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NONE BUT THE CHILD OF GOD,
of the most necessary sort of sustenance, and starving to death, to eternal death, for want of that sustenance, took you in his arms, embraced you till he pulled you into his own body, and there suckled you at his veins and arteries with the life-blood issuing from his heart? If, while you are thus addressed, you are preparing to quit the house, and forsake the table, of your Redeemer, go, since you are able; go, return to those sinful pursuits, whatsoever they are, which are dearer to you, it seems, than the son of God, after all you have suffered by them, and he hath suffered for you. But know this, that you leave the love of Almighty God, ungrateful as you are, and the necessary means of your own salvation, foolish as you are, behind you. Go, and leave us, who, I trust in God, are not cursed with hearts so very stony, to meet the lamb of our salvation with love resembling his own; to feast on the miracles of his mercy, and to put forth all the ardour of our hearts in a grateful act of devotion, inspired by our comforter, recommended by our Redeemer, and returned into our souls by our heavenly Father in grace, mercy, and peace, without end.
And now, O Lord, the gracious feeder of souls, tear from us, we beseech thee, the foul rags of our sins, clothe us in the white garments of a new life, cause us to hunger and thirst for the food of that life, and therewith satiate the souls of us thy children and servants at thy blessed table.
The grace of, &c.
NONE BUT THE CHILD OF GOD HEARS GOD.
JOHN vill. 47.
He that is of God, heareth God's words: ye therefore hear them not,
because ye are not of God. CLEARLY to conceive, and thoroughly to understand, what it is, to be of God,' and what, to hear his words,' in the sense of our blessed Saviour, who said this to a crowd of
hardened unbelievers, must be a matter of the highest consequence to every man who reads the holy Scriptures, or hears the gospel preached by God's ministers. The important truth thus surprisingly expressed, is not less a truth, nor of less concernment, to mankind now, than it was, when uttered by the mouth of Christ. Men are still divided into those who are,' and those who are not, of God;' and consequently, into such as 'hear,' and such as do not hear,' God's words, although spoken with equal plainness to both.
That the truth contained in these words, is, as I have intimated, surprisingly expressed, will appear to any one who considers the words themselves, for therein we are given to understand, that while some men are endued with a spirit of grace and piety at, or previous to, their hearing the gospel, there are others, who being destitute of this spirit, do not hear it, although it is sounded in their ears. And that this truth is of the last consequence to all men will quickly. appear, if we reflect but for a moment on the faith and salvation which follow on hearing the words of God in our Saviour's sense, or on the infidelity and reprobation, that not hearing in this instance, is attended with.
Our Saviour spoke on this occasion to men who did actually hear every word he uttered, nay, and well enough understood his meaning, or it had been wholly impertinent in him to speak to them, at least in such a manner. His meaning therefore is, that although with their outward ears they heard distinctly the sound of his words, and with their mere apprehensions took the import of what he said, yet something lay between this superficial apprehension and their understandings, which prevented his words from striking on their internal sense of hearing, and raising that conviction in their minds, and that conversion of their wills and affections, which it was the end of his discourses to produce. That which hinders the gospel from penetrating the ears of the soul, and accomplishing this happy end, is, no doubt, a stupidity of mind, as to spiritual things, brought on by a sensual or worldly attachment of the affections, and what St Paul calls, an evil heart of unbelief.' Our Saviour finding this attachment and this evil heart in the generality of his hearers, observes of them, that seeing, they see not, and hearing, they hear not, neither do they understand.' It is
for this reason, that he so often cries out, to men who were, we may be sure, by no means naturally deaf, ‘he that hath ears to hear, let him hear,' and in my text so plainly distinguishes between a carnal and a spiritual sense of hearing in persons who sufficiently felt the keenness of his reflection, as appears by their resentments.
Whether the distinction between those who do, and those who do not, hear the words of God, although preached equally to both, arises from mere natural disposition, or from supernatural grace, by the former cherished, and by the latter stifled, in themselves, which appears to be the case, it is however a notorious and incontestable fact, that such a distinction there really is, for,
There is no one congregation, to which the same minister hath for a course of years, read the Scriptures, and preached according to his ability (no matter in this case whether greater or less) whereof, while one part hath convinced, converted, and in various respects edified, the other, hath not remained all the time as unaffected and uninstructed, as they could have been, had he never once opened his mouth. Let any one take them, just as they sit, and examine them, and he shall find what I have said to be as glaringly evident as the light that shines in at the windows of the church.
And that this remarkable difference proceeds not materially from any difference in their natural capacities, will be every whit as evident, first, because the one sort shall know, and the other shall not know, the simplest and easiest articles of religion, which are equally level and intelligible to all capacities; and secondly, because they who are found on trial, to be the most shamefully ignorant of Christianity, shall in all other branches of knowledge discover a much greater quickness of apprehension, a much stronger memory, and clearer judgment, than many among the best answerers; and why then are they so ignorant? But because, although they had ears to hear, and understandings to learn, other things, they had none for God and religion.
But to be more particular as to these two classes of men, observe those who can give a competent account of the Christian faith, and you shall perceive them exceedingly attentive, while in church, to the lessons and the sermon, and equally earnest in the time of prayer. Aocording to the na
ture of what they hear, you shall see them sometimes roused and alarmed, sometimes softened and melted, sometimes transported with joy, at other times dejected, frightened, afflicted, but at all time considerably affected, provided that which is delivered, is in itself affecting. It will, in short, be sufficiently manifest, that these men have a quick sense of hearing, that lies nearer to the soul, than their outward ears. And you shall still be more clearly convinced of it, if you follow them home to their houses, for there you shall find them either on their knees at their devotions, or intent on careful recollections of what they had heard, or closely studying the Scriptures, or engaged with other Christians of the like spirit in religious conversations, or training their families to the knowledge of God and his will, during the remainder of the sabbath. These are the men who are of God, and therefore hear his words, not barely with their outward ears, but with every nerve of their hearts, and every faculty of their souls.
On the other hand, observe those in whose mouths no answers were to be found, but such as betrayed the most stupid ignorance, and you shall see them behave themselves in the house of God either as if they had absolutely nothing to do there, or as if what they were about were the most trifling, impertinent, and disagreeable employment of their whole lives. They whom you might have observed remarkably skilful and active in their worldly affairs, or eager in the pursuit of their sensual pleasures, here, while the one thing necessary is transacting, are transformed into ideots who know not what to do, or into unfeeling blocks and stones, on which no impressions can be made. One yawns at the mention of God's most tender mercies, while another is lulled to sleep by the sound of his most alarming judgments. Here you see an empty head bowing to some insignificant acquaintance, that ought to roll in the dust before the majesty of Heaven for unnumbered offences besides this. And there you see an impertinent mouth, with a silly whisper, unseasonably interrupting the slight attention of some neighbour, whose rambling thoughts had by chance been fixed for a moment on the business of the place. Few of them kneel, raise their eyes or hands to heaven, or utter one syllable of the prayers ! Here and there one, moved as it
were mechanically, may be heard muttering a response, who, at the same instant that he
Lord have mercy upon us, is settling something in his dress that did not need it, or reaching at a distance for a little snuff. His lips indeed are seemingly addressed to God; but all his little paltry soul is with infinite insolence given to some whilling thought, or some despicable affection: Whether God is awfully adored, or the most interesting points of religion enforced, if the door is opened to let in the most unstriking person in the parish, the eyes of the whole tribe are instantly turned on him with as much seeming curiosity, as if he had two heads upon his shoulders. Are not these people now in an excellent disposition to edification? Their behaviour at home, during the remainder of God's day, is perfectly of a piece with that which they display in his house. One half of them pass it, just as their cattle do, in a stupid indulgence to the same appetites, to the same fondness for indolence and sleep. The other, not knowing what to do with a portion of time, wherein a religious custom not yet sufficiently conquered, forbids attention to worldly affairs, give themselves up to such amusements, as would not be wholly innocent on any other day. To think of God, his word, or his works; to give themselves up to meditation or prayer; to take that opportunity of examining their own consciences, or of instructing their children and servants; are things they have no more notion of, no more know how to do them, or once conceive they ought to do them, than they would, if the fourth commandment, or all the commandments, were repealed, or even both testaments destroyed, over the face of the whole earth. If from a charitable presumption, that there is no mortal of common sense, who may not be roused by the animating or alarming motives of religion, urged home on his understanding in all the beauties and terrors of the gospel, you play the celestial music of God's promises, or the dreadful thunder of his threatnings, at their ears, they hear you just as they do the whistling of the wind, and feel you, just as a mountain of marble does the beating of the waves. See how untouched they sit at the mention of heaven, and the recital of all its boundless joys, and all its endless glories! See with what a slight indifference, with what a perfect composure, they hear you, in the stongest terms