for others. When the evil of sin is displayed, it is of our sin; when the need of a Saviour is pointed out, it is our need of him; when duties and privileges are recommended, it is to us they are recommended. The minister is as much addressing himself to every parti. cular person in the assembly, as if there were only one individual to address. Speaking of Ephraim, the Lord says, "I have written to him the great things of my law." The preacher brings a message from God unto thee, O hearer, whoever thou art. Let then thine ears be attentive! It is thy case he endeavours to meet, thine advantage he seeks, and thy salvation that he ardently desires. Whether he preach the law, it is to awaken thy conscience; or the gospel, it is to provide a healing balm for thy soul. If he set forth the joys of heaven, it is to allure thee; or the torments of hell, it is to alarm thee. Dost thou hear them with self-application, and consider thine immediate interest in the things spoken? The word preached will not profit us, unless it be mixed with faith in them that hear it. Hear it therefore, and know thou it for thy good.

II. The motives which should induce us well to consider what we hear.

1. Think, in whose name the ministers of the gospel speak, and whose person they represent. If they spoke in their own name, it would be only common civility to consider what they say, especially in matters of so much importance. We hearken to a physician when he prescribes for our health, and to a counsellor when he is to plead our cause; and shall we not much more hearken, to the servants of the most high God, who shew unto us the way of salvation? But they speak not in their own name : they are ambassadors for Christ. They act by his authority, receive their commission from him, and in his stead beseech you to be reconciled to God. The apostle's description of the work and

office of a faithful minister is very impressive: it is not he only who speaks to us, but God also by him. For "He that receiveth you," saith our Lord to his disciples," receiveth me; and he that receiveth me, receiveth him that sent me." And, said Jehoshaphat to the men of Judah, "Believe in the Lord your God, so shall ye be established: believe his prophets, so shall ye prosper." If we believe not Moses and the prophets, neither should we believe, though one rose from the dead: we might be more alarmed, but should not be more profited. "The house of Israel will not hearken unto thee," saith the Lord," for they will not hearken unto me." Nevertheless they shall know that a prophet has been among them, and sinners also shall know whose word they have despised. Ezek. iii. 7.

2. Consider the great end they aim at in their ministrations. They seek not yours, but you; not your substance, but your souls. When they preach," warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom," it is that they may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus." If this be not the fruit of their labour, their labour is lost: "for what is our hope," say they," or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Are not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming? For ye are our glory and joy." Why do they labour in the word and doctrine, in season and out of season, but that they may turn sinners from the error of their ways, and save their souls from death? They travail in birth until Christ be formed in us; and surely the least that we can do is to consider what they say.

3. By the word that we hear we shall be judged at the last day. If we receive the truth in love, it will be a witness for us; but if otherwise, it will be a swift witness against us. "He that rejecteth me," saith Christ, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day." (John xii. 48.) You

hear the law, and will be judged by the law; you hear the gospel, and will be judged according to the gospel: and if you despise both law and gospel, both law and gospel will join in your condemnation. We shall be accountable in the great day both for the knowledge we had and did not improve, and for that which we might have had but neglected. Sermons slighted, forgotten, and disregarded, will form no inconsiderable part of the charge which the sinner's own conscience will hereafter exhibit against him, and that consideration which was wanting on earth will be his torment in hell. Now he will not consider when he might: then he shall consider when he would not. "The anger of the Lord shall not return, until he have executed, until he have performed the thoughts of his heart in the latter days ye shall consider it perfectly." Jer. xxiii. 20.

(1.) We may learn from hence, how just God will appear in the destruction of thoughtless and careless sinners. They neither repented nor believed, neither would they consider. They neither exercised any gracious disposition, nor would they so much as exercise their reason. Light was come into the world, but they loved darkness rather than light. "The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master's crib: but Israel doth not know, my people do not consider. Ah, sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, a seed of evil. doers, children that are corrupters!" Isai. i. 3, 4.

(2.) We see what it is that supports faithful ministers in their work, and prevents their sinking into despondency, the hope that God may lead some of their hearers to serious reflection, who have hitherto been careless. Hence they still go forth, bearing precious seed, and hope to come again with rejoicing, bringing their sheaves with them. Thus also the Lord encouraged the prophet: "Son of man, thou dwellest in the midst of a rebellious house: which have eyes to see, and see not; they have ears to hear, and hear not

yet it may be they will consider, though they be a rebellious house." Ezek. xii. 2, 3.

(3.) While we labour to exhort, we would also add our fervent prayer, that our instructions and exhortations may not be in vain. "Consider what I say, and the Lord give thee understanding in all things!"


Amidst displays of wrath and love,

What stubborn wretches, Lord, are we!
Unmov'd by all the joys of heaven,
Unaw'd by endless misery.

With what a base contempt we treat
Thy threat'nings and thy promises!
Duty neglect, and mercy slight,
Nor fear t'offend, nor seek to please.

Could angels weep, they'd weep for us;
Break thou these rocky hearts, O God!
O let us melt beneath thy grace,
Nor feel the terrors of thy rod!


EZEK. XX. 41.

I will accept you with your sweet savour.

In the foregoing verses, God promises the children of Israel that he would establish his worship amongst them, even in his holy mountain; and here, that he would take delight in it, and would bless them. To be accepted of him is our highest happiness: it is the foretaste of heaven, and an earnest of the full fruition. The approbation of our fellow-creatures is desirable, and it was well for Mordecai that he was accepted of the multitude of his brethren: but how much more desirable is it to be approved and accepted of God! May this be the principal aim in all our religious exercises!

Let us then enquire what is implied in this acceptance, and with what it must be accompanied. "I will accept you with your sweet savour.'

I. What is implied in our being accepted with God.

1. It supposes a drawing near to him on our part. Acceptance on one part implies application on the other. "Blessed is the man whom thou choosest, and causest to approach unto thee." There is a drawing near in all the exercises of private devotion: every lifting up of the heart, and the expression of inward desire, is an approach to God. The tendency of sin

« ElőzőTovább »