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we make out no fewer than eight characteristics of the good-ground hearers.
1. They are ingenuous hearers; candid, honourable, and upright. It is in this sense we understand the "honest and good heart" named in Luke. And so meant our translators; for here, as in other places, their "honest" is to be taken in its old sense of "honourable." The two original words are used together, just as here, to intensify their common meaning, and are even found combined into one. They variously denote the handsome, well-born, noble, and good. "Wellborn" is the literal meaning of that word which Luke, in Acts xvii. 11, applies to the Bereans, and that, too, of the same conduct as hereacting honourably with the Divine Word: "These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the Scriptures daily whether these things were so. "Noble " is thoroughly the right word to use, for both it and the original which it represents bear the secondary meaning of nobleminded, generous, manly, candid. Hence the maxim Virtus vera nobilitas, and its fine expansion by Tennyson :
"Howe'er it be, it seems to me,
'Tis only noble to be good;
True hearts are more than coronets,
And simple faith than Norman blood."
So with our word "ingenuous," which means well-born, and thence honourable and upright. Both meanings are found combined in the women mentioned in that same chapter of Acts; for while they were "chief women" in position, they were "honourable women" in character (Acts xvii. 4, 12). They, and the Bereans of the verse before, were too noble to repel our apostle summarily and disdainfully as a Nazarene; and they were too high-minded to receive his doctrines on trust. Hence they "searched the Scriptures," or "tested" his tenets, as the word means, by that divine criterion. Exactly such were the front and attitude of the good-ground hearers. Between them and the noble men and women of Acts xvii. the parallel is triply expressive—first, in the same words being used; secondly, from the pen of the same Luke; and thirdly, in the self-same meaning of candid and ingenuous. Such spirits love and long for the truth; but for this very reason they will test it well. They will take the heavenly manna as thankfully from a wooden trencher as from a golden tray; but they will see well that it is genuine. They are confiding, yet candid, trustful yet truthful, resolved to buy the truth at any price and sell it at none. This is the source and sum of all good hearing. "Ingenuous and noble" is the general expression for all the rest; the enclosing bud out of which all other forms of good hearing evolve.
II. They are attentive hearers. They "are such as hear the word." They so "hear" as to "hearken," in the full sense of the call, “Hear, and your soul shall live." Ah! to get the irreligious masses but to hear, were already half the desired result. Even stray words can smite Cases are in through the harness to the very "joints and marrow." recorded in which the deliberate stopping of the ears during a sermon has been suspended for a moment to scare away a buzzing insect, when a Gospel utterance got into the liberated ear that went with fervour to the heart. The Jews first "stopped their ears" against Stephen, and then "rushed upon him with one accord"-apt emblem of the too common connection between wrong hearing and strong commenting. Right hearing is not only attentive, but sympathetic; hearing from the speaker's own centre; hearing not his voice only, not even his mind only, but, as far as may be, his very heart. Were men in this sense more "swift to hear," they would, in the matter of hostile comment, be more slow to speak."
Absent hearing, let the young be warned, is a habit that grows. Indulge it, and soon the law of habit will have you in its coils, and, like Delilah with Samson, weave at will this enchantment around you. We have seen old men, whom the burden of years predisposed to sleep, rise erect, like heroes, a spectacle to the whole congregation, the better to battle down the insidious foe. Beware of that Balaam sort of sleep, "falling into a trance, but having the eyes open." Some fine adventure is mentally enacted; some little novel spins its tissue; some little drama plays out its plot on the ideal stage. Perhaps worse happens, as imagination, impure or profane, takes leave to disport itself on forbidden fields. Rise up in alarm. Never was knight in an enchanted castle more helpless than you are spiritually, if you allow these reveries free course. It is horrible profanation thus to sport, yea, to wanton in God's Holy of Holies; and it is certain death, if persisted in, to all life of God in the soul.
III. They are intelligent hearers. They "hear the word and underWhat is attention stand it." This comes next in the order of nature.
but a summons from the will calling the intellect into action. Hearing is a sensation, but it is also a perception, which already involves the intelligence. Even motives that more especially address our emotions, can only do so by means of the intelligence. Whatever would influence the man must first engage his thinking. As he thinks, he feels; and as he thinks and feels, he freely wills. This is mental philosophy; and it is Bible philosophy; for the Bible with its contained Gospel is a set of soul-saving truths that address themselves to our intelligence and demand our belief. And it tells us that only by belief can salvation enter into
and possess us consistently with our rational nature.
"As a man thinketh in his heart (or mind), so is he." "This is life eternal to know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent."
'They that know Thy name shall put their trust in Thee."
But the Gospel, simple though it be, is a set or system of truths. Take its very simplest expression. Is it "God is love"? But a whole theology lies in that very first word God. Who is He? What is He? How stands He related to us? and How has this relation become affected by our sin? So with any other Gospel epitome; its terms are so many inclosing buds of far-reaching truths. These we must study, and that in sequence and system: "Hold fast the form of sound words."
Many are the spurious varieties to which intelligent hearing stands opposed for example, sensational hearing, which doats on the maudlin sentiment, the vapid anecdote, the loves of kindred effusively touched, or panoramas of heaven with the colours well laid on: Esthetic hearing, which takes note only of the artistic in manner, gesture, flourish, finish, and in a voice " as the sound of a very pleasant instrument:" Negative hearing, a growing variety in these days, which flouts at dogma; crying up the wine, yet staving in the containing cask, belauding the brain, and then smashing in the protecting skull: Athenian hearing, which lightly parts with the true for the sake of the new: Undiscriminating hearing, that has a swallow for whatever the preacher chooses to give, whose motto, instead of "Prove all things" is "Eat all things;" or, as Boston puts it, "There are four different kinds of hearers of the word, —those like a sponge, that suck up good and bad together, and let both run out immediately; those like a sand-glass, that let what enters in at one ear pass out at the other; those like a strainer, letting go the good, and retaining the bad; and those like a sieve, letting go the chaff, and retaining the good grain."
IV. They are receptive hearers. "They receive the word ": so stands it in Mark. For Matthew's word "understand," Mark has "receive," which is the more comprehensive word of the two. This, however, for want of space, we must leave unillustrated; as we must also do with the other varieties that remain.
V. They are retentive hearers. As we read in Luke, “Having heard the word, they keep it." They contrast, therefore, not only with the wayside hearers who tempt the very devil to pick it off, but also, in their varying degrees, with the rocky and thorny ground hearers. They not only "prove all things," they "hold fast that which is good." They thus "lay up a good store against the time to come;" text after text coming up when needed in the hour of temptation and trial, and reappearing as ministering angels on the bed of death.
VI. They are patient hearers: "With patience," says Luke, yea, and with "perseverance," the word denoting not only the passive, but also this active virtue.
VII. They are useful hearers, overflowing in well-doing to others: "They bring forth fruit." This, indeed, is their crowning characteristic; in varying degrees, but in all some; and in all, that some ought to be much. "Bear much fruit," says Jesus, "so shall ye be My disciples" So shall ye be, and such will ye thereby prove yourselves to be.
VIII. And finally, they are hearers that are blessed in their own souls; for all their good-doing returns sevenfold into their own bosom. "Whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed." Blessing he is blessed, and blessed he becomes yet more a blessing; and so the circle of benign reaction divinely runs its ceaseless round. JOHN GUTHRIE.
Prayer is a Force.
ALL change in the universe is the result of force in action. There is in nature a multitude of forces, each one of which produces changes or effects corresponding to the nature and intensity of the force in action. Solidity is due to the force of cohesion. Solution results from the force of adhesion. The tendency of masses of matter toward each other is owing to the force of gravitation. Chemical force is detected in compound bodies. Heat, light, electricity, and magnetism are natural forces familiar to the scientist. There is vital force likewise in vegetable and animal. A higher grade of force still, is mind force, exhibited in thought, emotion, and will. Atoms and masses, the ponderable and the imponderable, the organic and the inorganic, the living and the dead, are all replete with force. From central core to wide circumference, nature is a teeming magazine of forces. Operating, as they must and do, on every inorganic atom and every fibre of vegetable and animal substance, a rushing tide of never-pausing motion, change, sweeps round in endless revolution, or on and forward to the "final consummation."
All change in the wide universe is the result of force. It is self-evident that no change can by possibility occur but by the exertion of force. The converse of this principle is equally true-that every force in active exertion must and will result in change-must and will produce an effect in kind and measure in accurate correspondence to the nature and intensity or amount of force exerted. This is a principle in natural dynamics, not only universally admitted but universally insisted upon by scientists-quite as strenuously by materialists who denominate prayer a superstitious folly, as by Christian scientists who teach the efficacy of prayer.
If, then, prayer is a force, and if every force produces a result, it neces
sarily and unavoidably follows that prayer is efficacious; that it is not a superstitious folly, and that answer to it is not a scientific impossibility; but that, on the contrary, it harmonises perfectly with the well-established principles and universal teachings of science, and that it is scientifically impossible that it should not be answered.
But prayer is a force. Prayer is as really and truly a force as that which binds the atom to its fellow, or propels the wheeling planet-as truly as that which moves and guides the tool that builds the ship, or that shapes and drives the engine-as truly as that which elaborates the thought and utters the words that sway the multitude, or that mould the character and shape the destiny of nations. Indeed, the force, the power of thought, of emotion, of will, of language, and of prayer, cannot be widely different from each other. "Mind governs matter" is a form of expression denoting force, and is a universally accepted truth. So also "knowledge is power." Mind is not only itself a force, but a prolific generator of forces. Thought and emotion are forces. So also are faith and hope, love and hate, fear, desire and will. Every mind-product, indeed, however manifested, is a force. Some mental forces are, it may be, subjective, some objective, nevertheless they are forces. However complex or compound prayer may as a force be, still all its elements are dynamic; and when exerted it is scientifically and philosophically impossible that it should fail to effect its proper and legitimate result—a result in all respects corresponding to the nature and the sum of its conjunct and co-operating elements. The effect must always follow where the force operates freely.
Assuming, then, as established, that prayer is a force, the chief, if not the entire, difficulty of those who insist that answer to prayer is a scientific imossibility at once disappears. In fact, if prayer is admitted to be a force, Scientists are compelled either to insist that it is efficacious, or to abandon the undamental principle of causation.
But perhaps a fertile source of difficulty in the minds of scientists and others is the neglect or failure on the part of the advocates of the power of prayer, to define satisfactorily its legitimate scope and sphere-its limits. All forces have limits to their operation. Cohesion operates upon the particles of matter of the same kind. This is its limit. It cannot change the weight nor affect the temperature of a body. Gravitation causes bodies to approach each other. This is its limit-its scope and sphere of operation. It does not render bodies luminous, nor does it elevate their temperature. Neither does it cause elementary substances to combine into chemical compounds. As a force it exhausts itself upon bodies in the mass, and in the single direction indicated. Thus far it can go, and no farther. The same is true of every force. Each has its function in the economy of nature; each is assigned a sphere in which it may operate, and each has its appointed bounds beyond which it cannet go. All forces are special, having their functions respectively assigned them; and all are partial, having their limits
The same is unquestionably true of prayer. It is not a force of unbounded scope and universal operation. The advocates of its efficacy have