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thoughts naturally follow the course of the affections, the best antidote to habitual inattention to religious instruction is the love of the truth. Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly, and to hear it attentively will be a pleasure, not a task.

The practice of sleeping in places of worship, a practice we believe not prevalent in any other places of public resort, is not only a gross violation of the advice we are giving, but most distressing to ministers, and most disgraceful to those who indulge it. If the apostle indignantly inquires of the Corinthians whether they had not houses to eat and drink in, may we not, with equal propriety, ask those who indulge in this practice whether they have not beds to sleep in, that they convert the house of God into a dormitory? A little self-denial, a very gentle restraint on the appetite, would, in most cases, put a stop to this abomination; and with what propriety can he pretend to desire the sincere milk of the Word who cannot be prevailed upon, one day out of seven, to refrain from the glutting which absolutely disqualifies him for receiving it?

Fourthly. Hear the Word of God with impartiality. To be partial in the law was a crime formerly charged upon the Jewish priests; nor is it less sinful in the professors of Christianity. There is a class of hearers who have their favourite topics, to which they are so immoderately attached that they are offended if they are not brought forward on all occasions; while there are others of at least equal importance, which they can seldom be prevailed upon to listen to with patience. Some are never pleased but with doctrinal statements; they are in raptures while the preacher is insisting on the doctrines of grace, and the privileges of God's people; but when he proceeds to inculcate the practical improvement of these doctrines, and the necessity of adorning the profession of them by the virtues of a holy life, their countenances fall, and they make no secret of their disgust. Others are all for practical preaching, while they have no relish for that truth which can alone sanctify the heart. But, as it is a symptom of a diseased state of body to be able to relish only one sort of food, it is not less of the mind to have a taste for only one sort of instruction. It is difficult to suppose that such persons love the Word of God as the Word of God; for, if they did, every part of it, in its due proportion, and its proper place, would be acceptable. It is possible, in consequence of the various exigencies of the Christian life, that there may be seasons to which some views of divine truth may be peculiarly suited, and on that account heard with superior advantage and delight; but this is perfectly consistent with an impartial attachment to the whole of revelation. But to feel an habitual distaste to instruction, the most solid and scriptural, unless it be confined to a few favourite topics, is an infallible indication of a wrong state of mind. It is only by yielding the soul to the impression of every divine communication and discovery, that the several graces which enter into the composition of the new creature are nourished and sustained. As the perfection of the Christian system results from the symmetry of its several parts, in which there is nothing redundant, nothing disproportioned, and nothing

defective; so the beauty of the Christian character consists in its exhibiting an adequate impress and representation of the whole. If there be any particular branch of the Word of God to which we are habitually indisposed, we may generally conclude that is precisely the part which we most need; and, instead of indulging our distaste, we ought seriously to set ourselves to correct the mental disease which has given occasion to it.


In some instances, the partiality to certain views of truth to the exclusion of others, of which we are complaining, may arise, not so much from moral disorder as from a deficiency of religious knowledge, and that contraction of mind which is its usual consequence. We would earnestly exhort persons of this description not to make themselves the standard, nor attempt to confine their ministers to the first principles of the Oracles of God. There are in most assemblies some who are capable of digesting strong meat, whose improvement ought to be consulted; and it behooves such as are not, instead of abridging the provisions of the family, to endeavour to enlarge their knowledge and extend their inquiries. A Christian minister is compared by our Lord to a householder, who brings out of his treasure things new and old.

Fifthly. Hear the Word with constant self-application. Hear not for others, but for yourselves. What should we think of a person who, after accepting an invitation to a feast, and taking his place at the table, instead of partaking of the repast amused himself with speculating on the nature of the provisions, or the manner in which they were prepared, and their adaptation to the temperament of the several guests, without tasting a single article? Such, however, is the conduct of those who hear the Word without applying it to themselves, or considering the aspect it bears on their individual character. Go to the house of God with a serious expectation and desire of meeting with something suited to your particular state, something that shall lay the axe to the root of your corruptions, mortify your easily besetting sin, and confirm the graces in which you are most deficient. A little attention will be sufficient to give you that insight into your character which will teach what you need, what the peculiar temptations to which you are exposed, and on what account you feel most shame and humiliation before God. Every one may know if he pleases the plague of his own heart. Keep your eye upon it while you are hearing, and eagerly lay hold upon what is best adapted to heal and correct it. Remember that religion is a personal thing, an individual concern; for every one of us must give an account of himself to God, and every man bear his own burden. Is not my Word as a fire, saith the Lord, as a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces? If such be its power and efficacy lay your hearts open to it, and expose them fully to the stroke of the hammer and the action of the fire. Do not imagine, because you are tolerably well acquainted with the system of the gospel, that you have therefore nothing to learn; and that your only obligation to attend its ministry arises from the necessity of setting an example. It is probable your knowledge is much more limited than

you suppose; but, if it be not, it is a great mistake to imagine the only advantage derived from hearing is the acquisition of new truths. There is a spiritual perception infinitely more important than the knowledge which is merely speculative. The latter is at most but a means to the former, and this perception is not confined to new propositions. It is frequently, nay more frequently, attached to truths already known; and, when they are faithfully and affectionately exhibited, they are the principal means of calling into action and strengthening the habits of internal grace. Love, joy, humility, heavenly-mindedness, godly sorrow for sin, and holy resolutions against it are not promoted so much by novel speculations as by placing in a just and affecting light the acknowledged truths of the gospel, and thereby stirring up the mind by way of remembrance. Whilst I am in this tabernacle, said Peter, I will not be negligent to put you in remembrance of these things, though ye know them, and are established in the present truth. We appeal to the experience of every real Christian, whether the sweetest and most profitable seasons he has enjoyed have not been those in which he is conscious of having learned no new truth, strictly speaking, but was indulged with spiritual and transforming views of the plain, unquestionable discoveries of the gospel. As the Word of God is the food of souls, so it corresponds to that character in this respect among others, that the strength and refreshment it imparts depend not upon its novelty, but upon the nutritious properties it possesses. It is a sickly appetite only which craves incessant variety.

Sixthly. Hear with candour. The indulgence of a nice and fastidious taste is as adverse to the improvement of the hearer as it is to the comfort of the minister. Considering the variety of our avocations, the necessity we are under of addressing you in all states of mind, and sometimes on the most unexpected occasions, if we could not rely on your candour, our situation would be scarcely tolerable. Where the general tendency of a discourse is good, and the instruction delivered weighty and solid, it is the part of candour to overlook imperfections in the composition, manner, or elocution of the speaker; imitating in this respect the example of the Galatians, of whom Paul testifies that they did not despise his temptation, which was in the flesh; some unhappy peculiarity in his speech or countenance, we may suppose, which exposed him to the derision of the unfeeling. The Lord, by the mouth of Isaiah, severely censures such as make a man an offender for a word,—a fault too prevalent in many of our churches, especially among such as are the least informed and judicious; for the disposition to sit in judgment upon the orthodoxy of ministers is usually in an inverse proportion to the ability. Be not hasty in concluding that a preacher is erroneous because he may chance to use a word or a phrase not exactly suited to your taste and comprehension. It is very possible the idea it is intended to convey may perfectly accord with your own sentiments; but, if it should not, it is equally possible the propriety of it may be vindicated by considerations with which you are not acquainted. Be not many masters, many teachers, saith St. James, knowing ye shall receive the greater condemnation.

Hear the Word of God less in the spirit of judges than of those who shall be judged by it. If you are not conscious of your need of religious instruction, why elect pastors and teachers for that purpose? But if you are, how inconsistent is it to indulge that spirit of cavil and censure which can have no other effect than to deter your ministers from the faithful discharge of their office, from declaring the whole counsel of God! In most dissenting congregations, there is one or more persons who value themselves on their skill in detecting the unsoundness of ministers; and who when they hear a stranger, attend less with a view to spiritual improvement than to pass their verdict, which they expect shall be received as decisive. It is almost unnecessary to add that they usually consist of the most ignorant, conceited, and irreligious part of the society. Such a disposition should as much as possible be discouraged and suppressed.

Receive with meekness the ingrafted Word, which is able to save your souls. Despise not men of plain talents who preach the truth, and appear to have your eternal welfare at heart. If you choose to converse with your fellow-christians on what you have been hearing, a practice which, if rightly conducted, may be very edifying; let your conversation turn more upon the tendency, the spiritual beauty, and glory of those great things of God which have engaged your attention than on the merit of the preacher. We may readily suppose that Cornelius and his friends, after hearing Peter, employed very few words in discussing the oratorical talents of that great apostle, any more than the three thousand who at the day of Pentecost were pricked to the heart: their minds were too much occupied by the momentous truths they had been listening to, to leave room for such reflections. Yet this is the only kind of religious conversation (if it deserve the appellation) in which too many professors engage. "Give me," says the incomparable Fenelon, "the preacher who imbues my mind with such a love of the Word of God, as makes me desirous of hearing it from any mouth."

When your ministers are exposing a particular vice, and endeavouring to deter from it by the motives which reason and revelation supply, guard against a suspicion of their being personal. That they ought not to be so we readily admit; that is, that they ought not to descend to such a minute specification of circumstances as shall necessarily direct the attention to one or more individuals; but if they are not at liberty to point their arrows against particular vices among them, or are expected, lest they should wound, to make a courteous apology, by assuring the audience of their hope and conviction that none among them are implicated, they had better seal up their lips in perpetual silence. It is a most indispensable part of our office to warn sinners of every description; and, that we may not beat the air, to attack particular sins as well as sin in the abstract; and if, without our intending it, an individual suspects he is personally aimed at, he merely bears an involuntary testimony to our fidelity and skill.

Seventhly. Hear the Word with a sincere resolution of obeying it. If ye know these things, said our Lord, happy are ye if ye do them.— VOL. I.-R

He that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him to a man who built his house upon a rock. To be a forgetful hearer of the Word and not a doer, is to forfeit all the advantages of the Christian dispensation, which is imparted solely with a view to practice. The doctrine of faith is published with a design to produce the obedience of faith in all nations. The doctrine of repentance is nothing more or less than the command of God that all men every where should repent. If we are reminded that he who in times past spake to the fathers by the prophets hath in these last days spoken to us by his Son, it is that we may be admonished not to refuse him that speaketh. If we are taught the supreme dignity and exaltation of Christ as a Mediator, it is that every knee may bow, and every tongue confess that he is Lord. If the apostles, having the mind of Christ, faithfully imparted it, it was that the same mind may be in us, to purify our passions and regulate our conduct. We can scarcely imagine a greater impertinence than to hear the Word with apparent seriousness, without intending to comply with its directions. It is a solemn mockery, concealing under an air of reverence and submission a determination to rebel, and, in the language of the prophet, a heart bent on backsliding. To suppose the Supreme Being pleased with such a mode of attendance is to impute to him a conduct which it would be an insult to ascribe to a fellow-creature; for who but the weakest of mortals, under the character of a master or a sovereign, would be gratified with the profound and respectful attention with which his commands were heard, while there existed a fixed resolution not to obey? Remember, dear brethren, the practical tendency of every Christian doctrine : remember that the ministry of the gospel is the appointed instrument of forming the spirits of men to faith and obedience; and that, consequently, the utmost attention and assiduity in hearing it is fruitless and unavailing which fails to produce that effect.

Finally. Be careful, after you have heard the Word, to retain and perpetuate its impressions. Meditate, retire, and digest it in your thoughts; turn it into prayer; in a word, spare no pains to fasten it upon your hearts. You have read, dear brethren, of those to whom the gospel was preached as well as to us, but the Word did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in hem that heard Endeavour to exert upon it distinct and vigorous acts of faith, and thereby to mingle and incorporate it with all the powers of the mind and all the springs of action. But this you can never accomplish without deep and serious reflection; for want of which it is too often left loose and exposed like uncovered seed, which the fowls of heaven easily pick up and devour. Then cometh that wicked one, says our Lord, and taketh it out of his heart, and he becometh unfruitful. How many hearers, by engaging in worldly conversation, or giving way to a vain and unprofitable train of thought, when they leave the sanctuary, lose the impressions they had received, instead of conducting themselves like persons who have just been put in possession of a treasure which they are anxious to secure from depredation! If Satan watches for an opportunity of taking the Word out of our hearts, what remains but that we oppose

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