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your garments. And let us arise, and go up to Bethel; and I will inake there an altar unto God, who answered me in the day of my distress, and was with meinthe way which I went.' It is true, God may by his sovereign grace catch the unprepared heart by his word, as he says, Isa. Ixv. 1. “I am sought of them that asked not for me; I am found of them that sought me not :' and there are not wanting instances of such a surprising dispensation of grace. But it is the way of paration in which we have ground to look for good by it, Isa. Ixiv. 5. • Thou meetest him that rejoiceth, and worketh righteousness; those that remember thee in thy ways; other, wise we are not in the way of getting good by it.
This preparation lies in these five things.
1. Getting the heart impressed with an awful sense of the majesty and holiness of that God into whose presence we are going, and whose word we are to hear, Psal. Ixxxix. 6. Though the voice is on earth, the speaker is in heaven, and we should consider it so as to come to hear what God says to us, Acts x. 33. And the more this be on our spirits, we may expect the more good by the word, Isa. Ixvi. 2.
2. Banishing out of the heart worldly cares that are lawful at other times, Matth. xiii. 7. We should say 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 such a time, renders the word ineffectual: but a contrary disposition is a token for good.
3. Application of the blood of Christ to the soul for re. moving of guilt, and doing away any controversy betwixt God and the soul, Amos iii. 3. - How can two walk together, except they be agreed?' Psal. xxvi. 6. I will wash mine hands in innocency: so will I compass thine altar, O Lord. The laver stood before the entrance into the temple, that they might wash there who were to go in: So spiritually,
before the throne there is a sea of glass like unto crystal,' in which filthy polluted souls are to wash, ere they be admitted to the throne, Rev. iy. 6. And happy they who come thus washed to hear the word; for they may expect to hold communion with Christ therein.
4. Purging the heart of carnal and corrupt lusts and affections, 1 Pet. ii. 1, 2. This is to put off one's shoes when coming on the holy ground, laying by the earthly frame, and putting on a heavenly one. For what good effect can be ex
pected on the heart, filled with corrupt lusts, passions, and prejudices, nourished and not striven against; Surely none at all. Whereas, if the heart be purged from these, the happiest effects may be looked for. It is impossible to profit by the word, where the heart is full of vain and carnal thoughts and projects.
5. Laslly, Stirring up in the heart spiritual desires, 1 Pet. ii. 2. As new-born babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby,' longing for communion with God, seeing his glory in the sanctuary, the supply of soul wants, and particularly for something suitable to our
And therefore a deep consideration of our own case is a necessary part of preparation, 1 Kings viii. 38. and, if properly attended to, would be attended with great blessings.
This preparation for the ordinances is necessary, considering two things especially. (1.) The greatness of him with whom we have to do, Heb. xii. 28, 29. •Let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear : for our God is a consuming fire. One would not rush without consideration into the presence of his princes why then should one rush thoughtlessly into the presence of his God? (2.) The weight of the work. To hear God's mind declared to us is a business 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 (says the apostle) we are the savour of death unto death; and to the other the savour of life unto life.' And were this duly considered, it would stir us all up to the most diligent preparation.
Secondly, Prayer. We should be much in prayer before we go to ordinances, family prayer, and secret prayer, and therefore ought not to spend the Lord's day morning so as not to have time for these. If ye would have good of the word read or preached, pray, and pray earnestly, before it. Pray,
1. For assistance to the minister. Hence the apostle says, · Brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may have free course, and be glorified, 2 Thess. iii. 1. Pray that the Lord himself would come out with him, directing him, instructing him, and exciting him, what to speak, and how to speak. It is rare to see a lively people under a dead mini
stry; and therefore people's own interest should engage them in concern for ministers.
2. For a meal to yourselves, Psal. cxix. 18. Open thou mine eyes, that I may see wondrous things out of thy law.' Pray that God would direct the word to your case, and send it home on your hearts with his blessing, that ye may be enlightened, sanctified, strengthened, humbled, or raised up by it, as your case requires. And in order to attain this, pray and wrestle earnestly,
3. For an outpouring of the Spirit in his own ordinances, agreeably to the Lord's
own pron ises, Prov. i. 23. Behold, I will pour out my Spirit unto you; that yourselves and others may be bettered by the word. Every one should be concerned for the success of the gospel, not to themselves only, but to others also. Love to God and our neighbours souls should engage to this, 2 Thess. iii. 1. above cited.
Now, both this preparation and prayer beforehand being done, beware ye lean not on them, but remember that all depends on the Spirit's influences, and that he is debtor to none, Cant. iv. 16. “Awake, O north wind, and come thou suuth, blow upon my garden, that the spices thereof may flow out.' John iii. 8. The wind bloweth where it listeth.' Cry therefore that the Spirit may render the word effectual.
II. Some things are to go along with hearing.
1. Waiting diligently upon the ordinances, so as people
2. Diligent attention to the word, İsa. lv. 2. Hearken diligently unto me ;' listening carefully to it, as a matter of
the greatest weight, keeping the mind off other things in the time, and bending it wholly unto the word. In this there are these four things comprehended.
(1.) Outward gravity and composure, without which attention is marred, Luke iv. 20. If men do believe it to be God's word which they are hearing, this is as little respect to it, as they can shew, namely, outward gravity; and there, fore they are not to lay down their heads and sleep, nor to gaze hither and thither, far less to laugh, or to go out and in, here and there, in the time. This kind of behaviour is not without contempt of God, who speaks to men by his word.
(2.) A fixing and bending of the ear and mind to what is spoken. Hence is that counsel of the wise man, Prov. ii. 1, 2. “My son, if thou wilt receive my words, and hide my commandments with thee; so that thou incline thine ear unto wisdom, and apply thine heart to understanding.'--People must take care that they be not wandering in their heart while the Lord's words sound before them. If the heart wander, and be thinking on other things, how can the word do them good, while Satan has thus stolen away the heart?
(3.) A discerning of what they hear, so as to distinguish betwixt truth and error, the corn and the chaff, Mark iv. 24. "Take heed what ye hear :' and therefore to mark always the agreement betwixt what is preached and the written word, for which the Bereans are highly commended, Acts xvii. 11. For they attend not rightly to the word who do not thus endeavour to discern what they hear.
(4.) An endeavouring to know the mind of God in his word, to hear with understanding. This is to attend not only to the words, but to the things wrapt up in these words; as Lydia did, 'whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul, Acts xvi. 14. It is not enough to hear the words, but the message from the Lord is to be weighed and seriously considered, and the mind of God taken up therein.
There is great need of attending unto the word with diligence, and making serious work of it. For,
(1.) The matter in hand is of the greatest weight; it concerns eternity; it is a treaty of peace betwixt. God and our souls ; the proposal of a method to preserve our souls from ruin, Luke xvi. 29. They have Moses and the prophets ; let them hear them;' and this proposal is not to be carelessly Vol. III.
managed. And God himself is the Speaker ; and what he speaks should be diligently attended to, for his sake; to prevent the breaking out of his wrath, which is threatened against those who do not hearken to him.
(2.) Because at best we will have much ado to hear well as we ought. We are naturally dull of hearing the Lord's word, Isa. lviii. 4, 5. 'They are like the deaf adder that stoppeth her ear, which will not hearken to the voice of the charmer, charming never so wisely. And oft-times there is a locked door betwixt him and us.
Hence he is represented thus, . Behold, I stand at the door and knock,' &c. Rev. iii. 20. And there is a thick wall of separation also betwixt him and us, Isa. Ixix, 2. “Your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear.' And there is always much noise about us as long as the tempter is to the fore. Therefore the highest attention is requisite.
3. Lastly, If we do not thus attend, we lose, and cur loss is great. Thomas missed one occasion of meeting with Christ, and unbelief got in upon him. And that word which we miss may be the most suitable to our case, which therefore Satan watches to carry off from us. Therefore we should never miss one occasion of hearing the word.
Secondly, Receiving the word rightly. This lies in two things.
1. Receiving it with faith, Heb. iv. 2. It is the mouth of the soul, by which one receives the sincere milk of the word, and drinks water out of the wells of salvation, and without which one gets no good of it to his salvation; but it is as water spilt upon the ground, which cannot be gathered up again. It must be received,
(1.) With a faith of assent, believing it to be true and right, assenting to the truth and righteousness of the precepts, promises, and threatenings of it, Psal. cxix. 128, 160. I esteem all thy precepts concerning all things to be right. Thy word is true from the beginning. It has a divine authority; itself is God's testimony, which therefore for itself is to be believed ; and where the power of it comes, it captivates the soul into the belief of it, 2 Cor. x. 5. This is to receive the kingdom of God as a little child, Luke xviii, 17.
(2.) With a faith of application, applying it to ourselves, Job v. ult. Hear it, and know thou it for thy good.'