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The Importance of reflecting on what we have heard, with a Prayer afterwards.
THIS part of the hearer's duty is so essential to his
They are worth keeping and
But it is to be feared that Christians but very little attend to this duty. Let this enquiry be put by each reader to his own conscience-What is my practice after hearing the word? Do I make it a point of duty to ponder and meditate on what I hear? Do I ordinarily give a stated time for this?
Certaiuly, many return home to their family and friends, and enter on general conversation, or reading, totally unconnected with what they have heard. Some take up a weekly journal to pass the time, and others a trifling book; and so, in one way or other, all good thoughts are soon dissipated, and the sermon has, perhaps, hardly once after it was heard, received a passing reflection. Is it not the case with too many, that the mere act of hearing is that with which their minds and consciences are satisfied; and that the practising what they hear is a very inferior consideration? They desire, indeed, to be interested, quickened, and excited while they hear; but they are careless about a conformity of life to the doctrines and precepts. The time after hearing is a most critical moment, as it respects our salvation. The word may then become effectual to our eternal good. The seed has been sown; God is ready to give the blessing. O let us seek it; let us not by impertinent visits, worldly business, or secular pleasures, lose the rich, the invaluable blessing.
The importance of this subsequent reflection and improvement will appear, if we consider why we come to hear the word. No considerate person can surely be so ignorant as to come with the self-righteous idea of obliging God, as if He were indebted to us for coming. Hearing separated from practical influence, is neither commendable in itself, nor acceptable to God; it is in truth mere self-deception, and tends only to our ruin..
Matt. vii, 26. The intelligent Christian hears, in order to be made wise unto salvation, or in order to be quickened in the Christian life.
Now in order to be made wise unto salvation, more is necessary than merely listening to the voice of the preacher. If you neglect to think on what you hear, your mind will be little informed and enlarged, and your heart will not be sanctified. Subsequent thought and reflection, is that which turns it to our real nourishment. The Apostle tells the Corinthians, (1 Cor. xv, 2.) I declare unto you the Gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand. By which also ye are saved, if ye hold in memory what I preached unto you. O why should you lose all the time, and care, and efforts to attend to hear, and never be really better for it all! As you value then your eternal salvation, meditate on the word; let it not carelessly pass from you; but recollect it, and bring it by prayer and reflection into your heart and life.
Or, if you desire to be quickened in the Christian life, the mere sound of the minister's voice, or his most fervent discourses, however excellent, or pathetic, or eloquent, will not do this. It must be permanently impressed on the heart by the blessed Spirit, through subsequent reflection. One sermon duly improved in this way, will do mere real good, than hundreds of sermons heard carelessly, and thought of no more. Meditate then in private, on what you hear in public, if you would be quickened and animated in the good ways of the Lord.
But how is this general direction to be reduced to practice? We proceed to give a few plain directions?
Seek to IMPROVE YOURSELF ALSO BY PRIVATE STUDY. The time allowed for public preaching and
hearing, though invaluable, is necessarily very limited: and unless the advantages thus given us be improved by private study as well as reflection, we shall make comparatively but very little progress in divine knowledge.
Though a poor man * has not much time for reading, yet in the long winter evenings, and on Sundays, he can generally get a little leisure; and though the Bible will ever be the pious poor man's favorite book, yet if he has opportunity and ability to procure them, he should read other books to inform and impress his mind.
The christian in the middle ranks of life should also pursue a larger course of study. A list is subjoined. †
POOR MAN'S RELIGIOUS LIBRARY.
Life of Colonel Gardiner.
Milner's Life of Howard.
Edwards's History of Redemption.
Sibbs's Bruised Reed.
Boston's Crook in the Lot.
Boston's Fourfold State.
Burder's Village Sermons.
Williams's Cottage Bible, or
Matthew Henry's Bible, or
Reformers' Bible, or
Burkitt's New Testament.
Burder's Missionary Anecdotes.
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