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are gone; they are the idols that have eyes, but see not; that have ears, but hear not.
(2.) Supercilious nice hearers, who sit as Judges of the word, and not as they that are to be judged by it. Hence such will be ready to commend the preacher, not to loath themselves; or else to reproach the preacher, and endeavour to expose him: like the riddle that lets through the good grain, and keeps the chaff; or like flies that fasten on festering sores.
(3.) Ignorant and stupid hearers, who hear the word, but neither know nor endeavour to know God's mind in it. A good voice and good word please them. These are not concerned to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God.
(4.) Unbelieving hearers, Isa. liii. 1; Unbelief is a defence against the power of the word, Matth. xiii. 58; and an unbelieving heart is a proud heart, ready to storm at the word, like Ahab. And if the word hit them, their passion ariseth, the minister meant them, and wanted to expose them, and so they are filled with prejudice.
5. Lastly, Such as make no application of the word to themselves, but are ready to give it away to others. It is the weakness of godly souls, sometimes to give car to nothing but what may tend to their discouragement; and it is the neckbreak of others to give away threats from themselves.
3- It reproves those who do not set themselves to hear what God commands ministers to preach, but will command ministers to preach so and so. Thus bands have been laid on the gospel in our land in the lute persecuting times, when the exercise of the ministry was allowed by the magistrate with limitations, which could neither be impo ;ed nor accepted without sin. And as little power have the people to limit them, or give orders concerning what we should preach; but every faithful minister will say as Micaiah, 1 Kings xxii. 14; 'As the Lord livetb, what the Lord saith unto me, that will I speak.'
Use II. Of exhortation. Attend on ordinances, and come with a design reverently, diligently, attentively, understandingly, believingly, and so as to practise, to hear what is commanded us of God. We desire you to take nothing as matter of feith on our authority, but to do as the Bereans, who searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so Acts xvii. II; I offer the following motives to press this exhortation.
1. Consider the way how the word came to the world. It was by the Mediator, John i. 18; When Adam fell, death stared him in the face; and he ran away from God, till the word of reconciliation came forth, Gen. iii. 15; which disappointed the expectation of devils, surprised angels,, and revived the self-murdering creature.
2. Consider, it is the word of life, Deut. xxxii. 46, 47; Nothing concerns us so nearly as this. If ye do not prize the word, and hear what is commanded us of God, there can be no comfort on a deathbed. It will make us table complaints against you before the Lord; and we will have a sad meeting at the great day. But if ye will hear, ye will be our joy and crown; your souls shall be saved in the day of the Lord, and we will bless the day that ever we met. Come to ordinances with a keen appetite after the bread of life; and pray for us, that the Lord may deal kindly with us, and furnish us with proper nourishment for your souls.
A CAVEAT AGAINST RECEIVING THE GOSPEL IN VAIN;
2 Cor. vi. 1.—We then, as workers together with himy beseech you also, that ye receive not the grace of God in vain.
IHAVE been calling you to a diligent attendance upon the ordinances, and now I come to beseech you not to receive the grace of God in vain: for if you should attend the means of grace ever so carefully, yet if you receive the grace of God in vain, all your labour is lost, and ye must perish in your sins at last.
The words I have read are a pathetical exhortation, in which,
1. The party exhorting is the apostle, in his own name, and that of all faithful ministers, who arc called workers together with God. Compare 1 Cor. iii 9; In the purchase of salvation Christ had none with him; but in the application of it he makes use of gospel-ministers, working with him, as
instrumental causes, in exhorting, &c. and bringing the word to the eats of people. 2. The manner of the exhortation, beseeching, which de
notes mildness and gentleness in dealing with souls, and withal earnestness and fervency of address.
3. The matter of it. The grace of God here denotes the gospel, as it is expressly called, Tit. ii. 11; It is so denomi. nated, (1.) In respect of its rise, which was mere grace. (2.)
9f its subject, being the doctrine of grace, offering the free
favour of God to sinners in Christ. (8.) In respect of its end, which is grace. (4.) Of its revelation to particular places. To receive it in vain, is to have the gospel among them, but not to be the better of it to salvation, as the seed is in vain received by the ground, which grows not up, but is lost. The doctrine is,
Doct. ‘That people to whom the gospel is sent, had need to take heed that they receive it not in vain.”
In discoursing from this doctrine, I shall shew,
I, I am to shew, how the gospel may be received in vain, Aid here it will be necessary to shew, 1. In what respects the gospel cannot be in vain. 2. In what respects it may be received in vain. First, I am to shew, in what respects the gospel cannot bein vain. And it cannot be in vain, 1. In respect of God; he cannot fall short of what he Purposeth to bring to pass by it, Isa. xlvi. 10; “My counsel shall stand, (says he), and I will do all my pleasure.” That
boking for fruit, mentioned, Isa. v. 4; is ascribed to God
or the manner of men; but an omniscient omnipotent *ing cannot properly be disappointed, Isa. lv. 10, 11; “For * the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh *to bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the ower, and bread to the eater: so shall my word be that §oth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me
"old, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall 2 Proper in the thing whereto I sent it.’
(2.) All his elect will be brought in by it. Hence, when the apostles Barnabas and Paul preached at Antioch in Pisidia, and met with much opposition, it is observed, however, that 'as many as were ordained to eternal life, believed,' Acts xiii. 48; The sound of the gospel-trumpet will gather the elect, however vain the sound be to others; for Christ's people shall be made willing in the day of his power, Psal. cx. 3; Though the rain fall in vain on the rocks, yet it does not so on the good ground. And that glorious instrument will be honourably laid by at the great day, having done its work.
(2.) His mercy and justice will be cleared by it, so as that gospel-despisers shall appear most justly condemned, Acts xiii. 46; while men have rejected the counsel of God against themselves. The offer of reconciliation will justify God's procedure abundantly against gospel-despisers.
2. It cannot be in vain, in respect of faithful ministers, who, according to the grace given them, pursue the great end of their office, viz. their acting as ambassadors for God, and praying sinners in Christ's stead, to be reconciled unto God, 2 Cor. v. 20.
(1.) In respect of their acceptance with God. Though their labours do no good, God will accept of their sincere endeavours to serve him in his work, Gal. iv. 11; compare 2 Cor. ii. 15,16; Preaching the gospel faithfully, and warning every man, is our duty; converting of souls is God's work. If ministers faithfully discharge their duty, and yet success answer not, God will accept their work, Ezek. xxxiii. 8, 9. Isa. vi.
(2.) In respect of their reward of grace. Some ministers God sets to tread out the corn, while they freely eat of their labours, and have the satisfaction to see the pleasure of the Lord prospering in their Master's hand. The mouths of others are muzzled; and they have nothing but weary work, like that qf the disciples, when they said to their Lord, 'We have toiled all the night, and have taken nothing,' Luke v. 5; But it shall not be in vain: God does not proportion his faithful servants reward to their success, but to their pains and faithfulness. For as it was with the Master, so is it with* the servants, Isa. xlix. 4; I have laboured in vain, (says he), I have spent my strength for nought; yet surely my judgment is with the Lord, and my work with my God.'
3. It cannot be altogether in vain in respect of honesthearted hearers, Micah. ii. 7. * Do not my words do good to him that walketh uprightly?' When the word falls on good ground, it will bring forth fruit, though not always alike. It is hard to say, that ever God sends his gospel to any place, but there are some to be bettered by it, even then when he is taking his farewel of a people, as in the case of the Jews. There were seven thousand in Israel that had not bowed the knee to Baal in the time of Elijah, even when that prophet thought there had not been one.
4. It cannot be utterly in vain as to any that hear it, Is, Iv. II. forecited. It will have some effect following it. Even those who most of all receive it in vain as to good success, yet it is not in vain,
(1.) As to a testimony for God against them, to be produced at the last day, Rev. Hi. 20. 'Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If any man hear my voice, and open the door I will come into him, and will sup with him, and he with me.' Behold angels and men, be ye witnesses, that here is an offer of me to sinners. Though they should refuse to hear the message with their bodily ears, yet if it come where they are, it will be a witness against them, Matth. x. 14,15. The dust of their feet shall witness they were there with Christ's message, and that salvation was in their offer. The servants of Christ must set up the standard, whether any will gather to it or not, Ezek. ii. 7. See ver. 5.
(2.) As to manifestation of unsoundness, Eph. v. 13. As the light of the sun will discover things in their own colours, though we wink never so hard; so the gospel will hang the sign of folly at every man's door out of Christ. The gospel was in vain to none more than the greatest pretenders to religion in Christ's time; but see the effect of it, Mai. iii. 2. 'But who may abide the day of his coming? and who shall stand when he appeareth? for he is like the refiner's fire, and like fullers soap.' Matth. iii. 12. 'His fan is in his hand, and he will thoroughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into his garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.' The wind will discover chaff by corn, though omnipotency must be at the work to change it injo. good grain. Hence the gospel oft-times draws the pillow