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are desirous of entertainment, and of having something to talk about. They want an intellectual treat, and desire not, as the chief thing, edification, and spiritual good.' Ezekiel gives a very striking picture of such; (Ezek. xxxiii, 30.) The children of thy people are still talking of thee by the walls, and in the doors of the houses, and speak one to another, every one to his brother, saying, Come, I pray you, and hear what is the word that cometh forth from the Lord. They went, but did not obey.
Others, who are hearers only, MISTAKE THE MEANS FOR THE END. If they were to be asked what it is to be religious, they would probably say-to hear sermons, attend prayers, receive the sacrament, and the like. No; a man may do all these things, and have no real religion at all. They are but means of promoting religion. Real religion is, to have a constant regard to the favour of God, our reconciled Father in Jesus Christ; and for his sake to abound in disinterested and self-denying acts of love, to those most needing our care; and to watch against, and keep ourselves from the temptations and corruptions of a world lying in wickedness. Pure religion, and undefiled before God and the Father, is to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world. James i, 27. There are those who hear, perhaps, above a hundred sermons every year, and are in the church devout and religious; but when they leave the place where they worship, they seem to leave all their religion, and are, among those with whom they associate, worldly, proud, and passionate. These are hearers only. It has been remarked, “ the profession of most men, is a mere non-renunciation of the Gospel in words, while in their hearts and lives they deny the power of it every day.”
Others hear FOR THE MIND, and not for the heart and life; they speculate, they debate, they reason, they object, they approve, they judge, but this is all. Mere kuowledge of particular points of revealed truth, in an unsanctified heart, puffs a man up with pride, and keeps him at a distance from Christ and his salvation. It often happens that such cannot endure the truth, but after their own lusts, heap up to themselves teachers, having itching ears, and turn away their ears from the truth, and are turned unto fables. T'im. iv, 3, 4. On the contrary, there are those who hear merely for THE MOVING OF THE AFFECTIONS. Do not rest in mere emotions, in pleasurable feelings, instead of being carried on to real regeneration, and devotion of the whole life to God.
Mr. Gisborne, in his Sermon on this subject, (vol. ii, of his Sermons) has described two other characters in so lively a way, that I subjoin his remarks upon them in his own words. “Many persons attend public worship merely from A REGARD TO CHARACTER. They see the neighbourhood flocking to church : therefore they go thither. They perceive that orderly and respectable persons make a point of regular attendance, and they are not unwilling to embrace the same method of being esteemed orderly and respectable. A man of this description has satisfied his wishes by shewing himself in the church. When he listens to the sermon, it is without earnestness, and with many a secret wish that it were at an end. He relapses into some worldly train of thought, until he is aroused from a vacant reverie, or from meditation on his business, or his pleasures, by
hearing the joyful sound of the congregation rising to depart.”
“ Others SIT IN JUDGMENT upon a sermon. Swollen with spiritual pride, and deewing themselves complete masters of the most difficult points of doctrine, they scrutinize every sentence, which drops from the lips of the preacher; put each of his words to the rack; examine the soundness of his orthodoxy with inquisitorial suspicion ; and if they are able to fasten on an expression not precisely consonant with the niceties of their own religious phraseology, or capable of being understood, in a sense somewhat at variance with their peculiar prepossessions, deny their instructor to be evangelical, pronounce him blind, and congratulate themselves on their own scriptural attainments and keen-eyed sagacity. Eager to censure and impatient to decide; the fruit which they reap from the return of the Sabbath is to be flattered in corruption and confirmed in ignorance.”
The persons we have considered are, in the expressive language of St. James, hearers only. They are told of the wonderful love of God in Christ Jesus, but it never reaches, and warms, and renews the heart. They are exhorted to believe in Christ, but they never go beyond a mere notion of faith, or a dead unprofitable assent to truth. They are required to repent of their sins, but they never grieve for them, and never forsake them. They are plainly told, Without holiness no man shall see the Lord, and yet they seek not holiness. They are informed of their insufficiency, but they pray not for the Holy Ghost. They are urged to strive to enter in at the strait gate, but after all they go in the broad road, they partake of the spirit of the world, and are never under the practical, holy, and humbling influence of divine truth. O Christian reader, may divine grace teach us to remember, that it is not enough to say to Christ, Thou hast taught in our streets, (Luke xiii, 26.) and have we not prophesied in thy name ? Matt. vii, 22. If men still remain unaffected and unchanged by the truth, if they still be workers of iniquity, they will perish in their iniquity.
The Apostle shews how it is that the Gospel has no effect on such ; If any man be a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his face in a glass: for he beholdeth himself and goeth his way, and straightway he forgetteth what manner of man he was. Just as the mirror shews us what we are in our outward appearance, and discovers to us any spots, or any thing unbecoming which we could not otherwise discern, SO divine truth discovers to us the exact state of our hearts, and all that sinfulness and corruption which there is within us.
A person may look at himself in a glass, and not remove the defects which are thus discovered to him; but putting the glass away, entirely forget them : and so it is with such as are mere hearers. When the sermon is done, the mirror is put away by them. They have had a transient glimpse of their true state ; but they have altered nothing that was wrong, they had no intention of rectifying any thing. They mind very little at the time, and reflect less afterwards; and continue, notwithstanding all the serions which they hear, just the same from
year. It is true that the natural face of the heart, if we may use the expression, is exceedingly unclean and deformed : therefore we hate the sight of it, and love to put it far from us. The forgetful hearer, while the truth is set before him, has often short-lived convictions of his sinfulness, is displeased with himself, and thinks
of altering and changing; but no sooner is this faithful mirror taken away, than all his views of his sinfulness are forgotten, he soon loses sight of himself, and remains unchanged, and unconverted.
There is a great self-deception in all this. Such a man's attention to religious duties makes him fancy himself religious, and he thus blinds his own eyes to his true state; he willingly shuts out the light, and perishes in the mid-day blaze of Gospel privileges. Satan could never ensure his destruction, did he not willingly concur with Satan by wilful blindness. Such persons do not, as they often imagine they do, much mislead others. A man who is living in sinful tempers and practices, who is neglecting his relative duties, and is worldly and earthly minded, does not impose on the discerning. They see his profession to be a mere cloke, and readily deteet his hypocrisy; but he awfully deceiveth his own heart.
For instance, he hears the doctrine of salvation by grace through Christ, and disregarding the plain and declared truth, that it is a salvation from sin as well as from guilt, he thinks only of the comfort of free pardon, concludes that he is safe, because he admits a single truth, and passes by all that holiness which is ever connected with real salvation.
He hears the doctrine of faith only as the means of justification, and either wholly disregards the fruit of faith and the plain expressions of St. James, Even so faith without works is dead being alone, or satisfies himself with very slight, superficial, and unscriptural evidences of salvation.
He hears the necessity of good works, and rests in his own scanty obedience; in an outward morality, without a new heart. He hears of the work of the Spirit,