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The General Importance of Hearing the Word.
WHEN the ground in summer has become parched and barren from a long drought, how delightfully refreshing are the grateful showers that descend from heaven, and clear the atmosphere, and cool the air, and water the earth. A freshness appears in the verdure, the plants revive, the flowers burst forth, new fragrance perfumes the garden, and all wears the aspect of reviving, and returning health, and animation.
Such is the effect of a faithful preaching and hearing of the word of God. Like the earth which silently receives the rain, and exbibits the blessing in its varied and lovely and beneficial produce; so the practical hearer insensibly receives a benefit which his life manifests, and which blesses all with whom he has intercourse. My doctrine, says Moses, shall drop as the rain, my speech shall distil as the dew; as the small rain upon the tender kerb, as the showers that water the earth. St. Paul conveys similar ideas when he says, The earth which drinketh in the rain that cometh oft upon it, and bringeth forth herbs meet for them by whom it is dressed, receiveth blessing from God. - A free and gratuitous gift, directly from our Heavenly Father, is the rain that fertilizes the land on which it falls; and similar is the greater blessing which we have
now to consider, to which man is mainly indebted for. his spiritual fertility and fruitfulness.
We shall best see the importance of hearing the word, by considering, first, THE DIVINE AUTHORITY WITH WHICH IT IS DELIVERED to us. When the Ministers of God' speak according to the will of God, and by virtue of their office, it is to be regarded as if God himself addressed us. The foundation of their office is a divine Commission-Go ye; and teach all nations ... to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you; and, lo! I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Matt. xxviii, 19, 20. Our Lord told the seventy disciples whom he sent out as teachers --He that heareth you, heareth me : and he that despiseth you, despiseth me. Luke x, 16. The whole dispensation of the Gospel is a divine message, an embassy from God to man. What the Apostles could in the highest sense, as, divinely inspired, declare, ministers can, in an inferior, but, as far as their testimony is according to God's word, in a solid and true sense, still declare ; God hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation. Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us, we pray you, in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God. As the ambassador's voice is the voice of the king, so is the minister's voice the voice of God.
Consider then, Christian reader, that God speaks to men by his ministers.* The ministry of the word is a
* Bishop Jewell observes, “Some there are that thus say, " that I might hear Christ, or Peter, or Paul! I would verily believe what they should preach! This is fondness and curious vanity; for whensoever thon dost hear the minister of God preach imto thee ihe word of life, and teaching thee the truth of the Gospel, thou hearest Paul, and Peter, and Christ himself,
divine embassy to your souls. The foundation of all duty, and of all acceptable obedience, is the will of God. He addresses you, and communicates his mind and will to you, by his ministers; and he requires you to hear them, for they are the messengers of the Lord of Hosts, and the people should seek the law at their mouth. Mal. ii, 7. Consider the majesty and greatness of Him who sends the message_thy Creator, thy Preserver, thy Judge. If a servant disregard a master's word ; if a subject refuse to hear bis king; if a child turn away from a father speaking; the insult and injury are obvious: but to refuse to bear the Lord of all lords, the King of all kings, the universal Father, surely includes each particular offence with special and peculiar aggravations.
It is in infinite tenderness that God speaks by man to his creatures. If he himself were to speak personally with us, we know by a striking example, (Exod. xx, 18, 19.) that we could not bear the brightness of his glory. Even the mission of holy angels would terrify, (Matt. xvi, 6; Luke i, 12, 29; ii, 9.) and could not meet our necessities, for they have never tasted the bitterness of sin, nor themselves experienced the blessedness of pardon and reconciliation, and therefore could not speak with fellow feeling and sympathy. How unsearchable here is the divine mercy and condescension in committing unto sinful men the word of reconciliation for their sinful and offending brethren! It has been observed, “ When the kings of the earth
If thou despisest the word of God spoken unto thee by him, and the grace which God offereth thee by him, thou despisest Christ himself, and heapest up the heavy displeasure of God against thee."
appoint ambassadors, they generally depute them only to kings ; nor would they deign to send a solemn embassy to their own rebellious subjects, when vanquished, disarmed, and condemned. But the King of kings and Lord of lords appoints ambassadors from himself to poor apostate worms, and helpless perishing sinners. Earthly Princes select persons of dignity and eminence to represent their .persons and act by their authority on these important occasions; but the Lord of glory deputes pardoned rebels and reconciled enemies to go to their former companions in rebellion on this embassy of peace.”
Thus, though the treasure be put in earthen vessels, ministers are still Stewards of the mysteries of Christ, and ambassadors from God to man. They are sent of God himself to dispense the treasures of his truth, and preach the gospel of reconciliation, that men may believe and be saved. Hence, no one can enter the ministry in the Church of England, without a public declaration that he trusts that he is inwardly moved by the Holy Ghost to take upon him that office and ministration.
Do you try to shake off the conviction of the divine authority of the preached word, by talking of the weakness of the instrument ? remember, that an important message is not the less important because the person of the messenger may have little to command respect. Do you say that he may commit mistakes, or utter inelegancies, or even fall into some errors? but remember, again, that there is an infallible touchstone of the truth. Acts xvii, 11. They who put off the conviction of their sins, by the thought that the voice which they hear from their mipister is not the voice of God, only manifest that they have no disposition to obey, and deceive themselves, and farther despise God, seeing they add insult to rejection, by denying the messenger as well as the message.
Rather, Christian Reader, let the infinite condescension and compassion of God, in stooping to our weakness and infirmities by a human and weak messenger, so far from suggesting any excuse for slighting the message, add a fresh motive for gratefully listening to all that is said. Let us often enquire whether we have received this momentous embassy with all the seriousness and reverence which the voice of God imperatively demands. Augustine says, “ If God speaks, woe be to him that does not hear!"
The IMMENSELY-WEIGHTY INTERESTS WHICH THE WORD BRINGS BEFORE US shews farther the importance of hearing. Moses told Israel, Set your hearts unto all the words which I testify among you this day, ... for it is not a vain thing for you, because it is your life. Deut. xxxii, 46, 47. It is to regulate every day of our lives: it is to direct every thought of our hearts, every word of our lips, and every part of our conduct: destitute of its influence, we are blind, ignorant, and wretched, living and labouring without adequate ends, and not only not furthering, but constantly weakening and destroying our true interest and happiness: under its influence, we are wise to salvation, filled with solid peace, and in the path-way to eternal life and blessedness. It is the only light athwart the dark valley of the shadow of death, and discovers to us sinners, a free and complete salvation; the Almighty, our Friend ; his only-begotten Son, our Redeemer; his Blessed Spirit, our Teacher and Comforter; and his eternal bliss, our everlasting home, - HEARING THE WORD IS THE 'APPOINTED