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But here arises a difficulty, on which the enemies of our faith lay great stress, and frequently allege as an excuse for their infidelity and impiety. If, say they, the success of the good seed depends on the soil in which it is sown, the success of the Gospel must, in the same manner, depend (as this very parable is meant to prove) on the temper and disposition of the recipient, of the person to whom it is offered. Now this temper and disposition are not of our own making: they are the work of nature; they are what our Creator has given us. If then, in any particular instance, they are unfortunately such as disqualify us for the reception of the Gospel, the fault is not ours; it is in the soil, it is in our natural constitution, for which surely we cannot be held responsible.

This plea is specious and plausible; but it is nothing more. The fact is, that the imbecility and corruption introduced into our moral frame by the fall of our first parents is in some measure felt by all; but undoubtedly in different individuals shows itself in different degrees, and that from their very earliest years. Look at any large family of children living together under the eye of their parents, and you will frequently discover in them a surprising variety of tempers, humours, and dispositions; and although the same instructions are given to all, the same care and attention, the same discipline, the same vigilance exercised over each, yet some shall be, in their general conduct, meek, gentle, and submissive; others impetuous, passionate, and froward; some active, enterprising, and bold; others quiet, contented, and calm some cunning, artful, and close; others open, frank, and ingenuous; some, in short, malevolent, mischievous, and unfeeling; others kind, compassionate, good-natured; and though sometimes betraying the infirmity of human nature, by casual omissions of duty and errors of conduct, yet soon made sensible of their faults, and easily led back to regularity, order, piety, and virtue.

Here, then, is unquestionably the difference of natural constitution contended for. But what is the true inference? Is it, that those whose dispositions are the worst are to give themselves up for lost, are to abandon all hopes of salvation, and to allege their depraved nature as a sufficient apology for infidelity or vice, as constituting a complete inability either to believe or to obey the Gospel? No such thing. On the contrary, it is a

strong and powerful call, first upon their parents and the guides of, their youth, and afterwards upon themselves, to watch over, to restrain, to correct, to amend, to meliorate their evil dispositions, and to supply by attention, by discipline, and by prayer, what has been denied by nature. It may be thought hard, perhaps, that all this care, and labour, and painful conflict, should be necessary to some and not (in the same degree at least) to others; and that so marked a distinction in so important a point should be made between creatures of the same species. But is not the same distinction made in other points of importance? Are not men placed from their very birth by the hand of Providence in different situations of rank, power, wealth? Are not some indulged with every advantage, every blessing that their hearts can wish, and others sunk in obscurity, penury, and wretchedness? Are not some favoured with the most splendid talents and capacities for acquiring knowledge; others slow in conception, weak in understanding, and almost impenetrable to instruction? Are not some blessed from their birth with strong, healthy, robust constitutions, subject to no infirmities, no diseases; others weak, sickly, tender, liable to perpetual disorders, and with the utmost difficulty dragging on a precarious existence? Yet, does this preclude all these different individuals from improving their condition; does it prevent the lowest member of society from endeavouring to raise himself into a superior class; does it prevent the most indigent from labouring to acquire a fortune by industry, frugality, and activity; does prevent the most ignorant from cultivating their minds, and furnishing them with some degree of knowledge; does it prevent those of the tenderest and most delicate frames from strengthening, confirming, and invigorating their health, by management, by medicine, and by temperance? We see the contrary every day; we see all these different characters succeeding in their efforts beyond their most sanguine expectations, and rising to a degree of opulence, of rank, of power, of learning, and of health, of which at their outset they could not have formed the most distant idea. And why then are we not to act in the same manner with regard to our natural tempers, dispositions, propensities, and inclinations? Why are we not to suppose them as capable of improvement and melioration as our condition, our fortune, our intellectual powers, and our bodily health?

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Why are we to allege impossibility in one case more than in the others? The truth is, that a bad constitution of mind as well as of body may, by proper care and attention, and the powerful influences of the Holy Spirit, be greatly, if not wholly, amended. And as it sometimes happens, 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 luxuriant 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 bringeth 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 plentiful effusions of his grace, which he has promised 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 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


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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 behoves 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 your future condition here and hereafter.

There are none, I 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 corruption, 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 corrupters 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 appointed the season of Lent, and more particularly the offices of the concluding week, which, from the sufferings of our Saviour at that time, we call Passion week. It was thought, and surely it was wisely thought, by our ancestors, that to fortify ourselves against the attractions of the world, and the seductions of sin, it was necessary to withdraw ourselves sometimes from the tumultuous and intoxicating scenes of business and of pleasure, which, in the daily commerce of life, press so close on every side of us; and to strengthen and confirm our minds against their fatal influence, by retirement, by recollection, by self-communion, by self-examination, by meditating on the word of God, and, above all, by frequent and fervent prayer. To give us time for these sacred occupations, a small portion of every year has been judiciously set apart for them by our church; and what time could be so proper for those holy purposes, as that in which our blessed Lord was suffering so much for our sakes? I allude more particularly to that solemn week which is now approaching, and to which I must beg to call the most serious attention of every one here present.

In that week all public diversions are, as you well know, wisely prohibited by public authority; and, in conformity to the spirit of such prohibition, we should,


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