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that their will is averse to that which is good. They do not with their mind serve God, and they will not come unto Christ that they may have life. Wherefore the figurative language of the text applies to the sort of hearers we are now discoursing of, in common with all others in an unrenewed state. And yet, with all this depravity of the will, they have,
2. Warm and lively passions : a circumstance in itself not a little favourable to religion.
This is admirably expressed by the earth or mould said to be cast over the rock, which was of a nature so rich and luxuriant that the seed instautly mingled with it, and expanding sprung up, and created a beautiful verdure which promised great fruitfulness. Nothing was wanting to produce the desired effect, but a sufficient depth of earth. Had the ground at bottom been properly cultivated, this fine mould cast upon it would have assisted and forwarded vegetation : but that remaining hard and rocky, this had only a temporary effect, and served little other purpose than to deceive the expectation of the husbandman.
Such is truly the case in the matter before us. The heart, like the stony ground, is indisposed to what is good; and the af, fections, like the earth cast over it, are warm and lively: wherefore the word not entering into the former, and yet mingling with the latter, produces no real fruit, but only the gay and splendid appearance of an external profession. And here it is further to be remarked, that however the passions are of excellent use in religion, if the heart be right with God; yet, this not being the case, their influence is rather pernicious than saluţary : indeed the more eager and impetuous the natural temper, the greater evil is in this case to be apprehended from it, both to the man himself, and to those with whom he is connected. As to himself, mistaking the warm efforts of mere passion for real religion, he instantly concludes that he is without doubt a real Christian, and so is essentially injured by the imposition he puts upon himself. And then his extravagant expressions of rapturous zeal, which having the colour of exalted piety, strike the eyes of observers with admiration, like the pleasing verdure on the stony ground; these in the end through his apostacy, bring a foul reproach upon religion, and so deeply wound the hearts of all the real friends of it. And from this view of the subject we see what it is distinguishes these hearers from those considered in the former discourse: it is the different temperature of their animal spirits and passions. They are both alike indisposed to real religion; but those are cool and reserved, these eager and violent. And it often happens that the former have a good deal of natural understanding and sagacity, while the latter are remarkable for their weakness and credulity.
But it will be proper, before we pass on, to examine more particularly the character of the Enthusiast. He has a lively imagination, but no judgment to correct it; and warm feelings, but neither wisdom nor resolution to control them. Struck with appearances, he instantly admits the reality of things, without allowing himself time to inquire into their nature, evidence, and tendency. And impressions thus received, whether from objects presented to the senses or representations made to the fancy, produce a mighty and instantaneous effect on his passions. These agitate his whole frame, and precipitate him into action, without any intervening consideration, reflection, or prospect. And his actions under the impulse of a heated imagination, are either right or wrong, useful or pernicious, just as the notions he has thus hastily adopted happen to be conformable to truth
So we shall see the countenance of a man of this complexion kindling into rapture and ecstasy at the idea of something new and marvellous; a flood of tears streaming down his cheeks at the representation of some moving scene of distress; his face turning pale, and his limbs trembling at the apprehension of some impending danger; his whole frame distorted with rage at the hearing of some instance of cruelty; and his eye sparkling with joy in the prospect of some fancied bliss." Nor is it to be wondered that one who is wholly at the mercy of these passions, without the guidance of a sober understanding and the control of a well-disposed heart; should, as is often the case, break out into loud and clamorous language, assume the most frantic gestures, and be guilty of the most strange and extravagant actions.
Such then is the character of the persons described in our text, previous to their hearing the word. Their hearts, like the stony ground, are hard, uncultivated, and indisposed to what is truly good; and yet they possess lively imaginations and
warm passions, which, like the fine mould upon the rock, would be of excellent use in the great business of religion, if it were not for this other essential defect.-We proceed therefore,
II. To consider the effect which the word instantly produces on the minds of these persons, as our Saviour has admirably described it.
The seed that fell on the stony ground forthwith sprung up, that is, as our Lord expounds it, he heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it. Here, keeping in our eye the character just drawn, there are three things to be considered-his receiving the word—his receiving it immediately, as Mark has it,and his receiving it with joy. From this account one would be apt at first view to conclude, that this man is without doubt a real Christian : but the event proves the contrary. Wherefore it will be necessary to examine very attentively these three particulars.
1. He receives the word.
Receiving is a figurative term, and may here be explained of what is the consequence of admitting any doctrine to be true, that is, the professing it. It is indeed used in Scripture to signify faith itself: 'As many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name a.' • As ye have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him b. Nor is there any inconvenience in understanding it here of faith. For the hearers. our Lord here speaks of do believe, and indeed Luke says so expressly C.In like manner Simon, and many others in Scripture, are said to believe, who yet were not real Christians.
Now, as faith has the promise of salvation annexed to it, and as some believe who yet are not saved, a distinction becomes necessary: and the common one of an historical and a divine faith is easy and natural. It respects, as we have shewn at large in a former sermon, the degree of assent which the mind gives to the truth, the grounds of it, the temper with which it is accompanied, the effects it produces, and the influence which brings it into existence. The man whose faith is merely historical, gives only a feeble assent to the truth : his faith is little more than opinion: he believes what is told him, just as I should believe a story of some trifling matter that had happena a John i. 12. 6 Col. ii. 6.
c Chap. viii. 14,
ed at a distance, wherein I am no way concerned. Or if he will insist, that his assent to what he calls the gospel, is firm and genuine, yet his notion of the gospel has perhaps a great deal of error mingled with it. And then, he receives it not upon the divine testimony, or a clear perception of the internal and external evidence of it; but upon the confident assertions of others, whose eagerness and zeal, expressed by their loud voice and violent gesture, have a mighty effect upon that credulity we spoke of under the former head. Further, his faith is not cordial; it has not the hearty approbation of his judgment and will; nor does it produce the kindly and acceptable fruits of love and obedience. Yet it is not without its effects, for being of that enthusiastic turn of mind before described, his imagination and passions have a great influence on his profession. Whence those strong appearances of sincerity, ears nestness, and zeal, whereby he imposes upon himself and others. Now, he loudly affirms he believes, scarcely admitting that man to be a Christian who at all hesitates. Then, he treats cool reasoning and calm reflection as inimical to religion. And so goes on to pronounce the charge of hypocrisy upon all who fall not in exactly with his notions, and are not as eager in the defence of them as himself. Come see, says he with Jehu, my zeal for the Lord of hosts a. In such sense do these hearers of whom our Saviour speaks in the text, receive the word. And if we reverse the character just drawn, we shall have a clear idea of him who receives the truth in the love of it, and who believes to the saving of his soul: remembering at the same time, that as saving faith has divine truth for its object, so it rises into existence through the influence of divine grace.
2. He receives the word immediately.
The seed is said in the text to spring up forthwith, and so the idea may respect the quickness of the vegetation. But Mark applies the term immediately to the reception of the word. And indeed it is true both of the reception and the operation of it. He receives it not obliquely or circuitously, but straitly or directly, as the word subsws signifies. It is no sooner spoken than it is admitted to be true. A certain predilection in favour of the speaker, his eagerness and positivity, and many
a 2 Kings X. 16.
other accidental circumstances beget assent-immediate assent to what he has no clear conception of, and the evidence of which he gives himself no time to consider. He is not embarrassed, as we said before, with any the least doubt, nor does he feel himself disposed to hesitate, reflect, or compare what he thus hastily and confusedly hears, with the Scriptures of truth, So, without either his judgment being informed or his will renewed, he is impetuously carried away with a mere sound: hiş affections are set afloat, and his passions wrought up, he knows not how, into a wild ferment, the effect of which as instantly appears in his countenance, gesture, and conduct. He professes the truth, becomes a flaming defender of it, and outstrips all around him in acts of intemperate zeal, as hastily and inconsiderately done as the word was hastily and inconsiderately received. So his conversion is considered by himself and some other weak people as instantaneous, and on that account not only extraordinary but the more sure and genuine.—But what deserves our more particular attention is,
3. His receiving the word with joy.
Joy is a pleasing elevation of the spirits excited by the possession of some present, or the expectation of some future good. Now the gospel is good news, and so adapted to give pleasure to the mind. He therefore who receives it with joy, receives it as it ought to be received. But the man our Saviour here describes is not a real Christian; his joy therefore must have something in it, or in the circumstances accompanying it, distinguishable from that of a genuine believer. Of Herod it is said that he heard John gladly a;' and from the story it clearly appears, Herod remained, notwithstanding, the same profligate man he was before. How then is the joy of the one to be distinguished from that of the other ? I answer, by what precedes it-by what excites it--and by the effects of it.
1. Let us consider what precedes it.
The real Christian, previous to his enjoying solid peace, is usually much depressed and cast down. Nor is his dejection the effect of bodily disorder, or an ill-temperature of the animal spirits, or of something he can give no rational account of. It is an anxiety occasioned by a sense of sin, an apprehension
a Mark vi. 20.