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situation of the persons spoken of by our Saviour, who, having been first, became last. Having been first in advantages, first in opportunities, first in the clearness and frequency with which God called you to come to heaven, you by your own laziness and carelessness will become last, and will have the pain and shame of seeing the very heathens admitted into heaven before you. "There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth, (says our Lord to the Jews, Luke xiii. 28,) when ye shall see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, and all the prophets, in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrust out." So would he say to the unprofitable Christian: "There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth for you will see those holy men, the confessors and martyrs of the English church, by whose labours the Scriptures were translated, the Prayerbook was put together, the psalms, lessons, litany, and collects were selected and appointed to be read in the order best fitted to awaken and instruct the people,—you will see these holy men, who, having thus gathered together such a rich treasure of godliness for the use of their countrymen, became martyrs, and laid down their lives gladly, rather than let the Church of England be thrown back into ignorance and error,-you will see these glorious men, for these their pious works, high in the sunshine of God's favour; and you
will feel that, if you had profited by the treasures they bequeathed to you, if you had made a right use of all the means of grace which those martyrs bought for you at the price of their blood, you, according to your degree, would have been where they are, and would have had places at the same table. But you rejected all warning while it was time. Therefore from being first you are become last, and must inherit the portion of the last. You must go away from heaven into outer darkness, afar from the blessed sight of God's countenance." This is the language which Jesus Christ would address to a careless and unprofitable Christian. This is the language which by me, his minister, he does address to such as neglect to profit by the means of grace, to such as neglect to pray both with the spirit and with the understanding. If there be any such among you, to him have these words been spoken: let him lay them to heart.
Here some of
you may perhaps answer me, that you do prize the means and the books of grace, that you have shewn this by your wish to get Bibles and New Testaments, and that you are fond of reading them now you have got them, and of hearing them read by others. You do well. But do you also prize the Prayerbook? I fear not. had more applications for Prayerbooks, and should
I should have
see more of them in church. Without a Prayerbook a man, unless he has a very good memory indeed, cannot go along with the minister through the service: and the poor man who does not follow the service in church, loses the best opportunity of religious instruction which a grown up person can have. By attending to the prayers in church, you may be taught to pray: you will learn what to ask for, and may learn too by degrees how to ask for it. The service is indeed intended for the good of those who cannot read, as well as of those who can and even the former, if they will take pains, and do their best to listen to the minister, will learn after a few Sundays to repeat parts of the prayers, or at all events to know what comes next; and so may add their secret wishes to the words which are uttered in their ears. I was once told of a very old and very poor woman, who was forced by weakness and sickness to keep her bed, and who in this state used to spend much of her time in repeating collects and other prayers. A lady, who often visited the poor woman, asked her one day, how it came that she could say so many prayers, seeing she had never been at school, and could not read. "It is very true,” said the good woman; "I never learnt to read. But I have been a churchgoer all my life; and one Sunday I brought away a few words of a prayer; and
the next Sunday I brought away a few words more: and so by degrees I learnt to say a great many of them. And now nobody can think the comfort they are to me, and the pleasure it gives me to say them." A comfort indeed they must have been to her even here; and the Lord, who accepted the widow's mite, will not fail to accept her prayers, and to reward her for them hereafter. Now there is nothing in what this woman did, which every one else may not do just as well. If it were the custom in our churches, as it is in some places, for the minister to pray out of his own head, the old woman might have listened all her life without being able to learn a single prayer. But as it is, those among you who cannot read, and who have not the means of learning, may still follow her example. In doing so the way would be to begin with one of the shorter prayers, such as, "Lighten our darkness, we beseech thee, O Lord;" and, after learning this bit by bit, to go on to others that are longer. Mind how, ever, this is only for those who cannot learn to read all who can, are bound to learn; and, when they have learnt, let them read their Prayerbook, and endeavour to pray with the understanding.
It is a blessed thing for every man, for a poor and ignorant man it is most blessed, to live in a land where, once at least every week, he may hear and be reminded of his duty to God. You may
now and then pick up something from a neighbour, who happens to have been better taught: but how few will be at the pains of doing this! No one who is so careless about heavenly things, as not to do his best to learn in church, is likely to take much pleasure in religious talk out of church. Indeed for those who cannot read, church is almost the only opportunity of learning the will of God, and all that Christ has done for men. For those who can read too, even for those who well know and understand all the main truths contained in the Bible, the church-service is of great use, in stirring up their recollection of them. For this world is like the enchanted ground which we read of in the Pilgrim's Progress, the air of which was apt to produce drowsiness in such as had occasion to pass over it. In like manner do the cares and business and pleasures of life take up and lull our minds, until we fall asleep on the road to heaven. So that the very best of us has need of a friendly shake to waken and rouse him from time to time. Nor did any man ever keep away from church, unless on account of illness, for six months together, without being sensibly the worse for it: though he may not be aware of this himself; because he will not examine himself regularly, nor take a full and true account of his thoughts and actions. If he did, he would find that his piety had slackened, that his love to God