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own Cafe, we shall advance but slowly in any Spiritual Improvement. The Seed brings forth no increase in the Granary, it must be thrown into the Ground before it will fructify; if the Nature of any Duty is explained, we must consider whether we truly understand it; if several Instances of it are laid down before us, we must consider how far we come up to them in our Practice. If Directions are prescribed to get the Mastery of any Vice, we must con: sider how far we comply with them; and where we are defective, we must resolve to take those new Measures that are offered. If the Deformity and Ingratitude of Sin is exposed, we must shun it as the greatest Evil. · If the Advantages and Pleasures of Virtue are described, we must fecure them to our. selves by an unwearied Continuance in Welldoing. This Method put in Practice, will certainly intitle us to the greatest Profit ima. ginable from Preaching.
V. Hear without Prejudice. It were to be wished that all the Priests of the Lord were circumspect in their Lives, and blameless in their Conversation ; but since they are Men, clothed with Flesh and Blood, and liable to the same Temptations that others are exposed to, their personal Infirmities should not fo. far possess People's Minds, as to deprive them of the Advantage of their good Instruction. So far as the Ministers of God fall short of their Duty, they will themselves
answer for the Neglect of it; but still the People must give an Account for not improva ing under their frequent Calls to Repentance and Amendment of Life. Let not therefore any particular disadvantageous Character fo far infinuate itself into you, as to rob you of the Profit and Advantage of a good Difcourse: Confider what is faid, more than any Report that may diminish the Preacher's Ré. putation; which very often may be false, and yet, if true, may be really no Hindrance to your own Improvement, if you make a right Use of the Sermon.
VI. Resolve to practise what you hear. If Men come only to a Sermon, to gratify their Curiofity with the Beauties and Ornaments of a Discourse; if they only aim at increafing their knowledge, that they may be the better able to talk concerning the Mysteries of the Gospel; it is no Wonder that their Lives continue unreformed. The great Advantage of the Christian Institution is, that it offers to the World a better Method, and a more exact. Rule for the Conduct of Life, than was ever known before; and if you really design any Profit to yourself by understanding it, yout must immediately put it in Practice. Judge not therefore of your Improvement by those good Desires that may be stirred up in your Mind, but by the Influence the Inttructions have upon your Practice. You hear a Difa course on Humility to fome Purpose, when
from the Sense of Conviction, you submit to the lowest and meanest Offices for promoting the Welfare of your Fellow-Christians. You profit by a Sermon upon the Duty of Family Prayer, if, having hitherto neglected it, you immediately establish it in your Families : The like Instances might be made in any other Virtue, or in any other Divine Institution. The great End of Hearing is not fulfilled when we are affected with a Sermon, the main Matter is still behind, which is, the putting useful Instructions into Practice; nay, the Convictions we receive of the Necessity of performing our Duty, will increase our Condemnation at the great Day, if we do not govern our Lives by them.
VII. In your Retirement reflect upon what you heard. This is the concluding Means of making the Preaching of the Minister profit able and advantageous to you ; it is like Di. gestion to our Viĉtuals, it turns out into true Nourishment. The Pleasures and Diversion of the World are apt to blot out those serious Thoughts which were impressed upon our Minds in the Church; the Cares and Business of the World are apt to choke the Word, so that it brings no Fruit to Perfection. To remedy these Hindrances of our spiritual Edification, we must take a convenient Oppor. tunity to retire from Business and Pleasure; and surely on the Lord's Day nothing should prevent it; and when we are by ourselves,
xx. Hearing Sermons. 231 we should seriously reflect upon those great and useful Truths which have that Day been delivered to us. We should consider the Importance of them, to excite our Industry and Diligence in attaining them, we should weigh the Excellency of them, that they may engage our Affections; we should reflect how necefsary they are to our Happiness, which will discover our own Folly in having neglected them hitherto, and make us truly wise for the Time to come. When we have thus made them familiar to our Thoughts by Confideration, they will be ready at Hand for all the Uses and purposes of a Christian Life: They will direct us in our Duty, when it becomes dubious or difficult, and always ftir us up by Way of Remembrance; they will make us stedfast and immoveable, always abounding in the Work of the Lord, so that our Labour shall not be in vain in the Lord.