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ther it proclaims the terrors of the law or the glorious grace of the gospel, whether it relates to things generally believed or in some degree doubtful, of greater or less importance, it ought to be well considered by us. When Baruch the scribe read the words of Jeremiah to the king, he attended to three or four leaves of it, and then took the roll and cast the whole of it into the fire. (Jer. xxxvi. 23.) Thus too many do by a sermon : they hear till they meet with something that disgusts then, and then all the rest is rejected. Some little incorrectness or inadvertency, or it may be some sentiment which militates against their preconceived opinions, awakens their prejudices, renders the whole unprofitable, and turns the food into poison. Let it not be so with you ; but “ consider what I say.” 2. Attend to the truth and propriety of what is delivered. The ear trieth words, as the mouth tasteth meat; and if we be circumcised in heart and ears, we shall try the spirits of men whether they be of God, and the doctrine they preach whether it be according to godliness. “Itching ears ” are forbidden, but trying ears are commanded. One and another may speak to us in the name of the Lord, and this and that may be affirmed as true; but it becomes us, like the noble Bereans, to search the scriptures daily, whether these things be so or not. The bible is the only standard of truth; and if any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God. Let us consider what we hear, and consult our own understanding; but let us not make that the test of truth, but employ
it as the means of ascertaining what is, and what is,
not, agreeable to the unerring word. Reason must never go alone, but take the scriptures for her guide, and then she may walk in safety. In thy light we shall see light; but without this we are all in darkness. The right of private judgment has been too often denied, and the duty too much neglected, but both
are sanctioned by the word of truth. Let the prophets speak, two or three, and let the others judge. In matters or faith and worship, the apostles themselves disclaimed all authority: Not thai we have dominion overyour faith, says Paul: Out are helpers of your joy. Whatever be our affection and esteem for him who speaks, our assent to what he delivers must only be proportioned to the evidence he may bring to support it. As God has given him a mouth to speak, so he has also gjven us an understanding to judge. We must therefore take nothing upon trust; but try all things, and hold fast that which is good. 1 Cor. xiv. 29. 2 Cor. i. 24. *
3. Consider the weight andlmporlance of what is delivered. All divine truth is important, but every part of it is not alike so. There are principles which lie at the foundation, and affect the salvation of our souls: these therefore claim our highest consideration. The work of a faithful minister is no light concern: when he has addressed God in your name, he then addresses you in God's name. Having to deal with you about your immortal souls, an invisible and future state, he may well say with Moses, Set your hearts unto all the words which 1 testify unto you this day; for it is not a vain thing for you, because it is your life. (Deut, xxxii. 47-) Hearing the word is a divine ordinance, and the manner of hearing should correspond with its end and design; and this is not to gratify onr curiosity, nor merely to inform the understanding, but to purify our hearts and regulate our lives. Every sermon we hear will either be to us a savour of life unto life, or a savour of death unto death. If the gospel be not the power of God unto salvation, it will both justify and aggravate our condemnation, and prove a sore judgment where it is not received as a special mercy. Hence the great Teacher and pattern of ail other teachers so frequently used that solemn warning—He that hath cars t» hear, let him hear! Let him diligently weigh what he hears, and carefully understand and improve it. 4. Consider the personal concern you have in the truths delivered. We must hear for ourselves, and not for others. When the evil of sin is displayed, it is of our sin; when the need of a Saviour is pointed out, it is our need of him ; when duties and privileges are recommended, it is to us they are recommended. The minister is as much addressing himself to every particular person in the assembly as if there were only one individual to address. Speaking of Ephraim, the Lord says, “I have written to him the great things of my law.” The preacher brings a message from God unto thee, oh hearer, whoever thou art. Let then thine ears be attentive It is thy case he endeavours to meet, thine advantage he seeks, and thy salvation that he ardently desires. Whether he preach the law, it is to awaken thy conscience; or the gospel, it is to provide a healing balm for thy soul. If he set forth the joys of heaven, it is to allure thee; or the torments of hell, it is to alarm thee. Dost thou hear them with self-application, and consider thine immediate interest in the things spoken The word preached will not profit us, unless it be mixed with faith in them that hear it. Hear it therefore, and know thou it for thy good.
II. The motives which should induce us well to consider what we hear.
1. Think, in whose name the ministers of the gospel speak, and whose person they represent. If they spoke in their own name, it would be only common civility to consider what they say, especially in matters of so much importance. We hearken to a physician when he prescribes for our health, and to a counsellor when he is to plead our cause ; and shall we not much more hearken to the servanrs of the most high God, who shew unto us the way of salvation But they speak not in their own name: they are ambassadors for Christ. They act by his authority, receive their commission from him, and in his stead beseech you to be reconciled to God. The apostle's description of the work and office of a faithful minister is very impressive: it is not he only who speaks to us, but God also by him. For he that receiveth you, saith our Lord to his disciples, receiveth me; and he that receiveth me receiveth him that sent me. And, said Jehoshaphat to the men of Judah, Believe in the Lord your God, so shall ye be established : be£ieve his prophets, so shall ye prosper. If we believe not Moses and the prophets, neither should we believe, though one rose from the dead: we might be more alarmed, but should not be more profited. The house of Israel will not hearken unto thee, saith the Lord, for they will not hearken unto me. Nevertheless they shall know that a prophet has been among them, and sinners also shall know whose word they have despised. Ezek. iii. 7. 2. Consider the great end they aim at in their ministrations. They seek not yours, but you; not your substance, but your souls. When they preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom, it is that they may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus. If this be not the fruit of their labour, their labour is lost; for what is our hope, say they, or joy, or crown of rejoicing 2 Are not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming? For we are our glory and joy. Why do they labour in the word and doctrine, in season and out of season, but that they may turn sinners from the error of their ways, and save their souls from death They travail in birth until Christ be formed in us; and surely the least that we can do is to consider what they say. 3. By the word that we hear we shall be judged at the last day. If we receive the truth in love, it will be a witness for us; but if otherwise, it will be a swift witness against us. He that rejecteth me, saith Christ, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him : the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day. (John xii. 48.) You hear the law, and will be judged by the law : you hear the gospel, and will be judged according to the gospel : and if you despise both law and gospel, both law and gospel will join in your condemnation. We shall be accountable in the great day both for the knowledge we had and did not improve, and for that which we might have had but neglected. Sermons slighted, forgotten, and disregarded, will form no inconsiderable part of the charge which the sinner's own conscience will hereafter exhibit against him, and that consideration which was wanting on earth will be his terment in hell. Now he will not consider when he might: then he shall consider when he would not. The anger of the Lord shall not return, until he have executed, until he have performed the though's of his heart : in the latter days ye shall consider it perfectly. Jer. xxiii. 20. (1.) We may learn from hence, how just God will appear in the destruction of thoughtless and careless sinners. They neither repented nor believed neither would they consider. They neither exercised any gracious disposition, nor would they so much as exercise their reason. Light was come into the world, but they loved darkness rather than light. The or knoweth his owner, and the ass his master's crib : but Israel doth not know, my people do not consider. Ah sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, a seed of evil-doers, children that are corrupters! Isai. i. 3, 4. (2.) We see what it is that supports faithful ministers in their work, and prevents their sinking into despondency, the hope that God may lead some of their hearers to serious reflection, who have hitherto been careless. Hence they still go forth, bearing