« ForrigeFortsæt »
to come to Christ, as sinners for sal-land, expecting salvation by a dead vation, whatever our state and cha- or notional faith, considered good racter may have hitherto been: and works as altogether superfluous. if we really accept of this invitation, This may account for the remark"giving diligence to make our callable difference which there is being and election sure;" the subse-tween his language and that of St. quent change will constitute a "wit-Paul; who was chiefly employed in ness in ourselves," that we are par- contending against those that were takers of Christ, and that his Spirit prone to the opposite extreme. dwelleth in us. Having therefore shown that tempt
Finally, my Christian brethren, ations and sins must not be ascribed we all need to be deeply humbled, to God, the unchangeable giver of that we have not " let our light every good and perfect gift; and shine before men," in that measure, observed that the word of truth is and to that effect, which our pecu- especially made use of, in regeneliar advantages and obligations ren- rating sinners, and rendering them dered incumbent on us. Let us then willing to consecrate themselves confess and lament our unfruitful- unto God: he gives some directions ness and while we humbly crave concerning the dispositions and forgiveness of the past, let us ear- manner, in which men should hear nestly beseech the Lord for a larger and receive the divine message, measure of his grace; that we may that it may be " in them an enhenceforth "walk more worthy of grafted word, able to save their God, who hath called us to his king-souls." dom and glory."
He then introduces the passage, which I have chosen for the subject of our present meditation, and concludes with these re markable words; "If any man among you seem to be religious,
INEFFICACY OF HEARING WITHOUT PRAC- and bridleth not his tongue, but de
TISING THE WORD.
ceiveth his own heart: this man's
JAMES i. 22...25.-But be ye doers undefiled before God and the Father religion is vain. Pure religion and of the word, and not hearers only, is this; to visit the fatherless and deceiving your own selves. For if widows in their affliction, and to any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man world." The religion which God keep himself unspotted from the beholding his natural face in a glass. For he beholdeth himself, the principles whence it springs, approves, when viewed apart from and goeth his way, and straightway and the ordinances through which forgetteth what manner of man he it is produced and maintained, is was. But whoso looketh into the principally expressed by self-deperfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in
the Lord's sake, and separation from nying acts of kindness to men for all the pollutions of this evil world. Now," says Paul," abideth faith, hope, and charity; but the greatest of these is charity."
THE apostle James seems to have especially intended his epistle, as The text viewed in this connexion, an antidote to the delusion of those may give us an opportunity of conwho abused the doctrines of grace; sidering,
I. The peculiar intent of revela-piness in knowing, loving, obeying, tion, and the purposes which it was and worshipping him; but all, if evidently designed to answer. left to themselves, idolize the creaII. The inefficacy of hearing with- tures, and expect felicity from the out practising, to accomplish any of possession and enjoyment of them. these purposes. It might easily be shown that this III. The nature, and sources of is the prolific source of all the vices that fatal self-deception, into which and miseries of mankind, however numbers are in this respect betrayed. varied and multiplied. The idolized IV. The contrast here stated be- objects of their several pursuits are twixt the mere hearer and the prac- unsuitable and insufficient for their tical student of Scripture. happiness; moderate possession and use give not the expected satisfacI. We consider the peculiar in- tion; and hence spring intempertent of revelation, and the purposes ance and licentiousness, with all which it was evidently intended to their dire effects. The devotees of riches, power, fame, or pleasure, "The Lord made all things for become rivals, and interfere with himself," that in different ways they each other: thus their malignant might manifest his glory. The in- passions are excited, and they are animate creation, in every part, pro- tempted to most destructive and claims, asit were his wisdom, power, atrocious crimes. The departure and goodness, and demonstrates his from God makes way likewise for being and perfections." The hea- rebellion, enmity to his perfections vens declare the glory of God, and and government, and direct oppothe firmament showeth his handi-sition to his commands and cause: work." Each of the animal tribes and hence spring impiety, infidelity, answers the end of its creation, and atheism, superstition, every species enjoys all the felicity of which it is of false religion, and every form of capable, except as involved in the virulent persecution. consequences of our sins. But ra
Thus man hath forfeited his fetional creatures should glorify their licity in the favour of God, incurred Maker in a higher manner; being his awful displeasure, lost his own formed capable of understanding capacity of enjoying a happiness the display he hath given of him- adequate to his desires, and renself in his works, and of rendering dered himself the slave of the vilest him the reasonable service of adora- affections. And as happiness is in tion and obedience: in which, as its own nature one and unchangeconnected with the ineffable enjoy-able; he could by no means have ment of his love, their genuine fe- avoided the most dreadful miseries, licity consists. Yet, without at all during the whole of his existence, considering the difference observ- had not his offended God brought able in men's character, it is unde- life, as well as immortality, to light niable, that all I have forsaken the by the gospel.
fountain of living waters; and have It is therefore the especial intent hewn out for themselves cisterns, of revelation, to make the one living broken cisterns that can hold no and true God known to his apostate water." This is the universal apos- creatures, in the mysteries and pertacy and idolatry of the human race: fections of his nature, as far as nethey are all alienated from the cessary; in the righteousness of his life of God." None seek their hap- law and government; and in his
readiness to show mercy and confer species of false doctrine; for the happiness even on rebellious man. more deeply men are impressed by It was evidently the design of the erroneous sentiments, and the more Lord to bring us back to himself; entirely these become practical to provide for the pardon of our sins, principles, the greater mischief is and to give us a title to eternal life, done; as such deluded persons in a way honourable to his perfec- are inflated with pride, buoyed up tions; to reduce us to a proper dis- in self-confidence, and encouraged position of mind, that we might in gratifying their corrupt passions apply for these blessings in a suit- as a part of their religion. These able manner, and make due returns are the produce of the tares, which for them to effect a cordial recon- the enemy sows in the field while ciliation between himself, the great the servants sleep: but the selfand glorious Creator, and us rebel- deceivers, that abound even where lious creatures; and to teach us to the good seed is sown, are such love, reverence, worship, and obey hearers as receive the doctrine of him, that, being renewed to his holy truth into a carnal mind by a dead image, we might enjoy true happi- faith, and distort or pervert it ness for evermore in his favour and through the artifice of Satan and service. the deceitfulness of their Revelation was also intended to hearts. Our present business theretrain up a people, who might be the fore lies with those, who statedly, instruments of God in promoting or occasionally attend on the real his cause among men ; in alleviating gospel of Christ. and counteracting the miseries and It may here be proper to make mischiefs of the world; and in doing a digression, in order to mention good to one another, till their re- some descriptions of hearers only, moval to a state of perfect holiness and not doers; that we may hold and felicity. Finally, it was de- the mirror to every individual, and signed to bring fallen men to that help him to discover what manner blessed state that being made equal of man he is. Many persons form with the angels, they might for ever a part of our congregations, who unite with them in the most sub- come from habit or constraint. lime worship and delightful service Children or domestics, belonging of their infinitely glorious Bene- to religious families, and many factor. others in different situations, are
Now if these are the special ends accustomed to attend divine service, and purposes of revelation, as where the word of truth is preached. every impartial and diligent in- They know this is expected from quirer must be convinced they are; we may readily see,
them: and they submit to it as a stated tax on their inclinations, which they pay for the sake of II. The inefficacy of hearing coincident advantages. Such perwithout practising to accomplish sons commonly forget that they are any one of them. addressed by the preacher, and conBut the importance of the sub-cerned in his instructions. They ject is inexpressible, and demands come and go, as it were, mechanimore particular investigation. cally; but scarcely think of complyThe apostle supposes in the text, ing with the exhortations which that the persons he addressed did are most earnestly enforced. They hear the word of truth, and not any receive the seed by the way-side,
and "the devil takes it away, lest of hearing even that partial statethey should believe and be saved." ment, which they approve, and -If this observation should reach which they have fully understood. the ears of any persons who answer Another description of hearers the above description, let them mistake the means of becoming reliremember, that for once at least gious for religion. They hear sethey were particularly addressed; veral sermons every week, from that the subject comes home to their favourite preachers: though their case; and that not only the perhaps they scarcely understand, preacher, but the apostle speaks to and never bestow any pains to rethem, as by name, saying, "Be remember and practise what they ye doers of the word, and not learn. Sometimes these persons hearers only, deceiving your own ground their confidence on attendselves." ing such ministers as are noted for
There are likewise speculating distinguishing faithfulness; and, as hearers, who study religion, as they manage to endure this plainother men do mathematics; either dealing, they suppose themselves to gratify curiosity and love of dis- approved: for they understand that covery; or because they hope to many hypocrites are offended by it. render it subservient to worldly But at the same time, they never interest and reputation; or vainly seriously think of examining themimagine that a sound creed is the selves by the doctrine, or of followone thing needful, the sure and the ing the exhortations thus repeatedly only passport to heaven. These inculcated.
men are often very severe on blind We must by no means omit to Pharisees, who think to be saved by mention those hearers of the gospel, a form of godliness: but they cannot who seek entertainment in places of see that a form of knowledge is worship, when conscience remonequally worthless, and far more strates against other amusements.-dangerous; because it produces a These are amateurs of oratory, good more desperate kind of pride and language, and graceful delivery; self-preference,-" knowledge puff- they admire the flights of a fine and eth up." They consider hearing, vigorous imagination; or perhaps speculating, disputing, and critici- they are pleased with close reasonsing preachers and doctrines, as ing, or the discussions of an acute the whole of religion. Their no- logician: though numbers of this tions abide inactive in their minds, class are as deficient in judgment, as and produce no change of disposi- in piety. They gratify themselves, tion; even the apparent morality however, by hearing preachers, or piety, which are sometimes con- whose talents suit their taste, whatnected with them, result from other ever that may be. This employprinciples while the spirit and ment sometimes agreeably fills up a conduct, in many respects, are vacant hour which might otherwise diametrically opposite to the real be tedious: and they endure even tendency of the doctrines for which the truth for the sake of the manner they contend. Such persons, how-in which it is delivered! Such perever, seldom persevere in stated at-sons attended Ezekiel. "Lo thou tendance, where the whole truth is art to them," said the Lord to his preached and as the completion prophet," as a very lovely song of of their system is the main object one that hath a pleasant voice, and with them, they often grow weary can play well on an instrument: for
they hear the words, but they do law of the Lord is with us? Lo, them not." Ezek. xxxiii. 30-34. certainly in vain made he it, the The captious hearer likewise re-pen of the scribes is in vain." Jer. quires to be noticed. He comes viii. 8. The word of truth continu. on purpose to criticise and find ally calls them to consider their fault; to try every one's doctrine ways, and examine their hearts and by his standard; to discover his lives; that they may become acown acuteness by detecting some quainted with their state and cha error of the preacher, and to "make racter; this they hear indeed, but a man an offender for a word." He continue careless and inconsiderate! seeks for nothing but the bran or They are warned to flee from the the chaff, and these alone he carries wrath to come; but they flee not: away. He means not to learn, and they are invited to come to much less to practise: and he must Christ that their souls may live; therefore be a hearer only, and not but they refuse him that speaketh. a doer of the word.-I would not, Wisdom thus expostulateth with however, have you conclude, that them, "How long, ye simple ones, we deem our auditors obliged to will ye love simplicity, and scorners credit all we say, or precluded from delight in their scorning, and fools the free exercise of their own judg-hate knowledge? Turn ye at my ment. Men may diligently com- reproof: I will pour out my Spirit pare our doctrine with the Scrip- unto you; I will make known my tures, and differ from us in many words unto you:" but "they set at particulars; while they edify by nought all her counsel, and despise every sermon, and are doers of the all her reproof." They are commandword: for they may examine with ed to repent, and to cast away all their sobriety, humility, and candour: and idols and transgressions: but they differ with reluctance and earnest cleave to their sins, and “after prayer to be directed aright. But their hardness and impenitent heart, the captious hearer resembles a man, who turns with disgust from a plentiful table, because he dislikes some one dish. Nay, he goes to the feast, not to eat, but to show his delicate and fastidious taste by finding fault with the provisions.
treasure up wrath against the day of wrath, and revelation of the righte ous judgment of God.” They are exhorted to pray without ceasing, but they seem to say, "What is the Almighty that we should serve him? or what profit shall we have, Time would fail, should we con- if we pray unto him?" They pay sider the curious hearer, who goes no practical regard to Christ, while to find out what some celebrated he commands them to "labour for preacher has got to say, perhaps the meat which endureth unto everthat he may turn it into ridicule; lasting life;" "to strive to enter in the procrastinating hearer, who in- at the strait gate; to search the tends to practise when he has a Scriptures; and to take his yoke more convenient opportunity; and upon them." They hear, indeed, many others, who might in like man- and admire or object as their noner be arraigned and condemned. tions are sanctioned or opposed: It must, however, be obvious, but if Christ be the author of eterthat all such persons fall short of nal salvation to those alone who every purpose for which the word of obey him; and if all they be his God was mercifully given. "How enemies," who will not have him do you say, We are wise, and the to reign over them;" such persons