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brought on themselves by a wretched choice-that of refusing duly to hear aright,
Hearing the word aright is then a duty of vast importance; and a duty which it will be desirable more fully to explain. The church of England, ever alive to man's insufficiency, beautifully states this duty in a prayer in the Litany-"That it may please thee to give to all thy people increase of grace, to hear meekly thy word, and to receive it with pure affection, and to bring forth the fruits of the Spirit." The same duty is fully summed up in the following answers in the Assembly's Catechism" It is required of those that hear the word preached, that they attend upon it with diligence, preparation, and prayer, examine what they hear by the Scriptures, receive the truth with faith, love, meekness, and readiness of mind as the word of God; meditate, and confer of it in their hearts, and bring forth the fruits of it in their lives."
But let us enter more particularly into our Lord's direction, Take heed how ye hear, in the way of prac tical rules, only bearing in mind, that while the grace of the Holy Spirit blesses the word to our real good, that same Spirit prepares the heart to receive it aright, and gives suitable dispositions that we may hear with profit.
We will first shew what is to be guarded against in hearing; then explain the nature of due hearing; and lastly, give some practical directions that may assist us thus to hear.
I. The precept, take heed, teaches us to GUARD THOSE DANGERS TO WHICH WE ARE EXPOSED. Let us consider in what respects we should take heed :
1. TAKE HEED TO YOUR MOTIVES IN GOING TO HEAR: What is the object which you have in view? There are many unworthy ends, such as curiosity, criticism, entertainment, or even mere general information about religious topics. These are not the ends at which we should aim. Hearing is not to gratify men's curiosity, but to save their souls; yet it is rather some novelty that attracts most men's attention that the simple statement of the most solid truths. If there be a funeral sermon for any public character, crowded congregations will attend, and eagerly listen to those parts which relate to the individual; if there be a missionary sermon, those parts which contain facts relative to the heathen will excite most attention. we may judge of men's motives by their conversation, some come merely like the Athenians, to hear something new; some to know what will be said on any particular doctrines by the preacher, or to be able to talk about him, and his style, and manner of preaching: others come rather to see what is passing than to hear; but
to enter the house of God, to have our eyes and ears entertained and not our hearts reformed, must certainly be most displeasing to God." Inconstancy of attendance is frequently connected with this spirit, and such lose the benefits of that full course of divine truth which regular hearers attending one ministry receive. Let us, like the poor man at the pool of Bethesda, who patiently waited many years, and at last was blessed by the Saviour, patiently attend the ministry of the Gospel, and we shall also doubtless receive a blessing. The preaching of the word is an act of grace proclaiming infinitely more than the remission of human penalties, or any temporal evil; it proclaims God's favour to sinners for their eternal good. Shall we spend
the time in criticism, curious remarks, and the like, when we should be eagerly listening to the message, following its directions, and embracing its blessings?
Take heed of INATTENTION. There is often a dulness of hearing very prejudicial to all success in attending upon the ministry. It was the case with the Jews of old. Hear, says Isaiah, ye deaf, and look, ye blind, that ye may see; and St. Paul, in the Epistle to the Hebrews, notices the same thing-Ye are dull of heaving, for when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again, which be the first principles of the oracles of God. Heb. v, 11. Such are not dull as to temporal things; but of spiritual things they say, what a weariness is i!! Mal. i, 18. They have similar feelings to those who asked, When will the new moon be gone? that we may sell corn; and the sabbath? that we may set forth wheat? Amos viii, 5. It is observed by Cradock, that "A minister may have a great congregation, and yet but few hearers, if their minds be stuffed with the world before they come; if they bring their trades, their bargains, their plough, their worldly business along with them. David says of idols, They have cars, but hear not. We have too many such idols in our congregations." Some are asleep, even when they have no bodily infirmity to plead : what a dishonour do they put on religion! what an infectious and evil example to others! what contempt of the presence of God! The Bible records one instance in which drowsiness bad nearly been followed by irrecoverable death, to be as it were a warning to all sleepers. When Paul was preaching at Troas, and continued his speech until midnight, there sat in the window a certain young man named Eutychus, being fallen into a deep sleep; and as Paul was long preaching, he sunk down with sleep, and
fell from the third loft, and was taken up dead. There seemed some excuse for drowsiness at so late an hour, and during so long a discourse; but the record seems left not merely to evidence the divine power in his restoration to life, but also to be a caution against that which brought him into danger. While every allowance should be made for natural weakness and infirmities, which disable some from that attention which they desire to give, and which it is their grief and burden that they cannot give; while we would give to such every advantage of our Lord's kind remark, the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak; yet such should remember his question-What! could ye not watch with me one hour? And here much might be done, by moderation in food, or by taking a short rest at home previously, or perhaps by standing up part of the time. But there are those who, though they have no natural infirmity, seem, as soon as the sermon commences, to compose themselves as if they designed to sleep through it. O let such remember the majesty and dignity of the great Jehovah in whose house they are assembled ! How can they receive a message from him, or obtain the gifts of his Spirit, or the riches of his grace, in Some manifestly attend
such a drowsy state of mind! so carelessly and negligently, that what is preached, can hardly be profitably received by them. If they are not thinking of something else, they yet think no longer of what they hear, than while the words are sounding in their ears. Let these things be felt and mourned; let them discover your alienation from God, your ruin and depravity, and thus lead you to be earnest in seeking divine grace. Attention is absolutely needful to profitable hearing; just as while the mouth of the vessel is closed, it is in vain that we attempt to fill it,
by pouring any liquid upon it; so inattention effectually closes the ear and prevents the reception of knowledge, however abundant the instruction given may be! Lose not all your labour and time in coming to hear. When Samuel attends to God's voice, and says, Speak, for thy servant heareth, then he receives the revelation of the divine will. 1 Sam. iii, 1-14. In the time of Nehemiah, on the revival of religion, it is said, that the ears of all the people were attentive unto the book of the law. Nehem. viii, 3. And so in the time of our Lord it is said, all the people were very attentive to hear him; ežɛngeμato, hanged on him, as it is in the margin.) Luke xix, 48. Do you wish to be preserved from inattention? remember the importance of hearing, and the danger of negligence. It helps attention to look at the minister, and is an indication of it; the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue, were fastened on our Lord, when they were eagerly interested. Luke iv, 20. Remember also, that the spirit of attention comes freely from God our gracious Father: The Lord opened Lydia's heart, that ske attended to the things which were spoken of Paul. Acts xvi, 4. "The Lord turns away the eye and ear of sinners from seeing or hearing vanity, causes his voice to be heard, cures the spirit of slumber, and awakens out of sleep, that he may give light and life."
Take heed of PREJUDICES. Some come to hear with their minds filled with their own notions. They have adopted high doctrinal views, and cannot bear to have practice insisted upon; or, on the other hand, they dislike to have the doctrines of the Gospel prominently brought forward, and had rather hear moral' disquisitions on the excellence of virtue, which never trouble the conscience, nor renew the heart. They have an undue partiality for or against particular