Графични страници
PDF файл

which I have expressed; that we may be able to judge whether those who preach to us, preach the truth of God. They are to be read also, that we may keep alive, and in full force, the impressions communicated by preaching. Finally, they are to be read, that we may gain the full advantages of all our opportunities between the returns of the Sabbath ; and furnish ourselves with daily instruction, with reproofs for our daily sins, with encouragement to our daily duties, and with powerful motives to a daily progress in the divine lise.


1. From these observations it is evident, that those who do not hear in the manner which has been described, are, even according to their own principles, wholly inexcusable.

All persons, present at the preaching of the Gospel, can, if they please, solemnly remember that it is the word of Godthat they are sinners, who infinitely need salvation—that in the Gospel only the terms and means of salvation are published to mankind that these, in order to be of any use to them, must be understood by themselves—that their opportunities of hearing it are few—and that the present is the best, and may be the last, which they will ever enjoy—that the Scriptures contain all the rules of life, by which they will be judged--that God is an eye-witness of the manner in which they hear--and that the Gospel is worthy of all acceptation, and ought, therefore, to be received with the heart, as well as with the understanding. To hear in this manner demands no especial communication from God; and be who does not thus hear, is stripped of the pretence even of self-justification. It is indeed equally the duty of every man to hear with evangelical faith. But as this faith is the gift of God, unrenewed men are ever prone to feel themselves, in some degree, excusable in neglecting to hear with this exercise of the heart. This apprehension is, I acknowledge, entirely without foundation. Still it exists. But in the present case, on their own ground, no plea can be offered, which will even satisfy themselves. Let them therefore, when guiity of this wegligence, ·lay their hands upon their mouths, and their moutos in the dust,' an} confess their guilt before Gor.

Of this miserable class of sinners not a small number are, Sabbath by Sabbath, seen in this house. Almost all who assemble here are in the morning of life; when, if ever, the heart is tender, and easily susceptible of divine impressions from the word of God. Almost all enjoy also the peculiar blessings of a liberal and religious education, and the best opportunities of knowing their duty, and their danger. Still, in defiance of the solemn commands of religion, and the authority of God, as well as of common decency, there are those who quietly lay their heads down to sleep when the prayer is ended, or the psalm read. These persons are indeed present in the house of God; but they are present only to insult bim, to cast contempt upon the cross of Christ, and to grieve in the most shameful manner the Spirit of grace. They can hardly be said to hear at all. They come into the presence of God, merely to declare to him, and to all who are present, that they will not bear nor obey his voice; and to treasure up wrath against the day of wrath, and the revelation of the judgment.' Let them remember, that the God who made them, and in whose hand their breath is, is here ; and that his all-searching eye is fixed with an intense and dreadful survey upon their conduct, and upon their hearts. Let them remember that he hath said, Because I have called, and ye refused; I have stretched out my hand, and ye have not regarded : but ye have set at nought all my counsel, and would none of my reproof: I also will laugh at your calamity, and mock when your fear cometh ; when your fear cometh as desolation, and your destruction as a whirlwind. Then shall ye call, but I will not answer. Ye shall seek me early, and shall not find me: because ye hated knowledge, and did not choose the fear of the Lord.'

Let those also, who with more decency, and more momentary wisdom, really hear, and yet with the slightest temptations forget what they hear—vessels, into which the water of life is poured, only to be poured out again—remember, that they hear to no valuable end. The true end of this privilege is

repentance towards God, and faith towards our Lord Jesus Christ.' This end they prevent in themselves, by an absolute destitution of serious and deep concern for their salvation. In their final ruin they will find little comfort in remembering this frail, feeble attention to the word of God. It will be a melancholy support in that terrible day, to say to their Judge, • We have eaten and drunk in thy presence; and thou hast taught in our streets :' when they hear him reply, ' Depart from me, for I know you not, ye workers of iniquity!'

2. How infinitely desirable is it, that we should hear with good and honest hearts !

This, and this only, is obeying, in the proper sense, the command of our Saviour. As the Gospel is plainly worthy of all acceptation,' to accept it in this manner is the indispensable duty of every man to whom it is preached. To this end we should remember, that our all is depending ; our virtuo, usefulness, and peace in the present life ; our hope and support in death ; our acquittal in the judgment; our escape from final perdition; and our introduction to eternal glory in the kingdom of our heavenly Father. What dreadful emotions must every careless, stupid sinner experience on a deathbed, when he calls to mind, that he squandered, with infinite prodigality, all bis opportunities of gaining salvation, and cast away the blessings of comfort and hope for ever! Amid the solemn scenes of such a bed, when life is trembling and fluttering over the abyss of destruction; the pulse forgetting to beat, the soul struggling, and clinging to its tenement of clay, with awful anticipations of the judgment; how overwhelming must it be to remember, that every prayer and sermon, that the Gospel itself, and all the blessings which it contains, although so frequently offered by God with infinite kindness, were only despised, neglected, and forgotten! But the lamp is now gone out, the oil expended, and the door shut. Nothing, therefore, remains to the infatuated votary of sense and sin, but' the blackness of darkness for ever!

[blocks in formation]
[blocks in formation]

The preceding Discourse was occupied by considerations on the two first of those means of grace which were formerly mentioned ; viz. the preaching and hearing of the Gospel, and the reading of the Scriptures, and other religious books. I shall now proceed to the examination of the third of those means ; viz. prayer.'

In this examination I shall depart from the scheme which was pursued in the preceding Discourse, and shall consider the subject generally, under the following heads :

I. The nature, and,
II. The seasons of prayer.
III. The obligations to pray.
IV. The usefulness of prayer.
V. The encouragements to it.
VI. The objections usually made against it.

I. I shall briefly consider the nature of Prayer.
Prayer, according to the language of the Westminster

Catechism, " is the offering up of our desires to God for things agreeable to his will, in the name of Christ, with confession of our sins, and a thankful acknowledgment of his mercies." This definitiou is undoubtedly just; yet it is in a degree defective. Prayer is an act of worship, consisting of four great parts; adoration, confession, petition, and thanksgiving.

The first of these, adoration, consists in solemnly reciting the character of God; and in reverentially ascribing to him the glory due to his name for the infinite perfections which he possesses, and for all the manifestations which he has made of himself in his word, and in his works.

The second, confession, demands no comment.

The third, petition, is both by reason and Revelation confined to “ things which are agreeable to the will” of God. His will involves whatever is right and good; and nothing which is not agreeable to it is in reality desirable.

Thanksgiving, the last of these subjects, is so generally and so well understood, as to need no explanation at the present time.

All these are to be offered up to God " in- the name of Christ,” in obedience to his express command. Unless they are so offered, they cannot, under the Christian dispensation, be accepted.

II. The principal Seasons of Prayer are the following : 1. The Sabbath.

On this holy day we are required to devote ourselves to this duty in a peculiar manner. A prime part of the religious service to which it is destined consists of prayer. For this reason the sanctuary is appropriately styled the house of prayer.' Thus God says in Isaiah, “I will make them joyful in my house of prayer;' and again, 'My house shall be called a house of prayer for all people. These promises immediately respect Christian nations; and teach in the clearest manner. the proper destination of the house of God, and of the day upon which especially it is occupied by religious assemblies. The Jewish church worshipped in this manner on their Sahbath ; and the primitive Christian church on the Lord's Day. These examples have been followed in every age of Christianity by those who in any country have worn the Christian


« ПредишнаНапред »