jesus having been made known to us by His goodness and grace, may we be enabled to embrace and ever to hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which is given us in our Saviour Jesus Christ; and not be numbered among those of whom it is said that they seeing see not, or do not perceive; and hearing they understand not the word of God. But as our Saviour, when He had said these things, cried, He that hath ears to hear, let him hear, let it be our anxious concern that we may not hear the word of God in vain. Let it be our earnest prayer that our portion may be among those of whom He said at another time, Blessed are they that hear the word of God, and keep it.