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trongly and practically impressed by the truth; more comforted and rejoiced; and more thoroughly confirmed and established in the ways of God. In short, go in he spirit described, Isa. ii, 3, Let us go up to the house of the God of Jacob, and he will teach us of his ways. 7. Hear in the spirit of SELF-APPLICATION. are many who are very ready to think all that is said applies to others; or are thinking how it suits their friends. When Peter, after our Lord's address to him, turns and asks about John, Lord, what shall this man do? he received a just reproof, What is that to thee; follow thou me! John xxi, 21, 22. The application of the sermon to ourselves is the first step towards receiving benefit. Are not many merely regarding the style and manner of the preacher, or the system and theory which he holds, without once thinking that they are personally concerned, and that life and death is set before them? But at the same time, this self-application requires judgment and discrimination. There are those who make a wrong application. If secure and careless, they will apply to themselves all the characters of the righteous, and all the comfortable promises made to such characters. If anxious and desponding, they appropriate in like manner to themselves all the descriptions of the wicked, and the threatenings made to their sins. Thus some speak to themselves peace and safety, when there is no peace for them in their present state; and others speak terror without a cause, and make their hearts sad, when the Lord designs it not. Now the true remedy for these evils is, to examine more carefully into their own characters, and ascertain their real state; and, above all, to pray for the enlightening of the Holy Spirit, who alone wisely and efficaciously applies divine truth, so as to regenerate, sanctify, and gladden the
heart. Some are apt to think that the minister meant to preach to them in particular, because his sermons happen to touch their consciences and describe their character, and they are offended. But this almost invariably is a total mistake. A wise minister will avoid preaching at individuals while he makes a point of laying open character, so that all present may discern themselves, and the consciences of each may bear witness, and the secrets of his heart be made manifest. Where a person thinks that the minister has been informed of his particular case, ordinarily he knew not of such a person in the congregation: but, O let the faithful testimony of conscience, thus speaking plainly to you, not be trifled with. Hear personally and individually, and you shall receive a real and lasting blessing. At least, give the word this consideration, What if it should be true! if this should be my state!-if I am in this danger!—if that danger should be thus tremendous!-such a thought has led to the conversion of the soul.
8. Hear in HUMILITY. God has called us to receive with meekness the ingrafted word. James i, 21. He has promised blessings to those who tremble at his word. Isa. lxvi, 2. He requires that we should listen with reverence to his Son. Matt. xvii, 5. It is infinite condescension in the great God to address thus repeatedly and graciously fallen man. Let our humility and reverence in some degree correspond with his astonishing grace. Cultivate then a meek and docile spirit. The Bible not only comes from our Creator, but displays much of his glory, and we are but poor ignorant creatures of a day; let us then, as it becomes us, receive his truth in a humble and lowly heart. Our natural hearts are not only careless and inattentive, but also proud and captious; and it is only grace, through much humbling expe
rience, that makes them lowly and teachable. With a meek spirit a man will not at once quarrel with what he hears, however it may appear to him mysterious and inexplicable, but will wait, in the posture of a learner, for clearer light. Instead of objecting to an awful denunciation, he will tremble at it; instead of doubting a gracious promise, he will desire an interest in it. Sensible of his own ill-deservings, and great depravity, convinced of his own ignorance and weakness, he feels the need of a revelation like the Gospel, full of mercies, and gladly receives it in its length and breadth; in all its doctrines, however contrary to the carnal mind, and however offensive to the proud heart; and in all its precepts, however strict, and however opposed to his selfindulging pleasures. Bearing in mind our guilty and ruined state, even remembering our own innumerable transgressions and demerits, let an abased, lowly, contrite spirit mark our hearing. Let us listen as to words whereby we may be saved. We are lost and undone; the Gospel is a system of recovery; but it is either a savour of death unto death, or a savour of life unto life, just as it is received. A man feeling his ruin is humbled; a man in real distress gladly receives aid. The minister speaks not in his own name, but in the name of the great God. Where the word of a king is, there is power. Eccles. viii, 4. Though it be then contrary to your natural inclination and to your previous views, remember, if it be the word of God, it cannot be despised with impunity, and there must be an immense blessing in humbly receiving and obeying it. In few things do we more manifestly exhibit want of reverence to God, than in slighting and despising his word; in few things does that humility and lowliness (which in his sight are of great estimation) more shine,
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. 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. v,
10. Hear in the SPIRIT OF
directions of St. James (chap. i, 22-25.) on this point We shall have to consider them more
are very express. 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."