Hebrews 6:7
Here is a reminiscence of the parable of the seed in the four kinds of ground. The soil becomes invested with a kind of personality. One thinks, too, of that fig tree which the Lord withered up. And it may not be so entirely fanciful, as at first it appears to give land a sort of individuality; so that one piece of soil will behave in one way, and another in another. If, for instance, there be any real basis for the reputation attaching to certain vintages, it must come from some indefinable quality of soil. At any rate, we can imagine two different kinds of land, such as are set before us in this passage.

I. We are to imagine TWO MEN PUT INTO EXACTLY SIMILAR POSITIONS WITH REGARD TO THE BENEFITS OF DIVINE GRACE. Just as two contiguous pieces of land have the same copious showers falling on them, so two men may come under the same religious influences. There may, perhaps, be peculiar spiritual advantages in one district which are lacking in another, though even so much as this has to be said guardedly; for we must believe that in the end all men shall have enough light to throw upon them the responsibility of neglecting salvation. But one thing we do see, that men, so far as we can judge, under the same spiritual influences, meet those influences in quite different ways. One is attentive, the other negligent. One is receptive, the other unresponding. Nay, as the illustration puts it, both may be receptive, but differently receptive, so that there are very different ultimate results. The earth is represented as drinking in the oft-recurring showers. One man drinks in the grace and. truth of God so that they energize all the powers of his heart, and he puts forth corresponding fruit. Another drinks in God's truth, seems to appreciate it, but when the result is looked for nothing comes but noxious growths.

II. THE DECLARATION OF RESPONSIBILITY AND CORRESPONDING JUDGMENT. If one man is fruitful of good works, and another fruitful only of evil ones, then God will treat the men correspondingly. Compare with the illustration here, the parable of the talents. God is not arbitrary. It is we who determine how God shall treat us ultimately, for he treats men on great eternal principles. It is for men to be wise and diligent in time, and recognize the principles. It is sometimes asked why thorns and briers and wasting weeds have ever had existence. The answer may be that these were first of all made to be illustrations to men. Thorns and briers are burnt without hesitation, that the very seeds and germs of them may, if possible, be blotted out of existence. And if men will put out from their lives - from lives that have been so divinely blessed - nothing but thorny and briery products, then they must expect these to be for burning. All evil things must perish. Our folly is in building up the evil which must go, rather than the good which will remain. - Y.







The earth which drinketh in the rain.
Homilist.
Nature is a parable. The seen adumbrates the unseen. Here we have the soul, truth, God, and character in emblem.

I. THE SOUL.

1. Contains in itself the germs of all that it will ever manifest.

2. Only develops those germs as it turns itself towards the sun.

II. TRUTH.

1. Like rain in variety.

2. Like rain in origin.

3. Like rain in preciousness. Congenial. Fertilising.

III. God. The great Husbandman of souls.

1. Prepares soil.

2. Deposits seed.

3. Supplies cultivating influences.

IV. CHARACTER. The fruit of a man's life. As gardens, landscapes, forests, grow out of the earth, moral character grows out of conduct.

(Homilist.)

I. THE MINUS OF ALL MEN BY NATURE ARE UNIVERSALLY AND EQUALLY BARREN WITH RESPECT TO FRUITS OF RIGHTEOUSNESS MEET FOR AND ACCEPTABLE UNTO GOD. They are all as the earth under the curse. There is a natural difference among men as to their intellectual abilities. But as to the fruits of spiritual holiness, all men by nature are alike. For our nature, as unto a principle of living unto God is equally corrupted in all. Something is wanting, something must he done to this barren earth, to make it fruitful And this is done by rain. And that is described by —

1. Its communication or application unto the earth — it fails upon it.

2. An especial adjunct thereof in its frequency-it falls often on it.

3. By that reception which the earth is naturally fitted and suited to give unto it — it drinketh it in.

1. The thing itself is rain. It is the administration of the Word that is intended. And in other places the doctrine of the Scripture is frequently compared unto rain and watering (Deuteronomy 32:2; Zechariah 14:17). This is that whereby God watereth the barren souls of men, that whereby He communicates unto them all things that may enable them to be fruitful.

2. This rain is said to fall often on the earth. And this may be considered either with respect to the especial concern of these Hebrews or unto the ordinary dispensation of the gospel. In the first way it expresseth the frequent addresses made unto the Jews, in the ministry of the Word, for their recovery from those ways of ruin wherein they were engaged. And so it may include the ministry of the prophets, with the close put unto it by that of Christ Himself. Take it in the latter way for the dispensation of the Word in general, and the manner of it, with frequency and urgency, is included in this expression. Where the Lord Christ sends the gospel to be preached, it is His will that it should be so, instantly, in season and out of season, that it may come as abundant showers of rain on the earth.

3. This rain is said to be drunk in — the earth drinketh in the rain. There is no more intended in this expression but the outward hearing of the Word, a naked assent to it. For it is ascribed unto them who continue utterly barren, who are therefore left unto destruction. But as it is the natural property of the earth to receive in the water that is poured on it, so men do in some sense drink in the doctrine of the gospel when the natural faculties of their souls assent unto it, though it works not upon them, though it produces no effects in them.

II. THE DISPENSATION OF THE WORD OF THE GOSPEL UNTO MEN IS AN EFFECT OF THE SOVEREIGN POWER AND PLEASURE OF GOD, AS IS THE GIVING OF RAIN UNTO THE EARTH. He sendeth His Word unto one people and not to another, to one city and not to another, at one time and not at another, and these are those matters of His whereof He giveth no account.

1. The principal end which He designeth in His disposal of the dispensation of the gospel in that great variety wherein we do behold it is the conversion, edifications, and salvation of His elect. This is that which He aimeth to accomplish thereby, and therefore His will and purpose herein is that which gives rule and measure unto the actings of His providence concerning it.

2. He doth, according to His sovereign pleasure, call and send persons to the preaching of it to those to whom He will grant the privilege thereof.(1) By endowing them with spiritual gifts, enabling them unto that work and duty. The gospel is the ministration of the Spirit; nor is it to be administered but by virtue of the gifts of the Spirit.(2) This communication of gifts unto men is ordinarily accompanied with a powerful inclination of the minds of men to undertake the work against those discouragements which present themselves unto them in their undertaking,

III. GOD SO ORDERED THINGS IN HIS SOVEREIGN UNSEARCHABLE PROVIDENCE THAT THE GOSPEL SHALL BE SENT UNTO, AND IN THE ADMINISTRATION OF IT SHALL FIND ADMITTANCE INTO, WHAT PLACES, AND AT WHAT TIMES, SEEMS GOOD UNTO HIMSELF, EVEN AS LIE ORDERS THE RAIN TO FALL ON ONE PLACE AND NOT ON ANOTHER.

IV. IT IS THE DUTY OF THOSE UNTO WHOM THE DISPENSATION OF THE WORD IS COMMITTED OF GOD TO BE DILIGENT, WATCHING, INSTANT IN THEIR WORK, THAT THEIR DOCTRINE MAY, AS IT WERE, CONTINUALLY DROP AND DISTIL UPON THEIR HEARERS THAT THE RAIN MAY FALL OFTEN ON THE EARTH. So hath God provided that "the ridges of it may be watered abundantly, to make it soft (or dissolve it) with showers, and so He blesseth the springing thereof" (Psalm 65:10).

V. ATTENDANCE UNTO THE WORD PREACHED, HEARING OF IT WITH SOME DILIGENCE, AND GIVING OF IT SOME KIND OF RECEPTION, MADE NO GREAT DIFFERENCE AMONG MEN, FOR THIS IS COMMON UNTO THEM WHO NEVER BECOME FRUITFUL.

VI. GOD IS PLEASED TO EXERCISE MUCH PATIENCE TOWARDS THOSE TO WHOM HE ONCE GRANTS THE MERCY AND THE PRIVILEGE OF HIS WORD. He doth not presently proceed against them far and on account of their barrenness, but stays until the rain hath often fallen on the ground. But there is an appointed season and period of time, beyond which He will not wait for them any more.

VII. WHERE GOD GRANTS MEANS, THERE HE EXPECTS FRUIT. Few men consider what is the state of things with them whilst the gospel is preached to them. Some utterly disregard it any farther than as it is suited to their carnal interests and advantages. His business by it is to make men holy, humble, self-denying, righteous, useful, upright, pure in heart and life, to abound in good works, or to be like Himself in all things.

VIII. DUTIES OF GOSPEL OBEDIENCE ARE FRUITS MEET FOR GOD, THINGS THAT HAVE A PROPER AND ESPECIAL TENDENCY UNTO HIS GLORY. As the precious fruits of the earth which the husbandman waiteth for are meet for his use, that is, such as supply his wants, satisfy his occasions, answer his labour, nourish and enrich him; so do these duties of gospel obedience answer all the ends of God's glory which He hath designed unto it in the world. "Hereby," saith our Saviour, "is My Father glorified, if ye bring forth much fruit."

IX. WHEREVER THERE ARE ANY SINCERE FRUITS OF FAITH AND OBEDIENCE FOUND IN THE HEARTS AND LIVES OF PROFESSORS, GOD GRACIOUSLY ACCEPTS AND BLESSETH THEM. Nothing is so small but that, if it be sincere, He will accept; and nothing so great but He hath an overflowing reward for it.

(John Owen, D. D.)

The apostle is showing the effect of character on our power to understand truth. Neither soil is barren. Both lands drink in the rain that often comes upon them. But the fatness of the one field brings forth thorns and thistles, and this can only mean that the man's vigour of soul is itself an occasion of moral evil. The richness of the other land produces plants fit for use by men, who are the sole reason for its tillage. This, again, must mean that, in the case of some men, God blesses that natural strength which itself is neither good nor evil, and it becomes a source of goodness. We come now to the result in each case. The soil that brings forth useful herbs has its share of the Creator's first blessing. What the blessing consists in we are not here told, and it is not necessary to pursue this side of the illustration further. Bat the other soil, which gives its natural strength to the production of noxious weeds, falls under the Creator's primal curse and is nigh unto burning. The point of the parable evidently is that God blesses the one, that God destroys the other. In both cases the apostle recognises the Divine action, carrying into effect a Divine threat and a Divine promise.

I. DRINKING IN THE RAIN THAT OFTEN COMES UPON THE LAND CORRESPONDS TO BEING ONCE ENLIGHTENED, tasting of the heavenly gift, being made partakers of the Holy Ghost, and tasting the good Word of God and the powers of the world to come.

II. THE NEGATIVE RESULT OF NOT BRINGING FORTH ANY USEFUL HERBS CORRESPONDS TO FALLING AWAY. God has bestowed His gift of enlightenment, but there is no response of heart and will. The soul does not lay hold, but drifts away.

III. THE POSITIVE RESULT OF BEARING THORNS AND THISTLES CORRESPONDS TO CRUCIFYING TO THEMSELVES THE SON OF GOD AFRESH AND PUTTING HIM TO AN OPEN SHAME.

IV. To be nigh unto a curse and to be given in the end to be burned CORRESPONDS TO THE IMPOSSIBILITY OF RENEWAL. God renders men incapable of repentance, not because they have fallen away once or more than once, but because they scoff at the Son, through whom God has spoken unto us. The terrible impossibility of renewal here threatened applies, not to apostasy (as the early Church maintained), nor to the lapsed (as the Novatianists held), but to apostasy combined with a cynical, scoffing temper that persists in treading the Son of God under foot. It hardens the heart, because God is jealous of His Son's honour, and punishes the scoffer with the utter destruction of the spiritual faculty and with absolute inability to recover it. This is not the mere force of habit. It is God's retribution, and the apostle mentions it here because the text of the whole Epistle is that God has spoken unto us in His Son.

(T. C. Edwards, D. D.)

Here be two kinds, a good and a bad soil; the one a garden, the other a desert: the former an enclosure of sweet herbs, excellent graces; the latter a wild forest of briers and thorns. For the better ground we will consider —

1. The operative means or working cause of the fertility, "The rain that cometh often upon it."

2. The thankful returning of expected fruit, "It bringeth forth herbs meet for them by whom it is dressed."

3. The reward of mercy, "It receiveth blessing from God." All is an allegory.

I. The earth is MAN.

II. The rain, God's WORD.

III. The herbs are GRACES. And

IV. The blessing is A SWEET RETRIBUTION OF MERCY.

I. The earth is the best ground that lies betwixt heaven and earth, man; the noblest part of this world; the worthiest creature; the Creator's image. The blessed Deity (which hath in it a trinity of most equal and eternal Persons) is the first and best of all beings; the holy angels next; man next them. Let not all this make man proud. Even this word earth, though here used in a spiritual sense, puts him in mind that this excellent man is a mortal creature. Therefore I will say from the prophet, "O earth, earth, earth, hear the word of the Lord" (Jeremiah 22:29). Bestow not too much pains in adorning this perishable earth, thy flesh: the earth thou must be careful of, and which God here waters from heaven with His holy dews, is thy heart, thy conscience. I could willingly step out a little to chide those that, neglecting God's earth, the soul, fall to trimming with a curious superstition the earth's earth, clay and loam: a body of corruption painted till it shine like a lily; rottenness hid under golden leaves. But the earth here meant is a divine, spiritual, immortal nature — called earth by a metaphor — incapable of suffering terrene fragility. This is God's earth, and that in a high and mystical sense, though proper enough. Indeed, "The earth is the Lord's, and the fulness thereof," saith the Psalmist. But He hath not such respect to the earth He made, as to this earth for whom He made it. This is earth that He hath sealed and sanctified for Himself, by setting His stamp upon it. Now, the good man's heart is compared to earth for divers reasons.

1. For humility. The earth is the lowest of all elements, and the centre of the world.

2. For patience. The earth is called terra, quia teritur; and this is the natural earth. For they distinguish it into three sorts: terra quam terimus; terra quam gerimus; terra quam quaerimus, which is the glorious land of promise. That earth is cut and wounded with culters and shares, yet is patient to suffer it, and returns fruits to those that ploughed it. The good heart is thus rent with vexations and broken with sorrows, yet endureth all with a magnanimous patience, assured of that victory which comes by suffering, Neither is this all: it returns mercy for injury, prayers for persecutions, and blesseth them that cursed it.

3. For faithful constancy. The earth is called solum, because it stands alone, depending on nothing bat the Maker's hand: " One generation passeth away, and another generation comeht; but the earth abideth for ever" (Ecclesiastes 1:4). She often changeth her burden, without any sensible mutation of herself: " Thy faithfulness is to all generations; Thou hast established the earth, and it standeth" (Psalm 119:90). Such a constant solidity is in the faithful heart, that should it thunder bulls from Rome, and bolts from Rome, impavidum ferient ruinae. So the first terror hath moved the ungodly, not removed them; they return to themselves, and rest in a resolved peace. Lord, do what Thou wilt: "if Thou kill me, I will trust in Thee." Let us hear it from him that had it from the Lord: "Surely he shall not be moved for ever: the righteous shall be in everlasting remembrance. He shall not be afraid of evil tidings: his heart is fixed, trusting in the Lord. His heart is established," &c. (Psalm 112:6-8). Oh sweet description of a constant soul!

4. For charity. The earth brings forth food for all creatures that live on it. Green herb for the cattle; oil and wine for man. A good man is so full of charity, he relieves all, without improvidence to himself. He gives plentifully, that all may have some; not indiscreetly, that some have all.

5. For riches. The earth is but poor without: the surface of it, especially when squalid winter hath bemired it, seems poor and barren; but within it is full of rich mines, ores of gold, and quarries of precious minerals. The sanctified heart may seem poor to the world's eye, which only beholds the husk, and thinks there is no treasure in the cabinet, because it is covered with leather. But within he is full of golden mines and rich ores, the invisible graces of faith, fear, love, hope, patience, holiness; sweeter than the spices of the East Indies, and richer than the gold of the West.

6. Lastly, for fertility. The earth is fruitful: when the stars have given influence, the clouds showered down seasonable dews, and the sun bestowed his kindly heat, lo. the thankful earth returns fruits, and that in abundance. The Christian soul, having received such holy operations, inspirations, and sanctifying motions from above, is never found without a grateful fertility. Yea, as the earth to man, so man to God, returns a blessed usury: ten for one; nay, sometimes thirty, sometimes sixty, sometimes a hundred-fold.

II. THE OPERATIVE CAUSE THAT WORKETH THE GOOD EARTH TO THIS FRUITFULNESS IS A HEAVENLY "rain that falleth upon it"; and the earth doth "drink it up." Wherein is observable that the rain doth come, that it is welcome; God sends it plenteously, and man entertains it lovingly.

1. God's Word is often compared to rain or dew.(1) It is the property of rain to cool heat. The burning heat of sin in us, and of God's anger for sin against us, is quenched by the gospel. It cools our intemperate heat of malice, anger, ambition, avarice, lust, which are burning sins.(2) Another effect of rain is thirst quenched. The Christian soul "thirsts after righteousness," is dry at heart till he can have the gospel: a shower of this mercy from heaven quencheth his thirst; he is satisfied (John 4:14).(3) Rain doth allay the winds. When the potentates of the world storm against us, God quiets all our fears, secures us from all their terrors by a gracious rain, drops of mercy in the never-failing promises of the gospel.(4) Rain hath a powerful efficacy to cleanse the air. We know that too often filthy fumes of heresies surge up in a land, that the soul of faith is almost stifled, and the uncleanness of corrupt doctrine gets a predominant place: the Lord then drops His Word from heaven; the pure rain of His holy gospel cleanseth away this putrefaction, and gives new life to the almost-smothered truth.(5) Rain hath yet another working: to mollify a hard matter. The parched and heat-hardened earth is made soft by the dews of heaven. Oh, how hard and obdurate is the heart of man till this rain falls on it!(6) Lastly, rain is one principal subordinate cause that all things fructify. This holy dew is the operative means, next to the grace of God in our Lord Jesus Christ, that the souls of Christians should bring forth the fruits of faith and obedience. I know God can save without it: we dispute not of His power, but of His work of ordinary, not extraordinary, operations. God usually worketh this in our hearts by His Word.

2. Thus far the matter; the manner is —

(1)"It cometh."

(2)"Often."

(3)"Upon it."(1) "It cometh." It is not forced, nor fetched, but comes of His own mere mercy whose it is (James 1:17). They that want it have no merit of congruity to draw it to them; they that have it have no merit of condignity to keep it with them. It is the mercy and gratuital favour of God that this gospel cometh to us.(2) "Often." God hath respect to our infirmities, and sends us a plentiful rain. One shower will not make us fruitful; it must come "oft upon us." The rain dints the hard stone, not by violence, but by oft-falling drops. Line must be added to line; "here a little, and there a little." God could pour a whole flood on us at once. If much were poured at once, a great deal would fall besides, and be spilt. Like children, we must be fed by spoonfuls, according to the capacity of our weak natures. It is not an abundant rain falling at once that make the plants grow, but kindly and frequent showers. When Christ spake of the "bread of life," the transported disciples beseech Him, Lord, evermore give us this "Lord, evermore give us this bread" (John 6:34). So pray we: Lord evermore shower down upon us this rain!(3) "Upon it." God so directs this dew of His word that it shall fall on our hearts, not besides. A good shower may come on the earth, yet if a man house himself, or be shrouded under a thick bush, or burrowed in the ground, he will be dry still. God sends down His rain: one houseth himself in the darkness of security; another sits dallying with the delights of lust under e green bush; a third is burrowed in the ground, entrenching himself in the quest of riches. Alas, how should the dew of grace fall upon these! Thou wouldest not shelter the ground from the clouds, lest it grow barren: oh, then, keep not thy soul from the rain of heaven!

III. You have heard how the rain is come; now hear HOW IT IS MADE WELCOME. The good ground drinks it; nay, drinks it in. The comparison stands thus: the thirsty land drinks up the rain greedily which the clouds pour upon it. You would wonder what becomes of it; you may find it in your fruits. When your vines hang full of clusters, your gardens stand thick with flowers, your meadows with grass, your fields with corn, you will say the earth hath been beholden to the heaven. That hath rained moisture, this hath drunk it in; we see it in our fruits. There is a blessed sort of drinkers which drink in this sweet rain of grace and mercy. They do not only taste it; so do the wicked: "They have tasted of the heavenly gift; they have tasted of the good Word of God, and of the powers of the world to come" (ver. 4). Nor drink it only to their throats, as carnal politicians and formal professors do. It shall never come into their stomachs, never near their hearts. But these drink it in, digest it in their consciences, take liberal draughts of it, and do indeed drink healths thereof. This is a hearty draught of the waters of life; the deeper the sweeter. The vessel of our heart being once thus filled with grace shall hereafter be replenished with glory.

(T. Adams.)

The blessing that good hearers receive is a further increase of all graces in this life: "To him that hath shall be given," &c. (Matthew 13:8); and eternal blessedness in the life to come. Blessed are they that hear the Word of God and keep it.

1. All people are as the ground that stand in need of the rain of the Word of God. The earth must have rain all the year long. more or less, else it drieth and withereth away; so do we if we want the rain of the Word. In what a miserable case were they in Israel when there fell no rain for the space of three years and six months; and in what a pitiful taking are those towns and countries, though they feel it not, which want the rain of the Word of God? You that have it be thankful to God for it, and learn to esteem more highly of this blessing than ye do. If it rain on your wheat and barley in the due time of the year, ye praise God for it; and will ye riot bless Him for the heavenly rain that falleth on yourselves to make you fruitful to eternal life.

2. As this rain by the goodness of God falls on you, so let it not pass by you as water running from the rocks and stones, but drink it in, that it may cause you to increase in all virtue. If your hearts be as stone, hardened in sin, though ye have never such plenty of this rain, it will do you no good; therefore drink in the rain of the Word of God that falls on you at every sermon; let not the profitable instructions pans from you. If it be not a ground rain that goes into the bowels of the earth, it is to small purpose; and if the rain of the Word do not sink into the bottom of your hearts, if it go no further than your ears, you shall reap small benefit by it; therefore drink in this rain, that it may be fruitful to you all.

3. None can well drink but they that thirst after drink; if the ground be not thirsty it will not drink in the rain. If it be full already, the rain lieth aloft, and makes ponds that are noisome to men. Therefore bring thirsting souls to every sermon, when this rain is poured down on you, that ye may drink it in to the salvation of you all.

4. The more rain the ground hath, the more fruit it ought to yield; the oftener that any people hath had the rain of the Word of God falling on them, the more plentiful should they be in good works: " To whom much is given, of them much shall be required." You in this town have had much rain, therefore much is required of you.

5. As it hath the rain often, so it must bring forth fruit; the more dressing, the more fruit. As ye have this heavenly rain in most plentiful measure, so bring forth fruits answerable to it: leaves will not serve the turn.

(W. Jones, D. D.)

Bringeth forth hers.
1. "It brings forth." It is not barren, like a dead ground that yields neither herbs nor weeds. This is no idle heart that doth neither good nor harm. Here is no such stupid neutrality, nor infructuous deadness: "It brings forth."

2. They are not weeds it produceth, but "herbs." A man had as good do nothing as do naughty things. They that forbear idleness and fall to lewdness, mend the matter, as the devil, in the tale, mended his dame's leg: when he should have put it in joint, he broke it quite in pieces. It is not enough that this ground bring forth, but that it yield herbs. Of the two, the barren earth is not so evil as the wicked earth; that men pity, this they curse. "It brings forth herbs."

3. Neither is it a paucity of herbs this ground afforded, but an abundance; not one herb, but herbs; a plural and plentiful number. There is neither barrenness nor bareness in this ground; not no fruits, not few fruits, but many herbs.

4. Lastly, they are such herbs as are "meet for the dresser"; such as God expects of the garden, who planted it; such as he will accept, not in strict justice for their own worth, but in great mercy for Jesus Christ.Meet for them by whom it is dressed.

1. Fertility: "It brings forth." Barrenness hath ever been held a curse, a reproach (Luke 1:25). When God will bring the gospel, and with it salvation to the Gentiles, He is said to take away their barrenness. So was it prophesied (Isaiah 54:1); so was it accomplished (Galatians 4:27). The primordial praise of this good ground is that it is not barren. This fertility in the Christian heart doth —(1) Conclude thankfulness.(2) Exclude idleness.(a) For the former. God hath given him rain for this purpose, that he should bring forth fruit; if he should take the rain, and not answer the sender's hopes, he were unthankful. The good man considers the end why he received any blessing, and examines what God meant in conferring on him such a benefit. Hath God given him wisdom? Solomon hath taught him to " let his fountains be dispersed abroad, and his rivers of waters in the streets" (Proverbs 5:16). As we must not be wise in ourselves, so nor only wise to ourselves. He that conceals his knowledge, cancels it, and shall at last turn fool. Do not enclose that for several which God hath meant common. The not employing will be the impairing of God's gifts. This is the fruit which the good ground must send forth, for all the seeds of grace sown in it. Neither doth this instruction bound itself with our spiritual, but extends also to our temporal gifts. Hast thou riches? When God scattered those blessings upon thee, in the seed-time of His bounty. He intended thou shouldst return Him a good crop at the ha-vest. Be thankful, then, in doing that with them for which God gave them. God meant them to promote and help forward thy journey to heaven; let them not retard thy course, or put thee quite out of the way. Be merciful, be charitable, be helpful. God did also mean that thyself should take comfort in these things. It is a part of that blessedness which the Psalmist promiseth to him that feareth the Lord: "Thou shalt eat the labour of thine hands; happy shalt thou be, and it shall be well with thee" (Psalm 128:2). For God gave wine for this purpose, "to make glad the heart of man, and oil to make his face shine, and bread to strengthen his heart" (Psalm 104:15). How doth man divert God's goodness, when he turns His blessing into a curse, and puts His flood creatures from their intended uses!(b) This good ground lies not dead and barren, nor returns all heaven's rain with a naked and neutral acceptation: it brings forth. Idleness doth neither get nor save; there is nothing more empty of good fruits, nor more abundantly pregnant with evil. That man doth ill that doth nothing, and he loseth whilst he gains not. Many beholding, with cowardly and carnal eyes, what a long and troublesome journey it is to heaven, sit them down and fall fast asleep. O barren ground! will ye bring forth nothing? Is difficulty made your hindrance, that should be a spur to your more eager contention? Know you not that the violent shall get the kingdom of heaven? If thy soul be watered with the dew of heaven, thou must needs bring forth. What?(2) "Herbs." There is fertility in goodness. The eldest daughter of idleness is to do nothing; the next-born to do something to no purpose. But the good man is not only doing, but well-doing (Matthew 24:46). This so consists in doing bonum and bene; as the former verse may seem to intimate. He " gives them meat," there He doth good; "in due season," there he doth it well. The forbearance of wickedness is not enough to acquit, the soul, but the performance of righteousness. The rich glutton is tormented in hell, not because he did hurt, but because he did not help, Lazarus. But if that ground be near unto cursing that brings not forth herbs, what shall we say to that which brings forth weeds?(3) Plenty — many herbs. The good ground is plentiful in fruits. It bears fruit, good fluff, much good fruit. Multiplicity of grace is requisite, though not perfection. What garden is only planted with one singular kind of herb? The Christian hath need of many graces, because he is t,, meet with many defects, to answer many temptations, to fight with many enemies (2 Peter 1:5). Happy then is that ground which abounds with good herbs; the fruits of faith, patience, content, charity! Not our riches, but our "works shall follow us." Goodness shall only give pulchrum sepulchrum; and as we use to stick dead bodies with herbs, so these herbs, our fruitful good works, shall adorn and beautify our memorials, when "the name of the wicked shall rot?"(4) "Meet for them by whom he is dressed." The word "by whom" may as well be translated "for whom."(a) By whom it is dressed. God is the Husbandman that dressed this ground, and causeth in it fertility. God begins the work; He makes the ground good, sanctifies the person. Here is gratia co-operans, God that begins, performs the work; He raineth upon, He dresseth the heart, and so causeth it to produce herbs. Here is gratia salvans, whereby He crowneth our will and work in the day of our Lord Jesus. "It receiveth blessing from God." The sap of grace which appears green and flourishing in the branches and fruit, comes from the root. God induceth the good to good by alacrity, not enforceth against their wills. God doth not work upon us as upon blocks and stones, in all and every respect passive; but converts our wills to will our own conversion.(b) Thus by whom; now tot whom. Meet for them who dressed it. And is it possible that man should produce herbs meet for the acceptation of God? Hath He not pure eyes, which see uncleanness and imperfection in all our works? Is there any man so happy as to be justified in His sight? No; but it pleaseth Him to look upon our works in the crystal glass, Christ; and because they are the effects of a true faith in Him, to esteem them meet.

(T. Adams.)

I. That the herbs of our graces may be meet for the dresser — contentful to God, who hath planted, watered, husbanded the garden of our hearts — we will require in them four virtues:

1. Odour.

2. Taste.

3. Ornament.

4. Medicinal virtue.

1. That they have a good odour. God is delighted with the smell of our graces (Song of Solomon 6:2). The virtues of Christ are thus principally pleasant; and all our herbs only smell sweetly in His garden (Song of Solomon 1:3). This savour is sweetly acceptable in the nostrils of God (Psalm 45:8). It is His righteousness that gives all our herbs a good odour; and in Him it pleaseth God to judge our works sweet. The way to make our herbs smell sweetly is first to purge our garden of weeds. For if sin be fostered in our hearts, all our works will be abominated. God heareth not the prayers of the wicked (Leviticus 26:31). But being adopted by grace in Christ, and sanctified to holiness, our good works small sweetly (Philippians 4:18). It seems God highly esteems the herb charity in our gardens. He that serveth the Lord shall smell as Lebanon (Hosea 14:6, 7).

2. That they taste well. Many a flower hath a sweet smell, but not so wholesome a taste. Your Pharisaical prayers and alms smelt sweetly in the vulgar nostrils; taste then, and they were but rue, or rather wormwood. Herbs have not only their savour, but their nutriment (Psalm 104:14). Herbs then are food, and have an alimental virtue. So we may both with the herbs of charity feed men's bodies, and with the herbs of piety feed their souls. If thou wouldest make Christ good cheer in the parlour of thy conscience, bring Him the herbs of obedience. Where spavour His Church is, there is He: exercise thy piety. Wheresoever His members are, there is He: exercise thy charity.

3. That they be fit to adorn. Herbs and flowers have not only their use in pleasing the nostrils and the palate, but the eye also. They give delight to all those three senses. Good works are the beauty of a house, and a better sight than fresh herbs strewed in the windows. Good works are the best ornaments, the most lasting monuments. They become the house wherein thy soul dwelleth, whilst it dwells there; and bless thy memory, when those two are parted. Every good heart that knew thee is thy tomb, and every tongue writes happy epitaphs on thy memorial. Thus height up your souls with a treasure of good works.

4. That they be medicinable, and serve not only as antidotes to prevent, but as medicaments to cure the soul's infirmities. The poor man's physic lies in his garden; the good soul can fetch an herb from his heart, of God's planting there, that can help him. Pliny writes of a certain herb, which he calls thelygonum; we in English, "The grace of God." A happy herb, and worthy to stand in the first place as chief of the garden. For it is the principal, and, as it were, the genus of all the rest. We may say of it, as some write of the carduus benedictus, or holy thistle, that it is herba omni morbo — an herb of such virtue that it can cure all diseases. This may heal a man who is otherwise nullis medicabilis herbis. Wretched men, that are without this herb, the grace of God, in their gardens! Hyssop and humility. — Is a man tempted to pride — a, d that is a saucy sin, ever busy among good works, like a Judas among the apostles — let him look into his garden for hyssop, humility of spirit. Let him be taught by this herb to annihilate his own worth, and to cleave to the Rock whereout he grows, and whereof he is upholden, Jesus Christ. Or let him produce the camomile, which smells the sweeter the more it is trodden on. Humility is a gracious herb, and allays the wrath of God; whereas pride provokes it. But when dust and ashes humbles himself, and stands to his mercy, the wrath of God is soon appeased. This camomile or hyssop grows very low. Humbleness roots downward, yet no herb hath ,-o high branches. Bulapathurn, the herb patience. — Is a man, through multitudes of troubles, almost wrought to impatience, and to repine at the providence of God, that disposeth no more ease? Let him fetch an herb out of the garden to cure this malady — bulapathurn, the herb patience. The adamant serves not for all seas; but patience is good for all estates. Heart's-ease and spiritual joy. — Doth sorrow and anguish cast down a man's heart, and may he complain that his "soul is disquieted within him"? (Psalm 42.) Let him fetch an herb out of this garden, called heart's-ease, an inward joy which the Holy Ghost worketh in him. Though all " the days of the afflicted be evil, yet a merry heart is a continual feast" (Proverbs 15:5). This is heaven upon earth, "Peace of conscience and joy of the Holy Ghost" (Romans 14:17). His conscience is assured of peace with God, of reconciliation in the blood of Jesus, and that his soul is wrapped up in the bundle of life. Balsamum, or faith. — Hath the heart got a green wound by committing some offence against God? for actual iniquity makes a gash in the soul. The good man runs for balsamum, and stancheth the blood — faith in the promises of Jesus Christ. He knows there is "balm at Gilead, and there are physicians there, and therefore the health of his soul may easily be recovered" (Jeremiah 8:22). St. John's work, or charity. — Doth the world, through sweetness of gain that comes a little too fast upon a man, begin to carry away his heart to covetousness? Let him look in this garden for the herb called St. John's work, charity and brotherly love. It is called St. John's herb not improperly, for he spent a whole epistle in commending to us this grace, and often inculcated, "Little children, love one another." And he further teacheth that this love must be actual (1 John 3:17). Penny-royal and content. — Doth poverty fasten her sharp teeth in a man's sides, and cannot all his good industry keep want from his family? Let him come to this garden for a little penny-royal, content. This will teach him to think that God who feeds the ravens, and clothes the lilies, will not suffer him to lack food and raiment. Agnus castus and continence. — Doth the rebellious flesh, upon a little indulgence, grow wanton, and would concupiscence enkindle the fire of lust? The good soul hath in this garden an herb called agnus castus, the chaste herb, and good store of lettuce, which physicians say cool this natural intemperate heat. His agnus castus and lettuce are prayer and fasting. Barley-water or cool-anger. — Doth the heat of anger boil in a man's heart, and enrageth him to some violent and precipitate courses? Let him extract from this garden the juice of many cooling herbs, and among the rest a drink of barley-water — a tysan of meekness to cool this fire. He that hath proceeded to anger is a man; he that hath not proceeded to sinful, harmful anger is a Christian. Parsley or frugality. — Declines a man's estate in this world, as if his hand had scattered too lavishly, there is an herb in this garden; let him for a while feed on it — parsley, parsimony. Hereon he will abridge himself of some superfluities; and remember that moderate fare is better than a whole college of physicians. He will wear good clothes, and never better, knowing there is no degree beyond decency. The wise man knows it is better looking through a poor lattice-window than through an iron gate; and though he will lend what he may, he will not borrow till he must needs. Liver. wort, or peaceable love. — Is a man sick in his liver by accession of some distempers. ture? Doth his charity and love to some neighbours, for their malignancy against him, fail and faint in his heart? Then let him step to this garden for some jecuraria; we call it liver-wort. He asks of his heart for his old love. his wonted amity. Lily, or pureness of heart. Doth a man perceive his heart a little begilded with ostentation, and desires he to seem better than he is? And how easily is man won to answer his commenders' speculation! Let him fetch the lily — pureness of heart — which is a herb of grace, growing in the humble valley of a meek spirit, yet is white and lovely, Enula campana, or obedience. Perhaps evil example hath suddenly, and without provided consideration, led a man into evil. Let him run to this garden for enula campana. This herb is that Christ enjoined us: "Search the Scriptures'; add hereto the Word of the Lord. This shall give decision of all doubts, and teach thee what path to fly, what way to take. Heart-wort, or affiance in Gods promises. It may be sorrow of heart for sin hath cast a man down, and he is swallowed up of too much heaviness. There is a herb to comfort him called heart-wort, affiance in the merciful promises of God passed to him by word, oath, seal, scriptures, sacraments, and therefore infallible. Hyacinth, or following Christ. Say that the Christian hath met with some gilded pill of corruption, some poisonous doctrine, yet plausible to flesh and blood. Let him Search his garden for byacinth, or solsequium, turnsol, an herb treat duly and obediently follows the sun. Do thou follow the Sun of righteousness (Malachi 4:2), and let His bright beams guide thy course, who hath promised to teach all those that with a humble heart and earnest prayer seek it at His hands. Care-away. If worldly troubles come too fast upon a man, he hath an herb called care-away. Not that he bequeathes himself to a supine negligence, as if God would fill his house with provision, while he sits and sings care away; but as he is free from idleness, so also from distrust. He considers the ravens and lilies, and knows that the Lord is the " Preserver of men " as well as of fowls; that He respects man above those, and His own above other men. Therefore he throws all his cares upon God, as if they were too heavy a load for himself. Solicitous thoughtfulness can give him no butt, but this herb care away shall easily cure it. Holy thistle, or good resolution. Yield that he is pressed with injuries; as " who will live godly in Christ, and shall not suffer persecution?" He is oppressed by force or fraud, might or subtlety, and cannot help himself. He hath a good herb in this garden, called carduus benedictus, holy thistle, a godly resolution, that through many miseries he must enter heaven. He rests himself on God, and rather wisheth his harmlessness should suffer than himself not to give passive and patient obedience to lawful authority (Daniel 3:17). There are many other herbs in this garden as if he be to deal with crafty adversaries, let him fetch some sage — honest policy — and such as may stand with an untrenched conscience. For Christ gave us this allowance, to be " wise as serpents"; though withal a condition that we be "harmless as doves" (Matthew 10:16).

II. It receiveth blessing from God. .The reward gives a happy conclusion to this good ground. So it pleaseth the Lord to accept our labours that He will reward them, not after our own merit, for that is not an atom, but after His own mercy, which exceeds heaven and earth. Receive this blessing with a thankful heart; thou hast not earned it. "It receiveth." Such is the immense goodness of God that He will add grace to grace, and when He hath shown mercy He will show more mercy. As if He expected no other argument of future bounty but his former bounty. "Blessing." This word is of a great latitude. What good is there which will not be brought within this compass? This blessing bath a double extent. There is beatitudo viae and beatitude patriae —

1. A blessing of the way, and —

2. A blessing of the country; one of grace, the other of glory.(1) The former is either outward or inward.(a) Outward (Psalm 132:15; Deuteronomy 28:4). Which things do often come to the godly even on earth, and that in abundance. For as all have not riches that exceedingly love them, so many have them that do not much care for them.(b) Inward. The godly on earth is, as it were, in the suburbs of heaven, whose "kingdom consists not in meat and drink, but righteousness, peace of conscience, and joy of the Holy Ghost" (Romans 14:17). Could his life be as full of sorrows as ever Lazarus was full of sores, yet he is blessed. The sunshine of mercy is still upon him, and the blessing of God makes him rich.(2) Thin blessing hath yet a further extent to the blessedness, of our country, when we shall hear, "Come, ye blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world" (Matthew 25:34). No tongue can declare this blessing; happy heart that shall feel it! Wall, this is God's blessing, and He will give it to the good ground. Labour we then to be fruitful gardens, and to abound with gracious herbs, that God may in this world shower upon us the dews of His mercy, and after this life transplant us to His heavenly paradise.

(T. Adams.)

When we compare this parable with any of our Lord's there is a great falling off in point of felicity and instructiveness. One purpose it doubtless serves, to make clear the matter of fact, that the same Christian privileges and experiences may issue in widely different ultimate results. The soil is supposed in either case to be well watered, not only rained upon, but often saturated with water, having drunk up the blessing of the clouds, and moreover to be carefully tilled. Yet in one case it yields a useful crop, in the other only a useless crop of thorns and thistles. But why? On this important question the parable throws no light. The land which bears the useless crop is not a barren rock; for it drinks in the rain, and it is considered worth ploughing. Nay, it is doubtful if the case supposed in the second alternative can occur in the natural world. Was there ever a land well tilled and watered that produced nothing but thorns and thistles? The writer describes a case in the natural world which can hardly happen to represent a case which may happen in the spiritual world, that viz., of men whose hearts have been sown with the seed of truth and watered with the rain of grace becoming so utterly degenerate and reprobate, as in the end to produce nothing but the thorns and thistles of unbelief and ungodliness. Mixture of metaphor and literal sense is indeed manifest throughout, the phrases "receiveth blessing," "reprobate" "nigh to a curse," "whose end is unto burning," expressing moral ideas rather than physical facts. This is particularly evident in the case of the last phrase. It plainly points to a judicial visitation of the severest kind, the appointed penalty of spiritual unfruitfulness. But in the natural sphere burning is remedial rather than punitive, to burn land which has become foul being a good method of restoring it to fertility. In yet another respect the comparison fails us. Supposing there were such a thing as burning unprofitable land by way of judicial visitation, as the land of Sodom was destroyed by fire and brimstone — an event which may have been present to the writer's thoughts — the fact might serve to symbolise the Divine judgment on apostasy. But the matter on which we most of all need light is the asserted impossibility of renewal. That the finally impenitent should be punished we understand, but what we want to know is, how men get into that state; what is the psychological history of irreconcilable apostasy? To refer to Divine agency in hardening human hearts does not help us, .for God hardens by means naturally fitted and intended to soften and win. Neither can we take refuge in the supposition of insufficient initial grace, at least from the point of view of the writer of our Epistle: for he assumes that the fruitful and the unfruitful have been equally favoured. The rain falls not less liberally on the land that bears thorns and thistles than on the land that brings forth an abundant crop of grass or grain; and the rain represents the enlightenment, enjoyment, and power previously mentioned. In the parable of the sower the diversity in the results is traced to the nature of the soil. In each case the issue is exactly such as we should expect from the character of the ground. In the parable before us opposite results are supposed to be possible in the same soil. That is to say, the effect is conceived to depend on the will of each individual, on the use one makes of his privileges. The Hebrew Christians might have been teachers instead of childish learners, had they chosen to take the necessary pains; they might have been full-grown men, had they only properly exercised their spiritual senses in discerning between good and evil.

(A. B. Bruce, D. D.)

We know of certain church members who are so completely under the cold shade of the world that the half-dozen sour, dwarfish apples they yield are not worth any man's gathering. We know, too, of others so laden that you cannot touch the outermost limb without shaking down a golden pippin or a jargonelle. Such trees make a church or land beautiful. They are a joy to the pastor who walks through them. Every stooping bough and every purple cluster that hangs along the walls bespeaks the goodness of the soil, the moisture of the Spirit's dews, and the abundance of God's sunshine.

(T. L. Cuyler, D. D.)

That which beareth thorns and briers is rejected
1. The thing signified in general is sinful man, and especially his heart.

2. The second protasis or proposition is concerning bad ground, which —(1) Appears to be bad by bearing thorns and briers.(2) Is used as bad ground.

(a)By being rejected.

(b)Nigh unto cursing.

(c)In the end burned. This ground is a bad heart, which is manifested by the fruits, which are words and deeds, tending to the dishonour of God, and the hurt of man.And this sin is so much the greater because of the means of grace and workings of the Spirit over and above the light of nature, which God hath graciously afforded them. The punishment of this barrenness in all fruitfulness in sin followeth.

(G. Lawson.)

1. The different word the apostle useth. For the good earth, he says, it is τίκτουσα βοτάνην, bringing forth herbs. For the evil it is ἐκφέρουσα, bearing, not bringing forth. Our proverb says, An evil weed grows apace. Herbs grow not without preparing the ground, planting, and watering them by seasonable dews and diligence. Weeds are common; it is hard to set the foot besides them. The basest things are ever most plentiful. Man, by a proclivity of his own natural inclination, is apt to produce thorns and briers; but ere he can bring forth herbs, graces, God must take pains with him. No husbandman so labours his ground as God doth our hearts. Happy earth, that yields Him an expected harvest I But that which beareth thorns is near to be cursed and burned.

2. Observe that a wicked man is compared to bad earth, and that fitly, in five respects:(1) For baseness. The earth is the heaviest of all elements, and doth naturally sink downwards, as if it had no rest but in the centre, which itself is. A wicked man is base-minded, and sinks with a dull and ponderous declination, not regarding the things above, but those below. All his affections have a low object, not of humility, but base dejection. His hope, desire, love, joy, are set on these inferior things.(2) For coldness. Experience teacheth that the earth is cold, and coldness is a natural quality pertaining to it, though accidentally there be bred in it fiery vapours. The wicked man hath a cold heart, frozen up in the dregs of iniquity, though there be an unnatural heat sometimes flaming in him, the fire of lust and malice tormenting his bowels; but this is no kindly heat to warm his conscience. That is derived from the fire of the temple, that never goes out, and only given by Jesus Christ, that " baptizeth with the Holy Ghost and with fire."(3) For foulness.(4) For obscurity and darkness. The earth is called a "place of black darkness, the land of forgetfulness."(5) The main resemblance between an evil ground and worse man consists in the ill fruits that they both produce — briers and thorns, and such not only unhelpful, but hurtful vices. This is the principal analogy which our apostle intends, the pith and marrow of this comparison. But before we come to a particular survey of this wood, some observable doctrines fall profitable to our instruction.(a) The Word of God will work some way. It falls not upon any ground in vain; but will produce herbs or weeds. It is such physic as will either cure or kill.(b) That thorns are produced, the fault is not in the good rain, but the ill ground. "What could I," saith God, "have done more to My vineyard?" (Isaiah 5:4). Let not the mercy of God be blamed for this man's misery. God hath done enough to save him.(c) The ground is very unthankful which answers the kindness of heaven in raining on it, with briers and thorns. Wretched man, that receives so blessed dews from the fountain of mercy, and returns an ungrateful wickedness! Unthankful it is, as failing in both those essential parts of gratitude, acknowledging and requiting a benefit, and so guilty both of falsehood and injustice.(d) Wicked men prove commonly so much the worse as they might have been better, and divert the means of their conversion to their confusion. The more rain of the gospel they receive, the more abundantly they thrust forth the thorns of iniquities. The roots of these briers are earthed in their hearts, and do boil out at the warm dews of the Word. It fares with them as with a man of a surfeited stomach — the more good meat he eats the more he increaseth his corruption. The former crudities undigested, unegested, having the greater force, turn the good nutriment into themselves. It now remains to examine more narrowly the nature of the sins these ungodly hearts produce. They are called thorns and briers. Now let us consider what resemblances may be found betwixt those natural and these allegorical thorns and briers.

1. Where is abundance of thorns, there is most commonly a barren ground. For they hinder the happy influence of the heavens, the kindly heat of the sun, the dews of the clouds, and all those working causes of fertility. The very company of the wicked is harmful, for they are as thorns to stifle any goodness. "The companion of fools shall be afflicted," saith Solomon.

2. Thorns and briers grow most commonly on heaps, and seldom are found single, or destitute of company of their own kind; and though they be troublesomely harmful to other trees, yet they fold and embrace one another without hurt. It is so usually seen that wicked men hold together, and sins grow in united clusters. There is a combination of the ungodly, even so far as to the very participation of their estates (Proverbs 1:14). They are entangled in mutual amity, like beds of eels, nothing but thunder can break their knots.

3. Thorns and briers, by reason of their thickness and sharpness, are refuges for serpents, snakes, adders, and such other venomous beasts. Where the ungodly have a strong part, oppression, rapine, robbery, murder, and all those fatal serpents, are fostered.

4. Neither do the wicked, only with their thorns and briers, hinder others' passage, but even their own. No marvel if it be so difficult for an ungodly man to get to heaven, for he hedgeth up his own way.

5. Sins are fitly compared to thorns and briers, for their wounding, pricking, and such harmful offences. Therefore they are called tribuli, a tribulando, from their vexing, oppression, and tribulation they give those that touch them. These briers and thorns have such pricking and wounding effects in regard of three objects, whom they strike. For sins are like thorns —

1. To men.

2. To Christ.

3. To the own consciences of the committers.(1) What say you to the usurer? Is he not a thorn amongst you?(2) What do you think of adultery? Is it not a thorn? Yes, a sharp thorn, wounding the purse, envenoming the body, condemning the soul. The ground that bears it is lust.(3) There are furious malecontents among us, a contemptible generation of thorns, that, because their hands are pinioned, prick only with their tongues. They are ever whining, and upon the least cause filling the world with importunate complaints.(4)There are briers, too, growing near the Church — too near it.

(T. Adams.)

Some observe that the most barren grounds are nearest to the richest mines. It is too often true in a spiritual sense that those whom God hath made the most fruitful in estates are most barren in good works.

(T. Seeker.)

Whose end is to be burned
1. That we labour our hearts betimes to a sensibleness of these thorns. A thorn swallowed into the flesh, if it be not looked to, rankles. Sin without repentance will fester in the soul, and is so much more perilous as it is less felt.

2. After sense of the smart, will follow a desire of remedy. The throbbing conscience would be at ease, and freed from the thorn that vexeth it. Take we heed that we despise not this medicine. The law was so far from drawing out these thorns, that it would drive them in further, and cause them to rankle in the heart, without any hope of ease. There is a threefold gradation in the penalty: rejection, malediction, combustion — "is rejected," "is nigh unto cursing," "and the end there of is to be burned." And it seems to have a relation to a threefold distinction of time.

1. For the present, "it is rejected."

2. For instance, or appropinquation, "it is nigh unto cursing."

3. For future certainty, "the end of it is to be burned." As men commonly deal with thorns: first, they cut them up with bills and mattocks; then they lay them by to wither; and, lastly, burn them in the furnace.

1. Rejection. This which we here translate "is rejected," is in the original, ἀδόκιμος, which may signify reprobus, or, reprobatus — so Beza hath it — is reproved, or disallowed of God. This ground shall have no ground in heaven, no part in God's inheritance. It is reprobate silver, not current with the Lord.

2. The second degree of the punishment is cursing; and this may seem to exceed the former. The whole vial of wrath is not poured on at once; but first there is a despising or rejection, to let the wicked see how hateful their vices are in God's sight. If this serve not, they are not suddenly cursed; but there is a merciful space between cursing and burning. So slowly cloth God proceed to judgment. He is speedy to deliver, to save, to give His blessing; but He hath leaden feet when He comes to strike.

3. The last and sorest degree of the punishment is burning. I will not discourse whether the fire of that everlastingly hot furnace be material or spiritual. Surely it is strangely terrible; and we are blessed if we neither understand it nor undergo it.(1). This privation of blessedness may seem to be implied in the first degree here mentioned — rejection. The reprobate are cast away of God. Much like that form of the last sentence (Matthew 25:41).(2). This is not all. The privation of blessed joys is not enough: there must follow the position of cursed torments. They rejected God, and He rejects them; they adhered to wickedness, and it shall adhere to their hones for ever, and bring them to burning. Their torments, which are here expressed by fire, have two fearful conditions — universality and eternity. (I). They are universal, vexing every part of the body and power of the soul.(2). They are eternal. Let the commination of hell instruct us to prevent it, as the message of Nineveh's overthrow effected their safety.

1. Let us flee by a true faith into the arms of our Redeemer, that God reject us not.

2. Let us pour forth floods of repentant tears, that we be not nigh unto cursing.

3. And let us bring forth no more briers and thorns, that our end may not be to be burned. Faith, repentance, obedience; this same golden rule of three will teach us to work up our own salvation. This done, we shall not be rejected, but known to be elected; we shall be so far from cursing, that we shall presently receive the blessing; and our end shall be, not fire, but glory and peace (Psalm 37:37).

(T. Adams.)

What solemn admonition does this latter part of the representation, and what sweet encouragement does the former part of it afford I Are we bringing forth the appropriate " herbs," or are we yielding the "thorns and briers" — we who have been so favourably tended — we among whom the seed has been so liberally cast, and on whom the rain hat so copiously fallen? In answering this question, let us not be deceived by mere superficial appearances. Natural kindliness and outward decency are no sure evidences of" a field which the Lord hath blessed," and which the Lord approves. A pretty plant may spring beneath the shadow of the "brier." A pleasant flower may even blossom on the branches of the "thorn." Yet still, the thorn is but a thorn, the brier is but a brier, and the soil which they cover has run to waste, is lost to its higher uses, and is marked out for clearance and con. flagration by the wise and cautious husbandman.

(A. S. Patterson.)

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