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"Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD, Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation: he that believeth shall not make haste. Judgment also will I lay to the line, and righteousness to the plummet: and the hail shall sweep away the refuge of lies, and the waters shall overflow the hiding place. And your covenant with death shall be disannulled, and your agreement with hell shall not stand" Isa 28:16-18
HOME > Doctrine > Offended at the Word - an excerpt from The Parable of the Sower by Thomas Taylor
Offended at the Word
"The Parable of the Sower, and of the Seed"
And why do they thus fall off from all goodness?
Answer 1. Persecution is so distasteful and contrary to nature, it shuns by all means whatsoever. Nature will suffer nothing for Christ, or for salvation by him. And no marvel, seeing tribulation for the Gospel daunteth many good Hearers, who being converted, and having attained to a sound and saving faith, but having yet also flesh as well as Spirit, and to much love of flesh, easily shrink from Christ and profession, at least for a time; as Peter did, till Christ looked graciously back upon him: and who can deny, but that the rest of the Disciples where graced with a true faith? Yet after many warnings, and much confirmation of their Lord, so soon as ever he was apprehended, before themselves where sought for, they all left him and fled, everyone willing to shift for himself, and save his skin. So as persecution makes sound and unsound fly off, but with great difference. For the sound Christian goes away as Onesimus, for a season, Phil 15, that God his master may receive him forever: the hypocrite in persecution utterly, and wholly, and forever departs from the faith, from the comfort and profession of it. One flys the field and comes no more: the other returns and is more valiant. In one word, the difference is, the faith of the one is temporary and in the other not his faith is temporary, but his failing.
2. These fair professors in persecution go away, because they never gave the Word sound rooting in them: and therefore as a blustering wind easily overturns the tree that is but shallowly rooted, so does the storm of persecution throw up him that wants firmness. Or to insist in our Savior's instance: As we see the scorching heat of the sun burn up and wither the corn that is not deeply rooted, though it come up never so goodly in show: so the sun of persecution dries up the greenest of these shallow and unrooted Professors. The same thing our Savior expresses in a clean contrary metaphor, Luk 6:48, comparing persecution or troubles for the Gospel, to water: when the waters rise, the rain falls, and floods beat on the house it falls by and by, because it was not stongly founded on a rock.
3. They are offended at the Word (saith the text) and to go away: Mat 13:21 by and by he is offended: Two ways: 1. When the Word puts them to this choice, whether they will leave Christ, or their temporals; whether they will forgo their goods, liberty, friends, and life, or forgo Christ. This choice offended the young man, rather than he will part with his possessions, bids Christ farewell. This choice offended the
4. Those must needs fall off who never received the Word purely, for itself, but for other sinister respects; as either of glory and praise, if they see the profession in credit; or for profit, so long as they may gather with Christ and be gainers by him: they would stand on Mount Tabor with Christ, and while he is in his glory, Oh it is good being here: but are loth to go with him to Mount Calvary. Or they receive it only so far as may stand with their ease, delicacy, and slothfulness, but will put themselves to no hardness at all. Now all these that love themselves better than their Religion, must needs fail when the ends fail that put them on their profession. He that professeth for praise of men, when the world, being inconstant, withdraws her applause, he is gone: God's Word shall have no further credit with him, than it hath from men. If Demas for love of profit shall profess, the love of this present world shall cause his Apostacy, 2 Tim 4:10. If they of Asia received Paul, only because they may with ease and safety do it, they shall turn away from Paul when he is in prision. And he that receives a Religion without further ground than is the general custom of the world; (namely to be of that Religion which the King and Parliment is of,) let this man go never so far, yet he shall fall off, and his fall shall be great.
Use 1. See hereby the nature and end of perfection: it trys who are found, and puts a diffence between such, as a peaceble and calm estate cannot destinguish. In a fair and calm day, apples and pears on a tree seem all sound and good; but a blustering storm or tempast makes difference between those that are sound and such as for want of moisture fall off: just so it is in the storms of the Church. Persecution is like a mighty wind which discerneth between wheat and chaff, that before lay quite together on the same floor; it shakes not the wheat but blows away the chaff. And as the furness consumes the dross, but refines the gold, so does the furness of affliction, we are now all shuffled together, the hypocrite with the sincere-hearted Christian:
Use 2. Let us not take offense when we see forward Professors offended at Christ, and shrink in trial; but make account that some such must forsake us. For all are not of the Church, that are in the Church: some are tied only by a thread of external profession, to the members, that are not united to the Head by the band of faith: these must fall off and wither. Let Hymeneus and Philetus, two great lights, fall away and loose their shine in the firmament of the Church, yet the foundation of God abideth sure. And, if we see some shrink before the wetting, and in days of peace and protection of the Gospel white livered, and ready to deny their profession of the breath of a silly Damosel; that the frown of a superior, a word of reproach, a fear of change shakes off their leafy profession: let us not marvel if many of them would deny Christ in trial rather than die with him.
Use 3. Let him that standeth take heed lest he fall. And the rather, because, 1. Our nature is prone to defection, or backsliding: 2. Never was there more defection either in Doctrine or manners, than in this day: 3. When we see others slide back, we are too soon moved and offended. So as the best need continual exhortation and admonition, to beware they fall not away from the grace of God. Else would not our Lord have still beaten on this point with his Disciples, who for all his warning of them, when it came to the point, forsook him and fled.
Now the means to uphold us from trial from falling, are these:
1. Meditate much and often of such Scripture as fortell persecution for the name of Christ: and call to mind the examples of such as have valiantly endured the loss of temporals, and joyfully suffered the spoiling of their goods, the forgoing of liberty and life for Christ, etc. Especially read diligently the whole eleven chapter to the Hebrews.
2. Cast the costs of thy profession: think it not enough to hear, and receive immediately, and rejoice, yea and believe, and grow: but know, thou must not only believe, but suffer for his sake. The seed that is immediately received must endure a hard and sharp winter, before it can come up kindly. He that forcast only the pleasure and joy of his Religion, and not the sorrow, losses, and crosses of it, is like the foolish builder, that thinks he can think a building with so little charge as will scarce serve to lay the foundation. Paul knew, and make account, that bonds and imprisionments abode him everywhere: and so must thou.
3. Labor for soundness of judgement, and sincerity in affection, in receiving the Gospel. A sound judgment in matters of faith, to believe firmly and distinctly the truth of Religion, must go before undaunted confession: 2 Cor 4:13. I believed, and therefore I spoke. Rom 10:10. We must believe with the heart unto righteousness, before we can confess with the mouth to salvation. This is the rooting and establishing in faith, which shall abide. Then for the second, sincere affection only is blessed with continuance; when we bestow the chief affection of our hearts upon it, even our principle love, and our chief joy and delight. For this is a cause why this bad ground fails; so much the dislike of Religion, as the liking of other things better and the not receiving of truth in the love of it, is a cause why many are given up to believe lies.
4. Purge thy heart from the reign of corrupt lust. Weed out sinful desires, labor in mortification and self-denial, get further power to die unto sin, get out of the love of the world and the things in it, resolve against self-love, that in case of confession thy life might not be dear unto thee: else shall not all thy wisdom, or civility, or learning keep thee from backsliding. For if the Apostles themselves, who professed that they had left all to follow Christ, yet shrunk in trial; shall they stand that come with hearts thrust full of the world and earthly desires?
5. Labor to find full contentment in the things of the Gospel. Think it full happiness to enjoy Christ unclouded. Esteem peace of conscience above all worldy peace. Account the favor of God, the joy of the Holy Ghost, the sweet hope of the pleasures of God's right hand, and the treasures of a better world, worth all thou canst give in exchange, and above all that may be compared with them. This will make thee (with the wife merchant) sell out thyself, and forgo all for the Pearl, and go away rejoicing.
6. Examine thy heart, how it stands affected in lesser trials, now in the peace of the Church. If it shrink in smaller trials, I must not look to trust in greater. If now it will not endure the threat of a superior, the fear of loss, the dread of disfavor: if it now shrink from good men, because of their troubles and sufferings, which are their crown: if thou can join with the times in disgracing men who fear God; assure thyself, if greater trials come, thou shall be given up to greater delusion and Apostacy.
7. Because to stand in persecution is above natural strength, and ascribed to the Holy Ghost, to establish men to this trial, and stengthen them to all patience with joyfulness, Col 1:10. We must pray the Lord not to leave us in temptation, but perserve us constant in both peace and persecution. Presume not of thy own strength. None have more boasted of their valor at home, than they that most cowardly lost the field. Remember Peter: and pray for the mighty power of the Spirit, to make thee of weak, strong, and altogether unmovable in this work of the Lord, 1 Cor 15:7. Always remember the great danger of falling away both in the good things lost, and the multitude of evils pulled upon thyself."
Thomas Taylor, excerpt from "The Parable of the Sower, and of the Seed"
"And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended [skandalizo] in me." Luk 7:23 KJV
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