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On Practical Obedience to the Word.
DIVINE truth was, in all its parts, designed to have a practical tendency! Hence where truly received, while it enlightens the understanding, it leads to the unreserved submission of the will, and the obedience of the heart. The grace of the Holy Spirit effects by the word corresponding tempers and practice to the truth revealed. 1 Pet. i, 22, 23. The threatenings awaken attention, and so influence, that the prudent man foreseeth the evil, and hideth himself. Prov. xxiii, 3. The promises of divine mercy in a free salvation, through a Redeemer, produce faith, humility and gratitude, love and devotion. The pure and holy law of God leads to conviction of sin, sense of danger, and earnest application for help. The glorious gospel inspires with hope, and joy, and peace. The Christian graces and tempers become a test of character, and lead to self-examination and humiliation.
The Hebrews have a proverb, and learns the law, and does not act according to it, is like to a man that sows, and does not reap." Works of obedience are the very harvest for which the seed of the word is sown. The first design of hearing, is indeed to obtain knowledge; but the ultimate design is to be conformed to the divine will, and so prepared for the divine glory. This is thus expressed by Moses;
Father the people together, men, and women, and chilIren, and thy stranger that is within thy gales, that hey may hear, and that they may learn, and fear the Lord your God, and observe to do all the works of this law. Deut. xxxi, 12. Let us then cast away our most beloved sins. Let us not merely, like Herod, hear gladly, and do many things, and yet from love of one particular sin, ultimately reject the whole truth; (Mark vi.) or like Ahab, who (determining still to keep his purpose of going to Ramoth Gilead,) rejected the words of Micaiah, (1 Kings xxii,) and perished in the battle.
The truths of the Bible are not matters of speculation, or things of indifference; but, when cordially received, produce a striking change, and a powerful effect. The Apostle speaks of this when he expresses his gratitude to God for the change wrought among the Romans-God be thanked that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you; or, as it might be rendered, the model of doctrine into which ye were delivered. Just as that which is melted and poured into a mould, takes the form and disposition of the mould, so the dispositions, tempers, and life of the Christian are moulded and fashioned by divine truth-his conversation is such as becometh the Gospel.
St. James uses another figure, containing something of a similar sentiment, when he calls the Scriptures, The ingrafted word, which is able to save your soul. This figure is very expressive. The shoot, or slip,
Archbishop Usher says, "We may have a little motion by the word, yet there is a rock in our souls, a stone in our hearts, and though we may sometimes seem to receive it with some affection, and be made as it were sermon sick, yet it holds but a
that is engrafted, is not of the proper growth of the tree, but is taken from another tree. A good shoot is put on a bad stock, and so changes the course of the juice to the strengthening a new plant, sweetening the sap, which it receives from the stock, and making it a means of producing and bringing forth good fruit. Thus the word of Christ engrafted on our bad nature, becomes a shoot from which the fruits of righteousness are produced. It is a vital principle productive of spiritual life. Just as the graft inserted in the stock becomes a new means of bearing quite a new fruit on the stock on which it is grafted, so the word of God, when received into the heart of the believer, produces there the tempers and dispositions which are inculcated in that word, and form its true character. Your natural vigour and energy, your judgment and affection, all thus receive a right and fruitful direction. The word is sometimes called a seed, (1 Pet. i, 23.) but the idea of a graft seems to convey an intimation of farther benefit. It is said that the seed of fruit trees when sown, will often degenerate, and produce such fruit as is not worth cultivating; but when grafts are taken from good trees, they will not deteriorate, or fall away; the leaves, the wood, the flowers, and the fruit, are perfectly the same with those of the tree from which the graft is taken. O that it might please God, Christian reader, that his divine truth may be so grafted in us, that there may be
while, it betters us not: why, because it is not received as an ingrafted word. Therefore St. James says, receive with meekness the ingrafted word. I.et the word be ingrafted in thee; one sprig of it is able to make thee grow up to everlasting life. Be not content with the hearing of it, but pray God it may be firmly rooted in your hearts; this will cause a softening."-See his twenty Sermons.
constant union between us and the word, and all the nit peculiar to that word may appear in our life.
But it is, alas! too often found that the truths of od do not produce a practical obedience, and that en hear without being the better for what they hear. his subject calls for more full notice. St. James peaks of it at some length, and sums up his remarks 1 the direction-Be ye doers of the word, and not earers only, deceiving your ownselves. James i, 22.
It is very important to hear; it is the first step towards salvation; and those who altogether disregard the word, are in the broad road that leads to destruction. But men may sit and hear the word frequently, and not object to it, and yet never be influenced by that word to change their life. They do not hear it, for that purpose, but from various inferior motives, and thus hear. without practical benefit. They come as HEARERS
It may be well to enlarge on this topic. Thus, some come from CUSTOM; they have been brought up in this good habit; their friends look for their attendance; their parents perhaps expect it from them if young, or their master or mistress require it of them if servants ; they would feel uneasy even, if they did not come: but still they may so come that nothing is farther from their mind, than the intention of hearing to have their conduct guided, or that they are really interested in what the minister says. In such a case, attendance is like a mere mechanical act of the body, something that habit and custom have made easy, and even necessary; but, through the deadness and worldliness of their minds, it is unprofitable to any spiritual good.
Others, who are hearers only, come to listen, hoping TO HEAR SOMETHING NEW and extraordinary. They
are desirous of entertainment, and of having something to talk about. They want an intellectual treat, desire not, as the chief thing, edification, and spiritu good. Ezekiel gives a very striking picture of such (Ezek. xxxiii, 30.) The children of thy people are sti talking of thee by the walls, and in the doors of t houses, and speak one to another, every one to his brothe saying, Come, I pray you, and hear what is the won that cometh forth from the Lord. They went, but & not obey.
Others, who are hearers only, MISTAKE THE MEANS FOR THE END. If they were to be aske what it is to be religious, they would probably sayhear sermons, attend prayers, receive the sacrament and the like. No; a man may do all these things, and have no real religion at all. They are but means promoting religion. Real religion is, to have a constan: regard to the favour of God, our reconciled Father in Jesus Christ; and for his sake to abound in disinte rested and self-denying acts of love, to those most needing our care; and to watch against, and keep ourselves from the temptations and corruptions of a world lying in wickedness. Pure religion, and undefiled before God and the Father, is to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world. James i, 27. There are those who hear, perhaps, above a hundred sermons every year, and are in the church devout and religious; but when they leave the place where they worship, they seem to leave all their religion, and are, among those with whom they associate, worldly, proud, and passionate. These are hearers only. It has been remarked," the profession of most men, is a mere non-renunciation of the Gospel