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inhabited, and thrill with inexpressible emotions in every heart. But these are certain tidings from God himself concerning this glorious possession ; from the God who cannot deceive ; the God whose promises endure for ever.
This great salvation is, however, proffered by God on his own terms only. In the same Scriptures are these terms found. From them alone can we learn on what conditions we may obtain life, and escape from death. The way of holiness,' to which the Gospel alone directs us, 'is' there made a highway;' and 'wayfaring men, though fools,' need not err therein.'
In the Scriptures also are the means of this divine and immortal attainment presented to our view. Here we are taught, that we become possessed of a title to everlasting life by faith, repentance, and holiness. Here also is pointed out the way in which these indispensable characteristics are communicated; viz. the means of grace already mentioned in these discourses. Both the means and the terms are eminently reasonable and desirable; in themselves real and superior good, and the way to greater good; easy of adoption and use, and, with the divine blessing, efficacious to the end for which they are used ; sanctioned with supreme authority by the testimony of God, and daily confirmed by their actual influence on multitudes of mankind.
When therefore we hear the word of God, we are ever to remember, that we are taught things in this respect infinitely interesting to us, and incapable of being derived from any other source.
4. That in order to be saved we must understand the means, and the terms, of salvation.
There is no other word of God but the Scriptures; and, beside God, there is no other being, who can inform us' what we must do to be saved. Philosophers may investigate and write from generation to generation ; this vast momentous subject has ever lain and will ever lie, beyond their reach. Those who read and understood the instructions of the ancient philosophers were never reformed by their doctrines. Those who read and understand the moral system of infidel philosophers, are never amended by them, but corrupted of course. The Scriptures, on the contrary, have been the means of rehewing and reforming millions of the human race. But this
sacred book was never of the least use to any man, by whom it was not in some good measure understood. To enable mankind at large to understand it, God instituted the evangelical ministry. All complicated objects of the intellect, are far better known by sober reflection and diligent research, than they can be by casual or cursory thinking. The Scriptures contain a system immensely complicated. They demand therefore the most patient, persevering study, and thorough investigation. Hence ministers, consecrated originally to this employment, are commanded to give themselves wholly to the ministry ;' particularly to reading, and to meditation ; that they may not be novices, nor furnish reasons to others for regarding their discourses with contempt. But all their labours will be to no purpose, unless those who hear them understand their discourses, however evangelically and usefully they may be written. Every hearer therefore should solemnly call to mind in the house of God, that the means and terms of eternal life then are published to him ; that they are fonnd nowhere but in the Scriptures ; and that the Scriptures can be of no benefit to him, unless he understands them. His bighest interest and indispensable duty demand of him therefore that he should hear as for his life.
It ought to be added, that all these things are not only explained in the Scriptures, but enforced on the heart with supreme power and efficacy. Motives of amazing import are here presented, to persuade the sinner to repentance. Alarms compel, invitations allure, threatenings terrify, and promises encourage, of such a nature, and exhibited in such a manner, as boundless wisdom and goodness thought best fitted to affect the heart. But all these also are in vain, unless heard, understood, and realized, by the sinner.
5. We are further to remember, that our opportunities of hearing the word of God are few; and that that which we are enjoying is, not improbably, the best which will ever arrive.
• Our life' itself is but a vapour, which appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away. Of this life the opportunities of hearing the Gospel compose only a little part. The Sabbath is almost the only season allotted to this end; a seventh part merely of our time; and, as actually enjoyed by us, a much less proportion. By the weakness of childhood,
the thoughtlessness of youth, and the hindrances of riper years, the number of Sabbaths which we are able to employ in gaining salvation is greatly reduced. If those which we lose in this manner by negligence, and by devotion to the world, be taken from the whole number, we shall find those which remain fewer by far than we are usually aware : few in themselves, few especially for so great and important a work.
How many Sabbaths remain to us at any time, we can in no degree conjecture. That the number must be small, and that it may be still smaller, we know: but whether the present Sabbath be not the last, we can never know. Were we assured, that it was the last, with what anxiety, care, and diligence should we devote it to the attainment of endless life! As it may be the last, it ought to be regarded with the same anxiety. Whether it be, or be not the last, it is unquestionably the best opportunity that we shall enjoy.
It is in our possession : all others are merely expected. It is the Sabbath on which we are less hardened and less guilty than we shall ever be at any future period. God is now reconcileable. Before another Sabbath arrives, he may cast us off. His own command is, To-day, if ye will hear my voice, harden not your hearts. “Behold, now,' says St. Paul, is the accepted time! Behold, now is the day of salvation !' Whenever, therefore, we are assembled to hear the word of God upon the Sabbath, we should solemnly feel that we possess the best opportunity of obtaining everlasting life which we shall ever enjoy.
6. We are also to remember, that the Scriptures are the word by which we shall be finally judged. • Whose soever sins
remit,' saith our Saviour to his apostles, they are remitted; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained. In other words, “ I commission you to publish the terms of life and death to mankind. He whose life shall be condemned by the terms which, by the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, I will enable you to announce, shall be condemned by me in the judgment. On the contrary, bim whose life shall be approved by these terms, I will approve at the final day.” All these terms of remitting and retaining sin, as published by the apostles, we now have in the Gospel; and they are continually preached in the house of God. How infinitely
important is it, that they should be infixed in our understanding, our memory, and our hearts; that we may always know, remember, and feel them; that they may be the source and the guide of all our conduct; and that by them we may in the end, not only be judged, but justified also, and rewarded !
Let every person then, who is present at the preaching of the Gospel, call to mind, that he is hearing the very terms of his final acquittal, or condemnation. Let him also remember, that one of the grounds of that sentence which he will receive from the Judge of the quick and the dead, will be, that he is then ' taking heed how he hears ;' or that he is refusing or neglecting to perform this solemn duty.
7. We are to remember, that God is present, to observe the manner in which we hear.
This consideration is of infinite moment; and ought with supreme force to come home to
beart. Let me beseech every member of this assembly to think, how great and awful a being God is. Remember how absolutely you are indebted to him for life, and breath, and all things' which you have enjoyed; and how entirely you depend upon him for every thing which you hope to enjoy, either in this world, or that which is to come. Remember how grossly you have sinned against him, by violating his holy law; and how mercifully he has invited you to repent, and return to your obedience. Think how aggravated will be the guilt of refusing to return, when thus invited, how entirely you are in his hands, and how impossible it is that you should escape from bis power. .
Realize, that his eye, as a flame of fire, pervades and enlightens all the secret retreats of the workers of iniquity; and that he sees and records every wandering, stupid, worldly, and disobedient thought. Remember, that he will require you to rehearse before him the manner in which you hear his word
How immensely interesting are these considerations to every person in this assembly! Who, in a full and realizing, who, even in the most imperfect and casual, view of them, can fail, with supreme solicitude, to take heed how he hears?'
8. As all things contained in the Scriptures are wise, and right, and good ; so we are to remember, that they are worthy of all acceptation.
My audience may remember, that I originally proposed to consider the manner in which sinners may hear the Gospel, with rational hopes of being benefited by it. The hearing of the Gospel I exhibited as one of the means of grace; and mentioned, that I should discuss it as such, and not as a theme of general investigation. To this view of the subject I have therefore confined myself; and have purposely omitted many observations which might be usefully made concerning this subject, to persons who are already Christians. Almost all the observations which I have made are indeed, in their full force, applicable to them also. To sinners they are all applicable ; and are all, in every sense, in their power, while they continue sinners. The last is as truly of this nature, as those which preceded it.
Every sinner may, antecedently to his regeneration, entertain a full conviction that the Scriptures are worthy of all acceptation. With this conviction solemnly impressed on the mind every sinner may hear the Gospel. Every sinner may also feel this truth in a strong and affecting manner. Awakened to a sense of his guilt and danger, he does thus actually feel, antecedently to any essential change in his moral character. But what some sinners do feel, all others may feel, But under this conviction, and this sense, all those are sanctified, who are sanctified at all. With these very views of divine truth upon their minds, the Spirit of God communicates to them, I do not mean to every one who is in this situation; for this I am not warranted to say, nor to believe; but to most of them, perhaps to all who do not voluntary relinquish their convictions; that change of heart, which is commonly styled regeneration ; a change, infinitely important to every child of Adam.
Faith,' says St. Paul, ' cometh by hearing.' I have endeavoured to describe the manner of hearing in which it
It is to be still carefully remembered, that unless faith is actually obtained and exercised, no mode of hearing whatever will ultimately be of any value. The mode which I have pointed out is, in my apprehension, inestimably valuable, as means eminently useful to this great end.
What is true of hearing the Gospel, is substantially true of reading it; and of reading also other religious books. The Seririures particularly, and other religious books generally, are to be read with great care, and with all the views