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which may be profitable to you, testifying without reserve to both Jews and Gentiles, i.e., to all among you who are spiritual idolaters, or self-righteous, or self-dependent, or puffed up with the pride of human reason—to all declaring the necessity of "repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.” To Him and to His finished redemption did all the Prophets point: from Him, who is “ the Author and Finisher of our faith,” proceed all the doctrines and duties of the Christian's creed; and therefore to all without exception, to the poorest and the wealthiest, to the most guilty and the most amiable, to the oldest and the youngest, we give the same counsel, which is this: “ You have sinned: you are guilty : you are blind and miserable, weak and helpless. Condemnation, therefore, has passed upon you all. In the words of Jethro to the chosen man of God, we affirm that the thing that thou doest is not good. Hell and destruction are before you; for it is written: The soul that sinneth, it shall die.' (Ezek. xviii. 4.) But, since “God so loved the world, that He gave His only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life' (John iii. 16); and since Jesus, His beloved, came into the world to save sinners, by being the propitiation for man's transgression, you are invited, if weary of the burden, to come to Him for relief and rest unto your souls; you are exhorted to believe in His name, to feel the need of His support, and to take His easy yoke upon your necks : and
then, as God has again and again declared, you shall be saved.” Yes, indeed, to preach this ministry of reconciliation between an offended God and sinful men, to show to you the dangerous condition of every soul, and yet how danger may be removed, and how the weak and wicked may be accepted, is the counsel which ministers are bound to give. That this message has been blessed, and that “God has been with” its plain and full delivery, I thankfully believe; for many, I hope, are to be found amongst us, who can humbly testify that Jesus, who is preached, and in whom they believe with confidence and joy, is the strength of their salvation. And that the same counsel shall be successful to the saving of many souls, I as fondly believe; for I cannot but remember those words originally addressed to the disciples to encourage them in their ministry, when their hearts fainted within them, and which, through them, descend on all who give the same counsel and preach the same salvation: “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye, therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you; and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.” (Matt. xxviii. 18—20.) On this gracious and universal assurance that holy counsel shall not be given in vain, the weak and erring human teacher may firmly rest his hope: from it the humble and faithful preacher of the
Word may expect to be made an useful instrument in the hands of the Most High.
II. Let me now point out the duty which you are required to discharge; inasmuch as most fearful responsibility rests upon you no less than upon the teacher. For, if our office be difficult, and at the same time full of blessed privileges, remember that your service as hearers is as important, as favoured, and as well-defined.
You are to “hearken unto my voice.” Now, since we know that the chosen people of God did not improve as they ought under the preaching of the Son of God, but continued impenitent and unsanctified, rejecting His mercy and despising His warnings, it is plain that weak and sinful men may at this present time abuse corresponding privileges, and render unavailing the same mighty means of grace. Alas ! faithful declarations of the will of God may now, as formerly, produce no benefit, because you may continue unimproved, and therefore die unblessed. Do you not remember, as related in Luke viii., how our blessed Lord cautioned those multitudes, who flocked around Him while He spake of heaven, to take heed how they heard ; and also that He esteemed like brethren those who heard His words faithfully, and attended to what He had enjoined? It is therefore evident that, while there shall be a merciful acceptance of some hearers, there shall be a woeful rejection of others--of those whom St. Paul describes as “traitors, heady, high-minded, lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God; having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof; ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth” (2 Tim. iii. 4–7); who listen frequently to sacred revelations of God's Word, without adding strength to their belief or improvement to their hearts.
But for you, my dear friends, to whom I am in duty bound to deliver counsel from the Sacred Volume, it is my prayer that you may be found in the number of those who, hearing on earth the words and will of Jesus, shall, as good servants, be acknowledged by Him before the Father's throne. There are many things, however, which, in order that this end may follow, you must carefully observe.
You must come, for example, with deep attention; which perhaps implies rather more than at this moment you suppose—more than mere respectful regularity on each succeeding Sabbath. It means that, whenever you assemble in the house of prayer, your thoughts should be firmly fixed and undivided; for, if you hope to leave that house with benefit and consolation, there not only must be seriousness before you enter (joy for the privileges of worship which you so eminently possess, and serious feelings for the importance of the duty you are undertaking), but there must be no wandering of thoughts and wishes into the busy world, which for a season you are required to forget. There, in the contemplation of eternal joys, the sorrows of earth ought to be comparatively unfelt. The mourner should
forget his loss, death being swallowed up in victory; the rich man should lay aside the thoughts and false delights of wealth ; the poor, whilst hearing of the “unsearchable riches of Christ,” should cease to murmur at his wants; the young should no longer giddily rejoice in his strength ; nor should the old be repining because of his infirmities; heaven and eternity should fill every breast; and the trifles of time should have no room for exercise. There, as in the temple above, no worldly clamour should be heard, nor worldly passions be allowed; the wicked should cease from troubling, and the wearied sinner be at rest. For surely, if straying steps would not reconduct you to your respective homes, wandering thoughts can never lead you into the deep recesses of sacred knowledge. You must therefore cultivate the very same attentive feelings which David cherished, when he said: “I will hear what God the Lord will speak.” (Psalm lxxxv. 8.)
To such serious feelings you must add a discreet and discriminating judgment. Knowing that we are appointed to instruct persons who possess both intellect and feeling, and who are not, like mere machines, passive in our hands and incapable of reflection ; knowing that "we speak to wise men,” who are gifted with reason, we demand of you the strenuous, but at the same time well regulated exercise of all the powers of judgment and reason which the Creator has been pleased to bestow upon you. We desire you, with the Scriptures in your hands, to examine the truth of every counsel that we give;