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MEANS OF RECEIVING SPIRITUAL BLESSINGS.
you want spiritual life, hear, and your soul shall live;
(See his "Christian System.") In short, if you want a cheering evidence that you belong to Christ, it is a grand and distinguishing character of those who shall hereafter dwell with him-my sheep hear my voice. Our Lord solemnly asserts, Verily, verily, I say unto you, he that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation. John v, 24. How incalculably important is that with which God has connected such blessings! If it be only as we regard the word that we have reason to hope that we are disciples of Christ, and going to dwell with him for ever, how infinitely needful to hear that word!
THE CONTINUED MINISTRY OF THE WORD FROM THE BEGINNING OF THE CHURCH, shews its importance. The plan of public instruction seems to have existed from the earliest ages. Moses was assisted in instructing the people by the seventy Elders. Numbers xi. Jehosaphat sent Levites and Priests through the land, and they taught in Judah, and had the book of the law of the Lord with them. 1Chron. xvii, 9. Israel was without the true God, when they were without a teaching priest! 2 Chron. xv, 3. On the return from captivity, Ezra, the Scribe, stood upon a pulpit of wood which they had made for the purpose, and so taught the people; and the Priests and Levites read in the book in the law of God distinctly, and gave the sense, and caused them to understand the reading. Neh. viii, 4--8. We are informed, (Acts xv, 2.) Moses of old hath in every city them that preach him, being read in the synagogues every Sabbath day. Our Lord himself so preached in the synagogue at Nazareth, (Luke iv, 16--21.) and on the Mount. His very business on earth, (who is Lord of heaven and earth) was going about preaching that men
might hear. He sent forth the seventy Disciples and the twelve Apostles to preach the word. In the book of Acts, we see that as it was the constant practice of Christian Teachers to preach, so it was the habit of Christians to hear the word. In the primitive Church the same practice was continued. Clement says to the Corinthians, "Hearkening diligently to his words, ye were enlarged in your bowels, having his sufferings always before your eyes." Justin Martyr says, " Upon the day called Sunday, all that live either in city or country meet together at the same places, where the writings of the Apostles and Prophets are read as much as time will give leave; when the Reader has done, he who presides, gives an admonition, instructing the people, and animating them to the practice of such lovely precepts; at the conclusion of this discourse, we all rise up together and pray." Tertullian shows (in his Apology) that Christians met together for the pur-· pose of reading the Scriptures, exhorting and reproving and he says in another place, "The Scriptures are read, psalms sung, and discourses publicly delivered." Cyprian mourns under the persecution as hindering them from seeing the assembled fraternity and hearing the Bishops discoursing. Athanasius, in his apology to the Emperor, shews how they crowded to the Church in his days at Alexandria. Ambrose, Augustine, and others, also testify how the people continued to hear. We need not descend farther, as these facts sufficiently shew that the public ministry of the. word has been the invariable practice of the Church. While the fact of the public ministry continued from the earliest ages is thus clear, all history testifies, that religion proportionably flourishes or declines as the practice of hearing obtaius, or is disregarded. Where
ever vital piety, with all its holy fruits, abounds generally and extensively, there the word is faithfully and largely dispensed, and listened to. In Papal countries the word of Christ is little heard. In Mahomedan countries, it is almost unknown. In Heathen countries it has never been declared. In Protestant countries an increasing interest in it is accompanied with an increasing growth of general morality and godliness.* History and fact bear full evidence then to the general importance and advantages of hearing.
THE SPECIAL ADVANTAGES WHICH WE ENJOY, shew us our peculiar obligations to hear. The Israelites had many special advantages for becoming wise unto salvation. He shewed his word unto Jacob, his statutes and judgments unto Israel. Psalm clxvii. Moses appeals to them, Did ever people hear the voice of God speaking out of the midst of the fire as thou hast heard, and live? Though this, in its literal meaning, was only true of one generation of the people of Israel, yet the whole nation were peculiarly distinguished by this eminent and special advantage, that to them were committed the oracles of God. They exclusively among the nations of the earth had the full privileges of divine Revelation afforded to them, with all the light and truth, the gracious promises and blessed prospects, which it discovers.
But we Christians have superior advantages which bring a higher responsibility; our neglect of them is
* It has been observed, "Without this hearing, we see the power of religion lost, and the awe of God wear off the spirits of men, as appears in the atheism of Popish countries, where hearing the word is in a manner swallowed up by the mass; and in the general depravity of those among ourselves who turn their backs on this part of the worship of God." Eastcheap Lectures.
more dangerous; by our improvement of them we may derive a larger benefit. The whole of the sacred Scriptures is now in our possession and exalted as the publicly acknowledged Code of faith and duty. The Apostle's statement-God who at sundry times and in divers nanners spake in times past unto the Fathers by the Prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, belongs to us. We may every day hear in our own tongue the wonderful works of God. O that we were duly sensible of the immense blessing of having the word of Christ so richly and so abundantly as we have!
Then consider our peculiar national advantages. We, in this highly-privileged country, the glory of the Reformation, the bulwark of the Protestant Faith, where the ark of God seems specially to have rested, have been blessed of God in an eminent degree. Look at our Reformers, Cranmer, Latimer, Ridley; look at those of later days, Hall, and Hopkins, and Beveridge; look even at comparatively modern times, at Milner, Robinson, and Scott, and say, whether God's truth has not by them, and in their writings, been most plainly placed before our eyes. Then look more particularly at your Sabbath privileges, and the abundance of the Divine Word read or proclaimed by his ministers, from thousands of pulpits every Sabbath. The word of God is not bound, his house is not closed, his ministers have liberty to preach from Sunday to Sunday, and we have opportunity to go and hear. Hundreds of millions of our fellow creatures there are in Heathen lands, that have none of these advantages; and many millions there are in Roman Catholic countries to whom the Bible is yet a sealed book. It is not so with us. God affords us eminent and increased facilities in this day; the Holy Scriptures have been largely distributed, there