Frederick W. Robertson

Sermon 2

Parable of the Sower

Preached June 6, 1849

  Frederick W. Robertson

"The same day went Jesus out of the house, and sat by the sea-side. And great multitudes were gathered together unto him, so that he went into a ship, and sat; and the whole multitude stood on the shore. And he spake many things unto them in parables, saying, Behold. a sower went forth to sow; and when he sowed, some seeds fell by the way-side, and the fowls came and devoured them up: Some fell upon stony places, where they had not much earth: and forthwith they sprung up, because they had no deepness of earth And when the sun was up, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away. And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprung up, and choked them: But others fell into good ground, and brought forth fruit, some a hundred-fold, some sixty-fold, some thirty-fold. Who hath ears to hear, let him hear." - Matthew 8:1-9

Before the reception of the Lord's Supper on Sunday next, I have been anxious to address you once more, my young friends, in order to carry on the thoughts, and, if possible, deepen the impressions of Tuesday last. During the last few weeks you have been subjected to much that is exciting; and in proportion to the advantage is the danger of that excitement. A great part of the value of the rite of Confirmation consists in its being a season of excitement or impression. The value of excitement is, that it breaks up the old mechanical life which has become routine. It stirs the stagnancy of our existence, and causes the stream of life to flow more fresh and clear. The danger of excitement is the probability of reaction. The heart, like the body and the mind, can not be long exposed to extreme tension without giving way afterwards. Strong impressions are succeeded by corresponding listlessness. Your work, to which you have so long looked forward, is done. The profession has been made, and now left suddenly, as it were, with nothing before you, and apparently no answer to the question. What are we to do now? Insensibly you will feel that all is over, and the void within your hearts will be inevitably filled, unless there be great vigilance, by a very different class of excitements. This danger will be incurred most by precisely those who felt most deeply the services of the past week.

The parable I have selected dwells upon such a class of dangers.

No one who felt, or even thought, could view the scene of Tuesday last without emotion. Six or seven hundred young persons solemnly pledged themselves to renounce evil in themselves and in the world, and to become disciples of the Cross. The very color of their garments, typical of purity, seemed to suggest the hope and the expectation that the day might come when they shall be found clothed with that inward righteousness of which their dress was but a symbol, when "they shall walk with Him in white, for they are worthy." As yet fresh in feeling, as yet untainted by open sin, who could see them without hoping that?

My young friends, experience forces us to correct that sanguine anticipation. Of the seven hundred who were earnest then, it were an appalling question to ask how many will have retained their earnestness six months hence, and how much of all that which seemed so real will be recognized as pure, true gold at the last Great Day. Soon some will have lost their innocence, and some will have become frivolous and artificial, and the world will have got its cold, deadening hand on some. Who shall dare to guess in how many the best raised hopes will be utterly disappointed?

Now the question which presents itself is, How comes so much promise to end in failure? And to this parable of the sower returns a reply.

Three causes are conceivable: It might be the will, or, if you venture so to call it, the fault of Him who gave the truth; or it might be some inherent impotency in the truth itself; or, lastly, the fault might lie solely in the soil of the heart.

This parable assures us that the fault does not lie in God, the sower. God does not predestinate men to fail. That is strikingly told in the history of Judas - "From a ministry and apostleship Judas fell, that he might go to his own place." The ministry and apostleship were that to which God had destined him. To work out that was the destiny appointed to him, as truly as to any of the other apostles. He was called, elected to that. But when he refused to execute that mission, the very circumstances which, by God's decree, were leading him to blessedness, hurried him to ruin. Circumstances prepared by Eternal Love, became the destiny which conducted him to everlasting doom. He was predestined man-crushed by his fate. But he went to his "own place." He had shaped his own destiny. So the ship is wrecked by the winds and waves - hurried to its fate. But the winds and waves were in truth its best friends. Rightly guided, it would have made use of them to reach the port; wrongly steered, they became the destiny which drove it on the rocks. Failure - the wreck of life - is not to be impiously traced to the will of God. "God will have all men to be saved, and come to a knowledge of the truth." God willeth not the death of a sinner.

Nor, again, can we find the cause in any impotency of truth: - an impotency, doubtless, there is somewhere. The old thinkers accounted for it by the depravity of Matter. God can do any thing, they said. Being good, God would do all good. If he do not, it is because of the materials He has to deal with. Matter thwarts Him: Spirit is pure, but Matter is essentially evil and unspiritual: the body is corrupt. Against this doctrine St. Paul argues in the text, "For we that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened: not for that we would be unclothed, but clothed upon, that mortality might be swallowed up of life." 2 Cor. 5:4.

The true account is this: God has created in man a will which has become a cause. "God can do any thing?" I know not that. God can not deny himself; God can not do wrong; God can not create a number less than one; God can not make a contradiction true. It is a contradiction to let man be free, and force him to do right. God has performed this marvel, of creating a being with free-will, independent, so to speak, of Himself-a real cause in His universe. To say that He has created such a one, is to say that He has given him the power to fail. Without free-will there could be no human goodness. It is wise, therefore, and good in God, to give birth to free-will. But once acknowledge free-will in man, and the origin of evil does not lie in God.

And this leads us to the remaining cause of failure which is conceivable. In our own free-will - in the grand and fearful power we have to ruin ourselves - lies the real and only religious solution of the mystery. In the soil of the heart is found all the nutriment of spiritual life, and all the nutriment of the weeds and poisons which destroy spiritual life. And it is this which makes Christian character, when complete, a thing so inestimably precious. There are things precious, not from the materials of which they are made, but from the risk and difficulty of bringing them to perfection. The speculum of the largest telescope foils the optician's skill in casting. Too much or too little heat-the interposition of a grain of sand, a slight alteration in the temperature of the weather, and all goes to pieces-it must be recast. Therefore, when successfully finished, it is a matter for almost the congratulation of a country. Rarer, and more difficult still than the costliest part of the most delicate of instruments, is the completion of Christian character. Only let there come the heat of persecution, or the cold of human desertion, a little of the world's dust, and the rare and costly thing is cracked, and becomes a failure.

In this parable are given to us the causes of failure, and the requirements which are necessary in order to enable impressions to become permanent.


I. The causes of failure.

1. The first of these is want of spiritual perception. Some of the seed fell by the way-side. There are persons whose religion is all outside; it never penetrates beyond the intellect. Duty is recognized in word, not felt. They are regular at church, understand the Catechism and Articles, consider the Church a most venerable institution, have a respect for religion, but it never stirs the deeps of their being. They feel nothing in it beyond a safeguard for the decencies and respectabilities of social life; valuable, as parliaments and magistrates are valuable, but by no means the one awful question which fills the soul with fearful grandeur.

Truth of life is subject to failure in such hearts in two ways: - By being trodden down: wheat dropped by a harvest cart upon a road lies outside. There comes a passenger's foot, and crushes some of it; then wheels come by-the wheel of traffic and the wheel of pleasure-crushing it grain by grain. It is "trodden down."

The fate of religion is easily understood from the parallel fate of a single sermon. Scarcely has its last tone vibrated on the ear, when a fresh impression is given by the music which dismisses the congregation. That is succeeded by another impression, as your friend puts his arm in yours and talks of some other matter, irrelevant, obliterating any slight seriousness which the sermon produced. Another, and another, and another - and the word is trodden down. Observe, there is nothing wrong in these impressions. The farmer's cart which crushes the grain by the wayside is rolling by on rightful business, and the stage and the pedestrian are in their place; simply the seed is not. It is not the wrongness of the impressions which treads religion down, but only this, that outside religion yields in turn to other outside impressions which are stronger.

Again conceptions of religious life, which are only conceptions outward, having no lodgment in the heart, disappear. Fowls of the air came and devoured the seed. Have you ever seen grain scattered on the road? The sparrow from the housetop, and the chickens from the barn rush in, and within a minute after it has been scattered not the shadow of a grain is left. This is the picture, not of thought crushed by degrees, but of thought dissipated, and no man can tell when or how it went. Swiftly do these winged thoughts come, when we pray, or read, or listen; in our inattentive, sauntering, way-side hours: and before we can be upon our guard, the very trace of holier purposes has disappeared. In our purest moods when we kneel to pray, or gather round the altar, down into the very Holy of holies sweep these foul birds of the air, villain fancies, demon thoughts. The germ of life, the small seed of impression, is gone-where, you know not. But it is gone. Inattentiveness of spirit, reduced by want of spiritual interest, is the first cause of disappointment.

2. A second cause of failure is want of depth in character. Some fell on stony ground. Stony ground means often the soil with which many loose stones are intermixed; but that is not the stony ground meant here: this stony ground is the thin layer of earth upon a bed of rock. Shallow soil is like superficial character. You meet with such persons in life. There is nothing deep about them; all they do and all they have is on the surface. The superficial servant's work is done, but lazily, partially-not thoroughly. The superficial workman's labor will not bear looking into-but it bears a showy outside. The very dress of such persons betrays the slatternly, incomplete character of their minds. When religion comes in contact with persons of this stamp, it shares the fate of every thing else. It is taken up in a superficial way.

There is deep knowledge of human nature and exquisite fidelity to truth in the single touch by which the impression of religion on them is described. The seed sprang up quickly, and then withered away as quickly, because it bad no depth of root. There is a quick, easily-moved susceptibility that rapidly exhibits the slightest breath of those emotions which play upon the surface of the soul, and then as rapidly passes off. In such persons words are ever at command - voluble and impassioned words. Tears flow readily. The expressive features exhibit every passing shade of thought Every thought and every feeling plays upon the surface; every thing that is sown springs up at once with vehement vegetation. But slightness and inconstancy go together with violence. "Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh." True; but also out of the emptiness of the heart the mouth can speak even more volubly. He who can always find the word which is appropriate and adequate to his emotions is not the man whose emotions are deepest: warmth of feeling is one thing, permanence is another. On Tuesday last, they who went to the table most moved and touched were not necessarily those who raised in a wise observer's breast the strongest hope of persistence in the life of Christ. Rather those who were calm and subdued: that which springs up quickly often does so merely from this, that it has no depth of earth to give it room to strike its roots down and deep.

A young man of this stamp came to Christ, running, kneeling, full of warm expressions engaging gestures, and professed admiration, worshipping and saying, "Good Master!" Lovable and interesting as such always are, Jesus loved him. But his religion lay all upon the surface, withered away when the depth of its meaning was explored. The test of self-sacrifice was applied to his apparent love. He was ready for any thing. Well "Go, sell that thou hast," "and he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions." It had sprung up quickly; but it withered because it had no root.

And that is another stroke of truth in the delineation of this character. Not wealth nor comfort is the bane of its religion; but "when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by-and-by they are offended." A pleasant, sunny religion would be the life to suit them. "They receive the word with joy." So long as they have happiness they can love God, feel very grateful, and expand with generous emotions. But when God speaks as he spoke to Job out of the whirlwind, and the sun is swept from the face of their heaven, and the sharp Cross is the only object left in the dreary landscape, and the world blames, and friends wound the wounded with cold speech and hollow commonplaces, what is there in superficial religion to keep the heart in its, place, and vigorous still?

Another point. Not without significance is it represented that the superficial character is connected with the hard heart. Beneath the light thin surface of easily-stirred dust lies the bed of rock. The shallow ground was stony ground. And it is among the children of light enjoyment and unsettled life that we must look for stony heartlessness: not in the world of business-not among the poor, crushed to the earth by privation and suffering. These harden the character, but often leave the heart soft. If you wish to know what hollowness and heartlessness are, you must seek for them in the world of light, elegant, superficial fashion-where frivolity has turned the heart into a rockbed of selfishness. Say what men will of the heartlessness of trade, it is nothing compared with the heartlessness of fashion. Say what they will of the atheism of science, it is nothing to the atheism of that round of pleasure in which many a heart lives: dead while it lives.

3. Once more, impressions come to nothing when the mind is subjected to dissipating influences, and yields to them. "Some fell among thorns."

There is nutriment enough in the ground for thorns, and enough for wheat; but not enough, in any ground, for both wheat and thorns. The agriculturist thins his nursery ground, and the farmer weeds his field, and the gardener removes the superfluous grapes for that very reason, in order that the dissipated sap may be concentrated in a few plants vigorously.

So in the same way the heart has a certain power of loving. But love, dissipated on many effects, concentrates itself on none. God or the world-not both. "No man can serve two masters." "If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him." He that has learned many accomplishments or sciences, generally knows none thoroughly, Multifariousness of knowledge is commonly opposed to depth, variety of affections is generally not found with intensity.

Two classes of dissipating influences distract such minds. "The cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word." The cares of this world - its petty trifling distractions - not wrong in themselves - simply dissipating - filling the heart with paltry solicitudes and mean anxieties - wearing. Martha was "cumbered with much serving." Her household and her domestic duties, real duties, divided her heart with Christ. The time of danger, therefore, is when life expands into new situations and larger spheres, bringing with them new cares. It is not in the earlier stages of existence that these distractions are felt. Thorns sprang up and choked the wheat as they grew together. You see a religious man taking up a new pursuit with eagerness. At first no danger is suspected. But it is a distraction - something that distracts or divides; he has become dissipated, and by-and-by you remark that his zest is gone; he is no longer the man he was. He talks as before, but the life is gone from what he says: his energies are frittered. The word is "choked."

Again, the deceitfulness of riches dissipate. True as always to nature, never exaggerating, never one-sided: Christ does not say that such religion brings forth no fruit, but only that it brings none to perfection. A fanatic bans all wealth and all worldly care as the department of the devil: Christ says, "How hardly shall they that trust in riches enter into the kingdom of heaven." He does not say the divided heart has no religion, but that it is a dwarfed, stunted, feeble religion. Many such a Christian do you find among the rich and the titled, who, as a less encumbered man might have been a resolute soldier of the Cross; but he is only now a realization of the old Pagan fable - a spiritual giant buried under a mountain of gold. Oh! many, many such we meet in our higher classes, pining with a nameless want, pressed by a heavy sense of the weariness of existence, strengthless in the midst of affluence, and incapable even of tasting the profusion of comfort which is heaped around them.

There is a way God their Father has of dealing with such which is no pleasant thing to bear. In agriculture it is called weeding. In gardening it is done by pruning. It is the cutting off the over-luxuriant shoots, in order to call back the wandering juices into the healthier and more living parts. In religion it is described thus: "Every branch that beareth fruit he purgeth."... Lot had such a danger, and was subjected to such a treatment. A quarrel had arisen between Abraham's herdsmen and his. It was necessary to part. Abraham, in that noble way of his, gave him the choice of the country when they separated. Either hand for Abraham-either the right hand or the left: - what cared the Pilgrim of the Invisible for fertile lands or rugged sands? Lot chose wisely, as they of the world speak. Well, if this world be all-be got a rich soil-became a prince, had kings for his society and neighbors. It was nothing to Lot that "the men of the land were sinners before the Lord exceedingly" - enough that it was well-watered everywhere. But his wife became enervated by voluptuousness, and his children tainted with ineradicable corruption - the moral miasma of the society wherein he bad made his home. Two warnings God gave him: first, his home and property were spoiled by the enemy; then came the fire from heaven; and he fled from the cities of the plain a ruined man. His wife looked back with lingering regret upon the splendid home of her luxury and voluptuousness, and was overwhelmed in the encrusting salt: his children carried with them into a new world the plague-spot of that profligacy which had been the child of affluence and idleness; and the spirit of that rain of fire - of the buried Cities of the Plain - rose again in the darkest of the crimes which the Old Testament records, to poison the new society at its very fountain. And so the old man stood at last upon the brink of the grave, a blackened ruin scathed by lightning, over the grave of his wife, and the shame of his family - saved, but only "so as by fire."

It is a painful thing, that weeding work. "Every branch in me that beareth fruit, He purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit." The keen edge of God's pruning-knife cuts sheer through. No weak tenderness stops Him whose love seeks goodness, not comfort, for His servants. A man's distractions are in his wealth-and perhaps fire or failure make him bankrupt: what he feels is God's sharp knife. Pleasure has dissipated his heart, and a stricken frame forbids his enjoying pleasure-shattered nerves and broken health wear out the Life of life. Or perhaps it comes in a sharper, sadder form; the shaft of death goes home; there is heard the wail of danger in his household. And then, when sickness has passed on to hopelessness, and hopelessness has passed on to death, the crushed man goes into the chamber of the dead; and there, when he shuts down the lid upon the coffin of his wife, or the coffin of his child, his heart begins to tell him the meaning of all this. Thorns had been growing in his heart, and the sharp knife has been at work making room - but by an awful desolation - tearing up and cutting down, that the life of God in the soul may not be choked.


II. For the permanence of religious impressions this parable suggests three requirements: "They 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."

1. "An honest and good heart." Earnestness: that is, sincerity of purpose. Now, sincerity is reckoned by an exaggeration, sometimes, the only virtue. So that a man be sincere, they say, it matters little what he thinks or what he is; but in truth is the basis of all goodness; without which, goodness of any kind is impossible. There are faults more heinous, but none more ruinous, than insincerity. Subtle, minds, which have no broad, firm footing in reality, lose every thing by degrees, and may be transformed into any shape of evil; may become guilty of any thing, and excuse it to themselves. To this sincerity is given, in the parable, success: a harvest thirty-fold, sixty-fold, a hundred-fold.

This earnestness is the first requisite for real success in every thing. Do you wish to become rich? You may become rich: that is, if you desire it in no half-way, but thoroughly. A miser sacrifices all to this single passion; hoards farthings, and dies possessed of wealth. Do you wish to master any science or accomplishment? Give yourself to it, and it lies beneath your feet. Time and pains will do any thing. This world is given as the prize for the men in earnest; and that which is true of this world is truer still of the world to come. "The kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force." Only there is this difference: In the pursuit of wealth, knowledge, or reputation, circumstances have power to mar the wisest schemes. The hoard of years may be lost in a single night. The wisdom hived up by a whole life may perish when some fever impairs memory. But in the kingdom of Christ, where inward character is the prize, no chance can rob earnestness of its exactly proportioned due of success. Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap." There is no blight, nor mildew, nor scorching sun, nor rain-deluge, which can turn that harvest into a failure. "Lay not up for yourselves treasures on earth."... Sow for time, and probably you will succeed in time. Sow the seeds of life-humbleness, pure-heartedness, love; and in the long eternity which lies before the soul every minutest grain will come up again with an increase of thirty, sixty, or a hundred-fold.

2. Meditation is a second requisite for permanence. They keep the word which they have heard.

Now, meditation is often confounded with something which only partially resembles it. Sometimes we sit in a kind of day-dream, the mind expatiating far away into vacancy, whilst minutes and hours slip by, almost unmarked, in mere vacuity. This is not meditation, but reverie-a state to which the soul resigns itself in pure passivity. When the soul is absent and dreaming, let no man think that that is spiritual meditation, or any thing that is spiritual.

Meditation is partly a passive, partly an active state. Whoever has pondered long over a plan which he is anxious to accomplish, without distinctly seeing at first the way, knows what meditation is. The subject itself presents itself in leisure moments spontaneously: but then all this sets the mind at work-contriving, imagining, rejecting, modifying, It is in this way that one of the greatest of English engineers, a man uncouth and unaccustomed to regular discipline of mind, is said to have accomplished his most marvellous triumphs. He threw bridges over almost impracticable torrents, and pierced the eternal mountains for his viaducts. Sometimes a difficulty brought all the work to a pause: there he would shut himself up in his room, eat nothing, speak to no one, abandon himself intensely to the contemplation of that on which his heart was set; and at the end of two of three days, would come forth serene and calm, walk to the spot, and quietly give orders which seemed the result of superhuman intuition. This was meditation.

Again, he knows what it is, who has ever earnestly and sincerely loved one living human being. The image of his friend rises unbidden by day and night, stands before his soul in the street and in the field, comes athwart his every thought, and mixes its presence with his every plan. So far all is passive. But besides this he plans and contrives for that other's happiness, tries to devise what would give pleasure, examines his own conduct and conversation, to avoid that which can by any possibility give pain. This is meditation.

So, too, is meditation on religious truths carried on. If it first be loved, it will recur spontaneously to the heart.

But then it is dwelt on till it receives innumerable applications - is again and again brought up to the sun and tried in various lights, and so incorporates itself with the realities of practical existence.

Meditation is done in silence. By it we renounce our narrow individuality, and expatiate into that which is infinite, Only in the sacredness of inward silence does the soul truly meet the secret, hiding God. The strength of resolve, which afterwards shapes life and mixes itself with action, is the fruit of those sacred, solitary moments. There is a divine depth in silence. We meet God alone.

For this reason, I urged it upon so many of you to spend the hour previous to your Confirmation separate from friends, from books, from every thing human, and to force yourselves into the Awful Presence.

Have we never felt how human presence, if frivolous, in such moments frivolizes the soul, and how impossible it is to come in contact with any thoughts which are sublime, or drink in one inspiration which is from Heaven, without degrading it, even though surrounded by all that would naturally suggest tender and awful feeling, when such are by?

It is not the number of books you read, nor the variety of sermons which you hear, nor the amount of religious conversation in which you mix; but it is the frequency and the earnestness with which you meditate on these things, till the truth which may be in them becomes your own, and part of your own being, that insures your spiritual growth.

3. The third requisite is endurance. "They bring forth fruit with patience." Patience is of two kinds: There is an active, and there is a passive endurance. The former is a masculine, the latter for the most part a feminine virtue. Female patience is exhibited chiefly in fortitude--in bearing pain and sorrow meekly without complaining. In the old Hebrew life, female endurance shines almost as brightly as in any life which Christianity itself can mould. Hannah, under the provocations and taunts of her rival, answering not again her husband's rebuke, humbly replying to Eli's unjust blame, is true to the type of womanly endurance. For the type of man's endurance you may look to the patience of the early Christians under persecution. They came away from the Sanhedrin to endure and bear; but it was to bear as conquerors rushing on to victory, preaching the truth with all boldness, and defying the power of the united world to silence them. These two diverse qualities are joined in One, and only One of woman born, in perfection. One there was in whom human nature was exhibited in all its elements symmetrically complete. One in whom, as I lately said, there met all that was manliest and all that was most womanly. His endurance of pain and grief was that of the woman rather than the man. A tender spirit dissolving into tears, meeting the dark hour not with the stern defiance of the man and the stoic, but with gentleness, and trust, and love, and shrinking like a woman. But when it came to the question in Pilate's judgment-hall, or the mockeries of Herod's men of war, or the discussion with the Pharisees, or the exposure of the hollow falsehoods by which social, domestic, and religious life were sapped, the woman has disappeared, and the hardy resolution of the man, with more than manly daring, is found in her stead. This is the "patience" for us to cultivate: To bear and to persevere. However dark and profitless, however painful and weary existence may have become, however any man like Elijah may be tempted to cast himself beneath the juniper-tree and say, "It is enough: now, O Lord!" life is not done, and our Christian character is not won, so long as God has any thing left for us to suffer, or any thing left for us to do.

Patience, however, has another meaning. It is the opposite of that impatience which can not wait. This is one of the difficulties of spiritual life. We are disappointed if the harvest do not come at once.

Last Tuesday, doubtless, you thought that all was done, and that there would be no more falling back.

Alas! a little experience will correct that. If the husbandman, disappointed at the delay which ensues before the blade breaks the soil, were to rake away the earth to examine if germination were going on, he would have a poor harvest. He must have "long patience, till he receive the early and the latter rain." The winter frost must mellow the seed lying in the genial bosom of the earth: the rains of spring must swell it, and the suns of summer mature it. So with you. It is the work of a long life to become a Christian. Many, oh, many a time are we tempted to say, "I make no progress at all. It is only failure after failure. Nothing grows." Now look at the sea when the flood is coming in. Go and stand by the sea-beach, and you will think that the ceaseless flux and reflux is but retrogression equal to the advance. But look again in an hour's time, and the whole ocean has advanced. Every advance has been beyond the last, and every retrograde movement has been an imperceptible trifle less than the last. This is progress: to be estimated at the end of hours, not minutes. And this is Christian progress. Many a fluctuation-many a backward motion with a rush at times so vehement that all seems lost; but if the eternal work be real, every failure has been a real gain, and the next does not carry us so far back as we were before. Every advance is a real gain, and part of it is never lost. Both when we advance and when we fail, we gain. We are nearer to God than we were. The flood of spirit-life has carried us up higher on the everlasting shores, where the waves of life beat no more, and its fluctuations end, and all is safe at last. "This is the faith and patience of the saints."

It is because of the second of these requirements, meditation, that I am anxious we should meet on Sunday next for an early Communion at eight o'clock. I desire that the candidates may have a more solemn and definite Communion of their own, with few others present except their own relations and friends. In silence and quietness, we will meet together then. Before the world has put on its full robe of light, and before the busy gay crowd have begun to throng, our streets - before the distractions of the day begin, we will consecrate the early freshness of our souls - untrodden, unhardened, undissipated - to God. We will meet in the simplicity of brotherhood and sisterhood. We will have Communion in a sacred meal, which shall exhibit as nearly as may be the idea of family affection. Ye that are beginning life, and we who know something of it - ye that offer yourselves for the first time at that table, and we who, after sad experience and repeated failure, still desire again to renew our aspirations and our vows to Him - we will come and breathe together that prayer which I commended to you at your Confirmation - "Our Father, which art in heaven, lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil."