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elect only, Acts xiii. 48. As may as were ordained to eternal life believed. Its edifying efficacy, both in holinefs and comfort, it has on the faints.
2. The fpring of its efficacy is not from itself, nor the preacher, but from the Spirit's operation by and with it, 1 Cor. iii. 5. 6. Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but minifters by whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave to every man? I have planted, Apollos watered: but God gave the increafe.
3. The inward mein which the Spirit makes ufe of to render it etlicacious, is the faith or belief of it, refting upon God's faithful word for the efficacy, Heb. iv. 2.
Ifhall conclude with a few inferences.
Inf. 1. Prize your Bibles, and read them diligent ly, in your families and by yourfelves, and look on that exercife as a mean appointed of God for your fouls good, John v. 39. Search the fcriptures. Alas! the duft of many people's Bibles will be a heavy witness against them at the great day: which fhould excite us all to the careful perufal of them.
2. Prize the preaching of the word, and attend it confcientiously; and remember that the neglecting and deferting it is not fuch a light thing as many look on it to be; fince it is the fpiritual means which the Lord makes ufe of converting finners, and edifying faints; and is neceffarily productive of the most terrible confequences to thote who contemn it.
3. Let not the one juftle out the other. God has joined them; do not ye then put them alunder. Think not that becaufe ye hear the preaching, therefore ye may neglect reading the Bible; nor to fit at home without neceffity on the Lord's day, thinking to do as well with your Bibles, as attending the di penfation of the word. For as the preaching fends you to your Bible, your Bible would fend you to the preaching, if ye would hearken to it, 1 Cor. i. 21. And the Bible is read in vain if it do not in'pire
you with a fincere love to the preaching of the word. 4. The word is neceffary for faints as well as finners. It is falle growth by which people grow be yond it, either in preaching or reading, before they get to heaven. Nay, all fuch growth and progrefs is an arrant delufion.
5. Laftly, Look to the Lord himfelf for the efficacy of the word; and labour to believe the word, that it may profit your fouls. For without faith the word will be unprofitable to you, and without the influence of the Spirit, ye will reap no benefit by it.
BEADORE ORISSERUNI BIABLOSSLESTATE PLADSE
How the Word is to be read and heard.
LUKE viii. 18.
Take heed therefore how ye bear.
HIS is an admonition inferred by our Lord from the parable of the fower in the preceding part of the chapter, in which he had fhewn the very ditferent events of people's hearing the word. To fome it is effectual, to more it is not: Take heed therefore how ye bear, fays he. Much depends on the right manner of hearing the word; and the cafe is the fame as to the reading of it, for therein we are to hear God fpeak by his word. Men may hear what is very good, yet get no good by it, unless they hear in the due manner.
The doctrine of the text is,
DOCT. As the hearers of the word would profit by it, they would take heed how they hear it.
Here I fhall confider that one point, How we fhould hear? or, "How is the word to be read and "heard, that it may become effectual to falvation ?" Anf. "That the word may become effectual to falva
"tion, we must attend thereunto with diligence, "preparation, and prayer; receive it with faith and "love; lay it up in our hearts; and practise it in
There are three things neceffary to be heeded and practifed, if we would fo manage thefe ordinances, as they may become effectual for our falvation.
I. Some things are to go before hearing.
I. Some things are to go before hearing; namely, preparation and prayer.
First, Preparation. We fhould prepare ourselves for the ordinances, as Jacob faid, Gen. xXXV. 2. 3. Put away the ftrange gods that are among you, and be clean, and change your garments. And let us arife, and go up to Bethel; and I will make there an altar unte God, who answered me in the day of my diftrefs, and was with me in the way which I went. It is true God may by his fovereign grace catch the unprepared heart by his word, as he fays, If. lxv. 1. I am fought of them that afked not for me; I am found of them that fought me not and there are not wanting inftances of fuch a furprising difpenfation of grace. But it is the way of preparation in which we have ground to look for good by it, If. lxiv. 5. Thou meeteft him that rejoiceth, and worketh righteousness; those that remember thee in thy ways; otherwise we are not in the way of getting good by it.
This preparation lies in these five things.
1. Getting the heart impreffed with an awful fenfe of the majesty and holinefs of that God into whofe prefence we are going, and whofe word we are to hear, Pfal. lxxxix. 6. Though the voice is on earth, the fpeaker is in heaven, and we fhould confider it fo as to come to hear what God fays to us, Acts x. 33. And the more of this be on our fpirits, we may
expect the more good by the word, If. lxvi. 2. 2. Banishing out of the heart worldly cares that are lawful at other times, Matth. xiii. 7. We should fay to all these as Abraham did to his young men, Abide ye here, and I and the lad will go yonder and worship, Gen. xxii. 5. The heart going after the world at fuch a time, renders the word ineffectual: but a contrary difpofition is a token for good.
3. Application of the blood of Chrift to the foul for removing of guilt, and doing away any controversy betwixt God and the foul, Amos iii. 3. How can two walk together, except they be agreed? Pfal. xxvi. 6. I will wash mine bands in innocency: fo will I compass thine altar, O Lord. The laver ftood before the entrance into the temple, that they might wash there who were to go in: So fpiritually, before the throne there is a fea of glass like unto cryftal, in which filthy polluted fouls are to wash, ere they be admitted to the throne, Rev. iv. 6. And happy they who come thus wafhed to hear the word; for they may expect to hold communion with Chrift therein.
4. Purging the heart of carnal and corrupt lufts and affections, 1 Pet. ii. 1. 2. This is to put off one's fhoes when coming on the holy ground, laying by the earthly frame, and putting on a heavenly one. For what good effect can be expected on the heart, filled with corrupt lufts, paffions, and prejudices, nourished, and not ftriven againft? Surely none at all. Whereas if the heart be purged from thefe, the happiest effects may be looked for. It is impoffible to profit by the word, where the heart is full of vain and carnal thoughts and projects.
5. Laftly, Stirring up in the heart fpiritual defires, 1 Pet. ii. 2. As new-born babes, defire the fincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby; longing for communion with God, feeing his glory in the fanctuary, the fupply of foul-wants, and particularly for fomething fuitable to our cafe. And therefore a deep confideration of our own cafe is a neceffary part of
preparation, 1 Kings viii. 38. and if properly attended to, would be attended with great bleflings.
This preparation for the ordinances is neceffary, confidering two things efpecially. (1.) The greatnefs of him with whom we have to do, Heb. xii. 28. 29. Let us have grace, whereby we may ferve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear: for our God is a confuming fire. One would not rush without confideration into the prefence of his prince: why then fhould one rufh thoughtlessly into the prefence of his God? (2.) The weight of the work: To hear God's mind declared to us is a bufinefs of the greatest importance, eternity depends on it to us, life and death hang upon our improving or not improving it, 2 Cor. ii. 16. To the one, fays the apoftle, we are the favour of death unto death; and to the other the favour of life unto life. And were this duly confidered, it would ftir us all up to the most diligent preparation.
Secondly, Prayer. We fhould be much in prayer before we go to ordinances, family-prayer, and fecret prayer, and therefore ought not to fpend the Lord's day morning fo as not to have time for these. If ye would have good of the word read or preached, pray and pray earneftly before it. Pray,
1. For affiftance to the minifter. Hence the apoftle fays, Brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may have free courfe, and be glorified, 2 Theff. iii. 1. Pray that the Lord himself would come out with him, directing him, inftructing him, and exciting him, what to fpeak, and how to fpeak. It is rare to fee a lively people under a dead miniftry; and therefore people's own interest should engage them in concern for minifters.
2. For a meal to yourfelves, Pfal. cxix. 18. Open thou mine eyes, that I may fee wondrous things out of thy law. Pray that God would direct the word to your cafe, and fend it home on your hearts with his bleff ing, that ye may be enlightened, fanctified, ftrengthened, humbled, or raifed up by it, as your cafe re