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proclaim to us, in the merits of a divine Saviour, a propitiation for our transgression, and in his grace, the means of deliverance from the burden of sin and death.
We call you also to hear with earnest attention the word of God; for
3. It affords the only unfailing consolation under the ills of life.
In vain shall we attempt to shut out adversity by the mounds of wealth; in vain shall we seek to look down upon calamity from the pinnacle of honour; in vain shall we hope to find a refuge from sorrow and disappointment in the circles of pleasure. Adversity breaks down every barrier that wealth can oppose, undermines the loftiest throne of grandeur, and throws bitterness into the richest cup of pleasure. The mansion which religion sanctifies and defends, is alone secure from its assaults: there the weary and heavy laden, sheltered from the blasts of calamity, exult in the calm of eternal peace. Oh, then, let us eagerly listen to those divine instructions that will provide for us, in the favour and protection of God, an unfailing refuge, and a very present help in time of trouble.
We should hear the word of God
IV. With contrition united with lively gratitude. This sacred word declares our guilt in the sight of our Almighty Maker, whose power none can withstand, whose justice none can escape. It displays the infinite demerit of sin, in the sacrifice that propitiated it-the death of Jesus Christ, the only-begotten and well beloved Son of God. It reveals the alarming truth, that the Almighty Je
hovah, from whose presence we can no where flee, from whose Spirit we can no where hide ourselves, registers at his tribunal our thoughts, words, and actions, and will finally bring them into judgment before an assembled universe. While it sanctions the decisions of our own conscience that we are sinners, it discloses the stores of indignation and wrath, of tribulation and anguish, that will overwhelm the guilty. Shall these awful truths be heard by us with coldness, with indifference, or with scorn? For what, indeed, are we then prepared, but for that portion of the ungodly, where the worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched? Let then the word of God, proclaiming so loudly the guilt and the punishment of sinners, excite us to that offering of a broken and contrite heart which God hath declared that he will not despise.
And while our hearts, when the truths of God's word are proclaimed, should be awakened to holy contrition, they should be also penetrated with emotions of devout gratitude.
For the very message which proclaims our guilt and the awful punishment to which we are obnoxious, bears also the consoling assurances of mercy; disclosing to us, in the sacrifice of the cross, in the succours of divine grace, full and plenteous redemption. "God, who is rich in mercy," (this is the consoling declaration of his holy word,)" for his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, in whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of our sins." When, then, we hear proclaimed those heavenly instructions that enlighten and purify our souls, and those divine promises of VOL. II. 36
mercy and grace that lead us to the presence of God, where there is fulness of joy, and where there are pleasures for evermore, let the tribute of lively gratitude ascend to our God and Saviour for the inestimable blessings of the word of salvation. The word of God should be heard
V. With lively faith
Faith in the power and truth, and in the goodness and mercy of its Almighty Author. "Hath he said, and shall it not be done? hath he spoken, and shall it not come to pass?" Hath God enjoined on us his laws; hath he promulgated his awful threatenings; hath he displayed his enlivening promises? and will he not enforce his laws; will he not execute his threats; will he not fulfil his promises? "Is God a man, that he should lie; or the son of man, that he should repent?" Let us then regard all the declarations of his word as certain and unchangeable. Let us hear, as if his awful threats were at the moment to be executed upon us; let us hear, as if at the moment we were to receive the fruition of his gracious promises; let us hear, with this lively and vigorous faith, the word of God, and it will prove to us the power of God unto salvation, redeeming us from sin, consoling us under sorrow, and animating us to the highest acts of Christian duty, and triumphs of Christian hope.
And the word of God must also, be heard
VI. With a firm resolution to apply it to the purposes of our salvation.
We should hear it under the constant recollection that its truths are not designed to be the
subjects of curious and fruitless speculation, to amuse the imagination, and to excite a temporary interest in our feelings. On the contrary, we should bear in mind that their important, their only object, is "to turn us from darkness to light, and from the power of sin and Satan unto God."
Let it then be our care always to hear the instructions of the sanctuary under the impression of this truth, and always to seek to derive from them some light, some aid, some consolation, towards confirming our faith, regulating our hearts and conduct, brightening our hopes, and bearing us up in our journey to our heavenly rest, under the changes and trials of this our pilgrimage on earth.
And lastly, that the word of God which we hear may be effectual to our salvation, we should
VII. Pray earnestly for the enlightening and quickening influences of his Holy Spirit.
"Without God we can do nothing." "While we endeavour to work out our salvation, he worketh in us both to will and to do." The doctrine of divine illumination and assistance is calculated in the highest degree to give ardour and perseverance to our exertions. For what is impossible to him who is strengthened by the power of the Most High? Let us then pray earnestly to him for those aids of his Holy Spirit which he never withholds from those who ask him. Let us pray that by his grace he would remove from our minds all those prejudices that would obstruct the reception of the truths of his word; that he would impress us with a strong and lively conviction of its divine origin and awful importance; that he would dispose us to receive, with humble reverence, with
earnest attention, with grateful, penitent, and obedient hearts, its renovating and consoling truths; and that he would cherish them in our souls, as the source of virtue, of consolation, of peace and joy. Make us thus, O God, the hearers of thy holy word; and, bringing forth the fruits of holiness, our end will be everlasting life.
But, brethren, let not the solicitude with which I have endeavoured to urge you to be humble and obedient hearers of the instructions of the sanctuary lead you to the erroneous opinion, that to hear these instructions is the only object of your attendance in this sacred place. "My house shall be called the House of Prayer," is a divine declaration, which establishes the important truth, that the purposes of public worship, of prayer and praise, are the paramount objects of the house of God. To use the language of one who always speaks with a discrimination, a propriety that give his words the weight of decisive authority-one whom the common consent of more than a century denominates the "judicious Hooker"-" As teaching bringeth us to know God is our supreme truth; so prayer testifieth that we acknowledge him our sovereign good." "Prayers are those rich presents and gifts which, being carried up to heaven, do but testify our dutiful affection, and are, for the purchasing of all favours at the hands of God, the most undoubted means we can use." "Concerning the place of assembly, although it serve for other uses as well as this, yet seeing that our Lord himself hath to this, as to the chiefest of all other, plainly sanctified his own temple, by entitling it the House of Prayer, what pre-eminence of dignity soever hath been, either by the ordinance, or through the