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On Hearing of Sermons.
; 2 Tim. iii. 7. Ever learning, and never able to come to the
Knowledge of the Truth.
A Description equally emphatical and
disheartening! But to whom is it applicable? If there were such characters in an age painfully emerging from Jewish and Pagan darkness; are there such in modera days? If such characters are to be found among the most. obscure and misguided
sects; are there such in the bosom of the · national church? In ancient and in mo
dern times, among fects and in the establishment, of such characters there have been and there are multitudes. Is it possible? Shall man be ever learning, and never able to attain knowledge? Shall man labour,
Thall he labour in the pursuit of religious the truth, and reap no fruit from his exertions VOL. II. B
The event is possible and frequent. In vain the husbandman scatters the seed, if the soil is not duly prepared to receive it. The soil may be well prepared, and the feed may spring up green among the furrows: but it is in vain that you expect a plentiful harvest, if you permit the rising plants to be fmothered by weeds. Is it reasonable to imagine that the seed of the Gospel, the feed from which you look for the bread of life, will flourish and arrive to maturity; if you bestow on its cultivation less reflection, less solicitude, than are necesa fary for the grain which is to support your mortal body? The word of God will in vain be preached unto you, if you be not dilposed to embrace it. The word of God will in vain be preached unto you, if aftera wards you suffer it to be overwhelmed by the business or the pleasures of the world.
My purpose is to endeavour to lead you to that frame of mind, with which a Chris. tian ought to consider the discourses which he hears from the pulpit. Let me request your serious attention. For on the attention with which you regard the general truths now to be laid before you depends not only the benefit, such as it may be, which might be received, under the divine blessing, . 10
from the present discourse: but much also of the advantage to be derived from the future discourses, which the ministers of religion may address to you.
That you may survey with a comprehensive eye the extent of your duty, it may be useful that you should previously turn your thoughts to mine. In the first place, therefore, I shall briefly mention the duties of a Christian Preacher: and shall then proceed to the duties of a Christian Hearer.
: 1. Go ye into all the world, said our Lord - to his disciples, and preach the Gospel to every creature. Woe unto me, said St. Paul, if I preach not the Gospel. I determined to know nothing among you, said the same Apoftle on another occasion, but Jesus Chrift, and him crucified (a). A Christian Preacher is not to set before the congregation a fyftem of religion in part devised or modified by his own fancy. He is not to consider what species of doctrine will prove most agreeable to the natural imaginations of the heart. He is not to follow the speculative opinions of the wisest of men; nor to establish moral truth and moral duty on the basis of human authority. He is to look to the is (a) Mark, xvi, 15. 1 Cor. ix. 16. ii. 2. .
revealed Word of God. There is his commission to preach: there is the religion which he is to preach. He is to preach the Gospel. He is to preach Jesus Christ, and him crucified. He is to unfold the great plan of salvation for fallen man through faith in the atoning blood of a Redeemer. He is to teach the indispensable necessity of the renewal of the heart unto holinets through the sanctification of the Spirit of grace. The corner stone on which he is to build is Jesus Christ. On that corner stone he is to build, not bay and fiubble, but found and precious materials, materials which will endure the trial even of fire; pure and genuine Christianity, the unchangeable doctrines and cominandments of the Son of God. . Again; the Christian Preacher is to preach the whole of the Gospel. He is to magnify the justice no less conspicuously than the mercy of Jehovah. He is to proclaim the eternal vengeance reserved for the impenitent no less loudly, than the glories
prepared for the justified servants of Christ. + He is not to dwell chiefly upon doctrines 1. to the negleet of practice; nor on practice
to the disparagement of doctrines. He is
to preach true doctrine as the ground-work *. of holy practice: and, to inculcate holy
practice practice as the effect of true doctrine. He is to labour to be the instrument of enlightening the understanding, and also of purifying the heart. While he teaches that man is justified by faith alone, not by the deeds of the law; he is to convince his hearers that their hope will be vain, unless they add to their faith virtue, as its evidence and its fri:it. How shall the architect raise the palace, unless an immovable foundation shall first have been established? But how shall the pile be completed, if year after year his mind be wholly absorbed in perfecting and displaying the strength of the foundation ? With his plummet and his square continually in his hand, he unremittingly proves every part of his work whether it rests on the foundation. To the founda: tion every apartment, even every ornament, of the structure has an ultimate and a difcernible reference. But he fails not to bestow distinct and due regard on the form, the proportion, and the purpose, of every apartment; on the nature and the position of every ornament. How shallthe preacher, like a wise master-builder, edify his hearers into a spiritual boufe, a living and holy temple in the Lord (b); unless he founds it on the (6) 1 Pet. j. 5. 1. Cor. iii. 16, 17. Ephes. ii. 21.