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mated afresh with ever strengthening resolve to pursue the path which they have chosen-the narrow and strait path which the Holy Scriptures which they reverence, point out as the only course that can conduct them into their Lord's joy ;— others are of an opposite description; are of a mind that is neither moved by the promises, nor alarmed by the threatenings of the Gospel: who, though they come, and listen, and sit before the preacher, and hear the words which he is commissioned to utter yet regard them not, no more than if they were idle talk, or empty sounds, and who consequently return to their homes and their callings, neither amended nor improved at all.
These latter are the persons described by St. Paul in the epistle to the Hebrews, as those to whom the word spoken becomes of none effect, "not being mixed with faith in them that heard it." And who shall say that they do not form a large, perhaps the larger part of every Christian assembly? I fear there can be no dispute on this point. Differing, as our congregations do, from those early attendants upon the preaching of the Apostles -seeing that we are, at least by profession, all of us already Christians-while most of them were yet unbaptized; still, in this the resemblance is manifest that amongst us, as amongst them, there are many gainsaying, many unbelieving hearts; many
of whom it might be said, as it was by St. Paul, and also by our Lord before him, of the unbelieving Jews-they "hearing will not hear, seeing they will not perceive:" hearing their own character described, their own faults pointed out; seeing their own danger imaged before them, will not look upon it in that light, will not perceive the things which belong unto their peace, and why? Because "their heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes have they closed, lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their hearts, and should be converted," and their sins be forgiven them.
Now, if this be the case, my brethren,-if all who hear the word of God may be divided into one or other of these two classes of people, either those who believe the things which are spoken, or those who believe not,-if, as follows of necessity, the former alone are in the way of salvation,-how important is it for us to inquire to which sort we severally belong. Are we of the number of those who come together here in the house of God for the better, or for the worse? It is an inquiry that each may best follow out, if he will, separately for himself.
Only let me, in conclusion, suggest the method by which to guide ourselves in our search: and that
is, to look at the effect which the hearing of the Holy Scriptures produces upon our lives, and conversation to see how it works in us, and influences us in our daily conduct in the world.
I shall, perhaps, be best understood by specifying particular instances. Amongst the many things spoken immediately out of the Bible, or sanctioned by its authority, there is a mention made, and repeatedly made, of the necessity of prayer. We are told to be diligent in the use of it, "to pray always," and faint not. Much, too, is said of holiness; of that purity of heart and life which Christ requires of all who profess His religion: "None but the pure in heart shall see God." Much is spoken of the danger of intemperance of every sort and kind. Much against covetousness. Much against uncharitableness.
Many sins are set down by name, as peculiarly deadly. All sin is forbidden, as contrary to the holy law of God: as exposing those who commit it to His righteous anger. Again; much is written about the ordinance of the Sabbath: they are said to honour God, who keep it holy while they who profane it, are guilty of wantonly provoking Him to punish them. On these, and on a multitude of other subjects, which I need not specifically name, "which pertain to life and godliness," the word of God is sharp and clear. Those who listen to it
Sabbath after Sabbath (as many do who are now present) with attentive ears, can have little doubt
as to what they ought to do, and believe to their soul's health; and what they ought to leave undone, renounce, and abandon, in accordance with their Christian profession.
What, then, is the effect of this knowledge upon our hearts? "Is our conversation"-by which I mean not only our language, but our whole demeanour-whole temper of mind-whole line of conduct-is this, such as becometh the hearers of the Gospel of Christ? Do we know what it is to have the love of God, and of His dear Son our Saviour shed abroad in our heart through the operation of the Holy Spirit? Do we wait on our Lord in prayer, in secret self-scrutinizing devotion. as well in family, as in public worship? Is it our endeavour, is it our delight, to practise what the Gospel commands, to forsake what it forbids? Are we conscious of having ever got the better of any evil habit marked with the brand of God's displeasure? Are we conscious of having gone forward in the performance of any grace or duty which His word approves ?
These are questions which I would earnestly submit, my brethren, to your separate and close consideration. I know not how in any other way you can come to a right decision upon the point
proposed for your inquiry, as to whether you be of that number who really believe the things which are spoken; or of that number who "believe not."
Other tests there may be, but none so safe as this. Examine yourselves, then, hereby," whether you be in the faith; prove your own selves;" and let no man deceive you with vain words. If we be, what we all should be-what we all profess to be believers in the word of God-then must we be also "doers" of it. Doers, not in a spirit of selfrighteousness; not because we suppose that by so doing, we can earn for ourselves the favour and recompense of the Almighty-but because it is only through the practice of what the Holy Scriptures teach us, through the modelling of our lives after the pattern set forth in the Gospel, that we can (with God's help) be in any way fitted to be partakers of those holy joys which are reserved for the true followers of the Lord Jesus Christ to His kingdom in heaven.
Little Hadham, May 22nd, 1847.