Robert Morehead.

A series of discourses on the principles of religious belief as connected with human happiness and improvement (Volume 2) online

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dental instructions which our Lord was
accustomed to draw from the circum-
stances in which he happened to be
placed. The celebrity which he had ac-
quired seems to have struck two sets of
individuals in a peculiar, but very differ-
ent manner. The Jewish doctors^ pro-
voked with his opposition to their nar-
row and dogmatical assumptions, thought
fit to ascribe his miraculous works to the
power of the Devil. His Relations,', on;
the other hand, who, in the simplicity of
his early life, had not prognosticated the
sudden influence which he was to obtain
over the minds of his countrymen, ima-
gined that he was hurried along by somje


singular enthusiasm which would, pro-
bably, terminate in his destruction. "They
^ came to lay hold on him," (we are told,)
" for they said he is beside himself." To
the Scribes and Pharisees he triumphant-
ly replies, that the character of his works
might decide as to the source from which
they came, that all his efforts were di-
rected against the powers of darkness ;
how then could " Satan cast out Satan ?"
How could his kingdom " be divided
" against itself ?" Upon this occasion it was
that he uttered those memorable words,
the most severe that he ever uttered, in
which he almost excludes from the hopes
of mercy those who could contemplate
his performances, and yet impute them
to an impure origin. " He that shall
" blaspheme against the Holy Ghost
" hath never forgiveness, but is in dan-
" ger of eternal damnation, because they
" said, he hath an unclean spirit."


The reproof which he gives to his Re-
lations for their attempt to prevent the
accomplishment of his great designs, rs
conceived in a very different spirit, and,
at the same time, brings forward the Sa-
viour of the world in one of the most in-
teresting aspects in which he can appear.
" There came then," says the Evangelist,
" his brethren and his mother, and stand-
" ing without, sent unto him, calling
" him. And the multitude sat about
" him, and they said unto him, Behold,
" thy mother and thy brethren without
" seek for thee. And he answered them,
" saying, Who is my mother or my bre-
" thren ? And he looked round about
" on them which sat about him, and
" said, Behold my mother and my bre-
" thren. For whosoever shall do the
" will of God, the same is my brother,
" and my sister, and mother."

These words, which any illustration


would only enfeeble, are addressed to
the whole of the human race. What en-
couragement do they afford to our ex-
ertions, while they tell the most obscure
individual among mankind, that if he will
" do the will of God;" he will be regard-
ed by his Heavenly Master in the closest
and most endearing light ; and how
beautiful an example do they bring of
that divine instruction and consolation,
which, from the little daily occurrences
of has life, our Lord was enabled to -pro-
vide for the futt&e generations of men !
May God grant that we may all profit from
these lessons of wisdom, and of truth ;
and to Him, the Father, the Son, and the
Holy Spirit, be ever ascribed, as is most
da*e, *H glory arid praise i'lto*
nl ' .Roldfirmq 'io afciu^rb -j
jfoirfw eno



:k"0') 1, .! = ': .:..-'-;-..-'


MARK, iv. 2, 3. tn -

,.D !>.; >'-' i": ^

" And he taught them many things by pd
it 6 rabies, and said unto them in his doc-
"trine, Hearken, behold there went out
" a sower to sow." ft* ^WH^ h

^ ~*f ihim IMaliii^iWlW^ 1 ^
AN opportunity is now afforded me, my

brethren, of illustrating some of those
important doctrines which our Lord con-
veyed under the disguise of parables. In
the very beautiful one which begins with

* Preached on Sexagesima Sunday.


the words of the text, and which you
will find in another form, in the Gos-
pel for this day, the great Sower of the
seed of life has pointed out the kind of
obstacles to which his religion is exposed
in the world, and the nature of those qua-
lifications which can alone render it ef-
fectual for the moral discipline of the
heart* . The whole passage is highly
worthy of our most serious attention, for
never, I believe, were truths more weighty
and profound, represented by images so
obvious and familiar.
_ w *' Behold there went out a sower to sow."
From this very simple introduction, a re-
flection of spme moment is suggested. It
exhibits to us, in a striking manner, the
natural and unambitious character of the
Christian institution. When we first hear
of, a revelation from heaven, our imagi-
natfons are apt to take alarm : we im-
mediately conjure up into our minds all
those images of supernatural power which


seem Characteristic of the approaching
Deity, and, according to our predominant
disposition, we either sink into supersti-
tious! fear, or close our eyes in blind in-
fo>edufrty. Now, the interesting and im-
portant circum&a&ce in Christianity is,
that while it is supernatural in its origin, it
is yet, in a womierifai manner, accommo-
dated to the established system of nature,
so tiiat we ar>e enabled, without any kind
offeree upon our Jfioughtty to pass from
t&e notions of common tife to the higher
views of Religion. Nothing can be ; more
obvious to an attentive reader of the Gos-
pels, than the constant aim of our Sa^-
viour to bring -down himself and his doc-
trine to the level -of that Nature which he
undertook to reform, and while, as we
have seen, he did sudh works as were be-
yond the reach of human power, and
opened discoveries ato the ways of God,
which it had never entered into the fjeart
of man to conceive, fee yet Beemed to


be as simply and humbly employed as
" a sower who goes out to sow."
./*/# And as he sowed, some fell by the
" way-side, and the fowls of the air came
" and devoured it up." It is a most inte-
resting inquiry, my brethren, what be-
comes of this Moral seed from which the
harvest of Eternity is to spring. The
words, which you have now heard, point
out the manner in which a great portion of
it is lost The radical defect to which men,
in general, are but too liable, is thought-
lessness and unconcern respecting the
great object of their being. They are apt
to pass through the world without consi-
deration ; and if, in the course of their
existence, they have not been guilty of
any flagrant breach of morality, they
yet have never made the principles on
which their conduct should be regulated,
an object of anxiety and concern. They
are carried along by the common tide,


and follow the multitude, whether it be
to good or evil. " These are they by the
" way-side, where the word is sown ; but
" when they have heard, Satan cometh
" immediately and taketh away the word
" that was sown in their hearts." On
their inattentive minds, the great lessons
of Religion make little or no impression,
and they hear the word which calls them
to the performance of those duties for
which they were born, without seeming
to understand it. It is, my brethren, a
melancholy reflection, that this descrip-
tion of character is not to be found chief-
ly among the poorer and more ignorant
classes of society ; among those, who, if
they know not their duty, may meet with
some excuse from their want of opportunity
to learn it. It is, I fear, to be found still
more among those, who, having every
opportunity to learn what station they
ought to occupy in the kingdom of God,


yet stand by " the way-side." It is to be
found among the dissipated and the idle,
who, forgetting the place which they hold
in society, and the talents committed to
their trust, too often complete the vain
round of an insignificant life, without
having performed any duty well, or hav-
ing seriously thought that there were
any to be performed !.

"And some fell on stony ground,
" where it had not much earth, and im-
" mediately it sprung up, because it had
" no depth of earth ; but when the sun
"was up it was scorched ; and because it
"had no root, it withered away."
"These are they which are sown on stony
" ground," as our Saviour explains him-
self, "who, when they have heard the
" word, immediately receive it with glad-
" ness, and '-have no root in themselves,*
" and so endure but -for a time: after^
"ward, when affliction or persecution


" ariseth for the word's sake, immediate-
" ly they are offended." These words de-
scribe, very emphatically, another nume-
rous portion of the human race ; those
who, though fully aware of what is in-
cumbent on them, as men and as Christ-
ians, and although sensible to its serious-
ness and importance, yet have not strength
of mind sufficient to carry them through
those temptations which impede them in
the course of their practice. " They hear
" the word, and receive it with gladness ;"
they feel its beauty, and they know its
value : they hope and believe that they
have found armour against the hour of
trial : yet when that hour comes, they
scarcely make any resistance, and again
fall a prey to the sins which most easily
beset them, or have not resolution to
bear up against the evils of their condi-
tion. There is a constant source of self-
deception in persons of this character,


which ought to be pointed out to them.
They satisfy their consciences with the
belief that they love their duty, and too
readily impute to the weakness of human
nature, those deviations from it into which
they too commonly run. But it is evi-
dent, that however the imaginations of
such men may be delighted with contem-
plating the beauty of virtue, or the excel-
lence of Christianity, yet their hearts are
not really attached to those divine prin*-
ciples of action : they will make no sacri-
fice for them ; they will go through no
trial for the sake of their conscience.

" And some fell among thorns, and the
" thorns grew up and choked it, and it
" yielded no fruit." " 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." The characters already de-
scribed are those of the inattentive and
the irresolute. There is still another large
description of men who both seem attentive
to the principles of rectitude, and are not
naturally deficient in energy and perseve-
rance, but who are so immersed in the bu-
siness and the pleasures of the world, that
the occupations suited to them as moral
and religious beings, are sunk entirely, or
but slightly fulfilled, amidst the multipli-
city of their other concerns. Such are
the men who are much more eager to ac-
quire, than to make a proper use of riches :
who, while they observe the forms of mo-
rality and piety, yet feel not the spirit by
which these principles act upon the mind :
and while they are perhaps observant of
all the decencies of life, are yet much
more alive to their own selfish conve-
niences than to the severest necessities of
their. brethren. These pass in the world


for wise men : often, too, for men of pro-
priety and regularity of conduct ; but, in
the language of the Gospel, their virtue
is " choked," and, while they may seem
praise-worthy in the sight of men, they
are yet unfruitful towards God.

It is to be remarked, that the preced-
ing characters are by no means the cha-
racters of those who lose their place
in society in consequence of their vices,
or who sink into any great degree, of
disrespect. They are, on the contrary,
the characters of men whom we may meet
with everyday in the world: and it is there-
fore of the utmost moment for us to search
into our own hearts, and to examine whe-
ther or no we can be classed among them.
The inquiry, my brethren, is indeed one
of the deepest interest ; for the happi-
ness of men, in a future state of existence,
must necessarily depend upon their ac-
quiring certain qualifications here ; and


the salvation of the Gospel cannot be
promised to those who do not esteem it
worthy their exertions to cultivate its
seed in their hearts. Indeed, (to use the
beautiful expressions of Tillotson,) " it
" were unfit that so excellent and glorious
" a reward as the Gospel promises, should
" stoop down, like fruit upon a full-laden
" bough, to be plucked by every idle and
" wanton hand ; that Heaven should be
" prostituted to the lazy desires and faint
" wishes, to the cheap and ordinary en-
" deavours of slothful men. God," he
adds, " will not so much disparage eternal
" life and happiness, as to bestow it upon
" those who have conceived so low an
" opinion of it, as not to think it worth
" the labouring for." *

In these circumstances, how very con-
solatory is the concluding verse of the
parable ; and how plainly does it shew

* Tillotson's sixth Sermon, Vol. I.


that the momentous concern of eternal
life is yet in the power of every indivi-
dual ; that the exertions requisite are not
troublesome, nor very great, but that
every thing may be accomplished by sin-
cerity and perseverance ! " And others
" fell on good ground, and did yield
" fruit, that sprang up and increased, and
" brought forth, some thirty, and some
" sixty, and some an hundred. And these
" are they which are sown on good
" ground, such as hear the word and re-
" ceive it, and bring forth fruit." Or, as
St Luke expresses it in the Gospel for
this day, " that on the good ground are
" they which, in an honest and good
" heart, having heard the word, keep it
" and bring forth fruit with patience."
It is not in the power of human language
to convey sentiments more liberal, or
more evidently just. We are not here
told of particular opinions in religion, or


of any feelings and emotions which may
depend upon natural constitution. We
are at once referred to the voice of Con-
science, and are commissioned to listen
with an attentive ear to the report which
it brings. We are asked whether we give
our minds to the words of instruction, and
endeavour to practise the lessons which
we have received. Do we keep " the
word" which we have heard ? Or, do we
steadily frame our conduct on those prin-
ciples which we know to be true ? Are
our hearts " honest and good ?" Do our
consciences bring no accusation against
us of wilful perversity and disingenuous-
ness of conduct ? Have we humility
enough to be told of our errors, and recti-
tude enough to amend them ? If this be
the case, my brethren, if our spirits are of
this docile character, we may be assured
that the seed of life will find its way into


them, and that it will not fail to produce
an harvest " fitted for immortality !"

That we may not be too much alarmed
with the notion of what is expected from
us, and that we may repose with tranquil
minds on the consciousness of upright
intention, it is salutary to attend to the
expression which marks the different pro-
portions of the fruit produced. " They
"which are sown on good ground hear
" the word, and receive it, and bring forth
" fruit, some thirty fold, some sixty, and
w some an hundred." This variety may
arise from many accidental circumstances
of condition, of information, of abilities*
and one person may thus attain a much
higher progress in piety and virtue than
another ; yet, wherever there is the good
soil, or the " honest and goodheart," there
will be fruit in some proportion, and that
fruit will finally be gathered into the gar-
ner of God ! This, in truth, is the mighty


object to which all piety and goodness
finally aspire ; and this the prospect which
carries them with dignity and firmness
through the temptations and disorders of
the world. It is this high prospect of fu-
ture exaltation which encourages them
now " to bring forth fruit with patience,"
and which lifts the eyes of the good above
the fleeting shadows of the present life
" for the things which are seen are tem-
." poral, but the things which are unseen
" are eternal !"

A very interesting view is given us in
another parable immediately following, of
the silent, and often unnoticed progress
of a pious life, from its first beginnings,
to that lofty consummation which awaits
it. The image is the same as that in the
parable which I have illustrated, and it
is applied in a beautiful manner, to point
out the tranquillity with which every man,
who aims at performing his duty, ought
to look forward to that last hour, which,


while it carries the appearance of destruc-
tion, is sent by a watchful Providence to
complete the great object of his destina-
tion. "And he said, So is the kingdom of
" God, as if a man should cast seed into
" the ground, and should sleep, and rise
" night and day, and the seed should
" spring and grow up, he knoweth not
" how. For the earth bringeth forth
" fruit of herself, first the blade, then the
" ear, after that the full corn in the ear.
" But when the fruit is brought forth, im-
" mediately he putteth in the sickle, be-
" cause the harvest is come."

A similar image is applied in the verses
which follow, to the progress of the Gos-
pel in the world, which bears, indeed, no
faint analogy to that gradual advance-
ment towards perfection to be traced in
the life of a good man. " And he said,
" Whereunto shall we liken the king-
*' dom of God, or with what comparison


" shall we compare it ? It is like a grain
" of mustard seed, which, when it is sown
" in the earth, is less than all the seeds that
" be in the earth. But when it is sown,
" it groweth up, and becometh greater
" than all herbs, and shooteth out great
" branches, so that the fowls of the air
' may lodge under the shadow of it."
These words, as applied to the progress
of the Gospel, have undoubtedly been
prophetic ; and if it is a striking argu-
ment in support of Christianity, to com-
pare its influences upon human society,
so extensive and so constantly increas-
ing, with the apparent insignificance of
its origin, it must add no small weight to
this argument to find, that all these pro-
digious consequences were from the be-
ginning foreseen by its Author ; and that,
while he himself had not where to lay his
head, he could still predict, that the future
generations of men would yet seek for


shelter under the shadow of that tree
which he was then sowing in the earth.

Unto us, my brethren, who have been
born beneath its branches, and to whom it is
given to know "the mysteries of the king-
" dom of God," may he now of his good-
ness grant, according to the expressions
with which our Saviour commonly closes
his parables, that "seeing we may see, and
" hearing we may understand," that, as
" we hear the word, we, and


" bring forth fruit," that we may " take
fi heed to what we hear, since with what
" measure we mete, it shall be measured
" to us, and to them that diligently hear,
" shall more be given," and that, while
we ponder the invaluable truths which
have been conveyed to us under this sim-
ple form, as " we have ears to hear, sd
" we may hear !"



; >8"HT;k- i I -'


2 COR. xni. 8. <r

" C%ar% never faileth."


IN the splendid passage, my brethren,
from which these words are taken, and
which you have this day heard from the
altar, the Apostle begins with enforcing
the necessity of Charity, as an essential
part of Christian virtue, and then de-
scribes its influence on the duties of so-
cial life. In the text, he proceeds fur-

* Preached on Quinquagesima Sunday.


ther to point out its permanence and sta-
bility ; and, while all other virtues and
eminent qualities are only steps of ad-
vancement to some greater perfection,
" Charity (he affirms) never faileth." To
this view of the subject I am desirous -at
present to direct your attention, as it may
both lead us to a discovery of the exact
nature of the principle which the Apostle
here so powerfully recommends, and as
it will open some interesting views of the
system of Christianity.

In the first place, when we throw our
eyes upon the scene of human existence,
every thing which we see around us ap-
pears to contain a principle of failure.
Man and his employments, systems of
Empire, systems of Religion, the Uni-
verse itself, seem destined only for a tem-
porary being ; and all that we behold most
splendid and attractive, we cannot but be
aware is only for a season. Amidst this con-


course of shadows, however beautiful and
glittering, we must often feel ourselves
dissatisfied and sad ; and it is natural
for us to inquire, whether there is any
one principle in life which is not destined
to submit to the general decay. In mak-
ing this examination, we shall find, that
all the efforts of human ambition, all the
exercise of mere abilities, perish without
producing any permanent effects, or that
their lasting influence is commonly very
different from what they designed ; that
the influence of vice, however fatally ex-
tensive, yet shrinks from observation, as
if conscious of its final degradation and
overthrow; that all the brilliant acquire-
ments of the human mind, and all the
exertions of genius, are yet only imper-
fect employments of powers, which have
not received their last improvement ; that
our views of Religion are inadequate and
low, when compared to the lofty object


at which they aim ; that " we know but
" in part, and prophesy but in part, and
" that when that which is perfect is come,
" that which is in part shall be done
" away." Thus, even that principle of our
nature, and those discoveries of Revela-
tion, which point to an higher and a per-
manent order of existence, proclaim their
own incompleteness and instability, no
less than the decay of all those purposes
and affections which extend not beyond
the bounds of mortal life.

Is there, then, among all the operations
and the affections of man, any one which
has the seal of stability affixed to it ? Is
there any one principle of our nature,
which, in all periods of society, and amidst
all the passing phantoms of the world,
seems to have a real and substantial
form ? We cannot place it in the desire of
human distinction, or in any of those exer-
tions for present good, which lose their


object even while it is within their grasp ;
we cannot place it even in many of the
nobler efforts of Virtue, which, however
admirable in themselves, are yet accom-
modated to the present life as a state
of trial and school of probation, and not
to what we believe will be our final
condition ; we cannot either place it,
we perceive, in religious Faith, which, al-
though it looks forward to a perfect state
of being, shall itself also be lost in greater
perfection. We must seek for it, then, my
brethren, in the principle of Humanity, in
that tie of affection which binds man to
man, in that sympathetic feeling which
makes the interest of others our own,
and which, amidst all the weakness and
vices of our nature, has yet, in every
age, presented one pleasing form on
which the eye of contemplation might
rest ; one vestige of the celestial origin
from which we sprung not yet quite ef-


faced, and to which the world, notwith-
standing all its mutability, can yet afford
opportunities of exertion, which have
ever been felt as solid and unperishing
good. Whenever we cultivate the sen-
timents of love, or seek to promote the
good of mankind, we feel that we are
entering upon a course which brings
both immediate and permanent satisfac-
tion. We then feel that we live, not only
in our own feeble existence, but in the
affections and breasts of our fellow-crea-
tures ; and connecting ourselves, not

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Online LibraryRobert MoreheadA series of discourses on the principles of religious belief as connected with human happiness and improvement (Volume 2) → online text (page 6 of 18)