« AnteriorContinuar »
pride; and we are neither ashamed or afraid to say, search, examine the whole system.
Examine the character the sacred writers have given us of God; is He not a Father, the Father of mercies, the God of all grace, the God of love? Examine the representation they have given of man; does it not agree with actual life and daily observation? Examine the threatenings they have denounced, and the warnings they have given; do they not accord with the judgments which God has frequently inflicted on individuals, families, and countries, and which prove a moral government in the world! Examine the promises; are they not such as the state, and the conscience of man require? Where do they countenance sin? Examine the precepts; take only the command "thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, "and thy neighbour as thyself:" what think you of this command, or rather what think you of those men, who wish to exclude this principle, and to destroy a book, the grand aim of which is to produce it? But, alas! many condemn a work which they never read; dislike precedes and influences investigation; and nothing is more absurd than to suppose that infidels renounce the gospel by the force of conviction, after having fully and impartially examined its contents. Be affured they never weighed the subject, though they are always bold enough to pronounce that it is "found wanting." Few ever give these things a due confideration. Here however another clafs of characters appears in view; for while some refufe to hear, others give thefe things a hearing ONLY. Now though our Lord and Saviour intends nothing less than this, he requires much more.
HIS WORD. "hear."
IV. He demands a PRACTICAL IMPROVEMENT of "He that hath ears to hear, let him "I have delivered many things in your prefence, and you have done well in hearing them. "But my preaching is not to be viewed as an enter"tainment. My doctrine is not defigned to amuse the "mind, to gratify curiofity, to furnish a number of "lifelefs speculations. And therefore hearing is only "inftrumental to something else; there is a duty of greater importance ftill remaining.”
What is it, my brethren? What would our Saviour say in explanation of his command? What has he said in other parts of his word? "Mix faith with it; let "not the fenfe leave the mind as foon as the found "leaves the ear; remember it; enliven it by medita"tion; reduce it into feelings and actions; fear thefe « denunciations; embrace these promises; obey these "commands; walk according to this rule."
It is a lamentable reflection, that all the concern many of our hearers have with sermons, consifts in hearing them. They do not consider hearing as the means of becoming religious: it is their religion. They conclude that their duty is over when the discourse is ended; whereas it is then only begun. Inftead of carrying off portions of divine wisdom to illuminate their lives, they leave behind them all the instructions they have received. They do not take the word of God along with them, to guide them in their ordinary walk; to arm them against temptation; to furnish them with the cautions of prudence; to ftimulate them to universal conscientiousness. Their tempers are unsubdued, unsoftened, unsanctified; their
converfation produces none of "the fruit of the Spirit, "which is love, joy, peace, long suffering, gentleness, "goodness, faith, meekness, temperance." But the word of God is practical; every truth is announced to accomplish some purpose. If it reveals a refuge, it is that you may enter it and be safe; if it proclaims
a remedy, it is that you may use it. It is not your hear
ing of it, but your applying it, that will save you from
death. You say of a preacher, he ought to Do, as well
as to PREACH; and we fay of a hearer, he ought as well as to HEAR. You say, and you fay truly, that mere preaching will not fave us; and we say with equal truth,, mere hearing will not save you. Never will you attend the dispensation of the word aright, till you make the end which God has in view in speaking, your end in hearing. And can you imagine that the design of the bleffed God in favouring you with his "glorious gospel" from fabbath to sabbath, is answered, if while you regularly enter his courts, you always return the same; if after all the sermons you have applauded for twenty or forty years, you are found as malignant, as covetous, as full of the world as before; or your profiting appears only in some dead notions, very well laid out in your minds; in a capacity to weigh preachers in the niceft fcales of orthodoxy; or in the useful employment of fplitting hairs, and tying and untying knots in common thread? What does the "gospel "of your falvation" intend nothing more than to make you visionaries, or triflers? Is this "teaching
us, that denying ungodlinefs and wordiy luft, they "should live foberly, righteously, and godly in the
present world?" To persons concerned for the honour of the gospel, and the salvation of mankind, the christian world presents an affecting prospect. Never was the word of God more plentifully preached; never did so many "receive the Grace of God in "vain." Never was there more seed sown; never did so much fall "by the way side," "on stony pla"ces," and " among thorns!" How little does even the good ground yield! Where is the preacher, the close of whose sabbaths is not embittered by the review of unprofitableness? You invite us to your tables, you crowd us in our temples; but you compel us to retire from both, complaining, "Who hath believed "our report, and to whom is the arm of the Lord. re"vealed?" We condemn your practice; you thank us for our good sermons, and proceed. Your approbation does not hinder your sinning, nor your sinning, your approbation. Where are the evidences of our success? are they to be heard in the inquiry, "Sirs, "what must I do to be saved?" Are they to be seen in your deadness to the world, in 'your self-denial, in your taking up the cross, in your heavenly-mindedness, in serving your generation according to the will of God, in your being examples to others? How shall I impress you with the importance of this, or by what motives can I enforce upon you this practical attention to the gospel you hear?
Shall I urge the danger of delusion, and say with the apostle James, "Be ye doers of the word, and not "hearers only, deceiving your ownselves." Shall I remind you of "a foolish builder," who reared "his "house upon the sand; and the rain descended, and
"the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house, and it fell, and great was the fall "of it." Such according to our Saviour will be the fatal disappointment of all those who entertain a hope of safety separate from holiness; who have been lulled to sleep by an unsanctified attendance on ordinances; who hear "these sayings of his, and Do them not."
Shall I remind you of the precarious tenure of your privileges, and say with our Saviour, "Yet a little "while is the light with you; walk while ye have the "light, lest darkness come upon you." There are no calls of mercy beyond the grave; and "what is your "life? it is even a vapour that appeareth for a little "time, and then vanisheth away." The Jews had distinguished privileges; but "the kingdom of God was "taken from them, and given to a nation bringing "forth the FRUITS thereof." Where now are the churches of Asia? Your candlestick may be removed. You may be rendered incapable of hearing. Efficacy may be withheld from the means; and surely if any. thing can provoke the Supreme Being, to take away ordinances, or to make them useless, it must be your awful abuse of them.
Shall I mention the happiness of those who receive the gospel, "not in word only?" "And it came to
pass, as he spake these things, a certain woman of "the company lifted up her voice and said unto Him, "blessed is the womb that bare thee, and the paps "which thou hast sucked. But he said, yea, rather BLESSED are they that hear the word of God, and "KEEP it." "If ye know these things, HAPPY are ye if "Whoso looketh into the perfect.
ye Do them!"