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IN WHAT I HEAR: I know it already: it is the same thing over and over again. But do you not make a mistake, if you expect that the minister should be always delivering something new? It is true, that a wise and diligent minister will not fail rightly to divide the word of truth. He will give the result of his own study and experience, and therefore original views of divine truth and in this respect every scribe which is instructed unto the kingdom of heaven, is like unto a man that is an householder, which bringeth forth out of his treasury things new and old. Matt. xiii, 52. Yet the ministerial office consists much in reminding, (Rom. xv, 14, 15.) and stiring up, and establishing those that are informed. 1 John ii, 7. In the words of St. Peter, it is to put you always in remembrance of these things, though you do know them; (2 Pet.i, 12.) or, as St. Paul says, to write the same things to you to me indeed is not grievous, but for you it is safe. Phil. iii, 1. The ministry of the word is God's plan for nourishing the soul, just as eating food is his plan for nourishing the body; and as you need the same kind of food day after day for your body, so you need this same kind of instruction repeatedly for your soul. There is good reason to believe that our Lord delivered to different congregations several of his discourses over again. These observations are not intended as an excuse for indolence in the minister, but as a guard against fastidiousness in the hearer. It was an old objection made against attending sermons, "We hear the same thing over and over!" and St. Chrysostom (in his 3d Homily on the 2d Thessalonians) thus answers the objection :-" And do you not hear the same thing in the theatre? have you not the same sight at the horse race? Are not all things the same? Does not the same sun rise every morning?
Do you not eat the same meat every day? I would ask you, seeing you hear the same things every day, what portion of the Prophets, what Apostle, what Epistle, was read? But you cannot tell they are perfectly new and strange to you. When therefore you are disposed to be idle, you pretend the same things are read: but when you are asked concerning them, you are as men that never heard them. If they are the same, you should have known them: but you know nothing of them. For this reason you ought to attend, because they are the same, because we bring nothing strange or new to your ears." O, in the great day of account, how glad would the now-neglectful hearer be, could he but once more have the opportunity of hearing and accepting those gracious invitations which he now slights as things he sufficiently knows!
But it is still farther objected, THE MINISTER THAT I CAN HEAR DOES NOT EDIFY ME: he is weak, foolish, and of small ability. Leaving to a subsequent chapter the consideration of the respective duties of ministers and people, we will allow the truth of your objection; but still it is no sufficient answer to the duty brought before you. What if it should be true of your minister, as it has been of many others, God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise, and God hath chosen the weak things of this world, to confound the things which are mighty, and base things of this world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things which are? 1 Cor. i, 27, 28. Nay, still more, are you in earnest for your eternal interest? What if it pleased God, by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe, (1 Cor. i, 21.) and you should
be among the happy number! Herbert quaintly, but
The worst speak something good if all want sense,
Preachers conclude with, hath not lost his pains.
Remember, you have the ministry, not of angels, but of men, and God has therein consulted your real interest and edification. Refuse not then the treasure on account of the earthen vessel which contains it. If really hungering and thirsting after righteousness, you will gladly receive genuine food for your soul, though not set before you in the manner best suited to your taste. Nor is there any Christian so wise and learned but that he may receive benefit either from a different mode of treating that which he knew before, or by having it afresh presented to his attention.
There are other inferior objections, which still sometimes keep men from hearing the word. Thus there are some in superior stations, heads of families, and persons of rank or learning, who seem to THINK THEMSELVES ABOVE HEARING: it will do very well for the common people, and for their children and servants; but as for them, they need it not. O strange infatuation! are they above God who commands them to hear? have they not also a Master in Heaven? They expect obedience from their inferiors, while they themselves disobey a plain direction of their great Superior. They would directly dismiss a servant who disobeyed repeated injunctions, and yet deceive themselves by thinking that they may with impunity despise the Divine will. How if it should be found that their fancied wisdom is a folly above the most extravagant and absurd weakness of those they most despise! The wisdom of
this world is foolishness with God. Nor is the case better with those who plead their BUSINESS AS AN EXCUSE FOR NOT HEARING. What is it but a plain confession of their blindness and depravity. They acknowledge that they are so blind, that they do not see their eternal interests to be the great concern and business of life; that they are so depraved, that they are not ashamed to avow their very blindness as an excuse for their sin. Nor can we allow either of another excuse, I CANNOT RECOLLECT WHAT I HEAR. recollect what we are interested in and attend to. A man in business will recollect a great variety of particulars which are needful to be remembered; a servant will bear in his mind a message from his master; all will remember a temporal benefit promised them. The great reason of forgetfulness is, we want a real concern about our salvation! The poor sometimes say, WE HAVE NOT SUITABLE CLOTHING! Why should that more prevent you going to hear, than it does going to visit your friends, or to get your food, or to receive directions from your earthly employers? Consider if the real meaning of this be not, My pride will be offended by contrast with others, and I do not think my soul worth the humbling of my pride.* Others
There are some things which KEEP THE POOR FROM CHURCH, that it may be well briefly to notice. In various parts of the country, many will attend in the afternoon, who do not come in the morning. They indulge themselves with more rest-the wife wants to prepare a hot dinner for the familyto get the children dressed out-and sometimes poor people are such bad managers, that they have even to wash their clothes on Sunday morning. Christian females, in visiting the poor, might do much good in pointing out the evil of these different habits, and the way to remedy them by a little care and forethought, and the blessing which the fear and service of God would bring to the whole family. There are other cases where
think UNFAVOURABLE WEATHER QUITE A SUFFICIENT REASON FOR ABSENCE. There are those who judge otherwise. There was a pious lady who was blind, and yet, after she became pious, to the end of her life, (for thirty-five years) constantly, twice every Sunday, in rain, hail, or snow, as well as on fine days, she went through all weathers to hear her stated minister. Her soul eminently prospered. Thus like Anna, who for fourscore and four years served God with fastings and prayers night and day, she left an example condemning those who for slight reasons stay at home.
Is not the hidden and secret cause of all these difficulties really this--I do not like to be restrained from my own way--I do not like the effort which it requires to go. I do not like to be reproved for sin-I prefer present recreation and self-indulgence. And what is this, but rebellion against the Most High? and where will this end, but in certain and irretrievable ruin? Break manfully and at once through all these obstructions. Delay no more. There is a happiness ready for you of which you have not yet tasted. Hear the voice of God, and you shall enjoy privileges and blessings of which you have at present no conception, aud which you would not part with for all the world.
little children prevent parents attending; but much could be done by a little management among the poor themselves. How do they contrive when they leave home for worldly things, for the market, for pleasure? Their contrivances for worldly purposes will generally answer all their objections. A careful and pious wife will soon learn how to provide on the Saturday all that is needful to make her husband and family comfortable, without interfering with the duties of the Sunday.