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and thinks that he has received that Spirit, because he has had some warm emotions and feelings on religion, entirely disregarding the great proof of having received the Spirit in the steady course of a holy life. Others deceive themselves because religious friends think well of them, and speak kindly to them, forgetting that no human judgment will clear us before God-he that judgeth us is the Lord.
O how fatal is this delusiou ! Such a man is ready to think his is especially the wise and prudent course; he imagines that there is no plan of reconciling a worldly life with the hope of future happiness, so cheap and convenient as hearing and perhaps assenting to the Gospel. When a man has persuaded himself that such an unprofitable hearing will save him, and goes on so, and ends so, how awful is the idea, that the very things on which he founded his hopes will be his ruin; the very hearing in which he trusted, and boasted, will only rise up in judgment against him to aggravate his sins, and increase his condemnation and misery. Not that it is better to neglect the word. “ If men that hear the word of God and do it not, are such foolish builders, what can they be who will not so much as hear! And if the ground where the seed perished is condemned, the ground that never receives the seed at all, will not escape a tremendous condemnation.” But still, when men hear and neglect what they hear, “how it opens the mouths of gainsayers and emboldens them to their imputations on preaching; they have some colour to cry out, *There are none worse, more proud, wanton, contentious, covetous, oppressing, fraudulent, than the greatest hearers.' When you walk not according to the rules which you are taught, you make preaching and professing to be reputed the nursery of ungodliness and the
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 stil 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 disi not obey.
Others, who are hearers only, MISTAKE THI MEANS FOR THE END. If they were to be asked what it is to be religious, they would probably say—t hear sermons, attend prayers, receive the sacrament
, and the like. No; à man may do all these things, and have no real religion at all. They are but means 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 knowledge 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. Tim. 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 deeming 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 vever 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 ter 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
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
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 bearers. 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 sermons which they hear, just the same from
year. It is true that the natural face of the heart, if we t"
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 witla himself, and thinks