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managed. And God himself is the Speaker; and what he speaks should be diligently attended to, for his sake; to prevent the breaking out of his wrath, which is threatened against those who do not hearken to him.
(2.) Because at best we will have much ado to hear well as we ought. We are naturally dull of hearing the Lord's word, Isa. lviii. 4, 5. They are like the deaf adder that stoppeth her ear, which will not hearken to the voice of the charmer, charming never so wisely.' And oft-times there is a locked door betwixt him and us. Hence he is represented thus, Behold, I stand at the door and knock,' &c. Rev. iii. 20. And there is a thick wall of separation also betwixt him and us, Isa. Ixix. 2. Your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear.' And there is always much noise about us as long as the tempter is to the fore. Therefore the highest attention is requisite.
3. Lastly, If we do not thus attend, we lose, and our loss is great. Thomas missed one occasion of meeting with Christ, and unbelief got in upon him. And that word which we miss may be the most suitable to our case, which therefore Satan watches to carry off from us. Therefore we should never miss one occasion of hearing the word.
Secondly, Receiving the word rightly. This lies in two things.
1. Receiving it with faith, Heb. iv. 2. It is the mouth of the soul, by which one receives the sincere milk of the word, and drinks water out of the wells of salvation, and without which one gets no good of it to his salvation; but it is as water spilt upon the ground, which cannot be gathered up again. It must be received,
(1.) With a faith of assent, believing it to be true and right, assenting to the truth and righteousness of the precepts, promises, and threatenings of it, Psal. cxix. 128, 160. 'I esteem all thy precepts concerning all things to be right. Thy word is true from the beginning. It has a divine authority; itself is God's testimony, which therefore for itself is to be believed; and where the power of it comes, it captivates the soul into the belief of it, 2 Cor. x. 5. This is to receive the kingdom of God as a little child, Luke xviii, 17.
(2.) With a faith of application, applying it to ourselves, Job v. ult. Hear it, and know thou it for thy good.'
The Lord's word is compared to the falling rain or dew,. Deut. xxxii. 2. The soul in receiving it should be as the dry and gaping ground swallowing it up as it falls, Psal. cxliii. 6. My soul thirsteth after thee as a thirsty land.' But most people are like the smooth stones, which send it off themselves to those about them. Now, this application is that which makes the plaister stick, and nothing else will do it. If the word be not applied, it can do no more good, than a plaister unapplied can heal the wound.
Now, the word is to be applied by us, for all the ends for which it is appointed, namely, for our conviction, Acts ii. 37. our conversion, John iv. 45. our edification in holiness, 1 Pet. ii. 2. and comfort, Rom. xv. 4. for the informing our judgments, and rectifying our will and affections; in short, for all the purposes of our salvation; otherwise we re ceive it in vain.
2. Receiving it with love, 2 Thess. ii. 10. Faith receives the word as true, love receives it as good, and good for us, Isa. xxxix. ult. Good is the word of the Lord which thou hast spoken,' said Hezekiah to the prophet. It is good for us in all the parts of it, for we need them all; the threatenings as well as the promises; its reproofs as well as its conSolations. And there is a threefold love which we owe to the word of God.
(1.) A love of esteem, highly prising it, Job xxiii. 12. I have esteemed the words of his mouth more than my neces sary food.' Psal. cxix. 72. The law of thy mouth is better unto me than thousands of gold and silver.' (2.) A love of desire after it, 1 Pet. ii. 2. As new born babes desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby ;' a longing for it. (3.) A love of complacency in it, Psal. cxix. 162. I rejoice at thy word as one that findeth great spoil.'
We owe this love to the word for the author's sake, Psal. cxix. 159. Consider how I love thy precepts;' for its intrinsic excellency, Psal. cxix. 140. Thy word is very pure; therefore doth thy servant love it;' and for the necessity and usefulness of it to us, as light that shineth in a dark place,' 2 Pet. 1. 19; as our food, Job xxiii. 12, forecited; nay, as our very life and breath, Deut. xxxii. 47.
Thirdly, Laying it up in our hearts. Our hearts and memories are to be storehouses for the word, and there we are to lay it up, as it comes to our hands, Psal, cxix. 11. Thy
word have I hid in mine heart, (says the Psalmist), that I might not sin against thee.' How can those expect good of the word who just let it go as it comes? But we should catch hold of it, retain it, and not forget it.
We should lay it up as a precious and enriching treasure, Col. iii. 16. Let the word of God dwell in you richly:' As a thing that we are in hazard of losing, and being robbed of. Matth. xiii. 4; and as what we will have use for afterwards, Isa. xlii. 23. Who will hearken and hear for the time to come?' Suppose it reach not your present case, it may be useful for what will be your case. ling through the wilderness: lay up the word as the traveller does his directions for the way.
You are travel
The best way to lay it up is, to let it have deep impression on your spirits while you hear it, and to lift up your eyes to the Lord, that he may fix it in your heart, Psal. cxix. 93. I will never forget thy precepts,' 2 Tim. i. 12. I know in whom I have believed.'
III. Some things are to follow after hearing the word.
1. Meditation on it in your hearts, Psal. i. 2. The Psalmist thus describes the good man: In his law doth he meditate day and night.' This is the harrowing of the seed sown, and the mean to sink it down in the soul, to keep it fast, Luke ix. 44. Let these sayings sink down into your ears.' This is the way to guard the word, that it may not slip away, Heb. ii. 4; and a sovereign help to a leaking memory. Enure yourselves to meditation on the word, and ye will find your memories surprisingly strengthened: one particular will bring on another, and one truth meditated on will recal another to your remembrance, and afford you vast delight and pleasure.
2. Conferring of it on your discourse. This was enjoined to the Israelites by Moses, Deut. vi. 6, 7. The words which I command thee this day shall be in thine heart: and thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.' Luke xxiv. 14. Luke xxiv. 14. And they talked together of all those things which had happened.' The repeating over again of the Lord's word, has sometimes had a relish with it, more taking than at its first coming to theman.
Hence says the spouse, Cant. ii. 10. My beloved spake and said unto me, Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away.' Talking of it thus on your way from the church, and in your own houses, will be most beneficial to you.
3. Lastly, The main thing is practising it in your lives, Luke viii. 15. That on the good ground are they which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience:' wiping of your spots, and adorning yourselves in holiness of life, by the glass of the word, Jam. i. 25. Whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the word,' &c. The word heard, but not practised, will sink men deeper in damnation; but heard, and practised too, will bring them to eternal salvation, O then be careful to practise what you hear, otherwise it will do you no good.
I shall conclude with an inference or two.
Inf. 1. No wonder most of the hearers of the gospel get no good of it. They are at no pains to prepare for hearing it, wrestle not in prayer for the Lord's blessing upon it, receive it neither with faith nor love, are not solicitous to lay it up in their hearts, and as little to practise it in their lives. How then can they reap benefit by it, when they use not these commanded means?
2. Here is the way to get good of the word, however little good is done by it at this day. Prepare for hearing it; pray earnestly for the blessing of God to accompany it receive it with faith and love; lay it up in your hearts: and reduce it to practice in your lives.
THE DUTY OF ATTENDING ON ORDINANCES ENFORCED.
ACTS x. 33.-Immediately therefore I sent to thee: and thou hast well done that thou art come. Now therefore are we all here present before God, to hear all things that are commanded thee of God.
S attendance upon the public ordinances is one of the special means whereby Christ communicates the benefits of redemption to us, I have chosen this text in order to enforce the duty of a diligent attendance upon them the farther upon you.
Our Lord Jesus, the only King and Head of his church, hath appointed ministers his ambassadors to declare his mind unto his people; and though he could teach his people without them, yet the ministry is his ordinance, and by the foolishness of preaching he saves them that believe. Here we have,
1. A call to Peter related. The person calling is Cornelius, a soldier. A Gentile he was, yet a proselyte; a good man, but one who as yet knew not the doctrine of Christ crucified. The person called was Peter; him God honoured to break the ice for the calling of the Gentiles, and to take down the first stone in the partition-wall betwixt Jews and Gentiles. The call itself is in these words, I sent. He had sent three men to invite Peter to his house, ver. 7. The reason of the call is thus expressed, Therefore, because he had the command of God for that effect. He made quick dispatch in the call; it was done immediately after the mind of God was discovered to him.
2. Peter's compliance with the call commended, Thou hast well done that thou art come. It is acceptable to God and to us. Peter had no great inclination to this work; he had his scruples about the lawfulness of it: but God condescends to solve his doubts, and clear his way. It was very offensive to the Christian Jews, which necessitated him to make an apology for his practice, Acts xi. yet after all it was well