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Hence we may
no man lay,” or ought to lay, than that which is laid, -even Jesus Christ. reasonably infer, that before the implanted Word can take root and flourish, the soil must be duly prepared; and that the grace of God, which can alone give due efficacy to the Word preached, is granted to every hearer in consequence of his own fervent
and sincere wishes to receive it. For this reason, mankind are admonished to take heed “how they hear;" how they embrace and improve the opportunities of sacred instruction vouchsafed to them; of which they
one day to render an awful account. Wherefore, it behoves them, as Saint Paul advises, to “receive with meekness the engrafted Word which is able to save their souls." If the want of this meek and candid disposition oftentimes rendered the words even of Christ himself and his Apostles ineffectual, how must it operate against the weakness and unworthiness of those ministers who, at this day, preach the Gospel! And with what zeal and caution, with what reverent attention, with what solicitude for improvement, should the hearer of this day attend to the Word read or preached; that by an extraordinary degree of care and preparation of the heart, he may supply the defects of him that now planteth, and of him that watereth! In treating this subject, I mean to confine myself to that part of ministerial and
congregational duty, which consists in preaching and hearing God's Word; and, while I endeavour to explain the disposition of mind with which every hearer should receive it, God grant that no prejudice or prepossessions may close your ears and hearts, my brethren, against the things now humbly submitted to your consideration. Wherefore, in the first place, think of the momentous purposes to which this part of our service is to be applied. We do not come hither, that our imaginations may be entertained; that we may enjoy the amusement of a worldly spirit. If there be any that seek for such vanities, let them consider that a minister of Christ cannot indulge them; cannot, at least, without violating his bounden duty. Woe to the scribe, instructed unto the kingdom of Heaven, if he be content with bringing from his treasures, worthless unprofitable trifles! The things to be offered and received in God's sanctuary are of a different kind. Every individual who comes hither should consider that most important of all questions, “What shall I do to be saved?—How shall I conduct myself in this life, so as, by divine grace, to secure everlasting happiness in the next?” We are to be reminded of the gracious promises, and the awful denunciations of God; we are to be exhorted, -to be reproved,—to be corrected,—to be instructed in righteousness. The matters to be here delivered are of themselves so momentous, that no powers of eloquence can add to their greatness, no defects of the speaker can diminish aught from their weight. They require only to be uttered, in order to force their way to an honest believing heart and to an awakened conscience. Nor can any prejudiced heart or hardened conscience be excused, on account of the defects and infirmities of the preacher. The hearer must search for the real cause why the Word preached is unprofitable, in his own evil habits, in his pride and self-opinion. The meek and pious Christian knows that, however plainly and however feebly the doctrine may be delivered, however the manner of it may prove offensive to worldly vanity, yet, that doctrine is one of those ordained means of salvation which it highly concerns us all to embrace and to improve. This consideration, seriously pondered, will surely lead every one of us to acknowledge that we are bound to receive God's Word with profound attention, and deep humility.
If that wisdom, which is from above, were difficult of attainment; were the pursuit painful, and the search laborious; yet, O Christian, would the acquisition recompense thy utmost efforts ; for “all things thou canst desire are not to be compared unto it.” But it is not difficult of attainment, “it is not beyond the sea that any one should say, who shall go over the sea for us,
and bring it unto us, that we may hear it.” “The Word is very nigh unto us,” and when it is to be obtained only by inclining the ear, surely it would be an unpardonable contempt of God's ordinance, when wisdom crieth out, not to hearken to her counsel.
Did any one profess to teach us an easy and infallible method of becoming rich, and powerful, and great; of acquiring all the pleasures and enjoyments of this world ; how would the covetous, the ambitious, and the sensual, take heed to his counsel! Behold then the minister of Christ, the preacher of righteousness, prepared to lead you to the source of eternal joy in heaven, to teach you the
way to glory, to honour and immortality, when all the transient enjoyments of this world shall be forgotten. And can those objects, which alone are worthy of rational and redeemed creatures, be received with indifference or reluctance? In vain is it objected that the teacher is destitute of eloquence, that his manner is ungraceful and his language without ornament. In the case just mentioned,—that of a teacher of worldly wisdom, we should ridicule the absurdity of such objections; but, as a spiritual teacher, what does Saint Paul say was remarked of himself ? Why, that his “bodily presence was weak, and his speech contemptible.” And is not this cavilling spirit of the self-important Corinthians too common a charac
teristic among nominal Christians of the present day? Whatever pretences, therefore, men may assign, to excuse their inattention in the house of God, it really proceeds from a mind already pre-occupied by vanity or vice. They do not duly weigh the great and momentous value of the things spoken, nor do they consider the authority from which they proceed. sequence is plain. The mind has not been habituated to entertain them: indolence will not consider them: pride and corruption cannot tolerate them. What should be received gladly seems too gloomy, because viewed through a false medium; what should engage an immortal soul, appears too trivial to be regarded by a perishing body. Others, perhaps, do afford some attention ; but this may be merely the attention of a curious supercilious spirit, and therefore they are to be exhorted, in the language of the Apostle, “to receive the engrafted Word with meekness.” The proud it is who seeketh wisdom, and findeth it not. He seeketh it in the attire of elegant and fashionable refinement, but finding it plain and unadorned, he therefore scorneth it. He seeketh it in the allurements of novelty, forgetting that the divine Word, like its blessed Author, is the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever; and must be thus preached, must be plainly delivered and repeatedly enforced, “line upon line, and precept upon