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ing even that partial statement, which they approve, and which they have fully understood.
Another description of hearers mistake the means of becoming religious for religion. They hear several sermons every week, from their favourite preachers: though perhaps they scarcely understand, and never bestow any pains to remember and practise, what they hear. Sometimes, they ground their confidence on attending such ministers, as are noted for distinguishing faithfulness; and, as they manage to endure this plain-dealing, they suppose themselves approved; for they understand that many hypocrites are offended by it. But at the same time, they never seriously tbink of examining themselves by the doctrine, or of following the exhortations, thus repeatedly inculcated.
We must by no means omit to mention those hearers of the gospel, who seek entertainment in places of worship, when conscience remonstrates against other amusements. These are amatures of oratory, good language, and graceful delivery; they admire the flights of a fine and vigorous imagination: or perhaps they are pleased with close reasoning, or the discussions of an acute logician: though numbers of this class are as deficient in judgment, as in picty. They gratify themselves, however, by hearing preachers, whose talents suit their taste, whatever that may be. This employment sometimes agreeably fills up a va. cant hour which might otherwise be tedious: and they endure even the truth for the sake of the manner in which it is delivered! Such persons attended Ezekiel. “Lo thou art to them,” said the Lord to his prophet, " as a very lovely song of one that hath a pleasant voice, “ and can play well on an instrument: for they hear “ thy words but they do them not."'*
The captious hearer likewise requires to be noticed. He comes on purpose to criticize and find fault; to try every one's doctrine by his standard; to discover his own acuteness by detecting some error of the preacher; and to “make a man an offender for a word.” Не seeks for nothing but the bran or the chal, and these alone he carries away. He means not to learn, much less to practice: and he must therefore be a hearer only, and not a doer of the word. I would not, however, have you to conclude, that we deem our auditors obliged to credit all we say, or precluded from the free exercise of their own judgment. Men may dili. gently compare our doctrine with the scriptures, and differ from us in many particulars; while they edify by every sermon, and are doers of the word: for they may examine with sobriety, humility, and candour; and differ with reluctance and earnest prayer to be directed aright. But the captious hearer resembles a man, who turns with disgust from a plentiful table, because he dislikes some one dish. Nay, he goes to the feast, not to eat, but shew his delicate and fastidious taste by finding fault with the provisions!
Time would fail should we consider the curious hearer, who goes to find out what some cclcbrated preacher has got to say, perhaps that he may turn it into ridicule; the frocrastinating hearer, who intends to practice when he has a more convenient opportuni. ty; and many others, who might in like manner be arraigned and condemned.
* Ezek. xxxiii. 30_-34.
It must, however, be obvious, that all such persons fall short of every purpose, for which the word of God was mercifully given. “ How do ye say, we
, " are wise, and the law of the Lord is with us? Lo, “ certainly in vain made he it, the pen of the scribes " is in vain.”* The word of truth continually calls them to consider their ways, and examine their hearts and lives; that they may become acquainted with their state and character; this they hear indeed; but continue careless and inconsiderate! They are warned to flee from the wrath to come; but they fiee not: and they are invited to come to Christ that their souls may live; but they “refuse him that speaketh.”- Wisdom thus expostulateth with them, “How long ye simple ones “ will ye love simplicity, and scorners delight in their “ scorning, and fools hate knowledge? Turn you at
my reproof: I will pour out my Spirit unto you; I 66 will make known my words unto you:” but “ they
set at nought all her counsel, and despise all her * reproof.”—They are commanded to repent, and to cast away all their idols and transgressions: but they chave to their sins, and “after their hardness and “ impenitent heart, treasure up wrath against the day “ of wrath, and revelation of the righteous judgment “ of God.” They are exhorted to pray without ceasing; but they seem to say, "What is the Almighty that “ we should serve him? or what profit shall we have “ if we pray unto him?” They pay no practical regard to Christ, while he commands them, to “labour for the meat which endureth unto everlasting life;" “ to “ strive to enter in at the strait gaic, iv search the
Jer. vill. 8.
" scriptures, and to take his yoke upon them.” They hear indeed; and admire or object, as their notions are sanctioned or opposed; but if Christ be the Author of eternal salvation to those and those alone, who obey him; and if all they be his enemies, “ who will not have him to reign over them;” such persons will as certainly perish as any description of sinners whatsoever. Nay, a partial obedience, which interferes not with their inclinations or interests, does not warrant them to expect a more favourable doom: “ for he that " keepeth the whole law and offendeth in one point is guilty of all.” According to the law itself a man is condemned for a single transgression; and according to the gospel, he who habitually commits one known sin, is adjudged a hypocrite and unbeliever. If this were not so, Herod might have retained Herodias, nor would it be necessary for us to part with the right hand or the right eye which causes us to offend.
Whether we consider revelation as intended to reconcile us to God, to make known to us the way of peace, to be the means of our renewal to holiness, to prepare us for glorifying God on earth, to fit us for enjoying his love in heaven, or to teach us to do good among men and serve our generation: it is evident that hearing without practising fails entirely of accomplishing any one of these purposes. This is so obvious in it. self, and so constantly inculcated in every part of scripture, that it would be almost incredible that any man should be deceived by so palpable a cheat, were it not most lamentably common: nor can this fact be accounted for, but by allowing that “the heart is de“ceitful above all things, and desperately wicked."
III. Then we consider the nature and sources of that fatal self-deception, into which numbers are in this respect betrayed.
It is observable, that the apostle does not here warn us against the artifices of “Satan transformed into an
angel of light,” or those of “ his ministers trans“formed into the ministers of righteousness.” These indeed will never be wanting in subtle endeavours to beguile the souls of the simple: yet they can fatally deceive none, who are not disposed to deceive themselves.---It may also be remarked, that such persons seldom impose on other men. The ministers of Christ stand in doubt of them; nay, are often fully convinced of their awsul delusion, and, with tears of affection, risk their displeasure by trying to undeceive them: but such endeavours are generally ascribed to harshness, prejudice, or calumny. They seldom deceive consistent Christians, as they may discover by the shyness and reserve of their conduct; while frankness and cordiality mark their social intercourse with more approved characters. Nay, the people of the world can commonly distinguish real pious and upright believers from mere speculating professors. Many of them court the society of such self-deceivers, while they fear meeting with persons of eminent sanc. tity: they can endure any creed, provided men's example sanction their spirit and conduct: “they are of “ the world, therefore the world loveth them,” while it hates those whom Christ hath chosen out of the world. There are, however, men that make no great pretensions to religion, who respect such as are consistently pious: yet they join with those, who honour