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we do not ask of you that blind and indolent obedience which the Church of Rome exacts; an unexamined admission of the doctrines which we preach we totally condemn. Remembering what Jesus said to the Jewish multitude,—“ Search the Scriptures” (John v. 39); remembering what a noble commendation was passed upon the Bereans, who tried the preaching of St. Paul by the test of Scripture (Acts xvii. 11); and remembering that the same Apostle on another occasion exhorted his followers to “ be fully persuaded in their own minds” (Rom. xiv. 5), we entreat you to bring every lesson which we explain to the law and to the testimony." “ If they speak not according to this Word, it is because there is no light in them.” (Isaiah viii. 20.) We therefore charge you to hear us not only with regularity and undivided attention, but with a reflecting and understanding heart.
To regulate and assist this needful exercise of your private judgment (the abuse of which has led to so many errors), remember to cherish a devout frame of mind. It is written, “the secret of the Lord is with them that fear Him; and He will show them His covenant.” (Psalm xxv. 14.) Thus does this, as well as many other passages, evidently teach us what habit and familiarity are too apt to counteract,--that necessity is laid upon all, who wish to be under the covenant of grace, of maintaining reverential feelings whenever they enter the house of prayer, or engage in any other of their sacred duties.
Again, in addition to reverential feelings, there must be a heartfelt eagerness to be informed. Like the anxious multitudes on the sea-side, as described in Luke v., every, even an inconvenient opportunity of hearing God's Word should be gladly seized. For, as St. Peter expresses the duty, we should resemble “new-born babes ;" we should crave sincere milk of the Word,” that our faith may be nourished; and, having “ tasted that the Lord is gracious," we should hunger and thirst after those lessons which Christ has described to be both life and spirit to the sinner's soul. (1 Pet. ii. 2.)
Another requisite for the profitable hearing of sacred counsel is a meek and teachable disposition. Accordingly, St. James has warred all the members of Christ's Church to “receive with meekness the engrafted Word, which is able to save your souls.” (James i. 21.) Now, there is much implied in such a disposition. It denotes, in the first place, an
, , anxiety to learn even unpalatable truths ; for “every one” (as our Saviour says in John xviii. 37) “ that is of the truth heareth my voice," and, if necessity arises, will take up the cross, endure ignominy and trouble, and follow the Lamb whithersoever He goeth. Secondly, it implies a readiness to submit to all the laws which the Author of our religion has revealed. If, then, we would be counted as “little children, of whom is the kingdom of heaven,” we must remember these words of Christ: “My doctrine is not mine, but His that sent me. If any man will do His will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether
it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.” (John vii. 16, 17.) Moreover, a meek disciple, who desires to be taught in heavenly things, will always hearken to the preacher's voice and the Word of God, with an honest wish that all he hears may be truly applied to his own heart and the circumstances of his own condition. Yet, how many are rejoiced to receive counsel, which in their self-righteous opinion they deem inapplicable to themselves, but well-suited to the failings and offences of others ! Are we not all too ready to trace the faults of others, and even to tremble for their end, when we hear the angry rebukes of Holy Writ? Oh! how fearfully do you pervert the means of grace and self-knowledge which the hearing of truth is intended to prove, if you thus come to listen, but not to listen for yourselves !
It is true that, when explaining and applying Scripture, we cannot publicly point out the sinner, though we may denounce the sin. Our duty is to depict the vice, to detail its bitter consequences, and in general terms to trace its secret windings through the heart. You must then co-operate, or else our labour will be in vain ; you must assist our efforts by your meekness and docility, and by carefully encouraging the suggestions of a conscience which the Holy Spirit has awakened. You ought in this way to meet the counsel which we give. When we speak of guilt, and relate its consequences, you should, instead of seeking to excuse yourselves, be ready to feel bitter remorse, and to say,
" Alas! that
sin, and even worse, is mine.” When we proclaim Jesus to be the penitent's Protector and the sinner's Friend, you should humbly acknowledge that His redemption you greatly need and thankfully accept. When the sanctifying operations of the Holy Ghost are the cheering topics of which we treat, you should sincerely confess your necessity of grace, that what is weak within you may become strong, and what is evil may be made pure.
And when hell is threatened, you should heartily admit that all its punishments might in strict justice be your portion, if Jesus had refused to offer a ransom, and if the Spirit had not led you to the foot of that cross on which the Prince of Glory died. In this spirit of selfapplication you are bound in duty to hear all counsel, to listen to every threat, to believe every scriptural doctrine, and to accept every condition, however “hard” these sayings may appear.
Again, you must hear the Word with faith, i.e., with an implicit belief that the message comes from God; who, if He promises, will surely perform, and, if He threatens, will as surely fulfil. I confirm this by a reference to two passages in the writings of St. Paul, where the Apostle states that you must hear it, not as the word of men (which may deceive), but as it is in truth, the Word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe” (1 Thess. ii. 13); and that “the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it.” (Heb. iv. 2.) These are plain declarations that you must wait on the ministry of the Word with
an implicit confidence in the truth of what is written, and with a determination to admit every mystery, and to observe every condition,' however difficult, that is set forth in the Sacred Volume.
And, lastly, “ hearken unto my voice” with a praying heart;. for you are told, that “if any of you lack wisdom (and you all lack it), let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not." (James i. 5.) God will illuminate the dark intellect of feeble man: He will remove, as it were, the scales from the eyes, that so the praying hearer, who believes, and who wishes to increase his faith, may be enabled to see the way in which he is required to walk, to discover his own weakness, and to behold the fulness and grace of Jesus.
III. If thus, with these dispositions, you attend on our ministry, hearkening to the scriptural counsel which we may offer, an abundant blessing certainly shall follow : as Jethro's words declare, “ God shall then be with you.” For a helpless mortal, without any merit, and oppressed with sin, to have God with him is indeed a glorious promise! For a sinful creature to have his great Creator with him, and ever at his side, is indeed an incalculable privilege! Behold how David felt the honour which the Most High condescended to confer upon our guilty
“ If the Lord be on my side, I will not fear what man can do unto me. A thousand may fall at my side, and ten thousand at my right hand, but I shall not be afraid ; for God is my refuge, and my
rtress, and in Him will I trust.” (Psalm xci.)