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has been a remarkable and extended revival of religion, and on every side faithful ministers preach his gospel. What more could have been done for us?
These advantages lay upon us an accumulated load of obligation. It was said to Israel, (Amos iii, 2,) You only have I known of all the families of the earth, therefore I will punish you for your iniquities. It was said to those who heard our Lord, Woe unto thee, Chorazin, woe unto thee, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the day of judgment than for you. Matt. xi, 21, 22. What then shall be said to those in Britain who shut their eyes to the light which shines so clearly, and close their ears to the truth which sounds so distinctly. Unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required. Luke xii, 48. Is it not important therefore for us to hear? O, let us British Christians duly improve our singular advantages for becoming wise unto salvation; and as we are favoured beyond others in our privileges, may we be eminently devoted to God, and according to our special blessings, be universally a holy nation, and a peculiar people, zealous of good works!
THE FREEDOM WITH WHICH WE MAY NOW OBTAIN SPIRITUAL BLESSINGS further shews the importance of hearing. A day is coming when if we now refuse to hear God's words, no possible effort or sacrifice can obtain for us the least spiritual blessing, or comfort. Luke xvi, 24-31. But now every blessing bestowed through faithful hearing may be READILY obtained. The blessings of salvation are FREELY given. Not only is the invitation from God to sinners
to return, free and spontaneous, but the blessings are granted without money, and without price. It would not meet our necessities that the poor and needy were invited, had they to purchase the blessings which, they require with some equivalent. They are therefore bestowed freely. There seems to be in the minds of the sacred writers, a manifest care to announce the doctrine of free salvation so fully as to exelude all doubt. There is often on this point a remarkable repetition of expression. Thus St. Paul describes our being justified, to be freely and by his grace; and he asserts our being saved, to be by grace, through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not of works. Isaiah invites all-Come ye, buy, and eat, without money, and without price; without any compensation from man, or any deserving on his part. So St. Paul tells Titus, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us. The value of this repetition is very great. In the pride of our unhumbled hearts, we are peculiarly disposed to rely on our own doings, rather than on the grace of God, and to imagine that we must by some acts of our own merit the blessing of the gospel: and depression and sense of guilt in the contrite, leads them to fear that they can have no title to, and shall for ever lose, such inestimable benefits. By a free salvation, the proud are humbled, and the depressed lifted up; boasting is excluded, and all glory given to God. But if this be the case, O how important to avail ourselves of the golden opportunity! how important to listen, to hear, to repent, to believe, and be saved!
This will be seen in one farther consideration, THE EARNESTNESS WITH WHICH GOD HIMSELF PRESSES US TO RECEIVE HIS WORD. Some of the most affect
ing addresses in the Bible are on this point. O that thou hadst hearkened to my commandments! Isa. xlviii, 18. O that my people had hearkened unto me, and Israel had walked in my ways! Ps. lxxxi, 13. O that they were wise, that they understood this! Deut. xxxii, 29. earnest is God in his gracious invitations, as if to set before us, in the most lively way, the immense importance of eternal things! Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters; and he that hath no money, come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk, without money and without price; Isa. lv, 1. As though God did beseech you by us, we pray you, in Christ's stead. 2 Cor. v, 20. This earnestness shews the immense importance of attending to the gospel, while it implies man's indifference to it, and God's tender commiseration and compassion. Men when thirsty are sensible enough of their need; but souls destitute of spiritual blessings, have by nature no desire for them. Their attention must be roused by earnest calls and affectionate entreaties. Though men be famishing, they perceive not their want of spiritual food; though they greatly need it, they desire it not. There is in the mode of expression in Isaiah Iv, 1, an ardour of expres sion, a repetition of entreaty, a vehemence of invitation, which shews the immense importance of accepting it. It is a case of life and death. If the traveller comes not to the water, he droops, he dies, in the wilderness. There is no other fountain, no other way of gaining relief. Disregard this, and you lose every thing. Attend to this, and you pass safely on to your joyful and eternal home. Thus earnest is God in his invitation. O remember who it is that invites-the Lord of heaven and earth; He who is perfect truth. not to listen to the joyful sound.
Reader! refuse God would not so
address his sinful creatures, were not the subject a matter of infinite moment to them. There is a reality, a value, and a magnitude in the concerns of the immortal soul, far beyond our highest thoughts; and surely, that our souls should perish, when salvation is thus freely and earnestly set before us, is grievous and lamentable beyond conception!
How unspeakable is the love of God to man! He might justly have left us to perish in our sin and rebellion; but he so loved the world, that he gave his only Son to die for us: and as if this were not enough, when we carelessly disregard the blessings which he has thus procured for us, he sends to invite us, to reason with us, and to persuade us to embrace the invaluable mercies obtained at so costly a price. God would not be at all this cost for a thing of inferior moment. All this love cannot be slighted without immense danger.
Once more--THE WORD WHICH WE NOW HEAR WILL JUDGE US IN THE GREAT DAY. The preached gospel will follow us into another world, and will there appear either against us to condemn us, if we have disregarded it, or for us to justify us if we have received it. He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him; the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him at the last day. John xii, 4, 8. Men now throw every contempt upon it. The gospel is preached in their very towns and streets, and multitudes never hear it at all, and multitudes disregard all they hear. O how will such be astonished and confounded to find that word, which they reckoned little better than folly, or altogether despised as foolishness, exalted as the rule of final judgment, and that which decides their never-ending condition!
The importance of hearing may be put into another light, by considering the weakness of those objections which are sometimes brought against this duty.
Thus it is often said, I CAN READ AND LEARN AT HOME: I have good books in my library, and there are better published sermons than any I am likely to hear, and I can think of these at my leisure, and turn them over and over in my mind. What! will you pretend to be wiser than God? God has commanded you to hear his ministers. Hearing is a divine appointment. You cannot at home obey the injunction to hear his truth, and that of forsake not the assembling of yourselves together. O venture not to impugn by your vain reasoning the wisdom and authority of the great Legislator, or to set aside his authorised mode of doing you good by equivalents and expedients, subversive in this case of the obedience which you owe to Him! There is a sympathy of feeling from the delivery of the truth among many gathered together. There is a life and power in the faithful ministry of the word; the voice, the earnestness, and the affection of the preacher, infinitely more affect the heart, than a sermon which is merely read in private, can possibly do. How will God from your own conduct condemn you? Worldly men do not prefer reading a play to hearing it. Be assured that Christians will not, and cannot, when they act in character, attend to only one part of their duty, and that at the time when they should be fulfilling another. It will be sufficient for them to know that God ever manifests his special blessing with the assemblies, of his people. Exod. xxv, 22; 2 Chron. vii, 12-16; Matt. xviii, 20. O lose not all the interest in the blessing promised, by perversely choosing to walk in your own way!
But you farther object, THERE IS NOTHING NEW