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selves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another, and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching. For if we sin wilfully, after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, but a certain, fearful looking for of judgment, and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries.". Thus we find, that forsaking the ministry of the gospel, after special awakening and illumination, is a strong symptom of reprobation.
1. Does faith come by hearing? then it is also cherished by hearing. Mankind then begin to realize the importance of the means of grace, when they begin to realize the christian faith. Would christians have their faith grow exceedingly, like that of the Thessalonians; let them attend constantly, and very strictly to the preaching of the gospel, and to the stated ministry of the word and ordinances of God. Other, and collateral means must also be improved ; such as the study of the
1 holy scriptures, prayer and serious meditation, holy and heavenly conversation, speaking often one to another of the great doctrines, duties, hopes and promises of the gospel.
But after all, it is probable, that the christian faith is cherished and increased by sermons, plain, solemn, pun. gent, discriminating sermons; more than by any and all other means whatsoever. “ It certainly pleases God, by the foolishness of preaching, to save them that believe.. Faith is evidently not only begotten, but cherished by the ministry of the word of God. Every humble and believing heart, feeling its own weakness, ignorance and darkness, is in unison with him who cried out and said, with tears, “ Lord, I believe, help thou mine unbelief." The best external remedy for the unbelief of christians, is a constant, diligent, and prayerful attendance on the ministry of the gospel. To the most faithful followers of Christ, and those who are already strong in faith, the preaching of the gospel is a savor of life unto life.
2. Does faith come by hearing ? Then, when we have opportunity to hear the preaching of the word, this must have the preference to all other means of grace.
Nothing equals this, in point of importance. In this case, we are not at our option, whether to go to the place of hearing, or to sit down at our ease, and attend to some other means of grace. If we substitute something else, rather than to go up to the house of the Lord, to hear the dispensation of his word; we are like those who listened to the flatteries of Jeroboam, who made Israel to sin. 6 Whereupon the king took counsel, and made two calves of gold, and said unto them, It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem. Behold thy gods, O Israel, which brought you up out of the land of Egypt.” Such is the nature of the christian faith, and of the christian institutions, that they can never admit of a substitute; any more than the temple worship, in the days of Jeroboam.
People often find it more convenient, especiaily in unpleasant seasons, to spend the sabbath in their houses, or in their fields, than to go some miles to the house of the Lord. They promise themselves much instruction from the bible, and religious books. But at the close of the day, they can realize little or no improvement. They have been drowsy and stupid ; and have sought relief on their pillows. They have been perplexed and haunted with worldly schemes. Secular concerns have intruded on their minds. They have sought diversion from the newspaper, or books of amusement, and sought in vain. Satan has beguiled them, and “they are led captive by him, at his will.” And scarcely a gleam of hope remains, that they will ever see the kingdom of God.
3. Does faith come hy hearing? Then we have advantage to examine ourselves, whether we are in the faith. Many professors of the christian faith are found to be, in a great measure, negligent of the ministry of the gospel. Were they in the lively exercise of that faith which cometh by hearing, and which is cherished by hearing; they would certainly feel a lively interest in the preaching of the gospel. Every gospel sermon would be a feast
a of fat things. "Real believers of the gospel “receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save their souls." 66 They receive the sincere milk of the word, and grow thereby.”
In this view of the subject, have we not peculiar advantage for self-examination ? Are we not able to decide whether we are begotten of God, through the gospel ? “Of his own will begat he us, with the word of truth.” “ Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God which liveth and abideth forever.” Now is it possible, that we should be the subjects of the new birth, and this by means of the ministry of the word ; without being at all sensible of it ? and without realizing its peculiar effects? In order to find evidence of the christian faith, which comes by hearing the gospel, we must still delight to hear; and like David, we must love the habitation of God ; and be able, from our own experience, to say, “ A day in thy courts is better than a thousand," in the common walks of life.
4. Does faith come by hearing ? even by hearing the ministry of the word of God ? Then how deplorable is the condition of the heathen! And how loudly does the subject before us call upon us to exert all the means in our power, to ameliorate their sad condition! Surely, we should never relinquish nor abate our exertions to furnish the world with a preached gospel, so long as a heathen remains on the earth. From scripture, and universal experience, it is evident, that bibles, and tracts, and schools, however important in their place, will never produce the christian faith; because this comes only by hearing. How infinitely important it is, that the world be furnished with faithful ministers of Christ! He that is indifferent to this great and sacred enterprise, must be either criminally ignorant of the state of the world, or grossly unbelieving and hard hearted.
Finally; Does faith come by hearing ? Then let no one complain, that the means of grace are useless. The means of grace, in the hand of the Lord, are as effectual as the means of living, and of gaining property and hon
Since faith, which is a most precious gift of God,
comes by hearing, let os be unfeignedly thankful, and never think it a burden to hear the ministration of the system of divine truth. 66 He that hath ears to hear, let him hear." 66 Take heed what ye hear, and how ye hear.”.....
Evidences of Piety.
That those who live in the daily exercise of Christian faith and holiness, may have satisfactory evidence of piety in their own hearts ; and may also discover great evidence of piety in others; is clearly taught us in the holy scriptures. The Apostle John, including other christians with himself, says, “ We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren." And, as if this single evidence might be doubtful, he adds, “ By this we know, that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments.” And this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments, and his commandments are not grievous.”. Again ; “ Hereby know we, that we dwell in him, and he in us, because he hath given us of his spirit.” “ He that keepeth my commandments, abideth in my love." This is an evidence of piety in ourselves, and in others. We may here observe, that the christian hope is grounded on more or less evidence of christian piety. Hence those who entertain this hope, are required to give a reason of it, with meekness and fear.
In proving from scripture, that there are certain evidences of christian piety, we have, in a measure, anticipated the evidences themselves. But we may now proceed to be more particular.
1. The change which has taken place, in those who are the happy subjects of divine grace, is of such a nature, and is so great, that, in general, it must be more or less
realized. The nature of this change is, that, froin being perfectly selfish and sinful, a man becomes, in a good measure, holy and benevolent. From the love of sin, he is converted to the love of righteousness. From the love of the riches, honors, and pleasures of this world, he has 6 The love of God shed abroad in his heart, by the Holy Ghost.” This is the general nature of that change of heart, by which he becomes a man of piety. From the very nature of this change it might seem easy for christians, and especially those who have been long and faithful in the school of Christ, to realize, in some measure, the happy state of their own hearts. But this change is not only excellent in its nature, and perceptible by the subjects of it; but it is a very great change. It is called a new creation. “ If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature ; old things are passed away, behold, all things are become new; and all things are of God.” This change is called regeneration. The washing of
“ regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost.” It is often represented as a resurrection of the dead. Christ speaks of this change, under the figure of the resurrection of the dead, in these words : “ Verily, verily, I say unto you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God, and they that hear shall live." 66 And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins. This resurrection is of a spiritual nature, and is a more glorious work than the resurrection of the body. Surely, a work so great and
. marvellous must carry its own evidence with it; and especially to those who are the subjects of it. For it is a change of heart and life.
2. Love to the brethren is a precious fruit of the great change of heart, which has been under consideration. And this is represented as a sure, and infallible evidence of piety. “ We know, that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren." By this love, or the visible fruits of it, we discover the evidence of true religion in others, as well as in ourselves. this shall all men know, that ye are my disciples,” said Christ, “ If ye have love one to another." Love is the