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UNSOUND; UNCHARITABLE, OR CONTROVERSIAL
be well again, first to enquire within, and see whether you have good ground for such a judgment, or whether the fault be not in yourself. A legal hearer may condemn a miniser for antinomianism, who is only faithfully preaching the gospel of Christ. An Antinomian hearer may condemn a minister for legality, when he is only insisting on practical religion. A man of literature may condemn a preacher for ignorance, because he has not himself studied the Bible. And so with regard to other supposed faults, we should never forget our Lord's question, Why beholdest thou the mote in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam in thine own eye? Matt. vii, 3--5. Other circumstances are also to be taken into consideration. In the established church we have this immense advantage, that the prayers are always evangelical and spiritual, and a very large proportion of the Holy Scriptures is always read in the public congregation, so that you can never be entirely destitute of the truth. A man's situation may be so leadng and prominent, that his defection from the parish church, and going to another church, may materially injure his general usefulness, and cause greater evils than any personal loss. Or a person may be so connected with the minister as part of his family, or related to him, or
part, the ground why God should confer salvation upon us: by antinomian, making the salvation of Christ to consist only in deliverance from the guilt and punishment of sin; and disregarding its invariable and inseparable connection with a holy life, and obedience to the law of God.
dependent on him, that it would be a direct act of hostility not to hear him. Experience has shewn that the souls of Christians have eminently flourished where they have given up personal advantage and comfort, out of tender consideration for the feelings of others, and earnest endeavours to do the most good on the whole. Again, there may be no neighbouring church where you may have the advantage of hearing the truth: now with regard to attending worship among other bodies of Christians, the late Mr. Hey justly remarked, "The hearing of a good minister is not the whole of religious duty. To hear regularly, I must become a member of some particular community that may require of me things with which I cannot conscientiously comply; or I may have a large family to educate in some religious persuasion, which may have great weight in the choice of my communion." Let these things have their full weight on your mind; cousider them in prayer before God; consult experienced Christian friends; and then decide as conscience shall direct.
But circumstances may be such as to allow of a choice, as in large parishes where there are many churches. The choice here should be a matter of prayer and deliberation. Especially desire and seek after the faithful, practical, and holy minister, who will do your heart good; who will rouse and quicken, warn and exhort, instruct and build you up in the Gospel of Christ. God knows your exact state; look to him for guidance; and when you have fixed, REGULARLY ATTEND. Mr. Newton remarks, "Unsettled hearers seldom thrive; they usually grow wise in their own conceits, have their heads filled with notions, acquire a dry, critical, and censorious spirit, and are more intent
upon disputing who is the best preacher, than upon obtaining benefit to themselves from what they hear."
Suppose again a minister FAITHFUL, but UNTALENTED, dull, and perhaps tedious: still, what is the state of your own heart? Do you say, There is one in a neighbouring parish, or in a dissenting meeting, who interests you more: but your own parish miuister allowedly preaches the truth; attend him, then, and look more simply to the Lord for his blessing. Remember the general benefits of order and of the established church. Sacrifice something of taste and feeling for the general good. The spirit of wandering is very bad; it destroys pastoral unity, and cuts up that sympathy which should ever subsist between a minister and his people. Wanderers are not thrivers in the Christian life themselves; and their examples are injurious to others. Go regularly to one minister, and one place; and while you are depending on divine teaching, your soul shall flourish under the divine blessing, It has been observed, even by those who dissent from us, "Be sure you do not mistake the true nature of spiritua! edification, in thinking that nothing edifies but what either pleases our fancies or raises our sensitive passions. Such qualifications in ministers should be the ground of our choice and esteem, as are truly ministerial, and most adapted to answer the great ends of the ministry; and after all, we must expect more from it as the ordinance of Christ, than barely the performance of a man, though ever so wise and skilful, pious and faithful. By overlooking the institution of God, and having, too, raised expectations from man, we provoke him to blast the most promising means. On the contrary, a weaker - ministry is often greatly blessed when it is the best persons can conveniently and regularly enjoy, and is
attended from a sense of duty to God, in obedience to his commands, and in a dependence on his presence and blessing."
Suppose yet another case—a minister is FAITHFUL IN HIS DOCTRINES, BUT HIS CONDUCT OR HIS TEMPER DOES NOT CORRESPOND TO THEM. It
is a case provided for by our Lord, Matt. xxiii, 2, 3; The Scribes and Pharisees sit in Moses' seat; all therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works, for they say and do not. St. Paul shewed a conformity to the spirit of this when he said, Some preach Christ even of envy and strife; not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my bonds. What then? notwithstanding every way, whether in pretence or in truth, Christ is preached, and I do therein rejoice, yea, and will rejoice. Phil. i, 15. Surely, if he rejoiced in their preaching, though their spirit was bad, others. might and did hear with advantage what they preached; though it is not said that he advised attendance on such. There are probably cases of this kind where one would be more reluctant to attend, than where there was less knowledge, but more sanctity of character.
But suppose one case more, that you have the happiness to be in the parish of which the clergyman is A
FAITHFUL AND WELL-INSTRUCTED MINISTER OF
THE NEW COVENANT. You have here every motive for continuing to hear, and in general such a minister has large and attentive congregations. Yet even here the great enemy is vigilant to hinder the progress of the truth. If such a minister have not popular talents, he will often be slighted. It is also a striking and an affecting fact, that while those who live at a distance make many self-denying efforts, and come in all weathers to hear, those who live in the immediate neighbourhood,
and have every advantage and facility, too often neglect all their privileges, and make some objection or other, to justify themselves in this neglect. O be not fastidious, and slight not your greatest privilege, because it may be easily attained. There is many a soul hungering for the bread of life, that would be filled with joy and gratitude for such means as you neglect. Are you sincere in your profession of attachment to the established church? do not then so act as to weaken and destroy that system which has been so large a blessing to the country.*
But besides hearing the minister, there are, in connection with our duties to him, other important things to be attended to, some of which have already been mentioned, and some will be more fully considered hereafter. There is one point more that the present state of the church peculiarly presses on our attention. Hearers should Co-OPERATE WITH
*There are other cases arising from want of church room which, in the present state of many parishes, it is impossible to meet; one can only hope that it is an evil which will by degrees be remedied by the measures which happily are now in progress for this purpose under the government Had the members of the Church of England had greater facilities for erecting places of worship, aud a large degree of the patronage of the places which they erect; had they had something of the same facili ties which Roman Catholics, Socinians, and every other body of Dissenters have, there would have been an almost infinitely larger body of attached members to that church through the whole country, and there would hardly in any parish have been want of church room, or of zealous ministers to fill the churches. A groundless fear of opening the door to doctrines, merely imagined to be injurious to the establishment, has been one grand cause of the increase of the multiplied bodies of Christians now separated from that establishment. It is most probable that the British parishes were first formed, and British churches first built and endowed, by that system of private benevolence and piety, in lords of manors and others, which some in power seem now above all things to dread as injurious to the estab lishment.