And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field;
For thus saith the LORD to the men of Judah and Jerusalem, Break up your fallow ground, and sow not among thorns.
~ Jeremiah 4:3
And these are they which are sown among thorns; such as hear the word, And the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things entering in, choke the word, and it becometh unfruitful.
~ Mark 4:18-19
And he said unto them, Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth. And take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares. But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.
~ Luke 12:15, Luke 21:34, 1 Timothy 6:9-10
Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.
~ 1 John 2:15-16
Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? then may ye also do good, that are accustomed to do evil.
~ Jeremiah 13:23
And have no root in themselves.
~ Mark 4:17a
The Parable of the Sower, And Of the Seed, Declaring in Severall Grounds, Among Other Things:
1. How farre an hypocrite may goe in the way towards heaven, and wherein the sound Christian goeth beyond him. And
2. In the last and best ground, largely discourseth of a good heart, describing it by very many signes of it, digested into a familiar method: which of it selfe is an entire treatise. And also,
3. From the constant fruit of the good ground, justifieth the doctrine of the perseverance of saints: oppugneth the fifth article of the late Arminians; and shortly and plainly answereth their most colourable arguments and evasions.
By Thomas Taylor.
Mark 4, Vers. 7. And some fell among thornes, and the thornes sprang up with it, and choked it.
That which our Saviour taught his Disciples, namely, what an hard thing it is to be saved, wee have evidently seene in the explication of the former ground: wherein we have discovered a number of Hearers, who have gone so farre in the way of heaven, (as most of our Hearers come not neere them) to be but reprobate ground, and lose all their labour and expectation. But yet we shall more cleerly discerne that truth, and have more occasion seriously to consider of it, when wee shall in this last ground, (the best of all the bad ones) make manifest, that they that step before and beyond the former, shall yet fall short of their ayme, and bee shut out of heaven as well as they. For there was nothing good in the former, which is wanting in this: but some further commendation in this, which was not in the former.
Consider heere with me three generals.
1. The kinde of soyle: some of the seede fell among thornes.
2. The successe of the seed in it: 1. commendable, 2. lamentable.
3. The reason, or the causes of failing.
For the soyle, it is thornie ground.
For the commendable successe: 1. It goes as farre as the former: in hearing, vers. 14. in receiving Math. 13.20. and Mark. 4.14. and in growing, as our Text hath it. 2. It goes farre beyond it: for first, the ground is softer, the mould moyster, the soyle deeper, and so more hope: secondly, it springs beyond the other: the other growes, but this sprang up, not onely to a blade, but to an eare, though not a ripe one; neither doth the stone hinder the rooting, while they are hearing; but, after they are departed, thornes choke it: thirdly, they hold on their profession still, which the other lose; they are not driven off by persecution, but would obey still, did it not crosse their pleasures and profits.
For the lamentable successe, it is set downe, ver. 14. they bring forth no fruit: that is, either no good crop, or no lasting fruit to the harvest, or, bring no fruit to the end, or to maturity: for fruit they bring, though not to perfection.
The causes of this failing are set downe, 1. in generall, to be thornes, namely, inward lusts, carnall affections, and corrupt desires. 2. In speciall, of three sorts: 1. Cares of the world, vers. 14. and Mat. 13.22.
2. Riches, vers. 14. called deceitfulnesse of riches, Math. 13.22. 3. Voluptuous living, vers. 14. called by the other Evangelist, lusts of other things: these enter and choke the Word, Mark. 4.19.
Thus in one view you have the summe and method of the Text, enlarged out of the other Evangelists. Now for the exposition of the first, consider, 1. Why lusts are compared to thornes. 2. Why these Hearers are compared to thornie ground.
Carnall lusts are fitly compared to thornes in five respects: 1. There are some flowers, and some shew on thornes, small fruits, and many pricks: So whatever appearance these lusts make, no good fruit riseth of them, but many pricks and sorrowes by them ( 1) in the end. Thornes pierce the body, lusts the mind. 2. Thornes are every where armed, and ready to ( 2) wound and teare him that meddling with them doth not carefully fence himselfe: So they that nourish the cares of the world, or addict themselves to pleasures, or profits, pierce themselves thorow with many sorrowes. 3. As a thorne held softly prickes not, nor hurteth, but when it is held hard, and crusht, it easily ( 3) draweth blood: So a man may use this world as not using it, without danger, and hold softly the profits and pleasures of this life; but gripe them, and fasten on them, there is certaine hurt. 4. Thornes and ( 4) briers are the dennes and receptacles of Serpents, and poysonfull wormes and creatures: so are these unmortified desires the harbours of infinite noysome sinnes, which shall creepe as thicke into the soule, as the Frogs into Pharaohs lodgings. As Israel not content with Gods daily allowance, but out of a covetous and distrustfull desire, against Gods Commandement, saved some of the Manna till morning, but it was all full of wormes, and stunke: So doe fleshly mindes, by nourishing unlawfull lusts, turne Manna ( 5) into wormes. 5. As thornes and briars are at last good for nothing but fewell for fire: so these thickets of lusts, and pursuit after the profits and pleasures of this life, are the proper fewell of the fire of the great Day, and prepare the ground it selfe, (which all worldlings are:) without timely repentance, as fewell for the fire of hell, which is unquenchable.
These bad Hearers are as aptly compared to thornie ground. For as a thorny and weedy soyle chokes and kills at length such seeds as come up hopefully: so an heart stuffed with unmortified affections, at length resists and chokes the Seed of Gods Word, that it shall not prosper to the salvation of that Hearer ( 1) in the harvest: for 1. These thornes supplant the Word, and unroote it againe, as thornes, to roote ( 2) themselves, undermine the seede below. 2. These thorny corruptions hinder the comfortable heate and shine of the sunne from the heart; namely, the sweet beames and influence of the Spirit of grace, which cannot come so sweetly and freely to the hart, to cherish the growth and worke begun as thornes ( 3) hinder the Sunne from plants. 3. Thornes draw away the moysture which should preserve the plants in their growth and greenenesse: Even so these inward lusts draw the heart from meanes of moysture of grace; they sometimes give a man leave to heare, but as they prevaile and take up the heart, there shall bee little time allowed to remember, meditate, or apply that which is heard, and as small leave to bring things into practice.
Doctr. In that our Saviour compareth bad Hearers to thornie ground, wee learne, that thornes and lusts of any sort, suffered to grow in the heart, doe soone overgrow the Word of God, and suffer it not to prosper. For as the Husband-man that suffers thornes and weeds to choake his seed comming up, loseth his harvest: Even so that man loseth his part in the Gospell, that cherisheth lusts and disordered desires in his heart, together with the Gospell. Hence the Apostle Iames, chap. 1.21. telleth us, that if we would heare the Word so as it may be ingraffed in us, we must first cast away, or put off as an old ragge, the superfluity of maliciousnesse and filthinesse; that is, the abundance of carnall affections, loosenesse of life, pride, disdaine, wrath, contention, earthly pleasures, vanity, evill speaking of divine doctrine, &c. and in the next verse shews, that with these lusts men may be Hearers of the Word, but never doers, till they be weeded out; they will at length overgrow it.
See this in the examples of wicked men.
Herod let his lust and inordinate affection to his brothers wife grow with the Word: therefore, notwithstanding hee reverenced John, and did many things gladly, yet this lust choaked the Word, and it came to nothing. Judas heard the Word from the mouth of Jesus Christ, and by it grew to a great reformation: but suffering the lust of covetousnesse to grow up with it, it soone overgrew the Word, and hee betrayed his Master. Simon Magus heard the Word, beleeved, walked with Philip as a Disciple, no grosse thing appeared in him, a man would have thought the Word wondrously powerfull in him: but he suffered the lust of pride or covetousnesse to spring up with the Word, and when occasion was offered, it overtopt the Word, and bewrayed it selfe, in seeking to buy the gifts of the holy Ghost with money.
See it also in the examples of good men. Rom. 7.19, 20, 21. Paul professeth of himselfe, that he cannot doe the good he would, because evill is present with him: and generally of all Beleevers, Gal. 5.17. the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh, so that ye cannot doe the things ye would. Asa a good King, being reprooved by Hanani the Seer for his vaine confidence in the King of Syria, was wroth with him, and put him in a prison-house: for (saith the text) he was in a rage with him because of this thing. And so was Jonah with the Lord himselfe.
Reason 1. Ill weeds (we say) spring apace: good seeds or herbes not halfe so fast. Wee shall see a Bramble grow more in sEven moneths than an Oke in Even yeeres. So our text: the thornes grow up with the seed, but choake it by overgrowing. 2. Our grounds are fit and prepared to produce thornes rather than bring up the good seed. Our hearts are the naturall mother to lusts, but a stepmother to seedes of Grace. For there lies in our nature a sea of evill lusts lurking: our owne originall lust is a fountaine, and an inordinate disposition to all evill. From which fountaine issue innumerable streames of actuall lusts, which are the innumerable motions of the soule, contrary to every Commandement of God: All which in their severall armies and bands issue out against God and his Word, as the Philistims still warred against Israel. Now our ground being so apt to weeds, they will soone overgrow the Word, if but a little neglected. 3. A part of the curse on mans sin, is, that the earth should bring forth thornes and thistles. The earth should have brought them forth, if man had not sinned; but they should not have bin so noysome and hurtfull to man and the fruits of the earth. Even so it is a part of the curse of our sinne, that there should grow up such noysome lusts (as thornes) in the ground of our hearts, as doe farre more hinder the growth of grace in our hearts, and choke the Seed of the Word sowne in our soules, than all the weedes and thornes in the world can choke the seeds and fruits of the earth. Lusts are still remaining in the best, but not now as a curse, but only as the Canaanites, to keepe them humble. 4. The raigne of lust cannot but thrust downe the raigne of the Word: for first, that the Word may raigne, it ( 1) must be understood; but thornes hinder the light of the Sunne from the seed. How can a man see objects, that hath a thorne run into his eye? So one thorne is enough to darken the eye of the understanding. And therefore, 1. Pet. 2.1. The Apostle wisheth us to lay aside all evill affections, not some, not a little, not the waste boughes, but the root and stumpe. Secondly, ( 2) that the Word may raigne, it must first renew: But there can be no new creature, till the old man be put off, with his lusts, Ephes. 4.22, 23. Till this bee, the truth of Christ cannot bee learned, as in Christ. Impossible it is to answere the heavenly Seed, or be answerable to the meanes of divine regeneration, unlesse we put away the former pravity of nature: As a man can never set up a new frame, till hee have ( 3) removed the old rubbish. Thirdly, that the Word may raigne, it must be obeyed when it commands, and be expressed in the fruits of holinesse: But lusts unsubdued oppose themselves, and hinder the motions when they should come into practice: and the Lords Plant becomes fruitfull onely on that condition, that the Father purge it, Joh. 15.2. How can a man walke on cheerfully in his way, that hath a thorne sticking in his foote? No lesse doe these thornes cast men backe in their way of obedience: these superfluities of lusts and inordinate desires are as dead branches, that must be lopped off before fruit can bee expected.
Use 1. See hereby the reason, why numbers have either growne so slowly, or not at all, after much labour of the Lords husbandmen: namely, because their hearts are as thorny ground. Some came with minds stuffed with covetous desires, some with fleshly imaginations, or filthy cogitations, others with proud conceits of their owne knowledge and wisedome, others alienated with contempt and hatred of the Word, which crosseth their lusts. Partial Hearers heare with respect of persons, or degrees. Popish Hearers never profit, that come with obstinacy and prejudice of our doctrine. Where these or the like lusts sway, expect no profit: No planting, no watering, can make seed prosper, where these thornes grow with it.
Object. One lust can doe no great harme: in other things we are honest enough, but onely in usurie, or gaming, or a little Oth, or Lye now and then. Answ. One thiefe is enough to betray an house; one devil suffered to enter, brings Even worse than himselfe, and let any come with purpose to continue in any one sinne, nothing shall moue him, nothing shall convert him. One Swine spoyles a whole garden: One dead Fly, the whole oyntment: One hole in a ship, the whole vessell.
Use 2. If we desire the Word should prosper in us: doe as the good Husbandman, who would keepe his ground in good kilter, on which his seed is cast, or to be cast. First, hee will bring in the Plough to prepare it, and lay it fallow both to rot, and unroot the weeds that would choke the seed. For it is a ( 1) shame, and part of negligence in an Husbandman, to have his fallowes lie full of weeds. So must thou see, that thou bring into thy heart the grace of mortification, which is a generall unrooting of these thornes and weeds: Good husbandry contents not it selfe with some good seed springing up, unlesse it kill the weeds: No more content thou thy selfe with the rising and mouing of some good affections, unlesse thou mortifie the bad and noysome. Jerem. 4.4. Plough up the fallow ground of you hearts, and sowe not among thornes.
Secondly, the Husbandman ploughes it againe, ( 2) that if any weeds peepe out, he may roote them up: so carefull he is for his earthly commodity. No lesse carefull should wee be, if after grace received lusts will be still stirring, to root them out: Heb. 12.15. Take heed that no root of bitternesse spring up, and trouble you: according to that in Deut. 29.18. Let there bee no root among you, that bringeth gall and wormewood. If there be any lust, be it never so secret and hidden as a root, or never so fixed and fastened, as a root is, spare it not; nip it not off, but plucke it up by the roots: be not content to bridle lusts, but kill them: satisfie not thy selfe with an absence of fleshly operation, as if it were sanctification, but onely with a slaying of it: for if there be a living root within, it will shew it selfe when the seed springs, and soone overtake it too.
( 3) Thirdly, if after all this there be any weeds growing up with the seed, the Husbandman will bring in his weeding hooke into the field; hee will not see a weed or thorne peepe, but he will weede it out: 1. Because he would have his corne grow alone. Wouldest thou have the Word to thrive in thy soule? Let it grow alone. How speedily should a man rise towards heaven, if the Word had the onely roome in his heart! But 2. Because that is impossible, either in the earth, or our hearts, he will bee sure by his hooke to set the seed above the weeds: labour thou also to set the Word above thy lusts, and contrary motions.
Quest. How shall I doe that?
Answ. 1. By daily exercise in the Word, reading and meditating: this discovers the weeds & thornes. 2. By daily prayer, and confession of knowne sinnes: this is a getting of the weeding hooke into our ( 1) hands. 3. By Christian humility, and fasting: this ( 2) is the cutting off of lusts, by which they daily wither ( 3) and dry away: this crucifies the affections and lusts. 4. By avoiding occasions of sinne, and sinners: especially ( 4) watching narrowly our owne inclinations. 5. Keepe under the lusts of the flesh by the lusts of ( 5) the Spirit, Gal. 5.17. The Spirit lusteth against the flesh, that is, both in curbing and restraining evill motions, and ingendring good cogitations, motions, and desires, agreeable to the will of God. Rom. 13. By putting on the Lord Jesus, represse the lusts of the flesh. Prov. 12.5. A godly man is said to have right thoughts: and chap. 11.23. His desires are onely good, not that he is without evill desires sometime, but he resists and fights against them, and God imputes not that which he hates and repents of.
We see the soyle: Now let us see the hopefull successe of the seede in it, the thornes grow with it.
Though there be a further growth of the seed in this ground then in the former, yet at length it is as fruitlesse. 1. Here are soft and tender hearts brought to the Word, better prepared for the seed than the former. 2. Here is a deeper rooting: a further measure of understanding, a more vehement carriage of the affection unto it, in motions of joy, love, and delight, & a more settled purpose to follow the Word. 3. Here is a further shew of fruits: a standing in a glorious profession, an hopefull sprouting and springing in the fruits of good workes, and a longer hope thereby than before. Yet these so softned, so rooted, so farre growne above many zealous Professors, are ranged in the ranke of bad and fruitlesse Hearers: for, as it is in vers. 14. Afterward they are choaked.
The fruitfull and commendable Hearer is he that heareth for afterward, Esa. 42.23. A bad Hearer can heare well for the present, but afterward all is lost. Prov. 4.18. The way of the righteous shineth as light, that shineth more and more untill perfect day. They adde unto their knowledge as men doe to their stocke, and save what they get, and so grow abundantly rich in grace; whereas he that spends as fast as he gets, and onely maintaines the present with his gettings, must dye a begger.
Many are the exhortations to lay fast hold on the Word, and to lay it up safe in the midst of the heart, and to keepe it as a mans life, Prov. 4.4. As a man that hath a Jewell, will bee carefull to locke it up in the safest chest he hath. 1. Tim. 3.9. Keepe the mysterie of faith. Reu. 3.11. Hold that thou hast, hold that thou hearest.
As many are the dehortations, that we negligently lose not the Word, Heb. 2.1. We ought diligently to give heed to the things we have heard, lest at any time we let them slip: a Metaphore taken from riven vessels, that let all the liquor run out. But here, the more precious the liquor is, the more must be the care of the vessels soundnesse. 2. Pet. 2.21. Better not to have knowne the way of truth, then after the knowledge to depart from the holy Commandement.
Many are the commendations of them that were Hearers for after-times: as of David, Psalm. 119.11. I have hid thy Word in my heart: and of Mary, who pondered Christs sayings, and hid them in her heart, Luk. 2.51. And as many are the dispraises of such leaking vessels, who like the women, 2. Tim. 3.7. are alwaies learning, yet never come to knowledge: and those Jewes, Heb. 5.12. who for the time might have bin teachers, yet needed to be catechised in the very Principles.
Reason 1. From the nature of the Word, which is in it selfe a perpetuall truth, an everlasting Gospell; heaven and Earth are most stable, and firmely founded by God; but not so stable as the least lot of God’s Word, which shall not fayle or fall to the ground for ever. And to us it is a certaine rule, a constant law, and binder, not for the present only, but for all time future, yea and for all eternity.
2. This is a mayne difference betweene a godly man, and an hypocrite. Many things may affect an evill man for the present hearing of the Word. Sometime he may heare a noveltie with great affection, but as children delight in a new toy for an houre, but presently contemne and lose it. Sometimes the power of the Word makes an hypocrite tremble, as Felix, and grow to some promise with himselfe, and perhaps to some purpose and resolution of amendment: So Israel hearing the Lord speake in so terrible a voyce, promise faire, All that the Lord our God saith by thee, (if he will no more speake by himselfe) we will heare it and doe it. But the Lord saw there was no such heart in them, Deut. 5.27, 29. Sometime some affliction prepares them to heare, and now while the iron is in the fire, and the hammer upon it, it may bee wrought to some fashion till it be cold againe: so Pharaoh sometime will confesse his sinne, and acknowledge Gods righteousnesse and begge Prayers of Moses; but onely so long as the plague is upon him. Sometime some naturall motion, or some spirituall motion may stirre them, and for a flash they are earnestly resolved for heaven: so the yong man comes hastily, and heares gladly, but not purposing to doe all that is required, goes away heavily.
The hypocrite in all these motions is like Ephraim, whose goodnesse was as the morning dew, suddenly dried up, Hos. 6.4. The Word comes into a bottomlesse heart, wherein is a bottomlesse gulfe of guile and deceit, and all is lost at length. But the godly man, by the Words dwelling plentifully in his heart, attaines the commendation pronounced upon the Church of Thyatria, Revel. 2.19. I knowe thy works, thy faith, &c. that they be more at last than at first. He hath on him a marke of one that is planted by the Lord in the House of the Lord; he is more fruitfull in his age, more fat and fresh dayly, and exceeds his former times in feracity, and fruitfulnesse in good works and graces.
In a word, whereas all other things are common to all, the heavens, the Earth, the Creatures, yea, the Ministery of the Word, Sacraments, Prayer, and many common graces wrought by them; this alone is the speciall right of Beleevers, incommunicable with hypocrites, to have the Word of God everlastingly fixed in their hearts: Esa. 8.16. Seale up the Law among my Disciples: now a seale is a meanes of secrecy from them whom the matter concernes not, and of assurance to them whom the businesse concernes.
This is the second reason.
3. The best of Gods Word is after the hearing.
Our Parable compares hearing of the Word to sowing: now the best of sowing is long after, in the reaping. Elsewhere it is compared to food: and the best of eating is after eating, in the nourishment and strength. For let men eate and drinke with great appetite, good taste, and much pleasure; yet if after the eating, bad humors in the stomake suffer it not to stay, or not to digest if it doe stay, it doth much hurt in stead of nourishing. So in the state of the Soule, where many wicked humors resist the worke of the Word heard.
But to shew in speciall, that the Word is best after the hearing, consider, 1. That it frameth a man to the life of faith, and upholdeth that life. It is a means to make a man good, and continue his goodnesse. Because it both storeth a man with graces, and preserves ( 1) him from ungracious courses, through all his life; which those that make no use of the Word beyond the hearing, are wrapped in. Prov. 2.10. When wisdome enters into thy heart, then shall counsell preserve thee, and understanding shall keepe thee, that is, both in the good way, and from the evill way: so Psalm. 119.11. I have hid thy Word in my heart, that I might not sinne against thee. 2. The Word ( 2) kept in the heart, makes a man a notable patterne of piety to others, and a fruitfull Christian, upholding him in a readinesse to every good word and worke. If the heart keepe knowledge, the mouth will speake of wisdome, Psalm. 49.3. He is fit and ready to counsell, exhort, rebuke, and comfort others. For the Word of God, which is able to make the man of God ready and absolute to every good worke, is much more able to fitte private Christians thereunto. ( 3) 3. Our greatest businesse is behinde, to which the Word kept in the soule can onely fit us; as namely, to fit our accounts, to store our lampes with oyle, to hold on our repentance, and finish the good ( 4) worke begunne, with perseverance. 4. Our greatest sufferings and trials are behinde: dayes of sicknesse, the day of temptation, the day of death, wherein Sathan will bee most furious and raging, and the day of Judgement. Now as David said of himselfe, If thy Word had not been my comfort, I had perished in my trouble: so if the Word be not thy sword in the day of temptation, if it be not thy health in sicknesse, thy life in death, if it pleade not for thee in Judgement, thou art everlastingly lost, because thou hast wilfully lost thy part and portion of that ( 5) blessed Word. 5. Our marke is still before us, Even that everlasting happinesse, and great salvation, which the Word of God (faithfully retained in the heart) not onely revealeth, but putteth us in possession of. Thus as the pillar of the cloud and of the fire never left Israel, till they came into Canaan: no more doth the Word of God cease to be our constant direction, for our motion or station, till it hath set us into that heavenly Canaan; no nor then, it being a surer pillar then that of the cloude; for as the Prophet saith, O Lord, thy Word endureth for ever in heaven, Psalm. 119.89. that is, although never so many things in earth seeme to cloude and crosse the gracious promises, that thou hast made to thy children, yet in heaven shall they taste the sweetnesse of thy Word, more then ever they did in earth; when they shall enjoy all the fruits of that eternall love and decree, which they beleeved in this world. Besides that, the same Word of God, which now the Saints lay up in their hearts, is the Law and Charter of heaven, by which being fully conformed to the obedience of it, we shall walke eternally before God in the perfection of that obedience, which is heere begun. And thus it is our eternall direction in heaven also.
use 1. To reprove many Hearers, who are affected in the act and time of hearing, or while the Doctrine is delivering, but presently lose the matter, the motion, affection, and all. Some come as our ( 1) Saviours Hearers, Math. 22.22. When they heard, they marvelled, and left him, and went their way, we heare no more of them. Many heare desirously, as with open and erect eares; but both being open, it goes in at one, and out at the other; it stayes not for after-use, but a little present admiration, as in those Hearers of our Saviour.
Others heare, and the Word smites them, workes a little on their conscience, wounds them, and tells ( 2) them as Nathan did David, Thou art the man. Now were a fit season to worke with God: but they goe away, other distractions meet them at home, the motion dies, and they are as men sea-sicke, while the Word tumbles them, and makes their conscience wamble within them, but are all well againe, so soone as ever they come to land.
Others heare with soft hearts, and the Word comming home, they begin to melt, can resolve into ( 3) teares, so mellow seemes the ground; they see their unworthinesse of the promises, and how lyable they be to all the threatnings, which they conceive their owne portion. But as the metals are onely soft and pliable while they are in the fire; so these in the hearing, but shortly after lose all the efficacy of the Word, and become hardened as before.
( 4) Others, stirred up by the power of the Word, to some good duty formerly neglected, now grow to some resolution, that no Lion in the way shall hinder them, and purpose (a man would thinke, and themselves doe so,) unfainedly a great change in themselves; but shortly after prove like the sonne in the parable; Math. 21.30. whom his father commanding to goe worke in the Vineyard, he promised, (and likely he purposed) he would, but some other motion prevailing, went not. So wee have many hearers many times in good moods; but corruption of nature not subdued, nor mastred, (which is not alwayes stirring alike) watcheth the fittest time to resist the Word so as present purposes are seldome or never followed to practice and future performances.
Use 2. Looke well to thy hearing for after-times, that with knowledge thou mayest joyne obedience, and by the Word, grow in grace, as thou doest in dayes. Content not thy selfe to heare with a soft heart, or with a joyfull heart, if it bee hollow, and rimie to let it slip. Consider for motiues heereunto: ( 1) 1. That as God hath made our blood a carryer and conveyer of life thorow all the body: so his Word to carry spirit and life thorow all the soule. And lesse dangerous it is to breake a veine, to let out all the blood and life of the body, than to admit a clift in our soules, that the doctrine of life and salvation should run out. 2. The world casts nothing upon ( 2) him that is a waster and spend-thrift; nor can hee be ruler of much, that is not a faithfull keeper and saver of little. If thou savest not that thou hearest, nor layest it up, thou shalt never bee a rich man in knowledge, faith, comfort, or experience. 3. Nature teacheth to save somewhat against a rainy day. Consider ( 3) what dayes thou hast to passe: if prosperous; if adverse; if sicke; if sound; if tentations on the right or left hand; if life or death; if whatsoever; thou art naked without the Word, without strength, counsell, comfort. 4. A godly man will be a Christian at ( 4) home, as well as at Church, and (as David) walke uprightly in the middest of his house.
Meanes to heare for afterward.
1. Be abundantly covetous, to lay up a good store for thy selfe against time to come. Enlarge thy affections insatiably, to gather all thou mayest. This is a ( 1) gracious and commendable covetousnesse. 2. Esteeme ( 2) it above all keeping, more worth than much fine gold, Psalm. 119.127. Account it thine heritage, and the joy of thy heart, vers. 111. 3. Let it be in thy heart first, treasure it there: A man reserves his barne for ( 3) his crop of wheat, or other corne: Wilt thou fill thy barne and garner with chaffe and stubble? or wilt thou, in stead of gold or pearles, pester thy best cofer with drosse and pibbles, which are heavie and cumbersome, but of no price or value? 4. Binde it on thy fingers, Prov. 7.3. as a Ring that is ever in sight. Practice ( 4) is the best keeper of the Word.
The thornes sprang up and choked it.
Now we are to intreat of the failing of the seed in this ground: wherein, because there is but little difference from the withering we spake of in the former grounds, but that it proceedeth from other causes; wee will therefore inquire into those causes, as they are particularly and in order set downe in the 14. verse: Cares, Riches, Pleasures. These are described as the speciall thornes, which choke the seed of the Word.
Whence note in generall, what it is that lets us from heaven; not only the pursuit of unlawful things, but the abuse of lawfull. It is not whoredome, adultery, theft, murther, Sabbath-breaking, and the like, that heere are said to choke the seede, and hinder our harvest; but the abuse of lawfull profits, pleasures, cares, and desires. Math. 24.38. As in the dayes of Noah, they did eate, and drinke, and marry, and give in marriage, untill the day that Noah entred into the Arke, &c. What? was it a sinne to eate, to drinke, to marry? were these the things for which they were destroyed? No, but the abuse of these things: they were so wholly in these, as they securely cast off all admonitions, and all prediction of Judgements: these became thornes, and choked all counsell, and all the preaching of Noah; and so their destruction was sudden, not because it was not foretold, but it was not beleeved or regarded.
Luk. 14.16. What was more lawfull than to buy a Farme, and a yoke of Oxen, or to marry a Wife? But yet, these shall never taste of the Supper: not because they did these things, but because they were so inordinate and intent on them, that they refused the call to the Kings Supper. And these three sorts of invited ghests, refusing the Kings gracious invitation, doe notably resemble and expresse these three sorts of thornes choking the Word: the Farme noteth riches; Oxen, the cares of life; and the Wife, voluptuous living: All which, or any of them, hinder men from the heavenly banquet. So 1. Cor. 10.7. The people sate downe to eate and drinke, and rose up to play.
Reason 1. Sinnes in lawfull things are both more ordinary, and lesse sensible, both for the avoyding and preventing, as also for the recovery and repentance from them. What a number of naturall and indifferent actions doth every man goe over every day, into which creepe a number of sinnes, because men take themselves free to doe as they list in them, and onely content themselves in their liberty unto the thing, unwilling to heare of any of Gods restraints or impositions in the manner or fruition of that liberty!
This poynt is very usefull, and therefore wee will give some instances, to shew, how men doe infinitely abuse their lawfull liberties, with the great hazard of their soules.
1. In eating and drinking, which is not onely lawfull, but necessary. Yet heere Christians offend exceedingly, many wayes: 1. When they eate not their owne bread, 2. Thes. 3.12. 2. When they eate without feare, Jude 12. not before the Lord. 3. When they corrupt themselves in the creatures, losing sobriety, modesty, chastity, health and reason, as the drunkard drownes his soule, senses, body and all. 4. When they never taste the sweetnesse of God in the creatures, more than beasts: nor sanctifie themselves after feasting, as Job his sonnes. 5. When they waste the creatures, not remembring the afflictions of Joseph, Amos 6.6.
2. What is more necessary than apparell, decently to cover nakednesse, to fence the body from iniury of weather, and to put us in minde of sinne? But what a number of sinnes doe men and women put on with their apparell? 1. For the matter, which is not skinnes, as Adams, but stately, and costly? 2. For the manner, while they take liberty to disguise themselves in strange attire, and monstrous fashions, shewing no other hidden man of the heart, but lightnesse, vanity, wantonnesse, and slavishnesse to every new-fangled fashion; for which, the Lord threatned to visit the Kings children, Zeph. 1.8? 3. For the measure, while they passe all bounds of sobriety, and waste more on their backes most prodigally, than would clothe a number of the poore servants of Jesus Christ? And all out of this conceit, that they may weare what they list, and how they list; not considering, that the Lord hath tyed them as straitly to the rules of piety, sobriety, and charity, in the wearing, as to the necessity of wearing it selfe; besides the waste of time, and thoughts, &c. which should bee better occupyed?
3. What is more lawfull, yea more necessary than recreation? But, how doe men, out of the lawfull liberty that God hath allowed them, breake out most unlawfully, and most insensibly! 1. In respect of the matter, when with the foole, (Prov. 26.18.) they make a pastime of sinne: as of Dice, condemned by the Lawes of the Land, and Cards, and lascivious Dancing, Playes, Enterludes, and all merriments, wherein is no praise, vertue, or good report. 2. In respect of the manner; when they turne their vocation into a recreation; when they powre out their hearts unto pleasure, as lovers of pleasure more than of God; when they waste their time, and ingrosse it for sports, to the hinderance of better duties, in the publike and private calling; when the publike or private duties of Gods holy Sabbaths are interrupted ( 1) or omitted; when, to the dishonour of God, ( 2) his sacred Name by Othes and cursings is blasphemed, ( 3) or his holy Word jested upon, or his faithfull servants, the Preachers and Professors of Religion, are reviled & reproched, by Playes, songs, or scornes: Lastly, when other men are hurt by sports & games; as by winning their money to their impoverishment ( 4) and hinderance; or a mans owne estate, as Solomon saith, He that loveth pastime, shall be a poore man, both in grace and goods. Yet what Gamester of a thousand sees himselfe tumbling in these sinnes? Or where is one of a thousand, that will be reclaimed from them?