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Happiness was plac'd, and from these he would not part, tho' he might have entered into the Kingdom of God by doing so.
And the Case is much the same with Worldly-minded Men in these Days. For thoʻthe present Circumstances of the Church do not put them to the Trial, whether they will resign up oil for the Sake of Christ; yet they do, and always will try, whether they will employ their Substance to the Succour of his poor Members; whether they willaccording to their Abilities, feed the Hungry, cloath the Naked, and relieve the Needy. But these Things such Persons abhor the Thoughts of doing, and therefore when we Preach about them, and use the strongest Motives to enforce their Obfervance, our Sermons are sure to be Nighted; or else to be accounted grievous bard Sayings, such as they are not able, because in truth, not willing to bear. They frame several filly Pretences to justify their Uncharitableness ; as that they shall be reduced to Poverty by being open-handed, or may want themfelves by being liberal to others: Which Pretences imply a provoking Distrust of Divine Providence ; and at the same Time most evidently show, that they had rather venture to be damn'd, than to be starv'd,
Thirdly, Another Cause why the Word Preach'd doth not profit, is want of Altention. 'Tis a melancholy but withal a juft Observation, that some Persons will lend a very
attentive Ear to trifling Matters, which will do them little or no good : and yet suffer themselves to be easily diverted from hear. kening to those Truths, upon the embracing of which their everlasting Welfare depends.
Whilst we are Preaching, we have too many Opportunities of seeing how foon, and how frequently Mens Attention is drawn away from regarding our Discourses. Some. times we may behold 'em talking to one a. nother : Sometimes they are staring in an idle Manner after those who happen to corre into the Church: And sometimes they are very quietly lulling themselves to Deep. These and such like Means doth Satan make use of, to catch away the World, and hinder it from taking Root in Mens Hearts, And Sermons that are preach'd to fuch Persons; may be properly resembled to Seed fallen upon the Highway; they are utterly loft upon them.
If People are not attentive to the Word Preacb'd, it cannot make any lasting Impreffion upon their Souls :If it doth not make any lafting Impression upon their Souls, they cannot remember it, and meditate upon it: And if they don't remember it, and meditate upon it, they cannot make it serve for the Increase of their knowledge, the Di. rection of their Judgment, the Regulation of their Will and Affections, or the Reformation of their Practice. But if the Word Preach'd doth not serve some of these Purposes, it doth not edify, it doth not profit.
Fourthly, Another Cause why the Word Preach'd doth not profit, is Self-conceit in the Hearers of it. Self-conceit is an undue and over-fond Valuation of one's own Abilities: When Men are swell'd with a great Opinion of these, they do for the most Part entertain very mean Thoughts of the Accomplishments of others. Hence it comes to pass, that they reckon Themselves wiser than their Teachers ;' and account the most excellent Discourses deliver'd by them, no better than Foolisonefs of Preaching
Such wise Fools, whose Deportment is al. ways right in their own Eyes, disdain to be convinc'd that they are ever in the Wrong, by those whom they vainly imagine to have less Knowledge than themselves; They dil. regard the most useful Doctrines, and cast the most wholesome Advices behind their
Backs; and instead of trying to be better'd · by the Sermons which they hear, they cen-'
sure and villify the Qualifications of the Persons who preach.
An Entertainment of this Nature, St. Paul met with at Athens ;' which we read of in the 17th of the Aits of the Apostles, ac the 18th and 32d Verses. Then certain of the Epicuréans, and of the Stoicks, encounter'd bim: and some faid, What will this Babler say? Other fome, He seemelh to be a Setter forth of strange Gods; because he preached unto them Jesus, and the Resurrection : And when they heard of the Refurretion of the Dead, some mocked, . Ее
· Thore Heathen Philosophers, placing a great Confidence in their own Conceptions of Things, and conceiving very bigb No. tions of their own Learning and Wisdom, could afford but little Elteein for the Abilities even of an Apostle : Hereby they were Inder'd from weighing his Discourses wich that Confideration which they deserv'd; yea, and were induc'd to treat both bim, and the Trutbs which he preach'u, not so much with a contempluous Air of Neglect, as with Mockery and Derision. :
Anda Man must have made but Night Ob. fervations upon the Practice of the World, who hath not experienc'd the like Behaviour ifi lome that are called Christians, with Retreat to the present Preachers, and preaching of the Word. For how frequently may we behold'em endeavouring to ridicule cheir Persons, and disparage their Sermons? How often may we see Men that are exceedingly wife in their own Conceits (tho' in reality they are furnish'd buc with a Qender Share of common Sense) take upon 'em to be competent Judges of the Niceness, or Indecorum of their Minister's Discourses ? I can fee no preat Matter in this, says one, "He has made but a poor Business of it, says another. And a third arrogantly intimates, that be could du better himself. ..
Ina Word, how coninion is it in this forward Aġe, for the most illiterate Mortals, w!o understand but licile of their own Mo.. ther Tongue, to pretend to criticize upon
the Property of the Expressionis we make use of; to pass Sentence upon the Method we observe, and to find Fault with the niost elaborate Compositions ?
After this Manner doch Self-conceitoperate in those who are overwhelm'd with it. It renders them obstinate in the Opinions they have taken up: It makes 'em preverly go on in the Courses they have begun : It puts them upon spending their Time in carping at the Word Preach'd; and utterly debars them from reaping a due Advantage by hearing it. Such Persons therefore may not unficly be compared to the deaf Adder, which stoppeth her Ears ; inasmuch as they seem refolvid not to be influenc'd by the Voice of the Charmer, charm he never fo wisely.
Fifibly, Another Cause of the Unprofitableness of the Word Preacb'd, is Prejudice against the Preacher's of it. Prejudice I take to be an ill-natur'd Dinike of another, grounded up on some bad Opinion of him. This the Devil is very forward to raise in the Minds of the People, against those who be ordain'd the Ministers of Religion; as well knowing, that the Success of their Ministry will be very much hindred, whereroever there is a Prejudice conceiv'd against their Persons.
Now the usual Ways hy which he leadech Men to be prejudic'd against their Minia sters, are by setting them in wrong Lights; and painting them in false Colours. .. .
Thus, if they preach against any Sins that are common among their Hearers, their