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than when we unfeignedly submit to and reverence his declared will and his revealed word.
9. COMPARE ALL YOU HEAR WITH THE WRITTEN WORD OF GOD. This was the practice of the Bereans. Even when an inspired Apostle preached, they searched the scriptures daily whether these things were so. Acts xviii, 11. Nothing has any divine authority but as it comes from God, or is according to his word. Yield your mind up then to the plain will of God, and to nothing else. Have a simple regard to his authority. As long as we receive doctrines merely on the word of ministers, we build our faith on human opinions, and it may be shaken by other human opinions; but when the Holy Scriptures are made the sole foundation of our faith, and we compare all we hear with the word of God, and receive it only as it is drawn from that pure fountain of divine truth--we have then a divine testimony, and build on that which, like its Divine Author, is not variable, and cannot be shaken. We are bound, as reasonable and accountable creatures, thus to form our own judgment of what we hear, and not to take our sentiments only on man's authority. That authority may justly demand from us patient consideration, but not unqualified submission. All the fathers and ecclesiastical writers put together do not form the rule of judgment-God's holy word is our final judge. The apostle doubtless wished the Galatians, in considering either him, or an angel from heaven that should preach another Gospel accursed, to form their own judgment on what they heard. Let us have a high reverence of the Divine Word as the only umpire in sacred truth; let us be well acquainted with it, that by it we may try the spirits; 1 John iv, 1. We may otherwise be misled by deceivers and false teachers, and take that for the word
of God, which is indeed only the fancy of an ignorant, as well as fallible creature. But perhaps you object both to hearing, and believing what you hear the >variety of opinions to be found among preachers, and the possibility of being deceived by dependance on them; or even say, 'Scarcely two of them are of a mind, and therefore my resolution is, I will believe none.' You forget that there is a divine rule to prove all things. Hieron, an old writer, says, "It is not the counsel of the Holy Ghost, because there is a spirit of error in the mouths of many, and the best learned may mistake, therefore cease to hear, but because it is thus, be sure to try." 1 Thess. 21. v,
are very express.
10. Hear in the SPIRIT OF OBEDIENCE. The directions of St. James (chap. i, 22-25.) on this point We shall have to consider them more fully in another place. Hearing is not the end of our attendance on the ministry; it is but a means of assisting us to practical obedience, and it is a vain thing merely to hear, and learn our duty, if our lives never be the better. Determine then that you will, by the grace of God, practise all that is delivered to you by his ministers from his word. Often ask yourself, How can I best discharge the duties that have been brought before me? How can I most carefully shun the sins that have been pointed out? Submit yourselves, your
He farther adds, "Try what you hear by the work it has on your soul: the whole scripture specially aims at three thingshumility, comfort, and obedience. 1. To abase man in his own eyes, and to lay him in the dust. 2 To refresh his soul, and to bring his bones, which have been broken, to rejoice. 3. To frame his heart to a constant desire and care to please God. The doctrine which tends to further these three is true; that which is an impediment to any of these three must be rejected as unsound."
that are commanded thee of God. An old writer says, "It will appear that we esteem God's ordinance when we shall for the sake of it neglect our profit, hazard our outward peace, seem careless of our credit, strain our purses, and part with all for it."
There have been seasons when men have heard as if they were in earnest to be saved. In the time of the great plague in London, in 1665, those ministers who remained among the people, and preached to them, were eminently blessed. One who himself ministered at this time, thus described it :- "Now there is such a vast concourse of people in the churches, where ministers are to be found, that they cannot many times come near the pulpit doors for the press, but are forced to climb over the pews to them; and such a face is now seen in the assemblies, as seldom before was seen in London; such eager looks, such open ears, such greedy attention, as if every word would be eaten which dropt from the mouths of the ministers. If you ever saw a drowning man catch at a rope, you may guess how eagerly many caught at the word, when they were ready to be overwhelmed by this overflowing scourge, which was passing through the city. When death was knocking at so many doors, and God was crying aloud by his judgments, and ministers were now sent to knock, cry aloud, and lift up their voice like a trumpet: then, then the people began to open the ear, and the heart, which were fast shut and barred before; how did they then hearken as for their lives, as if every sermon was their last, as if death stood at the door of the church, and would seize upon them as soon as they came forth; as if the arrows which flew so thick in the city, would strike them, before they could get to their houses; as if they were immediately to appear before the bar of
that God, who by his ministers was now speaking to them? Great were the impressions which the word then made upon many hearts, beyond the power of man to effect, and beyond what the people before ever felt, as some of them have declared. When sin is reproved, O the tears that slide down from the eyes! when the judgments of God are denounced, O the tremblings which are upon the conscience! When the Lord Jesus Christ is made known and preferred, O the longings. and openings of heart unto him! When the riches of the Gospel are displayed, and the promises of the covenant of grace are set forth and applied, O the inward burnings and sweet flames which were in the affections! I hope, not a few were born again: a strange moving there was on the hearts of multitudes in the city: and I am persuaded that many were brought effectually to close with Jesus Christ, whereof, some died by the plague with willingness and peace; and others remain steadfast in God's ways unto this day."*
6. HEAR IN FAITH. The Israelites in the wilderness having no faith in God's word, lost the promised blessings. The word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it. Heb. iv, 2. You would not dishonour your bosom friend, or a revered father, by distrusting his word; have then a generous confidence in God; have a sure conviction that he will not deceive you. All his threatenings
must be fulfilled; all his promises, shall be exactly accomplished. The precepts of the God of power, wisdom, and love, cannot fail, if obeyed, to make you happy. His invitations to you, to partake of his
* See Gillies' Historical Collections, vol. i, p. 220.
mercies, however rich, and full, and free those mercies O believe them, con
are, they are all made in truth.
Observe how chil
fide in them, and rely upon them. dren entirely trust their parents, and leave all consequences with them; and how the babe clings to its mother, and draws nourishment from her; so let us trust our far better, even our heavenly, parent; so let us cling to, and embrace our Saviour Jesus Christ, and receive our supplies from his inexhaustible fulness. When Christ is preached by the minister, faith should be so exercised by the hearer, that he should be ready to say, as the Eunuch did to Philip, I believe that Jesus is the Son of God. There are many hindrances to be overcome, in receiving and obeying the word of God; but faith will carry you above all difficulties and obstructions, and above the opposition and enmity of the world, and will quench the fiery darts of Satan our great enemy. When you hear, therefore, of the divine anger; believe and fear, lest you should endure that anger, and fly to him, who has delivered us from the wrath to come. When you hear his promises, believe them, be persuaded of them, and embrace them, and thus ensure to yourself an interest in them. "To hear and not believe," says Dr. Owen, "is in spiritual life, what to see meat and not to eat, is in the natural; it will please the fancy, but never nourish the soul." You may expect to receive a blessing. If it be not your own fault, you shall not attend without spiritual good. Consider what God has promised. Look at the declarations, that the Gospel is the power of God unto salvation, to every one that believeth; and that his word shall not return void, and hope for, and desire these blessings. Look to be more deeply convinced of sin; more clearly enlightened in the knowledge of the divine will; more