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(2.) As our Judge. God has a tribunal as well as a throne in the public ordinances, to reward or punith his worshippers according to their works. This has made the blood of some to be mingled with their sacrifices, as in the case of Nadab and Abihu, Lev. X. 3. God is jealous of his honour, A curious look into the ark cost the Bethshemites dear; and a wrong touch of it coft Uzzah his life. And we would make the same use of that that David did, i Chron. XV. 12. 13. Sanctify yourselves, both ye and your brethren, that you may bring up the ark of the Lord God of Israel, unto the place that I have appointed for it. For because ge did it not at first, the Lord our God made a breath upon us, for that we fought him not after the due order. It is true, the gospel-dispensation is more spiritual, and therefore fpiritual plagues are more usual now; but these ordinances cure the worst of plagues. '' ??!!!
(3.) As our Lawgiver, I'. xxxii. 22. We are his creatures, and therefore his will muft be our law. We are his upon many accounts; we know not our duty. He has set up the ministry in his churchA to declare to people what is their duty, Mal. ii. 7. But alas ! many, by their despising the mefsengers of the Lord and their message, say, as Pfal. xii. 4. Who is lord over us? But God will lord it over such in spite of their hearts, Hos. xiii. 10. I will be thy King. But the heralds must proclaim the fubjects duty, whether they will hear, or whether they will forbearon uit
(4.) As the Lord and Master of the family, who has provided liberally for all of his house. Ministers are the ftewards of the house, but he is the Master, that has made the provision in the gospel, 1f. xxv. 6. He fends out his fervants, saying, Come, catb of my bread, and drink of the wine which I have mingled, Prov. ix. 5: Look then bow obedient children will stand and wait for supply of their necessities from an affectionate parent; to ought we to stand and wait on in ordinances for the supply of our spiritual wants from our heavenly Father,
(5.) Lastly, As our God, which should strike us with reverence, Pfal. lxxxix. 7. God is greatly to be feared in the assembly of the saints : and to be bad in reverence of all them that are about him. Pfal. xcv. 6. O comie, let us worship and bow down : let us kneel before the Lord our Maker. And this challenges the most ferious disposition of our hearts to worship him,
HI, I proceed to consider the disposition of foul wherewith people should come to the public ordinances. It is with a spirit ready to hear all things commanded ministers of God. It implies the following things.
1. That ministers are to preach nothing to the people but what is the mind and will of God, Lawyers must not speak without authority of the law; and minifters must not fpeak but with a Tkus saith the Lord; other wile they go beyond their commission, The fcriptures contain what is to be believed and practised by us. To coin new articles of faith is the work of Antichrist, not of the ministers of Christ. To impose and teach significant rites and ceremonies in the worfhip of God, is a piece of Popith dregs in the church of England; concerning which our Lord says, In vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men, Match. xv. 9. 112. That it is the duty of ministers to labour to know the mind of God, as to particular messages which they are to carry to their people. Ministers are not oto preach hand over head whatever truths they can get ti toifay to spend a half-hour in a sermon to the people,
A word in season is very precious, Prov. xxv. 11. and xv. 23. And minifters had need of the tongue of the learned.
3. Whatever message the Lord gives them to a peo. ple, they are to deliver it impartially, All things commanded them. It was Paul's comfort that he had done so, Acts xx. 20. I kept back nething that was profitable unto you, fays he to the elders of Ephesis.
4. Lastly, People ought to receive these messages from ministers as from the mouth of the Lord, and comply with them ; for it is not bare hearing, but hearing with obedience that is the hearing pointed at in the text. And with this disposition of foul should people come to ordinances.
Now this hearing of the word has these properties.
(1.) We should hear reverentially. God speaks by minifters mouths; and seeing God speaks at all, we muft hear so, Psal, lxxxix. 7. forecited. See how Eglon behaved, when he was accosted by Ehud, Judg. iii. 20. 21. I have a message from God unto thee, faid Ehud. It is added, And he [Eglon] arose out of his feat ; denoting the reverence with which he was to receive the message. And so fhould we.
(2.) Diligently and attentively, Il. lv, 2. Hearken diligently unto me, fays the Lord. God sends no mef. fage to us but what is of great concernment to us to hear; he does not take up our time with trifles; and when God speaks, it becomes us to be attentive.
(3.) Understandingly, so as to know the mind of God in what is preached, Matth. xiii. 11. We must endeavour to see heavenly things in their divine lustre, and to understand the things as well as the words. We should look into the perfect law of liberty, and con. tinue therein, being not forgetful hearers, but doers of the word. And were this the way of hearing, minifters would get more soul-cases to resolve than they do.
(4.) Believingly, John ix, 27. He that hears as out of the mouth of God, muft needs believe what is said. If the word be not believed, it is all one as if it were not heard, Heb. iv. 2. The foul rightly disposed to hear, is ready to yield itself the captive of divine revelation, and receive the kingdom of God as a little child, to hear with application. The Lord's word is compared to rain, Amos vii. 16. and the soul hould be as the dry and gaping ground, ready to
drink it in, Pfal. cxliii. 6. though alas! moft are like the rock, upon which the rain makes no impression. Ministers make the plaister, but faith of application makes it stick.
5. Laftly, So as to practise what we hear. Though the ear hear, if the feet be not set on God's way, it is not acceptable to God, Jam. i. 22. That hearing that fills the head with knowledge, but not the heart with holiness, will serve only to let people see the way to hell more clearly.
I come now to the improvement of this doctrine. Use I. for reproof. It reproves,
1. Those who absent themselves from ordinances, and will not come to hear what is commanded us of God. A very fmall matter will prevail with many to fit at home and loiter away the Lord's day in many places. When ministers are at pains to seek something that might edify their souls, they will not be at the pains to hear.0, what contempt is poured on the gospel at this day by the pride of fome, and the laziness of others ! Whatever temptations any of you may have this way, I advise fuch, when they meet any thing that may seem to hinder them from the public ordi.. nances, that they do in the first place weigh the mat. ter before the Lord, and see if it will bear weight there. If it do, they may look to God for the upmaking of their lofs; if not, they cannot. For it is a most deceitful principle of fome, that they can spend the fabbath-day as well at home. It reflects on the wisdom of God in appointing public ordinances, and is most unlike the practice of the saints, to whom it was a great burden to be deprived of them. As for those who separate from our communion, I wish they would consider that Christ keeps communion with us, as many of the children of God can testify; and then say, as Zech. viii. 23. We will go
you ; for we have beard that God is with you.
2. It reproves those who come to ordinances, but
hear not the word as becomes those who are to hear what is commanded of God. Such are,
(1.) Irreverent hearers. Many behave so as it appears there is no fear of God before their eyes. Some are sleeping; others gazing hither and thither, altoge. ther careless and inattentive, to whom the word is as the feeed presently picked up by the fowls. Their bodies are present, but their hearts are gone; they are the idols that have eyes, but see not; that have ears, but hear not.
(2.) Supercilious nice hearers, who fit as judges of the word, and not as they that are to be judged by it. Hence such will be ready to commend the preacher, not to loath themselves; or else to reproach the preacher, and endeavour to expose him : like the riddle that lets through the good grain, and keeps the chaff; or like flies that falten on festering fores.
(3.) Ignorant and stupid hearers who hear the word, but neither know nor endeavour to know God's mind in it. A good voice and good word please them. These are not concerned to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God.
(4.) l'nbelieving hearers, Ir. liii. 1. Unbelief is a defence against the power of the word, Mat. xiii. 58.; and an unbelieving heart is a proud heart, ready to form at the word, like Ahab. · And if the word hit them, their passion ariseth, the minister meant them, and wanted to expose them, and so they are filled with prejudice.
5. Lastly, Such as make no application of the word to themselves, but are ready to give it away to 0thers. It is the weakness of godly fouls sometimes to give ear to nothing but what may tend to their discouragement; and it is the neckbreak of others to give away threats from themselves.
3. It reproves those who do not set themselves to hear what God commands ministers to preach, but will command minifters to preach so and fo. Thus bands have been laid on the gospel in our land in the late