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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 proinises; 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. cxis. 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 me. mories 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. You are travelling through the wilderness : lay up the word as the traveller does his directions for the
way. 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. “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. 1
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.
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 far. ther 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 with out them, yet the ministry is his ordinance, and by the fool ishness 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
done to come, because he came in obedience to the call of God.
3. An address made to Peter when he was come, by Cornelius the caller, in name of himself and those who were with him. In which take notice, (1.) Of a congregation, though small, yet well convened. What the congregation was, see ver. 24. ' his kinsmen and near friends. These, with his family, and those that came with Peter, made up the assembly. The good man made it his business to get not only his own family, but his friends, to wait on the ordinances.' (2.) An acknowledgment of God's presence in a special manner in religious assemblies, We are all here present before God. (3.) The great end of their meeting was their souls edifica. tion, to hear, that is, to hear and obey. And here is what the minister is to preach and the people to receive; it is what is commanded of God. The minister has a commission from God, and he must preach, not what men would have him to preach, but what God commands; and the people are to receive nothing that is beyond his commission. The extent of both is all things; the minister is to preach, and the people to receive, all things communded of God.
Obs. 1. When God discovers his mind in any particular to a person or people, it is their duty presently to comply with it without delay. There should be no disputing after the discovery of the Lord's mind, Gal. i. 15,-17. The contrary was the fault of Balaam, and of the Jews in Egypt, Jer. xliv.
2. It is a blessed thing for a people to call that minister to whom God himself directs and inclines them. It is like Cornelius, who did not so much as know Peter by name, Acts x. 5. but he goes to God, and God directs him.
3. It is a commendable thing in a minister of Christ to comply with the call of God and his people, though it should be offensive to some, and not very agreeable to his own in. clinations. Ministers are to go, not where they will and others would wish them, but where God wills. It was Le. vi's commendation, · Who said unto his father and to his mother, I have not seen him, neither did he acknowledge his brethren, nor knew his own children: for they have obscrved thy word, and kept thy covenant.' Deut. xxxiii. 9.
The doctrine arising from the text is,