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apart for his service ; rejoice and be glad in it. My soul, wait thou only upon God; for my expectation is from him.
Oh that he may render the Sabbath a season of refreshing from his presence! And, as ministers are the stewards of the household of faith, I would cheerfully wait to receive my portion of meat in the place where it is prepared, and at the appointed time, that I may be nourished up in the words of sound doctrine, and strengthened with all might by the Spirit, in the inner man. This is one great end of the holy ministry, that it
may advance the growth, comfort, benevolence, and devotion of the saints; “ till they all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ."
2. While the preacher proceeds, be watchful to mark, and faithful to apply, whatever most suits
your case and condition. Some professors of religion complain that they find little liberty, warmth, and pleasure, in private prayer. Do not their appearance and manner, under the ministry of the word, readily enable us to account for this? We see them one while sleeping in their pews, another gazing around with a vacant stare, or betraying evident signs of impatience and restlessness. Does not such conduct speak, more forcibly than any
words could do, the mind of those ancient formalists, who said, “What a weariness it is! when will the Sabbath be over, that we may return to our business?” Shame on those who can profess a regard to religion, yet so far violate all the rules of propriety and decorum, and so insult the majesty of heaven, as to sleep or trifle in the House of God!
Reader, would you hear the word profitably, and have your devotional feelings raised and refined ? Be desirous to know the will of God, to know your real wants, to know where your help and hope are, and whence all your succours and supplies must come. Follow the train of the preacher's ideas, the connexion of his arguments, and the drift and spirit of his glowing exhortations, as one deeply interested in the subject. Does he demonstrate the depravity of human nature, tracing the poisonous streams of sin to the fountain, and the bitter fruits of iniquity, which everywhere abound, to the stock from which they spring? Rest not satisfied with commending the force and conclusiveness of his reasoning. Bring the melancholy truth immediately home. Hear not for others, but for yourself: and while you are impressively told what sin is, and what sinners have to anticipate who continue in the love and practice of it, unfeignedly confess your own, with shame and sorrow to God. Beware of losing the salutary effect of the preacher's demonstration, by floating in loose generalities. Nothing from the pulpit can profitably affect you, which is not pointed at the conscience, and personally applied. The sermon which pierces the heart, and lets out the corruptions contained within its dark and intricate recesses, may be painful at the time, but will be profitable in the end. Does the preacher point you to the cross, proving the efficacy of the Saviour's precious atoning blood; and then direct you to the throne, to behold your High Priest and Advocate making intercession for you? Is he evidently touched with unusual sympathy, and fired with a kindling ardour, while enlarging on this favourite theme, intensely anxious to move, and melt, and interest, and animate all hearts? Then, Reader, thou mayest say with Peter on the Mount, It is good to be here! O delightful opportunity! What materials for devout admiration, for gratitude, for thanksgiving and praise, for supplication and prayer, has it richly supplied ! O my soul, go now, polluted and unworthy as thou art, and at the foot of the throne, on which Jesus sits and reigns, urge thy suit for pardon, peace, and consolation ! Place thyself in the very focus, where thou mayest catch the concentrated beams of heavenly light and love, and kindle into a pure, vehement, and seraphic flame!
" Let every
Does the preacher open to you the offices and operations of the Holy Spirit ? Be reminded how much you need his guidance, succour, and sanctifying grace. day, then, witness your cries for the Spirit of God; and let every night hear you wrestling with God in the agony of prayer. Is there a man on all the earth who can say, ' for these twenty years I have been incessantly thirsting for the Spirit of God, and imploring his grace, but in vain ; for God has not seen it meet to grant my request?' No; since the hour that the Holy Ghost was, poured out on the day of Pentecost, not a son or daughter of Adam has been able to carry this complaint to the tribunal of Jehovah. Ask, then, in hope that you shall obtain. I know not one thing you can ask, with greater prospect of succeeding in your suit. And O the unspeakable felicity of success! To have the mind full of spiritual light, admiring the glory of God as it shines in the face of Jesus Christ; to have divine grace mortifying every depraved affection, and drawing forth into the liveliest exercise, faith, and love, and purity, and peace, and joy, and filling the whole soul with zeal for God, and benevolence to men. Grant me this, Lord, as the first blessing ; and withhold whatever else thou pleasest!"*
Does the minister mark out your
* Dr. Bogue on the Millennium.
duties, or describe the temptations which may beset, or the trials which may await you? Pray for strength to perform those duties, for courage to withstand those temptations, for patience to endure those trials. In a word, let every part of the discourse which you hear be turned into prayer. Thus the doctrines, as they fall warm from the teacher's tongue, will find a place in your mind, and put all its feelings and affections in tune for devotion.
3. When you have heard the Gospel, beware lest the things of the world rush in like a tide, and rob you of the benefit it might yield.
You go to the House of the Lord for spiritual food ; but, unless it is duly digested, no nourishment will be ministered, or vigour imparted to the soul. You lay fresh fuel to the sacred fire, kindled on the altar of the heart; but this will avail nothing, if you suffer the world to smother it with heaps of earth and rubbish. In trying to recollect sermons, let those things which are calculated to aid devotion, claim your first attention. Be not content to secure a bare outline, or a mere skeleton of heads and particulars. Be more solicitous for the matter than the form ; but most of all for the essence, the spirit, the animating soul, which pervades the Gospel, and ought to fill every summary of its doctrines, and every portion of its truths delivered from the pulpit. There are persons, of whom it is said by Christ, that he and the