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Besides we know that the means of grace, and especially the word, are used by the Holy Spirit, as ivstrumental in the conversion of sinners. By the word he convinces of sin, and shows the sinner bis ruined condition. He makes use
of the word as a fire and hammer to break the flinty heart. And by the word, he discovers to the sinner his delusive dreams, and slays his false peace, and hopes and joys. “I through the law, (said Paul) am dead to the law, that I might live unto God;" Gal. ii. 19. In this verse we have probably the chief, if not the sole use of means to the unregenerate. Under the influence of the Spirit of God, carrying home truth with power to the soul, they have a natural tendency to teach the sinner that he can do nothing, and that he lies entirely at mercy, and is dependent on the sovreign grace of God ; and to bring him down to that death spoken of by the Apostle in the text just quoted, and also in the following, “ when the commandment came sin revived and I died. Rom. vii. 9. When the unconverted are brought to this state, means have had their effect with respect to them. They have prepared the way under the powerful influence of the spirit of God, for this divine agent, to infuse spiritual life, and thus fit the soul to live unto God.
Then the same means, which before conversion were of use under the powerful influence of the spirit of God, to slay the sinner, become of use to cherish spiritual life, and to enable him to bring forth holy fruit to the praise and glory of God. The use of means to the unconverted is to pull them down; but to the people of God, their use is to build them up. But in neither will they have the effect, unless through the special influence of the Holy Spirit. But at the same time, we have no ground to hope, either from the word of God, or his dealings with mankind, that the Spirit will exercise his powerful influence, eitherto convince and convert the the careless, or to comfort and build up the regenerate, without the instrumentality of means; and we ought therefore to be in the use of means that they may be instrumental in the hands of the divine spirit to our saving benefit.
In the application of this subject, he exhorted to a diligent use of the means of grace. Like the impotent man at the pool of Bethesda, who, though not able of himself to
get into the waters when troubled by the angel, yet waited until the Saviour came by and made him whole, so wait at the pool of divine ordinances, until the Spirit come and bless you. Be found watching ģt the gates, and waiting at the posts of the doors of Wisdom. Even though you are in a natural state, there is much more hope, that you will be blessed in so doing, than in neglecting an external attendance upon the means of grace. The reason of this opinion is, not that hereby you merit the favour of God, or that God has promised to bless you in the external use of means, while in an unconverted state ; but because we see that generally they are those, who are diligent in the external use of means, that do receive the divine blessing. But while facts prove this ; still, it is a great sin to sit under the means of grace, and not improve them. It is a great sin to live without prayer; and it is also a great sin to pray in a careless manner, insincerely, and from wrong motives, and with an unholy frame of heart. To neglect the Bible, and not peruse it, or to neglect the public worship of God's house are great sins; and so also are reading the Scriptures, or hearing the word in a careless and unprofitable manner. It is a great sin to neglect any of the ordinances of God's appointment; and it is also a great sin to attend upon any of them in an improper manner; for the sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord ;” Prov. xv. 8.
From these observations, the question will naturally arise, what shall the wicked do? If they neglect the means of grace they sin, and if they use them with their present tempers they sin. What shall they do? I answer with the word of God, “ Let'the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts, and let him return unto the Lord ;" Is. lv. 7. “ Repent and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out;" Acts. jji. 19. 66 Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ ;" Acts xvi. 31. And use the means of grace with that temper with which you ought to use them. This is your immediate duty; and the necessity of divine influences to enable you thus to do, by no means releases you from the duty ; for this necessity arises froin the sinner's indisposition to do his duty, which instead of excusing him, the stronger it is, the more guilty he is. You are exhorted to use the means of grace, you are also exhorted to use them aright and not to mock the VOL. II.
heart-searching God; and with this exhortation 1 must leave you in the hands of a sovereign God.
In the application of this subject, the people of God are especially exhorted to a diligent use of the means of grace. In proportion as you neglect them, you may expect that your souls will languish, but in proportion as you are diligent in the right use of them, you may expect to be builded up in holiness and comfort, through faith unto salvation. There are many precious promises to those who use the means of grace aright. In our text we have such a promise, “ Blessed is the man that heareth me, watching daily at my gates, waiting at the posts of my doors." In other places we read ; “ If thou criest after knowledge, and liftest up thy voice for understanding: if thou seekest her as silver, and searchest for her as for hid treasures : then shalt thou understand the fear of the Lord; and find the knowledge of God;" Prov. ii. 3, 4, 5. “Those that be planted in the house of the Lord shall flourish in the courts of our God. they shall still bring forth fruit in old age; they shall be fat and flourishing;" Ps. xcii. 13, 14. “I said not unto the seed of Jacob, seek ye me in vain ;" Is. xlv. 19. They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles, they shall run and not be weary, and they shall walk and not faint;" Is. xl. 31. Be diligent therefore in the right use of the means of grace which God hath appointed, that you may receive the divine blessing, and grow
grace, and increase in spiritual comforts. Be daily in the use of the means of grace; for it is worthy of observation that this is the exhortation of our text, “ Watching daily at my gates, waiting at the posts of doors.” Many seem to think, we have nothing to do with the means of grace, except on the Sabbath. We have reason to fear that such attend to them very little as they ought, even on the Sabbath. Especially there are many who seem to think, we have nothing to do with public worship on any other day. Many prove this, by their conduct in uniformly absenting themselves, and some have not hesitated to express it. But our text is directly against them, where the man is pronounced blessed, who watches daily at the gates, and waits at the posts of the doors of wisdom. And
And many other parts of the Bible are against them. Ministers are commanded to " Preach the word,
be instant in season, out of season;" 2 Tim. iv. 2. And if it is their duty to preach the word out of the stated seasons, as well as in them, it is unquestionably the duty of people to wait upon the word thus preached. After the day of Pentecost the disciples of our Lord, “Continued daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, praising God. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved;" Acts ii. 46, 47.
It is true we have other duties to perform besides the immediate worship of God. But can we not perform both ? Men of the world can find time for vain amusements, feasting, and the like, and yet attend to business, and do not suppose that they encroach upon the time that ought to be devoted to their worldly concerns. But they who redeem from business, to attend the worship of God, on other days besides the Sabbath, half as much time, as is spent by the people of the world in idleness, vain amusements, and dissipation, are oftentimes censured as inattentive to their duty, in neglecting their worldly
Brethren, the judgment day will set this matter right; and we shall then see whose conduct will receive the approbation of their Master. Whether theirs who redeemed time from the world, to engage an hour with the people of God in his worship; or theirs, who while they can find time to devote hours to dissipation, neglect the occasional worship of God, and censure those who attend upon it. The secret of the business generally is, not a want of time, but a dislike of the employment. But certainly they who dislike the worship of God on earth, can never with this temper enter heaven, where the worship and service of God will be the continual and delightful employment of its blessed inhabitants. If our hearts were right, and we had a realizing sense of the importance of spiritual and eternal things, there would be no difficulty on this subject. We would find time, and it would be our delight too, if we had opportunity, to watch daily at the gates, and wait at the posts of the doors of Wisdom; and our temporal business would not be neglected.
May the Lord enable us all diligently, and with a proper spirit to wait upon him in his ordinances and bless us in the use of them. AMEN.
READING THE SCRIPTURES.
JOHN V. 39.
“ Search the Scriptures ; for in them ye
have eternal life, and they are they which testify of me."
The Jews received the Scriptures of the Old Testament as the word of God; and according to them looked for a Saviour to come. But when Jesus, who in every respect answered to the description given of the promised Saviour in the Old Testament, came, they refused to receive him as the expected Messiah. In the chapter which contains our text, we find Jesus, in conversation with the Jews, endeavouring to convince them of his divine mise sion, and that he was indeed the Christ; and for this purpose, he referred them in our text to the Scriptures of the Old Testament, which they professed to believe.“ Search the Scriptures : for in them
have eternal life, and they are they which testify of me.”
The duty here enjoined is incumbent on us as well as the Jews.
Reading the word of God is an important means of grace. That this means may become effectual, we ought to attend to it in a proper manner.
i he manner in which it should be attended to, we have pointed out in our Catechism in the answer to the 90th question. “How is the word to be read and heard, that it
become effectual unto salvation ?
That the word may become effectual unto salvation, 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 our lives."
This answer refers not only to the reading of the word; but also to the hearing of it when preached. In illustra